I have been very behind on summaries, but perhaps now that we approach bein hazemanim I will have more time. Appropriately, as Pesach is around the corner, I will summarize my shiur on the nature of Chumra (available here). As the goal of this year has been to analyze the place of the laity in psak, one topic that needed to be tackled was chumrot- when it is a good idea to initiate a practice that is not mandated by Halacha? When is it neutral? Negative? What is the nature of chumrot? We have dealt with different aspects of chumra before, so here I focused on a very specific discussion. The Yerushalmi (Berachot 2:9) says that anyone who does something they are not obligated in is called a hedyot, a fool. This is quoted by many poskim in varying contexts. Yet, there are contexts where we say hamachmir tavo alav beracha – that one who is stringent is blessed.
Everyone knows the power of chumra to divide people. In the past we have discussed the problems that can emerge because of yuhara (here), lo taaseh aggudot aggudot (here), and other issues. However, sometimes chumra can be used as a way to unite a community, as can be seen from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein’s treatment of chalav stam yisrael. The shiur and sources can be found: here.
The Gemara prohibits a series of products and interactions with non-Jews. Some of those are prohibited because of concerns for chatnut, roughly translated as intermarriage, though the actual definition is probably more expansive. Others are prohibited for concerns of kashrut. The Gemara entertains other explanations for some of these prohibitions as well. One of the prohibitions is that of chalav akum, milk that was milked by a non-Jew. The Gemara limits this to cases where there was not a Jew watching the milking, or at least sitting outside where he could in theory come in and see. The Gemara suggests that this was instituted to prevent the mixing of non-kosher milk, though there are commentaries who assume that it was also for issues of chatnut. Continue reading How the Notion of Chumra Can Unite or Divide a Community: Rabbi Moshe Feinstein on Chalav Yisrael