Jan 29, 2007

repealing a chumrah

I often hear the complaint that new chumros are instituted fairly frequently and usually with great fanfare. If someone does not follow the new chumrah, he is often socially made to feel inadequate at best and barely frum at worst.

The follow up to these chumros are that often we find a situation where the chumrah hits the haredi street running and takes off like wildfire. Yet, after a period of time, be it a week or two or even a couple of months, it suddenly dies down and is forgotten about by all other than a few people.

Take for example the wigs made from Indian hair scandal from a couple of years ago. The pronouncement that sheitels should not be worn until the situation is clarified hit the street running. People did not wait for lists to be made or decisions to be announced. Rather they felt it heinous to hold on to possible avoda zara in their homes and ran to burn them in the streets. It was not just a rumor. I witnessed my neighbor burning his wife's sheitels.

If you (or your wife) continued wearing your sheitel at that time, you could forget about your daughter getting any shidduch dates. Your level of commitment to frumkeit was seriously questioned. Forget about applying for your daughter to get into a Bais Yaakov.

Yet, a few months later, after much money was wasted by poor avreichim burning their wives sheitels in an expression of religious haste, no word of the problem can be heard. Nobody made an announcement to not burn sheitels. Just the opposite, we heard from the most fanatic circles that it is assur to hold the sheitel in your house and it is a mitzva to burn, ala u'viarta ha'ra mi'kirbecha. Yet when everything was declared to be ok did we hear any big announcements? no. it just died down and a few lists were published that included practically every sheitel on the market and that was the end of the story. I still know people who have sheitels they put away in the closet weaiting to hear what to do with them and they are still in the closet because they never heard the follow up.

That is one example, but haredi society is rife with examples similar to the above.

The common complaint people have is that we always hear the chumrah but nobody talks about cancelling it. Who wants to cancel a chumrah? Nobody wants that on their name because they look less haredi.

I think it is not a situation limited to the haredi world, nor one limited to the chumrah phenomenon.

Rob in his post here commenting on a book about fads and their cycles notes a very similar experience.

He says fads are quick to be adopted. It is the sign of living in a society that believes that change can make things better. It means the society embraces new ideas. Society believes in improvement and is willing to therefore try new ideas.
And when it dies down with no fanfare it is because nobody likes to announce their failures. The fad at its beginning is something new and exciting. By the time it does down, it is not interesting to anybody. It is old news.

Sounds eerily similar to the frum world. The only difference is that the frum world today is open to change, but only change l'chumrah, which is not always for the better. We almost never hear today of a change in frum society that makes life easier or better for people.


  1. Isn't removing avoda zara from your house a change for the better? but i digress...
    I actually had a certain amount of respect for those who burned their sheitels. yes, i thought it was nuts, becuase there was no definitive answer to it. And from what i heard, I didn't have to. But isn't it an honorable act to run to get rid of something that might be avoda zara? If you discovered that absolutly your sheitel was from india, woulnd't we run? Yet, even these people in doubt ran to do it. That's a big nisayon. Crazy or Admirable?

  2. it depends how you relate to what the gedolim say..
    if you say the gedolim were really concerned about the issue and said what they said and people listened, then great and admirable.
    If you say that the gedolim are being manipulated by people with other interests and they do not really know what they are signing and getting involve din but simply trusting other people who might not be as pure as them, then it is crazy.

  3. WHATS....

    It's only admirable if they had paskened it was AZ, and you went and burned the sheitels. The issue at the tie was a sofek, and the psak was to wait. There is no admiration for the people who, on their own, turned the psak into "burn, baby, burn". Then expanded the psak to affect those who didn't burn as well. That's where the respect is misguided. And anyone who gives them respect is simply an enabler.

  4. take a lesson from adam and chava - the psak was "do not eat from the tree". adam told chava "looky, but no touchy". we all know the end.

  5. In similar vein, when we burned our hametz last year, I told my son that we would not burn the plastic bag as it poisons the holy air of Erets Yisrael. A guy then proceeded to inform me that there were crumbs in my bag and that I should burn it. I replied to him that the issur is for the possession of significant hametz, not for crumbs in a bag that would be placed in a receptacle. Too many of our neighbors simply can't see the forest though the trees, or even see past the leaves.

  6. Shaya -
    The funny thing is i agree with you. But i was living in Har Nof at the time, and there was a lot of confusion. There were big black and white signs saying it was assur to where sheitels because they come from india. There was a lot of people saying they were assur. there were roomers of wives of gedolim who were burning them. I still claim that those who went outside and burned something that was worth hundreds of dollars (at least) is admirable. I blaim the idiots who spread false rumers and the ones who jump at doing things without knowing the truth. But those who are told to burn, and go do it without questioning their rabbanim. Stupid or L'shem Shamayim?

  7. Stupidly done L'shem Shamayim.
    ...But it's not like anyone cares for Sholom's opinion.

  8. ...And as an addendum to Rafi's comment:
    What if I say that the "gedolim" are working in concert with people, with an eye toward their "other interests"; and that they know perfectly well what they're signing?
    Would you then (validly) accuse me of not having enough "respect" for them?

  9. I still don't understand how the religion can have all these chumrah's (and the occasional kulah ir: pruzabel) added to it and be thought of as an adulterated version of judaism.

    So much of today's orthojudaism is spent obeying modern day chumrah's.

  10. Sheitals are disgusting anyways. They skirt arround the spirit of the halacah; its not for nothing that the Divrei Chaim prohibited them 200 years ago. Clearly he was right!!!


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