Page 35 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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F r e e h o f —R e c e n t R esponsa L i t e r a t u r e
readers that Isaac Ashkenazi (the Cabbalist “Ari”) , though an
Ashkenazi, prayed in the Sephardic. Nevertheless, he concluded
that it is wrong to coerce the Sephardic pronunciation upon the
majority of the congregation. But if an occasional reader (not
the regular cantor) uses the Sephardic in that congregation, no
harm is done (cf. also, Casriel Tchoresh in Keter Ephraim, #23).
In these and other ways, new situations confront Jewish legal
scholars. Interpretative skill in finding the principles inherent
in older situations, which at first glance may seem hardly rele­
vant, enables the modern scholar to handle them with some de­
gree of success.
Alter Isaac Weinberger (in the Hamaor volume, page 205)
was asked whether moon flights and space flights are contrary to
the mood of our religion. His answer is both philosophical and
enlightening. He holds that all knowledge derives from God and
that sometimes, as in modern times, God opens the door of know­
ledge a little wider. All great modern discoveries are really re­
discoveries of God’s glory. He asserts that space flights are nothing
new and were known to our tradition. He calls attention to Rashi’s
commentary to the verse in Genesis 15:5: “And God brought Abra­
ham outside and said to him, ‘Look heavenward and count the
stars’.” To which Rashi says, “He brought Abraham out beyond
earth space and raised him up above the stars, since the word
‘to look’ means here ‘to look below from above’.”
This comment reveals a mood basic to the rabbinic scholars,
namely, that whatever modern wisdom may discover was already
known or implied in the Torah. This belief suggests that what­
ever new discoveries there may be or new social conditions, Jewish
law is bound to contain some guidance in dealing with them.
Therefore Jewish rabbinic scholars face modern problems with
confidence, certain that the literature of the past will provide in­
sights for the present.
As for their conclusions regarding these modern problems, they
vary in nature. Some are still in the status of clarification. Others
have been fairly well settled. Questions that deal with prayer
tend to be answered conservatively. Those dealing with modern
inventions tend to be permissive but cautionary. Those concerned
with medicine on the basis of the permissiveness for the healing
of the dangerously ill, are nearly all decided affirmatively.