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Innovation and Tradition

Our Or Ami board explored the intersection between innovtion and tradition by looking at four teachings and deriving lessons about them.We discussed:1. What do these texts teach us about tradition and change, stagnation and innovation?2. What lessons might Or Ami take from these texts?The Hungarian halachic authority of two centuries ago, Rabbi Moses Sofer insisted that “Chadash asur min ha-Torah – innovation is forbidden by the Torah.”Jewish tradition teaches: Bechol yom yiheyu b’einecha k’chadashim – Every day should be in your eyes like new.Rabbi Simeon Maslin of Pittsburgh wrote: For the Torah to survive, it must grow. The mystics of old taught: “There are seventy faces to the Torah” (Zohar and Midrash). Some of those faces existed in antiquity, at the time of Moses, King David, the prophets, and Hillel. Others appeared among the marvelously creative Jewries of Babylonia, Spain, and Poland in their golden ages. Still others carried the scars of expulsions, pogroms, and the Shoah. And there are the faces of the here and now, for we too are compelled to confront the challenges of our contemporary world, as the Pharisees did, with both veneration for sacred tradition and the courage to innovate. [The Pharisees were the predecessors to the rabbis]To paraphrase Rabbi Alan David Londy of New York [possibly taking his words out of context]: If we stop innovating, Judaism will become lifeless. If we … innovate without a sensitivity of how our innovations impact [on others], we might be acting irresponsibly.Finally we reviewed this statement from Congregation Or Ami’s Vision and Values:Innovation/Chiddish: We delight in continuing opportunities to renew and transform our community, our traditions, our programs and ourselves.I am proud to be part of a community that values innovation even as we hold onto Torah and Jewish values as the foundation of our innovation.

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