Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If Ever a Dvar Torah So Thoroughly Missed the Point...

Hirhurim - Musings: Reciting Tehillim for the Sick

Unless maybe he's just using hyperbole... Update: I see from the comment section that he was not.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of ignite social media)

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Anonymous said...

oh my gosh!!!

yehupitz said...

That title says it all.
Yasher Koach!

Αλέξανδρος said...

I was a little shocked myself. I can’t say too much surprised, though…

I just heard yesterday a story (in a shiur about contribution of Chassidus to learning Torah) about a misnaged who came to Reb Chayim Ozer and showed him a letter of Rebbe Rashab that talked about “Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus”.

“Look,” he said, “in Misnha it says there are four Rosh-HaShanos, and Chassidim say there are five Rosh-HaShanos.” Reb Ozer sighed and answered: “Ah. They are always adding, and we are always taking away.”

This morning, when I saw this post, I thought about the story.

DixieYid said...

To all,

Agreed. Why must we sacrifice people's pure and simple tefilos to Hashem on the alter of halachic one-upmanship?

-Dixie Yid

ThePeoplesChamp said...

I don't have a problem with what he wrote. I think he was just opening a "Lumdisha" conversation and was looking at it from that perspective.
He even brought up the fact that many minhagim are against the Talmud and found it historically interesting.

DixieYid said...


I had hoped you were right about him just being a bit hyperbolic to make a somewhat theoretical halachic discussion sound more l'ma'aseh. But if you read the comment section, he's being quite serious and literal in his statement that saying tehillim for cholim is a questionable practice and that Rabbanim, Poskim and Rebbes through the ages probably just didn't know a Gemara and a Rambam.


-Dixie Yid

ThePeoplesChamp said...


His exact quote was:

"Meanwhile, you also touched on another topic worthy of a post of it's own: There are *plenty* of things that Geodlim and Rebbes do/have done which are in total contradiction to Gemaras and Shulchan Aruch!! Heck, that's why the sefer Minhag Yisrael Torah was written!!! (See the introduction there)."

I'm hoping he wrote it to engage in a discourse. I'm not sure, but I'm doing my best to try and see the good side in it.

At the end of the day, I assume he wouldn't leave shul if they were saying tehillim for a Choleh (or at least hope).

Keep up the good work!

DixieYid said...

I do appreicate your efforts at being dan k'kaf zechus.

And you're probably right that he wouldn't walk out in protest if a shul started saying "Shir Ha'ma'alos Mima'a'kim k'rasicha Hashem." And if he doesn't like to daven through the words of Dovid Hamelech, that's fine. I also don't say that many Tehillim outside of the regular davening. I'm more concerned about the tremendous negative effect such words would have on regular, simple, good Jews who daven by saying Tehillim. Such words can dampen and cool those with pure and simple Emunah, a higher level of Emunah than the cold intellectual Emunah that the author of that Dvar Torah may be more accustomed to. That would be such a tragedy.

You keep up the good work too chaver!

-Dixie Yid

Jonathan said...

I think the point the Rambam was concerned about was that if a person uses words of Torah for healing, and then they remain ill, they may think H"V this is evidence that the Torah is not true.

DixieYid said...

Jonathan, totally right. He was worried that people might think Hashem wasn't omnipotent or that the Torah wasn't true if their "incantations" didn't work. Even more so, he was worried that this was Avodah Zara because if one uses words of Torah as an incantation, it is basically saying that there is some power other than Hashem in the world which can affect healing. And that's a bad thing. Totally true.

But people say Tehillim not as an incantation, but as a tefillah and as a way of being marbeh zechusim by reading words of the Torah, Nevi'im and Kesuvim, as a way of davening to Hashem coupled with some good act to merit a refuah sheleima for someone, for example.

But the truth is, one could always be choshesh, even in the case of regular tefillah, that one would think Hashem isn't real or reject the Torah if his tefillah isn't answered in the affirmative. But the Gemara says that Jews are ma'aminim bnei ma'aminim and that they will not regret the Tehillim said, mitzovs done, Tzedaka given or Torah learned, even if their tefillos are not answered in the affirmative.

Again, it would be absurd for me to disagree with the chashash of the Rambam in any way. It just has no applicability to the particular case of why people say Tehillim. And for a modern writer to say that it does, threatens to dampen the few sparks of true and simple Emunah that we can muster up these days.

Kol tuv!

-Dixie Yid

heimishe Yid said...

With all due respect, an integral part (or perhaps I should say the essence) of Torah learning is dealing with many different types of questions and challenges, some which could be viewed as much worse or much more offensive than this. I think the reaction displayed by some here is actually not in the spirit of traditional Yiddishkeit and limmud HaTorah.

DixieYid said...

heimishe Yid,

While I hear what you are saying, I don't think you appreciate the gravity of depricating the simple recitation of Tehillim. See i.e., Rebbe Nachman's story quoted here: http://www.tapuz.co.il/Communa/ViewmsgCommuna.asp?Communaid=6727&msgid=27050187

-Dixie Yid

Jonathan said...

Dixie Yid,
Well argued! You will succeed in Law.

Menashe said...

I think reading the comments on the post will reveal just how little merit there is to his claim. One yid has accused him of completely misreading the Rambam to mean something entirely different - the issur being, al pi rambam, to make the pesukim an actual part of some sort of incantation. But Tehillim said on their own - and certainly in the context of davening to Hashem is permitted lchol dayos. This is crazy - davening is the whole yiddishkeit and tehillim is arguably the whole davening. Not to mention accusing our Rebbeim of all stripes and times of having transgressed halocha, ch'v ch'v alfei paamim.

This kind of stuff does not on a frum site where people could get very confused.

Anonymous said...

I don't know exactly what it says there since I don’t visit that site anymore. Reading stuff there can be detrimental to one's emunah, even if you are strong in it. I think that site is like a pig that sticks out its hooves to show it's kosher. Perhaps this is what is referred to in Likutei Mohoran quoting the Zohar as "talmid chochom sheid yehudi".

You say tehilim beseeching Hashem with the holy words of Dovid Hamelech to have mercy, as Jews of all stripes have always done, soaking their tehilims with tears.. You are not saying tehilim to the sickness or wound, as that is what is forbidden. It seems like some people like to use some sort of drush of the “sitra acher” to turn holy customs into sins. Rachmana Litzlan. May we be saved from Manhigei Sheker.

Crawling Axe said...

I think the point the Rambam was concerned about was that if a person uses words of Torah for healing, and then they remain ill, they may think H"V this is evidence that the Torah is not true.

Jonathan, Rambam was referring very specifically to this case (quoting ArtScroll translation of Sanhedrin, 101a):

[Mishna] [b]And one who incants over a wound[/b]
[Gemara] R’ Yochanan said: The Mishna speaks of one who expectorates on [the wound] before reciting the verse, for one may not mention Hashem’s name over spittle.

Comment: “It was the custom of incantation healers to expectorate on the wound before uttering their incantations. The Mishnah teaches that if in such a case one incants the Name of G-d, he loses his share in the world to come. However, this doesn't apply to a different language.” (Rashi; see Rama to Yoreh Deah 179:8)

In other words, one is not allowed to say divrei Torah as a part of magic ritual.

A student of Torah needs to train himself and make it a permanent habit not to make any decisions about anything written in any seifer of yiddishkeit without looking first in the context (and, if necessary, investigating it). Regarding Rambam, there is an important rule: whenever he is forbidding or negating something, he refers to a very specific already existing practice or shitta — and his ruling applies only within the context of that practice or shitta. So, the above rule applies even more strongly.

DixieYid said...

Crawling Axe,

Big yasher koach on all of your comments here and especially for your comments over at Hirhurim. You, reality check, and Toby are voices of reason in an insane conversation. Given that, I would consider the article author's statement that you are the minority there some consolation to you.

-Dixie Yid

Jonathan said...

Thanks for the clarification Crawling Axe.

Fred said...

So what is your source that tehiilim helps?

A Talmid said...

See here for the many benefeits of Tehilim, as taught by great tzadikim.

DixieYid said...


See also the many sources brought down by "Reality Check" and "Crawling Axe" in the comment section at Hirhurim. They range from Psukim, Gemaras, Rishonim, Acharonim, Mekubalim, and Rebbes.

-Dixie Yid