web analytics
September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Stop Citing Halachah

Using the term "Halacha" for policies which are not in fact Halacha, delegitimizes those who differ and causes ill-will towards Jewish law.

what me worry

Photo Credit: Yori Yanover

One can well imagine the “danger” facing a Rabbi walking into a room of very tired and overworked Jewish women just days before the onset of Pesach. And yet, perhaps in a moment of temporary amnesia, I agreed to a lecture on the topic of Chametz at that very moment.

Needless to say, the women in the room were not the greatest fans of Rabbis/Jewish Law that week. While listening attentively to the multitude of tasks these fine women were doing during the prior weeks, it was hard for me to find Jewish law as the cause of their justified fatigue and frustration. After hearing about the many windows cleaned, together with closets of clothing and bookshelves that were dusted, I felt compelled to state; “Ladies, you have been working very hard. I am sure that you have more on your list this coming week and I wish you luck to reach your objectives. But please, don’t blame Halacha. If you have decided to engage in Spring cleaning days before Pesach, don’t fault Jewish law that doesn’t obligate it. It’s not the accepted and established Halacha governing the abolishment of Chametz that is obligating the cleaning of windows and bookshelves, but rather your own agendas for your homes!”

While the statement above didn’t go very far at changing their cleaning plans, even after an entire lecture as to what exactly Jewish law demands of a home prior to Pesach, the distinction above between the dictates of Jewish law versus one’s personal or communal agenda seems to have been once again misused during these past few weeks.

Certain parties running for Knesset have stated that having women run on their ticket is “against Halacha.” Another organization recently stated that only men would be speaking  at their upcoming conference as “women speaking before men is against Halacha.” Going a step further, a prominent leader stated that forming more parties within the limited religious world “is against the Torah.”  From the above examples, all occurring within the recent short period of time, it seems that there are endless outright violations of Halacha that it would be a challenge to form a minyan of non-Sinners in a typical religious neighborhood!

Halacha” has colloquially been understood and utilized as the term that stands behind the obligations of what a Jew must do and those that a Jew must never do. When utilizing this term today, we should be speaking about those areas in Jewish law where there is no or hardly no controversy. Such obligations are those directly commanded by G-d, in addition to the many later enactments of the sages that Maimonides clams “Hiskimu Alehem kol Yisrael,” meaning “the entirety of the Jewish people have acquiesced to their obligation.” [See Rambam, Introduction to the Yad-Hachazaka.]

But the above examples are a far cry from the definition. No matter how important private or public policies and agendas G-d fearing Jews would like to see advanced, even those items that have certain bearings of Jewish law, they are far from being “the Halacha“! While halachik sources are, and sometimes should be quoted, when speaking of the character of the public thoroughfare, how can an opinion of what it should look like be the unequivocal Halacha?!

I wouldn’t bat an eyelash if one would state that, based on their understanding of Jewish law, or based on the Rabbinic leaders they adhere to, women should not be on a Knesset ticket. I would greatly respect those that buttress their respective point of view on sources from our Torah. But stating that this or that view of Jewish hashkafa (Jewish Thought) is the Halacha, is creating three drastic consequences in the Jewish community.

Firstly, it delegitimizes opposing views. While there is no dispute that eating meat and milk together is forbidden, and there will not be a controversy on the fact that the Sabbath day has restrictions, machloket (controversy or a difference of opinion) is almost synonymous with Jewish law in so many areas, and much more so when dealing with Jewish lore, thought and public policy. It would be virtually impossible to find one cohesive point of view within the Gemara on how our sages viewed working for a living, women, sexual relations and so much more. Sources exist various sides of the coin, and we should be prepared that a difference of opinion will exist within the legitimacy of adhering to Jewish law.

Moreover, using Halacha as the term to promote a point of view is placing all that don’t agree, relying on their own Rabbinic leaders, in a camp of those that don’t adhere to the dictates of Halacha. While I respect anyone that has a personal, communal or national agenda to promote, using the term Halacha places all those not in favor in an anti-Halacha camp. Aside from this being a false and destructive submission, this creates a terrible feeling amongst wonderfully, G-d fearing Jews that their point of view is against Jewish law, and thus they are, at best, second rate Jews!

About the Author: Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein is Director of training and placement at The Straus-Amiel Institute at Ohr Torah Stone.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

4 Responses to “Stop Citing Halachah”

  1. Tim Upham says:

    We should cite the Halachah, because it says someone is Jewish, when their mother is. I have Jewish extremists tell me all of the time, that there is nothing Jewish about me. Because I do not support the killing of all Palestinians and Muslims. When I cite to them the Halachah, they have never even heard of it before.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Tim, if your mother is halachically Jewish, your are, too. Your opinions have nothing to do with your being Jewish or not.

    If you are halachically Jewish, you are also obligated halachically to observe the commandments. It's kind of funny to depend on halacha for your status, but not even try to live by it. It's either relevant or not relevant.

    I have never met or heard of a single Jew (and I lived in America for over 30 years, and now have now lived in the disputed 'West Bank', — Judea and Samaria — among other settlers for 15 years) who supports the killing of all 'Palestinians' and/or Muslims. Please don't bring your straw men to the discussion.

    I think that you've probably been arguing things like, Hey, I'm a Jew, and I support the Palestinians. So people get upset, and say you're not really a Jew, because your statement feels traitorous to them. Or they get really upset and exaggerate how they regard the Muslims in general — whose leaders actively preach murder of ALL Jews.

    Death to all Jews, that would include you, by the way, if your mother really is halachically Jewish. The Muslims preaching death to all Jews (and there are many of them, and very, very few Muslims speak out against this incitement to murder), don't care if your opinions are with them. If you were in their power nothing less than your conversion to Islam would prevent your death at their hands.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Tim, if your mother is halachically Jewish, your are, too. Your opinions have nothing to do with your being Jewish or not.

    If you are halachically Jewish, you are also obligated halachically to observe the commandments. It's kind of funny to depend on halacha for your status, but not even try to live by it. It's either relevant or not relevant.

    I have never met or heard of a single Jew (and I lived in America for over 30 years, and now have now lived in the disputed 'West Bank', — Judea and Samaria — among other settlers for 15 years) who supports the killing of all 'Palestinians' and/or Muslims. Please don't bring your straw men to the discussion.

    I think that you've probably been arguing things like, Hey, I'm a Jew, and I support the Palestinians. So people get upset, and say you're not really a Jew, because your statement feels traitorous to them. Or they get really upset and exaggerate how they regard the Muslims in general — whose leaders actively preach murder of ALL Jews.

    Death to all Jews, that would include you, by the way, if your mother really is halachically Jewish. The Muslims preaching death to all Jews (and there are many of them, and very, very few Muslims speak out against this incitement to murder), don't care if your opinions are with them. If you were in their power nothing less than your conversion to Islam would prevent your death at their hands.

  4. Tim Upham says:

    I have been with numerous Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and they never wished for or advocated my death. I have been to joint Muslim-Jewish picnics, and had a wonderful time at them. I have been to 9 predominately Muslim nations, and lived in 2 of them. Nobody tried to kill me while I was there. In the Siddur, it says "You will love your fellow man, as though as will love yourself." I take that to heart, and I am glad I do. Because just filling myself with hate, is bad and extremely unnecessary.

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Journalist Steven Sotloff hid from his Islamic captors that he was Jewish but fasted on Yom Kippur.
Beheaded Journalist Hid His Judaism from ISIS Captors
Latest Indepth Stories
1347905461_5613_Mideast_Israel_Palestinians_Rosh_Hashana_05475

“these soldiers are on the front lines of a war that the entire world is fighting”

yesha1

Hayovel’s vision: to share with them (Jews) a passion for the soon coming jubilee in yeshua messiah.”

Tibets spiritual leader Dalai Lama.

Dalai Lama: In the interest of Tibetans today to have peaceful co-existence with the Chinese.

Hamas Quote on Death

However, 40+ countries still use capital punishment for a variety of offenses.

The War projects to lower Israel’s 2014 GDP 0.5% but will have little influence on foreign investors

It is in the nature of the Nations of the World to be hostile towards the Jewish People.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are actually fighting to “liberate Jerusalem and all Palestine.”

The bad news is that ISIS and Al Qaeda are on the Syrian Golan. The good news is that every terrorist in Syria is killing each other.

The congregants, Ethiopians spanning generations, were beaming with joy and pride.

The withdrawal from the Gaza Strip nine years ago did not enhance Israel’s security.

How does a soldier from a religious home fall in love with a soldier from a non- religious kibbutz?

In 19th century entire ancient Jewish communities fled Palestine to escape brutal Muslim authorities

Responsibility lies with both the UN and Hamas, and better commitments should have been demanded from both parties in the ceasefire.

But the world is forever challenging our Jewish principle and our practices.

If this is how we play the game, we will lose. By that I mean we will lose everything.

More Articles from Rabbi Yehoshua Grunstein
what me worry

Using the term “Halacha” for policies which are not in fact Halacha, delegitimizes those who differ and causes ill-will towards Jewish law.

Israelis wave flags and signs saying "Together We'll Win" during a demonstration supporting an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.

This past week should teach us one thing; in the eyes of the enemy, Israel is one Israel.

As the worse in now behind us, and yet with restorations efforts still ahead of us, I believe that the terms utilized so widely this week to describe a terrible predicament should force us to reconsider their use when, thankfully, tragedy doesn’t strike. Though my heart and soul are with those hurt by the storm, I am disturbed that so many of these very adjectives are commonly used to describe common occurrences, a far cry from the critical situation that so many Americans on the East Coast are facing.

A leisurely Shabbat stroll around town recently turned a calming experience into a rather upsetting one, as graffiti sprayed on quite a few buildings in my neighborhood defaced the beautiful Jerusalem stone with the words; “Dabru Ivrit/Speak Hebrew”!

“It is a Sabbath of Sabbaths for you, and you shall afflict yourselves, It is an eternal statute” (Vayikra 16:31). This is how our Torah sums up the upcoming experience of Yom Kippur: a Sabbath of all Sabbaths. Rather than use the more colloquially known “Yom HaKippurim,” The Day of Atonement, the Torah reading of Yom Kippur morning uses the above term to summarize the twenty-five hour experience we are about to step into.

You’ve seen the scene before – the congregants are silent, the tension can be cut with a butter knife, all eyes are peeled on the bimah in the center, two blessings are uttered, and the silence is pierced….by the most primitive horn one could find!

As the year is coming to an end, with endless days filled with doing the very same commandments, we besiege G-d on each remaining day, asking for one vital ingredient for the one yet to come: May we never get used to our routine.

I’d like to submit that anything Frequent in our life tends be Forgotten! Something we see every day does not rank high on our list of concerns, and therefore, we just naturally forget about it.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/stop-citing-halachah/2012/12/26/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: