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Parshas Chukas - Is Legal Good or Bad?         9 Tammuz 5778 

06/22/18 13:02:02

Jun22

German autobahns have no federally mandated speed limit for some classes of vehicles. However, limits are posted (and enforced) in areas that are urbanized, substandard, accident-prone, or under construction. On speed-unrestricted stretches, an advisory speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph) applies. While, in the absence of a speed limit, going faster is not illegal, doing so can cause an increased liability in the case of an accident; courts have ruled that an "ideal driver" who is exempt from absolute liability for "inevitable" tort under the law should not exceed Richtgeschwindigkeit, the advisory speed. Everyone agrees that just because there is no speed limit, does not mean it is safe to drive at exceedingly high speeds. Although there is no speed limit that will incur a penalty if caught, nevertheless it is agreed upon that it is dangerous.

One of my many rules in life is “just because it is permissible, do you necessarily have to do it”. Just because there may not be a speed limit posted, you still should not drive at high speeds. Most rules and laws do have parameters and exceptions to the rule. Today in America, medical marijuana is legal in twenty-nine states, provided it is used to help those individuals who need it to combat a host of medical and psychological illness. Unfortunately, we have opened a pandora’s box. To date, nine states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use of marijuana. According to a recent Pew Research Center Survey, sixty-one percent of Americans say they believe the drug should be legal. In my humble opinion the greatest challenge to the greatest country on earth, the United States of America, is the legalizing of ‘recreational marijuana’. This drug to date has the potential to dismantle and destroy family structure, commerce productivity and a rise in fatal drug addiction. Let me reiterate: this is only about recreational - not medical – marijuana prescribed to be used under the care of a licensed medical professional. I am blown away by comments supporting the usage of cannabis in food production, and other forms of intake because “it is legal”. Again, just because something is ‘legal’ does not make it something good, nor does it imply that we should use or “do” it. Someone recently asked me about using cannabis as an ingredient for something. I responded to them, “Let’s wait three years to see the effects and damage it causes before jumping on the bandwagon of users.” Truth be told, we don’t need to wait three years because this is not a new drug at all. Over five years ago Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski spoke about the differences and dangers of marijuana: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xe3TNmsxCI&t=285s. Surely, anyone can try to argue, but are we willing to take the risk? Not I! The fight to keep marijuana legal is driven by the potential for massive financial gains. Last year alone, the states that have legalized the drug raked in an estimated one billion dollars in taxes. If legal throughout the country, taxes collected are projected to be forty-six billion dollars annually. There are many arguments on both sides, but studies have shown the toxic effect on the brain when used by children in their adolescent years – a period when their brain cells are rapidly developing.

These are only a few reasons why we must take the time to recognize the danger and, despite being legal or because it is legal, we should have concerns regarding use of the drug. In addition, the ‘jury is still out’, meaning we don’t have all the facts yet, and we may never have all the other negatives about using it. We must recognize that we don’t necessarily have all the facts and reasons to any and every situation life presents us. Some argue that if a reason no longer applies to a situation, the status should change. That, in it of itself, may or may not be true. The notion that certain reasons something is good or bad is only that which is revealed to us. There may very well be other reasons that we are not aware of that would keep the status quo despite some earlier reasons which no longer apply. We find this idea throughout the observance of Mitzvos and the following of Halacha. The epitome of this concept originates in the name of the Parsha.

This week’s Parsha Chukas discusses the “chok” or statute that we do not have the logical reasoning to understand why we do a particular Mitzva. It is interesting to note that the Rambam, in Hilchos Meilah chapter 8, says, “It is worthy for every person to be insightful in the ways of the Torah and with all of his strength to know the reasons behind the Mitzvos. In fact, the Rambam wrote a sefer about the Taamei HaMitzvos, the reasons of the commandments. The Ra’ah, Reb Aharon HaLevi, is attributed with writing the sefer HaChinuch, a work which systematically discusses the 613 commandments of the Torah - both Mishpatim, the mitzvos which reasons we can understand, and the Chukim, those mitzvos which we don’t understand, but he does offer suggestions. The Radva”z and other leading Torah giants authored seforim on the reasons for the Mitzvos. Only the Tur in Yoreh Deah Siman 181 challenges the Rambam’s approach and feels we should not seek out the reasons for the Mitzvos. Reb Yakov Ben Asher, the Tur, states that these are the commandments from the King upon us. If we have already accepted the word of God upon us, then we must fulfill every command, even if we do not know the reasons behind them. The Tur further explains that if we start to contemplate, we sometimes feel justified to do or not do a Mitzva, based upon what logic dictates to us. As far as the Rambam is concerned, he feels it is like a small opening, as Dovid HaMelech says in Tehilim 119:130: “The commencement of Your words enlightens; and You make the simple understand”. A small taste (reason) of the Torah sheds a little light to the ones who are not exposed to its beauty. The Rambam indicates that by giving a reason to the unexplained Mitzvos, we are given a way to tempt the uninterested one in Torah. Even according to Rambam, we are not entitled to the reasons for the majority of the statutes. Those are hidden away, only for Hashem to know.

The lesson is critical in today’s day and age, when the culture and society within which we live, constantly looks for reasons to either do or not do something instead of looking at reasons, whether they apply directly to us or not. Let us use our Seichel - our intellect - and basic common sense to guide us through our decision-making process, even if something is mutar/permissible according to Halacha or the Constitution of the United States. By using discretion, a little seichel mixed in with basic common sense, we may come to understand that it still may not be a good idea to go through with it one way or another.

Mon, December 17 2018 9 Teves 5779