Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rabbis are not infallible!

Lately, I've been having some frustrations with my chavrusa (hereafter known as Chavie--all names have been changed to protect the guilty.)  A couple of years ago, we started out studying the parsha.  That lasted until we both figured out that I could wipe the floor with her in Chumash, despite the fact that she graduated from Bais Yaakov, and I--never went to Hebrew School.  So, then we started studying Hilchos Shabbos.  Actually, she started reading me the Meoros HaShabbos series.  We're still doing it.  However, our discussions get sidetracked from time to time.  Meoros HaShabbos intersperses various halachot with stories of the rabbis of the past.  They're the usual stories about rabbis performing miracles, or being particularly careful in observance.  This usually leads to some fur flying.  See, I don't believe in the idea that G-d listens to a rabbi's prayers more than He listens to mine.  I don't believe that red strings, or blue beads, or baking challah with a group of women, or being more stringent with how you choose to cover your body, will lead to financial success, health, shidduchim, or children.  Chavie, on the other hand, believes the rabbis are, well, about a step removed from being G-d.  One time, during one of these stories, the rabbi in the story said something unsavory.  I remarked that he sounded like a jerk.  Chavie read me the riot act.  "How can you SAY that?  This is a great rabbi!  He's a learned scholar!  He has yiras Shamayim!..."  and on and on.  So what?  He can still be a jerk from time to time.
Also, I think it's important not just to know the halachot, but to know their source.  So, for example, we are studying the laws of a Gentile performing a melacha on Shabbos.  Bottom line--we're not supposed to benefit from it.  I said that it's because G-d commanded in the Torah that Shabbos is a day of rest not only for us, but for our servants and our animals.  Asking a Gentile to do something for you (especially if you're PAYING him) violates this.  Chavie's response?  "If the rabbis said it, that's good enough for me."  Well, it's not good enough for me.  I want to understand their logic.  After all, rabbis are great people.  They are learned.  They have yiras Shamayim.  But they are still only human.  They can still make mistakes.  There is only one Infallible Being in this world.  And He is not now, nor has He ever been, a person.

1 comment:

  1. No offence to her but you friend's not too bright.
    First of all, if part of becoming a rabbi meant taking on a high level of learning and piety and that without those you couldn't be one then yes, rabbis would be entitled to a special level of respect. However, we know quite well that this is not the case, nor has it been for a couple of thousand years.
    Secondly, knowing why a halacha is the way it is can be crucial to understanding it. The prohibition of not getting a gentile to do something for you on Shabbos is a great example. There are indeed times that a gentile can do work for you on Shabbos and knowing which occasions those are is important. No issue in halacha is black and white and sitting back and saying "I'll just memorize the rules" is a copout.


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