[Avodah] Fwd: BeisDin Errs Who Brings the Chattos?
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,
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
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
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.'"
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