Thursday, August 13, 2009

Equal Rights?

Although even today there can be serious fighting regarding who will lead davening when two people have yahrtzeit, many years ago this was a frequent cause of contention. Although this is more in the realm of the custom of each community, a complex system of very intricate rules regarding who davens first was nevertheless put into place so as to save many a senseless struggle, which certainly is no merit for the deceased.
Two people in a certain town had yahrtzeit, one for his mother and one for his father. This led to great contention, as usual. There was only one minyan in the city and both men wished to lead all the services.
When this question was brought before the Chidah, zt”l, he replied that the one with yahrtzeit for his father definitely takes precedence. “The reason is quite simple. We find in Bava Metzia 11 that a poor person takes precedence over a wealthy man. Since a man is most often much closer to sinning then a woman and, in addition, men have a perpetual obligation to learn Torah to overcome their base nature, their needs after death are not the same. The sins that most men are drawn after hardly apply to most women, and certainly bitul Torah is not a problem at all. Therefore it is obvious that the one who desperately needs any possible merit is the deceased father, not the mother. In addition, women have many merits that protect them, unlike men.
“From all of this it is clear that the man who lost his father takes precedence over the one who lost his mother, since his soul is certainly poor compared to hers.”
But when the Shaarei Efraim, zt”l, was consulted regarding the very same question he ruled that it was not so simple. It is not that he argued on the logic of the Chidah, he merely pointed out, “These halachos are predicated on custom. In a place where the custom is that the yahrtzeit of a father takes precedence over that of a mother, that is how they should conduct themselves. But if there is no custom the two should throw lots to find which has the rights of that year.”

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