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A Reflection on Conservative Jewish Halacha

© Rabbi Menachem Creditor


When inherited tradition and modern ethics collide, we might (and I believe should) define Torah according to Rabbi Ellie Spitz, who wrote "Torah is the unfolding narrative of the Jewish people." Our subjective sense of "what is right" IS Torah. And Halacha answers to Torah. So to the question: "if Halacha conflicts with ethics and reason, do we then reject the Halacha?" I respond as Maimonides did (according to Moshe Halbertal's "People of the Book"), by committing to making sure our implementation of the Torah conforms to our understanding of the world.

This is perhaps a reformulation of Rabbi Joel Roth's formulation of Halacha (in his "The Halakhic Process") as resting on the "grundnorm", a concept created by Hans Kelsen, who used the term to denote the underlying basis for a legal system. I believe that our grundnorm is "Torah", by which I mean what Rabbi Spitz meant: That our grundnorm, our basic authority, is the unfolding narrative of the Jewish people. Torah has always been subject to contemporary interpretation, and must remain that way in order for our path, our Halacha to remain alive.


This, I believe, has always been the approach of Conservative Judaism, though not always the approach of the Conservative Movement. It is easier to explain Conservative Judaism than most formulations would have us believe. Ideology by consensus need not be all-inclusive, nor must purposefulness necessitate judgment of those outside decided parameters. Self-definition is prerequisite to relationship with another - and given that our "other" is The Other, definition is a holy command.


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To Kneel 

(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditorfor Landingham & Kaepernick, our angels in the wings
Sometimes, it isn't about nuance.
Sometimes it just comes down to facing the storm,
calling God out,
standing at the center of a whirlwind
holding your ground.

No cathedral is immune to agony,
no soul impervious to life itself no nation purely noble.
If it were any other way,
there would be no need for cathedrals
in the first place.

Kneel,  stand,  sit,  rise up.

To kneel is
to submit  to lower oneself  to step down  to pause.
To kneel is to call attention  to touch the Earth's face to listen to those  whose blood saturates  the very roots of our story.
To kneel is to step aside  to step outside  to invite others to come closer  to remember.
To kneel is not to stand not to stand not to stand idly by.
Speak your truth,
God damn it.

That's what God wants most of all.

Then There Will Be Enough" - A reflection on this week's #Torah Portion. #toldot #life #wisdom