What Would Moshe Think?

On my long drive back to Montreal yesterday my mind travelled a lot, as it generally does. But it kept coming back to one central thought. How is the Judaism that we practice today similar / different to the Judaism that Moshe brought with him from his time on Mount Sinai? If Moshe were to show up at any of the religious Jewish communities today, or on Shabbat or a holiday, would he recognize this as the same Judaism he adhered to millennia ago?

There has been so much emphasis by different factions on chumras (stringencies) in various different areas. Tzniut, kashrut, mikvah observance etc. Yes, there have always been 613 mitzvot, and we cannot keep them all these days because we have no Bet HaMikdash. But the ones that we can keep – do we keep them to the right levels? In the right way? In the right spirit?

One of my favourite lines to say is that Moshe’s sister Miriam did not wear panty hose in the desert. She didn’t. She was probably dressed extremely modestly, but I bet she wore sandals. These days sandals with bare feet are scandalous, apparently. This is but one example.

So, folks, what do you think? Would Moshe recognize our Judaism?

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21 Comments

  1. GiyoresToBe says:

    !! I LOVE your line about Miriam!

    …possibly because I miss wearing beautiful open-toed shoes!…

  2. Chanief says:

    I’ve imagined that scenario many times myself, it’s a fairly humorous daydream of mine. Most of the time they end in Moshe checking himself into an insane asylum because he just can’t handle it. There is no way he would recognize the Judaism of today, it’s come too far from biblical times. Do you know the joke about when Moshe received the commandment from god that one should not cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk?

    • HSaboMilner says:

      what’s the joke, chanief?

      • Chanief says:

        Ok, I heard it ages ago, but as I remember it it goes something like this>…
        Moses is up on Har Sinai, learning the Torah from God, who wants him to pay attention because he’s going to have to pass this on to the Jewish nation.
        God says to Moses” you should not cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk”
        Moses: ” Oh, so you mean we should not eat ilk and meat together?”
        God: “No, I said you should not cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk.”
        Moses: “Oh, so you want us to have completely separate dishes, cutlery, pots, and pans for meat and milk?”
        God: (getting a little short with Moses now) “No, Moses, I said you should not cook a kid in it’s mother’s milk.”
        Moses: “Ok, I think I’m getting it. You want us to wait six hours between eating milk after meat and a half hour before eating meat after milk, right?”
        God: (completely exasperated) “Just do whatever you want, Moses…”

  3. batya from NJ says:

    Your post reminds me of what I’ve heard said about what will happen when mashiach finally arrives which is basically that he will not be accepted by the Jewish community. The Lubavitchers will say that the brim of his hat is too short, the Litvish (yeshivish community) will say that it doesn’t tilt on the correct side, the other Chassidim won’t accept him without a shtreimel etc etc. I don’t remember all the specifics but in short the point was that he would leave disgusted by the lack of unity in the observant Jewish communities which kind of makes sense b/c can you really picture one man who will be accepted by all of the segments of Orthodox Jewry let alone the other branches of Judaism? Something to ponder indeed similar to your post about Moshe which to answer your original question, no way, he would definitely not recognize the religion! & besides, he most likely wouldn’t be accepted by Orthodox Jewry either especially with his long robe, turban, sandals & all ;)!

  4. riki says:

    I always think of the following situation:
    A chareidi person, who neglected higher education for religious reasons, or/and because his rabbi said so, live a poor, sad und unfullfilling life. After 120 he talks to HASHEM and request reward for his suffering; after all, he did it all for G-D alone. No education sind it might lead to bad things. Then G-D tells him, are you crazy? I never said be so machmir, I gave you my holy torah to manage the challenges that are out there, I never wanted you to live such a miserable life, study, work enjoy vecationing, but under the wing of the Torah. What in the world were u thinking of givin up education?
    And why did you think i created the day of yom kippur? Or tachanung? Rosh Chodesh?Teffilos? Because although I hope humans through the Torah wont sin, i knew it will happon, so I gave u the chance to make up for it. So even if u mess up somewere, u can make teshuva. I never meant u to be an island all alone an to suffer so much under the chareidi chumroth.
    What do you guys think about this? It just gives me so much to think. . .

  5. Yossi Ginzberg says:

    To Batya: That is the point, in fact! We will KNOW who the Moshiach is when he comes BECAUSE everyone will accept him!
    Granted that it’s impossible to imagine what kind of religious profile he’ll have to have to be accepted by every Jew….Still, that’s what’s been promised to us.

    • batya from NJ says:

      yes yossi, i know that is what we are told but the sad reality is that it is so impossible to believe especially in today’s religious climate with all the differences between the various groups…

      • mekubal says:

        Actually it is rather easy to imagine. The admurim and gedolim of the generation typically have great respect for each other. It is their talmidim, and even more their loosely affiliated “followers” who desire to tear each other apart.

        Too often people take sharp disagreements as a liscense to wage holy war, but from the time of the first Zvugim(Hillel and Shammai) there have been sharp disagreements framed within the bounds of Ahavat Yisrael.

        I have heard directly from several Gedolim that you can’t believe half what is purported to be said in their name. Just being gedolim they don’t have the time to chase down every crazy rumor…

        The greatness of Mashiach is that he will be able to settle all of these disagreements. Once the leaders follow him their sheeple will as well.

  6. HaSafran says:

    Actually, this mirrors the “Grand Inquisitor” section of Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov”, where J comes back to Earth and is interrogated and then dismissed by the Grand Inquisitor. The insinuation is that “we have the religion we want and need, you would just get in the way and complicate things for us”.

  7. Z! says:

    I think that Moshe would come to this world and would think that considering the technology, the cultures and the politics, that the Yidden have done a pretty good job of staying Yidden adhering to Hashem’s commandments throughout changing times- especially without a Bais Hamikdash. He might not agree with every chumrah, but I think he would appreciate the passion that so many of us feel and follow in our everyday Torah lives.

    • IAN says:

      I agree with you on this.

      In fact, it makes also for an interesting study object in sociology.

      I sometimes was left think how we developed from shepherding and rural tribes in the middle east to modern, mostly urban people in all parts of the world, and still held up a common culture.

      It is also interesting how our nomadism stays alive, in completely different circumstances.

      What I wonder, however, is why almost no-one is interested in the actual life of nomadic tribes in desertic climates today, although if we want to learn about our forefather, we would have to have a look over there. It all still exists.

      i.e. I cannot understand why so many jews just identify with their present urban jewish culture and are not interested in learning from beduins or somali nomadic tribes (all of them moslem, of course).

  8. lady lock and load says:

    Let me give in my two cents here (and have a chance at being the 10.000th comment…) Last week, we read in the parsha that we are commanded to make a fence around the Torah. That is why we have mitzvos that are from our holy Rabbonim (derabonon). The Torah is not only in heaven, it is ours to learn from and to extrapulate how we need to do the mitvos to our very best, which is what Hashem wants. Our entire shabbos observance would be very different if we followed only what is written in the Torah. No yayin nesech or bishul akum, so many countless things that the Rabbonim in their wisdom instructed us to do to keep the laws and the spirit of the Torah, to make a fence around mitzvos so we would keep them.
    Moshe Rabainu had Ruach Hakodesh so I am sure he knew that we would be making fences around the Torah and I think he would be proud of us for listening to our holy sages.
    Keep on thinking and questioning Hadassah, it’s beautiful!

    • HSaboMilner says:

      nice try, but you are 7 away from 10,000!!

      but Moshe knew the torah shebaal peh – did he not teach it to klal yisrael when he got down from the mountain?

      • lady lock and load says:

        He taught the Torah shebaal peh but did not teach them all the syagim (fences), this was for future Rabbonim to do.

  9. sheldan says:

    Jumping in…With all due respect, I think many of us are losing the Torah for the fences that we put around it.

    We all need to remember that there is a line called “halacha” which we all must observe. If some want a “fence” called a chumra which will permit THEM to be more careful, wonderful. But leave that fence out of other people’s lives. Since they are not observing that same fence, you will only alienate them.

    Again, to quote Herman Wouk, “no matter how observant one is, he or she will always be on the treif side of someone else.”

    I think I would agree that Moses would wonder at all the chumrot and wonder if this is indeed what he brought down from Sinai…Sad.

  10. lady lock and load says:

    There is a difference between chumras and the “syag laTorah” (fence). For example, chalav yisroel=chumrah. Yayin nesech=fence (made in order to prevent Jews from intermarriage).

    In my humble opinion I think what Moshe would really be sad about is the amount of sinaas chinum and the alarming rate of intermarriage and the kids that are going off the derech.

    • Chanief says:

      You might be right about what would make him sad, and it’s quite possible that the alarming rates of both intermarriage and kids going off the derech have something to do with the fact that today’s version of Judaism wouldn’t be recognizable to Moshe.

  11. lady lock and load says:

    Chanie, it is written in the Torah that before Moshiach comes Jews will have strayed from our holy Torah, and that children have estranged themselves from their parents and Judiasm. Has nothing to do with chumros or today’s version of Judiasm, in my humble opinion, more with yeridas hadoros. I do see your point.

  12. IAN says:

    I think, if Avraham Avinu or Moshe Rabbeinu was to walk through Eretz Israel today, he would identify with the “under-developed” Beduins and arabs rather than with our “g’doley torah” with their black suits or our chassidim with their shreimels.

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