Doesn’t Dor Deah philosophy stifle the progression of Jewish law (halakha)?

Q: Doesn’t Dor Deah philosophy stifle the progression of Jewish law (halakha)?



A fourth criticism is that it is an impairment of Jewish law to regard any authority, even one as eminent as Maimonides, as final. The essence of Oral Law is that it is case law rather than code law, and needs to be interpreted in each generation: otherwise the Mishneh Torah could simply have been handed down as part of the written Torah. For this reason, it is a principle of Jewish law that “Jephthah in his generation is as Samuel in his generation”: one is bound by the current authorities, rather than by previous authorities however objectively superior.

The Dor Dai response to this is that the acceptance of Maimonides in the Yemenite community has always been regarded as a legitimate version of Jewish law, and that they are no more stultified by the authority of Maimonides than other Jewish communities are by the authority of the Shulchan Aruch. From the practical point of view, Jewish law as codified by Maimonides is as compatible with modern conditions as any later code: if anything more so, as later Jewish law has become enmeshed in many unnecessary intellectual tangles. If there are practical problems caused by this “static” view of Jewish law, that is part of the price of exile: the question is not whether a given reform would be desirable, but rather whether there is constitutional authority to make such reforms without a Great Sanhedrin.  In their view, there is not.

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