Truth will come out from Sinai - neither Kula nor Chumra (Leniencies & Stringencies)

The Parasha in the everyday life - Parashat Behar-Bechukotai - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5780

In memory of the late Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch, who passed away this week at the age of 92.

The pair of Parashot Behar-Bechukotai begin with a commandment on Shmitah - Sabbatical year on “Mount Sinai” (Vayikra 25:1). And end mentioning it again (Vayikra 27:34). And then seal Sefer Vayikra.

“מָה עִנְיַן שְׁמִטָּה אֵצֶל הַר סִינַי? וַהֲלֹא כָל הַמִּצְוֹת נֶאֶמְרוּ מִסִּינַי? אֶלָּא מַה שְּׁמִטָּה נֶאֶמְרוּ כְלָלוֹתֶיהָ וּפְרָטוֹתֶיהָ וְדִקְדּוּקֶיהָ מִסִּינַי אַף כֻּלָּן נֶאֶמְרוּ כְלָלוֹתֵיהֶן וְדִקְדּוּקֵיהֶן מִסִּינַי”

“What has the matter of the Sabbatical year to do with Mount Sinai that Scripture fell compelled to expressly state where it was commanded? Were not all commandments given on Sinai? But this statement is intended to suggest the following comparison: How is it in the case of the law of Shmitah? Its general rules, [its specific prescriptions] and minute details were ordained on Mount Sinai! So, also, were all commandments with their general rules and their minute details ordained on Mount Sinai”. (Rashi Vayikra 25:1)

Hence, with every commandment to Moshe on Sinai, were given their rules and details stated as one piece. There will be no additions to the Mitzvot, no rules and no details. And at the end of Parashat Bechukotai:

אֵ֣לֶּה הַמִּצְוֺ֗ת אֲשֶׁ֨ר צִוָּ֧ה ה' אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל בְּהַ֖ר סִינָֽי׃

“These are the commandments that Hashem gave Moshe for the Israelite people on Mount Sinai”. (Vayikra 27:34)

אין נביא רשאי לחדש עוד דבר מעתה.

“these are the commandments;” no future prophet has the authority to either add to them or to cancel any of them. (Sifra) אלה המצות was intended by the Torah to tell us that these commandments are of a permanent nature, effective throughout the generations. The word אלה has a connotation of pointing at something enduring indefinitely. (Rabbeinu Bahya ibid).

The Torah from Sinai is called "Torah of Truth":

וְעַ֤ל הַר־סִינַי֙ יָרַ֔דְתָּ וְדַבֵּ֥ר עִמָּהֶ֖ם מִשָּׁמָ֑יִם וַתִּתֵּ֨ן לָהֶ֜ם מִשְׁפָּטִ֤ים יְשָׁרִים֙ וְתוֹר֣וֹת אֱמֶ֔ת חֻקִּ֥ים וּמִצְוֺ֖ת טוֹבִֽים׃

“You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke to them from heaven; You gave them right rules and true teachings, good laws and commandments”. (Nehemiah 9:13)

Therefore, when we come up to the Torah, we recite the blessing:

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלֹקינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָנוּ תּוֹרָתוֹ תּוֹרַת אֱמֶת וְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם נָטַע בְּתוֹכֵנוּ

"Blessed art Thou, O Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, Who hath given us a Law of truth and planted eternal life in our midst

‘Law of truth’ is the written Torah, and 'planted eternal life in our midst' is the Oral Torah, as dictated:

דִּבְרֵ֤י חֲכָמִים֙ כַּדָּ֣רְבֹנ֔וֹת וּֽכְמַשְׂמְר֥וֹת נְטוּעִ֖ים....

“The sayings of the wise are like goads, like nails fixed in prodding sticks”.

(Tur Orach Chaim Siman 139)

It embodies the supreme Divine Truth. In order to keep it ‘correctly’ and ‘law of Truth’, in all life situations, of the individual and the collective, it’s a must to ‘demand the Truth’.

Neither in search of the easier Halachic way nor in search of the more rigorous halachic way but rather the more genuine "halachic" way.

This is the halachic Posek’s work (Jewish law "decisor"), intricate and complex.

Reality is changing and renewable, and it raises new halachic questions for decision. It is complex and full of multifaceted details which are sometimes contradictory and inverse and difficult to give objective weight to.

In order to thoroughly examine the issue, the Posek needs to find out and explore the reality in depth and the full range of its aspects, including the human context, and if there are urgent constraints and, if necessary, to consult experts.

‘The halachic aspect must be carefully examined in the sources, the Gemara, the Rishonim, Acharonim and the rulings of other Poskim, according to the rules of the case’ (Igeret Chazon Ish 38).

This process must be done with great care, with great responsibility and especially "demanding the truth" - How is it better to express The Torah’s intention which is Hashem’s will?

"And he said of himself (the Chatam Sofer), when someone asked him a question, and while reading the question not yet to be answered, one should direct his mind to the fact that that he does not intend to decide neither to prohibit nor permit in the matter, to oblige or to exempt, only that he intends to return his opinion on the truth - which is the truth before the Giver of the Torah; and after that, what comes to his mind - it becomes the truth" (Introduction to responsa Chatam Sofer, Yoreh De’ah).

In contrast to those, "who from the beginning of their approach the reviewing of the law, it was their will to be strict, etc." (Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank). Rabbi Feinstein "would say that the ruling of Halacha should not be based on a predetermined view of anything etc., he regarded them as bribe-takers for being biased" (Introduction to the Igrot Moshe Responsa, part 8, p. 31).

This week, Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch passed away, the Canada-born spiritual leader and doctor of statistics led the Hesder Yeshiva in Ma’ale Adumim, one of the elders of the religious Zionism, who was one of the most prominent Poskim of the last generation. In some of the obituaries written in his memory, the eulogists used respect and reverence for his Psikah in superlatives such as: 'lenient', ‘conservative', 'revolutionary', 'a Halachah man without compromise' and more.

In my humble opinion, as they tried to praise him, they diminished of his value. A Psikah is not meant to be a 'test of courage' or a test of 'boldness'. It's the "demand of truth"!

It goes to the point where is wrong to categorize as 'conservative' or 'revolutionary', 'with compromise' or 'extremism', 'with openness' or 'fixation', 'stringent' or 'lenient'.

Those who really watched his judgments will realize that they cannot be categorized.

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