Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Reform Responsa

Last week, we started a four-week course on Reform Responsa. If you don't know, Responsa are answers which rabbis give to questions they are asked.  Often, these might be very specific, technical questions: am I allowed to eat this?  What is the proper blessing for this?  That kind of thing.

The Reform Movement has a long history of doing Responsa, although they differ in several ways from more traditional Responsa.  Coming from the Reform world, they are more willing to change previous law, and they focus more on education, and less on dictating the single, proper answer.  Because of all of that, they provide a unique way to learn about Reform Jewish decision-making.  Essentially, they try to give us the tools which we need to make our own decisions, as Reform Jews.

I'm still sorting through the various Responsa which we might look at for tomorrow’s class.  But, here are two early frontrunners:

  • should a synagogue superintendent, who lives on the synagogue premises, be allowed to keep a gun in his apartment?
  • Should a synagogue board member, who has been accused of cheating a fellow member in a non synagogue related activity (e.g.  a business matter) be allowed to remain on the board? What if the facts of the case have been established beyond dispute?

If you feel like getting the conversation rolling now, feel free to chime in with comments. But, don’t go for a simple yes/no – what are your reasons? What are the factors – the categories of reasons – which go into your answer? For example, the attitude of Judaism, in general, about guns will come into play for the first question. The second question deals with, among other things, the role of a Board Member, as well as the issue of gossip/accusations.

And, of course, if you find this interesting, come join us tomorrow (Thursday) at 7:30!

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