A Next Step in Debating Partnership Minyanim

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23 Responses

  1. Yehudah Mirsky says:

    Thank you to the authors and to the editors of Cross-Currents, for, respectively writing and publishing this respectful and thoughtful essay. Now there can begin the good debate and discussion, she-sofah le-hitkayem.

  2. Rafael A. says:

    I have a few questions for these gentlemen:

    1) what if the answer, the systematic answer, is no. No to these changes and no to making further innovations. Is that satisfactory to you? It appears not. The only difference maybe is that these questions are being raised explicitly by OO but is being answered by great talmidei chachomim like RS?

    2) I think R’ Gordimer answered your questions well in his response to Prof. Koller. That is, that we cannot manipulate and twist the Torah and halochoh to keep people within the bounds of the Orthodox camp. Further, that Yiddishkeit requires self-sacrifice to the ideals and vision of a Torah society, even if that means that a women can be a physician on one hand and yet cannot layn from the Torah, be counted as part of a minyan, on the other hand and live this way knowing this the Ratzon Hashem.

    3) From what I have see from OO, has any leader in OO put the brakes on any innovation or move to further egalitarianism and said “genugt”, enough! That itself tells you something about where the OO enterprise is headed.

  3. David F says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    “I was introduced to him through and because of the many hours he spends at the Philadelphia Community Kollel. The rest of us should be so accepting of what we could gain from those outside our immediate community!”

    I don’t agree. If I prefer to visit an alternative healer, but also make sure to occasionally visit a medical doctor just to be sure that I’m doing things in line with established medical practice, it does not automatically mean that those who regularly visit MD’s should also seek out alternative practitioners.

    As for the article, I have problem with you publishing it. In fact, I found it encouraging to say the least for if this is the best argument that can be mustered to Rav Schachter’s teshuvah, I’m greatly relieved. It is built on numerous assumptions that are dubious at best as you so eloquently pointed out in your rebuttal.

  4. Ari Rieser says:

    As a frequent critic of this blog, I give you a huge “Yasher Koach” for posting this piece. On both sides of this debate, we have unfortunately become so entrenched in our respective ideologies, that we often lose sight of the larger picture. I hope that you will continue to show a willingness to engage this topic with a level of respectful discourse and intellectual honesty that is becoming of “Shomrei Torah U’mitzvot” and regrettably largely absent nowadays.

  5. Daniel says:

    We were also surprised that Rav Schachter refers to those who allow partnership minyanim and women wearing tefillin as being Adat Korah– self-interested and hypocritical rebels against God and Torah. In our experience, the halakhic advocates of these practices are honest, fair, and sincere, and the leaders of the Open Orthodox community are observant, learned mevakshei Hashem who show every sign of disputing for the sake of heaven.

    You should try reading some of the things they write, on the internet and elsewhere. It would lend your arguments more credence if you didn’t seem woefully ignorant of the opinions you speak of.

  6. Joe Hill says:

    ” We were also surprised that Rav Schachter refers to those who allow partnership minyanim and women wearing tefillin as being Adat Korah– self-interested and hypocritical rebels against God and Torah. In our experience, the halakhic advocates of these practices are honest, fair, and sincere, and the leaders of the Open Orthodox community are observant, learned mevakshei Hashem who show every sign of disputing for the sake of heaven.”

    All this can equally be said of the Conservative movement.

  7. Glatt some questions says:

    In our experience, the halakhic advocates of these practices are honest, fair, and sincere, and the leaders of the Open Orthodox community are observant, learned mevakshei Hashem who show every sign of disputing for the sake of heaven.”

    All this can equally be said of the Conservative movement.


    No it can’t. The large majority of Conservative rabbis are not observant, and are not anywhere near as learned as those considering themselves Open Orthodox rabbis. You may want to lump together OO and Conservative Judaism, but using this argument does not accomplish the goal. A better way to make the connection would be to say that both groups are willing to change halacha in order to adapt it to contemporary society, but even that is a stretch…as the large majority of Open Orthodox rabbis are committed to working within the framework of halacha (although their definition as to what halachic principles may be adapted may differ from classic Orthodox theology).

  8. ben dov says:


    1. Whether or not OO differs from Conservative today, it does not differ from Conservative of previous decades. Then too there were those who said not to be too judgmental and ignore the writing on the wall.

    2. OO and Conservative have crossed the same line. That Conservative went further past the line makes debate about resemblance irrelevant. Two patients with 102 and 106 degree temperatures are both outside the definition of normal.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    If wonder if there is any proper comprehensive response to this that can be reduced to writing. Maybe it can be approached in a more piecemeal way.

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    The authors wrote in relevant part:

    “Broadly termed, feminism has wrought many changes: female suffrage, the rights of married women to own property, a push toward equal pay for equal work, admissions to higher education, and access to the learned professions. Many women in our communities are leading doctors, partners in law firms, judges, academics, and heads of companies big and small, and many who prefer more traditional roles of mothers do so increasingly out of choice. These changes reflect shifts in the social fabric that go hand in hand with a growing ethos of democracy and equality”

    This is the core of the issue right here-IMO, the authors have engaged in revisionism in their joint whitewashing of the above not so benign results of feminism without considering its secular far left ideological goal of destroying marriage and its views of marriage as a “concentration camp”, and the utterly obvious view that a woman is the mistress of her own body and soul, while being different from a male only to the extent that a woman bears and gives birth to a child.

  11. Reb Yid says:

    1. The authors bring up “academic Talmud”, hermeneutics, and various other disciplines as though they somehow will affect the halachic process. But they provide no halachic justification that they should. Therefore, the arguement fails from the get-go.

    2. There is no “next step” in debating PMs. We don’t want a debate. We want a legal decision by experts, not crowd-psak.

  12. Steve Brizel says:

    The authors wrote in relevant part:

    “Together with many Orthodox friends and academic colleagues, we are aware of developments in the fields of psychology, sociology, legal history and theory, social history, biblical history, academic Talmud, comparative religion, Jewish thought, political science, feminist theory, literature and hermeneutics. These fields teach much truth and offer much insight, but in the process they raise intellectual challenges for the Orthodox community. Moreover, they complicate the description of halakhah, mesorah and womanhood that Rav Schachter has put forward. Specifically, from where we stand, these works show that the relationship between cultural norms, legal doctrines, and the dynamics of halakhic decision-making, particularly when gender is involved, are not as straightforward as the presentation developed in Rav Schachter’s two recently-published teshuvot.”

    IMO, the above ignores RYBS’s views that Talmud Torah , and especially becoming a talmid chacham, cannot be approached by importing secular disciplines. That being a given-the decision by any Posek or Baal Mesorah to consult with a secular discipline when necessary, can and should never be confused and conflated with allowing a secular discipline to dictate how one learns Pshat in a sugya on any issue.

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    The authors wrote in relevant part:

    “We may not be married to the Torah, and we have certainly not absorbed kol haTorah kullah into our very beings. But we still want to know how our honest and sincere questions about gender and Judaism can be answered. There need be no arrogance in that.”

    The converse of the above statement is a very simple fact-Talmidei Chachamim are married to the Torah and have absorbed Kol HaTorah Kulah into their very beings. Our response is to realize that questions that never bothered Chazal , the Rishonim , Acharonim and Gdolei HaPoskim of prior generations should not bother us because of changes in the external world.

  14. Bruce says:

    I think these issues that arise from feminist or egalitarian ideas are so controversial because they involve a “boundary” issue — the boundary between Orthodoxy and heterodox movements. After all, the Reform and most of the Conservative world have embraced egalitarianism, and so any discussion of these within Orthodoxy are done in the shadow of these broader denominational issues.

    Here’s an interesting thought experiment. Suppose that the Conservative movement did not embrace an egalitarian type of feminism, but instead concluded that the differences between men and women require alternative practices. For example, suppose that 30 years ago, the Conservative movement decided that women should not participate in synagogue services or wear tefillin, and instead decided that women should do some alternative type of davening specifically created for women (which is not even on the radar screen of the Orthodox world — an alternative women’s amidah or something like that). Suppose further than several contemporary Orthodox gedolim were concerned with kavanah during davening, and instituted several practices designed to help both men and women. They suggested some restrictions or additional practices during davening for men. And they instituted other practices for women davening at home, including women wearing tefillin (perhaps only under certain circumstances).

    I assume the halachic issues would be more or less the same. But in this sort of world, would the issue of women wearing tefillin be as controversial?

  15. Dov Weinstein says:

    Rafael A. – in response to your last point, Rabbi Dov Linzer, the Rosh Yeshiva of YCT, in fact wrote a reply article rejecting the possibility of women writing sifrei Torah.
    Rabbi Linzer concludes:
    “I empathize with the author and others like her who want to participate fully in the field of safrut. I do not know what I can say to them, other than that this is one of many sacrifices that must be made for the sake of halakhah. While it is necessary for us to explore opportunities to allow for greater inclusion of women in areas of ritual, we cannot allow such an impulse to compromise a rigorous approach to halakhah and the halakhic process. If we rightfully take offense when halakhah is misread to exclude women’s participation when such a conclusion is not warranted, then we must be extremely careful ourselves not to misread halakhah to include women’s participation when the sources do not allow for such a reading. Only if we fully internalize our absolute need to be true to halakhah can we be responsibly responsive and inclusive.”

    A worthy sentiment.

  16. Abie Zayit says:

    About 100 years ago the situation of women changed with compulsory elementary school education in Poland. Sarah Schnierer recognized the challenge and campaigned to have the gedolim of that time permit a radical break with tradition by allowing women to learn Torah in formal school settings. It is difficult to imagine what the Orthodox world would look like today if the religious leadership had not agreed to this change.

    The authors of this piece are pointing to parallel changes that have taken place over the last few years and asking that today’s leadership offer a positive statement about the role of women in Orthodoxy in contemporary times. Will today’s gedolim show the foresight of the Belzer Rebbe and the Chofetz Chaim and guarantee the future of our families and our communities?

  17. Yaakov Moshe says:

    Name me one halachic proponent of OO who one would consider to be a ‘gadol’ !

  18. mycroft says:

    .” Whether or not OO differs from Conservative today, it does not differ from Conservative of previous decades.”

    I do not intend to enter an argument about OO-but I to compare it to a movement that by 1945 Rabbi Robert Gordis had clearly advocated a separate ideological basis for Conservative Judaism (CJ). By 1950 a majority of the Law Committee of Conservative Judaism permitted driving to synagogue on Shabbos. It is clear that nothing that OO has done so far compares to permitting a clear cut Shabbos Issur. There may be a lot of serious questions about “OO” but exaggeration should be avoided. BTW look at Jewish Life the then OU publication in the 40s for intellectual responses to CJ. The age of polemics against CJ continued from then until at least the early 60s primarily by MO Rabbis against CJ.

  19. Crazy Kanoiy says:

    “We, along with so many who live in the communities that look to Rav Schachter for p’sak, find these changes not only non-objectionable, but laudatory… parents whose estate planning ensures that daughters inherit equally to their brothers.”

    Am I getting this right? The laws of inheritance detailed in Bamidbar 27:5-11 are to be understood as backwards and objectionable and it is most laudable to circumvent them.

  20. Robert Lebovits says:

    Abie Zayit writes:
    “Will today’s gedolim show the foresight of the Belzer Rebbe and the Chofetz Chaim and guarantee the future of our families and our communities?”
    What makes you think that the position of today’s gedolim rejecting the reformation of the heterodox to redefine Yiddishkeit through the prism of current progressive ideology is not equally wise and protective of the klal? The notion that changing times demand innovation of basic structures has not been the operating principle that has maintained our survival. Virtually all the arguments mustered by the authors were enunciated by the nineteenth century Reform movement leaders and their utilization of – then – advances in the social sciences including literary criticism, Wissenschaft das Judentum, etc. in their attempts to invalidate traditional observance. While the authors are certainly not pursuing any such objective, their use of the modernity/cultural shift phenomenon as the basis for accommodation is clearly an echo from the past.
    Whether I use a time-frame based on decades or centuries will have a profound effect on my thinking and decisions. In providing guidance and direction via p’sak halacha gedolei yisroel have always considered the long-range implications of radical change. The same cannot be said for those less steeped in Torah and Kedushah.

  21. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Crazy Kanoiy,
    What are you talking about? The gemora clearly states that a person has the right to give out his property to whomever he sees fit in his lifetime, effective immediately before his death. That comes out more or less equivalent to a will in secular law and can be made compatible with it. It is nothing like a pre-nup, which deals with issues of issur. This is merely an issue of disposal of property. If a man has a son who is a kollel guy who knows nothing about money and a daughter who is a lawyer or a Wall Street broker and is very good at that kind of stuff, why not have her get a share and handle the estate and whatever? Is is better to have the son who has no idea what he is doing handle the money much less effectively? There is no halachic issue here IMHO. Someone who is a bigger scholar than me can correct me if I am wrong.

    [YA Without commening on halacah le-maaseh, check out “aavurei achsanta” in Bava Basra 133b and Kesubos 52. There are issues (as well as resolutions.) See generally Choshen Mishpat 284 and Kesef Kodoshim there.]

  22. Rafael A. says:

    Dov Weinstein: thank you for pointing that out. That is good to see. Unfortunately, R’ Linzer’s psak is being ignored by Friedman. See the Jpost article

    The result could be that OO/ultra left-wing DL congregations could end up using these non-kosher Sifrei Torah, or an another unsuspecting congregation, and not be yotzei krias haTorah as long as it is used! That is a very scary thought!

    Also, it is possible that others will “nem” onto Friedman’s weak arguments, rely on them and ignore R’ Linzer’s and so it renders R’ Linzer conclusion less or authoritative or equal in value to Friedman’s.

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    For those interested, try reading the kolhamevaser.com an-interview-with-rabbi-hershel-schachter article, and ask yourself whether the article is an accurate portrayal of RHS’s views.

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