The Increasing Isolation of HIR

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I was asked a surprising question on Shabbos. A friend, a moderate Charedi, occasionally catches a minyan at HIR. He felt that the latest development — R. Avi Weiss allowing a woman to lead the Kabbolas Shabbos service (link) — put the synagogue beyond the pale of Orthodoxy. I expressed surprise that he didn’t think having a woman rabbi was beyond the pale while this is, but his was clearly an emotional reaction. He asked me whether he is still allowed to daven there occasionally. Even though my friend’s rabbi is away for the summer, it is not my place to answer questions that have such repercussions. So instead I told him a story.

But before I get to that, I know that some will have the opposite reaction of my friend and will ask what could be wrong with it, so let me list 5 things. But first let me also point out that, it seems to me, there is less wrong with having a gentile band accompany Mussaf on Shabbos morning with instrumental music than allowing a woman to lead Kabbolas Shabbos. Yet the leading authorities of 19th century Orthodoxy unanimously opposed that innovation.

1. It is part of a long trend towards egalitarianism, which we have discussed extensively over the years here. This is not only prohibited confirmation of the Heterodox but also demands public policy attention.

2. This is a change in synagogue customs, which is never to be taken lightly.

3. There is a tzeni’us issue of a woman standing in front of the entire congregation and leading it.

4. There is a kol ishah issue when a woman leads the congregation by singing. You might counter that there are leniencies when others sing along and the songs are part of the prayer service. This is what R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik said about that argument: “I know all the heterim [leniencies] and none may be relied upon” (The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 119).

5. As Rabbis Aryeh and Dov Frimer discuss at length (link, section labeled “Kevod haTsibbur and Partnership Minyanim”), a woman may not lead the congregation in anything obligatory, even if the obligation is only rabbinic or by custom. Since Kabbolas Shabbos has been accepted as a binding custom, women may not lead it. They asked R. Aharon Lichtenstein, who agreed with their analysis and conclusion.

On looking through the limited literature on this subject, I found only two responsa that allowed this practice: (Conservative) Rabbi David Novak in Tomeikh Ka-Halakhah, vol. 1 p. 42 and (Conservative) Rabbi Wayne Allen in Perspectives on Jewish Law and Contemporary Issues, p. 15. And now add to this list Rabbi Avi Weiss: link – PDF.

Let me get back to my friend’s question. When he asked me whether he may pray in R. Avi Weiss’ synagogue, I responded with a story, which I will not retell here but may leave for another time. The point of the story is that the implication from a prominent posek is that we should stay away. That was recommended to me, even though I suffered financial loss, and that is what I suggested to my friend.

I appeal to the congregants of HIR. Do you really want to be isolated from the Orthodox community? Talk to your rabbi and ask him to reconsider. And if talking does not get his attention, as the High Holiday season approaches, consider whether changing the amount of your donation to the synagogue will make your voice heard.

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.

157 comments

  1. Why do you care what HIR does?

  2. Because we are part of a community. That’s the point of the post.

  3. This is not only prohibited confirmation of the Heterodox

    What does this mean? I (really) do not understand.

    3. There is a tzeni’us issue of a woman standing in front of the entire congregation and leading it

    How is it different then the tzeni’us issue of a woman standing in front of the entire congregation and lecturing it (generally accepted in MO shuls)?

    About this whole thing in general. It seems to me that R’ A. Weiss is quite the showman. I assume he also believes in what he’s doing and with the two traits, I guess has brought this all down on his own head. But that being said, I am not sure if this is actually an innovation; my impression from what I read this past week was that the woman was leading a side minyan and that the main minyan was still led by a man. Is that impression correct? I recall a similar situation happening a decade ago in a place I often davened – the Orthodox sanctuary remained Orthodox but an alternate location had a woman leading some services with men participating and the people leading the minyan were consulting with the local rabbi. In the same building.

  4. What does this mean?

    See the series of posts titled “The Adoption of Heterodox Practices” where I discuss this at length (also in my book).

    How is it different then the tzeni’us issue of a woman standing in front of the entire congregation and lecturing it (generally accepted in MO shuls)?

    This is during davening where we have to be stricter. Although your point is well taken.

    I don’t know that R. Weis tried to be the showman here. He did this in the dead of summer and only announced it on a Friday. It seems like he was hoping this would go unnoticed, unless I’m overreading the situation.

  5. I understand your objections fully, and I agree that this innovation is problematic and unwise, but I have two questions:

    1) What is the basis for avoiding prayer services in HIR, assuming you are attending a service other than the specific qabbalat Shabbat minyan in question? I ask this because if the issue is ideological and doctrinal, then what difference does it make whether this egalitarian practice is implemented or not – the very fact that the leadership of HIR endorses it in theory should itself be a problem. And if that is the case, merely discontinuing it would not be sufficient to resolve the problem, so your suggestion that the laypersons of HIR take action to change it seems misguided. On the other hand, if the practice itself is what is deemed objectionable, then it seems obvious that the existence of such a minyan somewhere at sometime within HIR shouldn’t invalidate the remaining minyanim, especially given that there are halakhic arguments – however questionable – being supplied to legitimize the practice. It shouldn’t be any different than any other synagogue that has adopted lenient standards or practices in some area based upon an interpretation of halakha that is not mainstream (one need only look in the SHUT”IM of Sephardic Hakhamim, especially Moroccan Rabbis, to find plentiful examples of such pesaqim). Would you avoid praying in Rav Uziel Z”L’s synagogue because he advocated the use of an electric menorah for Hanukkah (just a random example).

    2) Based on your Qol Isha analysis, how do you explain the gedolim up to and including the first half of the 20th century who regularly attended the opera? And how do you explain the gemara that states that the only reason a woman can’t read from the Torah is because of kevod hatsibbur, not because of qol isha – which some posqim including Rav Ovadiah Yosef see as implying that chanting liturgical text with taamim, for instance, is not a problem of qol isha

    (BTW, HIR has held mixed megillah readings on all holidays including Purim for years, and was not declared non-orthodox on this basis ever before, despite the fact that Megillat Esther is a full-fledged obligation and the other megillot are required by custom; now, for the dubious kabbalistically-based custom of Qabbalat Shabbat, they are being attacked???)

    I am by no means suggesting I agree with R’ Weiss ideologically or in practice. When I prayed with Ashkenazim in Riverdale I went to R’ Willig. But fair is fair in treating the issue.

  6. See the series of posts titled “The Adoption of Heterodox Practices” where I discuss this at length (also in my book).

    Thank you.

  7. IT all well and good to say their are part of your community, but why are you intent on controlling what they do. If their actions do not take them out of the community, they why do you care. And if they do, and they want to leave, they can. Members who end up being unhappy will just go to RJC or YI. And those who are happy with this innovation will not wnat to be told what to do by you. I guess my question is, I still don;t understand why this is your business (or mine, or the moetzes’s). Only the RCA and OU, by virtue of their memberships, should have something to say. but it shouldn’t be a question of trying to persuade. It should just be — if you keep this up, you will lose your membership (or not, depending on how the organizations feel).

  8. Is there any talk of the OU expelling HIR? If they don’t, they give passive legitimacy to these practices, but I can’t imagine they approve..they probably just don’t want to cause big fight

  9. RJM:

    1. Opera is not tefilla.

    2. Megillat Esther is a very unique case. Even the Gemara discusses this.

    I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again: *Why* did R’ Weiss think there was some pressing need to do this?

  10. We have already lost the vast majority of Jews to non-observance, and now you want to write out a group of shomrei Shabbos v’kashrus? I understand you are worried about the ‘purity’ of Orthodoxy, but I would be more concerned about having a large enough tent that people who are on the margins can still be part of the tiny remaining worldwide observant community. I guess we respectfully disagree, but you have never addressed this issue. I am always surprised by how many Orthodox bloggers and writers seem in a hurry to exclude (which is pretty easy to muster arguments for) but are never interested in taking the time to argue for inclusion (which is much more difficult). Is it pure laziness? Is it pride in knowing that they are better than other Jews? I don’t know, but I would sure like to see public efforts at arguing that even Jews on the margins of observance should be kept within observance lest they be lost to the 90% of Jewry that has given up on us. The current Orthodox consensus that Orthodox Jews should just concentrate on themselves and let the dross of the marginally and non-Orthodox assimilate, until all that is left is a pure community seems like it has been a mistake for the last 50 years and continues to be a huge mistake.

  11. moshe shoshan

    Gil,

    I am with you on this one, though I think it is a highly contextual issue. i can imagine a different shul with a different rabbi, where similar practices would not warrant such a response.

  12. It seems to me that this latest storm is more a reaction to Rabbi Avi Weiss’ recent initiatives than to the actual incident. Other MO rabbis have permitted seemingly heterodox practices in their shul buildings without generating such a negative reaction. For example, I attended a Carlebach minyan years ago in a shul building headed by a prominent MO rabbi and leading YU official. Besides interspersing the kabbalat shabbat service with Shlomo stories, the minyan left the building for Lecha Dodi which they sang outdoors forming a large circle. This is hardly an orthodox mode of tefila even if it may have its origins with the Ari’s circle. I presume that this was the customary practice of that minyan which was accepted by the rabbi even if his own larger minyan practiced a conventional kabbalat shabbat tefila. My point is aligned with RJM in attempting to provide some perspective on the subject independent of the question of the wisdom of the innovation at HIR. I also fully agree with Charlie Hall that the uplifting Carlebach kabbalat shabbat tefila in the main minyan at HIR, which is led by either Dr. Elie Kranzler or Rabbi Weiss, is well attended by men and women.

  13. “He did this in the dead of summer and only announced it on a Friday.”

    It was announced in the preceding week’s bulletin; the letter went out Thursday night, about 21 hours prior to the service.

    “HIR has held mixed megillah readings on all holidays including Purim for years”

    I’ve somehow missed those. The only person I’ve ever heard read Megillat Esther there is their regular baal koreh, Bernie Horowitz.

  14. well, it isn’t 400 years ago in Amsterdam, but….

    http://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/women-kabblat-shabbat-and-23-years/

  15. I am no fan of RAWs provocative behavior-but as far as a women leading Kabbalat Shabbos-it was advocated by a Rabbi who was n charge of the Orthodox minyan of a leading university. That Rabbi has been referred to many times positively in other matters on Hirhurim. The logic of course that Kabbalat Shabbat is NOT a tfilah.
    Why was there not a hue and cry over other Rabbis instituting carrying of the Torah through the womens section of a schul-with variations ofthe chazzan either going throught the section or passing the Torah through to women to be treated as a game. Is it institutional-that one Rabbi stayed associated with YU-while the other Rabbi attempted to start competing institutions.
    I find RAWs actions one of a showman-but he is far from the most effective pandering showman around. Stop trying to make a martyr out of him and his schul. When and if he steps across clear cut lines then show it-but his not accepting classical tradition could just as easily be a text oriented game-which is done in different contexts all the time by others-see eg changing place of mizmor shir which the Aruch Hashulachan already discussed why Ashkenazic Jews should not do. Sadly mesorah has fallen by the wayside to follow texts.
    My gut feelings about someones intentions may be close to Gils but wait. Look the avoidance of making a martyr were reasons for better or worse why organizations did not remove from membership people who were changing fundamental halacha that could increase mamzerut-so stop the attacks on HIR. I BTW the few times that I have been in Riverdale have not gone to HIR either-I went to the RJC or RMWs schule-but stop the attacks-they will be counterproductive.

  16. It is symptomatic of galuti Judaism to get bogged down in childish arguments over whether a woman may lead a shul in kabbalath shabbath. it is time to focus on those issues which are most essential to the Jewish nation such as reconstituting ourselves as a nation in Eretz Yisrael, undivided by the needless Ashkenazi-Sephardi split. The teachings of Machon Shilo’s Rabbi David Bar-Hayim are what we need.

  17. RJM wrote: “…how do you explain the gedolim up to and including the first half of the 20th century who regularly attended the opera?”

    What is your evidence that gedolim attended opera? The late Dr. Mordechai Breuer has written that R. SR Hirsch once attended a Wagner concert, but when asked, Dr. Breuer denied that it was an opera. This is a canard, and irrelevant in any event.

  18. Nachum,

    “1. Opera is not tefilla.”

    This cuts both ways. On the one hand, we do want to maintain a higher level of tzeniut when it comes to davening, but on the other hand, it seems sort of disrespectful to Tehillim to say that a woman singing it will be ערוה. There are poskim who allow kol b’isha specifically for religious atmospheres/texts. That’s not to say that those poskim would approve of Friday’s davening at the HIR.

  19. Kach Mkublani mbeit avi abba – not everything that is permitted has to be done.

    It would be interesting to hear what R” Weiss’s ultimate vision is for orthodox society and how how it takes into account the law of unintended (or unexamined in a headlong rush?) consequences.

    KT

  20. RJM: 1) What is the basis for avoiding prayer services in HIR, assuming you are attending a service other than the specific qabbalat Shabbat minyan in question?

    I didn’t use the word assur because I’m not sure it is. I know plenty of people who attend a shul with whose rabbi they strongly disagree. They simply ignore and/or avoid him. Consider a shul that has a side minyan with no mechitzah. There are circumstances under which I would (and have) attend the service with a mechitzah. And there are circumstances where I would not. Now consider a shul that has a side minyan that serves treif. I can’t imagine a circumstance under which I would step foot in the shul. It’s a judgment call and a gut feeling. My only point is that more and more people will be avoiding HIR.

    2) Based on your Qol Isha analysis, how do you explain the gedolim up to and including the first half of the 20th century who regularly attended the opera?

    I’m not aware of anything but rumors. Maybe they just listened to records. Regardless, I know of someone who was given a one-time heter to go to a Broadway musical under extenuating circumstances. He was advised to sit in the back so he hears the echoes and not the women’s actual voices.

    And how do you explain the gemara that states that the only reason a woman can’t read from the Torah is because of kevod hatsibbur, not because of qol isha

    It is not clear to me that since the Gemara gave one reason, the other does not apply. I believe Prof. Eliav Shochetman demonstrates this point at length in his article on the subject. If anything, kevod tzibur is a broader prohibition because it includes the case where a woman reads it with no cantillation. However, I believe that cantillation is not singing. There is a spectrum between speaking and singing. Some people speak in a sing-song voice. Exactly what point to you hit singing? I don’t know but I can see a reasonable person saying that the cantillation is not yet it.

    guest: IT all well and good to say their are part of your community, but why are you intent on controlling what they do.

    This is not about controlling what they do. They can serve lobster and shrimp at kiddush if they want. It’s their shul. I am just pointing out that at some point their shul become off-limits to many people in the broader Orthodox community. It’s their choice whether to force that.

    Skeptic: We have already lost the vast majority of Jews to non-observance, and now you want to write out a group of shomrei Shabbos v’kashrus?

    So was the Conservative movement in which I grew up, yet Rav Soloveitchik forbade attending such a shul even if you have to forgo hearing shofar on Rosh Hashanah.

  21. moshe shoshan

    Chaim,
    The Bavli, The Geonim, The Rambam, Mechaber, Rema etc. are all symptomatic of “galuti” Judaism. I think I ‘ll stick with them.

  22. Charlie Hall: well, it isn’t 400 years ago in Amsterdam, but….

    Wow! If there is any greater condemnation I don’t know what it can be. “As an ironic touch, years later he left the Orthodox community” “Some of the participants are no longer Orthodox”

    Richard Kahn: There are poskim who allow kol b’isha specifically for religious atmospheres/texts.

    Yes, and the Tzitz Eliezer tears him to threds and Rav Soloveitchik said not to rely on it. Do you think the Conservative movement didn’t point to lenient opinions for everything they did? I’m not saying that all lenient opinions are automatically passul but gathering them all creates a very weak reed on which to lean.

  23. R. Soloveitchik did not ban attending shuls with a mechitza, and populated by shomrei Shabbos v’kashrus people. He banned attending shuls without a mechitza! So I don’t understand your response. You want to go much further than he did, and in a totally different context, so presumably you should justify it yourself as opposed to just pointing your finger at someone else in different circumstances…

  24. Skeptic: He banned attending shuls without a mechitza!

    Exactly. He effectively distanced us from shomrei shabbos and kashrus. Evidently there are some things that are more important than unity.

    Yes, the context is different. Are we not allowed to apply decisions of our teachers to new contexts? That would lead to halakhic paralysis.

  25. Not knowing much about the Riverdale community, I wonder whether RAW is responding to the demands of his kahal or is leading the charge toward gender equality himself. If he is just trying to keep his left leaning kahal from leaving perhaps we shouldn’t be too harsh on him.

  26. You know, I’d like to know of the existence of even one person who became religious/Orthodox, or was kept from leaving religion/Orthodoxy, davka because of these innovations of R’ Weiss. One.

  27. What was Moshe Rabenu’s greatest characteristic? He was the most humble man who ever lived. Judaism lacks humble men. Gil, you are not a humble man. You are overly proud and overly prone to judging others. You believe that you know God’s will in these matters. You do not. You may disagree with Rabbi Weiss, who has responsibilities way beyond yours, but to judge him? No…you are not fit for the job.

  28. What was R. Zechariah ben Avkilus’ great fault?

    In this case, though, I am relying on a great posek and not rendering my own judgment.

  29. When I mentioned “galuti Judaism” I was referring to the type of deviations which have inevitably emerged in the context of the galuth. Among these deviations are the theologically deviant movements which emerged such as Reform and hashkafically deviant movements such as those strains of both Haredi and modern Orthodoxy which do not see a a particular need for Jews to re-settle in the land of Israel. Among the problems is the focusing on issues which should not be the focus. Settling the land, reconstituting a Sanhedrin, etc.-these are vital issues on which we should be focusing. Rav David Bar-Hayim sheds much light on this in his shiurim.

  30. I just think RAW is trying to bring about the demise of Orthodox Feminism.

  31. “I appeal to the congregants of HIR. Do you really want to be isolated from the Orthodox community? Talk to your rabbi and ask him to reconsider. And if talking does not get his attention, as the High Holiday season approaches, consider whether changing the amount of your donation to the synagogue will make your voice heard.”

    I am a proud HIR member. Over the years I have found that RAW’s commitment to OJ with a modern ethos is inspiring to me – more so than the other local O shuls.
    No, I don’t want to be isolated, but what gives you the right to isolate me??? You disagree – fine. Quote all the contrary majority opinions you want, but you have no business determining what a halachic community rabbi decides for his community. And shame on you for encouraging sanctions among that community! That’s really low.
    It is perfectly appropriate for you to rely on your favorite poskim, and to advise your friend accordingly. I just don’t see how you can deliberately overlook the halachic justifications, and to deliberately attempt to drive a wedge in the Riverdale halachic community.

    I do indeed intend to talk to RAW – and to encourage him to continue to express his vision for MO Judaism. And changing my HH pledge is actually not a bad idea – perhaps I will increase it (so there!)

  32. As usual, the correspondents to this discussion argue back and forth offering reasons both pro and con in an attempt to prove that Rabbi Avie Weiss is either within Halachic boundaries or beyond the Pale.
    I beg everyone’s pardon if my analogy is offensive to some, but I think the 1964 opinion of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in a pornography case may be relevant here: He famously wrote, “…hard-core pornography is difficult to define, but I know it when I see it.”
    Here too, it may be difficult to put your finger on what exactly Rabbi Weiss is attempting to accomplish, and how he is attempting to accomplish it, but instinctively, you know it does not “feel” right.

  33. IMHO R’AW is on the wrong side on this and yet (surprise) I’m still conflicted:

    1. Losing anyone is painful-John Donne “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions” : “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

    2. Once line drawing gets serious-Pastor Martin Niemöller:
    “THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
    THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
    THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
    THEN THEY CAME for me
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

    KT

  34. Gil – I believe the person leaving Orthodoxy was the one who *left the habura* because of kol b’isha. That is, he decided it was too liberal for him.

  35. cyberdov: The point of the post is that HIR is becoming increasingly isolated and that this should concern HIR members. Perhaps I was too explicit about what they can do about it, if they choose to, but it’s not like I am coercing anyone to do anything or threatening people (like a YCT grad did to me in an e-mail). It’s up to you to react as you see fit, and that includes supporting your rabbi in continuing to isolate the shul if that is what you think is right.

    There are limits to the rights of a local rabbi. If he decides to take down the mechitzah, should we also say “Hey, he’s the rabbi, we can’t interfere”? There are poskim who say that mechitzah is only a minhag so the rabbi would just be changing a custom, which has happened in the past (isn’t Kabbalat Shabbat such a case?). We would NOT ignore it but would stay away and advise others to as well. And that is what is happening now to HIR.

  36. Joel,

    I wish (wish!) Gil were conflicted too. It seems he is a bit too happy for his own little Orthodoxy to be an island, and let the clod of liberal Orthodoxy wash away. I for one would try everything possible to keep them in the fold, not to be too hasty writing off other observant Jews over issues about which respected communal rabbis disagree.

  37. The problem with a definition of feeling right is that it is entirely subjective and tends to favor entrenched views that exist merely because of accidents of history. There is no doubt that for whites in the south, it did not feel right for black people to sit at the front of the bus or to drink from the same water fountains.
    Would anyone argue that this feeling is legitimate these days? If there is a strong halachic argument than make it. If it is sociological, then make that argument as well but do not make the mistake of equating Halacha with sociology.

  38. Skeptic: I don’t know where you get the idea that I am not conflicted about this. Rabbi Weiss does, indeed, rub me the wrong way but most of the other people in his group, and indeed his shul in general, are people I treasure and wish were not mixed up in this messy situation. However, after many years of dissenting from those who wrote Rabbi Weiss out of Orthodoxy, I changed my mind and moved to the other side, including humbly apologizing to a Jewish leader.

  39. David S:
    No one is equating Halacha with sociology; but to deny that sociology can play an important role in Halachic decisions is historically incorrect.
    Sociological norms can change as societies evolve but Halacha is, whether you care to admit it or not, bound to pre-existing Halachic decisions, including their societal components, which cannot be discarded or changed willy-nilly.
    Are you saying that the American Civil Rights Act of 1964 can be used as a basis for changing Halacha? I’m afraid that’s not the way the system works.

  40. Gil,

    You point about leyning not being singing is quite interesting. I’ve never thought of that. It does beg the question of what the reason is behind kol b’isha and how contextual it is. Why do you think kol b’isha is forbidden? Is there something inherently sexual in a woman’s (singing voice)?

  41. They’re still using the title Rabba? I thought the agreement with the RCA was that she would stop using it?

    Am I wrong, and they just agreed to not give it out anymore?

  42. Also, regarding not davening at the HIR because a woman is leading Kabbalat at a side minyan on Friday night, I was thinking about the places are daven where much more objectionable things happen. For instance, at some of the stiebels I daven at in Israel, most of the daveners are anti-Zionists. I also davened in Chevron at the minyan of someone who has called for violence against homosexuals. I daven at these places without thinking twice; the davening is halachic (actually, at some of the stiebels they go so fast as to question the kashrut of the davening), so I don’t really think about what goes on not during the minyan. Should I? Are these things more or less problematic than a woman singing some Tehillim?

  43. “Sociological norms can change as societies evolve but Halacha is, whether you care to admit it or not, bound to pre-existing Halachic decisions, including their societal components, which cannot be discarded or changed willy-nilly.”

    I am well aware that sociology plays a role in Rabbinic decision making. My point is that this fact is dishonestly hidden by a whole lot of Halachic ex-post facto rationalization. If you have a sociological argument as to why women should not be allowed to have leadership roles of the kind Rabbi Weiss has proposed then make that argument and stop hiding behind some notion of Halacha.

    There are many “plain view” examples of such changes including Rabbenu Gershom’s herem on Polygamy. Think about the chutzpah, he banned an explicit practice of the patriarchs! Why, well there are reasons and their is sociology. Which do you think was upper most in his mind.

  44. Richard
    I’m not sure what issur one violates by davening with anti-zionists. I’m also not sure what issur one violates by davening at a minyan that goes too quickly (as long as you say the words).
    I can’t imagine that your second case presents an issur, but I’m not sure about that one.
    All of these cases present judgment calls – you might not feel comfortable davening at these minyanim, but you wouldn’t have violated an issur by doing so. Kol Isha presents legitimate halachic concerns.

  45. Richard Kahn:
    Praying with a minyan is “Service of the Heart”, an religious act of “speaking to G-d”. The standard wording of the prayers regardless of nusach has been firmly established and accepted for millenia.
    There is no recommended speed given for prayer but it requires concentration. Any Jewish male over the age of Bar Mitzvah can be include in a minyan without regard to whether they may be a Tzaddik or a Rasha, Zionist or anti-Zionist. Women are not included in a minyan.
    I don’t know if Kabbalos Shabbos is considered prayer or only a minhag.
    Nevertheless, a woman singing solo in front of men is not permitted according to Halacha whether during tefillah or not.
    The concern is not whether the woman’s voice is in some way harmful to the male listener. It is not done because Torah SheB’al Peh as written in the Codes forbids it. It is not for us to decide whether it makes sense to us or not. We follow these practices because we believe they represent G-d’s Will as set down by the Oral Torah and Halachic Codes.
    Innovations are permitted within the parameters of Halacha but Rabbi Weiss is going about his innovations the wrong way.

  46. But the point is that kol isha is not being violated at the minyan at hand but at a completely different minyan, just with the approval of the rabbi. Gil gave the example of a different minyan serving treif.

  47. About kol b’isha, I’m not arguing whether it makes sense to us or not. I’m asking why the codes forbid it because this will be important regarding its application. For instance, Rav Ovadia allows listening to a woman on the radio if you have never seen a picture of her. If a woman’s voice were just stam forbidden in all scenarios because the codes say it, this would be absurd.

  48. Richard Kahn:
    If you don’t understand the logic or practical reason for kol b’isha, or any other Halachic question for that matter, ask your Halachic Advisor to give you his opinion and understanding of the question you pose. When you are given a Psach, follow that Psach to the best of your ability. That’s how Halacha works. If his answer doesn’t satisfy you, study and think about the matter to the best of your ability,then perhaps you may discuss it again with him but don’t act against the advice of your Posek. And definitely don’t shop around looking for other Poskim until you find one who gives you the answer you wanted in the first place.

  49. I don’t understand where you get any of that from my words. I’m trying to do an iyun into a halacha and you’re trying to stop me. I have a psak that I follow. I’m not posek shopping.
    Also, that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the existence of a minyan that follows a different psak regarding kol isha renders all minyanim in the building inadvisable.

  50. “And definitely don’t shop around looking for other Poskim until you find one who gives you the answer you wanted in the first place.”

    Actually, there’s nothing wrong Halakhically with doing that.

  51. Richard Kahn:
    We had a situation in our Shul today that may answer your question regarding kol isha rendering all minyanim in the building inadvisable.
    We have a 7:00 AM minyan and a 7:30 AM minyan. There was a Bris Milah performed following the first minyan. The Rav paskened that the 7:30(second) minyan- held in a different part of the Shul- was not required to say “Tachanun”.

  52. when I was in RIETS 13 years ago as the brouhaha about the women’s tefillah groups was getting started, I thought my rebbe, a very prominent RIETS Rosh Hayeshiva, was maybe reacting too strongly and I thought he was being too harsh on Rabbi Avi Weiss. The events of the past year, culminating (though we haven’t seen the last of the innovations) with this, have strengthened my emunas chachamim. What I didn’t see because of my own naive lack of perspective, my RY was able to see from years in advance. I should call him and ask mechila.

  53. Gil, I appreciate you point and while I’m more sympathic to RAW’s position than you are, I wish he would take into greater consideration the effect of his innovations on the community at large.

    Unfortunately, though, it’s a one-way street. The Right is not looking over their shoulders, wondering whether the positions they take would alienate the MO world. When you listen to the promient chareidi and RWMO voices speak about the “frum community”, you get the impression that they’ve already excluded most MO.

    At what point should we stop asking RAW to turn the other cheek?

  54. “there is less wrong with having a gentile band accompany Mussaf on Shabbos morning with instrumental music than allowing a woman to lead Kabbolas Shabbos. ”

    i guess that amirah leAkum to desecrate the shabbat in public in shul is not a big deal — that is better kavod hatzibur? let alone the possible issur of telling a non jew to do work of which you benefit – hanaah – from. interesting — didn’t know your torah is so flexible.

  55. ruvie: https://www.torahmusings.com/2008/01/rock-and-roll-davening.html

    talmid: Do you mean 23 years ago?

    dif: What you are suggesting is that the Left just goes off on its own. That is one possibility. The other is to work together with the Center and Right.

    The Charedim write off the RWMO just like they do the center and left.

  56. Jon_Brooklyn:

    “And definitely don’t shop around looking for other Poskim until you find one who gives you the answer you wanted in the first place.”

    Actually, there’s nothing wrong Halakhically with doing that.

    I’m not so sure about that, but that is for another discussion.

  57. GIL:

    “There is a tzeni’us issue of a woman standing in front of the entire congregation and leading it.”

    was she in front of the shul or on the other side of the mehitzah?

  58. I concur with R Gil and will add that I also have also been by talmidim who were instructed not to daven at HIR if at all possible.

  59. To RJM, received via e-mail:

    The purpose of this note is to correct what I think is a mistake by one of your bloggers RJM on August 1, 2010 at 11:35 pm. He wrote that “Would you avoid praying in Rav Uziel Z”L’s synagogue because he advocated the use of an electric menorah for Hanukkah (just a random example).”

    I believe that this is incorrect. See Mishpetei Uziel Orach Chaim Volume 1, siman 7 where I believe Rav Uziel paskens the opposite.

  60. Lion of Zion: was she in front of the shul or on the other side of the mehitzah?

    In front of the shul in a third section that can be used by men or women (but not at the same time).

  61. gil – thank for the link which only shows that you feel more comfortable that a non-jew participate in a jewish religious ceremony than a woman. i found that interesting.
    also, i was impress with your even more flexibility with halacha by noting that having a non- jew do work or other melacha (derabanan or deoreita) is a major innovation of the middle ages and contrary to the previos jewish mesorah (and literal interpretation that your servants shall rest on the sabbath).

  62. ruvie: You are facetiously comparing apples and oranges. There is a difference between playing the organ and leading the service. I’m not sure anyone would object to a woman playing the organ in shul (at an appropriate time and place, of course). I’m also pretty sure that everyone would object to a gentile leading services.

    Are you suggesting that since Rabbenu Tam may have utilized a leniency, therefore any rabbi can do whatever he wants in any situation? I think there might be room in the Conservative movement for such an approach but serious Orthodox thinkers do not accept that attitude.

  63. GIL:

    “In front of the shul in a third section that can be used by men or women (but not at the same time).”

    i’m not sure what this means, but i think i have an idea.

    in any case, what about davening in a regular shul (no hazzanit) where the mehitzah is less than rav moshe’s minimum? there are many ortho shuls (whose credentials have never been questioned) where the mehitzah serves to separate men and women but viewing between the two is basically unobstructed.

  64. ruvie – isnt amira leakum permitted for tzorech hatzibbur? surely you are aware that many O shuls employ a non-jewish caretaker, whose job includes adjusting lights, A/C, etc.

  65. gil – a leniency was created – not used an existing leniency – in the middle ages that never existed before – jews benefiting from non jews melacha on shabbat – it was an innovation (not our mesorah)

    i am not suggesting anything except that you are more comfortable with a non jew participating vs a woman participating in a part of davening that is a custom and doesn’t really count as tefilah (i did r’ frimer’s article – not so convincing) that it really applies to kaballat shabbat – its a stretch at best). the kavod hatzibur argument can be used for other issues – why limit it to just to aliyot and tefilah in the synagogue? why doesn’t kavod hatzibur negate woman speaking from the pulpit as scholars in residence or even teaching torah (since they are not commanded)? or bat mitvah speeches by the newly adult female addressing the congregation – why isn’t that beyond the pale?

  66. steve mcqueen

    I remember about 15 years in london i davened weekday shaharis at a left-wing independent orthodox place. The minyan only had about 11 regulars (it was slow and 100 yards away so I liked it). Then they decided to have a rosh hodesh WTG with a sefer. A prominent centrist local rav told a few of the minyan to stop devening there, and thus the minyan came to an end

  67. cyberdov – not untill the middle ages – never ever was it permitted.” et avdacha ve ametacha” – non jews were not allowed to desecrate the shabbat in public where jews were a majority – its questionable if they were allowed even in private.

  68. no, I meant 13 years ago but did not mean when it was getting started, rather when it hit it’s peak to the point that there were roshei yeshiva dedicating the full time of their gemara shiurim for a day to the topic instead of shiur on the yeshiva masechta

  69. moshe shoshan

    LoZ

    R. Moshe is not the only shita on mechitzos. It is my understanding that many of those sub-RMF mechitzas were approved by the Rav. I am sure Gil knows a lot more about this.

  70. ” there are many ortho shuls (whose credentials have never been questioned) where the mehitzah serves to separate men and women but viewing between the two is basically unobstructed.”

    At Shearith Israel in Manhattan the mechitzah barely reaches my waist.

  71. “I just think RAW is trying to bring about the demise of Orthodox Feminism.”

    He definitely is against egalitarian Judaism. I’ve heard him say so repeatedly, to audiences where he would please a lot more people were he to take a different position.

  72. ” It is my understanding that many of those sub-RMF mechitzas were approved by the Rav.”

    I asked my Rav how high a mechitzah needed to be and he told me that The Rav held 40 inches, l’chatchilah. HIR’s is higher than that.

  73. ” This is what R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik said about that argument: “I know all the heterim [leniencies] and none may be relied upon” (The Rav Thinking Aloud, p. 119).”

    While Zmirot around a Shabat table may not be exactly the same thing as singing in shul, The Rav permitted the former:

    http://www.koltorah.org/ravj/The%20Parameters%20of%20Kol%20Isha.htm

    My own rabbi told me that The Rav permitting any female singing that is not likely to cause inappropriate thoughts, including opera, and was very emphatic about that. To this day YU has an annual opera fundraiser. And my rabbi attended an opera himself for the first time this year at the age of 70.

    (Once I attended a New York City Opera performance of Carmen. The title role was performed by the Israeli mezzo Hadar Halevy, who gave a fabulous performance. I was sitting in the top balcony and near me were about a dozen twentysomething frum guys in kippot. At the final ovation at the end of the performance, they shouted marriage proposals from the balcony edge! The same production was the YU opera fundraiser the next year.)

  74. One of these days, Charlie, you’re gonna tell us who your “Rav” is.

    “He definitely is against egalitarian Judaism. I’ve heard him say so repeatedly, to audiences where he would please a lot more people were he to take a different position.”

    Um, OK:

    a) Define “egalitarian.” So far I see no evidence for this line you repeat over and over.

    b) If he’s so brave and anti-egalitarian, *why* did he see it necessary to allow this latest shtick? No one’s answered that yet. What, exactly, did he accomplish by this? Another fawning article in a non-Jewish magazine?

  75. I believe you are not correct that the hazzanit lead kabbalat shabbat from a bimah that was neither in the men’s section nor the women’s section etc. The tefilot in the HIR’s main sanctuary last Friday were conventional and lead by men. This special tefilah took place in a different part of the building where, I suspect, the hazzanit lead from the women’s section.

  76. The web-site “Cross Currents” has a thread on the subject of Rabbi Avi Weiss’ latest “innovation”- written by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein.
    I quote an interesting comment by a contributor who identifies him/herself as A in LA:
    “Is the shoresh of egalitarianism,I’ve often pondered “egel”? (Obviously not, but the remez is noteworthy.) Scratch an egalitarian and you’ll find someone who will elevate the golden calf of egalitarianism above Torah each and every time.”
    Well said! I concur completely.

  77. David: Rabbi Weiss wrote this: “The tefillah will meet in the 2nd Floor Beit Midrash. As all Bayit tefillot do, it will maintain a mehitzah (separation between men and women), and the prayer leader will occupy a distinct space that can be accessed by men or women at separate times, exactly modeling the Main Sanctuary.”
    http://www.hir.org/forms_2010/additionalks.pdf

  78. MOSHE SHOSHAN:

    “R. Moshe is not the only shita on mechitzos. It is my understanding that many of those sub-RMF mechitzas were approved by the Rav.”

    my recollection is that the rav and rav moshe had a fundamentally different understanding of the role of the mehitzah. the latter saw it as a physical barrier between the sexes (and hence permitted lower height) whereas the latter considered it to be a visibilty barrier.

    which is what i what i alluding to in my original comment. if the hazanit was in this third separate area of the shul, was there really a problem? of course it’s a moot point if the previous commenter is correct that she was on the other side of the mehitzah (in a different room).

    (incidentally, i once ended up by accident in shirah hadahsah in jerusalem, where the women who lead do so from the other side of a mehitzah, which iirc fulfills rav moshe’s height requirement?)

    and aside from all the sub-rav moshe mehitzot are the orthodox shuls with balconies where the women are almost fully visible when standing. no one has a problem with these shuls?

  79. Charlie – my meaning was that he’s trying to subvert Orthodox Feminism, by pushing for controversy so hard and so fast – knowing that the left-wing crowd will get behind him immediately – that he’ll destroy Orthodox Feminism’s legitimacy from within. It’s a shame really; any of what he’s doing now, if he had done it right, it would generate a tenth of the controversy.

  80. “b) If he’s so brave and anti-egalitarian, *why* did he see it necessary to allow this latest shtick? No one’s answered that yet.”

    I did.

  81. Lion of Zion
    I think you are mistaking Rav Moshe with the Satmar Rebbe. Rav Moshe, as to my recollection(i’ll bli neder try to get you a mareh makom later) agreed with the Rav as to the utilitarian purpose, but they had a a different shiur(not a very different shiur, just a matter of inches) on the height. Based on shitas in tefachim and possibly some other factors.

  82. Charlie Hall:

    On page 269 of M’pnini haRav by R. Schachter, he writes: “One time a delegation of talmidim came, from a student group of the college, to ask R. Soloveitchik if it was permissible to sell to talmidim tickets to the opera and he answered them that certainly they should not do this because of kol isha”

    What is your source that he said otherwise?

  83. I dunno, I think the YU fundraiser is proof in the other direction.

  84. Charlie Hall:
    Don’t you realize the extent to which the anecdote about the twenty-something bachurim EXACTLY demonstrates the OPPOSITE of what you attempt to prove?

    What a disgraceful Chillul HASHEM that was!

    And you think that your Rabbi’s presence there (to see Carmen, no less?!!!!) sanctifies it?

  85. To the commenter who emailed R’ Gil above:

    You are correct, I made a mistake. I meant to say “Rav Messas” not “Rav Uziel”. My apologies, but the point still stands.

  86. for anyone in the rav’s ztl shiur in the late 60’s there was a student from Maimonides (who can identify himself if he so chooses) who asked the Rav with multiple witnesses present if he can go to the opera during sefira? The rav smiled and said, I mean, the question is can you go to the opera altogether! (For those who remember the rav’s unique modes of expression, saying that as he would have, still brings a smile!) after a long pause, he looked at the student and asked – who is singing? I do not remember exactly how the Rav reacted to being told it was Joan Sutherland. However, as i remember the story, the student went to the opera!

    at the time I did not consider it that noteworthy, so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of my recollections. I can say for sure that a Rabbi, the son of famous YU RY of a prior era, sits behind me in shul and will tell you of certain YU RYs who went to the opera well over half a century ago.

  87. That’s all fascinating, but the question is not about YU policy or about other YU roshei yeshiva, but Charlie Hall claimed this was the “emphatic” position of R. Soloveitchik. I am very interested in his source, considering we have an explicit source to the contrary.

  88. RJM,

    Your example of davening in a shul with an electric menorah is not analogous. That is an example of a minority opinion, but one which has support from at least some major poskim. Women leading kabbalat shabbat, on the other hand, does not, as of now, have the support of any major posek. You are comparing a minority opinion to a completely unsupported opinion.

  89. The discussion about someone having gone to the opera 50 years ago (and that being a precedent for doing so today) is somewhat akin to saying how common it was to go mixed swimming 50 years ago (and that being a precedent for doing so today).

    Just as the bathing suits have changed, so have the opera singers.

  90. If a woman’s voice is ervah because the tushb”a says so and for no reason, how can it matter how opera singers were/are?

  91. >>If a woman’s voice is ervah because the tushb”a says so and for no >>reason, how can it matter how opera singers were/are?

    For most people that’s probably true.
    I, however, was reacting to those who believe that just as it was permitted back then (to watch Joan Sutherland), so should it be permitted today.

  92. “d[j]f: What you are suggesting is that the Left just goes off on its own. That is one possibility. The other is to work together with the Center and Right.”

    I’m not suggesting that the Left just go off on its own; I wish it wouldn’t. But the Right is. I don’t see any RWMO or chareidi leaders taking the concerns of the Left into consideration. I’m not even sure whether rabbis on the Right would sit down with RAW and try to work out a compromise. If the Right is prepared to simply ignore LWMO, how exactly are they supposed to “work together”?

  93. Um, they did sit down and work out a compromise with him, only a few weeks ago. And then he goes and throws this in their faces. I wouldn’t blame them if they were sick and tired of sitting down with him.

  94. >Just as the bathing suits have changed, so have the opera singers.

    Do you honestly think that 50 years ago (or 100 years ago) men did not enjoy watching women at the beach?

    And since we’re drawing distinctions, perhaps the distinction is that it takes much more to create hirhurim today being that we’re bombarded by sexual images and so if anything opera and such is more mutar today, not less.

  95. I detect a certain disconnect with Orthodoxy there.

  96. All one has to do to see how and if the opera presentations have changed for the worse vis a vis accentuating more Pritzus is to read the reviews

  97. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. a currently controversial book regarding a certain rebbe supposedly states that the rebbetzin attended the opera, in america.

    2. was the original question regarding selling tickets to an opera, or regarding the ycdrammatic society play? (and does it make a difference?)

    3. i assume the third section was occupied by women only, at that time. and on the subject, was there changing seats at different points of the service (i wont call it tfillah; what would we call it?)

    4. an electric menorah is not an issue vis a vis tfillah. (custom to light candles before ma’ariv is more of an instruction to public, other considerations, etc.) i think you had a post on the subject, though i may be mistaken.

    5. also, i assume r gil wrote this post. can you sign your posts in the future? (like r ari and r joel do?) (unless there is an occasional reason not to, in specific cases.)

    6. there was a mention of “zmirot”. interestingly, rebbetzin rivkah (teitz) blau mentions an incident with her mother and aunts and rav boruch ber liebowitz in her (grand)mother’s succah singing zmirot in front of the european RY, who did not protest (his students “protested”, and were told no problem) source — r blau’s book http://www.ktav.com/product_info.php?products_id=746.

    contrast that with the version of the same incident in the excerpt of MOAG that was on the old hirhurim blog site, that attributed it to no bais yaakov education in america, when bais yaakov was still new and extremely controversial in poland / lita. and not halachically honest. (and not citing RBBL and other details, showing insufficient knowledge of what would have become an apocryphal tale of the “treifeneh medinah”)

  98. MiMedinat HaYam

    and about that comment re: taking the sefer torah around the women’s section — the o-u cant do nothing about it. its new exceutive director was the rabbi at beth jacob beverly hills.

  99. Bob Miller-There is disconnect with what and who purports to dictate what is Kiddush HaShem, Chillul HaShem, Ahavas Yisrael, etc. While I am no fan of either HIR, its spiritual leader and especially his recent innovations either with respect to women’s ordination, etc, I do not believe that allowing Ms. Hurwitz is more of a reason to fast on Tishah B’Av than someone who was convicted of white collar fraud and who was excoriated by a judge for claiming that he was a Baal Tzedaka when it was possible that all of the Tzedaka that he was giving was from other peoples’ money or a Litvishe RY claiming that while there are hashkafic differences between the Litvishe world and Chabad , there are no differences in their hearts with respect to a prominent member of the Chabad community who is facing an admittedly heavy prison sentence for a white collar criminal conviction. I do admit to wondering if the public outcry in the Charedi world would be the equivalent if the person in question was a MO individual, especially given the absence of any Asifos Tehilim for IDF soldiers held captive by Hamas.

    When the Torah community realizes that Kiddush HaShem and Chillul HaShem in the workplace mean avoidng the conduct that puts one into media glare, as opposed to claiming that the Chillul HaShem was the publicizing of the same in the media and applies Ahavas Yisrael to those beyond one’s hashkafic orientation, then we will see less disconnect with Orthodoxy.

  100. “Um, they did sit down and work out a compromise with him, only a few weeks ago. And then he goes and throws this in their faces. I wouldn’t blame them if they were sick and tired of sitting down with him.”

    They sat down with him to only after RAW made a drastic move. When Agudah, Young Israel, or even YU leaders make policy decisions/hashkafic pronouncements, they don’t worry about what RAW will think of them.

  101. Do men not care that when they lead services their rear is on view to the entire congregation… this not also a sniut concern? Women are not blind, nor are they without feelings. Clearly the men are not very concerned about this. And on what grounds does anyone claim that a woman in niddah can possel a Torah by kissing a siddur and touching it to the Torah? It is simply unacceptible to remove the oppornitunity for women to honor the torah in such a simple way, yet many O. shuls regularly do so. 50 years ago (The “Opera Years”??!!)jewish men were raised to be considerate, polite, and supportive in relation to women, and not only to their female relatives. My grandmother A”S was routinely apalled at the lack of good manners and consideration displayed amongst many of the yeshiva bochers that she encountered (representative of Orthodoxy across the spectrum). She postulated, and my family agrees, that when the situation degenerates to the point that an innocently friendly hello and a smile from a strange woman is taken as unsnius behavior by frum men and they respond rudely or not at all, that the siuation has moved beyond the bounds of sniut and into Vhillul Hashem territory. Furthermore, she predicted(correctly as it turns out) that women who were burdened with financially supporting the community, bearing and raising the children, AND being educated but religiously disregarded would eventually respond to the dichotomy by instituting changes for their own benefit (akin to the push to get Rabbaim to accept sheitels as generally acceptable…unheard of originally but common practice today.) Men of today conveniently forget that the current generation of women has the benefit of being able to read the sefarim on their bookshelves. I believe that my Grandmother, a frum and educated woman, would have said of todays behavior on Israeli busses, in today’s shuls, in the complete lack of disregard of jews and jewish groups for one another ” A Shandah for the Mentschen!! She was Austrian, her parents were survivors. She raised my father, to be a mentsch to all, not just those who held his minhagim, and a gentleman to all women. My father, now in his 70’s, still smiles politely and says hello, carries heavy packages for women, holds doors for them. He raised me to regard the halachot as kedusha, worthy of being followed, but also never to regard myself as unequal or undeserving of respect, and that this was in line with halacha. My Rabbeim and teachers taught me that halacha constantly, though very slowly, evolves as poseks respond to developments of life. That last century’s controversial Beis Yaacov movement is today’s rightfully taken for granted education. On a personal level I’ve noted that the moment gender or sex enter the halachic conversation people often seem to lose the ability to think clearly, but instead respond emotionally. I truly hope that instead of being reactionary the jewish community, Orthodox and otherwise, can grow up and actually pull itself together to have a meaningful discussion rather than just reverting into schism, crisis control, and panic. It would reflect well upon us all.

  102. Steve Brizel on August 3, 2010 at 2:31 pm went on about issues other than this one, which of course need to be addressed seriously by all concerned. My previous comment was about this issue.

  103. “they can serve lobster and shrimp at kiddush if they want. It’s their shul.”

    I agree with everything else in that comment except for this point. Torah is real – it is G-d’s desire for the Jewish people, it is not a game that needs to be played by the rules. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe said – you don’t say that if there is a sleeping person in a burning building you will not wake him up because you dont want to bother him and it is none of your business.

  104. >>And since we’re drawing distinctions, perhaps the distinction is >>that it takes much more to create hirhurim today being that we’re >>bombarded by sexual images and so if anything opera and such is >>more mutar today, not less.

    The difference is that 50 years ago, opera did not strive to be sexually provocative. Today, by and large (especially in Europe, but also at the NYC Opera), it very much does.

    It used to be that the performers were generally unattractive, grossly overweight, and barely moved around the stage. The style was known — rather dismissively — as “park and bark.”

    Charlie Hall’s anecdote tells you all you need to know about how that has changed.

    (I do see your point, though, if one is talking about attending one of the more traditional and tame productions at the Met, especially given the vastness of the hall and the great distance between one’s seat and the stage.)

  105. Bob Miller dismissed my concerns as irrelevant to his point. I think that my comment as to which issues should be of a larger concern, and which others deserve benign neglect raise an issue which his original post and response have ignored in the context of which issues deserve condemnation and which deserve to be seen as the acts of someone whose best role is that of a martyr.

  106. .” a currently controversial book regarding a certain rebbe supposedly states that the rebbetzin attended the opera, in america.”

    I read the book-its worthwhile reading.
    I know of a child of another Rabbi who was in Berlin at the same time who told someone that I know -that the person was unhappy when someone babysitted for them-as the babysitter didn’t like the opera and didn’t let them listen to it.

  107. Steve Brizel’s 231pm post deserves to be expanded into a major hirhurim discussion.
    Very important post.

  108. That’s because there’s no need to worry what one fringe envelope-pusher thinks of them!

  109. Ha, the whole article seems like a introduction to an important story but the story never comes. Hope you don’t do this to your kids.

    5. Wasn’t it customary in most old shuls not to say these mizmorim from the amud so that people might NOT ch”v think that it is a regular part of davening?

    Also, who is more left wing, Avi Weiss or David Weiss-Halivni?

  110. Steve Brizel wrote, “…which issues should be of a larger concern, and which others deserve benign neglect…”

    1. Are we so busy that any current halachic/hashkafic issue should be buried?

    2. Ideally, and I think Rabbi Steven Weil has addressed this, each sector should put its own house in order.

  111. Charlie: At Shearith Israel in the Little Synagogue, the replica of the esnoga as it was c. 1730, the mechitza barely covers your knees.

    AG “Lion” MK: LSS built its mechitza in 1971 to the Rav’s specification of 4′; in 1983 it was replaced by one to RMF’s spec of 5′ with the top 2′ as tinted glass. There are two schools of thought for mechitza, is it a physical separation or a visual one? RMF and RYBS both held it was physical; Chasidim and many others hold it to be visual (hence the various dodges such as carefully illuminated curtains (R’ Feivel Cohen’s Shul), or one-way glass (770).

  112. Bob Miller-I don’t agree that we should bury or treat halachic or hashkafic issues as if the same are nonexistent. That is a fantasy, as opposed to my long cherished view of mutual respect.

    If as you claim, that each sector should put its own house in order, then why do Charedi leaders view issues within MO and that have been addressed by the rabbinical leaders of MO, as worthy of their concern and when MO voice their concerns about legitimate halachic and hashkafic issues in the Charedi world, their views are dismissed as either nonexistent and not worthy of discussion?

  113. I agree with Thanbo’s assessment of the differences between RYBS and RMF on the shiur and purpose of a mechitzah in a shul, which can be expressed as whether a mechitzah is merely to separate the genders or to enclose one gender away from the other ( Mafsik vs Mukaf).

  114. “All one has to do to see how and if the opera presentations have changed for the worse vis a vis accentuating more Pritzus is to read the reviews”

    I happen to be a fan of Franco Zefferilli’s lavish productions. A lot of critics hate them, though.

    “What a disgraceful Chillul HASHEM that was!”

    I was embarrassed, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as what I routinely see on Purim.

    “And you think that your Rabbi’s presence there (to see Carmen, no less?!!!!) sanctifies it?

    He didn’t attend “Carmen”, he attended “Il Trovatore”. It was YU that sponsored the fundraiser and my rabbi did not attend. (I’ve never attended, either. They are on the expensive side and I’m used to the cheap seats that have better acoustics.)

    ‘a) Define “egalitarian.” So far I see no evidence for this line you repeat over and over.’

    The evidence is in the actual practices at HIR. Rabbi Weiss does not believe that women can be counted in a minyan for tefillah, receive aliyot (except on Simchat Torah), serve as an Eid Kiddushin, or serve as a Dayan on a beit din for conversion. (There are probably other areas but those come to mind right away.)

    ‘b) If he’s so brave and anti-egalitarian, *why* did he see it necessary to allow this latest shtick? No one’s answered that yet. What, exactly, did he accomplish by this? Another fawning article in a non-Jewish magazine?’

    I don’t know. I haven’t seen him for several weeks and I am out of the country right now.

    ‘One of these days, Charlie, you’re gonna tell us who your “Rav” is.’

    When all the anonymous blog commenters say who THEY are! 😉

  115. Charlie: Please read my post earlier from M’pninei haRav and respond with your source:

    On page 269 of M’pnini haRav by R. Schachter, he writes: “One time a delegation of talmidim came, from a student group of the college, to ask R. Soloveitchik if it was permissible to sell to talmidim tickets to the opera and he answered them that certainly they should not do this because of kol isha”

    What is your source that he said otherwise?

  116. “The evidence is in the actual practices at HIR. Rabbi Weiss does not believe that women can be counted in a minyan for tefillah, receive aliyot (except on Simchat Torah), serve as an Eid Kiddushin, or serve as a Dayan on a beit din for conversion. (There are probably other areas but those come to mind right away.)”

    Charlie, that’s setting the bar pretty low. There isn’t an Orthodox shul in the world that would accept those things. Not even Shira Chadasha-type places would accept many of them. (Although…aliyot on Simchat Torah? Where?) Let’s be practical, please.

  117. Steve Brizel asked,

    “If as you claim, that each sector should put its own house in order, then why do Charedi leaders view issues within MO and that have been addressed by the rabbinical leaders of MO, as worthy of their concern and when MO voice their concerns about legitimate halachic and hashkafic issues in the Charedi world, their views are dismissed as either nonexistent and not worthy of discussion?”

    One could ask the same question in reverse. Either way, more respect and more constructive action would be helpful all around.

  118. Nachum,
    Where do _you_ set the bar for egalitarian, then?

  119. Of all the issues that R’ Gil lists in his post, item number 2 has the strongest, Halachic import. The Halacha is quite clear that it is forbidden to change an established minhag. (See JD Eisenstein’s Otzer Dinim U’Minhagim: Minhagim for a discussion and sources).

    It is interesting to note that a Minhag does not have to be codified in writing in order to be binding and to have the force of established Halacha. Minhag is also “Oker Halacha”, it uproots Halacha (See Jerusalem Talmud B”M beginning of seventh Perek and Magen Avraham to S”A O”C Siman 590 S’K 22 & 23)

  120. Rabbi Zvi-There is a famous comment of Rabbeinu Tam that “Minhag is Osiyos Gehinom.”

  121. Joseph Kaplan

    R. Zvi (and Gil): In my lifetime, MO shuls went from not saying the tefillah for Medinat Yisrael and the mishabayrach for Tzahal and not singing yedid nefesh, to saying/singing all three. (And it wasn’t simply because of the creation of MY; all these changes in established shul minhag happened post-1967.) Also, AIUI, the minhag adding Kabbalat Shabbat was not instituted until the 16th Century. And we all know that sermons in the vernacular were considered Reform until they became the minhag of MO shuls in the mid-20th Century. Any problem with all of these changes in established shul minhag?

  122. Joseph Kaplan-I would suggest that the events of 1967 led to MO shuls saying the Tefilah for Medinat Yisrael, the Mi Sheberach for Tzahal and singing Yidid Nefesh.

    One can find statements in the Talmud about a Kabalas Shabbos, but certainly not in the form of an addition to the Tefilah as a means of enhancing one’s Kabbalas Shabbos via the recitation of number of Pirkei Tehilim that describe the work of HaShem leading up to Yom HaShabbos. Kabbalas Shabbos as a prelude to Maariv was developed by the Ari and his Talmidim as a means of helping enhance the ushering in of Shabbos and enhancing one’s halachically mandated Kabalas Shabbos, and was accepted as mainstream , as opposed to many other more esoteric Kabbalistically rooted practices, regardless of the fact that the same occurred in the relatively recent 16th Century. Perhaps, the issue is the nature of Kababbalas Shabbos , as opposed to its so-called recent origin.

    As far as sermons in the vernacular are concerned, IIRC, RSRH and the Aruch LaNer both gave drashos in German in the 19th Century.

    That being the case, all of the above can be viewed as enhancement of the Tefilah , as opposed to uprooting Minhagei Beis HaKnesses.

  123. Of course, if you read this article, you would think that HIR and YCT are the only MO or Orthodox institutions in Riverdale.
    http://www.thejewishweek.com/features/neighborhoods/diversity_hudson

  124. “all of the above can be viewed as enhancement of the Tefilah , as opposed to uprooting Minhagei Beis HaKnesses”

    well, most changes “can be viewed” as either/both of those things, depending on who is doing the viewing.

  125. Emma-If one does not know the difference between a chidush mebfnim and a shinui mebachutz,one can easily have a sense of blurred vision on any issue of halacha and hashkafa.

  126. If you read this article, you would think that Drisha pioneered the study of Jewish texts for women, when in fact Michlala and the growth of other seminaries as well existed long before Drisha
    http://www.thejewishweek.com/

  127. “That being the case, all of the above can be viewed as enhancement of the Tefilah , as opposed to uprooting Minhagei Beis HaKnesses.” One person’s meat is another’s poison. Or, one person’s mebifnim is another’s mebachutz. But I do agree with you, Steve (really), that the events of ’67 led to the various changes in established shul minhagim that I mentioned. Changing times can lead to changing minhagim. My point was that while there may be reasons to criticize the wisdom or propriety of what RAW did, claiming that changing established shul minhag is “forbidden” — end of discussion — seems to be something of an overstatement.

  128. Joseph Kaplan:

    The issue isn’t change, in and of itself, the issue is obliterating an established Minhag. There are rules for Minhagim and it is possible to add a new Minhag – under the right circumstances. The items that you list are not problematic as Minhagim (as I will explain).

    >In my lifetime, MO shuls went from not saying the tefillah for Medinat Yisrael and the mishabayrach for Tzahaland not singing yedid nefeshAlso, AIUI, the minhag adding Kabbalat Shabbat was not instituted until the 16th Century.And we all know that sermons in the vernacular were considered Reform until they became the minhag of MO shuls in the mid-20th Century.<

    This had more to do with the Haskalah than with the language – Torah was always taught in the language that the people understood – that is why the Gemarah is written in Aramaic. Who authorized the change to Yiddish?

    Jewry can accept a Minhag that becomes binding. It is forbidden to obliterate an established Minhag. See Aruch Hashulchan, Y"D Siman 214 (9th volume) for an extensive discussion.

  129. My post became garbled – take two (I’ll break this into multiple posts)

    Part 1

    Joseph Kaplan:

    The issue isn’t change, in and of itself, the issue is obliterating an established Minhag. There are rules for Minhagim and it is possible to add a new Minhag – under the right circumstances. The items that you list are not problematic as Minhagim (as I will explain).

    >In my lifetime, MO shuls went from not saying the tefillah for Medinat Yisrael and the mishabayrach for Tzahal<

    This is an extension of Mi Shebeirach's in general and our Tefillos for Eretz Yisrael in particular (when we pray for rain it is foe Eretz Yisrael) Pirkei Avos already records the requirement to pray for the welfare of the government.

  130. Part 2

    >and not singing yedid nefeshAlso, AIUI, the minhag adding Kabbalat Shabbat was not instituted until the 16th Century.<

    There was always a Kabbalas Shabbos, albeit without a specific form and done on an individual basis outside of Shul. In the 1500's, it was given clear form and brought into the Shul as part of the Tefillah with a Shaliach Tzibbur and Tallis. The Shaliach Tzibbur stands at the Bimah not the Amud, calling attention to its status as Minhag – one that is accepted *almost* universally. It is a Minhag that was adopted by Jewry based on the actions of leading Talmidei Chachamim who formalized established halachic requirements.

  131. Part 3

    >And we all know that sermons in the vernacular were considered Reform until they became the minhag of MO shuls in the mid-20th Century.<

    This had more to do with defending against the Haskalah than with the language – Torah was always taught in the language that the people understood – that is why the Gemara is written in Aramaic as are parts of the Tefilla.

    Jewry can accept a Minhag that becomes binding. It is forbidden to obliterate an established Minhag. See Aruch Hashulchan, Y"D Siman 214 (9th volume) for an extensive discussion.

    Aruch HaShulchan (ibid S'K 31) is quite clear that if it is unknown if a certain stringency was adopted intentionally or by mistake that you must abide by that stringency even though it is a safek D'Rabbanan because it is more likely to have been adopted intentionally. Certainly there is no reason to treat a Shaliach Tzibbur for Kabbalas Shabbos differently than any other tefillah – there was no requirement for women to say Kabbalas Shabbos and they would not then be eligible to represent the congregation in the required Tefillah. (Lighting candles is Kabbalas Shabbos for women).

  132. Part 4

    There is no room to say that the established Minhag of having a male Shaliach Tzibbur was done by mistake. Even were one to posit that perhaps it was a mistake, than we are still prohibited from changing as it is more likely that it was intentional (Ibid; Aruch HaShulchan quoting the Rashba).

    Furthermore, even were it possible to undo the Minhag, if undoing it could bring a Kilkul – if it could reasonably cause people to breach or demean Halacha – it would be assur to undo it. (See Aruch HaShulchan ibid, S’K 12.)

    Notably, the only people who are in favor of AW’s change are those with an Egalitarian agenda.

  133. Part 2 revisited – missing text

    >and not singing yedid nefesh<

    Yedid Nefesh was never adopted as a formal part of Tefilla. It does not require a Shaliach Tzibbur, some Shuls sing it seasonaly others not at all. It is an introduction to Kabbalas Shabbos that conveys the same message of love for and yearning to become closer to HaKadosh BaRuch Hu.

  134. We don’t pasken out of an Aruch HaShulchan. (Unless perhaps you will be okay with allowing a tuning fork for the chazon on Shabbos? Or maybe we can turn on electric lights on yomtov? etc etc)

    “There is no room to say…” Really? Spare us the certitude. There is always room to say. That’s why we are here on this blog, to share and learn. Not to be preached at by someone who just bought an Aruch HaShulchan and wants to practice his citation skills.

  135. Steve,

    How can you possibly view giving the sermon in German as “mibifnim”?

  136. Skeptic:

    Please try and bait someone else.

  137. Richard Kahn-I think that R Chaim Ozer pointed out in a response to someone who asked why RSRH and the Aruch LaNer instituted such changes in Germany in the 1800s, sermons in the vernacular were viewed as one aspect of what was proper and necessary for Germany by the Baalei Mesorah of that community, as opposed to other communities that had not yet faced the ravages of Haskalah.

  138. That’s mibachutz initiated by people who are mibifnim. The change, however, was a response to what had changed in society. The same could and is said about the changes that RAW has instigated. I assume the difference is that you don’t view him as a Baalei Mesorah, but would I be correct in saying that if someone who you did view as a BM made a “mibachutz” change (like, I don’t know, allowing women to study gemara), you would accept it?

  139. “Jewry can accept a Minhag that becomes binding. It is forbidden to obliterate an established Minhag. See Aruch Hashulchan,”

    But I don’t see the hue and cry about Ashkenaziic schuls that have changed mizmor shir leyom hashabbat from after Musaf to after Shaaccarit. The AH discusses why we can’t change the custom.
    The hue and cry is because it is RAW-maybe justifiably so because of his track record-but on technical grounds there are actions IMHO just as bad ignored becuse of who the actor is-see eg carrying the Torah into the womens section.
    I heard a sermon yesterday-again attacking RAW-enough. Ignore him-stop attacking people based on their records. Remember others in the past have advocated having a women lead kabbalat Shabbat who are more mainstream. I think the answer is they shoulodn’t because of that is the way schuls have run for hundreds of years. But sadly minhaggim are not treated seriously in our text culture-and then RAWs innovation is just another one that he would have al mah lismoch.

  140. “Yedid Nefesh was never adopted as a formal part of Tefilla. It does not require a Shaliach Tzibbur, some Shuls sing it seasonaly others not at all.”

    Another frequent change-Yedid nefesh is a beautiful song-but it as NOT part of mainstream Ashkenazic practice. I have seen many times schuls add it-because a wealthy baal baas comes back from Israel and likes the song. Clearly improper to change minhag but done all the time-where is the hue and cry about changing minhagim.

  141. If I understand the argument here, if anything no matter how small can be changed then everything can be changed. I reject that argument. There are small minhagim and big minhagim. While it isn’t always obvious which is which and great poskim need to use their judgment, I find the suggestion that women leading synagogue services is a minor change.

  142. “The Shaliach Tzibbur stands at the Bimah not the Amud, calling attention to its status as Minhag – one that is accepted *almost* universally”
    In my pseudo chareidi schul -many black hats, Lakewood musmach and other “degrees” from BMG-the one who sings the last psukim of the tehillim and leads the tune for lecha dodistands at the amud.

  143. If I understand the argument here, if anything no matter how small can be changed then everything can be changed. I reject that argument. There are small minhagim and big minhagim. While it isn’t always obvious which is which and great poskim need to use their judgment, I find the suggestion that women leading synagogue services is a minor,inconsequential change.

  144. Gil,
    Is your argument that big changes can never be instituted? I would agree that having a woman lead Kabbalat Shabbat is a big change, and I disagree with those trying to downplay it.

  145. “I find the suggestion that women leading synagogue services is a minor,inconsequential change”

    Kabbalat Shabbat is NOT a service a monkey,kid can lead it. Whenever you have a kid leading something which BTW accordingto the Rav is a bizayon to Tfilah -it is not Tfilah.
    I personally disagree with RAWs provocative act-but the hue and cry reminds me of the hue and cry against the Conservative movements allowing women to get aliyot-wrong but not in the ball park of what they did before that permitting driving to schul on Shabbos which didn’t cause the same outrage.
    NO hue and cry againstthose who let women carry the Torah like a toy on the way from the aron to the Bimah-why not? Is that because of who has advocated each. I am not aware of any “gadol” permitting either.

  146. Joseph Kaplan

    “If I understand the argument here, if anything no matter how small can be changed then everything can be changed.”

    That wasn’t my argument (may have been someone else’s.) The argument I, and some others, were making was a response to a comment (not by you, Gil) that change in established shul minhagim was forbidden, and implied that that was all that needed to be said. That unnuanced argument seemed to me, and others, to be an overstatement. As to the specifics of this case, I agree having a woman lead Kabbalat Shabbat is not a minor, inconsequential change. I think the same is true for instituting Kabbalat Shabbat and those who try to downplay that change seem to be playing the same game those who downplay RAW’s change. Both are significant and both have to be examined carefully. But simply saying it’s a big change and therefore is forbidden is not enough. (I emphasize that I don’t think that’s what you said, Gil.)

  147. mycroft

    >But I don’t see the hue and cry about Ashkenaziic schuls that have changed mizmor shir leyom hashabbat from after Musaf to after Shaaccarit. The AH discusses why we can’t change the custom.<

    There have been a number of changes lately – they are wrong and there is no Halachic standing for them. There have been changes instituted in Yeshivos (ostensibly for good reason from a Yeshiva perspective) that have been incorporated in mainstream shuls – completely without Halachic standing. That being said, there is a major difference in scope and intent in the case at hand.

  148. Joseph Kaplan

    “change in established shul minhagim was forbidden, and implied that that was all that needed to be said.”

    Change in Minhag is not the same as getting rid of the Minhag.

    “I think the same is true for instituting Kabbalat Shabbat and those who try to downplay that change seem to be playing the same game those who downplay RAW’s change.”

    Bringing Kabbalas Shabbos into the davening was a change that met the criterion for establishing a Minhag. It was done based on Halachic standing – the responsibility for Kabbalas Shabbos was established long before; it was instituted by the major posekim/talmidei chachamim of the day (and still recognized as such); it was accepted nearly universally.

    Allowing a woman to act as Shaliach Tzibbur is not establishing a new minhag, it is removing the old. That is just not the same.

  149. Richard Kahn-Yes-Baalei Mesorah,as opposed to LORs, even and especially those who are known as “communal activists” for a wide variety of causes, are the personae I would rely on on any such issue, and their evaluation of whether any innovation is warranted or not.

  150. OK. I have my own Baalei Mesorah that I rely upon. They approve of many (not all) of RAW’s innovations, and I feel comfortable relying on them. They are established community rabbis whose influence extends further than their immediate community. I’m happy that we have established that the content of the minhag at hand (your mibifnim mibachutz business) isn’t so relevant.

  151. One does not proclaim a “established community rabbi” as a Baal Mesorah. The term denotes Gdolei Talmidie Chachamim who know the ins and outs of TSBP and who are the addresses for the halachic and hashkafic queries of the generation , as opposed to a community rabbi, even if he has influence on issues affecting the Jewish community beyond his own shul.

  152. I would categorize them as a Gadol Talmidei Chachamim. They for sure knows the ins and outs of TSBP. I don’t know if there is anybody in existence who “addresses for the halachic and hashkafic queries of the generation.” You probably wouldn’t consider them GTC’s. The charedi world would reject RHS or RMW as a GTC. Different communities have different BM’s and GTC’s. Just as no Lakewood talmid would go to R. Norman Lamm for “halachic and hashkafic queries,” I’ll pass up the offer to go to your rabbis with my real questions. There are LW poskim. They are rashei yeshiva, community rabbis, dayanim, just like charedi poskim. I’m sorry if that’s hard to accept.

  153. Richard Kahn-Merely because you reject RHS or RMW because the Charedi world is an insufficient basis for you to do so. Please identify who you consider “LW Poskim”.

  154. Richard Kahn-Merely because you reject RHS or RMW because the Charedi world sees fit to do so is an insufficient basis for you to do so. Please identify who you consider “LW Poskim”.

  155. רב יובל שרלו

  156. Assuming I understand you correctly, I don’t reject RHS or RMW just because the charedi world does. RHS has issued some rulings and said some things that make me doubt his ability to be a leading posek.

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