Rav Avraham Jofen explains that according to the Ramban this was precisely the sin of the Eigel as well. The Ramban (Shemos 32:1) explains that the sin of the Eigel was not Avoda Zara but rather an attempt to find
a successor to Moshe to fill the role of leadership. Whereas their intention might have been spiritual, their activities were without Torah guidance. Hence, the Torah tells us that the spiritual became frivolity vaYaKumu lTzachek. Rav Jofen explains that the sin was in a lack of Zeheerus, causing them to stray from the literal while seeking something spiritual. This was not to be the plan for finding Hashem.
Hence, when it came time to fix their errant ways, the only possible solution was to help guide the Jewish spiritual quest with direct rules. In order to bring the Shechina into their midst, the Jewish nation would need to follow the Halacha precisely building a Mikdash to Hashem by following the letter of his law in order to bring its spirit as well.
Sometimes in our quest for spirituality, we seek to divorce ourselves from our brothers. Indeed Rabbi Dr. Sol Roth has often noted that the concept of Kedusha always denotes some degree of separation. But need we separate from our brothers? This week's Chaburah begins to examine the principle of the breakaway Minyan. It is entitled:
In your Midst??: Uniting the Divided
Often, a congregation is left divided. Decisions of a board, especially tough decisions, leave a congregation split on opinion and in a hotbed of emotions. Sometimes the emotions overheat causing a faction in the Shul to break away and form another Shul. Is there a problem forming such a Shul? Does it violate the principle of Lo Tisgodidoo?
The Talmud (Rosh Hashanna 29b) notes that cities surrounding Yirushalayim were to be considered as part of Yirushalayim in regards to the laws of Shofar blowing. Similar laws are applied in regards to cities that can see into Yirushalayim with regard to Kriyat HaMegilla as well. It seems from these texts that in regard to laws, the local cities follow the main Beit Din and do not break off even on the basis of location. The Talmud Yevamos (14a) seems to suggest that this might only apply to these specific rules. However, generally speaking different cities can have different opinions on Halachic matters without violating Lo Titgodidoo.
The Rambam (Hil. A.Z. Perek 12) notes that one city may not establish 2 Battei Din because it would cause many arguments, make people believe there are two Torahs and violate the principle of Lo Titgodidoo. It seems from the Rambam that whether we are addressing Torah laws or even customs, towns are to have uniformity and that uniformity is to be established by the Beis Din of the town. Anyone choosing to break from the established practices is considered to be in violation of Lo Tisgodidoo. Rashi (Yevamos 13a) seems to imply that Lo Tisgodidoo does not apply to matters of custom. One can violate the prohibition only if he chooses to practice Jewish law differently in a given town. It should be noted that the Sefer Hachinuch (467) applies the principle of Lo Tisgodidoo to a town with one Beit Din and people who choose not to follow it. A town of two Battei din would not be a problem according to the Chinuch. The Netziv struggles to explain these diverse opinions (Shut Meishiv Davar 17) by noting that the Rambam's concern was only for cases when a community chooses (Minhag) to act stringently despite Jewish law that, the Netziv explained, caused a concern for honor of Torah in terms of Halacha not Minhag. Thus, there is no Lo Tisgodidoo in having different customs according to the Netziv, only in having different Piskei Halacha.
In no way are these the only opinions of the Rishonim on the matter. The Rashba (Teshuvos 253) explained that ideally differences of opinion in Jewish law matters are to be determined by the greater of the two Battei Din. Indeed, when two exist it is unlikely that any disputes will result in resolution. The Ran (Shut HaRan 48) added that in a situation where an individual residing in a new neighborhood where the people are Meikil on something he was always stringent about (in that case, Cherem D'Rabbeinu Gershom) he may be lenient if the prohibition came from a Minhag. However if it arouse from another prohibition, one must follow the stringency. The Yerushalmi (Peshachim Perek 4) disagrees and is clear that one may not change his Minhagim of his father even if the town is lenient. Tosafos (Pesachim 52) feels that one must join his new
community and once he begins to dwell there fully, he is to follow the customs of the town or risk violating the local practices of the town. In summing the position of these Rishonim, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg
(Sreidei Eish writing in Rav Breuer Memorial volume) notes that there are two basic positions here: The prohibition of Lo Tisgodidoo which is violated only in matters of Halacha and differences in decisions of
Halacha and the principle of Assur L'shanot Mipnei HaMachlokes which seems to apply to cases of different Minhagim in one town.
Where does this place a person in regards to break away shuls? It depends why they break. According to the Ritva, Rosh And Meiri that there is no violation if both congregation recognize the legitimacy of one another. If the synagogues got too large, they need to break off sometimes. Maharam Alshich (Shut Maharam Alshich 59) seems to require following the Minhag of the majority of the city in that case. He defines a city in the same manner that the Mishna Berurah does (Siman 468) which means a Mikva, Rabbi and Shul. If these criteria are met, the city is deemed to have a set Minhag.
What if the Shul breaks off because of Nusach HaTefilla? Rav Shlomo Kluger (Shut Ubacharta BChaim, 24) felt that there was no violation if the break was over Nusach because nusach is all the same. The Chasam
Sofer (Shut Chasam Sofer, Orach Chaim, 15) agreed and noted that his Rebbeim Rav Nosson Adler and the Haflaah would occasionally daven Sfard in an Ashkenaz Minyan of followers to prove the point that all nuschaot are the same. Maharm Shick (Choshen Mishpat, 24) noted that the Chasam Sofer himself was particular about Nusach Sfard so how did he equate all the Nuschaot? He explained that the Chasam Sofer felt all the Nuschaot were not differences in Psak or Minhag but really the same. The only thing was that one who fully understood the Kavannot could only daven Sfard, hence the Hakpada of the Chasam Sofer for himself. L'Halacha, a Shul that breaks away for nusach differences seems not to violate laws of Lo Tisgodidoo
(See Techumin vol. 11-12). Still, Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat vol. I: 38) considered the process of breaking away to be a violation of Halacha and financially hurting the Rabbi and stability of the orginal Shul. Rav Asher Weiss shlita disagrees in principle but adds that the disagreement is only when the split is ""LShem Shomayim." more often than not, he concedes, the split of a shul is not for these reasons and only increases the amount of Machlokes within the community.