February 6, 2022

Moed Katan 24

The Mishna (Moed Katan 3:7) at the end of today’s daf (Moed Katan 24b) states that only the seven closest relatives (father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter, spouse) of someone who has died on Chol HaMoed tear their clothes, wear non-leather shoes, and eat a mourner’s meal.
As we shall see in the upcoming daf (Moed Katan 25a), some exceptions do exist to this rule – such as if a great Torah Sage or a particularly righteous person dies. Nevertheless, what this Mishna seemingly brings into focus is the difference between the formal mourning rituals required by the seven closest relatives, and those permitted to other more distant relatives or friends.
However, there are situations when a more distant relative or friend has died and a person feels so overcome with grief that they sense that they need to channel their emotions through practicing some measure of mourning customs. And when this occurs, they can often be advised by friends or perhaps even by rabbis that this is only appropriate if one of their seven closest relatives has died.
Yet as the Rambam makes clear in his commentary to this Mishna, while this difference does exist, and is emphasised, in terms of mourning rituals on Chol HaMoed, significantly more latitude exists when a death has occurred outside of a festival at which time, כל הרוצה לקרוע בגדו ולחלוץ מנעלו אין מונעין אותו – ‘whoever wishes to tear their clothes or remove their shoes are not inhibited from doing so’.
In fact, basing himself on the Ramban’s reading of Brachot 16b, Rabbi Shmuel Baruch Werner (1911-1993) explains in his ‘Mishpetei Shmuel’ (Responsa no. 3) that even a non-relative can nevertheless experience צער של קרובים – meaning ‘the pain of one who has lost someone close to them’, at which time flexibility should be shown in giving them the opportunity to mourn as well.
Of course, each situation should be treated individually. However, my key point is that there are times when you are not ‘one of the seven’ but you feel that you are, at which time – especially when a death does not occur on Chol HaMoed – if someone feels the need to practice at least some mourning customs, they may do so.
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