by Joel Rich
I recently saw the following question raised to R’ Aviner:
Question: I am always hearing that mixed society is forbidden according to the Torah. I hear this from all of the rabbis – Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Charedim, National Religious – except for a small minority of rabbis who do not belong to the first line of great halachic authorities. I therefore understand that the views of that minority are halachically null and void.
But I am still not clear on one point: Surely there are parts of our life that are gender-mixed against our will, and I don’t see how it is possible to change that. Therefore, instead of making a generalized decree prohibiting mixed company, wouldn’t it be better to provide us with guidance for those parts of our life which are mixed (against our will), so that we will know how to build a mixed society that is Kosher?
ME – Now there’s a lot I could discuss, but I’m struck by “Surely there are parts of our life that are gender-mixed against our will, and I don’t see how it is possible to change that.” Let me posit 3 situations
1. I am flying to Israel and am concerned that I will sit next to a woman “against my will” – why wouldn’t halacha require me to buy 2 seats to ensure this would not happen?
2. I can work in bnai brak as a rebbi or in Tel Aviv as an accountant – is it “against my will” to do the former and work in a mixed office?
3. why not set up frum yishuvim with total gender separation rather than live in a city, and why live in galut rather than in such a yishuv?
From a recent Cross Currents discussion, comments welcome:
June 27, 2011 at 5:41 am
The third approach would seem most attractive, and is the one that Rabbi Belsky had been using till now. The gemara’s statement about worms coming from the flesh is taken as a principle that organisms whose entire (or majority) macroscopic development takes place within the flesh of a host can be considered halachically as part of the host, rather than halachically significant entities.
I agree that R’ Belsky’s (and R’Bleich’s) approach is intellectually consistent. I’m curious what you think the odds are that the principle articulated is actually what chazal had in mind (given the inability of the science of the times to use microscopes etc.)
June 28, 2011 at 12:11 am
I think that the odds are about 100% that Chazal had in mind that worms that originate in the flesh of fish are permissible. I also believe that they thought that the manner in which they originate in the flesh is through spontaneous generation. That, however, is irrelevant to the principle. The principle is similar to the kula that the Torah provides for drinking water with organisms that originate in the water without having left it, or eating fruit with insects that never emerged to the external world.
In a panel discussion titled “Modern Orthodoxy faces the 21st Century: Where are we today, where we should be headed and how do we get there?”, leaders of three major Modern Orthodox organizations and institutions explored the critical issues and practical steps facing the community. Issues addressed include: the impact of the internet on the community, Jews in their “Odyssey Years”, communal roles for women and more.
Introduced by Rabbi Joshua Strulowitz, rabbi of Congegation Adath Israel, and moderated by Rabbi Gil Student, managing editor of OU Press and editor of the “Hirhurim” blog, the discussion included the following participants:
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Incoming RCA President
Rabbi Basil Herring, Executive Vice President, The Rabbinical Council of America
Richard Joel, President of Yeshiva University
Rabbi Steven Weil, Executive Vice President of the Orthodox Union
I’ll start at the end because I think R’S Goldin ( [YU ’73 – what a long strange trip it’s been] nailed at least 2 of the big issues for M.O. in his summary].
1) Lack of self definition (me – frummer than X, not as frum as Y doesn’t cut it!).
2) Lack of inspiration (me – spirituality on demand only please). His #3 was lack of perspective (it’s not the best of times, it’s not the worst of times – we need to triage what’s important, what excites us [me – besides single malt scotch?].
I didn’t always get who said what.
Opening was who we are – “mainstream halachic Judaism”, being relevant, relate Rambam to 21st Century, sophisticated and educated in both worlds (but Lakewood is great too!). Be diverse but not too broad…[blah, blah] (me – interesting not really hardly a mention throughout of Israel or phenomena of M.O. – Lite)
Technology – Richard Joel and R’Weil are pro touchy, feely.
Half Shabbat is more an addiction not defiance. (me – based on whose daas torah?)
R’Herring – Jews seem cynical, distrustful (me – really??) about Jewish organizations and thus organizations need to be transparent and accountable and regain trust. Richard Joel isn’t sure there’s distrust (me – no comment) but institutions must speak to people/communities (me – not just spin!).
Women’s issues – M.O. must educate and must find appropriate roles (e.g. Yoetzet – although in the Q&A it was noted that only one Rabbi in Teaneck openly supports this!?!?).
R’Weil and others very pro-kiruv, we’re responsible for reaching out and saving the majority that are assimilating (me – how much resource are we allocating to this?).
R’Herring worries about schism’s within orthodoxy, financial problems and the best and brightest making allyah (me – halevai).
R’Weil thinks ultimate answer to cost of education is legislative but Richard Joel thinks we must affirm the non-negotiability of quality education (me – how many students is YU losing to Touro/Queens College, etc.?….. Why are people voting with their feet (see Englewood/Charter School)).
Some discussion of teaching more music, importance of nuance and more holistic teaching (me – great, but there are only 24 hours in a day). Maccabeats as an example of torah U’Madda (or something?).
Circa 1983 a wide ranging discussion of psak/horaah.
Chumrah vs. halacha – a lot of examples of overkill (and that was back then!) including 3 sets of drinking glasses.
Discussion of minhag as a response to changing circumstances with a number of examples – change sometimes started by amcha and only later rabbinically recognized, sometimes minhag gets force of takanat chachamim (the Sheiltot states that minhag Yisrael gets the force of a din drabannan (rabbinic ordinance) if accepted).
Two key points:
1) How does/should halacha adapt to changing social circumstances? (e.g. b’eilat znut vs. civil marriage) [me – the mills of the God’s justice grind exceedingly slow but grind exceedingly fine”. This is what gets me through the night!] 2) R’Moshe felt chalav hacompanies was chalav Yisrael due to no doubt of fact. R’Moshe didn’t drink it because he didn’t in Europe and so would have to be matir neder here to drink it and he had a kabbalah never to be matir neder!!!
Starts with interesting analysis that if he was 50% convinced that the new tcheilet is the real thing, he’d have to wear them and if miyut hamatzui (10%) then maybe….but it doesn’t matter because he thinks it’s 0%.
[4 side points] 1) R’Reisman sounds a lot surer than he did a number of years ago in his navi shiur;
2) when R’Reisman says the pictures of caves were not proof and were to “fool” people – you get the impression it’s more than just a halachic issue;
3) comparing Tcheilet (a torah mitzvah) to black hats as a sociological statement – interesting but…;
4) why the percentages above mean something in this context is unclear to me.
R’Reisman then reviews all (IIRC there were a few others that Ptil Tcheilot quotes that he did not include) gemaras on tcheilet to show 0% chance. His major objections: 1) this tcheilet is molecularly the same as Kala Ilan (fake mentioned by Gemara); 2) Zevulun really didn’t have sea front property; 3) how could there be tzad (capture) mlacha on snails.
[Me – I wonder how sure we are the rishonim (or amoraim) had a clear mesorah on what the tcheilet was]. Thus, he concludes we don’t change halacha on a small probability.
Closes with mussar on supporting lomdei torah vs. other needs (interesting – why wouldn’t we follow priorities in Horiyot unless “true” talmid chacham [which many argue doesn’t exist today?])
R’Lebowitz responds to R’Reisman based on Dr. Baruch Sterman (of Efiat, formerly of Passaic Park when it was a small M.O. community). He gives refutations on each point [me – if I know who Pliny the elder was, everyone should!] but the bottom line is – do you really need 100% proof? what’s the loss? [me – a possible Torah mitzvah for less than the cost differential for Chalav Yisrael/Shmurah matzah for all pesach!?]
Kicks off with the mkosheish (gatherer) medrash – that he sinned purposely, he wanted to do this as a warning to Klal Yisrael not to sin. (HKB”H was serious about this!)
Analysis of seemingly contradictory Talmudic sources on whether one can commit a lesser sin in order to preclude a greater one and how tosfot reconciles these sources to yield possible practical rules; perhaps:
1) you personally can do lesser sin in order not to have your greater sin completed;
2) you can do lesser sin to avoid someone else having a greater sin;
3) you can do lesser sin to carry out a “great mitzvah”;
4)=2) above but only if the other person wouldn’t be considered a poshea (purposeful sinner)
Some examples from Sh”ut literature (ex. – can a Hatzalah dispatcher call an ambulance en route on shabbat to tell them they aren’t needed?) What trade-offs are allowed in practice? [me – sounds like many are public policy issues]
Discussion of well known Jewish blood sport (reminiscent of Roman gladiators), when (and how) to correct the baal koreih? [empirical evidence suggests often and loudly!]
It may be a function or type of mistake (e.g. musical, pronunciation, additional or missing letter/word).
Best quote was concerning being overly punctilious in pronunciation (be normal! [sounds like R’HS influence])
Aleinu was originally part of the Rosh Hashana service (malchiyot) and later spread to the rest of our prayers. It is either said for segulah like reasons or as a mental strengthening exercise before going into outside world. Differences based on these reasons would include exactly when to say (must it be very last thing) and what to do when saying mincha and maariv in close proximity. [side point – still unclear to me why more aren’t makpid to daven later maariv if available] Nice mussar from Kiddush levana concerning our unique role to fix the world.
Discussion of R’Moshe’s position on trusting someone who isn’t religious who tells you the food is Kosher [e.g. non frum child who a parent “knows” would not lie about this]. Difference between “knowing” and “trusting” (it’s a very high threshold, but he would allow in “knowing” case [IMHO public policy issues may well have been involved as well]).
R’Tendler responds to questions to clarify his position on brain death.
Is there a torah prohibition against machloket (or is it only on machloket against Aaron’s selection)? Examples of Sh”ut based on this issue, discussion of sources.
Covenantal man (Adam II) – close, yet far relationship with HKB”H, maintains naïve/childlike wonder. Adam II is a poet vs. Adam I as a scientist, he seeks redemption vs. mastery of world.
A great detailed review from soup to nuts of wedding related issues (e.g., ketubah, witnesses, Sheva brachot, rings, etc.).
Interesting tidbits – 1) R’YBS said R’Chaim as a mesader kiddushin did not spill a little from the cup to lick for the brachot; 2) R’HS thinks biggest Talmud chacham in attendance should get sheva brachot.
[me – Very interesting how RIETS rabbeim each seem to have their individual issues/concerns on certain practices. Also, very interesting how we seem to find work around (when we want to.)]
Is it removing an “evil” or adding good? Then some detail including relative ranking of priority of girl naming and the purpose of mitzitzah. Concludes with admonition to do brit ASAP when delayed (I guess that means don’t wait until the next Sunday?).
I guess we were commanded pre-Sinai? (Whatever happened to Hachodesh Lachem being the first mitzvah?). Discussion of Pru U’rvu vs. Shevet. Interesting insight from R’Yosef Engel dividing mitzvot into: 1) result based vs. 2) process based – only in 2) does ones rachmana patrei mean you get full credit as if you did it (worth discussion!). IVF, adoption, mamzer, do they count? Must should infertile couple spend money to overcome (this IMHO is a fascination halachic/emotional intersection).
Lots of audience participation trying to figure out how to define exactly when a transaction (kinyan) actually takes place. Could be very dependent on the specifics (e.g. is paypal different than a credit card? How do we treat check?…)
Simtuta (local custom as to when a deal is considered sealed) also an issue!
Chinuch – everyone agrees that the father has a chiyuv, there’s debate about the mother. Must the chinuch be of the type that you would have been yotzeh with as an adult (e.g. can you give a kid a lemon instead of an etrog?) Detailed analysis of these two issues.
Can you eat, etc. once chiyuv of mincha or maariv has devolved upon you? If you have a regular minyan or some other regular reminder, it’s probably ok, but a number of poskim are uncomfortable with this.
Based on R’YBS drasha here: link
R’ Goldberg defines it as a rebellion for freedom from centralized authority and personal autonomy [me – I understood it more as for “common sense” as he discusses later].
Three types of knowledge – 1) chochmah; 2) bina; 3) daat
1) is extensive knowledge (technical) in a particular field;
2) ability to analyze and make distinctions;
3) common sense – sound practical basic judgment
Korach was in favor of religious subjectivism where personal feeling is primary. R’ Goldberg explains why this is not good. Another example is a parishioner who “believes” in brain death (me – but if he understands basic issues, must he follow his LOR?)
Again, IMHO this shouldn’t be understood as meaning halacha is not logical and that Rabbis shouldn’t explain results!