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Is it necessary to provide an answer to everything?


Rabbi Jonathan Blass

10 Shevat 5763
Sirs: I enjoy reading the questions and answers in your paper, but I do wonder whether it is truly necessary to provide an answer to every question. It appears that in Orthodox Judaism, life itself is codified. It also appears that many rules are there to be broken, as when you say it is proper to artificially enlarge the area to which people are supposed to be restricted on Sabbath so that they won’t violate the "travel" prohibition on that holy day. It appears to an outsider that a lot of the time devoted to ritualistic behavior or to answering questions about the proper behavior could be better spent on projects to improve people’s lives. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I am very curious about this.
Improving Jewish lives means giving those lives meaning and sanctity in every aspect. That sanctity is not artificial. The halacha allows the Jew to discover and develop the intrinsic sanctity in himself and in the world. In this sense, Judaism is devoid of ritual that is merely symbolic. The halacha in its “technical” details is no more complex than life itself and expresses the sanctity in life. The halachic code does not come at the expense of faith or good character; it extends both of these into the details of everyday life. None of the laws are meant to be broken. Like in secular legal systems, it is the law itself that determines how and when it must be kept.
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