Letters to the Editor

Focus on Health
As a formerly obese person, I read with great interest the series of articles on health (spring 2008). Finally, a magazine has addressed some of the health issues that face the frum community.

I have noticed that a number of other communities have taken it upon themselves to challenge their members to lose weight and get into better shape. Yet I have never heard of a rabbi challenging his congregants to lose weight together.

I feel it is time for us as a community to start to take our health seriously and to address [our lack of] physical fitness.

Eli Celnik
Valley Village, California

As someone who has recently lost a significant amount of weight after many years of neglecting my health, I want to offer you kudos on the articles about the dangers of obesity and bad eating. I would like to add one idea that might help your readers lose weight and regain their health. Towards the beginning of my weight loss, I signed up with Team Lifeline, a program run by Chai Lifeline. I committed to run a half-marathon and raise money on behalf of this organization. Within months, I lost a significant amount of weight. Combining chesed with a healthier lifestyle created a win-win situation for myself and for all of the individuals and families that are helped by Chai Lifeline.

Rabbi Pesach Sommer
Los Angeles

“Pediatric Obesity: A Challenge for the Orthodox Jewish Community” by Ronald Nagel (spring 2008) is a great and necessary article. However, another cause of obesity not mentioned in the article is the lack of physical education classes in Jewish day schools, especially the high schools. The kids snack, sit all day and have little or no physical education. It’s time that the complete child is taken into consideration when planning the school day. If there is no emphasis on physical movement in school, then the child learns that it is not important.

Debra Stomel
Ma’ale Adumim, Israel

A Singular Happiness
I’m writing in response to Devora Jaye’s “Life As a Happy Single Person” (spring 2008). My daughter Devorah didn’t buy couches; she bought a house. And she is single! One doesn’t put one’s life on hold simply because one is not married. Yes, my daughter is frum and unmarried, but she recognizes that managing her finances is a necessity.

Marion Gold

What [Devora Jaye] writes is true. There is no reason why [single people] should have to be “bottom feeders” while we wait for our zivugs (partners). [Being single gives us] the time to develop ourselves, work on strengthening our weaknesses and discovering the beauty behind every one of our individual challenges. Yes, it is not easy to feel a part of a Jewish community when you are not taken as seriously as you would be if you were married—almost as though marriage suddenly bestows some magical wisdom. [But] being single is a hidden treasure, and both married and single people should recognize that we all have our challenges to deal with, specific to each person and hand-picked by Hashem. … I’m a much more developed person than I was a few years ago and I can clearly see the Yad Hashem in [my being single]. When the time is right and the person is right, that’s the only time I want to be married.

Y Goldberg

The Laws of Shivah: A Clarification
In my summer 2008 article (“What’s the Truth about … Sitting Shivah on Erev Shabbat?”), I wrote that “… a mourner may travel so as to finish sitting shivah at another location.” Recently, Rabbi Dr. Moshe Bleich mentioned to me that this point requires clarification. I am grateful to him—indeed, the halachah is nuanced and should be explicated.

It is preferable for one to sit shivah either in the house where the deceased died or where he had lived. But it may be observed anywhere—even in a place that is far from the cemetery. The trip to this location may be taken following the burial. However, once shivah commences, the halachah is clear that the mourner should not leave the shivah house so that he not be distracted from his mourning (SA, YD 393:2). He should not leave even for the performance of a mitzvah. Many authorities prohibit the mourner from attending shul even if there is no minyan in the shivah house (SA, YD 393:3; Nitei Gavriel, Aveilut, vol. 1, p. 480, n. 8-9). A mourner may leave the house in the case of a great need, such as if he needs to sleep in another house. It is preferable, however, that he leave late at night when there are no longer people in the street, and he return early in the morning before the streets are full of people (Rema, YD 393:2; Iggerot Moshe, YD 2:172).

It would thus seem that a mourner should not leave the shivah house to sit the remainder of the time at another location. And indeed that is the position of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (according to oral testimonies) and Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (reported by his student Rabbi Avigdor Halevi Nebenzahl in Meolam vead Olam, p. 29, n. 10) as well as many of their students.

As noted, a mourner may leave if there is great need. Some contemporary authorities view the need to be consoled or the need of others to console as sufficient need. Therefore, Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu (Tzror Hachaim 95) and Rabbi Shlomo Aviner (She’eilot Shlomo 5:72) both permit moving locations in the middle of a shivah. Rabbi Feivel Cohen in Badei Hashulchan (393:3) quotes the Ohr Zarua in support of permitting such a move and offers no dissenting opinion. In his Biurim, he offers a lengthy justification and discussion of this ruling, and concludes that this seems to be the normative practice.

My original statement, that a mourner may travel so as to finish sitting shivah at another location, is thus not a universally agreed-upon halachah. On the other hand, moving locations during shivah does have a halachic basis. Today it is very common, and is permitted ab initio by certain authorities.

Ari Zivotofsky
Beit Shemesh

In “A Perek a Day” (summer 2008) by Shira Penn, a prominent maggid shiur was inadvertently omitted from the list of those who have presented Nach Yomi to date. Rabbi Menachem Leibtag, founder of the Tanach Study Center, has been with the program since its inception, providing an in-depth shiur on most of Nevi’im Rishonim and the daily shiur for Yirmiyahu.

This article was featured in the Fall 2008 issue of Jewish Action.