Monday, May 24, 2010

Medad on Cardozo, Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo

I received a copy of an essay, "The Future and The Spirit of Halacha" on the subject of Unconventional thoughts in relation to Autonomous Religiosity, composed by Rabbi Dr. Marc D. Angel, Nathan Lopes Cardozo and published in Rabbi Marc Angel's Modern Orthodox Journal, “Conversations”, Issue 7, May 2010. It should appear here soon - I can't find a site with it yet.

Here is his main thrust:

I am confronted daily with countless young Jews who search for an authentic Jewish religious way of life, but are unable to find spiritual satisfaction in the prevalent halakhic system as practiced today in most Ultra or Modern-Orthodox communities. For many of them, typical halakhic life is not synonymous with genuine religiosity. They feel that halakha has become too monotonous, too standardized and too external for them to experience the presence of God on a day-to-day basis. Beyond “observance”, they look for holiness and meaning. Many of them feel there is too much formalism in the halakhic system, and not enough internal meaning; too much obedience and not enough room for the individualistic soul, or for religious spontaneity.

More and more sincere young people express these concerns, and many of them are deeply affected by their inability to live a conventional halakhic life. Since they sincerely long for the opportunity to experience halakha, I struggle to find a response to this acute growing predicament. The solution must simultaneously acknowledge that a genuine Jewish religious life cannot exist without being committed to the world of halakha. This existential tension greatly influenced the content of this paper. The following observations are therefore not written from the perspective of a halakhist, but from the perspective of a deeply concerned Jewish thinker, who wants young people to be authentically religious while living a halakhic life which is meaningful to them. The following suggests a new insight into the world of halakha and its practical application.

And here is my first, short reaction:

I would like to address one aspect of Rabbi Marc Angel Nathan Lopes Cardozo's recent essay, "The Future and the Spirit of Halacha", published in Conversations, Issue 7, May 2010 which is subtitled "Unconventional thoughts in relations to Autonomous Religiosity. Although he does headline some of the crucial issues that motivated his writing on the subject that many share within the Orthodox camp, such as over-codification which embalms Jewish practice leaving little room for flexibility, the danger to the concept of "the quest for God must remain open-ended to enable the human spirit to find its way through trial and discovery" with no catechisms and that despite the need for conformity within the community, Judaism is an autonomous way of life and it is ultimately man is expected to respond as an individual to the Torah's demands, I do think he could have been much more specific is suggesting examples that could have been debated. Just this morning, in discussing Rabbinic attitudes, a friend and I noted that in Europe of 150 years ago and more, the Rav was much more an authority to himself and therefore, felt little collegial pressure. Sure there were Responsa and consultations, but within his district, the local Rav was basically supreme. And because of that, he was much more lenient than the Rabbonim of today who seem to be looking over their shoulders which results in the multiplication of incidents of chumrot.

As R. Nathan Lopes Cardozo writes, "codices lead to intellectual laziness". But this laziness endangers the true public square of the living Judaism. And while there is full sympathy for this introspection, the article could better have served its purpose with additional specifics situations and problems and their resolution.


ysh said...

The piece was not written by Rabbi Angel. It was written by Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo. You can probably call him up to discuss since it's local :)

Jewish Ideas Daily said...

Coincidentally, Jewish Ideas Daily has just published an article by Aryeh Tepper on how the Siah yeshiva is trying to just that - inject spirituality in the religious life of its students.

The article can be read at