Rabbi Daniel Mann just posted a very sensitive teshuva (here) about a secular Jew whose religious relatives are worried that the more he learns about Judaism, the more likely he will lose his tinok shenishba status and become a Rasha. I encourage reading his teshuva. One point that jumps out at me is the inherent tension created by the obligation to educate (or rebuke). By educating, we provide opportunities for religious growth, but at the same time, we remove the excuse of ignorance from those students who choose to willfully ignore what we teach. At face value, this flies in the face of the principle mutav sheyiyhu shogegin, it is better that willful sinners remain accidental sinners, a principle that under certain circumstances allows us to refrain from rebuking. However, it is clear that cannot be the case. As a community, our goal is to educate and improve the members of our community. We cannot be held hostage by the possibility that people will choose, despite knowing what is right, to do what is wrong. Mutav Sheyiyhu Shogegin by definition must therefore be limited. Continue reading Balancing Education, Rebuke, and the Fear of Causing Estrangement
Another example relates to a famous statement by R. Meir about the issur of Niddah.
תלמוד בבלי מסכת נדה דף לא עמוד ב
תניא, היה ר”מ אומר: מפני מה אמרה תורה נדה לשבעה – מפני שרגיל בה, וקץ בה, אמרה תורה: תהא טמאה שבעה ימים, כדי שתהא חביבה על בעלה כשעת כניסתה לחופה.
R. Meir asks why a Niddah is assurah to her husband for seven days. He answers that the Torah wanted to separate them for seven days so that when they are together again “she will be as beloved to her husband as he was she got married.” R. Meir can either be understand as explaining why there is a notion of separating for Niddah at all, or why the issur formulated as it was – as seven days with all the laws that go along with, regardless of when she stops bleeding. [Separating during menstruation was relatively common in many ancient cultures. The specific laws of Niddah are more of a chiddush than the basic notion of separation.] Either way, he offers an explanation for the laws of Niddah.
The simplest understanding is that this is homiletic/philosophical, but has no normative value. For example, there is no obligation to be a Niddah for a week every month, and if someone uses hormones to minimize how often she is a Niddah, that is fine. There is no obligation to create this distance that makes the heart grow fonder.
However, there was one Rishon (that I know of) who thought it did have (quasi-)normative value. Continue reading Homiletics or Halacha: An Example from Niddah