THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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Moed Katan, 23
MOED KATAN 22 & 23 (19-20 Cheshvan) - dedicated in memory of Chaim Mordechai
ben Harav Yisrael Azriel (Feldman) of Milwaukee by his family.
1) LEARNING TORAH IN THE HOUSE OF AN AVEL
QUESTION: The Beraisa (22b) states that when a Nasi dies, all of the
learning in all of the Batei Midrashos ceases in respect for the Nasi. The
Beraisa continues (23a) and says that in the house of an Avel, we do not say
over words of "Shemu'ah" and "Agadah" (Halachic teachings and Agadic
teachings). The Beraisa says that Rebbi Chananyah ben Gamliel, though, holds
that we may say over Shemu'ah and Agadah.
How can Rebbi Chananyah ben Gamliel permit saying Shemu'ah and Agadah in the
house of an Avel? The Gemara (15a, 21a) states clearly that an Avel may not
learn Torah during Aveilus!
Moreover, when the Beraisa says that we may not say over Shemu'ah and Agadah
in the house of an Avel, why does it single out these two particular areas?
The Beraisa earlier (21a) gives a long list of all of the areas of Torah
learning which are prohibited for an Avel to learn. Why does the Beraisa
here not mention all of them, like the Beraisa earlier does?
(a) The RAMBAN in Toras ha'Adam explains that this Beraisa is referring to
learning Torah in the house of an Avel *on Shabbos*, when the Avel may not
observe his Aveilus in public. The Beraisa is saying that even though an
Avel does not observe his Aveilus in public, he may not learn these areas of
Torah. Rebbi Chananyah permits it, because he maintains that this is
considered to be practicing Aveilus in public. However, everyone agrees that
if a practical Halachic question arises, the Avel is allowed to teach the
HALACHAH: The common practice today is to learn Mishnayos in the home of the
Avel, l'Iluy Nishmas the departed relative. The Poskim write that this is a
positive practice. The NETZIV (Meshiv Davar 5:56) explains at length that
since it is done for the benefit of the Mes, it is certainly permitted. The
Avel himself, though, should not listen, since he is not permitted to learn.
(If possible, the Avel should go into another room while the others who have
come to comfort the mourner learn the Mishnayos together l'Iluy Nishmas the
deceased.) In addition, the Talmidim of the Mes should not be the ones who
learn Mishnayos, since the Gemara says that his Talmidim must refrain from
(b) The RAMBAN gives a second answer. He says that th "Beis ha'Avel"
mentioned in the Beraisa is referring to the Batei Midrashos mentioned
earlier in the Beraisa, which ceased all learning activity due to the death
of the Nasi. The Beraisa is now saying that not only is the regular Torah
learning stopped as a sign of mourning for the Nasi, but the Talmidim may
not even learn areas of Torah that do not require deep analysis and that are
not usually learned in the Batei Midrashos. Rebbi Chananyah says that these
areas of Torah may be learned in the Batei Midrashos that are in mourning
for the loss of the Nasi.
(c) The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 378:7) cites this Gemara as the Halachah. From
the context of his ruling, it seems that he understands the Gemara not to be
referring to Shabbos, nor to the Batei Midrashos of the Nasi, but rather it
is referring to the home of an individual Avel. The SHEVET YEHUDAH explains
that according to the Shulchan Aruch, the Beraisa is not referring to what
the Avel himself may or may not learn; the Avel himself is certainly
prohibited from learning Torah. Rather, the Beraisa is referring to others
who come to visit the Avel. When they talk amongst each other, they may not
talk together in Torah, even in matters of Shemu'ah and Agadah.