Religious Authority and Individualism – can they co-exist?
Rabbi Rosen addresses, in this lecture, an important issue: the tension that exists in Judaism between religious authority and individuality. He offers, at first, a broad survey of Jewish history, highlighting the multiplicity of expressions of Judaism that emerged as responses to watershed events such as the construction, and then destruction of the Temple, the expulsion from Spain, and so on. In each period, the necessity to innovate, to change practices hitherto deemed essential, prompted the Sages and leaders of the generation to find ways to deal with disagreements between one another. They did so by developing a system of leadership and authority, rooted in the Law. A fundamental change, however, occurred in the modern period, and more poignantly, over the course of the 20th century, when numerous additional factors came into play. Prominent among these was the power of religious leaders to control the flow of money and votes, and thereby raise their authority beyond the confines of their own religious community. This stifled, according to Rabbi Rosen, the process by which further developments and innovations could emerge. How, then, can such a conundrum be solved? Can we find a healthy balance between the two essential notions of religious authority and individualism, in a way that would restore Judaism’s ability to cope with change?
Q and A
Chaired by Rabbi Jeremy Rosen
The Q&A session which followed the Memorial Lecture, chaired by Rabbi Jeremy Gordon from the New London Synagogue.