Thursday, May 15, 2008

Intentions and Deeds

I started thinking about whether someone who intends to perform a mitzvah correctly, but is really done invalidly from a halachic standpoint, still gets "credit" for this mitzvah. i am sure there are lots of sources that deal with this issue, but has there been consensus reached?

One example would be someone who puts on tefillin everyday, but in reality, the tefillin is not kosher. I want to treat this from a purely theological perspective, so lets say for the sake of argument that the person never finds out and it is purely a matter of God's judgement.

The opposite case - of someone performing kosher actions or using kosher ritual objects but for theologically heretical purposes - the rabbis rule their actions completely void of any theological value. For example, Rabbi Faur (in a fascinating article which I hopefully will be writing about soon) talks about the rabbinical position towards minim.
The law stipulates that a Scroll of the Torah written by minim – probably Judeo-Christians – ought to be incinerated together “with the names of God it contains (because even the Tetragrammaton, representing the holy of holiest, is contaminated with their idolatrous schemes). Addressing this law, they cited the verse: “and behind the entrance at the door-post (mezuza) you (i.e., the minim) have placed: your remembrance” (i.e., your idolatrous
schemes) (Is. 57:8). Meaning, they are using the mezuza – a sacred Jewish object – to package inside it their idolatrous doctrines! To put this less ponderously: appearances may be deceiving! The manifest reliance of the minim on the Torah and their use of Jewish values are a ploy intended to deceive and corrupt the dull-witted.

I was thinking of this in conjunction with the idea of a more heterogeneous Jewish society, such as advocated by evanstonjew. In this society one issue would be how much could the Orthodox trust the less than Orthodox in terms of intermingling with them, for fear of un-knowingly transgressing some halacha. If the real issue is intent, then the intermingling is more likely. For example, the Orthodox family inadvertently broke halacha, perhaps by being served food that was not kosher by a Reform family because the Reform people , while well intentioned did something against halacha while serving the food. However, if the real issue is deed, then the Orthodox family would need to take all precautions to make sure that they do not accidentally ingest any non-kosher food, thereby making the mixing of orthodox and non-orthodox truly problematic...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

> I want to treat this from a purely theological perspective, so lets say for the sake of argument that the person never finds out and it is purely a matter of God's judgement.

What kind of dumbass question is this? God will roast him in the burning flames of hell for all eternity of course! Alternatively, God might decide to be merciful and just forget about it. Alternatively, maybe you should ask God?

I think an OJ would respond that it depends on how you view the reasons behind the mitzvos. If you believe that the Mitzvah actually cerates a spiritual 'tikkin' in the 'olam haelyon' (i.e. magic), then if you get the trick wrong the magic doesn't work. However if you believe like the Rambam that the mitzvos just have rational ends, and all the details are random, then it doesn't really make much difference.

May 15, 2008 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should read:

'creates a spiritual tikkun'

Though a spiritual tikkin sounds kinda interestin.

May 15, 2008 1:54 PM  
Blogger -suitepotato- said...

Right and wrong aren't magic and G-d's attention isn't gotten by doing rituals. He's in your heart. What do you think matters to Him?

There's a story of the Baal Shem Tov about thrones in Heaven and Gehenna. Where his carriage miraculously takes him to observe two different people and their observance of Shabbat.

One is evidently a goy, doesn't observe any Jewish customs and throws a party on Shabbat for his neighbors. Later on he tells the Besht he was born a Jew but orphaned, adopted and raised by Christians, and the only thing he remembers is the hospitality of his parents at the end of every week.

Instead of telling him about all the true customs of Jews, he is struck silent by Heaven and the lesson imparted is that this man serves G-d in the only way he knows with all his heart and by this observes the spirit of it better than anyone else. If he was told of Jewish standards then without the support system of a Jewish community he'd fall far short of observance and the joy would be taken from his heart.

The other man he ends up at is in a completely Jewish town. He's given hospitality by the man's servant and waits while the man studies Torah before he greets the Besht.

He's so afraid of touching anything that might be considered a violation of observance of Shabbat he sits rigidly in his chair the whole time for a day not doing anything, not touching anything, just to avoid a violation.

The Besht is silenced again because some people you cannot correct by talking to them and instead, you'd distance yourself from them thus reducing any chance of correction by some other means.

He's the worst observer and the throne below is reserved for him.

Buxbaum put this one in his book on the Baal Shem Tov. I know the old saying that you're an idiot to believe all the stories and a fool to believe none of them but the lesson is made.

What resonates with your heart?

I know what resonates with mine.

May 16, 2008 10:37 PM  

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