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”.
Thoughts from the Daf
“And it will be, when the Lord, your G-d, brings you to the land He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you, great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things…and you shall eat and be satisfied” (Devarim 6:10-11). The Torah does not define what the “good things” are that we will find in the homes (and which we may eat) when we arrive in Israel.
In a beautiful teshuva (Orach Chaim 4 #89) written during Chanukah 1960, Rav Moshe Feinstein was asked (by Rabbi Leo Yung, rabbi of the Jewish Centre in Manhattan) if one should protest the building of an eiruv in Manhattan. As Rav Moshe notes, “we do not have the power to allow” the building of such an eiruv and “I do not see anything that will change my mind in this matter”.
“It is a sign between Me and the Jewish people that in ‘six days’ G-d created the heavens and the earth” (Shemot 31:17). Shabbat, more than any other mitzvah, marks the special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people. Our observance of Shabbat is a sign of our faithfulness to our Creator and, G-d forbid, our desecration of it indicates the abandonment of G-d (at least in Talmudic times, it did). The Talmud thus compares the public violation of Shabbat with idolatry, disqualifying the shechita of both (Chulin 5a).
That one must be Jewish to shecht an animal is not necessarily obvious. One might have argued that as long as the meat is slaughtered properly, it matters little who actually did so. As we have noted, shechita itself is what we call a matir, as opposed to a mitzvah.
When I mention to people that it is likely worse to smoke than to eat pork, I often get strange looks. And usually the more observant the person, the stranger the look. Knowing the centrality of kashrut—especially the aversion to eating pork—and the rabbinic debate as to whether smoking is, in fact, prohibited by Jewish law, this seems like a ludicrous claim. But ludicrous it is not—it is actually rather obvious.
There are few, if any, semicha programs that require their students to learn shechita or safrut, and even fewer that require good penmanship. None would accept a student who did not know how to write. But the requirements of rabbis in Talmudic times were of a different nature than today.
One of the questions I am often asked by those of my students who do not keep kosher, is have you really never eaten non-kosher food? I generally reply along the lines that I have never knowingly eaten non-kosher food, have never eaten at McDonalds or Pizza Pizza and I have no idea what lobster tastes like (I hear it is very good) and I will not even eat some salad at a vegetarian restaurant.
Over and over again the Torah warns us not to allow avodah zara, idolatry, in the Land of Israel. Yet, as is often the case, things are not always quite so simple and at times there can be other considerations that outweigh a seemingly clear Torah command.
"It was for this reason that man was first created as one person [Adam]…to teach that no man is the same as another; therefore, every person must say, ‘For my sake the world was created’” (Sanhedrin 37a). The desire to be different and to make a difference is part and parcel of being human. We are unique individuals and must be allowed to express that uniqueness. The need for personal creativity helps explain why so many children of successful businesspeople strike out on their own.