Aveilut, Shabbat and Yom Tov

Moed Katan (3:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 years ago

Towards the end of Moed Katan the focus shifts to aveilut (mourning) that coincides with Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed. The Mishnah (3:5) teaches that if one buries a close relative, three days prior to Yom Tov, then the shiva ends. Similarly if the burial was eight day prior to Yom Tov then the Yom Tov brings an end to the shloshim. The Mishnah however continues, that Shabbat is different. Firstly, the shiva will continue to be observed after Shababt. Secondly, unlike with Yom Tov, Shabbat counts for one of the days of the shiva. By contrast, if one buries a relative during Chol Ha'Moed, the days of Chol HaMoed and Yom Tov do not count for the shiva and the shiva begins after Yom Tov. We shall try to understand the reason for the difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov.

The Barteunra explains that there is a halachic difference between Shabbat and Yom Tov. On Shabbat, one still observes some of the laws of mourning in private. One Yom Tov however, none of the laws of mourning are observed. This is the position of the Rambam (Avel 10:3). Based on this distinction, it is simple to understand the difference. With Yom Tov, since all signs of mourning cease, the shiva ends and the days of Chol HaMoed would not count for the shiva.

The Tosfot however disagrees. They maintain that private signs of mourning are observed on Yom Tov. What then is the basis for the distinction between Shabbat and Yom Tov? The Tosfot explain that Yom Tov does not count since there is no aveilut at all on Yom Tov since "Simcha" (happiness) is instructed as part of the mitzvah of Yom Tov. Simcha however is not written with respect to Shabbat. Rav Soleveitchik (Shiurim LeZecher Avi Mari II, Aveilut) however asks that the Tosfot's position appears to be contradictory. If there is no Aveilut on Yom Tov, then even private signs of mourning should not be observed.

The Rav explains that there are indeed different actions required for the mitzvot of Simcha. During the time of the Beit HaMikdash it was through eating korbanot and nowadays through eating meat, purchasing nice clothes, distributing nuts to children, etc. However, the kiyum, the fulfillment of the mitzvah is the Simcha that one feels in their hearts. This fulfillment is simply expressed through the various actions above. He continues that the same is true by aveilut as well. While it is true that there are many restriction associated with aveilut the kiyum is the aveilut felt in the heart.

The Rav continues that it is not the various actions of Simcha on Yom Tov that conflict with aveilut. For nothing prevents and avel from buy clothing for his family. It is rather that the two kiyumim are contradictory experiences. This explains then what the Gemara means when it states that "the positive command of the rabamim (public) overrides the positive command of the individual". Since the kiyumim are in conflict, one must give.

The focus of Shabbat is different. With Shabbat the command is kavod (honour) and oneg (pleasure). This is not fulfilled in the heart, but through, e.g. outward shows of nice clothing for honouring Shabbat and pleasurable foods. This explains then why on Shabbat, it is public signs of mourning that are restrained as it is only those that conflict with showing kavod to Shabbat.

Returning to Yom Tov we can understand why the Rambam maintains why there is no mourning at all on Yom Tov. Since the kiyumim are in conflict, there is no point to the actions of aveilut, since these prohibitions simply give expression to the kiyum. The Rav however explains that the Tosfot also agree that they kiyumim are indeed in conflict. Nevertheless, they maintain that (private) prohibitions of aveilut can still exist independent of the kiyum. With this explanation, we can understand why, according to the Tosfot, that despite the fact that the (private) prohibition of aveilut apply on Yom Tov, since there is a mitzvah of Simcha that overrides the kiyum of aveilut, the days of Chol HaMoed cannot be counted towards the days of the shiva.1


1 Once again we have gleaned one detail for a length analysis. The reader is strongly encouraged to study the full shiur from the text.

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