“Halakha is old fashioned and no longer relevant for the 21st Century” Do you agree? Give reasons for your answer showing that you have thought about more than one point of view. Refer to Jewish teachings in your answer. (6 marks)
The question of whether something is relevant in the “modern day” or “21st Century” etc. finds its way into quite a few topics in the GCSE syllabus.
We should know that Halakha means Jewish Law.
The question is pretty clear but let’s try and rephrase it to understand it better:
Is Jewish Law outdated?
Does Jewish Law serve a purpose in the modern day?
Let’s have a look at some points on both sides:
• Technology has affected many things in the modern age such as travel, cooking and lighting. This makes keeping the laws of Shabbat very difficult and possibly outdated.
• Modern fashion generally contradicts the dress code that exists in Jewish Law. A person may look “old fashioned” dressing according to Jewish Law.
• The laws, both Written and Oral were given a long time ago and one could argue that they were meant for those particular generations.
• Modern technology can be adapted to actually help people keep Shabbat (timer switches etc.)
• The principles behind clothing laws are there to serve a higher purpose (modesty and preservation of values) so adhering to fashion is somewhat irrelevant.
• The laws of the Torah, both Written and Oral were given not only for one generation but also for eternity. The reasons behind the laws are as applicable today as always.
It could be argued that Halakha (Jewish Law) is old-fashioned, as the laws of clothing require people to dress very differently to how people dress in the modern day.
Furthermore, certain laws such as keeping Shabbat has become very difficult to keep given the amount of technology that exists nowadays such as electronic lighting and ovens etc. Since one cannot use any of these or any modern forms of travel, keeping Shabbat becomes very difficult indeed.
The Laws themselves were given so long ago that one could argue that they are not relevant to this generation and only for the generations that they were given to.
On the other hand, the technological advances can also help a person keep Shabbat such as using timer switches etc. Shabbat is meant to be a day when one refrains from doing certain creative acts so one could argue that technology is not relevant to the keeping of Shabbat.
Clothing laws are there to preserve modesty and certain values so one could say that it doesn’t matter if you “fit in” or not. Also, there are many clothing shops that sell fashionable clothing that covers up a persons body so one could still keep these laws and be fashionable.
Overall, I believe that these laws were given for all generations of Jews and part of the challenge is to be able to keep these laws in the modern society which can be done with some effort.