How do we determine which traditions of our ancestors to uphold? For instance, the act of Yaakov kissing Rachel before marriage or women playing drums are practices from the past that definitely don't align with modern norms. (If someone has any other examples of us not following in our predecessors' ways please let me know)

Where do we establish boundaries on what lessons to glean from our "Avos"?

  • 3
    That's quite a leading question. If they're outdated, presumably we shouldn't follow them. But what makes them outdated? And what makes them traditions?
    – shmosel
    Mar 12 at 4:31
  • How do we determine which traditions of our ancestors to uphold? this is the meat and bread of learning Torah - halacha
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 12 at 8:01
  • 3
    What do you mean by "tradition"? Is there a legal category you are connecting this term to (such as "minhag")? Also, how are you extrapolating the existence of a "tradition" based on a report of a particular isolated occurrence? Abraham planted an eshel tree, do you propose that there is a tradition of planting eshel trees? I think that the question as posed needs more details to clarify what the problem is that you are seeking a solution for. Mar 12 at 14:11

1 Answer 1


The paradigm is: מעשה אבות סימן לבנים. Tur HaAroch to Bereshit 33:15, Torah Ohr to VaYishlach 4:23

The actions of the Patriarchs are a sign, a path-marker on the way (to act), for the descendants.

And also: שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל-תטש תורת אמך. Mishlei 1:8

Listen and understand, my children, the tradition (and dedication) of your Patriachs and do not abandon the instruction of your Matriarchs.

And this is understood as: תנו רבנן, אין אבות אלא לשלשה, ואין קורין אמהות אלא לארבע. Berachot 16b

Our Rabbis learned, there are no Patriachs but for three (Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaacov), and none are called Matriarchs but for four (Sarah, Rivkah, Leah and Rochel).

Are those seven your Patriarchs and Matriarchs? If so, then the paradigm may apply.

The words of the specific paradigms are unqualified. Each specific case needs to be assessed in the context of whether the paradigm applies or not to a given situation.

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