Friday, July 15, 2011

The Techelet Controversy 2 - An Email, and My Response

Continued from this post.

I received the following email from a very close acquaintance, who wrote,
A few points to ponder:
1. The title Godol is not one bestowed upon "little" people (no pun intended). a "Godol" is a "Godol B'Torah" and they are called that because they no more Torah and have greater insight into the Torah than the rest of us. If all of the Gedolim do or don't do something that IS reason enough for us to do or not do that thing - end of discussion. If there was merit to the opposing view then at least ONE of the Gedolim would do it. Since there is plenty of machlokes in the Torah world and many opposing views within Halacha (note how long the Gemmoroh is - without opposing views Artscroll woudl be out of business). IF a Godol felt strongly about something he WOULD do it. The fact that none of them wear techeiles IS enough of a reason not to do it. I won't go into all the Torah sources for mimiking the behaviour of the Gedolim - nor will I invade the privacy of their bedroom, but it IS in our best interest to follow their lead.
2. You wrote that it's ok to have the color of the tzitzis match the color of the beged and therefore it's ok to have techeiles. I saw your talis and it's not blue, nor are all of your tzitzios...
3. There is a price to pay for going against the accepted "tide". It has become fashionable to do that and that helps destroy the fabric (again, no pun intended) of the community. Bnai Yisroel were lauded for very few things when they were in Mitzrayim - not changing their clothing to follow some new "trend" be it Egyptian or "new age" was one of the them. We are who we are and we are that way because we steadfastly cling to what is handed down to us. Minhag Avosaynu B'yadeinu is not limited to holding an extra day of Chag in CHU"L. Remember the adage - change your Minhag and you're gong to Gehenam - both words may have the same letters but very different outcomes.
I responded to him (and you, as follows)
Dear (Very close Acquaintance),
First and foremost, thanks for your thoughtful response. As you can see, I'm pretty passionate about this issue, and I can see that you are too. All the better.
I'd like to post your response to me - and my answers to you on the blog. If you give me permission, I'll do it with your name, and if not, I'll do it anonymously.
I'll respond to your points one by one:
1. Of course we look to Gedolim for guidance and leadership. But I think that today this has gotten out of hand, to the point that we won't even try and perform a mitzvah unless the gedolim do it. Sometimes gedolim, as great as they are, make mistakes. (see Eim Habanim Semeichah on the position of the Gedolim that advised, and even forbade Jews from moving to Israel. He has very harsh things to say.) But more to the point, I don't think that Judaism was ever meant to be a religion where we only do things that gedolim do. I'm not talking about issur; moreover, gedolim don't say (generally) not to wear techelet; they don't do it themselves. When did the fact that great rabbanim don't do something make it assur?
Secondly, you should know that Rav Tal, Simcha's Rosh Yeshiva, as well as Rav Hershel Schachter of YU do wear techelet. Rav Tal is not my Rav, and I don't ask him questions, but Rav Schachter is certainly someone I consider a rav of mine, and I have and do ask him shailot. Are they "great" enough to rely on?
2. Regarding the color of the beged: the mishnah berurah says that it's a hiddur of zeh keili v'anveihu to have the tzitzis be either white, or the color of the beged. but al pi din, they can really be any color you want. Am I willing to give up the hiddur of all white for the chance to fulfill a d'orayta. You betcha.
3. Regarding לא שינו את מלבושם - this is really a ridiculous argument. Is it really "trendy" now to want to fulfill דאורייתות? For years and year, people wore תפילין דקות. Why? Because they didn't have the technology to properly make גסות. When someone finally figured out how to do it well, why didn't the whole world say, "you know what, we've got a minhag that we don't want to give up"? Because גסות are better. They're a hiddur. Go check your father or grandfather's tefillin. They didn't have גסות. But you do. And I do. Isn't that the abandonment of a minhag that will lead us all to gehenim? Of course not! It's an attempt to fulfill a mitzvah in a more special and appropriate manner.
And to suggest that putting techelet on our clothing is some trend, and that we're abandoning the principle of שלא שינו את מלבושם represents nothing less than a complete bastardization of the midrash. I can tell you one thing: this morning, when you said ונתנו על ציצית הכנף פתיל תכלת, you knew with absolute certainty that despite the fact that you're saying the words, and you know God wants you put that blue string on - you're still not doing it. When I say the very same words, I think, "You know, there's a chance that I'm actually doing what הקב"ה wants in this one area." And instead of thinking about bucking trends and changing minhagim, I feel lucky - fortunate about the fact that I live in a time when we've been given the gift of being able to fulfill this mitzvah once again.
And I feel pretty good about that.