Parshat VeZot HaBracha
Moshe Rabeinu’s Shloshim
And Some Halachot of Shloshim
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In the last portion in the Torah, Vezot HaBracha, we read how Moshe Rabeinu passed away and was mourned by the Jewish people, as the verse (Deut. 34:8) says, וַיִּבְכּוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת מֹשֶׁה בְּעַרְבֹת מוֹאָב שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וַיִּתְּמוּ יְמֵי בְכִי אֵבֶל מֹשֶׁה׃ “The Jewish people wept for Moshe in the plains of Moav for thirty days; then the period of weeping and mourning for Moshe came to an end.”
The Abarbanel points out that the usual period for crying after the dead is only three days, as it says (Yoreh De’ah 394:1 based on Mo’ed Kattan 27b), אין מתקשין על המת יותר מדאי וכל המתקשה עליו יותר מדאי על מת אחר הוא בוכה, אלא שלשה ימים לבכי שבעה להספד שלשים לתספורת ולגיהוץ – “One should not grieve excessively for the dead, and whoever grieves excessively for him, will weep for another dead (G-d forbid). Rather [the correct amount of time is] three days for weeping, seven for lamenting, and thirty to abstain from cutting hair and wearing freshly laundered garments (see below).”
Abarbanel explains that due to Moshe’s stature and his having given us the Torah and taught it to us, it was appropriate that the time of weeping for his passing be multiplied by 10 times and thus encompass the entire shloshim (30 days) during which other aspects of mourning apply for everyone.
In addition, the Talmud (Shabbat 88a) says that Moshe was a third born (to his mother) who gave the Torah which has three aspects (Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim), on the third day of separation (of the men from their spouses), in the third month (Sivan), to the Jewish people who consist of three groups (Kohanim, Leviyim and Yisra’elim). This is a total of 5 aspects that have the number of 3. The total of this number equals 15. Since the Torah contains both the Written and Oral Torah, we can multiply this number by two which yields the number 30.
Crying before the Passing
Based on differing opinions of when Moshe passed away, the Chatam Sofer says that, for the last 30 days before Moshe passed away, the higher level of his soul departed. The Jewish people, who sensed this already, began to mourn him from that point on.
Why Didn’t Everyone Cry?
The commentaries point out that when Aharon, Moshe’s brother, passed away, the Torah recounts that “all of the house of Israel” wept for him (Numbers 20:29). Whereas regarding Moshe it says that “the Jewish people cried for him.” This seems to imply that all of the Jewish people cried for Aharon but not everyone cried for Moshe.
Many commentaries address this question. Here are some of their answers:
- Aharon the Peacemaker
Rashi explains that since Aharon was a peacemaker who resolved disputes between spouses and between friends, the women also mourned him as opposed to Moshe who was mourned primarily by the men (who had studied his Torah). The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains (Likutei Sichot 24:253) that the reason Moshe was not involved in peacemaking is that doing so sometimes involves bending the truth. Since Moshe’s trait was that of absolute truth, he was not willing to tamper with the truth.
- In Honor of Moshe
The Ibn Ezra says that when Aharon passed away, all of the Jews mourned him out of honor for Moshe (who was still alive). But when Moshe passed away there was no one of his stature who was mourning, so there was less participation in the crying. Similarly, the Chizkuni says that when Aharon passed away all of the Jewish people cried, as “Who could possibly see Moshe weep and not themselves weep?”
- Sudden Passing
The Ohr HaChaim writes that the Jewish people did not have warning that Aharon was going to pass away. As such, when he did, their grief was very intense. Whereas regarding Moshe, they were all informed that the time of his passing was approaching. As such, they were not shocked, and their grief was not as acute.
- The Departure of the Clouds
In addition, the Ohr HaChaim writes that the Jewish people were very distressed by the passing of Aharon, as the Clouds of Glory departed with his passing. Although the same happened when Moshe passed away, at that point the Jewish people were busy with the (happy) task of entering the land of Israel and did not have the same focus on mourning and crying.
- Yehoshua Took Over
Another interpretation of the Ohr HaChaim is that when Moshe passed away, the Shechina immediately rested on Yehoshua. The Jewish people recognized this and were therefore not as disturbed by Moshe’s passing. This can be compared to one who lost a diamond but then found another one to replace it. (Although Elazar, the Kohen, took over the position of his father, he was not of a comparable stature to his father.)
Laws of Shloshim
The rest of this article will discuss some of the laws of Shloshim, the thirty-day mourning period after the passing of a close relative. (See Y.D. 389 – 392 and the commentaries. See also Penei Baruch by Rabbi Chaim Binyamin Goldberg, chapters 18 and 19.}
The period of the Shloshim includes the seven days of Shivah (intense mourning). Thus, there are 23 days of Shloshim after the Shiva is over.
When is it over?
The Shloshim is over on the 30th day after the funeral which is always 4 weeks and one day after the day of the funeral. For example, if the funeral was on a Monday, the last day of the Shloshim will be on Tuesday four weeks later.
During the Shloshim period one may not do the following:
- Wash Clothes
One may not wash or iron his clothes in order to wear them during this time. One may wash clothes that one plans to wear after the Shloshim. One may also wash the clothes of children who are in mourning.
- Wear Laundered Clothes
It is customary for Ashekanzim not to wear clothes that were freshly laundered with detergent even if they were cleaned before the mourning period began. If they were washed only with water it is permissible. If one needs to wear clothes that were washed with detergent, one should have someone else wear the article of clothing first, for a short time.
Sefardim are not strict about this matter.
- Wearing New Clothes
One may not wear new clothes during Shloshim. If it is necessary for some reason, one may have someone else wear them first for a few days so that they are no longer considered new.
- Purchasing New Items
One should not purchase new furniture or other important items during Shloshim.
One should not cut one’s hair during Shloshim. This applies to the hair of the head, the beard or elsewhere on one’s body. A man may trim his mustache if it is getting in the way of his eating. For Sefardim, this law does not apply to women. Ashkenazi women may cut their hair as is necessary to maintain the standards of tzniut (modesty).
One may comb one’s hair.
- Cutting Nails
During Shloshim one should not cut his nails with a nail clipper or scissors. One may bite them off or trim them using one’s other fingernails.
Some of above laws of the Shloshim apply to one who is mourning their parents – for the entire 12 month period of mourning. One who is mourning for other relatives has no laws of mourning after the Shlosim is over.
When Is It Over?
On the last day of the Shloshim, these restrictions are over once the day begins (i.e., after sunrise). This is based on the principle that part of a day is considered like the entire day מקצת היום ככולו.
If the Shloshim ends on a Shabbat, one may not cut one’s hair on Friday.
Cutting Hair after the Shloshim
If one’s Shloshim ends during a time when it is customary (or forbidden) to cut one’s hair (e.g. on Chol HaMo’ed or during Sefirat Ha’Omer), it may be permissible to cut his hair at that time. This matter is somewhat complicated and will be discussed, G-d willing, at a later date.
Cancellation by a Holiday
When a Yom Tov begins during the Shloshim period, that Yom Tov cancels the Shloshim. This matter will also, G-d willing, be discussed at a later time.
Wishing you a Good Yom Tov and a Gut Yohr!