Feb 8, 2011

Interesting Psak: Learning Hilchos Aveilus

There is a common minhag, perhaps based on sentiment, to not learn the laws of aveilus, mourning, as long as one's parents and immediate relatives are still alive, so as not to bring a bad omen of sorts. While I heard this minhag many years ago, I have recently heard this minhag extended to some people not learning the sections in gemara that deal with the laws and issues of mourning.

This minhag never really made sense to me, as how can learning torah bring a bad omen? As well, how will you ever know the laws of mourning when you need them (until 120..) if you don't learn them "until it is too late"? So I did not avoid learning those sections in the gemara, nor in Shulchan Aruch, when I got up to them.

Someone asked Rav Zeini from the hesder yeshiva in Haifa Ohr V'Yeshua, whether one can learn these issues or if they should be avoided.

Rav Zeini answered "there is no basis to avoid learning the laws of mourning, and it is prohibited to listen to those who say to avoid it. Somebody whose parents are alive is obligated to be an ignoramus? Furthermore, if you don't learn the laws of mourning until you fall into mourning, chas vshalom, how will you know what to do? When your relative dies you are going to start learning through the sugyas?"

Rav Zeini goes on to say that this is simply superstition that has seeped into Judaism and into the torah world. There is no part of the Torah that is not allowed to be learned. More so, he brings from Rav Yehuda HaChassid, that one should look to perform mitzvas that are avoided by others and have become similar to a meis mitzva - such as if you see a mitzva that is treated with disrespect, or a piece of Torah that people are not delving into. If you learn those topics that others are not, you will get reward corresponding to all of them.

However, because things that people associate with danger cause damage, even if they are not really dangerous, it is because people's talk and eyes can cause damage. So, somebody who wants to learn these topics should first daven to Hashem to not be harmed by it, and it should not be publicized, and then the learning will not be damaged nor will it cause damage....


  1. There are plenty of books out there that describe the laws without having to "go through the sugyas" upon losing a loved one.

  2. I mentioned this once to my father. His response invoked classic Jewish guilt: "What, you're in rush to use them?"

  3. As someone who's, unfortunately, been through. I can't emphasize to people how important it is know these Halachot before one neeeds them, especially those dealing with the time just before and after death. It's a very critical time religiously, there's much to know, and when you're in the middle of it it's very difficult to process it.

  4. I recall hearing of a tshuva from the Chasam Sofer not to learn hilchos aveilus in a chabura. Individuals, and chavrusos would be fine.


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