Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A full engagement with Shabbat — "Mind control," Shabbat edition

Kiddush on Shabbat morning is much more than Pop-ems and gossip. It's a veritable sociological phenomenon. Different groups in their different corners. Some individuals weaving their ways through all of them. People talking about their parents, talking about their children. About the D'var Torah. About the spread of lox on the table.

And of course, amidst all of that there are inevitably conversations about plans for that evening, about the coming week at work or otherwise, which according to halakha, runs people into certain problems (read "people" as me).

Described most famously, and poignantly, by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the Sabbath stands as a palace in time. Judaism, as a religion of time, sanctifies that time throughout the course of both regular and Holy moments.

With this understanding and framework (which deserves a much fuller and explicated treatment), it is logical that one should live in the palace of time for that allotment and engage fully with this particular Holy moment.

But does that mean that one cannot engage at all with the rest of the week while sanctifying Shabbat? Even with words? Again, must we abstain even from said thoughts about the week?

The original discussion appears in Masechet Shabbat (150a).

משנה. לא ישכור אדם פועלים בשבת, ולא יאמר אדם לחבירו לשכור לו פועלים.

גמרא. (פשיטא) מאי שנא הוא ומאי שנא חבירו? - אמר רב פפא: חבר נכרי. מתקיף לה רב אשי: אמירה לנכרי שבות! - אלא אמר רב אשי: אפילו תימא חבירו ישראל, הא קא משמע לן: לא יאמר אדם לחבירו שכור לי פועלים, אבל אומר אדם לחבירו הנראה שתעמוד עמי לערב? ומתניתין מני - כרבי יהושע בן קרחה. דתניא: לא יאמר אדם לחבירו הנראה שתעמוד עמי לערב? רבי יהושע בן קרחה אומר: אומר אדם לחבירו הנראה שתעמוד עמי לערב? אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן: הלכה כרבי יהושע בן קרחה. ואמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן: מאי טעמא דרבי יהושע בן קרחה? - דכתיב +ישעיהו נח+ ממצוא חפצך ודבר דבר; דיבור - אסור, הרהור - מותר.

MISHNAH. A man must not hire laborers on the Sabbath, nor instruct his neighbor to hire laborers on his behalf.

GEMARA: Wherein does he differ from his neighbour? — Said R. Papa: A Gentile neighbour [is meant]. R. Ashi demurred: [Surely] an order to a Gentile is [forbidden as] a shevut? Rather said R. Ashi: One may even say [that] an Israelite neighbour [is meant]. [Yet] he [the Tanna] informs us this: One may not say to his neighbour, ‘Hire labourers for me,’ but one may say to his neighbour, ‘Well, we shall see whether you join me in the evening!’

And with whom does our Mishnah agree? With R. Joshua b. Karhah. For it was taught: One must not say to his neighbor, ‘Well, we shall see whether you join me in the evening’! R. Joshua b. Karhah said: One may say to his neighbour, ‘Well, we shall see whether you join me in the evening’! Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in R. Johanan's name: The halachah is as R. Joshua b. Karhah. Rabbah b. Bar Hanah also said in R. Johanan s name: What is R. Judah b. Karhah's reason? Because it is written, "nor finding your own pleasure nor speaking your own words" (Isaiah 58): [explicit] speech is forbidden, but thought is permitted (Soncino Translation, my emphasis).

The give and take of the gemara is quite clear in this case — the law follows R. Yehoshua b. Karha, that speech about melacha is forbidden, but thoughts are permitted. The Mishnah's statement that one may not instruct her neighbors to hire laborers logically expands to all cases where a person speaks about doing an activity that would transgress Shabbat.

The Rif (11th c. Morroco), in codifying the halachic components of the Gemara, sides with R. Yehoshua b. Karha, that one may not speak about "melachic" activities on Shabbat but one may think about them.

רי"ף מסכת שבת דף סד עמוד א
אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן הלכה כר' יהושע בן קרחה. דאמר קרא "ממצוא חפצך ודבר דבר" דבור אסור מחשבה מותרת. והני מילי דבר הרשות הוא דאסור, אבל דבור דמצוה מותר, דאמר קרא "ממצוא חפצך ודבר דבר" חפציך אסורין חפצי שמים מותרין

Regarding controlling one's thoughts on Shabbat, Maimonides (hereafter referred to as the Rambam, 1135-1204, Spain, Egypt) also says that one may not speak about mundane actions of the week, such as business matters that one will undergo the next day or how he will build his house, plans for what people will do on Saturday night, and so on (Hilchot Shabbat 24:1). However, thinking about these actions is permitted.

רמב''ם הלכות שבת כד:א
יש דברים שהן אסורין בשבת אף על פי שאינם דומין למלאכה ואינם מביאין לידי מלאכה, ומפני מה נאסרו משום שנאמר +ישעיהו נ"ח+ "אם תשיב משבת רגלך עשות חפציך ביום קדשי ונאמר וכבדתו מעשות דרכיך ממצוא חפצך ודבר דבר", לפיכך אסור לאדם להלך בחפציו בשבת ואפילו לדבר בהן כגון שידבר עם שותפו מה ימכור למחר או מה יקנה או היאך יבנה בית זה ובאי זה סחורה ילך למקום פלוני, כל זה וכיוצא בו אסור שנאמר ודבר דבר דבור אסור הרהור מותר

Rambam, Laws of Shabbat 24:1
There are things that are forbidden on Shabbat despite the fact that they are not melacha (forbidden work on Shabbat) and they also do not bring one to do melacha. And why was this forbidden? Because it says, "If you refrain from trampling the sabbath, From pursuing your affairs on My holy day; If you call the sabbath 'delight,' The Lord’s holy day 'honored'; And if you honor it and go not your ways Nor look to your affairs, nor strike bargains, nor speaking thereof..." (Isaiah 58:13). Therefore it is forbidden for a person to go through with these business actions on Shabbat, and even to speak about them, such as speaking with his roommate what he will sell or buy tomorrow, or how he will build this and go about with this business, go to a particular location — all of this and things like it are forbidden, as it says, "Speaking thereof" (Isaiah 58:13).

Such a mandate is extremely hard to follow. People talk about their week, about the week to come. That's the sociological realities of our time, and quite frankly of all eras in history. Jews kibbitz.

Reflecting on the law, though, can we find an underlying flavor to the mitzvah?

The world was created with words — God spoke and the world came into being. So on a fundamental level, words are as important as the very actions which constitute our modern understanding of work, and our more nuanced understanding of melacha ("work"). On the very day where we sanctify creation, it is essential we should be aware of our speech.

The great medieval law code, the Shulchan Arukh (edited by Joseph Caro, Spain/Tzfat, 15th c.), takes a more stringent approach to this topic. While thinking about mundane (i.e. non-Shabbat) matters is permitted, it is discouraged (OH 306:8).

שולחן ערוך, אורח חיים שו:ח
הרהור בעסקיו, מותר; ומ"מ משום עונג שבת, (לח) מצוה שלא יחשוב בהם כלל (לט) ויהא בעיניו כאילו כל מלאכתו

Shulchan Arukh, OH 306:8.
Thinking about business matters is permitted; despite this fact, because of oneg shabbat (roughly translated as Shabbat joy — Entemann's brings joy, after all. Is this thing on?) it is a mitzvah not to think about them (business matters) at all, and to envision for herself as if the actions have been completed.

Citing Rabbeinu Yonah's (13th c. Spain) Iggeret HaTeshuva, Caro explains this more nuanced, and perhaps stringent view, in the Beit Yosef, his commentary to the Tur:

בית יוסף שו
והרהור בעסקיו מותר. בפרק שואל (קנ.) ודבר דבר דבור אסור הרהור מותר:
ומה שכתב ומכל מקום משום עונג שבת מצוה שלא יחשב בהם. כן כתב ה"ר יונה באגרת התשובה (דרש ב אות לה [יום ה]) אסור לאדם שיהא לבו טרוד בעסקיו בשבת אף על פי שאמרו חכמים הרהור מותר. אם יש לו מתוך ההרהור טרדת לב או נדנוד דאגה אסור שנאמר ועשית כל מלאכתך ואמרו במכילתא (יתרו, בחדש פ"ז אות ט) שתהא כל מלאכתך בעיניך כאלו היא עשויה שלא תהרהר עליה וכן אנו אומרים בתפילה מנוחת שלום השקט ובטח מנוחה שלימה שאתה רוצה בה ובברכת מזון אנו אומרים שלא תהא צרה ויגון ביום מנוחתנו עכ"ל

Beit Yosef 306:8
Despite this, it is a mitzvah, because of the concept of oneg shabbat, not to think about them (non-Shabbat topics). Thus wrote Rabbeinu Yonah in Iggeret HaTshuva:
"It is forbidden for a person's heart to be worried with business activities on Shabbat, even though the Rabbis wrote that 'thoughts are permitted' (see above, Massechet Shabbat 150). If these thoughts include worrying/pain of the heart or back-and-forth worrying, they are forbidden because it says "And you shall complete all of your melacha" (Exodus 20, "Fifth commandment"). And it says in the Mechilta that all of your melacha will appear in your eyes as if it is complete, so that you don't think about it. And we also say in the Amidah on Shabbat, 'The rest of peace, the quite and assurance, a complete rest that you want during the day.' And in Birkat HaMazon (Blessing over eating food) we say 'that there will be no distress or sadness on our day of rest.'"

Rabbeinu Yonah's position emphasizes that thoughts really can cause stress for a person, that stress in itself is real work and occupies the entirety of a person. During our prayers on Shabbat we pray for a day of complete rest, of body and mind. During a day which emphasizes a such serenity, of residing in a palace of time, rest should and must include respite from thoughts about the week. Moreover, it is impossible to have a day of rest without freeing ourselves from thoughts of the week.

Stress is real, it is consuming — for a day, one per week, one should leave these thoughts behind, view the world completely in the moment.

In explaining the strict ruling, the Mishnah Berurah gives a more technical answer, that one must particularly be aware of her "worries of the heart/mind," lest they lead to prohibited action. There is no assurance that these thoughts will lead to action, but there is certainly a worry that this will be the case.

הרהור בעסקיו מותר - דכתיב ודבר דבר דבור אסור הרהור מותר:
מצוה שלא יחשוב וכו' - ומכ"ש אם יש לו ע"י ההרהור טרדת הלב ודאגה דיזהר בזה עיין בב"י

Is there a general takeaway from all of this? I'd like to say that it is to live in the moment, a legal codification for Shabbat and Festivals, and a general policy for all of life. Thoughts consume all of us. Often they keep us up at night. Sometimes they prevent us from performing to our highest capacities.

When we are in a "good mood" we are more pleasant to be around. Our moods, our thoughts, are real entities. There is a real place in our life for being consumed in stress about the daily goings-on of life — it shows that the individual cares about the task at hand, about the people she interacts with, about the particular melacha, and beyond.

But on Shabbat, with the understanding outlined largely by the Beit Yosef, we should assure that the entirety of our humanity is focused on living in a cathedral of time, honoring creation and ourselves.

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