Dear Friends and Supporters:
Orthodox Judaism should participate deeply, honestly, and creatively in the moral conversation of humanity. Halakhah should learn from everyone and contributes to everything. These principles are at the core of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership. They are at the heart of the work of the amazing Fellows of our 5775 Summer Beit Midrash. I am proud to introduce their work to you in this booklet.
Our topic this past summer, the 18th year of our flagship program, was halakhic competition law, a.k.a. hasagat gevul. Should this area of Halakhah have any application to a secular society? To a Jewish community which sees itself as economically a part of, rather than apart from, the broader society and nation in which it is located?To a capitalist society? To an age of stunning technological progress? What can Halakhah learn from the discipline of economics? From the (quite different) experiences and strategies of US antitrust and Canadian competition law? From general theories of regulation?
At the end of SBM, each fellow writes a responsum unique in reasoning and result based on the material we learned together, and then presents his or her work to the whole group. In the lively discussion that ensues, each fellow realizes that this diversity does not reflect arbitrariness, but rather that many positions can be reasonably and halakhically legitimate. Diverse rulings can emerge, even when there is agreement about the meaning of texts, because each decisor legitimately brings their whole personality and soul to the process of psak. Imagine if the entire Orthodox community had such an experience!
Modern Orthodox halakhah can emerge only from poskim who are confident that Modern Orthodox values should influence psak, just as Charedi halakhah emerges from poskim who seek to spread Charedi values and embody them in Torah. At the same time, both decisors and community must be aware that not all values have legal outlets in all times, and that a conflict between law and values should necessitate a rethinking of both. Poskim may not distort or falsify texts to support their values or sociological and scientific evaluations, but those values and evaluations should consciously play a significant role in weighing authority.
I want to express appreciation to the community of my hometown, Sharon, MA, which hosts the Fellows in private homes and the program as a whole at Young Israel of Sharon. Our extraordinary guest faculty this summer included Mr. Mark Katz of Davies Ward Phillips and Vineberg LLP, economists Dr. Ted Rosenbaum of the Federal Trade Commission and Dr. Martin Gaynor of Carnegie Mellon University, Prof. Chaim Saiman of Villanova University School of Law, and Rabbi Chaim Jachter of Sha’arei Orah and author of Gray Matters 1-4. Each of our visitors was highly impressed by our fellows and the entire Summer Beit Midrash program. We are gratified by our continuing capacity to attract such distinguished scholars and grateful to them for their time.
Please be in touch with the Center with your questions and feedback. Please support our work generously if it speaks to and for you.
Rabbi Aryeh Klapper