Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Majority Rules?

One of the arguments raised by Rav Tzadok, may he remain healthy and successful, against legitimizing indirect metzitzah b'peh was that the vast majority of poskim oppose anything other than direct MBP and that all contemporary poskim oppose it.
Now leave aside that this isn't true. A significant number of poskim, several of them leaders of their generations, approved of indirect MBP.   There are also numerous poskim in both North America and Europe who approve of indirect MBP especially in light of the frequency of herpes transmission as well as a growing fear of governments outlawing ritual circumcision if indirect MBP isn't used.
Here's the biggest question, one born of cynicism and a knowledge of the history of the last 150 years: since the ending of the Sanhedrin around 2000 years ago (may it be speedily reconvened) has Judaism become a democracy in which majority votes rule?  Did someone create a parliament?  Which rabbonim get to sit in it and who chooses them?
Let's look at the controversy surrounding the definition of death, especially when it comes to organ transplants.  There are large numbers of important poskim on both sides of the issue (although just like with metztizah b'peh you'll often hear a proponent for the cardiac death side saying "all the poskim agree with me") but if you expand the eligibility definition I am quite certain you'll find that the definition of death as being brain stem death has far more supporters than the cardiac definition.  Should majority rule?  Should we tell the poskim on the cardiac death side that their opinion no longer has any authority and that their views are invalid al pi halacha?
Well I'm not going to go and tell them.  Any volunteers?
What's more, let's consider one particular issue in which the majority of great poskim were on one side and a minority on the other: fleeing Europe when the Nazis, y"sh, threatened Europe's Jews.  Never forget that most European rabbis opposed Zionism and any attempts by their followers to run away either to Israel or America.  How many people stayed put on the advice of their well-meaning posek who insisted that prayer, faith and submission to the Germans would save their lives?  How many of them actually lived?  Majority rule?  Doesn't always work.
What's more, we're all well aware of the mishnah in Eduyos that explains why Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi recorded minority and divergent opinions for posterity, because times might arise in which they would be needed to be relied upon.  So even if something is a minority position and not accepted halacha the situation might arise that makes it so. Might I be so bold as to suggest that the rise of sexually transmitted diseases present during metzitzah b'peh be worthy of consideration, especially when we're not talking about abolishing MBP but simply adjusting it a little to make it safer while maintaining the fundamental elements of the procedure?
Finally, there is something called Daas Hedyot, as noted a couple of years ago by Rav Harry Maryles.  In short, it is the common sense of ours, the unwashed masses.  The post noted several instances over the last century where the common sense of the masses turned out to be smarter than the official Daas Torah position.  We also know Daas Hedyot has some validity from the Gemara in which Hillel, stumped by his colleagues for how to handle a situation of carrying when erev Pesach fell on Shabbos decided to see what the people coming to the Temple with their sacrifices did.  The shomer mitzvos community, when left to its own devices, can often come up with acceptable solutions and this helped Hillel solve the problem.
Well let's use common sense.  Ask any reasonable parent whether, given two options both supported by numerous poskim, he'd prefer the one that gives his child a chance at catching an incurable virus that might leave the infant very ill or the method that avoids it while maintaining the requirements of the mitzvah.  What do you think he or she will say if not pressured by the local askanim?
And really, that's what it comes down to for us on the indirect MBP side.  We are saying we want a safe MBP.  They are saying they want to endanger our children for the sake of tradition.  Which side does common sense lie on?

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

"One of the arguments raised by Rav Tzadok, may he remain healthy and successful, against legitimizing metzitzah b'peh was that the vast majority of poskim oppose anything other than direct MBP and that all contemporary poskim oppose it."

Did you mean "against legitimizing indirect..."?

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

Thank you!

Moshe Laymore said...

During the Cold War we used to say to the unilateral-nuclear-disarmament people, "Better dead than red." Better to be killed by a soviet nuclear bomb than to be forced to live a worthless life under a communist regime.
Those who stayed in Europe and followed their rabbonim were killed al kiddush Hashem and went to the best portion in Gan Eden without passing through gehinom. What would have happened to them if they had gone to Zionist Palestine or materialistic America? How many of them would be in Gan Eden now without passing through gehinom? They would agree better dead than red or red, white, and blue and are fortunate to have followed their rabbonim.

Fred said...

I always thought mitzvos were to be observed "v'chayei lachem"...so what right did the "gedolim" have to make life and death decisions based on a particular bias against the society that would have offered possible refuge to the Jews of Europe? Many Rabbonim- Square, Satmar, Klausenberger, Lubovitch- came to America or went to Israel and rebuilt their communities from nothing, so who are you to say that others who stayed behind might have lost their olam ha-bah had they chosen to live by the Mitzvos rather than die by them?

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

In regard to the concept of 'majority rules", may I direct you to my article on the Slifkin Affair at
http://www.nishma.org/articles/commentary/slifkin.html
which, among other points that are applicable to this topic, quotes the Minchat Chinuch as stating that the principle of majority rules only applies if there has been a true discussion/debate amongst the variant parties so that the conclusion is a result of full analysis. In that many of the people who argue for a certain position would be adverse to even hearing the other side, we have an interesting result: their very dogmatism is a reason to dismiss their argument.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Amihai said...

Moshe Laymore,
what a shocking comment you wrote !
As far as I recall, there is for instance a clear mitsva deoraita well known, and which is explicit in the Torah :
ובחרת בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך
"And you will choose the life so you'll live you and your descendants"

Not to forget a famous "saying" :
"Better an hour of good deed and repentance in this world than the whole eternity in the olam haba"

Don't take the bediavad of their death (May He Avenge their Blood) as a lechatchila...

Moshe Laymore said...

The gedolim didn't say stay and get killed but whoever listened to them and got killed got to Gan Eden. They are the winners. Other people who got out and stayed frum were also winners. But there were plenty of losers. Whoever listened to the gedolim won.

SJ said...

Orthodox jews are not the most health conscious people in the world. In all schools public private and religious, there should be like two hours of physical training every day including running, strength training, stretching, etc.

Aren't you sick of seeing old farts in synagogues and batai midrashim who are barely physically functional?

Adam Zur said...

Does majority always decide? Of course not. There is an entire tractate made out of the pesaks of beit shamai which is the halcha and yet it is going like beit shamai who were not the majority.

querosen said...

moshe laymore, you are the evil in person.

JT said...

Adam Zur said...
Does majority always decide? Of course not. There is an entire tractate made out of the pesaks of beit shamai which is the halcha and yet it is going like beit shamai who were not the majority.


If you check those instances where the halachah is like Bet Shammai, you will find it is because they were the majority in those cases.