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Rabbi Y. S. Elyashiv, Master of Talmudic Law, Dies at 102
Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv dies at 102
An Affront To Rabbinic Autonomy
Chief Rabbi’s prayer for victims of Munich Olympic massacre
The Law as a Moral Teacher
Taking to the battlefields with Jewish Civil War reenactors
Israeli Knesset rejects proposed universal draft law
Should we still fast on Tisha B’Av?
N.J. Hebrew Charter School Won’t Open in Fall
Conservative heksher can expand kosher market rabbis say
Rethinking My Social Connections
Iraq rejects offer for half of Jewish Archives
When a haredi rabbi encourages adultery
The Odd Account of the Overnight Onion
SALT Thursday

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv dies at 102
Despite Fervent Objections, Ariel University Becomes a Reality
On Haredi Service, Half A Great Idea
Jewish groups must preserve vital records
The Kosher Cure
Cemeteries Up Ante for Sunday Burials
Doing Social Justice
More haredim to study in academia
Kosher Eclipses Other Observances for Most American Jews
When a haredi rabbi encourages adultery
The Olympic Committee Seems To Think That Jewish Blood Is Cheap
SALT Wednesday

R A Frimer: Of Horses and Elephants
R Cardozo: Halacha: The greatest chess game on earth
Ordination on the go? There’s an app for that!
R S Weil: Iran is the problem, not Israel
Look between the headlines to understand the Presbyterians’ vote
Extremist haredi Orthodox protest universal conscription
Do Jews Curse Christians?
On Vigilantism And AMI Magazine
Is Project-Based Learning Countercultural to Judaism?
New edition available of R. Yitzchak Sheilat’s controversial BeSoraso Shel R. Gedaliah (Nadel)
Ami interview with R. Julius Berman (PDF)
SALT Tuesday

Rabbis: Bible studies at religious schools ‘lies and betrayal’
Baltimore Rabbi warns community about alleged sex offender
Re-examining the Jewish contributions to progressive reform
Rushing to preserve Ladino legacies
Interfaith Insults
For Now, American Enclave Feels No Fear
Most Brooklyn Abuse Cases Involve Kin
Messages for the Prime Minister from “average” Haredim
Bill approved to separate hesder yeshivot,Tal Law
Yated challenged for influence over haredi world
SALT Monday

Prior news & links posts
Rules: link

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.


  1. In the post on Chesed (The Road Forward for Modern Orthodoxy) I mentioned an organization called CAJAC as a Chesed opportunity for NYC-area MO shuls. This morning I saw a link to this recent Jewish Week article that I had missed:

  2. Shalom Rosenfeld

    From Lord Sacks on the parsha:

    “Somehow the prophets sensed – it is implicit in all their words, though they do not explain it explicitly – that idolatry was not just false. It was also corrupting. … The battle went to the strong. Might defeated right. The fittest survived while the weak perished. ”

    RM”F to Gov. Carey on Judaism’s view toward the death penalty:

    “it was reserved for severe sins such as murder … or idolatry — as once someone is worshiping idols, who knows whatever horrible things they’ll do.”

  3. Rabbi Tau and company have every right to state their opinions. But riven the staure of the rabbanim who have approved the curiculum, I think their rhetoric shows little kavod for torah that is not their own.

  4. Baruch Alslter

    For the dispute over Bible study in Israeli schools in context, see these Hebrew links to Rav Tzair:

  5. You may want to consider the source of the second link.

  6. The current NY Review of Books has a (paywalled) critique by Diane Ravitch of Romney’s education white paper A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education. In it she comments:

    Romney’s proposal for private school vouchers is red meat for the right-wing base of the Republican Party, especially evangelicals. Vouchers have been the third rail of education politics since Milton Friedman proposed them in 1955; they have been put before the voters in several state referenda and have been consistently rejected. As a general rule, the public does not want public money to support religious schools. And many religious schools are wary about accepting public money and the regulations that eventually are tied to it. But in the past few years, vouchers have been revived by state legislatures in Indiana, Wisconsin, and Louisiana without resorting to popular vote.
    The results are already troubling. In Louisiana, where Governor Bobby Jindal’s education reform legislation was enacted in mid-April, the new law declares that students in low-performing schools are eligible to take their share of state funding—about $8,500—to any accredited private or religious school. About 400,000 students (more than half the students in the state) are eligible, but only some five thousand places are available in the state’s private and religious schools. When the state posted the list of participating schools, the one that said it was willing to accept the largest number of voucher students was the New Living Word School, which offered to enroll 315 of them. But its current enrollment is 122, and it has no facilities or teachers for the new students, though it promises to erect a new building in time for the beginning of the school year this fall. Most of its instruction is delivered on DVDs.
    Another school, the Eternity Christian Academy, which currently has fourteen students, has agreed to take in 135 voucher students. According to a recent Reuters article, students in this school

    sit in cubicles for much of the day and move at their own pace through Christian workbooks, such as a beginning science text that explains “what God made” on each of the six days of creation. They are not exposed to the theory of evolution.

    The pastor-turned-principal explained, “We try to stay away from all those things that might confuse our children.” Some of the other schools that have been approved to receive state-funded vouchers “use social studies texts warning that liberals threaten global prosperity; Bible-based math books that don’t cover modern concepts such as set theory; and biology texts built around refuting evolution.”

    Closer to home:

  7. I was going to write a critique of R. Lopes Cardozoa’s comparing chess to halacha but then, as I was getting near the end of the article, he did it himself:

    “Surely, chess is just a game, while halacha, if properly understood and lived, deals with real life, deep religiosity, moral dilemmas, emotions and intuitions far more significant in man’s life than a chess game.”

    And that’s exactly why all of what he wrote up to then, while clever and interesting, ultimately misses the point. Chess is a game. Intellectually stimulating and exciting, but, after all is said and done, a game that has no effect on real life and real people. Halacha tells its adherents how to live; how to interact with and treat others; what to do in times of crisis; how to approach serious moral issues. Chess is a game; halacha can be a matter of life and death. Why would anyone think that what applies to a game should also apply to such a system.

  8. R’JK,
    the issue to me is more that the rules in halacha aren’t really as fixed as many believe and there is sometimes a benefit not to explain why a certain move was made (e.g. according to many when chazal made certain takkanot)

  9. Extraordinary:,7340,L-9450-66164,00.html

    חתונה שלא רואים כל יום

  10. Joseph Kaplan,
    His point was the amount of energy and excitement and devotion that people put into it.

    If Chess is just a game, then Kal Vachomer how you should treat halacha.

  11. What so controversial about R. Shelat’s sefer?

  12. He quotes R. Nadel espousing evolution and the like.

  13. Moshe,

    It was written by a (rather konoi) Charedi author close to the Chazon Ish. The things he says within may be standard fare to us but they are earth shattering for the black hat community.

  14. I dont understand, R sheilat is neither chareidi nor a kanei. Do you mean that R. Nadel was a chareidi kanai?

  15. avi, I don’t think that was his point. The point that I understood is that the fact that halacha might have rigid or inflexible rules that those who abide by it have to follow makes sense since it’s the same way with the rules of chess. (In Shaul’s link, R. Reinman makes this point even more expressly.)

  16. FWIW, I thought the crux of R. Cardozo’s piece was: “He who knows all the rules is not automatically a good player. What makes him a great player is his ability to use these rules to unleash an outburst of creativity, which resides deep within him and emerges only because of the “unbearable” limitations.”

    That said, I think this article is not a keeper.

  17. shachar haamim

    If the kanoi reference was to Rav G. Nadel then it is probably accurate. It is true that he was open-minded about certain issues in a way that the mainstream charedi community is no longer open about them – the CI tended to attract free soirited thinkers to his circle.
    However, R. Nadel was certainly extreme in his anti-zionism as well as other “lifestyle” issues.

    I’ve actually come to the conclusion that one of the most serious problems that plagues orthodox judaism – across the spectrum from left wing modern orthodoxy – all the way to ultra charedi orthodoxy, is the need to pick out issues and decide to become extreme one way or another on them
    For example, Satmar is fanatically anti-zionist. Yet on issues of working for parnassa vs. limud torah, marital relations and some other issues, they are notably liberal for the chassidic crowd.
    Gur is a liberal polish chassidut when it comes to Zionism and participation in the political arena. Yet they are probably the most fanatical extreme – even cult like practices – when it comes to issues of marital relations.

    So one must be cautious in suggesting that because X is liberal or open minded on something it necessarily indicates a holistic open-minded moderate perspective.

  18. Fascinating Haaretz article on R’YSE

    Ever since he took upon himself the leadership of the Lithuanian (non-Hasidic) ultra-Orthodox public in 2001, Elyashiv has set the conservative tone in the ultra-Orthodox world and made the decisions in matters of religion and state and was the highest authority in the ultra-Orthodox world – a status he retained even when many actively disobeyed him. The death of one of the last of the giants, a major rabbi who was in the consensus, could mark a turning point in ultra-Orthodox society – perhaps even to the point of an end to sole and centralized leadership along with a possibility of splits and a multiplicity of opinions within the ultra-Orthodox public. ….

    Had it not been for Rabbi Elayshiv, who though he was opposed to the disengagement ordered Degel Hatorah to support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005 might not have taken place. The newspaper Yated Neeman, his mouthpiece, often attacked the settlers.

    Be interesting to see what thenext act looks like.


  19. I would say it is clear that Rav Shteinman is in charge for the meanwhile. I don’t think his leadership is likely to bring any massive changes ‘klapei chutz’, as despite common belief he is not much of a moderate on these issues, although he is less of an ideological warrior in inter-charedi terms (i.e. we’re not likely to see a big renewal of anti Chabad sentiment). The question is whether or not he will be around long enough for a strong potential successor (in his image) to be groomed. If not then it will be very interesting to see how things play out. My guess is that R. Shmuel Auerbach and his henchmen have overplayed their hand and the future portends a shift towards ‘rabbanei Bnei Brak’, with a general continuation of the status quo and perhaps some very minor ad hoc liberalization as events demand.

  20. MiMedinat HaYam

    the objections arent from “fervent” circles, but from leftist circles.

    though i see you posted that “fervent” circles will now be going to such universities. (actually, i attribute that to the refusal of their “gedolim” to establish alternative vocational (or even plain old high) schools teaching (kosher) secular subjects.)

  21. I agree with R Joel Rich re the Haaretz article re RYSE ZL. FWIW, if one has the second volume of Masusos Yitzcjhak , a sefer printed by Yad HaRav Herzog with Divrei Halacha from R Herzog ZL and other Talmidie Chachamim, there is a picture of RYSE and other Gdolei Talmidei Chachamim at a shiur given by R Herzog ZL in his house. The article did not mention, as has been mentioned previously, that R Herzog ZL “discovered” RYSE ZL, and that RYSE ZL was on the highest non Charedi Beth Din in Israel until R Goren ZL rendered a very controversial Psak about a Mamzer and a Ger ( which RYBS publicly criticized), which was one of the reasons why RYSE resigned from the same.

  22. IH provided this link:

    “Closer to home:

    Obviously, if one has even the remotest familiarity with Lakewood, one has to be aware that there is a strong Charedi population that merely uses the resources permitted under law such as buses, textbooks, special ed, etc for its population in the yeshivos and BYs that its population attend. OTOH, the surrounding population is a minority community, which I cannot believe does not receive a huge amount of federal and state funds. However, merely receiving vast amounts of funds is no elixir for a community’s poor performance on standardized tests and other indicia of educational performance. Like it or not, throwing money at such an issue does not make the same ever dissapear, when the issues of dysfunctional families, teen pregnancies, drug abuse, crime and views that sports and celebrity are the community’s way out of the ghetto are issues that need to be addressed without the messenger being viewed as a racist. That’s why Head Start, despite its being constantly renewed by Congress, AFAIK, has never been demonstrated as having a positive educational impact for the poor.

  23. MiMedinat HaYam wrote in part:

    “rav goren was not on the bet din. he just advocated (investigated and pushed) for the “brother and sister langer”. (her office was across the hall from rav goren’s office. talk about protexia.)”

    R Goren ZL’s advocacy was viewed as supporting what was clearly a Gerus that could not be sustained halachically. It is my understanding that RYSE ZL resigned from the Suipreme Rabbinical Court as a protest against the same.

  24. Steve — let me understand, the Jews on government assistance are merely using the resources permitted under law, but any other minorities on government assistance are unworthy since they are allegedly purveyors of dysfunctional families, teen pregnancies, drug abuse, crime.

    You forgot to add “some of my best friends are black”!

  25. IH-you cut and pasted to a group with a definite agenda which alleged de facto segregation merely because the Charedi population in Lakewood has its own school system. My comment was that despite the massive amounts of money on the state and federal level spent in the minority community in Lakewood and other venues, one looks in vein for any palpable sense of improvement in the educational, social and cultural environments. Why else would parents in NYC in minority communities be flocking to charter schools which are performing far better than the BYC public schools?

  26. Steve — Diane Ravitch, whom I quoted, was on your side of the educational debate and then did a volte face that has been well documented.

    Please don’t confuse a legitimate public policy debate with racist innuendo that even Charles Murray has walked backwards from.

  27. IH- Ravich and Murray indeed both switched. However, Moynihan’s comments on the inner city circa 1965 IMO are still valid points of departure for any discussion of the issues. Those who view Moynihan’s views as racist IMO merely deny the extant social reality.

    I fail to see where my pointing out the well recognized failure of public education in the inner cities and the growth of charter schools constitutes “racist innuendo” in any from. I also see no basis in viewing Lakewood or any other MO or Charedi community that has its own school system as de facto segregated or constituting a “legitimate public policy debate”. That’s simply the “why can’t we be friends” rhetoric which serves as a not so tolerant view of the educational needs of Torah observant Jews.

  28. Steve — Moynihan, you may recall, viewed the issue in terms of class and not race. It is not clear to me that he would view the socio-economic status of Lakewood’s Jewish community any differently than those of its non-Jewish community.

  29. IH-I reject your assertion of “Racial innuendo”-FYI-I marched for civil rights and participated in local anti Vietnam rallies as a teen.

    OTOH, one cannot deny what happened to the NYC school system as a result of “community control”, increased crime, and a cultural milieu rooted in defining deviance down and accepting the socially and culturally acceptable as normal for a particular community, and the vast expenditures on education with very little positive results, and an political and educational elite rooted in viewing istelf as permanent victims with no expectation of improvement on a communal level. Again, why is the minority community flocking to charter schools?

  30. For those interested in how charter schools fared against public schools re recent test results, see the following link.

  31. the minority community flocking to charter schools

    Proof please.

  32. IH wrote:

    “Steve — Moynihan, you may recall, viewed the issue in terms of class and not race”

    Yet, Moynihan was castigated in liberal precincts for viewing the issue as racial in nature because he focussed on the black family, a third rail issue.

  33. IH-FYI-
    Obviously, the liberal-left union dominated educational bureaucracy and their apologists deny facts because it poses a clear threat to the domination of the public schools.

  34. Regarding your 2009 link, earlier this year, Ravitch wrote:

    “She [Kopp] refers to the city’s improvement on New York State tests, but curiously fails to mention that those dramatic gains evaporated following a widely publicized investigation in July 2010: after the state acknowledged that its tests had become easier over time, the city’s test scores dropped back almost to where they had been in 2002, and the achievement gaps among racial and ethnic groups reverted as well.”

  35. IH:

    “Extraordinary:,7340,L-9450-66164,00.html חתונה שלא רואים כל יום”

    i remember him from yeshivah. always on the computer. (back then there was only one, it was for bar ilan responsa.)

  36. I don’t understand R. Seplowitz’ linked Jewish Press piece. It is already the policy of the RCA that “the Rabbinical Council of America declares that no rabbi should officiate at a wedding where a proper prenuptial agreement on get has not been executed.”

    How could he in good conscience be “a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America” if he blatantly disregards his own organizations 6 year-old policy?

  37. “I don’t understand R. Seplowitz’ linked Jewish Press piece. It is already the policy of the RCA that “the Rabbinical Council of America declares that no rabbi should officiate at a wedding where a proper prenuptial agreement on get has not been executed.”

    Perhaps the current RCA rule is not so definite or defined. I think his problem is people outside of the RCA telling the RCA who is and who isn’t a member.

  38. “re: Israeli Knesset rejects proposed universal draft law” This is no surprise. I’m frankly a bit surprised the law was even read or voted on. Perhaps now that the vote has failed so poorly the 4 will re-enter the government and work on a good compromise.

  39. Onions is a classic R’MF -acccepting common realistic practice, evicerating the “issur” but “recommend” following the old practice (PHD thesis on why?)

  40. Apparently the Jewish Press has outsourced its website to the Aliyah police. It looks like a disaster in the making, as they alienate any potential audience.

  41. Re fasting on Tisha B’av – the Koren Kinot has an excellent introductary essay by R H Lookstein about RYBS’s shiur on this, which is quite powerful

  42. I’m a bit shocked that you would disparage an entire Magazine because one guest author wrote a piece you apparently have a strong emotional reaction to.

    I’m also rather shocked that you would suggest that an article written in the Jewish press advocating that people do any mitzvah they can, whether they like it or not, to be alienating any potential audience.

    Perhaps you think they would get a bigger audience if they wrote about avoiding doing mitzvot?

  43. I check their website every day. And I only referenced the website, not the entire newspaper.

    As to the rest, I was not discussing what is correct but what will alienate readers.

  44. Having read R Broyde’s article about rabbanim refusing to preside at a chasunah with a signed PNA, and R Seplowitz’s response, and also having raised questions and concerns re R Broyde’s POV, in retrospect, I think that R Broyde was correct. If the RY of RIETS, and the RY who are consulted on issues on Psak, which represents the view of many RCA members , then undermining such a policy really is not a matter of preserving halachic autonomy, but more correctly following the Poskim who are looked to for Psak by the RCA’s members.

  45. Given some of the author’s views, I think “Aliyah police” is rather kind. Aliyah is a mitzvah, great. Perhaps the best spokesperson for that mitzvah is not someone who advocates Israel nuking Russia.

  46. “When a haredi rabbi encourages adultery”

    The author is correct that the good rabbi is the victime of yellow journalism.

    That being said, I am having a hard time to understand the psak. The case is the man wants to divorce the wife, perhaps becuase they are childless, and she refuses to accept the get. Why shold the solution be pilegesh, which is a machlokes rishonim whether that is permitted to those besides a king. Acc. to the Rambam, if a non-king takes a pilegesh, he violates a lav. Acc. to the Raavad, you violate an aseh.

    Why allow that, when you can simply permit a second wife — something muttar mi dinah de gemara, and certainly no Torah violation. As for Cherem de Rabbenu Gershom, 1) Sephardim never acceptd that, and 2) this situation seems like a good case for a hetter meah rabbanim. SOP for that is husband deposits a get with the beis din for her take at will. Seems like a better solution all around.

  47. I have a dreamt that one day articles will be judged by the content of their writing rather than the name of it’s author

  48. Apparently the Jewish Press has outsourced its website to the Aliyah police. It looks like a disaster in the making, as they alienate any potential audience.

    I looked at the website and cannot see what you are talking about. Looks more or less like the Jewish Press I remember (which I rarely even see nowadays, let alone read). Where do you see an emphasis on alyah?

  49. Tal, I too wondered why the solution was not a heter meah rabbanim. I half wonder if “concubine” is even the correct translation of what he said. (ie, did he say pilegesh or just second wife?) Why should the second wife have fewer protections as a pilegesh?

  50. avi, I thin R. Gil was judging not the article per se but the decision, apparently, to give the author a recurring column. In which case the identity of the author is in fact relevant.

  51. MiMedinat HaYam

    1. steve b — i was commenting on stmt that r goren was on the bet din. and i should say, that i take no position on the case itself (though i note that r goren had pretty good evidence backing him up, having read the “choveret” rav goren wrote about the case, where he admits the protexia involved.)

    your comment on lakewood was not centered on the (non jewish) “minority” aspect, though that is what others commented on. that was wrong on their part.

    2. the JP outsourced all their articles to those who write for free (except staff, whom i assume are not paid very well; journalism, esp jewish journalism, does not pay well), and on topics they approve of. this is obvious from the past few years of the paper. (exception — family member writers)

    and much of their articles, have tended to (but necessarily always) towards the op ed side of journalism.

    besides the advertorials.

    3. not all RIETS RY support the RCA PNA, as previously discussed here.

    and being on the executive board of the RCA does not require you to follow RCA policy (or even to submit to RCA bet din, or even follow RCA bet din psak directed towards the exec board member.)

    4. pilegesh = wife with no ketubah. (presumably including) a second wife.

    second wife (with or without heter MR) has a ketubah; otherwise no one recongizes such a marriage, per above comments. (though i presume everyone will require such a wife to receive a get; what if she’s happy and refuses a get???)

  52. Funny, if you translate pilegesh as “concubine,” it sounds very fancy. Translate it as “mistress,” not so fancy.

  53. MiMedinat HaYam

    scott — in some countries (france, for example) having / being a mistress is not a (social or legal) problem.

    peeled onions — perhaps the conservative hashgacha doesnt mind, but no orthodox kosher certifier will (officially) allow it today.

    nytimes obituary — RYSE recognized non GPS giyur, yet an RCA member can be thrown out over it (per the r seplowitz op ed “rabbinic autonomy”).

  54. MMHY — a pilegesh lacks both kiddushin and a kesubah. Sanhedrin 21a. See also Rambam Hil. Melachim 4:4.

  55. John Podhoretz at Commentary’s online portal called the annexed link quite anti Semitic I am inclined to view it as just another egregious example of a self hating Jew with nothing else to write about.

  56. The following is the link to Tablet’s response to the critics of the above article

  57. R. Seplowitz’s argument essentially entails that the RCA cannot make any demands of its members that do not accord with the views of Charedi poskim. I think this is unreasonable. In the same way that if one wants to be a Satmar shul in good standing one cannot encourage the recitation of hallel on yom ha’atzmaut, rabbinical autonomy notwithstanding, so too there shouldn’t be a problem with the RCA enforcing a certain line to promote values it considers important. If he doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to be a member. And if there are no positions the RCA can require of its membership (both to the left and right) then what is it worth?

  58. Interesring (paywalled) article in this week’s New Yorker relevant to Jewish learning using philology as a tool:

  59. J: R. Seplowitz’s argument essentially entails that the RCA cannot make any demands of its members that do not accord with the views of Charedi poskim

    Is the RCA closed to Charedim? Or to those who follow poskim other than the RCAs, whether to the right or left?

  60. Sitting an ocean away, I have no idea. My main point is that his claim that an organisation enforcing views detracts from rabbinical autonomy is true, but no more that it is for any other rabbinic organisation – it’s just a question of what issue and which poskim. I also think that not being able to enforce things that a particular charedi posek is ambivalent about basically means that you can’t enforce anything that isn’t directed at the left. Or perhaps you believe these are the only things worth enforcing?

  61. Do RCA resolutions not mean anything? Or, perhaps, are unilateral in umbrage and enforcement (i.e. right to left)?

    How can someone identified as “a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America” publicly flout its 2006 resolution that “the Rabbinical Council of America declares that no rabbi should officiate at a wedding where a proper prenuptial agreement on get has not been executed” by writing in this article that “I do not use a prenuptial agreement, but I do not stand in the way of a couple arranging it through someone else.”

  62. “unilateral” should be “unidirectional” at 10:09am

  63. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: The RCA is not closed to Charedim nor to Rabbis who, in general, follow the halakhic rulings of Charedi poskim. It should be closed to any rabbi who follows Charedi poskim on THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE and flout the RCA’s resolution that none of its rabbis should officiate at weddings where there is no pre-nup. Certainly a rabbi who flaunts his flouting of this resolution should not be sitting on the RCA’s Executive Committee.

  64. Charlie hall posted this link elsewhere: about a rebbi boycotting the siyum hashas

    Interesting quote from an agudah person- is the number true? Can it be even close?
    “…we must remain cognizant of the fact that 80% of those who will be participating in the siyum are identified with the Modern Orthodox world, and for them, dafka the addresses from these “Zionist rabbonim” as it were is what is drawing them to attend.”

  65. To my knowledge, the RCA does not enforce these types of resolutions and that is one of the reasons the resolutions are able to be passed. If not, more people would object.

    Should the RCA also enforce its ruling against smoking and take action against rabbis who smoke?

  66. Gil – I could hear the logic of enforcing a policy against smoking in public. What goes on in private is less relevant in terms of promoting a social goal, which in both cases (stopping people smoking and solving the agunah problem) is a worthy one.

  67. For what it’s worth the 1991 resolution on smoking ( is very different in its demand of members than the 2006 resolution that R. Seplowitz publicly flouts in his article.

  68. I meant the more recent ruling of the Halakhah Committee. But since you are going through their resolutions, I’m sure you can find some that are more similar and are also not enforced.

  69. Yep, the one on ordaining women rabbis comes to mind 🙂

  70. MiMedinat HaYam

    it would be difficult to enforce a “political” issue policy vs a
    “halachic” issue policy.

    try as you might, a pre nup is a “political” issue that some are trying to claim is a halacha (and a new one, at that).

    smoking may straddle the line. ordaining women is clearly non halachic. but pre nup is political. so is the gerut issue, yet the RCA is committed to enforce the GPS.

    by the way, what if one uses a non RCA pre nup? would you dismiss him (?her?) from the RCA?

  71. The RCA is not enforcing the GPS. Members are free to convert people in any way they want.

  72. MMhY — actually, the RCA Resolution does not require the RCA PNA “the Rabbinical Council of America declares that no rabbi should officiate at a wedding where a proper prenuptial agreement on get has not been executed.”

    Regarding ordaining women Rabbis, I quote R. Lamm: “I don’t know.—are you sure they’re not allowed to?”. That resolution too was, using your word, political.

  73. Lawrence Kaplan

    So, if the RCA does not enforce the resolution, then what is R. Seplowitz complaining about? I still think that a rabbi who flaunts his flouting of the resolution should not be on the RCA’s Executive Committee.

  74. He’s complaining about R. Broyde’s call for the RCA to enforce it.

  75. MiMedinat HaYam

    interesting — r broyde once spoke approvingly of a medieval era ketuba that offered large $um$ if the husband gave the wife a get within (approx) five years. (i would say it was six figures in today’s value. obviously, the wife was of substantial means.)

    would such a pre nup be “a proper prenuptial agreement on get” per the resolutoin?

  76. “So, if the RCA does not enforce the resolution, then what is R. Seplowitz complaining about?”

    Dr Kaplan- He explained EXACTLY what he’s complaing about:

    “However, that {i.e. the actual policy} is not what bothers me the most about this discussion.

    To further buttress this policy, members of shuls are being asked to press their rabbis to stop doing weddings without prenups and to mandate that no such weddings take place on the synagogue grounds.

    This, I believe, totally undermines the relationship of a rav to his congregation.

    The role of the rabbi is to be a leader. The congregation turns to him for guidance and inspiration, not to tell him how to run his pulpit. Should synagogue policy be determined based on what concessions members can squeeze out of the rabbi? (Can you envision the scene? “Sorry, Moses, 80 percent of the Jewish population has decided that we want to stay in Egypt. Drop your 10-Plague Plan or we’re dropping your contract!”)

    The notion that people should be instructed to force their rabbi to ignore his own or his teachers’ halachic opinion boggles the mind; it certainly doesn’t sound like Orthodox Judaism.

    Your rabbi is your teacher, your spiritual mentor. Please don’t insist that he do that which he feels is wrong.

    If you don’t trust his judgment, you shouldn’t have hired him in the first place.”

    The equivalent would be R Broyde (or the RCA, or who ever is behind this push) telling people to pressure R Avi Weiss to chuck the Rabbah.

  77. MiMedinat HaYam

    chuck the rabba is a halachic issue.

    mandate a pre nup is a political issue; definitely not halacha (even if it (seems) to come from the RCA halacha committee. the committee just lost its credibility regarding the rabbah and other issues … )

    nevertheless you are correct in that pressuring the rabbi through his shul is completely inappropriate.

    that said, HIR is the “private property” of RAW, practically speaking.

    2. the teitz’s have a general policy they do not attend a wedding if they are not mesdaer kiddushin. if they are only there from the kallah’s side, they accept reading the ketuba (which actually, the shamash did, in lita. america is different.)

    (personally, i think there is a conflict of interest in a relative being mesader kiddushin. but … who cares …)

  78. The equivalent would be R Broyde (or the RCA, or who ever is behind this push) telling people to pressure R Avi Weiss to chuck the Rabbah.

    Shaul — you mean like (3) in

  79. Shaul – “Please don’t insist that he do that which he feels is wrong.”

    Interesting that he thinks it’s wrong- prenup. If so, why wouldn’t he be discouraging his congregants to use it?MMY is correct that it’s political but it’s trying to make communal outcomes of the future(gittin) less problematic so it’s more like takanot – to correct a possible wrongdoing. Therefore, it can be viewed by some as halachik.

    There is always pressure on rabbis by their baal batim – since the time there were rabbis…frisha zach.

  80. R. Seplowitz’s argument is that it is wrong to encourage congregants to pressure their rabbi on a halakhic matter. He is not denying that such pressure has existed before. He is saying that we — particularly other rabbis — should not encourage it.

    IH: Par 3 in the link you provided is irrelevant because it does not call on congregants to pressure their rabbi.

  81. A better example is something I wrote, encouraging members of HIR to pressure R. Avi Weiss:

    I don’t think the RCA should be involved in that kind of grass roots pressure.

  82. IH- No. You linked to a resolution. That is specifically NOT the main complaint of R Spelowitz. Let me copy it again:

    “To further buttress this policy, members of shuls are being asked to press their rabbis to stop doing weddings without prenups and to mandate that no such weddings take place on the synagogue grounds.”

    Ruvie- Why don’t you write him.

    Personally, I think he already explained himself:

    “Let me be clear. My purpose here is not to argue against the use of prenuptial agreements. Greater and more learned rabbis than I strongly advocate their use. However, there are also greater and more learned rabbis than I who oppose their use.

    I do not use a prenuptial agreement, but I do not stand in the way of a couple arranging it through someone else. No, I am not insensitive to the plight of agunahs. Rather, I am following the guidance of my teacher, who objects to its use.”

  83. MiMedinat HaYam

    not only shouldnt the RCA be involved, it may very well backfire on them (esp with regards to HIR).

    that said, i note the current RCA president’s inaugaral, where he made very clear he will push to the left.

  84. Shaul — if we’re repeating ourselves, my point was how can someone identified as “a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America” publicly flout its 2006 resolution that “the Rabbinical Council of America declares that no rabbi should officiate at a wedding where a proper prenuptial agreement on get has not been executed” by writing in this article that “I do not use a prenuptial agreement, but I do not stand in the way of a couple arranging it through someone else.”?

    That said, this is a problem for the RCA members (and, perhaps, the congregations that pay their Rabbis dues where appropriate) to sort out.

  85. I see R Gil pre-empted me WRT to IH.

    “There is always pressure on rabbis by their baal batim – since the time there were rabbis…frisha zach.”

    True. And that’s all the more reason why this meddling is so unhelpful! Do we really need to make things worse?

  86. Shaul- I see at the end of the article he contradicts what you just quoted.
    Explain: “Rather, I am following the guidance of my teacher, who objects to its use.”
    And “Please don’t insist that he do that which he feels is wrong.”

    Well he is certainly not neutral. It’s one thing if doesn’t insist, it’s another to think that if he halachikally objects that he will not influence the couple’s decision. He is adamantly against at the end of his article – he can’t have it both ways. One can say he is insensitive to the outcome in his community since he is doing nothing to resolve the problem- let him offer a solution at least.

  87. Gil — now that I think about the public pressure aspect of this, R. Broyde’s POV was a guest post here on Hirhurim:

    I don’t recall seeing any articles or discussion about pressuring the RCA aside from that. Cam you remind me?

    So, what does The Jewish Press readership have to do with this?

    And, isn’t it a bit strange for R. Seplowitz to appeal to the public to protest appeals by the public???

  88. Btw, r’ spelowitz doesn’t seem to be a pulpit rabbi with a congregation according to the bio in jp. He is a chaplain and a mohel. Doth the lady protest too much?

  89. On the surface, Rabbi Seplowitz seems to be making a point of principle about rabbinic autonomy. But when you analyze what he says, it’s clear that he has something else in mind.

    For example, he’s against enforcement of the pre-nup; but he’s for enforcement of gerut standards. In other words, his problem is not with rules per se; he just likes one rule, and dislikes another.

    Similarly, his only stated reason for opposing the prenup is that his own rabbi opposes it. So he has no problem with authority, per se, either; he just likes some authorities, and dislikes others.

    Finally, Rabbi Seplowitz has all the autonomy in the world: nobody’s forcing him to be a member of the RCA. If he so dislikes the RCA’s authorities and their rulings, why doesn’t he resign?

  90. “No, I am not insensitive to the plight of agunahs. Rather, I am following the guidance of my teacher, who objects to its use.”

    I wonder what R. Seplowitz does to show that he’s not insensitive to the plight of agunot other than tell us that he’s not insensitive.

  91. David: I think he’s really basically asking for autonomy. He doesn’t write that he supports enforcement of gerut standards. He used the hedge “I could see myself supporting” and puts the whole sentence in parentheses, indicating (to me) an attempt at humor.

    Joseph Kaplan: I think that’s an incredibly unfair question to ask. Do you really think he’s lying? Parading around his house singing “I’m so happy that there are woman who are essentially unmarried and can’t get married.”

  92. Joseph Kaplan on July 20, 2012 at 6:28 pm
    I wonder what R. Seplowitz does to show that he’s not insensitive to the plight of agunot other than tell us that he’s not insensitive.

    Well, what have you done, other than blog postings?

  93. “Joseph Kaplan: I think that’s an incredibly unfair question to ask. Do you really think he’s lying? Parading around his house singing ‘I’m so happy that there are woman who are essentially unmarried and can’t get married.'”

    It’s actually a perfectly fair question. R. Seplowitz is claiming that he is not insensitive to the plight of agunot, but that he (or rabbeim upon whom he relies) does not halachically approve of the RCA prenup. Fine. But in that case, what is he doing to find an alternative? If the status quo in the RCA is a recommendation for a method to prevent the problems of igun, then saying that he doesn’t approve of the method suggests that he’s insensitive to that issue. If he is sensitive then let him propose another method.

    As for Tal’s comment- to the best of my knowledge, Joseph Kaplan has neither officiated weddings without an igun-prevention prenup nor recommended that others do so. What exactly is in doubt about his opinion on the plight of agunot?

  94. I would be more generous and assume that R. Seplowitz advocates the traditional approach of personal mediation and beis din pressure.

  95. I thought the traditional approach was thuggery, using Rambam as the textual basis.

  96. “to the best of my knowledge, Joseph Kaplan has neither officiated weddings without an igun-prevention prenup nor recommended that others do so.”

    Correct. (And thanks.)

  97. IH: That is only when there is an obligation to divorce. Additionally, it is only when a beis din has the power of enforcement, which certainly was not the case for Eastern Europe in recent memory.

  98. Why isn’t the mandatory use of RCA pre-nup for RCA members similar to r’ Meir in the Talmud declaring that it is forbidden to marry without a Ketubah?The Ketubah was instituted to protect women and was revolutionary then to protect society from bad outcomes when men would friviously divorce their wives and are left with nothing. So too is the pre-nup. What is wrong with the hamon am pressuring their rabbis to use an approved device to circumvent potential unwanted outcome – husband or wife refusing to give or receive a get?

  99. Ruvie,

    Your analogy is anachronistic. The Rabbinic world of today is far more fragmented in authority than Chazal or at least the Geonim were back in the day. You’re just going to have to live with no unanimity.

  100. Aiwac – agree about the geonim. Not sure how much unanimity there was among the tanna’im – just don’t know (please add info on this if you know). Just thought within its own membership and for the greater good of its own community that the RCA can make something happen to prevent future agunot. Is there any major posek among the RCA poskim that says its assur as per r’ spelowitz? If not, whncan’t they enforce it?
    Btw, do you think r’ Meir was promulgating his edict because everyone agreed? I assume each town had their own custom and the Ketubah was a novel invention that many disagree or ignored at that time. Hard to know what really occurred and when it became defacto universal. Let’s not forget that rabbis officiating all weddings was common or universal when(serious question – don’t recall offhand)?

  101. I’m going to make some very self important and general comments and then leave it at that.

    1) I had never heard of R Seplowitz until I read this article. (By raise of hands, how many others had?)
    2) I have no idea if he is sensitive/insensitive/the new posek hador/a total jerk.
    3) Anyone who claims to know one way or the other has to provide evidence both that they themselves exist AND that they have some way of assesing R Seplowitz’s character.
    4) There can and will be cases where a woman- despite the Rabbi’s best efforts will be unable to remarry for the rest of her life according to Halachah. (I belive Dovid Hamelech’s wives/concubines had similar issues.)
    5)There can and will be very sensitive and kind individuals who believe that despite their concern for the plight of the Agunah, they do not have the right to violate the word of God as expressed in Halachah to perform/enforce a ____________.

  102. Coming late to this.
    In the end, Rav Seplowitz ) argue for the validity of the machmir position on prenupts – and his defenders argue that this position, even though it offers no viable alternative, does not reflect a moral deficit.

    There is a new book out by Pinhas Shiffman, Safa echat udevarim achadim, about the relationship between religious and civil authorities on issues of marriage in Israel. One quote is relevant here
    (p 159, talking about the desire of many bate din to preserve their control over all aspects of divorce, including financial, and their yirat hora’a – being afraid to pasken because there are other opinions)

    In the current state, the bet din fulfils, albeit unknowingly, a role as an an antireligious agent provocateur: it creates in the hearts of many alienation and repulsion towards the religious tradition, and this alone is an an unforgivable sin from a religious viewpoint. It it perhaps possible to understand the zealotry of the bet din to its autonomy; it is harder to forgive it for its betrayal of halacha.

    I would add that whether one agrees that the bate din actually have different options than what they do may perhaps be debated, but the empiric validity of the effects of such choices on the general public, not to mention the litigants, is clearly correct.

    Yes, as Shaul Schapira argues, there are cases that we can not resolve – but that should upset us, and we need to be sure that it truly can’t be resolved…

    . I don’t know Rav Seplowitz, and have no knowledge whether he actually truly cares for the aguna – but by putting HIS freedom as paramount over the social issue (and we are dealing here with a psak by reputable poskim – one that he admits he would not object to people using) suggest that the article is guilty of being mevaze halacha. Sometimes, fighting al taharat hakodesh leads to the biggest hillul hashem

    Meir Shinnar

  103. I think that in general R. Seplowitz makes a fair argument. But this case is aruable sui generis. The RCA is attemptiong to create a new norm in order the seriously reduce the problem of the agunas. The RCA can and should be able to take a stand on issues of great halakhic and communal importance that have the backing of a very large percentage of the membership.

    In virtually any other case cI would agree 1005 that this sort of presure is not fair.

  104. MiMedinat HaYam

    ruvie — “Is there any major posek among the RCA poskim that says its assur as per r’ spelowitz? ”

    yes — (RIETS RY) RJDBleich, among others.

    2. geonic rabbis did not “officiate” at weddings. anyone in town (who basically knew what he was doing) would “officiate”.

    3. takanah — has to be accepted by the community as a whole. here, we see dissension.
    and it cannot overide a de’oraita (willing giving a get.)

  105. I have just today been made aware that my op-ed in the Jewish Press about pre-nups a few weeks ago generated some chatter here.

    I must say I thoroughly enjoyed being analyzed by the contributors to this blog.

    I don’t know how much I can add to what has already been stated. But I will try to respond to some of the comments, questions, and observations that I have read. Let me begin by answering one person’s question by stating that I have heard of Yerachmiel Seplowitz, even before his op-ed. I know him personally. We were born at the same time and are married to the same woman. (Without a pre-nup, I might add. But that was before the RCA edict.)

    No, I am not a Poseik. No, I am hopefully not a jerk. (Although some might argue otherwise, based upon my previous paragraph!) No, I do not oppose pre-nups. (True, I stated that one should not pressure a Rav to do that which he believes is wrong. And I, for one, as a Talmid of a Poseik who opposes pre-nups, believe that for me to defy that Psak would be wrong.)

    Shortly after I wrote that op-ed, but before it was published, I was visited by a young man who was about to be married. He had just received a phone call from one of his teachers, demanding to know if he was planning to use a pre-nup, and if not, why not.

    He explained that his Mesader Kiddushin (AKA a certain Rabbi Seplowitz) doesn’t do pre-nups. This teacher, a respected Rav, put tremendous pressure on the young man to execute the pre-nup. “What should I do?” he asked me.

    “I can’t tell you to do it,” I responded. “But if I were you, I probably would.”

    The reason I told him that is that the pressure would have been incessant. The girl’s father was now demanding it as well. I’m ambivalent. My Rebbe told me not to do PNA’s because he believes rabbis shouldn’t be doing them. He said if they want a PNA, let someone else do it.

    And that’s what I did. At the wedding, they asked me to hold onto a copy. I told them, politely, but firmly, to leave me out of it.

    My op-ed was not about pre-nups; it was about pressuring rabbis. Per the question as to what I’m doing on the RCA’s Executive Committee if I “flaunt” their policy that rabbis should do PNA’s —

    If the RCA ever follows Rabbi Broyde’s suggestion that it be a condition of membership, then I will have to choose one of the following options: 1) Ignore my Rebbe’s Psak and execute PNA’s when I am Mesader Kiddushin. 2) Stop being Mesader Kiddushin. (Admittedly, a relatively rare event. As one writer observed, I am a chaplain; I don’t have a typical congregation.) 3) Resign from the RCA. 4) Continue to be Mesader Kiddushin without a pre-nup until the RCA’s Vaad Hakavod comes to get me.

    However, this is all moot because the RCA has not accepted Rabbi Broyde’s suggestion, and I doubt that they ever will. The RCA resolution, which, by the way, I didn’t vote for, never mandated that rabbis MUST do PNA’s. It strongly advocated their use. My decision not to use them does not currently violate any RCA rule.

    One writer correctly observed that my point about supporting the expulsion of RCA members who don’t follow the RCA’s Geirus standards was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. The one line that the Jewish Press edited out of my op-ed was the observation that in view of the fact that the International Rabbinic Fellowship was founded, in no small part due to the fact that they felt that the RCA was forcing conversion standards on autonomous Rabbanim, it turns out that now that they have come out with a policy that as a condition of membership, rabbis must do pre-nups, the IRF has thereby negated a major justification for it’s existence.

    Per the question of what is Seplowitz doing to prevent Agunos. The question is irrelevant. If my Poseik opposes PNA’s, what am I supposed to do?

    A very dear friend of mine was dying last month. I wished that he wouldn’t die. I asked G-d not to let him die. G-d answered my prayer. He said, “No.”

    I oppose husbands torturing their wives by withholding Gittin. My inability to force them to give Gittin doesn’t mean I don’t care.

    (By the way, just for the record, not only am I not a Poseik, I am also not a lawyer. But I discussed the situation of the wedding I referred to above with a friend who is a lawyer. He maintained that since the groom signed the PNA under duress, it is probably invalid.)

    My dear friends, I hope this has provided some clarity as to my intent, who I am, and what I am about.

    I don’t know whether, at this late date, several weeks after I wrote the op-ed, it will generate more discussion. But, I am just too busy to make this an ongoing dialogue. So tear me apart some more if you must; if I get a chance in a few weeks I’ll come by and take a look to see if there’s anything left of me! 🙂


    Yerachmiel Seplowitz

    p.s. You may have noticed that I never mentioned who my Poseik is, and why he opposes PNA’s. The reason for that is that it is irrelevant to the conversation. The conversation, as far as I am concerned, is about the impropriety of strong-arming rabbis.

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