Sunday, November 12, 2006

Spirit of the Law

Here's the deal. I got into a conversation with a guy named Burry Katz about Bellydancing. We concluded that I felt it was inappropriate regardless of the presence of men. I told him that although it isn't against Halacha, I think it should be avoided.He and his friend Moshe Dov decided to try to get me to define sprituality. I conceded, and told Mr. Katz that if he writes me an article about it, I'd post it and give him credit for it, and even link all you guys to his blog. So here it is:


Is there such a thing as the Spirit of the Law?

This question comes up time and again. For instance, you are part of a women’s gym and they offer a belly dancing class. Belly dancing is not against the halachah but perhaps is not within the Spirit of the Law and therefore should not be done. Is this a valid contention?

In a word, no. There is no such thing as the Spirit of the Law. God gave us a set of laws. Throughout the generations our rabbis added restrictions that have essentially become laws as well. Those are the laws we must follow. To add even more restrictions is unnecessary at best and foolhardy at worst.

OBJECTION: So Judaism to you is a cut-and-dry religion with rituals we just follow without emotion?

ANSWER: Says who? The emotional element of Judaism is included in the mitzvos themselves. Take Shabbos for example. You can use the day to feel closer to God or you could treat it like a Tuesday night dinner. This goes for anything. It is possible to shake a lulav and have improper intentions. One could even think that he is doing something stupid. That is the individual’s fault, not the mitzvah’s fault, so to speak. Having improper intentions (or no intentions) is a misuse of the mitzvah. If one were to drive with reckless abandon and end up in a fatal crash, no one in his right mind would say that cars are evil because they lead to death. Rather, the correct attitude is that cars are a fantastic invention – which only a fool would deny – but the individual’s misuse of the car is what led to his death.

OBJECTION: But you see so many people just going through the motions without much spirituality!

ANSWER: Irrelevant. Many people do the mitzvos with the proper emotions. Additionally, we have no way of knowing what one is thinking as he is performing mitzvos. But even to agree to this premise, the above answer about the misuse of mitzvos would apply. And even if you will argue that the majority of people pack it in, so to speak, the solution is not to reinvent the religion. The answer is to educate the people how to perform mitzvos properly. One is better off working on having the proper intentions while doing mitzvos rather than create his own commandments. Besides, if one regularly does mitzvos by rote, is he better off doing 17 acts by rote instead of 15? I heard an argument that hiring others to build your sukkah is not within the Spirit of the Law. Although the mitzvah is to eat in the sukkah and not to build the sukkah, one who hires others to build his sukkah deprives himself and his children of spirituality. To which I say, why? If a person is not handy and would have great difficulty building a sukkah, he will be angry and bitter throughout the building process. Sitting in the sukkah may not be enjoyable. He might even come to resent sukkos. Whereas if he hires others and the sukkah is built well, and he will enter his sukkah with a positive attitude and enjoy his time there more so than had he built it himself, is he not better off hiring others? Getting caught up in the Spirit of the Law at the expense of the law itself is ridiculous.

OBJECTION: Are you telling me that all these filthy rich people with their fancy cars and ostentatious houses are truly spiritual?

ANSWER: That depends on how you define spirituality. Without a proper definition the entire argument is a slippery slope of where-do-you-draw-the-line. The Torah never states that one may not enjoy his riches. If you make the argument that one cannot be spiritual in a mansion, then one must define a mansion. By that logic, one who lives in a shack is more spiritual than one who lives in an apartment, and the apartment dweller has more spirituality than one who lives in a house, and so on. If one enjoys eating chicken, should he refrain from eating it because his pleasure makes him less spiritual? The Talmud mentions great rabbis who were wealthy, and nowhere does the Talmud decry their material possessions. On the contrary, the Torah prohibits one from giving away all his money. People can be spiritual or unspiritual regardless of their financial status. Money does not cause a lack of spirituality. (This is akin to the argument that TV causes people to leave Judaism. Based on that logic, people with less exposure would almost never leave Judaism, while people who grow up with TVs in their homes would leave Judaism in droves. This is clearly not the case. Mental health experts explain that TV does not cause people to leave. People who leave use TV as a vehicle by which to go off.) Unspiritual people perhaps have more ways to act unspiritual, but the money was not the cause. Otherwise all rich people would be unspiritual and all paupers would be very spiritual. I guess I won't be posting my "Can Spirituality and Materialism coexist?" How about the people who are wealthy but only their closest friends and relatives know about it? Nobody was told to live in a shack, but driving around two Lexuses, and agonizing over minutiae of your decor 24/7 is NOT spirtual. But if you're wealthy, recognize it's a gift, and provide your family with what they need and want without trying to outdo the Schwartzes...there's nothing wrong with that.

OBJECTION: So how do you define spirituality?

ANSWER: Spirituality is the way one relates to God and to others. Person A hauls garbage to support his family. He may not love his job, but he does it because he is fulfilling his obligation. He shows up to work on time, gets along with his coworkers, and tells his friends how fortunate his is to have a job. Person B learns in kollel. He does not particularly enjoy learning, complains that he wanted to become a doctor but was discouraged from doing so, so he stayed in yeshiva and wastes a lot of his day. In the end, though, he has learned several gemaras. In my mind Person A is the more spiritual person. After all, the Torah does say that for six days one should work. One who works is following the Torah. Likewise when someone pulls over to the side of the road to not double park and block others, he is acting spiritually, while a fellow who learns 16 hours a day but is rude to others is unspiritual. Some people think the epitome of spirituality is the fellow with the long white beard who never smiles. To assume that this is what all should aspire to goes against what Shelomoh Hamelech said, “Educate all children according to their temperaments and personalities.” I agree, but does that mean that Belly Dancing is okay, as long as you're not a biatch?? And if you ARE a biatch?

OBJECTION: What about the Pirkei Avos’s statement about building a fence around the Torah, Ramban in the beginning of Parashas Kedoshim, or the Ramchal in Chapter 13 of Messilas Yesharim, where they talk about refraining from doing things that are not against halacha because they are not proper?

ANSWER: Indeed, the famous example of gorging oneself, vomiting, and repeating the process is what Ramban says in his commentary. Granted, he admits, it is permissible, but one should not do this because it is improper. Many like to point this out when making their argument for the Spirit of the Law, but one must realize the context in which these statements were made. These “extras” are meant for people who have attained a high spiritual level in both Torah learning and mitzvah observance. For the vast majority, however, just following the basic laws is enough to keep us busy. A student decided he wanted to become more spiritual, so he donned tefillin all day, as the halacha states, even though almost nobody does so these days. His rosh yeshiva admonished him, saying that at his level, he has no right to think that he is capable of doing something done by only the most spiritual people. One who has mastered the basic laws may consider adding extras, but even then it is often done only after consulting one’s rabbi. This also applies to the fence mentioned in Pirkei Avos. How does one define a fence? Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler writes that one’s free will depends on one’s level of observance. A newcomer to Judaism cannot be expected to keep all the laws, and on the contrary, should not be told that he must keep everything immediately. Likewise, a gadol’s decision to not turn on a light on Shabbos is not considered his exercising free will. Considering that most people struggle daily to observe the basic laws, adding extras makes little sense.

To conclude, I have not seen a compelling argument for something called the Spirit of the Law. Besides, how do you define the law? And what is the spirit of each law? In the example stated in the beginning of the article, is dancing against the law? If a woman feels uncomfortable belly dancing, or that doing so may lead to prohibited acts, she is welcome to sit out. No one can force her to do something she does not want to do. But to say that people who do so are doing the wrong thing, or to criticize those who follow the laws but not the extras, is unfair.

Labels:

46 Comments:

At 11/12/2006 7:50 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Mr. "Blurry" Katz,

The Spirit of the Law is all very hazy, sure.
But to focus on the issue of contention, why would one choose belly dancing over an aerobics class?

ANSWER: It's obviously more challenging and exciting. And even slightly suggestive and sexual

OBJECTION: It's just exercising!

ANSWER: Yea ok.

I (try to)live my life according to halacha and in the 'spirit.'I'd have to agree with Michelle on this one... Belly dancing is a bit too erotic for an exercise class.

Respectfully,
A 20 yr. old who will continue to practice the simcha shuffle.

 
At 11/12/2006 9:41 PM, Anonymous Gavi said...

Great post. Cogent arguments, good reading.

---------------------

I have always believed that "spirit of the law" does not exist, and that the "letter" of the law has built into it how to avoid violating the spirit.

Naval bireshus hatorah is used in more than one location to describe behaviour that is halachically wrong, yet could be construed as permissible. In these situations, it is quite clear what the Torah wants us to do (or not do).

See Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's Halachic Man for a VERY full development of the idea that the letter of the halacha defines the spirit in an of itself. The gemara (Berachos 8a) says it very well: ein loh lehakadosh baruch huh beolamoh elah daled amos shel halacha.

Besides - my male hips could probably not deal with bellydancing no matter who is around, or why I would be doing it. My wife doesn't bellydance either - she likes to cycle to exercise.

 
At 11/13/2006 6:29 AM, Blogger Isaac Kaplan said...

Gavi: Rav Hirsch's writing also follow the same theme, that the spirit of the law comes from the parameters of the law itself.

 
At 11/13/2006 1:21 PM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

First off, thank you Michelle for posting my piece and keeping your promise. It shows a lot that you would post something you fundamentally disagree with.

Lost: You still have not provided a compelling reason why it's no good. You said that you feel uncomfortable, which is your right, but again, that doesn't mean that one who belly dances is not within halacha. If a woman enjoys that over a simcha shuffle, then let her have fun!

Gavi and Isaac: Thanks. I was actually afraid to quote the Rav because some readers would wring their hands and say, "Eh, what do you expect from JB, the modern YU-nik?" Thus, I was hoping to win them over with logic. So far nobody's thrown anything back yet. Let's see what happens....

 
At 11/13/2006 2:42 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Can something be right or wrong, appropriate or inappropriate outside the 4 amos of Halacha? I think so.

According to Halacha it's perfectly fine to say lashon harah about goyim, but I don't think that's ok.

There are lots of issues that Halacha doesn't directly impinge on. So while I could care less about belly dancing, you may feel it is inappropriate - and that's your right. It may not be against Halacha, but that's irrelevant. It's not appropriate because you judge by other standards.

 
At 11/13/2006 4:12 PM, Blogger Buckyball said...

Mr. Burry,
You are so totally a law student, right?
In any case, you are wrong. The Spirit of the Law does exist; however, being a "spirit" it is intangible. All your arguments about the intentions of mitzvos and spirituality are true, but do not serve to convince anyone of your point.
The mitzvot which G-d and the rabbanim have commanded us are the most basic tenets by which every Jew MUST abide. Truly great Jews are not distinguished by the fact that they keep all the mitzvot with correct intentions. This is expected of every Jew! Ever heard the phrase "lifnim mishuras hadin"? What does that mean if there is no spirit of the law? You correctly identified that these "extras" are for truly holy people, thereby conceding that there IS a Spirit of the Law!
If you'd like to, you may leave the extras for extra-holy Jews, but if you don't even aspire to those extras, you are complacent being a mediocre Jew. Which makes you a less-than-mediocre Jew. (I don't mean you, specifically, I'm just making a pt.)
If a girl feels uncomfortable belly-dancing, she is likely more in-tune with G-d's will than the girl who doesn't flinch.

 
At 11/13/2006 4:13 PM, Blogger Buckyball said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11/13/2006 6:13 PM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

Orthoprax: I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Are you referring to keeping the laws based on our understanding? That is a completely different discussion.

Buckyball: (a) What is the source for your contention that we all must strive to observe everything lifnim meshuras hadin? Perhaps with the way our generation has gone south, just keeping the commandments with the proper intentions puts one on that high level. Also goes back to R' Dessler's discussion on Free Will (see volume 2 of the English version of Michtav M'Eliyahu).

(b) Obviously we have two definitions of the Spirit of the Law. I was focusing on things that people may say are unspiritual (say, going to a hotel for Pesach) and my point is that these people have no right to say that it shouldn't be done because it's not within the Spirit of the Law. Lifnim Meshuras Hadin has nothing to do in such a case. I brought up LMH"D as a side point to say that that is how to do "extra" things, IOW, not to impose meaningless restrictions because one feels it is unspiritual, although as we both agree, one has every right to do that.

(c) I disagree with your assertion that a girl who does not belly dance being closer to God. Is it possible? Sure, but again, one who lives within the confines of halacha has every right to do something that the Torah and the rabbis deem muttar.

 
At 11/14/2006 12:46 AM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Burry,

"I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. Are you referring to keeping the laws based on our understanding?"

No. I'm saying that Right and Wrong (or appropriate and inappropriate) is not equivalent to Halachic and Ahalachic.

Something can be within the confines of Halacha and still be morally wrong. And something can be outside the confines of Halacha and be morally right. Halacha does not equal morality. That's my point.

 
At 11/14/2006 10:25 AM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

Orthoprax: Please provide examples.

Michelle: I would like to see that piece "Can Spirituality and Materialism Co-Exist?"

 
At 11/14/2006 12:28 PM, Blogger rescue said...

R' moshe had tshuvos and I believe it is also brought down in Shmiras Shabbas that something should not be done because it is not in the spirit of Shabbos. SInce Shabbos is a law wouldn't not doing something because it is not in the spirit of Shabbos (a law) be in the spirit of the law?

 
At 11/14/2006 1:08 PM, Blogger Kaila said...

ok, you think anythink halachicly permissible is appropriate? have you thought of eishes yifas to'ar? the commentaries say that the reason it is permissible is because if it wasn't permissible peopleould do it anyway, and this way at least there are guidelines that discourage but still allow such actions.

 
At 11/14/2006 2:19 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Burry,

"Orthoprax: Please provide examples."

I gave one example here already where saying loshon harah about gentiles is ok according to halacha, but not according to morality.

If you want an example of something that is forbidden by halacha but fine morally would be to, oh anything really, say eating a cheeseburger.

 
At 11/14/2006 2:24 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Btw, in the spirit of the discussion regarding the spirit of the law, do you really think it was the Torah's intention to disallow shaving only with a razor?

It certainly would seem that the spirit of the law would be for men to grow their beards and simply not shave.

 
At 11/14/2006 5:18 PM, Blogger StillSearching said...

Well, part of the spirit of the law is helping other people. From the first acts that hashem did was finding a shiduch for adam. Yet, people who ostensibly live by the letter of the law simply ignore singles as if we don't exist. Why?

 
At 11/14/2006 6:36 PM, Blogger Michelle said...

rescue---excellent point.
I once spoke with someone after Shabbos and he told me how he attended a sporting event on Shabbos. (Obviously not pro...tickets, driving there etc.) and felt weird. It's not halachically wrong, but most people wouldn't feel comfortable doing something like that

 
At 11/14/2006 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bucky,

Perform all the commandments with the "correct" intention just to be a "mediocre" Jew? Wow.

What you're really talking about is blind faith in the face of compelling evidence that not everything is the way Judaism tells us.

Personally I don't see how 99.99 per cent of the population can have this blind faith and do all the mitzvahs without becoming extremely warped.
You really have to ignore a lot of things to be able to do that. Or take Musaf for example. What if you daven Musaf but don't really want the restoration of the animal sacrifices? Are you supposed to aspire to want animal sacrifices?

If what you are saying about what it takes to be a mediocre Jew is right, then maybe we should ask ourselves what's the point if we're doomed not to even reach mediocrity. And then we can ask how do we know that all that effort is worth it.



Another anon

 
At 11/15/2006 5:21 AM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

Rescue: My point exactly. The "Spirit of the Law" is redundant because it is uncluded within the law. Thank you.

Orthoprax: Again, if you're saying that Morality and Halacha are two different things, I would agree. This discussion is about Halacha. We try to keep the laws as we have for the past thousands of years. Now if you argue that perhaps the Torah has changed because eating a cheeseburger is moral, then it's a totally different discussion. As for shaving, if the rabbis allowed it, then we can do it. If the Torah said no, then we would not be allowed. The idea that we're really supposed to have beards is your interpretation that I have not seen anywhere else, although people who grow their beards are certainly welcome to do so.

Kaila: Apples and oranges. If you want to apply that to all mitzvos, that because it's not preferable it shouldn't be done, then where do you draw the line? Take on every chumra possible? Only some but not all? Then who is to say which ones? And why make the direct comparison between eishess yefas toar and belly dancing? To me they're clearly not the same thing.

Still Searching: Re shidduchim, you can thank today's Hareidi rabbis who went beyond the law and decided that it was not within the Spirit of the Law to have singles get together socially. You have proven my point better than I could have.

Anon: Totally agree. It's like saying that shooting for a 100 on a test is bad because you're not shooting for a 105 or a 110. Since when is a 100 considered mediocre?

 
At 11/15/2006 6:42 AM, Anonymous Moshe Dov said...

Michelle: maybe he just felt uncomfortable because that's not what he's used to. I don't think that necessarily has anything to do with spirituality. If he was raised spending shabbos at sporting events, he'd feel differently.

For example, when I lived in the UWS for a while, I felt uncomfortable because there weren't as many jews in the street like in other neighborhoods. Does that mean that someone who was born and raised on the UWS is less spiritual than someone from a place like teaneck, brooklyn, or lawrence? I don't think so.

To me, how you enjoy Shabbos often has a lot to do with what you were raised with and are used to, more than anything else.

 
At 11/15/2006 7:55 AM, Blogger rescue said...

Wrong Burry, something may be muttar but is assur because of the spirit of the law. To use the example given, it may be muttar from a halachik standpoint to attend a sports game, but the spirit of the law makes it assur. You will not be chayav malkos, but as the gemorah in Shabbos says many times "patur, aval assur"

 
At 11/15/2006 9:12 AM, Blogger Kaila said...

Kaila: Apples and oranges. If you want to apply that to all mitzvos, that because it's not preferable it shouldn't be done, then where do you draw the line? Take on every chumra possible? Only some but not all? Then who is to say which ones? And why make the direct comparison between eishess yefas toar and belly dancing? To me they're clearly not the same thing.

In answer to your questions, I mentioned the idea of eishes yifas toar to prove a point. This is certainly not a comparison between that and belly dancing. Obviously the Torah does not say "Thou shalt not belly danceth as means of Aerobic Excercise. Better than that, thou shalt join the Kosher Gym, or perhaps join the local Machanayim team. " The fact that you even thought that I meant to compare the two shows that you are not truly reading other people's opinion, rather that you are out to prove your own. If you wish to make your argument seem valid, it is wise to express an understanding of the opposite opinion.

My purpose in bringing up eishes yifas toar was not to say that things are or should be assur. It was to prove that while some things are morally acceptable, they are not preferable. The fact that certain actions can be classified as "not preferable" proves that there is, in fact, a spirit of the law.

Take tznius. Most girls are taught this about tznius: cover the elbows, collarbone, and knees and everything in between. Simple, huh? So what if a girl wears a skin-tight red leather outfit? Does it cover all of the above? quite possibly. Is it tznius? According to those guidelines, sure. If you looked at her, would you consider it tznius? not in the least. Because while that outfit may be tznius, it's not Tznius. There is a sensitivity that goes with the law that is generally acquired in two possible ways: either one is brought up to be properly sensitive or one matures.

As for belly dancing- one of the sensitivities young ladies should have in order to be Tznius is a sensitivity towards general conduct. This includes walking appropriately. I'm sure you've seen women who walk through the streets as if they're walking down a catwalk. Some of these women have taken pains to develop this walk. Some have picked it up unintentionally. While belly dancing in front of women only is not an issue of tznius in itself, belly dancing in large doses can lead to developing a new way of movement in general. Belly dancing can bring on a certain type of fluid gracefulness that shows up in the hips when one walks. It is very hard to change one's natural gait, and once swiveling the hips is part of it, good luck to the woman. Yes, Tznius extends to even walking. And if you wish to argue about spirit of the law, you had best choose a topic other than belly dancing, Mr. Katz. No one will ever whistle at you if you walk in the streets with a slight wiggle to your hips. And belly dancing for you would not be a breach of tznius--it would be hysterical.

 
At 11/15/2006 9:37 AM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

Rescue: What is your source to say that attending a sporting event on Shabbes is assur? Is there a clear connection between that and pattur aval assur?

Kaila: I read your point a few times to make sure I understand it correctly. Again, EYT does not prove that that principle of "not preferred" applies to everything else.

Re Tznius: "Most girls are taught this about tznius: cover the elbows, collarbone, and knees and everything in between." Taught by whom? What are the sources? Tznius is interesting because it is not clear-cut. Some say pants are okay for women, and you have the other extreme as well. Granted, because of these different shittos, nothing is clear-cut. Thus, IN THIS CASE, let the girl ask her teacher, or whoever is doing the teaching, about specific cases, such as the tight red dress. (Admittedly, as a man, I am not familiar with all the opinions regarding tznius.)

The problem is that here too, there will always be a gray area. Say a woman follows her rabbi who says a shaitel is fine, and her shaitel is too fancy. Who's to say? Where do you draw the line? Too many subjective things here.

You assume that belly dancing will lead to a sexier walk. Says who? Maybe, maybe not. Let the woman decide. If she doesn't want to belly dance, she doesn't have to.

My point is that she shouldn't criticize someone who does because the belly dancer is not violating any law. Same with others. Perhaps a woman wearing pants is following her rabbi's psak and is therefore within the law. That is what I meant. God gave us laws. We can do them. We can even go the extra mile, but we don't have to.

 
At 11/15/2006 10:12 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

i grew up with bellydancing around the house since i was little, for some poeple (sfardi) its a cultural thing and not at all an inapropriate 'erotic' thing, its just the way we dance.. we dance this way at weddings, bar mitzvahs.. pretty much any dancing occasion.. so i guess i cant really relate to this topic.. but its interesting to see what poele think.
now im thinking about all the poele who have attended sfardi weddings and saw all the belly dancing (including rabbis, rebbetzins dancing...) they were probably shocked :)

 
At 11/15/2006 10:13 AM, Blogger anonym00kie said...

and btw, i totally agree with the whole 'spirit of the law' issue.. i just dont see belly dancing as an issue, i guess.

 
At 11/15/2006 11:45 AM, Blogger rescue said...

Burry,
As to the source I will have to say the only definitive source I have on hand is my 6th, 7th & 8th grade Rebbi in E"Y who said so. (He was a mizrachi who learnt in a Heseder yeshiva and served in the army, in modern terms he may be considered a Chardal) I beleive I also saw something mentioned in shmiras shabbos, will have to look up. (Will you accept a chareidi psak?) I don't remember in what cases the emara says pattur aval assur, will you only accept it if the gemamra talks about going to the tai'atrone on Shabbos?

 
At 11/15/2006 2:10 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

Burry,

"As for shaving, if the rabbis allowed it, then we can do it. If the Torah said no, then we would not be allowed. The idea that we're really supposed to have beards is your interpretation that I have not seen anywhere else"

Rabbis decide some Halacha within their interpretation of the spirit of the law and others within the hyperliteral words of the law. The shaving thing is a perfect example of taking the words hyperliterally. The whole "shabbosdick" and "muktsah" stuff are entirely within the perceived spirit of the law.

Have you ever heard of hidur mitzvah? That entirely surrounds the idea of improving the spirit of the act. You may be yotzeh with x, but it's far better if you do xyz.

You may argue that there is no spirit to the law, but you'd be arguing with thousands of years of tradition.

 
At 11/15/2006 2:12 PM, Blogger Kaila said...

I did not say that my reference to eishes yifas toar proved that "everything else" was not preferable. Again, read. Don't assume things that aren't there. I used it to point out the possibility of something being not preferable. Stop adding to my point. As for the belly dancing, I did not mean it as a judgement against those who belly dance. Belly dancing can be fine. My purpose was to explain why someone may not be comfortable taking a belly dancing class. I believe your original discussion with Michelle was about why she herself would not belly dance. You have no right to judge those who choose not to. You do seem to have issues with girls following what they consider to be tznius. Just read your blog through someone else's point of view. Your comments are rather distasteful, to say the least. You would think that a grown man would have something to complain about other than the fact that there are single girls who don't consider it appropriate to talk to you. And you may say that everyone's entitled to their own opinion on belly dancing, but I think you are categorizing young frum girls. Knock it off and grow up a bit.

 
At 11/15/2006 3:18 PM, Anonymous Moshe Dov said...

rescue: the way I understood "patur avul asur" was simply that the rabanan made a takana to assur something. Was it because of the "spirit of the law"? Was it as a safeguard to avoid transgressions? Whatever it was, it's halacha now. And the rabanan at the time had the authority to make such g'zeiros.

And Orthoprax: to me, you can't compare hiddur mitzvah and belly-dancing. In the case of hiddur mitzvah, you have an existing mitzvah, and based upon "zah kaili v'anvayhu," we're told to beautify the mitzvah. Buy a nice esrog, nice tefillin, nice tzitzis, etc.

But as for belly dancing, there is no mitzvah in question. What mitzvah are you beautifying by not belly dancing? How would "zeh kaili v'anvayhu" apply there?

 
At 11/15/2006 5:54 PM, Blogger Orthoprax said...

MD,

"And Orthoprax: to me, you can't compare hiddur mitzvah and belly-dancing."

I'm not comparing, I'm generalizing. Hidur mitzvah first recognizes that there is such a thing as the spirit to the law.

 
At 11/15/2006 8:11 PM, Anonymous Burry Katz said...

Okay, these are the last words I'm going to say on this matter and then I'll let Michelle move on to bigger and better things.

I feel like a lot of what we're debating is semantics. And lately we're just going around in circles. I see your points, and I can definitely respect where you are coming from. All your comments have made me rethink my position on the matter, and I thank you for that.

Orthropax and Rescue: I think Moshe Dov did a good job tying up those loose ends. Again, if the rabbis tweaked the laws, that's their right; I don't know that we necessarily have that right, although we may do what we want (or don't want) within the confines of what the halacha is in 2006.

Kaila: You've made many assumptions and claimed that I said things that I did not say. I never judged a girl who didn't want to belly dance. I've said all along - that's her right. Perhaps I judged the people who judge others who belly dance. But I've said that if you want to go beyond the law - which is unnecessary - be my guest. But don't tell others who are within the confines of the law that they're doing the wrong thing.

And it was inappropriate and uncalled for to bring up something I wrote on my blog that had NOTHING TO DO with the matter at hand. (Unless you want to make a connection that when people think they're being more frum than the law to a point where they are rude to others, that is wrong.) But I guess when you can no longer argue on the issue at hand you have to resort to ad hominem attacks.

That's all I have to say. In the words of the great Bill O'Reilly, I'll let you have the last word.

 
At 11/16/2006 6:28 AM, Blogger j said...

Burry now your last point was really something. Bill Oreilly our man, noone out there like him!!!!!!

 
At 11/16/2006 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a piece that further explains Eishet Yifat Toarr.

http://www.ybt.org/essays/rchait/yefastoar.html

 
At 11/18/2006 9:05 PM, Blogger Independant Frum Thinker said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 11/18/2006 9:07 PM, Blogger Independant Frum Thinker said...

Occasionally we find the phrase "Ain Ruach Chachomim Nocheh Heimenah". Implying that there is a concept of something being Halachikly okay, yet best to avoid.

 
At 11/20/2006 1:26 PM, Anonymous something anything?!? said...

Ain Ruach Chachomim Nocheh Heimenah is used to describe someone who did something foolish or counterproductive. I suppose one could broaden this discussion to include those events, but it is probably wise not to.

 
At 11/26/2006 4:58 PM, Blogger happywithhislot said...

i was always told halacha is halacha and not about hargasha (feelings).
feelings can lead you to be machmir when you shouldnt.
and arent we burdened with enough chumros that you would want to add made up ones?

 
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