Volume 13 Number 5
                       Produced: Tue May 10  0:47:45 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Michael Lipkin]
Chumrot (2)
         [Jerome Parness, Aryeh Blaut]


From: <msl@...> (Michael Lipkin)
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 1994 11:10:56 -0400
Subject: Chumra<->Kula.

I know this may sound naive, but isn't there a path of normative halacha?
Can one observe the dictates of our religion in the "best" way possible
without following chumras or kulas?  In mj 12:87 one writer says:

"In plain Aramaic, chumra means strictness and kula
 means leniency.  I'm sure everyone reading mail-jewish follows lenient
 rulings on some issues and strict rulings on others, since you can find
 two rulings on just about anything."

The implication of this and other postings is that within the halachic
framework everything is relative.  For instance, this writer continues:

"The difficulty which this discussion has addressed is what to do when
 adoption of a strict standard brings one into conflict with other
 halacha, such as when an insistence on Glatt damages normal social

 From the opposite perspective one could just as easily say:

"The difficulty which this discussion has addressed is what to do when
 adoption of a LENIENT standard brings one into conflict with other
 halacha, such as when an insistence on NON-Glatt damages normal social

When I was in avaylus (mourning) a few years ago an issue came up of whether
or not I could attend a certain function.  When I asked my Rabbi at the time
if I could go, his response was that I couldn't because he could not find any
way around the halacha.  All I wanted was to know what was the proper way
to observe my avaylous.  I wasn't looking for a "way out".  

It's for this reason that I found a posting in mj 12:88 rather troubling.  In
a posting titled "ask it right" the writer says:

"And then, of course, it helps to know how to ask -- or let's say, your rabbi
 can give a more responsive answer if he knows all the background."

 After describing the careful phrasing of the question he continues:

"To this correctly worded question, the answer was that is was permissable."

I do understand that a psak from a rav can be tailored to indvidual
circumstances, but the writer seems to be saying that by manipulating the
question, the asker can get the answer he wants, which may or may not be the
best thing halachicly.  Why don't we put together a directory of which rabbis
to ask which questions and how to ask?

As one further example of the complexity of this issue, there seems to be 
debate in mj as to whether or not cholov yisroel is a chumra.  My
local supermarket carries cholov yisroel.  Assuming the price is the same
(it is) and it's dated the same as regular milk, is one being machmir by
buying the cholov yisroel?  Should one davka buy the regular milk to show
that he holds by Rav Feinstein's ruling?  Should one go out of his way to
go to this supermarket to buy the cholov yisroel?

I think the answer is to buy the cholov yisroel when possible, since Rav
Feinstein still seemed to feel that cholov yisroel was preferable, and rely
on his ruling for regular milk otherwise (including when eating at other 
people's houses).  What do you think?  We'd like to know.



From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Thu, 5 May 1994 18:39:42 -0500 (EDT)
Subject: Chumrot

    Recently, Ben Svetitsky agreed with a quote (paraphrase) from Esther
Posen who stated "proudly" that accepting chumrot made one feel closer
to G-d, and different in that one did not make "excuses" in order to
accept kulot. I have a basic problem with this approach to Halacha, as I
have expressed in the past in this forum, and will do so again. Before I
move to this subject let me mention my feelings re: Ben's last statement
which he phrased as a query? So how come all these people who hold from
chumrot accept the kulah of not living in Eretz Ysrael?
    My major answer to that comes from two approaches, one halachic and
one practical, and I don't know that the two are mutually exclusive.
First the Rambam, who would sign his letters and t'shuvot: ani Moshe ben
Maimon, ha'over al shlosha lavin b'torah b'chol yom (Me, Moahe ben
Maimon, who transgresses three Toraitic negative precepts each and every
day). One of those negative precepts that he was not happy about
transgressing was the fact that he lived outside of Eretz Yisrael, in
Egypt, no less (a second of the three he transgressed). Practical
requirements, however, i.e., in his day lack of a substantial Jewish
community in Israel, did not let him stay in Israel, and in search of
community and livelihood, he left Israel, to whose shores (Acco) he had
arrived after a number of years sojourn through N. Africa after
expulsion from Spain. Historically speaking, it is not clear to me that
even if there had been enough of a jewish community in Israel to sustain
the Rambam's jewish needs, he would have stayed there (this is just
speculation but not unreasonably so), because he was not a rosh kehillah
(head of community) and posek (halachic judge) only, but a physician,
and philosopher who taught at the University in Egypt, and gave courses
in medicine and philosophy. It is unclear to me that had he not had the
intellectual resources and stimulation that he had in Egypt at his
disposal, that he would have stayed in Eretz Yisrael. The point of this
is that in each generation, each individual will have to determine the
constellation of halachic, philosophic and practical requirements in
his/her life to determine the ability of that person to sustain oneself
in Israel.
    Aliyah is wonderful, and an ideal to which I myself aspire, but as I
sit here in the US, gainfully employed and feeling guilty nonetheless, I
know that I can not at present find the employment oportunity to which I
have spent 15 years of my life training myself to achieve and still pay
off my loans. The point of this portion of my posting is not to cry over
spilt milk or seek sympathy and understanding, rather that the
acceptance of the Chumrah of the requirement to live in Eretz Yisrael
should make you FEEL GUILTY, as did the Rambam.
   Moreover, I just got off the phone with a couple recently arrived in
the US, originally from Bulgaria, lately of Israel. She received her BS
in Biology from Hebrew U, he had received his medical degree from
Bulgaria, completed postgraduate training there, left, made Aliyah to
Israel, got a residnecy position in a hospital funded by the Jewish
Agency for one year as an Oleh Hadash. At the end of the year he was
told that he no longer had a residency position at the hospital, or
anywhere else in Israel, because there were no more t'kanim (officially
designated position with salary). In other words, the JA had created a
postion for one year to keep him in a holding pattern until he found a
real residency position. No such positions are available and rather than
kick around Israel for years waiting for one to arrive, finding it
difficult to make a living, they came to the US. Not that this is
paradise, mind you. This is only one of the many cases of difficulty
with aliyah that we have had to deal with.
    Harav Malkiel Kotler, the rosh yeshivah of Lakewood, who at the time
was married and living in Israel and learning in his uncle's yeshivah
(Harav Schwartzman) in Yerushalayim. When his grandfather, Harav Aron
Kotler zt"l, passed away, Rav Malkiel was called back to the US to take
over at the helm of the Yeshiva. His wife refused to leave Eretz
Yisrael. Harav Kotler ended up divorcing his wife through a "heter me'ah
rabbanim" (permission via one hundred rabbis) in order to come back to
the US to head the yeshivah, a makom harbatzat Torah. The Chumra of
staying in Eretz Yisrael was overcome by the necessity of leading a
foremost Torah institutuion in Hutz La'aretz. To say that Harav Malkiel
acted less than halachically is stretching it a bit. How he viewed the
halachic reasons for his ability to leave the land of Israel, as did the
Rambam, when now there IS an established Jewish community in Israel, I
do not know. I am not privy to his reasoning. Suffice it to say that the
practices of Torah greats, Tzadikim if you will, are examples to learn
from - and always l'kav z'chut, even if you don't necessarily agree with
the philosophy behind the act. This last statement is NOT meant to
condone the act of heter meah rabbanim, or to express that because a
Torah great was able to divorce his wife against her will, that we
should accept this as standard of Jewish communal behavior. Rather that
practical considerations in one's life become part of one's halachic
considerations in determining the direction of one's life.
    Now to the concept of Chumrot as spiritually uplifting. I will
agree, in principle, that for an individual in Hutz La'aretz to adhere
to Chumrot in dress, custom , mitzvot is a maginficent way of showingt
difference from the society around you. It is the social equivalent of
thumbing your philosophical, halachic, historical nose at the base
practices of a society that would rather not have to accept you or your
values. So much for the value of Chumrot vis a vis external
social/religious (or antireligious- antijewish) forces. Chumrot vis a
vis other members of the same clan function exactly the same way.. it is
thumbing your nose at those who don't necessarily accept the premise of
the Humrot. There is a tremendous difference between the Humrot of the
individual and the Humrot of the Klal (societal). What we are witnessing
today, IMHO, is the spread of the Humrot of the individual as the Humrot
of the Klal. We have the Shamai'ization of the Hillelian process.
   Always, throughout Halachic history, we have seen that Minhag Hasidut
(customs of the Pious Ones) have become halachic requirements... for
example, kipot for men, wearing a four cornered garment so that one is
required to wear tzitzit. We have many s'yagim latorah (rabbinic decrees
as fences around the torah, lest someone make a mistake and transgress a
Toraitic precept) - just witness the four volume compendium of these by
Rav Y. Stepansky published by Mossad Harav Kook. Thousands of pages
covering thousands of years of Humrot brought by Hazal to safeguard
Torah values. These were communal decisions in specific places, at
specific times. (I urge you all to read Daniel Sperber's: Haminhagim
B'Yisrael, especially the Chapter on the confusion as to various customs
of mourning during S'firat Ha'omer to get an idea of what I mean). Many
of these have been accepted generally, many have not... many have been
forgotten, as well. What has happened in modern times, mainly post WWII
with the imposed migrations of vastly different populations because of
the failure of the Final Solution, is that shtetlach have become
transplanted communities within communities. The concept of minhag
avotenu b'yadenu (our fathers customs must remain ours) is that this
concept was extended to areas which IMH"O have little halachic
relevance. Yet it is these very customs which divide, rather than unite
b'nai yisrael, not because different customs are bad, but because since
I adhere to these more stringent principles than you, I am better than
you, or you are a goy. Having lived for a good number of years in Boro
Park, B'klyn, I promise you this is true.
   This is no longer a world of shtetlach. The global nature of instant
communication (witness email as one example), of the ingathering of the
exiles in Israel and the US, France and Britain, forces upon me (and
hopefully others as well) the notion that the time for blind adherence
to Humra because some small portion of the global community is vocal
enough and powerful enough to say you are not frum because you do such
and such, or because you do not do such and such, has got to stop.
Individual appreciation for closeness to G-d can not and should not be a
communal standard. No one will argue the closeness kabbalists feel to
G-d; no one who has studied Rav Y.D. Soloveitchik's (zt"l) U'vikashtem
Misham, and feels the anguish and existential angst that he felt in his
inability to unite with G-d. Yet no one in his/her right mind would
require that every one study kabbalah, or that everyone is required to
feel the aloneness of Rav Soloveitchik as a requirement to be a frum
   Furthermore, I submit that to be a Humradik Jew is a lot easier than
being a halachically Kuladik Jew. Take Glatt Kosher, for example. You
can have an IQ of 60 and have an afternoon Hebrew School education to
pasken something glatt kosher (no flaming intended, hyperbolae only for
making a point). If there is any question, sell it for treif. It takes
b'kiut and lomdus to pasken a she'elah in shchitah. You have got to know
something, you have to work at it. To hold glatt kosher as the standard
for frumkeit, the ideal, borders on the ridiculous. (I know all about
the lying and cheating that went on in the '40s and '50s with regard to
kosher meat! so I understand the history behind the development of glatt
kosher. But intellectually, it is ridiculous.)
   Somewhere, sometime we will have to have minimum standards that are
required for frumkeit, and somewhere, sometime, people will have to
accept the fact that if one chooses not to accept greater than the
minimum standards it does not mean that a) the one who accepts the
minimum standards is a goy, and b) the one who accepts more than the
minimum standards is more frum.  Frumkeit has nothing to do with whether
you wear white socks and knickers, a spodek, a gold kapoteh yerushalmi,
a kippah srugah, a felt kippah, a pillbox hat on top of a sheitel, a
beret, a scarf, a Pierre Cardin suit, a suit from Alexanders, or whether
you paid full price for your new dishes (shoiteh!) or whether yu got it
at half price 'cause you know someone in the business. Frumkeit has
everything to do with "kabbalat ol malchut shamayim", not "ol malchut
Monsey, Boro Park, Williamsburg, Brisk, B'nei Brak, Mattesdorf,
Cleveland, Gateshead, Lakewood, Yerushalayim, or anywhere else for that
matter". I suspect that there are a lot of people out there in "frum"
etherland (is that term a non sequiter?) who feel as I do, who beleive
that a frum jew is a frum jew as long as he behaves like a frum jew.
Would you eat in the home of a jew who wore a spodek, kapoteh and
gartel, fasted ta'anit sheni va'hamishi every other week, but was
convicted of embezzlement, and because of his stealing caused people to
lose jobs and livelihood? This is not venting, these are real issues
about how we perceive ourselves and the direction in which the
development of Jewish life will be focused in the coming decades.

Jerome Parness MD PhD         Internet: <parness@...>
Depts of Anesthesia & Pharmacology   Voice: (908) 235-4824
UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School  FAX: (908) 235-4073
Piscataway, NJ 08854

From: Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...>
Date: Sun, 1 May 1994 02:03:38 -0400
Subject: Re: Chumrot

>In MJ V 12 #78 Bruce Krulwich remark about churot being "bad bad bad"
>missed the point of the so called *lenient* views.  Fistly, his argument
>about glatt meat is very understandable. However when he goes on to
>discuss on chalav-yisrael that reasoning is not consistent with his
>glatt reasoning. Certainly most orthodox people would not think twice
>about eating a Hershey bar which is OU and not chalav-yisrael. This
>means that the OU regards chalav-stam as kosher!  Secondly, chumrot
>becomes a syndrome. The OU in it's Jewish Action magazine had an article
>several years ago about how people are chasing chumrot and how it does
>more harm than good to Clal Yisrael. It creates a sense of I am holier
>than you attitudes. I hope this clears up some views.

This would only be true in the United States (assuming that the O-U is 
relying on Rav Moshe's ZaTZaL tshuva allowing chalav-stam in the US).  
Several issues ago, Kashrus Magazine had an allert regarding 
Baskin-Robins in Canada.  It is different there than here because the 
same government regulations aren't there as well as the type of 
machinery used in the US is not there.  This is not only true for 
Canada, but all over the globe.

While not trying to respond to the question of chumra vs. kula vs. main 
stream halacha, we do need to be careful about what we use as an example 
of each of these items.

Aryeh Blaut


End of Volume 13 Issue 5