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Digest of Public Opinion on Jewish Matters

[The purpose of the Digest is informative: Preference is given to papers not generally accessible to our readers. Quotation does not indicate approval.--Editor.]

The suggestion made recently by Prof. Chaim Tchernowitz that a Rabbinic Council be created in America with authority to revise the Biblical and Talmudic laws in accordance with the requirements of the time is criticized in the “Day” (Nov. 3) by S. Rosenfeld, who regards such an effort as “wasted labor.” Mr. Rosenfeld thinks such revision of the traditional laws unnecessary and unfeasible.

“In the first place,” the writer says, “is the authority of the proposed Council to be valid only for the U.S. or for the whole world? If only for the U.S. then the present Torah will be converted into two Torahs, something that was always looked upon with disfavor among the Jews from Biblical times on. If, on the other hand, the competence of the Council is to extend everywhere, the question presents itself: if the purpose is to adapt the Schulchan Aruch to the requirements of the time, how can New York rabbis know what the requirements of, let us say, Lithuanian Jewry, are at this time? How can they know the requirements of Russian Jewry, etc?

“Secondly, suppose it is agreed to ‘reduce’ the Schulchan Aruch from six hundred and thirteen precepts to thirteen. What assurance has Dr. Tchernowitz that these will be observed?”

Referring to efforts made by individual Jews at different periods to modify or revise the Jewish religious laws, Mr. Rosenfeld remarks in conclusion: “But never was there a special ‘commission on revision’ which should have one aim: to adopt the existing laws to the requirements, we say, of new discoveries. . . . Judaism never knew of and will not tolerate now any ‘wholesale’ revisions. . . .

“It has become clear long ago that the whole business of reforming the Schulchan Aruch is not a question of ‘difficulty’ in observing the laws but a question of belief or non-belief. For the pious nothing is too difficult, for the unbelieving nothing is easy.”

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