desh ([personal profile] desh) wrote2006-04-11 11:48 am
Entry tags:

legal fiction, part deux

How convenient! My synagogue just happens to have a siyyum tomorrow, just like last year! That's very lucky.

Speaking of religion and holidays, I wanted to share a bit of my religious reasoning with y'all. I don't drive on Shabbat (generally), but I do drive on the other Jewish holidays whose restrictions are 90% similar to those of Shabbat. Why?

Back in the early days of the rabbis, there was the concept of t'chum. The rule was that on Shabbat, you couldn't travel more than a certain distance (about 1 kilometer) from your starting point for the entire day. Even if your method of travel was permitted, like walking, you still couldn't do it. If you were within a city, then the t'chum-related boundary was extended to be 1 km beyond the edge of the city.

Now, this rule never really went away. Many observant Jews today still think of themselves as people who abide by this law. It just doesn't come up much; I'm pretty sure that most of us live in areas that are considered "cities" for this purpose, and if we don't, we probably don't have much of anywhere to go anyway.

So t'chum is one of the few prohibitions of Shabbat that doesn't apply to most other holidays. The reason for this is that on holidays, you're allowed to cook, and you're allowed to do certain other things in the service of preparing a hearty meal. (On Shabbat, by contrast, cooking is forbidden.) Some rabbi somewhere decided that traveling beyond the boundaries of t'chum is one of those permitted things.

So, what does this have to do with driving? Driving is the main Shabbat-related travel issue that affects the lives of modern Jews, in the same way as t'chum was the main Shabbat-related travel issue that affected the lives of Talmud-era Jews. And, just as it was decided in the Talmudic era that t'chum-related prohibitions don't apply on holidays, I've decided that I'm not going to follow the driving-related prohibitions on holidays that I ordinarily follow on Shabbat. Especially if the purpose of my driving is to go to a hearty meal.

Is this logic sound from the perspective of an Orthodox rabbi? Almost definitely not. But to me, it holds together and even makes some poetic sense.

And this particular reasoning is even something I can use as a sort of litmus test for whether people observe "my kind" of Judaism or not. If the reaction of another Jew is either "No, you're wrong, you're not allowed to make decisions like that at all!" or "Eh, why bother? If you want to drive, drive; and if you don't want to drive, don't drive; that's what I do, at least," then we approach Jewish law in fundamentally different ways. (Which is fine. No judgment here.) But if this sort of reasoning makes sense to you, whether it's something you'd apply to yourself or not (and whether you even feel it's necessary or not; you may have your own reasons why driving is okay), then you and I are on the same wavelength.

[Poll #708330]

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