Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Can Halacha Be Binding If God Isn't Watching?

The official difference between Conservative/Orthodox Judaism and Reform Judaism is the former believes that halacha is in some way, shape or form is binding.

What I wonder is what does it mean "halacha is binding"

In secular law the only thing that really makes a law binding is the ability of the government to punish you for not keeping it. Would anyone take any secular law seriously without some sort of penalty or incentive?

So when it comes to religious law can one only speak of binding halacha in a meaningful way if one believes that God will punish you or reward you for keeping halacha? I think so. I see no possible way of speaking about binding Halacha without saying that God enforces it. In fact I think R' Albo said that the fundamental difference between religious law and secular law is that the former is only kept in public while the latter is ALWAYS kept due to our "knowledge" of God's omniscience and I guess vengeance.

What is the Conservative stance on afterlife and God's reward and punishment? I'm not sure. Anyone know? And am I correct in saying that religious law is basically meaningless without a belief in some sort of divine accountability?

51 comments:

Baruch Spinoza said...

Law is not always about giving a big giant spanking, in many cases it is, but not always. Sometimes the law is a means to get justice. Having property laws in place allows us to more efficiently attain justice between two people when one is at fault. And then there are some laws that having to do with using force. For example, what is the law for deciding what kind of people recieve social security (social security is money given to people who are disabled or retired in the US, I know you do not live in US, you seem to live in England/Europe with the way you write, so that is why I am explaining what it is). This has nothing to do with any forceful actions. Also law does not always need to be enforced. A lot of societies have developed "common law" which was really an emergent concept of law by the people. Therefore, your description of law is a bad description.

The point of religious law is not to give a big giant spanking to those who disobey, but to make people do the right things (according to what the religious people believe). There are atheists who follow various ethical systems and consider the ideas of the ethical systems as "laws", not to be enforced, but to be followed for making life better.

Abe Silberstein said...

My question, is who canonized (obviously I don't believe this) the Talmud or the Shulhan Aruh? I can write halochos tooo yu know.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Baruch,

I'm not discussing the purpose of law

Both religious law and secular law are supposed to make things better (whether either one succeeds is a different question) however that is not my point my point is what OBLIGATES people to keep either law code.

Surely it's the spanking

(Lol How do Europeans and Brits write???)

E-Man said...

SH- I think you are wrong here. There are technically three different reasons why people follow the "laws," as you call them, found in Judaism. Fear of being punished for sin (which is what you consider the only reason), Love of G-D (someone tells me to do something and since I love them I do it, you might understand this when you are married or in relation to parents) and Awe of G-D (you see how incredible a being is and want to follow his or her words because he or she is so amazing, how people might relate to Abe Lincoln or another great figure in history).

To denigrate the following of these laws to JUST fear of punishment misses the whole point of religion.

Shilton HaSechel said...

E-man,

I think you are misunderstanding what I'm saying.

My question is people consider Halacha LAW. Not just a good idea, not just something which is worthwhile doing but LAW. The last two things you said "Love of God" and "Awe of God" might theoretically explain why keeping Halacha is worthwhile or a good idea but they do not explain why I HAVE TO FOLLOW HALACHA.

What if today I don't feel like putting on tefillin? Why can't I just say "well not today maybe tomorrow"? Yeah Awe of God might make it worthwhile "but ya know something my awe of God will have to wait for another day"

In other words how is Halacha BINDING and what does that mean?

Baruch Spinoza said...

"what OBLIGATES people to keep either law code":

Punishment is not what makes people follow the laws. They can have some influence over people's behaviors but that will not stop people from going against the law. In case you do not believe me consider this: there are drugs that appear in prisons. Let me repeat that again, there are drugs that appear in prisons! People who are enslaved in an iron cage for possibly their entire life somehow manage to get drugs. How?! This is ridiculous. And it is all illegal for which severe punishment is given. Consider that when you think that punishment is a good method to change people. The converse is also true. Sometimes bad things are not done because people have values which prevents them from doing that. Like murder. We have little murder not because there is a law against murder but mainly because it is not in people's nature to be killers. Now consider a law against people have sex till they are 21, that would probably be the most failed law in history because it directly goes against human nature. Humans are sex machines, not killing machines, laws which fail to understand humans will ultimately fail. This is why your position that "punishment is what obligates people to follow laws" has a lot of problems with it. Sometimes it does, often not though, and sometimes it is something entirely else that makes people act the way they are. Your position is way too simple.

"Lol How do Europeans and Brits write???": For one, English people do not know what the letter "z" is. They never use it. They never write "generalized" but "generalised", they never write "realized" by "realised", they never say "zzz" but "zet", they never write "zero" but write "naught". They really have an issue with the letter "z".

"Fear of being punished for sin (which is what you consider the only reason), Love of G-D (someone tells me to do something and since I love them I do it":

If you do not follow the commandments of God that he mandated upon you without your agreement with them before you were born he will punish you, torture you, make you suffer for the sins, and send you to a prison somewhere high in sky, until you feel terrible, because he demands us to know what pathetic little creatures we are .... but he loves us.

Anonymous said...

You seem to be suggesting that only coercive action by a stronger power makes something binding. I think that is a rather limited reading of binding. People can be bound by things like promises or oaths...they can be morally bound even if they cannot be forced physically to adhere to a contract. If a man is stopped at a red light on a deserted road, he might still agree that the law not to run it is binding upon him. Halacha is law because some people believe it to be binding upon them. All one needs is belief and it is binding.

Shilton HaSechel said...

If you're on an abandoned street and you KNOW that no one is within a mile radius and YOU KNOW that no cops are around and YOU KNOW nobody will know would you run the red light? I dunno 'bout you folks but I sure wouldn't feel bad doing it.

Just a bit of clarification. I'm not talking about morality here. That's a discussion for another day. I'm talking about following something which is PURELY Law not something which is moral or immoral.

I doubt that certain Torah laws and certain secular laws are IMMORAL such as the law to not wear shaatnez and the law to not run a stop sign. The question is what makes us keep laws which have NO moral problem? Surely it is the fear of punishment?

We need to clarify:

What makes ANY laws binding?

What does "binding" mean at all?

E-Man said...

>I doubt that certain Torah laws and certain secular laws are IMMORAL such as the law to not wear shaatnez and the law to not run a stop sign. The question is what makes us keep laws which have NO moral problem? Surely it is the fear of punishment?

This statement only exists if you take G-D out of the equation. Judaism's whole point is that G-D gave us commandments to keep. Not BECAUSE we will be punished, but because these "laws" ( I would call them ways of life) are the right way to live. They will ultimately lead to happiness and even though we do not necessarily understand them that does not mean they are pointless. You are taking a view of the laws of Judaism and separating them from G-D. If you do that, OF COURSE the only reason to follow them would be if someone would punish me. However, that is not what Judaism is about. It is about do these commandments because G-D said they are the correct actions to do. They are what leads a man to completeness. So, we follow G-D's word because HE IS TELLING US what is RIGHT. Therefore, if you believe in G-D, there doesn;t even need to be a punishment. In fact, there is no punishment for not doing a positive commandment. So, that completely destroys your theory, no? Rather, someone who believes in G-D does the mitzvos because, ultimately, G-D said they are the right thing to do.

Shilton HaSechel said...

E-man,

A. Why can't I say "Thanks God for the advice but I want to take a day off" In what way are God's commandments to make me happy EVENTUALLY obligatory? Let's say I feel like being stupid and reckless and taking away from my happiness do I not have the right to do so? UNLESS there is punishment involved which brings us back to square one.

B. And excuse me not everything in Halacha is from God. More than half of Halacha is from human beings whether its Rabbis making takkanot or Rabbis making derashot. So sorry but there is no guarantee that keeping ALL OF HALACHA will get me anywhere because not ALL OF HALACHA is from God. So what you're saying IN THEORY would make sense were we merely discussing the 613 but we're discussing ALL OF HALACHA.

Shilton HaSechel said...

E-man

I just realized you're essentially basing the Halacha on a reverse punishment i.e. do the laws or you WON'T BE HAPPY. So even you ultimately are basing halacha on incentives. I suppose you would say the difference is you are saying the incentives are INHERENT in the Halacha while I am discussing sort of external punishment and reward. Very Interesting...

E-Man said...

In the end of the day you have to answer this question: In fact, there is no punishment for not doing a positive commandment. So, that completely destroys your theory, no?

E-Man said...

As the Maharal says in Tiferes Yisroel, the thing that brings a man to shleimus (shleimut, completeness) is by performing the commandments.

So it is not reward or punishment, it is just what Jews are meant to do in this world. Like a bee makes honey or a beaver builds a dam.

Shilton HaSechel said...

E-man

>In fact, there is no punishment for not doing a positive commandment. So, that completely destroys your theory, no?

Or destroys the Orthodox idea of obligatory positive commandments take your pick.

>So it is not reward or punishment, it is just what Jews are meant to do in this world. Like a bee makes honey or a beaver builds a dam.

You're evading the question. For argument's sake I will agree with ALL of the beaver honey making stuff. But the question still remains WHAT MAKES IT OBLIGATORY and let me repeat that because it's the crux of the issue OBLIGATORY TO KEEP THE HALACHA IF NOT REWARD AND PUNISHMENT or we could ask COULD WE REFER TO HALACHA AS LAW IF NOT FOR REWARD AND PUNISHMENT.

I'm not trying to make a statement here about the value of mitzvot or whether they are worth doing and what is the best reason to do them. I'm not talking about any of that. This is purely a question of obligation and what makes Halacha "binding" as opposed to a "great idea", or "the way to a perfect life" or "the way to be like a bee"

E-Man said...

>Or destroys the Orthodox idea of obligatory positive commandments take your pick.

HOW???

E-Man said...

When you say binding, what do you mean exactly? Why do Jews have to keep halacha? Just look at all the non-Orthodox and most of the orthodox Jews out there, most people do not follow halacha. So what do you mean by obligatory?

Shilton HaSechel said...

>HOW???

Contradiction between my "theory" as you call it and Orthodox conception of positive miztvot (and that they are binding)if such a contradiction exists one is wrong. Take your pick.

>When you say binding, what do you mean exactly?

Okay do I have to put on tefillin tomorrow? Can I go eat at McDonald's tomorrow?

So nu you tell me what binding means. I'm not sure. But I do know that no Orthodox Rabbi in the world will tell me I'm allowed to go to McDonald's if "i want to". My tentative theory is that "binding halacha" as the Orthodox and Conservative use it is only meaningful if one says there is reward and punishment and THAT is what makes it BINDING. But if you got a better idea as to what makes me HAVE to do it then I'm all ears.

Baruch Spinoza said...

"What makes ANY laws binding? What does "binding" mean at all?":

Shilty, perhaps you are different but most of us do refrain from acting a certain way or induce an act not because we are scared of being spanked but because we have a certain understanding of why it needs to be done or have a system of values.

If I was to find a wallet in the street and it had the ID of the person who lost it I would contact him give it to him and not take a single dollar from that wallet (does that still maintain me as Jewish? ^^) Am I afraid of the consequences? No. Am I afraid that God will punish me? No. I just realize it is a nice and kind thing to do so I do it, I realize it is not my property and I would be stealing. For me, and I am sure for a big percentage of people, that is exactly how we think. But, I do not know, maybe you are different. Maybe you only act when you get spanked. Do you like getting spanked? I am a pretty good spanker, call me, you know, if you ever want some, you naughty naughty boy.

You seem to be asking, "why act moral if there is no God"? That is the standard question atheists get asked. But the answer is really simple, it is innate in us, or perhaps from some empathetic considerations, that we act in a good manner without even believing in God.

You are begging the question here. You ask what makes law binding, but you ask it in a way that we have to accept your hypothesis that laws are already binding. I do not think laws are binding. Maybe I am wrong here. Maybe someone can tell me where I am wrong, but I just do not get the impression that laws bind people to follow them. What it really comes down to, I think, is if laws make sense. If a law makes sense people are likely to follow it. A law against drunk driving or running red lights makes sense to us, we understand why there is such a law and that is why we follow it. But a law that said that all men on Friday the 13th must have sex with sheep in the middle of Lakewood on Shabbos, not matter how severe the punishment, will be a failed law, because it does not make any sense to people.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Baruch,

>perhaps you are different but most of us do refrain from acting a certain way or induce an act not because we are scared of being spanked but because we have a certain understanding of why it needs to be done or have a system of values.

I'm specifically NOT talking about morality here so all the stuff about "returning the wallet" is not really relevant. I'm talking about keeping the LAW solely because it's the law.

>but you ask it in a way that we have to accept your hypothesis that laws are already binding.

Perhaps law isn't binding. And the word binding is a bad way of describing our relationship to the law. You could say that I guess.

But once again we're not talking about laws that make sense or that you would do anyways. We're talking about a law that I WANT TO BREAK. Now the question is in what way am I obligated to NOT break the law (if at all) It's generally understood that you are NOT ALLOWED to break the law even if you feel like it (the same about Jewish law among the Orthodox) My question is WHY? Why can't I run stop signs and traffic lights even if I want to?

Answer: Because you'll be punished IF you get caught.

Actually I think we basically agree we both think that describing law or Halacha as binding is sort of meaningless because we are not BOUND by the law but rather we keep the law

A. B/c we want to or we feel that it makes sense
B. Even in instances where we don't want to B/c we don't want to be punished

Which gets back to my original question can a religious law code be meaningful without a belief in divine reward/punishment given that there is no A. nor B. (In an instance where you do NOT WANT to keep the Halacha)

E-Man said...

I will put it like this:

Your father says you should do something. Now, there will not be any consequences if you do not do what your father says, but he will appreciate it if you do what he asks you. So too, G-D gave us many positive commandments to perform. A person that believes in G-D wants to please Him in order to gain a closer connection.

Nowadays, negative commandments are the same way because there is no real bais din to enforce the laws. However, as I said before, there are three possible motives behind why an Orthodox Jew will follow halacha. Fear of punishment, love of G-D, and awe of G-D.

An Orthodox Jew WANTS to keep halacha because G-D said to perform or to not perform these actions. It doesn't matter whether they understand them or not. They realize a higher power gave these laws and that higher power said these laws will bring you closer to me.

The real reason for punishment in Judaism is in order to counteract the wrong deed that was done. The whole point of the commandments is to bring us to completeness and closeness to G-D. Therefore, in order to maintain that closeness and completeness one needs to atone when they sin. That is the only reason for punishment.

Imagine there is a point scale, you need 100 points to be close to G-D and achieve completeness. Ever commandment that you follow gives you a point and every sin you commit is -1. However, there are punishments for certain sins and they allow you to get a +1. Therefore, punishment is not to punish the sinner, but to help them achieve their goal.

Your assumption that Orthodox people do not want to follow the laws doesn't make sense. Orthodox people believe G-D wrote th etorah and so on. Therefore, they realize that this is what will bring me completeness and closeness to G-D and that is the real reason they perform the commandments and stay away from the sins. But, people sin because they are overcome by desire. It is not because they don;t want to follow G-D, but because they want to do this or that and just push the pursuit of closeness to G_D out of their head.

I hope that was a clear enough explanation. Because saying that orthodox Jews only follow the laws because of punishment COMPLETELY misses the point of Judaism. Which is to gain closeness to G-D. So, performing the commandments that make no sense to us still makes sense to us on some level, that it brings us closer to G-D. That is the goal, not to not get punished.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Your assumption that Orthodox people do not want to follow the laws doesn't make sense.

I know plenty of Orthodox people who break the laws even though they believe all of it 100% you must hang out with a pretty pious crowd.

But either way that's not my assumption, what I mean is in a CASE where I don't want to follow a law b/c I'm tired, I'm bored, etc. So why do I have 2 do it?

>Because saying that orthodox Jews only follow the laws because of punishment COMPLETELY misses the point of Judaism.

K listen do I have to spell it out for you. I'm not talking about why YOU or Berel or Yankev does Mitzvot. You probably do it for all those great reasons so GOOD FOR YOU! But THAT IS NOT WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT!!! I'm not talking about goals, I'm not talking about purpose. Now read that again 20X.

I'm talking about LAW and what it means to be bound or obligated by it (if anything) So fine the mitzvot will make me close to God etc. etc. That's STILL not the discussion.

Now please answer this question directly: I, a Jew, am I ALLOWED to go eat at McDonald's today. Don't say its a bad idea, don't say it will distance me from God, just answer the question YES or NO.

rabbichaplain said...

1. You distinguish law and morality. I think the distinction is not entirely accurate. Be that as it may, let me engage you on areas such as Shaatnez or putting on tefillin. The purpose behind laws, rituals, etc is to create a disciplined people. Of course there are consequences to the law. However, the reward and punishment are not the primary purpose. It is to create a disciplined life. That is why you will find in all legal systems and all religious systems sets of rituals and right ways of doing things. Granted that at the time much of this was established, there were other elements, some of which was perceived as "magical," today we need to talk about it from this place of discipline.

Additionally, I'm not sure that binding has to be 100%. To say something is binding and then to choose to take a "day off" might not be contradictory. Of course, since the chances that law being followed without a hint of reward or punishment seems difficult, making choices against the established law might create a chink in the armor of the discipline.

You could argue that even in that situation, there is a punishment. Perhaps the better terminology would be consequence. All of our actions have consequences. The same might be true here. Eating in McDonalds might not lead to lightning striking me down or to a bad rap in the afterlife, but it might cause me to crave fast food, which could lead to other problems, both health and spiritual growth. I am not suggesting a slippery slope, but instead recognizing that everything we do has effects that we cannot perceive. As such, the disciplined sysytem might have to be followed to avoid potential consequences.

You might ask, what about Shaatnez? That I have not yet considered.

2. In terms of the question of does Conservative Judaism believe in the afterlife and G-d's reward and punishment, I believe the answer would depend on who you asked. Some do and some don't. To see further on this, check out Neil Gillman's Death of Death and Elie Kaplan Spitz's Does the Soul Survive. Both are pubilshed by Jewish Lights and they might shed some light on that question.

Shilton HaSechel said...

RabbiChaplain, (a real rabbi?)

It seems that you (and E-man to a certain extent) are saying that there will be positive results when keeping halacha and negative consequences when you don't.

Okay but if I want to lose out on the benefits can I? I don't see why not. No one is stopping me.

But if there is external punishment from God or something then I feel (perhaps incorrectly) that that makes the law MORE of a LAW instead of just a good way to lead your life.

Halacha is generally treated by the OJ world as LAW not a GOOD IDEA or THE BEST POSSIBLE WAY TO LEAD YOUR LIFE but LAW that you HAVE TO FOLLOW.

So let's put it like this is the conception of Halacha as LAW either A. Incorrect or B. Based on the concept of God's reward and punishment.

rabbichaplain said...

To answer your first question, I am a real rabbi (Orthodox Semicha). I work as a chaplain in the health care business.

Lets look at halacha as law for a moment. In all political societies, a basic system of law and morals is established. These laws might be focused, like don't drive through a red light, or might be abstract as freedom of speech. Let us look at running a red light. If I choose to drive through the red light, certain possibilities could occur.
1. A cop sees me and gives me a ticket (punishment)
2. No one sees me and nothing happens - I might then try again the next time and not be as lucky.
3. I go and hit the car coming from the perpendicular direction - accident and consequences.
Etc.
In all those scenarios, a result occurs. So, when examining prohibitive law, it is established to avoid certain consequences.

Next scenario: Halacha also includes positive commandments, things one must do, which often fall into the category of ritual. If I choose not to fulfill the ritual, there are again possibilities.

1. Nothing happens. This would be the scenario in which one would argue either there is no god or that G-d isn't concerned about all events in life.
2. Reward and punishment. If I do something I get a merit and if I don't it is a demerit.
3. Something might happen. It is hard to indicate what the results of ritual are. If I am believing Jew, then I believe that ritual does boil down to receiving something, though what that "reward" is might not be so easy to spot. The same is true for punishment. If I don't do something, it might not be easy to discern a subsequent punishment.

As such, I think to limit halacha to law is incorrect. Halacha is a path, a way of life. Now, in the Yeshivish and quasi yeshivish world, you're right, halacha = law. Morality, etc. become subsumed under law. This is the sad fate of Judaism today for then the law gets used to justify unethical behavior. In a thinking person's way, halacha would be something not just law, but how to live life.

As a Rabbi, one might assume I automatically claim halacha as be all and end all. However, living in the world as I do, halacha is a discipline, like other religious disciplines, in that the religion is only the religion with this established discipline. This is regardless of whether law is man-made or divine. Is it self serving? Perhaps. But I think most of us, unfortunately, end up doing the things we do because it is self-serving even if we believe it is for altruistic and selfless reasons. We feel good when we make others feel good or when we accomplish something. A goal is life is to move beyond getting pleasure, but most struggle to rise above that.

MKR said...

E-Man writes:

Judaism's whole point is that G-D gave us commandments to keep. Not BECAUSE we will be punished, but because these "laws" ( I would call them ways of life) are the right way to live. . . . [Judaism] is about do these commandments because G-D said they are the correct actions to do. They are what leads a man to completeness. So, we follow G-D's word because HE IS TELLING US what is RIGHT

You say that halacha constitutes "the right way to live," "the correct actions to do," and "what is right." Since it is not addressed to non-Jews and does not apply to them, this implies that all non-Jews lead a wrong way of life and fail to do what is right. Is that your view?

Perhaps what you meant was not that the mitzvot are the right actions and the right way of life simpliciter, but merely that they are the right actions and the right way of life for Jews. But if that is what you meant, then what is the content of their being "right"? It would seem that it is simply the fact that they were commanded of us by God. So you are merely repeating the fact that certain actions and a certain way of life are commanded of Jews by God and adding absolutely nothing when you say that it is "right."

To sum up (and anyone who has read Plato's Euthyphro will know where I am getting this from): Either some actions which happen to be commanded (of Jews) by God are right, regardless of whether God commands them or not, or some actions are commanded (of Jews) by God regardless of whether they are right or not. In either case, you can't invoke rightness to explain commandedness or vice-versa.

MKR said...

Rabbichaplain writes:

I think to limit halacha to law is incorrect. Halacha is a path, a way of life. Now, in the Yeshivish and quasi yeshivish world, you're right, halacha = law.

Isn't the main reason for describing halacha as "law" the fact that, at one time, it was in fact the law, in the perfectly familiar sense of civil and criminal law, of Jewish communities? Isn't the greater part of the Mishnah (this is a genuine question: I am not well educated in Torah) taken up with very practical questions of damages, debts, marriage, divorce, and so on? Surely it is only when you leave all those matters to the secular courts and think of halacha as primarily concerned with the wearing of tefillin and such that calling it "law" becomes problematic.

E-Man said...

MKR- Yes, obviously I was talking about these actions for Jews. THAT IS WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT! I think you are 100% wrong in your analysis. I SAID THESE LAWS MAKE A JEW COMPLETE! That is what makes them right.

E-Man said...

SH- If you don;t want to keep the laws you don't have to, that is what free will is all about. So I just don;t understand what you mean by obligatory. Correct, if you want to follow the laws of Judaism you must abide by them. If you don;t then you don't, you need only do them publicly when there is human punishment or to gain acceptance. Which is exactly what you are doing by being orthoprax. However, I am unsure why an orthoprax person would keep the laws in private, unless they believe in G-D and the truth of orthodox Judaism.

Shilton HaSechel said...

MKR brings up an interesting point. Halacha has a radically different meaning nowadays in the Western world. Originally halacha was in fact similar to a civil law code in that there were authorities who punished you for not keeping it. It is only nowadays when we lack (at least in the Diaspora) any sort of authority to enforce the halacha does this question of "how is it binding" come up. Perhaps halacha only USED to be law. But nowadays it has really lost that role. I'm not sure. We need to think about it.

Shilton HaSechel said...

E-man,

>So I just don;t understand what you mean by obligatory.

You tell me - after all that is the language of the Mishna and the Gemara is it not?

>if you want to follow the laws of Judaism you must abide by them.

Lol what does that mean. Major tautology. If you want to keep halacha you have to keep halacha. מה החידוש?

I want to hear it from you E-man: Say "you do not have to keep halacha it is completely optional."

And then I want you to shout at all the religious bigots who constitute 90% of our communities (whether Chareidi or MO) who ostracize people for not adhering to an optional "path of life"

If it's all optional - then clearly something is wrong with the OJ world (but once again מה החידוש?)

E-Man said...

No. If you want to be part of the community you have to keep the law. However, it is your option. You don't have to be part of the community. How is this not obvious to you?

E-Man said...

So really, you are confused as to why the Orthodox community requires everyone who is part of their community to keep the laws of the Torah?

Shilton HaSechel said...

>If you want to be part of the community you have to keep the law.

Why? When it comes to mitzvot which are between Man and God, why does that effect the community? (Unless you're scared the non-conformist will have an ill effect on the observance of others - to which I scoff one's faith should be made of sterner stuff no?)

>So really, you are confused as to why the Orthodox community

Truth is I'm not confused nor surprised because human beings have a rather evil tendency to demand conformity. Jews are no different than any other denomination in that respect.

Once again you won't say it straight out - "you do not have to keep halacha it is completely optional."

I'm waiting...

E-Man said...

The reason you can not be part of the community is because you can't be trusted, in a sense. Meaning, if you are not following the laws then how can I be sure your house is kosher, you aren't an idol worshiper and many other things. It is similar to saying, why can;t a KKK member be part of a black community.

True, you have the option to follow halacha or not, but then the community is supposed to stay away from you for several reasons.

>Why? When it comes to mitzvot which are between Man and God, why does that effect the community?

Really? Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lazeh. Enough said or you need more reasons?

E-Man said...

Also, just because someone sins does not mean they don't believe in G-D or anything like that. It means there was a moment where that person was overcome by desire or emotion.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>then how can I be sure your house is kosher

Erm.. it probably isn't if you aren't following Judaism. That however just means you can't eat at their house - it does not mean that OTD'ers have to be the pariahs of the community. Fine so don't eat at the OTD'ers houses but why do families and communities have to reject people who have gone OTD - justify that.

>Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lazeh.

Ah so you have a DUTY to restrict people's free will and force them to follow your way. What happened to optional? hmmmm

Shilton HaSechel said...

> Also, just because someone sins does not mean they don't believe in G-D or anything like that. It means there was a moment where that person was overcome by desire or emotion.

Never said it did but the OJ community rejects both "sinners" and atheists so ...

E-Man said...

>Ah so you have a DUTY to restrict people's free will and force them to follow your way. What happened to optional? hmmmm

No, but you have a duty to distance yourself from things that will be injurious to you.

Like I said before, the OTDer has an option to follow or not, but the Orthodox person has the right to say I don;t wanna be close with you if you don't share the same values as me. Are YOU trying to say the religious person should not have a right to decide who his or her friends are? Who is taking who's free will away?

OJ do not reject sinners. And the reason they usually reject atheists is because they are mocked by atheists. In all truth, most MO communities accept everyone who wants to be part of the community so I guess you are mainly talking about charaidim?

Shilton HaSechel said...

>No, but you have a duty to distance yourself from things that will be injurious to you.

That's not what Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh means but okay - though surely you should have a little more faith in your faith...

>but the Orthodox person has the right to say I don;t wanna be close with you if you don't share the same values as me.

of course you have the right - but you're still a religious bigot who will not countenance any "derech" besides your own.

If you're OK with that then gezunteheit.

>OJ do not reject sinners.

Try breaking shabbat outside of your local MO shul and see what happens...

There are certain taboos that even the MO community will reject you for i.e. shabbat and kashrut

>reject atheists is because they are mocked by atheists.

and atheists are mocked by OJ...

E-Man said...

>That's not what Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh means but okay - though surely you should have a little more faith in your faith...

Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lazeh means that if you are part of klal Yisroel and I am part of klal Yisroel then whatever you do effects me and vice versa

E-Man said...

>of course you have the right - but you're still a religious bigot who will not countenance any "derech" besides your own.

This is ridiculous if we are talking about following the Torah vs not. If you think Judaism is worthless then there is no reason for us to hang out. However, if all we argue on is cholov yisroel or not then there is not much reason to be intolerant.

So, you think a black community should embrace a KKK member?

E-Man said...

>Try breaking shabbat outside of your local MO shul and see what happens...

There are certain taboos that even the MO community will reject you for i.e. shabbat and kashrut


True, if you break a law publicly and to show that you think Judaism is not real then yes, you are not just a sinner, you are someone that does not belong in that community.

I still do not understand why a community should accept someone who is COMPLETELY opposed to the communities values.

Mikeskeptic said...

Shilton,

If you define "binding" as physically compelled then of course halacha is not binding if you don't believe in divine reward and punishment. But the universe of obligations that most of us live with in the real world is much broader than that and includes ethics, morality and fear of ostracization. So your question is semantical and almost silly. Would you feel obligated to offer your father your seat if he was standing and there were no other seats available? Then filial respect is a real obligation regardless of whether he will punch you if you don't.

The more interesting question is whether there is a moral basis for halacha if you don't believe in divine reward and punishment. Is there anything immoral about eating a cheese burger if God doesn't really care about it (or doesn't exist)? Does the fact that something is taboo make it immoral? How about the fact that our ancestors in some cases died for the Torah--does that impose any moral obligation on us to observe it? These questions are important and have been addressed by leading Conservative thinkers.

MKR said...

Quoting E-Man:

MKR- Yes, obviously I was talking about these actions for Jews. THAT IS WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT! I think you are 100% wrong in your analysis. I SAID THESE LAWS MAKE A JEW COMPLETE! That is what makes them right

No, this was not obvious at all, and you did not say anything of the sort. In the comment to which I was replying, you said (and these are verbatim quotations), that the mitzvot are "the right way to live," not that they are the right way for Jews to live; that God commands certain actions because they are "right," not that they are right for Jews to do; that they are "what leads a man [n.b] to completeness," not that they are what leads a Jew to completeness. If you had included the restriction to Jews, the question that I was raising in criticism of your position -- what makes these actions right for Jews, if not the mere fact that they are commanded? -- would have been much more obvious.

Second, although you say that I am 100% wrong in my analysis, you do not say in which analysis or in what respect. Your understanding seems to stop just where my criticism begins.

The question before us has been: what makes halacha binding on Jews? The answer that Shilton gives is that the only thing that can do this is divine sanction: the promise of reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience. You reject this answer. Your alternative answer is that what makes halacha binding is the fact that the commanded actions are "right" -- by which, as you now explain, you mean "right for Jews to do"; and you explain this as meaning that the commanded actions "make a Jew complete."

The question that this now raises is: On what basis can you hold that obedience to the mitzvot makes a Jew complete? If this is true, it must be true either by definition or by some independent standard. If it is true by definition -- if a Jew is by definition just one who is subject to these particular commandments -- then to say that following the commandments "completes" a Jew does not explain what makes the commandments binding. It merely says that a Jew is one who is subject to these commandments. Alternatively, if being completed as a Jew is defined by some independent standard, then the commanded actions are merely instrumental to the end of achieving such completeness. Their being commanded is not the reason for doing them. I think, however, that such a conclusion would be contrary to the position that you put forward in the comment to which I was previously responding, where you write:

You are taking a view of the laws of Judaism and separating them from G-D. If you do that, OF COURSE the only reason to follow them would be if someone would punish me. However, that is not what Judaism is about. It is about do these commandments because G-D said they are the correct actions to do. They are what leads a man to completeness. So, we follow G-D's word because HE IS TELLING US what is RIGHT.

The problem remains because your position is founded on an equivocation. You want to say both "We are bound by these laws because they are from God" and "We are bound by these laws because they establish a way of life that makes a Jew complete" (or "because they are right," or whatever). But that is incoherent. Either the explanation of why we are bound by the mitzvot is solely in terms of divine authority, or it is in terms of something independent of God. You cannot coherently have it both ways.

I recommend that you read up on the Euthyphro dilemma -- here, for instance (Wikipedia).

Shilton HaSechel said...

@Mikeskeptic

True it is a rather "semantical" question given we haven't adequately defined "binding" or "law"

Once again I'm not discussing "moral laws" - that's a subject for another post...

E-Man said...

>No, this was not obvious at all, and you did not say anything of the sort.

As I said before, if you read the discussion, aka context, it is impossible to miss the meaning. So, Shilton is talking about Jews following mitzvos, how else could you understand my words??? I don;t have to specify anything because I was responding to shilton.

Again, I think you are 100% wrong in your analysis. G-D is telling us what makes a Jew complete. See, in Judaism, we believe in an afterlife, spirituality and G-D. A Jew becoming complete means he/she is getting closer to G-D and thereby creating a spiritual essence that will be able to live a meaningful afterlife. So G-D is telling us what actions we should perform in order to get close to Him because these actions help a Jew complete himself/herself in regards to becoming connected to G-D, living in the afterlife and with regards to spirituality.

A Jew becoming complete is not independent of G-D. Nothing about Judaism is independent of G-D. So, again, it is not solely because G-D commanded us to do it. It IS for both reasons, because G-D is telling us what will make us complete.

E-Man said...

That Euthyphro dilemma has NOTHING to do with this discussion. Why are you bringing it up?

E-Man said...

Shilton- Are you really looking for taamei hamitzvos, reasons for the commandments? If so the Maharal sum up the opinions of Ramban and Rambam in Tiferes Yisroel chapters 6-8. If you want to take a gander over there. The Rambam is of the opinion that the mitzvos were commanded for the betterment of the world. Like, you send the mother bird away because it is less stressful for her and we don;t want to cause stress, even to a bird. The Ramban is of the opinion that we don;t really care about the bird, but it helps us be better people. The commandments make us more caring, loving and compassionate. You can read their views in tiferes yisroel if you are interested or you can find their sources there.

Shilton HaSechel said...

>Are you really looking for taamei hamitzvos, reasons for the commandments?

What gave you that idea?

I know the Moreh Nevuchim and I know the Ramban I just don't think they are adequately convincing. Rationalistic Taamei Hamitzvot usually give pretty lame explanations for Chukim.

(Also I don't know how the Maharal understood it but I wouldn't put the Rambam's opinion that way. The Rambam explicitly says that the purpose of the mitzvot is to insure our spiritual and physical well being. "Betterment of the world" is overly simplistic IMHO. But do you have a link to the Maharal so I can check out his interpretation.Thanks)

E-Man said...

http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=42865&pgnum=1

It is spoken about between the 6th and 8th chapters.

gamzoo said...

I don't know if anyone mentioned this above, but what makes halacha binding in modern times is social pressure rather than explicit punishment.

Every group of individual have rules, whether it is a club, a tribe or a nation. Some rules which are deemed most important can result in excommunication, or in the case of a nation with an army/police, prison and even execution. if no police force exists (country club, baseball league, religious groups) social pressure and excommunication are the most effective.

If you get caught eating trief this would be a big embarrassment and people will gossip. it even may result in your children being kicked out of yeshiva etc. This is the way the orthodox community punishes those who disobeys the laws (rules which define the group).

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