Thursday, January 26, 2012

Claims of Authenticity

Top of the evening, oh ye loyal readers.

I have been teaching a class over the last three weeks. The title of the course is "The Kosher Bedroom." You may use your imagination to figure out the subject matter.

A couple of questions kept popped up in different forms. On one matter, as we were discussing a piece from the Shulchan Arukh, someone asked what verse in the Torah was the basis for the Halakhah at hand. I had no answer. There is no answer. A question arose over the millennia of Jewish history that the Torah did not directly address. This happens. The Torah itself admits to being finite. Hopefully, as we encounter new situations, we use the legal traditions and connected issues to reach a proper practice. Moreover, the list of sources in the Shulchan Arukh rarely lists the Torah as a source. It usually only goes back to the Talmud.

The other question that I found difficult tonight was one of "whether or not the hassidim would rule the same way." Frankly, I do not care. I do not learn Halakhah from people who insist that men and women must walk on opposite sides of the street. Who knows what other laws they might have invented? That being said, I use the same texts. The Talmud is the Talmud. The Codes are the Codes. The Poskim are the Poskim (decisors).

Those who claim authenticity the most loudly are usually the ones with the weakest attachment. The Torah is wonderful, with 70 different ways to read it. It is disingenuous to say that only one way is correct.

I constantly tell my students: it is not enough to pick a text. It is vital to pick an editor. Your Rav should be someone who is knowledgable. Your Rav should be someone whose understanding of the focus of Jewish Law and tradition makes sense within your own world view. Your Rav should be brave enough to say yes absent a compelling reason to say no. Your Rav should be someone who can look you in the eye and have the courage to insist that you demand more from yourself. For some people, it is those who insist on separate sidewalks. For others, it is someone who rides a bicycle instead of driving.

On a different note, the daughter of one of my congregants has been subject to a certain amount of vitriol due to her participation in the 'Occupy' movement. I have been watching this movement for several months now. I can safely say that I have not the faintest clue what the movement's goals are. The vitriol has been from the congregant's rather traditional friend, who seems to think that being Jewish means being at odds with the goals of the 'Occupy' movement.

I am missing it. Jews formed the backbone of many of the vital social movements of the last century. It seems logical that they would continue to do so. Moreover, the young lady in question put up a sukkah while occupying St. James Park. I have been leery of the 'Occupy' movement. However, it seems to me that she understands what she should do as a Jew, and it drives her both ritually and socially.

Good for her!!

Good night everyone.


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