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TOPIC TITLE: Shoteh.... implications and questions...
Created On 12/1/15 12:02 AM
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Senior Supporter

Posts: 275
Joined: Feb 2012

12/1/15 12:02 AM
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Rabbi Dr. Price,

I need your opinion with this.... from a shiur and discussion afterward.... I need to ask some anonymous questions

A shoteh is exempt from all mitzvos by what Rambam says in hilchos Chagiga 2:4.

There are obvious situations where there really is no question - the person totally lacks understanding and is incapable of having the knowledge necessary. But what of those who at times are just fine and at times .... not

So what determines a Shoteh?

1. one who walks alone at night, 2. who sleeps alone in a cemetery 3. who tears one's clothing, 4. who destroys/ ruins everything given him.... (Chagiga 3b)
It is sufficient for just one of the four (or something similar) to be done but it must be done regularly (3 times) and in an insane manner.....

So then by this definition, an unmedicated person who goes into psychotic cycles would be considered a shoteh. What about someone with say PTSD who regularly has flashbacks which render him "insane" periodically when triggered, but is otherwise completely fine. Is he a shoteh?

Implications are - when the PTSD is healed, when the person is medicated, or when the psychotic episodes are not in effect and the person is acting completely normal is he still considered a shoteh and still not obligated to mitzvos if the symptoms can come back? And what of the practical aspects - to not be able to be part of a minion, can he read the megillah or be called to an aliyah? Can a woman be responsible for the kashrus in a family kitchen? etc....

But on the other hand - what The Noda B'Yehuda said in his ruling about whether a shoteh could give a GET.... he said that in regards to what you are healthy, you are obligated, in regards to what you are unhealthy you are not obligated.... however to be able to testify, a person must be obligated in everything. This would certainly take some pressure off.....

Just I get confused, because by Rambam or Rav Moshe Feinstein, would someone like me with periodic dissociative reactions that have recurred more than 3 times, be obligated to any mitzvos? That would be disheartening, if true.... Especially since the dissociation is something that is resolving and I am healing from. Also, part of my job is to make decisions concerning kashrus... is that a problem? The therapists i have had say that my reactions are "normal" for the extreme ongoing abuse I have gone through and I have no problem with clear logic - just different affective states can be out of place because of triggered irrational reactions. Or is dissociation, and trauma reaction different

Also, it seems my ex-husband was Bipolar, narcissitic with periodic psychotic issues.... does that mean my GET is in question since he was in and out of a total illogical state.... was he healthy enough - I guess if the Rabbi thought so....

Then there are my two daughters both of whom have had psychotic episodes and refuse medication. (Bipolar, Borderline, Extreme social anxiety in one, total lack of reality in the other) I know I cannot trust their logic - or lack thereof and yet each of them do some mitzvos.... I keep coming to the question - what are they responsible for? There have been times when my Rav has said specifically not to worry: that this daughter or the other ....is "not obligated...." So is this a permanent issue - or with medication (if they ever agree) are they then responsible again? Oy - this gets complicated...

So maybe I am worrying too much and just need to keep going forward and ask on a case by case - decision by decision basis....

What are your thoughts?


Dr. Price MD

Posts: 1988
Joined: Jan 2006

12/1/15 9:05 AM
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Ask on a case by case basis as it is difficult to generalize. Our tradition holds that you can rely on the posek you have used or continue to use.

Rabbi Price, M.D.

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