Rabbi Ari Enkin ● Torah Book Reviews
In “The Importance of the Community Rabbi” Rabbi Daniel Sperber, whose prominence and accomplishments need no introduction, argues vigorously for today’s rabbis to rule more leniently. He presents a fascinating and engaging treasury of hundreds of lenient halachic rulings throughout the ages. Rabbi Sperber argues that issues like sensitivity to people’s feelings, human dignity, “changing circumstances” and “ko’ach d’heteira” should be given more weight in halachic decision making. The precedents are there, clearly presented one after the other with seemingly no end.
This book is ultimately amazing. It is one of the few halachic books of recent vintage that have kept me engaged from cover to cover. I was simply blown away by the “bekius” and variety of rulings in this book. His arguments for leniency are powerful and convincing but easier said than done.
It is very easy for Rabbi Sperber to quote the greatest names and authorities in rabbinic history who allowed such things as: adulteress women to remain married to their husbands, a re-wording of the blessing “for not making me a woman,” and wine touched by a gentile…but to encourage the 21 year old semicha graduate to do the same is quite a different story.
It is true and unfortunate that the orthodox world is forever moving to the right and that younger rabbis are always “looking over their shoulder.” This book is a great dose of sanity in the other direction, but it does deviate, a bit too much, in both content and spirit, from normative, “industry-standard” halacha. The book is either “preaching to the choir” or will end up being ignored, at best, by others.