Thursday, June 30, 2005

Are Principles of Belief Subject to Rabbinical Interpretation?

R. Gil Student, in his essay reviewing Marc Shapiro's book on Principles of Faith(and discussed in a few places on his excellent blog), makes the following points, among others(and if I have misconstrued anything, I apologize):

1. In the Shulchan Aruch(code of Jewish law), those in certain categories cannot perform certain functions: the shechitah of an epicurian is not kosher, a Torah scroll written by a sectarian must be burned, one must not say amen to a blessing by a sectarian.

2. Because of these limits, a definition of these states in neccessary, ie we need to know what a sectarian is, what a epicurian is.

3. These definitions, in keeping with how Halachic issues are usually decided, are in the hands of the poskim-decisors.

4. Therefore, a posek can determine what is a sectarian and what is not, what beliefs constitute heresy and what is not heresy, and this definition can be different over time and place, depending on the posek and what he/they deem appropriate, of course, as long as it is within the bounds of tradition.

5. The conclusion is that not only are beliefs mandatory in Judaism, but that the mandatory content of that belief can be different, depending on the posek. Therefore, according to this line of reasoning, a ban such as the one that came out on R. Slifkin's books, declaring them to be heresy, is not only a reasonable Halachic outcome, but binding on those who choose to follow the rabbis who pronounced the ban.

Part II to follow(sorry, too much work)

Comments-[ comments.]


Anonymous Shmarya said...

Funny, is it not, that Gil's 'position' mirrors that of R. Aharon Feldman, whose deplorable letter on the Rabbi Slifkin ban began to circulate at this very time.

4:45 PM  
Blogger dilbert said...

Thank you for the reference to R. Feldman's letter. After being touted as a voice of reason and someone who was trying to get the ban lifted, it seems that he has gone to the dark(black hat and coat) side.

However, R. Gil, while agreeing that beliefs can be subject to pesak, does not personally agree with the ban of the books and has defended R. Slifkin very publicly. In fact, he is publishing the books. Therefore, R. Gil's position is similar only in the idea that gedolim can regulate belief, he does not agree with the beliefs that are being promulgated by R. Feldman, Elyashiv et al.

9:20 AM  
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