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.
Thoughts from the Daf
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”.
“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.