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The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Halacha and Philosophy

Name@Withheld wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I have heard that Halacha is related to philosophy and you can learn philosophical ideas through Halacha, but I don't understand how, please help.


Dear Name@Withheld,

This is true. Here's an example: The Code of Jewish Law states the following: "It is customary to say to someone who has bought new clothing, 'May you wear it out and renew it.' And there are those who wrote that one should not say this for shoes or clothing made of leather, for if he does wear it out, another animal will have to be killed to make a new garment, and it states, 'His mercy is upon all His creations.' Now, although this reasoning is not conclusive, many people do not say this [blessing over leather shoes or clothing]."

That is the halacha. What is the philosophical lesson? Even though we are allowed to use animals, we should nevertheless not celebrate their death. As Nachmanides says: The regulation of shechita (ritual slaughter), in all its details, is in order to reduce the pain that the animal registers, and it acts as a reminder that we are not dealing with things outside the law; they are not automatons devoid of life, but they are living beings.

This is just one of the examples of the connection between Jewish law and Jewish outlook. There are countless others. Perhaps the best exposition of this idea is found in a book called Horeb, by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch.

Sources:

  • Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 223:6 Rema
  • Nachmanides, Deuteronomy 22:6


 
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