Halakhic Problems Force Changes to Second Floor Glueck Lounge
Students who frequent the Glueck Center for Torah Studies often spend their free time in the lounge area, located outside the second floor of the Glueck Beit Midrash. This lounge has existed since Glueck opened, without any issues. However, a few weeks ago, a student realized that a portion of the lounge sits on top of the Aron Kodesh, the ark, located in the front of the first floor of the Glueck Beit Midrash. Therefore, the student wondered if it may actually be forbidden according to Jewish law to “hang out” in this area of the second floor.
This student’s concern was based off a ruling of the Mishna Berurah 151:40, in which it states that one is prohibited to do anything secular above the Aron Kodesh. Yet, Rama rules that if a building had been built with the intention to have rooms on top of the Aron, then there is no issue.
The student consulted Rabbi Herschel Schachter, Nathan and Vivian Fink Distinguished Professor of Talmud and Rosh Yeshiva of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), who believed that one should be stringent and respect the area immediately on top of the Aron. Practically, that means moving the couches forward a few feet. Rabbi Schachter pointed out that based on other commentaries, such as Taz and Magan Avaraham, it appears that one should be careful about sleeping on top of an Aron. (Taz attributes the death of his children to living on top of an Aron Kodesh.) As such, Rabbi Schachter felt that one should be stringent in the second floor of Glueck, where this ruling poses little difficulty.
Not everyone took the news so well. Over the past few weeks, the signs have been found crumpled up and thrown on the floor. Gabi Weinberg (YC ‘14), President of SOY-JSC, commented, “it is surprising that this wasn’t realized before, but if it is a serious issue, it should be dealt with immediately.”
Following this development, some students wanted to investigate which rooms in the dormitories are above the Aronei Kodesh of their respective shuls and Batei Midrash. However, the sentiment among others was that if there was an issue with the areas above the many Aronei Kodesh across campus, then there would be no end to the matter. Further, all of the buildings on campus with Aronei Kodesh were clearly built with the intention of having rooms on top of them. In response, Rabbi Schachter clarified that his ruling only applied to Glueck, and not to other buildings on the Wilf Campus, places in which a stringent ruling would not be as simple as moving couches a few feet. As of now, no official announcement containing information about the status of that area has been made by RIETS or YU administrators.