These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD#414 — Giving An Injection to one’s father. Good Shabbos!
The last pasuk of Parshas Achrei Mos states: “You shall safeguard My charge that these abominable traditions that were done before you not be done, and not to make yourselves impure through them. I am Hashem, your G-d.” [Vayikra 18:30]. The Talmud derives the idea of making a fence around the Torah from this exhortation to “safeguard” the commandments (Mishmeres l’mishmarti) [Moed Katan 5a; Yevamos 21a].
If people would only observe the strict Biblical commandments and not observe the Rabbinical safeguards that were added later, we would not recognize what we now call “observant” Judaism. Shabbos observance is a totally different experience because of the Rabbinical enactments that “safeguard” the basic prohibitions of labor. The scope of virtually every area of halachic restriction that we practice has been greatly expanded by virtue of the principle of “make a safeguard for My charge.”
Sometimes a person may question the extent of “Rabbinical fences” and wonder whether the Rabbis did not go “too far.” We look at some “D’Rabanans” and say, “this sounds a little too farfetched; we would never make a mistake over here.” However, we need to understand that the Rabbis were extremely wise, and knew exactly what they were doing. Their basic intent many times was not so much concern with stopping a specific violation, as with creating a certain atmosphere. They were interested in establishing a pervasive attitude.
I recently taught my Yeshiva class about the laws of consuming food prepared by non-Jews (which are in the Talmud, in Tractate Avodah Zarah). There are prohibitions against eating food prepared (under certain circumstances) by a non-Jew and of drinking wine that is so much as touched (under certain circumstances) by a non-Jew. The rationale behind all of these Rabbinic prohibitions is “lest we come to intermarry with them” (mi’shum chasnus).
A person can ask, if the food only contains Kosher ingredients and I take it into the confines of my own home, why should the fact that it happened to have been cooked by a non-Jew be any cause for concern that I might come to marry a non-Jewish woman? Is that not farfetched?
The Rabbis were not worried that if someone ate something cooked by a non-Jew, they would immediately go out and marry that person. Rather, they were interested in creating an atmosphere that shouts to us “we need to remain separate.” Once we start breaking down the little things and start tampering with the atmosphere, we quickly reach the situation that we have today in the United States of America: over fifty percent intermarriage. We no longer have an atmosphere of separation.
The following is excerpted from a column by the rabbi of a Reform congregation in Miami, Florida:
“We think that intermarriage leads to assimilation, but it is the other way around. We marry people like ourselves. The average middle-class Jew is as different from the average middle class Gentile as your average Hutu is different from your average Tutsi. I know Rabbis aren’t supposed to say things like this. We are supposed to fight assimilation tooth and nail. But to be honest I am about as assimilated as you can get. Put me in a lineup of the average middle class goy [sic] and the only way you could tell us apart is to play a Jackie Mason tape and see who laughs. The truth is our kids don’t intermarry. They marry people just like themselves. People who eat stone crabs marry people who eat stone crabs.”
The rabbi has it exactly right. People are not intermarrying. They are marrying people exactly like themselves. The reason why a strictly religious person would not contemplate marrying a non-Jew (or vice-versa) is because they are so different. Those who follow the Rabbis’ safeguards live in an environment nearly as different from that of the average middle class American non-Jew, as either of those environments are different from that of the average Tutsi. The cross-cultural divide is too great. The groups are too different from each other, so they do not intermarry. It would be like marrying someone from a different planet. However, if someone eats like them and talks like them and dresses like them, then it is not intermarriage at all. It is marrying within one’s own kind.
He wrote further: “As far as religion goes, they both have the same fake sense of spirituality. They both believe in a G-d without being able to define either belief or G-d. They both hold goodness above theology and righteousness above tradition. Religion does not matter to most of our kids. We tried to make it matter and we failed. They don’t intermarry. They marry the same kind.”
This all started because of an attitude that said, “so what if I go ahead and eat food cooked by non-Jews? So what if I drink a cup of wine with them? It’s kosher food! It’s kosher wine!” Once one breaks down the “safeguard of My charge” then anything can happen.
Therefore, when we see Rabbinic decrees that sometimes strike us as being farfetched or even absurd — we need to step back and acknowledge that the Rabbis knew exactly what they were talking about. They wished to create an attitude and an atmosphere, as the Torah instructs: “Make a safeguard for My charge.”
Those who mock the concept of making safeguards for the Biblical laws should go out and look at what is happening in the world. The alternative is all too readily present for us to painfully witness. People who eat stone crabs marry people who eat stone crabs.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Kedoshim is provided below:
- CD# 009 – Prohibition Against Using a Razor
- CD# 052 – Prohibition Against Revenge
- CD# 095 – The Mezonos Roll: Does it Exist?
- CD# 143 – Inviting the Non-Observant to Your Shabbos Table
- CD# 190 – The Prohibition of Negiah
- CD# 236 – The Do’s & Don’ts of Giving Tochacha
- CD# 280 – “Lo Sa’amod Al Dam Re’echa”
- CD# 326 – Mipnei Seiva Takum: Honoring the Elderly
- CD# 370 – Deserts — Do They Require a Brocha?
- CD# 414 – Giving an Injection to One’s Father
- CD# 458 – Giving Tochacha: Private or Public?
- CD# 502 – Kissui HaDam
- CD# 546 – Treating Mitzvos with Respect
- CD# 590 – Sofaik Be’racha
- CD# 634 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
- CD# 678 – Tochacha: Is Ignorance Bliss?
- CD# 722 – Stealing as a Practical Joke
- CD# 766 – Making Shiduchim Among Non-Observant
- CD# 810 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
- CD# 854 – Tatoos: Totally Taboo?
- CD# 898 – Paying the Plumber and the Babysitter
- CD# 943 – Oy! They Shaved My Payos
- CD# 985 – Giving the Benefit of the Doubt – Always?
- CD#1029 – Must a Person Eat Bread in Order to Bentch?
- CD#1074 – Paying for Someone’s Expensive Medical Treatment
- CD#1116 – Eating Before Davening
- CD#1158 – “I Don’t Want You Spending Time With So-and-so”-Must a child listen?
- CD#1202 – A Bracha On Tums? On Listerine Strips? And Other Brachos Issues
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