Are We Advocating Pick and Choose Torah to Fit One’s Needs?

A friend recently wrote in pointing out that comments of the form “it depends which Rabbi or neighborhood you live” pop up recurringly on Beyond BT. This could easily lead to picking a Torah that fits us, instead of changing ourselves to fit the Torah.

While most us us do recognize that there are multiple paths within Torah, we certainly don’t advocate molding Judaism to fit ones needs.

How do you view this issue?

Can the the expression of multiple opinions here mislead newly observant Jews into believing that a BT can tailor Orthodoxy to fit their needs?

If it is a problem, any suggestions on how to deal with it?

65 comments on “Are We Advocating Pick and Choose Torah to Fit One’s Needs?

  1. jjj #64, it is a matter of trusting our Gedolim. If the Gedolei HaDor say to continue observing the second day of Yom Tov, then we continue doing so. Pirkei Avos starts by detailing the chain of Mesorah from Moshe Rabbeinu going down to the Anshei Knesses Hagdolah. If we do not trust in the Gedolei Ha Dor to teach us what the halacha is and what authentic true Torah is, then we might as well pack up our donkeys and go back to Mitzrayim. Historical narratives tell us that ordinary Jewish people used to crowd eagerly to hear what was said by Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan and by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, because they sincerely believed that they would hear the voice of what G-d wanted from us issuing from those two human throats.

  2. There is an inherent assumption that lenient is bad, stringent is good. But do we really know what god wants. For example said 1 day for first and last days of holidays – we celebrate 2 even though we know now perfectly which is the real holiday and which was merely the rabbinic add on. Thje justification is that “all of Israel” accepted this custom. This logic is applied to all sorts of things. Think about it. some rabbi is saying he knows not only what god thinks but what all of Israel – every jew – actually thinks – is this part of the 13 rules that were handed down from sanai – I think not.

  3. FFB, I took some time to think about your answer to “why not pick and choose?”, especially that it provides a bad example for children and promotes a bad attitude in ourselves — that Torah is unpleasant and burdensome. I’m not sure that I agree with this logically. But I think that on a sociological level there is a lot of truth in it. It makes some sense to me. So thank you for giving me something to think about and for answering my question in a more satisfying way than I had heard before.

  4. On the post “Why do Frum Jews Purchase Anti-Orthodox and Anti-Israel Periodicals?” ( raised the issue of media attention to the burning of wigs that were made from hair used in idol worship.

    I was not involved in the disposal of any of these wigs. At the time, I wondered why they were burned instead of being donated to cancer patients. I was informed that such a donation would be a benefit from idol worship, and would not be permitted.

    If I was actually involved in this matter, I would have searched for a leniency to permit the donation. I would hope to find some legal justification for it; if none was to be found, so be it.

    I think that this issue is relevant to this post. It’s a case of helping other people, without a direct benefit to oneself. I’m not sure how I would have gone about it; does one try to find the rabbi most likely to be lenient and go right to him on a one-time basis? Does one try to find a biblical or halachic precedent and present it to one’s own Rav and hope for the best?

    In the matter of seeking leniencies, we should be mindful that it is not always appropriate to ask. When it is appropriate to ask, we should do so. We should also be prepared to get an answer we don’t like and to abide by it.

  5. The Gemara’s harsh criticism for someone who takes on either the leniencies of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, or all the stringencies of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel, the gemarra concludes (if I’m not mistaken) is referring ONLY to a case where both sringencies (or both leniencies) are mutually exclusive.

    For example: One vertebra is missing from an animal’s spine.

    One opinion holds the animal is a treif
    The other opinion holds the animal is still kosher.

    Therefore, the first opinion holds the spine is incomplete and would not be tumei.
    And the second opinion holds the spine is halachically complete and would not be considered tumei.

    (I don’t know the exact details off hand, and I forget which opinion is Beit Hillel and which is Beit Shamai).

    But, on a case LIKE THIS, someone who takes the stringency in both issues (or the leniency in both issues) is criticized.

    He is going AGAINST LOGIC in order to be lenient, or in order to be stringent.

  6. correction:

    I guess it means someone who does wrong knowingly, not out of ignorance or desperation.

    Please excuse my English.

  7. I’m no talmid chacham and I don’t study gemora, but I guess it means someone who does wrong on purpose, not out of ignorance or desperation. Pehaps the gemora means he is a rasha only in the area where he chooses to take on everyone’s leniencies.

  8. FFB, When the Gemora uses the term Rasha it can mean different things in different contexts. From your study of this Gemora, how do you understand the term Rasha in this context.

  9. Please bear in mind that the problem is not so much “taking on everyone’s leniencies” as “calling it a valid path”. I can understand a BT, or anyone for that matter, saying “Look, I take advantage of any leniency I can get my hands on because this is the best I can do. I wish I’d be able to do more and I hope I will one day, but right now, I feel I can’t do any better.”

    What I don’t understand is the audacity to insist this is just as right as any path in Yiddishkeit, the “golden mean”, one of the 70 faces of torah, etc. Once a person feels that way, anybody who is trying harder seems foolish. Why work so hard when much less is just as right?

    BTW I’d rather risk being called a fool by the gemora than a rasha, but I wasn’t advocating taking on everyone’s stringencies either. This could drive (and has driven) anyone nuts, especially those new to yiddishkeit. Advance at your own pace, but realize this is right for *you*, for *now*.

  10. Menahem wrote,

    “There’s an amazing article on the subject called Rupture and Reconstruction by Chaim Soloveitchik.”

    I enthusiastically second the endorsement of this article. After reading it I better understood both the attempts to create novel minhagim that, while not ever expressly prohibited, had never previously existed, and also the attempts to get people to follow strict halachic interpretations that for many centuries had not been accepted.

  11. FFB, just before the passage you quoted the gemorah (yerushalmi, kedushin) says of one who takes the chumras of both: והכסיל בחושך הולך “and a fool walks in darkness”. But, let’s keep in mind that this is an agadata in Yerushalmi before calling people fools or rashas.

    In our generation I think the problem of picking chumaras is a bigger problem. There’s an amazing article on the subject called Rupture and Reconstruction by Chaim Soloveitchik.

    However, I think in this forum it’s better to go with logical explanations like Larry’s than to call people Rashas or Fools.

  12. “Groups within Orthodoxy”

    I’m not sure where I fit in. I follow “Normative halachah” (RW MO or LW UO). I’m very accepting of non-traditional women’s roles (LW MO) but don’t really do anything at all with non-Orthodox movements (RW UO). We are quite sceptical towards general society’s behavior and values but not isolationist (LW UO). My wife covers her hair and wears long skirts (you didn’t include skirt length!); neither of us has watched television in years (does that make us RW UO?) but attend Broadway shows and opera (not on your chart — my rav not only considers opera to be mutar l’chatchila but attended an opera a few months ago with his wife). We both have earned doctorates and enthusiastically suport secular education (LW or RW MO).

    Most people who know me from blogs probably think I’m LW MO. But I’m not so sure based on your chart.

  13. I agree 100% with Larry Lennhoff’s comment. That is why I try to address all my halachic questions to the same rav.

  14. SquarePeg613

    There is a reason for not picking the leniencies (or the stringencies) of different rabbis. Generally a rabbi has a consistent methodology for making his decisions. His rulings are internally consistent. But if you pick some from this rabbi and some from that, the resulting rulings might not be consistent at all.

  15. I don’t feel worthy or knowledgeable enough to educate, label, or condemn anyone. I just repeated the gemora’s words as an answer to sqpeg’s question. If anyone was offended, please forgive me.

  16. I agree, Morris. Did someone “simply say” only that?

    I didn’t have the impression this forum was ripe for a philosophial discourse, but I did try to highlight the pt that accepting a Rav is not about lining up with his opinions but subjugating your ego to his Daas, as if he’s a living expression of the Torah. (again, this does not mean to blindly follow but to critically trust)

    This is a famous Chazal, after all. Hopefully those whose curiosity is piqued will look further.

    FFB, be carefully abt that RASHA stuff. We need to educate, not label and condemn.

  17. The gemora says about a machlokes between Hillel and Shamai: כקולי שניהן רשע – one who takes the leniencies of both is a rasha. Not “parve”, not “b’dieved”, not “modern” – A RASHA.

  18. “During breakfast I was skimming the Yated and there on page 2, the Editor’s View, Rabbi Pinchos Lipchutz column is titled “The Tent of Torah”.

    Can we get residuals?

  19. How do we know if we are sincerely looking for the right path that fits our needs AND requirements at this point and are not just taking the easy way out?

    I thing a good barometer would be our attitude to those higher up on the ladder of observance. If we admire them and strive to emulate them when the time is right for us, that proves that we’re really unable to do more at this time. If we denigrate them or their ways, that proves that we’re just too lazy or materialistic to shteig.

    Taking the easy way out never earns one self-respect. In order to bolster our egos, we tend to degrade and malign those taking the harder way.

  20. Absolutely, Mark. And we are to attempt to understand Chazal, the Rishonim, Achronim, and modern day Poskim.

    That is how we expand ourselves, by gaining clarity on what is and what isn’t Torah. We can then understand what it “the tent of Torah”, and what is not.

    Mark, it’s about semantics, not philosophy. My professional background contributes to my focus on the significance of word usage. As I noted previously, if you feel “expanding the Tent of Torah” means including more Jews, so be it. Your heart and your actions are in the right place.;

  21. Morris,
    I wasn’t talking about leniencies per se. We all take on leniencies when necessary. My comment was in reply to a question on my previous comment about “taking on everyone’s leniencies and calling it a valid path.”

  22. PL said: “Torah is Torah. It is not within our power to ‘expand’ it’s tent. Hashem decided what is Torah and what it includes.

    Just curious: How exactly do you understand the role of Chazal, the Rishonim, Achronim and the modern day Poskim?

    Do you believe Hashem vested any power to man to decide what is Torah and what it includes?

  23. During breakfast I was skimming the Yated and there on page 2, the Editor’s View, Rabbi Pinchos Lipchutz column is titled “The Tent of Torah”.

    Here’s the last paragraph:
    “The more Torah is studied, the more of our fellow Jews will be brought into the Torah’s tent and the closer we will be to the day that truth will finally triumph over falsehood with the final redemption, may it happen speedily in our day”

  24. YY,

    Not that I agree with the approach to take on any leniencies, no matter how many different Rabbonim they come from but I’m not sure how you’ve explained the reasoning. Simply saying that something is not a kli for ratzon hashem sounds like a platitude. You can provide that as an anser to any such question.


    Leniencies are not always a function of allowing more olam hazeh. In fact, I don’t even think that is often the reason.

    There are myriad reasons for allowing leniencies, especially for BT’s. Just off the top of my head they include the fact that someone is not yet ready to take on a certain thing, differing levels of observance between spouses, communal norms, parental pressure, psychological issues, afforability issues, etc.

  25. Squuarepeg613,

    Why *shouldn’t* we pick and choose?

    Two reasons:

    1. This shows that Torah is an unpleasant burden that you try to minimize as much as possible.

    2. This shows a very poor sense of priorities.
    leniencies are sought to allow more olam hazeh, physical comfort and pleasures. If your house, food, cars, simchas and clothes have to be just so but in yiddishkeit you get by with the bare bones, you show that materialism is much more important to you than spiritualty.

    While this is an unholy way to live for yourself (קדש עצמך במותר לך), it’s a terrible example for the kids.

  26. Arthur (29) said: “Everyone picks and chooses that is human nature.

    Which is precisely what Torah has come to refine! It’s true we should be sensitive to this REALITY and not degrade ppl for doing this instinctively. At the same time, we must be highly cautious about those who make this into a shita (ideological system of thought). Torah is called a “tavlin l’Yezter HaRa”, a spice or antidote for the propensity to resist the Creator’s Will. This means that accepting the Yetzer as a given is our starting point. THEN we need to start figuring out how and to what degree can we begin infusing that tavlin into it.

    BT’s have the luxury and perhaps obligation to shop for a Rav. But once you get there, make sure the nature of the relationship is one that helps you shed that Pick & Choosing mentality.

    Critical thinking — yes. Always.

    Independent thinking — with care and gradual movement past it.

  27. “Torah is Torah. It is not within our power to ‘expand’ it’s tent. Hashem decided what is Torah and what it includes.

    WE have to expand.”

    Here-here, PL. Here-here.

  28. “Should we try to include more Jews here at Beyond BT and in our communities who respect G-d and His Torah and are making sincere efforts to observe that Torah, even if we might not call them observant or Orthodox?”

    In communities, of course one should be inclusive if one wants to be mekarev people.

    On this blog, it’s an issue of group dynamic which I assume eventually will be decided. While you might very well be able to expand the “Tent of Torah”, you may have limits due to the diversity of your group.

    An article in Binah Magazine made a similar point. A Beis Yaakov high school class was apparently talking about certain inappropriate matters, due to immaturity. The author, an experienced educator recommended two approaches: one for the group, and one for the individual.

    For the group, the approach was how to get the class back on track. For the individual, she added that the student might need an highly specialized and individualized approach, consisting of a partnership with expert mechanchim, and parents, since she might have a certain worldliness and knowledge not experienced by the average student in that school.

    Perhaps the same here. You can certainly try to be as inclusive as possible, and my guess is that you have room for plenty of inclusion, which I think you have already been aiming for, within a group dynamic. But any limitations are not necessarily the fault of the individual.

    As an example, in one of the posts on Science and Torah, the Administrators stopped a conversation short with the message:

    “We just want to point out that this is a discussion about… Let’s leave it within those parameters.”

    Now, I see nothing wrong with a Blog moderator doing that, and for what it’s worth, R. Slifkin on his blog, which champions a certain types of intellectual broadness(or whatever one wants to call it), has recently done the exact same thing in setting limits.

    What about the person asking the question: they might feel bad that they didn’t fit in? I would say that the issue is not them at all, just in that particular post, at that particular time, their issue/question was beyond the scope, as a very practical matter. Perhaps the internet itself is not a substitute for other educational venues.

    Anyhow, I wish you luck in expanding the “Tent of Torah” as much as possible, making a Kiddush Hashem, etc.

  29. Further regarding your question:

    Why should we be checking credentials at the door at BBT or other venues; shouldn’t a sincere interest in Hashem and Torah, regardless of current level of observance, be sufficient to criteria for participation?

    I’m at a loss as to what would be the rationale for exclusion from BBT/community venues. Key word being sincere, even sincere curiosity, from my perspective, although others may feel any criterion is unnecessary.

    If we, collectively, checked credentials before engagement, there wouldn’t be any BT’s to speak of.

  30. Of course we should. I can’t even see how that is a question. But that is not expanding “the tent of Torah”, semantically.

    Torah is Torah. It is not within our power to “expand” it’s tent. Hashem decided what is Torah and what it includes.

    WE have to expand.

  31. PL, What do you think about the idea?

    Should we try to include more Jews here at Beyond BT and in our communities who respect G-d and His Torah and are making sincere efforts to observe that Torah, even if we might not call them observant or Orthodox?

  32. Mark,

    I hear the metaphor, but it still doesn’t make sense to me, semantically. Regardless, it’s your choice of metaphor, and if it makes sense to you, so be it.

  33. Chaya, I wouldn’t have used those terms. Menachem used them in his question directed towards me.

    In terms of definition, we did do a “Groups within Orthodoxy” chart over here

    PL, “Expanding the Tent of Torah” is a metaphor which we’ve used here to mean including more people under a banner that respects G-d and His Torah and are making sincere efforts to observe that Torah, even if we might not call them observant or Orthodox.

    In our sincere efforts to stamp Torah paths as valid, we throw many FFBs and BTs out of the Tent of Torah which is unfortunate in my opinion and that of our Rabbinic advisors.

  34. Mark, going back to your comments from yesterday, I would feel more comfortable if you left out labels such as Agudah and Y.I. how do you define those anyways? The level of Zionism or love of Eretz Yisroel; the way the women cover their hair or dress; the type of kippah? Can’t you be more specific without getting political?

  35. squarepeg,

    I like your question; I hope others, like yy, will address this issue. It’s a great question, and I think there are great answers. yy, I will allocate more time later to reading/processing your reply to sq.


    “Expanding the tent of Torah” is confusing to me. Do we have the power to expand the Torah’s meaning and directives to include all varieties of observance/non-observance? I think it is we who need to expand, on two fronts (none of them related to calories):

    1. Expand our Ahavas Yisrael to all Jews, regardless of observance

    2. Expand our understanding of Torah values and halachik directives so when referencing “observant Jews” or “Torah faithful Jews”, we don’t mistakenly exclude those who observe all of the Mitzvos and yet have different cultural or philosophical approaches that are equally valid. Or those who have not accepted upon themselves some Chumros that are mistakenly perceived as Halachos. The Torah has room for a multiplicity of approaches, and yet, not ALL approaches are valid. Not all Hashkafot are Torah Hashkafot. It is we who must expand our knowledge of the immensity of Torah and the valid variability amongst communities/individuals.

    This is not expanding the Torah’s tent, but ours. Semantics, but powerfully so.

  36. Everyone picks and chooses that is human nature. There are many differences in observance that of course depend on where one lives.

  37. Square — I appreciate your honesty. I hesitate to share that since I often get the impression that ppl speak past each other here. When quoting a Tsaddik,I don’t think that’s proper.

    As for ur question — the logic is fabulous. Once leniencies bcm a significant factor, the whole enterprise of Rabbanus as a vessel for Ratzon H’ essentially totters. Their role, as I’ve learned it in s. Chossidus (which is not my only learning, but what I believe is most cogent here), is to serve as crucial means for subjugating ourselves to Ratzon H’.

    As Chazal famously note (in Mes. Ktubos, I believe) about the verse to cleave to H'(Deut 10): How can flesh and blood cleave to the Divine Presence (being eternal)? By cleaving to T. Khokhomim. How does that work? As Rav Nachman Bulman used to put it: first you have to make sure that they are TRULY T. Khokhomim. Once that’s established, you see them as “walking Sifrei Torah”! (see also M. Rabba at end of par. Shlach)

    This does NOT mean infallibility. That’s why disputes among fellow t.Kh’m are encouraged. Authentic Rabbonim should be constantly honing their own understanding against the gammut of other available t.Kh’m. But as far as WE, their talmidim are concerned, unless they are proven as frauds or unknowledgable in a certain area,once he’s your Rav there should NO issue of seeking leniencies. For he’s your link upstairs. And the big factor in linking is to GIVE of yourself, not seek convenience.

    This is the problem with the multi-POV approach. It’s true for the macro but disasterous for the micro. It essentially encourages a Pick & Choose mentality which can never be a kli for Ratzon H’.

  38. I often hear that we shouldn’t pick and choose Torah, or as FFB put it, “not taking on everyone’s leniencies and calling it a valid path.” I am genuinely curious why that is considered so problematic. Asked another way, if each of these leniencies is legitimate, why is it important that they all come from the same Rav? Why *shouldn’t* we pick and choose? If we follow one Rav, with his own approach and set of leniencies and stringencies, aren’t we just making things harder for ourselves than we need to?

    I know you are supposed to listen to one Rav more or less, as in “Aseh Lecha Rav”. But I don’t know *why*. (I have heard the doctor analogy many times, but I don’t think it works too well.)

  39. “we don’t issue certified BT cards at the door”

    It’s a cute remark. But can’t you hear E.L.’s concern? The expanding T.o.T. thing can cause much confusion, even set some people back.

    There are boundaries. There is Halacha and mekubal values. Simply giving every proported BT a chance to vent is not necessarily constructive.

    Fans of excpanding the tent? What in the world does that mean in terms of ratzon H’? I appreciate Steve’s “numerous legitimate POVs within the Mesorah” approach, in the sense of counteracting the MY way or THE way message that too often strangles a fresh-spirited BT. But let’s face it — there are a few very different implications. One is do your own thing, with a hachsher! Another is a good excuse for never fully liberating from the Westerm Klippa of pluralisim (We don’t reeeeally believe there’s One Will, now do we!). And another is the growth and realistic opportunity to find yourself within the 70-ponim thing.

    Personally, it may surprise you to hear that I do NOT believe that “more observance” is the necessary corralary of growth. Rather, more devotion. Where and how can we further our mesiras Nefesh lmaaan H”?

    Naturally that must be within Halacha. But convenience and “mainstreaming” can be profoundly confusing.

    Btw, isn’t anyone interested in the Amshenover’s answer??

  40. I fully concur with Menachem Lipkin’s initial and subsequent comments on this theme. IMO, the question as formulated comes perilously close to assuming as a given that some a more mnonolithic hashkafic POV is preferable, when, in fact, there are numerous legitimate POVs within the Mesorah.

  41. Menachem, my definition of growth is better overall observance of Torah and mitzvos. What definition are you working with?

    E.L. – our Rabbinic advisors are big fans of expanding the Tent of Torah and that’s the direction we’re following.

    This site is not an “Ask the Rabbi” type site, and I do believe there are a number of those on the Internet. It’s more of an “Ask your fellow BTs” type of site, with the caveat that we don’t issue certified BT cards at the door.

  42. No Mark, I’m neutral on that. I made that point because you seemed to resist the idea of changing Rabbis/shuls/communities and I was just trying to point out that you might be less resistant to some changes than others.

    I agree that it’s important to grow. I don’t agree that growth is defined by moving to the right.

  43. To answer the question, NO.
    Understanding that somethings are black, white, and grey takes time.
    What is even more difficult when you start learning Gemara is that there can be multiple answers that are, in fact, multiple “blacks” and “whites”.
    A true Rebbe/Rav/mentor knows that there can be various acceptable answers to issues.

  44. What I think is even more of a concern is that, I sometimes wonder if the viewpoints expressed are ones other than orthodox. This, to me, seems misleading for a site which is called “BEYOND BT,” which I think should entail at least a basic commitment to mitzvahs, and, I would hope, affiliation with orthodox Judaism.

    Not that people shouldn’t have a place to voice thier opinions. But when someone is turning here for religious advice, is it fair that a response could be coming from someone who is admittedly not religious?

    Perhaps, when a life question is at stake, a Rabbi mediator should be responsible for summarizing the discussion and shedding light on where each suggestion falls in the spectrum of Torah priorities.

    Or, perhaps this site should have different sections–have a discussion forum for more casual matters, and a section for Ask the BT Specialist Rabbi for more serious matters.

    Or, perhaps there should be different forums for people struggling at different levels of commitment to Judaism.

  45. Menachem, I agree that there are exceptions, but if I’m understanding you correctly, then you would also have less of an issue if someone felt they needed to “grow” and move from an Young Israel to an Agudah than the other way around.

  46. I asked this question, more or less, to the Amshenover Rebbe, shlit”a, about 20 years ago. I had been a talmid of a recognized Mora d’asra, and an Avreich in his Kollel, for a number of years. My wife and I adored and revered him, but being the critically minded westerners that we were (and he encouraged, to an extent), we did have issues.

    At one point he got very angry with us for something we decided in chinnuch and I later confronted him. “Is that Rav saying it’s mammash assur?”

    “Well, not exactly. But you s-h-o-u-l-d know that…”

    I couldn’t khop it. Went against my grain. But being that I had faithfully learned about “aseh l’kha Rav”, I was befuddled with what to do. Finally I asked him if we could ask the Rebbe I had heard him speaking so highly about (I was always inclined towards chossidus).

    He agreed… and the Rebbe agreed with ME!

    So I asked the Rebbe if this means I should give up the Rav as my Possek. What do you think he said?…….

  47. We owe our mentors gratitude and respect but not necessarily lifelong allegiance. It depends on the situation.

  48. A related question for the BT is “Should you follow the hashkafa of the Kiruv community that brought you into the fold?” It might be difficult to change if you are dependent on that support.

  49. Of course not! But it is feasible, for example, for one to feel the need to drop some chumras in order to be able to grow and observe a greater range of mitzvot.

    So, if a certain Rav or community are very strict with certain chumras, a person may need to find a Rav and/or community that has less pressure in those areas in order for him to grow overall.

  50. Menachem, it depends on the stage. Many BTs start off much too machmir and falter because of it.

    My general understanding of Torah is that over time, Hashem wants you to become more observant in Torah and mitzvos, not less, regardless of whether you belong to Young Israel or Agudah.

    Is that your understanding as well or do you think it’s a valid path to become less observant of Torah and mitzvos over time?

  51. Mark,

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I sense from you that you’d have less of an issue if someone felt they needed to “grow” and move from an Young Israel to an Agudah than the other way around.

  52. Mark,

    I don’t “advocate” changing Rabbis, but it’s certainly a legitimate thing to do if after some reasonable time (sorry that’s a judgment call) you find your hashkafas are misaligned. I don’t think one necessarily has to leave a community if they change Rabbis. Most communities have more than one. However, if there’s only one then chances are the community and Rabbi are interconnected in a way that might necessitate finding a new community.

    Hopefully, most people have other, non-posek, rabbis or at least talmidei chachamim whom they can lean on to help with this type of decision.

    I don’t really think this is the “pick and choose” issue though. Pick and choose, is more a phenomenon of “shopping” a p’sak to find one that is more machmir or meikel to your liking, or worse just deciding everything on your own without at least some guidance.

  53. People move around (physically or otherwise) all the time. They need to consider all effects on those around them, too.

  54. Bob, even in the limited universe of available choices and with guidance, can or should a person opt out of their current community or Rav?

    Of course there might be exceptions, but what is the standard accepted behavior?

  55. Mark asked, “Bob – Do you think every valid/legitimate form of Torah observance is appropriate for every Jew to whom it appeals?”

    Every Jew also needs some guidance in making such a choice. I was trying to set limits for the universe of available choices.

  56. I changed the title from Tailoring to “Pick and Chose” because I think the fixation on the word tailoring distracts from the issue at hand – sorry for my initial poor choice.

    Menachem said
    “While, on our own we shouldn’t tailor Torah or Orthodoxy willy nilly to fit our whims, a good posek within a particular path can further guide our observances, on more granular level, to our needs.”

    What if you decide the posek/Rabbi is not right for you, should you just pick up and move to a new community? What if you like the community, but think the posek/Rabbi is too machmir, should you just pick another one? If you do advocate changing Rabbis, is there a reasonable time limit after which it would be inappropriate to change?

    Bob – Do you think every valid/legitimate form of Torah observance is appropriate for every Jew to whom it appeals?

  57. On the main topic:

    If some existing, legitimate form of Orthodox belief and practice appeals to us to the point that we identify with it and take practical steps to find a community that lives by it, how is that tailoring Torah? Tailoring would be our invention of some new form that does not enjoy the support of any community and its recognized poskim, but makes us feel good.

  58. The question is phrased misleadingly. I don’t think the issue is “tailoring Torah” or “tailoring Orthodoxy”. Yes, people do that and it’s shortcoming that we all have the potential for.

    As you pointed out,the fact is that there are varied and valid paths within orthodoxy. It is a quite a different thing to seek one of those paths that is most fitting to us than to say we’re advocating someone do the reverse.

    As BT’s we are essentially forced to do this. (Though many FFBs, rightfully, seek paths that are more appropriate for them as they become more independent.) Some Kiruv organizations/professionals are more adept at trying to assist people in find the path that is most fitting to their needs and personality.

    While, on our own we shouldn’t tailor Torah or Orthodoxy willy nilly to fit our whims, a good posek within a particular path can further guide our observances, on more granular level, to our needs.

    I think if a newly observant Jew reads carefully and honestly he/she won’t come away with the misconception that anyone is advocating some sort of free-for-all orthodoxy. However, some may be pleasantly surprised to find that there are other ways to be Torah true Jews than the way they were originally taught.

  59. However, with a little digging, it may be possible to recover aspects of the family minhag as it was in prior generations before assimilation, etc., set in.

  60. Anyone joining Orthodoxy has no family minhag and is therefore forced to make a choice as to which path within Orthodoxy to choose. They are not going to be able to evaluate which one is most “true” (if there is even an answer to that question); they are going to be choosing the one that is best suited to them.

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