I have a severe progressive neurological disease and it's exceptionally painful. Current medical technology unfortunately is not able to provide much in the way of treatment or relief. Everyday things like eating, drinking, walking up the stairs, and doing lot of things varies from mildly to severely painful in addition to extremely fatiguing. And this often gets to the point that regular every day life is exceptionally depressing.

This has meant that things like dovening, putting on teffilin, going to shul, and lots of other mitsvos are extremely hard and painful. A long time ago I asked my Rebbe in yeshiva about this and he told me basically "tough luck". He wasn't empathetic at all.

However recently I was perusing Stack Exchange and I came upon a radical idea (from Alex) that sometimes there may be peturim / heterim for various things. The suggestion there varied from just minhogim to even some derebonons. See here: https://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/95530/17540

Additionally, is there a mokor to be excessively makel? I'm not talking about eating treif. But I am wondering if one can one look for the most makel shitoh among the poskim in a situation where doing something is very painful and/or exhausting. For example, if there is a single yaish omrim in the Taz, could I just rely on that even in a d'oriaso l'hokel when there is a huge amount of pain involved.

And more radically, are they times when for a d'rabonnon one can be potur l'gamrei? Perhaps the mitzvoh of arbah minnim could be done super quickly because the mitsvoh d'oraiso (IIRC) according to most rishonim is to just quickly hold the minim together for a short period of time.

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    This sounds like a challenging situation. There are certainly a number of heterim available for someone in your situation. Find a sympathetic rabbi knowledgeable about medical matters (they are most certainly out there) and find out what leniencies apply to you. One last thing- visiting the ill, whether suffering from mental or physical ailments, is one of the mitzvot without measure! Nov 13, 2018 at 7:25
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    A general rule: be strict with d'oraita's and be lenient with d'rabanan's. On shabbat, you may be considered a choleh sh'en bo sacana or a person in tza'ar by which case there are certain leniencies that may be utilized. Regarding tefila, you could sit throughout the whole tefila if you don't have the strength to stand. However, each shailah should be discussed with a qualified Rav that can judge questions on behalf of a choleh sh'en bo sacana and accommodate them accordingly. There are heterim and the Torah wants your full recovery and joy, even in your difficult situation. Nov 13, 2018 at 9:40
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    Moshe, this is a serious situation and we wish you the best outcome. However the situation requires a rav who knows you well, can ask questions and work with you to define the best path forward. A bunch of Internet strangers, as well-intentioned as they might be, cannot pretend to know enough to really help. Please don't be offended if this question gets closed for this reason. I hope you'll look around and find other Q&A of interest and stay learning with us.
    – mbloch
    Nov 13, 2018 at 14:18
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    I believe I heard a story of a woman who had been hit by a truck and the only thing that helped her with the intense pain was electrostimulation of her spine. She had initially asked a rabbi who had disallowed its use on Shabbos. She subsequently spoke to (I believe) Rav Dovid Feinstein who allowed it on Shabbos and said the the other rabbi was not qualified to rule on the matter. As noted by @dannyf in his answer, one needs an actual posek (e.g.Rav Dovid Feinstein, or Rav Mordechai Willig of Yeshiva University), rather than a lay-rabbi for answering these types of questions.
    – Loewian
    Nov 13, 2018 at 16:18
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    There are rules about how Chazal did not include those in great distress in at least some of their rabbinic enactments, e.g. במקום צערא לא גזרו רבנן, as well as rules regarding following lenient minority opinions and/or less ideal, lenient practices בשעת הדחק.
    – Loewian
    Nov 13, 2018 at 16:30

3 Answers 3


I honestly, genuinely feel your pain and wish you relief as much as can be.

Firstly I would like to stay that: "Lfum tzara agra" - according to the effort is the reward. You should know that your efforts and pain do not go unnoticed and you do get immense, unfathomable reward for everything you do, especially if that effort is painful.

This is not the forum for discussing a personal psak. You need to talk to a competent Posek who is well-versed in medical conditions. You may need to speak with someone who is in a bigger city, or someone in Eretz Yisrael who would be able to paskin this sensitive issue.

Halacha is divided into what the Torah says, what Chazal say, what the Rishonim say, and what the Minhag is. It is also dependent upon the issue at hand, and whether or not you can handle this level of stringency.

As you correctly point out, without any details, you can't eat a ham-sandwich because 'you're in pain'. The Torah forbids eating pork. Now, if it is a life-threatening condition and you need to eat pork, then that is a different story.

That being said, there are many shitot (rulings and opinions) that may or may not be relied upon, given the circumstances in question.

Certainly, if you can stand during Kedusha, then that is better, but it is not necessarily in your best interests to do so. You need to talk to a competent posek and find out honestly which aspects of halacha you should be following to the letter, and which areas you should be doing that are meikal.

If someone is in so much pain that he cannot stand for an extended period, I don't see how that is in anyway not comparable to a traveler - who is also required to sit and pray because his mind is not able to concentrate fully on tefilla.

The Shulchan Aruch is laid out in a way that shows the 'm'ikkar hadin' - the actual halacha, what is generally accepted practice (for Sefardim or Ashkenazim - outlined in the Rama), and often whether or not one can be lenient - for example - a great monetary loss, or a mitzvah.

Yes there are cases for being as you say: 'excessively meikal', however, these are very extenuating circumstances, and therefore, it is absolutely essential you speak with a posek.

For example, when it comes to a chicken that is being checked for treifos, the halacha depends upon whether or not one is checking for someone who would suffer substantially from the loss or not. In your case, the excruciating pain may indeed be a reason for you to be meikal.

It seems to me that you've had a run-in with a Rav. I'm suggesting that you do not speak to a Rav, but a Posek. This is someone who can take achrayus for you.

I would also say that unless you've done shimush and understand the way the poskim write, that you cannot simply pull out a daas yochid on a Taz and hold by him. I would suggest you learn halacha with someone who is experienced with shailos, so that you can start learning yourself. I would also find out which seforim you can rely on for your shailos.

  • Good point in לפום צערא אגרא! I think you can improve the answer by bolding it.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 13, 2018 at 11:23
  • This is also a reason I number my answers - to put every point separately, otherwise, it turns into a long poem that's impossible to grasp for an ADHD like me.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 13, 2018 at 11:25
  • I do want to stress that I have in the past asked sheilos but it has not been always very easy to elicit a sympathetic response. What one reads in the biography of the gedolim books is quite different to my personal experience. I am sure there are outstanding talmidei chachomim in e''y but I'm not healthy enough to travel there right now. It's also hard to talk to a new posek even in chutz la'aretz if they don't know me. These issues are very personal. And because they cover so many inyanim they are not going to be able to deal with kol prat ve prat.
    – Moshe
    Nov 14, 2018 at 0:17
  • However I do hear you about talking to a posek. I do not have shimush. I wish I did at this point. But I can learn a sugyah l'halacha. I was under the impression that generally speaking one can for example follow the Rema l'kullo and not be considered a baal aveiroh. I thought looking at the nosei kellim and going l'kulleh would not controversial. After all it's not being oker shulchan oruch or going like a daas yochid wrt a rishon. But what I wanted to know about is what Alex talked about wrt being mevatel minhogim and various derabonons. But yes, I'll have to see a posek.
    – Moshe
    Nov 14, 2018 at 0:19
  • One other point - it is my understanding (correct me if I'm wrong) that if a yochid wants to learn the oruch hashulchan and go after him l'kuloh all the time (and he is generally more meikal than the mishnah berurah) then rushus beyado.
    – Moshe
    Nov 14, 2018 at 0:25

On a theoretical level: For practical applications, talk to a Rabbi who knows Halacha. (Not every Rebbi in a yeshiva qualifies. as you've discovered.)

Halacha is full of the concept of במקום צער - when pain is involved. A lot of laws change when pain is involved.

Sometimes even mental anguish is sufficient a reason to not be obligated to pray, for example.

As you already proposed, the idea is to try to do the Torah core Mitzva - like hold the 4 species for a few moments on Sukkoth - and to skip the non-essential parts, like holding them for the entire Hallel.

Possibly - in this example - you may even be allowed to hold each of the 4 species individually, one at a time, for a few moments, and still fulfill your Torah obligation and even be able to say the Bracha.

Each painful act would need to be tackled individually to see how to minimize the pain and maximize the Mitzva - what you need is a world class Posek- here are some issues you could tackle with him:

  • Do you really have to go to shul? Every day? thrice daily? If you can't, which of the times is more important?
  • Do you have to put on Tefillin every day? Maybe somebody can wrap them on you gently without any action on your part? Are you even allowed to wear Tefilin if you're in excruciating pain? What parts of davening are the most important to have your Tefillin on for? Can you wear either the Shel-Yad (hand) or Shel-Rosh (arm) Tefilla without the other? Maybe wear both for a few moments and then take off the painful one?
  • Do you have to hold all 4 Minim together? For how long? Can you make a Bracha if you hold each one individually? How small could a set fo 4-Minim be and still be Kosher?
  • Is there a Mitzva to visit depressed people? How often? Should one inform people one qualifies for such visits?

I only want to stress Danny's point of the purpose of observing Mitzvos:

Point 1: "לפום צערא אגרא"

  1. This world is called עולם התיקון, so it is intended to fix some things broken. The Mitzvos are intended to be an instrument to those fixes, each Mitzvah working in its ways.

  2. There are two approaches to how Mitzvos work (very roughly): one says it's "black and white" - you either perform the Mitzvah and the Tikkun or not, and the other says it's "לפום צערא אגרא" - the [fix] reward is according to one's effort.

  3. Following the later we can say that one who puts a lot of effort and does only a part of a Mitzvah performs a bigger Tikkun that one who does the whole Mitzvah effortlessly.

Point 2: אונס רחמנא פטריה

  1. Every person has limitations, and pain is one of them and it does not matter who or what inflicts the pain.

  2. As for all other אונסים inflicted by others, it is up to the subject to decide on his compliance/observance as an אנוס. Therefore one can decide for himself how much pain he's willing to bear and keep Mitzvos accordingly.

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    2.2 sounds pretty antinomian for an Orthodox Jewish answer. Do you have a source for that?
    – Joel K
    Nov 13, 2018 at 11:54
  • @JoelK At first glance, I’d assume that אונס רחמנא פטריה implies not אונס רחמנא אסריה. But then again, maybe this is the same as the long-buried question of refusing painkillers - is it considered חובל את עצמו?
    – DonielF
    Nov 13, 2018 at 15:17
  • @JoelK I remember some Gemmoros saying מידה אנוסתו or יצרא אונסו etc. hinting on internal sources of אונס. On the other hand how different it is from Pikuach Nefesh, as we hold with יולדת ביוה"כ for example. We need Alex - he's good with fishing sources from Otzar or whatever. But it is obvious for me - what can you say to a person that can't perform a Mitzvah out of pain? Try harder?
    – Al Berko
    Nov 13, 2018 at 15:17

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