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Tying Up Loose Ends

June 2, 2015

R’ Schachter weighs in on the kosher switch:

As I said, he knows that some opinions should allow it, and even some of his colleagues see the permissibility of the thing, but he himself feels that Rabbi Soloveichik would not allow it. In Rabbi Soloveichik’s opinion (according to R’ Schachter) the action of the switch would not be a grama. It would be directly causing whatever forbidden labor the switch controls, assuming that the switch is controlling an actual forbidden activity.

R’ Schachter, as the leader of the rabbinic faculty of RIETS, needs to be the ultimate guardian of the religious-cultural status quo. True, in his own day Rabbi Soloveichik knew that times were changing and the application of the halacha had to follow suit. (see: Zionism, women studying Torah on an adult level, etc.) But nowadays we need to be conservative for its own sake due to the threats from the various reformist sects.

This, by the way is similar to Gil Student’s amusing take on the Rabbi Riskin debacle. Yes, Riskin is staying Rabbi Soloveichik’s course of independent thoughtfulness and adjusting with the times, but now he’s dangerous. And forget the fact that he is 75 years old, a rosh yeshiva, and has been in the business for more than 50 years. He should be treated like an infallible Haredite Gadol, but because he’s clean-shaven and has an old-fashioned take on halacha (erroneously referred to as a Modern Orthodox one), it’s ok to call his credentials into question, and even attempt to strip him of his authority. But I digress. 

The idea that we need to maintain the Ashkenaz-Sepharad halachic divide, or at least what’s left of it here in Israel, is not only unwise and impractical, it is exactly the opposite of what the Beth Yosef intended. The man who sought to reintroduce real rabbinic ordination as a means of re-establishing the Sanhedrin as a central halachic authority sought, as he describes in his introduction to his greatest halachic works, to fix the unfortunate situation of multiple Toroth being followed. Unfortunately, the Shulhan Aruch and its nosei keilim have been a cudgel in the hands of the knowledgeable yet short-sighted who seek to maintain halachic divisiveness,  obscurantism, and vagueness, all in the name of “tradition.”

Many have this deleterious and ahistorical belief that 500 years ago, the Rema and Beth Yosef sat down and decided that because there were noticeable differences in how Judaism was practiced between their respective geographic areas, in order to stem the natural evolution of halachic practice and solidify the practices as they were then for all time to come, they collaborated on a single work that would forever enshrine those differences and bind anyone descended from those respective areas even if they would migrate many times over, any where in the world, and even if they would create mixed communities. Either that, or they believe that because we liked those rulings so much, they became binding forever, even if they were never meant to be so. This is the assumption behind the rulings that gave us, for example, theerroneous idea that qiddush levana according to both the Rema and Beth Yosef, and therefore the de-fault binding halacha on k’lal yisrael, is only after a full seven full 24-hour days from the molad. The Beth Yosef, by the way, was thoroughly familiar with Maimonides’s code. If you start to find rules, usually of the prohibitory kind that neither Maimonides nor the usual rishonim mentioned as binding, then it means the Beth Yosef, who had extremely pious and strict personal practices, was mentioning basic practices that he believed the rest of the Jewish people were easily capable of taking upon themselves, but he did not seek to impose new restrictions or create new halachoth. (See the Yarmulke fallacy.) As yourself this question: why did the Rema mention the unified practice as it was in Poland in the 16th century, instead of noting that because the greater Polish Jewish community was composed by Jews who had arrived in different waves, at different times and from different places, there was variety among them? Are America and Israel the first places where Jews came and created mixed communities? Of course not! So why should those be the first places in History where they pretend that they are still in previous diasporic incarnations? Did the Babylonian Talmud record, let alone enshrine, the practices that had been extant among the various individual tribes before they had been exiled from Israel?

The truth is that, like with R’ Schachter’s milk conundrum, we have to finally sit down and decide between conflicting opinions, instead of painting ourselves into halachic corners due to opiniobus at dissiderent and misplaced humility. An actual consensus about the halachic status of the kosher switch should be reached before the people decide.

More on The the Y’vul Nochri Non-Humra

R’ Shteinman allegedly recommended that a charitable organization dispose of large quantities of hetter mechira food. Aside from the obvious halachic problems with doing so, have you ever wondered why no Rabbi on the opposite side of the spectrum would rule that y’vul nochri produce from our enemies should be tossed? Once again, it is because the mode of thinking that leads one to rule to allow hetter mechira produce is the same mode of thinking that takes into account the situation of the poor and the absurdity of throwing away perfectly good and cheap food, while the mode of thinking that leads one to rule against hetter mechira produce and to be pro nochri produce is the same mode of thinking that does not take into the account the plight of others. Further, the mode of thinking that motivates one to allow hetter mechira produce makes one subject to the censure and discipline of others, who may be significantly younger, while the mode of thinking that motivates one to strongly rule against hetter mechira produce makes one infallible no matter how outlandish and utterly heretical his public pronouncements. W’hameivin yavin.

Fascinating Article: Moshe Dayan wanted to know why idealistic Jewish religious leaders were so adamant about praying at the cave of the Patriarchs but not on the Temple Mount. Lo and behold,  it was due to the mistaken perceptions that ascending the Temple Mount is strictly forbidden and that the Temple need not be rebuilt by human hands. Oy gevalt. They say that if you say something over and over it becomes true. And this idea itself has been repeated, so it must be a hard and fast rule. What is the Jewish nation to do when the scholars themselves don’t do their homework and rely on conventional wisdom to decide national halachic policy? What is the Jewish nation to do when the rabbinic establishment tends to stifle those who dare to question standard practice? Now we have to reeducate the entire Jewish people not only about how to read Shulhan ‘Aruch, but also how to also read the Talmud and the Bible.

  1. david permalink

    the post has typesetting issues. the paragraphs are only partially visible. please fix! thanks.

    • c. jacobson permalink

      good for you for ignoring useful comments on technical issues to alienate loyal readers! smart move, way to go, congrats! i am blown away by your genius.

      not only have you ignored “the post has typesetting issues. the paragraphs are only partially visible”, you have not yet APPROVED the comment. wow. have fun talking to yourself!

      • actually, i thought we fixed those. I see them fine, and so do my neighbors. I can not post mean spirited, ad-hominem comments though.

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