Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Zackary Sholem Berger has posted a friend's response to Rabbi Simcha Roth's teshuva on homosexuality. The response is worth reading if you're interested in the halakhic aspects of the issue. I don't have the expertise (or, at the moment, the time) to respond to each point in detail, but I would like to note an overall disparity between Rabbi S. Roth's approach to halakha and the approach taken by Berger's friend.

Rabbi Roth's teshuva is unabashedly ends-oriented. Its goal is to find room for homosexual relationships within halakha, not to present the sources objectively. This approach is grounded in the idea that, in the real world, halakha cannot and should not be an "objective," academic pursuit. Responsa should, rather, be guided by sensitivity to the needs of individuals and communities.

I approve of this approach because I don't believe that halakha is perfect. People like Berger's friend do, however, have solid grounds for disagreeing. It goes without saying that addressing halakhic issues creatively -- or, to put it more baldly, manipulating the system -- poses a threat to the integrity of Jewish tradition. This threat is all the greater within the Conservative movement on account of the rabbinate's failure to establish clear guidelines for change. CNonetheless, my vote is for flexibility over rigidity, particularly when the stakes are this high.

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