Monday, 31 May 2010

What's so Modern about Modern Orthodox Halacha?

Forget about the fact that Orthodoxy is clinging on to fairly untenable beliefs. And forget the dubious validity of ancient rituals from the Torah. What about our system of halacha what in the world is going on with that!?

Let’s just look at the parts of halacha which are clearly Rabbinical Judaism leaving aside the more Biblical parts. Of course to a Chareidi there is no difference because to him all of the Torah She beal Peh comes straight from Sinai. However most intelligent people realize that the TSBP is just the Rabbinical interpretation (a very liberal interpretation) of Biblical law. (See my summary of TSBP) Surely most Modern Orthodox people realize this in which case it’s about time they start changing the obsolete bits. I have to assume that either they’re too scared that they’ll lose credibility to the crazies in the black hats, or that they really don’t understand that there is no religious reason to hold onto obsolete halachot and keeping them is just a pain to everyone.

What obsolete halachot?

- We spend half of our prayers on praying for a Temple that no one really wants. We spend a whole fast day praying for the rebuilding of a city that was rebuilt centuries ago.

- We won’t drink wine touched by a non-Jew because he might have made it into a libation for an idol (or to stop social interaction with non-Jews which is equally stupid because you’re not chumming up with the guy who manufactures your wine) We won’t eat food cooked by a non-Jew for similar reasons.

- We won’t let women become Rabbis or learn Gemara (depending how RW) because the people who wrote our law books were sexist (as was everyone back then).

- We don’t eat fish with meat because of some superstition of the Talmud. We do metziza b’peh because the Gemara thought it had a therapeutic effect.

- We’re not supposed to take medicine on Shabbat because back in the day they used to crush up spices for medicinal purposes.

- We won’t eat kitniyot on Pesach because …. Erm actually I have no idea why the hell don’t we? [EDIT FOR NTP]: Because back in the "heim" people, presumably during manufacture, used to mix kitniyot up with the 5 grains.

And that’s just off the top of my head. Now I know some elements of Orthodoxy have tried to reform (or just ignore) some of the above but for the most part we’re stuck with a lot of this rubbish.

Keeping halacha is hard enough as it is but not ridding ourselves of useless debris left behind by time just makes things impossible. What kind of law code can only become stricter but never become more lenient? What kind of law code doesn’t change to fit the times? Rabbinical Judaism was originally an attempt to reform Biblical law, it has totally lost focus. Keeping these things does no one any good.

There are essentially two ways to make excuses for this desperately annoying intransigence:

1.Chazal were supermen and who are we to change what they set down as halacha (I don’t even need to respond to that)

2.There was an agreement from all of Klal Yisrael to accept the Talmud as unchanging law

2 is all well and good except that there is zero record of some sort of decision to officially accept the Talmud but even if we say it’s a tacit agreement all it takes is a little and I mean just a little bit of common sense to realize that Chazal if they could see us today would probably be laughing. Because Chazal were not intransigent they liked to innovate and reinterpret. If they had been as conservative as the Orthodoxy nowadays we would still be knocking people’s eyes out as a punishment.

Once again the Charedi denies there was ever any change in halacha but a well educated MO Rabbi? Does he really not realize that Rabbinical Judaism was originally all about innovation and that it is not something handed down from Sinai but rather a way to adapt Biblical law to changing circumstances?

What is the difference between Conservative Judaism and MO Judaism? It’s that Conservative Judaism had the cajones to say “we’re going to set up a council of Rabbis to keep Rabbinical Judaism in touch with the changing times.” Oh how terrible of them they want to keep Rabbinical Judaism up with the times what kofrim and minnim and bla bla bla

Modern Orthodoxy has to realize that it’s not weakness to try to bring halacha up to date.

19 comments:

Recreational Musings said...

I agree that halacha needs to be kept up-to-date. Hasn't Modern Orthodox done this is some regards? Women aren't rabbis, but they are permitted to learn gemara, give divrei Torah, etc. Secular education is more respected and encouraged, as are "secular" careers. What may be needed is for the Modern Orthodox movement to take official stances on issues...I think they generally recognize the evolution of halacha but don't make public statements about it out of respect for tradition and not having a uniform agreement (and maybe lack of a backbone).

If you are interested in modern halacha, you should check out some of the teshuvot from the Conservative Movement's Committee of Jewish Laws and Standards. In general, they respect tradition and view it from a historical lens but also recognize that the times have changed and rabbinical interpretation may need to be re-interpreted. Even if you don't agree with them (I sometimes don't) they do provide a different approach to halachic rulings. One example would be kosher cheese: a lot of cheese isn't Kosher because it has animal rennet, but now the FDA only allows synthetic rennet in cheeses (like is used in Kosher cheese), but no Orthodox hecture has ruled to cheeses kosher for some reason. The conservative movement passed a teshuva that all American cheeses are Kosher because they don't have any non-Kosher ingredients. Actually, its quite similar to the Orthodox ruling on all milk being Kosher.

G*3 said...

Modern Orthodoxy cannot reform halacha because, as you said, the refusal to do so is what separates them from Conservative. If MO reformed halacha, it would disappear as a separate category. People like their categories. So instead of reform, MO interprets halacha to try and fit it into the modern world (with varying success).

Also, Orthodoxy is mostly about the rituals. That a halacha no longer has a practical use is not really relevant. Performing the ritual is a mitzvah, regardless of its utility in this mundane world. If only you knew how things moved in Heaven because you refrained from drinking wine touched by a goy…

> We spend half of our prayers on praying for a Temple that no one really wants.

Nor do most have any idea what things were really like when the Bais HaMikdash was standing. Most think that it was the only legitimate place to bring karbanos and ignore that the version we see in models and pictures was built by Herod (much-hated by the fundamentalists of his day) and stood for only a short time.

> We spend a whole fast day praying for the rebuilding of a city that was rebuilt centuries ago.

But we aren’t davening for anything so mundane as the physical reconstruction of Yerushalayim’s buildings! We’re davening for Hashem to return Yerushalayim to its SPIRITUAL glory!

> We won’t eat kitniyot on Pesach because …. Erm actually I have no idea why the hell don’t we?

Because once upon a time there was a legitimate concern that wheat would be mixed in with other grains. Why it’s kept today: because somehow this purely practical measure was enshrined as a minhag with the status of halacha.

> What kind of law code can only become stricter but never become more lenient?

An interesting example of this is the recent uproar over worms in fish. Technically, those saying the worms should be treif are right, as Chazal allowed them based on faulty science. But can you imagine it ever going the other way, allowing something considered treif to be eaten because science now shows the reason to make it treif was based on faulty science?

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Women aren't rabbis, but they are permitted to learn gemara, give divrei Torah, etc.

In many more RWMO circles no

>Secular education is more respected and encouraged, as are "secular" careers.

That is pretty much all MO has that they can call Modern and to be honest even many American Chareidim allow secular careers

>What may be needed is for the Modern Orthodox movement to take official stances on issues...

exactly but the LWMO are too scared of the RWMO and the RWMO are too scared of the Chareidim


Conservatism has the right idea Orthodoxy fails poorly. And its a shame if you like religion because real Conservatism is basically just a few Rabbis from JTS with a laity which does not know what it is. A good mix would be Orthodox motivation with Conservative ideology and Halacha.

Noam the Preacher said...

"Erm actually I have no idea why the hell don’t we?"
Does this sum up your Judaism?
No wonder then you've optioned to quit.
I bet you aren't close to a Rav.
If you really have an interest in being Jewish, get one, unless you really don't care and the whining is just to cover your soul's aching.

Shilton HaSechel said...

G3

>Modern Orthodoxy cannot reform halacha because, as you said, the refusal to do so is what separates them from Conservative. If MO reformed halacha, it would disappear as a separate category.

True I guess they're stuck because of semantics and artificial categorizing.I wonder what motivates a LWMO Rabbi to get up in the morning (except money)

>and ignore that the version we see in models and pictures was built by Herod (much-hated by the fundamentalists of his day) and stood for only a short time.

Lol i once went to exhibit of a reconstruction of the Second Temple and the tour guide went "and this is Herod's temple" and all the frummies were completely confused "But isn't that the second BHMK?"

>We’re davening for Hashem to return Yerushalayim to its SPIRITUAL glory!

Rofl thats what all Rabbis say on 9 Av

>An interesting example of this is the recent uproar over worms in fish.

Yeah "God forbid we make things more lenient we might as well just become apikorsisdick Conservatives"

Anonymous said...

"FDA only allows synthetic rennet in cheeses"

Is that really the law? I tried to google it but couldn't find anything from the FDA. All I found was this which makes it seem that it is not law.

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/5/tell-the-fda-to-label-enzymes-in-cheese-as-animal-derived

Shilton HaSechel said...

Noam,

>Does this sum up your Judaism?

Nope

>No wonder then you've optioned to quit.

Read my sidebar I didn't quit, I'm Orthoprax. ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY SAY IT TOGETHER I DIDN'T QUIT I'M NOT OTD I'M ORTHOPRAX

>I bet you aren't close to a Rav.
I am close to many but I don't follow them or agree with them unless I like what they're saying (why? because I have a pathological need to think for myself. How foolish of me I'll remember to klap al chet for that one)

>whining is just to cover your soul's aching.

Aaaa my soul it hurts !!! Call the Rabbi!!!

Noam the Preacher said...

Herods temple stood for nearly 100 years and was used by the Jews for Biblical service, exactly as the other buildings were used.
Why is that a problem?

Noam the Preacher said...

"ONCE AGAIN EVERYBODY SAY IT TOGETHER I DIDN'T QUIT I'M NOT OTD I'M ORTHOPRAX"
Shh it's OK its OK you're going through a stage. Midlife crisis?
You'll be fine.

Have you spoken to your close friend the rabbi about these doubts? He might help.

Shilton HaSechel said...

No problem mate just don't want it back

see this btw

http://seforim.blogspot.com/2010/04/marc-shapiro-r-kook-on-sacrifices-other.html

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Have you spoken to your close friend the rabbi about these doubts?

Read previous post. Especially the Edit at the end (Though I warn you there is quite a lot of whining)

Noam the Preacher said...

I read the link.
OK so there may not be animal sacrifice only veggies.
And therefore we dont need a place to bond with the Creator?
Is that the only reason for BHMK? Your lack knowledge is influencing your feelings, perfectly normal.
Hafoch boh hafoch boh ki kulo boh.

You know the joke 'bout the rabbi and the atheist?

OK Rabbi and atheist sitting on the train to Wichita, The atheist tells the rabbi he's an atheist and the reasoning, evil, direction, evolution, yada yada yada. Rabbi asks have you studied talmud? Head shake no. "mishna" no "medrash" no "tanach" no
Says the rabbi "you're not an atheist you're an ignoramus"

May I go back to my opened remark?
"Erm actually I have no idea why the hell don’t we?"
Does this sum up your Judaism?

You have my pity, friend.

"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain; And drinking largely sobers us again."
Alexander Pope

Shilton HaSechel said...

>And therefore we dont need a place to bond with the Creator?

Yeah its called shul. If the BHMK will be a big shul (with some burning bread in the corner) then I'm on board.

>Your lack knowledge is influencing your feelings, perfectly normal.

tsk tsk ad hominem attacks not very befitting of a preacher but I'll let that one slide.

>You have my pity, friend.
Thank you so much!

Oh and get over the kitniyot thing (i edited it just for you)I just couldn't think of the reason at the time I wasn't saying I don't do it b/c I don't understand it. But fine it sounded bad and was out of place and you were right! (Applause)

Thanks for the input keep on preaching

MKR said...

What kind of law code can only become stricter but never become more lenient? What kind of law code doesn’t change to fit the times?

Shilton, what you are talking about sounds like what Rabbi Daniel Elazar calls the "Ashkenazification" of Orthodox Judaism. I recommend his essay "Can Sephardic Judaism be Reconstructed?" Here is a sample:

One of the greatest, if not the greatest, contribution of Sephardic Jewry was its approach to the theory and practice of Judaism. Iberian Jewry reworked the Jewish materials it inherited from Eretz Israel, Babylonia and North Africa into classical forms, thought through and organized systematically, whether in halakhah, philosophy or mysticism, to offer a balanced theory and practice, not given to excess, seriously Jewish, yet worldly and cosmopolitan. Classic Sephardic Judaism was designed by men who lived in the larger world and were active in its affairs, most of whom wanted a Judaism no less rigorous than their Ashkenazi brethren in its essentials, but flexible in its interpretations and applications. Their Judaism would play an isolating function only where critically necessary and not prevent Jews from playing their role in what had been in Spain prior to 1391 a multi-religious society.

Sephardic Judaism as it developed in Spain was not like the "post-Reformation" Judaism of modern Europe and the United States divided into Reform, Conservative or Orthodox. First of all, it did not involve the kind of rupture with tradition that characterized Reform. Nor did it turn tradition into something frozen, or worse, reshaped by a deliberate ideology of rigidity, as did ultra-Orthodoxy. Nor did it allow the kind of institutional divisions that ultimately led to more deep-seated ruptures as with Conservatism. In part this was because medieval conditions were different from modern ones and in part because the culture of the Mediterranean world is different from that of northern Europe.


Have you looked into the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals?

G*3 said...

Noam the Preacher said...
> Herods temple stood for nearly 100 years and was used by the Jews for Biblical service, exactly as the other buildings were used.
> Why is that a problem?

It’s not a problem per se. It’s more that the average person imagines historical eras as homogenous – that the 2nd BH was the same throughout - and has a hard time with the idea that the definitive version of the BH was built by the evil King Herod. Which is kind of funny.

Now throw in that the centralization of worship in Yerushalayim was a political ploy by the monarchy and the Aaronic priesthood and that there were other temples to Hashem (to say nothing of temples to his wife)…

This is definitely not the impression of the 2nd Temple era most people pick up in yeshiva.

E-Man said...

"- We spend half of our prayers on praying for a Temple that no one really wants. We spend a whole fast day praying for the rebuilding of a city that was rebuilt centuries ago. "

-Really? Most people that pray for it do want it, that I know. When it is rebuilt we will have a true connection to G-D, no doubt of His existence. Wouldn;t you want to know that G-D definitely exists? Also, we pray for the proper rebuilding of Jerusalem, the one that is a holy city and such, but maybe our prayers are being answered and slowly but surely it is being rebuilt into the Jewish city we hope for.

"- We won’t drink wine touched by a non-Jew because he might have made it into a libation for an idol (or to stop social interaction with non-Jews which is equally stupid because you’re not chumming up with the guy who manufactures your wine) We won’t eat food cooked by a non-Jew for similar reasons. "

-These are both rabbinic decrees so that we should not become buddy buddy with gentiles. The fear was intermarriage. Surprise surprise, it is happening more and more.

"- We won’t let women become Rabbis or learn Gemara (depending how RW) because the people who wrote our law books were sexist (as was everyone back then). "

-I thought it was because men and women are not supposed to intermingle because of illicit relationships and the like. Women can learn Gemorah, but if they are Rabbis that makes men go to them for their answers. Women are supposed to learn their own halachas and be knowledgeable in those, why should they need to know what a man has to do? This is why many people support Yoetzeses, women should have knowledgeable women to go to and men should have knowledgeable men to go to. But this idea was solely for the purpose of preventing illicit behavior. Also, men have the obligation to learn and women do not.

"- We don’t eat fish with meat because of some superstition of the Talmud. We do metziza b’peh because the Gemara thought it had a therapeutic effect."

Yeah, not sure about these, have my own questions why we are following health professionals of the dark ages.

Medicines are still made by grinding different things together, pharmacists do this, but the halacha is that most people can take medicine on shabbos. Also, there are some medicines that still require the patient to grind stuff or mix stuff with specific measurements at home.

Kitniyot nowadays is still a problem for the following reasons, grains like rice and wheat are processed on the same lines one after the other in manufacturing plants. There is a fear that they will end up mixing together. Also, Mares Eyin, people seeing you eat some rice bread that looks like regular bread and thinking you are being over that sin is a problem. It was taken on as a precaution, like so many things in Judaism.

There are a lot of mitzvos that changed throughout the generations because the reasons vanished. One example is chalav Yisroel. Rav Moshe paskined that in the United States it is unnecessary. Why? Because the distributors will be afraid that the government will punish them so they will only put cows milk in the milk. There are several cases like that. There are many halachos that have changed with different situations.

Ichabod Chrain said...

"The atheist tells the rabbi he's an atheist and the reasoning, evil, direction, evolution, yada yada yada. Rabbi asks have you studied talmud? Head shake no. "mishna" no "medrash" no "tanach" no
Says the rabbi "you're not an atheist you're an ignoramus"

A lot of OTD's have studied talmud, mishnah, tanach etc. A lot of people doing time in federal prisons have also studied talmud, mishnah, tanach etc, and look where it got them. There are People who spend years in kollel studying talmud and they have trouble functioning outside the kollel environment.

Also what happened when the atheist turned the tables and asked the rabbi if he's studied biology, physics, history, etc? If the rabbi went to many of the yeshivas I know of, he'd be stuck for an answer. And what if the person who sat next to the rabbi wasn't an atheist but a Catholic priest who asked the rabbi if he's read the New Testament or studied Aquinas and all the other Catholic philosophers. So the rabbi's logic cuts both ways.

"Most people that pray for it do want it, that I know. When it is rebuilt we will have a true connection to G-D, no doubt of His existence."

Except they pray that it be His will. But these same people believe they should do His will. If His will is that there be no Bais Hamekdosh, then why ask him to change his will? If His will is that there be no Bais Hamekdosh, then we're doing His will by not going to it. Isn't that the point? What do we need to pester Him about it for? Or have I missed something?

E-Man said...

Ichabod,

We "know" that His will will be that the Bais Hamikdash should be rebuilt eventually. We pray that it happen asap. However, the main point for prayer is that we should connect to G-D on a personal level. SO when we pray that it be His will, we are trying to understand His will and become closer to Him. That is just my take on it.

Also, where does G-D say that it is His will that it not be rebuilt? Maybe G-D's will is that we should rebuild it once we own the land and what we are praying for is divine assistance that the leaders of Israel and the world will let us rebuild the Bais Hamikdash. Personally, I am unsure how direct G-D's involvement will be in the rebuilding. It seems like, according to the Rambam, we are going to have to fight in order to rebuild the bais hamikdash and then build it ourselves, not that it will just descend from heaven.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Wouldn;t you want to know that G-D definitely exists?

If it falls from heaven I'll know he exists otherwise I'll just have a big butcher house and probably a lot of angry muslims (presumably cuz their mosque will be gone)

>These are both rabbinic decrees so that we should not become buddy buddy with gentiles. The fear was intermarriage. Surprise surprise,
it is happening more and more.

In an age of mass produced Kosher products this basically fails to stop you from being buddy buddy (I guess he has to come to your house instead of vice versa)

>Women can learn Gemorah
Tell that to the RW

>Medicines are still made by grinding different things together

Not in your house

>Kitniyot nowadays is still a problem for the following reasons,

I dunno about the manufacture source please? Also marit ayin gimme a break have you been to a pesach hotel? Those noodles and Pesach cakes sure look like chametz 2 me! Obviously nobody nowadays cares about marit ayin but still follow the antiquated halachot based on that principle.

>There are several cases like that.

A drop in the sea compared to the reform necessary.

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