Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Chilul Hashem of Chumrot: Parasites in Salmon

Hearing the latest controversy about the Kashrut of Salmon reminded me of a comment Rambam makes in a letter to his pupil regarding the controversies that broke out about the Mishne Torah after its publication. Apparently it threatened the authority of the then Gaon in Baghdad, Rabbi Shmuel Ben Eli and other rabbinical leaders so they went on the attack against many of the MT Halachik rulings as well as theological positions. The controversy turned nasty and Rambam’s pupil Rabbi Yosef ben Yehudah corresponded with him about it. In a lengthy letter (or as some claim a series of letters gathered into one), Rambam advises his pupil, amongst other quite fascinating comments, to refrain from getting caught up in the dispute and restrain himself from responding.

And about your being upset because he (R. Shmuel Ben Eli) attacked you in a public document – do not let this bother you because no person would remain quiet when hurt by another one. You must realize that you hurt him very much. You destroyed his reputation and blunted his arrows. Without you, the Rosh Hagalut (apparently the title of the leader of the community in Aleppo where Rav Yosef lived) would have been like a dove in the talons of a kite (bird of prey) as he would have shamed him in the matter of the Get and other such matters, destroying him. (Apparently Rav Yosef defended the Rosh Hagalut against an attack by RSBE on a ruling he made and RY defended him). You cannot expect that someone you caused harm to should love you and praise you! There is also no point in your asking where his Fear of Heaven is? For this man (RSBE) and others like him, even those who are greater than he is, even those that preceded him, see Yra’at Shamayim (fear of heaven) to be punctiliousness in Chumrot just as it is in the perception of the masses. However, the obligations that pertain to developing good character traits are not considered by these people to be a part of Yra’at Shamayim. They also are not careful with their speech, like those who have perfected their Yire’ah are. Furthermore, all the people of religion, especially those that have positions of authority, once a matter threatens their authority, their Yire’ah (fear of heaven) disappears!” (Translated from Iggerot Harambam by Rav Sheilat page 308).

The insistence of these technocrats of Halacha in how to ensure that every technical detail of a Halacha even to its illogical conclusion is foisted on their followers and public is done without any regard or thought to the underlying theology of the Mitzvah. If they did not put up this great barrier between thought and technical detail, if they did not dismiss theology as unnecessary, and questioned a little the whys and wherefores, we might end up with less Chumrot and more Yire’ah. Furthermore, by continuing this nonsense, they erode the authority of Halacha in the eyes of people and create a great Chilul Hashem. They are trying to assert themselves and impose their control at the detriment of the truth, without any regard to the consequences that their actions have on the Klal. In fact they are eroding legitimate Halachik authority and the influence of authentic rulings.

This is just from a religious perspective. From a practical Halachik perspective, there is plenty of discussion already in the press and online. Here is a synopsis in one article.


  1. Interesting, thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for mentioning this Rambam, it is very interesting. I wonder what the dispute was exactly, have any idea?

  3. I don't understand what the segment of Rambam's letter, that you quoted, has to do with your position regarding "the latest controversy about the Kashrut of Salmon":
    You are talking of Chumrot affecting the Yir'at Shamayim of the public, where he was talking about being threatened in a position of authority affecting the Yir'at Shamayim of some Rabanim.
    You are decrying the foisting of Chumrot on the public as diminishing Yir'a and eroding "the authority of Halacha in the eyes of people", creating "a great Chilul Hashem", but he only refers to the common perception, in the eyes of the masses and some Rabanim( such as R. Shmuel Ben Eli), that such punctiliousness in the observance of Chumrot is considered the definition of Yir'at Shamayim( Fear of Heaven).

    What, then, is the connection between Rambam's commentary on the lack of Yir'at Shamayim in some Rabanim, and the effects of extra Chumrot, as in the 'Kashrut of Salmon' controversy ?

  4. Tamir, thank you for your comment. I was however talking about what propels these Rabbanim to promulgate the Chumrot. Rambam explains that very well, especially the need to defend their authority. When one sees through their supposed Yr'eah and sees them for what they are, opportunists and/or technocrats, a chilul hashem ensues. How many people do you know that take these chumrot seriously? In my community, and it is at the center of Flatbush, very few do and all you hear in shul are snickers about the Frumis. How do you think will they react when a real problem arises and a necessary psak comes out? Who will even pay attention?

  5. Eliyahoo William Dwek.

    When ‘dayanim’, ‘rabbis’ and false ‘mekubalim’ use the Torah for their own power and commercial profit, this behaviour is abhorrent.

    No other ‘rabbi’ will ever act against another ‘rabbi’ - even when he knows his colleague is clearly desecrating the Torah. Each rabbi is only worried about losing his own position.

    Therefore, the ‘rabbi’, ‘dayyan’ or false ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) will never effect justice. And he will never truly stand for the Torah or the Honour of Hashem. His pocket will always prevail.

    These are the men who are the worms – in the fish.

    The Torah must never be used for commercial gain and profit. Amm israel can only be lead by those who have the necessary love and respect of Hashem and the Torah.

  6. Eliyahoo William Dwek.

    Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

    If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be leading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

    Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

    We are commanded in the Shema to:
    ‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

    ‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

    Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

    The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

    Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

    Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
    “Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

    “Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”

  7. Eliyahoo William Dwek.

    1. The ‘dayan’, ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’ may use lies. They turn the innocent into the guilty, and the guilty, become the innocent. They will not hesitate to tell lies in the Synagogue.

  8. Eliyahoo William Dwek.

    2. The ‘dayan’, ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) may knowingly and willingly, deliberately deceive a Jew or Jewess. e.g. in the area of shidduchim, or offering to perform a ‘pidyon nefesh’.

    This abhorrent and deceptive behaviour has caused tremendous harm to people who are innocent and trusting.

    A further word of advice regarding those who masquerade as a ‘dayan’ ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’):

    - Do not ever ‘kiss the hands’ of these men (which they might offer to you in public).

    - And do not be duped into queuing and waiting, to see them for their ‘brachot’ (‘blessings’). They peddle ‘brachot’ purely for their own selfish gratification and ‘kavod’ (‘honour’).

    Their duplicitous behaviour is nothing short of deception and cunning. In short they are abhorant and causing so much harm to amm israel. They prey on the vulnerable, and those who are naïve, unsuspecting and trusting of these pedlars.

  9. Eliyahoo William Dwek.

    3. The ‘dayan’, ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’ may steal. They steal and siphon off money for themselves, from the community and individuals.

  10. Eliyahoo William Dwek.

    4. The ‘dayan’, ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’ will not hesitate to use Lashon HaRA - the ‘Evil Tongue’ - to suit his own ends. Slander and gossip. This is one of the worst acts of murder in Jewish Law – and they know this.

    5. The ‘dayan’, ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’ may shame and humiliate a Jew in public, even repeatedly. This is one of the most vile acts of murder in Jewish law – and they know this.

    6. The ‘dayyanim’, ‘rabbis’ and false ‘mekubalim’ worship idols and other gods. The Avodah Zara in question is Money. Especially the ‘Dayanim’ – the ‘Judges’ who sit on a Beit Din. They only care about their high incomes and retirement packages. They have little or no love for the Torah or Hashem.

    In the case of Lubavitch/Chabad, all their rabbis are carrying out a form of Avodah Zarah – strange worship. They are using mediation and intercession. This is completely forbidden, and against the Torah. We are only allowed to pray to Hashem, directly ourselves.

    7. When the NAME of Hashem has been taken in Vain – repeatedly - by reshaim, the ‘rabbi’ ‘dayan’ or false ‘mekubal’ will knowingly and willingly, turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the


    This behaviour by so-called ‘leaders’, is abhorrent.

    This is an extremely severe and dangerous situation.

    There is NO forgiveness for this evil sin and aveirah.

    8. The ‘dayan’, ‘rabbi’ or false ‘mekubal’ may also offer large bribes, tell lies and bring False Witnesses – when he in fact has committed the crime. These are heinous acts of the most despicable kind. This is especially vile when the ‘dayan’ is sitting on a ‘Bet Din.’

    9. The ‘rabbi’ may commit adultery. And when he gets divorced, he may spread slander about his own ex-wife, blackening her name – when in fact he was at fault.

    10. The ‘dayan’ and ‘rabbi’ may also desecrate Shabbat – if it suits him. He will use physical violence to assault another Jew or Jewess at any time. This evil and venomous behaviour is 100% against the Torah.