Rabbis Mistakes

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Even Moses, Samuel and Einstein made errors, so we cannot deify today’s rabbis as infallible. This is certainly true when today’s rabbis argue: 2 opposing opinions cannot both be correct.

A young man found himself torn between divergent rabbinical opinions. One rabbi went so far as to encourage his breakup with his girlfriend of five months because the girl wore a sleeveless shirt. Dress alone is no grounds to assess one’s value. And such advice in a vacuum, without knowing the girl’s fine traits is destructive. The error is the rabbi’s focus on over-religious notions, not on assessing a complete personality, and not on Torah values.  

Human value refers to the inside of a person, not to one's wardrobe. It is absurd to suggest that Torah values a person based on clothing. And this is not even a modesty issue because today sleeveless is accepted normal dress by most women; most women do not view sleeveless as a sexual matter. Even if it violates a Torah law in modesty, this should not become a relationship issue. Torah does not make superficial human assessments. If it is proper for a man to refrain from divorcing this wife who was alone with another man without performing intercourse, certainly man should not divorce his wife or leave his girlfriend based on dress.

One leading rabbi explained that after so many women started wearing slacks, slacks were no longer male clothing, but are now appropriate for both genders. Thus, there was no longer any prohibition for a woman to wear slacks, provided they were modest. Styles change and Torah recognizes the change. Earrings used to be worn by both genders, then this changed in the western world to be solely a female adornment, and now men have returned to wearing earrings; earrings are no longer female dress. Male vs. female dress  is not defined by observant Jews, but by the gender. 

Today's Jewish landscape is riddled with corrupt philosophies, all of which veer from God's words. Torah is the authoritative source from where we must gauge all of our values and opinions. Contemporary rabbis with foolishness and destructive notions do not form a valid Torah view. People think that if a rabbi talks, that a real Torah value has been expressed. A rabbi's words only have value when they are rooted in Torah or Talmud sources, not personal opinions or ludicrous notions cloaked as religious. Without a source, a rabbi's words have no value. No human has absolute authority, or infallibility. Furthermore, a rabbi has no jurisdiction outside Torah matters: “You shall act in accordance with their Torah instructions…” (Deut 17:11). Thus, in matters other than Torah we have no obligation to listen to a rabbi.

Today's Jewish world unfortunately values superstition over intelligence, whereas our greatest rabbis, namely Maimonides, Sforno, Ibn Ezra and Moses all followed only what is reasonable. Mysticism does not register on any faculty that verifies reality. Mysticism appeals to a person's superstitions as much as idolatry, because it is a form of idolatry. Maimonides states that man must accept as true only one of three matters: 1) that which he senses with his eyes, ears or his touch, 2) that which his mind demands to be true like 2+2=4, and 3) that which man receives from the rabbis, namely Torah. Other than these three matters, Maimonides says man must not accept any position. This would demand that the person reject any mystical belief. Similarly, a person must reject opinions that are contrary to the Torah or not found in the Torah or our Talmud. To tell a boy to break up with a girl who is fine in character but goes sleeveless, is absurd. The girl has her life ahead of her to perfect herself and to dress more modestly. But more important in a relationship is compatibility and values. No two people agree on everything, and since this girl is a fine character and wants this young man to be her husband, and wants to help him with his decisions to be more rational, I'm delighted this young man has found such a fine young girl.

In today's Jewish landscape there are divergent rabbinical opinions, that cannot be called “Torah” opinions because they have no source in Torah. We just read that Boaz married Ruth the Moabite, and in today's Jewish world there are Jewish groups that would not accept a dedicated convert. What a shame for the group and what a shame for the girl. Joseph, Moses, Joshua and King Solomon all married converts.

As a rule, follow God and Moses’ Torah, and Talmudic rabbis. As a rule, never accept an opinion lacking a source in Torah verses or Talmud.