Q & A Board - View Post
Author:  DB
E-mail:  not available
Date:  3/9/2004 11:09:00 AM
Subject:  hashkafah
Message:  (1) It has been fascinating to read the opinions and discussions on this website. I admire the goal of clarifying the halachah for the sake of making the essential law well-known and available to all Jews. Speaking as a layman, let me say that some of the opinions, especially with regard to kashrut, are closer to what I would have expected a sensible, down-to-earth community to come up with in interpreting the law.

I have also particularly appreciated the focus on separating convention from law where observance of the law might suffer in the name of convention. An example would be the discussion of the busload of Monsey residents returning home on Friday afternoon and delayed by a snow storm.

(2) Nevertheless, it would seem to me that someone who acted according to many of the opinions on this site would be inevitably distancing himself from the observant Jewish community. If the conventional view of kashrut precludes eating in nearly all non-Jewish-run restaurants, then if someone takes food home from those establishments, he will be inviting confusion over his kashrut observance, and will likely turn away many from eating in his home. So goodwilled, fair-minded friends who take their kashrut advice from a typical observant rabbi might be placed in a bind.

Though this phenomenon troubles me, I'll mention also that, of course, the educational options for the children in families adopting an unconventional approach to kashrut will be diminished. Some yeshivot will turn away people who go out to Denny's for pancakes on Sunday morning.

Therefore, where I can understand the principles being laid out here on this site, I am glad to be informed of possible leniencies to use in difficult situations. But in general, I don't undertand how the principles on this site may be applied without transgressing the principle of distancing oneself from the community.

(3) Furthermore, there is an essential principle that the conventions of an observant community become guidelines, in a way. Perhaps the example of the turkey is appropriate here. The turkey was unknown in the Old World, but after years of its being accepted as a kosher bird in the New World, it came to be universally recognized as kosher, largely on the basis of community custom, even though there was no tradition in the Old World that the turkey was one of the kosher fowl. How does this community view of halachic convention factor into the unconventional views expressed on this site? For example, one might argue that even if limiting oneself to Jewish-run kosher restaurants is excessive in terms of the letter of the law in Shulcan Aruch, nevertheless the fact that so many worthy rabbanim for so long have considered this an appropriate standard carries weight even so.

I would be interested in any thoughts on this topic. Thank-you.


Reply:  No one is required to eat in any place that they don't want to eat. Each person should handle their own social needs. I can't be responsible for that.

Customs do not become law, unless they are based on a decision of one of our major Rabbis 4-500 years ago and earlier. We don't just do what we did before. That would be absurd.

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