Paradigms of Change in Orthodox Thought
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The analysis of halakha (Jewish Law) in a historical and academic setting is often perceived as a challenge to Orthodox Judaism. This challenge arises as historians study the rich and varied history of halakha, they uncover apparent shifts and evolution in its practice, understanding and interpretation. These shifts are interpreted by historians with reference to the relevant economic, social, political, and other contextual factors that are seen to have influenced the legal reasoning or behavior in question. The very existence of historical change in halakhic practice throughout the generations tend to undermine Orthodox belief in the continuity of the mesorah (tradition), and are used by liberal movements as precedents to justify radical changes in Jewish life and practice. The difficulty for Orthodox Jews is compounded when the interpretation of these changes seems to reveal that outside, contingent factors play a large role in determining the halakha in each time and place. Halakha is understood by Orthodox Judaism as being divine law, and this belief clashes with the notion that mundane factors could play a role in influencing the way that halakha and halakhists operate.
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