"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Slippery Slope

FNQ - 5 q's for the week
In my post last week about Female Orthodox Rabbis I referenced the argument oft used to forbid innovations known as the 'slippery slope'. Contrary to popular belief this idiom was not invented by Orthodox Rabbis as an explanation for prohibiting a myriad of contemporary creations. In fact a definition for the phrase slippery slope appears on Wikipedia. It is as follows: “A chain of events that, once initiated, cannot be halted; especially one in which the final outcome is undesirable or precarious.” The problem with catchy phrases like this one is that they often replace cogent, clearly formulated ideas with vague words whose meaning is presumed though rarely understood. This leads to a lot of confusion and inevitably arguments will be made that are either misunderstood or contain no substance at all. Here are 5 questions on the concept of a slippery slope. Come back Tuesday for a thought on this topic.

  1. What are the criteria that should be used to differentiate between an idea that will lead down the slippery slope and an innovation that may lead to positive religious progress?

  2. Have there been past innovations that were considered by many to be headed for a slippery slope that ended up significantly benefiting the Jewish people?

  3. Can an idea be a slippery slope for one community and upward spiritual progress for another?

  4. Can ideas for which this is a concern be given a trial period and, if need be, repealed if proven to be problematic, or is temporary acceptance a step down the slope?

  5. How should a Rabbinic leader respond when he sees members of his community headed towards the slope?
What do you think?

Binyamin Miller – always looking for a good question.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps Pandora's Box would be more befitting then a slippery slope. Since women cannot be Eidim, how can they have the title or position of Rabba. Does this make them Eidim Zomemin? Perhaps Rabbi Weiss should revisit his own comments about women Rabbis when announced by the Reform and Conservative movements. He may realize just how far he crossed over the abyss.