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Thought for the Day: Halacha is Reasoning and Not Rules

A statistician went moose hunting.  He saw a moose, took aim, and fired, and there was a puff of dust  three feet to the right or the moose.  Realizing there was a wind, he corrected his aim, fired, and this time there was a puff of dust three feet to the left of the moose.  "Got it!", he exclaimed gleefully.

Well, no... he didn't get it.  Just because the average of +3 and -3 is 0, it doesn't mean that one bullet to the left and one to the right is the same as one bullet dead center.  Obvious, of course.  However, that broken reasoning is precisely what is behind statements like, "Men can be counted in a minyan, so women should be counted in a minyan."  Well, no... men can be counted in a minyan because men need a minyan to fulfill their obligation to daven in the best way.  Women don't need a minyan to pray, so they can't be counted in a minyan.  (Why do men need a minyan?  That's another question.)

This mistake can show up on more subtle ways also.  There is a machlokes about whether women's obligation to bentch is d'oraisa or d'rabanan.  The side to say d'oraisa is simply because bentching is a mitzvas asei sh'lo ha'zman grama (a non-time bound, positive mitzvah).  The side to say d'rabanan is because the pasuk says, "when you eat and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your G-d for the land and for the food."  Since women do not have an inheritance in the land, they may be exempt.  Ah!  So Kohanim and L'vi'im may also be bentching only d'rababan, right?  Nope; the Mishna Brura points out that they don't have individual inheritance, but the do have the l'vitical cities and environs.  Ah!  But gerim may only have a d'rabanan obligation to bentch, right?  Nope; the Shulchan Aruch HaRav says that gerim accept to do all the mitzvos k'halacha.  The fact that there was some reason or other the lead to the halacha is irrelevant now; the halacha has been decided.  So a ger would have an obligation d'oraisa to bentch and a gi'orus would have the same issue about safek d'oraisa safek d'rabanan as any other Jewish woman.  (R' Chaim Pinchus Scheinberg says that since Avraham Avinu was given the land, all gerim also have some sort of inheritance in the land.  According to that, perhaps a gi'orous has more obligation to bentch than a native bas yisrael?  Tzarich Iyun.)

That is why it is so important to learn gemara and poskim to see all the reasons behind each halacha and why you can't just have a rule book to look up what do to.


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