The Theological Implications of Brussel Sprouts –By Rabbi Hyim Shafner

To be sure as Orthodox Jews we believe that God gave the Torah to be relevant for all times (yemot hamoshiach and the kashrut of bacon aside).   Often it is argued that it can not be the case that something in nature has changed which would render something in the torah to no longer be true or observable.  For instance, it is often pointed out in kiruv circles that the torah states that a pig is the only animal which has cloven hooves but does not chew its cud and since the Torah is true not only has another animal never been found with such criteria but one never will.  From what I am told this is utilized as one of the many proofs of the Torah’s divine truth by many orthodox outreach organizations.

Another example:  It is widely claimed in many segments of the Orthodox community that homosexuality must result from nurture and not nature.  This is so, it is claimed, because God gave the torah for all times, so it must be the case that everyone can in theory marry someone of the opposite gender.   Indeed the torah commands “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.”   Since the Torah forbids homosexual acts and commands heterosexual marriage it must be the case that all Jews are able to be or at least act heterosexual with the right help.

Why is it then that kashrut organizations can forbid certain vegetables, telling us there is no way to check them for bugs and we do not bat an eye?  Does not the torah tell us in Birashit that all the “growing things are for you to eat?”  If the torah is applicable for all times and there is no way to check brussel sprouts for bugs why doesn’t this bother us theologically as much as claims for the genetic etiology of homosexuality?  Is it perhaps that a culture has developed among us whereby when it comes to forbidding something we have no problem expanding the torah, but when it comes to finding ways to include and  permit we do?  Perhaps the case, as Rabbi J. Telushkin has said, “Though Hillel wins in the Talmud, it is Shami who wins in Jewish life today.”

9 Responses to The Theological Implications of Brussel Sprouts –By Rabbi Hyim Shafner

  1. Skeptic says:

    Which kashrus organization? I have never heard such a psak. Now there are agencies that forbid certain vegetables for restaurants or factories since in those commercial settings it is difficult to check things as carefully as we do at home, but I never heard a kashrus organization issue a ban on a vegetable for personal use, when checked properly.

    I understand your point, but, absent evidence, must reject your premise.

    • Yitzchok Levine says:

      The CRC site says
      “Brussel Sprouts – Fresh may not be used. Frozen may be used only with a reliable hashgacha. Canned needs a reliable hashgacha.”

      It does not say that one cannot eat Brussel sprouts under any circumstances.

      I presume that if one grew Brussel Sprouts in a highly controlled environment, then they would be bug free and these fresh ones would be permitted.

  2. Skeptic says:

    Interesting, thank you. Well, if that’s the case, it seems like it is machlokes haposkim whether we can adopt chumras which weren’t practiced in previous generations — see the Pischei Tshuva YD 214:2 #4

  3. Dr. Saundra Sterling Epstein says:

    Its fundamentally simple. Fundamentalists will and do liberally elect where to exercise their rights as fundamentalists who own by their say so (a la Charles Kimball’s When Religion Becomes Evi) the truth. Trying to figure this out is trying to find a rational solution for an irrational situation.

  4. Yitzchok Levine says:

    You wrote:

    Another example: It is widely claimed in many segments of the Orthodox community that homosexuality must result from nurture and not nature. This is so, it is claimed, because God gave the Torah for all times, so it must be the case that everyone can in theory marry someone of the opposite gender. Indeed the Torah commands “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.” Since the Torah forbids homosexual acts and commands heterosexual marriage it must be the case that all Jews are able to be or at least act heterosexual with the right help.

    I fail to follow your reasoning. It could well be that people are “born” homosexual. However, the Torah forbids them not to act on this.

    There are those who cannot have children, yet the Torah tells us to be fruitful and multiply. These people cannot fulfill this mitzvah, just as a homosexual may not be able to reproduce.

    • Hyim Shafner says:

      As i understand it the fact that the Torah forbids homosexuality is sometimes held up as a proof that it is not innate and is reversible, otherwise the torah could not command a person to marry someone of the opposite gender. rather it is seen as the result of bad upbringing or parental sins.

      in a conversation with a young orthodox homosexual person last week my response to them was that people are born without arms, those peopel can not put on tefilin. this is not reversible, there is no rifuah before the maka. the person replied with what they had been told by their rabbis, namely that such a person could wrap the tifilin around their chest (i had never heard of such a thing but such was the claim).
      BTW i personally do not eat brussel sprouts because of the bug problem, but i do think if god permitted it to adam and eve, before frozen, caned or bodek brand sprouts, there is something wrong with this picture.

  5. Daniel says:

    “Indeed the Torah commands ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife.’”

    This is halakha? A mitzvah like P’ru u’Revu is?

  6. japati says:

    I have been following this blog for sometime- often with great interest. But every now and then, and this is one of those times, I want to scream. Do you really believe that the Torah, like every other book written before it and after it, is not written by people? Be honest! Perhaps you hold onto this delusion in name only just to keep your distance from the colossal failures of the Conservative movement (after all, who wouldn’t). There must be a way to harmonize a halachic life with a public acknowledgment of what you all privately know to be true.

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