Monday, March 20, 2006

The Jewish Code of Law...Maybe

I recall a while back, Jewboy posted about the issue of drinking on Purim. A commenter noted that, often times, things get out of hand on Purim, and maybe certain actions need to be taken. Essentially, Jewboy’s response was that we cannot repeal a section of the Shulchan Aruch.

This Shulchan Aruch is commonly thought of as our Jewish Code of Law. To repeal a section of it would be to uproot tradition and law that has been practiced for thousands of years, right? This got me to thinking: if this is the case, why is it that there are laws that frum Jews of all ends of the spectrum do not heed? I’ve someone say many times, something along the lines of, “yeah, the mechaber or the Mishna Berura rules like that, but the minhag is not like that.” What laws are too sacred to touch, and which could be in the category of “the minhag is not like that…”?

Let me begin by saying that my intentions here are not to knock people who may not follow these laws of the Shulchan Aruch that many do not – rather just to ponder about what singles out certain things as “untouchable”, or on the other hand, subject to non-compliance.

One such law which comes to mind is one by Hilchos Tefillah, which basically says that when praying with the congregation, upon completion of the Amidah, it is forbidden to take the three steps forward until the leader reached Kedushah, or at the very least, the beginning of his repetition. As a side note, I do not wish to say that on the grand scheme of things, this is at the top of the “most important halachos” list. Clearly, if one finds this to be a burden, and also has other, more fundamental issues to deal with, one should deal with more fundamental things. That being said, I find it hard to believe that it’s a big deal to stand in place for another 2 minutes to fulfill this obligation of the Shuchan Aruch’s.

Whatever the reason is, this is a law that the masses do not seem to follow. There are some that do, but I would say that at least a majority do not. And I am not speaking of this majority as being the “Modern Orthodox”; rather, in any shul you go to, you are bound to see that the majority probably does not heed this rule. Again, there certainly is something to be said for “the way things are done”, but it was just curious to me: what makes this something where non-compliance is the norm, but we would scream for eternity if there were other parts of the Shulchan Aruch where the majority was non-compliant?

Just some food for thought…

Also, it should be noted that R’ Menashe Klein, in his question and answer set, “Mishneh Halachos” defends what the masses do, by saying that when one is in a crowded shul where people are constantly passing in front of daveners, it is possible to say that this is OK. He is not saying that this is the preferred method, rather, he is just being melameid zechus.


Blogger SephardiLady said...

I don't think the debate on drinking has anything to do with "repealing a section of the Shulchan Aruch." Rather it has to do with applying appropriate psakim (Mishnah Beruah, Yalkut Yosef, etc) and applying good old common sense.

If one wants to "be machmir" and get smashed (I digress, but I don't think that this qualifies as being machmir), use common sense and do it in your own home, not on the street where the potential for chillul Hashem is high. If one wants their children to get smashed in the name of frumkeit, let them get smashed at home and don't let them take their drinking to the streets and the Yeshiva where peer pressure sets in. Other parents might like their children to be influenced by a different psak (perhaps only having 2-3 cups of wine over the seudah) and do not want to have to deal with your son's drunkenness that strips them of the parental authority they deserve derived from being a parent.

And, if one wants to get smashed, make sure there is no potential for violating any other issurim in the Torah. So, hand over your car keys, don't embarrass your wife, and don't make a chillul Hashem.

1:02 PM, March 20, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


I don't want this to turn into a forum for whether or not we have to get smashed on Purim - we have another 11 months till that hock comes up. That was just an example that got me thinking. Obviously, one can think of a plethora of examples that we view as staples or "untouchables", but we could also think of things that we may let fall by the wayside....

1:15 PM, March 20, 2006

Blogger Shua said...

Interesting post...I'm not quite 100% sure why some things become norm and others have "fallen by the wayside". In my opinion, Rabbis have traditionally held a tremendous amount of sway over the generations, in modifying their followers' behaviors. In this case, for some reason, the Rabbis have avoided educating (berating?) their congregants/students/etc. about this Halacha. This is just a guess, but perhaps in modern times (20th+21st cent), pulpit Rabbis are hesitant to discuss certain issues which directly impact how someone davens in Shul (for fear of upsetting their congregants). I say "certain" issues, because Rabbis do talk about talking in Shul because congregants can fully understand why that is inappropriate. However, perhaps something which may be difficult to relate to, they avoid. There are probably other areas of Halacha (even in the Shul) which are not "observed" as well as they perhaps should be. For example, even during the repitition of the amidah, we are not supposed to be learning Torah. We should be following along in the Siddur and responding "Amen". (I'm not saying I alwasys do that, but....)

1:38 PM, March 20, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Great example (no learning during repitition). Personally, at most minyanim I go to I PURPOSELY learn during the repition - that way, people that talk during the repitition, that would probably come hock me to death if I were sitting there not doing anything, leave me alone.

Nowhere does it say that this is the preferred course of action...yet I take this path anyway. The question is, why, by this halacha do I rationalize not doing what I'm supposed to, but by other, more sacred halachos, I wouldn't do the same thing. I think you definitely share some insight with your previous post. However, I see people even in the far, far right shuls not standing in place after the Amidah...I don't know that this is because the Rabbis choose not to address it - I've seen these ultra right wingers emphasize some pretty obscure stuff.

1:49 PM, March 20, 2006

Blogger Shua said...


I as well, usually learn during the repetition as well, rationalizing that it is better than talking (and it is). Although sometimes I end up talking anyway! (Geez, I feel like I'm in confession with the priest). Neither is preferred, of course, but we all rationalize and make choices throughout our daily life as to what's preferable. The beauty of Judaism is that there is always an area that we can improve in and get better at. For me personally, I try and focus on the basics (which are hard for me to master) rather than some of these more obscure Halachot. I am not saying that is the right way, but I guess any improvement is better than none. Who knows at the end of the day, which mitzvot are the most important? What bothers me a lot, is that some things are obviously a grey area, and some people would rather focus all their energies into those grey areas, rather than basics (that everyone agree are definitely Halacha) such as rampant Lashon Harah, or stealing (cheating on taxes, cheating employers/employees, etc.)It seems to me those people are misguided at best, and at worst, not driven by the desire to serve G-D, but to SHOW how religious they are to OTHERS.

2:48 PM, March 20, 2006

Blogger Jewboy said...

Interesting thoughts, Alanlaz. I do not know fully why practices are such, but just look at the differences of Ashkenazim and SSephardim. Ashkenazim ,mostly follow the Ramah, while Sephardim mostly follow the Mechaber. So I think we can see that while the Shulchan Aruch is still the fundamental Halachic work, there is room for people following different psakim.

To touch on another topic that was brought up, I think the sanctity of Chazaras Hashatz and Kaddish needs to be emphasized more. A glance at the words of the Mechaber and Mishna Brura on these topics will certainly convince one of this. I always found it odd that people tend to talk the most during these times, which are actually points in davening that talking is frowned on very much. I'm always bothered when people try to speak to me during Chazaras Hashatz; I try to just nod and make it clear that I don't want to talk.

4:42 PM, March 20, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The worst is when I see parents talking to each other, but then when there child does, there is an immidiate reprimand, as there should be, but it sends mixed messages to the child. Maybe the parent rationalizes that what they are saying is more important at that moment than davening?

5:44 PM, March 20, 2006

Anonymous aishel said...

People pick and choose. People will go to two different rabbi's for two issues because they know that they won't get the answer they want for both issues from the same rabbi. So they follow two rabbis on two issues. Again, people just pick and choose.

6:35 PM, March 20, 2006

Anonymous Erica said...

Interesting points. Do you think it would be safe to say that even if the majority of people don't do a certain thing, if it is mentioned in the Shulchan Aruch, we should try to do it if at all possible? Like you said, it takes two minutes to stand in place until the chazan reaches kedusha?

I guess I figure that since we don't know the rewards for mitzvos, except for kibud av and sheluach hakahn, we should try to keep as many as possible regardless of what other people do or how they come to disregard some and not others. For all we know, standing in place until the chazan reaches kedusha might guarantee us a bigger place in olam haba then giving $1 to every meshulach that asks for tzedakah....

9:40 PM, March 20, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oftentimes the minhag avot takes a different direction that the explicit halacha. I know that the Mishnah Beruah sometimes points out areas where this is true and even though he might advocate for one direction, he will either state that one should not correct others or will bring the names of authorities that say otherwise.

I know that many minhagim that have developed over the years go opposite of the halacha in the Shulchan Aruch, and yet we are careful to maintain these minhagim.

Like aishel says, sometimes we pick and choose. While we should certainly try to improve our observance, I am not sure that the shulchan aruch is the only authority on our level of observance. Certainly the minhagim of our avot as well as the positions of other authorities should not be discounted when choosing the proper derech.

11:18 PM, March 20, 2006

Blogger SephardiLady said...

Sorry, the above is mine. And of course the proper path should include consultation with your local Rav too.

11:20 PM, March 20, 2006

Anonymous Greg said...

It's about time you read Rupture and Reconstruction.

11:39 AM, March 21, 2006

Blogger Zazy said...

sephardilady, the problem arises when the minhag yisrael follows a minhag ta'os (mistaken minhag).

5:28 PM, March 21, 2006

Blogger SephardiLady said...

Zazy-I agree.

9:06 PM, March 21, 2006

Anonymous aishel said...

I think that this post on, and the posts that follow, sheds a lot of insight into this topic

3:44 PM, March 23, 2006


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