4/27/2006

Bread in the Basket

I’ve been asked several times recently about the propriety of attending an a capella concert during Sefirah. The interesting thing is that the people asking the question are not concerned with Kol Ishah (the choir is comprised of both men and women, and there are female soloists).

I truly have no good explanation for this phenomenon. Why would there be a greater concern about something which is minhag (and it’s not even that; I don’t think that a capella constitutes rikudin u-mecholos, which is the Rema’s formulation of the type of festivities to avoid during Sefirah) than about something which is halakha psukah?

I was thinking that it might be purely sociological; it’s just what people do. But then I was thinking that there might be a better, psychological reason, which might even be similar to a halakhic principle.

I refer to davar she-yesh lo mattirin. This principle states that when something is only temporarily forbidden to eat, and will later become permissible, the normal rules of bittul – nullification of insignificant ingredients – don’t apply. For example, if I have vowed not to eat chocolate for 30 days, and on day 28 an insignificant amount of chocolate falls into my peanut butter, then under normal circumstances I can eat the peanut butter immediately and disregard the minute amount of (permanently forbidden) chocolate in there. However, since in this case the chocolate will again be permissible anyhow, we say that its presence in the mixture is not annulled, and the PB remains forbidden for another 2 days.

According to most Rishonim (with the exception of the REALLY LONG RA”N on Nedarim 52a), following Rashi’s lead, the reason is that there’s no reason to ‘play chicken’ with God unnecessarily, and since the food will be permitted shortly anyway, it’s better not to take risks.

This principle understands that a temporary prohibition is easier to manage than permanent one. One can hold out when there’s ‘bread in the basket’, i.e., an end in sight. Thus, in the current situation of my correspondents, they will be more likely to observe a set of restrictions of a temporary nature than to take on some permanent ones.

This can also explain the very odd conversation that I had with a balabos that can be described as traditional non-observant Orthodox on the last day of Pesach. He asked when he could eat chametz. I asked him to clarify – did he want to know when the stuff he sold would be bought back, or just when the Yom Tov is properly over. He indicated the latter, so he can call to have a pizza delivered as soon as Yom Tov ended. Same thing – 8 days of crackers and compote is a lot more doable than a lifetime without Domino’s.

ADDeRebbetzin points out that the same can be said for people who weren’t shomer negi’ah (to say the least) before marriage, but who, once married, keep Taharat Ha-mishpacha.
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