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Rabbi Goren Says Halacha Behind Times

November 2, 1971
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A prominent Israeli rabbi admitted today that halacha, religious law, was sadly behind the times and said that Israel’s religious problems could be solved given tolerance and good-will on both sides. The moderate views, unusual for an Orthodox rabbi in this country, were expressed by chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren of Tel Aviv, the former Chief Chaplain of Israel’s armed forces.

Addressing members of the Guild for Religion and Spirit of B’nai B’rith, Rabbi Goren, who holds the rank of general, said that halacha in this generation had not advanced hand-in-hand with the times and technology nor did it incorporate any innovations. He said halacha was powerless to solve the intricate problems of the modern Israeli nation and expressed regret that the present generation found no courage to make innovations–in spite of technological possibilities–which would have made it easier to observe the injunctions of the Torah. including keeping the Sabbath.

Rabbi Goren stressed that there should be a State approach to halacha. He said a bridge could be found between a modern democratic state and the laws of the Torah if several conditions are met, the most important being good-will on all sides. He said extraordinary cases should not be utilized to heat up clashes between religious and non-observant elements of the population.

The Chief Rabbi was referring apparently to the recent case in which marriage licenses were denied two young Israelis because the religious authorities deemed them to be of illegitimate birth. The case aroused widespread anger against the Orthodox establishment. Rabbi Goren referred to the problem of conversion when he called for “deep and flexible tolerance” to solve the problems of every Jew who wants to return to his ancestral land.

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