THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Moed Katan, 20
MOED KATAN 19, 20 - anonymously dedicated by an Ohev Torah and Marbitz Torah
in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.
1) PRESENT-DAY PRACTICES OF AVEILUS
[I] KEFIYAS HA'MITAH
2) WHO IS "OUR TANA?"
HALACHAH: The Beraisa discusses Kefiyas ha'Mitah in a number of places. In
the times of Chazal, an Avel would be Kofeh his Mitah -- he would turn over
his bed and sit in it while it was upturned. The Gemara (15b) says that this
is done to show that our sins have caused the Tzelem Elokim to be overturned.
An Avel therefore overturns his bed, which represents the person.
Today, we do not find that this practice is observed. What happened to this
[II] ATIFAS HA'ROSH
(a) The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 387:2) writes, based on the HAGAHOS MAIMONIYOS
(Hilchos Avel 5:60) that nowadays we do not observe the practice of Kefiyas
ha'Mitah, because the Nochrim might suspect us of practicing witchcraft. (The
Yerushalmi in Moed Katan 3:5 uses such reasoning to explain why an Avel who
stays in an inn, where many Nochrim are present, does not have to upturn his
(b) The Shulchan Aruch cites a second reason, in the name of the ROSH, for
why we do not practice Kefiyas ha'Mitah today. He says that our beds are made
differently than the beds in the time of Chazal, such that overturning our
beds does not show Aveilus the same way it did when their beds were
Does this mean that an Avel may sleep on a bed as he normally does? The PANIM
ME'IROS (2:150) says that it is permitted to sleep on a bed in the normal
manner, even though the Shulchan Aruch writes that on Tisha b'Av, one should
sleep on the floor as part of the Aveilus for the Beis ha'Mikdash. That
practice is only a Midas Chasidus, and nowadays when people are much weaker,
it is absolutely unnecessary to be Machmir.
The Gemara also requires that an Avel wrap a shawl around his head until it
drapes below his eyes as a sign of his dejection. Why is this not practiced
(a) The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 386) cites this Halachah of Atifas ha'Rosh. In the
Beis Yosef, he quotes the HAGAHOS MAIMONIYOS (5:70) who says in the name of
the SMAG that "although in Spain they do practice Atifas ha'Rosh, we do not
practice it today in these countries (western Europe), because we would look
so odd that the Nochrim would mock us." However, the Beis Yosef adds that he
never saw anyone refrain from doing Atifas ha'Rosh for this reason.
(b) The REMA cites the Hagahos Maimoniyos as the Halachah. In the DARCHEI
MOSHE, he writes that he never saw an Avel who practiced Atifas ha'Rosh.
Therefore, it is not practiced in Ashkenazic communities.
However, certain Acharonim (MAHARSHAL, ROKE'ACH) write that today even in
modern, civilized places one can practice Atifah without worrying about being
mocked, because one can do some measure of Atifah not with a shawl but by
pulling the hat down over the eyes. Even though no one wraps their heads up
in a shawl or turban, many people wear hats.
The SHACH cites these Acharonim, and the ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN writes that a
person should conduct himself in this way if he can (not like the Rema who
does not require any Atifah). (Although this is not the common practice,
people who visited Rav Elyashiv Shlita when he was sitting Shiv'ah testify
that he indeed wore a hat lowered over his eyes throughout the Shiv'ah.)
QUESTION: The Gemara cites a Beraisa in which Rebbi Eliezer and the Chachamim
argue about the number of days which an Avel must observe as Aveilus before
the festival arrives in order for the festival to annul his Aveilus. Rebbi
Eliezer says that if an Avel observed three days of Kefiyas ha'Mitah before
the festival, then he does not have to observe Kefiyas ha'Mitah anymore. The
Chachamim say that if he observed even one moment of Kefiyas ha'Mitah before
the festival, then the festival annuls it completely.
Rebbi Yochanan rules like the Chachamim, while Rava concludes that the
Halachah is like "*our Tana* who says that one must observe three days."
Rashi says that "our Tana" refers to Rebbi Eliezer of the Beraisa.
Why does Rashi say that "our Tana" means the Tana of the Beraisa, and not the
Tana of the Mishnah (19a)? The Tana of a Beraisa is usually not referred to
as "our" Tana, which is a phrase that almost always refers to the Tana of the
Mishnah. Moreover, the name of the Tana of the Beraisa is listed (Rebbi
Eliezer), and as such Rava should have referred to him by name!
(a) RAV BETZALEL RENZBURG explains that Rashi is following his own
explanation that he writes in the Mishnah (19a). When the Mishnah says that
the festival annuls the Shiv'ah if the Avel observed three days of Aveilus
before the festival, Rashi says that the Mishnah is Lav Davka, and it means
that any amount of time of observing Aveilus before the festival is
sufficient for the festival to annul the Shiv'ah. Therefore, when Rava says
that the Halachah is like "our Tana" who requires three days, he cannot be
referring to the Tana of our Mishnah who says three days, because the Tana of
our Mishnah does not really require three days! (See Insights to 19:1:a)
However, this reasoning is rather forced. As we have shown (ibid.), the part
of Rashi that Rav Betzalel Rensburg is quoting from Rashi on the Mishnah, was
written by a Talmid who is *arguing* with Rashi, and not by Rashi himself (as
opposed to the gloss of Rashi on this Daf, which appears even in the Perush
Rabeinu Gershom Me'or ha'Golah, printed by Machon ha'Talmud ha'Yisraeli that
leaves out the Talmid's words in the earlier Rashi).
(b) RAV NISAN ZAKS, in his commentary to Perush Rabeinu Gershom Me'or
ha'Golah, explains that Rashi was bothered by the fact that the Beraisa
mentions Kefiyas ha'Mitah. It should have stated the Halachah in general
terms and said that if the Avel observed Aveilus for three days before the
festival, then he stops observing it when the festival arrives. In addition,
Rashi was bothered by Rebbi Yochanan's opinion. Rebbi Yochanan rules like the
Chachamim who say that the festival annuls the Aveilus even after one day (or
less) of Aveilus is observed. However, whenever a Tana in a Beraisa argues
with the unnamed Tana of a Mishnah, Rebbi Yochanan always rules like the
Mishnah, which, in our case, says that one must observe Aveilus for *three*
days in order for the festival to annul it! (TOSFOS DH Amar leaves this
Because of these problems, Rashi explains that both Tana'im in the Beraisa
agree with the Mishnah, which states that the festival annuls the Aveilus
only after three days of Aveilus have been observed. Rebbi Eliezer and the
Chachamim in the Beraisa are arguing only about the specific practice of
Kefiyas ha'Mitah. The Chachamim are lenient with regard to Kefiyas ha'Mitah
and say that that practice is annulled by the festival even when it was
observed for only one day before the festival. Consequently, Rebbi Yochanan -
- who rules like the Chachamim of the Beraisa -- is not ruling contrary to
the Tana of our Mishnah! In addition, Rava -- who says that the Halachah
follows "our Tana who says that one must observe three days" of Kefiyas
ha'Mitah before the festival is not referring to the Tana of our Mishnah,
because our Mishnah is not discussing the specific obligation of Kefiyas
ha'Mitah. Rava must be referring to the Tana of the Beraisa, who says that
even Kefiyas ha'Mitah must be observed for three days before the festival in
order for the festival to annul it.