Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Is contemporary halakhah dysfunctional?

For some reason the 'Comments' on my post below regarding Modern Orthodoxy have 'frozen up', and I can't access them (can anyone else?). I hope they unfreeze, and I apologise to those whose contributions have evaporated into cyberspace. This is/was my response to the comments posted, and I'm posting it here , with some minor changes, as a stand-alone:
As I remarked yesterday to a colleague, discussing the issue of how halakhah is functioning in today's community:

The needs of society (=Jewish society) must not only be *set* by halakhah - they also have to be *met*.

Part of the problem is the lack of sophistication (perhaps because of the anti-history tendency of Haredi society?) in the theoretical understanding of halakhah, which is in its grassroots application a relative, social system, and not an abstract, absolute mechanical / mathematical system. Take it away from its social context and it is inoperable. It is a lso a hierarchied system, where the power to make decisions is in a structure. Today, people who can barely read Hebrew email across the globe with "R'x says that ..." messages, and our shul weekly bulletins and handouts are filled with English 'Halachah notes' of formidable detail that a generation or so ago would have been restricted to a small circle of Rabbanim. They are avidly read by the
"It says that / You've got to ...." brigade.

Well, you don't have to.

The halakhic spiral in which we are caught is making it impossible to be frum, unless you are frum as a profession on a full-time basis (="in learning"), and can carry out your existence unimpeded by small considerations such as real life, earning a living, and interacting with the 99.999% of humanity who are non-Jewish.

And, before the normal bunch jump in to tell me how misguided and wicked I am - I do not welcome any of the above developments - at all. I would much rather that we returned to sanity and generated the leaders who would offer us a theoretical AND A PRACTICAL 'Moreh nevuchei hazman', and give us an inpiring, reasonable, engaging orthodoxy for our times.

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