Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sit or Stand - a good custom or a mistake?

Rambam was asked about standing during reading of the Ten Commandments. He forbids it because it would show more deference for one Possuk over another. That would infer that one Possuk is more authentic than the other. ( It would also play into the hand of the Christians (Minnim) who believed that only the Asseres Hadibros were min hashamayim). The Rav in the first edition of Masorah explains that the custom that most people follow nowadays to stand during the reading of Aseres Hadibrot is because we read it with the Taam Haelyon, the special tropp used for this reading. That reading ignores the Psukim in the Torah and reads each commandment in its own possuk. Thus the last few Dibros are just two word verses - Lo Tirzach: Lo Tinaf: Normal reading falls under the rubric of Talmud Torah while the special reading is to emmulate the Har Sinai experience. At har Sinai the people stood and that is why people stand according to the current custom., He notes that his Grandfather R.Chaim read it with the normal tropp and sat during the reading.

I sat through the Shira and I sit through Chazak. Clearly it is not permitted to stand for those. (One could argue that AH are special but when one reads the Rambam's tshuvah it is clear that this applies to all Pssukim). I believe that this is an area that one must be more strict and a stickler because it has to do with real Ikrey Yahadus.


  1. sit or stand, can it really matter much?????

  2. Do you think the Rambam would mind all the AH iconography all over. Do you think that he would see the AH on the Aron Kodesh of every shul and say that Jews prioritize this? It seems to me that we stand because we see those commandmanets as special in some way. Apparently God did too, otherwise why would he have put THAT on the two rocks and have Moses come down with it.

    So if God would make the AH special, as he did not send Moses down with the whole torah, but only the AH, why can't we do the same?

    I do not follow or accept the Rambam's reasoning. No one thinks that we stand because those verses are special in the sense that they are the VERSES from God as opposed to all the others. We stand because when God had to give some revelation to the Israelites at Saini, that is what He deemed important enough to give.

  3. That is exactly the point RYBS was making. The AH are read differently than the rest of the Torah to make that point. By doing that it is ok to act differently during that reading.That custom was not yet developed during Rambam's time.

    Last shabbos we read the Shira. People stand up for it and I think it is incorrect. The same goes for Chazak.Now of course it is no big deal, it is no more than just a regular minhag that would not mean much one way or the other, except that it has Hashkafic ramifications.

    The reason I bring it up is that I was once approached by a Rav about me sitting down, and as I usually am the only one doing so I am self conscious about it.

  4. I stand up during kriat hatorah every shabbes of the year.

  5. isnt the standing during the shira also to recreate the experience. Another way to conceptualize this is to say that we stand for episodes of great divine revelation (raasa shifcha al hayom etc, har sinai). I forget who says this.

  6. R. David,

    Over the years I've considered modifying certain of my inherited practices to conform to the kinds of understanding that you have reached. For example, not to stand during the reading of the shira, as per the Rambam. But then I considered that my own praxis is defective enough that I've got no good reason to start nitpicking about esoteric things before I correct larger matters. So I stand, I sing the third verse of shalom aleichem etc.

    But here is my question: in the zeman of the tannaim there were sectarians who elevated the aseret ha-dibrot, including Christians who were not yet clearly demarked from the rest of the Jewish people. This is why recitation of them was removed from daily tefilah. Perhaps in the Rambam's time there was a similar reality.

    But today we do not have any group that isn't completely distinguishable from Judaism, and if we do, it certainly isn't over the aseret ha-dibrot. So what justification do we have to make a show of not distinguishing? Perhaps this is why R. Soloveitchik himself didn't say "so you have to sit, like the Rambam."


  7. Krias Hatorah is part of mitzvas Talmud Tora (Moshe tiken lohem...)and that should be done beyeshiva ( I dont recall where but I saw either in a Tshuvas Harambam or another Rishon). However that is not an issue as it has no hashkafah ramifications. The issue is if Krya is Talmud torah, and we read Shira as part of that Mitzvah you cannot differentiate between one possuk and another. That is the Rav's point that because AH has a special krya with new pesukim (kol possuk delo poskei moshe) it is no longer Talmud Torah but a different mitzva of reenacting Har Sinai.

  8. Is there any evidence that the Rambam's custom was not to lein with the taam elyon? Or is this an ad-hoc harmonization between our custom and the Rambam's proscription against standing?

  9. I have not researched the source for Taam hoelyon howeverr I would not be surprised that it is a very late institution. The Rav just uses it to explain the Minhag of standing up which is seemingly in contradiction to Rambam. I think there is a Tshuva by RMF who simply minimizes and disagrees with the Rambam. So to answer your question Rambam probably never knew of this Minhag of Taam Elyon. I have no proof though.(yet)

  10. I seem to remember that the rav did have some evidence that the rambam didn't have taam elyon.

    IIRC, RMFeinstein's argument is that we stand for the shira, so it's not a matter of isolating aseres hadibros as uniquely important as per the minim, b/c there are no minim who prioritize the shira (he is apparently not dealing with bible critics who assume the shiras are all very old etc)

    I understand the rambam (contra RMF) as taking the same position he takes on the ikarim re achos loton timna, that one must distance oneself from any position that implies privilege of *any* posuk over another.

    My reservation about sitting is that I'm not sure one should do differently than the shul's minhag, also al tihi yoshev beyn ha'omdin.
    I see this as different than rejecting ancestral minhagim at home (though I am never quite sure about that personally either).

  11. It depends where one davens. If I were in a big shul that had a homogenious Olam I agree that you follow the minhag hamokom (thogh if you read Rambam's tshuvah he was telling them to change minhag hamokom), if on the other hand in what is nowadays most common inm shtiblech, the minhag hamokom is based on whim and the one who shouts , acts authoritatively etc... I am not sure Minhag hamokom applies.

  12. Aharon haLevi6/08/2008 5:36 PM

    Perhaps the shirah, or chazak or anytime there si a dfferent trop, might indicate soemthing experientially different?