Rabbi Shai Held has written a beautiful article on chiddush, Jewish authenticity, and gender egalitarianism in response to last week’s Hershel Shachter brouhaha.
Here’s an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing.
One can recoil at Rav Schachter’s words and still be grateful to him for drawing an absolute line in the sand. The world of Jews committed to serving God through a life of Torah and mitzvot is divided between those who believe that gender roles are eternally fixed and immutable, and those who believe that new faces of Torah and halacha are revealed in every generation—as they must, if Torah is to remain a Torat Chaim, a Torah of life, dynamic and alive in every generation.
One can respect the integrity—not to mention the robust clarity– of Rav Schachter’s position. But I wish to make one very fundamental point: the time is long past for Jews to assume that the forces of reaction are somehow “more authentic” or “more religious” than the forces of dynamism, responsiveness, and creativity.
For generations now, those arguing against Chiddush (innovation) in halacha have prided themselves on their insistence that conservatism is just about always the (only) authentic position. There is nothing particularly surprising about that.
But what is surprising—and not just surprising, but profoundly damaging for the prospects of Torah in the modern world—is that those who have argued for Chiddush out of passion and conviction that this is what God wants have largely conceded the point. And thus, countless Torah-observant Jews spend much of their time anxiously looking over their right shoulder, hoping against hope that those on the other side of Rav Schachter’s line will somehow confer legitimacy upon them.
Well said! It’s about time.