Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Miriam Bloghead points to "a rather heated row" in the comments section of Maariv regarding the laws of sexual separation.

A bold and masculine scholar of Jewish law calling himself "Dude" made a comment on Miriam's post. I replied. He answered. And now a "rather heated row" is about to break out in Miriam’s comment section. Here's what we have said so far:
Dude: From what I've learned, it would be impossible to revoke and the Rabbis have no say in the matter. When the entire Klal Yisroel adopts a minhag it would probably take a (real) Sanhedrin to abolish.

DovBear: I think [the] kallah teacher [who wrote the original Maariv post] must have slept through the moment in her Yahadut Course when the teacher explained that in our day no Rabbi has the guts, excuse me, the permission, to roll back a previous Rabbi's ruling.

Dude: DovBear - Your Leftist looniness is showing. Plese go review Mesechet Horius, as well as the Rambam on the issue. A case like this with a universal minhag which is codified first in the Gemara is basically irrevocable. Of course Lefties like you would love to blame the Rabbis. I think you should blame your own lack of scholarship before jewrking that knee again.
Excuse me? How is my comment substantively different from Dude’s first remark? He says the Rabbi’s have “no say in the matter;” I say they don’t have permission to change things. Did we disagree?

I think this time it was the other guy’s knee that jerked.

The truth is Rabbis do not have permission to change the laws of sexual seperation. But it is also true that, traditionally, Orthodox Rabbis managed to get things done when they thought it was important. Pruzbal, heter ishka, the takanot of Rabaynu Yochanan ben Zackai, the takanot of Rabaynu Gershon, even some of the modifications intriduced by the first hasidim are examples.

Today it is, without doubt, a principle of belief among us that halakha never changes. It was not always thus.