Since the article is lengthy, what I will do is give you a bulleted list of his main points, most of which are given verbatim, and then I will give my reaction to the article:
- There are countless young Jews who search for an authentic Jewish religious way of life, but are unable to find spiritual satisfaction in the prevalent halachic system as practiced today in most Ultra- or Modern Orthodox communities.
- Jewish law is codified in much greater detail than ever before, making many wonder whether our ancestors were really observant.
- The majority of halachic literature today is streamlined, allowing little room for halachic flexibility and for the spiritual need for novelty.
- One of the Talmud's greatest contributions to Judaism is its indetermination, its frequent refusal to lay down the law. As such, the Shulchan Aruch and Mishneh Torah are un-Jewish in spirit, as they oppose the heart and soul of the Talmud.
- Elu v'elu, which means "these and those are the words of G-d (Eruvin 13b)." Think of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel.
- Such codices [as the S.A. and M.T] lead to intellectual laziness.
- The Torah, which is the word of G-d, can only be multifaceted. Like G-d Himself, it can never fit into a finalized system, for it is much too broad in scope.
- Each person receives the Torah individually, according to his own personality and exceptional circumstances. Only one text was received [at Sinai] due to the fact that there was a need for unity and affiliation amongst Jews. A fixed text was necessary to facilitate discussion, not agreement.
- We surely must move beyond the conventional way in which halacha has been applied. If the existential predicament of blending autonomy and tradition is not resolved, it will ultimately distance many fine Jews from the Jewish tradition and religious observance. This internal danger is greater than the external threat of secularism.
I find R. Cardozo's analysis of the situation to be precise. The problems that Cardozo describes outline the very reasons why I have decided not to live in an Orthodox community, even in spite of my affinity for Jewish traditions. Mainstream Orthodox Jews have reduced Judaism to an exceptionally narrow form of religious behaviorism in which the baseline is piety. The over-codification of Jewish law violates the very spirit that Talmudic discourse was meant to transmit from generation, that being of דבר אחר (alternative opinion).
The regression of the halachic system that has made halacha what it is today began with Maimonides. Prior to Rambam, Jewish law was multifaceted and flexible, and it somehow managed to consistently uphold Jewish values. When Rambam came into contact with the ever-so codified Muslim law (shar'ia law), that all changed. That influence caused Rambam to write Mishneh Torah, not to mention that most Jews during that time were lost as to how to best practice. (One has to note that even though there were attempts to codify prior to Mishneh Torah, this was the first codification with any form of gravitas in the Jewish world.) The fact that the title of his text was titled "Second Torah" not only reeks of chutzpah, but also come with an inherently authoritarian bent. And it's no wonder there was a wide range of adverse reactions to the book when it first came out, from prohibition of reading the book to actually burning the book. It was a violation of the Talmudic precept of דבר אחר. Unfortunately, more codification was underway. The Shulchan Aruch came along, and the rest is history.
When asked for a reason why such a law exists, many practicing Jews fall back on the answer of "such and such text tells me so." It's robotic, not to mention, as Rabbi Cardozo points out, a form of intellectual laziness. The halachic system as practiced by most observant Jews lacks spirit and spontaneity. Halacha has become a mind-boggling complexity of nuances that have become so numerous that no one man can know all of them. As such, it has become dry, insipid, and irrelevant for many who want to be observant while maintaining a sound sense of spirituality in a secular world. Halacha is used as the proverbial stick that Orthodox rabbis metaphorically beat its congregants with in order to keep them in line. It's no wonder that nearly 90% of Jews are non-observant!
Rather than be an impersonal form of societal control in adherence to a skewed form of Jewish practice, halacha should inspire people to lovingly and willingly foster a relationship with G-d. Yes, there are certain principles and maxims that Jews should stick by, but on the whole, there should be a sense of autonomy to decide what is best for the individual. As Pirke Avot 1:3 points out, the best kind of relationship with G-d is one with kavannah and a liberated volition, not one in which fear of divine retribution is your primary motivator.