Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rabbinic logic

I just came across an example of rabbinic logic.  I can't decide if it's brilliant, or ridiculous.  As a side note, it's interesting how often that's the case.

So, the question is whether to recite shechechiyanu (that’s the prayer we say when we experience something new, or when we reach a regular milestone, such as a holiday) on the second day of Rosh Hashana.

Because I'm still working on my High Holy Day sermons, I'm not going to take the time to explain all the details, but you can find them here. The summary of the conundrum is that the second day of the holiday is, according to some authorities, actually an extension of the first day.  In other words, there aren’t two days of Rosh Hashana, but rather one, extra-long day. So, whether or not to recite the prayer would depend on whether or not the second day is in fact a new day, which isn't clear. And, it's important to know, that, traditionally, it's very important not to "waste" a blessing. We're not supposed to say a blessing, unless we absolutely need to.  So, how do we know what to do in this case?

The solution?  Easy!  Put something special, like a piece of fruit you haven't eaten this year, on the table. Then, say the blessing.  If it turns out that we're supposed to say the blessing for the holiday, then we did so.  If, however, it turns out that we weren't supposed to say it for the holiday, then we can say we said it for the fruit.  Either way, we're kosher.

So, faithful readers: what say you?  A brilliant way around a religious conundrum?  Or, an example of what's wrong with religious ritual?  Or, both?

And now, back to those sermons…

2 comments:

msands said...

Isn't intent a core aspect of prayer? What is the intent in the fruit solution? Or perhaps I should say "where" is the intent? Or "when"?

Gamesmanship is not a substitute for logic. Nor should it be for ritual or "real" prayer, if such are your thing.

Mike

Stephen Bucholtz said...

In my humble opinion, the entire discussion is ridiculous. I followed the link and read the referenced article and I'm even more amazed that this question seems to have been debated for centuries. To me, this is a tremendous waste of intellectual energy. Should we say this prayer or not? Oh no, we may waste a prayer. Come on. How can the answer to this make us better Jews or better human beings? Why not spend this time and energy on thinking about how we can improve ourselves, how we can help our community, or how we can make some small contribution to making the world a better place? How does puzzling over this question get us any closer to the "Truth" as you eloquently described in your Rosh Hashanah sermon? On the other hand, after the Yom Kippur morning sermon, I am trying to see merit in the other side of this discussion.

Stephen