Volume 13 Number 30
                       Produced: Tue May 24 22:42:29 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chumrot (2)
         [Jerome Parness, Esther R Posen]
Chumrot in the Family
         [Lou Steinberg]


From: Jerome Parness <parness@...>
Date: Fri, 20 May 1994 12:38:37 -0500 (EDT)
Subject: Chumrot

 Recently,  <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen) responded to my posting on
Chumrot and I should like to respond.
> Subject: Re: Chumra and Kula Continued
> First of all, just for the record, I did not state proudly or otherwise
> that I keep chumrot in order to bring myself closer to Hashem.  I only
> stated that I accept the premise that many people who keep chumrot do so
> out of yirat shomayim (fear of g-d) and ahavat hashem (love of g-d).  I
> continue to be amazed that this is a controversial premise.

   I believe you are misreading my posting. I absolutely accept the right of
the individual to ascertain for him/herself what personal Chumrot one wishes
to accept, and how one wishes to express the need to be "closer" to G-d as
long as one does not violate the halachic process in doing so. What I
question, severely, is when this personal need becomes a societal norm for
those who may not feel as strongly as the originator of the Chumrah regarding
the practice. If one apriori accepts, as you seem to do from what you write
below, that your practice does not necessarily make you more "frum" than the
next person who does not accept the Chumrah of "chalav Yisra'el", than I have
no problem with your need for chalav Yisra'el. When it becomes socially
divisive, than I have a problem with it - i.e., when whatever the practice
is that is not necessarily a halachic requirement becomes a societal norm
that is used to distinguish halachic communities from each other, and label
them negatively. I believe this contributes to sin'at chinam, not ahavat
yisrael. I believe that ahavat yisrael is what is needed to maintain jewish
unity in the face of ever increasing problems from within and without. I
beleive that to concern ourselves with such issues in order to maintain
ultimately non-halachic social divisions is self defeating and destructive.
   BTW, I do not accept the premise that people keep chumrot out of fear of
G-d, but rather awe (yir'ah is awe, not fear). Fear is too retributive a
term, I think, to be used with respect to acceptance of Chumrat minhag or

> I believe we are suffering from the common confusion of Jews with
> Judiasm.  Lets strike all the embezzling, loshon horah speaking, drug
> using, wife beating jews of any affiliation from our conversation.  Lets
> asume that all things being equal most "outwardly" orthodox jews are
> orthodox inside as well...  We could argue indefinitely about whether a
> larger percentage of jews of this stripe or that stripe fall into any of
> these catagories but I doubt we could prove anything conclusively and,
> anyhow, what would be the point?

   Agreed. The premise of the last paragraph, I believe, is that most
outwardly orthodox jews are just that - they are halachically equivalent, if
not equal. Which is my point, after all.

> And thank you Michael for your statement "but it is certainly not easier
> to observe those chumras" I cannot understand why this is controversial
> either.

   Difficulty of observance does not necessarily make something correct. On
the other hand, I don't think that anyone is arguing that undertaking to keep
many Chumrot is easy. Difficulty of an observance is not an argument for its
> On to minimum standards... I believe they exist.  Isn't anybody who keeps
> Shabbos, Kosher and Taharat Hamishpacha considered "frum"?

   So do I, though Michael Lipkin seemed to take issue with that notion. I am
hoping that I misread him. Yet it is my impression that keeping shabbat,
kashrut and taharat hamishpacha is insufficient evidence to a large segment
of the religious community in places like Boro Park, Williamsburg, Crown
Heights, Monsey, etc.. Admittedly, I am not a national polling organization,
and therefore such evidence must be taken at face value - a personally
biased, experiential view. On the other hand, this is a generally held
societal opinion of those who do not belong integrally to the insular
communities I describe above, rightly or wrongly. If rightly, then the
circumstances leading to this notion should be corrected; if wrongly, then
we've got a lot of work to do.

> I'd like to get to where I think the divisive issue exists and I quote
> Dr.  Parness "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, Brooklyn, I promise you this is true."
> I have lived in Williamsburg, Boro Park and Highland Park.  So I have
> experienced the attitudes of people right and left of me on the
> "frumometer".  Trust me Dr. Parness, its all the same.  The attitude of
> some jews on the left of other jews is "Since you constantly find more
> ways to make life difficult for yourself and you stick out like a sore
> thumb you are a shotah and I am embarrased to be identified with you"

   Agreed, once again. Harav Yosef Eichenstein, the Rosh Yeshivah of RJJ in
Edison once expressed exactly the same feelings that he felt from the modern
orthodox community. It is difficult to get to the bottom of this
social/religious division. It is like what came first the chicken or the egg.
I think the divisions derive from many of the internal fights of jewish
society since the age the Haskala, i.e., if you look like you are from a
shtetl than you must be primitive, and what western individual, even
orthodox, in today's modern world, wants to be labelled as primitive. This
was exacerbated in the late 40's and 50's, when the influx of Eastern
European Jewry that maintained its varied customs of dress and habit made a
great social impact on the primarily Western thinking and acting Jewry of the
United States. The fact that such occurred reflects the fact, I believe, that
US and western Jewry in general, internalized this inferiority complex as
their own. We believed the goyim. We were embarrassed by our own. And
probably continue to do so. The point is, Rebbetzin Posen, that if one is
interested in achdut am yisrael, it is no good for right or left to be
pointing fingers from a vantage point that denigrates the other. We should
have, at our minimum standards, sufficient overlap in custom and belief to
talk to each other rather than scream at each other - a major point of the
founder of this list. 

>  My son was not yet four years old when he asked "How come Hashem told some
>people they have to drink cholov yisroel and not all people?"  An emphatic
>"this is just what we do in this house" did not satisfy him. His "but why"
>was persistent.
> I explained to him that hashem told all people that they don't have to
> eat cholov yisroel, but that we think he will like it better if we do.
> MAKING LIFE DIFFICULT FOR OURSELVES!)  The message I want them to get is
> that it is perfectly okay for frum Jews to eat cholov stam but it is
> better for them not to.  Admitedly, after hearing this about cholov
> yisroel, and a few other chumrot they may conclude if we are doing all
> these "better" things maybe we are "better" jews.
> I explain, and hopefully over time they will understand, that all things
> being equal I believe this is true (i.e two identical people with
> identical backgrounds personalities etc.) but all things are never
> equal.

   I think this is the gist of the issue. I know you believe that you are
doing all these "better" things, but I don't. I don't accept the fact that
chalav yisrael is necessarily better. It is more difficult, it may be what
you grew up with, it may be something you enjoy and have come to accept. In
no sense of the word does that make it better in religious terms. This is not
to imply that there is no halachic basis for chalav ysrael, but chalav
yisrael should not imply no halachic basis for chalav stam in this country.
And it should not serve as the basis for who is more frum or the social
consequences of same. This takes a lot of effort.

> Even more difficult issues arise like when my daughter stated as if she
> had figured it out "Oh! some people cover their hair and some people
> don't.  You can decide what you want to do."  I felt I had to tell her
> (AS WE BELIEVE) that in this particular case we believe that it is wrong
> for a woman not to cover her hair.  I was careful to tell her that some
> women find it too hard and that women who don't cover their hair are
> also frum and hashem loves them as well, but she gets the message that I
> believe they are erring in their practice.  (And, Dr. Parness, when the
> opportunity arises, as it unfortunately does, I also let my children
> know that jews who steal and embezzle are erring in their practice.)

   We agree once again. Isn't it amazing. Just my point.

> I am sure that many MJ subscribers will take umbrage at the answers I
> give my children.  I, however, do not think they are the divisive
> answers.  The divisive answers are "they are goyim", "we are frumer than
> them" etc.

   Another hearty agreement from li'l ole me.

> But here is my question.  What do some of you out there in MJ land tell
> your children when they ask you "How come the Xs eat cholov yisroel,
> don't have a television etc."

   What I tell my children is that there is a halachic basis for chalav
yisrael, just as I tell my children that there is a halachic basis for not
using the eruv in Highland Park/Edison for reasons of education - not that
the latter is not kasher. And I also tell them that it is halachically
reasonable to adhere to either, the important thing is that Hashem is
interested in why you are doing what you are doing. Is there a halachic basis
for what you are doing? It is hard for them to understand, but what they
ultimately understand is by example - how you interact with the mitzvot and
minhagim you practice and how you interact with those who do NOT practice
those same mitzvot and minhagim, yet are still within the halachic fold. And
just as importantly, how you interact with those who are not 100% halachic,
and those who are not halachic at all, and those who are not Jewish. Our
children learn by example, as well as by book. Even more by example. Which
means our social divisions are not simply appreciated de novo by our
children, they are transmitted, wittingly or otherwise, by their parents
and/or surrounding society. 

   The notion of Chumrot in halacha and minhag has a long tradition in
Yahadut. The above is not written in the spirit of being against chumrot, a
priori. The above is written in the spirit of being careful as to what they
do to the social fabric and political cohesiveness of Jewish life, which
inevitably, because of inyanim of da'at Torah, always ends up in the Halachic
or quasi-Halachic arena. If you will it, we can find someone to give it a
halachic basis and make it da'at Torah. We must not, I believe, let
individual need for Chumrah, destroy the cohesiveness of frum
social/political life. It is a struggle. It is the quintessential Jewish
struggle between the positive commandment "Am Kedoshim Tih'yu" (Be unto me
a holy people), and all the halacha and drash that this entails, and the
mitzvah of Nazir, the ultimate machmir, [even though this was not
halachically encouraged (see my previous posting), even though the Nazir was
required to bring a Korban Chatat (a sin offering), and all the drash that
engendered], and "Lo Bashamayim He" [(the Torah) does not exist in Heaven],
i.e., we were given the Torah to live in this world, not in Heaven. That
tension is what is reflected in the discussion of the past few weeks.

   It is also a historical struggle. It is a struggle in that if minhag
avoteinu b'yadenu is operative, and each generation needs to feel closer to
Hashem by accepting more chumrot than the previous generation, than we have
the equivlaent of geological sedimentology - i.e., halachic sedimentology,
with each generation "upping the ante" for consideration for frumkeit or
hasidut (in its original sense, righteousness). Is this true? Is this
necessary at any halachic level?

   I leave you with the questions. Shabbat Shalom.

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: <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen)
Date: 23 May 94 17:16:26 GMT
Subject: Re: Chumrot

I asked for information on how MJers answer their children when they ask
questions about other people's seemingly stricter interpretations of
observance.  What I got from Jules is a recommendation for what I should
tell my children when they ask me why we don't have a television.  If I
may paraphrase it goes something like " Some people (like us) like pain,
difficulty, and self-denial and are rather primitive.  We seek out
needless customs and fences because we don't trust ourselves to be good.
I don't urge you to do this - do your own thing.  If you like my thing
you can choose that option."

By the way, if this is what people say to their children when they see
how we run our home, I'm not the least bit surprised that all this
intolerance exists.

However, I AM NOT CONFUSED!!!!  I have never had any trouble
rationalizing having no television to my children.  It is an addictive,
non-productive, primarily non-educational and increasingly lewd means of
entertainment.  It does not add any kedusha to the home.  I'd rather my
children read a book, bake a cake, play outside, work on the computer,
go swimming, learn some chumash, or even take a nap.  Forget for a
moment that many rabbonim have decried its increasing prevalance in the
jewish home.  Can anyone cite any secular article on the benefits of
television for children?  I have seen many articles on its detrimental
effects on children.  Unfortunately, I did not keep copies because they
did not tell me anything I did not know.



From: <lou@...> (Lou Steinberg)
Date: Mon, 23 May 1994 22:24:31 -0400
Subject: Re: Chumrot in the Family

When I read Esther Posen's response to her chldren's questions about
people who don't keep Cholov Yisrael, it looked right, but I felt that
there was something missing and couldn't figure out what, until I read
Susannah Greenberg's posting

> I expect to say something along the lines of the Klien's are working
> on being close to Hashem, in their way

This emphasizes that people can work on being close to HaShem in
different ways, without one being "better" and the other "worse".

"What they do is OK, but we do more," is inviting the inference that we
are better.

"What they do is OK, but we do more in this issue, and perhaps they do
more than we do in other things," makes the mis-inference less likely.

[I in no way want to imply that Esther actually leaves this extra part
out when she talks to her kids!]


End of Volume 13 Issue 30