At its meeting on October 6, 2010, the Board of Directors of the Orthodox Union resolved as follows: “With regard to the matter of a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat services before an audience of men and women, the position of the Orthodox Union is that such practice is improper and constitutes an unacceptable breach of Jewish tradition.” Requests for further information may be addressed to OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb...

The OU on Women Cantors

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From here (link):

OU BOARD ISSUES STATEMENT ON FRIDAY NIGHT SERVICES

At its meeting on October 6, 2010, the Board of Directors of the Orthodox Union resolved as follows:

“With regard to the matter of a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat services before an audience of men and women, the position of the Orthodox Union is that such practice is improper and constitutes an unacceptable breach of Jewish tradition.”

Requests for further information may be addressed to OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb at 212-613-8264 or [email protected]

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.

67 comments

  1. Obviously the breach is acceptable, otherwise the OU would have removed HIR from its synagogue list.

  2. I can think of two reasons why the OU wouldn’t remove HIR. First the OU only now announced the policy. HIR’s past actions weren’t against the rules at that time. Sceond maybe it’s a breach but not sufficient reason for expulsion.

  3. “a breach but not sufficient reason for expulsion”

    Then what does “unacceptable” mean, if not grounds for expulsion?

  4. Skeptic,

    A lack of mechitza is also unacceptable, yet the OU allowed grandfathered non-mechitza shuls for a while. I’m sure you understand that something similar is going on now with this current HIR innovation.

  5. Michael Rogovin

    I note that, consistent with Rabbi Michael Broyde’s article on the subject, the OU did not refer to the practice as “asur.” The question is, what constitutes an act that would preclude membership of a shul in the OU? Must the act be an actual violation of issur, or is the standard lower? Is it a matter for the Board or the full membership? Not being an OU insider, I have no sense of where the lines are drawn, though I doubt that this is a case of grandfathering such as the mechitza case (there is, I believe, still one non-mechitza shul left in the OU).

  6. A lack of mechitza is also unacceptable, yet the OU allowed grandfathered non-mechitza shuls for a while. I’m sure you understand that something similar is going on now with this current HIR innovation.

    Please correct me here, but the lack of a mechitza was always considered unacceptable, no? Here, something simply wasn’t done that often but has now been put outside of Orthodoxy according to the OU Board (and therefore, the OU).

    I have never been to one but I know of at least one other minyan that did this sanctioned by an Orthodox rabbi. While on a halachic level, the action of the Board is meaningless, it tells you that a minority opinion is now being driven out of what is to be tolerated.

  7. Michael Rogovin

    R Gil: Though I understand the temptation, I think the headline is somewhat misleading. In common usage, a cantor is one who leads services as a shaliach tzibbur and leads most or all services. Since the theory that permits a woman to serve as the prayer leader is davka that kabbalat tzibbur is not communal prayer led by a shaliach tzibbur, “cantor” is a misnomer. Notwithstanding the slippery slope argument, there is nothing in what HIR is doing that would suggest that a woman could serve as a shaliach tzibbur for communal prayer.

  8. Michael: I disagree about the common usage of the term “cantor”. Someone who leads services is called a cantor.

  9. For all those who are concerned about assur/unacceptable etc., imho the issue is “what is the ratzon hatorah?” see here: http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2010/rsac_avos3.html
    There seems to be a difference between R’ Avi (not asher) Weiss and the OU on a number of such issues.
    KT

  10. Anyway two women leading the service or one man and one woman or one woman and one child does not run afoul of the OU Board’s resolution.

  11. Or just have one woman before an audience of all men. This too does not run afoul of the resolution.

  12. Glatt some questions

    If HIR repeats its actions and allows a woman to lead the services on Friday night (after the resolution has now been approved), then there would be solid grounds for expulsion. Since the action happened before the resolution had passed, you cannot retroactively say that HIR violated an OU policy. I do not think you will see HIR repeat this practice…there is not much more for HIR to gain and too much to lose. Rabbi Weiss forced the issue…and the OU responded as expected.

  13. “Requests for further information may be addressed to OU Executive Vice President, Emeritus, Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb at 212-613-8264 or [email protected].”

    Intriguing why further info to Ex VP Emeritus rather than current Ex VP?

  14. “I do not think you will see HIR repeat this practice…there is not much more for HIR to gain and too much to lose. Rabbi Weiss forced the issue…and the OU responded as expected.”

    Unless RAW wants to become a martyr-a schul really gets no major benefits by belonging to the OU or YI.

  15. The OU statement is consistent with my own view on the matter. Rabi Weiss’s innovations are unacceptable and on the fringe of Judaism. But they are not a technical violation of the Shulchan Aruch. As such he should not be expelled from orthodoxy. But that does not mean that institutional Orthodoxy should endorse his actions. It should not.

    His innovations are driven by egalitarianism. These innovations are radical and radical changes should not occur unless there is a serious threat to the very existence of continuity of Judaism. This is not the case now.

    Tradition should not be treated lightly. It should not be tampered with for reasons of Zeitgeist. I wrote about this yesterday on my blog in response to a Cross Currents article by Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein. His artilce is well worth reading.

  16. It’s interesting that they did NOT come out with a resolution against the Maharat/Rabba..does that mean they passively approve/accept that?

  17. harry maryles -“he should not be expelled from orthodoxy”

    how does one be expelled from orthodoxy? just curious – what does that mean? who else has been expelled in the last 50 years from orthodoxy and what does this mechanism look like?

  18. harry maryles – “His innovations are driven by egalitarianism. These innovations are radical and radical changes should not occur ”

    please comment if the following has been driven by egalitarianism – inheritance for wives and daughters, ketubah, women learning – which is definitely opposed by the gemera, women’s right to vote -originally opposed by most the gedolim, women running for public office, women on shul boards and trustees. equal pay for the same work.

    which ones would you like to revoke because of innovation? are you advocating “chadash assur min hatorah”?

  19. MiMedinat HaYam

    “chadash assur min hatorah”, but per the ta”z, its dependent on “the times” (not the paper, the era)

    nevertheless, since when does the ou get involved in such issues?

    and, of course, next week we’ll NOT hear criticism of the ou similar to that leveled against the nat’l council, on similar grounds.

  20. “With regard to the matter of a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat services before an audience of men and women, the position of the Orthodox Union is that such practice is improper and constitutes an unacceptable breach of Jewish tradition.”

    Why is a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat a worse violation than carrying the Torah through the womens section on the way to and from the aron-and its variation giving the Torah to a women as a prize to be passed among women and then given back to the Shaliach Tzibbur.
    I am personally opposed to both but how is a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat worse than treating the Torah as a toy while being passed to women-reme3mber Kabbalat Shabbat could be led by a monkey no Tfilah Bzibbur. Is it simply a matter of who is behind the various deviations?

  21. “I am personally opposed to both but how is a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat worse than treating the Torah as a toy ”

    I’m not entirely sure how you see women treating a Torah as a toy in the contexts you’ve mentioned. More to the point, rightly or wrongly, a number of Jews have developed a custom to kiss the Torah (generally with tzitzit or a siddur as an intermediary, but not always). as it makes its way either to or from the Aron. Is there a reason why this would be unacceptable in the women’s section but OK in the men’s section?

  22. The links for the new post on the artscroll siddur. Whatever you click — the title, the read more, or the comments, it brings you to a version of the home page as it was before this post was added. Quite bizarre

  23. I think that the OU resolution means that it is wrong for a woman to serve as a Baal Tefilah “before an audience of men and women”.

    Mycroft- think in terms of synagogue services, Kiruv/chizuk and Kashrus-The OU would seem to offer much more for the average shul than the NCYI.

  24. I like how you cleverly worded the article so that the blurb on the front page ends in a cliffhanger.

  25. MeMedinat, you really lurrrve the YI, don’t you? The two situations are complete opposites of each other. The YI shuls *want* to be “expelled.”

  26. The OU is an organization. Like any organization it has the right to include or censure or remove synagogues based on its own criteria. If the OU policy is pro-(Medina) Zionist it has the right to censure or remove an existing member synagogue that adopted an anti-Zionist position even though it is not a violation of halachah to have such a position. If the OU feels that HIR is breaching the OUs policy by having women lead Kabals Shabbos davening it has the option of censure as well as to remove HIR from its membership rolls.

  27. MiMedinat HaYam on October 14, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    and, of course, next week we’ll NOT hear criticism of the ou similar to that leveled against the nat’l council, on similar grounds.

    Prior to your comment, mycroft noted that a[n established] shul gets no real benefit from joining the YI or the OU (though I’d argue they get Orthodox bona fides from it. Steve points out the OU simply offers more services. And Nachum noted that there are YI’s that are prevented from leaving the YI, even when they want to – unlike the OU.

    I will point out that:

    The NCYI is moving against practices that were more commonly done then this was. The NCYI is moving against a far larger group of people.

    NCYI was once-upon-a-time a LWMO whose leadership has moved to RWMO and has begun to steer the rules that way. By contrast here, we have a practice that is barely ever done in Orthodox shuls and was only recently started at HIR.

    Yeah, the Board resolution may inconvenience some MO – but it right now would be in only a very few places.

    BTW, what is next week? Is that going to be the NCYI meeting on the amendments?

  28. “But that does not mean that institutional Orthodoxy should endorse his actions. It should not. ”

    I agree that the OU should not endorse his actions-but not endorseing does not necessarily mean that it is their function to state an action that does not violate the Schulchan Aruch is improper. I think it might be better to give a shiur on shev val taaseh.

  29. HAGTBG: Anyway two women leading the service or one man and one woman or one woman and one child does not run afoul of the OU Board’s resolution… Or just have one woman before an audience of all men. This too does not run afoul of the resolution.

    Perhaps you would be correct if this was a legal matter. Since, however, it is not, that kind of nitpicky loophole finding will not convince anyone.

    Mycroft: Intriguing why further info to Ex VP Emeritus rather than current Ex VP?

    I really don’t see why you would be intrigued that the senior scholar was listed as the contact person.

    Harry Maryles wrote: Rabi Weiss’s innovations are unacceptable and on the fringe of Judaism. But they are not a technical violation of the Shulchan Aruch.

    I disagree and believe that they violated halakhah as defined by the responsa literature.

    Moshe G: It’s interesting that they did NOT come out with a resolution against the Maharat/Rabba..does that mean they passively approve/accept that?

    Presumably, speaking as a non-insider to this process, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back but they chose to react minimally. A wise decision, I believe.

    ruvie: how does one be expelled from orthodoxy?

    It happens informally. I know of a conference that had great difficulty finding someone Orthodox willing to speak at the same place as R. Avi Weiss. Prof. Alan Nadler recently posted a comment on Facebook that it has been over a decade since he was asked to speak in an Orthodox synagogue.

  30. “Mycroft- think in terms of synagogue services, Kiruv/chizuk and Kashrus-The OU would seem to offer much more for the average shul than the NCYI.”

    It is clear that the OU provides more than the NCYI-but that is a test that is not hard to beat.
    When I wrote that:”a schul really gets no major benefits by belonging to the OU or YI” I did NOT write that the OU does not provide benefits to the North American Jewish communities-Kashrith is a prime example-BUT the schul as an institution can easily get the advantages to the schul that the OU has as a kashruth organization without belonging to the OU.
    I belong to the OU-but I receive no personal advantage by belonging-before Jewish Action was online that was the advantage. I belong to the OU because on balance it is certainly an organization that IMHO iw worth belonging to-but if they would say that Mycrofts membership dues were not welcome-I could continue my life just the same.

  31. “Mycroft: Intriguing why further info to Ex VP Emeritus rather than current Ex VP?

    I really don’t see why you would be intrigued that the senior scholar was listed as the contact person.”

    There is no doubt that Rabbi Weinrib is a scholar-I have gone to hear him lecture-I have not gone to hear his replacement lecture-but when an organization puts out a policy statement one would not expect the contact person to be an ex official.

  32. He isn’t an ex-official. He still functions within the organization. It isn’t your typical emeritus role.

  33. “Harry Maryles wrote: Rabi Weiss’s innovations are unacceptable and on the fringe of Judaism. But they are not a technical violation of the Shulchan Aruch.

    I disagree and believe that they violated halakhah as defined by the responsa literature”

    I am opposed to both actions of RAW-there are probably very few of his actions that I have agreed with BUT there are others who have advocated each of his controversial positions.

  34. Morton Landowne, a former Lincoln Square president, confirms the project’s cost over-runs, adding that the easement squabble with the nearby apartment building, part of Lincoln Towers, “set the project back by about a year and cost about $1 million” in legal fees and materials. He added that new synagogues projects in Englewood, N.J., Young Israel of White Plains and Hebrew Institute of Riverdale have all run “about $10 million” more than expected.

    http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new_york/lincoln_square_halts_construction_new_shul_project_millions_more_planned

  35. Perhaps you would be correct if this was a legal matter. Since, however, it is not, that kind of nitpicky loophole finding will not convince anyone.

    How is it not a legal matter? One point I suppose is to merely express disapproval of what RAW sanctioned at HIR and you are right that aspect has few legal implications. But the other part is that it opens the door to penalties of some form if someone violates it in the future. And if the entity did not technically violate anything that the OU set forth and yet a penalty is imposed then, yes, it can easily become a legal matter.

  36. gil – how does one be expelled from orthodoxy?

    It happens informally. I know of a conference that had great difficulty finding someone Orthodox willing to speak at the same place as R. Avi Weiss. Prof. Alan Nadler recently posted a comment on Facebook that it has been over a decade since he was asked to speak in an Orthodox synagogue.

    getting the cold shoulder is not the same as being expelled from the community. i am sure there are many rabbis in the charedei world that refuse to speak to others in other sects of that world as well over the years. people have the right to associate or not with whomever they choose.
    i just having heard the term “expelled from orthodoxy” used or ever advocated – so i assume its just hyperbole or being a blowhard. in an age where people are free to choose their religion and its flavor — can you really expel anyone from a community as oppose to a shul?

  37. Was Yitz Greenberg ever formally expelled? No. I think he’s even still a member of the RCA. But de facto, rather than de jur, he was fenced out.

  38. This is politics, not religion.

  39. “Tradition should not be treated lightly.”

    Agreed-sadly it has been by both right and the left. RCS close to a couple of decades ago wrote on the subject.

  40. “Was Yitz Greenberg ever formally expelled? No. I think he’s even still a member of the RCA”

    But there have been those who been formally expelled

  41. MiMedinat HaYam

    “Why is a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat a worse violation than carrying the Torah through the womens section on the way to and from the aron-”

    that is NOT a violation of ou policy — the current exec vp was the rav in beth jacob of beverly hills.

    actually, i not only have no objection to carrying the torah, i would advocate it. by it wont fly in many shuls, (including where i daven at) so i wont start up. anyway, few women come to shul before 1030am.

    except when we have a kiddush club. is that also an ou violation?

    2. regarding young israel — practices like this this is exactly what young israel was criticized for. now you’re changing the topic to expulsion.

    3. the yitz greenberg issue was “tabled”. ie., its still on the agenda, if anyone wants to bring it up. but i guess, as stated, he’s on the outs there as far as activity is concerned. (except for the pension plan, if he is a participant in that. and that is the MAJOR benefit of rca membership. a particularly succssful pension plan.)

  42. 2. regarding young israel — practices like this this is exactly what young israel was criticized for. now you’re changing the topic to expulsion.

    The three primary claims against the NCYI is (i) they don’t provide value to their constituents, (ii) they don’t allow for a way for am member shul to cease to be a member, and (iii) they have moved to far in both the political and hashkafic right and thereby disenfranchised a large portion of their membership.

    So maybe you can make some argument that this is now the OU going the way of (iii) but this is in response to more of a provocation then what the NCYI responded to and, anyway, the OU has more reservoirs of good will because they clearly provide value and also allow member shuls to cease to be members making the relationship mutual. But even if you could develop that the OU is moving to the right, you’d still have to address issues (i) and (ii), which I view as the greater concerns for NCYI.

  43. “Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
    is a proud member of the
    Orthodox Union”

    From the website of the HIR- I wonder how much longer that will appear on the website?

  44. ““Why is a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat a worse violation than carrying the Torah through the womens section on the way to and from the aron-”

    that is NOT a violation of ou policy — the current exec vp was the rav in beth jacob of beverly hills”

    Is that why the OU came out against woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat but not against having women carry the Torah through the womens section, or alternatively having the chazzan go through the womens section.

    I spoke about these issues this morning to a Rebbe of mine whose shiur I have not been in for over 4 decades. I asked him what is the difference between these two issues and the OUs treating them differently-his answer “politics”. BTW-we both are opposed to both.

  45. This one was more “in your face” because of all the news coverage.

  46. Mycroft, a woman leading KS, at the very least, closely resembles a forbidden activity: namely, a woman being a real SZ. This is what R. Michael Broyde has argued. At the worst it violates actual prohibitions of Kol Isha and or Kvod HaTzibur. Carrying the Torah through the women’s section creates no such problems. KS also entails a woman performing publicly in front of men, thereby touching on issues of tzniyut, which are especially heightened during communal prayer. Her carrying a Torah through the women’s section obviously does not touch on these issues. Another important distinction is that KS is part of the liturgy itself and therefore is more fit to be bound by rules and protocols and tradition. Carrying the Torah has no real significance to the prayer service itself

  47. I think we all agree that (a) this announcement of the OU is very good news because it clarifies the Halakhah and (b) the OU’s announcement can be taken at its face value, in a congenial sense. That is to say, the announcement is delivering a prospective pesak halakhah, without retroactive condemnation. I interpret the OU’s announcement as entirely compatible with the recognition that “vi’amekh kulam tzaddikim”. I know from first-hand experience that HIR is a very righteous synagogue; my brother prays there and I enjoy praying there, as well, when I periodically visit him for simchah shel mitzvah occasions. This is not being contested by the OU. What the OU is announcing is that “mikan ulihaba” (from now on and into the future), there is a pesak halakhah from R. Weinreb that only a gentleman can lead Kabbalat Shabbat. I think that R. Weinreb is correct (-not that he needs my endorsement) based on the gemara in Sotah 48a which requires cancelling choral arrangements in which ladies sing the leading lyrics and gentlemen respond with the following lyrics. Since it is the nature of Kabbalat Shabbat nowadays for the cantor to begin with a tune and for the audience to tag along, the gemara’s principle is seemingly activated. HIR is a wonderful synagogue committed to Torah study and Halakhah, and I therefore anticipate that the Mara Di’atra of HIR will implement R. Weinreb’s ruling or, alternatively, advance halakhic evidence to counter R. Weinreb’s ruling (as is the prerogative of Talmidei Chakhamim).

  48. “The question is, what constitutes an act that would preclude membership of a shul in the OU? ”

    I guess as Justice Stewart stated about pornography “I know it when I see it” The OU taking all factors into consideration including whose doing the action, the value of the potential donors lost etc they will know it when they see it.

  49. “a woman leading KS, at the very least, closely resembles a forbidden activity: namely, a woman being a real SZ.”

    I read RMB’s piece and I essentially agree with everything-I personally oppose a woman leading KS-I would note that when I attended a schul once where a non Bar Mitzvah led KS-but changed to an adult for Maariv-thus of course no SZ for KS.

    “Carrying the Torah through the women’s section creates no such problems. KS also entails a woman performing publicly in front of men, thereby touching on issues of tzniyut, which are especially heightened during communal prayer. Her carrying a Torah through the women’s section obviously does not touch on these issues.”

    IMHO_my eyes follow the Torah as it is carried to andfrom the Bimah-I have seen women carry it through see through mechitzas-it has as much ofHineini lack of Tznius as would be leading KS

    “Another important distinction is that KS is part of the liturgy itself and therefore is more fit to be bound by rules and protocols and tradition. Carrying the Torah has no real significance to the prayer service itself”

    Carrying the Torah to andfrom the aron is older than KS-KS is NOT part of any prayer service-it is not Shacharis,Musaph,MIncha,Neilah or Maariv. A kid, computer, or monkey can lead it.

    “there is a pesak halakhah from R. Weinreb that only a gentleman can lead Kabbalat Shabbat.”
    R Weinreb? an EX Ex Dir gave the psak?
    RAW would have no obligation to follow R Weinreb-R Weinreb is not his Rebbe. If I were limited to those two for a sheila I would ask R Weinreb but that is not the point RAW has no obligation to follow R Weinreb.

  50. Shalom Spira,

    (a) this announcement of the OU is very good news because it clarifies the Halakhah

    This was passed by the OU Board, i.e. is a corporate resolution. It clarifies (to some degree) the stance of the OU in regard to the practice. It does not clarify the penalty for the practice. It is not a psak halacha (though it has undoutebdly been vetted by many rabbis who would issue such a psak). The resolution is of no halachic consequence but is likely of sociological interest and, possibly, historical consequence (vis a vis the development of American Orthodoxy).

    (b) the OU’s announcement can be taken at its face value, in a congenial sense. That is to say, the announcement is delivering a prospective pesak halakhah, without retroactive condemnation…

    It is indeed prospective but, again, is not a psak.

    What the OU is announcing is that “mikan ulihaba” (from now on and into the future), there is a pesak halakhah from R. Weinreb that only a gentleman can lead Kabbalat Shabbat. I think that R. Weinreb is correct (-not that he needs my endorsement)

    I think R’ Weinreb is a wonderful man, or such is his reputation. Nevertheless, this is not his psak and, were he to give a psak on this or on any matter, however basic, it would be of no consequence to anyone for whom he is not their rebbe.

    I therefore anticipate that the Mara Di’atra of HIR will implement R. Weinreb’s ruling or, alternatively, advance halakhic evidence to counter R. Weinreb’s ruling (as is the prerogative of Talmidei Chakhamim).

    This is a corporate governance matter, not halacha. Halacha can tolerate elu v’elu but it is the Board that guides the OU. Unless the “Mara Di’atra of HIR” has a way of undoing the Board’s vote (i.e. gets the Board or the OU membership to overturn the vote) he has no say in this governance matter. If HIR commits the acts now prohibited it opens itself up to penalty potentially, as determined by whatever procedure the OU puts into place. Whether the Mara Di’atra of HIR is right halachically or can defend himself halachically does not matter. However, no penalty is set out now so that matter is still murky in terms of what the future holds for HIR’s membership in the OU. HIR also retains the right to leave the OU but, were it to exercise this option, it would likely accelerate the spread of the sentiment that HIR is no longer Orthodox. Though not as much as if HIR were expelled from the OU.

  51. this announcement of the OU is very good news because it clarifies the Halakhah

    “This was passed by the OU Board, i.e. is a corporate resolution. It clarifies (to some degree) the stance of the OU in regard to the practice. It does not clarify the penalty for the practice. It is not a psak halacha (though it has undoutebdly been vetted by many rabbis who would issue such a psak). The resolution is of no halachic consequence but is likely of sociological interest ”

    Agreed

  52. “His innovations are driven by egalitarianism.”

    Assuming that is true-why should that impact the permissibility of the actions if halachikally permissible?
    I have a gut feeling that it should impact the permissibility but would appreciate a better response by those more knowledgeable.

  53. Thank you, R’ mycroft and R’ HAGTGB for your important responses. Yes, it is indeed my thesis that all of Klal Yisra’el is bound by the pesak halakhah of R. Weinreb. The fact that the members of HIR are not talmidim of R. Weinreb might be relevant if there was a dispute between R. Weinreb and another moreh hora’ah (such as R. Weiss). In the case of a dispute, then under certain circumstances (which are themselves subject to a dispute among the poskim), a Jew may be entitled to follow his particular moreh hora’ah, as per the gemara in Shabbat 130a regarding the townspeople of Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yose Haglili following their respective morei hora’ah, ignoring the countervailing views of other Sages who opposed Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Yose Haglili. But where a talmid chakham such as R. Weinreb has delivered a psak halakhah which is well founded (as it would appear to this student, based on the aforementioned gemara in Sotah 48a which requires canceling choral arrangements in which the gentlemen follow the ladies) and no dissenting analysis of substance has been offered in response, all of Klal Yisra’el is bound by that psak halakhah.

  54. Thank you, R’ mycroft and R’ HAGTBG, for bringing to light this fascinating issue of rabbinic sovereignty, which now offers us an opportunity to explore the two conflicting interpretations of the gemara in Shabbat 130a. According to the following opinions, the gemara in Shabbat 130a establishes that where there is an unresolved dispute among poskim, then the student of a posek may follow his own posek, without taking into account the countervailing ruling of other poskim: Chazon Ish (Yoreh De’ah 150:1-5); the Steipler in his Kehillot Ya’akov (Berakhot, no. 1) and R. Aaron Yehudah Halevi Grossman in his Shu”t Vidarashta Vichakarta IV, Yoreh De’ah no. 24. On the other hand, the following opinions hold that even the students of a posek must take into account the countervailing ruling of other poskim: R. Refael Yosef Chazzan in his Chikrei Lev, Yoreh De’ah no. 87 (s.v. vigam); R. Ben-Zion Abba Sha’ul in his Shu”t Or Litzion I, Orach Chaim no. 7, sec. 2; R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach in his Shu”t Minchat Shelomoh I, no. 44, sec. 2; and R. Avigdor Neventzal in his Sichot Lisefer Vayikra, p. 237.
    Of particular interest is that R. Moshe Feinstein appears to vacillate between both options. In his Dibberot Mosheh to Shabbat no. 10, for the bulk of the lecture he adopts the Chazon Ish’ approach (-albeit without mentioning Chazon Ish by name). However, in the final section of the lecture, R. Feinstein appears to reverse himself. Likewise, his subsequent treatment of the topic in Iggerot Mosheh, Even Ha’ezer IV, no. 100, sec. 4, appears equivocal. In the introduction to the first volume of Iggerot Mosheh, R. Feinstein explains that the citizens of Rabbi Eliezer’s town described by Shabbat 130a were rewarded because they were not aware of the fact that any sage contradicted Rabbi Eliezer. R. Feinstein’s remarks could be plausibly read to imply that, had the townspeople been actually aware that Rabbi Akiva opposed Rabbi Eliezer, they would have been indeed obligated to be stringent regarding a safek di’oraita, even though they were all disciples of Rabbi Eliezer.

  55. lawrence kaplan

    Again Shalom, you evade the main point: The OU statemennt is not a pesak halakhah and does not present itself as such. The languge chosen, “improper” and “unacceptable breach of Jewish tradition,” is deliberately non-halakhic language and avoids such terms as assur, etc. It was issued by the Board of the OU (again, I think deliberately) and not by any UO poskim. All your learned citations, whch we certainly appreciate, are therefore irrelevant.

  56. lk, so you are saying that the ou that it is improper and a breach but if you want to do it – it is permissible.

  57. I am grateful to Mori ViRebbi R. Kaplan for correcting my (possible mis)interpretation, as well as to the anonymous poster for kindly defending it. Let’s hope that the OU will elaborate further.

  58. A further elaboration on the general topic should be in the next issue of Jewish Action, which goes to press any day.

  59. “Please correct me here, but the lack of a mechitza was always considered unacceptable, no?”

    The OU had as members many schuls that did not have a mechitza-were there many schuls with mixed pews I don’t know.

  60. MiMedinat HaYam

    still up in the air is leading (non) prayers in other contexts than kabbalat shabbat services.

    for example: ata ha’reta on simchat torah, hoshanot, slichot, etc. after all, they’re not tfilot, they’re just piyutim / thillim / a bunch of psukim. simlar to kabbalat shabbat services. would the ou allow it, or are they waiting for the need to adopt another resolution?

    also: an’im zmirot, alenu, ein ke’elokeinu, psukei dzimrah all of which i understand the alternative (claim to be orthodox) minyanim do now.

  61. “I have no sense of where the lines are drawn”

    Certainly possible personalities involved, attitudes of potential givers etc determine where lines are drawn.

  62. MiMedinat HaYam

    to mycroft on October 19, 2010 at 5:48 am :

    are you implying that $ controls the ou board?

    what a revelation!

  63. ” But where a talmid chakham such as R. Weinreb has delivered a psak halakhah which is well founded (as it would appear to this student, based on the aforementioned gemara in Sotah 48a which requires canceling choral arrangements in which the gentlemen follow the ladies) and no dissenting analysis of substance has been offered in response, all of Klal Yisra’el is bound by that psak halakhah.”

    Obviously, RAW disagrees. I am no fan of RAW-but the clear disagreement is find the issur-then on public policy matters RAW disagrees with practically everyone else-so what else is new. BUT RAW doesn’t have to listen to RHW.

  64. “While on a halachic level, the action of the Board is meaningless, it tells you that a minority opinion is now being driven out of what is to be tolerated”

    As if the Board of the OU or any organization determines what other organizations would do.

  65. “are you implying that $ controls the ou board”
    What do you think?
    The real issue is to what extent piskei halacha are determined by money-who supports the mosdos etc-I hope that is not too prevalent.

  66. As if the Board of the OU or any organization determines what other organizations would do.

    It doesn’t need to determine. It reinforces norms. I doubt it will be meaningless.

  67. “As if the Board of the OU or any organization determines what other organizations would do.

    It doesn’t need to determine. It reinforces norms. I doubt it will be meaningless”

    Not meaningless but like almost all organizational resolutions close to meaningless.

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