Religious Inconsistency

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Religious inconsistency, when purportedly religious people pick and choose among rules, frustrates observers by not only its exhibition of human frailty but also its irrationality. If you are going to choose which rules to ignore, shouldn’t you select those that are less important? However, human beings are not rational. They make decisions based on many considerations, including social and emotional factors.

The Sages (Avos 2:1) instruct to be as careful with a lesser mitzvah as with one more important. However, not everyone is capable of accomplishing this. In theory, then, those who fail should give priority to observing the stricter commandments. In reality, for a variety of reasons their definition of stricter is differant than the Torah’s.

Tosafos (Sotah 7a sv. ama) list a number of Talmudic instances of irrational religious inconsistency.

  1. The rules of husband and wife separating from each other are stricter during her nidah period than during mourning. The Gemara (Kesuvos 4b) explains that people are stricter regarding marital relations during mourning than during nidah even though the former is a rabbinic prohibition (perhaps biblical the first day) while nidah is a severe biblical prohibition (kares).
  2. The Gemara (Gittin 54a) states that in R. Yehudah’s region, people were more careful about shemitah, a standard biblical prohibition, than Shabbos, a biblical prohibition with a severe punishment (sekilah). Additionally, according to many, shemitah today and in R. Yehudah’s time is only rabbinic.
  3. R. Shlomo Zalman Braun (She’arim Metzuyanim Ba-Halakhah, Kesuvos 4b sv. le-meimra, Nedarim 27b sv. Mishnah) lists other cases:

  4. The Mishnah (Nedarim 27b), as explained by most commentators, describes people who would kill people in order to steal their money but were careful not to eat forbidden foods.
  5. The Gemara (Yoma 23a) tells the story of one kohen who stabbed another and the victim’s father, as his son was dying, commented that the knife with which he was stabbed was still pure. The Gemara adds that they were more concerned with the purity of utensils than with murder.
  6. The Gemara (Berakhos 22a) tells of a man who was going to sleep with a forbidden woman but refrained because he would then be unable to fulfill the rabbinic enactment of immersion in a mikveh after an emission. Rashi suggests that the woman was such that sleeping with her was only rabbinically forbidden. However, the Talmud Yerushalmi explains that she was married and sleeping with her was biblically forbidden (see the Tzelach). According to the Yerushalmi, this man was more concerned with “tevilas Ezra,” the rabbinic immersion in a mikveh, than with adultery.
  7. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 47b-48a) concludes that you are biblically forbidden to derive any benefit from a corpse’s shrouds. Tosafos (48a sv. meshamshin) point out that the Gemara (Chullin 122a) states that the Sages decreed that a corpse’s skin is impure on a rabbinic level so people do not skin a human corpse and use it. Tosafos state that we can assume that using a corpse’s skin is worse than using its shrouds, and it is certainly biblically forbidden. If so, why would the Sages need to decree impurity on a corpse’s skin? Rabbenu Tam answers that people are sometimes more careful about impurity, even on a rabbinic level, than on violating a prohibition.

It is for this reason that the Shulchan Arukh (Yoreh De’ah 119:5) writes that the rule that someone who is suspect of violating a strict prohibition is also suspect of a lighter prohibition depends on people’s perceptions. The Shakh (12) explains that everything depends on people’s perceptions. If people consider one prohibition more important than another, then someone who violates the former is suspect of violating the latter even if according to the Torah it is technically more severe. (Although see Darkhei Teshuvah ad loc. 25 for differing views.) The psychology of religious inconsistency must also account for social mores.

In a moment of frustration, R. Chaim Halberstam (Responsa Divrei Chaim, Yoreh De’ah 107) complained that “in our great sins, people are strict on chassidus [voluntary issues] and lenient on what the Torah is strict… Woe unto me that this happened in my day and may the good God forgive the community of Israel…” Even to this day, a century and a half later, we still find this religious inconsistency among some Jews.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

53 comments

  1. A good rationale for not engaging in the trope of “picking and choosing” halacha. Everyone does it, not just the people to one’s left in observance.

  2. Great article. Now how bout some practical examples.

  3. IH: I think the common-sense response would be that there is inconsistency and there is inconsistency. Clearly, the thiefs, murderers and adulterers are beyond the pale.

  4. Gil — That seems relativist to me.

    Leaving aside acts of universal criminality, is there a textual source that says that Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom are more important than Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero for example?

    You reference “strict prohibitions” vs. “light prohibitions” — is there a segmented list somewhere?

  5. Although this has nothing to do with this post, i thought i should point out that r. ari enkin’s post on “J’s Witnesses” is highly problematic in light of the explanation of the Meiri and of the Arizal to the gemara in Sanhedrin 101b about the meaning of הוגה את השם באותיותיו–עיין במרגליות הים שם אות ג ואות ד

  6. There is another type of halachic inconsistency which is applying a concept in one situation but not another. For example that there has been a proliferation of early minyanim, learners minyanim, cholent minyanim, even new Shuls and shteibels. But the concept of ‘b’rov am hadrat Melech’ seems to be raised mostly in opposition to groups of prayer that the posek is hashkafically opposed to, not in opposition to all these others break off groups.

    The Rav Wosner situation is also a very good example. Many claim that groups need to follow their posek, and then when a group’s ‘posek hador’ makes a psak that they don’t like, they reinterpret or just ignore him.

  7. What’s the alternative? Since there is a yeitzer hara, and observance will never be perfect, it seems to me the only other choice would be for people to keep their observance in all areas down to the level of the mitzvah that their yeitzer hara challenges most. But that’s worse than the problem being discussed: If someone can’t resist the temptation to shave some ethical corners in business, we should tell them to skip chalav yisrael too? To what benefit is that?

    The chassid the Sanzer Rebbe speaks of is certainly erring in his priorities, but at least he is keeping ties to a community that demands more of him. If he is being challenged in areas of actual halakhah, he needs that loyalty to the community which motivates his adherence to their particularist add-ons all the more.

  8. The rules of husband and wife separating from each other are stricter during her nidah period than during mourning.

    This seems unlike the other examples, in that it’s an actual halacha which is counterintuitive, rather than an example of people emphasizing certain halachot in a counterintuitive manner.

    one kohen who stabbed another and the victim’s father, as his son was dying, commented that the knife with which he was stabbed was still pure.

    I believe there are opinions that the father’s comment was sarcastic.

    IH: Everyone does it, not just the people to one’s left in observance.

    People FROM every community do it. Every community has lazy people. The right, at least in principle, holds that it is illegitimate. The left is more inclined to formally legitimize it and universalize it.

    micha: If someone can’t resist the temptation to shave some ethical corners in business, we should tell them to skip chalav yisrael too? To what benefit is that?

    Compromising on a derabanan whose purpose no longer exists, to pressure people to keep a deoraita, doesn’t sound like a bad thing to me. And we tell people to compromise on certain mitzvot for lesser reasons (i.e. yuhra).

  9. Shlomo: But how does this pressure people to keep that deOraisa? All it does is lower his standard overall, shakes the person loose from those things he does do and bolster his commitment or at least his identifying with a peer group who commit.

    Encouraging someone to do less in one area isn’t likely to cause him to do more in another. It seems to me the reverse: the fewer things he does in his life for religious reasons (whether those reasons are right or not) the fewer things he will do.

    (I think historically, this is one of the mistakes the Conservative Movement repeatedly makes, part of what generates their perpetual downward spiral in observance among their masses. But just because they do it doesn’t prove my point that it’s a mistake.)

  10. I think it was R. Yaakov Emden who complained that had the Torah written “yesh lehachmir shelo lignov” people would be much more scrupulous…

  11. Dov F: Perhaps we are just restating Rashi’s explanation of gadol mi shemitzuveh ve’oseh, mimi she’einu metzveh ve’oseh. Someone who is commanded and does the particular mitzvah is greater than someone who doesn’t because there is a bigger yeitzer hara to avoid obligations. The voluntary performer of a mitzvah is engaging in autonomous religious expression. Which is far easier than doing what someone else — or in the case of a deOraisa, Someone else — determined you need to do for religious impression.

  12. The right, at least in principle, holds that it is illegitimate.

    Not clear. From my perspective, the right is more likely to rationalize their behavior through a self-serving pilpul (e.g. it’s not really stealing because they’re not Jewish, it’s not really Lashon ha’Ra because …).

    The point remains that every one of us is inconsistent, so let’s work on our own issues rather than casting aspersions on others with the “picking and choosing” trope.

  13. One ought to distinguish between behavioral and theoretical inconsistency.

    The former is just the psychology of the yetzer hara. For example, it is easier to see how one might be more tempted to be intimate with one’s wife during the monthly niddah period than during aveilut, both in terms of general mood and in the fact that when one is an avel, one is conscious of that pretty close to 24/7 and unlikely to forget. This sort of inconsistency (assuming we don’t get to the level of murdering people) is easy to understand–people’s weaknesses aren’t logical.

    Groups that make conscious decisions to ignore sections of Torah are in a different category. Those that don’t believe in Torah Misinai can at least be intellectually honest in selecting those portions they feel are meaningful to them. But those who believe in Torah Misinai but make a conscious and reasoned decision to ignore portions they don’t like.

    That is there is a difference between a believer in Torah MiSinai who decides that the prohibition against eating pig is because of trichinosis and we can now all ignore it since everyone knows to cook pork thoroughly, and one who recognizes that he may not eat pork but is overcome by temptation looking at the ham being served at an office party. One is a hypocrite and one is just weak, as we all are in one way or another.

  14. OOPS. Left out the last clause of the second paragraph: “are being intellectually dishonest”

  15. As a further response to Shlomo, I was reminded of the following formal principle of American Reform Judaism:

    We are committed to the ongoing study of the whole array of מצוות (mitzvot) and to the fulfillment of those that address us as individuals and as a community. Some of these מצוות (mitzvot), sacred obligations, have long been observed by Reform Jews; others, both ancient and modern, demand renewed attention as the result of the unique context of our own times.

    Source: http://ccarnet.org/rabbis-speak/platforms/statement-principles-reform-judaism/

    —–

    The truism stands that the Reform value Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero over Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom and the Orthodox value Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom over Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero. Is there a legitimate textually based argument for the Orthodox inconsistency?

  16. The discussion of pork in this context reminds me of:
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4152397,00.html

    “Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger on Tuesday announced the discovery of a special goose species, which tastes exactly like pork.”

    Inconsistent?

  17. Lawrence Kaplan

    Dov F. : IIRC, the joke is that people (at least Ashkenazim) would be more careful about theft had the Rema written in his hagahot “yesh nohagin bemedinot elu she-lo lignov, ve-khen ikkar.” I believe I first heard the joke from Prof. David Berger.

  18. People can want to feel frum and be seen as frum whether or not the reality matches the facade.

  19. Inconsistency and imperfection are defining characteristics of humanity. This is true in religion and faith as it is in almost everything else. On an individual basis we rationalize and we hopefully strive for betterment. Decrying an individual for their flaws is to deny the never-ending chiyuv of human development.

    This dynamic plays out differently on a communal basis. Whereas some communities may actively rebut or redefine hallacha to allow their deviance, I have found that more often than not people will still recognize the supremacy of true hallacha and their deviance are individual judgement calls based on where they are in their spiritual development. I was at a minyan where most of the participants were not shomer shabbos, but they wanted to be and were working on it.

    This isn’t inconsistency, it’s development.

  20. Nu, and I’ve been at a minyan where most of the participants regularly bent or broke the rules of business integrity, but they thought that that was kosher because they were Orthodox and those they took advantage of were not.

    That isn’t development, it’s rationalized inconsistency.

  21. Many people are more careful not to speak loshon hara about the dead than about the living.

  22. One classic example of inconsistency is from Tanakh, where the prophets criticized people for bringing sacrifices while they were oppressing widows and orphans.

  23. My classic – heicha kedusha at mincha at a 6 hour wedding with an hour of speeches of how thankful we are to HKB”H! (or was that the assifa – I still haven’t heard whether it was a heicha or just poor audio)
    KT

  24. “the fulfillment of those [mitzvot] that address us”

    In other words: We will do mitzvot which make us feel nice and touchy-feely, but not otherwise. God is there to serve us, not the other way around.

    The truism stands that the Reform value Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero over Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom and the Orthodox value Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom over Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero. Is there a legitimate textually based argument for the Orthodox inconsistency?

    Not every truism is true, but to the extent Orthodox does neglect BALC mitcvot, I would ascribe it to:

    1) the more public and all-or-nothing nature of most BALM mitzvot, as opposed to the privacy and subtle awareness which often accompany BALC, making it easier to measure a person’s religious observance based on BALM (judging often being necessary for one who considers mitzvot to be obligatory and interacts with others who don’t think that).
    2) the greater yetzer hara for many BALC mitzvot (because rituals are typically easy to perform once you’re used to doing them). BALM mitzvot for which there’s a strong yetzer hara, like talking in shul, are often similarly neglected.

    joel rich: heicha kedusha at mincha at a 6 hour wedding with an hour of speeches of how thankful we are to HKB”H!

    Don’t you know the speech is intended to demonstrate the speaker’s religiousness and communal standing, not to praise God, the latter is the means not the end 🙂

  25. From Rav Shalom Arush:

    “As a rabbi, and particularly as a rabbi that tries to help people as much as possible, I’ve noticed a peculiar phenomenon – when people make tshuva, they run to the man-and-G-d mitzvas – Shabbat, kashrut, mikva, Torah learning – but they often neglect the real tshuva, adam l’chavero – man & fellow man. Why do we call that the real tshuva? The answer is that we come to this world to perfect our character – to be less brutal, less arrogant, more kind and and more considerate. The way a person observes the commandments that govern one’s relations between man & fellow man is a barometer to the quality of his or her character. For example, you can’t be a tzaddik – even if you know the Gemara by heart – if you cheat someone or don’t repay a debt.”

    http://www.breslev.co.il/articles/family/dating_and_marriage/the_danger_of_verbal_abuse.aspx?id=12424&language=spanish

    I think this conflict is inevitable because it takes much more willpower to overcome negative character tries underlying transgressions of BALC mitzvos (greed, cruelty, arrogance, anger, selfishness, etc.) than BALM mitzvot, which can be observed out of habit or for the sake of conformity. I believe R’ Chaim Vital said it’s easier to learn the entire Talmud than to change one negative character trait.

    However, that does NOT meant that meticulousness about BALM mitvos leads to transgressions of BALC mitzvos, or that Orthodox Jews are any less BALC-y that heterodox Jews, c”v’s. There is no evidence whatsoever that this is the case.

    Even so, whenever an Orthodox Jew does something criminal or inconsiderate, or fails to be kind and pleasant to others, this creates a chillul Hashem, which reinforces the heterodox’s anti-Orthodox beliefs. So as a community frum Jews should do everything they can to ensure everyone is growing in their interpersonal mitzvos and middos, and cracking down on those knowingly harming others. A good start might be to become strict about receiving everyone with a cheerful countenance (both R’ Shammai and R’ Yishmael in Avot say we should always do this, so why not start smiling at everyone already!)

  26. Y, yasher koach on your comments on inconsistencies in religious practice. I can add a few stories of the Chofetz Chaim as told by a relative of his (a nephew, I believe). He referred to the critical importance of good midot on various occasions. Once he mentioned that he was not necessarily impressed by someone who claimed to have studied (gelernt) all of shas. The question is, he added, what has shas taught him (derlernt)? Another time, addressing the olam at the seudah shlishit table in shul, he said, “Someone who claims torah knowledge, but is lacking in midot, this table (banging on it) stands higher than he” After all, the table, too, has held many seforim, but has no other function or pretense – it’s a table; while someone who has studied much torah, but doesn’t act accordingly betrays both his learning and his mission.

    The application of this mussar to some recent rabbinic statements is not something that I need to spell out.

  27. shaul shapira

    “The truism stands that the Reform value Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero over Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom”

    That’s not only a truism, but in a sense a tautology. You can’t keep the latter commandents unless you believe: 1)God exists 2) He commanded you to do something. 3) That command is still in force.
    (The former is also more of an ethical humanism that a halchic Mitzvah per se. There are no Pturim of say, baillav ee’mo, on an ethical requirement to pay for something you broke. I’m not devalueing whatever great things they do, just trying to be magdir it.)

    “and the Orthodox value Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom over Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero.”

    Do you have source for that truism? An objective survey? Or perhaps a lifetime of neccesarily subjective anecdotal evidence?

  28. Another formerly common inconsistency was those that drove to Shul on Shabbat or Yom Tov in order to say Kaddish or Yizkor. I think there is a story about that somewhere

  29. Shaul — nothing personal, but you would be well to do some research on non-Orthodox movements if you want to comment intelligently on the them.

  30. To elaborate a bit of the quotation from R’ Shalom Arush above, I believe he writes, in his book In Forest Fields, that to really make a difference in rectifying one’s character flaws (which would seem to be a prerequisite to fulfilling many of the mitzvos between man and man) one should spend half an hour a day, half of the recommended daily personal prayer (hisbodedus), focusing on one’s worst character trait — both asking forgiveness for sins associated with the trait and asking Hashem to help overcome and nullify the trait. Whether or not you subscribe (as I do) to the belief that daily hisbodedus is of great importance in one’s spiritual development, I think the basic point — that improving one’s middos and interpersonal mitzvah observance is a difficult but important and achievable task and one must devote considerable daily effort into achieving this — is valid for everyone.

  31. To elaborate a bit on the quotation from R’ Shalom Arush above, I believe he writes, in his book In Forest Fields, that to really make a difference in rectifying one’s character flaws (which would seem to be a prerequisite to fulfilling many of the mitzvos between man and man) one should spend half an hour a day, half of the recommended daily personal prayer (hisbodedus), focusing on one’s worst character trait — both asking forgiveness for sins associated with the trait and asking Hashem to help overcome and nullify the trait. Whether or not you subscribe (as I do) to the belief that daily hisbodedus is of great importance in one’s spiritual development, I think the basic point — that improving one’s middos and interpersonal mitzvah observance is a difficult but important and achievable task and one must devote considerable daily effort into achieving this — is valid for everyone.

  32. IIRC, the Talmud is quite critical of someone who picks and chooses among the kulos of Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai.

  33. IH wrote:

    “Leaving aside acts of universal criminality, is there a textual source that says that Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom are more important than Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero for example”

    If one assumes as do Rashi and R Saadya Gaon that the Aseres HaDibros are indivisible, which is a bedrock principle, your query really is nonexistent. OTOH, Mitzvos that entail a Birkas HaMItzvah, as opposed to mitzvos such as Chesed, which are of a universal nature, are seen as expressing Bchiras Yisrael and the Bris Sinai between HaShem Yisborach and Klal Yisrael.

  34. Thanks to whoever put together the list in the article. It’s just the sort of thing that belongs on R’ Torczyner’s Webshas.com site. (Someone should share it with him.)

  35. IIRC, the Talmud is quite critical of someone who picks and chooses among the kulos of Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai.

    And the chumros…

  36. shaul shapira

    Shaul — nothing personal, but you would be well to do some research on non-Orthodox movements if you want to comment intelligently on the them.

    Perhaps. In the meantime, I wonder what you think of the sentiments produced R Avi Weiss re Reform in this article:

    http://www.yctorah.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,143/

  37. “Shaul — nothing personal, but you would be well to do some research on non-Orthodox movements if you want to comment intelligently on the them.”

    Perhaps. In the meantime, I wonder what you think of the sentiments expressed by R Avi Weiss re Reform in this article:

    http://www.yctorah.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,143/

  38. Shaul — Did you have something specific from this 1997 article in mind? I am no expert, but happy to share my thoughts based on my experiences and conversations with people involved in the Reform movement.

    That said, the following statements in that article stand the test of time and are worth highlighting my agreement:

    For myself, pluralism does not mean that the respective movements agree on every issue, rather pluralism means that each movement ought to present its beliefs with conviction, while recognizing that it is not the only one caring passionately about the Torah, land, and people of Israel. (p. 416)

    those on the Orthodox Right who contend that we’re better off without the Conservative and Reform movements ought to heed the words of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, one of the great Torah giants of our generation. In a Tradition magazine symposium that dealt with the non-Orthodox movements, he wrote: “Nor do I share the glee that some feel over the prospective demise of the competition. Surely, we have many sharp differences with the Conservative and Reform movements and these should not be sloughed over or blurred. However, we also share many values with them and this, too should not be obscured. Their disappearance might strengthen us in some respects, but would, unquestionably, weaken us in others. Can anyone responsibly state that it is better for a marginal Jew in Dallas or in Dubuque to lose his religious identity altogether rather than drive to his temple?”

    Not only should Orthodox leaders recognize that the other side is not the enemy, Reform and Conservative leaders should do so as well. Our energies should not be expended on castigating other movements, but rather on impacting the majority of American Jews who are unaffiliated and whose greater involvement in Judaism must be our central focus. (p. 417)

  39. IH-long before you posted your first comment, we discussed the pros and cons of the above quoted comment and whether the same represents an authentic MO POV, especially in view of RYBS’s comments re driving to services.

    If you check the archives here, you should be able to see where many posters , including,but not limited to myself questionned the definition of pluralism, RAL’s views on marginal Jewish identity and kiruv in the US as well as the fact that if one looks beyond the Hudson, one can see much in the way of greater involvement in Torah Judaism, especially if one rejects the premise that “pluralism does not mean that the respective movements agree on every issue, rather pluralism means that each movement ought to present its beliefs with conviction, while recognizing that it is not the only one caring passionately about the Torah, land, and people of Israel.”

  40. Shaul — there you have it. It’s all in the archives 😉

  41. shaul shapira

    IH- can you link to a non PDF form of the article? I can’t seem to cut and paste otherwise.

    Todah.

  42. Shaul — I OCR’ed it using Acrobat. You can download the OCR’ed version at http://www.sendspace.com/file/jn9rwm

  43. For those interested in the halachic issues involved in “kula shopping”, see the annexed linked article http://www.darchenoam.org/articles/q-a/ar_qa_kulah.htm

  44. MiMedinat HaYam

    steve b — the link doesnt work “404”

    anyway, i was gonna post a simple comment. even one goes kula shopping, one must advise subsequent poskim that rabbi xx said yy, before getting a psak.

    also, there is a skill in asking certain she’elot, in hinting within the question the desired result (and reasons for it.) a smart rav will get the hint, and evaluate if he (she, in non rav issues; yes, there are some) wants to agree.

  45. “we still find this religious inconsistency among some Jews.”

    Some? From what I have seen, with the exception of a few truly outstanding individuals, this tendency is pretty much universal.

  46. shaul shapira

    Better let Professor koppel say it:
    http://u.cs.biu.ac.il/~koppel/ideology.pdf
    “One thing they surely would have found even more bizarre is the current fashion of scouring
    halakhic sources for support for various “women’s issues”. What possible difference does it
    make what it says in this or that sefer, they would wonder, if everybody already knows what
    Jews have been doing for as long as we remember? No sefer can change the facts. And
    besides, if you want to do an aveirah, why bother calling it a mitzvah? As not atypical Polish
    chassidistes, one of my grandmothers occasionally played cards, the other read novels, both
    benched only on Shabbos and davened only on yamim noraim and at yizkor and it never
    occurred to them to attempt to justify any of these things. Not because they didn’t take
    Yiddishkeit seriously but precisely because they took it seriously enough not to attempt to
    redefine it according to their convenience. (Mommy asked me to mention that her bubbes
    were very frum and did daven every day – and one of her zeides was actually a bearded
    Litvak.) To take a more extreme example currently making some waves, the notion of single
    women choosing to bear children would have aroused their dismay but also, perhaps, their
    pity; the idea of publishing an article to justify such a decision would have simply left them
    dumbstruck. Altogether, conspicuous displays of eager and unconventional piety always
    struck them as too earnestly “religious” – in the goyish sense of the word.”

  47. shaul shapira

    “For myself, pluralism does not mean that the respective movements agree on every issue, rather pluralism means that each movement ought to present its beliefs with conviction, while recognizing that it is not the only one caring passionately about the Torah, land, and people of Israel.”
    Better let Ravitzky say it:
    http://www.tremblingbeforeg-d.com/heb/7link15.shtml

    “העמדה שלי כאן היא סובלנית, אבל היא לא עמדה של פלורליזם. פלורליזם חוגג את עצם האחרות, כלומר למרות שאתה שונה ממני, אני שמח על עצם קיומך השונה, האחר. כשמדובר בסובלנות, אני לא שמח שהתופעה קיימת ואיני רוצה לעודד אותה, אלא שברגע שהיא קיימת כעובדה, אני סובל אותה, אני לא רודף אותה ולא מפלה כנגדה. אני לא רוצה שאנשים יסבלו ויהיו במצב נחות ביחס לאחרים. אז עמדתי היא לא פלורליסטית. הייתי מעדיף שכולם יהיו במסגרת של איש ואשה, מכיוון שאני מאמין שהקשר המיני קשור במשפחה, בפוריות, בהמשכיות הדורות. יש לי העדפה חד משמעית לתא משפחתי זוגי שהוא יוצר ופורה ולא לתא משפחתי אלטרנטיבי. אבל כאמור, מהרגע שההומוסקסואליות קיימת, צריך למצוא דרך למנוע השפלה ורדיפה.
    “אני גם לא פלורליסט כשזה מגיע לתחום האפור. למשל במקרים של צעירים וצעירות שיכולים ללכת לשני הכיוונים, הייתי מאוד רוצה לכוון אותם להקים תא משפחתי שגרתי, אם באמת זה פתוח בפניהם”.

  48. here is the link that I posted last night
    http://www.darchenoam.org/articles/q-a/ar_qa_kulah.htm

  49. Shaul — Here’s another quotation if you’re collecting them:

    […] in the contemporary Jewish world the pursuit of unity is inherently divisive. Pluralism denies the self-definition of Orthodoxy. Inclusivism denies the self-definition of non-Orthodoxy. Were liberal Jews to accept Orthodoxy at face value, they would be forced to abandon the terms of pluralism and argue that Orthodoxy is false. Were Orthodoxy to accept liberal Jews on their own terms, they would be forced to conclude that they lay outside the covenantal community. Inclusivist and pluralist conceptions of unity are incompatible. The one cannot absorb the other. We here come face to face with one of the most profound collisions between tradition and modernity.

    The problem, to restate it, is that inclusivism assaults the self-respect of the liberal Jew. It rests on a distinction between liberal Jews and liberal Judaism. To legitimate the former it must delegitimize the latter. To include dissenting individuals, it must exclude dissenting ideologies. Tradition can only interpret the covenantal community as a community of faith and practice. To include those who stand outside the boundaries of traditional faith and practice, it must see their stance as non-essential, the result of environmental influence and excusable error. What is essential is their desire to be counted in the community, to be identified as Jews, even on terms to which they do not explicitly subscribe. Inclusivism, in driving a wedge between the dissenting individual and his or her beliefs, deliberately marginalizes the central virtues of modernity: authenticity, integrity, the deep congruence between the self and its expressions. Liberal Judaism asks Orthodoxy to respect its integrity. That is precisely what Orthodoxy, for the sake of Jewish unity, proposes not to do.

    From One People by CR Sacks (p. 153)

  50. “and the Orthodox value Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom over Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero”

    This is definitely incorrect. Hosheya ha-Navi was most certainly Orthodox, and he said “כי חסד חפצתי ולא זבח” (Hosea 6:6), which means that Hashem prefers chesed (lovingkindess – bein adam lachaveyro) more than sacrifice (bein adam lamakom). It should go without saying that He prefers both, but to have either one without the other would appear not to be the most ideal form of serving Hashem. I believe that the prophet is saying this in order to refute the incorrect unfortunately widely-held belief that Mitzvot ben Adam la’Makom are more important than Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero. In order to create a counterbalance between the two categories, Hosheya is trying to teach us that we should view Mitzvot ben Adam le’Chavero as more important (when in theory the one category is equal to the other, but each of them is more kal and more chamur than the other in a different way, which is why the prophet was allowed to say that beyn adam lachaveyro is more serious).

    =======

    “IH on June 4, 2012 at 6:56 am – Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger on Tuesday announced the discovery of a special goose species, which tastes exactly like pork. – Inconsistent?”

    Yalta, a famous rebbetzin in the Talmud, is known for saying that every worldly pleasure that is forbidden also has a permitted counterpart (Chullin 109b). One of the examples quoted by Yalta herself is that the taste of pork is found in the brain of the species of fish known as Shibuta, which is permitted according to the Torah. The only reason why pork is forbidden is because Hashem forbade it. Last week (http://amerabbica.blogspot.com/2012/05/can-there-be-judaism-without-kosher.html), Rabbi Gross quoted Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah, mentioning “a person should not say, “Pork disgusts me” rather one should say, “if only I could eat pork, but alas, what can I do, my father in heaven forbade it to me!”.

    IIRC, this idea is also one of the main themes from RMBM’s eight chapters introducing his commentary to Pirkei Avot. I believe it is from the (end of the?) sixth chapter..

    =======

    Regarding the discussions in this comment thread relating to Reform Judaism, please look at the following blog post from a week and a half ago on the Reform Judaism blog – http://blogs.rj.org/blog/2012/05/25/acting-like-a-jew/

    This blog post tells us Reform Jews should be obligated in ethical mitzvot (Beyn Adam Lachaveyro AKA mishpatim). Yes, obligated. AFAICT, Reform Jews are not obligated per se in ritual mitzvot (Beyn Adam LaMakom AKA eiduyot/chukim), yet they are not prohibited from performing them. (This is the category of reshut – that which is technically permitted. Whereas the Classical Reform Movement outright forbade these, the Neo-Reform Movement seems to encourage them at least passively.) Once again, this reminds me of that section from RMBM’s eight chapters introducing his commentary to Pirkey Avot (chapter 6 of the 8 chapters), because even Orthodox Jews should not view themselves as being commanded (metzuvim) in ritual laws in the same manner as they are commanded in ethical laws. RMBM writes that it is wrong to have a desire to steal, kill, or lie the way one might say s/he has a desire to eat basar b’chalav, wear sha’atnez, or enter into a consanguineous marriage. I was taught that a Reform Jew must observe ETHICAL mitzvot out of a sense of obligation (not personal choice), and that a Reform Jew may not observe RITUAL mitzvot out of obligation, rather if s/he chooses to observe them, it must be out of personal choice only. IMHO, in accordance with the opinion that maintains *mitzvot einan tzrichot kavana*, a Reform Jew who chooses to observe the ritual mitzvot is no different from an Orthodox Jew who does so out of a sense of obligation. Echad ha-marbeh ve-echad hamam’it (be-kavanot) – it would make no difference as long as they direct their hearts klapey ma’alah in some sense. An Orthodox Rabbi might say *Reishit Chochmah Yirat Hashem*, and then the Reform Rabbi would might respond *Acharit Chochmah Ahavat Hashem*. In reality, the two of them are really not arguing, as Isaiah the Prophet (44:6) teaches us the essence of Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu, “Ani Rishon va’Ani Acharon, u-mibal’aday eyn E-lohim.”

    There is a book called *Challenge to Confirmands* which is a great introduction to Reform Jewish theology/hashkafah if anyone is interested.

    =======

    Isn’t one of the most famous examples of religious inconsistency the case in which a son kills both his parents and then tries to tell Beyt Din that he should not deserve to be punished too harshly on account of him being an orphan?

    Another unfortunately very common type of religious inconsistency is the bar mitzvah celebrations of many Jewish 13-year-olds that are more bar (more alcohol-focused) than mitzvah (leshem shamayim-focused). I was taught that a bar mitzvah party may have bar, but only in the proper setting in which mitzvah is also part of the celebration. I once heard that true chassidim (pious ones) make lechayim for the bracha (that the bracha is the ikar), and not a bracha for the lechayim (that the drink is the ikar) – in which case, one should get drunk from the bracha and not the alcohol. If people knew how to achieve this level of spiritual drunkenness, then they could probably save a lot of money. It is definitely better to be “under the influence” of Hashem, Torah, and mitzvot than to be “under the influence” of alcohol.

    =======

    @MiMedinat_HaYam – What is the purpose of hinting; why not call a spade a spade? I don’t think a Rabbi would want you to hint at something. If a certain situation does in fact necessitate a different or innovative halakhic p’sak, then one should be obligated to reveal the all the details of the situation to the rabbi being poseyk. It is never a game to try and get the most lenient psak. If your situation requires leniency, then be lenient (meykel), and even be meticulous (machmir) to observe that leniency. If you haven’t given the rabbi all the details of the situation, then you probably know the situation better than him, and you probably can come up with a more correct psak as well.

    =======

    @Steve_Brizel – Your link still appears to be broken (404 error). Sorry about that.

  51. Shaul Shapira

    IH- Thanks, they’re always nice. I’ll throw in one last quote- this about JOFA which comes courtesy of Marc Shapiro in a comment on Seforim Blog:
    http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html#comments

    “Actually, I submitted a proposal to speak (thinking it was an academic conference since I saw the call for papers at the AJS) but they turned me down. I learnt then that what they wanted at their conference was, much like EDAH, a group of people preaching to the converted. My paper was going to argue that the methodology of Orthodox feminism was a complete break with what had been the practice until then, and that therefore it is questionable if the word “Orthodox” can even be applied to it. My book on Weinberg had just come out and it was one of the few books JOFA was selling it at the conference (since Weinberg is so important to Orthodox feminsim due to some of his teshuvot). At the dinner (which I don’t recall) I probably said that it was ironic that the book on Weinberg was being touted at the conference but the author of the book was not welcome.”

    Speaking of inconsistoncies…

  52. shaul shapira

    By the way, having read “One people, Two Worlds”, I can tell you that we’re largey regurgitang material from there, with me playing R Reinman, and you playing RR Ami Hirsh.

    And speaking of reading up on other communities, here’s a book (mostly) about Charedim you might enjoy. It should be availible in a library near you.
    http://nypl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/12323965052_boychiks_in_the_hood

    You did mention that you live in Manhattan, right?
    🙂

Leave a Reply

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter


The latest weekly digest is also available by clicking here.

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

Archives

Categories

%d bloggers like this: