web analytics
March 6, 2015 / 15 Adar , 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Q & A: Incongruous And Unbecoming (Part III)


QuestionsandAnswers-logo

Question: Lately I have seen some young men who though they wear a yarmulke have ponytails or other long unruly hair – I’ve even seen some ear piercings. Somehow I find this behavior to be incongruous. My real problem is that my own nephew and a few of his friends wear their hair in this manner. Even though his parents look upon it as a passing fad, I am at a loss to understand such behavior. Luckily, whether right or wrong, I’ve held my tongue. I wonder what is the proper positive action in this matter.

No Name Please

Via e-mail

Synopsis:  Parashat Acharei Mot includes (Leviticus 18:3),  “K’ma’aseh eretz mitzrayim… u’che’ma’aseh eretz cana’an…lo ta’asu u’bechukoteihem lo telechu – Like the practice of the land of Egypt… and of the land of Canaan… you shall not do, and in their ways you shall not walk [go].” Rashi (ad loc) at first seems to limit the prohibition to practices found in these two most corrupt lands, but then adds that  “ in their ways” refers to going to theaters and stadiums, applying to all lands.  Rashi refers to the gemara (Shabbos 67a and Jerusalem Talmud Shabbos 6:9) where our sages explain “darkei ha’amori – the ways of the Amorites” including carrying a fox’s tooth or similar amulet [either as idolatry or superstition] as not exclusive to the Amorites. Rambam (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim Chap.11: 1) explains that we are not to appear like them in dress, hair and similar matters. He allows one who mingles with the secular authorities (11:3) to dress as necessary. The Mechaber (Yoreh Deah 179: 1-2) rules accordingly.

 

Rema (ad. loc. 179:2) notes that the obligation not to copy the idolaters (today – the gentile society) applies when a practice is done for pritzut – licentiousness or superstition, and other practices (other than those forbidden elsewhere in the Torah) are allowed. We are not required to be different in general, rather we are to avoid pagan and heathen behavior.

 

One’s hairstyle may not be darkei Amori. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 83a) cites a baraita about having one’s hair cut in a komi style, which Rashi explains as leaving a  beloriyoth – a  specific pattern of hair growth which leaves hair either only in the back or on the crown of the head.  This hairstyle is associated with idol worship (see the Mishna Avoda Zara 8a). Rambam’s opinion (Hilchos Avoda Zara 11:1) is debated: Some say he did not interpret growing bangs or forelocks as a transgression, while others (Bach Y.D. 178; Machatzis HaShekel, Orach Chayyim 27) maintain that he did.

 

 

Some people interpret  Mishna Berura (Orach Chayyim 27: sk15) as disallowing forelocks, yet he only discusses hair as a potential  chatzitza  – an interposition between the tefillin shel rosh and the forehead. Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller (Divrei Chamudot, found in Vilna Shas at the end of tractate Menachot) cites Rashba’s view that a head covering [and surely one’s own hair] is not necessarily a chatzitza under tefillin. Rashba also cites the Jerusalem Talmud saying that we see what the preponderance of people do (compare B.T. Berachot 45a). Today we do see that to have some hair in the front is common practice even under tefillin.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

Interestingly, we may violate the prohibition of darkei ha’amori – following in their ways – without realizing it. An interesting example is the use of birthday cakes with candles, as pointed out to me by my copy editor, Mrs. Bracha Holczer. According to sources that she found, this centerpiece of many birthday parties is grounded in ancient Roman and Greek culture.

 

According to their traditions the early Greeks used to place lit candles on cakes in order that they glow like the moon. They would then take these candle-laden cakes to the temple of Artemis, which they deified as a “goddess” of the moon. There was a folk belief that the smoke of the candles carried wishes and prayers to the gods in the skies. Thus developed the custom for the birthday celebrant to first make a wish and then blow out the candles. Further, it was believed that if all the candles on the cake were blown out in one breath, the coming year would bode well for the birthday celebrant.

 

Yet it seems that this “ceremony” has found its place in many Jewish birthday celebrations including some Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and nary a word is said in opposition. It would thus seem that once a practice has become so universal and generalized to the point where pagan origins no longer have any meaning or remembrance to the individual, there is no second thought or any hesitation in engaging in that practice. Simply put, party participants, especially the younger set, enjoy a nice birthday cake, and there is no intention or semblance of idol worship involved. Also, as we will see further, since it is a widespread practice in our society, irrespective of religion, practiced by Jew and gentile alike, it should not present itself as a problem.

 

Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Rosh Yeshiva and Rosh Kollel at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Seminar at Yeshiva University, in his volume Nefesh HoRav, cites the following that he heard from his Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik zt”l, late Rosh Yeshiva at R.I.E.T.S., in the name of his father Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik zt’l.

 

In the year 1848, the Czar Nicholas of Russia, who then ruled over Poland as well, issued an edict directed at the Jewish populace. All Jews under his domain were to discard their Jewish garb in favor of modern garb. Most noticeably this meant that a short jacket would replace the traditional long kaftan. Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveichik Zt’l (the famed author of Bais HaLevi and father of Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik) considered this to be a matter of Shmad (a practice that may contribute to Jews leaving the fold) as related in the gemara (Sanhedrin 74a – b) where Rabbah bar R. Yitzchak states in the name of Rav that when the government so decrees, one may not even change his shoelace to the gentile style. Rashi interprets this to mean that it would be forbidden to tie one’s shoelace in the same style as the gentiles. Tosafot explain that Rav meant to forbid changing the color of one’s shoelaces if theirs is black and ours is white. Thus we would then be forbidden to wear black like them.

 

Yet Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveichik realized that he had little choice in the matter, so he set off to the city of Brod in Galicia where the donning of short jackets had already become the custom. He stayed there for two years before returning to Poland.

 

What we see from here is that if one happens to be in a place where there is an accepted distinction between Jew and gentile in the manner of dress, one may not change even the smallest iota. However in a place where there is no such distinction, one may dress as one pleases. Obviously one must take care to assure the rules of modesty are followed.

 

(To be continued)

 

Rabbi Yaakov Klass can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com 

About the Author: Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.


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.

No Responses to “Q & A: Incongruous And Unbecoming (Part III)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
A ZAKA team in action.
ZAKA Rescued Body of Abandoned Jewish Soldier Who Died for Ukraine
Latest Judaism Stories
Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

To the glee of all Israel haters it was Netanyahu who was accused of endangering US-Israel relations

Ki Tisa_lecture

Over and over, the text tells us about “keeping” Shabbat, about holiness, and a covenant – but why?

Aaron and  The Golden Calf by James Tissot

Aharon’s guilt with the golden calf is not clear-cut. What if Moshe were in his brother’s place?

Rabbi Sacks

The Sabbath is a full dress rehearsal for an ideal society that has not yet come to pass-but will

When Hashem told Moshe of the option to destroy the people and make him and his descendants into a great nation, Hashem was telling Moshe that it is up to him.

Just like Moses and Aaron, Mordechai decides to ruin the party…

An Auto Accident
‘All Agree That They Are Exempt’
(Kesubbos 35a)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Why would the exemption of women from donating the half shekel exempt them from davening Musaf?

This concept should be very relevant to us as we, too, should be happy beyond description.

The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.

One can drink up to the Talmud’s criterion to confuse Mordechai and Haman-but not beyond.

“The voice is the voice of Yaakov, but the hands are the hands of Esav” gives great insight to Purim

Purim is the battleground of extremes, Amalek and Yisrael, with Zoroastrian Persia in between.

One should not give the money before Purim morning or after sunset.

More Articles from Rabbi Yaakov Klass
Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Q-A-Klass-logo

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-incongruous-and-unbecoming-part-iii/2011/11/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: