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The Crown of Halacha

Acharai Mos-Kedoshim – 5777 The SO/SO Jew

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Vayikra 5777

Acharai Mos-Kedoshim 5777

The SO/SO Jew

“… and do not follow their (Canaanite) traditions.” (Vayikra 18:3)

Is Tradition is Enough to Protect Us?

Rashi questions these words, “(Isn’t this obvious?) Why did the Torah have to tell me this?”  If one has the Torah‘s traditions then there is no room for any other tradition!

He answers that Hashem is telling us not to go to the theaters and stadiums of the non-Jews. According to this, even if a person is meticulous in his Torah observance, he can still follow the ways of the non-Jews. How can this be?

What is a SO/SO Jew?

We can explain Rashi’s answer with the following story brought in the name of the Yad Yehudah:

Once a wealthy man wrote to the Yad Yehudah. “I am the owner of a large forest where there are many types of animals, all of which are hefker. Is it permissible for me to hunt them for sport or would this be forbidden because of tzar balai chaim (cruelty to animals)?”

The Yad Yehudah wrote a complicated answer proving that the wealthy man could indeed hunt the game on his reserve. Since the man had a specific purpose in mind it did not constitute tzar balai chaim. However, the Yad Yehudah warned the man that by hunting, he would become a student of the hunters mentioned in the Torah, namely Nimrod and Eisav. Were these the role models he wanted? When a person becomes lax in his devotion it usually means that in some way “he is attending the theaters and stadiums of other nations”.

Answer: Secular Orthodox

The wealthy man in our story structured his life around Torah and mitzvot, but something was lacking. On one level he was leading a Torah life and yet he was drawn to the behavior of Nimrod and Eisav. He was leading a double life, one that could easily fall to ruin with the slightest push.  He was living on the edge.

We see from this that a person can be doing all the mitzvot, asking for psak halacha on every deed and yet not living a complete Torah life. It is not enough to learn daf yomi, doven visiken, keep kosher and guard the Shabbos. A Jew must be mindful of the gray areas of life; something may be halachicly permitted but what about the side effects? A Torah life means to walk in the ways of our forefathers by constantly aspiring to reach higher levels of holiness.

Make Your Life Memorable

In our days the list of meaningless paths is numerous and we can easily be led astray. However, it is possible to live an extraordinary life by appreciating the value that Torah adds on a daily basis.  If we focus on the pleasure and benefit of serving Hashem then our Torah observance is strengthened and we are protected from illusion and fantasy.

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