Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

4 Nissan 5765 - April 13, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Opinion & Comment
Can I — Should I?

Not so long ago, we received an indignant letter from a reader. We had written that doing something was prohibited but he had asked Rav X if he could do it, and Rav X said that he could.

We knew, having spoken with someone who had spoken to Rav X previously, that Rav X does think that it is permissible to do that thing. However we also knew that Rav X thinks that it is nonetheless far from a good idea to do so.

So we simply replied to the reader: You should have asked Rav X shlita if you should do that.

This incident is characteristic of a broad range of behavior. There are some people who are constantly concerned only with the limits of halochoh. They are always asking to know what they can do.

They are sincerely committed to Judaism and to the Shulchan Oruch. They do not want to breach its limits. However they already know what they want to do and they just want to know if the Torah will permit them to do what they want to do.

One of the marks of a true ben Torah is that he seeks Torah guidance not only on what he may do, but also on what he should do. He is concerned not only with the lower limits of the permissible but also with the higher limits of the desirable.

When a ben Torah asks a Torah question, he or she does not come with preconceived desires. They do not seek a particular answer, but want to know what the Torah (and Hashem) truly wants.

Sometimes, those whose enthusiasm is stronger than their education will not take "yes" for an answer. They want to hear that something is prohibited even when it really is not. This is not correct, but is usually not damaging. Such people may suffer because they did not learn enough, but they will generally do no harm. These are the people who seek chumras, but theirs is also not really the way of the ben Torah.

Unfortunately this is not always true of those who are constantly testing the limits of the permissible, who just want to know what they can do. The reader who wrote us also complained to others that we were less than truthful since we had not noted that there is a difference of opinion.

Our policy, as we have stated on numerous occasions, is that we follow the rulings and directions of our Vaada Ruchanit. If they say unequivocally that something is prohibited, then we write unequivocally that it is prohibited. This is our policy and it is one we take pride in. We follow our rabbonim in all cases.

Yet in that case and in other similar cases, if the reader had been aware that the difference of opinion among the rabbonim was not whether it was prohibited or permitted, but rather just whether it was prohibited or not recommended, he would certainly not have been so quick to condemn us for lack of balance. A ben Torah would not do it in either case.

There should be no misunderstanding. A person who stays within the limits of the Shulchan Oruch is a fine, kosher Jew. We do not condemn him. We praise him for his commitment in a world that is tremendously hostile to any such commitment.

But we want more than that. Bechasdei Hashem there is an entire community that tries, hopefully with some success, to find out what they genuinely should do, and to base themselves on the Chazal (Brochos 17a): "Happy is he whose toil is in Torah and who brings satisfaction to his Creator." As the Mesillas Yeshorim writes (18): "He will not try and intend to get by with the well-known obligations that fall upon all Yisroel generally. . . . He will not say, `I was not told to do more. For me it is enough to do what I was explicitly told to do.' . . . [But he] will add upon the mitzvos that are given explicitly in order to bring nachas ruach to Him yisborach."

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