Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Shavuos Reminder #2

Here is a common misunderstanding which irritates the heck out of me. Many frum Jews insist on eating meat at every holiday meal. They do this because the Talmud tells us there can be no happiness without meat and wine, and "happiness" is required on the holiday*. But, those fools who unreflectivly stuff themselves with meat have forgotten that "happiness" is a subjective quality. It can't be prescribed. I can't demand that you  enjoy a particular food or drink will make you happy. Everyone is different. Some people don't like meat. Others like fish and meat equally well. The idea that someone who enjoys fish can't use it to fulfill a requirement to be happy is absurd. If it makes him happy, it makes him happy. And the people who will eat a fish meal with great gusto but insist on having a small, undesired piece of meat at the end "just to fulfil the requirement" are missing the point. The obligation isn't to eat meat. The obligation is to be happy. And if eating fish makes you happy, eat fish and make no apologies*

(PS:The Shaagas Aryeh and Rav Moshe Feinstein agree. Both write that whenever you make yourself happy on Yom Tov, you have fulfilled the mitzvah.   I throw this in both because its true, and because I expect many of you won't accept the basic truth of my argument unless someone with a long beard said it previously.)

* Other authorities, notably the Rambam, rule that eating meat on Yom Tov is a biblical requirement. There are two ways to understand this: (1) They don't connect the meat eating to happiness, but to the no longer extant practice of eating sacrificial meat on Yom Tov; or (2) They were unable to imagine a man who didn't enjoy meat. I am not sure how a biblical law can be based on a failure of imagination, but there it is.

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