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Going into a shul to stay dry (Megilla 28b)

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Jan 12, 2008
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The Gemara (28b) quotes a braisa that says it is forbidden to go into a shul for no purpose other than to protect yourself from rain or the heat. To do so would be disrespectful to the shul which should only be used for davening, learning, or other kadosh purposes. The Gemara later asks what a person should do if he doesn’t want to daven or learn, but needs to go into a shul to get someone. The Gemara gives two solutions: say a pasuk or other words of Torah, or remain there for a few minutes, because even remaining in a shul is a mitzvah.

The gemara says that saying a pasuk allows you to go into a shul to get someone, but does it allow you to go in to protect yourself from the rain? This is a matter of dispute amongst the later poskim. The Aruch HaShulchan (Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, Lithuania, 1829-1907; OC 151:4) says that it is permissible. The distinction seems to be as follows: eating, drinking, and joking around are inherently inappropriate actions that dishonor the kedusha of a beit knesset and are therefore forbidden, but going in to a shul to protect yourself from the rain or to get a friend are not inherently disrespectful. They are only forbidden because it’s not respectful to go into a shul for your own purpose, and not use it for davening or learning. Therefore if you say a pasuk, it is permissible both to get a friend or to protect yourself from the rain, because you are now also using the shul for a kadosh purpose. However, saying a pasuk wouldn’t permit you to eat in a shul, because even if you’re learning, eating is inherently disrespectful to the shul.

The Mishnah Berurah (Poland, 1838-1933; 151:4) argues and says that even if you say a pasuk, you may not go into a shul to protect yourself from the outside weather. Rav Yechiel Yaacov Weinberg (Germany, 1878-1966; shut 2:12) explains that using the shul to protect yourself is actually more similar to eating in the shul. You are not just going into the shul for a non-kedusha purpose, but rather you are using the shul for your own benefit, to protect yourself from the rain, which is an inherent disgrace to the shul. Therefore saying a pasuk doesn’t make it permissible. [The Mishnah Berurah himself (sh”z 2) gives a different explanation why it is forbidden.]

The Mishnah Berurah proves his opinion from the story in the gemara about Ravinah and Rav Addah. They were learning outside, and when it started raining they went into the shul. They defended themselves, explaining that they didn’t go in just to stay dry for their personal comfort, but that learning halacha requires clear thinking and a calm environment. But why did they need to give this explanation, which would only apply to in-depth learning? They were learning in the shul, and according to the Aruch HaShulchan, even saying a pasuk allows you to go into the shul when it is raining. Why didn’t they simply say they were also learning, and it was therefore permissible to go inside while it was raining? It seems that simply saying a pasuk would not have been a good enough reason to allow them to go into the shul. Doesn’t this gemara completely disprove the position of the Aruch HaShulchan? Is there anyway to defend his opinion?

Series: HS Bekius

Gemara:

References: Megilla: 28b 

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The Machloket over whether saying a pasuk allows you to go into a shul when it is raining.

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