The Conversion Is Questionably Kosher, but the Methodology Is Unquestionably Non-Kosher

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15 Responses

  1. micha says:

    I am particularly taken by the parenthetic remark, “R. Katz opines that R. Ovadia Yosef, who, like R. Moshe Feinstein (in Igros Moshe YD 2:127), absolutely requires the presence of a beis din for tevillah, failed to see the opinion of the Ramban, which would have surely changed R. Ovadia’s ruling, according to R. Katz.” In the original, top of pg 3, “ונלענ”ד שדברי רמב”ן אלו נעלמו ממרן ז”ל”.

    For anyone who has any knowledge of Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l’s style of pesaq, even by reputation, to think that he would put pen to paper before reviewing every major or minor rishon on the topic is simply humorous. And I say “review” because Rav Ovadiah’s encyclopedic knowledge, known from contemporaneous comments, included an astounding library. it’s not like it’s we’re talking about an oblique reference in the Ramban’s discussion of another topic. And even missing something like that would surprise me. Rav Ovadiah’s typical teshuvah reflects pages and pages of rishonim and acharonim, the occational contemporary Torah journal article, etc…

    This isn’t just a comment on the one sentence in the responsum. It’s a comment on the lack of awareness of the gap between himself and people like Rav Ovadiah or Rav Moshe, which motivates their willingness to provide “adjudication of one of the most sensitive, severe and far-reaching areas of Halacha, rather than turning to renowned poskim for this matter, is another discussion – as is why R. Fox and R. Katz felt that they were authorized to weigh in and rule in matters where names such as R. Moshe Feinstein and R. Ovadia Yosef are the main decisors on record.”

    Much of how Open Orthodoxy looks the way it does is this idea idea that such decisions can be made someone who admittedly with someone who has significant skills in learning and with access to the Bar Ilan database, yet doesn’t have the feel of how halakhah should flow that a Rav Moshe, Rav SZ Aurbach, Rav Ovadiah Yosef, etc… pick up through constant immersion and incredible piety. It is that attitude toward halakhah that allows too many of them to work halakhah to their own values rather than honoring halakhah’s own implied values, not to mention those in aggadic sources. Pesaq is an art, not a science, and like good poetry, can really only be done by someone who thinks in that language. And the greater the poetic license, the more of such a feel the writer must have. It’s not that there is a conscious effort to choose contemporary Western values over continuity of the ones we inherited. It’s that they lack decision-makers who can feel when that line was crossed.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    We have to distinguish between uses of Halachic terminology and ideas in support of a prior commitment to Halachic observance, and uses in support of a prior commitment to Western societal norms.

  3. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    This whole ongoing story sadly explains what a true חילול השם is.

    The voyuerism of Fruendel was a terrible act an invasion of privacy and chillul Hashem in and of itself. However the extent is becoming clearer in that it opened an opportunity for those seeking to destroy Halacha such as Herzfeld and the whole YCT cabal (themselves the epitome of חילול השם) to suggest “reforms” that will lead to invalid giyur and invalid tevilah in general.

    And now Lipman, through the anti religious party he is a member of is trying to include this as law in Israel.

    The amount if further transgression this will lead to is truly horrifying.

    It somehow enables us to understand why there is no teshuva for חילול השם.

  4. ben dov says:

    Rabbi Gordimer, I think your articles in Cross Currents have much value. But I think something is lost by not publishing in a modern orthodox publication like Jewish Action or Tradition which representing major organizations: OU and RCA. Since no one imagines YCT will find acceptance in the haredi world, the issue has to be settled within modern orthodoxy. Also, it would help if MO rabbis sympathetic to your cause could be enlisted to write too. When it’s only you and only in a haredi website, a part of the audience will tune out.

  5. joel rich says:

    R’ Micha,
    Someone should ask him, but my guess is R’ Katz was indulging in the time honored method of reconciling one’s own firmly held halachic opinion with others who seem to disagree by making a broad, unsupported assertion that they really would have agreed with me, or they really did it’s just that their words have been misconstrued or they are speaking about a different case.

    I was particularly struck by your formulation “Pesaq is an art, not a science, and like good poetry, can really only be done by someone who thinks in that language. And the greater the poetic license, the more of such a feel the writer must have.” In essence IIUC this leads to the conclusion that a poseik must be totally “in the moment/flow” without self awareness of the process of psak (much like a bballer who loses his ability when he tries to think about each of the mechanical aspects of his free throw). I just wonder in our modern times how possible this really is for even the most walled off portions of our societies.


  6. mycroft says:

    Every posek is influenced by his background, environment and social conditions. I am not arguing that social factors alone determine halakhah On the other
    hand, there are instances where social conditions affected halakhah.The real question is whose pesak does one wish to accept. The argument by the writers in CC are to accept certain poskim who I respect-but that does not put those who accept other approaches beyond the pale.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gordimer has hit the bullseye right on the mark-There is no doubt that YCT and OO stand for Halachaless Orthodoxy-yet comments from rabbanim in certain shuls attract more attention than the open apikorsus and kefirah, and lack of respect for Mesorah that YCT and OO espouse on a constant basis.

  8. A. Gordimer says:

    Ben Dov: Cross-Currents is read by a large spectrum within Orthodoxy, and its articles are cross-posted by many Modern Orthodox websites as well. I feel that writing on Cross-Currents gets the message to the segments of Orthodoxy for whom the articles are intended. Also, many others have written and continue to write on these topics. Those writings are, unfortunately, more often than not limited to the writers’ personal blogs. I am confident that were those writers to submit quality material on the subject to some of the more established websites, their writings would be welcome.

  9. micha says:

    mycroft: “there are instances where social conditions affected halakhah” is an overly broad formulation. We could subdivide it in at least three ways:

    1- A change in social realia changed the situation in ways that impacts pesaq.

    2- A poseiq, being a conscious arbiter of his zeitgeist, may decide that some idea from surrounding culture has moral validity and belongs encoded in halakhah.

    3- A poseiq, being at least in part a product of his zeitgeist, pasqens in a way that reflects that culture without conscious awareness and filtering of its influence.

    And I’m sure there are more ways social conditions affect halakhah, with varying degrees of halachic validity and historical accuracy.

  10. judaicaplace says:

    A Sad but so true story ,perfectly written and executed article.

  11. ben dov says:

    ”Those writings are, unfortunately, more often than not limited to the writers’ personal blogs.”

    This sounds like an admission of a severe lack of material in mainstream publications. Are there no RCA colleagues willing to share the burden with you? Can you persuade them to do so? Is a quasi-Conservative takeover of Orthodoxy so uninteresting to prominent Orthodox writers and rabbanim?

  12. Moshe Dick says:

    Rabbi Gordimer.thank you for your analysis,which I just found on this website.However,I do want to point out that your greatest fear,which is that future geirim by this method, would not be recognized,is erroneous. There is no greater “shaas hadchak” or “bedieved”than this situation. Poskim in future generations could well pasken-and maybe should-that the geirus is kosher “bedieved”. This is not to accept this as “lekatchilah”,but surely it would count as a “bedieved”. There may be other problems,such as “kabollas ol mmitzvas”, but the actual fact of tevilah could be accepted “bedieved”.

  13. Cvmay says:


    Lipman & the bes din innovation in Israel will still be under the Chief Rabbinate umbrella. The slight changes are nothing like OO changes.

  14. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:


    That is not what Lipman is trying to do, he is trying to force the position of the Rabbinate. His changes are coming directly from the OO cabal.

  15. A. Gordimer says:

    Ben Dov: People are concerned, but I share your sentiments regarding a lack of outcry when one would expect it to come very loudly.

    Moshe Dick: As written above, b’dieved is applied when a mitzvah is incumbent but cannot be performed in the optimal manner. There is nothing incumbent here. Furthermore, according to many Rishonim and poskim, lack of tevillah in the presence of a beis din is invalidates the conversion even b’dieved. Due to the permanent and very weighty nature of geirus, poskim are quite reluctant to rely on b’dieved heterim for it.

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