Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Fracturing of Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur has always seemed to be a day that unifies the Jewish People. Not only religious Jews, but even many secular Jews fast and attend shul. It is most impressive.

But it isn't always a unifying experience. Seven years ago on erev Yom Kippur, the first posters went up against my books, causing the worst Yom Kippur of my life. Some people were especially horrified that this was done on erev Yom Kippur. Personally, I didn't have such a problem with that. After all, from their perspective, they were saving the Jewish People - why not do that on erev Yom Kippur? True, when one is aware that there are differing views within the Orthodox community, perhaps a little restraint is called for, before taking advantage of Yom Kippur to pursue one's cause. But what can one expect? It is inevitable that people view Judaism, including Yom Kippur, through their own perspective.

A not entirely unrelated event occurred this year on erev Yom Kippur. I received an email, regarding viduy, on the Jem-Sem mailing list, which is sent to alumni (such as my wife) of various girls' charedi seminaries. It was from Rabbi Menachem Nissel - a super-nice person who unfortunately decided to be "mevatel daas" to Rav Moshe Shapiro in the controversy over my work and to condemn the approach of numerous Rishonim and Acharonim as kefirah. The email was about the Chidah, who composed a long lists of sins for which one should confess. In the words of Rabbi Nissel, "Rav Moshe Shternbuch rewrote them in a simplified 'immediately accessible' form. However it is very male-centric (transgressions with women, wasting time when studying Torah etc.) I rewrote it for women with Rav Shternbuchs consent and guidance." He also sent another version by a Rabbi Feigenbaum that was further abridged "for high school girls." Sounds great, I thought. But then I started to read it, and some things caught my attention.

In the Chidah's viduy, one of the confessions is for הִרְהַרְנוּ אַחֲרֵי רַבּוֹתֵינוּ. It's not an easy phrase to translate, but in my view, it has the connotation of thinking negative thoughts about one's rabbis, such as assigning nefarious motivations to them. In Rav Sternbuch's simplified version, this is translated as "We doubted our Rebbeim."

What?! Is is really a sin to doubt one's rebbeim? In some streams of Judaism, such as Hassidic streams, absolutely. But in other streams, there is absolutely nothing wrong in doubting one's rebbe. Rav Chaim of Volozhin writes:
"It is forbidden for a student to accept the words of his teacher when he has difficulties with them. And sometimes, the truth will lie with the student. This is just as a small branch can ignite a larger one." (Ruach Chaim to Avos 1:4)
So here is an example of how the universal viduy of Yom Kippur becomes interpreted in a way as to reflect the attitude of some, but not all, schools of thought. And one can imagine how the sin of "doubting one's rebbeim" is interpreted by a girl who just spent a year in seminary. It's a sin to doubt that you should marry a kollel guy!

With that in mind, let us turn to another one. In the Chidah's viduy, another of the confessions is for דִּבַּרְנוּ זִלְזוּל עַל הָרַבָּנִים רִאשׁוֹנִים וְאַחֲרוֹנִים אֲשֶׁר בְּאֶרֶץ הַחַיִּים הֵמָּה וַאֲשֶׁר עוֹדָם בַּחַיִּים, וְדָחִינוּ דִּבְרֵיהֶם מִבְּלִי שׂכֶל וּבְלִי מוּסָר וְיִרְאַת ה'. "We spoke disparagingly about the rabbis, Rishonim and Acharonim..." In Rav Sternbuch's brief paraphrase, this is condensed to "We disgraced Rabbis," which is fine. But in Rabbi Nissel's women-friendly version, it has become דִּבַּרְנוּ שֶׁלֹּא בַּכָּבוֹד הָרָאוּי עַל גְּדוֹלֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל "We have spoken about Gedolei Yisrael without proper respect"! And in Rabbi Feigenbaum's version, it has become "I spoke inappropriately about Chazal and Gedolei Yisroel" - omitting all the stages in between!

It is certainly a sin to speak about Gedolei Yisrael without proper respect. But what about respectful disagreement? Is it inappropriate to say that they were wrong about something? I could be reading too much into this, and I apologize if that is the case, but in light of previous incidents, I get the impression that this is likewise something for which people are being asked to atone. And wasn't the Chida's viduy about all Torah scholars over the generations, not "The Gedolim"? Isn't it also a sin to speak disrespectfully about Rishonim and Acharonim (such as by disparaging their views as kefirah or suchlike)?

Finally, there is something new that crops up in Rabbi Nissel's version which I find extremely puzzling: תָּרַמְנוּ מִכַּסְפֵּנוּ לִמְקוֹמוֹת שֶׁאָסוּר לָתֵת "We have donated money to places that it is forbidden to give to." Such as what?

I don't think that Rabbi Nissel or Rabbi Feigenbaum were consciously trying to transform the Chida's viduy into a charedi indoctrination strategy. But this is near-inevitably what happens when people interpret Yom Kippur through their own lens (although I wonder if a Centrist Orthodox rabbi would compose a viduy list with "We avoided denouncing chilul Hashem out of wanting to honor rabbis"). Any non-charedi person who is surprised that their daughter returns from seminary having been "brainwashed" has only themselves to blame. And it isn't enough to complain about it. If centrist Orthodoxy wants to perpetuate itself, it has to more actively work towards producing and supporting its own educators and educational materials.

* * *

I wrote the above on erev Yom Kippur, but I didn't get around to posting anything. So, a little belatedly, I would like to take this opportunity to ask forgiveness for anyone that I have written or spoken about inappropriately. If you a specific grievance, please feel free to write to me at zoorabbi@zootorah.com. Shanah tovah!

44 comments:

  1. All very true. I would add one clarification. One should treat elders, wise people and teachers with respect. But respect must be mutual and is not irrevocable. One who treats those of lesser stature with injustice and disdain loses the right to a certain amount of consideration in return.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Isn't the essence of what makes up Gedolei Yisroel, even according to the Charedi world, that they are accepted by the people? If they are not accepted by the people, are they really Gedolim? Should I repent because I don't accept so-and-so as being a Gadol? Should they repent because they don't accept mine?

    I don't think they've thought this through very well, theologically speaking.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lawrence Kaplan comments:

    Depressing but,alas, not surprising.

    I certainly agree with you that non-Haredi parents who send their daughters to Haredi seminaries have only themselves to blame if their daughters come back "brainwashed." Though why any such parents should act thus when there are so many fine centrist Orthodox midrashot available is beyond me. Is it the "discount" theory at work again?

    ReplyDelete
  4. viduy isn't supposed to have a canned meaning. each person is supposed to think of the aveiros he personally has charata for doing. The reason for having an already written out form of viduy is to help someone think of possibilities that could apply to his self.So when someone reads,"i doubted my Rebbeim," he shouldn't think that all forms of doubting Rebbeim is asur, but it may remind him of a time where he doubted one of his Rebbeim when he shouldn't have. Or perhaps where he asked a question out of place. Its up to him to decide whether it was correct for him to do what he did. Not every aveira mentioned in viduy has to apply to every individual, we just say all of the possibilities to help us contemplate our actions and do teshuva.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow these rabbis really use some poetic license here. They should write novels.

    I had an additional comment but I just spent 13 hours davening for forgiveness and don't want to risk speaking ill of anyone.

    ReplyDelete
  6. "And one can imagine how the sin of 'doubting one's rebbeim' is interpreted by a girl who just spent a year in seminary. It's a sin to doubt that you should marry a kollel guy!"

    As someone who went to a very chareidi seminary, I can tell you, this is not a joke! That's exactly how I would have understood it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. תָּרַמְנוּ מִכַּסְפֵּנוּ לִמְקוֹמוֹת שֶׁאָסוּר לָתֵת

    May be they wrote this for the benefit of their colleagues in Ramat Bet Shemesh who dissuade people from giving to Lema'an Achai.

    ReplyDelete
  8. In the context of this post and the previous one, I would like to ask the following question about the facts "on the ground" so to speak:

    Does the "Centrist" or MO world have a significant number of Gedolei Torah on the same level of Torah knowledge as the "Haredi" world? Are there, let's say, 10 "Centrist" Talmidei Chachamim on a par with, say, Rav Chaim Kanievsky or Rav Moshe Sternbuch? Again, I'm talking only about knowledge and proficiency in strictly Torah subjects. I happen to be a strong believer in the importance of general knowledge on a serious level for all Jews and especially for Rabbanim, but that is not relevant to the question here.

    Maybe people will jump to mention Rav Aharon Lichtenstein or Rav Hershel Shachter, but how many people are there like that in the MO world? Why is it so common for MO defenders to bring up Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Kook, who already belong to earlier generations, and who both sprang from what could be called the "Haredi" society (although things were very different back then.)

    As I said, I'm a sympathizer with the MO cause, but it seems to me that there might be much less complaining about the positions of Haredi Gedolim if the MO world had a comparable number of such scholars.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There are certainly hundreds of people in the MO/ Centrist world who know a lot more than Rav Kanievsky and Rav Sternbuch in certain significant areas of theology!

    (And who would never sign their name to a letter attesting that Elior Chen is innocent.)

    ReplyDelete

  10. There are certainly hundreds of people in the MO/ Centrist world who know a lot more than Rav Kanievsky and Rav Sternbuch in certain significant areas of theology!


    OK, maybe I should have said Gemara/Halacha (the areas which have been traditionally central to being considered a top-level Rabbi).

    Again, I said myself that the education of many of the current group of Haredi Gedolim seems to be deficient, but the only way to remedy the situation is by having a large number of Rabbanim equal in stature to them in the areas that they recognize and who also have the additional qualifications necessary to deal with the modern world (I'm not saying this is easy!)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Throughout the laws of shechita and kashrus the Rema repeatedly tells us we can't do certain things today like a good bedika of an injured animal or whether or not a piece of meat is lean or fatty. Therefore things that might have been renedered acceptable by previous generations are now automatically trief to us.
    Today's "Gedolim" have taken this one step further. We cannot do any thinking for ourselves. Therefore things that previous generations might have had an ability to think about appropriately are automatically beyond our ability to handle and therefore we need to unthinkingly follow the advice of "Gedolim" on all matters. Or at least what their Askanim tell us their advice is.

    ReplyDelete
  12. FSY, there are many, many figures in the Modern Orthodox and Religious Zionist worlds who are equal if not greater to those you mention. You just haven't heard of them. YU, for starters, has about thirty Roshei Yeshiva, all of them huge talmidei chachamim.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Fsy

    You seem to be engaged in the childish game of "my gadol is bigger than yours." This type of rhetoric seems more appropriate to discussing baseball players rather than Jewish leadership (it's not incidental that making gadol cards for haredi children became popular about 15 years ago)

    Did you ever wonder who came up with the idea that proficiency in learning Talmud through the method of Reb Chayyim makes one competent to issue infallibly authoritative pronouncements on just about anything? Think about it.

    ReplyDelete

  14. You just haven't heard of them.

    Well, that's part of the problem.


    YU, for starters, has about thirty Roshei Yeshiva, all of them huge talmidei chachamim.


    And do all (or even most) of them really subscribe to a MO hashkafa?


    You seem to be engaged in the childish game of "my gadol is bigger than yours."


    I'm not engaged in any game. As I said to begin with, I'm quite partial to the idea of more openness to the general world in Orthodox Judaism, and I'm constantly wondering why the Haredi Gedolim (many of whom really are quite admirable people in other ways, but have a particular opinion on this issue) seem to have so much sway here. Why is this a "game"?

    ReplyDelete

  15. Did you ever wonder who came up with the idea that proficiency in learning Talmud through the method of Reb Chayyim makes one competent to issue infallibly authoritative pronouncements on just about anything?


    Rav Chaim Kanievsky knows an awful lot more than how to "learn Talmud through the method of Reb Chayyim". Have a look at some of his sefarim. The Chazon Ish didn't even hold from Reb Chayyim's derech.

    The answer here is not to put down the Haredi Gedolim, who are not fakers by a long shot, not in Torah and not in Avodas Hashem. If they are too narrow for many of us, the answer is not to belittle them, but to find our own great teachers.

    ReplyDelete
  16. FSY,

    What really bothers me about your comment is the assumption that the "Gedolim" are great gemara/halacha scholars. Who says? Some of them have never published anything by which we can measure their "genius". Do we have to "trust" the gedolim that they are gedolim?

    ReplyDelete
  17. If centrist Orthodoxy wants to perpetuate itself, it has to more actively work towards producing and supporting its own educators and educational materials
    ===============================
    IMHO it (and I refer to the masses) has to start understanding what it stands for and believing in itself (i.e. the whole MO lite issue - if you don't believe you're correct, you'll never convince your kids)
    GT
    Joel Rich

    ReplyDelete
  18. Are there, let's say, 10 "Centrist" Talmidei Chachamim on a par with, say, Rav Chaim Kanievsky or Rav Moshe Sternbuch?
    Are there 10 "charedi" talmidei chachamim on par with Rav Chaim Kanievsky and Rav Moshe Sternbauch's?? You only named 2. And, if the answer is yes, but they are people no one ever heard of... MO also has people no one ever heard of.

    Actually, though, the real answer to your question is that the whole idea of measuring how great someone is or how much they know is silly. People are not computers. You can't compare gigabytes.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The term "Haredi Gedolim" doesn't really describe any level of torah knowledge. It can be a senior dayan and posek, but it can also be a mekubal with a flying carpet or a guy with a beard and a really long family tree.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Important post I think.

    I have a few comments so please bear this to the end.

    Why do and why would anyone listen to Haredi Gedolim. What makes them beyond question, other than some type of Rebbe worship. Most often followers quote a Rebbes piousness, midot, how much Shas he knows B'al Peh, etc.. but rarely their ability to clearly and rationally make reasonable judgements due to the fact that most lack other knowledge, history, science, etc... Too many Talmudic concepts are out of touch with reality. Many posted here on this blog.

    Most Gedolim are also somewhat subjectively self appointed by sub-groups with in Klal Israel. They don't universally speak for the masses, yet they make Takanot for the masses that most don't adhere to anyway. Therefore Halachically speaking they are null and void from the start and dare I say many are stroking their own egos by doing so.

    The current Orthodox / Rabbinic system is not a properly functioning system and has not been for hundreds of years, even before the Rambam's era possibly before the Saadia Gaon.

    Admittedly, I'm not sure what would be better, however I do propose that God's plan was ultimately for each sub group to decide for themselves how to observe the Torah and that could be the way of true Judaism.

    As Rabbi Silfkin said, Jews from all walks of life observe Yom Kippur albeit somewhat differently, but that is something that transcends all Jewish sects and unites Jews. That indeed is something very special.

    When the Messianic era is upon us I'm sure we shall see something similar. But I do not believe all Jews will be all Haredi, Orthodox, Rabbinic, Conservative, Reform or otherwise etc... I think there will be many Jewish paths up the mountain and Ahavat Israel shall be the true unity. Many believe true knowledge of God will reveal this.

    L'Shanna Tovah everyone,

    Rabbi Simon

    ReplyDelete
  21. FSY wrote:

    "Rav Chaim Kanievsky knows an awful lot more than how to "learn Talmud through the method of Reb Chayyim". Have a look at some of his sefarim. The Chazon Ish didn't even hold from Reb Chayyim's derech."

    Fair enough. So let's investigate the fundamental question: What makes a Gadol?

    What is the process by which one becomes a Gadol?

    Who decides that someone is Gadol?

    How do we know that a person who is being touted as a Gadol really is a Gadol?

    What role does communal acceptance in making a person a Gadol? Which community counts?

    If members of the community lack thorough knowledge of the Gadol's writings and/or learning does their acceptance of someone as a Gadol count?

    Can a Gadol be someone whose main learning is in Nach? In Midrash? In Yerushalmi? In Jewish Philosophy? If not, why not?

    Can a Gadol lack a thorough knowledge of Nach?

    Can a Gadol be someone whose main knowledge of Gemara is Bekius?

    How much Halakha must a Gadol know? What Seforim must they know?

    Can a Gadol:

    Be divorced?

    Be concerned about global warming?

    Be concerned about improving women's status in halakha?

    Have tried drugs in their past? Have Gambled? Have a gambling problem?

    Have stolen or embezzled money from Jews? from Goyim? Have Protected child molesters?

    If not, then does doing one of these things cause one to cease being a Gadol?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Rabbi Shimon- "When the Messianic era is upon us I'm sure we shall see something similar. But I do not believe all Jews will be all Haredi, Orthodox, Rabbinic, Conservative, Reform or otherwise etc..."

    What are you talking about? Reform, conservative, reconstruction etc. are definitely not true paths of the Torah. One of the main purposes of the Moshiah will be the observance of the Laws and societal observance of it as well. I'm not no reformism etc. will be tolerated. Perhaps even not some of the extreme "haredism" either, but Klal Yisrael will be on the proper path of the Torah as given by Moshe, practiced by him, his court and especially earlier generations.

    ReplyDelete
  23. "It is certainly a sin to speak about Gedolei Yisrael without proper respect." YOU really believe that? But it was not too long ago that you cavalierly referred to a claim attributed to Rav Elyashiv (by Rav Aharon Feldman, citing a personal interview with the Rav) as "bizarre" (see "Charedi Judaism at a Crossroads")? Do you consider Rav Aharon Feldman a certifiable liar or Rav Elyashiv not a true Godol?!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Joey Fried
    There is a Rabbi Feigenbaum in Toronto principal of a girls high school Tiferes Bais Yaakov. I hope its' not him.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I was just thinking how Tefilas Zaka does NOT allow for an exception for folks whose Aiveiros Bein Adam Lchavero are as a result of their misconceptions of Hasehm's will.

    In other words, people who believed their attacks of Rabbi Slifkin are Lsheim Shmayim, are NOT excepted by the blanket Mechila in Tefilas Zaka

    ReplyDelete
  26. Lawrence Kaplan said...

    "when there are so many fine centrist Orthodox midrashot available is beyond me."

    Can LK or anybody else tell me which of the midrashot would fall into that category? TIA

    ReplyDelete
  27. FSY wrote:

    "Rav Chaim Kanievsky knows an awful lot more than how to "learn Talmud through the method of Reb Chayyim". Have a look at some of his sefarim. The Chazon Ish didn't even hold from Reb Chayyim's derech.

    Yes. But he does not know an awful lot about the world in which we lives. Psak is the application of halacha (theory) to the metzius (facts) and his expertise in the former is not, unfortunately, matched by knowledge of the latter.

    ReplyDelete
  28. ...What are you talking about? Reform, conservative, reconstruction etc. are definitely not true paths of the Torah. One of the main purposes of the Moshiah will be the observance of the Laws and societal observance of it as well. I'm not no reformism etc. will be tolerated. Perhaps even not some of the extreme "haredism" either, but Klal Yisrael will be on the proper path of the Torah as given by Moshe, practiced by him, his court and especially earlier generations....

    I agree with you in large part, however your first comment is not for you to make. Who observes the TRUE PATH?

    I have studied deeply the development of Rabbinic Judaism etc... and history will show you they are no more authenic then or less authentic for that matter then Reform or other sects.

    Orthodox as called in our time added to and recreated practics manipulated Torah according to their veiw over several hundred years and most certainly practiced differently then Moses. Rabbinic lure more or less admits this fact.

    Orthodox project backwards, how they observe now must be what Moses did then etc... The Rabbic sect is as much Reformers or more then todays Reform movement ever was. So who's legit?

    This is a long topic but if you do your research honestly with out predjudice you will find the answer.

    Rabbi Simon

    ReplyDelete
  29. To Rabbi Shimon- I agree not everything "Orthodox" is legit, but unlike the the other movements Orthodoxy didn't have a goal to uproot the Torah. It wasn't -okay we live in society and how can we bend the Torah for our times. The reform clearly break and bend the Torah beyond words. Every couple of years its worse and worse. For example gay "marriage". Its clear in the torah that its not allowed, yett they bend the Torah to fit in "with the times". (conservative the same just some years behind reform)
    Orthodox (Fundamentalists) also are not perfect in this regard. Facts are we had this long cursed galut where many of our original ideas and ways have been forgotten (especially not being in the proper-Israel) environment.
    Soo their are flaws in orthodoxy, BUT at least they try to do what they have from parents and what they know (or understand to be true).
    Personally I would say that Rabbis like Rav Bar Haim Shalitta has the best approach because its based on Hazal and based on the ways and ideas of our earlier great generations. (Like the Rishonim, Geonim, etc.) who were/are closer to the source of the Torah given on Mt. Sinai.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Chorus: I'm not that up ot date but Midreshet Moriyah and Midreshet Lindenbaum for starters.

    Lawrence Kaplan

    ReplyDelete
  31. Tzvi, let me give you one example among many that may help with the idea that the reform or conservative movements goals are not to simply dismantle Torah values. Agreed no sect in Judaism is perfect.

    Do not work on the Sabbath. Torah makes it clear not to do "Your work." Since that phrase seemed vague to the the Rabbis or so we are told, they felt they had to learn out from juxtaposition of textual placement with building the Mishkan 39 forbidden types of work. That itself is problematic but for another time. In the opinion of many scholars socially it is much simpler to develop a single community standard, irregardless of the truth or efficacy of such law. However it is more then reasonable to take the Torah at face value and don't do "your work." Meaning if your are a shoe maker, don't make shoes, you can not get any simpler and God could not be any clearer.

    The Reform/Conservative who refrain from their own professions on the Sabbath but do not hold that there is efficacy to the 39 categories of forbidden work are NOT trying to dismantle Torah, nor are they unconcerned with Mitzvot but see things from another POV and many Rabbis and Scholars feel that they have a very good case in this instant.

    The Rabbinic sect have many times over extended their reach and certainly have manipulated text over and over to preserve or create their POV. Some of what they said seems great and wonderful and some of what they say is off the wall and outrageous and can not be believed. Why should they be revered and honored when it is clear that they also have many agendas, many not always pure or in the best interest of Klal Yisrael.

    To explain, the Reform will plainly say we do not believe something after careful investigation and consideration, the Talmudical Rabbis will attempt textual manipulation to legislate something in or out. The result is the same, they both change, add, subtract what they believe or don't believe or like or dislike. The way they do it is different. In one sense we can say the Reform are very honest and the Orthodox dishonest by the use of all kinds of so called legalities of interpretation strategies or simply put, word games to make what they change seem to be done in some Torah sanctioned way. This too is not at all that clear and more lore vs. law

    Again this is a very complex topic to say the least. Personally I would not judge another Jewish group or say one is pure and concerned with true Torah and the other is not. I would say they all have skeletons in the closet but the Orthodox/ Rabbinic sect may have more being the older group with an unclear history bolstered by much lore.

    Shalom

    Rabbi Simon

    please forgive any type o's

    ReplyDelete
  32. For the record, ...and I don't have the machzor with me now to give exact quotes.. the Artscroll Yom Kippur Machzor has a commentary on Viduy in the back. In that commentary it lists at least 3 times sins related to speaking badly about the rabbis and leadership.

    The copy of the Machzor I was using was from back in the 1990s.

    I'm not so sure that you aren't just reading this list with a more sensitive view on the topic.

    ReplyDelete
  33. The Hareidi Viduy (excerpted and transliterated):

    A: Achalti MeiHashgachat HaRabbanut
    B: Lo Badakti yerakot Maspik L'tolaim bilti nirim
    G: Galashti B' internet
    D: Dibarti Im Isha B'kupa Shel Super
    H: Halackhti L'Muzeon im ta'aruch al Dinozaurim
    v: Vitarti al tochnit limud b'kollel bli ketz
    Y: Yashavti B'autobus Meurav
    K: Katavti SMS

    ReplyDelete
  34. Rabbi Shimon,

    While I generally concur with your observation that Chazal interpreted the Torah as they saw fit, often advocating laws that directly contradicted the literal reading of the text, your example of Shabbat is plain wrong. To my recollection, NOwhere in the Torah does it say “it is forbidden to do YOUR work.”, while on the other hand the expression “ALL work” is found about a half a dozen times. I do grant that the interpretation of what constitutes “ALL” is Rabbinic. I think the only specific work that the Torah bans is cooking, baking, and lighting/spreading fire.

    The problem with Reform is:
    (a) that “they threw out the baby with the bathwater” and
    (b) they do not provide (at least to my reading) a very compelling reason to be Jewish (or practice the jewish religion, however defined). This is borne out in their rate of assimilation.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Shimon- This is (partly) from (link below). Deals with all 3 (reform, conserv. and Orthodox).

    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/component/content/article/62-misc/202-machon-shilo-about-us

    There is no such thing as Judaism without a Halakhic system at its base; Judaism only exists today because of the system put into place 2500 thousand years ago by Hazal (the foundational rabbinic authorities). From this perspective, both Reform and Conservative Judaism are flawed concepts from the outset. The former because it was founded on a rejection of Halakha as a basis for religious practice, and the latter because its underlying motivation was to facilitate social integration into the diasporic milieu. Conservative Judaism allowed itself to pick and choose Halakhic positions and to accept certain values and societal norms that were deemed expedient for a Jew in the Diaspora.

    However Orthodox Judaism too is flawed; it was by definition a response to the rise of Reform Judaism in the early 19th century. Responding to the Reform movement’s complete disregard for traditional practice and established religious jurisprudence, the new and reactionary “Orthodox Judaism” (a previously unknown term) adopted an extreme and opposite approach, viz. that the Ashkenazi Jewish practice which had evolved in Europe till that time should be enshrined, denying the possibility of any change whatever, even where such change is mandated by the Tora itself.

    This is not and never was the intent of Halachic Judaism. The rabbinical authorities of the past, Hazal, the G'onim and the Rishonim, always understood the need and were willing to take stock of the realities of the present, to allow changes for the better. They were always redefining and reinventing certain elements of Halakhah, even changing well-established practices to suit the different circumstances and needs of the Jewish people in their times.

    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/component/content/article/62-misc/202-machon-shilo-about-us

    ReplyDelete
  36. וְיוֹם, הַשְּׁבִיעִי--שַׁבָּת, לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: לֹא-תַעֲשֶׂה כָל-מְלָאכָה אַתָּה וּבִנְךָ וּבִתֶּךָ, עַבְדְּךָ וַאֲמָתְךָ וּבְהֶמְתֶּךָ, וְגֵרְךָ, אֲשֶׁר בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ

    True it says "all work", do not do all work, but what does that mean to You, the individual. It all comes down to Your action in the end. God forbid You from doing Your or any work, same difference I think.

    Many Rabbi's and Scholars believe people normally know what work is and one doesn't need the Rabbis to legislate every detail and sub detail. OTOH, a community standard is not that bad an idea, so the Rabbis had a good idea to a point, but again may have over stepped their authority. Good common sense needs to prevail and people will differ for many good and valid reasons.

    Tearing toilet paper does not seem like work, turning on a light is not work (or fire), hanging a picture in your home does not seem like work, going to a movie (and paying for it) is not work, for the buyer at least, talking on the phone does not seem like work, riding a bike does not seem not work.

    Making shoes for a customer does seem like work, performing your profession does seem like work, mending the fence on the farm does seem like work, harvesting the crops sounds like work, opening your store for business seems like work.

    This concept of work is not so clear, never was and therefore should be viewed within a spectrum of accepted beliefs and practices. One small group can not come along and claim they are right and everyone else is wrong. Rabbinic law or lore by its very nature is man made and as such is not above question or mistakes.

    The only truth is no one knows the truth.

    Shalom

    Rabbi Simon

    ReplyDelete
  37. In theory the king, the priests and the scribes/lawyers could act as checks on one another's power. For a couple thousand years we've only had the lawyers. This is bound to cause problems.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Shimon- I'm sorry but I am surprised that you call yourself "rabbi shimon". Sorry. The Torah says "Melacha", you are loosely translating it as "work". Their was/is an Oral tradition and principles of Exegesis that links and establishes the "Melacha" done with the Mishkan with the "Melacha" forbidden on Shabb-t. This is not anyone's "interpretation" but established in the Torah itself AND brought down in the Oral Law which further explains it in details. The only arguments in this regard is for things coming in later generations (for example electricity-the only argument in this regard is if it is allowed for Yom Tov or not. Having the principles established and knowing the science behind it most (vast majority) say its assur, which their is a Daat Yahid who permitted it (and it was some time ago, but most today unerstand more how electricity works and forbid in on Yom Tov as well).
    Be careful reading and learning the Torah as a christian or non-Jew who doesn't have the Oral law. Its the Oral law that establishes what, how, who what, where etc.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Tzvi

    I appreciated what your saying and what the Oral Torah says, however Melacha is "work" of some type. Possibly creative work, possibly professional work, possibly other types, etc...or all of the above. If we knew for sure, no interpretation or exegesis would be required.

    Talmudical exegesis is one way the Rabbinic sect chose to explain what they may have not fully understood and needed for their own clarity. Understanding that makes it clear their views are not iron clad or beyond question or the last word in Jewish law.

    The Oral Tradition was meant to be flexible and adapt as needed. The fact that it was written down causes such great problems in Judaism.

    As a rationalist Jew, I try to learn with common sense, historical basis, tradtion and science. I can not be limited to only strict Talmudic law, lore, supersition or later Gedolim.

    I believe Mordechai Kaplan said “Tradition has a Vote not a Veto.”

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

    ReplyDelete
  40. Shimon- check (partly)
    http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-audio-shiurim/41-audiohalakha/333-why-are-hazal-authoritative

    Why are Hazal Authoritative?
    What produces Halakhic authority.

    Also you say "Talmudical exegesis is one way the Rabbinic sect"
    "Rabbinic sect" ? Yett you call yourself a "Rabbi" REALLY? Soo your part of the "sect" you criticize or are you just playing games here trying to avoid your duties as a Jew? (Don't answer me, ask yourself!)

    ReplyDelete
  41. Rabbi Shimon, why do you believe in the Written Torah? I hope you have a reason all together, and [also] a reason motivational enough to keep others in your particular fold.

    ReplyDelete
  42. Tzvi

    This blog is about discussing ideas, not criticizing people personally for how they sign their name. I sign my name Rabbi because I put in the time and received seimcha. I am not asking you or anyone to agree with me, just have some derech eretz. I believe that is the rules of the blog as well.

    As far as rabbinic authority, I have been through all the traditional arguments and am fairly well researched in the subject.

    The short to the point version is Rabbinic Judaism is an extension of traditions that came before it to some degree, as well as new ways of interpretation, self appointment of authority, and community acceptance by many Jews. In the late second temple period and right after it's destruction there were several sects of Judaism all making claims of authenticity including early Christians.

    Jonathan B' Zakai was the leader of the new Rabbinic sect and one main reason they gained power is the fact that Rome appointed Zakai as the liaison to the Jews at the time in exchange to help calm down the political climate and help control the Jews from further rebellion. Zakai however had been planing all along to make political connections with Rome and try to have his sect recognized, knowing that would help their growth. Once that union was established, it became easier to promote themselves as the true and correct version of Judaism with certain assumptions of authoritative control.

    One other main reason the group survived is the fact that the Mishna and Talmud was recorded. With out the fact the Oral Torah or certain traditions were recorded, later Jews would have little to go by in one sense. On the other hand the written Oral traditions have caused many to stumble and become over protective and unchanging of outdated halachas even when change is needed and called for.

    Again this is a huge area of study and research that takes some time, not a few words on a blog. Any rationalist Jew who knows history would incorporate that knowledge with traditional claims and realize, Rabbinic traditional claims are bias towards their own preservation therefore needs to be critically examined.

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

    ReplyDelete
  43. Dear Reject,

    The simple answer to your question is, the written Torah is what makes the Jews a nation and has kept us a people since it was given. That alone is reason enough to believe in the Torah.

    You may have asked does it matter if the Torah is the word of God or a man made. Regardless, it would not matter, the Torah and the Jews are still one in the same.

    How one relates and interprets Torah is less important then having enough of a connection to be a thinking, caring Jew who embodies Torah values and embraces humanity.

    The following may seem off topic but it is not. Did you ever see how Orthodox day schools send homework home with depictions of Moshe Rabbanu with a black hat, peot, and a long black coat. I sort of rest my case right there. This simple kids characterization innocently shows the agenda of the Rabbinic / Orthodox system.

    Moses would have most likely worn Egyptian clothing or maybe later garb from Midian, etc... Why teach Kids he wore a black hat, what is the message other then a desire to claim Moses is like us, when we have moved away from Moses. Instead of teaching correctly we changed, we adapted, we created and we re-created Judaism to suit our needs.

    The Talmud teaches in the well known story with R' Eliezer who was correct in a particular opinion as witnessed by heaven, a group of Rabbi's opposed his opinion and out voted his opinion. Hashem conceded defeat, not based on truth but because God agreed the Torah is in the hands of man. True Torah was no longer a matter of truth, but how man chooses to practice.

    After Moshe death the Torah became a man dominated religion, no longer did God tell Jews how to interpret or practice Torah. No one sect has true authority over all of Judaism or hold a special pedigree regardless of their own self serving claims.

    Freedom of interpretation is open to any group who studies, uses their intellect, and decides what works for them with in a reasonable spectrum of Torah belief.

    Some may argue the Orthodox keep the "true system", when in fact they only keep "their own system". The "true system" is a fallacy and shall remain ones best guess.

    Shalom,

    Rabbi Simon

    please forgive any type o's

    ReplyDelete
  44. >>>> please forgive any type o's

    its petty, but the word is typo, short for typographical error.

    ReplyDelete

Comments for this blog are moderated. Please see this post about the comments policy for details. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED - please use either your real name or a pseudonym.