Friday, January 07, 2005

The Legal Philosophy of R. Hershel Schachter

Menachem Butler directs us to the schedule for the upcoming Edah conference. One topic that looks quite ominous:

The Legal Philosophy of Rabbi Hershel Schachter and Its Challenge to Orthodox Moderns
On the one hand, I applaud Edah for consistently coming up with interesting speakers and provocative topics. I wish more mainstream organizations would follow that lead. On the other hand, while I should assume only the best, the phrase "its challenge to Orthodox moderns" implies a bashing session. I sincerely hope not.

I implore whoever is leading that session to keep it positive. Discuss Rav Schachter's positions with respect and do not position him as someone against modernity. Consider his openness to scientific and historical evidence (e.g. tekheles), his belief in halakhic innovation, his encouragement of female Talmud study, his broad leniencies for outreach and his investigations into the history of the Oral Torah. Note also that his conservatism on synagogue ritual follows a long history of the greatest Modern Orthodox posekim (as detailed in my series of posts on the adoption of heterodox practices - I, II, III, IV).

Maybe my memory is getting fuzzy, but I don't think I've ever heard of such a discussion about someone still alive. Maybe an article or two in the Conservative movement about R. Moshe Feinstein's declaring them all to be heretics, but about anything else?

UPDATE: Also worth mentioning is RH Schachter's quiet championing of eruvin in Manhattan. A very daring move, but also very careful and politically astute.

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