Returning to the Oral Tradition

Letter to the Editor

Published February 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Harvey Hames’ analysis of the role of Halacha in the State of Israel offers an important perspective on this complex historic-religious conundrum (When Democracy and Halacha Collide, February 17). There is, however, another critique of the rabbinic tradition that is overlooked in Hames’ op-ed. Halacha is, in effect, the offspring of an oral tradition, the Torah shebe’al pe. The designation of a so-called “Oral Torah” is not simply a technical matter regarding the method of transmission — oral vs. written. It is a profound appreciation of the organic nature of Torah, that Torah is an ongoing revelation deeply embedded within the life of the human community.

The real challenge for halachic Jews is to move beyond text and to restore that vibrant, ongoing, revelatory quality that is the true legacy of our ancient rabbinic sages. How do we create that human community-based halacha that imbues our modern, contemporary lives with a vital sense of Torah values and sanctity? I would propose that is the way forward, both in Israel and the Diaspora.

Richard C. Lederman
Silver Spring, Md.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.