Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Chumraization of Judaism

One of the biggest issues confronting Jewry today is the unwarranted and unfair chumraization of Klal Israel. This is manifest in almost all areas of life. Whether it is the manner of dress of Yeshiva students, or the color, size and style of their Kipot, or whether it is in the total rejection of mixed seating as the norm for events such as weddings, bar Mitzvos, or banquets, this chumraization has cast a pall on those of us who were brought up in a world where even the Gedolei HaDor went to mixed seating events and sat with their wives. The Talmidim of today have become Kanaim (zealots) for their mentors in certain areas of Judaism. In past generations that was not the case. One of my Rebbeim at HTC, HaGoan R. Mordechai Rogov, ZTL, said that in Lithuania they did not consider such things important. I recently saw some archival footage of Yeshiva student of pre-war Ponovezh. The students were all wearing light colored suits and hats, and they were all clean shaven with no Peyos (Side curls). Can you imagine walking into Lakewood today and seeing even one student wearing a light colored suit?

There seems to be an agenda out by some, to impose unnecessary strictures on Jewry and, it is succeeding. An instance of this occurred to a close friend of mine when he received pressure from the one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Telshe here in Chicago, to have separate seating at the wedding of his daughter a few years ago. Since my friend was not one to create a stir, he succumbed to the pressure. Yet, not many years ago Gedolim such as Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky and R. Moshe Feinstein sat mixed... with their wives at weddings.

Part of the process of Chumraization is due to Halachic manuscripts that are published posthumously, and are not subject to the scrutiny or subtle nuance of the original writer or Posek. No matter how noble the intention of the publishers, they cannot know if the author wanted to even have his writings published w/o further review and corrections. Mistakes cannot be corrected by the author. R. Aaron Soloveichik often said the Sefer (religious book) by his great grandfather, the Beis HaLevi was written by the Beis HaLevi's students and therefore there are many inaccuracies contained therein. It is also, possible that the publishers may have even misunderstood some of the non-manuscript/anecdotal Teshuvos.

Yet just such a posthumous Sefer, what is now the final volume of his magnum opus, “Igros Moshe” by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was published based on manuscripts containing a virtual retraction of his responsa on Chalav Stam (Chalav Akum or Chalav HaCompanies). I do not impugn the motivation or integrity of the publishers nor anyone involved with bringing it to publication. Nor do I doubt the accuracy of the manuscript it is based upon. I only question the need to publish Rabbi Feinstein’s unfinished work without the benefit of his final revisions or approval.

The Chumraization contiues.