It seems like a lot of people have been confusing me with my "cousin" in Cincinatti, Uncle Jay. But I can assure you that we only look alike.
Looks like we've been having our fill of natural disasters, boys and girls. More earthquakes in Chile, Alaska, Turkey, and Avigdor Lieberman's office. And snowstorms on the east coast are knocking down all the eruvs! Vice President Biden was visiting and he refused to daven in my shul for Shabbos (and I don't live in Ramat Shlomo). But it looks like we may have avoided one natural(ization) disaster... the Knesset voted down the latest conversion bill.
And that brings me to Uncle Why's Jews word for this week:
Halacha literally means "way to go" and it is just that. It basically refers to all the rules we have to follow in order to be proper Jews.
This does not mean that the term originated then. It is safe to assume that the term was taken from the Torah itself. Not only do we find this terminology openly expressed by the prototype convert Yisro in Shmos 18:20:
כ וְהִזְהַרְתָּה אֶתְהֶם אֶת-הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת-הַתּוֹרת וְהוֹדַעְתָּ לָהֶם אֶת-הַדֶּרֶךְ יֵלְכוּ בָהּ וְאֶת-הַמַּעֲשֶׂה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשׂוּן:
And by Moshe Rabbenu in Devarim 28:9 and, of course, by HKBH Himself in my all time favorite pasuk (Vayikra 26:3): אִם-בְּחֻקּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֶת-מִצְוֹתַי תִּשְׁמְרוּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶם אתָם :
But it is craftily encoded in this pasuk (Devarim 6:24):
וַיְצַוֵּנוּ ה' לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת-כָּל-הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה לְיִרְאָה אֶת ה' אלקנו לְטוֹב לָנוּ כָּל-הַיָּמִים לְחַיּתֵנוּ כְּהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה
Notice how all three of the pasukim that I displayed are discussing the חקים - the laws.
Now, I don't think that I really need to explain to you what HALACHA is, boys and girls, because since you are all on the Internet (which many people hold is against HALACHA) you are all probably familiar with a nifty little site call Wikipedia which has a reasonably accurate entry all about it.
Only it likes to spell it: HALAKHA.
Orthodox Jews believe that halakha is a religious system, whose core represents the revealed will of God. Although Orthodox Judaism acknowledges that rabbis made many additions and interpretations of Jewish Law, they did so only in accordance with regulations they believe were given to them by Moses on Mount Sinai (see Deuteronomy 5:8-13). These regulations were transmitted orally until shortly after the destruction of the second temple. They were then recorded in the Mishnah, and explained in the Talmud and commentaries throughout history, including today.
Orthodox Judaism believes that subsequent interpretations have been derived with the utmost accuracy and care. The most widely accepted code of Jewish law is known as the Shulchan Aruch. As such, no rabbi has the right to change Jewish law unless they clearly understand how it coincides with the precepts of the Shulchan Aruch. Later commentaries were accepted by many rabbis as final rule, however, other rabbis may disagree.
What these paragraphs allude to is Uncle Why's second Jews word for this week:
The view held by Conservative Judaism is that while God is real, the Torah is not the word of God in a literal sense.
Get that? G-d is real but the Torah is not literally His word.
I wonder - who wrote this? I must admit that this is even beyond the capabilities of Uncle Why to explain! If G-d literally gave us the Torah (Rambam Principle #8), then it must be literally the word of G-d. And if it is not literally the word of G-d, it can only mean that they believe that G-d did not dictate the Torah. In short, they believe the Torah is man-made.
Let's go on.
However, in this view the Torah is still held as mankind's record of its understanding of God's revelation, and thus still has divine authority.
What exactly did G-d do at his revelation if He did not dictate the Torah? Why do they believe there (literally?) was a revelation if all the other parts of the revelation story are not literally true?
In any case, let us take a tally. This "viewpoint" seems to believe in Rambam's principles 1, 2, and 3 that G-d is real. Maybe they also believe in 4 and 5. But they do not believe in #8 that our Torah was given to Moshe from HKBH. And, if so, they cannot believe in #9 that He won't change it. Why not change it? He never gave it! Consequently they cannot go with #6 and #7 for if the Torah is not "true", then the words of the prophets can't be any truer. #10 may stand that HKBH knows all of our actions but reward and punishment (#11) must be out because if there are no G-d-given commandments, there cannot be G-dly repercussions. Finally #12 and 13 are discussed in the Talmud as directly derived from the Torah. But if the Torah is not the literal "word of G-d" there is nothing to derive.
Final score - maximum 6 principles in and at least 7 principles out.
In this view, traditional Jewish law is still seen as binding. Jews who hold by this view generally try to use modern methods of historical study to learn how Jewish law has changed over time, and are in some cases more willing to change Jewish law in the present.
You mean to change traditional Jewish law? I thought it was binding?
A key practical difference between Conservative and Orthodox approaches is that Conservative Judaism holds that its Rabbinical body's powers are not limited to reconsidering later precedents based on earlier sources, but the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards (CJLS) is empowered to override Biblical and Taanitic prohibitions by takkanah (decree) when perceived to be inconsistent with modern requirements and/or views of ethics.
In other words, if it doesn't work for you, change it. And if you can change some of it, you can change all of it. What does G-d care? He never gave us any of it anyway. He just "revealed' Himself.
And this must be why there are so very few Conservative Jews who recite the Shema every day upon rising (and when they lay down). It must be inconsistent with modern requirements and/or views of ethics.
How enlightened! I must tell you that I would find it easier to believe in a virgin birth.
מִי חָכָם וְיָבֵן אֵלֶּה נָבוֹן וְיֵדָעֵם כִּי-יְשָׁרִים דַּרְכֵי ה' וְצַדִּקִים יֵלְכוּ בָם וּפשְׁעִים יִכָּשְׁלוּ בָם:
And now it's time...
...for one of your Jews questions. Actually the one that inspired this post.
However, this post is much too long as it is and the question will have to wait for a future post.
So...so long for this week, boys and girls. Tune in whenever I am ready to answer more of your Jews questions and remember...
Great Halachic Men make great Jews!!