Thursday, 26 November 2009

Results of Poll on Sur Mei'ra vs. Asei Tov

In our last poll, we inquired about:

Steps on the Path: Sur Mei'ra vs. Asei Tov

We are often not called upon to evaluate or choose between two options, one 100% proper and the other 100% improper, but between two options with both reflecting some inherent weakness. Starting with this poll, and in various future polls, we will raise such choices and ask you: which approach is hashkafically superior?

Such questions may arise in numerous situations. It may arise in a case of kiruv, where an answer will impact on the path to greater fulfillment of mitzvot. It may impact on a decision regarding which friend should be the focus of your mussar. By extension, it may also similarly impact on oneself in the determination of which personal behaviours should be the focus of your teshuva. Most significantly, though, how one answers these questions will reflect one's hashkafic thoughts on the general principles of Torah.

Case #1: Sukkah Superiority - Sur Mei'ra vs. Asei Tov

Avraham spends the entire chol hamoed avoiding the chiyuv of eating in the Sukkah. Instead of needing to find a sukkah, he adjusts his diet to eat foods that do not trigger an obligation. He has water, fruit juice, a hard boiled egg, but nothing to kovei'a any s'uda. In the end, he simply does not eat in a sukkah the whole chol hamoed.

Yitzchak OTH religiously washes twice a day and makes hammotzi and benches with an aim of having 14 s'udos mamash over the course of the Chag. But Yitzchak is also much more lenient in what he eats outside the sukkah in addition to these 14 times. Some of them would be described as significant portions of food, some even possibly entailing mamash k'vias s'uda, heterim based upon traveling or being at the office may, though, be applicable.

Hashkafically, Avraham scrupulously avoids a bittul aseh, but does not in any way fulfill the aseh, making no brachah nor eating in a sukkah on chol Hamoed. Yitzchak makes TWO brachos a day with a definite chiyyuv, clearly being mikayem the aseh, but at least flirts with being mevateil the aseh once or twice a day because he has non-sukkah refreshments.

Which behaviour is hashkafically superior?

Your Responses

Avraham - Sur Mei'ra 25% (2)
Yitzchak - Aseh Tov 13% (1)
Neither choice is inherently the better one. My specific response would depend on
the personality of the individuals and the circumstances 25% (2)
Both choices are equally lacking 37% (3)


1) It may be interesting to note that the Chazon Ish in Emunah u'Bitachon favours sur mei'ra over aseh tov but whether his words on the subject apply in this case could still be a matter of debate. He was speaking developmentally that the process of sur mei'ra may have a greater long term effect on an individual than a promotion of aseh tov. The fact is, though, that both, in a vacuum, are problematic in terms of expressions of Torah commitment. In terms of determining a first step taking someone further on a path of Torah, the answer may still be that it depends on the individual. (RBH)

2) Imho Yitzchaq has chosen to own mitzvat sukkah and to honour it. His failings AIVI are all too human. He is at worst mumar letei'avon, while aiming to elevate himself spiritually. Avraham is avoiding evil, but avoiding living the Torah. He is like the one who fasts on Yom Kippur while sleeping in bed, technically compliying but failing to grow. He is too inert, too much into avoidance. Hashkafically means to me "heart level". Avraham might be technically superior, but on the rachmana libba ba'ei I see Yitzchaq of putting more heart and soul into his avodah.Eventually, Yitzchaq may outgrow his lazy indulgences, Avraham "ain't going nowhere" it seems. (My 2 cents RRW)

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