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4 years ago  ::  May 24, 2010 - 1:14PM #91
rocketjsquirell
Posts: 15,782

Actually there are various centers where questions of Halacha can be and are authoritatively resolved. The various centers do not always agree with each other but that has always been the way it is.


The main stream Conservative and Orthodox movements take Halacha seriously and each deal with questions as they come up. As one reaches the outer fringes of the Orthodox world, Halacha is taken less seriously and becomes less of a set of rules to live by and more of a set of rules by which to exclude others. As one reaches the outer fringes of the Liberal Jewish world, Halacha becomes less of a set of rules to live by and more of an interesting source to which one may refer. Since most of us live in the broad middle we can ignore the fringeiest fringe groups and more or less get along quite nicely.       

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4 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 4:54AM #92
NahumS
Posts: 1,758
[/quote]


From a traditional point of view, Halacha does not change. It applies differently to changed circumstances and is open to new(to a degree)  interpretation in response to new situations. But that is not the same as change.


Halachic evolution cannot keep up to a rapidly changing society. Evolution is a natural and organic proccess.


Ultimately, psak (Halachic ruling) is not universal. It is specific and refers to a specific situation, person or community. What is appropriate for one is wrong for another.


Of course, in most areas there is a broad concensus among halachicly observant Jewry. But there have always been and will always be differences in local practice and within families.


For example - I have  a good friend, a "Rabbi Dr." who turns on electric lights on Yom Tov. He is convinced that the halacha permits this. I have examined the sources and remain unconvinced. The electric charge does not seem to me equivalent to the actual light and heat after the circuit is complete. Most  halachic authorities do not permit this. Most orthodox Jews do not turn on lights on Yom Tov. But we can all cope.


In areas that affect the community there has to be a certain degree of concensus. When it comes to the State of Israel, theoretically the Chief Rabbinate is meant to arrive at a halachic ruling that can solve halachic problems on a national level. The problem is that the Haredi community does not accept their rulings (witness the recent controversy regarding graves found next to Barzilai Hospital on proposed site of a new emergency room), and in any case, the Haredi approach has developed into a search for the most stringent interpretation of the Halacha, an approach that makes it nearly impossible to find halachic solutions for a modern state with a varied population. Unfortunately, there is over-representation of Haredi rabbis on Batei Din and in rabbinic posts.


The exciting thing about Halacha in Israel is the need to develop the Halacha to address rapidly developing situations - a modern army, hospitals, police, economy, etc. While no law forces these institutions to function according to halacha, religious soldiers, doctors, patients, policemen expect solutions that make it possible to take part. Various scholars and institutes research the issues and develop halachic and technological solutions to the myriad challenges that face observant Jews.


 

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4 years ago  ::  May 25, 2010 - 10:08AM #93
browbeaten
Posts: 3,094

May 25, 2010 -- 4:54AM, NahumS wrote:



From a traditional point of view, Halacha does not change. It applies differently to changed circumstances and is open to new(to a degree)  interpretation in response to new situations. But that is not the same as change.


 


Halachic evolution cannot keep up to a rapidly changing society. Evolution is a natural and organic proccess.


Ultimately, psak (Halachic ruling) is not universal. It is specific and refers to a specific situation, person or community. What is appropriate for one is wrong for another.


Of course, in most areas there is a broad concensus among halachicly observant Jewry. But there have always been and will always be differences in local practice and within families.


For example - I have  a good friend, a "Rabbi Dr." who turns on electric lights on Yom Tov. He is convinced that the halacha permits this. I have examined the sources and remain unconvinced. The electric charge does not seem to me equivalent to the actual light and heat after the circuit is complete. Most  halachic authorities do not permit this. Most orthodox Jews do not turn on lights on Yom Tov. But we can all cope.


In areas that affect the community there has to be a certain degree of concensus. When it comes to the State of Israel, theoretically the Chief Rabbinate is meant to arrive at a halachic ruling that can solve halachic problems on a national level. The problem is that the Haredi community does not accept their rulings (witness the recent controversy regarding graves found next to Barzilai Hospital on proposed site of a new emergency room), and in any case, the Haredi approach has developed into a search for the most stringent interpretation of the Halacha, an approach that makes it nearly impossible to find halachic solutions for a modern state with a varied population. Unfortunately, there is over-representation of Haredi rabbis on Batei Din and in rabbinic posts.


The exciting thing about Halacha in Israel is the need to develop the Halacha to address rapidly developing situations - a modern army, hospitals, police, economy, etc. While no law forces these institutions to function according to halacha, religious soldiers, doctors, patients, policemen expect solutions that make it possible to take part. Various scholars and institutes research the issues and develop halachic and technological solutions to the myriad challenges that face observant Jews.



NahumS, I'm sure we can all appreciate the explanation, but that is the issue at hand.  You have just explained the problem that I had just mentioned.  This inconsistency is directly related to the absence of a central authority.  Because of this, what is acceptable in one community is not in another, and both could very well be Haredi.  This "division" leads to confusion and a strong tendency toward communities "shunning" members.  If this "division" can exist within the Haredi communties, imagine what separations exist between Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, etc?  In this day and age, in Israel alone, Halacha is being put to the test on a daily basis.  It would be to the benefit of all Jews for there to be a central authority where these issues can be discussed by representatives of all factions of Judaism.  Probably a pipe dream, but as it is now, many Jews, that I know, are becoming less observant and less tolerant and that is because they are not heard, don't understand and they don't really know where they stand in terms of what is applicable today.


.(attempted to fix screwy code-BD)

Moderated by Beautiful_Dreamer on May 27, 2010 - 08:35PM
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4 years ago  ::  May 27, 2010 - 3:31AM #94
NahumS
Posts: 1,758

I think, in today's reality, a central authority would not be the best solution.


A central authority would most likely look for the most stringent approach possible, be least responsive and understanding of communities different from themselves.


I think that the only realistic solution is to try to develop a broad-spectrum, respected  halachic authority within orthodoxy. In the US, the OU/RCA has more or less done this.  They have remained centrist and are considered authoritative.


But, because Diaspora Jewish life is limited to certain areas (what people consider "religious"), and only in Israel can Jews live an entirely Jewish life that encompasses every part of individual, community and national life, the answer can only be found in Israel. Ultimately, that answer is the Sanhedrin.


In Israel's social and political reality, that solution is far-off. A Sanhedrin must be accepted to become an authority.


Unfortunately, the chief rabbinate is of limited use at this point. Until positions are held be recognized halachic authorities that are responsive to the entire Jewish people, they have little to offer.


In the meantime, the organic process is the only one that can work. Halachic institutes that address actual problems and look for solutions. Rabbinic authorities that write responsa and address issues in a creative way.


Unfortunately, the Conservative and Reform movements have little to contribute here. The Reform movement has basically rejected halachic Judaism. Halacha has no authority; every rabbi, community and individual is autonomous and free to choose from Judaism what is meaningful to him or her.


I'll give you an example. When my wife was a journalism student, she wrote an article on Agunot - women whose husbands abandon them or refuse to grant them a get (Jewish divorce) thus rendering them unable to remarry according to halacha, and making subsequent children mamzerim. When she spoke to Reform rabbis, they said that a civil divorce was enough - the Reform movement does not require that a man give his divorcee a get. For halachically observant Jews, orthodox or conservative, and for their rabbis, this is an impossible situation, making it impossible to marry this un-divorced woman - or any of her descendants.


The Conservative movement affirms the authority of Halacha- and once had significant Halachic scholars (Prof. Lieberman and others). Most of them have left this world, and Prof. Weiss-HaLivny left the Conservative movement when he saw that JTS gives equal weight to the halachic opinions of Assyriologists and Talmud professors.


The movement's commitment to halacha is, let's say, more flexible than is acceptable to Orthodoxy. My cousin, a Conservative rabbi, used to joke that the movement's motto should be "Im tirtzu, ein zu halacha" - a play on words on Herzl's saying. Basically, halacha can be more or less manipulated in any way necessary to arrive at the desired outcome. Even when Conservative halachic solutions are well-constructed and based on solid Talmudic foundations (which is not consistently the case), orthodox rabbis cannot accept them because of the ideological bias that both sides have.


Moreover, the Conservative laity, the members of Conservative congregations, are hardly halachically observant - even by flexible Conservative standards. Most are no more traditionally observant than their Reform counterparts - they just want their rabbi to be. Conservative congregations rarely accept all their rabbi's rulings in the synagogue - the "ritual committee" can easily overide the rabbi's decisions. In the absence of a halachically observant community, "psak" (halachic ruling) is basically futile. 

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4 years ago  ::  May 28, 2010 - 11:15AM #95
howiedds
Posts: 2,687

Nahum:


From a traditional point of view, Halacha does not change. It applies  differently to changed circumstances and is open to new(to a degree)   interpretation in response to new situations. But that is not the same  as change.


By creatiively adapting Halacha to changed circumstances, and opening it to new(to a degree)   interpretation in response to new situations, you are, in effect, changing it.

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4 years ago  ::  May 30, 2010 - 6:51AM #96
NahumS
Posts: 1,758

There is change that is halachically acceptable and change that is not.


The issue is faithfulness to the sources and the halachic system. The issue is continuity.

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4 years ago  ::  May 31, 2010 - 9:31PM #97
howiedds
Posts: 2,687

Nahum:



There is change that is halachically acceptable and change that is  not.




The issue is faithfulness to the sources and the halachic  system. The issue is continuity.


 


I understand. I just thought that you needed to say that to counter the charge that  Halacha does not change. Now who gets to decide what is change that is halachically acceptable and change that is  not is where Jews go off to the races.  


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