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The Development of a Halacha

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The Development of a Halacha

Reprinted with permission from Yosid For the Chosid

Many years ago, in a far away country, there was a well known rabbi who was consulted on all sorts of matters relating to the Jewish people. His wise counsel was sought from people of all walks of life, and his decisions were accepted by the community at large, as they understood that his rulings and pronouncements were divinely inspired.

 

So when on a certain occasion he met with some parents of his students, and a few mothers complained that their children were not making their beds, he assured them that he would deal with the matter. That week, in his public address to his students, he mentioned that the students should always make sure to make their beds in the morning. When the person transcribing the speech wrote up his review of the talk, he made sure to emphasize the rabbi's intention. He wrote, "The Rosh Yeshiva today ruled that one is m'chuyav to make his bed in the morning." Word spread fast. The halacha had been established: One was obligated to make their bed.

Later that day, someone came to the Rosh Yeshiva and asked, "I don't have time to make my bed before I go to davening. By the time I get back my mother is gone for the day so she doesn't think I make my bed, and isn't pleased. What should I do?" After hearing the answer that was given, the halacha was suitably amended to say that the bed should be made as soon as one gets up. "One is m'chuyav to make his bed in the morning, as soon as he gets up."


The next day, he was approached by a bochur that wanted to know, "When you said 'as soon as he gets up', do you mean immediately - right when one steps out of the bed - or is one allowed some time first?" One isn't required to do it immediately, he answered. So they modified the text accordingly: "One is m'chuyav to make his bed in the morning, soon after he gets up." "How long soon after?" he was immediately asked. "How much time exactly?" 10-15 minutes, he replied, figuring that's a reasonable amount of time. And so it was added: "One is m'chuyav to make his bed in the morning, within 10-15 minutes from when he gets up." The bochurim found this to be a satisfactory resolution, but unsurprisingly, it resulted in some individuals insisting that it should be made by 10 minutes, and others saying it was fine to wait even 15 minutes. After some time, they settled on an unofficial resolution by considering 10 minutes to be the first zman, and 15 minutes the second zman. Things went along smoothly until one day a bochur came over and explained to him a problem he had run into. "My roommate doesn't like the way I make my bed! He claims it's not really made!" "What do you mean?", asked the Rosh Yeshiva. "Well, he claims that for a bed to be considered 'made' the pillow needs to be on top and the sides need to be even or tucked in, and I just lay out the cover on top, covering everything, however it comes out. What should I do?" The Rosh Yeshiva mulled this over for a while, and replied: You're allowed to make it however your family does it. What's acceptable to your mother (or father) is acceptable here.

Hakol k'minhago. Once again the halacha was adjusted accordingly: "One is m'chuyav to make his bed in the morning, within 10-15 minutes from when he gets up. The manner of making the bed should be done according to one's established minhag."
(Later that week when the bochurim went home for the weekend, many parents were a bit mystified when they were asked by their sons, "What is the minhag of our family of how to make our beds?", but they figured it was all part of the tremendous spiritual growth they could see in their young bnei torah.)

One morning a few weeks later, as shacharis was beginning, the Rosh Yeshiva was notified about an argument that had broken out between 2 bochurim. Approaching their room, he heard loud shouting through the closed door. As he entered, he found one of the bochurim vehemently yelling at the other. Seeing him come in, the young man turned to him and exclaimed loudly, "Rebbe! I'm so glad you're here! I tried to get him to make his bed but he wouldn't listen! He just ignored me, and now it's 5 minutes after the zman, and look – his bed is still not made!"

Before the Rosh Yeshiva had a chance to respond, the other bochur quickly spoke up in his defense, "That's not true. I only got out of bed 2 minutes ago! I still have 8 minutes until the zman!"
"Yes, he only got out of bed 2 minutes ago. But he woke up 20 minutes ago! That means he should have made his bed 10 minutes ago!"

It was clear that there needed to be some clarification: When the psak was issued that a bed must be made 10-15 minutes after getting up, did 'after getting up' mean after waking up ('m'sha'as kumuso') or did it mean after getting out of bed ('m'sha'as yitziaso')? At this point a small crowd had gathered around the room and a vociferous discussion had broken out. Everyone started buzzing, talking, sharing their thoughts of why it meant this interpretation and not the other one. Realizing what was happening, the Rosh Yeshiva put an abrupt stop to it all by loudly demanding that everyone should immediately go to davening and they would deal with it later on.

By lunchtime that day the Rosh Yeshiva had still not addressed the burning issue and a fierce debate had already broken out in the halls of the yeshiva. Even the rabbeim had gotten involved. Some felt that the halacha had to mean from when a person got out of bed, because as they explained, "if it meant 'from when he woke up' then the first thing he would have to do upon awaking would be to look at his clock and remember the time. But this can't be, because we all know that the first thing a person must do when he wakes up is say 'modeh ani' and wash neigel vasser. Therefore it must mean 'from when he gets out of bed'." In spite of this convincing logic others still held it was better to be machmir and go by from when a person wakes up and not to wait until he gets out of bed. They pointed out that all that was needed to avoid the above-mentioned conflict was to first say modeh ani, quickly wash his hands, and then subtract 30 seconds from whenever he first looks at the clock. "But not all clocks have second hands on them," countered the first opinion, "and besides, it is too easy to forget the exact time including the seconds." The machmirim had a ready response: "Firstly, someone who cares about the halacha properly can make sure to have a clock with seconds on it, and secondly, he should also have a paper and pen next to his clock so he can mark down the proper time, in order to avoid the chance of forgetting it."

Seeing that positions had already been staked out in this dispute, the Rosh Yeshiva decided not to voice his own opinion and instead told everyone to go by whatever their rebbe held.

Unfortunately, this had the effect of causing a lot of machlokes in the school as some people didn't agree with their rabbeim, and resented being forced out of their beds sooner than they preferred. The problems were soon settled when a young illuy came up with an ingenious solution. He pointed out that even though someone had woken up, if they had in mind that they were sleeping it was like they actually were, since 'machshava k'ma'ase'. Although his reasoning was roundly rejected by many others, it satisfied those lazier bochurim and they let the matter slide. No one was much surprised at their reaction, as these sorts of students had already demonstrated their laxity of the halacha when it was realized that they were deliberately getting dressed while remaining in their beds, in order to give themselves more time until the zman of 'when you get up' would commence (according to the shita of m'sha'as yitziaso).

For a brief while the yeshiva had some complaints from bochurim who wanted to switch rooms because their roommates were not keeping what they felt was the right zman for making their beds. Already very disturbed by the problems that the previous issue had caused and not wanting to cause any more machlokes in the yeshiva, the Rosh Yeshiva wisely dealt with the problem by declaring that if anyone was concerned about another not making the zman, they were allowed to make the other persons bed for them, as long as the first one had da'as that the other would be yotzei for himself. When asked if the bed-making shliach also was required to have da'as he replied that it wasn't necessary because obviously if he was making it he had da'as to do such a thing. Despite his suggestion, it wasn't uncommon to hear bochurim loudly reminding their roommates, "Have in mind to be yotzei so-and-so when making his bed!"

Some months after the initial psak was issued, an enterprising bochur started selling a unique clock that had a special alarm. The alarm would wake you up, and when you pushed the proper button it would turn off and ring 9 minutes later to remind you that you had 1 minute left to make your bed. He actually also made a second one that gave you 14 minutes instead of 9, but no one bought it since they felt it was better not to be meikel.

Another issue that the yeshiva had to resolve was that according to the opinions that one must make their beds from when they first woke up, what was to be done if someone fell asleep again shortly after waking up? After much learned discussion it was decided that falling back asleep wasn't a problem, and the zman only started after the real, final waking up. This was derived from the situation of if one woke up in the middle of the night: Was he then obligated to make his bed shortly after? For a brief time, some people in the yeshiva began to follow this custom. But when the Rosh Yeshiva ruled that it wasn't necessary, they understood from that that the zman only began after the last, real waking up.

These events all occurred many, many years ago, and boruch hashem nowadays it isn't as heated an issue as it once was. Everyone understands and accepts the principles of eilu v'eilu divrei Elokim chaim, minhag avoseinu b'yadeinu, ba'al nefesh yachmir, and shomer p'saim Hashem. Each person has their own traditions or chumros that they're entitled to follow or make up. In addition, there have been many wonderful books written on this subject, most recently Artscroll's splendid translation of Hilchos Ish U'Mitoso, which sheds much light on this subject for the average layman (also available in a laminated, newly type-set, pocket edition that one can keep by their bed!).

However, legend has it that if you go to this yeshiva and poke in on some of the rooms, you'll still occasionally find a bochur here and there that tries to be extra zahir in this inyan and – even on a cold winter night – will sleep on top of his carefully made blanket so that he never will – chas v'chalila! - find his bed unmade past the proper zman!