Guest Posts

Priestly Temptation

R Barry Kornblau / During the years I was completing my semicha (rabbinical ordination) studies at Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), an affiliate of Yeshiva University, rabbinic sexual abuse scandals had just begun to make headlines. Following on the heels of widely reported priest sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, the case of Rabbi Baruch Lanner, a leader in the Orthodox Union’s youth group, NCSY, began to puncture the naïve belief of many in the Jewish and Orthodox worlds that our communities and religious leaders were immune to such immorality. The intervening years brought – and continue today to bring – to light many more such atrocious episodes throughout all quarters of the Jewish and Orthodox worlds, including acts committed by prominent rabbis and other leaders.

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Partnership Minyanim III

R Freundel / I am here responding to two long posts, written in very different ways on Moreorthodoxy; one from Chaim Trachtman and R. Zev Farber’s post responding to my response to him. This will probably be my last comment on this issue unless something dramatic happens; first because I need to get back to my day job and second because this dialogue has revealed the critical elements in this debate that make this not a difference of opinion about halakha but a contact point in a disagreement that is and has always been schismatic when it appears in Jewish history. My answer here is long and detailed as there is much to be said in answer to what these two gentlemen have posted. For those who don’t want to get that far into the weeds, I urge you to read the sections in bold that appear towards the middle and end of this post that indicate why this is a much more serious issue than others would have us believe.

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Mishnah Berurah Methodology

R Michael Broyde/ I have been working for a few years on the methodology of the Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch Hashulchan. It has been very intellectually rewarding and the first fruits of this effort has appeared in print entitled “The Codification of Jewish Law and an Introduction to the Jurisprudence of the Mishnah Berurah” (below) which was published in the Hamline Law Review volume in memory of David Cobin. I hope over the course of the next year to publish a sefer on the methodology of the Mishnah Berurah which completes this article and then go on to finish my work on the Aruch Hashulchan‘s writing in Orach Chaim – and then on from there, I hope. For this article, I was blessed with an absolutely brilliant co-author, Rabbi Ira Bedzow, who is a graduate student at Emory and a student with me in our dayanut kollel in Atlanta.

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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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