- General Questions
It seems every Halachic authority I consult is biased towards his particular sect’s hashkafa. How can I find objective advice?
Kudos- for your fantastic question (as usual!). Without a doubt, there is an overlapping between a rabbi’s hashkafa (world outlook or philosophy) and his halachic decisions. This isn’t “bias” but it is the very definition and part of the beauty of the Oral-traditional process, where we view the “70 different faces of the Torah” which complete and “harmonize” each other, as something positive. In other words, machloket (argument) is not only inevitable when people (especially Jews, and even more so, rabbis!) are involved, but it’s actually found on every single page in the Talmud, and is exactly the Oral process which God formulated in His eternally relevant Torah! Today, when there is no Sanhedrin, you must choose an orthodox rabbi whose world outlook suits yours, in order for you to truly identify with his halachic decisions, and for them to be relevant, not artificial, and suitable. In order to do so, the best thing is to learn the Torah objectively (!, in the original Hebrew, not through some biased Artscroll translation) and in its entirety (!) including: Tanach, halacha, Talmud, mussar (ethics), the basic classic books of philosophy and belief (Rambam, Kuzari, Maharal), and today, it’s important to learn chassidut as well (as I mentioned in previous responsa). Inevitably, anyone who learns the Torah objectively in all her beautiful width and breadth, will arrive at some form of religious-Zionist philosophy, which by definition, includes all of the above. One cannot learn Tanach (and the rest of the above) objectively without seeing the importance of the nation (not just religion) of Israel; without wanting to serve in the Israeli army; without wanting to speak Hebrew, and wanting to live a rich “living” Torah which addresses a normal functioning nation of learned idealists who work (either as shepherds, farmers, or today, in high-tech, business, medicine, movie production or whatever suits your soul) to build the Jewish State to be a “Light among Nations” in the Land of Israel. This is what Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, Moshe, and Joshua, through David, Isaiah and Jeremiah, and down to Rabbi Akiva, Rambam and Kuzari all dreamed about, taught and as much as possible, practiced themselves. Don't pick and choose a sect, but simply see it all for yourself. This is exactly the beauty of Torah-true religious-Zionism (which is the vast majority of world orthodox Jewry, though one living in America, may not realize it!). It’s the opposite of reform- it’s leaving the exile to go forward to the past- to the original. You can also know that religious Zionism is correct because it holds that all of the opinions are correct (when they speak positively, not negatively about the others!) and are meant to harmonize every aspect of the world that God created. It simply includes it all, as is fitting for a Godly Torah. With Love of Israel, Rabbi Ari Shvat