Without a New Taboo, What Will a Rabbi Do?

Fewer taboos means less work for the rabbis. If more activities are permitted, there is less of a need to call in the expert for an opinion.

Here is a example of an intelligent blogger who gets caught up in the strong currents of rabbinic prohibition and swept away in imagining new taboos.

Now these are not even remotely possible scenarios that said blogger proposes. A writer we accused, nay praised, for self-awareness just the other day now seems oblivious to a certain obvious conflict of interest in the thought and logic a some rabbinic thinkers.

The underlying issue is do rabbis tend to extend taboos to new scenarios to protect Jews from sin, or to make sure there is more work for the rabbis?

The case in point is a futuristic discussion at Havolim ("A New Discussion about Computers and Shabbos") over whether one can violate the Sabbath by using (still mostly imaginary) controller mechanisms that are governed by a person's brain processes alone and do not result from any measurable physical actions by that person.

Now this is not a scenario that has kept us up at night. Yet the clever blog writer wants to argue that indeed one can violate the Sabbath by thinking a forbidden act into happening.

We send out some brain waves on this matter to wit, this is no slam dunk of the logical extending of Talmudic principles. We broadcast our thought electronically that if there is no physical act, there is no forbidden act. We emanate our electron ideas that there is no need to find more work for the rabbinic lawyers or to find new reasons to seek their questionable guidance on even more matters.

Apparently Havolim's brain waves signal that we ought to extend the taboos and keep the rabbis involved in our lives, and gainfully employed.

Yes, the philosophical debate, if there is one here, might be expressed between one side saying, "Without a new Taboo, less for a rabbi do" and the other saying, "Without a new taboo, a better life for every Jew."


Eliezer Eisenberg said...

Who knew that being excoriated so elegantly could be so enjoyable?

When I was seventeen, I sent a question to Rabbi Feinstein about Microwave ovens. At that time, microwave ovens were more a topic in Popular Science than a fixture in kitchens. This began a relationship with Rabbi Feinstein that culminated in my marrying his granddaughter.

So, discussing the halachic ramifications of futuristic technology has, for me, a long history, and a pleasant one, too.

Tzvee Zahavy said...

I knew the minute I stumbled on your blog and read some posts that you were a serious Halakhic man, to use my master's terminology. I'm more a Talmudic man, a category that my teacher did not develop in his writing, but did embody in his life. I'll explain that someday when I get to that item on my to do list.