Looting the Kodesh

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23 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    Enemies of quality lobby against quality control!

  2. Berel Dov Lerner says:

    There are a number of disturbing elements in this article. What is the big deal about people inventing new opportunities to go to the mikveh? Even if some of these new opportunities are related to life-styles that are halakhically forbidden, since when does that have any bearing on whether the mikveh is kosher? While it is true that under ideal conditions halakha is adjudicated via a hierarchy of courts in Eretz Yisrael, what halakhic relevance does that model have for batei din in the diaspora? (The practical question of the need for centralization of giyur is a separate issue). More importantly: there is only one way to restore the kedusha to the mikveh, and it is not to attack ideological opponents within Orthodoxy or the innovations of the Conservative and Reform movements. It is rather to increase vigilance against sex crimes committed within the Orthodox community.

  3. chayim lando says:

    The requirement for Mikvah at night has absolutely nothing to do with laws of modesty.
    it is because the earliest time a woman can go to the Mikvah Midoraysa is at night. Even if she is immersing later, as all women do nowadays, she must go at night so her daughter doesn’t think Tevilas Niddah is by day.

  4. Moshe Schwartz says:

    And I heard that Shlomo HaMelech also used erotic imagery to describe the relationship between Hashem and his nation. How inappropriate…

  5. A. Gordimer says:

    Berel Dov Lerner: Inventing rituals, absent a Mesorah or halachic basis, is not part of Orthodoxy. Rav Soloveitchik was quite firm about this. However, aside from this, we have new “mikveh movement” groups which not only invent rituals, but which promote lifestyles and actions that severely violate Halacha, and Open Orthodox leadership is supportive and assisting these groups.

    The point about the hierarchy of batei din was to demonstrate that Giyur is a legal institution that needs standards and uniformity.
    While mikveh safety is of course our priority here, so is restoring respect and an attitude of reverence to mikveh, and sadly, the actions of some who identify as Orthodox are hindering this latter effort.

    Chayim Lando: Of course you are correct; it is clear in the Gemara. However, the person referenced in the article who insists that mikva’os accomodate daytime tevillah somehow interprets the bar thereto as a foolish modesty innovation invented by contemporary rabbis.

  6. AryehS says:

    Rabbi Gordimer,

    First, I want to thank you for standing at the breach of the fences of Klal Yisrael. This is a very important task and it is not easy.

    That said, I have noted some things that could make your essays stronger. See, I am the type of person who likes to debate, and when I see essays like this, one I agree wholeheartedly with its contents, I like to imagine the response of the other side, the sitra achra, if you will.

    I have noticed that your style of argumentation is very interesting. You don’t make clear what your argument is, exactly. Instead, you quote or describe actions of those who profess to be part of Open Orthodoxy, and note how shocking it sounds. You avoid making any argument as to why they are over the line, but rather allow the reader to fill in why it is indeed shocking. This tactic is ingenious; it is very difficult to respond to a non-argument.

    However, I believe that you are not writing your articles for the choir, but to convert the other side, to teach people what exactly is over the line in Orthodoxy and to send a message that these actions and beliefs are not to be tolerated. Wouldn’t this be all the more powerful if you show exactly what is wrong with these actions, so that they can be judged on merit, and people can be convinced? I believe the current state of your essays merely serve to entrench others in their positions, as they mouth “ein hachi nami” to each argument.

    Let us look, for example, at some of your arguments here, and how they could be bolstered.

    “One leading Open Orthodox rabbi has used the mikveh and conversion allegations to call for the ordination and acceptance of women rabbis…”

    It is true that women rabbis are absolutely unacceptable – Rav Herschel Schachter has already noted how immodest it is. However, wasn’t a woman president of the synagogue a key player in taking action when they found out the truth? Can not an argument be made that certain potential problems could be alleviated through women in certain high positions in a synagogue? Certainly the concerns raised have to be grappled with, no? Do fears of sexual abuse not have any gravitas in these considerations? Since you haven’t fleshed this out, you have left this response to you wide open!

    “other top brass rabbis of Open Orthodoxy have used this crisis as an opportunity to lobby for the dismantling of conversion standards”

    This would indeed be chaotic, and difficult to manage. Yet, somehow the rabbis of the Talmud, the rishonim, the achronim, they never really thought to make a centralized conversion system, and rabbis would convert others without a central system with formalized standards for everyone. How did they deal with the many sects that they had to fight against? And couldn’t we say that although it may make for a chaotic system, the good outweighs the bad? It could allow closer contact between batei dinim and their potential converts, and if there were a rabbi who was running amok, the person would have other options? These arguments have been made by those who you reference, but you don’t argue against their sevaras at all!

    “The event was billed as an effort on the part of the new “mikveh movement” to “reclaim and reframe” mikveh use, including tevillah (immersion) for non-traditional purposes”

    Obviously, the traditional use of the mikveh needs to be upheld, and deviations are terrible. But if we’re going to make an argument towards this, don’t we have to explain why?

    “Dr. Ner-David opposes the modesty restriction of nighttime-only immersion by women, and she has a focus on non-gendered and transgendered immersion. Her appearance … should send the red flags shooting up.”

    Can we know more about the modesty restrictions? Are transgendered immersions invalid? You have left so much unsaid! Not to mention that if a person is invited to speak somewhere, it doesn’t mean that they, and all their opinions, are accepted. I wish we could see why it matters that she was invited. YU, for example, hosts all sorts of speakers, and not everything they say is representative of the school. Didn’t President Carter get an award at YU in the recent past?

    “Given the high-level YCT/Yeshivat Maharat involvement with Mayyim Hayyim, one would expect it to maintain Orthodox standards”

    Must it, though? Can’t a rabbi make sure that a mikvah is valid, without needing to approve every immersion? Wouldn’t it be good if the few valid immersions were actually valid, because the mikveh is valid?

    “as Open Orthodox rabbinical students were taught about marital sex by a female sex therapist”

    This can be very immodest, but I imagine a male sex therapist being just as immodest. If the female sex therapist is an expert, surely her expertise is very important?

    “and the students entertained topics such as “Saying Kaddish for a Gay Partner” in other rabbinical school classes”

    Obviously, the argument is that even entertaining such a question is a breach, regardless of the answer, because it involves an issur. But why didn’t you say so? And is this question really so shocking, when non-religious Jews who were not married by Orthodox standards say kaddish for their loved ones all the time?

    “Yes, shockingly, this Open Orthodox rabbi assigns emotional impairment to Hashem (!). Not only is this highly blasphemous and utterly nonsensical,”

    I am reminded of the Talmud Berachot, where God asks the High Priest to bless Him! What also comes to mind is the medrash of Avraham finding God in a burning palace, as if to say that Avraham must “save” God. Lastly, we learn that the avot and imahot were barren because “God craves the prayers of the righteous.” Surely if these are metaphorical, the rabbi could have been metaphorical as well? Though his words are shocking, they give a certain kind of comfort for those who feel the need to understand God on their own terms.

    I write this all to demonstrate possible responses, that could have been easily ameliorated with a few extra words! I hope this will be helpful for future essays.

  7. Yehoshua D says:

    In this article, as well as in others about the dangers of Open Orthodoxy, the author has the unfortunate tendency to group together statements and practices with regard to which one should certainly take issue and others whose impropriety is minimal, or even nonexistent. Here, the idea that someone from that movement may “do away with” the need for a beis Din at a conversion is of course scandalous, but I do not understand what the author’s problem is with the Shemini Atzeret “drasha.” That Rabbi was doing nothing more or less than Chazal. Chazal say that the Jewish people leaving at the end of the holiday is difficult for God. Now, you could say that they did not mean this in the literal sense, but it is unquestionable that here, as in countless other instances, Chazal and the Tanakh itself portray Hashem as having feelings. He gets angry when we sin, he is happy with us when we do what is right, etc. etc. If this Rabbi’s words are “highly blasphemous and utterly nonsensical,” then one would, chas veshalom, have to say the same about much of Torah literature, from Bereishis (And the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart) and on down. Rabbi Gordimer, if you want your message to be heard, please present only the bathwater, not the baby.

  8. tzippi says:

    Mr. Lerner, I suggest that all the men who want to go for non-traditional reasons choose one meaningful day a year, like erev Yom Kippur.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gordimer once again hits the bullseye with a detailed analyis of why Open Orthodoxy deserves to be called Halachaless Orthodoxy.

    Barry Dov Lerner asked in part:

    “What is the big deal about people inventing new opportunities to go to the mikveh? Even if some of these new opportunities are related to life-styles that are halakhically forbidden, since when does that have any bearing on whether the mikveh is kosher?”

    First of all, the sole purpose of a mikvah halachically today is for purposes of Taharas HaMishpacha and those men who go to the Mikvah either on Shabbos, Erev RH or YK as a means of enhancing their sense of Taharah and Kedushas HaYom. Most communities that have mikvaos have separate mikvaos for Tevilas Kelim. Using a mikvah to “kasher” a halachically forbidden and deviant lifestyle is a perversion of the purpose of the Mitzvah of Tevilah. It is just another form of spiritual self gratification at the expense of adhering to Divinely Ordained Halacha.

  10. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gordimer in Footnote 23 noted the following comments that can at best be described as highly problematic IMO, especially in light of the recent events in Houston, Texas where clergymen who advocated against gay marriage almost were subjected to subpoenas:

    “got to thinking ahead to the Torah portion we traditionally read in the Yom Kippur afternoon service. This portion is comprised of a list of sexual prohibitions (Leviticus 18:1 – 30). Why would we read the primary religious source used to substantiate homophobia on our most holy day of the year? While I might not have an answer to this question, I do feel that silence on this issue is its own sin.
    As a human being, I feel a need to speak out on this because there are those for whom it is not just their comfort or happiness that are at risk, but their very health, safety, and actual lives. As a Jew, I cannot stomach senseless hatred toward people because of who they are. An integral part of our Jewish identity comes from our experience as victims of the world’s hatred. We cannot stand idly by as other people suffer from bigotry. As a rabbi, I feel a need to speak out for justice”

    I would suggest that the above comment is redolent with both PC and an astonishing lack of knowledge of bedrock Jewish hashkafa-First of all, R Meir and Bruriah discussed the last verse of Tehilim 104-and the consensus is that Judaism condemns the sin, but always keeps the door open to any sinner via the amazing Mitzvah of Teshuvah. More to the point, RYBS in the Mesoras HaRav Machzor for YK emphasized that we read Vayikra 18 1-30 to emphasize that our committment to Arayos is one of the key means of emphasizing Havdalas Yisrael Bein HaAmim and that it is no accident that Sefer Kedushah in the Yad HaChazakah consists solely of Issurei Biah and Maacalos Asuros for the above cited reasons. It is evident and tragic that the speaker in Footnote 23 views contemporary notions of “justice” , “bigotry”, “hatred” and “homophobia” as a rationale for jesttisoning one of the key elements in what is Hamavdil Ben Yisrael LAmim

  11. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Steve Brizel,
    You clearly haven’t been around chasidishe or other congregations where there are people who go every erev Shabbos, or even every day. While most places that have men toveling regularly have separate mikvaos for men, there are places where the men go in the daytime and the women at night in the same mikve, sometimes with a water change and others with a filter. The use of a mikve by men should be with no questions asked as long as there is no improper behavior going on. If there are perverts trying to accost kids there or something like that, the police should be called immediately, but nobody has any business asking why a man is going to a men’s mikve. Let’s stop creating an atmosphere of hysteria. The same is true to a lesser degree in women’s mikvaos. The mikve lady who drives women crazy with fingernail chumras is bad news as well. If people are being in-your-face with their agendas, that is another thing. If a woman announces to the mikva lady that she is single, or if two members of a same-sex couple arrive with a brass band, they should be told that they are not welcome. But don’t drive normal people away.

  12. mycroft says:

    “And couldn’t we say that although it may make for a chaotic system, the good outweighs the bad? It could allow closer contact between batei dinim and their potential converts”

    It certainly would allow closer contact and better knowledge of the potential Ger.Certainly since the latest scandal I fail to see how one can argue that centralized BD will necessarily have people of greater integrity.
    It should be noted that the Rav was in favor of local Rabbonim paskening local issues-he would go over the sugya but often insisted on local Psak. Thus standards for example lets say no conversions for marriage-and no marriage lets say for at least 2 years after conversion to prove conversion not leshem ishut. Standards that Rabbonim and converts would have to agree on but local determination of facts.

  13. A. Gordimer says:

    Moshe Schwartz: As explained in the above article, Shlomo Ha-Melech used physical imagery order for humans to understand God’s chibah relationship with us. The imagery is a necessary means to illustrate a sublime concept. On the other hand, the referenced Yom Kippur lecture goes the opposite way, trying to extract erotic imagery from mitzvos.

    AryehS: You raise a terrific and fundamental point. Firstly, my initial set of articles indeed did attempt to methodically demonstrate the problems with OO innovations. For example:







    That being said, and pursuant to my many personal and written interactions with prominent OO leaders and field rabbis, I am convinced that nothing can be done to change the trajectory of the movement. Therefore, my articles are indeed actually written for the choir ams for those who consider themselves of a traditional Orthodox orientation, be they MO, yeshivish, or whatever. Sadly, the only thing that can be done, as I see it, is to alert and inform those who share our basic values of the issues. Also, and unfortunately, there has been such a rapid and continuous cascade of outrageous crossing of all lines by OO such that focusing on any one of them with full “iyun” will prevent the others from being addressed at all. I therefore consciously chose to present things as I have been doing for the past year or so.

    Yehoshua D.: Yes, Torah and Chazal provide plenty of anthropomorphisms, yet never ones that show a deficiency in God, ch”v. The rabbi referenced here assigns emotional problems to God. This is unheard of and an offense. “Kasha alay p’raidaschem” expresses God’s love for us. “Having issues” expresses emotional impairment.

  14. Brooklyn refugee sheygitz says:

    Yehoshua Friedman – I don’t understand why you feel that Mikva ladies should not be able to “drive women crazy with fingernail chumras” but should be able to ask them if they are married or heterosexual?

  15. Brooklyn refugee sheygitz says:

    Traditional orthodoxy needs to understand two basic things about OO –
    One – that it is essentially an assimilationist movement and seeks to further assimilate American orthodoxy into American society. While the founder Rabbi Avi Weiss is a true Zionist with children and grandchildren who live in Israel, and his successor at YCT actually was pegged to lead an Oleh community in Israel prior to taking the YCT job (my understanding is that personal family considerations drive the decision not to move to Israel in the end), the next generation of OO rabbis are basically assimilated into US society. We can certainly expect non-Zionism and even anti-Zionism to become more pronounced amongst this cadre of younger OO rabbis, as it becomes more pronounced in the culture of the USA. (Even of the republicans take the senate and eventually the White House – this is a social issue not political).

    Two – the USA is in a state of moral and economic decline. These cultural trends will impact all of orthodoxy – even the most insular communities. So it will be all almost impossible to hold a line in the sand against OO without seriously advocating – as a solution for the traditional orthodox community as a whole – not just individuals – that the future of Judaism lies in the land of Israel. Period.

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Yehoshua Friedman-I wam well aware of such practices in Chasidishe communities. In my community on Erev RH and YK, the men use the same mikveh in the morning that women use at night, with a separate mikveh for kelim.

    Yeshoshua D-I fully concur with R Gordimer’s last comment.

  17. A. Gordimer says:

    Brooklyn RS: Regarding OO Zionist commitment, please see http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/14707

    and the long footnote on OO moral equivalency in the Gaza conflict in my July Cross-Currents article.

  18. Berel Dov Lerner says:

    1)I am Berel Dov Lerner, not the Conservative Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner.
    2) I am glad to see that Rabbi Gordimer has dropped the pretense that hilkhot Sanhedrin imply a halakhic duty to create a hierarchy of batei din in our days.
    3) I am pleased that no one challenged my contention that novel uses of a mikveh do not render it unkosher.
    4) If Orthodoxy really forbids the invention of new rituals, then the early Hassidim, Kabbalists, the Mussar movement, etc. etc. were not frum by today’s standards.
    5) WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT:STOP TRYING TO CHANGE THE SUBJECT! SEX CRIMES WITHIN THE ORTHODOX COMMUNITY, ESPECIALLY WHEN PERPETRATED BY RELIGIOUS LEADERS, ARE HILLUL HASHEM GONE NUCLEAR. If you are really concerned about the fate of Torah Judaism, Open Orthodoxy should be the least of your concerns at the moment.

  19. Y. Ben-David says:

    I would second what Brooklyn Refugee stated above. OO is NOT the cause of a problem for the Orthodox community, it is the SYMPTOM within the religious community of the cultural and moral degeneracy that is eating away at American society. OO is merely an external manifestional, the rot is also affecting people who are still outwardly identified with the mainline Orthodox community but who are inwardly being drawn away from real Torah values. Thus, merely flailing away at the supposed ideological deviations of OO will not solve the problem. The leadership needs to look at the very place of the Orthodox Jew in America and to realize that it is in a very unstable situation that is inherently non-viable in the long run.

  20. A. Gordimer says:

    Berel Dov Lerner:

    I am not sure what you mean by, “I am glad to see that Rabbi Gordimer has dropped the pretense that hilkhot Sanhedrin imply a halakhic duty to create a hierarchy of batei din in our days.” My argument from the start was nothing of the sort; I did not drop any pretense. My argument has been that geirus is a legal mechanism that fits into the beis din model rather than the model of prophecy, in contrast with the Morethodoxy article cited – and that there is a need for uniform geirus standards that will be accepted by all.

    Correct, nowhere do we find that use of a mikveh for non-traditional of non-halachic purposes renders it non-kosher. The Mishnah even considers a mikveh in which tumah was immersed to remain fully kosher. This is not an issue of debate.

    Although there was controversy regarding many of the practices and emphases of Chassidus (and so too for other movements withing Orthodoxy), those movements drew largely from mekoros and mesoros which were usually inherently legitimate in terms of their basis but were outside of the traditions of the communities that adopted them, categorizing them as alien and unacceptable to the critics. This starkly differs from inventing new rituals that have no basis. While one could perhaps criticize the Chassidic practice of daily mikveh immersion for males, as such was traditionally only the practice of yechidei segulah who, due to their special stature, adopted Kabbalistic rites, there is a basis in Mesorah for daily tevillah. However, tevillah for graduations, birthdays, etc. has no basis and would surely be condemned by Rav Soloveitchik and many others as wrong, for every practice in Judaism must have a basis in Mesorah.

    Yes, the issues of sexual abuse and so many other matters are a massive chillul Hashem, incredible victimization and have risen to the level of an emergency. And the issues of assimilation and so forth are also alarming and need immediate action. Yet we must also be very concerned and act when people distort Orthodoxy and attempt to massively spread their new form of Orthodoxy and bring about a Reformation of Orthodoxy on so many levels.

  21. Brooklyn Refugee Sheygitz says:

    Rabbi Gordimer – that you for referring me to those comments of yours. However, the comments made by these young rabbis are essentially reflective of the society in which they operate.

    BTW, I challenge Rabbi Ari Hart to visit Rabbi Avi Weiss’ daughter and son-in-law who live in a west bank settlement and tell them and their children to to their faces that he believes “that our now long-term military rule over another people has had profoundly negative moral and spiritual consequences for my people.” and that he believes “it poses a threat to the longevity of the Zionist dream, and as a Zionist, I seek its end.” I dare him…

  22. MindyS says:

    I hardly think anthropomorphizing God is sinful. That is all of Tanach!

  23. Shimon shteinmetz says:

    I am not clear why you insist we need uniform conversion standards. According to this argument, If Rabbi Akiva Eger (father-in-law of the chasam sofer) did conversions they would not be valid because he held teaching torah before conversion was forbidden.

    Rabbi Gordimer, you are confusing the politics of Israeli rabbinate approval with halachah. Everybody from left to right knows there are serious problems with the integrity of the Israeli rabbinate.

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