Rabbinic debates are not for the faint-hearted. They can be most intense, and sadly, can lead to tragic consequences. One of the most famous of Talmudic debates, that regarding the tanur shel achnai, led to the excommunication of Rabbi Eliezer Hagadol and the death of Rabban Gamliel (see here for further analysis).
Thoughts from the Daf
In our last post, we spoke about geneivat da’at, generating false goodwill, in the context of gid hanasheh. I imagine very few people reading this devar Torah have ever sent a cut-up thigh containing a gid hanasheh to a non-Jew, and fewer still would be able to identify the gid hanasheh even if it was staring them in the face.
One would not normally associate the prohibition to eat the gid hanashe, the sciatic nerve, with issues of business ethics. But related they are.
One of most famous mitzvot of the Torah is that of shiluach haken, the obligation to send away the mother bird before taking her little chicks or even unhatched eggs. So important is this mitzvah that it is one of the very few in which we are promised long life for its observance.
This well-know mitzvah has a “cousin”, one not quite as well-known—that of oto v’et beno, the prohibition to slaughter a mother and its offspring, cow and calf, on the same day.
One of the teachings that is ingrained in us from a young age is that every letter, and surely every verse and story, found in the Torah is of great significance. We have elsewhere discussed that this premise is far from unanimous, with some of the greatest rabbis throughout the ages maintaining that “the Torah speaks in the language of men” (see, for example, here) and hence, not every word is necessarily of great significance.
The least observed of biblical holidays is undoubtedly Rosh Chodesh. As a holiday based in the Temple, with no home or synagogue based rituals, there is little to distinguish Rosh Chodesh from any other day.
Dan Arielly begins his best-selling book, Predictably Irrational, by noting that for we humans it’s all relative. We do not by evaluate A by looking at A alone, we do so by comparing A to B.
That the “Orthodox” community is more careful about kosher food than kosher money is sadly obvious, and demonstrated all too often. Despite the Torah’s manifold commands relating to money, somehow these mitzvot are not blessed with the same mazel that surround the laws of kashrut. The yetzer hara, desire, for money is much, much greater than for some forbidden food. This yetzer hara is a fierce opponent and has been known to take down many an otherwise righteous individual.
That the “Orthodox” community is more careful about kosher food than kosher money is sadly obvious, and demonstrated all too often. Despite the Torah’s manifold commands relating to money, somehow these mitzvotare not blessed with the same mazel that surround the laws of kashrut. The yetzer hara, desire, for money is much, much greater than for some forbidden food. This yetzer hara is a fierce opponent and has been known to take down many an otherwise righteous individual.
In the introduction to his responsa, Rav Moshe Feinstein writes that the Sages of each generation are permitted and obligated to issue halachic rulings despite the fact that they may not “decide according to truth in heaven”. Applying the rules of Divine law to evolving human conditions is a most difficult task, and even the greatest of Sages may be misunderstanding G-d’s intent. All that can be asked of a posek is to examine the material as best he can, “with a heavy head and fear of G-d, the Blessed One”.