(Courtesy: Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove, Yitro 2006 – Anshe Emet Synagogue)

An insight by a man who preceded Conservative Judaism, the great Hassidic master, R. Levi Yitzkhak of Berdichev (1740-1810). To understand his insight – you need to be familiar with the rabbinic concept known as “Teyku.” When the rabbis of the Talmud argue and neither side wins, or there is not enough information to make a judgment the rabbis declare “Teyku” – it has come to mean a “tie” both in the Talmud and in modern Hebrew. Embedded within Teyku is the Hebrew letters Taf, Yud, Kuf and V, an acronym for “The Tishbite will solve the difficulties and problems.” The rabbis reason that in the future days, when the Tishbite, namely the prophet Elijah, the harbinger of the world to come arrives – he will solve the standing legal disputes.

Rabbi Levi Yitzhak asks the very reasonable question, why should Elijah solve the disputes, after all this morning we read that it was through Moses that the Torah was given, one would think that Moses would be better equipped to speak with authority on the precise content of revelation. Rabbi Levi Yitzhak explains that Moses, who no longer belongs to this world, can not render decisions, because he is unable to speak to spiritual needs of the day. But Elijah, who never dies, is attuned to the spiritual needs of his day and every day and therefore only he can speak with authority on the meaning of Torah, only he can solve the disputes.

The import of this answer is rather stunning when you really take it in. Truth, though given to Moses at Sinai, is no longer his to adjudicate. Only the participants of a particular age and era are authorized to say what the eternal truths of Sinai are and are not. It is a stunning thought, a bit paradoxical, very messy, but that is the core of Conservative Judaism – everything else is commentary