Saturday, March 10, 2012

No emotions now

(Rav Moshe Tendler on Har HaBayis)

I have recently read the following article: "Temple Institute Disagrees with Chief Rabbis over Temple Mount".

Briefly, a few rabbis have declared it ossur to ascend on Har HaBayis. And the rabbis of Temple Institute disagreed with them.

Now, I am all in favor of dissenting opinions, especially those disagreeing with Israeli rabbis. But I like dissenting opinions expressed intelligently. Not this way:
Throughout the ages many prominent halakhic authorities personally ascended to the Temple Mount, including the celebrated Rambam (Maimonides), who ascended to the Mount at the risk of his life in Crusader-dominated Jerusalem. Indeed, as the Rambam himself testifies in his letters, he was so moved that he merited to ascend the Temple Mount to pray there, that he instructed his descendants to mark the day of his aliya (6 Cheshvan 1166) as a day of personal yom tov (rejoicing) for all generations.

Issues of Jewish law are not to be determined by personal feelings, opinions, or emotions. In the formulative process of halakhah, sources must be cited, verified and compared. Today, many prominent, respected Torah scholars, including yeshiva heads, visit the Temple Mount on a monthly basis together with hundreds of their students. To minimize or denigrate these scholars and to imply that they are acting outside of Torah law is misleading, damaging and wrong.
Do these people realize that the two cited paragraphs contradict the two sentences in bold? Yes, emotions or personal opinion have no place in halachic process. Yes, sources must be cited, verified, and compared. What do they offer? A story (uncited) about Rambam ascending Har HaBayis and how emotional he got — and no other opinions or arguments. Oh, right, a bunch of "yeshiva heads" have been known to make the journey, and to say that doing so is ossur would be to hurt their feeling. I see...

I am wondering whether these people are aware of the fact that once upon a time the wives of great "yeshiva heads" and leaders of the generation had cooked chicken with milk. And yet, at one point, it has become not kosher to do so due to a gezeira of the Chazal.

Simply put, times change. And each rabbi has halachic authority to pasken for his community (the "formulative process of halacha" is, after all, nothing but a lot of personal opinions of some people whom certain communities hold in respect). As the authors of the ban eloquently answered to the question regarding Rambam, "The poskim in the times of Rambam allowed it. We don't." Yes, what was good for Rambam is bad for modern Israeli and American tourists. And what was fine in the times of the First Beis HaMikdosh stopped being so in the times of the Second.

Not that I have any sympathy for the modern chumra fetish or Israeli rabbis. But badly constructed arguments repulse me even more.

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