Post-Orthodox Gay Marriage

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The media recently reported that an Orthodox rabbi performed a gay marriage ceremony (I, II). This is factually incorrect. The rabbi is no longer Orthodox and the media does the reading public a disservice by uncritically accepting his self-description.

Rabbi Steven Greenberg (bio), ordained approximately 20 years ago at Yeshiva University’s RIETS, is an advocate for homosexuals in Jewish ritual. In his book, Wrestling With God and Men, Greenberg reinterprets a biblical prohibition contrary to the Talmud’s interpretation which has been unanimously accepted for millennia (see this post: link). In rejecting the Talmudic tradition and permitting that which is universally considered forbidden, Greenberg removes himself from Orthodox Judaism. He lacks any support from canonical texts or leading rabbinic authorities. He is a lone voice on this issue but certainly not the only rabbi in history to drift away from Orthodoxy.

Greenberg describes his most recent action, performing a gay marriage, in a comment to the Morethodoxy blog (link):

…The ceremony consisted of a blessing over wine and a shehecheyanu to begin. Then we read their shtar shutafut. Earlier at a tish we did a traditional ritual of acceptance of the document’s terms that included lifting a bag with an object belonging to each party…

[T]he men both took an oath to be loyal to the other in emotional and physical ways, conditional upon receiving a ring. When the partner gave the ring, he recited a descriptive sentence that made the moment of the neder’s legal force identitical to receiving a ring…

We followed with seven birchot shevah that the gentlemen chose and then the breaking of a glass…

Greenberg goes on to say that he does not claim that the ceremony was Orthodox. However, the media’s report was that an Orthodox rabbi performed the ceremony, which Greenberg does not deny. He should. He should declare that he is not Orthodox.

Greenberg created a new ceremony that is similar to a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony but modified in critical ways for the same-sex circumstances. In doing so, he not only created a new ritual for a religiously unsanctified relationship, he publicly implied that Orthodox Judaism accepts gay marriage as a religious construct. This constitutes a falsification of the Torah and Chillul Hashem. We must protest this false public portrayal of Orthodox Judaism.

Orthodox Judaism does not sanction gay marriage religiously. This has nothing to do with American law or politics. It is about a religion’s internal beliefs and religious rituals. We bear responsibility for a tradition dating back thousands of years and have no right to radically reform it. When a (formerly) Orthodox rabbi unilaterally disposes of a long-standing law, he forfeits the title Orthodox.

As a decentralized religion, Orthodox Judaism lacks an ecclesiastical body to authoritatively excommunicate anyone. Private excommunications have been repeatedly abused to the point of irrelevance. Ideally, the central organizations of Orthodox Judaism would publicly declare standards and decry breaches of those standards. However, for reasons about which I can only speculate, no rabbinic organization — neither the RCA nor the IRF, nor Greenberg’s alma mater RIETS — has commented on this latest development in any way. However, the RCA’s statement earlier this year leaves no doubt about its position (link):

The Torah, which forbids homosexual activity, sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony. While we do not seek to impose our religious principles on others, we believe the institution of marriage is central to the formation of a healthy society and the raising of children. It is our sincere conviction that discarding the historical definition of marriage would be detrimental to society.

Similarly, leading RIETS rashei yeshiva have issued a statement on homosexuality, decrying “the heresy of elements who although identifying themselves as Orthodox demand change in the Torah, rachamanah litzlan, a clear violation of the thirteen principles of faith” (link). Additionally, Yeshiva University President Richard Joel and RIETS Dean R. Yona Reiss issued this statement two years ago: link.

Orthodoxy has red lines, boundaries that one may not cross. Who would have thought, twenty years ago, that we would see a time when self-described Orthodox rabbis would publicly advocate gay marriage, women rabbis and other obvious deviations from traditional beliefs and practices? If no one can legitimately object to misuse of the term “Orthodox,” and therefore anyone can claim that any deviation is “Orthodox,” then the term has no meaning. I reject this line of reasoning. There are deviations that cross the lines, as blurry as they may be.

The media was fooled by Greenberg. While the central Orthodox institutions have issued statements on this subject in the past, they cannot expect the media to remember them. I believe that in order to effectively protest the false claims of this news story and mitigate this Chillul Hashem, our leaders need to explicitly respond to the media. Sadly, this blog lacks the power of a press release from communal leaders, which can conclusively end this unprecedented breach.

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 of New Jersey, 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 recently served on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazine and 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.

187 comments

  1. The title of this post should read non-orthodox gay marriage.

  2. “Who would have thought, twenty years ago, that we would see a time when self-described Orthodox rabbis would publicly advocate gay marriage, women rabbis and other obvious deviations from traditional beliefs and practices?”

    C’mon, Gil. Even you can’t really equate an alleged “gay halachic marriage” and women rabbis. And if you can, then shame on you.

  3. Amen. How about a joint statement from the OU and Agudath Israel? Now that would be something!

    But even absent that, I agree that there needs to be public statements by Orthodox organizations submitted to the media on this issue.

    By the way, I also think RIETS should formally revoke Rabbi Greenberg’s semicha. Rabbi Revel did this to a student becuase of his stance on mechitzos. Gay marriage is no less important.

  4. I don’t see an equation. I see two items listed in the same sentence.

  5. Trying to separate the emotion from the facts, I am left confused. In the link you provided, Rabbi Greenberg states clearly:

    While it was a wedding according to the laws of the District of Columbia, it was not a kiddushin. My position was and still is that is that kiddushin is not appropriate for same-sex couples.

    Can you more precisely articulate precisely what rules he violated that RIETS, as well as any Orthodox Rabbinical association in which he is a member, should denounce him as no longer being legitimate?

    FTR: I have no present view on this issue; just trying to understand.

  6. Gil- “would see a time when self-described Orthodox rabbis would publicly advocate gay marriage, women rabbis and other obvious deviations from traditional beliefs and practices.”

    You can’t see the equation you yourself set up? Maybe you took a page from hearst’s yellow journalism class. Quite a broad brush stroke, no? Taint them all with one that few if any would agree with. Nice hatchet job. Self describe orthodox rabbis – plural really.

  7. The “Statement of Principles” from two years ago explicitly rejected Orthodox sanction of gay marriage. I think the various Orthodox organizations feel that their own positions are well known, and Rabbi Greenberg is also well known. There is nothing to be gained by giving him and this wedding more publicity. If RIETS were to revoke his semikha it would raise questions of when they chose to do so (if ever) and which aveirot they are willing to “tolerate” among their musmakhim.

  8. IH: He conducted a wedding ceremony that sanctified a gay marriage, including sheva berakhos levatalos.

    Ruvie: Two infractions can both be serious without being equivalent. I am comfortable stating that supporting religious gay marriage and women rabbis are both sufficient to forfeit Orthodox status even though they are very different things. (Before you object, note the RCA’s statement on women rabbis.)

  9. As recently as this past May the RCA reiterated its clear stance rejecting such marriages.

  10. including sheva berakhos levatalos.

    You sure? He writes (your link again) “We followed with seven birchot shevah that the gentlemen chose”. I’ve been too non-traditional weddings and this rarely (if ever) means “sheva brachot” in its halachic formulation — and perhaps not even a bracha in its halachic formulation.

  11. Does the RCA, for example, have a rule that a Rabbi cannot officiate in a civil marriage ceremony in which kiddushin is not performed?

  12. Does it matter whether the berakhos are levatalah? The bottom line is that he performed a pseudo-ritual to sanctify a forbidden marriage.

    I’m sure he can rationalize it in a perfectly Post-Orthodox way. Marriage isn’t about “relations” (euphemism to avoid filters). It’s about building a life together with shared values, joining destinies, creating a Torah-filled household. Gay couples can do this just like hetero couples. If a rabbi can conduct a wedding where the couple will have relations without use of a mikvah, which most pulpit rabbis do at one time or another, why not other forbidden relations as well? And so on and so forth. A talmid chakham should be able to purify a sheretz. The bottom line is he manufactured a ritual to sanctify a forbidden union.

  13. Gil — I have no issue with you condemning an Orthodox Rabbi for officiating at a civil marriage which you find offensive. That is a perfectly appropriate position for you to take.

    But, that is not the post you chose to write. My issue is that the facts don’t appear to align with the over-reaching post you chose to write. If you can defend it based on facts, I am open to being convinced.

  14. Since I already answered your qquestion more than once, I will not bother repeating myself again.

  15. re forfeit Orthodox status
    Should it bother me you dont consider me Orthodox?

  16. Huh? It wasn’t Kiddushin and it wasn’t sheva b’rachot. It was a civil marriage in which R. Greenberg officiated in which the participants included “cultural Jewish” elements.

    Is there a rule or halacha that a Rabbi cannot officiate in a civil marriage ceremony in which kiddushin is not performed?

  17. Perhaps these organizations didn’t go out of the way to condemn this act for the way reason they don’t condemn or approve of weddings where the couple is not shomer shabbat or does not follow normal orthodox practice. Perhps they are learning if you can’t accept, at least don’t go out of the way to condemn.

  18. Is this really where your priorities are? A rabbi performs a civil marriage with a ceremony that is deliberately not Kiddushin: this is the ultimate horror which requires us to deploy excommunication AND to revoke someone’s smicha? Is this really the biggest challenge to Avodat Hashem these days, that it justifies such extreme rhetoric?

    This blog is a must-read for me when it’s focused inward, when it’s self-aware, self-critical, deeply and honestly exploring important issues within Orthodoxy. There’s no value-add when your posts just dump on people you disagree with. I can get that anywhere.

  19. Blah blah civil marriage. Blah blah no kiddushin. Maybe if people see the video they will better understand what took place there:

  20. FTR: I have no present view on this issue; just trying to “understand.”

    Har, har. For a man with “no present view” you certainly seem very much determined to defend the whole abomination. (Not my word, by the way. Where is it from? Oh, yes.)

  21. I have a sheila for Greenberg. If this gay couple divorces do they need a get before remarrying in another homo ceremony?
    But seriously, how can be that a RIETS musmach can take part in such a chilul Hashem.

  22. Greenberg represents no one but himself he has not support even among left wing MO rabbis. IT seems that the rabbinic establishment feels that the best thing is to ignore him. Gil however sees an opportunity to further his crusade against agaist “post-Orthodoxy” by guilt through his association of the two.

    btw I dont see anything in the RCA statement that suggests that supporting women rabbis places one outside of Orthodoxy. You must be thinking of the Moetzes’s statement.

    RAL clearly does not think so and appears to think that the only problem with female rabbis is giving them the title of rabbi. If RAL came out in favor of Maharats, would this place him outside of Orthodoxy?

    Your arrogance on this issue knows no bounds.

  23. Adding to the confusion, after the couple breaks the glass, the crowed can be heard singing Od yeshoma….kol choson v’kol kallah.

  24. “IT seems that the rabbinic establishment feels that the best thing is to ignore him.”

    Or passively support him. You see the problem? Plus, knowing their stances on other issues makes them more suspect if they don’t speak out, and more obligated to if they object.

  25. Shachar Ha'amim

    David Tzohar on November 21, 2011 at 1:50 am
    I have a sheila for Greenberg. If this gay couple divorces do they need a get…

    Probably not, but in the State of Israel the exclusive jurisdiction for such a divorce would be at the State Rabbinical Courts

  26. “I am comfortable stating that supporting religious gay marriage and women rabbis are both sufficient to forfeit Orthodox status even though they are very different things.”

    Really. And Rabbi Broyde, whose articles you proudly publish on this blog, who has stated that he sees no halachic objection to women rabbis but only a public policy one, is, I guess outside Orthodoxy. Gil, I repeat: for shame. Moshe’s statement that you show arrogance in your comment is understated. I’m embarrassed that someone like you could write something so [I won’t write the adjective I am thinking of}]. And what’s worth is that you apparently don’t understand why what you did is so egregious. Shame on you!

  27. …you certainly seem very much determined to defend…

    Hevai dan et kol ha’adam le-chaf zchut. Or does that only apply RWMO to Charedim?

  28. Who would have thought, twenty years ago, that we would see a time when self-described Orthodox rabbis would publicly advocate gay marriage, women rabbis and other obvious deviations from traditional beliefs and practices?

    When the gay relationship issue first became a topic of conversation in the 90’s, I asked what was halachically wrong with it. I was cited to biblical verses and the entirety of the mesorah in interpreting them. Later, when Rabbi Greenberg adopted his non-mesoretic interpretation, it merely served as a reminder that his position was at variance with the entirety of the traditional interpretation.

    When the woman rabbi issue heated up a few years ago, on this very blog, I asked what was wrong with it. You had a very difficult time of explaining it, ultimately focusing on the title itself as a problem and, perhaps, sociological fears it would drive men away. You could not cite to a biblical text. You could not cite to a traditional interpretation, because the role of “rabbi” is so very much broader then it once was and women were already adopting most of those roles within Torah Judaism. That you (or the REITS roshei yeshiva) could not develop a long mesorah against women rabbis (other then that it was simply not done) was, frankly, to my great surprise. Rather, the argument was, merely, that it was never done before, as opposed to having been forbidden before. But then, that’s the case with several roles of the current rabbinate. Whether one agreed or disagreed with the specific application of that principle here, there were other precedents that this did not mean forbidden (e.g. teaching women gemarah).

    And sociologically, one very clearly took place outside of the Orthodox community and one is not so clear at all.

    That you lump such things together as “Post-Orthodox” is very sloppy (both religiously and sociologically) and goes to show how right people were to be offended and call you out when you first started referring as LWMO (or undefined portions thereof) as “Post Orthodox.”

  29. Joseph Kaplan: And Rabbi Broyde, whose articles you proudly publish on this blog, who has stated that he sees no halachic objection to women rabbis but only a public policy one, is, I guess outside Orthodoxy.

    Rabbi Broyde does not support women rabbis, as you say yourself. Calling his objection “public policy” does not turn him into a supporter. For shame for implying it!

    It isn’t arrogance to follow your rabbeim and my rabbeim are pretty clear that the women rabbis is a boundary issue. And let me be absolutely clear: I consider anyone who supports the ordination of women as rabbis to be outside the pale of Orthodoxy. Period. End of story.

    Here is the key line in the unanimous RCA resolution:

    “Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.”

  30. HAGTBG: I can make great halakhic arguments for many Conservative deviations. That doesn’t make them any less deviationist from tradition or disastrous for the Jewish people. Does a unanimous RCA resolution mean nothing?

  31. HAGTBG: I can make great halakhic arguments for many Conservative deviations. That doesn’t make them any less deviationist from tradition or disastrous for the Jewish people. Does a unanimous RCA resolution mean nothing?

    Many accepted Orthodox practices started as deviations (bat mitzva, women learning anything formally, women learning gemarah formally, the rabbi speaking the vernacular on Shabbat) as well.

    A resolution to what? A great many people who voted for that resolution are pro-women adopting almost the same responsibilities just with a different title, to make clear the things women can not do (e.g. minyan, dayan). And that resolution was after the sole example that currently exists. But you knew both those things already.

    You mixed apples and oranges here because you enjoyed the taste.

  32. Sadly, it has become apparent to many that the RCA is just as much – if not more – a political organization than a rabbinic one. So, while I don’t see anything objectionable in their statement on women’s ordination, I don’t attribute papal infallibility to it either. The RCA is articulating its official public policy position, which it has every right to do. One can take it or leave it. The RCA doesn’t have the authority to define Orthodoxy for all mankind, and only has the prerogative to establish policy for its members and constituents. And to be honest with you, I think it is better that way.

  33. It is not clear to me that the RCA even establishes policy for its members in any meaningful way. For example:

    In order to regain the confidence of the Jewish community, let it be resolved that all Jewish communal institutions strive to attain levels of transparency regarding financial affairs, regarding the mechanism of leadership succession, and regarding the planning and execution of general business.

    Vehicles for attaining transparency include annual open meetings, featuring complete reports of their activities and financial condition, as well as periodic newsletters detailing current news and goals.

    http://www.rabbis.org/news/article.cfm?id=105445

  34. Or,

    RESOLVED that since there is a significant agunah problem in America and throughout the Jewish world, the Rabbinical Council of America declares that no rabbi should officiate at a wedding where a proper prenuptial agreement on get has not been executed.

    http://www.rabbis.org/news/article.cfm?id=100772

  35. I would still like to understand whether the RCA has a rule that a member Rabbi cannot officiate in a civil marriage ceremony in which kiddushin is not performed?

  36. Yes, the key line.

    We [the RCA, a membership organization which is mostly the RIETS Rabbinic Alumni Association] cannot accept either

    [a] the ordination of women [so? nobody’s asking them for approval, and even R Weiss backed down on calling them “rabbi”] or

    [b] the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title [so they won’t admit them as members of the RCA, so what else is new? Let them form a Women Rabbis of America]

    Yes, it’s the key line, and it’s just as clear in what it does NOT say as what it DOES say. I do not see anything in that line that places Orthodox women rabbis outside of Orthodoxy. Just that they as an organization will not recognize their degrees, or accept them as members.

    You, however, go beyond that “supporting … women rabbis [is] sufficient to forfeit Orthodox status ” and declare them to be beyond the pale of Orthodox Judaism, anathematizing them.

  37. >It isn’t arrogance to follow your rabbeim and my rabbeim are pretty clear that the women rabbis is a boundary issue. And let me be absolutely clear: I consider anyone who supports the ordination of women as rabbis to be outside the pale of Orthodoxy. Period. End of story.<

    That and a few dollars will get you on the subway. If support for women rabbis puts one out of the pale of orthodoxy is a sociological, not an halachic question. I agree that at the moment, it at the very least puts one on the periphery of the orthodox community, but if in 20 years, there will be broad support for it, then it will not longer be the case. Your rabbis, like those of the past, who battled against innovations, may in the long run win or lose, but they simply do not have the power to write people out of a community without, well, broad communal support.

    Same with this Greenberg person, to me he seems like a confused lunatic and I can not imagine that anyone can take him seriously, but I know that if for some unfortunate reason, he gains broad support in the orthodox community, then, nebach, there will be a new "boundary issue". In the end, there are only two ways to deal with this guy, either ignore him or condemn him for his actions, arguing about labels is both futile and a distraction. If as you say, every orthodox group condemns him and he finds no social footing in the orthodox community, than it is sociologically inacurate to label him orthodox, and argument about "hilchot orthodoxy" will not achieve any such result one way or another.

  38. gil – “It isn’t arrogance to follow your rabbeim and my rabbeim are pretty clear that the women rabbis is a boundary issue. And let me be absolutely clear: I consider anyone who supports the ordination of women as rabbis to be outside the pale of Orthodoxy.”

    as noted when the rabbah issue first reared its head. RAL really couldn’t care less except that it was a fissure point in the mo community that could have split it apart. he as well many others do not deem it beyond the pale. to link that with r. greenberg and smear everything that you disagree with as beyond the pale is unfortunate. could we expect more intellectual honesty than polemics of name calling o self imposed boundary restriction – leave that to the historians when we have past to the next world.

  39. Ruvie: Yes, I’m linking all leftward trends. Looking at each individually is, I believe, only seeing the trees and not the forest. No, not all leftward trends are equal and I never claimed they are.

    I believe your portrayal of RAL’s reaction to the Rabbah issue is incorrect. He did not believe it was worth causing a schism. That is hardly “couldn’t care less”.

  40. IH: Do you approve of rabbis performing civil ceremonies for intermarriages? No kiddushin but with a chupah, blessings and breaking of the glass?

    Jon Baker: I believe RIETS alumni barely make a majority of the RCA, certainly not an overwhelming majority. And the RCA’s statement is important to people who care about it. The organization’s unanimous rejection of women rabbis was certainly seen as symoblically important at the time.

  41. gil – i see you agree that you are painting a very broad brush stroke. that you for your honesty (no sarcasm). on RAL viewpoint – as i noted at the time – he really did not want to be brought into this issue which has no relevance to him in israel. he believed it was an american issue. although i did not broach the issue with him personally, 3 separate close talmidim who he talks to on a regular basis relayed his attitude to me at the time. i think moshe shoshan concurs.

    i think RJM makes an excellent point that many folks miss – “The RCA doesn’t have the authority to define Orthodoxy for all mankind…” can we move on from the beyond the pale verbiage?

  42. “Rabbi Broyde does not support women rabbis, as you say yourself. Calling his objection “public policy” does not turn him into a supporter. For shame for implying it!

    It isn’t arrogance to follow your rabbeim and my rabbeim are pretty clear that the women rabbis is a boundary issue. And let me be absolutely clear: I consider anyone who supports the ordination of women as rabbis to be outside the pale of Orthodoxy. Period. End of story.”

    I implied no such thing. But since you are trying to mislead and twist my words, let me be very clear and use R. Broyde’s own words. Rabbi Broyde has written: “a reasonable case can be made that it is not forbidden to issue to a qualified woman semikhah and let them perform many rabbinic functions.” Thus, whatever he personally believes (and I think a fair reading of his article is that he agrees with this position from a technoical halachic perspective), people who believe in halacha can support, from a halachic perspective, the ordaining of women.

    But he does not support ordaining women rabbis today, as I made clear in my earlier comment. If I made an error it was in using my own shorthand of “public policy” as the basis of his position. So, again, let me use his terminology: his opbjection to wone rabbis TODAY is based on “meta-halachic considerations.”

    So, what he is saying, I think pretty clearly, is that those who support women rabbis have a halachic leg to stand on although it is not something that should be implemented now for “meta-halachic considerations.” You, Gil, OTOH, once again take upon yourself the mantle of “gatekeeper of Orthodoxy” and write out those who you disagree with.

    To put it bluntly: there is no respected Orthodox rabbi who has said that a reasonable case can be made for an Orthodox rabbi to officate at a gay marriage. I have shown , and I think it really can’t be debated, that a well respected Orthodox rabbi — one who you apparently respect as well — has, however, said that a reasonable halachic case can be made about women rabbis. Your linking the two in a sentence and writing a supportable halachic position out of Orthodoxy is therefore, IMO, disgraceful.

  43. Ruvie: The report I received was that RAL did not consider the Maharat issue worth creating a schism but did support — actively (meaning he was involved in and approved the formulation) — the RCA statement on women’s ordination.

    Joseph Kaplan: There is a difference between saying that someone can make a halachic case for something and supporting it. I think I can make a halachic case for all sorts of improper behavior. That doesn’t mean I support it. You have not shown that a well respected Orthodox rabbi supports women’s ordination.

    I should add that I consider calling women to the Torah equally beyond the pale of Orthodoxy. And, no, I am not making these decisions on my own. We have poskim and leaders who have already made these decisions. I’ve chosen my side and evidently so have you. Hopefully we can still be friends.

    RJM and Ruvie: I address the issue of authority at the end of the post. Fine, you can argue that the RCA isn’t the arbiter of Orthodoxy. Does that mean that anything goes? Someone can call for widescale conversion to Christianity and since there is no universal ecclesiastical body, he cannot be criticized??? We have no need for ad absurdum arguments because we have already reached them.

  44. Shachar Ha'amim

    “ruvie on November 21, 2011 at 9:53 am
    gil – i see you agree that you are painting a very broad brush stroke. that you for your honesty (no sarcasm). on RAL viewpoint – as i noted at the time – he really did not want to be brought into this issue which has no relevance to him in israel. he believed it was an american issue. although i did not broach the issue with him personally, 3 separate close talmidim who he talks to on a regular basis relayed his attitude to me at the time. i think moshe shoshan concurs.”

    I think that RAL must certainly be aware that it is not an American issue (which leads me to believe that his position isn’t as simple as these “close talmidim” perhaps make it out to be). How will he deal with the first time that a woman goes to the Bagatz against the chief rabbinate and a local religious council seeking to be appointed as a “neighborhood Maharat” – i.e. challenges for equal rights to appointment as neighborhood rav? Let’s not forget that less than 30 years ago, women could not serve on local religious councils until this was challenged by Leah Shakdiel.
    Or other jobs that now are given only to men because they are “rabbis” but in theory could be performed by women as well?

  45. R Gil wrote:

    ” I’m sure he can rationalize it in a perfectly Post-Orthodox way. Marriage isn’t about “relations” (euphemism to avoid filters). It’s about building a life together with shared values, joining destinies, creating a Torah-filled household. Gay couples can do this just like hetero couples. If a rabbi can conduct a wedding where the couple will have relations without use of a mikvah, which most pulpit rabbis do at one time or another, why not other forbidden relations as well? And so on and so forth. A talmid chakham should be able to purify a sheretz. The bottom line is he manufactured a ritual to sanctify a forbidden union”

    FWIW, I fully concur with this comment and R Gil’s [post.

  46. Gil, I have lots of friends, very good friends, with whom I strongly disagree.

    “You have not shown that a well respected Orthodox rabbi supports women’s ordination.”

    True; I never said, nor implied, that I did. What I did say, and there really can’t be any debate about this because it is obvioulsy true, that a well respected Orthodox rabbi and scholar HAS said that a halachic case can be made for ordaining women and that the argument HE uses against such ordination TODAY is meta-halachic.

    Our disagreement — strong disagreement — is therefore twofold: (a) whether people who support an action for which a halachic case can be made should be written out of Orthodoxy, and (b) whether such an action should be linked in a sentence to an action for which NO Orthodox rabbi that I know of says a halachic case can be made.

  47. IH: Do you approve of rabbis performing civil ceremonies for intermarriages? No kiddushin but with a chupah, blessings and breaking of the glass?

    Gil — the question is what rules the RCA or RIETS impose on their members. What I think (and, frankly, I haven’t thought about it deeply) isn’t relevant.

    So, since you’re a member (I assume), what is the answer: does the RCA have a rule that a member Rabbi cannot officiate in a civil marriage ceremony in which kiddushin is not performed?

  48. The person who officiated at this ceremony has a long record of justifying the homosexual lifestyle, which was evident in “Trembling Before God”.

  49. IH-the RY of RIETS a while back signed the equivalent of a Kol Koreh about the PNA.

  50. Joseph: I disagree with your premise. Just because a halachic case can be made for something doesn’t make it acceptable. A case in point is removing the mechitzah. There are plenty of other examples. I actually believe a halachic case can be made for presiding at a same-sex wedding. There’s no lifnei iveir if they are pre-maritally active. So if there are no berakhos levatalos, what technical infraction exists?

    IH: I’m not a member of the RCA (my application has been long pending for what I consider bureaucratic reasons) and don’t know its specific rules on this subject. I suspect that it doesn’t have rules of this type and would just forward such case to the Vaad HaKavod.

    I don’t believe RIETS will do anything out of fear of lawsuit. That’s the unconfirmed speculation currently circulating.

  51. BTW Gil, all the old comments are gone on Hirhurim nor are they here.

    To everyone else, incase there was anyone from two years back who actually believed Gil did not mean to be insulted when he referred to people as “Post Orthodox”

    Here was Gil’s apologetic then

    Gil, 2/11/2010 (Towards a Definition of Post Orthodoxy) Many within the group we are calling Post-Orthodox believe and behave unquestionably within the boundaries of what is conventionally considered acceptable in the Orthodox community.

    Rather than abandoning Orthodox belief and practice, they reject the focuses of the Orthodox establishment. They assume that the Orthodox community has misplaced values and they seek to move beyond this. They are Post-Orthodox in terms of emphasis. The Orthodox community, they believe, is overly stale, authoritarian, unspiritual and entrenched. It focuses too much on sustaining its institutions and defining boundaries. The Post-Orthodox reject all that. They emphasize social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty. This leads to personal experimentation in theology and practice, sometimes (emphasis added) going beyond the bounds of acceptability within the Orthodox community. But that is a symptom of Post-Orthodoxy, not a cause.

    In Dr. Brill’s latest post (link), he argues that what members of the so-called Generation-Y are doing is not Post-Orthodox but Do-It-Yourself Judaism. I suggest that these terms are essentially synonymous. Someone who comes from the Orthodox community and adopts the attitudes of Do-It-Yourself Judaism is precisely Post-Orthodox.

    Post-Orthodoxy is not a set of beliefs or practices but an attitude towards religion.

    Gil, 11/12/2011 (Comments, Post Orthodox Gay Marriage) And let me be absolutely clear: I consider anyone who supports the ordination of women as rabbis to be outside the pale of Orthodoxy. Period. End of story.

    A pity you couldn’t remember that supposed definition of yours.

  52. IH wrote:

    “Hevai dan et kol ha’adam le-chaf zchut. Or does that only apply RWMO to Charedim?”

    Ain Haci Nami. Ask yourself the following question-who does or who should you have more in common-someone who agrees with you on solely on one issue of Hashkafa as opposed to someone whose Hashkafic views are to your right, but who also shares a common committtment to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim?

  53. Joseph Kaplan and Moshe Shoshan- IIRC RHS stated that ordination of women is”yehareg v’al Ya’avor”. Clear enough? I haven’t heard his take on gay marriage, but I can guess…

  54. Gil: you undermine your own position WRT RMBroyde. A talmid chacham can metaher a sheretz, BUT the reason that any such reasoning is specious is NOT because of “sociology” or “meta-halacha”, but because the iron wall of Halacha says that a sheretz is tamei.

    RMBroyde making a halachic case for women rabbis is NOT considered halachically insignificant, DAVKA because there is no halachic counter-argument, only sociological arguments. Now, I agree with the sociological arguments, but you make Joseph Kaplan’s point for him – sociology can change, only Torah law is permanent.

    BTW, speaking as a childless married person, whose mother-in-law remarried at the age of 75, I have to say that your “post-orthodox” justifications ring a bit hollow, unless you’re also broadly condemning me and my mother-in-law for having hollow marriages because there’s no possibility of children. Think about it (hizaher bedivreicha):

    “I’m sure he can rationalize it in a perfectly Post-Orthodox way. Marriage isn’t about “relations” (euphemism to avoid filters). It’s about building a life together with shared values, joining destinies, creating a Torah-filled household. Gay couples can do this just like hetero couples. “

    Meditate further, on the text of the Jewish wedding – nowhere does it say that the purpose of marriage is children. Even Sos tasis is the image of Zion as a bereaved mother from Eicha.

    What is the traditional bracha people wish for newlyweds? That they build a faithful home in Israel. What is the traditional bracha for a newborn? That they grow to Torah, Marriage and Good Deeds – not that they grow to have grandchildren.

    Proclaiming that the purpose of marriage is support and companionship, rather than children, is the most traditional understanding of marriage, not “Post-Orthodoxy”. There is in fact no mitzvah to marry, only a mitzvah that when one gets divorced, one do so with a get.

    (Here’s where we might be dropping into “post-Orthodox” reasoning:) What there is, is an existential chazakah, “when a man leaves his parents, and joins with his wife and they become one flesh” – a presumption, but not necessarily prescriptive (except for the Rambam, and he only brings it for bnei Noach, not for Jews).

  55. Gil —

    Thanks. And I also appreciate the admission at the end of your response to Joseph reflecting last nights discussion.

    What changed my view (from anti to pro) on the overall subject of same-sex civil marriage was this important statement by Judge Walker in his CA Prop 8 Ruling of August 2010):

    “Marriage in the United States has always been a civil matter. Civil authorities may permit religious leaders to solemnize marriages but not to determine who may enter or leave a civil marriage. Religious leaders may determine independently whether to recognize a civil marriage or divorce but that recognition or lack thereof has no effect on the relationship under state law”.

    Given this, it seems to me that the more constructive path for your anger is to advocate the RCA rules forbid its member Rabbis from officiating at Civil Marriages in which an Orthodox kiddushin, with PNA, is conducted.

  56. Oops: forbid its member Rabbis from officiating at Civil Marriages in which an Orthodox kiddushin, with PNA, is NOT conducted.

  57. HAGTBG wrote in part, based on a post by Dr A Brill:

    “Rather than abandoning Orthodox belief and practice, they reject the focuses of the Orthodox establishment. They assume that the Orthodox community has misplaced values and they seek to move beyond this. They are Post-Orthodox in terms of emphasis. The Orthodox community, they believe, is overly stale, authoritarian, unspiritual and entrenched. It focuses too much on sustaining its institutions and defining boundaries. The Post-Orthodox reject all that. They emphasize social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty. This leads to personal experimentation in theology and practice, sometimes (emphasis added) going beyond the bounds of acceptability within the Orthodox community. But that is a symptom of Post-Orthodoxy, not a cause”

    WADR, changing “emphasis” and the like to conform with the social, cultural and political demands of the time is in IMO simply another way of expressing comfort with the universal and viewing the particularisic aspects of Torah observance as either distasteful or not worth one’s sweat and investment-whether that means becoming textually literate or precise in one’s level of observance.

  58. David Tzohar: And I take RHS’ pronunciamenti on women’s issues with a grain of salt. Several sections of his famous article on women’s tefillah groups are blanket condemnations based on personal chiddushim, not documented in halachic precedent or reasoning.

  59. HATGBG wrote in part:

    “They emphasize social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty. This leads to personal experimentation in theology and practice”

    Once again, one finds no Birkas HaMitzvah recited on any such action, and I would suggest that such emphasis will not lead anyone to become a Ben or Bas Torah, let alone a Talmid Chacham or Isha Chashuvah. The question that I would pose-why adhere even minimally to Halacha if your emphasis is “social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty” What is the basis of your committment?

  60. R’ Gil,

    I am not suggesting there are no bounds to Orthodoxy. But the absolute bounds must be defined by Torah and Halakha. Public policy statements reflect the opinions of the organizations from which the issue – nothing more, nothing less.

  61. Jon Baker-WADR, if one conducts no more than a Google search, one will see much in the basic roots and history of feminism that hardly has a favorable view of the nuclear family.

  62. Steve, Gil wrote that last year. They are not my words and I do not agree with it/all of it. However your particular interpretation of the words, that people are taking the simple approach of self-analyzing instead of taking the approach of “sweat and investment” of having someone else make the decision for them, does not seem the simple interpretation.

  63. HAGTBG: I’m not sure what you think has changed. There are still many among the Post-Orthodox who are well within Orthodoxy.

    Jon: RMBroyde making a halachic case for women rabbis is NOT considered halachically insignificant, DAVKA because there is no halachic counter-argument, only sociological arguments

    No, actually he makes the halakhic counter-argument even if he doesn’t agree with every point. A viable halakhic doesn’t have to be something with which no one can disagree. RMBroyde leaves open halakhic arguments against women’s ordination.

    I have to say that your “post-orthodox” justifications ring a bit hollow

    I’m not saying they are wrong. They just miss the big point that a same sex wedding is giving approval to a biblically forbidden relationship. There is not technical violation of halakhah in performing the wedding.

    RJM: I am not suggesting there are no bounds to Orthodoxy. But the absolute bounds must be defined by Torah and Halakha.

    So what is wrong with officiating at a same sex wedding where nothing halakhically significant occurs?

  64. STEVE:

    “Jon Baker-WADR, if one conducts no more than a Google search, one will see much in the basic roots and history of feminism that hardly has a favorable view of the nuclear family.”

    we all know you don’t like “feminism” (or rather your definition of it), but what does this have to do with what jon wrote?

  65. So what is wrong with officiating at a same sex wedding where nothing halakhically significant occurs?

    Or any type of civil marriage without kiddushin and a PNA. That is precisely what the RCA needs to resolve as a matter of policy.

  66. Calling this a “civil marriage” is a joke. “Rabbi” Greenberg was not invited to officiate as justice of the peace or county clerk. He was invited as a “rabbi” to give it Jewish content, and he rose to the occassion by created a ziuf ha Torah of Jewish ritual. The clear purpose of what he did was to give “Jewish” sanction to an abominable union. That anyone thinks he can still be labelled Orthodox just goes to show how low we have fallen.

    BTW, even as to a civil ceremony, I have grave doubts whether an Orthodox Jew may perform one. The gemara in Chullin states taht one of the three merits the non-Jews have is they do not perform marriages for homosexual relations. Rashi there states that such is a form of “kalus rosh.”

    There are fundamentalist Christians who have quit or been fired from positions as Assistant County Clerk (or whatever they call the bureaucrats where they are) rather than perform a civil same-sex ceremony. IMO, it would be an awful Chillul Hashem for an Orthodox Jew to do the same. At minimum, a shailoh should be asked.

  67. There are still many among the Post-Orthodox who are well within Orthodoxy.

    They are until they aren’t.

  68. The whole thing reminds me of a story by the Chasam Sofer (some say the Netziv). There was once a very pious young woman, who became very ill with a mysterious disease. Her doctor checked her out, and told her that she was in danger of dying, and that the only way to save her life was to eat pork. “No, I refuse to do so. I would rather die,” said the woman.

    So the local rav came to her to convince her that under the laws of the Torah she was obligated to eat the pork. She refused again and again, until finally he said, “If you do not eat the pork, you will be considered a suicide and not buried in the Jewish cemetery.” So she agreed — but with one condition, that the pig would be shechted properly. So they called the shochet over, who duly shechted the pig. When they gave the girl the pork, she said,”Have you checked it for treifos?” No they said. So the shochet checked the lungs, and, sure enough, there was a lesion which would be a shailoh on a kosher animal. So they took it to the Rov for a psak. The Rov examined the lungs, and tried to talk, but just could not get the words out. He tried again and again, and still could not.

    “What the matter?” they asked. The Rov answered: “if someone showed me the same lungs from a cow that had been shechted, I would pasken that it is kosher. So I was about to say kosher. But I just cannot get out the word ‘kosher’ over a pig. A pig is a pig is a pig — and one simply cannot pronounce ‘kosher’ over a pig.”

  69. Tal — you’re right: emotion gets in the way of reasoned analysis.

  70. “Tal — you’re right: emotion gets in the way of reasoned analysis.”

    The reasoned analysis was that the pig was kosher?

  71. IH: Since we are going ad hominem, why don’t you give the “civil marriage” argument a rest. It’s absurd to the point of frivolous.

  72. IH: I apologize, I thought you were making an ad hominem attack.

    But you misunderstood the story. The point was that one can become so overfocused on minutiae as to forget the basics. You may need Yoreh Yoreh to pasken whether a cow is kosher or treif. OTOH, my four year old knows a pig is treif.

    To ask whether the berachos made here were technically berachos le vatallah is like check the lungs of the pig in the story.

  73. precisely. RHS announced that women rabbis were yehareg v’al yaavor, but the RCA statement didnt even say they were assur!

  74. HAGTBG responded:

    ““They emphasize social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty. This leads to personal experimentation in theology and practice”

    Once again, one finds no Birkas HaMitzvah recited on any such action, and I would suggest that such emphasis will not lead anyone to become a Ben or Bas Torah, let alone a Talmid Chacham or Isha Chashuvah. The question that I would pose-why adhere even minimally to Halacha if your emphasis is “social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty” What is the basis of your committment?”

    Regardless of R Gil’s authorship of the comment at issue, IMO, the observation and comment are valid and deserve a response.

  75. Steve, your argument is full of holes.

    You criticize people having an emphasis on “social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty.” Are we to assume that you believe that none of these values – justice, equality and honesty – are of particular import to you? (So now a woman will not be an Isha Chasuva if they care about things you do not care about? Chasuva indeed! I also like how a man is a scholar and the female counterpart is a woman of import in your terminology; a term devoid of any indication of intellect or merit – she could as well be very wealthy.) I find your argument quite odd and your claim a “response” is merited, unpersuasive.

  76. “IIRC RHS stated that ordination of women is ”yehareg v’al Ya’avor”.”

    He did and I guess those who feel bound by what he says are so bound and would therefore have to give up their lives rather than participate in the ordination of a woman. (Whether they would have to give up their lives rather than listen to such a woman give a Talmud shiur or sermon or respond to a halachic question is an interesting issue that I’ll let them deal with.) Certainly, however, that is not the RCA’s position (in whose mouth the words assur, much less yehareg v’lo ya’avor did not appear), nor is it R. Broyde’s position. And my objection to Gil is his writing out of Orthodoxy those who accept the halachic arguments which, R. Broyde, at least, says a halachic case can be made for. It’s the compulsion to exclude that I think is a serious mistake. Which I htink is also the point of R. Broyde’s response to R. Adlerstein article in Cross-Currents.

  77. Joseph: I think your argumentation is flawed. The RCA unanimously and unequivocally rejects women’s ordination and you are reading it as acceptance because they didn’t use the word “assur”. That’s just wrong.

  78. Steve: Are you really arguing against chesed???

  79. Glatt some questions

    I wonder if those who are spending so much energy writing folks out of Orthodoxy because of their attitudes towards homosexual marriage and women rabbis would instead focus on the beauty and the positives of living an authentic Jewish life that perhaps their time would be more well spent.

    I don’t agree with giving halachic acceptance to gay marriage, and there are several aspects of the Orthodox feminist movement that I take issue with.

    With that said, I think Orthodoxy has much bigger issues to deal with than whether or not a fringe element should or should not be called Orthodox.

  80. “Joseph: I think your argumentation is flawed. The RCA unanimously and unequivocally rejects women’s ordination and you are reading it as acceptance because they didn’t use the word “assur”. That’s just wrong.”

    R. Gil, if you don’t mind me stepping in, I think you may be talking past each other here. Joseph Kaplan, if I am characterizing your position, please correct me.

    R. Gil, you are being extremely results oriented here. You seem not to care WHY any given person or organization is against the ordination of women, so long as they are against it, they’re in the fold. It is clear from your many writings on this topic that you believe that women’s ordination is halakhically forbidden, no matter the circumstances. Joseph Kaplan is focused on the process end. R. Michael Broyde has presented a halakhic argument for why it might be permitted for women to be rabbis, and (according to JK, I’m agnostic on this question)seems to stand by it in theory, but in practice he thinks that this is a bad time to implement such a practice. The implication is that to convince R. Michael Broyde that women should be ordained, he doesn’t have change his mind on the halakhic merits of the question at all, he just needs to be convinced that he has misread the situation, or that the social reality has changed. It seems strange to say that somebody’s standing as an Orthodox Jew in good standing would hinge on what he/she thinks about external social reality, as opposed to what he/she thinks about halakha/hashkafa.

  81. “Joseph Kaplan, if I am characterizing your position, please correct me”

    “Characterizing” in that sentence should read “mischaracterizing.”

  82. I wonder if those who are spending so much energy writing folks out of Orthodoxy because of their attitudes towards homosexual marriage and women rabbis would instead focus on the beauty and the positives of living an authentic Jewish life that perhaps their time would be more well spent.

    I don’t agree with giving halachic acceptance to gay marriage, and there are several aspects of the Orthodox feminist movement that I take issue with.

    With that said, I think Orthodoxy has much bigger issues to deal with than whether or not a fringe element should or should not be called Orthodox.

    How much time do you think should be spent on it? How much energy? Something more than zero?

    I don’t see the Orthodox community spending an inordinate amount of time on it. Gil’s blog discusses a whole host of issues, this is only one of them. Posters are free to comment on whatever interests them.

    IMO, the fact that the press has reported that an “Orthodox” rabbi officiated at a same-sex marriage is both a horrific Chillul Hashem, and also leads to tremendous confusion. It is worth spending some amount of time clearling up the issue.

    Unless you are prepared to argue that ZERO time should be spent on the issue, or that the amount of time and resources spent are disproportionate to their importance, then these kinds of arguments are just make-weight arguments.

  83. ” It isn’t arrogance to follow your rabbeim and my rabbeim are pretty clear that the women rabbis is a boundary issue. And let me be absolutely clear: I consider anyone who supports the ordination of women as rabbis to be outside the pale of Orthodoxy. Period. End of story.”

    its not your strong position against women rabbis that is arrogant, its your rhetoric.

  84. Jesse A: I agree with your summary. Since I see Orthodoxy as both a sociological and religious group, I don’t see why contemporary circumstances should not be taken into account.

    Glatt: Of the 14 posts on the blog’s home page, only 1 writes people out of Orthodoxy, and on an issue that it seems everyone here agrees is beyond the pale.

  85. HAGTBG and R Gil:

    By no means am I am arguing against the importance of Chesed. However, Chesed, social justice ,equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty. ( however one defines the terms, which IMO are so vague that one can drive a proverbial truck through each of them), are not Mitzvos which entail a Birkas HaMitzvah as uniquely Jewish enterprises. One can participate in a rally anywhere and demonstrate in favor of “social justice ,equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty”, without any Kiyum HaMitzvah whatsoever.

  86. My latest article on Modern Orthodoxy: Neither Modern, Nor Orthodox.

    http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com/2011/11/modern-orthodoxy-neither-modern-nor.html

    I am sure many of you will disagree strongly, but I appreciate your feedback nonetheless.

  87. GIL:

    ” I don’t see why contemporary circumstances should not be taken into account.”

    does this cut both ways?

  88. sorry, that link was for the news page

  89. Reb Gil – this is one of these posts where I predict you will hit the 300 post count. 🙂

  90. “Since I see Orthodoxy as both a sociological and religious group, I don’t see why contemporary circumstances should not be taken into account.”

    We’ll see how I do articulating what I’m about to try to say. It’s a complex point, and I might not make it clearly in this space, if so, I apologize in advance.

    It is all good and well to say that you “see Orthodoxy as both a sociological and religious group,” but sociological categories have blurry borders, not hard lines. That doesn’t mean that we can’t decide that X criterion marks somebody as outside our social group, but in practice it isn’t so simple to do. It’s especially difficult in “emunos and deos” questions in this day and age. Just take, for example, the case of the academic who openly teaches the Documentary Hypothesis in his classroom, publishes on it and would be happy to discuss it in the Orthodox shul which he is a member of, if the Rabbi hadn’t insisted on vetting any Dvar Torah the academic gives in shul (I know of such a case). However, he is Shomer Shabbos and Kashrut and is a dues paying member of the synagogue, in which he is permitted to receive aliyot, speak (so long as the Rabbi checks out the speech first) and basically do anything else anybody else can do. You can argue that on some ideal level he might not be Orthodox, but from a sociological perspective there is no doubt that he’s part of the Orthodox community. Same goes for a homosexual couple whose children attend yeshiva day school, and who are members of an Orthodox synagogue and also keep kashrut and shabbos (I’m familiar with such a family as well). Both of these examples deviate from some communal norms, but clearly not enough to get them removed from the community. Sociology is an empirical discipline, and if you’re going to talk about Orthodoxy sociologically, you have to talk about what it IS, not what you want it to be. You can’t just assert that people who believe that women can be ordained, or that homosexuals can get married, are outside the community. You have to look and see whether they are or aren’t. (I’m not passing judgement on that question here). Are they members of shuls? Do they sit on Yeshiva boards? Where do they publish? Where do their kids go to school?

    All that being said, it seems that what you’re trying to do is establish facts on the ground such that anybody who disagrees with you on these issues is out, with all the social consequences that entails. And that’s fine, I suppose. You’re certainly allowed to use your bully pulpit here to promote whatever causes you want. But I think it’s a little disingenuous when you fudge elements in the positions of people like R. Broyde in order to put them in your camp, when it is far from obvious that they are. So you get into this argument with Joseph Kaplan, who points out a real feature of R. Broyde’s position, a feature that it has become clear you are aware of, and you act as if that feature doesn’t matter, because in the end he says “it shouldn’t be done right now,” while at the same time yelling at him (Joseph Kaplan)for pointing out that the RCA DON’T say “assur,” because after all, they say that they won’t accept such women.

  91. Suppose an “Orthodox” rabbi announced from the pulpit that henceforth, as far as he was concerned, one was free to use electricity all one wants on Shabbos. Turn on and off electrical appliances to your heart’s content. Just make sure that any lights are not incandescant. (Which in any case the government is trying to phase out.)

    Would such a rabbi still be considered Orthodox? Would it be a defense that one of the leading Torah scholars in the world took that position in theory, although in practice he forbade that very thing?

  92. Jesse: I intentionally wrote both sociological and religious. Meaning, someone who is sociologically part of the group but violates religious requirements is out. And someone who is religiously part of the group but violates sociological requirements is also out.

  93. With that said, I think Orthodoxy has much bigger issues to deal with than whether or not a fringe element should or should not be called Orthodox.

    When there are so many things wrong in Tel Aviv, how can we waste time dealing with peripheral issues like rockets in Sderot?

  94. “Meaning, someone who is sociologically part of the group but violates religious requirements is out. And someone who is religiously part of the group but violates sociological requirements is also out.”

    I’m obviously not being clear. My point is that there are no such things as “sociological requirements” which can be violated. There are sociological criteria by which we can judge if somebody is part of a community, or aren’t, and there are social hierarchies in communities. So you can look at somebody and say, “Well, this person is a member of an orthodox synagogue, and he participates in these communal practices and rituals, and his children attend these schools, so yeah, he’s in the Orthodox community.” And there are borderline cases, and people are members of overlapping communities, and it can get very complicated very fast. But none of that happens because somebody, or even a group of people, declare something a “sociological requirement.” And if a religious practice or belief has social consequences, then it can become a criteria for membership in a community, or it can be a way to create a hierarchy within a community. So for that reason I don’t really understand your distinction between “sociological requirements” and “religious requirements.” Can you give some example sso I understand what you mean?

    The point I was trying to make was that R. Broyde thinks that there is nothing Halakhically wrong with ordaining women (according to Joesph Kaplan’s reading). He thinks its a bad idea right now, for a whole host of reasons. None of this has to do with sociology, or with membership in the community, or anything like that. It’s just not-prudent. But why on earth should his position as an Orthodox Jew be challenged if he were to change his mind on the prudence of ordaining women? Once the debate is about the wisdom of a decision, as opposed to its essential permissibility, it’s hard to say that the question is a hard line social border any more.

  95. Jesse: Pardon my use of parallelism. By “sociological requirements” I mean being in the community. For example, a Satmar chasid who privately believes and behaves like a MO Jew is not MO because he does not live in the community in any way.

    The point I have been trying to make is that R. Broyde, along with every other major Orthodox rabbi, is against the ordination of women. Therefore, I am claiming, the ordination of women as rabbis is outside of the sociological Orthodox community. For these purposes, it doesn’t matter WHY it is outside the community. It just is.

    From the religious perspective, every major Orthodox rabbi is opposed to the ordination of women for religious — even if not halakhic — reasons.

    Either way you slice it, the ordination of women is out.

  96. “The point I have been trying to make is that R. Broyde, along with every other major Orthodox rabbi, is against the ordination of women. Therefore, I am claiming, the ordination of women as rabbis is outside of the sociological Orthodox community. For these purposes, it doesn’t matter WHY it is outside the community. It just is.”

    Putting aside my own belief, I think (you can correct6 me if I’m wrong) that the thrust of R. Broyde’s response to R. Adlerstein on Cross Currents is an argument against writing people mout of Orthodoxy because they take defensible halachic positions taht aren’t generally accepted. Which is what I’m trying to say. of course, just like I can disgaree with those who say ordination of women is yahareg v’al ya’avor, you can disagree with R. Broyde.

  97. As a reminder, Rabbis Broyde and Brody end their article thus:

    Given that there does not appear a panel of Torah giants to endorse the immediate and far-reaching change of giving semikhah to women, those who support increasing women’’s leadership roles should return to the path of incremental development on which Orthodoxy has been traveling until recently. Women should sit and study for increasingly long periods of time, write serious scholarship in Torah, develop as inspiring spiritual personas, and lead torah institutions, in function if not in form. In short, they should build the Orthodox community brick by brick, and see what happens over time. The passage of time, as Rabbi Lamm observes, solves many problems. We endorse this approach.

  98. Yehoshua Friedman

    Apropos of absolutely nothing, what do you call a top hat given to a new YU musmach whose undergraduate major was chemistry? …..

    A graduated cylinder.

  99. For those who are not Post Orthodoxaholics, R’ Kanefsky’s post on the Morethodoxy blog is worth a look.

  100. For those not familiar with their article in Hakira, the concluding paragraph of Rabbis Broyde and Brody refers back to an extended quotation from R. Norman Lamm earlier in the article, the key part of which is:

    At the same time, things have to be done gradually. To have a woman learn Gemara a generation or two ago like women learn Gemara today would have been too revolutionary. But with time, things change; time answers a lot of questions, erodes discomfort, and helps. So my answer, when I was asked by a reporter about what I think about women rabbis, was, basically: .“It’s going too fast.” I did not say it was wrong, I did not say it was right. It just has not paced itself properly. I was criticized, of course. People asked, “You mean that al pi din they.’re allowed to become rabbis?” My response: “I don’t know.—are you sure they’re not allowed to?”

  101. I don’t see the fuss about how to apply a word, and “Orthodox” is clearly a label with some fuzzy edges. Let Gill cut it any way he wants. Those on the other side of the line won’t disappear, and in time will at least have some loose organizational ties, call it the RO, the Rejects from Orthodoxy. The more thrown overboard whether by Gill or Charedim, the bigger the demographic of the more moderate group. And it must be understood that the issues are not localized, not just misogyny, homophobia and the like. The issues carry over to the study of history, literature and art, to the degree of acculturation that is acceptable, to how the sexes can socialize before and after marriage. In fact there are differences up and down the line, how to think about the DH,the acceptance of teleogy in world affairs… It is becoming clear there are two camps, and from this last discussion it is obvious to me that Gil and those who think like him can’t even persuade those who see YU and RJBS as central to MO.

    You know when Menonites establish a new settlement, they plan from the beginning that after 20+ years there will be serious divisions, and to avoid endless conflict the community will fund a new settlement for the heterodox group. Schism is natural, it happens all the time, not something to be resisted.

  102. This schism has been threatened for years. It’s all hot air. At some point, some fence straddlers may jump from RCA to Agudah; but, even that seems improbable given the need for parnassa.

  103. “R. Broyde, along with every other major Orthodox rabbi, is against the ordination of women. Therefore, I am claiming, the ordination of women as rabbis is outside of the sociological Orthodox community”

    OK, would you agree with the following:
    every major orthodox rabbi is against premarital sexual contact. therefore, those who engage in such conduct are outside of the sociological orthodox community.

    (i admit these ar enot logical equivalents, but if you do not agree with the latter please explain what you think the salient difference is)

  104. Following the comments on this blog all day, I can’t help but ask: is there really no one reading who feels compelled to say that while R. Greenberg may well have crossed a line– what he did is not Orthodox and not Halakhic (those two claims are not synonymous)– the fact is that gay men and women who want to serve Hashem without denying who they are and how Hashem made them face an impossible situation, one which most of us would collapse under the sheer weight of? Is there no space for the slightest articulation of compassion? Moreover, if you really believe in Hashem and seek to serve Him rather than just the Shulkhan Arukh, doesn’t the Halakha as it stands trouble you in the least bit? Doesn’t it bother you that it seems to make HaKadosh Barukh Huh seem cruel to real people– not moral monsters but real people who just want companionship in their lives? You can deal with this by castigating and condemning gays, but you do that at the expense of your own moral and intellectual integrity. I wouldn’t expect any better from the Gil Students or the Steve Brizels of the world, who are so convinced that they know everything about Retzon Hashem that they seem to have a lev shel even rather than a lev basar– but what about everyone else?

    Steve Brizel takes Chillul Hashem to new lows when he basically wants to suggest that hesed is not that central since it won’t make you a talmid chahcham. Got that? don’t spend too much of your time feeding the hungry because you could be hazzering a tosfos. And people wonder why so many people find religion in general and Orthodox Judaism in particular morally reprehensible. Reading Brizel, who could blame them?

  105. “Pardon my use of parallelism. By “sociological requirements” I mean being in the community. For example, a Satmar chasid who privately believes and behaves like a MO Jew is not MO because he does not live in the community in any way.”

    R. Gil, Thank you for clarifying. Now I understand what you mean.

    “The point I have been trying to make is that R. Broyde, along with every other major Orthodox rabbi, is against the ordination of women. Therefore, I am claiming, the ordination of women as rabbis is outside of the sociological Orthodox community. For these purposes, it doesn’t matter WHY it is outside the community. It just is.”

    This is just straightforwardly the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. R. Avi Weiss is the rabbi of a large Orthodox Synagogue, which is an OU affiliated synagoguge. He is a member in good standing of the RCA. He is not a major posek, but he is certainly “a major Orthodox Rabbi” by any sociological standard I can think of. You want to write him and his followers out of Orthodoxy, and as I’ve said before, you’re entitled to try to do so, but don’t pretend like you’ve come up with some empirical definition of “the sociological Orthodox community” into which R. Avi Weiss does not fit.

  106. ” For example, a Satmar chasid who privately believes and behaves like a MO Jew is not MO because he does not live in the community in any way”

    ok, so is he “Satmar”?

  107. ““R. Broyde, along with every other major Orthodox rabbi, is against the ordination of women. Therefore, I am claiming, the ordination of women as rabbis is outside of the sociological Orthodox community”

    OK, would you agree with the following:
    every major orthodox rabbi is against premarital sexual contact. therefore, those who engage in such conduct are outside of the sociological orthodox community.

    (i admit these are not logical equivalents”
    They aren’t logical equivalents because all sexual contact with someone who is not ones wife is always prohibited by halacha.
    As Rabbi Riskin said about 40 years ago at some Shabbos sermon at LSS what is a Rabbi anyway why can’t one give thetitle as a teacher to one like Nechamam Leibowitz. I am not in favor of female Rabbis but there are clearer issues of issur.

  108. “Steve Brizel takes Chillul Hashem to new lows when he basically wants to suggest that hesed is not that central since it won’t make you a talmid chahcham.”

    I wish that all of Klal Israel were as concerned with and involved in Chesed as Steve Brizel.

  109. Gil: the quotes IH brings show pretty clearly that R’ Broyde, and apparently R’ Lamm, do NOT oppose the ordination of women [on halachic grounds], they just oppose the ordination of women NOW [on sociological grounds].

    Note the incremental approach – the women should continue to learn, and occupy rabbinic roles in pulpits and as educators, and maybe later, or maybe not, the titles will come.

    So they definitely have the better of you – you’re putting words in R’ Broyde’s pen to make him appear to agree with you, just as you put words in the RCA’s press release to make it agree with you.

    Who are you trying to convince? The posters here, who see right through you?

  110. “every major Orthodox rabbi is opposed to the ordination of women for religious — even if not halakhic — reasons”

    Please explain religious reason which is not a halachik reason.

  111. S.Moscowitz wrote “Hashem made them(homosexuals) face an impossible situation” Without going into the whole nature vs. nurture controversy, blaming the KBH for supposedly revoking free will of homosexuals says that they have no choice but to live a life of toeiva. I believe that they do have a choice. It may be very difficult but they must live with the consequences of their choice one of which is castigation by and exclusion from the religious community

  112. David,
    No, they have no choice but to live a life of “Toeiva” _or_ a life of celibacy and emotional isolation. This is the impossible situation, and it was not their choice to be put in that situation.

  113. Shachar Ha'amim

    MDJ on November 22, 2011 at 2:07 am
    David,
    No, they have no choice but to live a life of “Toeiva” _or_ a life of celibacy and emotional isolation. This is the impossible situation, and it was not their choice to be put in that situation.

    You can make the same arguments for supporting polygamy.
    and halachically it would be mush easier to support that – especially if states start legalizing polygamy in the wake of legalizing same gender marriages – which is inevitable.

  114. Shachar,
    You definitely _cannot_ make the same argument for polygamy. If you are married to one woman you are not condemned to a life of celibacy and emotional isolation.

  115. Jon: I don’t understand how you can accuse me of putting words into the mouths of Rabbis Lamm and Broyde. They both said “no” to women rabbis. Yes, their answer was more nuanced than that but their bottom lines were “no”.

  116. Shachar Ha'amim

    MDJ – leaving aside the potential response evidenced by Oscar Wilde’s observation that “polygamy is having one wife too many. so is monogamy.”, I was referring to the woman – especially one who, in the same vein of the arguments suggested by those who support understanding of same-gender realtionships and households, is committed to Judaism, wishes to have a family environment and wishes to bear and raise children with a committed father.

  117. How can the posters here compare ordination of women to marrying two men which is a blatant issur with no heter whatsoever.
    I have yet to see these women ‘rabbis’ show that they can really learn. The long ‘discourse’ by R Hurwits going through quite a lot of shas proves this.

  118. “You can make the same arguments for supporting polygamy.”

    No you can’t. Celibacy and emotional isolation is not in that equation. The difficult issue that I see is whether MDJ’s categorization of that situation as “impossible” is correct. Certainly extreme;y difficult and heart wrenching, but impossible? It’s hard for me to judge; a case of thank God that I, as an Orthodox Jew, am not placed in that situation. And that is why I refuse to throw stones and am repulsed by the cold, unfeeling and insensitive use of the word toeivah. Yes, I’m aware of it’s use in the Torah. And when you show me that those who use it in this context use it in the all the other areas where the Torah uses it, I may rethink that last comment.

  119. Shachar Ha'amim

    “No you can’t. Celibacy and emotional isolation is not in that equation.”

    as I pointed out to someone else a moment ago – it certainly is for the woman.

    same gender marriage, single parenthood and polygamny are inextricably linked.
    see here http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/canada_ponders_polygamy/

    and here in Hebrew
    http://musaf-shabbat.com/2011/08/18/%d7%9e%d7%a9%d7%a4%d7%97%d7%94-%d7%a2%d7%9c-%d7%a1%d7%a3-%d7%a4%d7%99%d7%a8%d7%95%d7%a7-%d7%a2%d7%99%d7%a0%d7%aa-%d7%a8%d7%9e%d7%95%d7%9f/

  120. Shachar Ha’amim — It’s a red herring, but if society (civil and religious) deems it morally acceptable, then I have no a priori issue with polygamy.

    As it happens, the research aligns with what we just read in Parshat ha’Shavua: it is not a happy situation for anyone except the multi-husband, possibly.

  121. Gil, I don’t see how you can make “not yet” mean “no”.

  122. their answer was more nuanced than that but their bottom lines were “no”.

    No. Their bottom line was “not yet”.

  123. We can withdraw the word “impossible” and replace it with “excruciatingly difficult”– the issue still remains the same: why would Hashem do that, and demand it of people? The same Torah that prohibits sex between men also says “lo tov heyos haadam levado.” Why does Hashem seem to give such a contradictory message? You can say that that’s a nisayon He has in mind for gay people but until you’ve had to face an equivalent nisayon, you might want to be a little more modest in your attacks on people. When you’re willing to give up on a spouse, children, a home you share with someone you love, then you can cast the first stone. Until then maybe we just need to listen to gay people for a change rather than just excoriating them. Reading David Tsohar, for example, you’d get the impression he’s never had a real conversation with a real gay person.

  124. I’m not sure what timeframe you live in but I live in today and the unanimous answer for today is “no”.

  125. Gil – I know you’d like to believe that Rabbis Broyde and Brody said “no” politely and just kicked the can into the distant future, but reasonable people can read their nuanced text differently. It is telling that they choose to summarize the article with the “not yet” text. My sense is that in the current climate that is as close to “it’ll happen soon” as they felt safe stating.

    As with any sociological shift, the issue requires acceptance in the amcha. The evidence is mounting that the “yet” will happen in our lifetime. E.g. the non-Rabbi women increasingly on MO synagogue clerical staffs. But, I thank you for your efforts in accelerating acceptance via your posts.

  126. Joseph,
    I was only using S. Moscowitz’s language in using “impossible” which I interpreted not literally, as he seems to have just clarified.

  127. Shachar,
    I still don’t understand your point. Are there women who will only be happy if married to a man who has other wives? Or are you referring to the relative shortage of marriage partners. If the former, I don’t believe there is a mi’ut hamatzui of such women. (i’d say there are none, but can’t prove it, so I won’t). As for the latter, until we actually run out of men, the situation is not comparable.

  128. IH: I’m just reading their words. You are attempting to read INTO their words.

  129. Well, Gil, how do you understand their going back and ending on the note of R. Lamm’s comment that the issue of women rabb is is certainly not as black and white as you seem to make it and that timing is certainly an important element. “So my answer, when I was asked by a reporter about what I think about women rabbis, was, basically: .“It’s going too fast.” I did not say it was wrong, I did not say it was right. It just has not paced itself properly.” How do you read those words, and how do you understand Rabbis Broyde and Brody using them twice?

  130. Joseph: I did not say that they see the issue as black and white. I said that they object to women rabbis right now and that is precisely what they say. How do you understand their words? Do you think Rabbi Broyde would ordain a woman rabbi? Do you think he would approve of the RCA accepting women rabbis into the organization? When Rabbi Lamm said “I did not say it was wrong, I did not say it was right”, how did you infer approval of women rabbis?

  131. Gil — The difference between us is that I am willing to admit that your reading is possible. I think it is wrong and I am not persuaded by your argumentation, but it is possible. Your ideology, however, stands in the way of your admitting that the rest of us may be correct.

    Frankly, I would have preferred Rabbis Broyde and Brody to just say what they meant and I was unhappy with the “safe” position they took by couching their view in nuance. But, I can understand they did not want to be discarded as Conservative by people in your chevra.

  132. IH: You are seeing this as black and white when it isn’t necessarily. How can you criticize them for taking a nuanced position? I disagree with their nuance and see it as more black and white. But I’m willing to recognize that their position is nuanced. Your suggestion that they are concealing their true position is disingenuous and insulting to them.

  133. Ah yes, the “insulting” card comes out. You need some new moves 🙂

  134. There you go again: Dodge, Dip, Duck, Dive, Dodge

  135. Gil — c’mon, it’s you who are dipping and diving once caught out. The discussion thread speaks for itself.

  136. gil – i would suggest that r’ broyde and r’ lamm are in the same camp of ral – not the time and not the place but see no real halachik issue with it – they did not say it was assur. what so hard with that position. its neither reading in or between the lines.

  137. Frankly, I would have preferred Rabbis Broyde and Brody to just say what they meant and I was unhappy with the “safe” position they took by couching their view in nuance. But, I can understand they did not want to be discarded as Conservative by people in your chevra.

    Reminds me of rhetoric used by Emmanuel Rackman 20 years ago. He claimed that many poskim secretly agreed with him, but were too afraid of retaliation from the dreaded “right wing.” That statement alone was a bizayon of talmidei chachamim, not to mention that it was demonstrably false. Those who disagreed with him, like R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Soloveichik and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on many occassions took halakhic positions that were not popular in some circles and were attacked for it. (R. Moshe had his tires slashed for his position on artificial insemination.)

    Still, it makes good rhetoric, even if it is sheker and apikorsus.

  138. I also heard that Rabbis Broyde and Brody secretly believe that the Bush Administration and the Mossad were behind the 9/11 attacks. However, they don’t want to admit it.

  139. Tal & Rafael — as charedim, do you accept MO Rabbis Broyde and Brody as talmedei chachamim whose Torah you accept?

  140. Tal & Rafael — as charedim, do you accept MO Rabbis Broyde and Brody as talmedei chachamim whose Torah you accept?

    What does this mean? Neither are my rebbeim or poskim. Do I respect them as talmidei chachamim? Until R. Broyde’s recent post on Cross-Currents, I would say definitely yes. His latest post I found very disturbing. R. Brody I don’t know at all.

  141. ” How do you understand their words? Do you think Rabbi Broyde would ordain a woman rabbi?”

    No.

    “Do you think he would approve of the RCA accepting women rabbis into the organization?”

    That’s sort of circular. My sense is that while he certainly wouldn’t lead such a movement, if, in the future, there would be a sufficient number of RCA members who would be in favor of it — i.e., the times have changed — he, as opposed to your rebbeim, would not vote against it. Just my guess.

    “When Rabbi Lamm said “I did not say it was wrong, I did not say it was right”, how did you infer approval of women rabbis?”

    I didn’t infer “approval.” I inferred that his position was similar to what I think the position of Rabbis Broyde and Brody is; namely, that there is a halachically defensible case, that this is not the time, and whether there will be a proper time in the furture is something we (or more likely the next generation or two) will have to wait for the future to find out.

  142. Why does Rabbi Broyde oppose it right now? It seems from his piece ar C-C that he criticizes the Far Left only for tactics – poor planning, poor articulation, poor scholarship. In Rabbi Broyde’s view, WHY should anything, including a gay-friendly Haggadah, be opposed?

  143. MDJ: No, they have no choice but to live a life of “Toeiva” _or_ a life of celibacy and emotional isolation. This is the impossible situation, and it was not their choice to be put in that situation.
    S. Moscowitz: We can withdraw the word “impossible” and replace it with “excruciatingly difficult”– the issue still remains the same: why would Hashem do that, and demand it of people? You can say that that’s a nisayon He has in mind for gay people but until you’ve had to face an equivalent nisayon, you might want to be a little more modest in your attacks on people.

    As a heterosexual Orthodox Jew who has been single for a very long time, and in all honesty does not expect that situation to ever change – do I have the right to say that Hashem might conceivable give people that type of nisayon?

  144. ” (R. Moshe had his tires slashed for his position on artificial insemination.)”

    What tires? Where did R. Moshe park his alleged car?

  145. Joseph: I am reminded of the following statement by R. Yehuda Henkin which, I believe, conforms with my understanding of the position of Rs. Broyde, Brody and Lamm:

    “Where does all this leave us? Regardless of the arguments that can be proffered to permit women’s aliyyot today—that kevod ha-tsibbur can be waived, that it does not apply today when everyone is literate, that it does not apply when the olim rely on the (male) ba`al qeri’ah and do not themselves read—women’s aliyyot remain outside the consensus, and a congregation that institutes them is not Orthodox in name and will not long remain Orthodox in practice. In my judgement, this is an accurate statement now and for the foreseeable future, and I see no point in arguing about it.”

    source

  146. Steve Brizel observed (November 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm) that “One can participate in a rally anywhere and demonstrate in favor of “social justice ,equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty”, without any Kiyum HaMitzvah whatsoever.”

    I suppose it is apropos of fashionable distortions of language that his comment is twisted (by S. Moscowitz on November 21, 2011 at 9:16 pm) into: “Steve Brizel….basically wants to suggest that hesed is not that central since it won’t make you a talmid chahcham.”

    Huh??

    HAGBTG (on November 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm) accuses: “Are we to assume that you believe that none of these values – justice, equality and honesty – are of particular import to you?”

    Huh??

    Since Mr. Brizel made no such inference, it seems that his antagonists’ ire is motivated by either simple misreading or (I hope not) nastiness. Let’s avoid twisting opponents’ words into the arguments we wish had been made.

  147. What tires? Where did R. Moshe park his alleged car?

    That’s what I heard. While he did not drive, he had shammashim who did drive him around, so someone targeting him would know where to go.

    Derech agav, I once heard a maaseh about R. Moshe from the son of R. Jay Marcus which I feel compelled to share. R. Marcus gave R. Moshe a lift from Staten Island (where there is a branch of MTJ) to the Lower East Side. He was speeding, and got pulled over and given a ticket. As the cop was leaving, R. Marcus asked R. Moshe, “Rebbe, I thought there would be a little siyatta di shmaya. What happened?” Answered R. Moshe, “There was siyatta di shmaya. What do you think the ticket was?”

  148. STBO:

    Maybe you missed Steve’s original post, responding to HAGTBG:

    Steve Brizel on November 21, 2011 at 11:15 am
    HATGBG wrote in part:

    “They emphasize social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty. This leads to personal experimentation in theology and practice”

    Once again, one finds no Birkas HaMitzvah recited on any such action, and I would suggest that such emphasis will not lead anyone to become a Ben or Bas Torah, let alone a Talmid Chacham or Isha Chashuvah. The question that I would pose-why adhere even minimally to Halacha if your emphasis is “social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty” What is the basis of your committment?

    * * * * * *

    That is the basis of questioning RSB’s prioritization of chesed. Gil had the same reaction to Steve’s post, note. He seems to indicate that chesed is a lower priority than talmud torah (which is probably true for men, although Pirkei Avos might disagree), and is in fact of such a low priority that it cannot be the focus of one’s Jewish life.

    Steve later “clarified” with the piece you quoted, but still, it leaves chesed as a “non-Jewish” ideal, if there is no kiyum mitzvah in participating in chesed-oriented activities. This seems to leave most of the involved women in our communities out in the cold, as often women’s “power base” among friends and community is through their chesed activities. I know this is true of my mother, among many others.

  149. I assumed from Steve’s statement that there is no kiyum mitzvah in doing chesed that he thought there was no religious value to it. For the record, I believe that there is a kiyum mitzvah in doing chesed and the fact that one does not recite a blessing is irrelevant. You don’t recite a blessing on giving tzedakah either!

    Steve has since clarified that he believes there is religious value but it is less than other religious endeavors. I’m not sure I entirely agree but I do believe that Jewish life requires balance.

  150. The more basic question, in my mind, is why should we equate “social justice, equality, and spiritual and intellectual honesty” with gemillas chassadim. The former are buzz words which connote a particular political-philosophical outlook, which sometimes is completely divorced from how one treats people, except as part of a political movement.

    Chessed OTOH is part of the mitzvah of v’halakhta bi derachav, i.e. emulate the One whom the Torah describes as Rav Chessed. People who are Rav Chessed are always trying to help others, whether in big things or small.

  151. Regarding Rav Henkin’s sociological statement, I wonder if he still thinks it true 10+ years on?

    Specifically “…a congregation that institutes them [women’s aliyot] is not Orthodox in name and will not long remain Orthodox in practice. In my judgement, this is an accurate statement now and for the foreseeable future, and I see no point in arguing about it.”

  152. Well let’s ask him, since he sometimes posts a comment here. Rabbi Henkin – do you believe that the statement you wrote, referred to by Gil Student, is true today?

  153. “Joseph: I am reminded of the following statement by R. Yehuda Henkin. . . ”

    And I’m reminded of a conversation I had with Blu Greenberg over a decade ago. I was at a lecture of hers and she mentioned, in passing (it wasn’t the topic), that she thought there would be Orthodox women rabbis in her lifetime. I’ve known her for a very long time and am friendly with her, so after the lecture I went over to her and said that I was so excited about what she said about women rabbis. She was a bit surprised at my (purposely) over the top excitement and asked why I was so enthusiastic. “Well,” I answered. “You know how much I like you, and now I know that you’re going to live a very very long time.”

  154. ‘”intellectual honesty” with gemillas chassadim. The former are buzz words which connote a particular political-philosophical outlook’

    Maybe intellectual honesty isn’t included in gemillas chassadim, but it is certainly essential to Torah study.

  155. “R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Soloveichik and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on many occassions took halakhic positions that were not popular in some circles and were attacked for it”

    Who today is of similar stature?

  156. “R. Moshe Feinstein, R. Soloveichik and R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on many occassions took halakhic positions that were not popular in some circles and were attacked for it”

    Who today is of similar stature?

    It is true that there has been a yeridas ha doros, but there are plenty of poskim who will pasken without fear of what others may say. R. Herschel Shachter and R. Belsky come to mind, but there are plenty of others.

  157. Michael Rogovin

    Not much to add to the discussion, other than I no longer consider YU to be an orthodox institution given what its musmach did. And I just heard that R. Freundel is no longer orthodox because of some disagreement with a Rambam. It’s going to get awfully lonely …

  158. “In his book, Wrestling With God and Men, Greenberg reinterprets a biblical prohibition contrary to the Talmud’s interpretation which has been unanimously accepted for millennia (see this post: link). In rejecting the Talmudic tradition and permitting that which is universally considered forbidden, Greenberg removes himself from Orthodox Judaism”

    His “interpretation” is also contary to peshutto shel mikra of the possuk in Kedoshim (Vayikra 20:13) which states that both parties committed a toevah and both are subject to capital punishment. Just saying.

  159. Re Chesed vis a vis other Mitzvos, Let me clarify- IIRC, there is a ShuT HaRashba that explains why no birkas hamitzvah is performed on such mitzvos as Tzedakah ( and presumably Chesed ) inasmuch the same is a rational commandment, as opposed to any Mitzvos that inherently reflect the covenantal relationship between HaShem and Klal Yisrael. As far as R Gil’s view that there is a Kiyum HaMitzvah in performing Chesed, I would suggest that based on RYBS’s shiur on Aseres HaDibros as transcribed in Noraos HaRav, vol. 5, Page 38, Rambam in Hilcos Brachos 11:2 states that a Birkas HaMitzvah are performed solely on Mitzvos Bein Adam LaMakom to the exclusion of Mitzvos Bein Adam LChavero because of the intrinsic difference between Mishpatim, which man obeys because RYBS emphasized that HaShem expects man to “act in dignity, and to reject sin, injustice, cruelty, because all of those things are abominable and repugnant to man. Man’s rejection will comply with the will of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, but the motivating concern should be human dignity and human sanctity. There is no need for external normative pressure. The rejection should be an act of inner mental indignation.”

    In contrast, RYBS noted that the “purpose of the Bracha , basically, is to emphasize our acting in deference and submission to the Divine Will. After all, the basis of the Bracha is, Asher Kidshanu Bmitzvosav Vzivanu-you have sanctified us and commanded us.” ( ibid at Page 39)

    RYBS then noted that “in Asher Kidshanu bmitzvosav Vzivanu, the emphaiss is placed on Vzivanu. He has commanded us. If left to oursleves, we would not engage in such acts as shofar, Lulav, Succah, Tefilin, Tzitis etc. The rationale for all of those Mitzos is unknown to us. Human reason cannot grasp the purpose, the central motif, and objective for them. However, for Mitzvos Bein ASdam Lchavero, which are subsumed under Mishpatim, whose rationale and theme are comprehensible, whose implementation is is motivated , not by normative coercion and discipline, but mainly, by existential need of lonely man created in the image of infinity, to do Mitzvos, because by practicing morality man feels that he will come nearer to his Creator, there is no Bracha. The performance is spontaneous, not coerced, and hence, a Bracha is not required.” ( ibid at Pages 39-40)

    It should ne noted that RYBS went on to explain a Machlokes HaTanaim between R Akiva and R Yishmael as to whwether even Mishopatim require obedience that is motivated by the Mitzvos, as opposed to human based morals and sensitivities, and it is difficult to distinguish between Chukim and Mishpatim. RYBS noted:

    “If you are concerned with the moral integrity of the community, and if you are seriously detrmined to protect the community from all of the abominations and excesses, practiced by the people who lived in Canaan before you, then train the community to observe the Chukim as well as the Mishpatim.” ( Pages 45-46)

    Any other approach commented RYBS is a secular based ethic “because the element of Chok is not understandable and not comprehensible to secular man. When everything is reduced to Mishpat, there is no morality.” ( Page 46)

  160. “RCA to Agudah”
    The Agudah is not a RAbbinic organization-the rCA is. One can be a member of both the Agudah and the RCA. If I recall correctly and I couldbe wrong Rabbi MD Tendlers open letter to the JO after the “hesped” of the Rav referred to his ties to both.-I believe that he was in both organizations.

  161. FWIW, RYBS’s explanation of the rationale behind a Birkas HaMitzvah is very relevant to a well known Machlokes HaRishonim between Rambam and Rabbeinu Tam as to whether women recite a Birkas HaMitzvah on Mitzvos Aseh Shezman Grana ( see RH 33a Tosfos
    s.v. Ha Rabi Yehudah Ha Rabbi Yosi, and Hilcos Tzitis 3:9).

  162. “but certainly not the only rabbi in history to drift away from Orthodoxy.”
    Although I disagree with those who have openly broken with Orthodoxy at least they show more integrity than those who only use their Orthodox backgroundto advocate positions that they know are not acceptable to any believer in theHalachik process.

  163. Re: Michael Rogovin comment above to rjm’s blog http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com/ which he posted on this thread yesterday about his post – modern orthodoxy; neither modern nor orthodox. In it he accused r’ freundal from statements in his book of questionably being orthodox based on his beliefs etc.
    Interesting enough the post was pulled – its no longer there. In itself a very flawed (IMHO) but interesting premise that I think is not shared by many.

    the big tent is being folded very quickly and for what good? Do we need more denominations that are really the same? Why exclusion when inclusion is our history before the modern era?

  164. There are still many among the Post-Orthodox who are well within Orthodoxy.

    My initial response: They are until they aren’t.

    To expand on my earlier response. You raised the banner of Post-Orthodoxy on two issues – gay rights and female rabbis. You said here (following your rabbeim) that everyone who thinks women could be rabbis is not, by definition, Orthodox (in contrast to the more nuanced position of R’ Broyde). And clearly, someone who supports the ceremony that Rabbi Steven Greenberg recently performed would not be Orthodox either. Maybe you hold in abeyance a position on whether every person that attended the YU panel on gay Orthodox Jews was not Orthodox and maybe you felt R Blau didn’t understand what he was involved in but, its kind of clear what you feel about those that organized it.

    You can say Post Orthodox still can be Orthodox but in every example you raise it means non-Orthodox.

  165. STBO, Clearly I was not commenting on something that was written after I wrote my own comment. Jon Baker was correct as to what I was replying to.

  166. Maybe intellectual honesty isn’t included in gemillas chassadim, but it is certainly essential to Torah study.

    Ah, the good old chesed vs. emet conundrum.

  167. IH-please see the annexed link-

    “The second issue is the question of the non-Jew. As a rabbi, Hartman once faced the question of whether a Cohen could marry a woman who converted for love of Judaism and was an active and religious Jew. Did her previous status as a non-Jew make her a zona and Biblically prohibited to a descendant of the priestly line? Hartman studied with the Jesuits and recognized non-Jews who are intellectually sophisticated and devoutly religious. You cannot simply categorize them as “goyim.”

    I happened to come across RDH’s latest work in Barnes & Nobles and skimmed it from cover to cover. Did RDH allow such a marriage?

  168. I still don’t understand Steve’s position vis a vis chesed. His long piece drawn from RYBS explains why there is no birkat hamitzvah, which nobody disputed, but doesn’t explain his earlier statement that there is no *kiyum* hamitzvah by “social justice, equity, and intellectual honesty” – the first being an aspect of chesed, the second being an aspect of dinim in general (and therefore promoting equity would be part of the beis din process and/or talmud torah), and intellectual honesty (which in part would be saying things beshem omrom, which is also an aspect of talmud torah). All of which are, if not kiyumim of specific mitzvos (aside from the first), not totally without Torah value.

  169. Steve — it is Chapter 4 (pp. 111 – 130). It happened when he was a pulpit Rabbi in Montreal some fifty years ago, he writes.

  170. Panbo-WADr, the chiluk is elementary-anyone can help and would help someone across the street or the equivalent. That is universal in nature. Noone would do any Mitzvah Bein Adam LaMakom , which reflect a particularistic and covenental relationship between HaShem and Klal Yisrael,without being commanded to do so.

  171. Glatt some questions

    “Do you think he would approve of the RCA accepting women rabbis into the organization?”

    That’s sort of circular. My sense is that while he certainly wouldn’t lead such a movement, if, in the future, there would be a sufficient number of RCA members who would be in favor of it — i.e., the times have changed — he, as opposed to your rebbeim, would not vote against it. Just my guess.
    ———————————–
    Gil, would you say that it’s possible that in 50 years, the RCA–with the blessing of leading talmedei chachamim and Orthodox rabbis–could accept women as Orthodox rabbis? Or do you believe that it could never happen because halacha will inherently never allow it?

    If the former, you might be closer to Joseph Kaplan’s opinion than you think. If the latter, do you think Rabbi Lamm and Broyde are being disengenuous when they are leaving the question of women rabbis open?

  172. Panbo-see the Netziv on this week’s Pasha, especially the Harchev Davar on 27:1 which discusses Chesed done from a totally secular perspective as opposed to being commanded to do so, and the fact that both Dor HaMabul and Anshei Sdom were punished for their failure to perform Chesed from a secular POV. IMO, the Netziv is pointing out the dire consequences of societies or individuals that abhor Chesed as something that they should be doing, and wished to implant in Yaakov the notion that Chesed should be performed ” Lshem Shmayim IKiyum Toraso.”

  173. Steve: it’s not a ‘P’, it’s an Old English letter called a “thorn” ‘Þ’. Anyway, I’m not sure why, but I seem to be sometimes Þanbo and sometimes Jon Baker, probably because of cookies set differently on my office and home machines. I’ve been trying to switch from thanbo to my real name, since there’s no reason to hide behind a pseudonym.

    I was sticking with Þanbo just to not be confused with Jon_Brooklyn – it’s a convenient handle, that’s all, not an attempt to sock-puppet.

  174. Midrash Rabah, Parshat Bereshit, Chapter 26, Paragraph 5 [or 9 in other editions]:

    Rabbi Huna taught in the name of Rabbi Yosef*:

    The Generation of the Flood [Dor HaMabul] was not blotted out of the world until they made official marriage contracts between people of the same gender…

    * Another edition says Rabbi, meaning Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, active around 180 CE.

    CHRONOLOGY: Rabbi Huna was active around the year 270 of the Common Era.

    מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה כו פסקה ה
    רבי הונא בשם רבי אמר דור המבול לא נימוחו מן העולם עד שכתבו גמומסיות לזכר

  175. Sefer Charedim, Chapter 33, page 141 of menukad edition:
    Whoever commits homosexuality will be reincarnated as a rabbit or hare.

    NOTE: The beginning of chapter 33 teaches that the reincarnation punishments are in addition to the punishments in the grave and the punishments of Gehinom [Hell].

    MICROBIOGRAPHY: Rabbi Eleazar ben Moshe Azkari (or Ezkari) was a popular preacher who lived in Safed (Israel) in the 1500s. His Sefer Charedim was published in Venice in 1601, a year after his death. Several well-known piyutim (Jewish hymns) are attributed to him, including Yedid Nefesh.

  176. Devarim, chapter 32, verse 16:
    …with loathsomeness they angered Him [G_D].

    RASHI: WITH LOATHSOMENESS: With loathsome behavior; for example, homosexuality and sorcery, which are depicted as loathsome (Vayikra, chapter 20, verse 13).

  177. Babylonian Talmud, tractate Gittin, page 57B:
    400 Jewish boys and girls were captured by the Romans and were being taken to Rome on a ship. They all committed suicide by jumping into the sea.

    RASHI: The boys did this [committed suicide] to avoid being forced into homosexuality and the girls did it [committed suicide] to avoid becoming concubines to Gentile men.

  178. Sefer Charedim, Chapter 63, page 219 of menukad edition:

    He who committed homosexuality, after he abandons his sin, [he] must immerse [in a kosher mikvah] and fast 233 times…

    And after all these, he should be whipped and wear sackcloth and place dust on himself and weep bitterly more than someone whose only child died and lies before him…

    Also, the angels that are appointed to watch over that person distance themselves from him…

  179. Shulchan Aruch, Chelek Yoreh Deah, Siman 252, Sif 8:
    We [must] redeem a [captive] woman before a man [when it is not possible to redeem them both]. But in a place where they are accustomed to commit homosexuality, we must redeem the man first.

    שו”ע יורה דעה – סימן רנב
    (ח) פודים האשה קודם האיש, ואם רגילין במשכב זכור, פודין האיש קודם)

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