Volume 13 Number 42
                       Produced: Wed Jun  1 18:15:29 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chumrot (4)
         [Rabbi Freundel, Aryeh Blaut, Danny Skaist, Pinchus Laufer]
Chumrot and Susannah Greenberg's reply
         [Jules Reichel]
Chumrot: why we can't agree
         [Mitch Berger]
Glatt and other Chumros: theory vs reality
         [Bruce Krulwich]


From: <Dialectic@...> (Rabbi Freundel)
Date: Fri, 27 May 1994 14:43:22 -0400
Subject: Chumrot

I disagree with telling children that Hashem will like chumras better.
This leads inevitably to claims of religious superiority and we have to
watch the midot our kids learn especially when we are teaching them
"good things". I reccomend that kids be told that even among observant
Jews there are different opinions as to how to live as G-d wants us to,
that this is our way while other people have their way. Kids will do
fine with that and you wont turn out a bunch of kids who think they are
better than everyone else.

From: Aryeh Blaut <ny000592@...>
Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 02:35:47 -0400
Subject: Re: Chumrot

I have to admit that I have only skimmed over occational postings on 
this topic.  I just read a couple of postings regarding 
"Chumros/Chumrot/Strictness & the Family".  This got me thinking on two 
levels:  1. as a teacher and 2. as a  parent.

As a teacher (Rabbi in an elementary school (presently 4th grade), I am 
constantly teaching "laws & customs".  Besides having religous and 
non-religious students (and students inbetween), I also have Sephardic & 
Ashkenazic students.  This means that in teaching a law, I have to be 
sensitive to all in the class.  At the moment, I am teaching the laws of 
Shabbas/Shabbat/Day of Rest.  I laid the ground rules as far as 
questions which I would allow (and that I would answer in front of the 
class) and then went on from there.  Within my teaching, I teach the 
students between laws, customs, main line law and what is a Chumra and 
what is a kula (opposite of chumra).  The bottom line is that it be 
within the bounds of halacha.

As a parent, there is the question of other Jews who do not do halacha 
at all vs. those who do halacha, just differently (chumra/kula).  For example,
there are those who unfortunatly drive [on Shabbas/Shabbat] to an the orthodox
schule down the block from our house.  When our children ask,
we have to tell them that either they do not know the halacha or that
they are breaking the halacha.  When it is a question of chumra (or
kula, for that matter), we answer our children that within halacha, there
is a range of oppinions.  As a family, we do x, y & z.

When my eldest was in Pre-school (4 years old), we were at the zoo.  We 
ran across her pre-school teacher there.  After saying hello, we started 
walking in different directions and all of a sudden, my daughter looked 
up at us and asked if Mrs. So & So was Jewish!  We were shocked and 
answered of coarse, why do you ask?.  She said that Mrs. So & So had 
pants on and therefore she wasn't sure.  (Because I don't want this to 
turn into a discussion on Tz'ne'us/Tz'ne'ut/modesty (in dress), I will 
withhold if we answered it has a kula or out of the bounds of halacha.)

IMHO, call a spade a spade.  If the child asks, you have to answer.  
Better for one person is not for the next.  I think that is the reason 
we don't have a fine line to halacha but rather a range of 
shitos/shitot/opinions.  One starts out at point x.  Then in the 
person's growth and striving to come closer to Hakodesh Baruch Hu 
(Hashem), s/he will take on certain chumros/chumrot.  Those areas which 
are more of a struggle (either physically or intellectually) the person 
will take a kula for now.

Aryeh Blaut

From: DANNY%<ILNCRD@...> (Danny Skaist)
Date: Mon, 23 May 1994 05:28:39 -0400
Subject: Chumrot

The following ramblings were written after many hours of thought on the
subject. It is probably not clearly written.

>Esther Posen
>                                       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.

My first impression was that, "Better" is not a word that can be used
for "Kosher" or any other hallachicaly defined obligation.  It is
strictly a case of "right or wrong", not "good or bad".  There cannot be
"better" then correct. "2 + 2 = 4" is "right" "2 + 2 = 4.0" is not
"better" or "more right".

This, I feel is the heart of the controversy about chumrot.  Can there be
better then "right".

>                                                                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.

Without a doubt this is a very controversial premise.  Keeping chumrot
because of "yirat shomayim (fear of g-d) and ahavat hashem (love of
g-d)", implies that by doing *exactly* what hashem commanded us to do,
it is somehow lacking in "yirat shomayim and ahavat hashem".

There is a rule "aino domeh ha'metzuva v'oseh, l'aino m'tzuva v'oseh"
[there is no comparison between one who is commanded to, and does (a
mitzva) and one who is not commanded to, but does].  A slightly
different case, to be sure, here, one man's obligation is another man's
chumra, But the obligation takes precedence over the Chumra.

Fullfilling "obligations" as obligations shows complete subordination to
the word and the will of G-d, and recognizes that G-d makes the rules
that we live by, not us. Otherwise known as "yirat shomayim and ahavat

>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.

Chumrot on the other hand lets us join in with G-d in deciding how we
live and lets us decide what will please G-d more.  "Contributing" to
G-d that which G-d has not ordained is a very dangerous business.  Do
you think that you can really "do something" for G-d ?.

Chumrot also seem to reject the hallachic process, by bringing up
minority opinions that have been rejected by hallacha in the past.
(Fruit Juice cannot cause hametz, period, psak hallacha. How can it be
brought up today as a possibility without rejecting the entire system of
hallacha ?) Many other examples deleted.

But chumrot have been practiced for millenia by sincere tzadikim, who
would not presume to tell G-d what he wants of them, so I am left with
this conclusion.  All based on the word "better". There exists a madraga
[level] in which hallacha is not "right or wrong" but "good", i.e.
subjectivly desirable.  In this instance the word "better" does have

It is NOT a case of better serving the almighty, nor is it a case of
yirat shomayim and ahavat hashem , but of personal spiritual
satisfaction of the machmir himself.

>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

It is in this light that all other personal attributes of the "machmir"
are looked at.  Who has reached this madraga ? Whose spirit has reached
the point where he has an absolute "taiva" [desire] for mitzvot.  Or in
other words, Psalms 24 "Me yaale b'har hashem.." [who will ascend the
mountain of the lord] The first answer is "n'ki kapayim" [he with clean

Personally, I know quite a few "machmirim" and each and every one of
them has reached this madraga, in EVERY facet of their lives.

I don't have it handy but in the 6th parek of Baba Kama there is a story
of someone who was thrown on jail for wearing black shoes, as a sign of
morning for Jerusalem, a chumra above his "station".  He got out by
demonstrating that he was in fact a Talmud Chacham. Can sombody please
fill in the details.

>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."

Because they WANT to be machmir, it makes them feel better.


From: <plaufer@...> (Pinchus Laufer)
Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 09:15:20 -0400
Subject: Chumrot

I think Esther Posen's remarks were right on target.  In my experience one
could take them one step further (farther?).  The attitude of many towards
those who practice chumrot is " You ignorant people just play at religion -
all form and not much substance, while we truly religios folk understand the
halacha, philosophy, meaning etc.. "  Lack of chumrot being used as a
measure of true religiosity.

Thank You,


From: <JPREICHEL@...> (Jules Reichel)
Date: Mon, 23 May 1994 19:32:00 -0400
Subject: Chumrot and Susannah Greenberg's reply

Your explanation for not bringing TV into the home is that because of
the potential for abuse "many will chose no to bring it into the house
at all".  That's fine, it's your house. Your children will see the
beauty of what you do with your time and they will follow your lead.
It's the second part of your answer which is so troublesome. When your
children ask the invidious question, why do we do it and the Klein's
don't? You lose faith and assign a false speculative motive to their
actions, which a reasonable person would reinterpret to mean that we do
it because we are wiser and better than they are. In lesser hands than
yours, this gets further reinterpreted to the statement that they do it
because they are goim. I know that you wouldn't say such things but I
think that it's the inevitable consequence of not viewing chumrot as
elements of personal spirituality only.  


From: <mberger@...> (Mitch Berger)
Date: Wed, 25 May 1994 07:47:00 -0400
Subject: Chumrot: why we can't agree

I think, as I wrote earlier, that the reason we are still having a
problem comming to a concensus about chumrot is that "chumrah" is too
inclusive a term.

Here's a proposed taxonomy of types of chumrah, based on why the person
is doing it. This means that a given act could be in different places
depending on the person.

A peson could be machmir because:

1- P'saq. This is where some people have a more stringent practice because
   their poseq sees this practice at halachically required, while others may
   rule otherwise.

1b- You know a particular ruling isn't normative halachah, but you desire to
    follow it anyway.

2- Minhag. The community has a minhag the rest of us don't.

2b- It's somebody else's minhag, but you like it.

3- You want to be strict, because the normative position doesn't feel right
   to you personally - even though there is no basis in halachah. For example,
   people who don't use an eiruv even though they know the particular eiruv
   is kosher - either out of a fear that the eiruv may come down (which the
   gamara tells us we normally need not worry about), or they want to
   experience the prohibition of carrying.

Clearly, how far you push things, like whether or not to eat in someone's
house, or whether or not you embarass a hostess, should depend on why you
are doing it.

Micha Berger          Ron Arad, Zechariah Baumel, Zvi Feldman, Yehudah Katz:
<mberger@...>  May the Omnipresent have mercy on them and take them from
(212) 464-6565      restraint to openness, from dark to light, from slavery
(201) 916-0287      to salvation.


From: Bruce Krulwich <krulwich@...>
Date: Thu, 26 May 1994 12:55:29 -0400
Subject: Glatt and other Chumros: theory vs reality

Jerry Parness wrote something recently regarding Glatt meat that I think
reflects a basic disagreement/misunderstanding in the whole issue of Chumros.
He wrote:

>    1. My major problem with glatt kosher is that intellectually, glatt
> kosher does not require much knowledge to pasken, yet is held as a higher
> standard than what requires greater b'kiut. 

I think that in this sentence, Jerry is confusing practical and theoretical
issues involved in Mitzvah observance.

In theory, I would agree that it is important to have shochtim in the
world that know enough to pasken non-Glatt meat.  Certainly it would be
bad for this ability to Ch'v'Sh be lost from Klal Yisroel.

Bottom line, though, is that individuals have to make decisions about
what meat to eat based on real-world halachic preferences.  First of
all, the Ramoh, whose decision we rely on to permit non-Glatt meat, says
clearly that it is preferable (alav haBrocha or something like that) to
eat Glatt.  Secondly, eating glatt removes sfaikos [doubts] about the
meat, which (regardless of the theoretical concerns discussed above) is
always a good thing for someone to do.  And then there are the
modern-day practical concerns, which Jerry discusses:

> Though the need for glatt arose out of an historical necessity for
> MOST ASSUREDLY kosher meat, the concept of 'glatt' has become confused
> with 'most assuredly'. And it's been incorporated into a system of
> humrot that says if you buy meat that comes from a non-glatt butcher,
> that means that the butcher or the schochet is a priori less meheman
> (believable or trustworthy) because he is required to know more.

Again this is a confusion between theory and reality.  Yes, in theory a
non-Glatt bodek [person who checks the lungs etc) has to know more, but
the reality nowadays is that this is not the case.  Supervision of Glatt
meat is more reliable "soup-to-nuts" -- from the overseeing Rav to the
people in the plants.  When an individual makes a decision about what to
eat, the primary issues have to be the "reality" ones: which meat in
fact is handled reliably.  The fact is that despite the theory that
non-Glatt bodkim should need to know more, they don't, to the point that
the three midwest Kashrus councils recently went against precedent and
made the decision that they did.

I think that this theory vs reality issue comes up often in discussing
"chumros."  TV theory is very different from TV reality (BTW I do own
one).  Big shul davening theory is often different from big shul
davening reality.  Tfillin from the corner bookstore theory is often
different from tfillin from the corner bookstore reality (although less
and less).  Same with food supervision symbols, same with religious
schools, same with ethical behavior by religious institutions, etc etc

So say what you want about the theory.  But decisions of practice have
to be made based on reality.

Dov (Bruce) Krulwich


End of Volume 13 Issue 42