Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Another contemporary theory of everything Orthodox

Yutopia gives a good counterpoint to Dr. Hayyim Soloveitchik's 'Rupture and Reconstruction'.

He points out, correctly, that the nature of contemporary Orthodox Judaism (or Orthodox Judaisms, as he puts it to account for the many different expressions of Orthodoxy) is not really textual as opposed to mimetic, like it appears on the surface. If you lay out all halakhic and hashkafic Jewish sources on the ground like stones on a path you will find that in fact OJ skips from to the other, picking up a pesak from this authority and a thought from that one, very rarely (okay, never) accepting the blanket authority of one source, including especially the Talmud ("We don't pasken from the Talmud", the saying goes) and even the Shulhan Arukh with which many Orthodox Jews define Orthodox Judaism.

And there really is no systematic explanation for it. As Yutopia puts it
"if R. Moshe Feinstein is enough of a legitmate halakhic authority for one law, why is his opinion disregarded for another? When I have asked other rabbis this question, I have rarely received a rational response."
What is his explanation? It is that to a large extent Orthodox Judaism is less text based and more cultural based than it thinks, or rather that how the texts are read is largely determined by the culture.

However, there are two critiques of this position that I can think of. One is the assumption that poskim don't really have a systematic approach to halakha, even if it isn't always apparent. As far as I know, except for some radical Yemeni Rambanists Jews have never accepted a sole halakhic authority and source for laws and customs.

I think that in a way, the issues of bugs in the water and the like are a departure from that. Why are these much remarked upon "new chumros" happening now? A lot of people wonder why things that weren't dreamed of as a problem twenty years ago are problems today. It may be that even though Yutopia has been describing the reality of how things are still very much cultural Dr. Soleveitchik is right in how things are trending towards. More and more poskim are not trying to validate how things are already being done but are looking to the sources and reevaluating these things, and if a "problem" is encountered so be it.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails