Question. People often quote Blu Greenberg’s assertion,
“Where there’s a rabbinic will, there’s a halachic way.”
Do you think she’s right?
Answer . I understand what she’s getting at:
“If the rabbis really wanted to, they could find halachic loopholes.”
But putting it like this makes a mockery of halachic principles.
There certainly are situations in which the halachah allows for leniency, but you cannot go to a rabbi and challenge him,
“Rabbi, you’ve just got to turn treif into kosher!”
The fact is that halachah, like any legal system, has its firm principles, and rabbis are pledged to uphold them.
Blu Greenberg, like every rabbi and every Jewish lay person, is desperate to solve the problem of the recalcitrant person (male or female) who is unwilling to agree to a gett for an ex-spouse. But each case has to be handled quietly, and on its own merits, without implying that rabbis somehow do not care or that if there is no gett the halachah can find a way of declaring one unnecessary.
Rabbis continue to work on the issue, but the cause is not helped by sloganism or rabbi-bashing.
CELEBRATING A BABY
Question. Why do we have a celebratory meal when a baby boy is born?
Answer. It probably began with Abraham and Sarah who made a feast to mark their son Isaac (Gen.21:8).
Any happy event has a Jewish celebration associated with it, originally because childbirth was associated with danger and there was no guarantee that the mother and child would survive.
There was also a spiritual and intellectual danger. The unborn child is said to have learnt a great deal in the womb but at birth everything was lost, so that subsequent education was like re-learning. Having a party to mark the birth was to console the baby for his loss of knowledge, and it reassured him that the family and community welcomed his arrival nonetheless.
All this applies when the baby was a boy, but many circles extend the celebration to the birth of a girl. The source is said to be the Talmudic report (Bava Batra 91a) that Bo’az had 120 children, 60 boys and 60 girls, and he believed in celebrating the birth of both sexes.
JEWELLERY IN THE BATHROOM
Question. My husband gave me a necklace with the Hebrew words, “Dodi Li” (“My beloved is mine”). May I wear it in the bathroom?
Answer. Religious objects and Biblical verses, even without the Divine name, must be treated with respect and in general must not be taken into the bathroom.
Maimonides ruled that a tallit with a b’rachah or Biblical verse on the collar must not be worn in the bathroom (Shulchan Aruch,Yoreh De’ah 284:2). One should not wear t’fillin in the bathroom unless they have two coverings (Mishnah B’rurah on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 282:4).
The whole or part of a verse (e.g. “Sh’ma Yisra’el”) must not be taken into the bathroom unless it is a phrase like your “Dodi li” (the source is Shir HaShirim 1:13) which is a common expression of love.
More problematical is “Mitzpah” (“a watchtower”, which is part of a phrase,
“The Lord watch between me and you” (Gen. 31:49),
though it could be argued that some people do not realise that it is part of a Biblical passage.
If a person has an amulet bearing the letter “heh”, which is a symbol of the Divine name, they should not wear it to the bathroom.
An associated issue is the question of how to dispose of religious texts which as a general rule must be placed in a g’nizah (storage receptacle the contents of which will be buried in due course).
Most views are strict and say that any Torah material in English – even if the name of God is not spelt out in it – must not be discarded in the garbage, etc., though if it has not been used for prayer, study, etc., some allow it to be placed in a paper recycling bin.