web analytics
September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Meir Panim with Soldiers 5774 Roundup: Year of Relief and Service for Israel’s Needy

Meir Panim implements programs that serve Israel’s neediest populations with respect and dignity. Meir Panim also coordinated care packages for families in the South during the Gaza War.



Who Knows But God

For God’s Sake!?, Chapter 3
God-and the world

Halachic issues fall into various categories. Some areas are very clearly black or white – permitted or forbidden. YES or NO. But most situations fall into a grey area where an unequivocal answer is difficult, if not impossible.

Over the course of time various experts on halachah have raised salient points, both for and against the question at hand. Because, as this is human nature, there were sages who saw things from a more lenient and others from a more stringent point of view.

In addition, circumstances and variables that surrounded the question at hand played pivotal roles in reaching a rabbinic ruling.

And so the grey area has become larger and larger. The questions of leniency or stringency have become rallying points for philosophies, political agendas, and have become a means of protection and differentiation.

Elu v’elu divrai Elokim chaim!

(BT Eruvin 13:b, Gitin 6b) Both the stringent (chumrah) and the lenient (kulah) points of view are valid.

The question one might ask is – which is better?

The parsha (portion) of the Torah dealing with a Nazir (Nazarite) states that certain stringencies are permitted – even encouraged. For example, abstaining from wine as a behavioral correction. It is a personal way of

reaching certain goals that individuals set for themselves. But the Gemara states (Jerusalem Talmud Nazir, Chap 1, Hal 3) that the period of abstinence /stringencies should not exceed 30 days. And two most interesting laws are commanded of the Nazir following the period of stringency – the Nazir has to bring a sin offering to the Temple in Jerusalem and he has to drink wine. The sin offering is because basically stringencies are prohibited and are only a means of attuning one to act normally later. And the commandment to drink wine afterwards is to show that the behavioral correction was successful.

From the above we see that chumrot have a place in Jewish life. But there is another side to the coin.

In the Talmud (Baba Kama 80b) the story is told of a very religious person who didn’t accept a lenient ruling by the Rabbis and was nearly excommunicated.

In another incident the Talmud tells us of a sage named Eliezer Zeera who wore black shoes, an uncommon shoe color at that point in history, as a sign of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. While showing signs of mourning of the Temple is admirable, fellow scholars looked askance at his actions and considered it arrogant – he was placed in jail.

So we see an ambivalent attitude towards chumrot …and the same can be said about kulot.

Maturity also plays a role. As one develops and matures he evolves a personal approach to things, both in the world of Torah and the world he lives in. This describes the phrase ‘talmid shehigiah lehora’ah’ (a student who

reaches a level deemed by his teacher to render a decision in the teacher’s absence).

The key determining factor should be consistency. If you accept going the chumrah route then you must act stringently in all (or at least most) elements of your religious practice – or in other words – in virtually everything that you do.

Glatt kosher (very strictly supervised) food demanded by a prisoner in jail for embezzling from widows and orphans, or for that matter for any criminal, is an example of an inconsistent chumrah-follower gone wrong.

The story has been told that a rabbi once came to see the famous Jerusalem sage and halachic authority, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z.l. He asked him if a certain chumrah that was practiced in his community had any foundation in halachah or belonged to the world of religious fancy. The sage responded that there was no foundation for such a stringency and advised the rabbi to tell his community to repeal this practice. Several weeks later, the Jerusalem sage met the rabbi and asked him if he had told his community to stop practicing this mistaken chumrah. The rabbi turned to the sage and said, half jokingly, “No, it is a leniency which my congregation cannot live with…”

DON’T FENCE ME IN

Let us compare a Torah prohibition to a pit in the field.

To prevent people from transgressing and ‘falling into the pit’ some rabbinic authorities could decide to construct a ‘fence’ around the pit. For fear that the fence may not be enough, over a period of time other rabbinic authorities may also put the field off-limits. This could continue so that others may build a wall around the field. While even others could prohibit their congregations from crossing the road that ran around that field.

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.


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 “Who Knows But God”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Palestinian Authority students in Gaza rallying for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to visit the enclave in 2011. (archive)
Wow! Turkey’s Erdogan to Meet Jewish, Armenian Leaders in NY!
Latest Sections Stories
Calmer Times. Breslov chassidim on erev Rosh Hashanah in 2012 at the grave of Rav Nachman in Uman.

As optimistic as Menachem Rosenberg is – and he said he is going to Uman – he’s sure that this year, most of the travelers will not tour other religious sites or places in Ukraine.

Three sets of three-day Yomim Tovim can seem overwhelming – especially when we are trying to stay healthy.

Plotkin-092614

Is a missed opportunity to do a mitzvah considered a sin?

Teens-Twenties-logo

The sounds and scents of the kitchen are cozy, familiar, but loud in the silence.

Everyone has a weakness. For some people it is the inability to walk past a sales rack without dropping a few hundred dollars. For others, it’s the inability to keep their house organized.

Not enjoying saying no, I often succumbed to requests viewing them as demands I couldn’t refuse.

His entire life was dedicated to Torah and he became a pivotal figure in the transmittal of the Oral Torah to the next generation.

When you don’t have anyone else to turn to… that’s when you’re tied to Hashem the closest.

While we all go to restaurants for a good meal, it is dessert, that final taste that lingers in your mouth, that is the crown jewel of any dining experience and Six Thirteen’s offerings did not disappoint.

Today, fifty years and six million (!) people later, Israel is truly a different world.

There will always be items that don’t freeze well – salads and some rice- or potato-based dishes – so you need to leave time to prepare or cook them closer to Yom Tov and ensure there is enough room in the refrigerator to store them.

In Uzbekistan, in the early twentieth century, it was the women who wore the pants.

This is an important one in raising a mentsch (and maybe even in marrying off a mentsch! listening skills are on the top of the list when I do shidduch coaching).

More Articles from Chaim Burg
God-and the world

For God’s Sake!?, Chapter 3

Our Glorious Gutsy Past

For God’s Sake!?, Chapter 3

You don’t have to be ‘right’ – to be correct.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/the-book-shelf/for-gods-sake/who-knows-but-god/2013/05/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: