Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart
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Thursday, 8 October 2009

Halachic Implications

On erev Yom Kippur Rav Eliashiv, shlit"a, announced that Crocs are not suitable footwear for the Day o' Atonement, shocking and annoying many people who until then had used them as their preferred Tisha B'av/Yom Kippur footwear. Being Dati Leumi I decided to research what the leading posek for the community, Rav Shlomo Aviner, shlit"a, had to say on the subject. Unfortunately his decision was not that much different than Rav Eliashiv's. Although his answer was based on a shailoh about Tisha B'Av, it could very easily be extended to Yom Kippur since the ban on leather shoes applies to both days, albeit for different reasons (mourning vs inui)
However, while discussing this with a Rav that I learn with, a different thought occured to me.
According to halacha, most medication is forbidden for use on Shabbos. The gemara derives this from how medications were prepared in those times, usually through the grinding of herbs to prepare the desired therapeutics. Schikas samemanim is a derivative of tochen, hence medications were forbidden on Shabbos for the non-seriously ill because of the fear that one would come to grind the ingredients to ensure an ample supply. Even though we no longer prepare medications in this fashion, the original rule has remained in place.
The Nishmat Avraham contrasts this with another rule which is no longer in force. In the times of the gemara, there was a law that any water left uncovered overnight must be disposed of. The fear was that a snake would have drunk from it and left some of its venom in the water leading to a danger to the person drinking the water. By the time of the Shulchan Aruch, however, this rule was observe mostly in the breach because, as the poskim explained, we don't really find snakes around like in the times of Chazal.
On the surface, these two rules would appear to contradict each other. In one case the original rule remains in force even though the circumstances that led to it no longer apply. In the second case, the change in circumstances is the reason the rule is obsolete.
However, on further analysis, the Nishmat Avraham notes a major difference between the two rules. In the case of snakes and water, there is no real rule that water left overnight cannot be ingested. Nor is it usual from snakes to slither by and drink from cups sitting out. Therefore once the circumstances changed, the law no longer had to be observed.
However, medications are still produced from a grinding process. Yes, they're produced en masse without regard to how much acetaminophen I might pop this Shabbos after the rabbi's sermon but the original decree still has some relevance. Further, the Nishmat Avraham notes that many naturopaths and homeopaths still do produce medicine by grinding ingredients. Therefore even though the majority of medications are not made on demand, the rule still applies.
What does this have to do with Crocs?
One must remember that when Chazal made a g'zeirah, it was made under specific circumstances and for specific reasons. As a result, it is usually not correct to extend the decree to areas not covered by Chazal. We see this in the gemara which usually rejects such attempts as a g'zeirah to a g'zeirah which, except in certain circumstances, does not go through. For example, in some circumstances one can engage in amirah l'akum when the issur to be performed is only d'rabannon.
So let's look at Crocs. The reason for the prohibition on leather shoes on Rosh HaShanah is because the Torah asks us to engage in inui, afflication, on Yom Kippur. Chazal decreed five types of inui, the wearing of leather shoes being amongst them. They did not decree that comfy shoes are forbidden and therefore leather footwear, being comfortable, is assur. They specifically decreed on leather shoes.
(Frankly, the most uncomfortable shoes I own are my wedding shoes which are fancy leather with leather soles and all, but I digress)
So here's what occured to me. If Ravs Eliashiv and Aviner are going to darshan out the reason for Chazal's g'zeirah and use that reasoning to extend it - leather shoes are comfortable, leather shoes are forbidden, therefore comfortable shoes are forbidden - into a stricture position, then what's to stop others from using the exact same process and extending things into a lenient position. To wit: medications were forbidden because of grinding individual doses, commercial medications are not ground in individual doses, therefore there should be no prohibition on commercial medications!
I am certainly not paskening that one can now use medications freely on Shabbos in opposition to the opinion of all major halachic decisors but I would want to know: if Crocs really are forbidden on Tisha B'Av and Yom Kippur, what's the reason we can't go the other way?

17 comments:

ysh said...

I use all medications on Shabbat for that precise reason.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Yes, and I've heard some rabbis quietly say "Sure, use the Tylenol" but if you look at all the major halachic works, outside of serious illnesses, either life threatening or not, there is a strict prohibition on such usage even though the underlying reason technically does not apply.
However, I am more interested in why the reasoning that outlawed Cros can't be used to "inlaw" medications. What's good for the goose should be good for the gander, yes?

David said...

This is exactly the sort of thing (well, one of the sorts of things) that drives me nuts about halakha. It's the same deal with yayin nesakh-- the chachamim (if you want to call them that) instituted the prohibition on wine made by anybody but frummies because it might have been consecrated to an idol. Subsequent chachamim acknowledged that idolatry as described in the Torah is no longer an issue. But, of course, we're still stuck with the rule. Same with the medicine-- I take pills every day (including Shabbos) and never once in my life have I ground any medication. The rule might-- MIGHT-- have made sense at one point. It makes none whatsoever now. The difference between that and the Crocs, of course, is that the Crocs rule is designed to make you more miserable and more subject to the idiotic whims of self-appointed gedolim. That's always permitted-- it's only the reverse that's forbidden.

Chaim B. said...

You are comparing apples and oranges. By dinim derabbanan there is a general question whether the reason motivating the takanah governs the parameters of the takanah (see Koveitz Shiurim to Beitzah 3). But by dinim d'oraysa we don't darshen the reason behind the law. You write:

>>>They did not decree that comfy shoes are forbidden and therefore leather footwear, being comfortable, is assur

That's not exactly true. The question is what the Torah meant by inuy (it's not a decree in any case). The Rambam in fact does hold that comfortable shoes are asur, not leather shoes, while others disagree. How do we pasken? R' Soloveitchik was machmir not to wear sneakers with arches (heard from R' Shachter) because of this Rambam. The M.B. also recommends if possible following the Rambam, but m'ikar hadin paskens like the other Rishonim (the majority view). If crocs=comfortable footwear, then according to the Rambam they are asur. R' Elyashiv's view is not a new chidush; he, like others, is just sensitive to the Rambam's position.

Chaim B. said...

One other side point: if I recall correctly, R' Chaim Na'eh discusses the issue of tochein and medicine in his Ketzos haShulchan.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

Chaim B's words are most on point but the reason that many may find them difficult to comprehend is the legal nature of the Halachic system. What is of the essence in any legal system is the exact words of the legislation. This is why "legalese" is so important. The presumed or assumed intent of a law does not really have standing. Neither does its theoretical purpose. So the question in terms of shoes is whether Chazal legislated a prohibition against leather shoes or comfortable shoes. (I am assuming the view that while the Torah legislated inui on Yom Kippur, it left it to Chazal to define the exact form of this inui, except in regard to eating and drinking.) While the purpose was clearly inui, what we are left to work with -- on the purely halachic level -- is the exact words of the legislation -- what did Chazal specifically assur? This, of course, does not mean that someone cannot go beyond the legal parameter and assume stringicies in order to meet the presumed purpose of the law. In fact going lifnim meshurat hadin is often seen as a goal to which we also should aspire. Leniencies, though, may be more problematic for there still is the base of the basic Halacha.

The point is, though, that Halacha is a legal system and must be approached in this manner. The result may be bewildering on a personal and even religious level but that is the reality of the Sinaitic system. A problem does exist though when people attempt to instruct someone in going lifnim meshurat hadin by defining the desired action as the halacha. That only creates confusion and one learns how to play with the law. Whether one likes it or not Halacha is a legal system.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Chaim, here's the issue I have with your explanation.
It's one thing to say "I'm going to be machmir and avoid all comfy shoes. That way I avoid going against any major poskim." If the announcement had come out like that, I don't think there would be an issue with it.
But that's now how it was announced (what Rav Eliashiv actually said we'll probably never know). Instead, what came out sounded like this: "Yes, most poskim don't have a problem with Crocs but there is one major posek whose view in this matter is not the normative halacha but he's stringent so you should be too."
Is this the new method of halachic decision making? Find a strict opinion rejected by most everybody else and announce it to be the new standard?

Dr Mike said...

I could bring an argument from the Aruch HaShulchan 307:17. There the discussion is whether it is permitted to read non-Torah books on Shabbos. The Rambam prohibits because of the Yerushalmi that says Shabbos and Yom Tov were given for eating, drinking and learning Torah. Therefore only those are permitted, not the reading of books. On the other hand, the Ramban and the Rasha note that the actual gereirah was on "shtar hedyotos" and ask: why would the gemara specific those if all non-Torah literature was forbidden? From this they conclude that non-Torah books can be read on Shabbos/Yom Tov.
The analogy to this is clear. Would the psak then today be "All non-Torah literature is forbidden"?

Chaim B. said...

>>>If the announcement had come out like that,

So your problem is not with the lomdus (which is what your post focuses on), but with the way things are communicated by the ignorant press. The answer is simple: ignore the news reports.
Here is how ynetnews reported it, in line with what I wrote, i.e. R' Elyashiv recommends being machmir like the Rambam, but m'ikar hadin he accepts the view of most poskim.
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3781873,00.html

>>>Find a strict opinion rejected by most everybody else and announce it to be the new standard?

I don't understand your concern. The Mishna Berura also recommended being machmir. R' Soloveitchik recommended being machmir. Yes, when faced with a d'oraysa issue that is a machlokes Rishonim, poskim will often recommend being machmir for all shitos where possible. If not possible, there is always other views to rely on.

Chaim B. said...

>>>Would the psak then today be "All non-Torah literature is forbidden"?

You are comparing apples to oranges: a machlokes regarding the scope of a gezeirah is far less severe than a machlokes regarding a potential issur d'oraysa.
Secondly, the S.A. does pasken that secular literature is assur to read on Shabbos (307:16).
Thirdly, each case needs to be judged on its own merits. A person might feel that being machmir not to read secular books in line with certain shitos so diminishes his/her oneg shabbos that the loss overrides the gain (see R' Y. Emden's tshuvah on newspapers.) What weight to give to different shitos in Rishonim and Achronim, how to treat factors like personal need, hefsed merubah, tzoreh mitzvah, etc. and determine the best course of action is not an easy job. That's what we ask shaylos to people who are trained experts.

David said...

You have all illustrated-- beautifully-- why this system is so thoroughly unappealing.

Garnel Ironheart said...

David, I think you would agree that it is important for doctors to attend educational medical rounds so they can learn about the latest literature, techniques, etc.
I think you would also agree that if you were to attend a lecture on the implications of Hepatitis B core antigen testing vs E antibody PCR analysis, you'd probably be bored out of your mind. But that doesn't mean the subject isn't important and that no one should be interested at all!
You don't like the halachic process? You don't have to. The minutiae doesn't thrill you? Doesn't have to. There's a breadth of Torah literature and someone who is genuinely looking will find all they are interested in.

Off the Derech said...

>The minutiae doesn't thrill you?

It only thrills crazy fundies like yourself. Or should I say crazy closet atheists/Neturei Karta'niks/Zionists/scientists/Christians/politicians/apologetics people.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

What I have always found most problematic is how some individuals attempt to define it as something that it is not so that they can attract others to it. Two potential negative results emerge from this misrepresentation. One is that these individuals become very antoginistic against Torah when they find out that it is not what people portrayed it to be. The other is that these people continue to maintain this perverted view of Torah and then negatively affect the Torah world with this incorrect vision of what Torah is.

The fact that David and Off the Derech do not find Torah appealing is not a critique to me. Torah is what it is. Whether you like it or not is your business, a matter between you and God. There are, though, two things which are a concern to me. First is that Torah does not become perverted because of this challenge that one does not like it. This is not to say that I don't consider personal responses in my study of the system. I just want to make sure that an aspect of Torah is not mis-defined in order to make it appealing. Second, is the question of whether the actual Torah system was fully explained and properly investigated to see the actual inherent value that it does maintain. For example, the value of detail is often understood within a scientific system such as medicine -- Garnel's example -- but it is deemed almost irrelevant in a more artistic system which is the way most people see religion. Buber's ideas immediately come to mind. Also consider that famous story of the one who only knew the Aleph Bet but said it so sincerely that it was his prayers that were answered. As such, before Garnel's argument can have an effect, the idea that Torah is comparable to science more than the normal view of religion as art has to be considered, investigated and debated first.

In the end, it almost comes down to a case whereby Off the Derech and David are criquing tennis because it is not bowling and those responding not recognizing this inherent divergence in assumptions. My first response is that your right, its not bowling, so go bowl and let me play tennis. Now if you are angry because you were told it was bowling, I can understand that but please, still, don't attack me for liking tennis. Now on this level, if you are wondering why I like tennis, I would be glad to explain that to you -- understanding, though, that you do not inherently like tennis and actually like bowling and the respectful recognition of this should be an important parameter in any discussion.

In the end, there are two critiques that seem to have been voiced -- one that declared the position on crocs to be problematic within the parameters of the halachic system and one that ultimately was challenging the halachic system. Let's understand the difference and move on with this recognition that we are talking apples and oranges if we are trying to combine these two issues.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Off the Derech said...

>Whether you like it or not is your business, a matter between you and God...In the end, it almost comes down to a case whereby Off the Derech and David are criquing tennis because it is not bowling and those responding not recognizing this inherent divergence in assumptions. My first response is that your right, its not bowling, so go bowl and let me play tennis. Now if you are angry because you were told it was bowling, I can understand that but please, still, don't attack me for liking tennis_ _ _

Sir, I understand where you're coming from. However, religion has a long and ugly history of not being all about live-and-let-live and tolerance. Garnel is certainly an excellent example of someone who should know better who behaves like a vilde chayeh.

In my first post, I say this: "My first commenter Superraizy has asked me to clarify why I left the derech, so here goes: My parents are BTs, I had a tough childhood and hated yeshiva (esp. "high school") where I was pressured to learn my brains off, and be miserable.

I got a good chance to find out about the outside world at age 21, liked what I saw, and a few months later I left home, got a job and joined the "outside world". Thankfully, there was no spouse or children involved, so I wasn't as trapped as the average Jew.

Now I'm an out-of-the closet atheist, though I try my best not to hurt my family. I don't hate them, just God, or religion.

That's my story in a nutshell, and before you start with all the "convincing" arguments to get me back, I have one little point to make: In all fairness, if you took two average unaffiliated people and showed them arguments for and against religion/judaism, and gave them free choice, they'll choose agnosticism/ atheism.

Certainly, most of us are biased one way or another, but why is that something to be proud of? Just as there are emotional reasons to stay, there are emotional reasons to leave - who's to say which choice is better?

And to try and be perfectly objective is near impossible since we all have such major emotional investment one way or the other."_

I sure sound like the angry atheist, don't I? Very disrespectful!

Off the Derech said...

Then Garnel comments thusly:

"Sure they do. Hitler, Stalin, Barry Manilow... I could go on and on.

I'm going to try a different approach here. I don't know you, I don't know the details of your upbringing save for the few details in your post, so I won't try to convince you to love God or return to Judaism.

But i would like to challenge your assumptions:

You hate God but don't believe He exists and see no conflict in that. Well there is because you cannot hate something that doesn't exist. You can think it's a bad idea, you can hate other people for thinking that it does exist but if you're being intellectually honest, you cannot hate it.

In truth what you really hate the CONCEPT of God. Why? Again, I'm guessing here and I freely admit that but I'm assuming your parents, being BT's, had a very fundamentalist concept of God which they tried to transmit to you. Many BT's tend to see things in black and white because that's quite often how they're taught. God was a certain way, He wanted certain things and if He didn't get them from you, wham! Lighting from the Heavens. A good Jew was someone who followed this particular version of "the rules" and a bad Jew was one who didn't, even if he claimed to be Torah observant.

So what is it about the concept of God you don't like? Is it the idea of an invisible authority sitting out there somewhere and judging you based on what you see are irrelevant or absurd standards? Is it the idea that you are not entirely the master of your fate? Or perhaps that the idea of God creates the concept of an objective, universal morality that doesn't match your own personal set of views?

If one strips away all the garbage that coats the writings of Dawkins, Hitchings, et al., it boils down to this: All people worship something. Either its some objective external authority, which we call God, or its oneself. Either one submits to an external authority's standards selflessly or one submits to one's own passions and desires selfishly.
The Gemara tells us that the only reason our ancestors in ancient times embraced idols despite having daily proof of God's existence is because of the sexual freedom idol worship allowed. They knew there was a God but hated the concept and tried to abandon it for their own personal gratification.

And modern atheism, which is on prominent display in bookstores all around, has advanced not one whit. All their arguments against God are:

1) I wanna do something and who is this God person to tell me I can't?

2) I think I'm right and perfect so who is this God person to tell me I have flaws?

3) More people have been killed in the name of God and more cruelty has been committed in the name of God than in the name of any other cause. So God is a cruel murderer, chas v'shalom.

The first two I've addressed. Let me note that the simplistic thinking of modern atheism is exemplified by the 3rd point. Nazism and Communism, avowedly atheist political movements, are the no. 1 murders and torturers in history. The Catholic Church only wishes it could have done what these monsters did. And how does Hitchens refute this? By saying that the way Nazism and Communism were set up, they were exactly like religions so no wonder they acted so badly. The flawed logic can only be laughed at.

So, in conclusion (assuming you're still reading), you have to ask yourself a simple question: What does your hatred of the concept of God say about your belief in your own divinity?"_ _ _

Off the Derech said...

Then this:

"You're confusing physics with metaphysics.

In science there is truth - gravity is 9.8m/s2. An atom is made of protons and electrons. CO binds hemoglobin 200 times better than O2.

Science cannot tell you what is "right" and "wrong". Now, in an atheistic world, there is no universal standard for those two things. What I like is "right" and what I object to is "wrong". And so with you, your standard is probably going to be different than mine. Therefore there is no objective right and wrong which is a great comfort to pedophiles and mass murderers but understanding that makes so-called atheists extremely defensive and hostile. Who would want to be lumped in with such a crowd? Well, as an atheist, what's the real difference between you and them other than your standards? But your standards are subjectively yours, theirs are theirs and how can you say they're wrong? Because you think it is? Well now you're imposing on them.

What religion offers is an external, universal standard. Not what is right or wrong but what is good and bad. Objectively. Now again, there is an element of subjectivity in that, of course, because after all one subjectively belongs to a religion one identifies with. But in order to be a good member of that religion, one must believe that one's religious values are the objective statements of good and evil.

And that's where science and religion cannot meet. Science can tell you about facts but it has nothing to say about morality. The same science that ended WW2 with an atomic flash over Japan could just have easily ended it with a bomb in London. Same technology, very different results and what does science care? Science tells you how to make a bomb. Religion tells you whether it's good or evil. And that's not something atheists want to hear." _ _ _

And this brilliance:

"Religion is entirely about truth. Each religion believes it has knowledge of the objective truth of Life, the Universe and Everything. As an observant Jew, I believe that God revealed His will to us through His Torah at Mt Sinai and that the values in Torah are THE truth.

Well duh! If I thought Mo had actually talked to Allah, I'd be a Moslem now! yes, of course I believe everyone's wrong but me. I mean, if you're right and there is no God, chas v'shalom, then I'm the idiot for practising Judaism. If I'm right, you're the idiot because you're blowing your chance at Olam Haba with this pathetic philosophical exercise.

And here's the main thing that everyone likes to ignore: We can't both be right, which means that although I respect your right to have a different opinion, I can't accept that opinion as legitimate because otherwise I undermine my own beliefs.

Everyone has a personal truth. With atheists, it's internal and very subjective. With a religious person, it's more objective since, by definition, the external source of morality overrides one's personal's preferences." _ _ _

So much for your "normal" view of religion as "art."