Monday, December 08, 2008

A Pig’s Foot

Yuhara. This is a word which means that someone uses his religiosity for purposes of self aggrandizement - a form of Ga’avah. A common expression for Yuhara in Yiddish is 'Chazar Feesil' which means a pig’s foot. That expression is used because a pig’s foot has one of the two characteristics which makes an animal Kosher. A pig has split hooves. But it is a non Kosher animal lacking the other equally important characteristic of chewing it's cud. The pig has a tendency to always stick out its forelegs as if to show how Kosher it is. The Chazer Feesil is a very colorful analogy for Yuhara which I think is very apt. One is showing off their how Frum they are.

Such people are very strongly frowned upon by the Baalei Mussar - those who are concerned with the proper way a Jew should act - whether between man and God or between man and man.

A poster on an e-mail list I am involved with mentioned that he was at a Shul recently where a Rosh Yeshiva was a guest speaker. Immediately after his address, they Davened Maariv - the evening service. This Rosh Yeshiva took a very long time to finish his Amidah and the Chazan out of courtesy waited until he was finished before concluding the service.

This is a very common practice these days. But is it necessary? Is it even right? What about the Rosh Yeshiva in question? Should he have realize that this Minyan was not his home Minyan and hurried his Shemona Esreh?

I think that would have been the right thing to do. But don’t go by me. The following was pointed out about Rav Yisroel Salanter, the father of the Mussar Movement - in the book, The Mussar Movement - Volume I, part 2, pages 224 – 225:

R. Israel ... When he prayed with a congregation that would wait for him to finish, ...he would be among the first, "so as not to burden the public.

When he prayed alone, however, he took a very long time to finish.

I don't want to cast any aspersions on this Rosh Yeshiva but I can think of no better God fearing model of ethical behavior than R' Yisroel Salanter. I'm sure that his fear of Heaven was every bit as good as is that of this Rosh Yeshiva. But Rabbi Salanter nevertheless put people first. This Rosh Yeshiva on the other hand put his own Frumkeit first!

Was it Yuhara? I don’t know, but I really think that this Rosh Yeshiva can learn a lesson from Rabbi Salanter’s behavior. I have noticed this type of behavior on the part of other rabbis as well. But I have also seen some exemplary behavior by many - who indeed take a very long time to Daven in their own Shuls or Yeshivos, but when they Daven elsewhere they Daven more quickly. They realize that they might be a burden on the people in the Shul if the Chazan waits for them to finish at their normally slow pace. That’s because - just like Rav Salanter - they put people first.

It would be a far nicer world if all religious leaders took this lesson from him. If this Rosh HaYeshiva would have at least told the Chazan not to wait for him, I'd have a lot more respect for his Frumkeit.

This is not well known but as a Halachic matter (as told to me by a very knowledgeable Rav - I do not know the written source) a Chazan need not wait for a Rosh Yeshiva or any dignitary visiting a Shul to finish his Amidah before concluding the service. In fact I believe that a Chazan need not even wait for the Rav of the Shul - if he takes too long.