Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Problem of Chumras

In R. Nissim Gaon's version of the "viduy" confession, he includes a number that we do not currently recite. Among the list of sins is the following: "On that which You we're lenient, I was strict; and on that which you were strict, I was lenient." We can easily understand why there is a need to confess to God about being lenient on issues that He demanded strictness, but what is wrong with being strict when He was lenient?

R. Avigdor Nebenzhal, in his Sichos Le-Yom Ha-Kippurim (ch. 14), offers three reason why being overly strict is incorrect:

  1. It is a distortion of God's law. He said to do one thing and you are saying to do something else. However, you can be strict for yourself as a personal, additional measure that you recognize is not required.
  2. The Torah Temimah (Deut. 4 no. 1) explains that strictness leads to an attitude of imprecision. If you do not carefully follow exactly what the Torah demands then you might eventually end up doing less than required.
  3. The most important reason is that it leads to an imbalance within your Torah achievements. There is a limit to a person's abilities and if you do extra in one area, you will likely end up doing less in another. Maintaining that proper balance is crucial in developing a Torah personality.
It should be emphasized that none of this should be taken to imply that R. Nebenzahl encourages a lax attitude towards fulfilling God's commandments. Quite the opposite! He advocates a careful adherence to all of the laws of the Torah.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More