Rav Moshe Shternbuch – Crying On Rosh Hashanah: Is it Permitted?

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rav-shternbuchIt is written in the Maaseh Rav that the Vilna Gaon said that one is not permitted to cry on Rosh Hashanah. His mekor is the posuk in Nechemia which states, “Al tisablu ve’al tivku…lechu Iichlu MasmanimDo not mournand do not cry… go eat good food.” Rosh Hashanah is a day of happiness and celebration.

The Arizal, on the other hand, says that every person with a good neshama must cry on Rosh Hashanah. Are they arguing?

Rav Moshe Shternbuch in his teshuvos (2:268) says that they do not argue. The Vilna Gaon is talking about crying from the fear of Yom Hadin and having the overall mindset that Rosh Hashanah is a day of gloom and doom. However, if the tears come automatically from inspiration and longing for Hashem during tefillah, then not only is it permissible, it is praiseworthy. Outside of tefillah, the mood of the day must be happiness and celebration of the Yom Tov.

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  1. One might think tears of joy are permissible. Of course, real crying can be for various reasons and one might have his issues on that day so I can not think you shun every person until you know his grief.

    I had an interesting experience once. I went to a shul that was a chabad run affair on rosh hashana. During the silent Prayer, I was smiling and very happy. A wealthy millionaire looked at me enjoying the day and forcibly expelled gas audibly so that one could hear the prayer was disturbed. I was offended and humiliated. I guess that some of our congregants do not understand that it is orthodox to be happy on rosh hashana. He may have had a history of health issues, but he was alive. I think it might have been chabad culture in some ways. They did not give us enough discretion and noone honored silent prayer.

  2. Shana Tova Anonymous.

    Do you know the details of the person who disturbed your minyan? Unless you are his doctor, close relative, or the like, you may not know all of the health details. By the way consider how you felt, and imagine how he felt. Also, you can ask your doctor for information about what seemed voluntary to you, but not necessarily was so.


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