Conservative Judaism, Vol. 41(3), Spring 1989 @1989 The Rabbinical Assembly


The Halakhic Process: A Systemic Analysis, by Joel Roth. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, 1986, 398 pages.

In chapter 10, dealing with the language of the halakhic responsum, the author reveals for the first time his identity (he calls it "the third group") vis--vis Orthodoxy and Reform. While the reviewer would have like to see ethics as a criterium for the decision-making of this third group, Rabbi Roth sees "ethical and moral issues" as proper subjects for halakhic analysis" (p. 311). This means that ethics is not recognized by the author as a supreme principle but as a datum which may or may not be taken into consideration by the halakhist. He warns the readers that concepts like "justice," "righteousness," "uprightness," "morality" and "propriety" have no precise, objective meaning or application (p. 314). As a result he would probably see the halakhah as superior to moral feeling. The reviewer would admit that error is human, but would apply the principle mentioned by the author pp. 83 ff.): ein lo la-dayyan ella mah sheeinav ro-'ot.