A Brief Comment on a Recent Teshuva by the Law Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly on Whether a Convert Can Serve on a Rabbinical Court for Conversion.
Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde
Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the Founding Rabbi of the Young Israel of Toco Hills and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America.
A few years ago I published on this blog a halachic analysis about whether a convert can serve on a bet din for conversion (link), a subject that that had been the matter of some internal analysis within the Beth Din of America and a column in the Jewish Week by Rabbi Avi Weiss. Subsequent to my analysis, much more has been written and the topic has developed quite an interesting halachic trajectory. Recently, the Law Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly published a teshuva on this topic by Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser (see: link-PDF) in which the RA Law Committee notes my view (and cites me nine times) and disagreed (19-0) with it and instead ruled that a convert may, even lechatchila serve on a bet din legiyur, agreeing with the analysis of Rabbi Weiss.
I want to use this short piece not to reflect on the correctness of the specific result – I think it is better to be strict lechatchila, but I understand the contrary view and see it endorsed by some great achronim so I would hardly call it “wrong,” (just a bad idea for the convert) – but on some conceptual weaknesses of the teshuva written by the Rabbinical Assembly Law Committee. Indeed, truth be told, I found it to be a remarkably weak responsum, even as I found its conclusion plausible as a matter of halacha.
I found five basic flaws with the teshuva.
First, this twenty-two page teshuva makes no mention of any of the achronim who actually discuss this issue. Reseach by many different scholars over the last few years have unearthed more than twenty teshuvot from the previous and current generations who have discussed this issue halacha lemaaseh. This list includes (in no particular order) Bet Mordechai 1:80, Piskei Din Yerushalayim Dinai Mamonut uBerurai Yahadut 5:40 and 7:107, Maaneh Eliyahu 88, Lev Aryeh 88, Sheerit Yisrael YD 22, Chukat Hager 6:10, Luach Yerushalayim 10 (5710), Tzitz Eliezer 13:80, Tiferet Tzvi 1:72, Nachalat Tzvi 1:226, Shalmei Shmuel 45, Bemareh Habazak 3:82, Mishnat Hager 3:19, Minchat Shlomo 225, Rabbi SY Elyashiv Hearot LaMesechet Kidushin 436, Otzar Piskei Gerim 47 (page 207), Chachmat Shlomo YD 268:3 and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Kol Tzvi 5762 (299-301). Others are yet to be discovered, I suspect.
Not a single one of these sources is discussed in the teshuva of the RA. The one teshuva discussed – Tzitz Eliezer 19:48- does not deal with this matter and the author seems unaware of the fact that in Tzitz Eliezer 13:80, Rabbi Waldenberg does directly discuss this matter. The fact that the Rabbinical Assembly Law Committee can undertake to write a teshuva and endorse it by a vote of 19-0 on any topic without discussing what more than a dozen achronim have said surprises me. To me, the first step to formulating an opinion on a topic in which the Gemara and classical rishonim are silent on, is to survey the achronim on any given topic. Instead, in this teshuva, Rabbi Avi Weiss and I are the only living Orthodox Jewish law authorities cited (gulp!), me nine times and him twice. To be fair, the Conservative movement has often claimed a preference for engaging the Talmudic literature and the rishonim directly, with little if any engagement in achronim. However, this does not explain the RA’s teshuva here. The fact that the teshuva engages myself, Rabbi Weiss, and Rabbi Waldenberg implies that the author of this responsum was interested in engaging achronim; unfortunately, this selective engagement strongly implies “less than robust” research into the topic by its author.
Second, this teshuva makes no mention of the vast secondary literature that has been published on this topic over the last few years. It is aware of my posting on this blog, but seems never to have seen my article “May a Convert be a Member of a Rabbinical Court for Conversion,” Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society 59 (2010): 61-78 or the section of Rabbi Michoel Zylberman’s excellent new sefer, Tuv Lev al Masekhet Pesaḥim (New York, 5771), 114-117 or Rabbi Linzer’s reply to my article widely shared over the internet, or the two recent articles in the Israeli Journal Avnei Mishpat (Rabbi Shlomo Pick, “A Convert as a Dayan for Financial and Conversion Matters” 14:56-87 (5772) or Rabbi Yitzchak Roness, “Including a Convert as a Dayan in a Bet Din for Conversion”14:88-95 (5772)) or Rabbi Avraham Arush “May Convert participate as a Dayan for Conversion” Techumin 32:329 (5772) or the forthcoming article (also widely circulated) by Rabbi Zev Farber in the inaugural issue of Keren or even Rabbi Yisrael Meir Yonah’s older article “Including a Ger on a Conversion Court”, Beit Hillel 24-25 (5766).
Not a single article in the secondary literature is cited. Sadly, the teshuva does not cite any modern Jewish law writings on this topic – just a Jewish Week column by Rabbi Weiss and a Hirhurim post by me seem to make up the secondary literature with which this article engages. One would think that before one writes a teshuva – Conservative or Orthodox – one would read the secondary literature.
Third, the article undertakes no grappling with the three standard classical sources that might incline one to be strict – the view of the Rambam (Sanhedrin 2:9) that any Rabbinical court that has a convert sitting on it is a pasul bet din, the view of the Shach (YD 268:9), as some understand it, that conversion is analogous to chalitza for rabbinical court matters and the direct view of the Chachmat Shlomo written many centuries ago that a convert may not sit on a bet din for conversion. Of course, there have been responses to the above positions and alternative interpretations offered in the secondary literature, but nothing is addressed in this teshuva.
Fourth, the article shows no understanding of why many achronim are strict; to successfully state the case to be lenient, one must first understand the grounds to be strict. The teshuva seems to think that my view (articulated in this blog three years ago)—to be strict lechatchila and meikil bedieved—is itself the strict view, when in fact there are a significant number of poskim who think that a conversion done by a rabbinical court one of whose members is a convert, is simply a nullity. Both the Chachmat Shlomo and Rav Elyashiv are strict on this matter (as well as many others) even bedieved. Why? The author shows no understanding of both sides of the argument and indeed offers no indication that anyone is actually strict beyond that which is found in my blog post.
Fifth, the writer advances a collection of weak analogies to sitting as a dayan for conversion. He considers such conduct like any other appointed office or he analogies the doctrine of “unique in one’s generation” (the gadol hador) to merely any rabbi appointed to office, and he then misanalyzes the various ways to grasp the chalitza exception, which leads to the mistake of thinking that a bet din legiyur is not judging according to all. (For example, one could easily adopt the view that the repeated use of the word “yisrael” in chalitza excludes not a convert, but just one who has a non-Jewish ancestor, as the Shulchan Aruch records in EH 169:2, and a convert is excluded by dint of the general rule (see Rambam, Sanhedrin 2:9) against sitting on any bet din. So too, does one really think that a dayan for conversion matters does not need to agree to the conversion, but is merely witnessing? Or, even more difficult is the use of the doctrine of “appointment to shared office” since in a conversion matter the decision to convert has to be unanimous and each judge exercises a functional veto.)
Other doctrines, widely quoted by achronim as grounds for being lenient are not quoted at all.
I thought, on some basic intellectual level, the concurrence by Rabbi Reuven Hammer (see link-PDF) was more honest. He disagrees with the Talmudic rule and thinks that a convert can never be discriminated against. The limitations and methodology of classical halacha do not restrict him, so he does not bother to cite them. Rabbi Prouser seems interested in offering a classical halakhic analysis, but does not present the sources to see what has been said and why.
In short, whether one agrees that a convert may serve on a panel for conversion or thinks they may not—or agrees with me that the matter is unclear and thus lechatchila one should be strict—the Rabbinical Assembly Law Committee teshuva on this matter has contributed little to the conversation.
On the substantive matter under discussion, nothing I have read in the recent literature has caused me to change my mind. Whether a convert can serve as a member of a bet din for conversion is subject to a wide and complex two sided dispute. One dispute is about the nature of a bet din for conversion: is it like a financial court or a death penalty court or a chalitza court? The contemporary poskim divide on this and my view is that this dispute is both unprecedented in the rishonim and also hard to resolve. The second issue is whether a convert is generally ineligible to serve on any bet din (and his license to serve on a bet din for converts for financial matters is permitted by the right of people to accept one who is ineligible) or is a convert really allowed be a dayan and the proof is that he can sit on matters involving converts. My view is that this dispute too is hard to resolve and is the subject of a subtle linguistic dispute between Rambam, Sanhendrin 2:9 which states:
בית דין של שלשה שהיה אחד מהן גר הרי זה פסול
and Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 7:1 which adds a single important word and states:
בית דין של ג’ שהיה אחד מהם גר, הרי זה פסול לדון לישראל
Because of these two substantive disputes and the variety of views taken by the achronim, this matter remains open. Some think that a convert may sit as a dayan on conversion matters even lechatchila and others think that a conversion with a convert as a member of the bet din is invalid even bedieved (and others in between). The approach taken by the recent work Mishnat Hager, a fine encyclopedic work on rules of conversion, strikes me as still correct and balanced. He states (3:19):
A court for conversion that includes among its judges converts, there are various opinions as to whether it is eligible to judge and accept converts. In a case where at least one of the judges was a born Jew, one can be lenient in a time of urgent need [bishat hadechak] to have two judges who are converts.
This balance – recognizing that there is a dispute which is hard to resolve and for which there is no firm tradition as to how to resolve it – ought to incline the posek to be strict lechatchila and meikil bedieved, and to treat a shat hadechak like a bedieved. The fact that some of the articles written after mine are inclined to be lenient does not change my basic view (quoted from the conclusion of my article above), which is as follows:
Since this dispute is without clear precedent, it is certainly wise to err on the side of caution and mandate that only born-Jews serve as dayanim in cases of conversion. Given that there are eminent poskim who consider such conversions invalid, even after the fact, it would be a disservice to any potential convert (as well as to the Jewish community) to intentionally staff a conversion panel with such a rabbinical judge, especially since there are an abundance of competent and technically qualified rabbis available.
It is worth explaining more fully the rationale behind being strict on a practical level in such a case (in all but the rarest cases). This stringency reflects a general halachic process issue, which is easily overlooked. As I have discussed, there is a dispute about the validity of a conversion in which a convert was a member of the bet din. It is very difficult to resolve this dispute, since very few classical sources discuss this particular issue, and a practical consensus has not developed in modern times. Some permit a convert to sit on a conversion panel even lechatchila while others invalidate such a conversion even bedieved.
So what is a typical bet din supposed to do? In an ideal halachic world, the answer would be that each bet din should determine which posek they should follow (“aseh lecha rav”) and the bet din should consult its own regular poskim. The problem with this approach is if that becomes the actual practice, then those who are lenient on this matter produce converts who are still gentiles according to those who are strict. Consider, for example, a hypothetical bet din for conversion, which is staffed exclusively by students of Rabbi Felder. Rabbi Felder certainly was an eminent and respected posek. If they follow the rule of aseh lecha rav this bet din ought to permit converts to sit on such a conversion panel, because that is Rabbi Felder’s reasonable understanding of the halacha. Yet, if this hypothetical bet din in fact does such conversions under this rule, they know full well that another hypothetical bet din, staffed by students of Rabbi Elyashiv (also an eminent posek) would still consider such converts to be gentiles. This result is certainly bad for the general Jewish community, and further it is unfair to the convert at hand. This is true even for a bet din that is absolutely certain itself that converts may serve on a conversion panel (as their posek so told them directly).
In this sense, conversion matters ought to follow the rule found in Jewish divorces: a bet din strives as a matter of normative practice to issue gittin that are valid according to all views; it is only in cases where a get cannot be issued consistent with such a standard that any lower standard should be employed. Similarly, a bet din for conversion should only consist of individuals that are valid dayanim according to the strictest halachic interpretation, unless no other valid dayanim are present and a conversion has to be performed (a very rare case). If the bet din relies on the strictest rules when there is no reason not to, they can be sure that the gittin and conversions that they preside over will be valid and respected within the entire Jewish community as opposed to only being accepted within a smaller segment of the population.
In the unfortunate case where a convert has served as a dayan on a panel for conversion, the proper policy is to treat this conversion as a bedieved matter. We ought to respond to this scenario in two ways. First, after the fact we ought to accept that the conversion is valid and the person is Jewish, since most poskim accept this view at least bedieved. Other than Rabbi Elyashiv, one is hard pressed to find a posek of this or the immediately previous generations who doubted the validity of such a conversion, at least bedieved. As Rabbi Yisraeli notes, this seems to be a logical after the fact approach. In further support of this conclusion, a vast majority of the poskim who have explicitly addressed this issue adopt this position as the bedieved rule.
Second, I would also instruct the convert that, since there is a significant strain of thought within the rabbinic world, held by Torah giants over many centuries, that this conversion is in fact invalid, it is proper that the convert reaccept the commandments in front of an unquestionably valid rabbinical court and re-immerse in a mikva to eliminate any such doubt, especially before marriage. Converts and the Jewish community as a whole are ill-served by having a conversion that others will not accept (especially if they can have a conversion accepted by all with no additional effort).
We should be blessed to live in a time where all conversions are for the sake of heaven and all conversions are handled by conversion panels qualified to do so.
And what if they put out a truly competent Teshuva on the topic? What would it matter? Although they may be fine and well-meaning individuals — they dont believe in the 13 Ikkarim, not to mention halachic authority, so they are inherently disqualified and their views are inadmissible.
…..But of course, almost anything that mori v’rabi yedidi hayakar Rav Michael Broyde wrties is a halachic masterpiece, even if I am unhappy that his paper is triggered by questionable sources.
It would matter. First because no matter what they believe, if they present a credible halakhic argument we need to consider it and if we reject it explain why. If they really are concerned with serious halakhic discussion, we would be obligated to take them more seriously. I think if such seriousness were to be shown, we would need to acknoledge and applaud it. But I am notholding my breath.
Second it is important to demonstrate that often Conservative teshuvot are designed to have the “look and feel” of traditional halakhic discourse while in fact the citation and discussion of Achronim and even rishonim is only window dressing to mcover the fact that the process in motion represents a radical break from traditional halakhic methodology. It is important to point that out to the masses.
there is a catch 22 in the entire conservative arguement. for if the “ger” underwent a conservative conversion, then he is not a ger, and thus there is a goy on the beit din and so it’s pasul. if the ger underwent an orthodox conversion and is now sitting on a conservative bet din, i would concur with rav sherman that the geirus was not a geirus and again there is a goy on the beit din. together with r. enkin’s note – that’s some beit din. and if one of the nineteen “rabbis” who concurred with the teshuva, sat on it, let us say rabbi susan or rabbi pamella, nu, again the beit din would be problematic. in brief, for whom is this responsa written – it would make no difference as far as the ger is concern – either ger, the one who sat on the court and the candidate, there is no geirus.
as far as the masses – who in the masses is really interested in a conservative responsa? neither conservative laymen, and certainly not orthodox. the responsa is for themselves to make themselve feel good, although everything they have been really taught tells them pasul, pasul, pasul.
Shlomo, If a ger underwent an Orthodox conversion and is now sitting on a conservative bet din, how is his gerus not a gerus? According to the gemara if a ger underwent an Orthodox conversion and is now an oved avodah zarah the gerus is valid.
When you say they don’t believe in the yud gimmel ikkarim, are you saying that they don’t believe in God which is one of the ikkarim?
I am not sure that even R. Sherman would necessarily invalidate the conversion.
What case are you making for revoking the conversion of a person who is completely shomer mtizvot simply because of his affiliation with a heterodox movement. I find this proposition disturbing come from a talmid of the Rav and BIU faculty member such as yourself.
Good points Moshe Shoshan…
Anonymous — I assume that most Conservative Rabbis believe in God. But they reject one or more of the other Ikkarim. (Yes, I’ve read “The Limits…”)
Comparing R. Broyde’s substantive and thoughtful approach to the ad hominem approach of R. Enkin and Shlomo Pick highlights one of the reasons why R. Broyde is so well respected across a broad range in the Orthodox community and beyond.
Contrary to what Shlomo says, there is no posek and this includes R. Sherman, who thinks that if someone converts al pi halacha and years later becomes an apikores, that the conversion is now invalid and the convert is now a goy.
For some reason, I was put in mind of this post when I read this: http://mavenyavinarchive.blogspot.co.il/2006/12/positive-historical-halakha.html
If a dayan holds like the Raavad or Rebbe Yehudah Chasid and not like the Rambam in one of the Ikkarim, is he pasul?
While the arguments in this article might be impeccable, I am of the opinion that writing a formal response of this nature to the RA, with a tone and collegial courtesy that more than implicitly recognizes them as an entity that dispenses authentic and valid halachic opinions, does great harm to authentic halachic discourse.
While claiming to be machmir (l’chatchila) on the issue at hand, this post has all but proclaimed that the RA is a member of the “Eilu V’Eilu” club, a view that has been rejected by all poskim, Israeli AND American, Chareidi AND YU, for over half a century.
Perhaps the kind tone of this article was meant to counter the forces of nastiness created by the vile attack on Rabbi Broyde by another blogger I will not name. If that is the case, I would counter that granting this form of dignity in Halachic discourse to a Conservative panel will only embolden the original attacker, and add dozens of rabbis and thinkers to that attacker’s left flank as well, as Rabbi Broyde will now be proven as someone who thinks that RA panels are “baalei devarim” to be included in the term ‘Machlokes Haposkim.”
Rabbi Broyde, speaking as someone who frequently admires the cogency of your arguments, and as someone who doesn’t reach your ankles in Torah knowledge, I still state that I am disppointed that you thought this was the right thing to do.
Gil, that you thought this should be posted, despite your obvious and understandable respect for Rabbi Broyde’s other writings, saddens me.
Anonymous: If a dayan holds like the Raavad or Rebbe Yehudah Chasid and not like the Rambam in one of the Ikkarim, is he pasul?
Since the vast majority of cases today are of people whose beliefs deviate beyond what any rishon held, this question is largely irrelevant. Although personally I would pasel such a dayan.
if the ger underwent an orthodox conversion and is now sitting on a conservative bet din, i would concur with rav sherman that the geirus was not a geirus and again there is a goy on the beit din
“Shlomo, If a ger underwent an Orthodox conversion and is now sitting on a conservative bet din, how is his gerus not a gerus? According to the gemara if a ger underwent an Orthodox conversion and is now an oved avodah zarah the gerus is valid.”
For the purposes of this discussion, it does not matter whether his conversion was valid or not. Right now, he is sitting on a Conservative beis din, which raises at least a chashash that he is an apikorus (why is he sitting on such a beis din? has he joined the Conservative movement?) and hence posul as a dayyan. If the Kohen Gadol became a heretic (as indeed the gemara reports happened with one of them), he is possul as a dayan, despite his impeccable lineage.
R. J. David Bleich, Contemporary Halakhic Problems, vol. 3 p. 106
“In a separate responsum addressing another matter, appearing in Ha-Pardes, Heshvan 5747, Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik argues that even a Conservative clergyman who is not only scrupulously observant but also ‘believes with absolute faith in the Written Law and the Oral Law… and is highly knowledgeable, proficient in Talmud and Codes’ is disqualified from serving on a Bet Din. The Gemara, Sanhedrin 26a, relates that Resh Lakish sought to disqualify R. Hiyya bar Zarnuki and R. Shimon ben Yehozadak from serving on a Bet Din convened to add an intercalary month to the year. Resh Lakish criticized a number of individuals whom he observed performing acts which, ostensibly, were violations of restrictions pertaining to the observance of the sabbatical year. R. Hiyaa bar Zarnuki and R. Shimon ben Yehozadak attempted to defend the actions of those persons. Thereupon Resh Lakish sought to disqualify those scholars from serving on the Bet Din on the grounds that, in defending sinners, they had entered into a ‘kesher resha’im,’ a confederacy of transgressors. Rabbi Soloveichik opines that the Gemara herein posits an otherwise unidentified disqualification from holding judicial office, viz., defense of, and hence identification with, transgressors. Accordingly, concludes Rabbi Soloveichik, even assuming the Conservative clergyman in question to be a person of exemplary faith and piety, he is disqualified on the grounds that his identification with the Conservative movement and its ideology constitutes participation in a ‘kesher resha’im.'”
Here is R. Ahron Soloveichik’s original article in Ha-Pardes: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=12486&st=&pgnum=10&hilite=
Question for Rabbi Broyde:
why is it necessary or desirable to relate to a teshuva written by a Conservative body when, while the Conservative movement undoubtedly includes many nice people and many intelligent people, their view of halacha is so different from any traditional conception thereof that I would have thought it should be dismissed out of hand. Or is this piece meant to show exactly that?
The only requirement for a conversion bet din is that the three men are kosher l’edut. They have to be shomrei shabbat. Orthodox attempts to read polemics and theology into the Shulchan Aruch are faulty and represent an attempt to denominationalize conversion to an extent that the Rambam and Mechaber never would have dreamed of. If the Conservative rabbi is mechallel shabbat b’farhesya, than the conversion is no good, but there is at least a theoretical possibility that a Conservative conversion could be kosher.
Daniel: R. Soloveichik’s conclusion is that someone who converts with a Conservative beis din must convert again with a berakhah. He bases his argument on a Gemara in Sanhedrin.
“Orthodox attempts to read polemics and theology into the Shulchan Aruch are faulty and represent an attempt to denominationalize conversion to an extent that the Rambam and Mechaber never would have dreamed of.”
Daniel, do you seriously contend that the Rambam and Mechaber would have held that a beis din on which a Karaite sits, for example, is kosher?
I thought that the comment “Raphael Davidovich on July 2, 2012 at 10:23 am” was a miss-read of the article by Rabbi Broyde. If you read the PDF of the various RA responsa on line on this issue you see that they take pot shots at Rabbi Broyde (using words like “strident” and the like) and not the other way around. I thought his basic reply — which is that the RA Law committee is made up of people who do not or cannot even read the basic literature on a topic before voicing an opinion — was just the right tone. It was also a nice touch to show that Rabbi Hammer does not care about halacha at all.
Of course, he could have been even more ad hominem as Rabbis Enker and Pick were, but we know that Rabbi Broyde is an ideas man who actually thinks that sound ideas win the day. The under-keyed devastating criticism of his final paragraph “In short, whether one agrees that a convert may serve on a panel for conversion or thinks they may not—or agrees with me that the matter is unclear and thus lechatchila one should be strict—the Rabbinical Assembly Law Committee teshuva on this matter has contributed little to the conversation” is his way of saying “there is nothing here of value”. This is the kind of writing our community needs.
Raphael Davidovich – very well said – this is extremely disappointing and will only give more fuel to Rav Broyde’s detractors (except, this time with good reason)
“Comparing R. Broyde’s substantive and thoughtful approach to the ad hominem approach of R. Enkin and Shlomo Pick highlights one of the reasons why R. Broyde is so well respected across a broad range in the Orthodox community and beyond.”
Calling R. Enkin’s comment “ad hominem” is as misguided and inaccurate as saying quoting the Igros Moshe is an appeal to authority or that following the majority opinion is an argumentum ad populum. There is a halachic process which is broader than the narrow question of the cogency of a particular argument. R. Enkin did not attempt to argue against their conclusions or how they made them, something R. Broyde did well, but that because they are excluded from the halachic process it is inappropriate to engage them in the same manner.
I have to second the puzzlement of other commentators in wondering why R. Broyde expended time and energy engaging the halachik arguments of Conservative rabbis in such a serious fashion. I’m not saying that in a polemical way, it’s just that the Conservative halachik methodology and framework are so different from the Orthodox, that they are on two different wavelengths. My explanation is that because R. Broyde himself was quoted (and criticized) in their responsum he felt the need to respond, and once he was going to respond, he decided it would be more productive to do so in a congenial manner.
“will only give more fuel to Rav Broyde’s detractors (except, this time with good reason)”
Anyone who thinks that this article gives a “good reason” to be a detractor of R. Broyde is, undoubtedly, a detractor without good reason.
“as misguided and inaccurate as saying quoting the Igros Moshe is an appeal to authority or that following the majority opinion is an argumentum ad populum.”
Quoting the Igros Mishe is an appeal to authority, albeit a legitimate and not fallacious one. And following the majority opinion of the people is the fallacious argumentum ad populum, not following the majority opinion of experts (which is what I assume Yirmiahu was referring to).
Does anyone know if there has been a full-length scholarly analysis of the Conservative halachic and hashkafic approach that proves that the movement is heretical? It seems obvious that that is the case, and I’ve seen bits and pieces of arguments here and there, but nothing comprehensive enough to be convincing to the Conservatives themselves. If such a thing exists, please let me know. If it doesn’t, I recommend that task to R’ Broyde as his next big project!
R Broyde deserves a Yasher Koach for a superb article, which reaches the same conclusion as R Pick, although hardly from the same logic. R Moshe Shoshan’s comment re how CJ utilizes halachic sources is 100% on the mark.
Due to different time zones and daily activities, I have only seen the postings and am reacting to them now. In the heat of the argument, I should have clarified my remarks. If one converted with an Orthodox conversion with the intent to join the conservative movement or having conservative ideology, I stand by my remarks, and I think that rav Sherman would concur. I recall orthodox rabbis in the States who refused to convert anyone who said overtly that they would be joining a conservative temple. I do agree that if the convert had indeed been orthodox in thought and deed and later joined the conservative movement etc, then although the geirus may be valid, we now have a problem of kefirah, and that person would still be invalid as a dayan, as posted by other writers.
As far as being a talmid of the rav and being a maggid shiur at bar-ilan’s Kollel, my stand on the conservative movement stands. The Rav invalidated hearing shofar in their synagogues. As far as their spiritual leaders are concerned, especially those who learned in real yeshivot, I subscribe to what reb chayyim said, “an apikorus is nebich an apikorus”, and one cannot legitimize a movement that fosters chillul Shabbos befarhesia with heteirim to drive to shul on Shabbos. In any case, beside rav ahron’s teshuva already noted, one should really quote the authoritative iggeros moshe, yoreh de’ah III, no. 77 (שו”ת אגרות משה יורה דעה חלק ג סימן עז ):
ב’ ובדבר ילדים וילדות שאמותיהם נכריות אין לקבלם ללמוד בהישיבה עד שיסכימו האב והאם לגיירם על דעת ב”ד, וכן אלו שאמותיהם נתגיירו אצל רב קאנסערוואטיווי /קונסרבטיבי/ אינו גרות וצריך לגייר את הילדים ע”ד ב”ד.
I also recall that in Chicago, Rav Ahron also had a provision that if someone had been ordained by him and then took a conservative temple, then his ordination would be revoked – I think there may have been a tenai there. I wonder if anyone could confirm this.
On a light derushy side: I always wondered why we say oy lerasha oy leshecheino in that korah had been a neighbor of bnei reuven, and had influenced them. It should have been the other way around, for these bnei reuven were datan and aviram and we’ve met throughout sefer shmot as trouble makers, striking one another, nizavim before moshe at the end of parashat shmot, complaining at keriyat yom suf, and their actions with the man. The answer would be that there deeds were evil, but erratic. Korah, however, provided them with an ideology, and that’s worse, and therefore he was labeled the rashah.
Raphael Davidovich-Please reread R Broyde’s article-R Broyde analyzed the halachic underpinnings of the purported responsum and stated in detail why he found the same “remarkably weak”, which IMO, is a nice way of saying that there was no merit to the arguments and contentions advanced therein. I saw nothing in the post that even remotely ascribed the same as a Cheftzah Shel Torah in any manner.
Steve – the article is written in a style no different that the Tzitz Eliezer would address Rav Moshe or vice versa – picking apart the argument piece by piece. Therein lies the validation of the conservative viewpoint to the halacha. When one side doesn’t believe in torah min hashamayim and the other side does, it is ridiculous (and perhaps dangerous) to engage in detailed halachic discourse.
Talmid – Picking apart a writing with which you disagree piece by piece is certainly the style in which the Tzitz Eliezer would disagree with R. Moshe. Then again, its also the style in which anyone who avers ad hominem attacks and prefers to debate ideas over pedigree approaches the task of disagreeing with an intellectual opponent’s writings.
What reveals someone as not believing in Torah min Hashamayim and the traditional halachic process IS the major deficiencies in their halachic reasoning and conclusions.
” When one side doesn’t believe in torah min hashamayim and the other side does, it is ridiculous (and perhaps dangerous) to engage in detailed halachic discourse.”
It’s also dangerous not to. A lot of Jews, including frum Jews, think the Orthodox don’t respond because they cannot respond, except with vitriol.
The Chasam Sofer reacted to the first book justifying reform by saying that the rabbis should not respond, because then the people will sit in coffee houses and decide who is right. And then he responded to the halachic arguments in kind. So he did both and, in my view, validated both approaches. The question then is only which works.
The fact this was published within three days of one of my blog posts on The Times of Israel that cites your article from three years ago simply boggles my mind. I must admit, reading how the tshuva you attack merely cited yours and Rabbi Weiss’ articles from that very public dispute made me curl a bit, considering my article nearly did the same. But I focused more on matters of policy, something I felt compelled to write despite the fact I have nowhere near the scholarly experience you do on the topic. I converted, under as-always complicated circumstances, back in 2007, and have loosely followed issues ever since.
While a lot of work might have come out in the past few years, I haven’t given myself the time to find it, much less learn it with my limited abilities to understand the analysis they offer.
I’m a fan of your articles in general, going back to the days you were writing before my birth in 1986. I have plenty to say on the topic, but I simply feel inadequate in terms of this topic. I would like my policy analyses to be much more informed. I have the motivation to go search for every one of those sources you referenced above in this article. I also know it will take me weeks to do it. But if I had those resources handy, I know I would be able to delve into them – and I can think of a few young Rabbis who could learn them with me.
If this response to your article finds you well and you can see my email address, I hope we might be able to engage in an email exchange. L’maaseh, I’m wondering if you have the relevant sources on hand and might be able to send me digital or scanned copies. Again, I’m a tremendous fan of your work and your backbreaking objectivity in your writing. I appreciate your efforts, especially in such a muddy topic like the one you’re dealing in.
“The Rav invalidated hearing shofar in their synagogues.”
Did he? I always thought that what he did was tell people that they should stay home rather than attend a Conservative shul to hear shofar. Two different things. If the Rav actually did “invalidate” their shofar blowing, could you please give us a citation. Thanks.
Many people on this blog insist on talking about Orthodox Halakhic methodology as if it were one unified thing– that may be a comforting fantasy, but it’s also false, Compare any ten teshuvos of R. Moshe– anti-formalistic in the extreme– which any ten by R. J.D. Bleich– as formalistic as one can possibly get. Are they really doing the same thing? By the way, if you read Conservative teshuvos, they too have a great variety: if you simply equate R. Joel Roth and R. Gordon Tucker, for example, all that shows is that you haven’t read them, or that the axe you’re grinding blinds you to what’s in front of your face. Steve Brizel, I find it hard to believe you’ve ever read more than one or two conservative teshuvos, but that doesn’t stop you from pontificating about them.
Also, those people who use the Ikkarim like a bludgeon need to be taught that according to Rambam, unless you can philosophically demonstrate the existence of God, you are not a true believer. What does that mean for an age when almost all philosophers agree that that just can’t be done? Ari Enkin, Shlomo Pick, Gil Student, and Steve Brizel are no closer to Rambam’s heaven than the Conservative Rabbis they’re criticizing (this has nothing to do with the merits, or lack thereof, of R. Prouser’s argument).
1. The Ikkarim are not a good measure of the Conservative/Orthodox divide. Oral Torah from Mt. Sinai is not even included in the Ikkarim (if memory serves), and that’s probably the most critical distinction.
2. The fact that there is variety within Orthodox teshuvot and within Conservative teshuvot does not prove the validity of Conservative Judaism. It is possible that Conservative Judaism is without a doubt heretical as a whole (because of basic halachic and hashkafic changes), but that individual teshuvot by Conservative rabbis may be indistinguishable from Orthodox ones.
3. Perhaps a better indicator that the Conservative movement is heretical is the fact that it has taken the unprecedented step of abrogating certain Torah and rabbinical laws. For example, according to Conservative Judaism, counting 7 days before going to the mikvah (required by the Talmud) is not necessary. An example of an abrogated Biblical mitzvah is the prohibition on kohanim marrying divorcees — the Conservative movement overruled that in 1952.
4. Likewise, the Conservative movement has made many fundamental hashkafic changes that mark it as breaking off from normative Judaism. The claim that the halacha from the Oral Torah is not from Sinai, and thus can be abrogated by majority vote, could be the most important example.
5. Numbers 3 and 4 are disputed by Conservative Jews. We need to prove these argument with reasoned arguments and sources, responding fully to whatever apologetics Conservative rabbis have authored.
R’ S. Moscowitz,
Thank you for the important points you raise. However, I believe that the question regarding belief in the ikkarim has been resolved by R. Bleich’s book “With Perfect Faith”. As long as one believes in R. Bleich’s book, he/she can certainly be called an Orthodox Jew in good conscience. The one correction that needs to be orchestrated to that book is regarding R. Bleich’s oversimplified approach to the eighth principle, where R. Bleich claims that our Sefer Torah is letter-perfect. It is true that some do profess this belief (such as R. Shlomo Zvi Schueck in his Torah Shelemah), but R. Bleich glossed over a mountain of opposition in this regard (i.e. many authorities maintain our Sifrei Torah are word-perfect but not letter-perfect). Apparently, R. Bleich overlooked R. Moshe Feinstein’s words in IM YD 3:114, which state explicitly that our Sifrei Torah are not letter-perfect and therefore we do not take out a new Sefer Torah for Keri’at ha-Torah if a mistake is found regarding chaseirot ve-yeteirot. [In all fairness to R. Bleich, the volume containing that responsum of R. Feinstein was only published in 1982, a year before “With Perfect Faith” was released.] Indeed, this confirms your own insightful observation – R’ S. Moscowitz – that R. Bleich is not always congruent with R. Feinstein. In any event, in a personal correspondence with (le-havdil ani ha-katan) this student, R. Bleich (effectively) admitted and retracted his mistake. He wrote to me on Nov. 23, 2009, as follows:
“I have no idea who Rabbi Shuk is and have never seen his Torah Shlemah. As a matter of halakhah he is wrong on yesiros and chasiros. A Torah scroll will definitely not be removed on that account. He is also wrong as matter of Hilchos De’os regarding bila’am. Why could he have not simply said that after writing that section in separate work Moshe incorporated it in the Torah at the divine command?”
At the same time, in all fairness to R’ S. Moscowitz, I do have to note the irony that R. Bleich himself discusses a responsum of the very same R. Shlomo Zvi Schueck in Contemporary Halakhic Problems V, p. 248-250, regarding the kashrut of giraffe. Thus, R. Bleich’s admission “I have no idea who R. Shuk is” is somewhat incongruent with his own writing. In any event, the basic principle, viz. the normative nature of the 13 ikkarim, seems accepted by the consensus of poskim.
Oral Torah from Mt. Sinai is not even included in the Ikkarim (if memory serves), and that’s probably the most critical distinction.
Don’t think so. See Rambam Hil. Teshuva, Perek 3, Hal. 14, 17:
יד ואלו שאין להן חלק לעולם הבא, אלא נכרתין ואובדין, ונידונין על גודל רשעם וחטאתם, לעולם ולעולמי עולמים: המינים, והאפיקורוסים, והכופרים בתורה, . . .
* * *
יז שלושה הן הכופרים בתורה: האומר שאין התורה מעם ה’, אפילו פסוק אחד, אפילו תיבה אחת–אם אמר משה אמרו מפי עצמו, הרי זה כופר בתורה; וכן הכופר בפירושה, והיא תורה שבעל פה, והכחיש מגידיה, כגון צדוק ובייתוס; והאומר שהבורא החליף מצוה זו במצוה אחרת, וכבר בטלה תורה זו, אף על פי שהיא הייתה מעם ה’, כגון הנוצריים וההגריים. כל אחד משלושה אלו כופר בתורה
That said, I don’t think one has to interrogate fellow Jews whether they believe in all 13 ikkarim, particularly since some of the ikkarim may be subject to elasticity, as argued by R. Marc Shapiro in his book. [Meaning: one has to believe the 13 ikkarim, but there may be more than one correct way of believing some of the ikkarim. E.g. details regarding the nature of the messianic era, or saying “Makhnisei Rachamim” during Selichot. I believe R’ S. Moscowitz is also alluding to this concept. Ye’yasher kochakha to R’ S. Moscowitz.] Every Jew has a chezkat kashrut until he announces a belief contrary to the 13 ikkarim. Thus, the best policy is “don’t ask don’t tell”, and let all Jews be considered tzaddikim.
Going back to the thrust of R. Broyde’s post, I would be grateful if he could recommend a published and widely-accepted Orthodox responsum written in the past year or two that could be compared in regard to his five-point criticism.
And, for clarity, this should be a responsum meant as psak — not a legal brief published in a journal.
I have heard very few Conservative Rabbis declare that they reject Ikkarim. Are they behezkas kashrus in your opinion?
Also, R. Bleich’s book should be contrasted with Prof. Kellner’s, no?
“Quoting the Igros Mishe is an appeal to authority, albeit a legitimate and not fallacious one. And following the majority opinion of the people is the fallacious argumentum ad populum, not following the majority opinion of experts (which is what I assume Yirmiahu was referring to).”
That’s the point, and R. Enkin’s argument wasn’t ad hominem because he wasn’t addressing the argument (and the fact that one is appealing to the opinion of a majority of experts doesn’t automatically preclude it from being an ad populum argument)
S Moskowitz-many here, including myself, are very familiar with the RA’s history of manipulating halacha that can be traced in the RA’s stances re driving to shul on Shabbos, permitting women to form part of a prayer quoruum, and the unwillingness of the RA to follow RSL, ZL,when the possibility of a joint Bes Din was seriously discussed between RYBS and RSL. I think that Tal Benschar and R S Pick pointed out the fact that the average member of the RA works from a very different set of “Ani Maamins”, especially with respect to how he or she views TSBP, and the tranmission of the same from Moshe Rabbeinu than mainstream MO.
“Also, those people who use the Ikkarim like a bludgeon need to be taught that according to Rambam, unless you can philosophically demonstrate the existence of God, you are not a true believer. . . Ari Enkin, Shlomo Pick, Gil Student, and Steve Brizel are no closer to Rambam’s heaven than the Conservative Rabbis they’re criticizing”
Please provide sources. Where in the Rambam does he say that someone who believe in God but cannot demonstrate that philosophically is a heretic and hence loses his Olam ha Bah? The Third Perek of Hil. Teshuvah, where he discusses these things, quite clearly says that you need DENIAL of certain beliefs to become a heretic (or, more precisely, a Min, Apikorus or Kofer) and lose one’s Olam ha Bah. Nor does the Rambam even MENTION philosophical proofs when he presents the Mitzvas Aseh of knowing that there is a God in the first Perek of Hil. Yesodei ha Torah.
My issue was that your original statement suggested a position on conversion that was in line with the very problematic positions being taken by chareidi rabbonim here in Israel. My intent was not to attack you for your hard line on Conservatives, agree with you or not.
>Where in the Rambam does he say that someone who believe in God but cannot demonstrate that philosophically is a heretic and hence loses his Olam ha Bah?
See Moreh Nevuchim, 3:27
שלמותו האחרונה היא שיהא הוגה בפועל, כלומר: שיהא לו דעה בפועל, והוא שידע כל מה שביכולת האדם לדעת מכל הנמצאים בכללותן כפי שלמותו האחרונה.
וברור הוא כי השלמות הזו האחרונה, אין בה מעשים ולא מידות, אלא היא השקפות בלבד שכבר הוביל אליהן העיון וחייב אותן המחקר וכן פשוט הוא כי השלמות הזו האחרונה הנעלה אי אפשר להשיגה אלא לאחר השגת השלמות הראשונות, לפי שהאדם אי אפשר לו לצייר מושכל ואפילו יסבירוהו לו, וכל שכן שיתעורר לכך מעצמו, כשיש בו כאב או רעב גדול או צמא או חום או קור חזק. אלא לאחר השגת השלמות הראשונה אפשר להשיג השלמות האחרונה אשר היא יותר נעלה בלי ספק, והיא סיבת הקיום הנצחי לא זולתה .
It of course does not need to be mentioned that the Rambam included proof of the existence of God in שידע כל מה שביכולת האדם לדעת – it is the central axis of his entire magnum opus – the Moreh.
Also Tal, one can never understand the Rambam without studying the Moreh. Reading his most populist work, the Yad, without a deep understand his most elite work, the Moreh, will lead to many of the misconceptions the plague yeshivish readings of the Rambam.
This is an important passage, but I am not sure that Ramabam is consistent about this with in the Moreh either. Does the Ramabm really mean to say that only the greatest philosophers have olam habah? hard for me to imagine. obviouslt though philophers get the highest level of OH. paging professor kaplan.
>Does the Ramabm really mean to say that only the greatest philosophers have olam habah?
He does not consider that knowledge of the foundations of religion is something that is only accessible to philosophers of the highest level. In fact, the ikkarim were meant as a shortcut for the masses to get to the correct opinions. Correct ideas, however, are for him the key to the eternal life of the next world – he is very neo-Aristotelian in this regard.
In the end, however, it is knowledge based on logical proof that he is after, and it is a proof that most contemporary philosophers and theologians agree is impossible – as S. pointed out.
Kellner has a trenchant line about this in Must a Jew Believe in Anything? (p. 77):
to r. moshe shoshan
i hope i clarified my position.
to r. Joseph kaplan
indeed the rav told the person to stay home. however, it has been interpreted as an invalidation: “In 1954, the Rav issued a ruling that one does not fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Shofar in a synagogue without a mechitza.” in a biograhy of the rav in the 90s. this should be corrected to “a synagogue with mixed seating”, i am not sure if it would apply to separate seating without a mechitza. as far as invalidity of the mizvah, the logic dictates it. shofar is a mizvah aseh, while entering a conservative synagogue with mixed seating is a lo ta’ase and the aseh should be doche the lo ta’aseh. so why tell him to stay home? to me it would appear that it is a mitzvah habah be’aveirah and hence he is not mekayeim the mizvah and in english there is no valid fulfillment of the mitzvah. i would appreciate feedback on this one
If we’re back to 20th century culture wars, lets recall that the OU still allowed shuls with mixed seating to be members until, as I recall, the 1980s; and when they banned it, they still grandfathered the existing one. So, let’s not go overboard.
r. pick – there is no need to speculate or interpret. its in black and white in the rav’s own words and reasoning on p.133 and thereafter in “community, covenant and commitment: selected letters and communications”
he told the person is better to pray at home and not to cross the threshold of the synagogue.
Chardal: You are contradicting yourself, frankly. If the Ikkarim are meant to be a “shortcut for the masses,” then that means that by having correct belief, they do get OHB. So, no, I don’t think you have proved what was claimed — that one who cannot demonstrate God’s existence philosophically is a heretic and hence gets no OHB.
As for the Yad vs the Moreh, it need not be said that the former is what is authoritative le halachah, not the latter.
Finally, let me point out that the issue here is what is normative and what puts you outside the Pale, not who gets into OHB. A person who denies God is pretty clearly outside the Pale according to virtually everyone. OTOH, I have never heard anyone say that someone who cannot prove God philosophically is an epikorus.
A person who denies God is pretty clearly outside the Pale according to virtually everyone.
According to the Conservative and Reform movements to, as far as I understand. So what’s the point?
The OU allowed shuls with seperate seating but no mechitza, not mixed seating.
I think that it is unwise to assume that applied in the 50’s is equally applicable today or even that the Rav would have ruled the same way even then in differing circumstances. Do you really think that the Rav thought that all the people who went to heard shofar at non-Orthodox shuls were better off staying home? Or was this psak aimed specifically at someone who was still Frum?
The relationship between Conservatism and Orthodoxy mid-century was vastly different than it is today. Orthodoxy is no longer worried about YU guys going to JTS or Ortho shuls removing their mechitzas. WE live in a different world. The psak may or may not stay the same, but the attitude towards the non-Orthodox needs to change.
Tal: I am also confused by chardal’s claims
Moshe — You may be right, but I refer you to: http://forward.com/articles/2550/last-orthodox-shul-with-mixed-seats-fighting-for-i/
For those who don’t have time to chase the URL from the 2005 article in The Forward:
i admit that i live in eretz yisrael, cloistered from the vast conservative movement. but from what i read and hear, it appears to be worse than in the 50s. at least once upon a time a minyan was a minyan – no longer exists. one may have entertained a joint beis din, nowadays with women rabbis, i presume that would be nigh impossible. there are other issues too. so in one sense you are right, but in another the chasm between o and c has grown so much, that should we return to the original issue of geirus, there is nothing that could recommend accepting their beis din or geirus.
concerning your specific point of entering a modern day conservative temple (assuming to enter would not require chillul yom tov) to hear shofar, i would leave that to the local american rabbinate of all spectrums to decide that issue.
Chardal: I believe R. Avignon Miller was a big proponent of your idea, that you are only a true believer if you can prove those beliefs. R. J. David Bleich (With Perfect Faith, pp. 16-17) quotes Julius Guttman and the Brisker Rav as explaining the Rambam differently. R. Nachum Rabinovich (Yad Peshutah, Mada vol. 1 p. 13) also writes, based on Moreh 1:50, that understanding without proof is sufficient as long as you don’t have wrong contradictory beliefs.
Moshe: I believe the Rav’s pesak is based on Shu”t Maharam Shick no. 71 which would still apply today.
the exact quote is; “i answered him that it was better for him to pray at home both rosh hashanah and yom kippur, and not cross the threshold of that synagogue….it would be better not to hear the shofar than to enter a synagogue whose sanctity had been profaned.”
printed in the tog morgen journal in 1954 – translated from yiddish.
please note that this was to individual that moved to a suburb near boston where men and women sat together.
also in the 1950s and 1960s many conservative synagogues had yu rabbis with the rav’s smicha as the attending rabbi.
The OU allowed shuls with seperate seating but no mechitza, not mixed seating
This is not true. There were loads of mixed seating shuls that were members of the OU. There still is one in Denver
“I also recall that in Chicago, Rav Ahron also had a provision that if someone had been ordained by him and then took a conservative temple, then his ordination would be revoked – I think there may have been a tenai there. I wonder if anyone could confirm this.”
I know from a musmach of Rav Ahron that I am close to that there was a commitment by the musmach not to take a mixed seating shul. This started while Rav Ahron was RY at Skokie Yeshiva (HTC) where some of the musmachim had gone to “Traditional” shuls where the practices (liturgy, parking lot closed etc.) were Orthodox, but where there was mixed seating. In some cases, there was also a microphone. Rav Ahron consulted with his brother, and Rav Ahron was determined to end this. And he was in the long run, quite succcesful in doing so, though it prompted much controversy at the time. An earlier posek at HTC had allowed this as a result of shas hadehak in light of the threat of Conservative. There are still a handful of these Traditional shuls in Chicago, but looking at the age of their congregants, they are on their last legs. One of these shuls no longer has a rabbi in the “upstairs” traditional minyan, but does have an Orthodox rabbi in its downtstairs Orthodox minyan. In no more than 10 years, I think these shuls will be closed or fully Orthodox depending on the shul.
“Tal: I am also confused by chardal’s claims”
Well, to be fair, the original claim was by someone else (S. Moscowitz on July 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm), not Chardal. But he seems to have tried to provide proof for that claim in his posts. None of which I find convincing for the claim.
Conservative Jews believe in God:
“We believe in God. Indeed, Judaism cannot be detached from belief in, or beliefs about God. Residing always at the very heart of our self-understanding as a people, and of all Jewish literature and culture, God permeates our language, our law, our conscience, and our lore. From the opening words of Genesis, our Torah and tradition assert that God is One, that He is the Creator, and that His Providence extends through human history.”
at p. 17.
r’ pick – ““In 1954, the Rav issued a ruling that one does not fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Shofar in a synagogue without a mechitza.” in a biograhy of the rav in the 90s”
if this was true then the rav would have wrote that you wont fulfill the mitzvah of shofar if the person attended the services in his letter. he does say that prayers offered there are worthless in the eyes of the law (then you have to say that the mitzvah of shofar is only a type of prayer for you to invalidate it in its entirety). nowhere does he says that the mitzvah of shofar is invalidated. he just gives the priority of not entering a mixed seating synagogue.
if one reads on in the letter it seems as a polemic against mixed seating which the rav in the 1950s drew a line in the sand for orthodoxy.
indeed the rav learned that shofar was a type of prayer, sounded in the mussaf prayer was a kiyyum of shira and/or za’akah. but even according to the aspect that the ma’aseh tekiyah alone would be enough to fulfill the mizvah, i still think that it would be invalidated by means of mitzvah haba’ah beaveirah.
once i suggested that just like a community rav has the power to prohibit shechitas chutz in his community, and that meat would be considered treif, so too, he would have the power to prohibit a shul that was not in accordance to his pesakim. is there any validity to such an argument?
If the shofar is being blown through a microphone? Having attended Conservative HH services in my younger years, that’s how it was performed. That IS a problem.
Regarding the stories about Rav Ahron Soloveichik, there is an older history documented in R. Rakaffet’s book Bernard Revel: builder of American Jewish orthodoxy. I previously typed in the relevant excerpts which can be found at https://www.torahmusings.com/2011/12/revoking-ordination/comment-page-1/ in two consecutive comments toward the bottom of the page.
Since the tangent of the Rav’s 1954 Shofar psak has come up, is there a written tshuva that meets the bar R. Broyde sets in this post?
If philosophical proof of the existence of God is required to make it through the pearly gates, then not only are some of Maimonides’s rabbinic colleagues excluded, so is the great man himself.
True, Maimonides thought that he had proven the existence of God, but his proofs don’t work.
But, have no fear, the notion that philosophical proof is required is absurd. It’s nowhere found in the Bible or Talmud. (The Talmudic rabbis probably didn’t know what a philosophical proof was.) It’s a medieval affectation.
Scott — I’m not so sure on your last point. I am no expert, but Augustine seems to have grappled with some of the same issues as Rambam long before the medieval period.
I have a thought which I think is a point being neglected here. People forget that the Rambam did not limit the resurrection to as small a group as he limited the World to Come. This is clear because the whole reason he limits the World to Come is because of his conception of it – that all that exists there is pure intellect. On the other hand in Ma’amar Techiyas HaMeisim he is clear that the resurrection will occur in this world, with physical bodies and all.
It is conceivable, I think, that whenever the resurrection occurs it will be a time when knowledge of God’s existence will be much clearer and easier to obtain with the clarity Rambam considered requisite for the World to Come. Perhaps the is even the point of the resurrection! Thus at the end of the day I think that to say “Maimonides did not expect to meet many of his rabbinic contemporaries in the world to come” is to ignore this key game-changer, because even if these contemporaries of his did not get it the first time around, it is far more likely that they’ll get it the second time, post-resurrection.
Maimonides did not expect to meet many of his rabbinic contemporaries in the world to come.
He didn’t expect to mean anyone in the world to come. He didn’t think the world to come involves interacting with other people…
Moshe Shoshan wrote :
” I think that it is unwise to assume that applied in the 50′s is equally applicable today or even that the Rav would have ruled the same way even then in differing circumstances. Do you really think that the Rav thought that all the people who went to heard shofar at non-Orthodox shuls were better off staying home? Or was this psak aimed specifically at someone who was still Frum?
The relationship between Conservatism and Orthodoxy mid-century was vastly different than it is today. Orthodoxy is no longer worried about YU guys going to JTS or Ortho shuls removing their mechitzas. WE live in a different world. The psak may or may not stay the same, but the attitude towards the non-Orthodox needs to change
Two simple observations:
1) RYBS never changed his mind publicly re CJ despite his warm private relations with CJ clergyen.
2)There are LW MO Musmachim who misrepresent what Halacha and bend it as much as a pretzel to suit their needs as CJ’s worst offenders. Like it or not, allowing a Kohen to marry a Giyures can easily be seen as an instance of Machtie Es HaRabim.
“Kellner has a trenchant line about this in Must a Jew Believe in Anything? (p. 77):
The point made here bears clear and forceful restatement: Maimonides did not expect to meet many of his rabbinic contemporaries in the world to come.”
It’s trenchant only if you believe Dr Kellner:
R Buchman’s attack on Must a Jew:
Dr Kellner’s reponse:
R Buchman’s response to the response
Moshe Shoshan-actually your observation re the present status of heterodox movements is well taken to the following extent. If one assumes, as in the recent UJA survey, that the future of the community is either Orthodox or unaffiliated, then both the MO and Charedi communities are faced with a fascinating opportunity to project a committment to Torah, Avodah, and Gmilus Chasadim on a positive , mitzvah by mitzvah and non judgmental basis to the unaffiliated community as a profound 24/7 approach , regardless of the Hashkafic approach.
Steve — That is precisely what Chabad figured out long ago…
IH-I don’t think that Chabad has a patent on that type of Kiruv/Chizuk (see my posts on Beyond BT on the same). I would add that many “community kollels” also gear their efforts in the same way as well.
IH and anyone else interested- see http://www.beyondbt.com/2006/08/09/the-future-of-kiruv-help-or-hindrance/
Is R. Broyde going to come back with a compilation of responses to the comments thus far, or has this thread gone too far off kilter?
I am still interested in a published and widely-accepted Orthodox responsum (meant as psak — not a legal brief published in a journal) written in the past year or two that could be compared in regard to his five-point criticism. An exemplar counter-model so to speak.
I wanted to wait to respond until I was able to read what the Rav wrote about this issue (as printed in Community, Covenant and Commitment and The Sanctity of the Synagogue).
Your interpretation and that of the Rav’s 1990 biographer that the Rav invalidated tekiat shofar heard in a mixed seating shul is certainly a possible explanation of why teh Rav said what he said. But it is important to understand that it is simply your interpretation (and that of his biographer) of what the Rav said; it’s not what the Rav actually said. And, in light of the fact that the next year in his message to the RCA the Rav compared an “heroic” stand against mixed seating shuls to analogous to be-she’at gezerat ha-malkhut afilu mitzvah kallah kegon le-shenuyei arkiah di-mesana, yehareg ve-al ya’avor, another explanation could be that his instruction not to hear teki’at shofar in such a shul had nothing to do with the validity of the observance of the mitzvah but was related to the exigent needs of the Orthodox community vis-a-vis the Conservative movement at a time when mehitzah and separate seating in shuls was under great attack and was losing ground. I don’t urge the second explanation, but it is as equally valid as yours.
My bottom line and the simple point I wanted to make (and still want to make here) is: thank God, our generation is blessed with being able to read and listen to many thousands of the Rav’s own words as he wrote and spoke them. We should be satisfied with that and try to refrain from putting our words into the Rav’s mouth.
“I am still interested in a published and widely-accepted Orthodox responsum (meant as psak — not a legal brief published in a journal)”
Why don’t you link to the following:
…Bet Mordechai 1:80, Piskei Din Yerushalayim Dinai Mamonut uBerurai Yahadut 5:40 and 7:107, Maaneh Eliyahu 88, Lev Aryeh 88, Sheerit Yisrael YD 22, Chukat Hager 6:10, Luach Yerushalayim 10 (5710), Tzitz Eliezer 13:80, Tiferet Tzvi 1:72, Nachalat Tzvi 1:226, Shalmei Shmuel 45, Bemareh Habazak 3:82, Mishnat Hager 3:19, Minchat Shlomo 225, Rabbi SY Elyashiv Hearot LaMesechet Kidushin 436, Otzar Piskei Gerim 47 (page 207), Chachmat Shlomo YD 268:3 and Rabbi Hershel Schachter, Kol Tzvi 5762 (299-301). Others are yet to be discovered, I suspect…”
“written in the past year or two”
Why should it have to from the last year or two? Is Halacha from, say, 2005, no longer applicable?
Also, I’m curious what you think about this paragraph:
“I thought, on some basic intellectual level, the concurrence by Rabbi Reuven Hammer … was more honest. He disagrees with the Talmudic rule and thinks that a convert can never be discriminated against. The limitations and methodology of classical halacha do not restrict him, so he does not bother to cite them. Rabbi Prouser seems interested in offering a classical halakhic analysis, but does not present the sources to see what has been said and why.”
An old CC post from R Adlerstein worth reading:
“… an old Rabbinic Assembly (Conservative) responsum on why it is permissible to drive a car on Shabbos. I am most interested in their seeing the backbone of the responsum. It argues that burning fuel in an engine is the sole objection to driving (completely ignoring issues of lights and hotza’ah), and it is a melachah she-eino tzrichah legufah. This is so because there are two major understandings of the concept, Rashi’s and that of the Tosafos. Now, Rashi’s is difficult to understand, so the author says it can be ignored! According to Tosafos, if a melachah is done in the same manner as it was done in the Mishkan, but for a different objective, it is a melachah she-eino tzrichah legufah. In the Mishkan, they used fire to heat water, not for transportation. Melachah she-eino tzrichah legufah is only prohibited rabbinically. All rabbinic laws don’t apply when most of the tzibbur cannot abide by them. Most Jews drive on Shabbos. In any event, rabbinic prohibitions are waived in situations of mitzvah, like driving to shul. Ergo, driving is permissible…”
That’s the first new flavor. The second one described there might be more applicable to JOFA types.
“Those who do believe in both Revelation and the Sinaitic source of Torah She-b’al Peh fully and firmly reject this approach, of course. That leaves us with the approach I outlined above. So one would think. As of late, however, we can discern yet another approach to texts and the conflicts therein.
A stylized version goes somewhat like this:
1) According to the Rambam, the Rosh, and the Kol Bo, activity X is proscribed. The Mordechai takes an even stricter view than the others, seeing multiple issurim involved.
2) No one explicitly permits it. However, a responsum by the Nodah Be-Yehudah includes an argument by his interlocutor which presents a lenient line of reasoning. The Nodah Be-Yehudah himself rejects it, with cause.
3) Poskim for the last few hundred years have all accepted the Nodah Be-Yehudah. However, Responsa Minchas Pinchas argues that in a sha’as ha-dechak situation, we can rely on the rejected line of reasoning – although he only uses it together with other extenuating circumstances. (The Minchas Pinchas, who wrote in Cincinnati at the turn of the twentieth century, is not well established as a halachic powerhouse, which is lamentable since he demonstrates a proclivity towards leniency. Living in America, having no Shomer Shabbos congregants, provided him with an enlightened and practical view of modernity and its demands. In any event, his is as legitimate a halachic voice as any other, so it may be relied upon.)
4) We find ourselves equally in a sha’as ha-dechak situation today. For the large part of the Orthodox world that is unhappy with the constraints of Jewish law, we likewise have halachic sanction to be lenient.
5) Therefore accept the lenient opinion…
…This new approach is different from the traditional, as surely as is the Conservative one. It is far more dangerous, because fewer people will notice the difference. It is nothing less than a trivializing of halachic process.”
“Actually, I submitted a proposal to speak … but they turned me down. I learnt then that what they wanted at their conference was, much like EDAH, a group of people preaching to the converted. My paper was going to argue that the methodology of Orthodox feminism was a complete break with what had been the practice until then, and that therefore it is questionable if the word “Orthodox” can even be applied to it. My book on Weinberg had just come out and it was one of the few books JOFA was selling it at the conference (since Weinberg is so important to Orthodox feminsim due to some of his teshuvot). At the dinner (which I don’t recall) I probably said that it was ironic that the book on Weinberg was being touted at the conference but the author of the book was not welcome.”
Joseph Kaplan wrote in response to R S Pick:
“And, in light of the fact that the next year in his message to the RCA the Rav compared an “heroic” stand against mixed seating shuls to analogous to be-she’at gezerat ha-malkhut afilu mitzvah kallah kegon le-shenuyei arkiah di-mesana, yehareg ve-al ya’avor, another explanation could be that his instruction not to hear teki’at shofar in such a shul had nothing to do with the validity of the observance of the mitzvah but was related to the exigent needs of the Orthodox community vis-a-vis the Conservative movement at a time when mehitzah and separate seating in shuls was under great attack and was losing ground. I don’t urge the second explanation, but it is as equally valid as yours.”
“I know from a musmach of Rav Ahron that I am close to that there was a commitment by the musmach not to take a mixed seating shul. This started while Rav Ahron was RY at Skokie Yeshiva (HTC) where some of the musmachim had gone to “Traditional” shuls where the practices (liturgy, parking lot closed etc.) were Orthodox, but where there was mixed seating. In some cases, there was also a microphone. Rav Ahron consulted with his brother, and Rav Ahron was determined to end this. And he was in the long run, quite succcesful in doing so, though it prompted much controversy at the time. An earlier posek at HTC had allowed this as a result of shas hadehak in light of the threat of Conservative. There are still a handful of these Traditional shuls in Chicago, but looking at the age of their congregants, they are on their last legs. One of these shuls no longer has a rabbi in the “upstairs” traditional minyan, but does have an Orthodox rabbi in its downtstairs Orthodox minyan. In no more than 10 years, I think these shuls will be closed or fully Orthodox depending on the shul”
RAS took a lot of grief for his stance among the supporters of the “traditional” synagogues in Chicago and at HTC, but the reality is RAS won both the battle and the war on this issue.
“Steve Brizel on July 3, 2012 at 8:23 pm
Joseph Kaplan wrote in response to R S Pick:
“And, in light of the fact that the next year in his message to the RCA the Rav compared an “heroic” stand against mixed seating shuls to analogous to be-she’at gezerat ha-malkhut afilu mitzvah kallah kegon le-shenuyei arkiah di-mesana, yehareg ve-al ya’avor, another explanation could be that his instruction not to hear teki’at shofar in such a shul had nothing to do with the validity of the observance of the mitzvah but was related to the exigent needs of the Orthodox community vis-a-vis the Conservative movement at a time when mehitzah and separate seating in shuls was under great attack and was losing ground. I don’t urge the second explanation, but it is as equally valid as yours.”
J Kaplan does not need proof he is explaining what could be-there is at least one living very close talmid of the Rav who in non public forum stated that in his opinion it is certainly likely that the Rav would not have paskened that sheila that way today when there is not a major battle about mixed seating. Since the talmid who is still alive did not speak those words in a public forum I will not quote him by name.
“if this was true then the rav would have wrote that you wont fulfill the mitzvah of shofar if the person attended the services in his letter. he does say that prayers offered there are worthless in the eyes of the law (then you have to say that the mitzvah of shofar is only a type of prayer for you to invalidate it in its entirety). nowhere does he says that the mitzvah of shofar is invalidated. he just gives the priority of not entering a mixed seating synagogue.
if one reads on in the letter it seems as a polemic against mixed seating which the rav in the 1950s drew a line in the sand for orthodoxy.”
Remember it was the Rav who made mixed pews the dividing point
See http://brussels.mc.yu.edu/gsdl/collect/lammserm/index/assoc/HASH5fe1.dir/doc.pdf for a 1969 sermon by Rabbi Lamm who appears to question making the mechitzah the dividing point.
“a l l, the real identifying m a rk of Orthodoxy is not “glatt k o s h e r”
and not the m e c h i t z a h, but the study of T o r a h.”
Of course Rabbi Lamm had written in favor of mechitzot see
n the meantime, here is Rabbi Norman Lamm:
“THE EQUALITY OF THE SEXES
Separate seating, we are told, reveals an underlying belief that women are inferior, and only when men and women are allowed to mix freely in the synagogue is the equality of the sexes acknowledged. To this rallying call to “chivalry” we must respond with a demand for consistency. If the non- Orthodox movements are, in this matter, the champions of woman’s equality, and if this equality is demonstrated by equal participation in religious activities, then why, for instance, have not the non-orthodox schools graduated one woman rabbi all these years? Why not a woman cantor? (Even in Reform circles, recent attempts to introduce women into such positions have resulted in a good deal of controversy) . Why are Temple presidents almost all men, and Synagogue boards predominantly male? Why are the women segregated in sisterhoods? If it is to be equality’s then let us have complete and unambiguous equality.
The same demand for some semblance of consistency may well be presented, and with even greater cogency, to the very ones of our sisters who are the most passionate and articulate advocates of mixed seating as a symbol of their equality. If this equality as Jewesses is expressed by full participation in Jewish life, then such equality must not be restricted to the Temple. They must submit as well to the private obligations incumbent upon menfolk: prayer thrice daily, and be-tzibbur, in the synagogue; donning tallis and tephillin; acquiring their own lulab and ethrog, etc. These mitzvoth are not Halachically obligatory for women, yet they were voluntarily practiced by solitary women throughout Jewish history; to mention but two examples, Michal, daughter of King Saul, and the fabled Hasidic teacher, the Maid of Ludmilla.
Does not consistency demand that the same equality, in whose name we are asked to confer upon women the privileges of full participation in public worship with all its attendant glory and glamour, also Impose upon women the responsibilities and duties, heretofore reserved for men only, which must be exercised in private only? We have yet to hear an anguished outcry for such equal assumption of masculine religious duties. So far those who would desecrate the synagogue in the name of democracy’s and “equality” have been concentrating exclusively upon the public areas of Jewish religious expression, upon synagogues privileges and not at all upon spiritual duties. They must expand the horizons of religious equality…” from
BTW-one can see dangers of polemics=in the decades since Rabbi Lamm wrote the article there have been women Rabbis and his schul would have a women president.
“RAS took a lot of grief for his stance among the supporters of the “traditional” synagogues in Chicago and at HTC, but the reality is RAS won both the battle and the war on this issue”
How much of the battles in Chicago from the mid 60s to mid 70s were based on this issue or others or other reasons will have to await a serious scholarly article about the period-which I doubt we’ll ever see.
“Rafael Araujo on July 3, 2012 at 11:47 am
If the shofar is being blown through a microphone? Having attended Conservative HH services in my younger years, that’s how it was performed. That IS a problem”
Which problem kol or melacha?
,” i am not sure if it would apply to separate seating without a mechitza. as far as invalidity of the mizvah”
The Rav was firm against mixed pews and building new edifices wo a proper mechitzah-he could even daven in an old schul which had a subpar mechitzah-rather than daven byichidus later.
>Chardal: You are contradicting yourself, frankly. If the Ikkarim are meant to be a “shortcut for the masses,” then that means that by having correct belief, they do get OHB. So, no, I don’t think you have proved what was claimed — that one who cannot demonstrate God’s existence philosophically is a heretic and hence gets no OHB.
I said he meant is as a shortcut, not a cheatsheet. The fact that not every person could not engage in philosophy independently meant for the rambam that they needed an introductionary course. This is what he was trying to do in the Yad and the Peirush. It was a sort of sylabus regarding what a Jew should make known for themselves – and the masses then at least have the pottential to prove to themselves the truth of the existance of the creator (and His nature) and thereby achieve eternal life. I do not see what is contradictory about this.
>As for the Yad vs the Moreh, it need not be said that the former is what is authoritative le halachah, not the latter.
We are trying to understand the Rambam’s opinion. The Rambam was first and foremost a philosopher – and the halacha was for him, merely the system whereby we create a society that produced and supports the correct philosophic opinions (and produces and supports philosophers). That being the case, in order to understand the place of the ikkarim in halacha, one must understand why and for what purpose the Rambam formulated them in the first place. And it is clear from the totality of his writings that the purpose was to give the masses the option of Olam HaBah. The Halacha is formulated by him in order to protect the correct philosophical opinions. (Opinions which no serious philosopher or theologian holds today – at least not with the same level of conviction that the Rambam demanded).
If you want to argue that the Yad has some sort of independant authrotity outside of it representing the opinion of the Rambam -then I must disagree with such an assertion. The Rambam was a person, not a book – and according to his system, most people today are either heretics – or at the very least, are incapable of attaining eternal life. Misunderstanding what he meant in the Yad, does not change this historic fact.
Joseph Kaplan – “that the Rav invalidated tekiat shofar heard in a mixed seating shul is certainly a possible explanation of why teh Rav said what he said.”
Was is it a valid interpretation when that is not what the Rav said. That is revisionism and putting into the Rav’s mouth a halachik position that he did not say.
The Rav spoke and wrote about it many times. Be careful before claiming that he did not say something.
Gil — Given the subject of this post, the question is whether: a) the Rav said it as psak (and for whom); and, b) whether that psak conforms to the standards R. Broyde sets up in this post.
R’ Pick – “i still think that it would be invalidated by means of mitzvah haba’ah beaveirah.”
Can you clarify? If I give taadakah in a conservative shul is it also invalidated? How about taking a lulav on the first day of sukkot? Sitting in a sukkah on the grounds of a conservative shul. All mitzvot including shofar that do not require a minyan to perform and neither in a synagogue whether holy or profane.
It can be done in a house, with a mouse, outdoors and indoors;
Oh the places you can go to perform with a shofar,
In the yard, in a tent, on the playgrounds you can even vent
You can even be a tokeh lashir but never a simple mitasek
For there is an objective fulfillment for heaven”s sake.
One can only say that Tefilin b’tzibbur is really in doubt
For shofar it matters less where than what and whom
To complete your mitzvah or face doom.
For that is why the Rav used the term ” it’s better not”
For where is the averah in the shofar
For its just not not not.
Auto correct on the iPad – sorry to you all
IH: Whe did R. Broyde set any standards for giving a pesak? I think you might be confusing a teshuvah and a pesak.
Ruvie: I believe the issue is performing a mitzvah in a place and at a time when a mechitzah is required but is absent. Lulav is probably the same as shofar, sukkah is probably not.
R’ Gil – at home ? For a person or a family that cannot literally leave the house? Its the Kol, kosher shofar and tokeya that count – no? For even a stolen shofar one is yozei. Again, it’s not what the Rav said oreven implied – he talks about tefillah betzibbur – in his comments unless someone has other proof for the Rav – why twist it to what it is not?
Gil — Pre-coffee. I revert to my original formulation of July 3, 2012 at 11:50 am:
Since the tangent of the Rav’s 1954 Shofar psak has come up, is there a written tshuva that meets the bar R. Broyde sets in this post?
I am back from Israel and ready to comment again.
Th Rav NEVER said it is forbidden to pray in Conservative synagogue. He said it is forbidden to pray in a synagogue with mixed seating.
For the Rambam, as it clear from Guide 3:27, cited by Chardal, and also 1:33 (with its parallel text), immortality can be attained only through intellectual understanding based on proof where possible or strong argument otherwise.
Larry Kaplan-see Community, Covenant and Committment, Pages 125-142-how do you infer that RYBS was only talking about shuls with “mixed seating”, as opposed to a bedrock opposition to “family fews” and what RYBS viewed as “the Christianization of the synagogue ( Pages 134-135), as well as his refusal ( Page 126) to “sanction either by word or by silence a departure from this tradition”, when asked to speak at a dinner in honor of a C rabbi?As far as the case of hearing Shofar, RYBS’s exact words were:
” I hesitated not for a moment, but directed him to remain at home. It would be better not to hear the shofar than to enter a synagogue whose sanctity has been profaned.”
RYBS added :
“In the mingled seating of men and women I see no progressive idea which should appeal to the person of culture. The American Jew, though he is ignorant in matters of Jewish law, has a great amount of common sense, and a certain intellectual honesty. I am convinced that if the Jewish public were to be truly enlightened on this matter, it would react quite differently to this reprehensible reform. It would understand that the separation of men and women implies not disrespect or contempt for women, as the representatives of the half-reformed camp would interpret. On the contrary, it is based on the Jewish sense of modesty, a sense identical with the attitude of reverence for Deity, a sense which the Judaism of Abraham and Sarah has shown toward woman as the mother and builder of the people of Israel…”
See also at Pages 140-141 ( 1955):
“i do hereby repeat the statement that I have made on numerous occasions, both in writing and orally, that a synagogue with a mixed seating arrangement forfeits its sanctity and is halachic status of mikdash meat , and is unfit for prayer and avodah she-ba-lev. With full cognizance of the implications of such a halachic decision, I would advise every Orthodox Jew to forego Tefillah BeTzibur rather than enter a synagogue with mixed pews, notwithstanding the fact that the officiating rabbi happens to be a graduate of a great and venerable yeshiva. No rabbi, however great in scholarship and moral integrity, has the authority to endorse or legalize, or even apologetically explain this basic deviation. Any rabbi or scholar who attempts to sanction the desecrated synagogue, ipso facto casts doubt on on his own moral right to function as a teacher or spiritual leader in the traditional sense of the word. No pretext, excuse, ad hoc formula, missionary complex, or unfounded fear of losing our foothold in the Jewish community can justify the acceptance of the Christianized synagogue as a bona fide religious institution.
I know beforehand the reaction to my letter on the part of apostles of religious “modernism” and “utilitarianism”, They will certainly say that since a great majority of the recently constructed synagogues have abandoned separate seating, we must not be out of step with the masses. This type of reasoning could will be employed with regard to other religious precepts, such as the observance of the Sabbath, or the dietary alws. However, we must remember that an ethical or halachic principle decreed by God is not rendered void by the fact that people refuse to obey it. Its cogency and veracity are perennial and independent of compliance on the part of the multitudes. If the ethical norm of “thou shall not kill” ( Ex.20;13) has not lost its validity during the days of extermination and gas chambers, when millions of people were engaged in ruthless murder, but on the contrary, has been impregnated with deeper meaning and significance, then every halachic maxim assumes greater import in times of widespread disregard and unconcern. The greater the difficulty, the more biting the ridicule and sarcasm, and the more numerous the opponent-then the holier is the principle, and the more sacred is our duty to defend it. In my opinion the halachic dictum “Bshat gezerat hamalchut, afilu mitzvah kallah kegon leshenyuyei arkita di mesana, yehareg val yaavor” ( Sanhedrin 74b), requiring of us a heroic stand in times of adversity, applies not only to political and religious persecution originated by some pagan ruler, but also to situations in which a small number of God fearing and Torah loyal people is confronted with a hostile attitude on the part of the majority dominated by a false philosophy.
I call on the conventiopm to make its stand clear on this problem, and to break finally with the policy of evading issues and emploting ambiguities and inconsistencies. Matters have gone too far and have reached the state of cyncism, athing which cannot be tolerated any longer. Let us not try to deceive the American Jewish laiety by oral and written protests against deviationist rabbis, while many of our members try to emulate them. The American layman is by far more alert and intelligent than we are willing to admit, and we are gradually losing his confidence and trust.”
Why is there any difference between a “traditional” synagogue with mixed pews and a C temple with respect to the above statement?
Steve Brizel: Thanks so much for your extensive quotes from the Rav confirming exactly what I said. In none of them is there the slightest mention of whether the synangugue with mixed seating is “Traditional” or “Conservative.” Th denominational issue is completely irrelevant. Note that on CCC, p. 126 the Rav states that “It is self-evident that if the dinner were being given only in honor of Rabbi and Mrs. Shubow I would consider it a privilege to serve as one of the sponsors”–this despite R. Shubow’s being a prominent Conservative Rabbi. Can one imagine Rav Moshe Feinstein or Rav Aharon Kotler writing a similar sentence?!
I agree with Dr. Kaplan on this. I don’t haave the citation handy but Rav Soloveitchik held that prayer with MIXED seating is biblically forbidden but separate seating without a mechitzah is only rabbinically forbidden. R. Eliezer Silver and others agree, although others disagree. The citations are in my BDD article, republished in my book.
R’ S. Moscowitz,
Thank you for your excellent questions to me (July 2 at 6:46 p.m.) I apologize for my delay in responding, as I had to study the matter further. I hear what you are saying, and I sympathize with the sentiment. Yet I face an insurmountable challenge: R. Moshe Feinstein (IM YD 1:160) assumes that one who calls himself Conservative has announced an interest in transcending the old-fashioned parameters of the ikkarei emunah. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=917&st=&pgnum=317
I wish it were not so, but since I do not even reach R. Feinstein’s ankles, I am incapable of overturning his decision. Moreover, R. Feinstein’s assumption (originally written in 1950) was upheld by R. Bleich as recently as a month ago, in a lecture regarding siddur kiddushin. See here:
Specifically, at 58:30 into the lecture, R. Bleich says that “an institution located at 125th and Broadway” once had a debate whether ladies could be ordained as rabbis, seeing as the rabbi often has to serve as a witness for kiddushin. R. Bleich’s response to this was that even the gentlemen ordained by the institution cannot be witnesses, based on the aforementioned responsum of R. Feinstein.
In my opinion, the challenge this presents can be resolved by the board of directors of the institution deciding that – out of deference to R. Feinstein’s responsum – from now on the institution will follow the 13 ikkarim. [N.B. Such a step would almost instantly flood the North American market with Orthodox rabbis, and the salaries of Orthodox rabbis would precipitously drop due to principles of supply and demand, but that is not necessarily a bad phenomenon, considering Rambam’s opinion that rabbis should work for free anyway. (Cf. Shu”t Yabi’a Omer VII, YD no. 17, who disagrees with Rambam).]
Larry Kaplan-My reading of the extensive quotes from RYBS led me to the conclusion that RYBS was equally critical of prayer in a synagogue with mixed seating, regardless of whether it was “traditional” or CJ affiliated. Given RYBS’s well documented disdain for CJ ( seee the drashos at the Chagei HaSemicha in Divrei HaRav) as well as for Orthodox rabbanim in shuls without mechitzas and comments in the quotes above about “half reform” and “deviationists”, which RYBS used as Lashon Sagi Nahor or Lashon Nekiyah for CJ, the bottom line according to RYBS was that Tefilah in a shul with Mixed seating was Assur Min HaTorah and and separate seating without a mechitzah was Assur Midrabanan-thus, the notion that RYBS never viewed the latter as Assur at all is mistaken.
I understand what you and R Gil maintain, but I think that it is an overly restrictive reading of the letters in question to assert that because “traditional” or “Conservative” are not there, somehow RYBS was implying that there was a lesser halachic issue involved than in an Orthodox shul that had removed its mechitzah.
I think that the letter to R Shubow contains much praise for R Shubow as well as RYBS’s refusal to provide any approval or sanction for CJ.
Lawrence Kaplan – and what if you heard shofar in a mixed seating synagogue? What is the status of the Kol? According to the Rav?
“Note that on CCC, p. 126 the Rav states that “It is self-evident that if the dinner were being given only in honor of Rabbi and Mrs. Shubow I would consider it a privilege to serve as one of the sponsors”–this despite R. Shubow’s being a prominent Conservative Rabbi. Can one imagine Rav Moshe Feinstein or Rav Aharon Kotler writing a similar sentence?!”
From the same letter ” Let me say unequivocally that I do recognize the importance of this new house of worship for the Jewish population of Brighton as a means of communal organization and unification. I also appreciate the unselfish efforts on the part of the members and leaders which make such an undertaking possible. Their pride in having attained their goal is fully warranted. You in particular have manifested a strong sense of community awareness and devotion for Jewish causes for which you should be congratulated.” As Prof Kaplan wrote “Can one imagine Rav Moshe Feinstein or Rav Aharon Kotler writing a similar sentence?”
R Gil-which volume of BDD? I saw no article either at BDD http://www.biu.ac.il/jh/BDD/ind_eng.shtml or any reference to the issue in your one article in the Kovetz Hirhurei Torah.
R Gil-The BDD Journal had no article by you in its online Index. Which article in your Kocvetz Hirhurei Torah addressed the subject at hand?
.” I don’t haave the citation handy but Rav Soloveitchik held that prayer with MIXED seating is biblically forbidden but separate seating without a mechitzah is only rabbinically forbidden.”
Agreed-but one must be clear that a separate seating non mechitzah still has kedushas beis haknesses although with a pgum thus it would generally be preferable to daven in such an institution rather than yichidus at home.
“For the Rambam, as it clear from Guide 3:27, cited by Chardal, and also 1:33 (with its parallel text), immortality can be attained only through intellectual understanding based on proof where possible or strong argument otherwise”
Prof. Kaplan, excuse me for saying this ,but the last three words, in my opinion, are weasel words which completely negate what was asserted here. (Not that you are responsible for what was asserted.)
The issue as raised by this thread is who is kosher to act as a dayan. A heretic is not, and, I argued, that a Conservative Rabbi, whether he be a convert or someone with a shtar yichus going back to Ezra, is at least be chezkas a Kofer ba Torah and hence possul.
The rejoinder to that was, well, the Rambam himself held that if you cannot prove God’s Existence philosophically you get no eternal life, and acc. to that no one but a few philosophers get OHB, so that mean that we might just as well forget about ikkarei emunah.
Nonsense. The Rambam nowhere says that someone who believes in God simply as a matter of faith is a heretic. Maybe such a person does not get OHB acc. to the Moreh as you understand it (not all agree, but that is really besides the point), but there is no proof in the Rambam that such a person is not kosher to act as a judge or witness, for that matter.
BTW, what constitutes “strong argument otherwise.” The teleological proof?
Mycroft-we have been through thos before- the bottom line remains that regardless of RYBS’s personal friendship and relationship with R Shubin, RYBS was not an apologist for or a promoter of CJ. I think that any implication to the contrary constitutes a revisionist view of RYBS’s POV to make the same more palatable to those who promote pluralism uber alles as the keystone of Jewish identity. RYBS merely used a different way of expressing his opposition to CJ than either RAK or RMF.
“Joseph Kaplan – “that the Rav invalidated tekiat shofar heard in a mixed seating shul is certainly a possible explanation of why teh Rav said what he said.”
Was is it a valid interpretation when that is not what the Rav said. That is revisionism and putting into the Rav’s mouth a halachik position that he did not say.”
I think we agree, Ruvie. I think it’s okay to say: my interpretation of what the Rav said is X. What’s not okay is the comment to which I have been replying; i.e., the Rav said (or the Rav’s position is) X.
I would also note that there are many other Issurim of a Rabbinic nature that form a great amount of Halacha inn many areas of Halacha ( Shabbos, Kashrus, Hilcos Nidah, etc) and that our obedience to the same or how a Posek in any of our communities formulates how one fulfils a Mitzvah Min HaTorah today is a “make or break factor” and/or one of the key indicia of how a Torah observant Jew lives his or her life. IMO, the mantra of “well it is only midrabanan” often implies an unjustified view that since a certain halacha is “only” Midrabanan, we can ignore the same when observance becomes too difficult or we don’t want to accept an answer that makes us uncomfortable in our lives. As R Gil stated in a letter in the most recent issue of JA , an issur midrabanan is still an issur.
“The Rav spoke and wrote about it many times. Be careful before claiming that he did not say something.”
I have reviewed the many excerpts in the Rav’s actual words on the issue of teki’at shofar in a Conservative shul and davening in a shul with mixed seating that are quoted verbatim in CC&C and the Sanctity of the Synagogue and in none of them did the Rav say that teki’at shofar in a Conservative shul is invalid. If you think he said that, the burden is on you to come up with a citation, which is what I originally asked R. Pick for. So far, no one has come up with anything in the Rav’s words. I did my due diligence; time for others to do theirs. Or in Steve’s words, I’ve shown proof; the “proof please?” question is directed to you.
“Yet I face an insurmountable challenge: R. Moshe Feinstein (IM YD 1:160) assumes that one who calls himself Conservative has announced an interest in transcending the old-fashioned parameters of the ikkarei emunah. See here: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=917&st=&pgnum=317
I wish it were not so, but since I do not even reach R. Feinstein’s ankles, I am incapable of overturning his decision. Moreover, R. Feinstein’s assumption (originally written in 1950) was upheld by R. Bleich as recently as a month ago, in a lecture regarding siddur kiddushin.”
RMFs attitude to Conservative Rabbis and Judaism was NOT the same as the Ravs.
Joseph k. – we do but you are being too nice. Would the Rav agree that r’ pick’s category is valid in this case. The severa holds no water – as they say.
Otoh, one can opine that mixed seating is akin to avoda zarah- shevach but what can you do- and a shofar would be a kli of avodah zarah and not viable to complete any mitzvah and must be destroyed.
Ruvie, I’m just a nice guy. 🙂
Joseph: I’m not making the claim. I can’t recall such a statement but I’m not confident. However, I find it unlikely in the extreme that the Rav mentioned Conservaative rather than mixed-seating.
“Mycroft-we have been through thos before- the bottom line remains that regardless of RYBS’s personal friendship and relationship with R Shubin, RYBS was not an apologist for or a promoter of CJ.”
Of course, not-I never implied hat the Rav was a promoter of CJ.
“I think that any implication to the contrary constitutes a revisionist view of RYBS’s POV to make the same more palatable to those who promote pluralism uber alles as the keystone of Jewish identity.”
But the Rav treated non traditional Jews as being within brit Avraham.
Re revisionism see Prof Waxman: “It may well be that Modern Orthodox rabbis,
including those ordained at RIETS in the latter part of the twentieth century, were considerably more to the right
than were their predecessors. In other words, the move to the right may have been within the RIETS semikhah (ordination)
program, under the influence of a revisionist approach to the thinking of its revered head, the late Rabbi Joseph
B. Soloveitchik (“the Rav”),”
or of course Prof Kaplan’s classic on revisionism:”http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411/is_3_48/ai_64507449/”
Tal Benschar: My “weasel words” were not my own, but the Rambam’s. Sorry if I was not clear. In the Rambam’s view certain matters, like God’s existence, unity, and incorporeality can be proven. In such a case, it would be incumbent upon a person to know the demonstrations. OTHER MATTERS, such as creation (see Guide 2:13-24) and God’s knowledge of particulars (see Guide 3:20-21) cannot be demonstrated, but can only on the basis of dialectical argumentation be shown to be the most probable view. (See end of Guide 3:21.) In such cases a person would have to know the strong dialectical arguments leading to these conclusions.
I agree with you that, for the Rambam, a person who believes in the Ikarei Emunah on the basis of faith is certainly not a heretic, and can be a dayan and a witness, though, perhaps paradoxically, according to my reading of Guide 3:27 (which I believe to be the simple reading) he will have no share in the world to come.
Apropos of nothing: Waiting for the light to change on my way to Shacharit this morning, I saw one of the regular charedi schnorrers dashing in front of traffic on the other side of the street, going the opposite way.
A few minutes later, though, he was in our shul. (Usually, the sum total of schnorrers is greater than mitpallilim.) I thought it was funny that the only shul he could have gotten to and back in that time is the Conservative one.
Unless he was just getting a newspaper. 🙂
Lawrence – Would you agree to my comment on the previous page that even according to Maimonides, the Resurrection is a game-changer? I would very much like to hear your opinion.
The previous page of comments, that is.
Steve: BDD 17 http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2006/11/bdd-17.html
>I agree with you that, for the Rambam, a person who believes in the Ikarei Emunah on the basis of faith is certainly not a heretic, and can be a dayan and a witness, though, perhaps paradoxically, according to my reading of Guide 3:27 (which I believe to be the simple reading) he will have no share in the world to come.
The more interesting question is whether the Rambam would consider someone who believed but held that the existence of God can not be proven to be a heretic.
Dov F: Your suggestion is an interesting one. But to discuss it properly, I would have to dicuss first the Rambam’s view on resurrection and its purpose. This is a large subject. My own very tentative sense is that for the Rambam resurrection is a metaphor (mashal) for immortality. I have reasons for saying this, but I am very unsure about this and feel I need to study the issue some more. Another possibility, which occurs to me right now(!), is that the Rambam to begin with believed it to be a metaphor, but when later in the Guide he adopted a more voluntaristic view of God (See Chip Manekin’s work), he decided to take it literally. This would then be just one more example of a change of view on his part that the Rambam hid from his readers.
Ye’yasher kochakha. At the same time, with all due respect, I have to opine that the philosophy that you identify (viz. to believe in HKB”H but with the caveat of insisting that it cannot be proven) is one which the Torah teaches us to avoid, for it is a philosophy which repeats the question that precipitated the attack of Amalek (“Ha-yesh Ha-Shem be-kirbenu im ayin”). I’m all in favour of freedom of inquiry, but I think there is a point at which freedom of inquiry has its limits. There are so many other intellectually rewarding questions of Shor she-Nagach et ha-Parah (in the proverbial as well as literal sense) that can endlessly stimulate and entertain a sophisticated Jew’s freedom of inquiry.
However, now that you mention it, I seem to recall that R. Bleich makes a big production of this issue in Tradition 42:2 (Summer 2009), arguing that a Jew should study astronomy so that he will *know* (as distinct from merely believe) the existence of HKB”H. R. Bleich compares the dichotomy to (le-havdil) memorizing the Pythagorean equation vs. being able to prove the Pythagorean equation by Euclidean geometry. [By the way, that article contains an apparent error, as R. Bleich there writes that birkat ha-chammah is recited in New Zealand. That seems wrong, because there is an intrinsic doubt in New Zealand what day of the week Wednesday (when birkat ha-chammah should be recited) is. When I brought this problem to the author’s attention, he responded by e-mail on Sept. 25, 2009: “You’re absolutely correct. The reference was to what actually happened and was not intended as an endorsement. Please G-d, when the material appears in book form that point will be made in a footnote.”]
Upon reviewing the Rav’s public statements, my critics are correct in that the Rav never publicly said that the shofar was invalid in a synagogue with mixed seating (this differentiation from without a mechiza is certainly true in the Rav’s position). However, with the statements that the Rav did make, I can still say that prayer would be invalid in a mixed seating Temple. First of all, the Rav, in CCC, p. 134 said that “any prayers offered there are worthless in the eyes of the Jewish Law.” I understand that means that such prayer have been invalidated – how can they be valid and yet worthless? Moreover, one doesn’t need the sanctity of a synagogue to pray, he can pray in his house, yet the Rav explicitly stated that in a mixed seating situation, those prayers are worthless. I also presume that such a pesak is based upon Rambam, tefillah, chapter 4 where a pure place and kavvanat lev are me’akev tefillah, for on pp. 134-135 the Rav mentions frivolity – or if you prefer kalus rosh. In any case, worthless means there is not kiyyum tefillah.
With that I return to Shofar. If it just a pure physical act, maybe one would fulfill his obligation in such a place (I”ll get back to that in a minute). However, the Rav numerous times noted that there is a kiyyum tefillah in shofat, it’s in the framework of tefillah, it’s bezibur like tefillah, kafuf is ma’akev for it’s tefilla, and requires a matir like tefillah, and so that aspect would also require to be in accordance to chapter 4 of hilchot tefilla of the rambam and such a kiyyum would be worthless.
And although the Rav never mentioned this, once you get a situation where it is forbidden to enter such place and yet my critics say blowing the shofar there would be still fulfill the mitzvah, you run into issue of yesh koach lechachamim (including the Rav of a community? Something I alluded to in an earlier post and no one reacted) la’akor daver min hatorah bekum va’aseh. That brings us to the rav akiva eiger if a person sounded the shofar on Shabbat, was he mekayeim a mizvah or not. See har zvi, vol. II, siman 88, and even rivavot efrayim, vol. 3, no. 391, and vol 4, no. 181, p. 348, where he states that you certainly can’t recite the bracha in such a situation. The issue of mizvah habah beaveirah is very much on their minds should one sound shofar on Shabbat. Isn’t that case similar to sounding the shofar in a mixed seating temple? One deals with time and the other with place.
To sum up: the rav stated that prayer in place of worship with mixed seating is worthless [CCC p. 134 offers a second reason having to do with Christianity – is this a problem of avodat zarah or bechukoteiem – perhaps someone can elucidate that point]. The Rav elsewhere stated that Shofar is basically a kiyyum of prayer. Ergo shofar also should be (or that kiyyum should be) worthless there. Finally, although the rav didn’t address the issue, nevertheless, it begs to be discussed, prima facie, the case seems to be similar to sounding shofar on Shabbat and that certainly is an issue of hafka’at hamizvah (har zvi above).
“I also presume that such a pesak is based upon Rambam”
An ironic statement given the context of R. Broyde’s post.
– Is it a psak from the Rav, or polemical positioning?
– If it is a psak, is there a tshuva to support it?
– If there is a tshuva, does it meet the bar R. Broyde sets here?
R. Broyde’s complaint increasingly feels hollow to this reader.
IH: It is a pesak with no teshuvah behind it.
Lawrence – Thank you. I suppose I have to study the subject more comprehensively. Glad I helped cause you to think of a new pshat though 🙂
Dov F: Thank you. As I indicated, though, it is not just a “new peshat.” It MAY be part of a more general phenomenon of the Rambam’s concealing some of his major shifts in both halakhah and theology.
R. Pick’s analysis is thorough and learned and I have no problem with him saying that his analysis of the Rav’s statement leads him to the conclusion that the Rav thought listening to teki’at shofar in a shul with mixed seating was invalid. I do have a problem with editing that statement to simply read that the Rav said (or thought) that listening to teki’at shofar in a shul with mixed seating was invalid. The difference, while seemingly minor, is, I believe, quite important in light of the situation described in my brother’s article on revisionism and the Rav.
>I have to opine that the philosophy that you identify (viz. to believe in HKB”H but with the caveat of insisting that it cannot be proven) is one which the Torah teaches us to avoid
I am not sure that the Torah has any position on the matter. the existance of God is implicit in all of its passages and it does not deal with epistemology.
And one can not “avoid” this philosophical position unless one is capable of proving the existance of God. Something most people have not been able to do since Kant. The kind of discursive proof the Rambam demanded is quite impossible in our intelectual world.
R. Spira: Rav Soloveitchik in U-Vikashtem mi-Sham specifically states on Kantian grounds that God’s existence cannot be rationally proven, though he goes on to say that there is a rational religious experience that directly points to God’s existence. See also LMF.
R’ Pick- “with the statements that the Rav did make, I can still say that prayer would be invalid in a mixed seating Temple.”
I think this is the only thing you can say that the Rav said explicitly. I would even limit this statement to only btefilah b’tzibbur based on the RAV’s other statements – hence I disagree with Joseph Kaplan that your interpretation is a possibility.
” such a locale has none of the sanctity of a synagogue; any prayers offered there are worthless in. The eyes of the Jewish law.” This can only mean public prayer for one does not need sanctity of synagogue to fulfill one’s personal obligation to pray and certainly not if it is an etz tzarah. Furthermore, in CCC p.140 – ” ….implications of such a halachik decision, I would still advise every orthodox Jew to forgo tefillah b’tzibbur even on rosh hashanah and yom kippur, rather than enter a synagogue with mixed pews….” no mention of not fulfilling mitzvah of shofar either here.
I believe you totally misrepresent the RAV’s words with a certain desire – for whatever reason – to show that if you stretch some categories to areas they may not apply to anything is possible for anyone who disagrees must argue from the RAV’s silence. I am surprise that you did go in the direction of yeharag ve’al yavor – yvy- which the Rav did use on p. 141.
On the RAV’s chiddush of the dual nature of shofar – please reread his 1974 teshuvah derashah – Man as both subject and object. I think your conclusion on this matter is also a stretch and factually incorrect.
Lastly, are you stating that the Rav had the authority to uproot a mitzvah aseah? Is he now chazal? Did you make a valid claim that this is a mitzvah habah b’aveirah to begin with?
In case you didn’t realize Christianity does not have the applications of avoda zarah – so to try to associate it mixed pews with AZ is similar to say breathing and eating are also similarities as well as the use of wine.
Finally, what so hard to understand when the Rav says ” it would be BETTER not to hear the shofar than to enter a synangogue whose sanctity has been profaned.” it simply means its better to give up this mitzvah for a larger goal – do you not think that the Rav would have said you are not mikayam shofar anyway so why go? If he believe that?
To elaborate on Ruvie: For the Rav there are TWO aspects to tekiat shofar: 1) the physical hearing of the kol shofar; and 2) Shofar as a kiyyum tefillah. Even were one to grant (and I have my doubts about this) that according the Rav one would not fulfil 2 in a mixed seating synagogue, one would surely fulfil 1. I find it hard to understand how Rabbi Pick, the author of the truly excellent and very useful sefer Moadei ha-Rav that expertly summarizes and prsents much of the torat ha-Rav on the festivals, could have lost sight of this DUAL nature of the mitzvah of shofar according to the Rav.
No, he shows from the R’ Soloveitchik’s pronouncements, and quite clearly and logically, that you would not have a kiyum of tefillah, and so, since you would need both kol shofar and shofar as a kiyum of tefillah, you haven’t fulfilled the mitzvoh. The dual nature requires both, not that if you have one and not the other, you are yotzei zeyn.
Rafael Araujo: I am almost certain that for the Rav, 2 ( the kiyum tefillah) is dependent on 1 (the physical hearing of the shofar), NOT vice versa. Thus, IIRC, it is only tekiot di-meumad, which are integrated into Mal. Zich. Shof., which have the status of a kiyyum tefillah. Unfortunately, I do not have the relevant seforim of the Rav at hand right now.
I still don’t understand if the Rav intended these pronouncements to be p’sak – as Gil contends – how the OU could have allowed member congregations with mixed seating for decades after the first airing of the shofar issue by the Rav in 1964. What am I missing?
Does not compute. If the issue is as serious as R. Pick contends — i.e. that “that prayer would be invalid in a mixed seating Temple” — then surely that would mean that OU member temples would also have been venues for invalid prayers.
Of course it computes. If the OU had kicked out those synagogue, they would have joined the Conservative movement. This kept them in the Orthodox movement even if their synagogues had serious halakhic problems.
So serious that their prayer was invalid (or whatever variant of the debate between R. Pick and others you want to plug in)?
This just doesn’t compute, sorry. Is there any textual evidence to support this was a p’sak by the Rav meant for all of Modern Orthodoxy?
Frankly, this whole discussion makes a mockery of R. Broyde’s post about methodology.
IH: The Rav wasn’t writing a teshuvah which thoroughly analyzed the issue of teki’at shofar in a mixed pew shul; he had given a private psak to an individual and then he used that incident to help him make his point about the serious issue with respect to mixed seating shuls that Orthodoxy was struggling with at that time. The teshuva R. Broyde wrote about claimed to be that; a teshuvah that annlyzes the halachic issue and R. Broyde demonstrated that it did a poor job. Comparing that to what the Rav did in this instance is the classic mixed bowl of fruit. The Rav has proven himself (if such proof is needed), that when he wanted to analyze a halachic issue he was, to say the least, able to do so in a manner that met all of R. Broyde’s criteria and then some.
Thank you for your response. Yet it seems to me that the Torah (as explained by Rashi) indeed deals with the epistemology of questioning the existence of HKB”H. Namely, Rashi compares the matter to a boy being carried on his father’s shoulders. After a while, the boy asks ‘Is it really true that my father exists?’ The father responds ‘Since you’re not sure whether I exist, I will take you off my shoulders’. After being approached by a malevolent dog, the boy realizes that his father exists, and he asks his father to take him back, which the father mercifully does.
I thank Mori ve-Rabbi R. Kaplan for the insights from U-Vikashtem mi-Sham, which I admit (ba-avonotai ha-rabim) I have not yet studied. Yet, does R. Soloveitchik deal with the above Rashi?
IH: For the dozenth or so time, you are totally confused. R. Broyde never claimed that a posek cannot pasken without writing a thorough research paper. Please stop claiming that he did.
Gil — stop putting words in my mouth. I am neither confused nor misrepresenting R. Broyde.
Joseph — the whole discussion steered off course on the basis that R. Broyde should not have engaged on the subject of an RA T’shiva) and this quickly moved into the discussion of the Rav’s (now disclosed as private) p’sak that he then discussed as a political statement.
While R. Bryode’s criticisms of this RA t’shuva may be entirely valid — I have not done the due diligence — at least they endeavor to codify their major halachic issues in a t’shuva form (even if it does not meet R. Broyde’s standard). Yet, here we have a long thread of comments that ends up with R. Pick stating (July 4, 2012 at 5:45 pm) “with the statements that the Rav did make…I understand that..I presume that…and although the Rav never mentioned this…). But the absence of a t’shuva or clarity about what the Rav actually said in context — and the fact that OU policy flew in the face of what he seems to have said — seems not to have stopped the general belief in RIETS circles that one is not allowed to engage with CJ. And this does not seem to be an isolated case.
The reason I state that R. Broyde’s complaint rings hollow to me, is that however imperfect their t’shuva may be, American Modern Orthodoxy appears to have given up on writing them at all — let alone to the bar R. Broyde demands.
In the absence of any counter-examples (as per my request of IH on July 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm) this seems to be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Or more pointedly, a case of pilpul triumphing over halacha.
Wow, talk about mixing apples and oranges.
I am neither confused nor misrepresenting R. Broyde
Yes you are, on both.
at least they endeavor to codify their major halachic issues in a t’shuva form
You are correct that many of the Rav’s rulings were not written in a teshuvah form. That is irrelevant to R. Broyde’s article because he never argued to the contrary. All he said was that if you are writing a teshuvah arguing with the consensus, state accurately what the consensus is and why you are disagreeing with it.
the general belief in RIETS circles that one is not allowed to engage with CJ
That is irrelevant to the issue of mixed seating in a synagogue. Why are you raising it?
American Modern Orthodoxy appears to have given up on writing them at all
Really? The RCA has published a few from its Halakhah Commission and plenty of MO rabbis publish halakhah sefarim, such as R. Zvi Sobolofsky’s recent book on hilkhos nidah and R. Asher Bush’s book a few years ago of his collected teshuvos. R. Hershel Schachter has many (unpublished) teshuvos on kashrus issues in addition to his six books and R. Mordechai Willig has published three books on halakhah. And certainly R. J. David Bleich is prolific.
Why are you raising it?
That is where the discusion began which then morphed into the mixed seating and shofar discussion. Read the thread from the beginning.
Then why are you connecting it to the ruling on shofar and not his position on interdenominational dialogue? Not that I think the latter is appropriate either, because this is critique and not dialogue. But if you are going to use one, it should be that one.
And the reason he never published a teshuvah on that subject is political. He did not want to start a public fight with the roshei yeshiva who had published an issur on membership in the Synagogue Council.
Because your readership did, Gil. I was just following the flow of discussion and realized how ironic it was given the post.
Now I’m confused. You’re willing to make negative accusations based on assumptions you agree are incorrect?
IH: I note you did not respond to Gil’s examples disproving your claim that American MO has given up on writing teshuvot. I think that R Broyde’s analyis of the Conservative Teshuvah was in its polite and substantive way thoroughly devastating. Your attempt to draw attenetion away from that has failed to impress anyone here, even those on the “left.”
IH on July 5, 2012 at 1:27 pm
Gil — stop putting words in my mouth. I am neither confused nor misrepresenting R. Broyde
I’ll give you the first, not the second. Up to the reader to decide whether that makes it better or worse.
R. Broyde is not stating what needs to go into a teshuvah. If that were the case, his reference to the “vast secondary literature” (his point 2) would make no sense, since teshuvas generally make no reference to that. If you read through the Iggros Moshe, for example, I doubt you will find many references to such literarure.
His point, rather, is that this “teshuvah” (he is too kind to call it that, but put that aside), is either sloppy or dishonest in giving a selective view of the sources. You don’t want to quote published articles in a teshuva, that’s fine. But to quote “a Jewish Week column by Rabbi [Avi] Weiss and a Hirhurim post by me [i.e. R. Broyde]” and then ignore the published literature R. Broyde references is a sign of someone who is either doing a poor job of research, or has an agenda.
Ditto the treatment (or non-treatment) of acharonim — like citing one teshuvah of the Tztitz Eliezer but ignoring (or not being aware of?) a different teshuvah that deals with the issue head on is a sign of a poor job. That is especially the case because here, as R. Broyde himself points out, we are dealing with “a topic in which the Gemara and classical rishonim are silent.”
That’s his points 1 and 2.
Point 3 is clear — there is no way anyone would right a teshuvah and not deal with a Rambam or Shach that are on point. The poseik might disagree or hold otherwise, but to simply ignore them is unforgiveable, and I challenge anyone to find a teshuvah written by a recognized poseik that does that.
Points 4 and 5 are substantive to the issue at hand (converts sitting on a beis din for conversion) and are not easily transferrable to other teshuvas on other topics.
Perhaps when IH says that the MO world has given up on writing teshuvos, he means the LWMO. In which case he might be right. I’m not aware of teshuvos from the LWMO world, at least not in the US.
Tal — I fully agree that R. Broyde’s post is about the proper methodology of writing a t’shuva. I never said anything to the contrary.
My point was that the message thread following the post ended up being a discussion about what the Rav said in regards to engaging with CJ with the mized seating and shofar p’sak occupying a fair part of that.
Am I the only one that thinks it is ironic that R. Broyde was given grief about his criticism of this specific RA t’shuva due to its methodological failings on the basis of some ambiguous p’sak that was never written up in a t’shuva such that the criticism leveled could either be shown to be textually justified or not?
I did — and that was my input.
Tal — I fully agree that R. Broyde’s post is about the proper methodology of writing a t’shuva. I never said anything to the contrary.
No, you don’t agree, because I explicitly said that is NOT what R. Broyde did. So you are “agreeing” with a phantom.
I fully agree with “His point, rather, is that this “teshuvah” is either sloppy or dishonest in giving a selective view of the sources.” I never said anything to the contrary.
I would call that “proper methodology” but am happy to use your more verbose form.
My point about using the Rav’s non-t’shuva’s to criticise R. Rroyde — which was the thrust of the discussion thread — stands.
IH: As the Gipper once said, there you go again.
“Proper methodology” concerns teshuvas in general. R. Broyde’s criticism target this particular teshuva, and his criticisms are not necessarily applicable to teshuvas in general. You can write a teshuva without quoting acharonim (the Iggros Moshe has quite a few of those). You cannot write a teshuva that quotes one or two and ignores the rest. There are other things peculiar to this teshuva and topic (e.g., the topic is not dealt with by the Rishonim) that don’t transfer elsewhere. Not to mention quoting one Tztitz Eliezer but not another, the left out one being directly on point.
You asked for examples of teshuvas that meet his criteria. That is dishonest because those teshuvas don’t purport to do what this one does. That’s the rub — if you represent something one way, then you have to back it up. If you don’t, you don’t.
Here is an analogy from real life. I recently sold a 20-year old car, which had quite a few issues. Had I said to the buyer, “it runs perfectly,” I would be committing fraud. If I said, as I did, that it is old, it still runs but needs work, then I am being honest. Doesn’t make the car run any better, but I am not a fraud in that case.
Your point above the Rav’s psak is worthless, because the Rav never wrote a teshuva, period. So nothing R. Broyde write criticizing a teshuva has any bearing. (Whether the Rav should have written one is another story, but that is besides the point.)
The point, again, is that the criticism of R. Broyde’s post about this t’shuva was based on the Rav’s non-t’shuva. I found that ironic.
I also had a query to R, Broyde to provide a contemporaneous published counter-example that would help demonstrate the validity of his criticism to the one he chose:
IH and Joseph Kaplan-I think that if you read all of the letters in the book edited by R Helfgott, the sum and substance of the same is a Psak which was and is followed by anyone who views himself or herself as a talmid of RYBS. The same query was raised a few years ago with respect to Confrontation, and was answered by all who addressed the issue as being a Psak, even if it lacked the classical format of a rabbinic responsum. I would also add that RYBS’s letters on davening in mixed pews were widely disseminated and IMO cannot be considered as private correspondence or a limited answer to one person’s query.
Larry Kaplan-I understand your distinction in Lomdus between a shul that removed a mechitzah and a heterodox affiliated house of worship. A shul that removed a mechitzah according to RYBS has lost any status halachically as a Mikdash Meat-which a heterodox house of worship never had in the first instance. Yet, viewing our adherence to an Issur Drabanan as less important than our fealty to an Issur Min HaTorah strikes me as the wrong lesson to be learned from this discussion. Rather, I would maintain that Torah observant Jews view their adherence to both Torah and Rabbinic ordinances as part and parcel of how one defines being a Torah observant Jew.
R Gil wrote in response:
“Really? The RCA has published a few from its Halakhah Commission and plenty of MO rabbis publish halakhah sefarim, such as R. Zvi Sobolofsky’s recent book on hilkhos nidah and R. Asher Bush’s book a few years ago of his collected teshuvos. R. Hershel Schachter has many (unpublished) teshuvos on kashrus issues in addition to his six books and R. Mordechai Willig has published three books on halakhah. And certainly R. J. David Bleich is prolific”
I would certainly add R Y Sacks, formerly of RIETS to the list of prolific writers -his seforim ( Shabbos, KS, Pesach, Purim, YT and Sefiras HaOmer, Haggadah) certainly display great Lomdus, and discussion of many topics in SA Orach Chaim
Steve — thanks, there is an interesting discussion to be had on that topic, but the issue here is that it was being used to criticize R. Broyde’s post, as such, on the basis that it engaged CJ.
This began in comment #13 (Raphael Davidovich on July 2, 2012 at 10:23 am).
I apologize for not answering immediately due to different time zones.
Ruvie – the Rav said prayer would be worthless – what’s the difference between zibbur and yachid? I assume it had something to do with hil. Tefillah chapter 4, but if not, how can you differentiate between the two? How do mixed pews mafki’a tefilla bezibbur and not yachid. Ccc p. 140 is just reflecting what people normally do – to daven by oneself, one need not go to a synagogue and can do it at home, however, for public prayer one goes to synagogue and the Rav was just reflecting the mezius (reality of the situation). I am not sure es zarah is a factor here, and in spite of the chinnuch, the ramban in his final conclusion does NOT have prayer as a (biblical) mizvah even be’es tzarah – he removed it from the maimonidean list. I saw the yvy on p. 141 and think it’s polemical, although there are enough chareidim here who say that anything mixed is avizrayhu de’arayot, so I’ll leave that one for you.
For Jews, Christianity is AZ. I didn’t bring it up, the Rav used in his second argument. I just wondered what exactly was his halakhic reasoning, and suggested as a second idea bechukoseihem.
And what are the (your?) sources for giving up a mizvah for a larger goal, except for the examples of shofar on Shabbos, etc. And in an earlier post (in the first 50 postings) I alluded to the power of a community rav do for forbid shechutei chutz which according to some authorities is then simply treif – asking would the concept apply to other areas.
Ps enjoyed your dr. seuss poem. Nevertheless, there are other posekim:
שו”ת ציץ אליעזר חלק ה פתיחה פרק ב
אולם זאת ס”ל מיהת בפשיטות דמ”מ אסור לו מן התורה להתפלל שם, דאסור להיות נטפל לעוברי עבירה כדדרשינן בפ”ק דמכות דנטפל לעוברי עבירה כעוברי עבירה, ואפי’ אם אינו מתפלל שם אלא עומד או יושב שם בשעה שהם מתפללים כפי מנהגיהם הרי ראיית עבירה עבירה ואינו דומה מועטין העושין עבירה למרובין, וסברא זו סברא דאורייתא היא, וגם בשעה שאין מתפללין כפי מנהגיהם ראוי וטוב להחמיר להתרחק מדבר שעבדו בו עבירה. עיין בדברי המהר”ם שיק שם ומ”ש עוד ביתר חריפות מהאיסור להתפלל בבתי תפלה שלהם בחאו”ח שם בסימן ש”ה עיין שם.
And how do you like this one about a sukka and also applicable to the conservative movement:
חשוקי חמד סוכה דף נו עמוד ב (הרב יצחק זילברשטיין, רמת אלחנן ב”ב)
רפורמים המבקשים להקים סוכה ליד הטמפל
שאלה. רפורמים [הכופרים בעיקרי התורה] המבקשים מנגר יר”ש שיבנה להם סוכה, ליד בית תיפלתם [טמפל], היענה להם?
תשובה. מצוה על הנגר לומר להם, אני רואה שבאתם לחסות בצל השי”ת ולחסות בסוכתו, ולכן עליכם לקבל על עצמכם להאמין בי”ג עקרים, ואז בשמחה רבה אקים לכם סוכה לתפארת. אך כל עוד שאתם נמצאים בין הטועים, הרי סוכה זו לא נעשית לשם מצוה ולא לשם צל, ויהיה בזה מכשול הרבים כי אנשים יחשבו שהסוכה כשרה כי נעשתה לשם מצות המלך כדפרש”י במסכת סוכה דף ט ע”א ד”ה סוכה לשם חג, וז”ל: דכתיב סוכות לה’ לשם מצות המלך, וסוכתכם לא נעשתה לשם מצות המלך, כי אם לפולקלור ותצוגה של סמלים והרי זו הטעיה.
I surely know about the two aspects of shofar and mentioned them in the post [“The Rav elsewhere stated that Shofar is basically a kiyyum of prayer. Ergo shofar also should be (or that kiyyum should be) worthless there.”]. I even suggested that one might at least fulfill the first physical kiyyum but I doubt if there would be a kiyyum of tefillah in such a case. I do have some thoughts about the fact that kaffuf is meakev in shofar, because it has to be fit for tefillah, and if it’s not kaffuf you do not fulfill even the physical act, wondering if it would that apply also to mixed pews in my reading of it. If one would disagree, fine. I even think that the reason the Rav never stated that shofar in invalid is because of that physical act, but I feel that if prayer is invalid in a mixed pew temple, so too would that kiyyum of tefilla in shofar be invalid as I have argued
Rabbi Pick: I am sorry for implying that you were unaware of the dual nature of mitzvat shofar, according to the Rav. What I meant to say was that you implied, as Rafael Araujo explicitly wrote, that it is an all or nothing matter, and that without a kiyyum tefillah one would not even fulfil the physical act of hearing the shofar.
I just turned up Yemei Zikaron while cleaning my apartment in NYC, and I was about to write that I see that the Rav says there that according to the Rambam, the reason for kafuf is in order to fulfil the kiyyum tefillah. But you beat me to the punch. Of course, one can argue that the fact that the shofar has to be rauy for kiyyum tefillah in order to be used to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the shofar, does not mean that there can be no fulfilment of that mitvah without a kiyyum tefillah. But I realize the matter more complicated than my very fallible memory led me to believe. Ufortunately, I do not have Shiurim le-Zekher Abba Mari or the first volume of Noraot ha-Rav around, where, IIRC, the Rav discusses this matter at some length. In any event, let me recommend your excellent sefer, Moadei ha-Rav to all who are interested in torat ha-Rav.
Steve: I am not convinced that for the Rav a synagogue affiliated with the Conservative movement that had no mehitzah, but separate seating would forfeit kedushat beit ha-Kenesset. Proof, please. What of the Seminary shul that for many years had separate seating but no mechitzah? And what of the Shaar Shmayyim in Montreal that has a mechitzah, but was for many years affiliated with the Conservative movement?
yeyasher kochacah on the recommendation
Larry Kaplan wrote in part:
“I am not convinced that for the Rav a synagogue affiliated with the Conservative movement that had no mehitzah, but separate seating would forfeit kedushat beit ha-Kenesset”
Perhaps-but such an example , in light of CJ’s drift away from any pretense of halachic loyalty, would easily be viewed as a Miut Sheino Matzui and identified with a heterodox movement so as to raise serious issues as to whether one should daven in such a shul on a lchatchilah basis-especially if there are shuls within walking distance that raise no such issues.
“And what of the Shaar Shmayyim in Montreal that has a mechitzah, but was for many years affiliated with the Conservative movement”
Currently its Rabbi and assistant are both from YCT. A previous Rabbi Rabbi Gelman RIETS musmach currently of Houston.
The Shaar Hashamayim was used as a selling point by Orthodox Rabbis fighting for mechitzot- see even a CS has a mechitzah.
R’ Pick – this way above my pay grade and education level. I am honored but as an avowed am haaretz I will attempt.
” the Rav said prayer would be worthless – what’s the difference between zibbur and yachid?” i would assume the Rav holds there is 2 components to prayer – personal and public. On what grounds can one invalidate personal prayer that is sincere? Does the place really matter? I think one can state that there is a separate mitzvah for public prayers as well as public readings of the Torah. It’s a community obligation not an individual obligatory mitzvah( which an individual can be mikayam) – SA says yistadael adam l’hitpallel…on page 140 – the Rav states I still advise every orthodox jew to forgo TEFILLAH BETZIBBUR… – wouldn’t a stronger statement be that you are not yotzei mitzvah shofar – a biblical mitzvah- in a mixed seating environment? ( is it really just the metziut as you claim?- dismissive but the whole speech to the RCA can be viewed as polemical including the yvy comment)
To the person in the Boston who only wanted to attend shul to fulfill the mitzvah of shofar nothing else. If your view is correct then the Rav should have simply said – you do not fulfill your obligation so forget about it. Yet the Rav explicitly stated in a newspaper no less – ” BETTER not to hear the shofar than to enter a synagogue whose sanctity had been profaned” – implying if he had enter the synagogue his obligation would have been fulfilled. For this is the crux of the matter that you need to answer better to be in the parsha of plausibility of your statement which has changed for your first posting.
Remember on July 2, 3:21pm you stated that the Rav invalidated hearing a shofar in their synagogues. The question you ask about a mitzvah asei should we duchah a lo taaseh is a question on the Rav not me. It’s smile to me that that the Rav had an agenda that he felt was important to orthodoxy that override this issue at that time.
The other poskim you cited are irrelevant to our issue and has nothing to do with what the Rav said.
You also need to make the case on the mitzvah habah b’aveirah – what is the cheftza here that is effected and what exactly is the averah and how does it connect to our fulfillment of said mitzvah?
If a stolen shofar – a penultimate type of mitzvah habah b’aveira – does not invalidate our fulfillment how does your concept get thru? For the issue here is only the Kol of the shofar. You need to invalidate the shofar itself or the tokeah
Sorry I hit the post button by accident before correcting and finishing my thoughts.
The Rav in a lecture says ” whether or not the mitzvah was proceeded by, or made possible through the commission of an eveirah is IRRELEVANT. The mitzvah is still acceptable as long as the instrument of the kiyum mitzvah – cheftza of mitzvah – is not classified as a gazul. Shofar is not the instrument of the mitzvah. The cheftza of shofar is the sound – Kol. Ain bkol din gazul. Something abstract non tangible cannot be stolen.”
So even if there is an eveirah here it does not effect the Kol from completing the mitzvah.
Mycroft 10:17pm: Indeed. That’s why I used the word “was.”
It appears that there are two issues here: one of tefillah and one of shofar. In teffilah we seem to have a contradiction in what the rav wrote: p. 134 he stated that prayer there are worthless while on p. 140 he only mention public prayer. We can resolve the contradiction your way, but then on p. 134 the rav should have said “public prayers” which he didn’t. hence I still think that p. 140 is just orach ar’ah, the normal way of doing things, going to synagogue for tefilla bezibbur. Nonetheless based upon p. 134, I think any tefilla in such a place is worthless. Concerning your question if place really matters, again I refer you to chapter iv of rambam’s hil. Tefillah where rambam says taharas makom tefillah is me’akev. Five things in that chapter can invalidate personal prayer even though it is sincere. The rav discussed these things that are ma’akev tefillah dozens of times.
Concerning shofar, I have already admitted that the rav never wrote to the best of my knowledge that it would be invalidated. Again, based upon other things the rav wrote, and based upon the quality of bina, meivin davar metoch davar, I suggest that the aspect of tefilla in shofar he would not fulfill, but perhaps the physical mitzvah he may fulfill, although I could hear sevaros that even that he would not fulfill – both from the laws of shofar itself and from extraneous laws. See also harrrrei kedem, siman 7.
In a stolen shofar, the chefzta is indeed irrelevant, but a ma’aseh tekiya that is done through aveirah, for instance on Shabbos, would involve mitzvah habah beaveirah. Even without the tefillah aspect, the ma’ashe tekiya was done simultaneously with the aveira as opposed to shofar gazul where the aveira was done earlier and not to the tekiya. However, clearly the rav didn’t learn like that, see harerei kedem p. 217. Nonetheless, this view of the rav only applies to the rambam on shofar of r.h. see harerei kedem, p. 31, that on yovel the mizvah is the tekiya and then shofar hagazul would be pasul according to the rambam. Accordingly, those rishonim who disagree with rambam and say the mizvah on rh is also tekiya and not just kol, would passul such a shofar.
In fairness to R’ IH, I agree with his excellent question that it is prima facie remarkable that the OU allowed synagogues to continue to maintain mixed seating. That the OU did so suggests to me that this is a case of “allowing the inhabitants of Rabbi Eliezer’s town to desecrate Shabbat for makhshirei milah” (to borrow the precedent from Shabbat 130a); namely, that there must have been an opinion which allows mixed seating, and although the overwhelming consensus of poskim rejects this opinion, the OU did not wish to disenfranchise synagogues that were relying on this opinion.
It seems to me that the (lone radical) opinion which allows mixed seating during synagogue prayer is that of Teshuvot ha-Rashba II, no. 182, who writes:
“Know that the testimony of ladies – even if they were a thousand and all of equal testimony – is not testimony except for matters of ritual prohibitions. And I see from your written submission that you rely on testimony of ladies, and perhaps you found such attributed to one of the earlier rabbinic authorities [i.e. that the testimony of ladies is uniquely acceptable] in places where the ladies sit in the synagogue, because it is a reserved place for ladies, and gentlemen do not enter there at the time that ladies sit there. But we do not know these matters, and we have never heard [of them], and it is not fit to rely on them. And even though we will assume him [i.e. a gentleman who approaches the court in an inheritance case] as being a firstborn for purposes of receiving double on the basis of two [female witnesses], there it is different because it is impossible without this [i.e. without employing female witnesses to testify that a particular baby was born from a particular mother] for gentlemen do not assist ladies in childbirth. An allusion to this is “and the midwife took the scarlet thread and tied it on his hand etc.” (Genesis 38:28). But here [in the case of events that transpire in the synagogue] it is possible [to establish the facts] through gentlemen [as witnesses], like the testimony regarding [any] sale or gift.”
In these remarks, Rashba apparently dismisses any need for separate seating in the synagogue. Rashba indicates that unlike the case of midwivery, where only ladies are present in the obstretrics room, the synagogue is a place where gentlemen can easily testify as to the actions of ladies, no less so than in the marketplace where gentlemen observe transactions of sales or gifts. It is true that Rashba speculates that perhaps some earlier rabbinic authorities spoke of separate seating in the synagogue, but he frankly negates that thesis with his emphatic assertion “we do not know these matters, and we have never heard [of them], and it is not fit to rely on them.” Seemingly, the straightforward meaning of Rashba’s responsum is that ladies and gentlemen may pray in the same sanctuary.
Now, it is obvious from Baruch Litvin’s book The Sanctity of the Synagogue that Rashba’s opinion is universally rejected. Still, perhaps the OU sought to protect those synagogues that followed Rashba under a “grandfather clause” of sorts, until those synagogues would decide – based on internal introspection – to satisfy the countervailing opinion of the stringent consensus.
“Converts and the Jewish community as a whole are ill-served by having a conversion that others will not accept (especially if they can have a conversion accepted by all with no additional effort)”
Generally it takes a lot more effort to have a recognized conversion. The politics of conversion have nothing to do with halachah (I am not talking about this halachic issue of having a ger on a beis din). I know of a case where a ger converted with a chashuver local charedi rov, and he was told by a “recognized” beis din in Monsey that his conversion was no good, and he needed to convert with them. The local rov did not charge the ger, and in fact hired him as his gabbai. The Monsey Beis Din is charging $1000, up front, and disparaged the local rov. This bachur barely makes 1000 a month, yet the Beis Din is insisting.