At times the community was safe, respected and protected. At other times a community was in danger, denigrated and vulnerable. And so each rendering would require multi-level considerations.
Within a static world and environment this might be easy – but with an ever-changing world it is an awesome task.
FROM THE FIRST
The first commandment in the Bible is to ‘be fruitful and multiply’. For thousands of years that simply meant to procreate. Today, however, with in vitro fertilization, cloning and surrogate mothering it is necessary for the rabbinical authorities to be up to date and understand both the latest medical procedures involved as well as being able to fathom the thousands of relevant halachic decisions handed down over the ages concerning this particular commandment.
If you ever sought an example of the great range and scope of how Jewish law is applied to state-of-the-art science and medicine as well as its flexibility and applicability, I suggest reading today’s rabbinic rulings on the scientific aspects on the first commandment
Halachah keeps up with the latest advances in science. A few hundred years ago – when tobacco first reached Europe – it was presented as an aid to digestion. And sure enough, you’ll find piskay halachah (halachic rulings) reflecting that specific use of tobacco.
As smoking tobacco became more popular you’ll find responsa discussing the pleasures of smoking. Can you smoke on Yom Tov (holidays)? On Tisha B’Av (a fast day)? Etc.
Today, when the dangers of smoking are known and accepted you will find many responsa prohibiting smoking. Period.
One still finds smokers among the yeshivah and Orthodox crowd. Rabbis have taken into account the fact that the addiction to tobacco prevents them from outlawing smoking completely. It falls under the section of ‘Just can’t do’.
About the Author: Chaim Burg was born in New York and was strongly influence by the teachings of Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Z.D. Kanotopsky. A graduate of Cooper Union, Burg spent most of his active business career as a communications consultant for major U.S. and international corporations. A well regarded author and lecturer, he mainly deals with thought provoking views on the evolution of Halacha. Burg made aliya in 1975.
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