Satmar Matzah is New York Times Front Page News

  • 0

MATZOH-articleLargeThe NY Times must be learning Daf Yomi. Just when we all started learning about the laws of chametz and matzah, the Times runs a front page above the fold story on Satmar A (as opposed to Satmar Z) protocols for matzah baking. It seems that Satmar A, and maybe others I really don’t know, are not satisfied with the “shmura m’shaas ketzira” and add an extra layer of stringency. They are careful to use wheat that did not even become wet while it was growing. They grow wheat on a far flung farm in Arizona where there is no rain for months while the wheat grows.

Why do they do this?

Halacha requires that we use “Shmurah Matzah” at the Seder (and some authorities say all Pesach). Shmura Matzah is not synonymous with round, dark matzah. Matzah can be Shmurah and any shape. Shmurah means that the ingredients for the Matzah were watched to ensure that the grains did not become leaven by coming in contact with water and not being baked within 18 minutes. There are three opinions in halacha as to when the ingredients for matzah must be “watched” in order to qualify for “Shmurah Matzah.” The most “watched” that halacha requires in that the wheat be watched from the time of harvesting. That is why most Matzah says “Shmurah m’shaas ketzira” – watched from the time of reaping.

There are no opinions in halacha that require that the grains not come in contact with water before they are reaped. None that I could find at least.

So what’s going on here?

The NY Times tells us exactly what is going on here. Here is what Professor Samuel Heilman has to say:

“…the competition between the two Satmar groups — each led by one of two brothers — was about one-upmanship.

“One is always looking to be more authoritative than the other,” Professor Heilman said, “and one of the ways they’re making this happen is over matzo — our matzo is more kosher than yours, we’re more scrupulous and careful over matzo baking than you are.”

One-upmanship in halacha. Nailed it. When so many of us are mitzvah observant we need to do things to signal to others that we are different. We are better. That signal is the extra level of stringency that is completely unnecessary. For more on this social phenomenon check this out: Judaism as a First Language

But I think there is something more happening here. While it is true that there may be nothing wrong with being extra stringent, this kind of stringency borders on silliness. The concern that created the requirement to use Shmurah Matzah is that the wheat will actually become chametz. If water comes in contact with flour while it is in storage the wheat can become chametz. That’s science. But it is literally impossible for grains that are still growing to become Chametz. Impossible. In much the same way that it is impossible for cooked matzah to become chametz if it comes in contact with liquid. Yet, there are thousands of Jews who don’t eat gebrukst because of that very concern.

Adding stringencies like gebrukst and growing wheat where there is no rain only makes sense in one context. If Judaism is a magical, mystical, mystery and our rational minds are useless to understand the laws of Judaism then it does not matter that there is no possibility of becoming chametz. All that matters is that water and wheat do not come in contact ever. Even if the prohibition is against chametz and not all wheat and water become chametz it does not matter. But if Judaism is a religion with Divine instructions that are supposed to be understood as rationally as possible and the rules tell us what our concerns are supposed to be, there is not place for non-sensical stringencies.

When it comes to chametz, we are given specific instructions as to what the prohibition entails. The law requires us to be careful not to let the wheat and water ferment and begin to rise. It’s based on science. Anything that could help prevent that from happening is a reasonable stringency. But once we get into the kind of stringencies that will not prevent a violation of a prohibition, it is hard to see their value unless we say something magical is happening and that wheat and water may never touch. The thing is, that’s not what the Torah, Talmud, Shulchan Aruch, and responsa tell us. To them, it has nothing to do with science. It has everything to do mysticism.

Now I think I can understand why the NY Times found this so interesting. Growing wheat in Arizona so it doesn’t rain on the wheat? It’s irrational. It is religion without reason. It’s exotic, archaic, and mystical. It’s not the Judaism that so many of us practice. It’s a Judaism that almost purposely does not make rational sense and is purely mystical. That’s front page news.

Link: NY Times

  • Ben Waxman

    i follow a few satmar tweet feeds and they were KVELLING over the rebbe’s picture on the front page of the times.

  • Benny Hutman

    You are not being fair to gebrukst.

    The point of gebrukst is that they are afraid that internally there is some uncooked flour. This might be a far out fear, but it is possible.

    • It is literally impossible for cooked flour to become chametz.

      • American Prometheus

        But thats the point, its not that they are concerned about cooked flour, its that they are concerned about flour that did not come in to contact with water during the handmade matza process in a pocket and will now come into contact with liquid – restarting the chametz process – resulting in your eating chametz on pesach.

        this is why the minhag in telse is to eat only machine matza (as they are uniformly made and not subject to human error).

        That being said, gebrukst is a silly minhag.

        • MarkSoFla

          If there is any uncooked flour in a matzah, then it is ALREADY chametz! Because somewhere in that matzah, right next to the uncooked flour, there are particles of flour that got wet and didn’t get cooked, and that state lasted for more than 18 minutes and thus that matzah is already chametz. That’s why most of us a makpid to bake our matzot until they are uniformly hard and dry (to ensure that all water has been driven out of it), as opposed to temanim that allow their matzah to remain soft and slightly moist.

          • Benny Hutman

            I don’t think it would be already chametz if it was unable to rise (due to being trapped within a hard matza), even if it lasted more than 18 minutes after getting wet, just like frozen matza dough.

            • MarkSoFla

              What is “frozen matza dough”?

              • Benny Hutman

                If you take the dough made for matzos and put it in the freezer. The Gemara says that while frozen the matzos will not rise and so it doesn’t count toward the “18 minutes,” but when the dough thaws it can resume leavening and you will get chametz.

                • MarkSoFla

                  That’s interesting! Where in the gemara does it mention frozen dough?

                  • Benny Hutman

                    The gemara just says “cold,” but I don’t think there can be a doubt that a freezer is sufficiently cold. It is Mishna (and following Gemara) on the bottom of 46a discussing taking challah from dough that you are going to bake as matza on Pesach.

                    What you took as challah is not allowed to be baked but it also can’t be let to sit and rise, so the Ben Besaira says to put it in “cold.” This is brought down as a b’dieved solution in the SH”A (Orach Chaim 456).

      • Benny Hutman

        That’s why the fear is about uncooked flour.

        • There is no such thing.

          • Benny Hutman

            Why can’t there be?

            I have had it happen to me with cake and home baked bread. There will sometimes be pockets of uncooked dough or flour within the otherwise baked item.

            Obviously it is much less likely with very thin matzos, but I don’t see why it could not happen.

            • Cake and bread? Hardly a comparison. Fire blasted wheat and water are not softly and gently baked like cake and bread.

              • Benny Hutman

                True. On the other hand, items baked at very high heats are often scorched on the outside and raw in the middle. Isn’t it possible that some matzos are uncooked in the middle but that middle dries out over time (it can’t rise because it is trapped). Maybe when the matza is broken open and comes into contact with water, the leavening process can restart.

                This would be an interesting experiment. Bake matzos in the normal high-heat fashion and then break them open at various time intervals after the baking. Do a second round where they are dipped in water and then document the results.

                • Elon

                  You realize we are not dealing with Showbread. We are dealing with Satmer Matza. There is no inside.

                  • Benny Hutman

                    I have never had Satmar matzos but the ordinary matzos I have had have an inside, a very thin inside but an inside nonetheless.

          • American Prometheus

            there is no such thing NOW. but back in the day of rushed hand made matza makers, it happened. i think its crazy talk now, but then again lots of chassidish stuff is crazy talk…

      • MarkSoFla

        If you bake a pan of dry flour, then remove it from the heat, then mix it with water, can it rise?

        • It’s not baked. It’s burnt.

          • MarkSoFla

            If you put a pan of dry flour into a matza oven, then remove it, and then mix it with water, can it rise?

            Seems like an easy enough thing to try someday.

            • G*3

              Probably not. The heat would have killed the yeast.

            • Elon

              No. It’s BEEN tried, and no.

    • MarkSoFla

      In my experience, many people who don’t eat gebrokst today, do so, not because they are afraid of uncooked flour becoming chametz, but rather because the foodstuff they are eating “looks” like it may be chametz, and eating such foods is not within the spirit of Pesach.

      Furthermore, it appears that nobody avoids gebrokst due to the fear of uncooked flour being chametz, because if they really did, they would never allow gebrokst to come into contact with their utensils on the 8’th day of Pesach in the diaspora.

      • Benny Hutman

        That last point is not a question. Even those makpid on gebroks admit that it is a small chashash. They are not so makpid that they treat it like actual chametz regarding absorbtion in utensils. They will rely on the ikkar hadin of utensils and not worry after 24 hours (as opposed to a whole year).

      • Ben Waxman

        or simply: מנהג אבותם בידם

    • Elon

      It isn’t possible, as gluten denatures from the heat. Bread could still ferment after cooking and rot, but it can never rise. And that is what matters. Even if there were uncooked flour (rather flour that didn’t mix with water), those ovens would denature it. Doubly so, when matza is forced to be made paper-thin and hard as boards.

      • Yes. Thank you for saying it with an air of authority. 🙂

      • Benny Hutman

        Is there no way reverse the denature process?

        Do you have a source I can look at that describes this effect in matza (or similar breads)?

  • Yirmiyahu Fischer

    Also a one-upmanship for anti-Zionism, as such a chumra would invalidate any wheat grown in Eretz Yisrael, ever.

    • GREAT POINT.

      • Elon

        Greenhouses.

    • G*3

      Right, which also means that every single generation up to this point hasn’t been as careful as they could have been.

  • Benny Hutman

    I don’t understand how wheat can grow without water.

    • http://www.minecraftwiki.net/wiki/Tutorials/Wheat_farming

      “wheat does not need water to grow”

      • Noam Greenberg

        A videogame wiki?

        It’s a plant…biologically, it must need water to grow, at some very basic level.

        • Ya. Not my finest moment on the Internet.

    • MarkSoFla

      The same way many things grow. You supply water to the roots and not to the plant itself. When I water my plants, I water at the base so it can sink into the soil and provide water to the roots, I do not sprinkle the plants themselves with water.

      • Benny Hutman

        So they are only worried about wetness on the grain portion of the plant.

  • OO

    Some of the other people in that picture appear to be of the Yeshivish/Brisk persuasion. That, while not being big on mystical stuff definitely come up with outlandish chumras. That being said I’m not sure if your explanation holds true for the whole group.

  • JimChaplin

    This really boils down to a Chillul Hashem, something that–unfortunately–too many members of Satmar do not seem to care about.

    How often do we hear about not going against the great Rabbanim of the past, that we shouldn’t make liberal changes to the Mesorah because the Tanaim/Amoraim/Gaonim/etc knew better because they were closer to Sinai? The same thing holds true for being to strict. I better Hillel and Shammai are laughing their a$$es off in Heaven right now.

    • MarkSoFla

      I’m not sure how this case is a chillul Hashem in any way. There’s nothing wrong with people who consider themselves very devout to go to extreme lengths to observe their chosen method of observing their religion. I only begin to complain when their extreme lengths begin to affect others. In this case, it’s their own business how they choose to safeguard their wheat for matzah.

      • JimChaplin

        They are making a mockery out of Torah and the lengths you must go to in order to protect your matzah from being Chametz. The fact that this safeguard was born out of trying to “out-frum” the other Satmars is absolutely a Chillul Hashem because it’s being done for all the wrong reasons.

        • Elon

          The desire to outdo your brother is what is wrong. Or saying normal matza isn’t kosher. Saying I want to drive myself insane isn’t chillul Hashem; it is just unproductive.

  • Dan

    I think you’re making a huge mistake comparing the minhag of gebrochs to the satmars growing their wheat in AZ. Gebrochs has been observed among chassidim for over 200 years. While its certainly a stringency, it’s gained mainstream acceptance as seen by the lack of matzo flour products in the grocery stores, etc. I think you would do the subject some justice if instead of just comparing the two as “one-upmanship in halacha” you researched it a bit. If you did, you’ll find that wet wheat isn’t a problem as whatever gets wet becomes botul before pesach (the wet flour gets absorbed with the “non-wet” flour and is considered lach b’lach). On pesach it would not become botul because we say that chometz isn’t botul even b’mashehu which is why we don’t bake matza on pesach. Despite this concept ALL matzo bakeries get their flour from wheat which is harvested early to minimize the exposure of the wheat kernels to moisture. The Satmars are extending this concept (I’m sure if they could stop dew from falling on the wheat they would do that as well!). Gebrochs came about because the process of making matzo changed from a longer kneading period to a quicker kneading period. You can find this explained at the link below. http://www.chabad.org/holidays/passover/pesach_cdo/aid/265990/jewish/Gebrokts-Wetted-Matzah.htm

    End of the day, my point to you is that rather than paint with a broad brush, do a bit more research and provide your readership with a bit more knowledge. Throwing the Shulchan Aruch Harav into the same category as modern day warring factions of Satmar is pretty foolish IMHO.

    • Sigh. You win the “missed the point completely” prize of the day.

    • Elon

      I’m a chemist. I have done control experiments, cooking things and then getting them wet. The flour is totally ruined. It cannot even become dough.

    • g33dav3y

      Good point: Dew! Even in the hard desert, there’s dew. They are wasting their time and money and making a mockery out of a religion that should be easy to practice.

  • G*3

    > While it is true that there may be nothing wrong with being extra stringent

    There are lots of things wrong with being extra stringent. It creates disunity among klal yisroel, even sinas chinam. It gives people excuses to look down on one another. It imposes unnecessary burdens. It ratchets up the minimal level of acceptable restrictiveness. It creates community norms that, over time, turn into halachos…

    > If water comes in contact with flour while it is in storage the wheat can become chametz. That’s science. But it is literally impossible for grains that are still growing to become Chametz.

    This part is interesting, because it’s definitely not science. Ever wonder why flour and water becomes chometz after 18 minutes? Eighteen is a magic number in Judaism, but why would yeast start to ferment at exactly that point? And for that matter, where does the yeast come from? Yeast is a naturally-occurring parasite on certain grains, and it starts to ferment –to go through it’s life-cycle – the moment in comes into contact with water. So the yeast on living wheat is constantly fermenting, and if yeast somehow survived the heat of being baked, it could ferment in finished matza. But chometz is not a scientific description, it’s a halachic one, and halacha defines chometz as a mixture of flour and water that has been allowed to sit for 18 minutes or more before being baked.

    > It’s a Judaism that almost purposely does not make rational sense and is purely mystical.

    Not “almost.” Chassidus was the form Pietism – a deliberately mystical, anti-rational reaction to the influence of the Scientific Revolution on religion – took when it met Judaism.

    • tesyaa

      This is the best comment.

  • orenhayon

    This is exactly why I don’t drink any water during Pesach. Anyone who DOES drink water clearly doesn’t take Torah seriously.

  • bp27

    Rabbi Fink, in your haste to criticize Satmar for “silliness”, you overlooked the Rama and Mishnah Berura in Siman 453 Seif 3. The Mishnah Berurah calls wheat that spouted due to moisture from the ground “Chametz Gamur”.

    • Not sure what you mean. Shulchan Aruch in 453:4 is clear as can be. Wheat must be watched from the time of harvesting. The MB is also unclear if he is talking about attached or detached wheat. I assume he is talking about detached wheat.

      • bp27

        I should have referenced the clearer place in Shulchan Aruch. Please look in Siman 467 Seif 5 and 6, and Mishnah Berurah 17. Pretty Black and White.

        • Don’t be ridiculous. You are completely misreading the Sh”A and the MB. The Sh”A is talking about wheat that is overripe and is no longer living. It’s basically dead wheat that has not been harvested. We harvest our wheat well before this juncture. The MB even goes on about charedim being sure to harvest before the wheat completely dries out. We all do that. That is NOT what this is.

    • Elon

      He is talking about ALREADY HARVESTED kernels used to make sprouted wheat bread or malt. Not GROWING PLANTS.

  • Menachem

    I enjoyed this article but i would take out the word mystical from the same line as archaic. Chassidim and others do have minhagim based on mysticism( from the Zohar and Kisvei Ari). I hope you also agree that everything the Torah has can be understood on a level of Sod besides pshat,etc. I agree that this is a ridiculous chumrah and i think you make some good points why.

  • David

    Interesting article. A few points to consider. 1) The Gemara Pesachim 33a (toward the bottom) ״כגון דאחמיץ במחובר״ in a case where it leavened while still attached to the ground. 2) Pesachim 39b …. ״לא לימחימ
    One shall not thicken a a stew with flour that was previously cooked on Pesach since it may not have baked entirely” (see various rishonim and chachmas Shlomo roach Chaim 563 in the Shulchan a aruch). 3) see Sharei Teshuva Orach Chaim 560 who discusses the origin of gebrokts and the ability of Matza to rise again. 4) I see no reason to disagree on Halacha and minhag as long as its based on Torah and Chazal, tanach Gemara midrash Zohar rishonim Shulchan aruch etc. 5) I believe mysticism is a huge part of Orthodox Judaism and simple rationale is not always present, there are instances of deeper meaning… All the best Rabbi.

  • Mike_S2500

    Did no one else think about the rabbinic line: “they have held on to the chaff and discarded the kernels?” Given that the motive is pure one-upmanship and factionalism (i.e. sinas chinam) how can anyone approve of this?

  • sp

    In the days before the combine harvester came along wheat was generally harvested before it was ripe (chayei odom klal 128) in order to prevent wheat shattering, then it was threshed separately after drying, (for p’shutim it was dried in the field and for shmure it was watched while it dried).
    Since the combine came along the wheat has to be dead and dry before harvest, so it can be cut and threshed at once.

    This is where the problem starts, that you know for sure it rained on ripe wheat. so its only good b’shaas hadchak (t’shuvos meil tz’duku 69).

    Wheat has to dry down to 13% moisture before its stored or it will spoil, A farmer that has available a drier will harvest his wheat at 20% moisture and take on the extra cost of drying in order to save the quality of his wheat.

    That’s the benefit of growing wheat in Arizona, it doesn’t rain in the day’s when the wheat is mature till it’s dry for harvest and storage.

  • Ksil

    What i dont get is how we have the beitzim to think we are holier, or more frum than our parents, our grandparents, etc…..i mean what happened to yeridos hadoros?

    We cant just make new things up….how they did it was fine, why in the world do we think that making new stringincies is what god wants from us?

    Where did that come from?

    It seems way more than just “asu s’yag latorah”

    • tesyaa

      If you read the article, you see that Sam Heilman explains that this is Satmar sect one-upsmanship. It’s not really a question of frumkeit, it’s a turf battle.

      • Ksil

        I was referring to the general approach lechumra with EVERYTHING

        Not just matza

        Even with MO

  • Rabbi Zev Warshavsky
  • Michael

    There were many communities in Europe that were Mehader to cut the wheat on a day that was very dry, and even to wait a few days where there was no rain. See, for example, the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s description of wheat-cutting in Lubavitch – from http://www.chabad.org/2846.

    Reb Zalman had a meticulous system for choosing the field with the highest quality wheat, and for choosing the day and hour of the harvest. The conditions for the harvest were: a clear and bright day on which the sun shone in its full intensity, and that no rain had fallen in the previous three days. The set hours for harvesting the shemurah were from noon to two o’clock or two-thirty in the afternoon.

    The reason is probably because they didn’t want to harvest any wheat that had rain on it, because once the wheat is cut, it is Halachically susceptible to becoming Chametz.
    It’s not much of a stretch to assume that this practice of cutting wheat from a dry region, instead of a region that often gets rain in the summer, like New York, is just an extension of that.
    The question is: Why would a Rabbi like E. Fink assume that the correct explanation is the one given by Heilman, who is notorious for his scornful attitude towards Chasidim, instead of digging a little and being Dan L’Kaf Z’chus?

    • There is no dan lkaf zechus here. Even if they themselves think it’s because of some chumra or legitimate fear, the thing that drives them to this silliness is exactly what Heilman says in tandem with what I said at the end.

      • Michael

        Where’s the evidence, other than Heilman’s assertion, that they are doing for that purpose?

        • Again, I did not say that’s their purpose. I said it’s their motivation. And the evidence is “process of elimination” and “Occam’s razor” and “prior results are indicative of future returns.”

          • Michael

            So, in other words, no evidence. How did you “eliminate” the hypothesis that they are doing it because they don’t want to harvest wet wheat?

            • Because they themselves say they don’t want the wheat to get wet while it grows.

              • Michael

                Right, and the reason is that they don’t want to harvest wheat that is even slightly wet.

                • It’s wet anyway for dew. It’s ridiculous. There is no halachic justification for what they are doing. They are inventing things out of thin air and you stand by and applaud.

                  • Michael

                    I quoted you an account from a Shemurah Matza harvest that took place 120 years ago, where similar concerns where present. Why would you call what they are doing “inventing things out of thin air”?

                    • They could wait a day for the wheat to dry. Mazel tov. Big shpritz. No reason they can’t do that today.

                    • Michael

                      The conditions for the harvest were: a clear and bright day on which the sun shone in its full intensity, and that no rain had fallen in the previous three days. The set hours for harvesting the shemurah were from noon to two o’clock or two-thirty in the afternoon.

                    • You’re only proving my point. We know how to handle the harvest. Not letting the rain touch wheat months before the harvest is just plain nuts.

                    • Michael

                      That’s no rain for three days – those are conditions that you do not regularly find in the summer in New York. That doesn’t mean, Chas V’Shalom, that wheat harvested under wetter conditions cannot be used to make Matza. It just means that there is a longstanding Chumra – at least 120 years old – to harvest wheat under very dry conditions

                    • Harvest. HARVEST. HARVEST! Not grow.

                    • Michael

                      No, I did read the article. From where in the article did you get the idea that they are trying to grow wheat without water?

                    • That’s why they moved to the place in America with the least rain.

                    • Michael

                      Here’s the thing: Nobody is asking you to adopt Chumras you don’t want to adopt. But, for some reason, you seem to have this need to negate the positive motivations that other people have for their own religious observances. You are like the Chareidim who say that they know why the women of the wall want to daven. You don’t understand Satmar Chassidim, so at least have the courtesy to respect their own, self-attributed, motivations, and not Sam Heilman’s assumptions

                    • My life experience has told me that there is rarely anything special or holy or religious when it comes to Satmar chumros.

                    • Michael

                      Chareidi E. Fink: My life experience has told me that there is rarely anything special or holy or religious when it comes to feminist prayers

                    • Michael

                      Anyway, the conversation has been fun, If you want to reply, I’ll see it in the morning – I am also interested in your response to my question about your assertion regarding the Cairo community’s Talmud Yerushalmi synagogue, over on DovBear’s blog

                    • I read it in Sacred Trash. I don’t have the page number. You should read it.

                    • Michael

                      Did you read that they were following Talmud Yerushalmi, or the Hora’ah from 9-10th century Chachmei Eretz Yisrael instead of the Geonim of Bavel? There is a really big difference

                    • Three different communities. One followed Babylonian Talmud, another followed the Palestinian Talmud, the other were the Karaites.

                    • Michael

                      Against my better judgement, I bought the book and read it. The only thing that I found that might sound like something you referenced was in Chapter 8, and all it talks about is a Synagogue in Fustat (Cairo) that was affiliated with the “Palestinian Rabbinate” as opposed to the “Babylonian Rabbinate”.

                      That is a far, far, cry from the assertion that

                      “We know from the Cairo Geniza that there was a vibrant Jerusalem Talmud community well into the 12th century. They lived side by side with the Babylonian Talmud community (and the Karaite community). But clearly, they had different traditions and legal codes. Pretending this isn’t true is ridiculous.”

                      There is no indication in the book that there was a community in Egypt that viewed the Talmud Yerushalmi as Halachically authoritative over Bavli. There is no historical evidence in the book that undermines the fundamental Halachic principle that Talmud Bavli reflects the CONSENSUS of ALL CHACHMEI YISRAEL of its time.

                      You, sir, are an Oicher Yisrael. It’s disgusting for you to make an assertion, and characterize anyone that disputes your assertion as ridiculous, when that assertion contradicts the fundamental Halachic principles, and has no historical backing whatsoever. You are a Machti es HaRabim

                    • No idea what you are talking about. The Palestinian Synagogue was a separate sect from the Babylonian Synagogue. They had two sects because they had different authoritative books. The Palestinian Synagogue adhered to the Palestinian Academy which would have no reason to follow a Talmud from a different community.

                    • I am looking at a passage in the book where the Palestinian Academy writes to the Palestinian rabbi in Fustat that he is causing people to defect from his shul to the Babylonian and Karaite synagogues. Why would he care if they all agreed that the Babylonian Talmud was authoritative?

                    • Michael

                      So, if a Yekke Rabbi in Gedarim writes to a fellow Rabbi in Washington Heights that he is causing congregants to defect from his Shul to the Shul of the Litvaks, that means that there is a vibrant community in Washington Heights that follows Talmud Germania, instead of Talmud Bavli?!?!?!
                      There was 10th century Minhag Eretz Yisrael, and 10th century Minhag Bavel (and Minhag Spain, and Minhag Maghreb, and Minhag Ashkenaz, and probably another 50 communities.) That, in no way, undermines that Halachic principle, elucidated in Rambams intro to Mishna Torah, that the Talmud Bavlie reflects the CONSENSUS of ALL CHACHMEI YISRAEL at the time of its sealing, and, therefore, all the rulings of Talmud Bavli are binding on all Jews.

                    • By writing it, the Rambam made it so. But it’s not true historically. You think the German Jews who were there since the 1st Tempe was destroyed had copies of the Talmud Bavli?

                    • Michael

                      The Rambam’s assertion is that at the time of the Chasimas Hatalmud, all the participants in the Mesorah were able to talk to each other, so the Talmud Bavli represents the consensus of all Chachmei Yisrael.

                      The far flung communities that were not in regular contact with the Amoraim of Bavel considered themselves subordinate to the Chachmei HaTalmud, and accepted their Halachic rulings. Those communities “did their best” but, when informed of a Halachic ruling from the Amoraim, considered that ruling binding upon them, because they recognized that all of the participants in the conversation were in Bavel.

                      That idea is fundamental to Halacha, because, per Rambam, it is the reason that Talmud Bavli is binding on all Jews. It is a very important idea, and it might be considered the key idea of Orthodox Judaism (as opposed to Conservative Judaism, which considers itself authorized to dispute the Talmud in interpreting the Torah.)

                      You have no evidence to undermine that assertion of Rambam (It’s obviously not the Rambam’s idea, he just articulates it very well, but the same idea is found in the writing of many others, including R’ Sherira and R’ Saadya Gaonim, and it is also mentioned by Ramban.) As an Orthodox Rabbi, you should not discard that assertion, and you should certainly not call it ridiculous, unless you have hard evidence. But you don’t have hard evidence. What you have is your ignorant misreading of a book. And on that basis, you decided to discard a key tenet of Orthodox Judaism, and trumpet your discarding of that tenet on a blog that includes your name.

                    • It’s literally impossible for that to be literally true. What the Rambam really means is that the ones who carried the mesorah ended up being the ones who viewed the Talmud as authoritative.

                    • Michael

                      Let’s go step by step: Are you ready to retract your assertion that “there was a vibrant Jerusalem Talmud community well into the 12th century. They lived side by side with the Babylonian Talmud community (and the Karaite community). But clearly, they had different traditions and legal codes. Pretending this isn’t true is ridiculous”?

                    • No.

                    • Michael

                      OK, never mind then. You should really work on your reading comprehension.

                    • Michael

                      Do you remember that before I spent $15.95 on this book, I asked you whether the passage said ” that they were following Talmud Yerushalmi, or the Hora’ah from 9-10th century Chachmei Eretz Yisrael instead of the Geonim of Bavel? There is a really big difference”, and you replied “Three different communities. One followed Babylonian Talmud, another followed the Palestinian Talmud, the other were the Karaites.”

                    • Michael

                      If anyone is still reading this, they should note that E. Fink has admitted that, in spite of the fact that there is evidence for a longstanding tradition that supports the Satmar Chumra, his pre-existing assumptions are driving him to conclude that this is a case of one-upsmanship

                    • Do you know anything about the Satmar A and Satmar Z war?

                    • Michael

                      Yes, plenty,

                    • Michael

                      They are talking about harvesting – they go to Arizona, and harvest the wheat, after making sure that no rain has fallen on that field for a while. You can’t grow wheat without rain

                    • Oh. So you didn’t read the article. Stop wasting my time please.