By Yisroel Feldman, Novato, Ca.
On August 12, Matzav posted a feature titled “Conservative Rabbi Says Georgia’s Kosher Law is Unconstitutional Because it Favors the Orthodox.” It was about a group of Conservative rabbis who want the American governments to give them legal recognition in giving kosher certifications. In the comments discussion there, I posted a remark (#5) explaining how the Reform and Conservative movements, with their mistaken philosophies of “modernizing” Judaism, are thus openly stating that their “Judaism” is NOT the same Judaism/Torah that our nation has carried throughout the centuries.
After that, a few readers posted remarks that the Reform and Conservative people can easily retort that in what we think of as “true” Judaism, there are many things that have been “changed.” This excellent point certainly requires elaboration.
R. Leibel and Yanky, you made an excellent observation. Reform and Conservative people certainly DO point to various aspects and events of our Torah HaKdosha and exclaim: “Ah ha! You see that our Torah changes!!”
Of course, these items they point to are not proofs at all, for they have nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of change! B’Ezras HaShem, let us look at a few of them.
1.) The incident with the daughters of Tzelafchad had nothing to do with “changing” HaShem’s laws of inheritance. Rather, the story, as related in Bamidbar/Numbers, chapter 27, verses 1-11, is as follows. The four daughters of Tzelafchad approached Moshe Rabaynu and his colleagues with the problem that their deceased father had no sons to inherit him. Now, if his property were to revert to other parts of his family, his particular name would be lost. So, to keep his name alive, they requested (see the commentary of Rashi) that either they be given their father’s property, or, that their mother should do a Yibum-marriage to their father’s brother (in which the deceased’s name IS kept stamped on the family; see Devarim/Deuteronomy chapter 25, verses 5-6).
The commentary of Rashi points out that the girls stressed that they were making these requests BECAUSE their father had no sons. They thus clearly implied that if their father had had any sons, they would have had no question at all. For they would have fully understood and fully respected that then, the sons would inherit, and they had no objection to that at all! So obviously, they were NOT a group of “progressive” women “demanding” equal hand-outs! Furthermore, the entire theme of their so-called “complaint” was not for anything for themselves, but rather for the preservation of the name OF THEIR FATHER! (Wow! The administrators of the women’s liberation organizations would probably call these daughters of Tzelafchad a bunch of REGRESSIVE Uncle Toms!)
Anyway, HaShem answered Moshe — again, HaShem was not “changing” any of His laws — inheritance goes from the father to his sons; only, in this particular instance where the father had no sons, then the inheritance goes to the man’s daughters.
2.) The Korbonos — the extensive service of animal and food offerings performed in the Beis HaMikdash — AS PROBABLY BEEN THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD AND MALIGNED AREA OF OUR RELIGION!!!
They have been called primitive and even barbaric ancient practices that were abolished a long time ago.
First of all, the reason we are not making offerings right now is not because Judaism “changed” and “they” “abolished” the Korbonos!! The reason we are not making offerings right now IS BECAUSE WE ARE NOT ABLE TO!!
The armies of ancient Babylon and ancient Rome DESTROYED the Beis HaMikdash; ever since then, the various empires that ruled over Eretz Yisroel never allowed us to rebuild it. Today, we see how even a partial Israeli country has vehemently enraged the Arab world to make all out jihad on us. Those countries that are friendly and supportive of us, still, in order to make peace, advise us to give up this piece and that piece and that other piece and this other piece, etc. to the Arab terrorists! If even one of us makes even a slight move at the Temple Mount, the already violent situation explodes into a wild fireball of massacres of our people!
Furthermore, with our long centuries of exile, right now, we do not even know HOW to build a Beis HaMikdash!
So obviously, we are forced to wait until HaShem in His mercy, will bring the Geula Sh’laima, in which He will supernaturally give us an already made Beis HaMikdash!
We certainly pray and beg HaShem every day to very soon bring the Geula with the restored Beis HaMikdash and the reactivation of the Korbonos.
Now, many people heavily point to numerous verses in the section of TaNach called “The Prophets.” These transmissions of what HaShem instructed our holy Nevi’im — our ancient holy prophets, could be misread to sound like a call to end the Korbonos. For example: “What do I need your many offerings for? . . . Stop bringing the meaningless meal offerings!” (See Yeshaiyahu/Isaiah, chapter 1, verses 11-13.)
See the commentary of Rav Menachem Mendel Hirsch, ZT’L (son of Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, ZT’L), on the Haftora of Parshas D’varim. There, in great detail, Rav Hirsch vehemently condemns the twisted distortions that have been made of these and similar verses. He demonstrates that HaShem is, of course, not abolishing the mitzvos of the Korbonos. Rather, HaShem is denouncing the MISUSE of the Korbonos. The issue is that people would bring a fine Korbon to the Beis HaMikdash. Then, they would think that with the Korbon, they had fulfilled their obligation of serving HaShem, and they were now at liberty to do what they want.
This is a common problem that has existed in all religions up through the present time. People think that if they go to the house of worship and piously say a lot of prayers, then they are good religious people. Then, they have no qualms with, for example, engaging in under the table schemes of monetary deception and/or abusing their wives at home.
Such attitudes are totally wrong and the exact opposite of what the Torah is. Our Torah HaKdosha, the D’var HaShem — the Word of G-D, is to elevate and sanctify ALL aspects of our ENTIRE lives. Therefore, in Judaism, for example, the conducting of business transactions with the fullest honesty and integrity, and a man giving his wife the highest respect and dignity, are just as much full religious obligations as the saying of prayers on Yom Kippur!
So the procedures we do in the Beis HaMikdash, as extremely important as they are, are not the entire picture of service of HaShem. Rather, when we take an animal and offer it up to HaShem in the Beis HaMikdash, this is to be a symbol to us to teach us to now go and offer OURSELVES up to HaShem and fully serve Him WHEN WE GO OUT OF THE BEIS HAMIKDASH!!
But to (mis)use a Korbon (or a prayer) as a front to appear real frum while, for example, being mean to people, is a terrible perversion of what a Korbon is; it is these phoney Korbonos that HaShem condemns and declares: “Stop bringing the meaningless offerings!”
Very unfortunately, our Jewish brethren who are far from the truth of our Torah, are certainly far from the true understanding of the Korbonos. They have been fed the sick propaganda (mentioned above) of the offerings being long discarded primitive rituals. Therefore, in the making of their “modernized” prayer books, those prayers that ask HaShem for the restoration of the Korbonos were either reworded into different statements or totally removed!!
(The payrush on the Haftoros by the son used to come together with the whole set of the previous translation of the Hirsch Chumash; now, it is sold as a separate volume. See: http://www.judaicapress.com/product_info.php?cPath=28_65&products_id=463&osCsid=f3578ec95b7172accbfa9e7ff716b81d)
3.) When commanding us the various Mitzvos, HaShem many times stressed that we must “guard” these Mitzvos. Now “guarding” Mitzvos obviously means that we must be very careful to make sure that we properly do them; being very careful to make sure that we properly do them certainly includes taking appropriate measures to facilitate and ensure our doing of the Mitzvos.
Let us think about a little parable. A person has a job that starts at nine o’clock in the morning. Now, the rule of the job is that he needs to be at the job at nine o’clock in the morning. The terms of the job though does not say anything about what time he must leave his house to come to the job. However, the term of the job IS that he must be there at nine o’clock in the morning. Now, if the time it takes him to travel from his house to the place of the job is about a half an hour, then — in order to fulfill the terms of the job — he obviously MUST leave his house at eight thirty!
Furthermore, this is only when the modes of transportation that he uses are working well and thus the travel time is always just thirty minutes. But if, for example, there has been an increase of wild drivers in that area who often cause severe crashes on the highway, and when such an accident occurs, there can be a heavy traffic backup that can take even an hour to clear up, then, on such a day, the travel time is going to be a lot longer than thirty minutes! On such a day, the travel time could possibly be an hour and thirty minutes! So now — and it has nothing to do with that the rules of his job have “changed”; on the contrary, it is so that HIS POSITION WITH THE COMPANY WILL NOT “CHANGE” (in other words, we do not want him to get fired!) — he cannot first leave his house at eight thirty; instead, he will need to leave his house at seven thirty!
L’havdil, let us now look at an example from the Torah. A large area of our Torah is that of Shabbos and Yom Tov with numerous Mitzvos that lay out what we should and should not do on these holy days. One of these Mitzvos is that we cannot write or draw any letters or pictures on these days. Now, it is obviously understandable that when a person picks up a pen or a pencil or a crayon or a felt marker or any writing or drawing instrument, he feels an impulse to write or draw something with it. So it is basic common sense that since on Shabbos and Yom Tov we are not allowed to write or draw anything, we should also not handle writing or drawing instruments then either. In more recent centuries, our nation was in exile and we were thus not able to maintain a high degree of holiness of thought and action, and in general, people became weaker in self control. So then it became very prudent for our nation to declare an across the board set rule that on Shabbos and Yom Tov, we are not allowed to even handle any writing or drawing instruments.
So, when our Rabbonim thus declared these Halachos of Muktzeh, that a “K’li Shemelachto L’issur” — “a utensil that is used to perform an activity that is prohibited (on Shabbos and Yom Tov)” is termed “Muktzeh” — “off limits,” they obviously were not making any “changes” in our Torah. On the contrary, they were trying to PREVENT people from making any changes in Shabbos and Yom Tov!
Let us look at a similar related example, one that Yanky noted in his comment. In one month from now will be the
Yom Tov of Rosh Hashana. As is well known, one of the key aspects of our celebration of Rosh Hashana that the Torah instructs us is the Mitzva of blowing the Shofar. Now, the format of the Shofar blowing program is quite complex and it is something that we do not do every day. So when Rosh Hashana comes when we do need to use the Shofar, an average person may not have one available and may not know how to use it. So, he will go to where he can get one, and take it over to where there is a Talmid Chacham who can show him what to do with it.
On Rosh Hashana, this is perfectly fine activity. However, if the day of Rosh Hashana is a Shabbos (as it will be this year), then this is NOT permitted activity! For on Shabbos (and also Yom Kippur), we are not permitted to move items through the open public space, and here, the person is taking the Shofar out of the building where it was and carrying it through the street and into the building where the rabbi is.
As I explained above, in latter times, people are on a much lower level of holiness and have much less knowledge of the requirements of our Torah. So on a Rosh Hashana that is on Shabbos, very many people will understandably be very excited about it being the special holiday of Rosh Hashana, but will forget that it is also Shabbos and will certainly forget that we cannot carry things through the street on Shabbos. And in their eagerness to do the special Mitzva of Shofar, they will take Shofars all around from one place to another in order to get all the blowing done.
We see this phenomenon very much in our current era. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are now not called just “holidays,” they are called “The ‘High’ Holidays”! They are thus presented as being THE holidays that are really “important,” while all the other holy days of Shabbos and the other Yom Tovs — are, of course, very nice, but are not really “so crucial.”
Of course, the real truth is quite different. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are certainly, certainly, certainly, extremely sacred times with a holiness and connection with HaShem that is totally beyond our ability to even begin to comprehend!! As eminently great that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are though, in certain aspects, the Yom Tov of Sukkos/Simchas Torah that follows, is even greater!! In fact, the Yom Tov of Sukkos/Simchas Torah forms “Part II” of the whole “Yamim Noraim” — “Days of Awe” program; it starts with Rosh HaShana, continues with Yom Kippur, continues further with Sukkos, and reaches the concluding climax on Simchas Torah.
And, as eminently great as all the Yom Tov’s are, in certain aspects, the weekly Shabbos is even greater!! The weekly Shabbos is the starting point and the foundation of all the Yom Tovs. The lesson of Shabbos, that HaShem created and runs the world, IS the fundamental principle of all the Yom Tovs and, really, of all of Judaism! The various lessons of the different Yom Tovs are merely various specific aspects and manifestations of this central principle that HaShem created and continually operates the world that is taught by Shabbos.
(NOPE!! We do NOT believe in “Evolution”!! Instead, we vehemently believe that all schools must teach all children the REAL science that G-D created, I repeat, G-D, yes, CREATED the world!!!)
Therefore, it is entirely understandable that when the day of a Yom Tov coincides with a Shabbos, in all the special Yom Tov prayers, Shabbos is always mentioned first!
Therefore, when the Yom Tov of Rosh Hashana coincides with a Shabbos, as very great as Rosh Hashana is, and as very great as the ritual of the Shofar is, it cannot be done at the expense of Shabbos!
In general, we are not allowed to do “A Mitzva Haba’a B’Aveira” — “A Mitzva that is done by doing a crime.” To say it even more bluntly, “A Mitzva Haba’a B’Aveira” — “A Mitzva that is done by doing a crime” — IS NOT A MITZVA!! So, for example, if a person STEALS a Shofar and blows it, he did not do any Mitzva; he did not do his obligation, and he is thus required to go blow or hear it all over again from a kosher NON-STOLEN Shofar!!
Similarly, we cannot do the ritual of Shofar if it would involve the Aveira of breaking Shabbos. As we explained at length above, with the lower levels of spiritual awareness that most of us have, doing the Shofar on Shabbos would easily lead to the breaking of Shabbos. Therefore, our nation declared that when Rosh HaShana coinsides with Shabbos, we DO NOT blow the Shofar.
This exact pattern of logic applies to the day of Sukkos that coincides with Shabbos. With the lower levels of spiritual awareness that most of us have, in our eagerness to do the special Mitzva of Sukkos of using the Esrog-Lulav set, we would very likely forget about the rules of Shabbos and carry the Esrog-Lulav set all over. Therefore, our nation declared that on the day of Sukkos that coincides with Shabbos, we DO NOT use the Esrog-Lulav set.
Again, in these cases of the Shofar and the Lulav, we are obviously not, G-d Forbid, “changing” the Torah! On the contrary, we are doing this so that people will NOT change the Torah by forgetting about Shabbos!!
The “Takanos D’Rabonon” — “The enactments that our nation — and, specifically we mean those people of our nation who have attained high levels of holiness, integrity, and scholarship in our Torah and are thus fully equipped and qualified to lead us in observance and study of our Torah, whom we call the ‘Rabonim’ — The enactments that our Rabonim declared,” are NOT, G-D Forbid, “changes” in the Torah. On the contrary, our Rabonim are merely doing what HaShem has commanded us all to do, to use our basic common sense to do whatever is necessary to ensure that we DO NOT ever try to “change” the Torah!!