Saturday’s Washington Post carried an AP article, Orthodox Answers to Unusual Questions, on the religion page. While I couldn’t find it on the Washington Post site, CNN/Netscape has the same article.
It discusses the Institute for Science and Halacha in Jerusalem, and portrays both the institute and director Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Halperin — and Halacha — in a serious and complimentary light. The most interesting part, to me, was his determination that inline skates are acceptable on Shabbos (“skates can’t break down the way bikes do”), but the article makes a much larger point about the ongoing relevance of the Halachic system. As Dov Kaplan, the American-born questioner, put it, “we also have to show that Orthodox rabbis are not distant, unapproachable and closed to new ideas. Who knows if I’ll actually skate. It’s more about making a point.”
Actually, I found another surprising heter (permission) on the same page, in one of the news briefs. “An American publisher has signed a deal with a top Islamic scholar to publish a rare English translation of the Koran.” The surprise? “The matter is sensitive because Muslims hold that the Koran’s text was given directly in Arabic from Al-lah to the prophet Muhammad.” Who knew that you could use “hold” that way in proper (as compared to “yeshivishe”) English? Yet this is the eighth definition of the verb on dictionary.com.