Relevance and Halacha
On a recent post on the subject of women's hair covering a reader named "Fish Stix" writes: (Note: I cleaned up the grammar a little to make the writer's point more easily accessible)
"...I believe that women should be able to choose, and in today's society I don't find the need to cover the hair relevant. I do think that when people grow up with a certain belief, they more readily 'think' that uncovering the hair is wrong due to tznuis.
I don't think that the average person (whatever average means) really spends all day thinking about women in "that" kind of way, so that when they uncover their hair they are immediately 'attractive' as if it is some huge difference."
Evaluating laws and customs based on their "relevancy" is hardly a new concept but not one that is endorsed by Orthodox Judaism. If anything it is quite the opposite - OJ never seems to toss anything out!
One could argue that many of the mitzvos we keep today are either generally or personally "irrelevant" and no longer require our observance:
Do I "need" Shabbos to remember that G-d created the world in six days and rested on the seventh?
I could mark it on my shul calendar in red crayon like I do my dental appointments- I don't forget them!
Do I "need" to remove every crumb of chometz from my house for a week to remember that He redeemed us from our enslavement in Egypt?
Perhaps watching the Donny Osmond version of "Joseph and the Techinicolor Dreamcoat" on television every Spring would be enough to jog my memory.
In fact, many laws and customs that were picked up under very specific (and no longer existent) circumstances are still held today despite their obvious "irrelevancy." For example, the observance of a second day of Yom Tov outside of Israel when we know with great precision exactly when each Holiday occurs.
Many commentaries note that the reason that the Torah does not specifically state the rationale behind many mitzvos is so that people will not judge for themselves whether or not it is necessary for them to observe each specific Mitzva. So essentially, if you choose to accept the "yoke of mitzvos" upon yourself you must relinquish the criteria of relevance.