Center for Modern Torah Leadership Publishes 2015 Summer Beit Midrash Teshuvot
The responsa of the the annual Summer Beit Midrash of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership were recently published online. The booklet containing both the question asked of the participants and seven of the responses of the participants is available online.
“Our topic this past summer, the 18th year of our flagship program, was halakhic competition law, a.k.a. hasagat gevul,” wrote Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, the dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership in the introduction to the booklet (p. 2). “Should this area of Halakhah have any application to a secular society?” Discussing the process by which the responsa comes about, Rabbi Klapper further writes
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.
In his introduction to the topic (p. 4), Rabbi Klapper highlights it by writing:
The standard presentation contrasts Halakhah with a hypothetical pure free market position. The assumption is that the unregulated market maximizes economic growth and overall economic wellbeing, but that halakhah sometimes has moral values that take precedence over economic growth or personal economic interest. Since halakhah is regulation, and regulation is economically counterproductive, halakhah’s aims must not be economic.
But while researching this subject I discovered that, time and time again, I mistakenly conflated free and competitive markets. Unregulated, markets are often rapidly dominated by the powerful and converted into monopolies. Regulation is necessary to maintain competitive markets, which are economically superior.
The assumption that halakhic regulations have moral rather than economic purposes (we can question the opposition later) is, therefore, unwarranted. Regulations can have economic purposes, and we need to determine which is the purpose of any particular halakhic regulation. Also, competitive markets generally serve the overall economic good, but not necessarily the good of specific subsectors, whose interests may be better served by protectionism.
Following the question (pictured to the right), there are seven teshuvot published, by Elliot Dine, a PhD student at Princeton University; Yakov Ellenbogen, an undergraduate student at Yeshiva University; Jenna Englender, a student at Yeshivat MaHaRaT; Sam Englender, a student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah; Yeshayahu Ginsburg, a recent graduate of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary; Judah Kerbel, a student at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary; and Avram Schwartz, a student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. Four of the teshuvot are in English, while three of them are in Hebrew.