Think Tank Session, March 14th 2016/ 5 Adar II 5776
We began the meeting with a Think Tank member sharing his Jewish journey – what changes he has made in his Jewish identity, what influences caused those changes, and what issues weigh on his mind. He shared his concern that the more one enters into sophisticated and analytical thinking and is exposed to academic views etc, the further recedes “yirat shamayim” and simple faith. This led to a discussion of whether one can maintain critical thinking and yirat shamayim.
The Think Tank members, who had read “Conversation 13” from Rabbi Cardozo’s upcoming spiritual autobiography, gathered in groups of three to debate some of the fundamental issues raised by that chapter. Particularly intriguing to all groups was the question “Has the founding of the State of Israel changed how we approach Halacha and its mode of development? And if so, why would that be?” and also the question of what kind of changes can be made to the halachic system. On the former topic, one member suggested that the State of Israel is a “testing ground” for all sorts of attitudes and halachot that were developed (theoretically) while the Jews were in exile, before they were responsible for actually running a state, for example in the role of the religious legal system. Another member noted that the requirement to balance between halacha and democracy is significant.
A third member suggested that, in a metaphysical or mystical fashion, the experience of living as a nation in one’s land organically gives rise to a more free-flowing, passionately creative halachic Jewish identiy, rather than one constrained to a very narrow four cubits, hunkering down in a sea of non-Jewish culture. In response to this, another Think Tank member remarked that, similarly, she has noticed children of strong rabbinical lineages being very comfortable with their halachic identity, having grown up with it so firmly in place; and hence the experience is one of a very natural halachic living where halacha is second nature.