Chumra Of The Month

Matthew writes:

You can keep track of the strength and potential danger of black hat orthodox judaism by what "chumras" they are advocating. A chumra is, roughly defined, as a "stringency." For instance, Adam told Eve that she could not touch the tree of knowledge, when all G-d said was not to eat from the treet. The serpent exploited this and when Eve touched the tree and saw nothing happened, she went on to eat the tree and now man must sweat to earn a buck and women are dominated by men (except in Iran, which has no gays and women are equal to men, kind of a mixed NOW/Eagle Forum nirvana).

A recent chumra is requiring people to have separate microwaves for meat and milk dishes. There is a prohibition on mixing meat and milk. The rabbis have intepreted this to require certain separations, for example, it is 100% accepted that a mixing occurs if hot milk food is served on a dish that had at one time had a hot meat dish on it. Hence the universal acceptance of two sets of dishes.

A pretty well accepted "non mixture" was using the same microwave for both meat and milk, provided that you kept the microwave clean (most human beings do this out of basic decency) and covered the food – this way no items of food from one dish could get in another dish. You can google for more erudite discussions of this and the analysis by great Rabbis.

Now comes a chumra of the month – many rabbis are having two microwaves, one for meat and one for milk. This can cause a problem with people refusing to eat in someone else’s home who does not keep this chumra. This is not a chumra like standing during the reading of the Torah or sleeping in a different room from your wife during her period (rather than separate beds in the same room), which is a personal choice. No, this is a chumra that operates (and perhaps semi-intentionally) to distinguish among jews by instituting a stringency at the very very margin.

This is a bold and radical new form of chumra that operates at the communal level.

You will notice that there are precious few chumras regaring relations between man and his fellow man.

For instance, there are certain people at shul who will not say good shabbos to me. I make it a point to say good shabbos to everyone, from the five year old kid playing with my kid, to the Rabbi, to the old holocaust survivor who cannot remember my name. However, there are people who like to play some type of mental favorites by purposefully not greeting their fellow jew. I challenge any Rabbi in any Orthodox Congregation to condone such behavior and rather to issue an edict, ex cathedra, that it is incumbent, ouf of respect for the people and for the holy day, to greet all fellow jews with the day’s greeting. Extending honor to a fellow human being is in keeping with Jesus’ golden rule, which was stolen from Leviticus, and seems of little use to Orthodox Judaism. Just think, would Rabbi Weil have touched Aron Biston if he first had to say good shabbos?

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been noted in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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