Thursday, April 9, 2020

"But It's Our Minhag/ Mesorah!"

I didn't think that there was anything more to add to the Kezayis topic, but it always grows!

As you know, the arguments for a kezayis being a kezayis are overwhelming. But I've heard an interesting counterargument from some people. They do not even attempt to counter all the proofs from the Gemara, from the Rishonim, from the Acharonim. They simply say that any such proofs are irrelevant; the fact is that our minhag/ mesorah is to use a much larger shiur.

Now, I certainly accept that tradition can be a trump card (in fact, that's one reason why I personally don't wear techelet). But here's the thing: it's not a tradition, according to any reasonable definition of the term.

I am absolutely certain that for at least the vast majority of people, if not everyone, their great-grandparents and even their grandparents were not brought up to measure huge shiurim of matza. In fact, for many people zealously espousing the larger shiurim, probably even their parents don't. It's not a family tradition, and it's not even a community tradition. And as R. Hadar Margolin has documented, even renowned rabbinic authorities weren't doing it. It arose a couple of decades ago, in line with Haym Soloveitchik's seminal article "Rupture and Reconstruction" about "book-tradition" replacing actual tradition.

So when someone says that their minhag or mesorah is to use a larger shiur, in many cases what they actually mean is that identifying with a particular contemporary culture is more important to them than classical halachah or actual tradition. This is not necessarily an illegitimate argument; but one should acknowledge what is really being said.

13 comments:

  1. The very thought that tradition (mesorah,) or halachah can be forgotten or replaced with contemporary culture is very dangerous.

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  2. Rabbi Pesach Krohn told a story awhile back involving Rav Eliyahu Dessler - The Author of the Mechtav MeEliyau (I think this story was about R' Dessler).

    In the story R' Dessler wanted to switch his kiddush cup that was in his family for many years for a larger shiur based on the opinion of the leading Gadol of Bnei Brak at the time - the Chazon Ish. His wife on the other hand was bothered by this decision as the smaller cup was the same one her father and grandfather used for generations and there was no reason to change the minhag and to switch to a larger shiur. In respect for his wife, R' Dessler continued to used the smaller kiddush cup until just after his wife passed away whereupon he switched to the kiddush cup that contained the more machmir shiur of the Chazon Ish. I might be off a bit on this story but the case in point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The story is that the family of the Chofetz Chaim hides his Kiddush cup cause it's to small for today's supposed measurements.

      Delete
  3. How can not wearing techelet be a tradition, if it simply wasn't available? How can you have a tradition again a pasuk?

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    Replies
    1. against a pasuk, against a mitzva you mean.

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  4. Hello Rabbi Slifkin,
    Moa'dim l'simcha.
    You write in your extended essay on the zie of the olive, that it was Ashkenazi Rishonim who related the olive to the egg (be it 1/2 or 1/13).
    I would point out that the "Re'ah" (Rabbi Aharon haLevi of Barcelona) in his Bedek HaBayit (4:4, page 33a) writes דמשערין ביצה ומחצה לכזית קרוש
    Chag kasher v'sameiach
    Stuart Fischman

    Stuart Fischman

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Bedek Habayis is referring to the Gemara in Shabbos 77a, which says that a revi'is of wine and blood congeals to a kezayis volume. This lends support to the idea that a kezayis is the volume of a contemporary olive, as noted on page 19 of this article: https://forum.otzar.org/download/file.php?id=81717

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  5. Never did really understand how minhag hamakom got trumped by "family minhag" et al. From one who today did not put on tfillin on chol hamoed for the first time (as a recent oleh) If the meitim yodim I'm quite sure my ancestors are crying existential tears of joy as it is in their merit that I was finally zoche to this status
    Be Well and KT

    ReplyDelete
  6. Have you found more evidence that a kezayis is just a zayis? Please do share.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. See here: http://forum.otzar.org/download/file.php?id=81717

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    2. Has anyone ever found a shred of evidence that a kezayis is not like a zayis, as the meaning of the term says?

      Man, what a joke.

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  7. Cancelling a mitzvat aseh explicit from Torah IS a minhag? LOL. Neither are.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The growth of shiurim happened a lot earlier than "a couple of decades" ago. Hayim Solveitchik's article, which was itself published 26 years ago, attempted to explain a phenomenon that had been evolving long before he wrote about it.

    Moreover, the article was wrong about a great many things. For one thing, he claims that in Europe it was all done mimetically. Yet his own father was very, very far from someone who simply did what his father did before. Even the issue of shiurim was never purely mimetic. As intelligent readers know, part of the problem (not all of it) can be traced all the way back to the 1700s, where the Nodah Beyehuda invented a new shiur based on his observations. So much for memetic traditions.

    By the way, a letter writer in Tradition brought a great proof from historical sources to show that the size of olives has remained the same today from what t was in Talmudic times. I forgot what issue it was, it was a while back.

    ReplyDelete

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