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Ask the Rabbi...
Why do Orthodox Jews pay so much attention to minutiae?

Dear Rabbi Bendory –

I listened recently to your podcast on milk and meat – curious to see what The Kosher Kitchen was about. It occurs to me that this examination of particulars — whether the meat has been seasoned, whether it has been roasted, does it have cracks – could be carried almost to the level of quantum physics. I think I understand, inasmuch as I can, the value of tradition, and I appreciate that you are providing guidance to those who need it. But aren't these differing views of what is and is not allowed, the focus on minutiae, a distraction? I am reminded of the rulemakers of biblical times. I do not intend to offend or criticize – this is merely the observation of one with little knowledge but the perspective that come with knowing little.

Best regards,
Ploni Almoni

Shalom Mr. Almoni,

Indeed, one of the classic canards levelled against rabbinic Judaism is regarding the Torah's attention to what are perceived to be the "minutiae" of observance.

I buy my wife flowers every week for shabbos. She likes star gazer lilies, and the flowers at our wedding were star gazer lilies. So when I go to the flower shop, I specifically ask for star gazer lilies. Some times they don't have them, and they suggest regular lilies instead. If so, I go to the next flower shop and try there. Usually, with a little effort, I can find the star gazers.

So tell me, is that too much attention to minutiae? Or is it an expression of my love for my wife?

Our study of Torah is an attempt to understand G-d's Will and our observance of Halacha is an expression of our love for Hashem. When you love someone, you notice every detail.

Rabbi Dovid Bendory
19 Sivan 5766

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