Monday, September 20, 2021

Applying Halacha - Not Adapting It to Fit the Times

Dalid Minim
Judaism must change with the times. That is perhaps the most widely used cliché by heterodoxy. The idea being that what was once a common religious practice or belief is now irrelevant - and pehaps even contrary to the ethics of our time - considering what we now know. That kind of thinking is what generated the Reform Movement. They have veered away so far from tradition and Halahca that there is hardly anything recognizably Jewish about them.  Their claim that the laws and customs of old were designed to teach us certain values. And now the we know what they are, those laws and customs should be abandoned. 

Rabbi Lamm discussued this issue in a lecture he gave on Sukkos... published* as part of a collection of the lectures he delivered before becoming President of YU. 

Therein he rejects the idea that Judaism must adapt to fit the times. As he did the idea of seeking truth without a frame of reference - instead relying on the whims of constantly changing and fickle world. 

For us the Torah is frame of reference. An anchor by which to live. We do not focus on the here and now to see what’s relevant and what is not. Instead we look to the Torah to teach us how to encounter change. That means applying the Torah to the times. Not adapting it to fit the times.   

This is how we navigate an ever changing world.  It gives us concrete Mitzvos - symbols of our stability. Stability in a historic chain practiced by our forefathers throughout Jewish history till this very day.

On Sukkos it is the Sukkah and the Dalid Minim – commonly called the Lulav and Esrog. By holding the Dalid Minim – we connect with our past and re-assert our anchor. Without them, we become subject to the whims of the time. We are like newborn children trying to find meaning in life without any guidance, direction, or frame of reference. Just the randomness of the social order of the particular time in which we live. 

A joyous Sukkos to all. Chag Sameach

*Adapted from Festivals of Faith by Rabbi Norman Lamm