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I know that this is a potentially broad subject but there seems to be a phenomenon where later generations of scholars (i.e. after the close of the Gemara; the Amoraim) come up with new halakhoth or restrictions based on either questions or safeqoth that were never considered or taken into account before.

For instance, the berakhah of shelo ^asani goy was said by all Jews - native-born and convert alike - until some scholars among the Rishonim began to be medayeq on the literal wording of the berakhah and decided that converts should not say it - and even began inventing alternate berakhoth! These forms of the blessing had never been heard of before, or even seen as necessary, by any scholar of any previous generation; not the Tannaim, not the Amoraim, not the Geonim.

This type of thing arises in numerous instances and no one seems to ask in response why, if the halakhah was 'good enough' for the earlier scholars/authorities, it needs to be changed or altered.

My question is: Is this type of innovation warranted, necessary, or even possible? Shouldn't the halakhah remain unless changed by either reality or an authorized beth din [ha-gadhol]?

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    You assume we have documented all relevant discussion about anything ever. How do you know converts said it before the Rishonim? – Double AA Apr 1 '15 at 18:46
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    THis seems to be a machlockes. The Geoneim established a lengthy bracha for pidyon haben, but the Ramban argues, questioning their authority to make new brachos. They obviously held they could establish new brachos, while Ramban held they after chassimat hashas we dont have this ability. – mevaqesh Apr 1 '15 at 18:55
  • I make no such assumption. All documentation to that effect points to the fact that they did. Also, it would not bear arguing about and someone would have simply said "Hey, this is the berakhah that they have been saying, etc." But instead they just keep inventing new ones or proposing solutions to those already presented. It still begs major questions. Kol tuv. – user3342 Apr 1 '15 at 18:55
  • Is this a specific example you want directly addressed, or is it like you make it sound, just an example? – user6591 Apr 1 '15 at 20:02
  • Just an example. The general phenomenon is what I am asking about. – user3342 Apr 2 '15 at 1:54
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The basic principle of later authorities introducing new ideas and addressing them even though earlier authorities had obviously left things as is, is addressed in Chulin 6b-7a.

Chizkiyahu destroyed the copper snake from Moshe Rabbeinu due to avoda zara issues. The gemara asks is it possible Assa and Yehoshaphat didn't destroy it? But they destroyed all the avoda zara? The gemara answers that they let room for Chizkiyahu to become great. Rabi Yehuda HaNasi used this story to give credence to his decision to accept the testimony of a certain talmid chacham and obviate Beis Shaan from the laws of Maaser, something which no-one was willing to do until then. Notice two points, that Chizkiyahu was being machmir and Rebi was being Meikel. A second point is that Chizkiyahu made a self reliant decision contrary to previous acts, whereas Rebi was accepting testimony contrary to previous practice. But Rabi Yehuda and the Gemara had no issue comparing them and neither should we.

The gemara goes on to prove from here that if a Talmid Chacham says a halacha one should not dismiss his words. The gemara has three versions of how not to react to him. Don't say he didn't actually hear this, or don't say his words are ridiculous and don't say his haughty nature caused him to not listen to his teacher properly.

There is always room to invent. Rabbi J.B. Soloveitchik thought it was ridiculous to think Halakha was a stagnant set of ancient laws. It is a growing, moving, body of work.

  • Please source / clarify the attribution to R. Soloveitchik. Are you perhaps referencing his distinction between legitimate and encouraged hiddush in contradistinction to prohibited shinnuy? – mevaqesh Apr 1 '15 at 21:01
  • No. At least I don't think so. I am not sure how easy it will be for me to source it, but I will check , bli nedder. It is not a direct quote, it is a paraphrase to the best of my memories abilities. – user6591 Apr 1 '15 at 21:14
  • I don't have a makor, but the Vilna Gaon didn't distinguish between Rishonim and Acharonim – warz3 Apr 2 '15 at 16:31

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