“What is Halacha? Jewish Law From Its Pragmatic To The Infinite”.
This page defines What is Halacha? Jewish Law From Its Pragmatc To The Infinite.
The arrival of Jewish law is first introduced in the Exodus of the Torah: “It was on the next day that Moses sat to judge the people.” In examining what is Halacha – the origin of the Halacha, Rabbi Alti Bukiet looks to the meaning of this “next day,” upon which Moses brought out law to the Jewish people. In the commentary of Iben Ezra, who wrote nine hundred years ago in Spain, the “next day” refers to the day after Jethro, or Yisro—Moses’s father-in-law and a convert to Judaism—arrived from Midyan to join the Jews in the desert. In this interpretation of the “next day,” the emphasis is placed upon Yisro removing himself from foreign behaviors and moving to what is right. Thus this interpretation of Halacha comes from the word halicha, which means progress; the Halacha is the separation from ‘the bad’ and progress towards ‘the good’. And yet to Rabbi Alti Bukiet, this is only a surface-level understanding of the Halacha. He aims to find deeper meaning in Jewish law than simply a “strict script of behavior,” restraining a person from doing wrong. And so he looks to another interpretation of the origin of the Halacha.
Rashi elucidated, writing commentary in France one hundred years before Iben Ezra, points to a different understanding of the “next day” upon which Moses brought the Halacha to the Jewish people. He interprets this “next day” to refer to the day after Yom Kippur, when Moses received the second set of tablets and descended from Mount Sinai. Yom Kippur represents the most intimate moments of the Jewish people’s relationship with God because it is the only time when a human being entered the temple. Thus this interpretation of the “next day” reference places emphasis on the intimate relationship between the Jewish people and God, and thus the Halacha—brought to the people on the next day after the initiation of this intimate connection—can represent a continuation of this intimacy with God. In other words, the deepest relationship with God can be achieved through Jewish law.
In this second understanding of Halacha, we can see the root of the word in kala—the ultimate relationship with another person, or ‘bride.’ Just as the husband’s connection with his bride goes beyond intellectual and rational compatibility to a deeper and inexplicable bond, Rabbi Alti Bukiet says, so too does the following of Jewish law form a deeper connection with God than mere intellectual and rational compatibility. One can understand Jewish philosophy from the Torah, one can feel that his compassion is in line with God’s compassion, but true connection with God goes beyond the mind and the heart. Why must Jews refrain from eating pork? There is no rational or emotional explanation—but this is what God wants. By following Halacha, Rabbi Alti Bukiet believes that one achieves the ultimate intimacy with God, reaching beyond the natural compatibilities of the mind or the heart to a oneness that cannot be broken.
Rabbi Alti Bukiet
(Chabad Center of Lexington, MA)
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what is Halacha