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soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)
Section - Question 18.3.2: Reform's Position On...The authority of Talmud?

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                                  Answer:
   
   [Based on material in [5]Contemporary American Reform Responsa by
   Rabbi Walter Jacob, publ. by CCAR]:
   
   Reform Judaism views the rabbinic past as a historical development.
   The "Oral Law" is not seen as divinely given at Sinai, but rather as a
   reflection of Judaism's historic development and encounter with G-d in
   each succeeding generation. In this, Reform follows Zunz, Geiger,
   Frankel, Graetz, and others in viewing G-d working through human
   agents. Reform believes that each generation has produced capable and
   religiously inspired teachers (this means that Reform rejects the
   often expressed view that assigns greater holiness to those who lived
   in the past). Some individuals of our generation may equal or exceed
   those of the past.
   
   Historical and sociological studies of the rabbinic literature during
   the last two centuries have illuminated it. Reform Judaism view this
   vast literature as the product of human reaction to varying needs
   motivated by religious thought and the divine impulse. Reform Judaism
   feels no necessity to justify each segment of the literature in terms
   of every other portion as done through hidushim and pilpul. Reform
   sees the differences among Talmudic and later authorities as
   reflections of particular points of view, different understandings of
   the divine mandate, as well as the needs of specific groups within
   their Jewish communities.
   
   When Reform Judaism analyzes each period of history, it discovers
   different strands in the halakhah. These appear both in the decisions
   and underlying philosophy. Traditional Judaism has chosen a single
   path and rejected the others, but we recall the existence of the other
   paths and the fact that they were suggested and followed by loyal Jews
   in the past. Reform Judaism feels that diversity has always been the
   hallmark of our literature and our people. Thus, when Reform finds
   itself facing new situations, it turns both to the mainstream of
   rabbinic thought as well as its divergent paths for halakhic guidance.
   In Reform's view, the halakhah is a vast repository whose old debates
   are often relevant to new situations.
   
   Sometimes the solutions of Reform Judaism may parallel those of past
   generations. On other occasions, Reform diverges from them. Through
   this effort, Reform Judaism seeks solutions for generations living in
   lands distant and distinct from those of the ancient Near East or
   medieval Europe.
   
   Reform Judaism recognizes that not every question can be resolved by
   reviewing the rabbinic literature; in some instances, totally new
   legislation is appropriate. That may be buttressed by rabbinic
   precedent.

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Top Document: soc.culture.jewish FAQ: Reform Judaism (10/12)
Previous Document: Question 18.3.1: Reform's Position On...The authority of Torah?
Next Document: Question 18.3.3: Reform's Position On...What is acceptable practice?

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