Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Bittul Torah on Tisha B'Av? - Portion of Shiur from Rav Asher Zelig Weiss, ShLiT"a

Rav Weiss, ShLit"a presented another stimulating shiur b'Hilchasa u'b'Aggadata last night (Aug 4) in Har Nof. The subject was the Prohibition of Limud Torah on Tisha B'Av. To follow is one of the most interesting parts of the Halacha segment of the shiur:

HaRav Wiess opened up discussing the basic halacha from OC 554 and spoke about what are the boundaries of the Simcha of learning (mesamchei lev) and why the permitted subjects are considered as such. With this, he covered the concept of “prohibited” and “permitted”.

After discussing what is prohibited and what is permitted, he raised the question of whether any aspect of Talmud Torah is obligated. In other words, perhaps there is still an active chiyuv of Talmud Torah such that one is actually obligated to study the permissible subjects of Torah on Tisha B'Av as much as he is obligated during a regular day in the year.Do we say there is absolutely no obligation, or is the obligation the same except he has a much more limited selection of Torah topics to study? In short, can one be guilty of bittul Torah on Tisha B’Av?

His first approach was to say that his Rav Muvhak, the Klausenberger Rebbe, ZT"L, ruled that one is fully obligated to study Torah on Tisha B'Av like he is obligated on any other day. Rav Weiss, ShLit"a, said that most of the earlier sources that he found seemed to negate this position and he really hasn't found any early authorities that support it. But he came up with a brilliant way to reconcile both positions.

He opened with a famous legend concerning the Chazon Ish, ZT"L. He related that in the younger years of the Chazon Ish when he was newly living in Tel Aviv and his greatness was unknown, he met up with an older very respectable Jew. The Jew inquired of the Chazon Ish, "Ihr lehrnt eppes?" (Do you study Torah?) and the Chazon Ish replied, "Vehn ich hab zeit, ich lehrnt." (When I have the time, I study.)

Rav Weiss wanted to say that this "quip" from the Chazon Ish was more than just a humble response; it actually defines how we are to view the chiyuv of Talmud Torah in relation to doing other mitzvos, or, in other words, how we define bittul Torah. Rav Weiss wanted to say that the essence of Talmud Torah is that this is the way to spend "one's time" but its overbearing primacy is restricted to when we have time in the Torah sense. When other obligations in terms of mitzvos or hechsher mitzvos require our time, there is no issue of bittul Torah.

Consequently, when it is time to daven or to do an important chesed, or the eating, sleeping, and working that is necessary for kiyum haguf v'nefesh and kiyum mitzvos, or when one has to take his child to the doctor or attend his Chumash party, or Kibud Av V'Em, or when a mitzvas hayom is in effect (Megillah, seudas Purim, Chanuka candles, etc.), there is no issue of bittul Torah. The essential obligation of learning is "vehn mir hubben zeit".

As such, on Tisha B'Av, according to the Klausenberger Rebbe, ZT"L the obligation to learn Torah is in full effect, but this obligation carries the stipulation of "vehn mir hubben zeit". Since during Tisha B'Av there is a mitzvah d'yoma of sitting in aveilus all day long, there is no issue of bittul Torah as long as one is in fact conducting the aveilus. However, if one is being delinquent in his fulfillment of the aveilus, the obligation of Torah study is in effect and one can be culpable for bittul Torah.

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