Can Chumros Be Bad For Your Neshamah?

by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky

In his recent post on the “disappearing woman”, Rabbi Adlerstein highlighted two important points in the discussion that have ramifications well beyond the specific topic of eliminating pictures of the female half of our community from most charedi publications. I would like to elaborate on the Torah sources to support Rabbi Adlerstein’s critique, as well as the negative impact on the fibre of our authentic quest for spiritual growth caused by this unfolding culture.

Rabbi Adlerstein writes:

1. Another argument that I completely reject asks rhetorically, “What does it hurt to be machmir?” This is a negation of so much that we know to be true from our mussar literature, that to hear the words is painful.

2. . arguing that it is too difficult to make distinctions between pictures, so all should be banned, is the single most distasteful element of this discussion. It represents capitulation to the most dangerous thinking in our community today – our disbelief in our own common sense.

The issue of chumrot – knowing when to take a more stringent approach in halakha — breeds much confusion as well as communal conflict. An examination of that topic will show the connection it has to what Rabbi Adlerstein terms “common sense”.

Rav Shlomo Wolbe, zt”l, in Alei Shur, Vol. 2 in a chapter entitled “Frumkeit” (page 152), raises a number of points that serve as the basis for an informed discussion. A summary is presented below.

Frumkeit and Da’at

Rav Wolbe writes that “Frumkeit” (a Yiddish word implying a high level of religiosity) reflects an instinctive drive to relate to the Almighty Creator. It is found in every living creature, even among animals (see Tehilim 104:21, 147:9). Instincts flow from a self-centered drive for self-perservation, and are rooted in egocentrism. Instinctual acts strive to attain a perceived personal benefit. Even when the desired benefits are very laudable ones, an act rooted in instinct is motivated by a quest for one’s personal welfare.

This egocentric quest, writes Rav Wolbe, cannot be the foundation for proper “bein adam l’chaveiro”
(interpersonal mitzvot) nor for authentic “lishma,” doing the Mitzvah its own sake and for a transcendent purpose.

Our culture has perfected the attitude of always looking for the payoff: “What’s in it for me.” Sometimes the payoff can be more money, sometimes it can be prestige, sometimes power or fame. And we, as Torah Jews, recognize (hopefully) that there can be even bigger and better payoffs. Better than winning the lottery or some worldly indulgence, there is Olam HaBah, with all the images we have absorbed of the absolutely most fantastic and pleasurable experience imaginable. But if we are doing what we do – our mitzvot – motivated by the quest for the payoff, it is tainted by a dimension of egocentrism. After all is said and done, we are still looking out for number one. Although we have a more elevated picture of what serves as a payoff compared to society at large, the ultimate motivation is self-centered, to attain that payoff.

True “lishma” means we are doing a mitzvah to serve the Creator, in fulfilment of the mission for which we were created, or at least in appreciation of what He has given us. Actions which are truly lishma are done for the Almighty, motivated from within by the drive to fulfil His will, to fulfil the responsibilities for which He created us. The reward, Olam Habah, is a reality, and being aware of reality is always crucial (and frequently very difficult in our media-saturated culture of illusion), but it is not supposed to be the motivating factor.

This is exactly what the Rambam writes in Chapter 10, Hilchos Teshuva, Halacha 1-2. “A person should not say I am doing the Torah’s mitzvoth in order to receive the blessings written in the Torah, or to merit Olam HaBah, and I will avoid the Torah’s prohibitions to be saved from the curses or from being cut off from Olam HaBah. This is service out of fear. A person serving out of love involves himself in Torah and Mitzvoth. for no other reason than pursuing truth for its own sake, with the reward a natural consequence.” The Rav Wolbe continues: Proper service of G-d has to be built on “da’at” – an accurate, deep intelligent understanding of what G-d wants from us, acquired through clear thinking and a deep analysis of Torah. The Talmud (T. B. Sotah 21b; Talmud Yerushalmi Sotah 3:4) illustrates the concept of “chasid shoteh” (a pious fool) with two examples. (It is truly ironic that one of them is an extreme example of what seems to be taking place in front of our eyes, no pun intended.) A woman is drowning, and a man with the ability to save her says to himself that it is not proper to look at women, and does not save her. A child is drowning and a person delays saving him until he removes his tefillin (since jumping into the water while wearing tefillin is disrespectful for them). By the time he has removed the tefillin, the baby has drowned. The common denominator of these examples, explains Rav Wolbe, is following a spiritual instinct without da’at, that clear and intelligent analysis and understanding of what is required of a person in every specific situation. The result of actions rooted in instinct rather than da’at can be the source of distancing one from G-d, rather than bringing one closer to Him. Becoming closer to G-d must be based on a deep understanding of the process of connection to Him, rather than imaginary notions of spiritual accomplishments. This requires clarity about what G-d demands of a person in every situation, having our feet planted firmly on the ground, operating in reality rather than in some self-generated fantasy world. A true relationship with G-d is rooted in proper actions in the real, physical world. The drive and excessive focus on “getting closer to G-d” (especially in our quick-fix, microwave society) emanates from “frumkeit,” that instinctual desire to reach spiritual heights, with the yetzer hara seducing us to find ways to get there without the requisite time and effort necessary.

Egocentric motivations based on the drive to be “frum” can be especially misleading and destructive. Rav Wolbe quotes the famous story of Reb Yisrael Salanter who didn’t show up one Yom Kippur night for Kol Nidrei. On the way home, the people found him in a house rocking a crying baby – whose mother had gone to Kol Nidrei, rather than staying home to take care of her infant. She was in search of her personal feelings of spiritual elevation, rather than focusing on doing what G-d wanted her to do at that moment and under those circumstances. Reb Yisrael couldn’t pass by the crying baby, even to go to Kol Nidrei. He was sending a message to the mother that our spiritual priorities are determined by responsibilities of service – which is a mitzvah – rather than by what makes us “feel frum” – which can very well be an aveirah.

True closeness to G-d is attained by honest submission and deference to the will of G-d, based on a clarity and deep understanding of his Torah and its priorities.

What are our motivations?

This is the gist of the chapter in Alei Shur. I would add a couple of personal insights.

If the goal of chumrot is viewed as a way to earn more reward, then it isn’t really service, but becomes another way for me to fulfil my personal goals, as lofty as they may be. One of the ways I heard used to explain the value of chumrot to children is that while a certain activity or stringency isn’t required, and people who don’t fulfil it are not transgressing anything, “G-d will like us better if we do it this way.” This attitude contains an undertone of being motivated by personal gain, making myself a more likeable person, and trying to overcome my own insecurities. A superior presentation would be “G-d expects this level of observance/service from us.”

If we adopt a chumra in order to provide G-d with the highest level of service we can give, we must ask ourselves why He would only expect that premium level of service in our chalav Yisrael milk, glatt Kosher meat, or erasing women’s faces from our magazines, and not expect the same level of premium service in our level of charitable giving, true love and support of other Jews (even those with views that differ from ours), meticulous care to go beyond the letter of the law in our business dealings and monetary interactions, critical standards in determining what are necessities and what are luxuries, or in the commitment to the quantity and quality of our Torah study.

Honest examination of our motives is necessary. Why do we want to avoid relying on (possibly lenient) opinions that served the Jewish community well for decades? Is it because we want to be “frummer” than our neighbors? Are we looking for social acceptance? Or is it because we realize that G-d has given us more resources with which to serve Him than He gave our grandparents, and as such the level of our ability and responsibility to serve Him has also increased? If it is truly the latter (as I would like to hope) then how hard are we working to identify, to clarify, to understand the scope of those responsibilities. How careful are we about discharging all of them, not just the relatively easy or highly visible ones? Is there a consistency in our level of chumrot? Rav Wolbe makes the point very sharply: Chumrot, stringencies, are not a “risk free” endeavor. A chumra in one area of our observance has the very strong potential to enable us to rationalize laxity in another area.

Many people are of the opinion that increasing chumrot is an easy way to avoid the need to really know and understand Halacha — “When in doubt, do without.” The combination of a community keeping many chumrot along with pervasive ignorance of Halacha and an intelleigent understanding of Torah would lend credence to this observation. But it would not be very encouraging in assessing the true spiritual level of our communities. Besides making us vulnerable to rationalizations described by Rav Wolbe, being stringent in one area of Halacha while being lax in another area indicates confusion about how to properly apply Torah in man’s fulfilment of his responsibilities in serving G-d.

In Halacha we have a concept of “yesh al mi lismoch,” valid opinions which can serve as a basis for following a lenient approach. There is a concept of “hefsed merubeh,” great loss, which can be grounds to follow certain Halachic leniencies. Why is the embarrassment or discomfort of another Jew (which is a serious violation in one area of Halacha) considered so dispensable in order to follow a strict opinion in another area? While this doesn’t suggest eating something which is not Kosher simply to avoid embarrassing someone, finding a way to avoid the embarrassment has to be as high on our agenda as avoiding the un-Kosher food. Da’at is necessary to know how to adjudicate between these conflicting values implement this balance. If there are accepted opinions on the lenient side of an issue, then “da’at,” a deep and proper understanding of the Halacha and the tradeoffs, may require relying on the more lenient opinion in those circumstances. This is not a psak for any situation, and not every novice is qualified to render decisions which can be “beyond their pay-grade.” But a decision based on “consumer demand” is certainly not applying da’at or Halacha.

This leads us to a related issue. Chumrot that cause one-upmanship, strife, and social discomfort are likely being performed with a feeling of superiority. This takes us in the opposite direction of the road that brings us closer to G-d. Why do some people need to broadcast their own chumrot while constantly investigating those of their neighbors?

There are two motivations for serving G-d, to which the Rambam cited above is referring: Yira’ah (fear) and ahavah (love). One can serve G-d out fear, afraid of the negative consequences of violating His will and seeking to obtain personal benefits. Or one can serve G-d motivated by pure love, with the simple desire to do the will of the Creator, thereby drawing closer to him, rather than any personal benefit from this service. Fear is always inwardly directed, while love is always outwardly directed.

In Netivot Olam, Netiv Ahavat Hashem, at the end of Ch. 2, the Maharal quotes the Gemara in Avoda Zara (19a) and the Mishna from Ch. 1 of Pirkei Avot “Don’t be like servants who serve in order to get reward, but be like servants who serve with no intention of getting reward.” Why are we admonished not to serve with the intention of getting reward? Isn’t the natural motivation of anyone who works for someone else to get some kind of benefit or compensation? Yes, says the Maharal, this is the normal way of a service relationship between human beings. But one who serves in order to get reward is not committed to truly serving another; rather he is doing work for someone else in order to get a payoff for himself. This is legitimate when serving a human “master” says the Maharal, because no human servant is created for the purpose of serving his owner, and he has no inherent responsibility for service to any other person. Man, however, was created for the purpose of serving G-d, and as such, his service should reflect pure service, being performed for no other reason than a fulfilment of this intrinsic purpose
(“avodah b’etzem” is the language used by the Maharal). So the service, in order to conform with the concept of pure service, should be with no intention of receiving any “payoff.”

This is true “avodah m’ahava,” service out of love. It emanates completely from within us, and is independent of anything outside of us. It is up to us, and depends on our attitude, as well as our sense and recognition of responsibility. Love is built on the motivation to give, to share our resources, to imitate the Almighty, as the purpose of our existence. This attitude manifests itself in our marriages and interpersonal relationships as well. Being a loving person, committed to giving and serving resides within each of us, and is independent of any individual recipient. True giving starts by making oneself a loving, giving person. Then one can love others, and will give to them as a result of recognizing the giving as part of the proper service of G-d for one was created.

Should chumras emanate from the motivation of love or the motivation of fear? “What does it hurt to be machmir” certainly sounds like it is motivated by fear, and if we are honest, we will find that this is motivation for many of our chumras. This isn’t the way it should be.

As the culture of our community has moved in the direction of increased stringencies in the ritual aspects of Halacha, it is time to step back and examine whether this move is being driven by our instincts for spiritual inspiration – or by the true da’at Rav Wolbe writes is necessary for authentic spiritual growth.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky is the Dean and Rosh Yeshiva of Shapell’s/Darche Noam Institutions: Yeshivat Darche Noam/ Shapell’s and the Midreshet Rachel v’Chaya College of Jewish Studies for Women. A native of Los Angeles, California, Rabbi Karlinsky has been in Israel since 1968, where he studied at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh and the Mirrer Yeshiva in Jerusalem. 

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23 Responses

  1. Shades of Gray says:

    This is a link to the “Frumkeit” essay in Alei Shur:

  2. Raymond says:

    It seems to me that both Jewish law and life itself, makes more than enough demands on us, without us adding to it with extra stringencies. How much more is this the case if one really is adding such stringencies just to feel spiritually superior to one’s fellow Jews, or to compensate for not following Jewish law properly in other areas. I would say that if one feels the need to add such burdens to one’s life, that one should do it in the realm of how one treats one’s fellow human beings. Going out of one’s way to be kind and considerate toward others, strikes me as being a laudable goal, as our world is so deficient in kindness and compassion and there are many sad, lonely people out there. In contrast, having such stringencies when it comes to laws between Man and G-d, strikes me as being unnecessary, since G-d really is not affected by our actions toward Him anyway. I suspect that many religious people tend to emphasize the commandments between Man and G-d more than the kind between people, simply because too many of us find it easier to relate to G-d, then to be truly kind to our fellow human beings.

  3. Eli Julian says:

    Reminds me of the pithy Yiddish aphorism – “Frum is a galach, a Yid is ehrlich”. Loosely translated (with a lot of wit lost in the translation): A priest is religious (frum), a Jew is earnest.

  4. Tz says:

    A great person once asked the following question:

    The Gemara tells us that during the Second Temple period, Jews were “osek b’ torah, mitzvot, and gemilut hasidim”. We know that doing hesed – giving to others – engenders love, not animosity. So, how did it come that they were constantly doing hasidim for each other but they hated each other?

    Then answer is to be found in the Talmud Yerushalmi, where the braitha states that, “During the Second Temple times the Jews were diligent in Torah, careful in mitzvot observance and tithing, and they had every good custom, but they loved money and hated each other for no reason.”

    The Yerushalmi here (actually an older source than the Bavli in that it is a braitha, not an amoric statement) adds that love of money and sinat hinam caused the destruction. So, today, a very frum person would ask, “But look how many people are living in poverty for the sake of Torah? How can you say they love money?”

    The answer is that they’ve just exchanged one currency for another. Instead of the currency that buys the pleasures of this world, they are working to gain currency that buys pleasures of the next (e.g. zchussim). Thus, Torah observance – learning, mitvot, and doing hesed – became selfish endeavors.

    And once that happens, all is lost.

  5. ChanaRachel says:

    It’s worse than that– Just about every chumra causes one to be lax about some other Mitzva. Some examples- excessive chumrot on pesach can ruin simchat chag; all sorts of chumrot can cause shalom bayit issues; excessive kashrut chumrot can add to the economic distress of families that can least afford it. I would suggest that very few chumrot are neutral. Thus, it is not only that “what does it hurt to be machnir?” may reflect wrong motivations..the fact is that many chumrot have direct and negative consequences.

  6. dena frenkel says:

    i am wondering if chumras arent related to the extreme materialism of our age? which i think is the direct result of our difficulty in feeling connected to G-d. so people instead turn to the material world and external trappings as an outside display of the connection they no longer feel inside.

  7. Michael Mirsky says:

    Those who hold by the need to erase pictures of women are not going to be swayed by this because to them it isn’t a chumra – it’s halacha!

    • Gary says:

      Spot on. Tosofos in Sanhedrin (20a) cites a Yerushalmi that states it’s a disgrace for B’nos Yisroel to be in a position where men can stare at them. It seems that the other opinion agrees to the “g’nai” but holds that funerals are an exception. This is unrelated to the injunction on men against staring. It reasonably follows that a close up photograph in a general magazine or paper is an instance that invites staring and, following this Yerushalmi, B’nos Yisroel find it demeaning to be featured in such a forum. As with other assessments of Chazal, this g’nai should be assumed to be the default assumption even in modern times. It’s not a matter of permitted / prohibited, but one of “g’nai” which results in halachic application. If there is an alternate approach, I would appreciate hearing hearing it.

    • Yehudah Posnick says:

      But is it really halachah? If a woman is dressed properly, to the extent that it is permitted to say Shma or Shemone Esrei with her in view, is it still forbidden to have her picture in a newspaper?

  8. Rafael Falafelawful says:

    Here is an articles published by R’ Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer in the Jewish Observer many years ago about Chumros:

  9. Eli Blum says:

    When chumros are simply a matter of group identification, “top down” commands (for those with a “Rebbe”, both chassidish and Rosh Yeshivish) with the alternative of shunning, and not wanting to look less “frum” than the next group, where does that leave the followers?

    Chumros have been here since the Perushim (AKA Pharisees) looked down at other Jews for not eating their Chulin b’Taharah, and who walked by hurt people on the side of the road in fear that if they helped, they may become tameh (until the Good Samaritan comes along). We have not learned the lesson, and when we do, Moshiach will be here (b’karov).

    • Bob Miller says:

      There is no need here to recycle Christian propaganda of long ago.

      Anyway, the community’s social expectations, regardless of origin, can drive the individual or family into practicing chumros. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to choose among communities, short-term.

      • Eli Blum says:

        Bob: Knowing all of the Chumros created in Tumah V’Taharah to create separations between different Yidden (and how they were magically waived during Yom Tov for fear of those others going elsewhere), the story moves from “propaganda” to “quite likely to have happened to someone”. IMHO, this is part of the “Sinas Chnam” and “Chasid Shoteh” that later Tannaim and Amoraim harp against, and that we are still guilty of today.

        And yes, social expectations certainly is a “motivator” for people to keep “Chumros”, and is yet another unfortunate effect (maybe a “main” effect in those communities) of keeping and enforcing non-halachic chumros. It also changes the discussion from individual motivation to keep a Chumrah (with the idea of being closer to Hashem) to something more sinister.

      • Bob Miller says:

        For some, practicing the local chumros is exactly like wearing the local uniform (when some other mode of dress would be equally acceptable according to halacha). It’s the price of admission or retention.

      • Eli Blum says:

        Knowing all the Chumros of Tumah that were in place at the time (another parallel to the time of Churban Bayis Sheini), I would not dismiss the story as “propaganda”, but believe it to be a realistic outcome of what would of happened in that sort of situation at that time period (whether it happened to “oso haIsh” or not).

  10. David Ohsie says:

    Why do we want to avoid relying on (possibly lenient) opinions that served the Jewish community well for decades?

    This and other parts of the essay imply that the negative effect of Chumros are extrinsic (they excuse ignorance, they draw energy away from more important areas, they support haughtiness, etc).

    I think that there is a more fundamental issue. If something is truly permitted, even if it is subject to dispute, then it is permitted and treating is as forbidden simply has no intrinsic value in many cases *. If a knowledgeable enough person investigates an issue and feels that a more stringent opinion is correct, then they are not being stringent, but doing what they understand to be right. Conversely, if one investigates and the lenient opinion appears correct, then stringency has no inherent value. An person ignorant of the issues simply following a stringency out of “doubt” or “fear” of doing something “wrong” when the leniency is the established opinion is subverting the whole meaning of P’sak. If the P’sak is to be lenient, then one may be lenient and there is no “doubt” or “fear” to be concerned with. P’sak is in the hands of man, not the angels or even God himself.

    *I would exclude most cases of Bein Adam L’Chavero since one person’s gain is another’s loss and Gemilat Chesed always applies.

    [YA – Not so simple. Please look at the beginning of chapter 14 of Mesilas Yesharim, where he speaks of perishus b’dinim. Granted that he is speaking of a madregah (perishus) that that Gra said we no longer reach, but that doesn’t stop people from trying bits and pieces of higher madregos at times in order to spur themselves to reach higher. He describes this kind of perishus as “to always be machmir, taking into account even minority opinions when the reasoning is appealing – even when the halacha is not in accordance with this opinion, but with the proviso that the chumrah does not lead to kulah.” So there is room for chumrah beyond what you describe.]

    • David Ohsie says:

      Dear Rabbi Adlerstein: Thank you for taking the time to respond.

      While Judaism is so diverse that I wouldn’t ever claim to cover every single source, I don’t see this source as a contradiction. As you quote, he explicitly says “אם טעמו נךאה” meaning that if the reasoning of the “minority” opinion appears correct. This is not a case of being stringent simply because a stringent opinion exists, but because the person has understood the area, agrees with the rejected opinion, and has decided that he wants to fulfill the Torah in the way that he personally has received it (so to speak). The proof is that (as far as I know) if you are Machmir for a rejected opinion in the Talmud, then this is not viewed as meritorious; instead it is suspect.

      If this is true, then trying to bootstrap yourself to a higher level to simply take on a stringency is of no value. It has to reflect a deep understanding of the halacha.

      In addition, one of his examples is Mar Ukvah’s recounting that his father waited 24 hours after meat to each cheese. Yet Mar Ukvah himself did not take this on! As you mention, he’s talking about individualistic efforts in select areas (and where he thinks the rejected opinion is correct as I mentioned above).

      But I agree that it is not so simple :).

  11. david rubin says:

    I think it is important to firstly define what is a “Chumrah” as this term is thrown around and used in many areas of religious observance. I believe the true chumrah is that which is based on a machloket in the gemorrah. When there is a machloket and the halachah follows the majority opinion, an individual has the right to be stringent with himself and follow the minority opinion if he wishes. He knows that this action at least has a basis in the gemorrah and this is a true chumrah. Other forms of stringency may simply be “frumkeit” is the worst understanding of this expression.

    • David Ohsie says:

      I believe the true chumrah is that which is based on a machloket in the gemorrah. When there is a machloket and the halachah follows the majority opinion, an individual has the right to be stringent with himself and follow the minority opinion if he wishes.

      I make no judgement here as to whether this is a good idea or not. However, such a Chumra would likely be regarded as a form for Kefirah. If the Talmud has paskened, it is not regarded as legitimate to go against that P’sak whether or not it is a stringency or leniency. For example, suppose that someone says that on Shabbos that he is Machmir like the position of R Yehudah with regard to Muktzeh and therefore will not move an “dirty” object (Muktzeh Machamas Mius) despite the fact that the Talmud says that we pasken like R Shimon and it is permitted to move such an object. Such a practice would be regarded as improper, I believe, at least if done for that reason.

      What you say would be permitted with regard to an argument among the Rishonim on the interpretation of a Gemara, since there is no final p’sak in such areas.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Ask yourself the following questions-how many Tekios will you hear in total on either day of RH? What is the shiur that Klal Yisrael accepted to obligate themselves in Birkas HaMazon? Why is a Nidah considered as a Zavah with respect to many halachos? There are many so-called “chumros” in the Talmud that are normative Halacha. Moreoever, the fact is that Safek DOraisa LChumra in any such situation.

  12. Sholom S says:

    These words are beautifully written and should be taken to heart by the affected communities. But unfortunately Chumras are born of and sustained by societal and economic factors and have very little to do with fear or love of God.

    Chumras can be economically profitable by exploiting communities prone to behaving with a herd mentality. And they are also an easy(er) way for parents to gain leverage in a skewed shidduch market; to “show status” so to speak.

    Only once the underlying factors are addressed and resolved will the Chumra spell be broken.

  13. dr. bill says:

    I would suggest the Ph.D. thesis of a frum woman: “Piety and Fanaticism: Rabbinic Criticism of Religious Stringency [An Open Discussion of the Talmudic Rabbis’ Views on Self-imposed Religious Stringency].” it was written almost 2 decades ago, and some new ideas have emerged.

    One story: a classmate of mine did something publicly that was both halakhically supported/required and different from the rest of the shul. he asked the Rav ztl about his behavior. The Rav smiled and said: For me that would be yuharah, but perhaps for you…. I never forgot that lesson.

  14. Tz says:

    The Kuzari makes clear that excessive ascetic practices in “his days” were harmful because the “spirituality” people seek was, even then, unattainable. So, when people engage in the those practices with no fruit – no objective spiritual transcendence – the people become miserable and upset. Consequently, they reach for the next “thing” – a limud, a tefilla, a practice – that promises to get them “there.”

    Let’s be honest – books promising “ruach ha-kodesh” or some type of spiritual enlightenment or feeling of “kedusha” at the end of the “humra rainbow” are creating a lot of the problem. I opine that that buying into this alchemic quest is the reason the Litvish world is increasingly trending Hasidic in thought and mode – we live in dark times and people are desperate to feel any type of so-called spiritual enlightenment.

    But the premise – that a real, palpable enlightenment (as opposed to a self induced, temporary and subjective elation) may be obtained, when, because of our sins, the real thing just not available to us today; just as it was not available in the Kuzari’s day.

    Chasing pots of spiritual gold at the end of the chumrah rainbow is creating lots of unhappy people. These unhappy people are bewildered, but don’t realize they are on an infinite journey to nowhere.

    Jewish gold is in the golden mean – the middle path advocated by all of the classic, early Rishonim. The middle way promises no spiritual fireworks, but its all we have until true prophecy is restored.

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