Friday, March 16, 2007

Question & Answer With Michoel - Dangerous Shabbos Candles

(Painting by Rabbi Elyah Succot)

A Simple Jew asks:

From time to time, I hear horrible stories about homes that are burnt down by unattended Shabbos candles. It never ceases to leave me with an unsettling feeling since my logical side understands the danger of leaving an unattended flame. Yet, my emunah tells me that what is more important is the fact that a woman perform the mitzvah of lighting Shabbos candles.

Perhaps the answer to the question of why this happens is not for us to understand. What are your thoughts on this?

Michoel answers:

I also feel unsettled when I hear of such tragedies, in a way that is different from the feeling one gets when hearing of a car accident. Hashem’s mitzvos are supposed to do provide a shmirah for a person, and now, to the superficial appearance, the exact opposite has happened.

This issue needs to be looked at both mi’tzad haseichal and mi’tzad he’emunah. I once heard Rabbenu Avigdor Miller zecher tzadik v’kadosh livracha address a similar subject. There was a terrible tragedy one Chanukah. A young child was burned to death when his clothes caught fire while he was lighting Chanukah licht. Rabbi Miller said that people may ask how such a tragedy could happen. He said that it happened because the father failed to use seichal, being makpid that even his very small children should light their own menorah. He failed to follow the rules of Nature that were decreed by the Ribono Shel Olam. As is known, Rabbi Miller was very makpid about taking care of his health. When he had to turn a door-knob, he would cover his hand with his frock so as to avoid picking up germs from the door-knob. There were and are many tzadikim from different streams that were makpid on “u’shmor meod es nafshoseichem” to the full extent. It would seem that if one truly loves the Ribono Shel Olam then one would want to maximize their opportunities in this world to do his mitzvos. And that would dictate that we should do everything possible to preserve our families’ lives and well being, “v’chal hamarbeh, harei zeh m’shubach”. Such an approach doesn’t show a lack of b’tachon but rather an abundance of true longing to do His will. In my home, we try to follow this approach some-what. My wife lights on a high glass shelf over-looking the table, and not on the table itself. I generally stay up Shabbos night until the licht goes out.

On the other hand, it is known that there were great tzaddikim that pushed themselves in their performance of mitzvos in a way that would seem to not be in their best interest in terms of health. This is true even when there were permitted ways that would not involve health risks. As a bochur, I often ate at a chasidishe family that was brucha banim ad meod. The mother would bentch licht in the middle of the tisch. She lit a huge amount of licht such that it was uncomfortably warm sitting at the table. The children served the seudah. When I used to see a six year old carrying a tray and putting it down right next to the licht, I felt in my heart that maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. But that was their mesora of how to fir ois. When I was last in their community, I stopped by and they were still all in good health and doing quite well. All their children are very shtark, chasidishe yidden, and mistama the married ones are all lighting the way their mother does.

I really don’t have any answers. Is the issue one of sufficient emuna? Meaning, if a person is on a certain madreigah, he can get away with some things that others cannot? Or is the emes that shomer mitzvah lo yadah davar rah applies to everyone equally and those that got hurt would have gotten hurt in any case and Hashem brought it about this way for reasons that are hidden to us? These are deep issues for great ones to answer.

The One Above should protect all the Yidden and bentch us with good, long life, healthy children bnei Torah, parnassa in a good way, and all the things we need to serve Him.

4 Comments:

At March 16, 2007 at 9:58:00 AM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Gemora in Shabbos when talking about blood letting discusses certain days where we should not blood let. The gemora says not to do it on Tuesdays. The gemora asks that on Friday the same reason applies but Friday we are allowed. The gemora answers that since blood letting on Friday is commonly done by people we can rely on the possuk of "shomer petaim Hashem".

 
At March 16, 2007 at 10:36:00 AM EDT, Blogger Akiva said...

Amein! While there are many wonderful minhagim in this space, it's often important for people to understand the context of some halachot, which are not often described.

For example, in the US I had a child knock a candle down on Shabbat. What action do you take? Carpet, wood home, young children, Jewish/non-Jewish neighborhood, you put it out. Ahh, but I had the same in Israel (this time the child put a napkin in the candles, surprised at the result dropped it on the floor). In Israel, stone floor, no risk of spreading, safe to let it burn without risk to life.

 
At March 18, 2007 at 9:22:00 AM EDT, Blogger yitz.. said...

Regarding Rav Miller's behavior, we have to remember to take science with a grain of salt. Back then, germs were to be avoided at all cost. Nowadays we know that most bacteria and germs educate and strengthen our immune system. Keeping yourself germ-free especially through your childhood can create much worse (or at least more painful) complications later in life.
Who knows what science will tell us that we know tomorrow?
Are we patur from violating "u’shmor meod es nafshoseichem" if we acted in accordance with modern science? Even if science reverses its opinion later? probably.


There is, I think, an implicit warning in examining phenomenon like this in the Talmud. According to the Talmud Yerushalmi at least, (It could be in the Bavli as well, (I think I might have seen it years ago in Brachot or Megillah) but I've only seen it inside (for certain) in the Yerushalmi) Elisha Ben Avuyah left Judaism because of examining a similar situation. (a person doing kibud av, and shiluach haKen, fell and died. Someone, keeping two mitzwoth that are meant to lengthen your days, died right after performing the mitzwah.)

(sorry my comment isn't structured better these were just the thoughts the post elicited.)

 
At January 12, 2009 at 7:22:00 AM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Akiva: you are not allowed to put it out, you should either place water around it so when it reaches the water it will be put out by itself, or leave the house and have anonjew contact the fire dept that is the correct halacha

 

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