17 Shevat 5775 / February 6, 2015
MBY 560:1-5 Remembering the Beis Hamikdash (abridged) (We quote heavily from Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Chapter 126, translated by Rabbi Avrohom Davis, with additional footnotes from the Artscroll Kleinman Edition)
Note: The footnotes will help reconcile the decrees, as stated in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, with common practice, which is not always as they are prescribed in the text.
1) After the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, our Sages, of blessed memory, ordained that on every joyous occasion there should be a remembrance of the Beis Hamikdash, as it is written: “If I forget you, Jerusalem… if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy.” (Tehillim 137:5-6) They decreed that no Jew should build for himself a house that is lime-plastered and decorated like a royal palace (Footnote #1: It is, however, permitted to build a Beis Midrash or Synagogue without any restrictions. Artscroll footnote #1: One who purchases an existing building is not required to peel the plaster or paint from the walls); neither should he lime plaster his entire house, but he may plaster the house with clay and then lime plaster it (i.e. whitewash it), and he should leave a space of one square ‘amah’ (cubit – approx. 18”x18”) opposite the entrance un-plastered, as a reminder of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. (Artscroll footnote #5: One who rents a house is not required to leave an area of a square amah in remembrance of the Destruction even if the owner would be required.) Why people do not observe this custom nowadays, we do not know of any good reason for it! (Artscroll footnote #6: See Mishnah Berura #2 where some justifications for this are discussed. However, Mishnah Berura concludes that these reasons are not sufficient to explain the current practice; see there for further discussion.)
2) They also ordained that if you are setting a table, and are having guests for a meal, you should not serve all the dishes that are conventionally served at a meal. (Footnote #7: On Shabbos or Yom Tov, however, nothing should be omitted from the traditional meals.) They also ordained that a woman should not wear all her jewelry at one occasion, and that a chassan (bridegroom) before the chuppah should have ashes put on his head on the place where the Tefillin are worn. And the veil, with which the bride is covered, should not contain any silver or gold threads. It is also customary, when the t’naim (engagement agreement) is written, that after it has been read aloud, to break a plate, as a reminder of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, but a damaged plate is used for the purpose. (Artscroll footnote #10: Today, common custom is to break an unbroken earthenware or china dish after reading the t’naim.) Under the chuppah the bridegroom breaks a glass, and for this purpose, a whole glass may be used.
3) They also decreed that we should not listen to musical instruments, not even to the singing of songs. During meals, you should sing only the traditional zemiros (songs of praise), like those we sing on Shabbos; but it is forbidden to sing other songs. →→→(Artscroll footnote #12: According to Rama 560:3, this prohibition applies only when indulging in music regularly – such as one who is accustomed to awakening and going to sleep to music – or when the music is accompanying feasting with wine. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, in Igros Moshe O”C I #166 and III #87, maintains that it is preferable for one to follow the stricter opinion – i.e. that listening to musical instruments is prohibited at all times – Ed. with the exception of a mitzvah celebration; however, he writes that one should not object to the behavior of those who follow the more lenient opinion of Rama. Kitzur, however, follows an even more stringent opinion – that one may not sing or listen to singing, even without music, at any time! Rabbi Feinstein writes that even according to this opinion, it is permitted to sing songs of praise to Hashem at a feast.)
4) Take heed not to attend animal shows presented by non-Jews or their dances or any of their social functions. When you hear them giving voice to their happiness, you should sigh and agonize over the destruction of the Jerusalem, and pray for it to the Holy One, blessed is He. Even animal shows presented by Jews, you are forbidden to attend, because it is a “Gathering of scorners” (based on Tehillim 1:1). All kinds of rejoicing are forbidden, except making a groom and bride happy, which may be done both by singing and with musical instruments. But even at a wedding, you should not overdo the merrymaking. It is forbidden for anybody to laugh exuberantly in this world, even when rejoicing on the performance of a mitzvah, for it is said “Then our mouth will be filled with laughter” (Tehillim 126:2), i.e. only when Hashem will return the captivity of Zion! This lesson may contain some surprises even for halachically-practicing Jews. One of the take-home lessons for me was: Wow – we really have something grand awaiting us at the finish line! Have a thoughtful and restful Shabbos, Menashe