Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pastoral Halakha

Top of the evening all...

A friend of mine, and a reader on this site, forwarded an article to me recently.  It was an article on some of the halakhic (Jewish Law) challenges in making sure that those with significant physical challenges retain a meaningful connection to their Jewish lives.  Here is a link to the article:

Thank you to DMS for sending it to me.

I am going to avoid commenting on the specific halakhic issues.  They are complicated.  I want to point out instead that sometimes, the leniency is not the answer.  Why do I say that?  Good question!

One of the people in the article was having problems putting on his tefillin due to cerebral palsy.  Two rabbis gave him permission not to do so.  That was the wrong answer.  The right answer was to help him find a way to do it.  That was the answer the man was seeking.  He did not want to be allowed a leniency.  He wanted and needed to be held to the mitzvot (commandments) that guided his life.

Folks, your rabbis (and other clergy) should have some level of sophistication.  That level of sophistication must go beyond the basic question.  Is it kosher?  Is it treif (not kosher)?  That is important, but is not the entire question.  People come to us with their questions for reasons that often go beyond that basic level.  Before answering, it is necessary to figure out what the true issue is.  It has an effect on the answer, and lets the asker know that we, your trusted rabbis, are worthy of the trust you have placed in us.  That worthiness should necessarily contain extensive knowledge.  It should also contain an ability to say "I don't know."  Last, it should contain an understanding of the people who place that trust in us.

Leniency is not the answer.  Reminding the asker that s/he has a place not just in the Jewish community, but also in the unfolding epic that is Jewish history, is at the beginning of the answer.  The answer may be a leniency.  It may be a stringency.  It must serve to connect.

Have a good night everyone.


1 comment:

  1. Halakha was never meant to be impossible. It was never meant to be a divider or a hindrance. It is meant to bring us closer to the holy and the divine. We should always seek means to bring people in, to bring people closer, but through action, not lack of it.

    Wow. That's 3 entries I read, and 3 entries on which I commented.