Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yes, I am ignorant, etc.

There has been so much talk about how much I am ignorant, and how unpolitical and incorrect my Jewish-centered point of view is on issues of politics, race, religious, and relationships with those around me.

The truth is that every "free thinker" is brainwashed to some point of view, ideology, or creed. The difference between a free thinker and a ignorant pundit is that a free thinker chooses who or what will form their thoughts and opinions, and ignorant individuals just go with whatever is programmed into their head.

When it comes to religion, there is halacha and then there is minhag (custom)... then there is what everyone around them does, thinks, or believes. For the most part, those who have read my blog for many years know that I have questioned all things, including minhagim and the things that many people do which make no sense at all, including uniform style of dress, elevated kashrut standards (e.g. "I only hold by X, but not Y although nobody will disagree that Y is kosher and/or halachically permissible," etc.) To many of these issues, I have fought against the ignorant base of "we do it this way" without reason. However, on other issues such as certain standards, if one wants to be part of the "in" crowd, e.g. be considered Lubavich, or be considered a certain level of frumkeit versus being thrown into the "modern" crowd, then certain things need to be followed.

In my circles, if people know that I have questioned the possibility of eating Triangle-K hechured food as kosher AT the level of kashrus we hold by (and Ahuva, thank you for your clarification about the oil issue as being an ongoing question -- I will check that out and learn what they do or don't do), they wouldn't eat at our homes. Further, they wouldn't let their kids come over and play with our kids (when we have them), and down the line, our reputation as being a certain level of observance of Jewish law might come into question. For these reasons, there are certain things that I just have to go along with, even though I know what is the mainstream belief might not necessarily be true.

For other topics, e.g. politics, beliefs and world views, obviously I have shaped my mind from a Torah perspective, and so I have (and will continue to work on this for the rest of my life) trained my eyes to see things from a Torah perspective, namely the perspective of a Jew, and often this will SEVERELY clash with the world views of what is politically correct or with what is accepted within our liberal "free thinking" American society. Topics such as whether goyim have free will, etc. are topics which will upset most individuals, especially ignorant ones who don't take the time to understand how G-d creates and controls EVERY DETAIL of the world's functioning and how everything happens according to G-d's plan. I won't apologize for these, and I have adopted them as truths which will make many see me as ignorant.

So be it.


Ahuva said...

"Topics such as whether goyim have free will, etc. are topics which will upset most individuals, especially ignorant ones who don't take the time to understand how G-d creates and controls EVERY DETAIL of the world's functioning and how everything happens according to G-d's plan."

You know, Zoe, that there are many FFB yeshiva folks out there who would find that paragraph a bit offensive. You can question whether or not *people* have free will in light of the fact that G-d controls every detail of the world's function, but to suggest that G-d provides the goyim less freedom than He does the yidden is pretty offensive and is FAR from an accepted mainstream Orthodox belief.

There are Torah Jews that support Obama and Torah Jews that support McCain. Pros and cons can be found in both platforms, as far as Torah Judaism is concerned.

There are those who would say that only the ignorant see halacha as black and white.

One of the traps that we tend to fall into as BTs is that it's harder for us to see the complexity of these issues. BTs tend to fall into "only one way is the right way" sort of thinking because we don't have the background necessary to really grasp all the issues involved. My boyfriend, who studied under Rav Aaron Soloveitchik, frequently points out these sorts of mistakes to me.

Of course, keep in mind that I am saying all this as a proud member of the Modern community which is in no way inferior to that of Lubavich. :)

Zoe Strickman said...

I was thinking about that one, e.g. the free will question as I was writing it, and I had a feeling I would get some dissent about it. Who knows. With a piece of torah here, and a piece of torah there and strong lessons from my teachers WITHOUT checks from other orthodox individuals such as your boyfriend (whos Rav I respect), it's hard to know which thoughts to check and which to just accept blindly. There's a lot on the list of yiddishkeit "to-dos" to figure out.

By the way, can you invite me to your blog?

Yossi Ginzberg said...

I don't think any intelligent person would question your right to keep any standard of kosher you like (especially if you fear the opinions of others so much), nor your right to consider non-Jews a lower form of life (no matter how offensive some might find this).

What IS an issue is your right to present these views in a public forum, where they will be passed on to a large audience thanks to the blog aggregators, and will create the impression that such views are either halachic or acceptable to most Jews.

The chutzpa of saying "WE don't accept rabbi X", when rabbi x is clearly a greater scholar than you are, is a brazen perversion of the halachic view of respecting Torah scholars.

Believe what you want, but don't publish it. I won't publicize what I think of people like you.

Zoe said...

So Yossi, what *IS* your point of view on the subject matter?

Anonymous said...

Sure, since you asked, I’ll be happy to lay out my understanding of proper Jewish behavior on these issues.

Let me first say that I make no accusation that you are ignorant: I don’t know you, and haven’t been a long-time blog reader. I do think you are showing signs of that very common Frum disease, arrogance born of a lack of quality Jewish education. It’s a common problem, and stems from having been taught by incompetent teachers, so that all Jewish issues get the same stress. Thus one equates minhag with Halacha, and conflates a rabbinical ban with a Torah law.

Understanding properly, Halacha can be equated to civil law. Just like Federal law, state law, municipal ordinance, and so on, Halacha has many different “layers” and priorities. In the same way illegal parking is wrong and bank robbery is wrong, but the two are still very different in terms of punishment and how they are handled, Halacha too has many nuances. Knowing what comes from where and how important it is, and where it fits into the framework of the religion, is very important.

For example: Different groups of Orthodox feel very differently about hair coverings for women. Would you dare say that a woman who exposes a little hair is not frum? The same applies to a million other areas, like Passover foods, eruv, tznius, and so on.

Sometimes these are very nuanced. For example, there are many rabbis who do not allow men shaking hands with women, ever. Others say just not to initiate, but if the woman sticks her hand out, it is worse to embarrass her than to shake. Both sides have sources, both sides have the right to feel as they wish, but anyone who says the other side is just wrong is an ignorant arrogant boor.

Similarly, questioning the hechsher of a rabbi known to be a religious and prominent scholar is just wrong. If you don’t want to eat his products, fine, don’t. But publicly shaming him by speaking lashon hara, affecting his parnoso, shaming a talmid chacham, lack of honor for a scholar, all these things don’t become permitted just because you decided it isn’t up to your standards. If you think they do, you need to learn more mussar. Fear of people not eating at your house is not a permission slip for anything, certainly not for this.

This applies to politics and world-view, too. In a public forum, you represent the entire world, as Pirkei Avos says, so chilul Hashem is in your hands. Just like the guys who felt they need to let the world know that the Tanya presents certain racist views, leading to a major chilul Hashem, you can either do Kiddush Hashem or chilul Hashem, just by what you post. Chilul Hashem is among the very worst sins in Judaism, and according to many poskim is also worth dieing for.

A final comment: chumros are good and fine, should you wish to embrace them. Chassidus was based to a good extent, though, on rejecting self-mortification in Judaism, with the exception of certain rebbes who endorsed it for themselves while rejecting it for the Chassidim. Hashem gave us a beautiful world, a world with so many allowed pleasures, that we should embrace it and thus be grateful to Him. Those that are forbidden are a test, no more. Adding permitted things to those not allowed is not meritorious, rather it’s a slap in the face of G-d.

Imagine that you did something heroic, and were invited to dinner at the White House as an honor. The President gets a kosher caterer, new dishes, etc., and sits you at his right for the dinner. When the first course comes, he tries to give you some, but you push it away saying, “Thanks, but I brought a peanut-butter sandwich with me”.

Would not this scenario be a shameful response? Hashem gave us a beautiful and wonderful world to enjoy. There are many rules, but understanding them is an absolute necessity to avoid acting foolishly.

In all cases, bear in mind that creating a public chilul Hashem is among the absolute worst things one can do, so always avoid that at any cost.

Yossi Ginzberg

Anonymous said...

An added thought, based on the Meoros Hagedolim: Jewish opinions on reincarnation vary widely, but Chassidic thought certainly believes in them. One of the corollaries born of this is that usually a human reborn as an animal NEEDS to be eaten with a blessing or as part of a shabbat meal in order to effect the "tikkun neshama" (correction to it's soul). On occasion, said eating NEEDS to be by a child or descendant, working something like Kaddish, so that the good deed of the child reflects well on the troubled soul. By refusing to eat certain foods even though they are certified reliably kosher, one deprives oneself of this opportunity to help these souls achieve a full tikkun, as well as extending the period of pain for this soul who might be a grandparent or other beloved relative.
Whether one is part of Lubavitch or another stream, the concept of "harbei derachim laMakom", there are many paths to G-d, predates all these accumulated differences, so it is wise to err on the side of caution and not be overly concerned with what the neighbors might think.
Yossi Ginzberg

Zoe Strickman (at work) said...

Hah! So Yossi, according to your logic, a person holding by cholov yisroel should drink non-cholov yisroel milk (which by many opinions [even those who keep cholov yisroel] are 100% kosher) because perhaps a reincarnated soul is now in the food which we are refraining from eating?!?

I liked your first argument better -- this one is a stretch. That being said, PLEASE G-D DO NOT REINCARNATE ME INTO CHOLOV STAM MILK!

-Zoe (at work)

Anonymous said...

No, I didn't say that.

I said that one should keep their own strictures...to themselves! If you don't drink milk X, fine, put don't put in a public forum that one who is "frummer" shouldn't do so, because you never know who is reading and who /what might be affected.

It's a free world, we all have free choices to make, and Judaism believes in that, too. Choosing what to eat is one of those choices. My issue with you was the posting implying that certain hechshers aren't good enough, nbot to take away your choice of what to eat.

I taught my own kids not to use the erev where we lived, because it did not meet my standards. At the same time, I insisted that they respect those who did use it, and never ever think they were "better" because they didn't carry. B"H the system worked, and they are frum yet respectful of others, even those who are different.

Yossi Ginzberg

Meir B said...

1) Chassidud may or may not say that non-Jews don't have free will. I don't know. I do know that most Orthodox Jewish thinkers throughout history have almost certainly not agreed with that statement.

2) You're making a bigger deal of triangle-K than it is. I grew up drinking Motts apple juice and no one ever said a word to me or my parents and we had many Lubavitch and other Orthodox friends. If you don't want to drink it, fine. But I doubt very many people pay attention or even know what hechsher things like Minute Maid and Motts drinks have.

Ahuva said...

Meir B> Apple juice does not require a hechsher at all. It would be the equivalent to not trusting a triangle-k on your package of paper plates (which doesn't require a hechsher either).

Zoe, I'm sorry I haven't gotten that invite out to you yet. I'll try to get to it before shabbos.