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by Joel Rich

This essay contains (link) my absolute favorite R’ Lichtenstein quote:

What I received from all my mentors, at home or in yeshiva, was the key to confronting life, particularly modern life, in all its complexity: the recognition that it was not so necessary to have all the answers as to learn to live with the questions. Regardless of what issues–moral, theological, textual or historical–vexed me, I was confident that they had been raised by masters far sharper and wiser than myself; and if they had remained impregnably steadfast in their commitment, so should and could I. I intuited that, his categorical formulations and imperial certitude notwithstanding, Rav Hutner had surely confronted whatever questions occurred to me. Later, I felt virtually certain the Rav had, so that the depth and intensity of their service of G-d was doubly reassuring.

R’ Moshe Koppel articulating why we need a Sanhedrin and why my quest for algorithm in halacha is doomed: link

Please direct any informal comments to [email protected].

About Joel Rich

Joel Rich is a frequent wannabee cyberspace lecturer on various Torah topics. A Yerushalmi formerly temporarily living in West Orange, NJ, his former employer and the Social Security administration support his Torah listening habits. He is a recovering consulting actuary.


  1. occamselectricshaver

    Re Gödel, I recall hearing once that the Chazon Ish held that there are no lacunae in halakhah, so in a certain sense he believed that the system of Halakhah is complete. (I believe I heard it from R’ Dr. Aaron Levine). Of course the whole question of completeness is vacuous unless the system is known to be consistent (a condition which Halakhah likely does not satisfy).

    • The bas qol that ended the disputes between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel said, “EIlu va’eilu divrei E-lokim Chaim, vehalakhah keBeis Hillel — these and those are the words of the ‘Living’ G-d, and the law is like Beis Hillel.”

      On the level of theory and analaysis, divrei E-lokim Chaim, halakhah is dialectic, not consistent.

      On the level of halakhah lemaaseh, established practice, it is incomplete, and more is being generated with every teshuvah.

      Goedel’s Theorem is preserved. (Assuming halakhah could be mapped to a qualifying formal system, which neither of us showed.)

  2. occamselectricshaver

    Yes considering how shu”tim read and how halakhah is often the result of a convention of practice, it would be a big coincidence if the “theorums” (ie, normative halakhos) of halakhah could be found to be formally derived from some reasonably restricted set of axioms and a set of principles of inference. That was mostly the driving thought behind my claim that halakhah should not be considered formally consistent as it doesn’t resemble a formal system in the first place. (Even if it did, is it robust enough to do arithmetic??). As such the whole notion of entertaining the relevance of formal completeness (and especially Goedel’s completeness) to halakhah is a fanciful and soft mode of thinking. That’s not to say that it’s not an interesting question whether there are actions which are neither assur nor mutar, but again- such considerations would be a somewhat metaphorical application of formal completeness.
    (With respect)

    • I was saying that because a pesaq has to choose between two equally valid but conflicting theorems (divrei E-lokim Chaim is not consistent), it creates new halakhah lemaaseh. On that level, the system isn’t closed. Regardless of whether it could have otherwise been formalized.

      FWIW, I do believe the Torah as G-d “Thinks” it is consistent. It’s the 3D “shadows” of His Infinite “Thought” that are diverse. If you shine a light on the side of a cube, the shavod is square; but if you shine it on the corner and down the diagonal, the shadow is a hexagon. Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai argue whether it’s more productive to see Divrei E-lokim Chaim as a squar or as a hexagon, but both are descriptions of the same thing. (My metaphor, the Maharal’s position.) But that supernal Torah isn’t finite, so Goedel-by-analogy wouldn’t hold here either..

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