Mar 17, 2014

Saying Yes is Also Saying No

I remember that it was a new thought for me when someone pointed out the ramifications of choice when it comes to chumras.  Saying "yes" to stringencies on Pesach, for example, means saying "no," to some extent, to an aspect of the mitzvah of simchas Yom Tov (unless a person is so elevated that they truly take joy in the restrictions). 

Saying yes to someone when asked to get involved, help out, do a chesed, means saying no to whatever else you may have done in that time.  That is why it is not just the merit of the chumra or the chesed that needs to considered, but what will be gained by doing it versus the possible loss.

In fact, halacha often states what takes priority.  Since Torah study takes precedence over every other mitzvah, is it ever set aside for another mitzvah? Yes.  For example, if there is nobody else to take care of a particular mitzvah. 

But it is not always that clear, particularly with optional activities.  Ask your LOR.


  1. I have always struggled about when to say yes and when to say "no". My formula is like this, if what is being asked cannot just be done by anyone, I try to say yes and if there are fair alternatives out there, I say "no" if I really cannot do it. For example, years ago, I was working and trying to make Pesach for my family and hold by all the chumras. I worked in the mornings and cleaned in the afternoons and had 6 children all at home, most of whom were more hindrance than help with Pesach cleaning. Someone was making a chassunah a week before Pesach and on their behalf, someone asked me to spend 2 afternoons taking the guests to and from the airport. I had to decline. The person who asked me was angry and said that it was Pesach for everyone but I still had the obligation to help out. I felt so overwhelmed as it was so my husband called the person and told him off. There were people who could be paid to drive to airports and taxis are expensive but they are sometimes part of travel. Eventually that person stopped getting involved to find rides for wedding guests because most people found it very inconvenient to do airport service. OTOH, one year a neighborhood child was scalded and even though I had loads to do, I had to go and babysit while the ambulance came, until someone came to relieve me. There was no way that I could decline in an emergency. People who have babies before Pesach or who get sick or have to sit shiva, chas v'sholem, still need the community and there is no choice but to help. The chevra kadisha might still have to do taharahs and the mikveh is open every night of Pesach as well as bedikahs chometz night and people need to accommodate that.

  2. Quite astonishing "you still had the obligation to help out." Why should you take out time out of your busy schedule because the people did not want to pay for a taxi?! I think it's because of a 'mentality' people have that they can pay hundreds of dollars for a plane ticket but think they are somehow absolved of paying to get to and from the airport and people have to service them for free.

    1. I am not sure that the guests themselves were to blame. The community had developed a reputation of extending this kindness and this person had taken it upon himself to arrange it. Had it not been a week before Pesach, I would have agreed to do it, as I had done in the past. When this person was so lacking in understanding of my mental state before Pesach, that my husband had to tell him not to call me again for that purpose. After that, the whole arrangement fell apart. It must have been that few were willing to do it.