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The Torah Learning Library of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

Slow Down, Change Ahead: Is Gradualism a Jewish Value?

by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff (Posted on August 3, 2017)
Topics: Ekev, God, Faith, Religiosity & Prayer, Machshava/Jewish Thought, Sefer Devarim, Torah

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This article is part of Torat Chovevei, a Community Learning Program led by Yeshivat Chovevei Torah with the support of the Covenant Foundation. The goal of the program is to connect communities to YCT through the medium of Torah learning. All topics discussed weave relevant contemporary issues together with Torah and non-Torah sources in monthly home-based learning groups (chaburot). These groups are guided by Rabbi Haggai Resnikoff, Rebbe and Director of Community Learning at YCT. For further information about Torat Chovevei, and how your community can get involved, please contact Rabbi Resnikoff at


Gradualism has become one of the loadstone values of Orthodox Judaism. However, the classical sources as well as the modern reflect a variety of attitudes towards this value. Some consider gradualism to be a value in itself, but most consider it to be simply the most efficacious way of getting things done. In any case, the consensus of the sources seems to be that even as they demand a slow and gradual approach to change, change itself is not rejected.

God the Gradualist

1. Devarim 7

יז כִּ֤י תֹאמַר֙ בִּלְבָ֣בְךָ֔ רַבִּ֛ים הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָאֵ֖לֶּה מִמֶּ֑נִּי אֵיכָ֥ה אוּכַ֖ל לְהוֹרִישָֽׁם׃
יח לֹ֥א תִירָ֖א מֵהֶ֑ם זָכֹ֣ר תִּזְכֹּ֗ר אֵ֤ת אֲשֶׁר־עָשָׂה֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ לְפַרְעֹ֖ה וּלְכָל־מִצְרָֽיִם׃
יט הַמַּסֹּ֨ת הַגְּדֹלֹ֜ת אֲשֶׁר־רָא֣וּ עֵינֶ֗יךָ וְהָאֹתֹ֤ת וְהַמֹּֽפְתִים֙ וְהַיָּ֤ד הַחֲזָקָה֙ וְהַזְּרֹ֣עַ הַנְּטוּיָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר הוֹצִֽאֲךָ֖ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ כֵּֽן־יַעֲשֶׂ֞ה יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ לְכָל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁר־אַתָּ֥ה יָרֵ֖א מִפְּנֵיהֶֽם׃
כ וְגַם֙ אֶת־הַצִּרְעָ֔ה יְשַׁלַּ֛ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בָּ֑ם עַד־אֲבֹ֗ד הַנִּשְׁאָרִ֛ים וְהַנִּסְתָּרִ֖ים מִפָּנֶֽיךָ׃
כא לֹ֥א תַעֲרֹ֖ץ מִפְּנֵיהֶ֑ם כִּֽי־יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ בְּקִרְבֶּ֔ךָ אֵ֥ל גָּד֖וֹל וְנוֹרָֽא׃
כב וְנָשַׁל֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ אֶת־הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָאֵ֛ל מִפָּנֶ֖יךָ מְעַ֣ט מְעָ֑ט לֹ֤א תוּכַל֙ כַּלֹּתָ֣ם מַהֵ֔ר פֶּן־תִּרְבֶּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יךָ חַיַּ֥ת הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃
כג וּנְתָנָ֛ם יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וְהָמָם֙ מְהוּמָ֣ה גְדֹלָ֔ה עַ֖ד הִשָּׁמְדָֽם׃
17 Should you say to yourselves, “These nations are more numerous than we; how can we dispossess them?”
18 You need have no fear of them. You have but to bear in mind what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and all the Egyptians:
19 the wondrous acts that you saw with your own eyes, the signs and the portents, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm by which the LORD your God liberated you. Thus will the LORD your God do to all the peoples you now fear.
20 The LORD your God will also send a plague against them, until those who are left in hiding perish before you.
21 Do not stand in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.
22 The LORD your God will dislodge those peoples before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them at once, else the wild beasts would multiply to your hurt.
23 The LORD your God will deliver them up to you, throwing them into utter panic until they are wiped out.
  1. Why doesn’t God promise to eliminate all of Israel’s enemies immediately? Is it the result of some inability either on God’s part or on the Jews’ part?
  2. How is the conquest of the land of Israel different from the Exodus from Egypt (which is referred to above) in terms of gradualism vs. immediacy?

2. Shemot 23

כח וְשָׁלַחְתִּ֥י אֶת־הַצִּרְעָ֖ה לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וְגֵרְשָׁ֗ה אֶת־הַחִוִּ֧י אֶת־הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֛י וְאֶת־הַחִתִּ֖י מִלְּפָנֶֽיךָ׃
כט לֹ֧א אֲגָרְשֶׁ֛נּוּ מִפָּנֶ֖יךָ בְּשָׁנָ֣ה אֶחָ֑ת פֶּן־תִּהְיֶ֤ה הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ שְׁמָמָ֔ה וְרַבָּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יךָ חַיַּ֥ת הַשָּׂדֶֽה׃
ל מְעַ֥ט מְעַ֛ט אֲגָרְשֶׁ֖נּוּ מִפָּנֶ֑יךָ עַ֚ד אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּפְרֶ֔ה וְנָחַלְתָּ֖ אֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ׃
28 I will send a plague ahead of you, and it shall drive out before you the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites.
29 I will not drive them out before you in a single year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply to your hurt.
30 I will drive them out before you little by little, until you have increased and possess the land.
  1. What needs to happen before the Jews can possess the land? What does this mean about God’s gradualist approach? Is it a philosophy or a policy?

3. Devarim 9:3

וְיָדַעְתָּ֣ הַיּ֗וֹם כִּי֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֱלֹהֶ֜יךָ הֽוּא־הָעֹבֵ֤ר לְפָנֶ֙יךָ֙ אֵ֣שׁ אֹֽכְלָ֔ה ה֧וּא יַשְׁמִידֵ֛ם וְה֥וּא יַכְנִיעֵ֖ם לְפָנֶ֑יךָ וְהֽוֹרַשְׁתָּ֤ם וְהַֽאַבַדְתָּם֙ מַהֵ֔ר כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר יְהוָ֖ה לָֽךְ׃Know then this day that none other than the LORD your God is crossing at your head, a devouring fire; it is He who will wipe them out. He will subdue them before you, that you may quickly dispossess and destroy them, as the LORD promised you.
  1. How does the speed of conquest promised in this text relate to the gradualism explained in the two above? Is there any way to reconcile the apparent contradiction here?
  2. How might we read these texts as a metaphor for any attempt to make change in the world? What values can we glean? Is it legitimate to read the Torah this way?

Gradualism: Religious Value or Pragmatic Concern?

4. Ramban, Devarim, 7:22

לא תוכל כלתם מהר יבטיח שהשם יכריתם כלם וישלח בהם את הצרעה להאביד הנשארים והנסתרים והנה כלם יאבדו אבל אמר שלא יכלה אותם במלחמה ביום אחד ולא שיגרשם מן הארץ בשנה אחת פן תהיה הארץ שממה ורבה עליך חית השדה והוסיף עוד להבטיח שלא יהיו אלה הנשארים רובם אבל השם יהומם מהומה גדולה ורובם יאבדו ביד ישראל וכן אמר (להלן ט ג) הוא ישמידם והוא יכניעם לפניך והורשתם והאבדתם מהר שיאבדו רובם במהרה… ואף על פי שהפרשה הזאת להבטחה נאמרה כבר הזכרתי (לעיל ד כה) כי משה רבינו במשנה התורה יבטיח ויזהיר וירמוז כי לא תגיע זכותם להכריתם כלם כאחד ושישבית חיה רעה מן הארץ כמובטח להם בפרשת אם בחקתי (ויקרא כו ו) אבל יהיה כאשר אמר שיאבידו את רובם ומלכיהם בתחלה ואחרי כן יאבדו הנשאריםYou will not be able to put an end to them at once…This promises that God will destroy them all and God will send them a plague to annihilate those who are left in hiding. And they will all disappear. However, God said that God will not destroy them in war in one day and God will not banish them from the land in one year lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field multiply. And God adds and promises that those who are left will not be the majority of your enemies, rather God will throw them into utter panic and most of them will disappear at the hands of Israel. And this is what it says, “ it is He who will wipe them out. He will subdue them before you, that you may quickly dispossess and destroy them”(Devarim 9:3), that most of them will disappear quickly…and even though this passage is for reassurance, I have already mentioned that Moses our teacher in his repetition of the Torah (Sefer Devarim) promises and warns and hints that the merit of the people will not reach to destroy their enemies all at once and also eliminate dangerous animals from the land as is promised them…However, it will be as God said, that God will destroy most of them and their kings and afterwards God will destroy those that are left. 
  1. How does the Ramban reconcile the contradiction we mentioned above? What does this say about the value of gradualism in these texts?
  2. Reading these texts as a metaphor, how would the Ramban characterize the ideal model for change. What does he think is more realistic? Is this a realistic model for change today?

5. Hezekiah ben Manoah, Chizkuni, Devarim 7:22

לא תוכל כלתם מהר יכול אתה אלא אין תקנתך לכלותם מהר פן תרבה עליך חית השדה.“You will not be able to destroy them quickly;” the word “be able” is not to be understood as an inability on your part. It will not be in your interest to do so, as you would create a vacuum of not enough people in the land, that would encourage invasion by free roaming beasts.
  1. How is the Chizkuni’s interpretation different from the Ramban’s? According to him, what is the value of gradualism?

6. Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, 3:32, Ed. Shlomo Pines, University of Chicago Press, 1963, vol. 2, pp. 526-528

…For a sudden transition from one opposite to another is impossible. And therefore man, according to his nature, is not capable of abandoning suddenly all to which he was accustomed…

I know that on thinking about this at first your soul will necessarily have a feeling of repugnance toward this notion and will feel aggrieved because of it; and you will ask me in your heart and say to me: How is it possible that none of the commandments, prohibitions, and great actions – which are very precisely set forth and prescribed for fixed seasons – should be intended for its own sake, but for the sake of something else, as if this were a ruse invented for our benefit by God in order to achieve His first intention?…. Hear then the reply to your question that will put an end to this sickness in your heart and reveal to you the true reality of that to which I have drawn your attention. It is to the effect that the text of the Torah tells a quite similar story, namely in its dictum: God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although it was near, and so on. But God led the people about, by the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea (Shemot 13:17-18)… For just as it is not in the nature of man that, after having been brought up in slavish service occupied with clay, bricks, and similar things, he should all of a sudden wash off from his hands the dirt deriving from them and proceed immediately to fight against the children of Anak, so is it also not in his nature that, after having been brought up upon very many modes of worship and of customary practices, which the souls find so agreeable that they become as it were a primary notion, he should abandon them all of a sudden. And just as the deity used a gracious ruse in causing them to wander perplexedly in the desert until their souls became courageous…and until, moreover, people were born who were not accustomed to humiliation and servitude… so did this group of laws derive from a divine grace, so that they should be left with the kind of practices to which they were accustomed and so that consequently the belief, which constitutes the first intention should be validated for them…

  1. How does the Rambam’s use of the physical to reflect on the spiritual validate our metaphorical read above?
  2. What can we learn from the Rambam’s claim that even God had to resort to gradualism to achieve God’s ends with regard to the Mitzvot? Is this a religious value per se?

Leadership and Change

7. Babylonian Talmud, Rosh HaShana 29b

מתני׳ יום טוב של ר”ה שחל להיות בשבת במקדש היו תוקעין אבל לא במדינה משחרב בהמ”ק התקין רבן יוחנן בן זכאי שיהו תוקעין בכל מקום שיש בו ב”ד…
גמ׳ …תנו רבנן פעם אחת חל ראש השנה להיות בשבת [והיו כל הערים מתכנסין] אמר להם רבן יוחנן בן זכאי לבני בתירה נתקע אמרו לו נדון
אמר להם נתקע ואחר כך נדון לאחר שתקעו אמרו לו נדון אמר להם כבר נשמעה קרן ביבנה ואין משיבין לאחר מעשה:
MISHNA: With regard to the Festival day of Rosh HaShana that occurs on Shabbat, in the Temple they would sound the shofar as usual. However, they would not sound it in the rest of the country outside the Temple. After the Temple was destroyed, Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai instituted that the people should sound the shofar on Shabbat in every place where there is a court of twenty-three judges…
GEMARA: … the Sages taught: Once Rosh HaShana occurred on Shabbat, and all the cities gathered at the Great Sanhedrin in Yavne for the Festival prayers. Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai said to the sons of Beteira, who were the leading halakhic authorities of the generation: Let us sound the shofar, as in the Temple. They said to him: Let us discuss whether or not this is permitted.
He said to them: First let us sound it, and afterward, when there is time, let us discuss the matter. After they sounded the shofar, the sons of Beteira said to Rabban Yoḥanan ben Zakkai: Let us now discuss the issue. He said to them: The horn has already been heard in Yavne, and one does not refute a ruling after action has already been taken. There is no point in discussing the matter, as it would be inappropriate to say that the community acted erroneously after the fact. 
  1. How does Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai address the question of gradualism vs. immediacy? In what aspects should this be taken as a model for change-making in the world? In what aspects should it be rejected as a model?
  2. What is the position of Bene Beteira? What are the strengths of their approach, what are the weaknesses?

8. Ricardo Azziz, “Too Fast, Too Slow: The Challenge of Keeping Pace in Managing Change”, Huffington Post, 05/30/2013

… If leaders move too fast, they leave their communities behind. Their team becomes disenfranchised. They become disenfranchised. And they find themselves the lone person at the end of a long corridor with everyone else gathered at the other side of the building.
If leaders move too slowly, they lead their teams into failure, into non-competitiveness. Relevance is lost. The ability to grow is diminished.
So how do we strike the balance?
… Moving too fast inevitably increases the chances of error… and making mistakes, regardless of their severity, is risky for leaders. That’s why many leaders prefer to err on the slow side of pace. It is safer, less disruptive, and less stressful. But unfortunately it also is more likely to place the organization in a non-competitive position, and may result in catastrophic organizational failure. Moving slow is safer in the short term but can be highly detrimental over the long haul, particularly in today’s highly competitive global environment.
We recognize that leaders should strive to understand their organizational and community culture before fully implementing change. However, some leaders forget that this learning process is iterative and continuing, and that the desire for complete information should be adjusted for the level of urgency and the degree of need present. And we should remember that it easier to decelerate the pace of change than it is to accelerate it, particularly once change begins, before inertia and fatigue set in…

However, too often leaders prefer to err on the side of moving too slow, minimizing the degree of personal and professional risk, and in the process allowing important and necessary transformations to end incomplete, or worse, in failure. This tendency to move too slow, to take too few risks, is most notable in some of our nation’s traditional strengths, including healthcare and higher education, who most frequently undertake change only at an incremental pace, threatening their local and global competitiveness.

While the slow pace at which these industries embrace change often, and rightfully, stems from their enormous complexity and the degree of diversity and engagement of their stakeholders, we also must acknowledge that unwillingness to change at the appropriate pace may arise from a lack of recognition that there are, or soon will be, viable and aggressive competitors to our current models of delivery. In addition there is a reluctance of governing and oversight bodies, and consequently of executive leadership, to accept the need for controlled risk in achieving timely change… 

  1. How does Dr. Azziz’s discussion reflect the debate between Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai and Benei Beteira? Does he favor one side or another?
  2. What are the religious questions today that are reflect this debate between fast and slow change? What are the parallels in religious language for Dr. Azziz’s organizational language of competition and modes of delivery?

Institutions and Change

9. Gerard Roland, “Understanding Institutional Change: Fast-Moving and Slow-Moving Institutions”, Studies in Comparative International Development, 38:4, December 2004, pp. 109-131. pp. 12-28

… I start with a fundamental distinction between slow-moving and fast-moving institutions. The former generally change slowly, incrementally and continuously, whereas the latter are more given to rapid, discontinuous change in large steps. Political institutions, for example, have the potential for centralized decisional changes in large steps. In this sense, they can be fast-moving institutions, which change nearly overnight when there are revolutionary moments. In contrast, social norms are more often an example of slow-moving institutions. While some social norms and values can change very rapidly in historical terms (e.g., a society’s tolerance for cigarettes), in general, social norms and values change slowly. Even individual social norms, such as attitudes towards the death penalty or acceptance of corruption, tend to change rather slowly, possibly because many norms are rooted in religions whose basic precepts have changed remarkably little for centuries and even millennia; the major world religions have shaped and still shape the basic values and preferences of individuals, what they consider important in life, and how they expect other people to behave toward them…

…Legal systems tend to be faster-moving institutions than social norms but slower-moving than political institutions. A given law can be changed overnight, but legal systems are rarely changed as rapidly as political institutions, such as electoral rules. On the other hand, the effectiveness of the legal system and the enforcement of laws depend on their acceptance and legitimacy in society and on the expectations of many actors. Thus the legal system is very similar to social norms…

What is the relationship between fast- and slow-moving institutions? Slow-moving institutions are by definition good candidates to influence fast-moving institutions, since the former may change little at a time when the latter is changing dramatically. On the other hand, for this perspective to make any sense, slow-moving institutions must also change continuously, so as to produce inconsistencies with fast-moving institutions and thereby create pressures for change…

The interaction between slow-moving and fast-moving institutions implies that different cultural paths (slow-moving institutions) may affect the appropriate choices of fast-moving institutions. Given our limited knowledge of these interactions, caution is required. Yesterday’s conventional wisdom has often been overturned. Sixty years ago, most intellectuals were convinced that central planning was more efficient than markets. Hardly anybody believes that today. Similarly, only ten years ago, Asian economies were praised for the marvelous effect of Confucian values (family, hard work, and savings). Yet, when the Asian economies were hit by the 1997 crisis, “crony capitalism” became the only term used to name those economies. This discussion carries a number of possible policy implications.

… First, one should take a skeptical attitude towards transplantation of institutions, because the different dynamics of slow-moving institutions may make some fast-moving institutions inadequate in some countries. The above framework provides a rationale for such skepticism. The appropriate question for analysts of development may not be what constitutes a globally optimal set of institutions, but rather whether fast-moving institutions are appropriate to the slow-moving institutions with which they interact. Thus reforms of fast-moving institutions in a given country must in part build on existing slow-moving institutions that have arisen in countries with different cultural and historical pasts. Ignoring these pasts in designing institutional reforms is likely a recipe for failure. The interaction of slow- and fast-moving institutions therefore provides an important cautionary to any development specialist seeking to export “best-practice” institutions.

Second, our current relative ignorance about the interaction between fast-moving institutions and the slow-moving institutions of different countries provides a strong rationale for certain kinds of experimentation and gradualism and, conversely, a strong reason for opposing the imposition of irreversible institutional change in a given country…Indeed, gradualism provides an option of early reversal if the prospects look bad after the introduction of the first reforms, an option that actually makes it easier to gain political support and build constituencies for institutional change…

  1. How does  Dr. Roland modify the position of Dr. Azziz above? How do the two discussions complement each other? Are there areas where they disagree?
  2. What might Dr. Roland say about the religious questions we considered above in light of Dr. Azziz’s insights? Does Dr. Roland simplify or complicate these issues? How?

10. Mishna Sotah, 9:15

רַבִּי פִנְחָס בֶּן יָאִיר אוֹמֵר, זְרִיזוּת מְבִיאָה לִידֵי נְקִיּוּת, וּנְקִיּוּת מְבִיאָה לִידֵי טָהֳרָה, וְטָהֳרָה מְבִיאָה לִידֵי פְרִישׁוּת, וּפְרִישׁוּת מְבִיאָה לִידֵי קְדֻשָּׁה, וּקְדֻשָּׁה מְבִיאָה לִידֵי עֲנָוָה, וַעֲנָוָה מְבִיאָה לִידֵי יִרְאַת חֵטְא, וְיִרְאַת חֵטְא מְבִיאָה לִידֵי חֲסִידוּת, וַחֲסִידוּת מְבִיאָה לִידֵי רוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ, וְרוּחַ הַקֹּדֶשׁ מְבִיאָה לִידֵי תְחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים, וּתְחִיַּת הַמֵּתִים בָּא עַל יְדֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ זָכוּר לַטּוֹב, אָמֵן:R. Pinchas ben Yair says: Quickness leads to cleanliness, cleanliness leads to purity, purity leads to separation, separation leads to sanctity, sanctity leads to humility, humility leads to fear of sin, fear of sin leads to piety, piety leads to the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit leads to the resuscitation of the dead, and the resuscitation of the dead leads to the coming of Elijah, may he be remembered for good, Amen.
  1. How does this text reflect Dr. Roland’s distinction between fast moving and slow moving institutions and the relationship between them? What might Dr. Azziz say about the leadership of Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair? Would he be critical? Approving? Why?
  2. What is the emphasis of this text? Does it oppose change in general? How might this model be reflected in the religious issues addressed above?

Gradualism as Persuasion

11. Thomas Kuhn, The Structures of Scientific Revolutions, Foundations for the Unity of Science, University of Chicago Press, 1970, pp. 93-97

… Political revolutions aim to change political institutions in ways that those institutions themselves prohibit. Their success therefore necessitates the partial relinquishment of one set of institutions in favor of another, and in the interim, society is not fully governed by institutions at all. Initially it is crisis alone that attenuates the role of political institutions as we have already seen it attenuate the role of paradigms. In increasing numbers individuals become increasingly estranged from political life and behave more and more eccentrically within it. Then, as the crisis deepens, many of these individuals commit themselves to some concrete proposal for the reconstruction of society in a new institutional framework. At that point the society is divided into competing camps or parties, one seeking to defend the old institutional constellation, the others seeking to institute some new one. And, once that polarization has occurred, political recourse fails. Because they differ about the institutional matrix within which political change is to be achieved and evaluated, because they acknowledge no supra-institutional framework for the adjudication of revolutionary difference, the parties to a revolutionary conflict must finally resort to the techniques of mass persuasion, often including force… 

… Like the choice between competing political institutions, that between competing paradigms proves to be a choice between incompatible modes of community life. Because it has that character, the choice is not and cannot be determined merely by the evaluative procedures characteristic of normal science, for these depend in part upon a particular paradigm, and that paradigm is at issue. When paradigms enter, as they must, into a debate about paradigm choice, their role is necessarily circular. Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm’s defense.

The resulting circularity does not, of course, make the arguments wrong or even ineffectual. The man who premises a paradigm when arguing in its defense can nonetheless provide a clear exhibit of what scientific practice will be like for those who adopt the new view of nature. That exhibit can be immensely persuasive, often compellingly so. Yet, whatever its force, the status of the circular argument is only that of persuasion. It cannot be made logically or even probabilistically compelling for those who refuse to step into the circle. The premises and values shared by the two parties to a debate over paradigms are not sufficiently extensive for that. As in political revolutions, so in paradigm choice—there is no standard higher than the assent of the relevant community…

To discover why this issue of paradigm choice can never be unequivocally settled by logic and experiment alone, we must shortly examine the nature of the differences that separate the proponents of a traditional paradigm from their revolutionary successors. That examination is the principal object of this section and the next…

… Normal research, which is cumulative, owes its success to the ability of scientists regularly to select problems that can be solved with conceptual and instrumental techniques close to those already in existence. (That is why an excessive concern with useful problems, regardless of their relation to existing knowledge and technique, can so easily inhibit scientific development.) The man who is striving to solve a problem defined by existing knowledge and technique is not, however, just looking around. He knows what he wants to achieve, and he designs his instruments and directs his thoughts accordingly. Unanticipated novelty, the new discovery, can emerge only to the extent that his anticipations about nature and his instruments prove wrong. Often the importance of the resulting discovery will itself be proportional to the extent and stubbornness of the anomaly that foreshadowed it. Obviously, then, there must be a conflict between the paradigm that discloses anomaly and the one that later renders the anomaly lawlike.

  1. How does Kuhn’s description of the debate between incompatible paradigms reflect debates within the Jewish community? How does gradualism as a model for change fit into these debates?  
  2. Is it a fallacy to apply gradualism to effect changes as a result of shifting paradigms? Why or why not?

12. Moshe Feinstein, Igrot Moshe, O.H. 4:49

…איברא דאיכא רשות לכל אשה לקיים אף המצות שלא חייבתן תורה ויש להם מצוה ושכר על קיום מצות אלו וגם לשיטת התוס’ רשאות גם לברך על המצות וכמנהגנו שמקיימות מצות שופר ולולב וגם מברכות שא”כ גם על ציצית שייך לאשה שתרצה ללבוש בגד שיהיה בצורה אחרת מבגדי אנשים אבל יהיה בד’ כנפות ולהטיל בו ציצית ולקיים מצוה זו… אבל פשוט שהוא רק בחשקה נפשה לקיים מצות אף כשלא נצטוותה, אבל מכיון שאינו לכוונה זו אלא מצד תורעמותה על השי”ת ועל תורתו אין זה מעשה מצוה כלל אלא אדרבה מעשה איסור שהאיסור דכפירה שחושבת דשייך שיהיה איזה חלוף בדיני התורה…It is clearn that every woman has permission to fulfill even the Mitzvot in which the Torah did not obligate her. And they have a Mitzvah and reward on the fulfillment of these Mitzvot. And additionally, according to the position of the Tosafot, they have permission to make blessings on the Mitzvot as is our custoom that they fulfill the Mitzvah of shofar and lulav and they make a blessing. And if so, this is also the case for tsitsit if a woman wants to wear an item of clothing that is different from men’s clothing but which has four corners, and she wants to put tsitsit on it… However, it is obvious that this is only if her soul desires to fulfill Mitzvot, even though she is not obligated. But since this is not her purpose but rather it is from her anger at God and on God’s Torah, this is not an act of a Mitzvah but rather, on the contrary, a forbidden act. It is the prohibition of denying God for she thinks that there will be a shift in the laws of the Torah…
  1. How does Rav Moshe here demonstrate the policy recommendations brought by Dr. Roland? In particular, how does he embrace gradualism but reject institutional transplantation?
  2. What boundaries is Rav Moshe setting in the last line of this piece?  How does he relate to paradigm change versus anomalous practice?  What is the paradigm he refuses to relinquish? Does this mean that he might not be open to other paradigm shifts?