Saturday, January 9, 2010


I need advice from my readership.

See, I actually need a new rabbi because I'm sick of my rabbi and his chumros. I'm not supposed to open pop bottles on Shabbos because they attached and it's creating a bottle cap where one didn't exist before but, every shul meal you go to, the bottles are not preopened. So, I asked about it. He said that I should insist on a steak knife so I can destroy the bottle cap, at which point someone would offer to open it for me. If I can allow other Jews to open a bottle for me, then why can't I open it?

There are actually other festering issues that I don't deal with. So, how DO I go about finding a Modern Orthodox rabbi to be *my* rabbi?

The important part of this post is:


  1. This is complicated. The argument he seems to be using is that a Jew can benefit from something that that Jew thinks is malacha if it is done by another Jew who in good faith and with good reason paskins that it isn't malachah. Not everyone thinks that though. The issues for interaction of people who paskin differently on what is and is not malachah are complicated.

    However, most people don't think that there's an issue with bottlecaps. Indeed, the one (single) person I know who keeps this agrees that it is a chumra and possibly not halachah.

  2. HOW do I find a new rabbi?

    VERY IMPORTANT! I have no idea how to go about this.

  3. I know it's a chumrah. I told my rabbi I don't want to keep chumros and I only want to keep halachah. He said that I was in better company to keep chumros or some crap like that and I should just suck it up. I can't help wondering if he would tell the same thing to a BT or FFB.

  4. Hi Michal,

    Wow..... what a great question! Personally I'm really glad that there are people who have the guts to ask it.

    Not a simple process, I can tell you that. The gemara (Hagigah 15b) gives a beautiful piece of guidance as to how one should choose a rav. It cites the pasuk from Malachi (2:7) "The Kohen's lips will protect knowledge, and people will seek Torah from his mouth -- because he is an agent of the Lord of Hosts."

    The gemara's advice: if a rav seems like a Divine angel to you, then seek Torah from him. And if not, don't.

    Devastating. (It would put a lot of rabbis out of business.)

  5. This sort of thing happens all the time. Generally, people just wait until someone who isn't so machmir to open up the bottle. In Boro Park, some people hold by the eiruv, some people don't. However, the vast majority of the people who don't hold by the eiruv do so as a chumrah, or else to not take official sides in the matter. They tend to allow others to carry for them, and also let their children carry.

  6. I know. That's the point. I don't believe in chumros and I can't believe my rabbi is admantly insisting that I take on chumros, in addition to halachah.

    HOW do I find a new rabbi? A MO one?

  7. or can I just ignore what the rabbi says and follow the "community opinion" where I live? Then I wouldn't haven't follow any chumrah. Most of the people where I live aren't observant.

  8. Shalom MIchal!

    I think you know already what you're looking for. A rav whose emphasis for the community is 'by the basics' and mainstream, even if he holds humrot himself. Keep in mind, too, that ANY rav who really has an opinion in halacha is going to have some humrot that he is convinced are preferable. Not just a rav. Anyone who learns thoroughly and arrives at some understanding of his/her own of the halacha. So I wouldn't just downplay ALL humrot, even though what you want for yourself is mainstream, I-know-I'm-keeping-the-Torah guidance. Actually, a rav should be responsive to that. In theory.

    There are more rabbanim than you can shake a stick at. Start by talking seriously with your friends. Visit other synagogues. Be willing to take your time. I ideally your rav is somone whom you respect for his scholarship, and trust for his good sense and compassion. There are times when ANY rav will take a stand that you personally don't like. But if you trust him, you'll not be put off by it despite the differences. You already know that Judaism isn't a cult, and some dissonance between the local rav and congregants is bound to happen.

    Wingate's citation is, of course, correct. And yes, it would put a lot of rabbanim out of business. Certainly the rav in our beit midrash. But we make do with what we have, and there really are some fine rabbanim out there. Good luck!

  9. I don't know the Modern Orthodox community well at all. Do you ever hear about certain rabbonim who are into kiruv (not Chabad/Aish style, but going further with people who have become frum) or rabbonim who have kehillos made up of many geirim/baalei teshuvah? Or perhaps you hear of some who are intellectual and scholarly, as well as learned b'Torah? Perhaps these types would be better at understanding where you're coming from, where you want to go, where you're holding now, and the best way to help you facilitate your movement or your staying firm in place without pushing you improperly or expecting you to take on certain chumros that are not in line with the life you want to live.

    Also, one's rav doesn't need to be someone in their own kehillah, the rav/dayan/mara d'asra of their shul, or anything like that. You can have a rav that has little shychus to your community. I'm not sure how this would work since you live in a place without too much frumkeit in the immediate neighborhood, so doing this might require alot of looking outside of your area. Here in Boro Park, it is quite common that people have a personal rav who has little shychus to their larger community. For instance, someone might be Bobov, and has the Bobover rebbe as their rebbe, and all of the minhagim and takanos of Bobov, but their personal rav might be the Karlsberger Rav, who has little to no connection with Bobov. A second example is the Kosover rebbe. He is the dayan of the Vizhnitz kehillah in Boro Park, and he has had this position for a long time. His father was the Kosover rebbe, and when he was niftar, the Vizhnitzer dayan became the Kosover rebbe. Now, some people have the Kosover rebbe as a rav, because he is the Vizhnitzer dayan, and other people have him as their rebbe, as he is the Kosover rebbe. However, since all of these things exist in the same small area, it is easy to do.

  10. For now, I would got by your community. If they don't keep chumrah then don't worry about it and take your time finding a new Rabbi. What he doesn't know won't hurt him.

  11. Firstly, although I personally do open bottles, there are certainly many people who are NOT chumra-crazy who do not. As an aside, I always thought that once you destroy the cap, you CAN open the bottle yourself.

    To me, a bigger question about a rav is how well he understands me and cares about me.

    If the other issues are big enough, though...well, I'm a guy, so my approach is different. But I'd recommend eating shabbos meals at a rav's house, if that's possible...getting to know him a bit?

  12. By the way, one other point - there's halacha, there are chumros, and there are kulos (and then there are out-and-out loopholes, some of which work, some of which do not. Separate issue).

    Some chumros are healthy. Too many are not. Ditto with kulos (I'm quoting from Rabbi Reisman, by the way). I would recommend that you find a rav that in general, has a healthy attitude - and then remember that part of a rav's job is to push us along. That's why I love my rav - he knows me, and knows just how much, how quickly he can push me to to push me, a bit at a time, out of my comfort zone...