Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Qoton Qlassic: Happy Birthday!

I finally got around to doing some clean up on the blog. I rewrote the essay "Happy Birthday!" from 2007. Here is a short excerpt from the new essay:

The Munkatcher Rebbe, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Shapiro (1871-1937), notes that celebration of one’s birthday is unheard of in rabbinic literature. He writes that such a celebration is antithetical to the Jewish trait of humilty. He also writes this opposition is seemingly supported by the Talmud which determined that it is better that man not have been born than man have been born. Rabbi Shmuel Edels (1555–1631) explained that the sages of the Talmud counted the positive commandments (248) and the negative commandments (365) and concluded that since the negatives commandments greatly outnumber the positive ones, one who is born is more likely to become a sinner than to be righteous. This explains the Talmud’s conclusion that one is better not having been born than having been born. Accordingly, celebrating one’s birth is simply premature because the child will more likely grow up to become a sinner. Indeed, King Solomon remarked, "A good name is better than good oil, and the day of death [is better] than the day of birth”, for by the day of death, it is already clear whether one will be righteous or sinful. Therefore the anniversary of one’s birth is not necessarily cause for rejoicing. However, concedes the Munkatcher Rebbe, a gentile who is not bound by 613 commandments is more likely not to become a sinner; thus, for a gentile, a birthday can indeed be a time of happiness.

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