I recently had a discussion regarding my post on matrilineal descent and intermarriage with a reader of mine. Some of the following points were made by her or myself in the midst of the discussion. They do not necessarily pertain to that post, rather they can be applied to many other issues. What I write here is not to be taken as an attack against her, it is for the general public's consumption. Here are some thoughts:
- First- One cannot use one's own logic or theology to make a claim against Halacha to invalidate the Halacha. Accepted Halacha is Halacha, there is nothing one can do about it. If the Talmud/Gemara and Zohar (or any other Kabbalistic work, for that matter) argue on a certain law, the final ruling ALWAYS follows the Gemara, not the Zohar, because the former is HALACHA, the Law, while the latter is merely esoteric/spiritual/mystical, etc... In fact, the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu Kramer, 1720-1797) said that there is no such thing as a contradicition between the Zohar and the Gemara. If you thinks that there is in a certain case, it just means that you do not properly understand what the Zohar is saying. The Zohar, Sefer Yetzirah and other works of Kabbalah were written in a way that the masses cannot exactly understand what is being said. The Talmud is a disorganized recording of halachik debates from the Amoraic period. Therefore, it is more likely that the Zohar is misunderstood than the Talmud is. Furthermore, not many people in the world are experts in Kabbalah. A pre-requisite (besides the famous age--40) to begin learning Kabbalah proper is first knowing and deeply understanding all of the Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, Rambam, and Midrash. Only after all this can one even begin to start the introduction to the how-to section of the Zohar. I can guarantee that there is no blogger in the world who deserves the title of "Kabbalist" let alone "Beginner Kabbalist." And for sure, any person who goes by such a title and questions a valid halacha just shows that they truly do not deserve such a title. (I'm not even talking about that watered-down Kabbalah of Madonna, Britney Spears and the Burg gang).
- Second- "Maran" is a title for Rabbi Yosef Cairo the author of the Shulchan Aruch and the Beit Yosef of the Tur. Every serious scholar (whether in Halacha, Talmud, or Kabbalah) has to know that fact. It is even on Wikipedia! (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maran and no, I did not just add that). If one does not even know who the Shulchan Aruch was, how can one even contemplate deciding a halachik question? Just because someone reads a little bit of Jewish mysticism that does not make one a posek (if you don't know what that means, check the wiki) and surely not a Kabbalist! I myself am not even a Posek or Kabbalist, but then again, I don't go around questioning accepted halacha. I do not even consider myself a Talmud scholar, I just happen to know a few bits and pieces. Imagine my Rebbe/teacher, who is not a posek nor a Kabbalist either. He is at the level of Talmud scholar. Me? I'm dirt. Some bloggers who don't know anything? Lower than dirt? One can be a good person even kind, good-looking, well-behaved,but that does not make one into a Kabbalist. Certain knowledge is required and none of us have that knowledge. NOW my poin: If the Shulchan Aruch says something, it's law; if he only brings down one opinion, then for sure it's law. If he brings multiple opnions, there are established ways to decide which opinion is the law. There is only one Shulchan Aruch written by Maran Rav Yosef Cairo (there are various other books with the name "Shulchan Aruch", like Kitzur Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfreid which means the "abridged Shulchan Aruch" and Shulchan Aruch HaRav of the first Chabad Rebbe, but none are totally accepted by world Jewry as the Shulchan Aruch is accepted). Law is Law. So the Halacha says a person is a Jew if his mother is a Jew or if the person properly converts. End of story. Law does not need support or necessarily even logic behind it, law is law. Surely the law does not have to conform to your ideals or personal judgements. The law does not bend. Not that the non-malleablilty of law needs justification, but if we start bending rules for one thing, then who is to stop one from bending laws in regard to something else. If we allow you to do this, then maybe you will conclude that that should also be allowed. Who is any of us to come and argue with the Law? You say that in your own judgement, this law should be untrue. You say that this law is not justice. The biggets proof that it is justice is that the Gemara, Tur, Shulchan Aruch et al. all rule like this. If you want to bring a proof that this law is not proper justice, I dare to find such a proof; there is none. Justice is defined by HaShem, just like morality is. What the Torah cals moral is moral. Justice and morality come from the same source, both are defined by the Torah. See my essays on the subject of morals:
- Third- Do not say that Orthodox Jews discourage questions. I ask questions, read any essay that I wrote, tons of questions are raised. I do not always ask questions based on my own logical judgements, I ask questions that Rabbis have asked for hundreds of years, I just reference different sources to different issues and answers to write my essays, I do not, g-d forbid, "make up" my own ideas and post them as the Torah True views on subjects. Even in such cases where the question is my own, the question does not "disprove" the validity of the practical halacha, it is just a pilupl-type (look up pilpul) discussion to further one's understanding of the halacha, not to disprove the halacha. Case in point: I once came across a Gemara which said something and a passage in the writings of Josephus which said another, totally opposite thing. They both about something which should be historical fact. There are a few ways one can view this situation:
2) The words of the Gemara can be asked as a question on Josephus
3) Josephus and the Gemara contradict each other
4) Both are wrong anyways
- Personally, I favor the second approach. This is because what the Gemara is said is accepted as fact. There is a side issue that Josephus said something else, so the Gemara's words can be used to ask a question on Flavius Josephus. (And the answer also maintains the veracity of the Gemara, it just re-explained Josephus in light of the Gemara.) The same is our situation here. The Shulchan Aruch says something. You have an opposing logical conclusion. Therefore, the Shulchan Aruch's words can be asked as a question on whatever your logical idea that causes you to doubt the Shulchan Aruch is. The Shulchan Aruch is a proof that your logic thought pattern in whatever instance is flawed. You just have to figure how it is so.
- Fourth- Even if one does not disagree with the practical final halacha, but disagrees with the way to arrive at that conclusion, it is delegitimizes the Shulchan Aruch. When I quote from the Shulchan Aruch, I only used the Shulchan Aruch to show that Halacha's validity. The Shulchan Aruch reflects the Midrashim, Mishnah, Talmud, Rambam, Tur, Rif, Rashi, Tosfos, Ramban, and all of the Rishonim up until 1492. So I only said it in the name of the Shulchan Aruch to reflect all those previous entities which the Shulchan Aruch actually represents in halacha. I could also have said that the Tur says the same halacha, but saying the Shulchan Aruch does already encompasses that.
- Fifth- This is a for sure a logical fallacy: "Since nobody argues on this point, it must be a fake point." A lack of argument does not deligitmize an idea, on the contrary, is shows that such an idea is undisputed!
- Sixth- Something that is technically correct is not necessarily correct. Even if in practical halacha one can show how something is totally permitted, or is not liable for punishment, that does not mean such an action is permitted to do. For example, nowhere in halacha does it say that I cannot decorate the curtain of an Torah Ark in a synagouge with a Swastika. Does that mean that its ok for me to go to a synagouge and paint a Swastika on the Ark (even assuming it was my own synagouge that I owned and wasn not damaging someone else's property)? No. Besides that fact that if the issue ever came up in halacha it would be forbidden, it's not right simply because its not down. It's an affront to the religion and the tradition. Similarly, other issues which are technically allowed (let's say allowing women to wear Tzitzis), should not be done simply because of that. Women wearing phylacteries might be technically allowed, but Orthodox Jewish Women do not so such things.
- (Seventh- Since the issue keeps coming up from my readers who keep emailing me: Women writing a Sefer Toah is not even included in this rule, Rabbeinu Yerucham, a Rebbe of the Rosh, father of the Tur, writes that since a woman is not obligated to wear Tefillin, which is true according to everyone because its an explicity passage in the Talmud, then she cannot write Tefillin. Since she cannot write Tefillin, then the writing of a woman does not have the halachik status of writing, so even if she wrote a Tefillin or Sefer Torah, the writing is not even called writing. It's not that her Torah is invalid, it's not even called written! It's not different than a computer writing a Torah. A person has to do it with certain intentions. But I'm not trying to get in a fight wit hthe female Sofer because that will get noone anywhere, because she's not going to repent, I won't convince her. She has to realize it on her own.)
I finally got that out. Good. Now I can sleep...