This past Friday, Erev Shabbos, was also Rosh Chodesh Iyar. The Mishnah B’rurah (493:5) states clearly that even for those who practice the mourning customs of S’firah starting from the beginning of S’firah (second day of Pesach), they may nonetheless get haircuts and even get married on that day due to the confluence of Rosh Chodesh and the oncoming Shabbos.

Late Friday afternoon, I received a call from someone very close to me asking if it is true that haircuts and shaving were permitted that day. I told him that the Mishnah B’rurah clearly writes that it is. I was a bit puzzled why he thought it necessary to question what is clearly stated.

He then told me that his rav made a disparaging remark about the Mishnah B’rurah as an acceptable poseik (halachic decisor). Out of respect for the Mishnah B’rurah, I will not quote verbatim what the rav told him. The message was that the Mishnah B’rurah was not meant for the scholarly. Apparently, the rav’s opinion on the matter of shaving last Friday is to follow the directive of Rav Yehudah HeChasid that (for unspecified reasons) one should never shave or get haircuts on Rosh Chodesh. The fact is, the Mishnah B’rurah himself cites that Rav Yehudah HeChasid reference elsewhere in the MB (260:7). There, he states that “some communities have the custom of not getting haircuts or shaving on Rosh Chodesh, even if it falls on Erev Shabbos.

Yet, clearly, the Mishnah B’rurah chose not to follow that opinion as it relates to S’firah. (See the Dirshu edition of the Mishnah B’rurah [493 footnote 16] for an explanation of the Mishnah B’rurah’s opinion.)

It occurs to me that this attitude towards the Mishnah B’rurah can easily become a trend. That is, if you consider yourself scholarly, you will not necessarily follow the Mishnah B’rurah. Perhaps not Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l, as well.

Take, for example, the issue of pictures of women in chareidi publications. In an article I wrote years ago, we demonstrated how, in the past, chareidi publications such as the respected Jewish Observer of Agudath Israel very often had modest pictures of women, including some noted rebbetzins. Now, we are in a situation that pictures of women is a defining issue in chareidi news publications (as opposed to book publishers, which routinely do allow pictures of women).

This came to full display recently when legendary and trailblazing educator Rebbetzin Bruria David was nifteres: She received well-deserved coverage in the Chareidi media. However, one such publication headlined her passing, yet posted a picture of her father, Rav Hutner zt”l, in place of her. I am sure the editors squirmed over this. But what can they do? They dare not lose their standing in the chareidi world.

That’s the way it goes.

In truth, it’s that way with a lot of Jewish issues. Whereas years ago, some Orthodox shuls allowed microphones on Shabbos, today (thankfully), by definition, no Orthodox shul (with perhaps some holdouts) will allow for microphones. Or take Glatt Kosher. Glatt Kosher is the halachic definition of kosher slaughter, practiced mainly by Sephardic Jews who follow the Shulchan Aruch’s ruling that the lungs of a kosher-slaughtered animal must be perfectly smooth (chalak, or “glatt” in Yiddish) upon inspection. Ashkenazic Jewry traditionally allowed for some questionable lesions on the lung to be removed.

With the arrival of Eastern European Jewry after World War II, glatt was introduced as a super standard to the Ashkenazic community, as well. Rav Yosef Breuer zt”l, founding rabbi of the Breuer’s community in Washington Heights, originally opposed this new standard. “It’s more important to be glatt yosher (honest and straight) than to be glatt kosher,” he would say.

But eventually, even Breuer’s had to submit, as Glatt became the code word for a higher standard in kosher (all OU meat, for example, is glatt). Sometimes you’ll see “glatt” used on chicken and even fish!

This is not limited to Yiddishkeit. Politically, left or right, we find the same phenomenon. If one criticizes any new radical movement, he is branded a racist or phobic. It makes no difference how logical your criticism is. Try criticizing the violence or depression that some of the movements cause and see what happens. The new definition of normal has taken root.

As it pertains to halachah, we must be vigilant that this revisionism does not take hold, unless the new approach comes to correct an old mistake (such as microphones on Shabbos).

We cannot have it that the Mishnah B’rurah is considered not in step with today’s supposed higher standards. If so, there is something wrong with those standards. It’s wonderful to wish to grow to higher levels in observance, but not at the expense of sidelining the giants before us.

Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld is the Rabbi Emeritus of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills, President of the Coalition for Jewish Values, former President of the Vaad Harabonim of Queens, and the Rabbinic Consultant for the Queens Jewish Link.