The Reformation of Traditional Judaism
In a previous post, "Forcing the Opposition," I commented on how the problem of arguing my case too effectively is that it results in the parameters of Torah discussion being changed. This was all too well illustrated in the comment thread to the previous post. Here's a paraphrase of how this dialogue has developed over the last six years, culminating in the response to my monograph on The Sun's Path At Night.
Us: Chazal were occasionally mistaken in their statements about the natural world.
Them: - This is kefirah.
Us: But it was said by Rambam and his son.
Them: - It's an aberrant view.
Us: But it was said by many, many Rishonim.
Them: - They were working without the revelations of kabbalah.
Us: But even after the revelations of kabbalah, many Acharonim maintained this view. Besides, we see that ALL the Rishonim, without exception, understood Chazal's statement about the sun going behind the sky at night to be a description of the physical reality. Can ALL of the Rishonim really be fundamentally wrong in their understanding of Chazal? Furthermore, what evidence is there that the Gedolim were even aware of these sources? Several of them claimed that no such sources could exist!
Which brings us to the ultimate conclusion, vital for anyone operating with the basic premise that the Charedi Gedolim must be right:
Them: "The Gedolim must have secret reasons for declaring this view to be kefirah. Furthermore, even if they are not fluent in this topic, they have Divine guidance to say the correct ruling, and even if this means rating the approach of countless Rishonim and Acharonim as kefirah."
What we have here is the overturning of the traditional halachic process. It used to involve analyzing the views of Chazal, the Rishonim and Acharonim in order to reach conclusions. Dominant views were given greater weight, barring extenuating circumstances. Claims of prophetic inspiration were generally not a valid method of overturning other opinions - Lo BaShamayim Hee. Rulings were expected to be based on halachic expertise and correct information - if those were lacking, the rulings were deficient.
Now all that has changed. When a pashkevil is issued - even if the engineers of the verdict are confirmed crooks and are confirmed to have lied in this very case - the Gedolim are declared to be correct, due to their supernatural guidance. This quasi-prophetic inspiration can overturn the approach of all the Rishonim and dozens of Acharonim, and effectively declare them to have been fundamentally mistaken in their understanding of Chazal. No halachic or hashkafic justifications are required; indeed, it is acknowledged that they might not even exist, in the traditional sense! Mesorah in its true meaning - the views of the Rishonim and Acharonim throughout the generations - counts for nothing. All it takes is for people who are accomplished Talmudists (following a very particular derech in becoming Talmudists) to channel God's will as to how traditional Judaism should be reformed. And this is presented not as a social policy, but as a halachic and hashkafic pesak.