[Avodah] Fwd: BeisDin Errs Who Brings the Chattos?

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Sat Mar 9 18:36:40 PST 2013

Along the same lines, see
    On the Nature and Future of Halakha in Relation to Autonomous
    Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo

and the response at
    Halacha and Autonomous Religiosity: What's the Problem?
    by Gidon Rothstein
    http://j.mp/WU8R2C - shortened from

RNLC invokes the Maharal under discussion, as well as the Yam shel Shelomo,
and suggests:
    By all means, we should continue to study the works of Maimonides and
    Rabbi Joseph Karo and possibly even live by their directives. They
    belong to the best which Judaism has to offer. But we should be
    careful not to create an impression that there are no alternative
    ways. We must make our young searching people aware that halakha is
    much more than what these works represent. Above all, we should see
    these works as sublime commentaries on the Talmud. Specifically,
    Maimonides' Mishneh Torah offers us profound insights into how
    his genius mind read and understood the Talmud. It is in this, and
    not in his attempt to codify Jewish Law, that Maimonides made his
    greatest contribution to Jewish learning. Ultimately, it is only by
    the discussions in the Talmud that we, with the help of our rabbis,
    should decide how to live our religious lives.

    Judaism is an Autonomous Way of Living

    The question we now need to ask is how to bring Judaism back to its
    original authentic "self" in which the halakhic tradition of "elu
    ve-elu," is once more recognized and applied. Can we reactivate this
    concept in order to bring new life into the bloodstream of Judaism
    for those young people who are in dire need? Surely the principle of
    "elu ve-elu" is not a blank check that anything goes. The principle
    should only be implemented if it will stimulate greater commitment
    to Jewish religious life while simultaneously responding to the many
    drastic changes which have taken place in our modern world. The
    need for human autonomy as well as spirituality and meaning which
    are sought by so many young people will have to be addressed.

    We must realize that Judaism is an autonomous way of life. While the
    need for conformity within the community must constantly be taken into
    consideration, ultimately one is expected to respond as an individual
    to the Torah's demands. Each human being is an entire world, and
    no two human beings are identical in their psychological make up,
    religious needs or experience of God. One can only encounter God as
    an individual. What, after all, is the purpose of my existence if
    not to relate to God differently from my neighbor?...

RGR replies (also, only in part):

    I stress the unequivocal aspect of this precisely because R. Cardozo
    (and he is not the first) assumes that Judaism records so many
    alternate approaches as to preclude any such well-accepted core.
    In this view, if we only shed the shackles of the attempt to impose
    codification the Talmud never intended, people could find their way
    to a more productive and more personal experience of the religion.
    One of the points of my posts was that, with all the debate in the
    Talmud and beyond -- R. Cardozo, to my mind, grossly exaggerates the
    extent to which works of codification have stifled multiple voices,
    the concerns of Maharshal notwithstanding -- there is an unarguable
    set of ideas and practices that are not only obligatory on all Jews,
    but that necessarily and centrally shape any Jewishness worthy of
    the name.

    Truth is, R. Cardozo should have been forced to realize this,
    to some extent, simply as a result of his casual assumption that
    the religion focuses on worship of God. Both the words 'worship'
    and 'God' need some sort of definition, no matter how broad, and
    going outside of that definition will be the same as going outside
    the acceptable parameters of Judaism. My Mission posts show that
    Scriptural, Talmudic, and post-Talmudic sources evince broader
    agreement than his article recognizes.

    What he is noticing, I believe, is not the results of codification
    per se, but of a more recent phenomenon, in which our community
    focuses only on certain sections of those works, warping the picture
    those works themselves presented. That we can confuse the entirety
    of the religion with observing Shabbat and kashrut, or with wearing
    certain clothing to the exclusion of other clothing, or with whatever
    subset we have turned into "real Judaism" is distressing, but not
    a development we can or should blame on Rambam or R. Yosef Caro.

    A Problem and Its Solution

    Diagnosing the problem correctly affects the solution we will pursue.
    R. Cardozo argues for a return to a Talmudic era in which Judaism let
    a thousand flowers bloom, in which the ethos of elu va-elu, these
    and these are the words of the Living God, offered a broader range
    of religious options to those seeking God. I think he misrepresents
    the Talmudic era itself, but more than that he reaches unnecessarily
    far for his remedy.

    as to Talmudic times, the Tosefta in Sotah 14;9, cited in Sanhedrin
    98b, blames the multiplicity of debates on students' failure to study
    properly, hardly an encomium for diversity of opinion in the halachic
    world; turning to elu va-elu itself, while Kabbalists did, indeed,
    find an interpretation in which it meant that all those opinions were
    right, most rishonim (and R. Moshe Feinstein, in his introduction
    to Iggerot Moshe) understand the phrase as allowing us to tolerate
    a wrong opinion as long as it was reached through valid process.
    Indeed, the general understanding of the mitzvah to follow majority
    rule -- and the largely-ignored obligation of lo titgodedu, not to
    have Jewish communities be split by multiple forms of practice --
    seems to prefer avoiding precisely the kinds of splits R. Cardozo
    wants to uphold as an ideal.

But I think my reply to RGR's post might email RMR understand my position
better (if not why I think the Rambam, Maharal and RCV aren't saying what
he attributes to them), so I'm including it in full:
     I think there is a major failing in not clearly distinguishing
     between codification and the need for codification. When we say that
     Rebbe's decision to codify the mishnah was an instance of overturning
     a specific law for the sake of the whole, we're clearly saying the
     situation was a step down. BUT, that doesn't mean that codifying
     -- whether the Mesrashei Halakhah, the Bishnah, the Tosefta, the
     Talmuds, the Beha"g, the Rif, the Rambam, the Tur, the Shulchan
     Arukh, the Levush, the Rama, the Shulchan Arukh haRav, the Chayei
     Adam, the Qitzur, the Arukh haShulchan, the Mishnah Berurah, the Ben
     Ish Hai, etc, etc, etc.. were themselves a bad idea. It is sad when
     we reach an impasse that requires a new round of codification. But
     when we do need it, producing a code is the right response.

     The formula the Rambam uses to describe the what gave the Talmud
     Bavli its binding nature is that it was accepted by "all of
     Israel". Not in every one of its rulings, but as the point of
     origin for further study. And today, across the gamut, semichah
     studies center around the Shulchan Arukh (with the exception of
     Bal'adi Teimanim who center their pisqa on the Rambam). The same
     concept which gives the gemara the authority R' Angel attributes
     to it gives the Shulchan Arukh its authority.

     I also find an interesting point of commonality between the two
     positions. R' Marc Angel questions the binding nature of evolution
     to halakhah since the gemara. R' Gidon Rothstein questions the
     significance of the evolution of aggadita since the rishonim. Both
     are therefore calling for some sort of roll back to an earlier
     state that was more to their liking.

     All this said, I am afraid that R' Angel, by going further than
     most of his audience would be willing to, loses that audience with
     respect to the primary problem. Orthodox Jews today are under
     the impression that the job of religion is to provide answers;
     and moreso, easy-to-understand answers that can resolve life's
     dilemmas in one sitting -- all tied up with a nice bow.

     In reality, life's problems are hard. Let me give a story
     from personal experience. Someone close to me is a baalas
     teshuvah. The only one in her family in a few generations to embrace
     observance. And she, like most baalei teshuvah, was presented a
     worldview in which, if you just believe enough, the only airplane
     one would miss is the one that was going to crash. (Many of you are
     familiar with this genre of story that I'm trying to portray.) But
     she, alone among all her siblings and cousins, went through the
     crashing pain of losing a daughter. So, where is the "better life"
     the kiruv professionals led her to expect? Life is not simple,
     and we do ourselves a disservice pretending it is.

     Religion's job isn't to resolve life's struggles, but to give us
     a meaningful way to grapple with them. Whether we're talking about
     our perspective on life, or about pesaq halakhah.

     Quick and cut-and-dry one-size-fits-all rulings isn't how halakhah
     is supposed to work. While I'm arguing that a ruling that "all of
     Israel" accepts is binding, we have gone well beyond that with the
     current proliferation of English halachic guides. There is a feel to
     the give-and-take of halakhah, to its responses to the costs to the
     individual, to their personal talents and emotional proclivities,
     where they stand spiritually and how they view life, that one really
     not only needs a human halachic decisor, but preferably one who
     knows the asker and can help them coordinate a spiritual journey
     through life.


Micha Berger             "'When Adar enters, we increase our joy'
micha at aishdas.org         'Joy is nothing but Torah.'
http://www.aishdas.org    'And whoever does more, he is praiseworthy.'"
Fax: (270) 514-1507                     - Rav Dovid Lifshitz zt"l

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