Sperber Conclusion: Real Rabbinic Judaism was more like me, less like all the other Orthodox rabbis alive today.
Critique of Sperber: When you skew and select the data to "prove" your hazy and fuzzy points, you actually prove only your scholarly incompetence, i.e. that you are an academic hick.
A Torah expert faults the rabbisAnecdotal research like this, with a few confusing counter-anecdotes thrown in to "balance" the presentation, would not get more than a C as an undergraduate term paper.
By Yair Sheleg
"Jewish halakhic decisions," says Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, "tended throughout most of the generations to be user-friendly. There are impressive examples in halakhic history of the willingness of poskim (arbiters of Jewish law) to allow the taking of interest or to prevent the cancellation of debts in order to make economic life possible; to allow the sale of chametz on Pesach and a heter mechira (permission to sell land to a non-Jew) during the sabbatical year to prevent losses; even to impose severe sanctions on those who refused to grant a get (a religious divorce) or to release agunot (chained women, whose husbands cannot or will not grant them a divorce) under lenient conditions. Only in recent generations has pesika (issuing a halakhic ruling) become extreme and increasingly stringent."
This argument is not new, of course. For many years it was voiced by Conservative and Reform Jews, women's organizations and ordinary liberal religious Jews...
The work is full of mistakes of logic, method and, yes we must say this, integrity.