Orthodox Judaism Moves with the Times:
The Creativity of Tradition
Can there ever be anything new in Orthodoxy? Does not Orthodoxy believe that what was, should always be? The same question is often phrased in a more sophisticated way: can a revealed religion evolve? Given God’s timeless will, can man arrogate to himself the right to change it?
In general, a pat negative is assumed to be the correct reply to questions such as these, so that many American Jews have come to regard Orthodox Judaism as monolithic—as having a fixed philosophy, and an absolutely inflexible approach based on Jewish Law. The very term “Orthodox” conjures up the image of a central authority, comparable to the Pope, who makes ultimate decisions binding upon the faithful. This is not even true of Roman Catholicism, and far less so of Orthodox Judaism. There have always been, and still are, different modes of Orthodox Jewish thought and practice, and Orthodoxy has always admitted a great measure of innovation. It is a fact that Orthodox Judaism has more splinter rabbinic groups than either Conservative or Reform Judaism. And while Conservative and Reform rabbis are predominantly American, Orthodox Judaism has substantial rabbinic groups all over the world; their number and diversity often reflect ideological differences as well as national and geographical ones, and some members of these groups may actually espouse ideas that are atypical for the particular groups to which they belong.
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