Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Boaz Cohen's Principles of Halacha

 "Cohen [former chairman of the Rabbinical Assembly's Law Committee] suggested the following basic principles of Halakhah:
1) The Law is of Divine origin
2) The Law is immutable, although liberal interpretations of the rabbis rendered the law viable and pliable.  Biblical law cannot be abrogated but it can be emended by interpretation.
3) The Law has developed historically.
4) The Jewish People--Knesset Yisrael--is one Community in regard to basic laws.
5) The primacy of the Talmud, rather than the codes, is acknowledged.
6) Ordained sages are authorized to rule on laws.
7) The principle of interpretation is affirmed to mean that 'modifications of ritual and ordinances required by new exigencies and contingencies should transpire through due process of Jewish law.'  But hands should be kept off family law, since that impinges on the Jewish People.
8) 'The determining factor in our decisions is the question whether we are preserving genuine Jewish religious values or not.'
9) The much-maligned Shulhan Aruch is not authoritarian, but utilitarian.  We need it because it restates the Talmud, it is the code of the majority, and it is convenient.
10) In seeking canons of interpretation, we should pursue the 'general aim and spirit of the Law,' accepting the consensus of codifiers and following the minority if need be.  We must also be attuned to the psychological consequences of our decisions.
11)  We must realize that some problems are simply irremediable within the Halakhah," pg. 186 of Four Paths to One God by Rosenthal


Now, he's from the Conservative movement.  But is there anything here that our movement can use as we move to articulate our stance on halacha?  On which principles do we agree, disagree?

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