The Modern Orthodox Straw Man

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15 Responses

  1. Mike S. says:

    Rabbi Gordimer is, of course, correct that Jews need to submit to the halachic authority of the leading Torah scholars. But may I suggest that that guidance is, practically speaking, more likely to be heeded if the scholars are offering positive suggestions for how to live according to the Torah in modern society, rather than merely rejecting ideas that arise from the larger public. Indeed, it is the failure of the Torah scholars to offer positive responses to communal issues that leads others to offer them.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    Emanations of the new Modern Not-So-Orthodoxy have set a new standard for PC buzzword density. Their audience may groove on this, but it borders on obfuscation.

  3. Yair Daar says:

    “Taking a step back, Dr. Bayme’s position reveals a vision of Orthodoxy which is in effect crafted to one’s liking, where Torah authority takes a back seat to one’s personal religious path and practice and whomever he or she selects as the local rabbi, beyond whose desk issues may not pass for consultation with those more expert.”

    This statement is equally as straw-mannish as the equation to classic Da’as Torah with which you rightfully disagree. From a bystander’s perspective, it is very frustrating to constantly see those opposed to Open Orthodoxy refusing to attribute any truth to OO’s hashkafos. Painting them as those secretly (or not so secretly) trying to replace Orthodox Judaism with some hybrid version of Orthopraxy and Humanism is unfair and misleading. It would be nice to see the common ground acknowledged instead of conveniently ignored.

  4. dr. bill says:

    your article does not reflect the nuanced position of the late Jacob Katz of how rabbis and their communities addressed traditional, but non-halakhic matters. His position would lower the temperature of the dialogue. to be sure rabbis have a crucial role, as do communities.

  5. Sholom says:

    With all due respect, Rabbi Gordimer, Judaism is not a top down religion. We don’t have a pope or a central committee, and we don’t want one. There’s room, even in Orthodoxy, for multiple viewpoints.

  6. Daniel says:


    Certainly there is room for multiple viewpoints, but those viewpoints should emanate from people worthy to establish them; not from every yokel and yokeless for themselves.

    We may not be Catholic, but the alternative isn’t to be Protestant.

  7. CNS says:

    @ Sholom
    As a misnaged, I’ve always thought myself to be a protestant

  8. Ari Rieser says:

    “There are times when one must take a firm stand and stake out a principled position, or deal with what may be the nightmarish consequences of not standing strong.” Nightmarish consequences?!? Perhaps we should tone down the rhetoric a bissel? The RCA has always banned YCT musmachim from joining their ranks; what else needs to be said or done here? It seems to me that the more the RCA, OU and RIETS push against OO and YCT, the harder and stronger they contimue to push back. “Mah tovu ohalecha Yakov” – Why not leave them alone and worry about finding constructive ways to enable frum women in your own communities greater opportunities to contribute their talents for the good of Klal Yisrael?

  9. Baruch says:

    Yair Daar – “Painting them as those secretly (or not so secretly) trying to replace Orthodox Judaism with some hybrid version of Orthopraxy and Humanism is unfair and misleading”

    I don’t recall Rabbi Gordimer implying that OO is “trying to replace Orthodox Judaism with some hybrid version of Orthopraxy and Humanism.” All he’s saying is that they are breaking from tradition and still trying to call themselves Orthodox. And the evidence is too overwhelming to deny.

  10. Ari Heitner says:


    With all due respect right back, no one’s stopping anyone from doing anything – Reform and Conservative aren’t interested and listening to Rav Schachter, or the Chofetz Chaim, or the Shulchan Aruch. The OO movement will choose which sources of halacha they consider relevant. And the rest of the Torah world will have the freedom to form their opinions of OO. They can even describe themselves as “Orthodox” if they want (so could the Conservative movement, if it wanted…).

    That said, I think the Torah’s idea of Judaism is very much monolithic; the facets may be represented in lomdus, but in practice there is supposed to be a Sanhedrin which votes with binding results.

  11. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gordimer , implicitly following R Adlerstein’s comments re Avodas HaShem and Yiras Shamayim being hardly discussed in certain quarters of MO, hits the proverbial nail on the head. Brandishing RHS and R Weider with a Daas Torah label shows substantial, if not complete ignorance as to their views on Mesorah, TSBP and Halacha.

    Dr. Bayme wrote in part, as quoted by R Gordimer:

    “Modern Orthodoxy treads a far more difficult path of seeking both to preserve rabbinic authority yet constrain that authority so as to allow for intellectual freedom and expression of diverse viewpoints. Modern Orthodox leaders today may choose to engage modern culture and thereby exercise leadership on the critical questions of gender equality, conversion to Judaism, Jewish education, intra-Jewish relations, and the challenges of contemporary biblical scholarship to traditional faith, to say nothing of Israel’s future as a Jewish state”

    One wonders what, if any role, traditional gender roles, Yiras Shamayim, Emunas Chachamim, Avodas HaShem, Torah Min HaShamayim, and adhering to the Razton HaTorah have in the above often voiced vision of MO.

  12. Yair Daar says:

    Baruch – Please read the quote from R’ Gordimer that I was reacting to. Open Orthodoxy is clearly breaking with tradition (at least how tradition has been understood by most in contemporary times). They do not hide this fact, as they would describe their innovations as reflecting growth. But allowing personal values to play a bigger role in halacha is different than replacing Orthodoxy with a choose your own adventure story. The latter is how Open Orthodoxy has been commonly described. It is this mischaracterization that bothers me.

  13. YM Goldstein says:

    The last time I looked, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, led by Rabbi Avi Weiss, is still a member shul of the OU.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    Yair Daar-please define with some specifics what you mean by “allowing personal values to play a bigger role in halacha “. I have seen nothing written by any advocate of OO that can be defined other than “replacing Orthodoxy with a choose your own adventure story.”

  15. Yair Daar says:

    Steve –

    In my experience, Torah Sheba’al Peh sources that have a place in our Mesorah are almost always consulted and used as basis for halachic decisions from those who identify as Open Orthodox. The interpretations are often compelling (some more so than others – as with all halachic discussions), and are usually internally consistent and fit the sources.

    Yes, they often pasken using interpretations that are focused on satisfying certain values (this is the part that sounds like they are playing “choose your own adventure.”) However, there are valid arguments to be made that such a method of pesak has always been around, as there are examples of Chazal doing the same. They consider it to be part of the Mesorah to pasken this way. Therefore, generally don’t distort sources as they are trying to keep with (their version of) the Mesorah.

    I understand the arguments regarding their lack of authority, whether certain values are truly Torah values, and the appropriateness of updating the values of Chazal. I personally see both sides of the story. But to disparage OO as using (an) agenda(s) to distort true Torah values is, in my mind, inappropriate and to a large degree untrue. This is a serious hashkafic debate, one that mainstream Orthodoxy can choose to enter or ignore (and not give credence to Open Orthodoxy’s arguments at all). But the name-calling and judging needs to stop.

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