(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 21:23:54 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Choosing The Right-Hand Side

QUESTION: It is asked for (a) the source for
the idea that when we are in doubt we should do things on the right side
(b) How does one do research on such things (c) When in doubt at an
intersection should we turn to the right.

(a) The source for "using the right" comes from the Sacrificial laws. When
the high priest went up on the altar he always "turned to the right". (Eg
Rambam The practice of Sacrifices 5:10)

A deep reaching principle in Judaism is to commemorate the loss of the
Temple by imitating the temple laws. A myriad of customs can in fact be
traced back to sacrifice practices.

(b) One can start to do research by looking up in classical works such as
the Mishnah Brerura, Shulchan Aruch, Rambam, Chumash, talmud, Midrash. In
this particular case I don't know any routine search method that would have
yielded the laws. It is rather an obscure connection (Between Sacrifices
and daily behavior). Finally one can use the excellent book "The Reasons
for Customs and Laws" (in Hebrew).

(c) As I just indicated the sole purpose of this law is to commemorate the
Temple law. I do NOT believe that this law would apply to eg turning at an
intersection. I believe the Code of Jewish Law says we should eg put on our
right shoe first. In general these laws have the status of a "commemorative
custom" and have the force of law PROVIDED they are explicitly brought down
in the code of Jewish law.

Russell Jay Hendel