It is important to remember that great controversies are also great emancipators. They give us new and fresh insights. We are in dire need of them. We should not only allow them but encourage our students to advance them!
The breaking of idols and slaughtering of sacred cows is, in itself, a Jewish task that began with Avraham Avinu. Consequently, we should not be afraid to do so, or at least to discuss the possible need for change. This could raise some eyebrows in certain religious circles, and we might even become controversial. So, we must keep in mind that great controversies are also great emancipators. They often clarify and enhance essential philosophies behind majestic traditions.
Rav Soloveitchik himself was a traditionalist, who combined that ideology with religious Zionism and tried very hard to give it a place in the world of philosophy and modernity. He was unable to overcome the enormous tension between these two worlds and so became a “lonely man of faith,” with no disciples but with many students, each one of whom claimed their own Rav Soloveitchik. The truth is that the real Rav Soloveitchik was more than the sum total of all of them – a man of supreme greatness who was a tragic figure.
Only when making a sincere effort to reduce the pain of one’s fellow human beings can one be called a great person! Chief Rabbis, as well as other halachic authorities who do not apply this approach, are not only inadequate religious leaders, but they also become an obstacle to Judaism and should step down. Allowing them to maintain their authority is a sheer disgrace.
In the process of adapting from exile to statehood, halachah may need to be uprooted and transplanted, or even cut back to its deepest roots and regrown in a larger pot, where it can flower more freely. This will probably result in the “secularization” of some of our halachot, offset by a cultural “Judification” of our secular society. Can we use the lessons learned during the galut to survive in an increasingly decentralized and globalized world?
Halacha is in need of more “chaos.” It must allow for many ways to live a halachic life unbound by too many restrictions of conformity and codification. It must make room for autonomy on the part of individuals, to choose their own way once they have undertaken to observe the foundations of Halacha.
The think tank discusses whether the founding of the State of Israel has changed how we approach Halacha and its mode of development, as well as what kind of changes can be made to the halachic system.
Halacha makes rules where rules should not exist but need to exist lest chaos ensue. But it is these very rules that create unsolvable problems that are inherent to our existence.
Judaism is about new ideas. It is dependent on fresh concepts deeply rooted in its tradition. Innovative thinking is the need of the hour. It is time for halachic authorities, rabbis, and religious thinkers to take notice of the immense changes that have taken place in our day. Never has the world gone through so many adjustments in so short a time. Never have the Jewish people been confronted with so many challenges. It is not only the security of the State of Israel that is at stake, but even more so, its very spirit and spiritual future.
It is characteristic of the Jewish tradition that once its foundations have been well established, the structure of Judaism stands like an unshakable mountain and can weather any unwelcome influences from without. It can then absorb all forms of genuine human wisdom if they will add to a deeper understanding of Judaism and grant the Jew a greater commitment to his tradition. Judaism has never been afraid to confront human wisdom and has always proudly responded to attacks on its tradition.