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Gay Marriage

Let me repeat my view (link): The fight over gay marriage is irrelevant and doomed to failure. The cultural battle has already been lost and the legal defeat is inevitable. In my opinion, we should not enter a battle that is not ours, is destined to fail, and will only alienate potential allies. Given recent news, it seems the legal battle is almost over (link). Yet some Orthodox Jews continue to fight (link). I don’t understand the strategic thinking. At most, state your principled opposition and move on.

Edging Toward Egalitarianism

I have repeatedly argued that moves toward a limited, so-called halakhically permitted egalitarianism is forbidden for, among other reasons, encouraging the Non-Orthodox in their ways (see these links: I, II, III, IV). Non-Orthodox Jews find their non-Orthodox deviations confirmed by Orthodox practices that seem similar to them. A recent blog post on the Forward’s website provides additional confirmation (link). In discussing the many successes of egalitarianism, the author points out that even the Orthodox are beginning to adopt egalitarian practices: “Even the modern Orthodox in the United States are edging towards egalitarianism…” In other words, the Reform got there first, then the Conservative and now, at long last, the Orthodox are willing to concede that the others were right about egalitarianism. Aside from the halakhic and hashkafic problems with egalitarianism, it also confirms the non-Orthodox in their ways.

Half-Shabbos

The Jewish Week (link) writes about so-called “half-Shabbos”, texting on Shabbos. As we discussed here, it is forbidden (link). Half-Shabbos is chillul Shabbos, a violation of the holy day. If this practice is as widespread as people tell me, it serves as a condemnation of our community that we cannot educate our children to observe Shabbos as teenagers. Hopefully, this is just a symptom of a rebellious phase that time and maturity will heal.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor 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 currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four 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.

70 comments

  1. Sorry, I accidentally deleted this post and had to recreate it.

  2. From HAGTBG:

    1. Agree.
    2. Disagree. See your #1. The cultural battle has already been lost.
    3. Very concerning. On the other hand, “hopefully” it the new “shomer negiah,” even if the tayveh there seems to be incalculably less to me.

  3. MiMedinat HaYam

    the battle over gay marriage has reached the point of (important) technical issues, such as religious rights to exclude the practice, etc.

    and the consensus is that these rights cannot be (legally; constitutionally) guaranteed, and the “pro” forces anyway do not want to concede these rights. i.e., they want to continue to “in your face” it to the religious side.

    2. (is hagtbg arguing that the gay marriage issue is also an “edging to egalitarianism”? interesting.)

    3. i have seen reports that the “half shabbas” texting issue extends to bnei braq. if so, its not just “our community” ( = MO) as you claim. (and how “shomer negiah” are the youth there anyway, hagtbg?)

  4. MiMedinat HaYam on June 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm
    2. No, I am arguing that the societal view on egalitarianism is such that what the (Modern) Orthodox do or do not do to accommodate egalitarian concepts is irrelevant to “reinforcing” the (even further) egalitarianism of the non-Orthodox. Saying that we can’t go further down a path most/many Orthodox have already gone down on (female education, bat mitzvot, gemarah learning, continuing growing public Torah role of women) is a false choice.

    3. I am saying that many singles (most after a certain point) are not shomer negiah, whether MO or charedi and yet their practice stays largely within Orthodoxy. As opposed to opting to eat a cheeseburger which more would take to indicate a likelohood that you are on your way out the door. This may be the same, as shocking as its alleged prevalence is.

  5. “The cultural battle has already been lost”

    If you’re living in a little East Coast liberal bubble, maybe. Most people strongly disapprove. Even in New York.

    “and the legal defeat is inevitable.”

    Has homosexual marriage ever been set in place by popular demand? (Short answer: No.) So why do you acquiesce so easily?

    “In my opinion, we should not enter a battle that is not ours,”

    Spoken like someone who’s happy living in his cushioned ghetto while the world disintegrates around him, thinking he’s safe. Newsflash: *God* thinks it’s your battle. And you sure aren’t safe. Wait till the first homosexual “Orthodox” couple demands you, as a rabbi, marry them.

    “is destined to fail, and will only alienate potential allies.”

    Like who? Please, I’m very curious to know who you think your “potential allies” are here, and in what causes.

  6. That was me.

  7. “The fight over gay marriage is irrelevant and doomed to failure. The cultural battle has already been lost and the legal defeat is inevitable. In my opinion, we should not enter a battle that is not ours, is destined to fail, and will only alienate potential allies.”as repulsive as gay marriage is to shomrei mitzvot in American terms why isn’t it a freedom of religion issue tol et those who believe as such practice as such.

  8. “That was me.”

    We knew. 🙂

  9. And happy, for once, that I live in a country full of macho Sephardim and crazy Orthodox. 🙂 Lots of gay pride; not a peep about marriage.

  10. Lots of gay pride; not a peep about marriage.

    Why, would the rabbinate approve it? When civil marriage comes to Israel, do you think this will be far behind?

  11. First thoughts – one doesn’t fight an issue simply because they are going to be successful. There is an important value in just stating clearly (even if only to your own constituency) that this is wrong. There is more to a public issue then the immediate end result.

  12. “the battle over gay marriage has reached the point of (important) technical issues, such as religious rights to exclude the practice, etc.

    and the consensus is that these rights cannot be (legally; constitutionally) guaranteed”

    To the contrary, there’s a braod consensus that rabbis would be fully protected even without a religious exemption in the statute. As I see it, the First Amendment takes care of that issue. The fight is whether commercial interests (e.g., a catering hall, caterer, baker, florist etc.) should get protection in the statute if they don’t want to proivide those services because they have a religious objection.

  13. “The fight is whether commercial interests (e.g., a catering hall, caterer, baker, florist etc.) should get protection in the statute if they don’t want to proivide those services because they have a religious objection.”

    Maybe someone can clarify something on this for me. People keep making this point about commercial establishments. But it is my understanding that under current discrimination law, if a homosexual couple wants to have a wedding in their religious tradition (which would not be recognized by law) it is unlawful to deny them services. First of all, is this true? That being the case, why would we expect it to change once the wedding is recognized legally?

  14. Acceptance within swathes of Modern Orthodoxy of the overturning of the prohibition of certain types of electricity on Shabbat is inevitable. There is sufficient serious halachic grounds (e.g. RSZA) plus changes in technology (e.g. LEDs, E-ink) to make this plausible.

    The interesting part of the texting story is how open the phenomenon is (as opposed to what people do within their private space).

  15. The battle on forms of Egalitarianism within Modern Orthodoxy has been lost and everyone honest knows it. The litmus test boundaries will remain a mechitza with separate seating, the definition of minyan and certain core parts of davening that must be led by a male sha’tz.

    The RW will continue to write them out of Orthodoxy, but have no power to make that so. It’s just rhetoric when push comes to shove.

  16. IH: The battle has been lost but by the Egals. It is over and they are being written out of Orthodoxy as we speak.

  17. Gil — I have no idea what the means. Substantiation please.

  18. Ah, the אסימון dropped. So you think Partnership Minyanim can be removed from Orthodoxy through the negotiation of admitting YCT musmachim into the RCA. I do hate watching train crashes…

  19. “Maybe someone can clarify something on this for me. People keep making this point about commercial establishments. But it is my understanding that under current discrimination law, if a homosexual couple wants to have a wedding in their religious tradition (which would not be recognized by law) it is unlawful to deny them services. First of all, is this true? That being the case, why would we expect it to change once the wedding is recognized legally?”

    The law is not yet clear on whether that is discrimination. What is clear is that “each state’s legislation [allowing same sex marriage] explicitly guarantees the rights of clergy to decide whether to preside at same-sex marriages, and the rights of houses of worship to decide whether to make their facilities available to solemnize or celebrate a same-sex wedding. A few states go further by protecting the rights of religiously affiliated organizations to refuse to treat same-sex marriages equally with opposite-sex marriages. Despite some academic prodding, however, no state has yet been willing to grant public officials or vendors of goods and services related to weddings (e.g., photographers, caterers, wedding planners, florists, and the like) exemptions from state-created obligations to serve without discrimination based on sexual orientation.” http://www.law.northwestern.edu/journals/njlsp/v5/n2/4/index.html

    The full article has a very interesting discussion of this issue.

  20. >If you’re living in a little East Coast liberal bubble, maybe. Most people strongly disapprove. Even in New York.

    I hear a lot of people say that, but how do they know?

  21. “The battle on forms of Egalitarianism within Modern Orthodoxy has been lost and everyone honest knows it. The litmus test boundaries will remain a mechitza with separate seating, the definition of minyan and certain core parts of davening that must be led by a male sha’tz.”

    Wrong about definition of minyan for now. Please see like to Makom Toronto, led by a YCT grad. Makom requires a minyan of 10 men and 10 women!

  22. Sorry, here is the link: http://makomto.org/

  23. Hirhurim on June 23, 2011 at 10:31 am
    IH: The battle has been lost but by the Egals. It is over and they are being written out of Orthodoxy as we speak.

    I am not so sure. First, who are the “Egals?” I assume in context, “Egals” means those who are approving female rabbis but am unsure. And that merely brings back the argument as to where the line is, and definitely Orthodox rabbis and others in very good standing continue to advance the concept of knowledgeable women in public leadership roles.

    Second, if over half the high school students of MO yeshivot and a good portion of chareidi yeshivot are texting on Shabbat I am not so sure how far the authority of the rabbis actually is. Even if the rabbis now are against a formal female position using the title “Rabbah” or the like doesn’t tell you where the communal pressure will compel things next. Maybe that has everything to do with addiction, peer pressure or religious doubt and nothing to do with either any need for public female leadership or female pressure to demonstrate their excellence but it does indicate a disconnect between the students and their teachers and perhaps the rabbinate and the masses they serve.

  24. IH: Acceptance within swathes of Modern Orthodoxy of the overturning of the prohibition of certain types of electricity on Shabbat is inevitable.

    This type of talk is fine but if it is implemented, it will not be tolerated in the MO community.

    So you think Partnership Minyanim can be removed from Orthodoxy through the negotiation of admitting YCT musmachim into the RCA.

    I don’t presume that all YCT musmakhim approve of Partnership Minyanim. I’m thinking of the broad agreement that such practices fall outside of Orthodoxy.

    You might be comfortable with all of these practices but, as you keep reminding us, you consider yourself post-denominational.

  25. HAGTBG: I am not so sure. First, who are the “Egals?” I assume in context, “Egals” means those who are approving female rabbis but am unsure.

    Yes and Partnership Minyanim etc.

    And that merely brings back the argument as to where the line is, and definitely Orthodox rabbis and others in very good standing continue to advance the concept of knowledgeable women in public leadership roles.

    With your changed language, you just switched topics.

    Second, if over half the high school students of MO yeshivot and a good portion of chareidi yeshivot are texting on Shabbat I am not so sure how far the authority of the rabbis actually is.

    Rabbis never had control of behavior. But they have control of institutions and general sentiment of propriety. People may do things that are wrong but they, generally, do not claim that their actions are acceptable. Otherwise, teenage fooling around would now be mutar.

  26. Gil,
    An accomodation with electricity will be necessary because soon it will be impossible to leave our 100th story apartments with electronic lock and automatic lights in the hallways without using electricity. And if we opt to stay indoors all shabbos there will be little to do, as electricity infiltrates everyday activities (Really, 20 years ago, who’d ahve thought we’d need electricity to read. But in 100 years I find it almost unimaginable that there will be active printing presses.

  27. Newsflash: *God* thinks it’s your battle.
    Neither God, nor his representatives in Chazal, or Rishonim, gave us any good philosophical ammunition with which to fight this battle.

  28. “But they [Rabbis] have control of institutions”

    Sorry, but that is naive. These institutions are funded by the laity. The laity have significant power which gets focused when the Rabbis exceed the boundaries of their box.

    As an example, look at the National Council of Young Israel decision to prohibit women and convert Presidents. The wealthy YIs have just ignored the central institution; the poor ones have had to rely on media coverage for negotiating power.

    In any case, the reach of the half shabbos practice is a not insignificant wound to the rhetoric of the Orthodox Establishment.

  29. Why, would the rabbinate approve it? When civil marriage comes to Israel, do you think this will be far behind?

    Don’t Israeli courts already recognize gay marriages performed abroad?

  30. With your changed language, you just switched topics.

    Not quite. I’ve heard Rabbah Hurwitz speak and, whatever else I think about this, she is up front that there are certain rabbinic functions she simply can not do as a woman. She is not saying she is doing the exact same role as a rabbi or that she can sit on a beit din.

    You consider the woman speaking in front of the kehilla as not the same thing as Rabbah. Good. But what if the speaker speaks once a month at her shul? Every week? What if people start soliciting advice from her when she evidences advanced knowledge?

    Where is the line?

    If this is only about a title (and it mostly is) its a stupid fight. And if that is all that distinguishes the Egals from the Orthodox then its not a distinction that will stand the test of time nor should it.

  31. MiMedinat HaYam

    finally, someone who’s heard her speak.

    was she discussing the parameters of her duties, or was she discussing a torah issue? can she discuss halacha, gemara?

    i mean not concerning her and her position, but regular rabbinic “drasha”.

    2. j kaplan and jeese a: does the current law make homosexuals a “protected class”? not in nys, yet. except in housing and public accomodations. (not in employment, i believe.)

    nevertheless, the fact that the legislature is discussing this, and (if it passes) will come up with wording they agree beforehand cannot stand a legal challenge, means they reject protecting commercial (and other) interests.

    and i bring up personal interests, too. can a school / yeshiva / camp / other org refuse to allow admission to a child of such a union (prob not a good idea from a practical standpoint, but its their right.) will parents who refuse to associate with such a child be subject to sanctions? will a yeshiva be forced to accept such a child even though his / her conversion is not acceptable (harping on the aecom dorm discrmination case, where the court rewrote requirements to live in aecom dorms)?

    someone pposted recently a brief the o-u is filing in another religious liberty vs employment discrimination case, which the circuit court required a protestant school to rehire a teacher it religiously objected to.

    and i’m not arguing with you, j kaplan. lets not go there.

  32. Just for the sake of clarification, J is not J. .

  33. “and i bring up personal interests, too. can a school / yeshiva / camp / other org refuse to allow admission to a child of such a union… will a yeshiva be forced to accept such a child even though his / her conversion is not acceptable”

    Seems to me that they can do with a Jewish child of such a union or a child of an unacceptable conversion what they do with non-Jews (not that I advocate treating such children differently than other Jewish children).

    I’m not arguing; I’m just trying to respond to your questions.

    “will parents who refuse to associate with such a child be subject to sanctions?”

    I don’t understand; which parents, what sanction, by whom?

    BTW, if it’s the brief that I read just a few days ago, the school did not “religiously object” to the teacher; that is, it didn’t fire the teacher because their religious doctrine demanded that they do so (e.g., in yeshiva terms, the person hired to read the Totah and lead the davening at the school minyan turned out not to be Jewish). They were discriminating on the basis of a disability (e.g., again in yeshiva terms, the school was firing a rebbe because he became disabled and had to use a wheelchair), and argued that under the ADA they could do so because it was a ministerial position.

  34. HAGTBG: First, if the fight were just over a title it would not be a stupid fight. The title has a long and deep significance in the Jewish community, and giving the title to women has specific connotations in the current environment. Even if that was all the fight was about, it would be worthwhile. But that is not all that it is.

    The definition of a functioning rabbi is fuzzy, as are many things in the real world. The differences between a shamas, a chazzan and a rabbi are also fuzzy but they are real. It is the combination of functions that add together to create the rabbinic role. In other words, there is no single line but a number of crossings that eventually place someone over the line. It would certainly be helpful to solidify that definition but that will be a matter of debate. One thing most people seem to agree about, including Mrs. Hurwitz and her boss, is that she is a full member of the rabbinic staff.

  35. MiMedinat HaYam on June 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    She has spoken about this topic in front of a camera. See here:

    http://www.kesher.org/centennial/events/WomenFutureofJudaism.shtml

  36. One thing most people seem to agree about, including Mrs. Hurwitz and her boss, is that she is a full member of the rabbinic staff.

    I don’t see how saying she is a “full member of the rabbinic staff” is any more helpful then calling her “Rabbah” if we have no idea what that means. She was a full member of the rabbinic staff when she was Maharat as well and no one really cared.

  37. Of course people cared. That was equally objectionable. The difference with the title change was that it hit more emotional strings. I started blogging about it when she was given the title Maharat.

  38. I started blogging about it when she was given the title Maharat.

    Whether you did or didn’t blog on it you know very well this matter did not explode into an issue that almost fractured the RCA until she shifted to the “Rabba” title. That is more the hitting emotional strings. Had they left her with “Maharat” there was no indication anything other then the matter blowing over would have happened. I am sure that there is some issues other then title that separate her from, say, a YU-supported female clergy positions in synagogues where they are smart enough to not publicly list what the person does. But who really knows what those distinctions are? Because I don’t.

  39. Let me restate it in a way that might be easier to understand. Maharat was a problem with the same implications but people were willing to look the other way. People were not willing to look the other way for Rabbah, particularly the way it was done. It does not mean that the title is the problem, only that the title and the way it was done is what caused the large and public reaction. Otherwise people might just have ignored it and hoped it was an isolated phenomenon that would disappear on its own.

  40. The YU graduates do different things than the Rabbah

    A better question is why people don’t object to the Spanish Portuguese shul which has a woman who is effectively a rabbi. The answer is that she and her boss have the sense to work under the radar and not get in everyone’s face. I personally find her role equally objectionable to Sara Hurwitz’s but both she and her boss are hard to oppose because they’re so quiet and humble.

  41. The YU graduates do different things than the Rabbah

    Please elaborate.

  42. FWIW, she is no longer at S&P.

  43. “MDJ on June 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm
    Gil,
    An accomodation with electricity will be necessary because soon it will be impossible to leave our 100th story apartments with electronic lock and automatic lights in the hallways without using electricity.”

    Then one does not live there-if one wants to leave on Shabbos-I try hard to avoid being away for Shabbos other than in Israel-but I have when stuck in such lodging depending on circumstances not left the room, or not left the floor on Shabbos. I am far from a chareidi-but absence pichuach nefesh one does not violate Shabbos.

  44. Mycroft,
    What I am saying is that there will be nowhere else to live. That will simply be what the world is like. Much like one cannot (really) choose to live in a mud hut in the US.

  45. But you still haven’t explained why you are obsessed with this halacha.

  46. Sorry, wrong thread.

  47. It seems that on the matter of electricity, Alan Brill agrees with me in his most recent post on half-shabbos.
    >>3] There really is a technology gap, in which books and study will all be done online before we know it. It needs to be solved ASAP. Someone will need to take Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach to a new level.

  48. Michael Rogovin

    I do not understand the fuss. It is legal for Jews to marry Christians and illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion. Are the catering halls in Williamsburg used for mixed marriages? Can a rabbi not refuse to officiate at a wedding of a kohen and a grusha? What are we talking about? Do florists really care about who uses their flowers? Most US catering halls that care are the ones connected to a synagogue and these should be protected, but if they are already used for prohibited marriages, why is this any different?

    Personally, I am opposed to all civil marriage and think that leaving “marriage” to each religious community would be a better solution, with the state granting the same secular, civil rights to any domestic partnership without using the trigger word marriage. But other than a religious argument, and this is not universally shared in religious communities, I just do not see a cogent argument against gay civil marriage so long as we have straight civil marriage.

  49. MiMedinat HaYam

    not all catering halls are in synagogues — in fact, hungarians do NOT do weddings in synagogues (though the question of R and c synagogues is still open.)

    either way, can i refuse to rent out my (private) hall for such a purpose? and many synagogue halls are under the purview of a caterer, not the synagogue (but the synagogue may or may not have veto rights, formally or informally.)

    ditto sheva brachot, etc. 83rd yr old bar mitzvah. for such a “couple”.

    2. they want the “trigger” word, and they want the right to force an O rabbi to perform such a ceremony, upon request. they will not concede that, in the nys legislature (non)debate.

    3. what if a cohen demands a synagogue rabbi perform an improper wedding in the synagogue hall ( = public accommodation)?

    4. what if a homosexual demands membership in a hatzalah squad (which normally does not admit unmarried males as members)?

  50. RSZA was the key posek used to justify the Va’ad Halacha BSD Trsnaplant paper here on Hirhurim.

    Excepting for politics — including the standard we can’t give satisfaction to the Heteredox — is there any serious halachic process reason why his Sefer Meori Eish (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/8861) could not become the basis of a new psak regarding the use of 21st century elecrical appliances on Shabbat?

    After all, “we must follow the proper application of halakhah in whichever direction it leads.”

    No polemics please, just serious answers to a serious question.

    On the use of electricity,

    I would be interested in a serious re

  51. RSZA was the key posek used to justify the Va’ad Halacha BSD Trsnaplant paper here on Hirhurim.

    Excepting for politics — including the standard we can’t give satisfaction to the Heteredox — is there any serious halachic process reason why his Sefer Meori Eish (http://www.hebrewbooks.org/8861) could not become the basis of a new psak regarding the use of 21st century electrical appliances on Shabbat?

    After all, “we must follow the proper application of halakhah in whichever direction it leads.”

    [No polemics please, just serious answers to a serious question]

  52. For reference, the 20 year old paper by Rabbis Broyde and Jachter:
    http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/journal/broyde_1.htm

  53. “they want the “trigger” word, and they want the right to force an O rabbi to perform such a ceremony, upon request. they will not concede that, in the nys legislature (non)debate.”

    As I noted before, EVERY state which has a statute allowing same sex marriage has protection for clergy (although I think they already have the protection of the First Amendment.) So why do you think NY, with powerful Catholic and Jewish communities, would be any different? would be

  54. ““MDJ on June 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm
    Gil,
    An accomodation with electricity will be necessary because soon it will be impossible to leave our 100th story apartments with electronic lock and automatic lights in the hallways without using electricity.”

    Then one does not live there-if one wants to leave on Shabbos-I try hard to avoid being away for Shabbos other than in Israel-but I have when stuck in such lodging depending on circumstances not left the room, or not left the floor on Shabbos. I am far from a chareidi-but absence pichuach nefesh one does not violate Shabbos.

    MDJ on June 24, 2011 at 7:03 am
    Mycroft,
    What I am saying is that there will be nowhere else to live. That will simply be what the world is like. Much like one cannot (really) choose to live in a mud hut in the US”

    I doubt the world will ever be one where only resiences are above 100th floor-but if so one could still not violate Shabbos.

  55. Mycroft — the normative practice of not using electronic devices on Shabbat is borne out of a machloket with dissenting poskim, is less than 100 years old and halachicly weak given today’s technologies. Have a read through the 20 year old article by Rabbis Broyde & Jachter (which, itself, is outdated in assumptions about electric/electronic appliances).

    BTW, for those who prefer the PDF, it is available at: http://www.aishdas.org/articles/rmjb_electricity3.pdf

  56. IHTake a look at RASZA’s correspondence with the CI in ShuT Minchas Shlomoh as well as his stated responses in the footnotes in SSK. RSZA argued that while it was very difficult to consider the use of electricity as either violative of Binyan or Macheh BPatish, IIRC, RSZA still viewed the same as violative of a Rabbinic prohibition and was quite adamant about not using his writings as the basis for your suggestion. I think that one can argue that refraining from using technology is at least a Kiyum of what Rambam descibes as a Shivisha HaNikeres from acting in a creative manner and master of one’s environment.

  57. FWIW, I agree with R Gil re the recent vote in NY re same gender marriages, and for similar, if not identical reasons. I have posted this previously, but it is important to reiterate that this issue is not necesarily one where we should be following the RCC. I would also add that while reinforcing the standards of Tznius for men and women are very important, we seem to have forgotten how to project the following facts that IMO should be part of any Chasan/Kallah course and/or refresher for married couples, and which clearly distinguish the Torah observant Jewsish outlook from that of the RCC:

    1) Chazal, and the Rishonim, were well aware of the Greco-Roman, Islamic and RCC views on physical intimacy that ran the gamut between hedonism and puritanism. I think that Chazal staked out a POV of viewing marriage as the construct for sanctifying physical intimacy between a husband and wife. Why else would we recite whhat many Rishonim view as a Birkas Hodaah on this very issue at the Chupah?

    2) It is important to realize and be aware in a marriage that emotional intimacy is the key to physical intimacy.

    3) While Rambam in Hil. Issurei Biah offers an almost utilitarian and very puritanical view of marital relations, one can find a very different and positive view in such works as Baalei HaHefesh and Igeres Hakodesh, as well as the Zmiros for Leil Shabbos. In a similar vein, there are texts and seforim as well as teachers on Tznius who, IMO, set forth a far better construct of these Halachos and Minhagim than for example R Falk-who R Broyde demonstrated overread RMF’s views. E E Ellinson’s works and other simiolar works strike me as far superior to R Falk, whose work is fine for Gateshead, but may be wholly inappropriate for other communities.

    4)One should be able to contrast the very realistic views of Chazal re marital intimacy in many places in Shas with the views expressed for example at the end of Chelek Sheni of the MB, which one very prominent RY and POsek told me were for Tzadikim only.

    5) IIRC, many Rishonim subscribe to the view that there is a Mitzvah for a man and woman to be married, even if they are not capable of having children, at least for the reason of providing each other emotional and physical intimacy.

    6) Any rav who deals in Psak with young couples can testify that the Halachic views of spacing children, abortion, etc cannnot and should never be compared or mentioned in the same breadth as the RCC’s absolute ban on birth control or abortion.

    7) unlike the RCC, there is neither a role for the celibate nor a ban on divorce within the Halachic system.

    Perhaps, we should rethink how we teach our young men and women about these issues before we think of alliances with institutions whose values are decidedly different on such issues.

    All of the above should not be read or interpreted as endorsing the legitimization of the gay lifestyle within our communities, which I regard as an issue that has nothing to do with how the Orthodoz community projects its views on issues of public policy.

  58. Mycroft,
    You are completely missing the point on several levels.
    1) 100 story buildings is only an example of one of the ways electricity will become pervasive. It may never happen, but some of the possibilities will. Just think of the changes of the last century and the last 40 years.
    2) Of course you wouldn’t be allowed to violate shabbos, but
    a) What constitues a violation of shabbos
    b) If you don’t make things so that violations can be avoided, by properly construing electricity and electronics, you will place jews in a situation where many (even those who are frum by all definitions now) will feel forced to use electricity. Once they start using it for needed but not permitted purposes, they will continue to use it for other purposes. If one wants to retain any control over the use of electricity for the vast majority of halachic jews, we have to have some flexibility of when we allow it, so that we can explicitly say, here it is ok, here it is not (perhaps because of uvda d’chol).

  59. Steve — the Chazon Ish vs. RSZA disagreement is well covered in the 20 year old paper by Rabbis Broyde and Jachter. BTW: while the html reference above is correct, I provided the incorrect URL for the PDF version which (corrected) is: http://www.aishdas.org/articles/rmjb_electricity1.pdf

  60. MDJ-why would anyone want to live in a 100 story building as opposed to being the king or queen of their own castle? The real issue is understanding electricity through all of the various Halachic and Hashkafic permutations of Hilcos Shabbos-as opposed to blindly saying that if I choose to follow RSZA’s savara, even though RSZA never approved the same LMaaseh, that one essentially obliterates and renders Hilcos Shabbos a mere pierce of historical and intellectual archaeological interest. Again, the question needs to focus on how one can have a Shisah HaNikeres, as opposed to adopting kulos or chumros in a willy nilly fashion.

  61. IH-I have read the paper as well as the discussion by R Broyde and R Jachter. The bottom line remains that RSZA never thought that his POV, no matter how he debated with the CI, should be adopted on a LMaaseh basis.

  62. Steve — this is not clear. Further, technology has changed considerably since even the R Broyde and R Jachter paper. For example, mobile telephones are not circuit-switched.

    My point remains that the normative practice of not using electronic devices on Shabbat is borne out of a machloket with dissenting poskim, is less than 100 years old and halachicly weak given today’s technologies.

    Orthodoxy can stubbornly hold to the position that it is all assur, well, because that’s the way we were brought up. Or, it can re-engage with the issue on the basis of RSZA’s jurispudence that was ahead of its day.

  63. MDJ-why would anyone want to live in a 100 story building as opposed to being the king or queen of their own castle?

    If for example they are living in Israel, where most people already live in 3+ story apartment buildings, and population growth ensures that buildings will have to continually grow higher.

  64. Orthodoxy can stubbornly hold to the position that it is all assur, well, because that’s the way we were brought up. Or, it can re-engage with the issue on the basis of RSZA’s jurispudence that was ahead of its day.

    It seems that any psak which ends up the way you want it (i.e. lenient) is “ahead of its time”, and any psak which ends up otherwise (i.e. strict) is so nonsensical that nobody would ever consider it except out of a blind unwillingness to consider change.

    We all have something to learn from your fair and objective attitude towards halacha.

  65. Shlomo — RSZA was ahead of his time because he was able to look past the clunky edifices of a new technology that seemed unshabbasdik and establish principles that could be used to establish why a given device was assur.

    We’ve ended up in a situation where things are assur, because they’re assur with no one able to agree on precisely why.

    As Rabbis Bryode and Jachter state (20 years ago): “The use of electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov is a relatively new, and exceedingly complex, area of halacha. The variety of positions taken by the decisors is broad, and these differences are extremely relevant to the conduct of observant Jews. It is the near unanimous opinion that the use of incandescent lights on Shabbat is biblically prohibited. Beyond that, there is little agreement. Some authorities maintain that any time a circuit is opened or closed a biblical violation occurs. Other authorities insist that the use of electricity absent lights is only a rabbinic prohibition. Still other authorities accept that in theory the use of electricity without the production of light or heat is permitted – although even those authorities admit that such conduct is prohibited, absent great need, because of tradition.”

  66. A tradition, mind you, that is less than a 100 years old as evidenced by the the 1911 Otzar Yisrael entry for Telegraph/Telephone. See: http://hebrewbooks.org/pagefeed/hebrewbooks_org_2594_32.pdf (article starts on the previous page).

  67. 100 years is a long time. Multiple generations have been raised with this universally accepted pesak. Future solutions, when necessary, lie in the path that Tzomet has blazed.

  68. I do not discount the minhag issue, but I note that this was easily thrown off the truck for plenty of other issues. One example that immediately comes to mind given recent discussions was the use of horseradish for Maror — which lasted far longer than 100 years, but is now frowned upon with some even saying that its use does not fulfull the mitzva at all and is a bracha le’vatala.

  69. As you are well aware, I’m as big an apologist for much of the controversial enhancement of the roles of women in Orthodoxy as any lay person who comments on the internet regularly. But I found Jo Ellen Green Kaiser’s essay completely offputting. As someone committed to halachic Jewish observance and to a Torah-first hashkafa, her essay appears to be completely irrelevant to me and my community.

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