Purpose of Halacha
Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim
Reader: Sure, I am Jewish. I am a good Jew. (whatever that is.?) However, I am not sure that religion to the letter of the law is where it really is at. I do believe we have decisions to make in our lives (terribly secular, am I not?) and when religion (Jews, or others)try to push everyone into the same fundamental track, I object. I have seen lots of ignorance go down in the name of religion, mine and others. So much of the training has been done, and is, in many cases in an abhorrent manner. Your response is of interest to me.
I oppose anti Semitism, support Israel and am a caring, deeply spiritual. My religious background enriches me, my life, and is /was good training. Yes I absolutely think the push for strict adherence in every way is ridiculous. I understand Kosher, for example is a discipline. So are many other things. I have seen many "Kosher" adherence and religious people be "asses" or should I say donkeys. I can go on and on, but certainly am interested in your opinion on such issues.
Mesora: For those you call asses, they are clearly not following halacha. A Jew who follows the laws is considerate of others, his manners, and all which creates a good impression of man. If someone sets a poor example - deserving your ridicule - he cannot be adhereing to Halacha properly.
There are many benefits for the strict nature of Halacha:
1) It keeps Judaism cohesive, not diluted by subjective feelings on how to act. If each person was allowed to pick and choose, Judaism would instantly vanish.
2) Halacha's strict guidelines cause man's every actions to be considered by his mind. As man talks, works, eats and interacts with others during each day, he incorporates ideals of morals and justice into these actions, thereby living in line with his reason. He is not guided by superficial whims.
3) Primarily, Halacha is a system of such precision and beauty which aims to draw man in, illuminating him with an appreciation for God's wisdom. Through study and analysis of numerous theories and structures of Jewish law, man submerges himself in a sea of ideas which captivates and invigorates his being. No other earthly involvement offers its depth, or satisfies man's search for a fulling life. It is for this last purpose that the Torah states that Torah study outweighs all other commandments.
These halachas (laws) are the result of lengthy conversations - recorded in the Talmud - by the meticulous analysis of great sages. These sages uncovered for us the tremendous wisdom enclosed in God's laws. God understands man and gave us the Torah system by which He says we will live the most enjoyable and beneficial lives. Maimonides states that observing the laws keeps our minds engaged while we are not involved in Torah study.
Halacha may generate in some men a reluctance to follow it. This is not a flaw in the system, but in man. You must be careful to separate personal discomfort, from that which is inherently bad for man, which Torah cannot be. The reason for such reluctance is man's own level of comfort with his current mode of living without Torah. He is free to eat what he wants, say what he wishes, and marry who he chooses. Then the Torah comes along and places restrictions on so many of his actions. Yes, man will naturally be reluctant, as the Torah now restricts his so called "happiness". If a doctor told me that by taking 10 pills daily and exercise, I would remain healthy all my life, I most certainly would adhere to his suggestion although this requires change. He knows my body better than I. If he also told me that in time, my reluctance to change my lifestyle would be replaced with an actual enjoyment in the physical exercise, I would be foolish not to observe his plan.
So too with the Torah. The restrictions at first impede my current lifestyle. But through study, I will learn how each command benefits me in line with my design as an intelligent being. My greater essence as a thinking being - until this point - was not satisfied. But with involvement in thought and learning, I come to appreciate that which is more central to my being, and more universally important in life. It will also draw me in, as we are designed with natural curiosity, and a love for learning, an enjoyment unmatched by any other involvement. Fulfillment will be realized in myself, emotions will become more tamed, and enduring happiness will become a reality. It will greatly outweigh my current, momentary pleasures. I will abandon the need to stay the same for comfort's sake, and I will change as I learn, as I see truth, and benefit in such a change. One who sees the truth in the laws and remains obstinate, forfeits his life. He is truly ridiculous.
Without studying the human psyche, man is foolish to claim he knows what is better for himself. However, once he does study, he will most certainly see the Torah as the perfect system for man. God designed both, man and Torah. He surely knows what man requires for true happiness. To remain ignorant of the Torah is man's worst crime, one for which he will surely pay the highest price.
Alteration and abandon of halacha, destroys the Torah system, thereby destroying our chance for true happiness.

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