Open Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

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I have written in the past on the prohibition of confirming the Heterodox in their positions (I, II, III, IV). This is not a declaration of hate but a recognition that our actions affect the way they think about their practices, which we consider to be contrary to Jewish tradition. We are obligated to take into account the way our practices impact our co-religionists. Given the current historical context, some practices that are unobjectionable are forbidden because they give the wrong impression and others that are objectionable are further prohibited because of this concern.

A Conservative rabbi, from what I can tell a very nice guy, recently blogged about some of the recent innovations emanating from so-called Open Orthodox (or perhaps Post-Orthodox) circles (link):

A quarter century after the Conservatives opened its seminary to women, the more progressive Orthodox Jews in Centrist Orthodoxy are now debating the leadership roles of women in the synagogue. It was only a matter of time…

And Orthodoxy has begun to evolve on the case of gay and lesbian acceptance. Again, the Reform and Reconstructionist movements acted quickly with the Conservative movement taking years to study and debate the issue before opening its seminaries and allowing the movement’s rabbis to officiate at same-sex commitment ceremonies in December 2006…

Orthodox Judaism does not have a monopoly on “Torah true Judaism.” If Judaism is truly going to be true to the Torah, then we must all embrace the Torah’s dictum that says the Torah does not reside in the heavens. It belongs to humanity and it is up to us to see that it remains vibrant and evolves.

This blog post is just one of many examples of the Heterodox (AKA non-Orthodox) seeing Orthodox moves as justifying their radical departures from traditional Judaism. This insensitivity to historical context and lack of concern for the Heterodox is a continuous theme in Open Orthodoxy. If the Seridei Eish were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave over this violation of chikuy ha-minim. The time has come to reclaim Orthodoxy and make the unequivocal statement that such reforms are unacceptable. There is still time for mainstream Orthodox organizations to state that these innovations are unacceptable and, if need be, to take appropriate action against members who are damaging the public perception of Orthodoxy by deviating substantially from Jewish traditions.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

108 comments

  1. Gil,

    With all due respect, need the heterdox dictate our development and freeze halakhic growth? While one factor in our decisions could be how our actions are perceived, is that a trump card over all of our other values? Is there no room for nuance?

  2. >If the Seridei Eish were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave over this violation of chikuy ha-minim.

    If he were alive today, why would he be in his grave?

  3. “If the Seridei Eish were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave over this violation of chikuy ha-minim.” I think that if the Seridei Eish were alive today and stuck in his grave, he’d have bigger problems than a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat!

    On a more serious note, I think it’s critical to talk about the cost of the position you’re advocating in this post. If I’m understanding you correctly, you’re arguing that we should prohibit any kind of creativity or innovation in our shuls – or even in how we speak about these issues, as in the statement about homosexuality – that serves to allow women a greater role or to be less hostile to frum Jews who are gay – even those innovations that are completely halachically acceptable.

    Do you really think it’s worth it to end all chidushim on these issues? To completely freeze our minhagim where they are, simply because making any kind of change sparks some blog posts (because the actually policies of non-Orthodox Jews don’t seem connected to any of these recent changes in Open Orthodoxy – the other denominations embraced this long ago)? That seems like an awfully high price to pay.

  4. Sigh.

    I suppose I should start off with the de riguer attack on R’ Weiss. He acts as if he’s stopped caring about what other Orthodox think or the impact of his actions. He’s acting contrary both to the interests of Orthodox unity and a left wing modern Orthodoxy. He’s not the first to do this kabbalat shabbat but he’s the most flamboyant. Perhaps he did not realize that the rabbah issue left him with no more wiggle room on the woman front but there it is. Had he done this before Rabba he’d probably gotten away with it. He’s harming the legitimacy of HIR and YCT and for what? If his agenda was to steer Orthodoxy down this path, he’s mucked it up pretty good these last few months.

    But, your arguments are unconvincing .

    First off, I’m not sure its good taste to use that photo, with its obvious implication that R’ Weiss and R’ Jason are good friends. Obama has pictures with people he disagrees with too, no?

    Second, you can use anything to justify anything. The LW MO does not permit homosexuality and as I recall it you’ve expressed no opposition to the contents of the statement, only to the need to express it specifically to homosexuality. So to use the compassionate disapproval of LW MO as somehow a justification to the decade(s?)-old full-fledged acceptance of the more liberal denominations strikes me as forced.

    What’s the wrong-impression here Gil? They said what they meant.

    What this comes down to is you took a blog post of (to me at least) an obscure Conservative rabbi as somehow a trigger. Even you have to admit that’s ridiculous and forced.

    What you are writing is a rationale against the bat mitzva and against the WTG and against the woman speaker, all to varying degrees accepted in many MO communities … and not only by YCT.

    For that matter, it is also attacking Torah Im Derech Eretz, how dare R’ SRH and others justify secular learning in a time when the majority was using secular learning as an excuse to leave Torah Judaism. All they were doing was providing added justification for those rabbis pulling their communities in the direction of Reform. Basically you are turning the “needs of the time” argument on its head.

    Here’s my question to you: Do you feel R’ Weiss is acting to emulate the Conservative or because he is influenced by the same overall social mores as the Conservative, i.e. that woman should be able to do the same thing as men absent a reason they should not?

  5. Michael Rogovin

    The question is where do we draw the line – which permitted things do we hold back from? FOr example, at the time, much the same was said about orthodox bat mitzvahs – it would only confirm the heterodox. No matter what we do (and we do have to respond to changes in the world environment, and *some* changes are necessary lest we be locked into a past that no longer exists) , it can be misused by those who would confirm their own transgressions. For example, the statement of principles on homosexuality — whatever its flaws, it is absolute on the issurim regarding marriage, marriage-like relationships and sexual conduct. Yet there are (as you show) those who would use this to justify their actions in approving of what we explicitly reject.

    We can’t sit still, but anything we do will be mischaracterized. In the end, we have to do that which is right and trust in emet. In theory, our poskim would help us judge what IS the right path, but the open orthodox community has, really, no poskim of its own to turn to and will not respect hareidi or perhaps even many of the RY at YU these days. The search for authentic leadership leads many to turn to those who are on the margin.

    I am not in a position to judge the halachic validity of Rabbi Weiss’ actions (though I admit to being less than impressed with some of the opposition’s technical arguments). Still, I feel that his actions are not in the best interests of open/modern orthodoxy. Even assuming that he is technically correct on the halacha, these are the same moves made in the conservative movement and I seriously doubt that the end result will be any different. While I am loathe to write anyone or any shul out of the orthodox family, at a certain point, if something stands for everything, it stands for nothing.

  6. As mycroft noted in another thread, there have been changes instituted by the religious right as well. Changes to the Tefillah, things removed, added, moved around. He did not comment on other issues that we have to deal with from the right.

    Right now Orthodoxy is being pulled part from the extremes – when positing that such reforms are unacceptable, we have to be true to ourselves from all extremes.

  7. On a more serious note, if the contention is that acting in a way that shows that halacha changes gives aid and comfort to non-Orthodox movements, they’re already convinced that halacha changes, and generally they marshal sources like the Iggeros Moshe, not actions by rabbis like Avi Weiss to show it.

  8. Marc: With all due respect, need the heterdox dictate our development and freeze halakhic growth?

    No but we have to be careful and nuanced. Like the Seridei Esh said regarding the bas mitzvah, doing it wrong is a violation of this prohibition but we can still do it right. And sometimes other considerations override or set aside this prohibition. It is not the final word but an important consideration. It is a reason why we need great poskim to address complex questions like these.

    Josh: you’re arguing that we should prohibit any kind of creativity or innovation in our shuls… even those innovations that are completely halachically acceptable

    Not necessarily. They just have to be done with wisdom. But some innovations are impossible in this historical context. See this post for different approaches: https://www.torahmusings.com/2010/03/three-approaches-to-womens-issues.html

    HAGTBG: First off, I’m not sure its good taste to use that photo, with its obvious implication that R’ Weiss and R’ Jason are good friends

    It is the picture that accompanies Jason’s blog post, which constitutes the bulk of my post.

    The LW MO does not permit homosexuality and as I recall it you’ve expressed no opposition to the contents of the statement, only to the need to express it specifically to homosexuality.

    I objected to the form of the statement for precisely this reason, because it plays to other people’s agenda. It was, in the end, seen as an important step towards legitimating homosexuality.

    What you are writing is a rationale against the bat mitzva and against the WTG and against the woman speaker

    I’m not sure about the last one but agree with the first two. Indeed, in the Seridei Esh’s teshuvah about the bas mitzvah he insists that the Orthodox celebration be significantly different from the Heterodox for precisely this halakhic reason. I’ve expressed my opposition to WTG’s repeatedly on this blog and in my book.

    For that matter, it is also attacking Torah Im Derech Eretz, how dare R’ SRH and others justify secular learning in a time when the majority was using secular learning as an excuse to leave Torah Judaism

    That is a huge stretch but there are other, better examples. If your argument is that there is no halakhic concept of chikuy ha-minim then you have to deal with the many teshuvos I cite in my psts on the subject. All you can prove is that its application must be nuanced. I agree but think I am properly applying it here.

  9. antimodernist tendency – found in this post – is usually the domain of the haredei rabbis.

    ” In recent generations, the Torah has lost most of its committed followers. Religious leadership has not succeeded in standing in the breach, primarily since it DID NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE NATURE OF THE NEW, external world it confronted. Even with regard to other great jewish historical transformations of the modern period – sabbatianism, hasidism, zionism, and le-havdi, the holocaust, HISTORY HAS NOT ENDORSED THE PATH Taken by the majority of gedolei torah. It is not HALACHA which was at fault here, but religious thought and historical response. IT IS THAT WHICH CRIES OUT FOR A NEW ORIENTATION.

    something to ponder for you all.

  10. >I agree but think I am properly applying it here.

    The argument is, hey, I think I’m right? How is that different from those who think they’re right?

  11. S: Because they don’t seem to have considered this issue and the metzi’us is that they are confirming the Heterodox in ways that the bas mitzvah and women saying kaddish did not. I should add that determining whether this prohibition applies is really for poskim. The one world-class posek with whom I have discussed these issues is convinced that Open Orthodoxy is prohibited.

  12. >Because they don’t seem to have considered this issue

    Even broken clocks are right 2x daily. Maybe they’re right even without having considered your reservations.

    From your point of view such actions give aid and comfort to heterodoxy. That’s possible, but ultimately it’s just an opinion. What if they had considered it and still disagreed with your opinion? Then you’d be less confident that you’re right?

    But maybe they just didn’t see it as relevant in this case. By way of illustration, say someone’s view is that seforim are not kosher if they’re not published by the right people, and they see this as a genuine halachic issue. We know there is a school within Orthodoxy like that. Say such a person were to take you or I as krum for not considering that issue personally. Are we automatically wrong because we didn’t consider it? Or maybe just because they think it’s an issue doesn’t make it our issue?

    In fact did R. Hirsch, who was mentioned before, really consider whether secular education was permitted or not? For him it was davar pashut and that it was the most authentic form of Judaism there was. It was the ghetto which eschewed such learning which had to justify itself. And he wasn’t a world class posek, and that didn’t seem to stop him and like-minded rabbis of his time.

  13. in ways that the bas mitzvah and women saying kaddish did not

    The bat mitzva became accepted when Orthodoxy was weak; no one cared then what Orthodoxy thought because there was a dynamic Conservative movement.

    It is the picture that accompanies Jason’s blog post, which constitutes the bulk of my post.

    True. It was also a convenient picture for you.

    It was, in the end, seen as an important step towards legitimating homosexuality.

    In the end? The statement came out under a month ago & because a Conservative thinks it says something it did not, now its become a step to Orthodox legitimization of homosexuality?? How do you read those tea leaves? The Conservative movement has already all but accepted homosexuality; they were hardly looking over their shoulder here.

    I’ve expressed my opposition to WTG’s repeatedly on this blog and in my book.

    True. That does not change the fact that Orthodox rabbis, talmidei chachamim, have disagreed with you.

    That is a huge stretch but there are other, better examples.

    I’ll accept my point has better examples then ones I made though I hardly think my own example was a stretch. The only stretch about it, was that no one made your argument.

    My question for you, again, is do you think R’ Weiss is trying to emulate the Conservative and/or Reform? Or do you think he is simply influenced by modern thought on this topic?

  14. Saul Lieberman

    Orthodoxy is already divided between those who believe that “some practices that are unobjectionable are forbidden because they give the wrong impression” and those who don’t. But I don’t think that wedge will get you far within Modern Orthodoxy.

  15. What’s your policy on using pictures from other blogs and/or websites? Did you ask permission from that blog author or are you assuming permission or do you not need permission?

  16. Let’s talk about bat mitzvah. 50 years ago it was absolutely forbidden in the MO community to the extent that shul bulletins wouldn’t even wish the parents of a bat mitzvah girl (or the girl herself) a mazel tov. And the reason was exactly the reason Gil is talking about: it’s CONSERVATIVE! And then what happened was that the MO community realized the ridiculousness of this position and decided that they weren’t going to let the conservatives or Reform set limits on what we can do if we think it’s right. And that’s how things changed, so much so, that even in RW communities bat mitzvah is given some recognition.

    This is not to say RAW was right in what he did or even that RNH’s Statement of Principles is right. But to tie our hands and not do what is right simply because someone might perceive it as being C, or supporting the C movement will take us back to a time w/o bat mitzvah, w/o girls and young women getting a full Jewish education, w/o women being members of shuls, or to go back to an earlier time, w/o English sermons. Some might say ay hachi nami, but for one who doesn’t say that, while Gil’s argument might be a consideration, among many, as to what proper public policy might be, history tells me that it should be no more than that.

  17. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Executive Vice President of the RCA:

    “It [The Orthodox community] is going to have to learn not to be afraid of the non-Orthodox and to stop seeing the Conservative and Reform movements as a threat to its own existence… We said, “We’ve got to defend our turf; we can’t do anything that might appear as legitimizing anyone else. We can’t in any way legitimize the Conservative movement. We can’t legitimize the Reform movement because otherwise we’re going to lose.” Well, things have changed… As far as I’m concerned, we within the Orthodox community have to reach the point where not only are we not afraid, but where we are confident enough in ourselves to admit that we have something to learn from you. Most importantly we must learn that this admission does not entail legitimization of all your religious views.”

  18. moshe shoshan

    Gil,
    leave the Seridei Aish out of this. You know he had a far more nuanced position that you are attributing to him. If he we alive right now, he’d be telling you off for speaking in his name!

    I am with R. Goldin on this one (does this make me a leftist). If it were up to you, we would change Bereshis to read E-aseh Adam. God thought other wise and overruled Moshe.

    Maybe we should put R. Dr. Ari Zviotofsky in Cherem. He holds that Swordfish are kosher, just like the Conservatives.

  19. I appreciate the title of this post.

  20. moshe shoshan

    “The one world-class posek with whom I have discussed these issues is convinced that Open Orthodoxy is prohibited.”

    Gil-
    1)Avi Weiss wrote an article defining “Open Orthodoxy”, which specific elements that he proposes does your Posek say is assur?

    2)As we have discussed before, the category of chukas haminim is extraordinarily vague and not widely or deeply attested to. its a crude weapon, though useful for firing into crowds.

  21. S: But maybe they just didn’t see it as relevant in this case.

    I understand but, as I tried to demonstrate, the great Modern Orthodox poskim of the past century repeatedly returned to this theme.

    HAGTBG: My question for you, again, is do you think R’ Weiss is trying to emulate the Conservative and/or Reform?

    His intent is irrelevant, although I believe that he is on the course towards complete egalitarianism whether he recognizes it or not. As we saw with women’s ordination, he is open to changing his mind on significant issues within a few years. 10 years ago he was against women’s ordination and now he is in favor of it. What else will he be in favor of in 10 years? I am not attributing dishonesty to him but simply a lack of complete self-awareness.

    Joseph Kaplan: And then what happened was that the MO community realized the ridiculousness of this position and decided that they weren’t going to let the conservatives or Reform set limits on what we can do if we think it’s right.

    Didn’t R. Moshe Feinstein explicitly permit a bas mitzvah in the 50s, as well as the Seridei Esh? I’m sure Rav Soloveitchik also must have, even if no responsum was published.

    Anonymous: I agree with R. Shmuel Goldin but he was talking about legitimizing, not confirming. For example, speaking in a Conservative synagogue or together on a panel with a Conservative rabbi.

    Moshe Shoshan: The Seridei Esh wrote multiple teshuvos on the subject. To my knowledge, R. Zivotofsky’s stance is not confirming the Heterodox in their positions but I may be wrong.

    Chikuy Ha-Minim may be crude, but tell that to Rav Kook and Rav Herzog, both of whom paskened base don it. Remember when we used to go to poskim on major communal issues? It’s not like we don’t have poskim today. Just to name a few: R. Hershel Schachter, R. Mordechai Willig (who is R. Weiss’ first cousin so will probably stay out of it), R. J. David Bleich, R. Yitzchak Breitowitz, R. Gedalia Schwartz. R. Michael Broyde is also opposed to this. If I recall correctly from R. Avi Weiss’ book, he went to poskim about Women’s Prayer Groups and when they told him no, he did it anyway.

  22. “Anonymous: I agree with R. Shmuel Goldin but he was talking about legitimizing, not confirming. For example, speaking in a Conservative synagogue or together on a panel with a Conservative rabbi.”

    Then how do you understand his declaration that “As far as I’m concerned, we within the Orthodox community have to reach the point where not only are we not afraid, but where we are confident enough in ourselves to admit that we have something to learn from you.” We just have what to learn about sitting on panels or we have what to learn from those rabbis who are sitting on those panels? And if so, what areas do we have to learn about? I think you are too narrowly reading this statement here.

  23. “Didn’t R. Moshe Feinstein explicitly permit a bas mitzvah in the 50s, as well as the Seridei Esh? I’m sure Rav Soloveitchik also must have, even if no responsum was published.”

    re: R’ Moshe and Bat Mitzvah –

    OH 1:104

    to arrange some sort of order or party for girls when they become B’not Mitzvot; behold, one can not do such a thing in the synagogue in any circumstance even at night, because the synagogue is not a place where one can do optional things even if it [the synagogue] is built on condition. And the ceremony of the Bat Mitzvah is definitely only an optional matter and only vanity and there is no way to permit such a thing in a synagogue; and all the more so that its root is in the Reform and Conservative movements. Only if the father wants to perform some sort of festivity in his house, is he permitted to do so, but there is no hint or in any way related to a mitzvah matter or a mitzvah meal and it is only a birthday party.

  24. gil – rav moshe didn’t permit bat mitzvah in the 50’s. please read is teshuvas more carefully (his first teshuva in 1956 was explicitly against permitting it and later 1959 recommended on pushing away this innovation (although he says there is no mitzvah in the bat). you should also reread the sredei eish if you think he and r’moshe were on the same page on this issue. your interpretation of the sredei eish is questionable on many grounds and what you state is the not the focus of his teshuva.

  25. >I understand but, as I tried to demonstrate, the great Modern Orthodox poskim of the past century repeatedly returned to this theme.

    Reform and Conservative were different forces respective to Orthodoxy in the past century. Perhaps the issue needs to be seen through the respective states of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Judaism today, and not 50 or 100 years ago. If that can’t be done, then how could R Moshe Feinstein have permitted bimahs in the front of the shul – even though he suspected they were a slippery slope to microphones in his own time?

  26. Anonymous: I agree that we can learn from the Conservative and I quote them occasionally on this blog, as I do (le-havdil) Christians. A search on this blog for David Wolpe, a prominent Conservative rabbi, yielded 15 posts that quote him.

    Ruvie and Anonymous: Exactly. Iggeros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:104 is where R. Moshe Feinstein first permitted a bas mitzvah party, albeit with the condition that it be different from the Reform and Conservative ceremonies. The Seridei Esh *explicitly* wrote that he agreed with R. Feinstein: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=12471&st=&pgnum=38

    S: That case needs to be argued. Since the issue is not that R & C might attract O members but that they see themselves as legitimate, I’m not sure that the differences matter.

  27. >S: That case needs to be argued. Since the issue is not that R & C might attract O members but that they see themselves as legitimate, I’m not sure that the differences matter.

    How could they not see themselves as legitimate?

  28. Yet another example of how the big tent of Orthodoxy can only only define itself by reference to who is in and who is out. “We are the holy ones…those others are heretics”. A cry that is weak, arrogant, presumptuous, contemptuous of others. It is the cry of the inquisition in all of its rank fearfulness and the people who adhere to it have the mentality of spies; after a while they cease to trust the good intentions of anyone except a narrow coterie of like minded thinkers.

    Don’t make the mistake of believing that this has anything to do with advancing the religion of Judaism. Rather it is designed to help weak people to deal with their internal emotional issues.

  29. “Exactly. Iggeros Moshe, Orach Chaim 1:104 is where R. Moshe Feinstein first permitted a bas mitzvah party, albeit with the condition that it be different from the Reform and Conservative ceremonies.”

    He didn’t permit a Bat Mitzvah party. He permitted a *birthday* party. I quote: “but there is no hint or in any way related to a mitzvah matter or a mitzvah meal and it is only *a birthday party*.”

  30. “Anonymous: I agree that we can learn from the Conservative and I quote them occasionally on this blog, as I do (le-havdil) Christians. A search on this blog for David Wolpe, a prominent Conservative rabbi, yielded 15 posts that quote him.”

    So then we agree that it is just a matter of where do you draw the line in what you allow yourself to learn from R & C Jews. You draw it one place and others draw it in another place. Then I fail to see the point of this declarative post pronouncing the unequivocal evil of having a mutually respectful relationship with non-Orthodox movements.

  31. Ra Ovadya permitted bat mitzvahs a long time ago and Rav Moshe was not particularly thrilled with bar mitzvahs either.

  32. S: How could they not see themselves as legitimate?

    They can see themselves as right but inconsistent with Jewish tradition. We can give them the impression that Jewish tradition would allow what they do, that they are correct in deviating because Judaism allows for such deviations.

    Anonymous: He didn’t permit a Bat Mitzvah party.

    Yes, he explicitly did.

    Anonymous: So then we agree that it is just a matter of where do you draw the line in what you allow yourself to learn from R & C Jews.

    Except that is totally irrelevant to this post, which does not discuss imitating the Reform and Conservative but adopting practices that confirm them in their ways.

  33. “Then I fail to see the point of this declarative post pronouncing the unequivocal evil of having a mutually respectful relationship with non-Orthodox movements.”

    Exactly! By always drawing these lines you don’t have any responsibility for defining what you believe in and why independently. I remember reading a quote by Ulysses S. Grant when describing the impending battle with Robert E. Lee:

    “Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.”

    My advice is to stop writing this judgmental claptrap and go back to the drawing board and focus on telling the story of MO as an attractive way to live ones life. Obsessing about what other Jews are doing is no substitute for making your own life shine bright by virtue of actions.

  34. >They can see themselves as right but inconsistent with Jewish tradition.

    As I said earlier, Conservative rabbis don’t see themselves as consistent with Jewish tradition because Rabbi Avi Weiss ends up doing what they did. They see themselves as consistent with Jewish tradition because when they abrogate a biblical rule because of what they see as a compelling reason, they see pruzbul, heter iska, Rabbi Akiva saying that there’d be no executions if he was in charge. When they institute new prayers, change old ones, they look at the evolution of the siddur. When they interpret the Mishnah differently from the Gemara, they see that the Tosafos Yom Tov and the Gra did it too.

    In short, they see themselves as consistent with Jewish tradition because of how they interpret Jewish tradition. They looked for, and found, bigger pegs than Rabbi Avi Weiss.

  35. “He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

    I guess R. Berger has his obsession, and R. Gil has his.

  36. R. Hershel Schachter, R. Mordechai Willig (who is R. Weiss’ first cousin so will probably stay out of it), R. J. David Bleich, R. Yitzchak Breitowitz, R. Gedalia Schwartz.

    All right-wingers (I mean, especially R. Breitowitz, he’s RY of Ohr Someyach (or however they spell it) now.)

  37. “Anonymous: He didn’t permit a Bat Mitzvah party.

    Yes, he explicitly did.”

    No, he explicitly permitted a house party to celebrate her birthday not a “bat mitzvah”.

    “Anonymous: So then we agree that it is just a matter of where do you draw the line in what you allow yourself to learn from R & C Jews.

    Except that is totally irrelevant to this post, which does not discuss imitating the Reform and Conservative but adopting practices that confirm them in their ways.”

    Adopting practices does not happen in a vacuum. Assuming the practices are “adopted” wholesale and not “adapted”. They happen from sincerely learning from R&C rabbis in areas in which we have to learn. Furthermore, I think your view of R&C Judaism basing its legitimacy or looking for our confirmation is paternalistic and simply not true. It might have been true at some point in time but it is not the current reality of 2010 and rehashing that argument over and over again does little to advance the conversation and further the discussion on how the different denominations interact and serves only a blunt hammer in which to strike blows at those in Orthodoxy that you disagree with.

  38. S: As I said earlier, Conservative rabbis don’t see themselves as consistent with Jewish tradition because Rabbi Avi Weiss ends up doing what they did.

    They see themselves confirmed, their arguments strengthened, when Orthodox rabbis indicate agreement. You can say that it isn’t true but I gave one example in this post.

    Jon_Brooklyn: I do not believe that they are all right-wingers. And, in my limited experience, R. Breitowitz is not that right wing, although I did not know that he is the new rosh yeshiva of Ohr Somayach. Can you suggest other poskim? How about R. Michael J. Broyde?

    Anonymous: Are you we going to have to argue about the definition of a Bas Mitzvah party? Can she celebrate her bas mitzvah? According to R. Feinstein, yes but in a different way than the Reform and Conservative do.

    Adopting practices does not happen in a vacuum… They happen from sincerely learning from R&C rabbis in areas in which we have to learn.

    Two steps: learning and adopting. You seem to be mixing the two.

    Furthermore, I think your view of R&C Judaism basing its legitimacy or looking for our confirmation is paternalistic and simply not true.

    It is demonstrably true, as can be seen in the media the past year or two as they congratulate themselves for being right as the Orthodox follow their lead in ordaining women.

  39. My advice is to stop writing this judgmental claptrap and go back to the drawing board and focus on telling the story of MO as an attractive way to live ones life. Obsessing about what other Jews are doing is no substitute for making your own life shine bright by virtue of actions.

    Before painting it as attractive, it must be framed as legitimate.

  40. R. Michael Broyde already publicly wrote in support of giving women clergy titles, a key part of the post-orthodox movement.

    http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/40150/

    There he writes: “Some will no doubt protest that this will all lead down a slippery slope toward egalitarian services. Personally, I think this slope is unlikely to slip.”

  41. Skeptic: But not the title of “rabbi”! He wrote: This does not mean women would or should be called “rabbi.” For reasons ranging from formal authority (serarah) being limited to men, to the title being given only to those who can serve as witnesses or function as chazzanim, to it simply being a matter of tradition, it is reasonable to argue that a different title should be given.

  42. Gil,

    Sometimes I wonder whether you realize the untenability of your position. You moved toward MO because of your discomfort with aspects of the Haredi world, but I guess by now you must have realized that MO too, has it’s issues and positions that are not exactly easy to defend if “rationalism” is a core value. Many of the comments here express rational points even though they’re arguing against something that is obvious to you and I.

    Just a thought.

  43. David S.

    “Don’t make the mistake of believing that this has anything to do with advancing the religion of Judaism. Rather it is designed to help weak people to deal with their internal emotional issues.”

    Is there any theological position about which this cannot be claimed?

    Conversely, couldn’t one claim the following about anything Rabbi Weiss is doing?

    “Don’t make the mistake of believing that this has anything to do with advancing the cause of women/homosexuals/agunahs. Rather, it is designed to help insecure, shallow people, rally around a cause that offers them a sense of self-importance.”

    Of course, that’s a silly argument to make.

  44. “Anonymous: He didn’t permit a Bat Mitzvah party.
    Yes, he explicitly did.”

    gil- please note that you ignore r’ moshe insistence of not having a bat mitzvah celebration but rather making a kiddush instead like one does for a birthday or “other joyous occasions”. in his last teshuva he no longer objected like his first teshuva of anything in the synagogue but to say he permitted it is just wrong. he never uses the words “to permit bat mitzvah celebrations” as does the sredei eish.

  45. “It is demonstrably true, as can be seen in the media the past year or two as they congratulate themselves for being right as the Orthodox follow their lead in ordaining women.”

    That is one interpretation and quite a negative one to paint of intra-Jewish interactions. Another interpretation is they are happy to see an Orthodox Judaism that is part of the global Jewish conversation and not just restricted to itself.

    “Anonymous: Are you we going to have to argue about the definition of a Bas Mitzvah party?”

    No, but you are reading much more into Rav Moshe’s teshuva then is there. You want him to allow bat mitzvah presumably because it proves some point but he does nothing of the sort of yours. He rails against the institution of bat mitzvah and then as a concession allows girls to celebrate their birthdays at home as long as they make no mention of any “mitzvah” aspect of it or see it as a “seudat mitzvah”.

  46. ruvie and Anonymous: You are ignoring the Seridei Esh’s own statement that he and R. Feinstein agree. R. Feinstein was asked about a bas mitzvah celebration and he responded that he isn’t happy about it but it’s allowed as long as it isn’t held in a synagogue and is done as a glorified birthday party. If it is just a plain birthday party, then why does he say it is better not to do it? Does he say the same about a birthday party for a ten year old?

  47. Gil,

    I don’t know anyone Orthodox calling a woman “rabbi”. I’ve heard Rabbah and Maharat but not “rabbi”. So I think the movement to train, test, and give titles to women to take on communal leadership roles is supported by R. Broyde (but not you). So if he is an acceptable posek (although why he is better than R. Sperber I don’t know), then R. Weiss has someone to rely upon according to you.

  48. Mark,

    “Don’t make the mistake of believing that this has anything to do with advancing the religion of Judaism. Rather it is designed to help weak people to deal with their internal emotional issues.”

    Is there any theological position about which this cannot be claimed?”

    This argument makes no sense. Rabbi Weiss is interpreting Torah in his own way, he may have an agenda and he may or may not be wrong in a metaphysical sense (only God knows for sure) but hes not out writing polemics as to why everybody who disagrees with him is a heretic.

    “Conversely, couldn’t one claim the following about anything Rabbi Weiss is doing? “Don’t make the mistake of believing that this has anything to do with advancing the cause of women/homosexuals/agunahs. Rather, it is designed to help insecure, shallow people, rally around a cause that offers them a sense of self-importance.”

    It would be a weak argument. It seems to me that Rabbi Weiss is following his beliefs. The important distinction is that he is not trying to force them on you or Gil or to argue that you are illegitimate heretics who should be thrown out of the “holy” convocation.

  49. Skeptic: Nope, he’s opposed to the title Rabbah.

  50. >They see themselves confirmed, their arguments strengthened, when Orthodox rabbis indicate agreement. You can say that it isn’t true but I gave one example in this post.

    One example isn’t even good anecdotal evidence. We’re not going to let the agenda of Orthodoxy be set by one example.

  51. gil – r’ moshe responded three different times to the issue with very little analysis. his answer changed a little each time. he only permitted a kiddush in shul (which he oppose before anything in shul) similar to a kiddush for a birthday. he went on to say that the rabbi should not cancel the bat mitzvah celebration that was already planned but change it to a kiddush only. he no longer used the reference to conservative and reform jews in disallowing it (that was the innovation). this is hardly allowing anything.
    yes the sredei eish agrees in how a celebration should not be in a synagogue but that is about it. he gives the celebration the analytical analysis and heft to move into something that is extremely positive for jewish girls. it was a major innovation in the halachic process. he did not agree with r’ moshe on anything else about the bat mitzvah celebration. you have focused on a minor aspect of the dredei eish teshuva.

  52. “Skeptic: Nope, he’s opposed to the title Rabbah.”

    And Yeshivat Maharat will not be conferring the title of rabbah to anyone. Rabbi Broyde is supportive of women’s religious leadership in the Orthodox community.

  53. The most important thing to remember, is that most of those in favor of Rabbah/Woman chazzan etc.. is that it really doesn’t matter if it is permissible according to poskim or halacha.

    They want to get it to happen, and will find a way to make it permissible, whether it be in a halachic parameter or not, and then say it is in a halachic parameter.

  54. “it is reasonable to argue that a different title [besides Rabbi] should be given.”

    So even with regard to “rabbi” he is only saying it is reasonable to argue about it, something which he concedes but you don’t. And he doesn’t mention “Rabbah” in the article. But since he thinks it’s a reasonable point of argument, presumably someone who disagrees with him is not beyond the pale. Since after all it is reasonable.

    But Gil, you don’t agree with R. Broyde that it is reasonable. And you don’t seem to agree with him that a formal yeshiva for training women leaders is appropriate. So why don’t you just cross R. Broyde off your list of MO poskim — he’s obviously a leftwing post-orthodox rabble-rouser like R. Weiss.

  55. Michael Rogovin

    It is obvious reading the discussion here (and a parallel one on mail-jewish) that one of the key issues is not “who is orthodox” but “who is a posek?” There does not seem to be a generally accepted definition. As Rabbi Aryeh Frimer wrote recently, one can pasken but not be a posek. But that still begs the question. Some have suggested that being a communal rabbi, college professor and prolific author with an acknowledged expertise in areas of Jewish thought, halacha or history does not make one a posek. This was aimed directly at Rabbi Sperber, but could be applied equally to Rabbi Broyde. Others have suggested that one must be a Rosh Yeshiva. That would rule out both Rabbis Sperber and Broyde, but let in Rabbi Weiss. A posek is not an appointed or elected position. It seems to me that a “recognized posek” is a person who paskens halacha, acquires a following, and is respected (even when they disagree strongly) by others. I am not sure who falls into this category within the MO world, and that may be the crux of the problem for MO/OO laity who feel that the people they legitimately turn to will never achieve the status of a posek since the RW will never, ever respect anyone in the center, let alone LW, tol the point of acknowledging any of them as a “posek.”

  56. “The most important thing to remember, is that most of those in favor of Rabbah/Woman chazzan etc.. is that it really doesn’t matter if it is permissible according to poskim or halacha.

    They want to get it to happen, and will find a way to make it permissible, whether it be in a halachic parameter or not, and then say it is in a halachic parameter.”

    It isn’t important to remember because it isn’t true.

  57. Michael Rogovin:

    Correct – we lack an acknowledged authority in Halacha. I don’t believe that this is just a MO phenomenon. Many people have noted that we – Orthodoxy in general – have not been producing Gedolim. As the renowned authorities from the previous generations age and pass away, we are left in an intellectual and Halachic vacuum.

    I wonder if you are correct about the RW never respecting a Centrist. One of the definig aspects of MO is its ability to recognize Talmidei Chachamim regardless of the hat worn.

  58. Actually, R. Avi Weiss is not a rosh yeshiva.

  59. “It isn’t important to remember because it isn’t true.”

    Of course its true.

    Is there a single posek/r”y dead or alive, that if he were to say, “No it is not allowed”, would most of the people in favor, stop their quest.

    No. They would go on and find someone else who would say yes.

    And then if nobody would say yes, someone would eventually pop up, qualified or unqualified who would say yes. Then everyone would gravitate to him, and say that its permissible.

    Let pretend, that some other rabbi would have ordained a Rabba, and had a woman chazan. That rabbi would be the celebrity.

    Lets pretend further that Avi Weiss, would come out publically and say that this was wrong from the Torah. Do you honestly believe that all the present Avi Weiss fans, that are presently in favor of Rabba/womens chazzan would say, “Avi Weiss is right, he is a gadol batorah and a voice for torah, and he is right, the person ordaining the woman rabbi is wrong.”? Of course not, Avi Weiss would be called a right wing Agudath Israel loving Rabbi who turned Chareidi.

    There is no real honest debate about the halacha, or getting a real psak, its all about getting the result that is wanted here, in this case rabba/womens chazzan, whether in the halachik framework or not.

  60. Gil-

    1) why don’t the links to your older posts work when I am on the home page, only when I click on the post itself?

    2) At 10:05 am you said R’ Moshe Feinstein explicitly allowed Bat Mitzvah celebrations – what is your source? He certainly prohibited them in a shul (as anon 9:28 am already mentioned), I know in Igros Moshe O”C I 104, O”C II 30 & 97 he says it’s no different than a birthday party. (Though according the Yam Shel Shlomo in Perek Meruba might say there could be a seuda; he certainly allows seudos Bar Mitzvah there, while it is clear R’ Moshe does not have the same feeling the YSS has)

  61. mitch morrison

    “I wonder if you are correct about the RW never respecting a Centrist. One of the definig aspects of MO is its ability to recognize Talmidei Chachamim regardless of the hat worn.”

    I was in Tannersville this past Shabbat and was impressed by the diverse group of Heights, Satmer, MOs, etc who stood for RHS. As well, RSZA enjoyed broad respect. on Who’s a Gadol [could be a great reality show:)], i wonder whether our age of cyniscm has blocked many genuine gedolim from being received as such. it seems that every blemish is intensified, not only with Rabbis, but with all figures in public life. During his Kinot drosha, a Passaic rabbi expressed frustration with MO by saying we live in the past by venerating only Rav Soloveitchik, and refusing to gather around some of the giants of today. it’s a valid critique.

  62. mitch morrison

    >During his Kinot drosha, a Passaic rabbi expressed frustration with MO by saying we live in the past by venerating only Rav Soloveitchik, and refusing to gather around some of the giants of today. it’s a valid critique.<

    A very valid point.

  63. Shadaf: why don’t the links to your older posts work when I am on the home page, only when I click on the post itself

    I tried to change that but it goes deep into the belly of the system that is beyond my comprehension (meaning a function that is called by another function that is called by another function etc.).

    Re R. Moshe Feinstein, see the subsequent comments.

  64. Michael Rogovin

    Hirhurim on August 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm
    Actually, R. Avi Weiss is not a rosh yeshiva.

    Yes, my mistake. Rabbi Dov Linzer is the RY of YCT whereas Rabbi Weiss is the founder. Though somehow those who are quick to make lists of poskim who are in by virtue of being a RY and those who are out (usually because they disagree with their psak) might not include R Linzer as in, though who knows.

    The rest of my points however remain valid. Other than the fact that Gil does not like Rabbi Sperber’s opinions on a few matters and is OK with Rabbi Broyde despite disagreement on women & leadership, why he and others say Rabbi Sperber is not a posek and Rabbi Broyde is one does puzzle me — they are both community rabbis, teachers and academics, and IMHO outstanding talmidei chachamim, although Rabbi Broyde might be the first point out that my opinion does not count for much on such matters. 🙂

  65. Steven Oppenheimer

    Gil – Your point is well taken although I think you are not accurately presenting the Seridei Aish.
    BTW, how does a person alive today turn over in his grave?

  66. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. r broyde is no longer a communal / pulpit rabbi.

    2. note should be made that RMF was responding to r meir kahane hy”d in that 1959 tshuva. also, that he lost his (only) pulpit position over positions like that; he was too right wing for that left wing (then practically conservative) synagogue. perhaps that was for the better.

    3. i think your limiting of psak to a RY should be qualified to a “recognized RY”. otherwise, anyone with a 501c3 can call himself (?herself?) a RY. and i mean generally accepted, not necessarily universally accepted. (isnt that the method the rca used to reject yct musmachim?)

    4. interesting, the trend over the years has been to minimize the bar mitzvah ceremony, ever since this bat mitzvah ceremony (of whatever form) has gained (a degree of) acceptance.

    5. and no one discusses RMF calling for a form of dvar torah by the bat mitzvah girl.

    6. or the pictures in 5tjt of (almost only) bat mitzvah’s (i may be wrong with only, but thats what i notice.)

  67. How ironic that this discussion is taking part this week , in which we read the Mitzvah of Lo Sasur-Yes, Rishonim argue whether it applies outside of the setting of a Bes Din HaGadol-but it is more and more evident that the head of HIR rejects Halachic process , authority and hierarchy. The bottom line remains IMO-if you would not ask a rav a question about any minor issue in SA Orach Chaim, why then approach such a person with isssues that affect the entire committed MO world? I think that R Gil summarized the need for MO to consult with Poskim in its community on communal issues and identified the Poskim who should be entrusted with these issues.

  68. mimedinat –

    r’ moshe writes that “the bat mitzva is PERMITTED to say a few words in honor of her joyous occasion and it seems that this should suffice to achieve the benefit that you see in this.” she should not speak from the bimah, but rather she should stand next to the table where the kiddush is being held.”

    do you think he was recommending that she give a d’var torah?

  69. AFIK a posek should be someone with expertise in HALACHA Le MaaSeh particularly in Choshen Mishpat etc,whom in the old country was referred to as a DAYAN. Most Roshei Yeshiva while erudite and scholarly are NOT so. That’s why in the old countries especially in larger communitiesthere were both Rabbanim AND Dayanim..Rebbeim were a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Here in North America we have confused our titles AND our roles.

  70. “There is still time for mainstream Orthodox organizations to state that these innovations are unacceptable and, if need be, to take appropriate action against members who are damaging the public perception of Orthodoxy by deviating substantially from Jewish traditions.”

    Excuse me. Are you calling for a Jihad against deviants? What is your definition of “appropriate action”? Do you want to rub them out? Break their knees? Are you sure that the “deviants” are “damaging public opinion” or are they in fact “improving” it? What is your basis for your conclusions, other than your complete confidence in the validity of your own skewed interpretations of current events?

  71. “There is still time for mainstream Orthodox organizations to state that these innovations are unacceptable and, if need be, to take appropriate action against members who are damaging the public perception of Orthodoxy by deviating substantially from Jewish traditions.”

    I think that the RY of RIETS have spoken out against the so-called “innovations” of the head of HIR and YCT time and time again and that their views have much support within the mainstream MO world, but that the MO organizations view themselves as a big hashkafic tent, thus rendering any halachic and hashkafic discipline quite unfeasible and institutionally divisive. The end result of such a perspective is that MO, in the same way as the Charedi world, is and has always been sociologically divided between a noisy LW, its equally verbal RW and a silent majority that isn’t interested in either halachic detail, profundity and/or niceties or hashkafic wars but is uncomfortable with the extremes of the Charedi and LW MO worlds.

  72. I would still be interesting in a presentation of your halachic perspective on the use of pictures from other people’s websites (e.g. the picture on this post).

  73. “A Conservative rabbi, from what I can tell a very nice guy”

    Yeah, and I know a black man, who from what I can tell is a very nice guy.

    Sheesh…

  74. I am not aware of any Orthodox Rabbi who permits people to drive to schul on Shabbos-I certainly have not heard that charge against RAW. It is not a recent event that Conservative Judaism is essentially theologically the same as Reform Judaism-both reject the Torah as binding. Prof Brill has written on the various polemics that MO Rabbis wrote against Conservative Judaism from up to 65 years ago. Any movement that permits driving on Shabbos can’t be compared to a musmach who likes to be the center of attention-but to the best of myu knowledge accepts Torah mishamayim, the Schulchan Aruch etc. The picture of RAW with a Conservative Rabbi -so what I’m sure there are pictures of the Rav with Catholic priests-remeber the Rav spoke the lecture of the Lonely Man of Faith at a Catholic seminary in Boston.

  75. “How ironic that this discussion is taking part this week , in which we read the Mitzvah of Lo Sasur-Yes, Rishonim argue whether it applies outside of the setting of a Bes Din HaGadol”

    It is more than an issue of if it applies outside of the case of a Bes Din Hagadol-hashkafically the Agudah tends to quote Rashi who quotes the opinion that lo tasur even on something that you know is right andthe Rabbistell you that it isleft.Of course, the two other explanations give ultimate responsibility to the individual see eg by memeory yachol I would have to listen to Rabbis when they tellme something wrong talmud lomar al yimin she yimin and smol that is smol.
    Maybe it is an interestin discussion for Hirhurim ofthe impace of lo tasur.

  76. “Passaic rabbi expressed frustration with MO by saying we live in the past by venerating only Rav Soloveitchik, and refusing to gather around some of the giants of today. it’s a valid critique”
    Bedause sadly we have NO ONE like the Rav today. MO wouldn’t have existed in its present North American form but for the Rav. There are leading talmeidei chachamim who at least accept MO-probably as amore bedieved than the Rav did-but NONE are close to the Rav.

  77. “There is no real honest debate about the halacha, or getting a real psak, its all about getting the result that is wanted here, in this case rabba/womens chazzan, whether in the halachik framework or not.”

    As do most groups they chose the posek who will be most sympathetic to their interests-do Jewish grocery stores follow the Gras viewpoint on mechiras chametz? Of course not, who do the ohysicians of S Zedek Hospital choose as their Halachik guide a posek who permits not telling patients where they could get better treatment than the hospital where the physicain practices-if it will cost the physician money.

  78. Binyomin Eckstein

    why he and others say Rabbi Sperber is not a posek and Rabbi Broyde is one does puzzle me

    Because Rabbi Sperber has not written (at least widely) piskei halachah where he has shown serious ability in classic Beis Medrash Halachic analysis and discourse, whereas Rabbi Broyde has.

  79. Shachar Ha'amim

    Rabbi Broyde is also a dayan on a recognized beit din. I have to say that being a dayan on a recongnized beit din is probably the sine qua non of being a posek.
    Sure there have been a few major poskim who haven’t been dayanim that actually adjudicated cases (RMF comes to mind – but even he was a mara d’atra in Europe for nearly 2 decades and presumably adjudicated at a local beit din) and others who were well known as responders of many shuti”m, but I think that the overwhelming majority of known “poskim” served as dayanim.
    Just a few from recent memory:
    Rav Waldenberg
    Rav Ovadia Yosef
    Rav Eliashiv
    Rav Mordechai Eliahu
    Rav Avraham Shapira
    Rav Vozner
    Minchas Yitzchak
    and many many others
    They were all dayanim who adjudicated real cases in front of real people with real issues. I think that’s what makes someone a posek

  80. SH,
    your list is almost entirely Israeli. this is hardly a coincidence. Did R. Henkin sit on a beit din? Did R. Moshe? What about R. SZA?
    Was R. Aharon Kotler a posek? the list goes on.

  81. Re: People deciding on their own. Remember that place- what is it, KOE?- in Manhattan, that declared R’ Weiss HaLivni their posek…and then, when he told them not to give women aliyot, promptly ignored him?

  82. Mycroft wrote in part:

    ” It is more than an issue of if it applies outside of the case of a Bes Din Hagadol-hashkafically the Agudah tends to quote Rashi who quotes the opinion that lo tasur even on something that you know is right andthe Rabbistell you that it isleft.Of course, the two other explanations give ultimate responsibility to the individual see eg by memeory yachol I would have to listen to Rabbis when they tellme something wrong talmud lomar al yimin she yimin and smol that is smol.”

    I think that the subject of Lo Sasur is a subject where as R D Horwitz has pointed out, one can find maximalist and minimalist positions. Yet, noone denies that the the Chachmei HaMesorah have the ability and right based on Lo Sasur to tell us how to fulfil Torah and Rabbinic edicts. Even if one assumes that Bslichusaihu Avdinan is of rabbinic force, the “elastic cause” that allows the same to operate is by necessity of Torah origin.

  83. I agree with R Moshe Shoshan. Being an accepted Posek means that the person is known as an accepted address for Halachic inquiries and leadership, regardless of whether the Posek sits on a Beis Din. FWIW, RAK, was identified far more as a RY, with some very strongly held and not exactly Halachic positions, a few of which are discussed in R B Simon’s sefer on Eruvin, as opposed to R Henkin , RMF and RSZA, who were known as Poskim.

  84. steve b. – lo tasur – and everyone has the right not to listen as well therefore it becomes null and void.

  85. It is written the we should “choose judges”, not that judges should choose communities to force their opinions upon. Almost by definition a community will choose a judge that has a compatible opinion with the majority of the community. There is nothing wrong with this and there are many potential applications of Halacha. The beauty of it is that it is not monolithic.

  86. Ruvie -please clarify this post:
    “steve b. – lo tasur – and everyone has the right not to listen as well therefore it becomes null and void”

  87. David S-RMF was once asked how he became so highly regarded and accepted as a Posek and responded that people asked him halachic inquiries and kept on doing so. RYBS once pointed out that the halachic community is first and foremost predicated on the rebbe-talmid teaching relationship, as opposed to either a political or any other structure. That IMO is how communities “choose judges”, as opposed to some stereotypical, mythical or quasi mystical notion that Poskim force their views on communities.

  88. David S wrote in part:

    “Rabbi Weiss is interpreting Torah in his own way, he may have an agenda and he may or may not be wrong in a metaphysical sense (only God knows for sure) but hes not out writing polemics as to why everybody who disagrees with him is a heretic.”

    The actions of the head of HIR and YCT on this and related issues speak far more loudly than words and lead one to the conclusion that he thinks that he is right and his critics are wrong.

  89. David S also wrote:

    ““Rabbi Weiss is interpreting Torah in his own way”

    Since when the head of HIR and YCT considered someone who is entitled to render such a perspective?

  90. “The most important thing to remember, is that most of those in favor of Rabbah/Woman chazzan etc.. is that it really doesn’t matter if it is permissible according to poskim or halacha. They want to get it to happen, and will find a way to make it permissible, whether it be in a halachic parameter or not, and then say it is in a halachic parameter.”

    But you could equally say: “The most important thing about those AGAINST Rabbah etc… is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s permissible according to poskim or halacha. They want it NOT to happen, and will find a way to make it FORBIDDEN, whether it be in a halachic parameter or not, and then say it is in a halachic parameter.”

  91. Steve, do you refer to “the head of HIR” because you can’t bear to write his name, or because you think it is “nicer” to criticize someone without actually saying his name?

  92. steve b. – lo sasur – that if rabbis issue takanot and gezeirot and people do not follow them then the halacha does not become effective and there is no obligation in effect.
    on the pasuk there is different voices in chazal on how to approach ” right/left” – is it the submissive nature of halacha or you do NOT LISTEN when they say right is left and left is right (people forget that rashi is only quoting one viewpoint and there is another one in chazal)

  93. MiMedinat HaYam

    rav henkin, RMF, RSZA (on the tziyoni bet din hagadol) all sat on batei din regularly.

    RAK — not.

    2. regarding having a posek for a communal org — you have to satisfy too many independent comstituencies. (sounds like a shul rav.) for example, the posek of hatzalah ordered that someone be turned over to the police — many members objected. he’s not doing too much psak for hatzalah anymore. be practical. a should rav would be. (though there are lines — no driving to shul on shabat. parking lot closed. but everyone knows people park a block away. anyone who parks across the street is similiar to someone who insists on flaunting his domestic living arrangement with the shul public. not proper.)

  94. I know a number of orthodox shuls with open parking lots on Shabbos — but no one is campaigning to have them declared beyond the pale. I also know orthodox shuls that have “mechitzas” made of a row of a few potted plants, which you can see and reach through quite easily, while sitting down — and standing them come to waist height. Again, no campaign to kick them out.

  95. Part of the clarification to take place in the Messianic Era is the restoration of proper distinctions between truth and lies.

  96. Ruvie clarified his prior post as follows:

    “steve b. – lo sasur – that if rabbis issue takanot and gezeirot and people do not follow them then the halacha does not become effective and there is no obligation in effect.
    on the pasuk there is different voices in chazal on how to approach ” right/left” – is it the submissive nature of halacha or you do NOT LISTEN when they say right is left and left is right (people forget that rashi is only quoting one viewpoint and there is another one in chazal)”

    Different voices is essentially what R Horwitz describes as maximalist and minimist interpretations. I would highly recommend reading R Horowitz’s article on the subject at YuTorah.

    Takanos and Gzeros are subject to whether the community can follow the same, as opposed to the overall power of Chazal and Baalei Mesorah to decide how we fulfil Torah and Rabbinc obligations. However, the power to prescribe Takanos and Gzeros stem from two different sources- Lo Sasur/Shaal Avicha and Asu Mishmeres.

    There are many instances where if one does not fulfil a Torah based obligation in the manner defined by the Rabbis that one is considered as if one has not fulfilled the Torah obligation at all. Although the Rishonim and Acharonim argue over the scope of this principle, noone denies that Lo Sasur is the source for the same.

  97. The actions of the head of HIR and YCT on this and related issues speak far more loudly than words and lead one to the conclusion that he thinks that he is right and his critics are wrong

    He thinks he is right and his critics are wrong? This is indeed shocking.

  98. To Shlomo– “But you could equally say: “The most important thing about those AGAINST Rabbah etc… is that it really doesn’t matter if it’s permissible according to poskim or halacha. They want it NOT to happen, and will find a way to make it FORBIDDEN, whether it be in a halachic parameter or not, and then say it is in a halachic parameter.””

    This is nonsense. If Rav Hershel Schachter came out tomorrow and said that women leading kabbalat shabbat and/or women’s ordination are permissible and very positive developments, all the people in the YU orbit would change their attitudes about it very quickly.

  99. Mi Medinat HaYam wrote in part:

    “rav henkin, RMF, RSZA (on the tziyoni bet din hagadol) all sat on batei din regularly.”

    True-But before or after they were recognized as Poskim?

  100. Carlos: “permissible and very positive developments”

    That’s exactly the point. “Permissible” is not sufficient for them. They insist that even things that are halachically permissible are in practice “assur” to everyone unless, in their judgment, they are sufficiently positive as well. The right and left wings are equally guilty of presenting non-halachic factors as halacha. Actually, “guilty” may not be the right word since I’m not convinced this is always a bad thing. But in any case it’s unfair to criticize one side for this and not the other.

  101. “Remember that place- what is it, KOE?- in Manhattan, that declared R’ Weiss HaLivni their posek…and then, when he told them not to give women aliyot, promptly ignored him?”

    KOE never gave women aliyot on a regular basis. They allowed a separate mixed keriyah for simchas, and for Simchat Torah, but mandated that the traditional keriyah still be held. On the other hand, you can certainly make a point that KOE is essentially dead at this point, but Darchei Noam has a number of former KOE people as well as folks from other places, and does have mixed keriyah (a number of other former KOE people either ended up at either OZ or Ramath Orah).

    Regarding the issue of “Modern Orthodox poskim” and MO leaders: I have to wonder where the true Torah u’Madda folks are at. R’ Soloveitchik was obviously particularly well versed in Western philosophy, and R’ Lichtenstein is well known for his PhD in English literature (with a dissertation on Milton). A few of the others have expertise in biology, but only R’ Broyde has really branched out from the Yeshiva world in an intellectual sense. I wonder if that’s part of what’s holding back acceptance or acclamation of a “posek” in the LWMO world.

  102. Shlomo:

    with no disrespect intended, you are missing the point. You are comparing apples (layman on the left who demand certain heterim) and oranges (poskim on the right who have a certain opinion). The point is not that some layman “knows” that something is permissible and is annoyed with the poskim who (so thinks the layman) have no good reason for prohibiting it. The point is that it is wrong for a layman to substitute his judgment for that of a posek –and one of the ways in which a person (or a tzibur) does this is to decide on an answer and then search for a justification.

    I for one have no problem with a person who follows Rabbi Weiss on these issues if that same person would also follow him if he said “no” and if he knows Rabbi Weiss’s phone # by heart from regularly asking him she’elot in orach chaim and yoreh deah (and then following his psak). (This also pre-supposes a person who has put in enough effort and time to know what he needs to ask about.) But what percentage of the people in the rabba and women’s prayer leader movement does this describe?

  103. Someone who would follow Rabbi Weiss 100% would make the same mistakes the rabbi does.

  104. carlos – no one follows all of the opinions of just one person in general (whether its the shulchan arukh or the rambam)… we – right and left – generally pick and choose what we want to follow and should not be tethered to one person.
    what i think is happening is that rabbis are taking the position of hashkafa/public policy issues and deeming them halachically binding in many areas as oppose to be understanding in the times they live in…. see the teshuvot of the middle ages on how the rabbis bent over backwards to allow work to be done for jews on shabbat (milking cows and operating a glass factory) or operating factories or business in their own homes on shabbat….oh the days of flexibilty

  105. MiMedinat HaYam

    to steve b, esq:

    before and after. they knew what was going on, in the business world, and in the jewish (soical) world. (dont know if this applies to RSZA)

    most RY today dont.

  106. MiMedinat HaYam-ShuT Minchas Shlomoh is very indicative that RSZA knew waht was going on the Jewish world outside of the Beis Medrash of Yeshivas Kol Torah and was sensitive to these facts.

  107. Well, first off, thank you for continuing this insightful conversation that I began on my blog. I’m still trying to figure out how you attracted so many (triple digits) comments, but yasher koach on sparking this discussion.

    I admit that I have not made it through most of the comments, but I’ll try to add some of my thoughts after reading your post (both here and your comments to David A.M. Wilensky’s post on JewSchool).

    I can’t resist mentioning that you wrote: “If the Seridei Eish were alive today, he’d be turning over in his grave…” I think if he were alive, the first thing he’d be doing is trying to get OUT of the grave, but anyway…

    Theologically, I’m actually something of a post-denominational Jew. That is, I don’t feel bound by denominational borders. I can be comfortable davening in an Orthodox shul and I would accept a speaking engagement in a Reform Temple. The changes in Orthodoxy (both the chumras and the kulas) shouldn’t be made with an eye to non-Orthodoxy. They should be made if it’s believed that they will advance Judaism (to the right or left I don’t care, but Judaism has to be evolving).

    All I really want is for Orthodox rabbis to acknowledge that Halakhah evolves and social mores, societal change, and technological advancement all play a role in that evolution. This was the case at Yavneh and this is the case today.

    I hope the Orthodox will begin to worry less about what Conservative rabbis think when they psak Halakhah and consider what their own balabatim think instead.

    Finally, my point that no one group has a monopoly on “Torah True Judaism” is appropriate for every group. Every Jew can look over his shoulder and find a frumer group of yiddin who are going to look down on him. Do you think I agree with everything that Reform Jews do (or don’t do)? Of course not, but I remain respectful of their positions, beliefs and actions. I don’t believe they are causing the evil destruction of my religion. If Rabbi Avi Weiss decides to let women be rabbis and you don’t agree with it, I recommend you don’t join his shul.

  108. Thank you for your comment. “All I really want is for Orthodox rabbis to acknowledge that Halakhah evolves and social mores, societal change, and technological advancement all play a role in that evolution.”

    I’m not aware of anyone who denies this. The big question is what mechanisms allow for such changes. Just because some changes are possible due to external circumstances does not mean that all changes are valid.

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