Guest Posts

Partnership Minyanim II

R Barry Freundel / I appreciate Rabbi Zev Farber’s respectful response to my paper on Partnership Minyanim and particularly his recognition that a blog post is not really the best venue for a full treatment of what I presented. Nonetheless, what he posted is really the first serious attempt to offer a halakhic defense for Partnership Minyanim in writing that I know of. Rabbi Farber takes me to task for making this claim in my presentation, but in fact the literature I have read, including the items he cites, do not address Partnership Minyanim in a thorough, serious scholarly or halakhic way. They either, by the author’s own words, represent a preliminary reaction or deal with women’s emotions (which certainly are important- see below), but are not dispositive in a halakhic or academic sense, or with Kol Isha which is not the central issue here (I do not mention it in my article at all), or present a practical guide to Partnership Minyanim with little or no halakhic analysis, or, in the large majority of cases, with women receiving aliyot.

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Partnership Minyanim

R Barry Feundel / Over the last few years a new phenomenon has appeared on the Jewish scene. This phenomenon, referred to as “Partnership Minyanim”, claims to be Orthodox and/or halakhic, and to offer increased opportunities for women to participate in services. Specifically, women are allowed to serve as prayer leader (in some venues a woman is always asked to lead) for Kabbalat Shabbat – but not for Maariv on Friday night. On Shabbat morning a women may serve as Hazan(it)for Pesukei Dezmira but not for Shakharit and Musaf. So too, a girl may be asked to conclude the Shabbat morning services beginning with Ein Kelokeinu. Finally, women are given aliyot and read Torah at these services (in some places this is allowed only after the third aliyah). There are some of these groups that follow somewhat different structures.

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Report Abuse to Police, Not Rabbis

R Michael Broyde / I have been answering questions about the proper role of the Rabbinical Courts (bet din system) in the United States for nearly 20 years. One of the questions that I am sometimes asked is the role of the rabbinical courts when confronting allegations of abuse. My view – which I know is not the only one present even within the Modern Orthodox community – is simple and clear. There is no place for rabbinical courts when sexual or physical abuse is alleged against children or young adults.

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A Day Is A Thousand Years

R Menachem Schrader / Rabbi Dr. Zvi Faier’s A Day Is A Thousand Years: Human Destiny and the Jewish People is the culmination of a lifetime of thought. Dr. Faier studied Torah in depth, science in depth, and lived the life of a twentieth century Jew in depth. Born in Poland, 1934, to a family that barely escaped on time, the events of World War 2, the Holocaust, the birth of the state of Israel, and the Six Day War, all within the first 33 years of his life, left their indelible mark on his sensitive soul. A Day is a Thousand Years is a written expression of what he saw and felt occurring around him during the 76 years God blessed the world with his life. The Netziv explains in his introduction to Ha’amek Davar that although the Torah appears to be written in prose, it is actually written with the detailed care usually reserved for poetry. In a human way, the same may be said for the book here reviewed. It is written prosaic, but waxes into poetry without warning, and then suddenly back to prose, giving the distinct impression that the sudden poem actually began much earlier and did not quite end. The overall message of the book is that God expresses Himself in this world through the destiny of the Jewish people, and it therefore becomes the privilege of the Jewish people and state to sanctify His name through their lives, society, and nationhood. The universality of the Jewish message, i.e., Torah, is taken for granted on every page. It is the Jewish role to set example for the “Promised Planet”. As the title implies, Faier has great patience regarding the time frame in which this will happen. But he sees in the state of Israel the first greening of this eternal responsibility.

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Guard Yourselves Very Well

Evonne Marzouk & R Yonatan Neril /The Torah teaches us to choose life. The decisions we make must enhance our ability (and the ability of others) to live in this world as healthy physical and spiritual beings. The Sages throughout the generations internalized this concept very deeply both in the way they lived their own lives and in the way they guided others to live. In this article, we will explore the Jewish value of protecting our health, and how these lessons can guide us in our complex world, particularly in relation to one health challenge: our modern use of pesticides. The Jewish tradition places a strong value on being healthy. The Torah states, “Guard yourself and guard your soul very much” and “You shall guard yourselves very well.” What does the Torah mean when we are commanded to “guard ourselves” and to “guard our souls”? The Sages explain that these verses refer to the mitzvah (commandment) of protecting one’s physical health.

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Tolkien and the Jews

R Jeffrey Saks / With the release of the first installment of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit film trilogy, diehard Middle Earth fans and movie-goers worldwide are reveling in the experience of entering J.R.R. Tolkien’s fully realized world, despite the critical panning the movie has received. Ever curious if Hobbits are good for the Jews, writers have been examining the canon of Tolkien’s work with Talmudic precision for Jewish connections – to clarify some mistaken or imprecise reporting we present or revisit some of the interesting Jewish connections in Tolkien’s Middle Earth and in the stories behind it…

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Save a Rare Kosher Bird

R Chaim Loike / The Philby partridge (Alectoris philbyi) is a partridge which is indigenous to Northern Yemen. It was at one time imported by the San Diego Zoo, and there were quite a few hobbyists who successfully raised the bird. For unknown reasons, the San Diego Zoo stopped raising this bird about a decade ago, and most hobbyists have likewise moved to more interesting exotics. At the same time, the situation in Yemen has become rather hostile. Although the bird is not listed as endangered, the collapse of the Yemenite government combined with rampant poaching does not bode well for the future of this species. The Philby partridge is unique because it is one of the few historically kosher birds, which is not raised in captivity. The birds which we generally eat include the classic domesticated chicken, turkey, duck and, if you are lucky, goose. The Talmud in the third chapter of Chullin explains that the majority of avian species are kosher. However, the Rama (SH”A YD 82:3) notes that our tradition is to refrain from eating any birds whose kosher status cannot be proven via a mesorah, a tradition of permissibility.

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Fossils and Faith II

Prof Nathan Aviezer / Professor Mark Perakh begins his second article (hereafter, Perakh 2) by claiming that 13 years ago, his friend sent me a copy of his first article (hereafter, Perakh 1) and asked me to reply, but I “chose to ignore the request.” I have no such recollection, but one cannot be certain of exactly what happened 13 years ago. The replies of Perakh 2 to the criticisms that I raised against Perakh 1 are feeble. For example, the well-known chicken-and-egg paradox regarding the origin of life is dismissed in Perakh 1, Sec. 9, by means of an analogy to runners in a stadium. To my demonstration (“Reply to Mark Perakh”) that the analogy is completely false, Perakh 2 replies (p. 4) that his analogy was “just an illustration.” A false analogy illustrates nothing but lack of understanding.

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Being a Good Neighbor

Dr Akiva Wolff / Living in this world means being a neighbor. This fundamental principle is so deep in the Jewish tradition that it is found in the very roots of our native language. According to 19th Century sage, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch: [The Hebrew word] shachan means both to dwell, and also to be a neighbor. Therein lies the highest social ideal. In Jewish thought, to dwell means to be a neighbor. When a Jew takes a place on earth to be his dwelling place he must at the same time concede space and domain to his fellow men for a similar dwelling place. Being a good neighbor, as we will see below, is a Jewish obligation. It can also be a tremendous challenge. On the one hand, we all have physical needs and wants to satisfy in order to live in this world, especially in order to live satisfying, productive and enjoyable lives. On the other hand, much of what we do to satisfy these needs and wants can negatively impact our neighbors – everyone and everything in our environment. This is especially true in modern times, where there are so many more people, with so much technology, living on a material level beyond the dreams of our ancestors. How are we to negotiate the challenges involved in being a good neighbor? Should we deny our own needs and wants in order to avoid causing harm? Can we just ignore the welfare of others, and put our own needs and wants first – like so many around us seem to be doing? How can we manage to live our lives within the dynamic tension of trying to satisfy both, often conflicting sides?

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Societal Shock and Awe

R BP Mendelson / In last week’s Torah portion, Yosef accused his brothers of being spies since they entered Egypt through ten different gates (see Rashi, Gen. 42:12). They responded that they were searching the city for our lost brother. Apparently, they recognized that they had done something wrong to Yosef and now, having done teshuvah, wanted to find him and buy him out of slavery. They were looking for him! They arrived in front of Yosef but did not recognize him because he grew a beard (Rashi, Gen. 42:8). I don’t get it. When you are looking for someone whom you have not seen in over 20 years, you expect that he will look a bit different. The brothers know that Yosef is no longer a seventeen year old child anymore. Wouldn’t they have tried to picture him in their mind’s eye with a beard? Why could they not “see” him?

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