Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Should Torah Bend to Zeitgeist?

From RRW

1 comment:

micha berger said...

Torah should not be bent to the zeitgeist, but it will of it's own bend to it, or at least accomodate it.

First, because realia change. Like when the study of psychology changes how we view suicide, and thus how the surviving family relates to their relative who committed suicide, halakhah had a new factor to take into account when deciding what to do with a victim of suicide. Banning polygyny is another reponse to zeigeist -- women in a world where marriage is exclusive expect that, and halakhah has to respect that expectation.

Second, because posqim are humans living in those times. So, they should try their best to find the Torah's objective truth. Or at least, a given valid interpretation of the halakhah, within the range that objective truth allows. But they are thinking in categories that reflect the category of the times. Someone living in the 19th century, in the shadows of Kant and Hegel, are naturally going to view halachic truth differently than a scholast like the Rambam did. And how they relate to interpretations in the gemara that appear to stretch the mishnah to the limit will change; to the Rambam, there is one Truth running through both, to a modern, the notion of evolution of Law is a more realistic model. And so the Rambam feels a pressure to minimize the gemara's novellum, ruling closer to a naive read of the mishnah than a modern (or even Rashi) would.