Last week, we addressed the encounter between mourning and rejoicing. We saw that the festival cancels mourning. Of course, this can lead to difficult situations, such as when one passes away just before the festival; in this instance, it seems that all the customs of mourning come to an end as soon as the festival begins. This situation is liable to cause significant emotional pain for the mourners, who have not had the chance to receive acknowledgement or condolences from their community.
However, if we take a look at the Gemara, as well as Rashi and Tosafot, a different picture presents itself. Here, it seems that mourning that overlaps with a festival does not necessarily prevent comforting the mourners. The following Gemara makes this distinction clear:
תלמוד בבלי מסכת מועד קטן דף יט עמוד ב
בעא מיניה אביי מרבה: קברו ברגל, רגל עולה לו למנין שלשים או אין רגל עולה לו למנין שלשים? למנין שבעה לא קמיבעיא לי – דלא נהגא מצות שבעה ברגל. כי קא מיבעיא לי – למנין שלשים, דקא נהגא מצות שלשים ברגל. מאי?
Talmud Bavli, Moed Katan 19b
Abaye inquired of Rabba: If one buried his dead relative on the Festival itself, does the Festival count toward his thirty-day period of mourning, or does the Festival not count toward his thirty-day period of mourning? Abaye elaborated on his question: I do not ask whether or not the Festival counts toward his seven-day period of mourning because the obligation to observe seven days of mourning does not apply at all during the Festival, and therefore he must certainly observe the seven-day mourning period, beginning from after the Festival. What I am asking is with regard to the thirty-day period of mourning, because certain aspects of the mitzva of the thirty-day mourning period do in fact apply during the Festival. What, then, is the halakha: Do the days of the Festival count toward the thirty days or not?
The Gemara addresses the question of whether the days of the festival are counted toward the thirty-day mourning period. As we have seen until now, and as we will continue to see throughout the tractate, the laws of mourning have several stages: 1. aninut, acute mourning – before the burial; 2. the first day of mourning, the day of burial; 3. the first three days of mourning, which carry special stringencies; 4. the seven days of mourning; 5. the thirty-day mourning period; 6. the twelve-month mourning period for one’s mother or father.
Last week, we learned that the days of the festival are not counted toward the seven-day mourning period – either they put an end to the seven-day mourning period, if the deceased passed away before the festival, or they postpone the seven-day mourning period, if the deceased passed away on the festival itself. However, it is not clear whether the days of the festival are counted toward the thirty-day mourning period. Rashi explains the doubt:
רש”י מסכת מועד קטן דף יט עמוד ב
למנין שבעה לא קמבעיא לי – דודאי אינו עולה, דודאי לא נהגא מצות שבעה ברגל, דהא אינו אסור בנעילת הסנדל, ואינו נוהג בכפיית המטה.
Rashi, Moed Katan 19b
I do not ask whether or not the Festival counts toward his seven-day period of mourning… – because it clearly does not count, as we do not perform the mitzva of shiva on the festival; there is no prohibition on wearing shoes, and there is no custom of overturning the bed.
דהא נהגא מצות שלשים ברגל – דהא ברגל נמי אסור בגיהוץ ובתספורת כשלשים.
Certain aspects of the mitzva of the thirty-day mourning period do in fact apply during the Festival – that is, on the festival it is also forbidden to launder clothes and cut hair.
The festival puts an end to the seven-day mourning period because the rejoicing of the festival prevents mourning from taking place; mourners are not forbidden from wearing shoes, nor do they overturn their beds. However, on Chol haMoed, there is a prohibition to launder clothes and cut hair – so perhaps it will be possible to count those days toward the thirty-day mourning period. Abaye goes back and forth on this question. Abaye clearly understands that there may be some level of mourning on the festival – perhaps not the full mourning of the seven-day mourning period, but at least the partial mourning of the thirty-day mourning period.
Perhaps this is the force behind Abaye’s question: Is the festival considered entirely a joyous event with no room for mourning, in which case, even if we abstain from cutting hair and laundering clothes, we cannot associate this abstinence with mourning? Or is there room for a certain measure of mourning on the festival despite the joy of the event, such that those days can be counted as part of the mourning period? The emotional distinction between these two possibilities is crucial. Must the mourner be entirely happy on the festival, or is it possible to experience a certain amount of mourning even amidst the joy? Rabba provides a decisive answer:
אמר ליה: אינו עולה.
Rabba said to him: The Festival does not count toward the thirty days.
However, despite Rabba’s answer, the Gemara goes on to present a challenge to Rabba’s approach from two breitot, and conclusively refutes this approach:
איתיביה: הקובר את מתו שני ימים קודם הרגל – מונה חמשה ימים אחר הרגל, ומלאכתו נעשית על ידי אחרים, ועבדיו ושפחותיו עושים בצנעא בתוך ביתו, ואין רבים מתעסקין עמו, שכבר נתעסקו בו ברגל. כללו של דבר: כל שהוא משום אבל – רגל מפסיקו, וכל שהוא משום עסקי רבים – אין רגל מפסיקו. קברו שלשה ימים בסוף הרגל – מונה שבעה אחר הרגל. ארבעה ימים הראשונים – רבים מתעסקין בו, שלשה ימים האחרונים – אין רבים מתעסקין בו, שכבר נתעסקו ברגל, ורגל עולה לו.
מאי לאו אסיפא? – לא, ארישא.
איתיביה: רגל עולה לו למנין שלשים, כיצד? קברו בתחילת הרגל – מונה שבעה אחר הרגל, ומלאכתו נעשית על ידי אחרים, ועבדיו ושפחותיו עושין בצנעא בתוך ביתו, ואין רבים מתעסקין בו, שכבר נתעסקו בו ברגל, ורגל עולה לו!
תיובתא. כי אתא רבין אמר רבי יוחנן: אפילו קברו ברגל. וכן אורי ליה רבי אלעזר לרבי פדת בריה: אפילו קברו ברגל.
Abaye raised an objection to Rabba’s opinion from the following baraita: If one buries his dead relative two days before a Festival, he must count five days of mourning after the Festival, and during this period his work is performed for him by others. And his menservants and maidservants do this work in private inside his house, and the public need not occupy themselves with him, for they already occupied themselves with him during the Festival. The general principle with regard to the matter is as follows: Any activity that is prohibited to the mourner because it is an expression of mourning is interrupted by the Festival. And anything that involves the public’s occupation with the mourner is not interrupted by the Festival. If he buries his relative three days before the end of the Festival, the mourner must count seven days of mourning after the Festival because his mourning never began. On the first four days of his mourning, the public must occupy themselves with him. On the three last days, however, the public need not occupy themselves with him, as they already occupied themselves with him during the Festival. And the Festival counts for him toward the thirty-day mourning period.
With regard to the statement of the baraita that the Festival counts toward the thirty-day period of mourning: What, is it not referring to the latter clause of that baraita, which speaks about a case where the burial was performed during the Festival itself? If this is the case, then a refutation of Rabba’s opinion is stated explicitly, that the Festival counts toward the thirty-day mourning period, even if the deceased was buried on the Festival itself. Rabba rejects this argument: No, it is referring to the first clause, which discusses a case where the burial was performed before the Festival, and since rites of mourning were observed already before the Festival, the Festival is counted toward the thirty-day period of mourning. Therefore, it is not a refutation of Rabba’s halakha.
Abaye raised an objection to Rabba’s opinion from another baraita, in which it was taught: A pilgrimage Festival counts toward the thirty-day period of mourning. How so? If one buried his dead relative at the beginning of a pilgrimage Festival, he must count seven days of mourning after the Festival, and during this period his work is performed by others. And his menservants and maidservants perform this work in private inside his house, and the public need not occupy themselves with him and come to console him, for they already occupied themselves with him during the Festival. And the Festival counts for him. Here it is explicitly stated that the Festival counts toward the thirty-day period of mourning, even when the deceased was buried during the Festival itself. The Gemara concludes: This is indeed a conclusive refutation of Rabba’s opinion.
These two breitot are brought by the Gemara in order to prove that the festival counts toward the thirty-day mourning period; however, along the way, they teach us an additional principle – that the festival does not prevent the public from coming to comfort the mourners! Let’s take a look at Rashi and Tosafot, who emphasize this point:
רש”י מסכת מועד קטן דף יט עמוד ב
ואין רבים מתעסקין עמו – כלומר: אין צריכין לנחמו אחר הרגל, שכבר נחמוהו שבעה ימים ברגל.
Rashi, Moed Katan 19b
The public need not occupy themselves with him – that is, they do not have to come and comfort him after the festival, as they came to comfort him during the seven days of the festival.
רש”י מסכת מועד קטן דף כ עמוד א
כל שהוא משום אבל רגל מפסיקו – שצריך להשלימו אחר הרגל, כיון דכי ישב שני ימים לפני הרגל – צריך להשלים ולישב חמשה ימים אחר הרגל.
Rashi, Moed Katan 20a
Any activity that is prohibited to the mourner because it is an expression of mourning is interrupted by the Festival – and so it must be fulfilled after the festival, because one who sat shiva for two days before the festival must complete the mourning and sit for five days after the festival.
כל שהוא משום עסקי רבים – כלומר, תנחומי רבים – אין רגל מפסיקו [כדי] שיהא צריך להשלים ולעסוק בו אחר הרגל, אלא מתעסקין בו ברגל.
And anything that involves the public’s occupation with the mourner is not interrupted by the Festival – that is, public condolences are not interrupted by the festival, and so there is no need to go back and complete it after the festival; rather, the public does it during the festival.
Rashi says explicitly that when the deceased passes away two days before the festival, the public continues to comfort the mourner for five days of the festival! That is, the mourner may not formally be in mourning, but the public will nonetheless come to offer condolences. What is the meaning behind this distinction? Condolences are considered the occupation of the public, and anything considered the occupation of the public is not brought to an end by the festival! This is consistent with what we saw last week: The reason that the festival overrides mourning is that mourning is a commandment incumbent on the individual, where the festival is a commandment incumbent on the collective. However, condolences belong to the collective, and so the festival does not override them.
Tosafot also notes the distinction between condolences and mourning:
תוספות מסכת מועד קטן דף כ עמוד א
שכבר נתעסקו בו ברגל – תנחומין וברכה בשורה והרי”ט דפירש לענין הבראה חולק על מחזור מויטר”י שפירש בשם רש”י שהיה אומר שאין עושים הבראה ברגל הואיל וליכא אבילות ולאחר הרגל נמי לא יעשוה הואיל ובטלה סעודה ראשונה פי’ דמספקא ליה לרש”י אי הבראה במועד אי לאחר המועד דשמא הבראה אינו עסקי רבים הואיל ויחיד יכול לעשות ועל הבראה פירש לקמן כל יום ראשון אסור לאכול משלו אפי’ אוכל שתי פעמים ביום דהא לא קאמר גמרא סעודה ראשונה אלא יום ראשון.
Tosafot, Moed Katan 20a
For they already occupied themselves with him during the Festival – This refers to condolences and blessings in a line (bracha beshura). And the Rit, who interpreted this to refer to the meal of condolences (seudat havra’ah), disagrees with the Vitry Mahzor, who says in Rashi’s name that the meal of condolences is not held on the festival, for there is no mourning on a festival. And after the festival, it will still not be held; the first meal will be canceled because, according to Rashi, there is a doubt whether it should be held on the festival or after the festival, for perhaps it is not a public occupation and can be held alone…
התוספות פותח באמירה שהרגל לא מבטל שלושה דברים: תנחומים, וברכה ושורה. בהמשך התוספות מביא מחלוקת בין שיטתו לבין שיטת רש”י המובאת במחזור ויטרי בנוגע לסעודת הבראה, התוספות הבין שהתנחומים כוללים את כל מעשי הרבים באבלות כלפי האבל – כלומר תנחומים סעודת הבראה ושורה וברכת אבלים. אולם רש”י הסתפק בסעודת ההבראה כיוון ששאדם יחיד יכול לעשות את סעודת ההבראה ואין צורך ברבים דווקא, בניגוד לתנחומים ושורה.
Tosafot opens with the statement that the Festival does not cancel three things: public condolences, the blessing of the mourners, and the line formed to comfort the mourners. Tosafot goes on to bring a disagreement between his own approach and that of Rashi, brought by the Vitry Mahzor, with regard to the question of the meal of condolences. Tosafot understands that the condolences include all public acts of mourning – that is, public condolences, the meal of condolences, the line, and the blessing of the mourners. However, Rashi refers only to the meal of condolences, because the mourner can hold the meal of condolences alone and does not require the participation of the public – as opposed to public condolences and the line , which by their very nature require the public.
Rashi and Tosafot emphasize that comforters can come to comfort the mourner during the festival primarily because this is a collective commandment, a commandment incumbent on the public. However, other rishonim found another reason. We will look at the Meiri and the Rid:
בית הבחירה (מאירי) מסכת מועד קטן דף כ עמוד א
ומ”מ אין רבים חייבין להקיפו בהם בשורות של תנחומין שכבר נתעסקו בו ברגל שאין הרגל מונע את המנחמין מלהקיף את האבל לנחמו שכל שהוא משום אבל רגל מפסיקו ואם מת בתוך הרגל בכדי שלא יעברו לו שבעה ברגל צריכין להקיפו בתנחומין אחר הרגל עד שיכלו שבעה לתנחומין מיום קבורתו ואילך ומ”מ לענין אבלות מונה שבעה גמורים לאחר הרגל:
Beit haBechira (Meiri), Moed Katan 20a
…The public is not required to surround him in lines of condolence, as they already occupied themselves with him during the festival – for the festival does not prevent the public from surrounding the mourner to comfort him, because “Any activity that is prohibited to the mourner because it is an expression of mourning is interrupted by the Festival” and if he died during the festival, such that the seven-day mourning period will not come to an end during the festival, the public must surround him and comfort him after the festival, until the seven-day period from the day of burial ends. For the purpose of mourning, however, one counts seven whole days after the festival.
פסקי רי”ד מסכת מועד קטן דף כ עמוד א
ואין רבים מתעסקין עמו שכבר נתעסקו עמו ברגל, שאע”פ שתרבה ז’ אחר הרגל אין רבים מתעסקין עמו לנחמו שכבר נתעסקו עמו ברגל, שאע”פ שאין אבילות ברגל מותר לנחמו ברגל.
Piskei haRid, Moed Katan 20a
And the public need not occupy themselves with him and come to console him, for they already occupied themselves with him during the Festival – because even if the seven-day mourning period continues after the festival, the public need not occupy themselves with him to comfort him, for although there is no mourning on the festival, it is permitted to comfort him on the festival.
The Meiri and the Rid emphasize that the reason it is possible to comfort the mourner is because comfort is not one of the laws of mourning. Only expressions of mourning are brought to an end by the festival; however, there is no contradiction between rejoicing on the festival and providing comfort!
Despite the impression we may have gotten until this daf, we found that there is a distinction between the individual mourner and the role played by the comforters.
The breitot in the Gemara show that the public occupies itself with the mourner on the festival – and Rashi and Tosafot interpret this to refer to condolences.
According to Rashi and Tosafot, the reason that people come to comfort the mourner is that this is a collective commandment, and as per what we learned last week, the festival does not override collective commandments. However, another aspect of this ruling appears in additional rishonim, who note that this is not only a collective commandment but a commandment that is not considered mourning. That is, this commandment is not an act of mourning, but an act of support and reassurance; therefore, the injunction to rejoice on the festival does not contradict the performance of this commandment whatsoever.
It is important to note that in our day, the custom is not to comfort the mourner in any institutionalized way during the festival; this should be explored further, and perhaps there may even be room to return to the custom of the tannaim, amoraim, and rishonim to comfort mourners even on festivals.