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Rabbi Kalmar's Message -- Parshat Mishpatim / Shabbat Shekalim / Rosh Chodesh -- Feb 13, 2021

“The Three Torah Shabbos at the Teen Minyan in Prague and Taking the Path of More Resistance”

This Shabbos we get a special treat – three torahs.  One for Parshas Mishpatim, one for Rosh Chodesh and one for Shekalim, the section which deals with the donation of the half shekel and the counting of the people.    Sometime in the second half of the 18th century, a similar Shabbos occurred.
The Noda BiYehuda, R. Yechezkel Landau of Prague – great leader of world Jewry, tells a story that happened on one such Shabbos when they had three torahs.  (it doesn’t happen that often and by my calculations – considering when the Noda BiYehuda became rabbi in Prague and when he died - it could have been 1758, 1761, 1774, or 1778) The story goes (if you like check it out here- question 11 that it happened that at the Beit Kineses Shel Bachurim – the shul of the young men – the teen minyan? The young marrieds minyan?  Unclear – could have been either) the Baal Korei read the parsha of the week, and then took a second Torah which contained the reading for Parshat Shekalim, from Ki Sisa, and started to read it, and then remembered – Oh No! I forgot to read the reading for Rosh Chodesh which should come first!!  What to do?    So they went to find the Noda BiYehuda sitting and learning in his study – and he told them that since they had started to read it already, they should continue as they had and read the section for Rosh Chodesh next.  This would mean that they would have to read the haftorah for Rosh Chodesh instead of the haftorah for Shekalim.  But that’s what they had to do.
    This story raises interesting social societal questions about Prague in the second half of the 18th century.  Did they have a later young people’s minyan which was more convenient for them?  Maybe just like teens like to get up late now, they did then as well?  And had the Noda BiYehuda davened at a minyan that was so much earlier that he had had time to eat his Shabbos day meal already and then head to his study?   I would love it if we could get a teen minyan together in our shul!  That would be really wonderful.  Hopefully soon.
I want to thank Rabbi Josh Flug for pointing out this interesting story which was part of the reasoning used by Rabbi Herschel Schachter, my rebbe and the great posek of the RCA and OU, when asked a question about this week’s reading.
    The question that was posed was what to do about the reading this week if you only have one Torah. Here at ASKT we are lucky to be able to be back in shul and we have three Torahs (thank you to Mark Mendelsohn for rolling all of them to the right place!)  But many people are still doing backyard minyans (especially those in warmer climes) or attending a minyan where there is only one torah.  The simple approach would be that if you have one Torah – you read six aliyos in Parshas Mishpatim, then roll it to the reading for Rosh Chodesh and read one Aliyah and then you roll it to Parshas Shekalim and read that as the maftir.    However, this presents a problem as it means that you are doing a lot of rolling of the Torah and that takes a while.  Especially since the section for Shekalim is in Ki Sisa – really close to Mishpatim, and the section for Rosh Chodesh is all the way in Pinchas at the end of Bamidbar.   Rav Schachter was asked – because of tircha ditzibura – because of disturbing the congregation (making them wait while you roll all the way to Pinchas and then all the way back to Ki Sisa), wouldn’t it make more sense to just read Ki Sisa – Parshas Shekalim, second, and then keep rolling on to Pinchas and Rosh Chodesh and read that last?  
    Rav Schachter ruled (check it out here – I attached it – it’s written on a piece of notebook paper)  that one should not do that because it would mean that the haftorah would have to be for Rosh Chodesh instead of Shekalim.   He based it on a statement of the Shaar Ephraim which was based on our story of the Noda BiYehuda.    Once you had read it out of order, what could you do?  But if you want to know what you should do – you should read the Haftorah for Shekalim – because that is what the Chachomim wanted us to do – to read the haftarah for Parshas Shekalim on this Shabbos.
    The concept of tircha ditziburah – the troubling of the congregation is a real one.  We try to make coming to shul a positive experience.   But sometimes you can’t just take the path of least resistance.  Yes – it would be nice if you had one Torah not to have to roll it back and forth and add 10 minutes to the davening.  But sometimes there are circumstances and situations that require us to step it up and do a little bit more.  
    We don’t have backyard minyanim (that I know of) in Glendale, but I know that friends of mine that have had them in other places say – it’s so convenient, I don’t have to walk all the way to shul, it takes shorter time, I don’t have to listen to the rabbi’s speech – it’s great – why would I give it up?  It’s so easy.     And many of us have gotten used to COVID mode.  And in COVID mode – one often does things that are going to be the easiest and the most comfortable.  And that made a lot of sense.  When going through a stressful situation, one finds ways to cope that will reduce the stress.  To self soothe, to practice taking care of ourselves and our needs.  And that has been important.  But now the situation begins to change.  We are going into a time of transition.  Those who have had the vaccine may feel comfortable going back to doing things they weren’t comfortable doing before.  It becomes a time when it is tough to say – ok – I don’t need to self soothe any more, I can stop pampering myself.  I need to step it up and push myself again.  That’s a tough transition.  I’ve thought all along that the times of transition are the hardest. When everyone was in complete lockdown mode – it was easy – you just stayed home.  When we went back to life and to shul in some fashion – it was hard – so many uncertainties – what are the rules – everyone has their own set.  Now that we are transitioning again – I predict it will be great – wow – going back to some regular life things – but it will be hard – when can restrictions be eased, when is it safe to… travel, get together, unmask etc.?  
    But in terms of a mindset – I believe that it is a challenge for us to say – I’m moving on from COVID mode in terms of taking the path of least resistance.  Now I can push myself to take a path with a little more resistance.  And while the concept of the needs of the congregation and the needs of the individual are important and have their place, there is also a place for pushing oneself a little bit out of their comfort zone, to push oneself to do the harder thing instead of the easy one.  I’m not suggesting someone do anything unsafe, that’s not what I’m talking about at all.  What I’m talking about is being willing to push ourselves in our daily commitments, in our davening, in our minyan attendance, in our setting time to learn torah, in our commitment to tzedakah, in our finding time to do chesed for others, in our ability to push ourselves.  What I’m saying is that there are times when we need to be willing to push ourselves again to a path of a little more resistance.  And I believe this is one of those times.

Good Shabbos!

Sat, June 10 2023 21 Sivan 5783