We need a new code of Jewish Law – Rabbi Barry Gelman

July 7, 2009

It is time for a new code of Jewish Law.

 I know this may sound a bit radical, but it really isn’t.

Some background. For the most part we learn Halacha from codes that were written in Eastern Europe in the 19th Century. Examples are: the Hayyei Adam, Kitzur Shluchan Aruch and Aruch Hashulchan. Add to that the Mishna Berura which is technically not a code but rather a commentary on the Shulchan Aruch and we have an impressive list of halachik source that still guide us to this day.

Most of these codes and commentaries relied on the written word of rabbis who came before them and did not fully consider the social, geographic and political reality of the times. The mishna berura is an excellent example of such a work.

The exception to this rule is the Aruch Hashulchan. According to Dr. Simcha Fishbane, author of The Boldness of An Halakhist, An Analysis of the writings of Rabbi Yechiel Mechel Halevi Epstein, The Arukh Hashuhan, Rabbi Epstein did consider the “social, economic and political reality of the Jews of his period and geographical location, the latter part of the 19th century in eastern Europe. Rabbi Epstein preferred considering his reality rather than basing his rulings solely upon the writings of earlier authoritative rabbinical authorities.”  Read the rest of this entry »