Rationalizing Torah


rabbi-lipschutzThe ‘Maharat Rabba’ Gets the Red Carpet in the Five Towns

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

This week’s parsha begins with the words, “Zos chukas haTorah.” Rashi quotes Chazal who explain the use of the term chukas in describing the laws of parah adumah. He says that the word chok represents a Divine law, the reasons for which we are not privy to. The nations of the world scoff at us, asking why we observe these strange laws and customs. Instead of engaging in debates with them, offering up explanations and rationales, we are to state simply that we follow these laws because G-d commanded us to. End of conversation.

But some of us tend not to be content with this approach. We seek to understand the deeper wisdom behind the mitzvos and the reasons for the gezeiros derabonon. We believe that by attaching a reason to a mitzvah, we will enhance its observance. If we can explain the word of G-d in contemporary terms, the thinking is, we can bring more people into the tent of Torah and expand the popularity of its observance. Offering explanations for the mitzvos will not only make us more effective in kiruv, we presume, but it will strengthen our own observance.

One can’t deny that there may be some validity to this approach at times. Yet, when we fail to take Chazal’s advice seriously, we pay the price. We open the door to a form of Judaism a la carte, with people choosing to observe the mitzvos that “resonate” with them and suit their taste, while neglecting those that appeal less to their reasoning or emotions.

As an example, let’s take the mitzvah of shechitah. The reason we eat only animals whose necks were slit with a swift cut of a shochet’s sharpened blade is not because that is the humane method of killing animals. The reason we eat meat only from animals whose innards were checked and found to be blemish-free is not because those animals are healthier.

Why, then, do we scrupulously adhere to the smallest details of ritual slaughter? For the sole reason that we are required to follow the word of G-d as commanded in the Torah, as delineated in the Gemara, and as codified by the Shulchan Aruch. A mashgiach must attest that the shochet cut the majority of the two simanim, the koneh and the veshet. The difference between kosher and non-kosher, between something fit for consumption and neveilah, could be as small as a hair’s breadth, or “kechut hasa’arah” in Torah parlance.

Rashi states in Maseches Sanhedrin (90) that one who believes in techiyas hameisim because he came to that conclusion on his own and not because he believes the drashos of Chazal is a kofer, an apostate. We follow the commandments, chukim and mishpatim because we believe with our innermost fiber that G-d created us for that purpose. Once we inject our own human reasoning into the equation, we are no longer following the will of G-d.

Once we begin interpreting the will of G-d for the masses, we lose our footing. We lose perspective. We lose appreciation for the mitzvos as we bring them down to our superficial, fallible level.

And there is another way we lose. Witness the ongoing campaign by the Conservatives and Chovevei Torah-types, who consider themselves more advanced than we are, to involve themselves in the business of kashrus. Since they believe that the laws of shechitah were created to provide a humane form of animal slaughter, and the laws of kashrus were designed to provide us with healthy and clean meat, it follows that if a slaughterhouse does not conform to their perception of clean and humane, the meat is unfit for consumption.

We, who live in neighborhoods overflowing with religious Jews like ourselves, are deluded into thinking that there are millions of us out there. We fail to realize how small our numbers are in relation to the population of the United States. We don’t appreciate the kindness that G-d has showered upon us in providing such a wide array of kosher products for our use. When you think about it, it is a miracle that international food companies such as Coca-Cola and Proctor & Gamble permit rabbonim to snoop around in their facilities, and actually pay them to do so, all in order to sell an additional small amount of their product.

The same group which, since its founding, has wreaked havoc upon Jewish communities, misleading uninformed Jews into believing that it was comporting with Judaic law and tradition as it drove them away from authentic observance, now seeks to bring kashrus under its jurisdiction. The same group that permitted chillul Shabbos and estranged tens of thousands of fellow Jews from mitzvos now has the temerity to dictate to us the laws of kashrus. These same people are setting up an organization to operate as a ‘rabbinic’ kosher supervising agency.

As did mosrim of old, they are engaging in a massive propaganda campaign through a compliant Jewish and secular media, bashing Orthodoxy and its “archaic” standards. How ironic. The people who uphold the Torah, follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, and brought monotheism and a system of civil laws, jurisprudence and decency to a pagan and depraved world are being lectured by charlatans who have destroyed for their followers every vestige of the very religion they claim to promote.

These same leaders who have robbed their followers of every remnant of kedushas Yisroel by substituting Torah law with fictitious “halachot” and other innovations seek to undermine the system of kashrus which took so long to establish.

By parading the unproven allegations of PETA and other aberrant groups through the press that “kosher is not really clean,” and that Orthodoxy does not guarantee workers’ rights and respect for the individual, who knows how many people these “humanitarians” will cause to turn away in revulsion when they see a kosher symbol on a product?

How many will begin questioning our system of kashrus while swallowing the pop-propaganda of these arrogant groups?

Let us wake up and put a stop to this misguided and dangerous crusade before it is too late. We look to supervising agencies to announce a policy that will not tolerate a mockery of the laws of kashrus which Jews have fought so valiantly to adhere to.

By trying to make sense of the Torah and make it relevant to the modern age, it ends up becoming adulterated and poisoned of its true intent. Its laws are turned on their head and become viewed with disdain.

By debating these charlatans and granting them credence, we are allowing them to establish a beachhead and a foothold. We have to head them off and let it be known in no uncertain terms that the laws of the Torah are non-negotiable. We will not countenance the accreditation of Magen Tzedek or anything like it.

The error of seeking to modernize the Torah and have it speak a modern dialect, which has reared its ugly head in Chovevei Torah circles, is now being permitted to spread and encroach on traditional Orthodoxy. When a Young Israel in the Five Towns of Long Island can invite the infamous Rabbah Maharat to serve as a scholar-in-residence for a Shabbos without fear that its neighbors will ostracize it, we have begun to lose the battle.

The invitation by this shul was clearly an attempt to make a statement supporting the granting of semicha to the woman, who calls herself Orthodox. While many had felt that the Rabbah Maharat debate was over, apparently they were in error and the urge to undo centuries of halachic custom is alive and well in our midst. The attempt to legitimatize the free-thinkers of today’s society was given the red carpet in Long Island no matter what title they introduced her with.

We wait for the parent organization to ensure that this aberration does not become the norm. We wait for local leaders to stand up for their convictions and lay down the rule of law, declaring that this behavior cannot be tolerated. For if not, we will be faced with yet another rupture in our midst, which we can ill afford.

There are many fragmentations in our society. There are many different ways to look at many different ideas. But when certain unalterable principles are toyed with, we must all stand together to protest the breach.

Many of the improvisers have good intentions as they endeavor to improve Judaism. Throughout the generations, there have been countless people who thought that they knew better, that Judaism had to be tailored to conform to modern social norms, and that Yiddishkeit had to be viewed by the surrounding society as “proper” and “socially acceptable.” These misguided people, who left the Torah weltanschauung behind, are remembered in infamy. They are gone, while authentic Judaism lives. They assimilated and there is no zeicher of them. We have an obligation to try to help save today’s innovators from meeting the same fate. We have to do all we can to prevent them from doing more damage to themselves and to Klal Yisroel.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Right on! I think we should ALL agree not to accept any Tzedaka money for our Mosdos from the 5 Towns until this is widely condemned in those communities!!

  2. 1) Are you saying that a woman can’t be “scholar in-residence” because G-d told you so? Where? Would you invite Devorah to be “scholar in residence”?

    2)who appointed you the “kosher police”? why do you feel it’s ok to withdraw a hescher from a PIzza place if it has a TV, but no one has the right to enforce that the laws of the land are followed, Dina Malchusa Dina, which is Halocha last I checked.

    These are serious qoustions, please censors let them be posted and addressed.

  3. Rav Elya Meir Bloch lamented the mistake of Chareidi Jewry in the first half of the century to reject ideas that were Torah true because of whom they came from (limmud Nach, Lashon Hakodesh etc.). Let us not make the same mistake and ignore Torah ideals such as avoiding tza’ar ba’alei chaim just because there is a push to do so by people whose commitment to Torah can be questioned.

  4. #1
    How stupid do you sound?? What does the five towns have to do with this? The shul happens to be located in the five towns area. You are probably from brooklyn, correct?

  5. Regardless of your views about modern orthodoxy, conservative Judaism or whether it is permissible to mistreat workers or animals in food production, it is wrong to mislead readers who do not know better about the campaigns conducted by YCT alumni and conservative rabbis. None have claimed that their seal of approval is a kashrut hechsher. These false accusations are intended to “prove” the halachic flaws in these campaigns. Both groups have been absolutely clear that these are not kashrut standards. They are advocating that people who agree with their views about animal welfare (not rights) and labor policy should only buy products that meet ethical standards as certified by ethical seals. I have issues with the standards these groups use, but there is nothing in our tradition that suggets that this is an improper approach (and there have been examples in our history of leading rabbonim that assured otherwise kosher items for ethical reasons). As for Maharat Hurwitz, she did not receive smicha. If you have to resort to misleading statements to “discredit” your opponent, then you have a very weak argument in the first place.

  6. Rabbi Lipschutz – comparing conservative judaism to the Maharat – while it may make you feel good, and simultaneously throws some “red meat’ towards those who think like you – is nevertheless irrational, a very fundamentally flawed comparison, and not at all valid.

    Not even worthy of a response…

  7. R’Soloveitchik ruled that men and women are not permitted to sit together in a shul even for a board meeting due to “U’MKDASHAI TIRA’U” -ex fortiori-that a women cannot address the congregation.

  8. To what?:So is the issue inviting a woman, or inviting Sara Hurwitz, who with whatever due respect is no Devorah Haneviah?

  9. Commenter 2,

    When in fact was the last time you looked? Can you cite references for such a halacha (other than the skeptic bloggers)?

    I am sure that is where your knowledge about the such a halacha would come from and obviously you have no clue what it encompases.

  10. Agree with #1. You put your money where your mouth is, and then we will think you are for real. Otherwise its just all talk.

  11. Either quote Rashi in Sanhedrin honestly according to the most accepted girsa’os, or base you statement on the language of the Gemara. Don’t just use what’s convenient because it supports your argument. It makes it appear that you’re being conclusory, Ch’v.

  12. The invitation to Sara Hurwitz was made after seeking out the guidance of respected poskim and following the clear guidelines set forth by them for the Rav and that Kehila. The invitation to Sara Hurwitz was extended with the clear position that the Rav does not, and will not, ever accept the proposition of female ordination, or, the title of Rabbah as suggested by Rabbi Avi Weiss. Sarah Hurwitz graciously accepted the invitation upon that understanding. Furthermore, the Rav specifically enumerated his position to the entire Kehila, both prior to her attendance and during the course of the visit.

  13. #3,

    That is completely false. rabbi Bloch never said that. Kindly provide a source.

    Additionally, how does that turn this garbage into a good thing?

  14. #17- please provide the names of those poskim. please see Rabbi Aryeh Z. Ginzberg’s article this week in the Five Towns Jewish Times, he says local rabbonim were not consulted.
    Ms. Hurwitz’ invitation seems to me precisely what the flotilla to Gaza was, nothing more than a provocation. We constantly hear & read about the necessity of achdus in our community, in that light, this was not well thought out by those involved-the result is evident by the remarks here.

  15. To the best of my knowledge it is not Rabbi Bloch who said it rather Rav yaakov Kamenetsky and he did not exactly say it as itwas quoted by #3 since it would have been somewhat ridiculous as the simple fact that Nach and Loshon Kodesh were around before the times of maskilim would mean they were being learnt and understood long before Eliezer Ben Yehuda arrived.
    What the Godol did say was that the Maskilim “stole” Nach from us and “stole” loshon kodesh from us.
    As for Matzav posting Rabbi Lifshutz’s article, Kudos to Matzav and Kudos to Rabbi Lifshutz at least someone is willing to take a Public Stand in defense of our torah and our Mesorah regardless of whether it will cost them money or not.
    When Moses Mendelsohn (who was “orthodox”) put out his “biur” there were many who approved of it and gave “haskomos” finally the Torah would be availible in German. Other Gedolim astutley saw Mendelsohns intention and condemned it.
    History proved them right.
    We as well would be wise to look underneath the veneer of orthodoxy and see what an attempt at fighting the Mesorah of Klal Yisroel is. After all Sara Horowitz is an advisor to the Orthodox Jewish Feminist Alliance (or whatever they call themselves) read their literature and decide for yourselves if there is anything orthodox about them.

  16. He did say it. It is in a letter printed in the sefer Mitzvas Hashalom (first edition) where he writes about the participation of people from Telz Yeshiva in Yom Ha’atzma’ut ceremonies in Cleveland.

  17. Dear Rabbi Lipshutz,

    The problem with your opinion is your lack of knowledge and the arrogance with which you express your opinion. The areas of ignorance range from your lack of knowledge of halacha, your inability to learn chumash, and your inability to differentiate between pshat and drush. Worst of all you think that your drush is fact. Consequently, you make inferences in halacha that are not factual.

    Your lack of understanding of modern othodoxy is appauling inlight of your critique. Your arrogance is most visible when you attack that which you now nothing about; not from a halachic,nor a historical basis. You owe many people mechilla as this is a public forum and
    you have much to do tshuva for.

    If you would like to become informed of facts please feel free to email me at kup1060@aol.com

  18. I am a Cconservative Jew — I was raised in a Conservative synagogue, and I belong to one in Virginia now. However, I agree with you 100% on Magen Tzedek. It is an incredibly foolish waste of resources. I see no need to “reinvent” Kashrut — not that it is ours to reinvent in the first place. I have looked at the “Standards” that they have promulgated. Every cause, plus the kitchen sink, has been thrown into these Standards. Insofar as I can tell, so far the proponents of Magen Tzedek have done everything possible to ensure a particular result – that the MT program and the Standards reflect their particular vision and world view, which is then marketed as being the application of Jewish ethics. That vision, particularly as it has been developed to this point, will not resonate with most people who purchase kosher products.

  19. “Throughout the generations, there have been countless people who thought that they knew better, that Judaism had to be tailored to conform to modern social norms, and that Yiddishkeit had to be viewed by the surrounding society as “proper” and “socially acceptable.”
    The implied extension of R. Lipchutz’s logic is that all mitzvos including d’rabbanons need no explanation or rationale, they should be performed solely because the Rabbis told us to. In that case we can throw out all of Talmud Bavli and Poskim, who seemed to feel the need to justify their opinions.
    R. Lipschutz is intellectually dishonest and is misrepresenting Judaism. Not everyone who reads this site buys his party line.

  20. DEAR BEN TORAH #25,

    Since you do not know me, your assumptions
    that I pray in a temple and that my Rabbi is female, makes you a choshed biksherim. That being the case do you still want to call yourself a Ben Torah. Secondly, if you are so sure of your position why hide behind your facade of Torah that you think is Emess. Come out of your closet with your name. Are you so fearful of your position that you need to hide behind false religiosity. Maybe the religion that you worship is not Yahaddus but is Fear.
    If you need counseling see a therapist. If you want to seriously discuss the issue you can reach me at kup1060@aol.com

    Shabbat Shalom

  21. #27 Sheldon,

    Why are you cowardly hiding behind a single screen name spreading your apikorsus? At least have the courage to put your full name to it.

  22. #28 YB

    As you can see I’ve given you my email. Secondly, my name is Sheldon Kupferman.
    Thirdly, I have not stated anything that could remotely be misconstrued as apikorsus. Again,
    what motivates you? Is it ignorance or arrogance.
    If it’s ignorance, then you need to become learned. If it’s arrogance, then you need to do tshuva and ask mechilla from those you have offended aond only then go seek help from a therapist.

  23. “…that Judaism had to be tailored to conform to modern social norms, and that Yiddishkeit had to be viewed by the surrounding society as “proper” and “socially acceptable.”

    So, Judaism is not tailored to conform to society’s norms? I present to you today the gentile holiday of Father’s Day, so lauded in this and other frum websites. I am not against Father’s Day, I am for it, we can learn alot from the goyim and if we emulate their good attributes, that is to our credit. But you yeshivishers who scream chukos hagoyim at every opportunity, then twist your face backwards to celebrate a most un-masoiradik holiday.