Rabbi Riskin and Female Halachic Adjudicators: It Does Not Compute
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s ambitious program to fill Israeli society with female halachic adjudicators just experienced a significant advance, as R. Riskin appointed a woman, Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld, to the position of Mahniga Ruhanit (Spiritual Leader) in his city of Efrat. R. Riskin explained that Dr. Rosenfeld will render halachic rulings on questions posed to her, and that there is no bar to women serving as rabbinic judges:
Her sponsor, Rabbi Riskin was very clear about the validity of this role. “The only reason why women cannot be judges is if they are not accepted by the people. When it is clear they are accepted and have halachic knowledge, they can render halachic decisions,” says Rabbi Riskin.
As such, R. Riskin has founded the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halakhic Leadership, which aims to create a cohort of female halachic leaders, trained and certified as follows:
Morot Hora’ah: Five-year program training women in the classic rabbinic curriculum of Kashrut, Shabbat, Family Purity, Mourning, and Marriage. This training is complemented by an extensive curriculum of philosophical, social, and psychological training for communal leadership.
Completion of the course and success in written tests leads to Heter Hora’ah – the centuries-old traditional license to issue halakhic rulings.
Dayanut: Ten-year advanced training program launched in 2013 for women who have completed the heter hora’ah program, equipping them with the knowledge base to serve as judges for conversion and divorce. For the first time since Devorah served as a judge, Jewish history will once again see women trained for the task, and their very presence will restore – and ensure the preservation of – women’s rights in areas of personal status.
The first-ever book of halakhic responsa penned by women who were ordained by the WIHL to serve as halakhic decisors was presented to the public on Monday, 23 June, 2014, at a unique symposium promoting female halakhic leadership in Israeli society.
Now, aside from the fact that rabbinic ordination cannot be conferred upon women, as explained in detail here (please click here for the statement of the Rabbinical Council of America, the RCA, that reflects this axiom), R. Riskin introduces a new calculus and arrives at an equation that simply does not compute. R. Riskin affirms that, “The only reason why women cannot be judges is if they are not accepted by the people. When it is clear they are accepted and have halachic knowledge, they can render halachic decisions.” Well, yes, the Gemara in Sanhedrin of course states that litigants may voluntarily accept upon themselves the testimony and rulings of those who do not qualify as witnesses or dayanim (judges), such as women and relatives, for a form of binding arbitration (Sanhedrin 24a, Rambam Hil. Sanhedrin 7:2, and Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 22:1). However, this does not confer upon the women or relatives whose ruling has been voluntarily accepted the legal status of a beis din. An actual, legal beis din, rather than those unqualified as dayanim but accepted voluntarily as arbitrators to render a decision, is required for geirus (conversion – v. Yevamos 46b, Rambam Hil. Issurei Bi’ah 13:6 and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 268:3-4) and may be necessary for certain aspects of geirushin (divorce). This is why geirus must occur by day, as a beis din, unlike arbitrators, may not convene at night. R. Riskin’s program that provides women with rabbinic training and ordination, granting “the centuries-old traditional license to issue halakhic rulings” and “equipping them with the knowledge base to serve as judges for conversion and divorce”, is illegitimately predicated on an assertion that has no bearing on the matter. Those who do not qualify to form an halachic beis din do not attain the status of an halachic beis din for conversion, divorce and other proceedings, regardless of voluntary acceptance by the parties. Arbitration and beis din status are apples and oranges; R. Riskin’s calculation does not compute.
R. Riskin presents his sanction for women to serve as halachic adjudicators as a very simple issue:
Riskin insisted that there has never been any aspersion within rabbinic sources against a woman who is knowledgeable in Jewish law having the right to make halachic decisions. “This is not a halachic departure in any sense and it is not a revolution in halacha,” asserted Riskin.
Rabbi Riskin spoke to the reasoning behind what he sees as the value of bringing women into the halachic discourse, positing that a female approach to Jewish law and the challenges facing Judaism nowadays is a required element for religious life. “Women naturally bring to halacha an emotional sensitivity which is a very important aspect of our Oral Law,” he explained. “The Oral Law was given within the context of G-d’s revelation of Himself as a G-d of love and loving kindness and compassion and patience.”
It is as if the millenia of rabbinic practice of women not serving as halachic adjudicators, and the rulings of contemporary poskim that affirm this traditional position, clearly missed the boat, as the issue is so obvious as to its legitimacy, per R. Riskin’s presentation.
Yet alas, the notion that Halacha all along sanctioned the ordination of women and their appointment as dayanot, but that K’lal Yisroel and its rabbinic sages somehow overlooked this glaring fact, hearkens back to the timeless words of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l regarding Mesorah (Torah tradition) and innovation:
First, we must pursue the truth and nothing else but the truth. However, the truth in talmud Torah can be achieved through singular halachic Torah thinking, and Torah understanding. The truth is obtained from within, in accord with the methodology given to Moses and passed down from generation to generation.
The truth can be discovered only through joining the ranks of the chachmei hamesorah. It’s ridiculous to say “I have discovered something of which the Rashba didn’t know, the Ketzos didn’t know, the Vilna Gaon had no knowledge; I’ve discovered an approach to the interpretation of Torah which is completely new.” It’s ridiculous! One has to join the ranks of the chachmei mesorah, Chazal, rishonim, gedolei acharonim, and must not try to rationalize from without the chukei haTorah, and judge. We must not judge chukim umishpatim in terms of a secular system of values.
Such an attempt, be it historicism, be it psycholigism, be it utilitarianism, undermines the very foundations of Torah and mesorah and it leads eventually to the most tragic consequences of assimilationism and nihilism. No matter how good the intentions are of the person who is suggesting them.
A single quote from the Rav in a polemical speech about a very different issue regarding a very different individual in a very different time is hardly legitimate basis for arguing that the Rav would have been against Rabbi Riskin’s current actions. We dont know what the Rav what have thought were he still alive, so I think we need to stick to substantive issues.
Your arguments about women serving on batei din for giyur and gittin are incontestable but irrelevant. R. Riskin is not arguing that women should be able to fill these roles.
Finally, in his letter to RCA about the possibility of women rabbis, Har Aharon Lichtenstein, yibadel lechaim, stated that all of the potential issue regarding women rabbis could be resolved, save for actually granting the title “rabbi” which I do not believe that Rabbi Riskin is seeking to do. I would add that the Midrasha in Migdal Oz, run by RAL’s daughter Rabbanit Esti Rosenberg and under RAL’s supervision has a similar program. The fact is, that unlike various liturgical innovations being advocated by some, there are gedolei Torah as great as any a live today who advocate advanced halakhic training for women and increased leadership roles for such women within the frum community. I do not see how you have the temerity to suggest that such things are beyond the bounds of Orthodoxy, jus because your rebeim happen to oppose them.
Is the public fanfare necessary (or helpful)? I can understand why one might encourage the fanfare but my perception is that it feeds into the complaint that the motivations are questionable. Why not just do it in a quiet organic manner and create facts on the ground?
perhaps you are correct. I certainly agree with the overall approach you are suggesting. But that is a question of tactics and style. It does not undermine the overall legitimacy or importance of the project, one that is certainly in line with the Rav’s over all belief in the extreme importance of offering women Torah education at the very highest level (see his letter on Co-education to Rabbi Rosenfeld printed in the volume of letters published by the Toras Harov foundation- this is but one expression of his position, not simply an isolated letter to single topic addressing a specific case.
R. Dr. Shoshan,
The implications of the Rav’s words here and elsewhere, as well as all that his closest talmidim have related from him regarding feminism and gender roles in halachic practice, make it clear that the Rav would not sanction teh ordination of women rabbis.
R. Riskin makes the same arguments for his ordination/heter hora’ah/dayanut programming for women.
I was present at the RCA convention when the letter from RAL was sent to RCA membership, as the RCA was about to vote for adoption of the resolution that barred the ordination of women, “regardless of title”. RAL asked us there to vote for that resolution. I find it difficult to accept that it turns out that RAL actually accepts the ordination of women, including the ordination/licnensing of female dayanim and morot hor’ah, as promoted by R. Riskin.
Which should also be part of a broader conversation over roles and priorities in MO (certainly in the US)- can we make those (men and women) who don’t fit the “best in the Yeshiva/firm” model (and simply aspire to be traditional ovdei HKB”H) feel at home (and successful) while doing the same for overachievers of both sexes and ensuring our priorities are in the right place (as I opened a shiur this shabbat noting a t-shirt a friend had years ago, “He who dies with most toys wins”, does not represent our thinking on this issue :-))
A lot of people accepted egel worship, too. So?
R Joel Rich, Re: “Is the public fanfare necessary (or helpful)? ” – The Morot Hora’ah has been operating for years now. It has certainly flown under the radar in US circles – Indeed I have often wondered at its absence from the polemical discussions about other programs granting smichah to women. From what I can tell the lack of “fanfare” was a conscious choice. But I am not sure that asking R Riskin and his associates never ever to talk about it forever is fair. The first “facts on the ground” in this field are always news events. It seems that your mandate to be “quiet” and the mandate to create “facts on the ground” are therefore somewhat at odds…
I agree with R Gordimer that ordination of women will be harmful to Orthodoxy as we and our grandparents know it. However, as in his linked article, all the arguments against women’s ordination boil down to sociology – other movements have ordained women, and have changed in this or that undesirable way. R’ Riskin, however, has halacha on his side, as there are various sources in, e.g., the commentaries to Shulchan Aruch, and in Tosafot re Devorah ha-Neviah’s role, that allow women to a) give horaah, if they know what they’re doing, and b) serve as judges in a zabla-type situation. Of course they cannot be permanent judges on a real beit din in the Sanhedrinic system (permanent courts of 70, 23, 11, 3), but nothing prevents accepting a woman as an arbitrator in a legal/financial disagreement in our fallen society. And the Israeli rabbinic courts are not part of a Sanhedrin-based judiciary, so they should be free to admit whichever sexes pass the tests.
As for the communal leadership role, my mother has long thought, with good reason, that Orthodoxy would be a better place for a woman to serve in a quasi-rabbinic role, than the heterodox movements. What is the role of a community rabbi? Give sermons, teach classes, supervise kashrut of local establishments, perform marriages and funerals. None of those roles are closed to women in a Halachic context, as long as they know the halachot of what they are doing, just like men must. Meanwhile, heterodox rabbis, as often the only knowledgeable person in their community, also serve as baalei tefillah, baalei kriah and eidim at weddings, all of which are closed to women.
But who chooses to make them news events is the question. I’m reminded of R’ Moshe’s explanation of how he bedcame gadol hador, it wasn’t with a press conference it was with answering questions that came to him. Some of the simplest transitions in our shop start with, while I’m on vacation please contact X with any questions you might have. X can get in touch with me if need be.
R. Gordimer,First of all, I am not a rabbi. I am however, a Talmid or RAL. I cannot tell you what he thinks about R. Riskin’s program, but I can tell you that he very strongly supports very similar programs and is very critical of those who oppose them.
I also seriously question your meosrahs from the Rav’s “closest talmidim” I have many mesoras from people who were very close from the Rav who related to me indepth conversations with the Rav on these issues. Many who are idenitifed as the rav’s closest Talmidim did indeed spend many years in his shiur and know the Rqav’s Lomdus on much of shas, but they had little personal relationship with him. They may claim to know the rav’s “nefesh” But they did not extensively discuss issues with him out side of shiur and never achieved any expertise in his machshava. These individuals often base their statements on the Rav’s psoitions based on secondary sources or individual staments that they heard and not based on actually having had indepth discussions with the Rav on these matters. THese individuals curiously rarely cite the Rav as holding positions on major issues which contradict their own personal opinions. They also love to quote the “mesorah” drasha and the “korach drasha” as if they represent the totality of the Rav’s complex, dialectical worldview.
There are few individuals who indeed had close personal relationships with the Rav but have activily distorted the Rav’s views often in grotesque ways. I do not know why they do this, but one must be wary of claims about the Rav amde by such indiivduals.
As I have said, best to leave the Rav out of this and debate the issues.
There is sufficient precedent for the concept of women deciding halakha, and it is inaccurate to state that the concept was completely verboten for the giants of our mesorah. There is of course, Sefer Shoftim’s Devorah, who served as a judge, and see Tosfos Shavuot 29b for a discussion as to how that would work which is perfectly in line with what R. Riskin proposes. See also the Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 152, where he says the prohibition of teaching halakha while drunk applies to both men and women who are qualified to rule on halachic matters (Isha Chachmah Hareuya L’horot). If these sources are unknown to you, you quite frankly have been negligent in your research on this issue. You can oppose women rabbis for whatever reason, but to overly generalize the halakhic sources in the service of your polemic strikes me as an affront to our mesorah, not to mention the disrespect showed towards R. Riskin, and dangerously erodes the respect people have for rabbinic scholarship.
(I am quite aware of these sources, but they are irrelevant to the topic at hand, as explained in my article, as they have nothing to do with ordination or with the ability of women to constitute an halachic beis din. Could Devorah and two learned female colleagues conduct conversions? Could they do other beis din activities in the areas of Issur? There is no basis in the sources for this – only for teaching and deciding, and even that is the subject of dispute as to its meaning and parameters. Have you read the explanations and rulings of contemporary poskim on the matter? -AG)
Oh, how Cross-Currents has fallen.
Rav Gordimer is arguing a number if different points, and using proof from one point to oppose different points. It may be easier to split up the issues:
1. women functioning as rabbis(not in a beit din capacity). It appears that many rabbanim say it is ok. Rabbi Gordimer says that it is a “fact” that they cannot. It would be more accurate to state that Rabbi Gordimer sides with Rabbi Schachter on the issue and the position of the RCA. If one examines R. Schachter’s writing on this and other issues(Women Tefilla Group), it appears that his position is one of ideology transferred into Halacha- women have a basic obligation greater than men to avoid the public sphere- it is an obligation that appears to trump many activities in the religious sphere but curiously does not seem to exist outside the religious sphere, and is not dependent on yichud, danger, sexual attraction, marriage status or anything else. As far as I can tell, this specific issur is not codified in any major work. As Rav Henkin has opined in his review of R. Falk “Oz v’hadar Levusha”, it is ideology, not Halacha. It can be accurately argued that this ideology is foreign to Modern Orthodoxy, including Rav. Soloveitchik, and therefore those who adopt this ideology should actually eschew the label of Modern Orthodox and admit the ideology they are arguing for.
2. non-qualified judges serving on beit din- obviously non-qualified judges can serve on a beit din where they are accepted and exempt themselves from those specific issues where they need to. Rav Soloveitchik is quoted on this in regard to Shmayah and Avtalon- geirim who at least one served on the Sanhedrin. So there certainly are ways around this issue.
3. Issues of right and wrong versus legitimacy. I happen to be reading the teshuvot back and forth between Rav Moshe and the Tzitz Eliezer on abortion. Each thought the other was dead wrong. However, neither wrote the other out of Orthodoxy. Rav Gordimer and those who think like him can certainly disagree and should disagree. But the respectful approach is to disagree, not delegitimize. This constant call of delegitimization and “neoConservativism” is tiresome and an insult to all the rabbonim and those who respect those rabbonim. It seems that R. Gordimer wants to write many people out of Orthodoxy, Beit Hillel and probably a lot of Tzohar in Israel, not to mention R. Riskin, everyone and anyone affiliated with YCT or who has hired a Maharat. who is going to be next?
“I am quite aware of these sources, but they are irrelevant”
– may I suggest we remove to try and maintain a more sanguine tone when engaging in discussion? Brusqueness will only serve to raise the temperature and not lead toward ובהב בסופא
Some independent points:
1) I guess enough time has passed for the Rav ztl to be (re-) created in almost any desired image. I heard one close to Rav since the 40’s ask about a particular (close) student: “did he ever see the second floor library?” Disregarding the obvious frauds, those few who were privileged to discuss with the Rav hashkafa / philosophy both at length and interactively are nearing the end of life on earth. It would wiser to hold off a few more years.
2) Rabbinic roles have changed many times over the long periods of our history. Roles were assumed by others and new roles were undertaken. I doubt women (or men) will become the rabbis of 50 years ago. What roles they will play in 50 years from now is still in formation. In any case, before reaching the realm of halakhically reasoned debate, women have significant areas where they can excel. A degree from Herzog, Hebrew University, or Rabbi Riskin’s institution raises no serious halachic issue despite disturbing the religious sensibilities of some/many (on the orthodox right.)
3) I guess the devil is not quoting scriptures. I have given up on someone from the right telling us what “shofet” likely meant in biblical Hebrew to explain that Devorah was not a judge. Devorah proves nothing!
4) I assume women assisting the geirut or divorce process is a welcome thing, giving the sensitivity that some rabbis have exhibited. If I can pasken a shailah on my own, then kal ve’chomer bno shel kal ve’chomer, I can rely on anyone of my choosing. This will keep more women busy than 10 Rabbi Riskins can produce. I know one of Rabbi Riskin’s first two graduates. Her knowledge of choshen mishpat would be welcomed in most batei dinim interested in halakha, not religious politics.
5) I now know why Christine Hayes does not convert. If she were Jewish, the hesder yeshivah where she lectured would be put in cherem.
It is time to chill.
Moshe Shoshan wrote in relevant part:
“I also seriously question your meosrahs from the Rav’s “closest talmidim” I have many mesoras from people who were very close from the Rav who related to me indepth conversations with the Rav on these issues. Many who are idenitifed as the rav’s closest Talmidim did indeed spend many years in his shiur and know the Rqav’s Lomdus on much of shas, but they had little personal relationship with him. They may claim to know the rav’s “nefesh” But they did not extensively discuss issues with him out side of shiur and never achieved any expertise in his machshava. These individuals often base their statements on the Rav’s psoitions based on secondary sources or individual staments that they heard and not based on actually having had indepth discussions with the Rav on these matters. THese individuals curiously rarely cite the Rav as holding positions on major issues which contradict their own personal opinions. They also love to quote the “mesorah” drasha and the “korach drasha” as if they represent the totality of the Rav’s complex, dialectical worldview.
The above comment has prompted the following query:
1) So unless the views of RYBS mesh with the views of someone who favors your POV, his view and that of RYBS is to be jettisoned?
2)I would suggest that those talmidim muvhakim of RYBS who indeed spent the most time with RYBS in and out of the shiur and understood his kulos, chumros and hanhagos are those who are indeed most entitled to expressing their opinion as to the Mesorah of RYBS. I don’t the the evidence jsutifies the conclusion that RYBS expected all of his talmidim to have a PHd or even view secular education as lchatchilah.
R Riskin wrote this article in 1974, and was very critical of IDF service by a would be ger as being worthy of consideration without Kabalas Ol MItzvos.
R Riskin was one of my rebbes in JSS during the 1970s, and I recall a rebbe who instilled in us a sense of Kavod HaTorah and appreciation of sweating the details in learning pshat in a difficult sugya and a Rishon. I think that when R Riskin realized that he was no longer in the running for President of YU or the RCA, and had become frustrated with the extended singles culture that developed at Lincoln Square, and his high school did not make a dent in the monopoly of the MO schools such as MTA ( which was eventually dented by the development of such schools in the Five Towns and NJ) he made aliyah out of his own volition, but without realizing that the Charedi world in EY was far less tolerant of his views than the yeshiva and chasidishe worlds in the US , .
Somewhere along the road, ( and after being one of many victims of a cherem issued by R Shach ZL, all of whom Professor Marc Shapiro once listed), R Riskin lurched from a centrist view that he espoused in the US to a very LW POV.
I do not recognize the R Riskin who was my rebbe in the statements purportedly made by R Riskin with respect to the Charedi world or his views on Gerus.
I should note that IMO R Riskin, as the rav of his shul, adopted all too PC views as to feminism, many of which can be found in the debates on WTGs, partnership services and the like.
It is sad that such a star of the American rabbinate drifted into the arms of the LW MO orbit
“R. Riskin’s program ….is illegitimately predicated …”
– would it not have sufficed to say ‘incorrectly’ vs. ‘illegitimately’? If not, please explain the criterion for deeming something illegitimate.
Steven Brazil, I wonder why you feel qualified to provide insight into Rabbi Riskin or why you feel the need to publicly share these insights? In any case you then write: “I don’t the the evidence jsutifies the conclusion that RYBS expected all of his talmidim to have a PHd or even view secular education as lchatchilah.” I wholeheartedly agree to the first half, i.e. “all his talmidim.” the Rav considered such decisions a tad more dependent on the individual, their strengths and aspirations. And as some of his talmidim who have a Ph.D. can assert, he had views on the relative value of even various areas of concentration. Whether he considered secular education as a le’chatchilah is as I noted above, a bit easier to assert in a few decades when those with first-hand knowledge are no longer alive.
Noam Stadlen wrote
” It seems that R. Gordimer wants to write many people out of Orthodoxy, Beit Hillel and probably a lot of Tzohar in Israel, not to mention R. Riskin, everyone and anyone affiliated with YCT or who has hired a Maharat. who is going to be next?”
R.Gordimer,of course,his usefulness will have reached its limit, and in the words of Pastor Niemoller, there will be nobody left to speak up for him.
to Steve Brizel, maybe R.Riskin grew, and you didn’t keep pace with your rebbe? Possible?
Jewish Observer: My reply mirrored the verbiage and tone of the referenced comment.
Dr. Stadlan: The issue is purely legal, not hashkafically factored. And there is no way that matters which require a legal beis din can be gotten around by the parties accepting invalid dayanim, or the like. For dinei mammon yes, but not for conversion. And yes, the breaching of boundaries, driven by a social agenda/objectionable ideology, does not allow this issue to be treated as one of Elu v’elu.
“Jewish Observer: My reply mirrored the verbiage and tone of the referenced comment”
Unless you can prove otherwise, your claim that R. Riskin wants women to serve as dayanim for geirus and gittin is pure motzei shem ra. I think we can all agree that Motei shem ra is outside the boundaries of Orthodoxy.
R Gordimer: I am writng this in pain,
I am asking in all sincerity, I would not be keeping shabboss or kosher, I would have had relations before marrage, etc and would probably have left yidishkiet completely and married a reform girl, if it was not for Jennie rosenfeld.
I live on the other side of the world then she does, and did not know her at all, yet she helped me with so much compassion and understanding , when I was surrounded by darkness, she was the only orthodox light I had, and I did not pay her a cent.
Do you no longer consider her orthodox?
Am I not considered orthodox because I have been deeply helped and positively affected by her?
Where would that place me In terms of community?
In your opinion could I marry an orthodox girl?
Dr. Shoshan: You write, “Unless you can prove otherwise, your claim that R. Riskin wants women to serve as dayanim for geirus and gittin is pure motzei shem ra.”
Please see the boxed quote above in the article, from Rabbi Riskin’s own institution, which states: “Dayanut: Ten-year advanced training program launched in 2013 for women who have completed the heter hora’ah program, equipping them with the knowledge base to serve as judges for conversion and divorce”. Yes, “judges for **conversion and divorce**”. That same website lists “Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, FOUNDER AND CHANCELLOR” of the institute. I will shortly bold and underline the “conversion and divorce” phrase from Rabbi Riskin’s institute in the boxed quote in my article, in case others likewise did not notice it.
Dan: I am sure that Dr. Rosenfeld (and you) is eminently Orthodox, God-fearing, and probably far frummer than most of us. I have no question about her total sincerity and holy aims, as well as her great accomplishments. No one alleges that she or you are not 110% Orthodox. (You are to be admired and praised, and your life commitment, influenced by Dr. Rosenfeld, sets an inspiring example for us all!)
The issue is with some of the *leaders* of liberal Orthodoxy, who go beyond the parameters of acceptability and set up programs that further their not-fully-Orthodox goals. Most of these leaders were incredibly impactful, in a very positive and usually non-controversial way, before they embarked on their later paths. Many of us wish that they would stick with their previous trajectory and continue their great work in kiruv, chinuch and fighting for the rights of fellow Jews, rather than veering from tradition by ordaining women, promoting the feminization of tefillah, etc.
Point taken. I still find it very hard to believe that they are adovcating the halakhic position attributed to them. I am working on clarifying this. If you were not starting from the assumption that they are not Orthodox, you may have thought to check this out as well.
I have not inquired, but I read “equipping them with the knowledge base to serve as judges for conversion and divorce” as purposefully different from equipping them to serve as judges for conversion and divorce.
I suspect that the words “with the knowledge base” might be meant to say they are as well trained as dayanim who “serve as judges for conversion and divorce.” I could also imagine a court of more than the requisite number of dayanim where women join in the deliberations. Remember as well that regardless of one’s opinion of Rabbi Riskin, his successor is above reproach.
In general, it is preferable to read things charitably and give people the benefit of the doubt.
(This dayanus training is part of the Dayanut program, which features dayanus preparation for conversion and divorce (ots.org.il/program/susi-bradfield-wihl/). They are not just learning *about* dayanus. The intent is to certify them for practice in the areas of training, as is clear from the web brochure. -AG)
What else would one expect from Mr. Riskin, who can no longer be considered an Orthodox rabbi, as he now embraces non-Jews in their prayer worship, etc. He is no different than Avi Weiss and all those who are trying desparately to turn Torah on its head so that it will fit the new world religion, r’l. Why has he not been ousted from the RCA? Thanks to Rabbi Gordimer who is one of the few who stands up against the Torah deniers. The struggle for truth never seems to end, it seems, not until Moshiach is here. Let’s pray he arrives ASAP.
Would this blog print a comment in which I referred to R. Shmuel Kaminetzky as “Mr. Kamininetzky”? I think not. But R. Riskin is fair game.
I have no idea or insight into what R. Riskin’s plans are. What I will say is that the prevailing view on this (and many other blogs) is that one must know all of Torah to be in a position to rule on any part of it. To the extend this is true, that women would have to be qualified with the knowledge in all areas, whether they lemayse serve on a conversion court or not. Again, I have no insight into RSR plans or thoughts in this regard.
Did you contact them for clarification? is it possible that the people writing the english website are not the poskim and policy setters of the institution? is it possible that the people involved are actually serious talmidei chachamim and they have arguments for their position which though you, I and our teachers may not accept are still credible enough to place them with in the realm of eilu v’eilu? I would think that before accusing a person who is one of the great marbitzei torah of the generation of engaging in activities that will inevitably lead to the violation of serious issurim de-oraisa, that it would be worth checking these things out.
Would you at least agree that if a clarification is forthcoming that makes it clear that your (very reasonable) interpreation of the website does not reflect the actual halakhic poistion of the rabbonim of Midreshet Lindenbaum that you will owe them an apology and retraction and will have to ask mechila for inadvertently spreading rechilus against them?
Why are people parsing the text of a website? These are not rishonim. And they certainly are not dead. Why doesn’t someone just call Rabbi Klitsner and ask him what he means. Perhaps suggest changing the language on the website (or not…).
Moshe Shoshan: “I still find it hard to believe that they are advocating the halakhic position attributed to them.”
Why? Because it is a position that is outside the recognized standard of established Orthodox practice?
Yet Rabbi Riskin has made it plain that he founded this institute precisely to challenge the staus quo standing of women in the realm of halakhic decision-making. Whether it is “revolutionary” as R. Gordimer proposes – and outside the Orthodox norms – or “evolutionary” as R. Riskin argues, it is clearly unprecedented; the proof of that is the fact that historically there has never before been an educational institution whose express purpose was to train women in Hora’Ah and Dayanus. This could certainly be perceived as a form of poretz geder.
Once one ventures out into uncharted territory without the safety net provided by mesorah and those who guard it, the potential extension beyond the authoritative norm is limited only by one’s ethics, intellectual prowess and audacity. It is certainly conceivable that R. Riskin would advocate for women rabbonim and dayanim.
“In general, it is preferable to read things charitably and give people the benefit of the doubt.”
I would hope, dr. bill, that you also would do the same when “interpreting” chareidi sources. From the ways these conversations go on the Web (and I am not saying you engage in it though I see your biases from your comments here and elsewhere) they usually get the same treatment.
There is no need to apologize for copying and pasting the plain, clear English of the women’s ordination program brochure of R. Riskin’s institution, and then commenting on it. (Nor did I malign the staff there, or commit any other sins in that regard.)
Should the institution issue a statement that its brochure does not mean what it says, and thereupon change the language to state something entirely different, I would be happy to post that revision.
“to Steve Brizel, maybe R.Riskin grew?”
Grew all right. Too big for his britches.
Rafael Araujo, I believe that I tend to read chareidi writings charitably. I do not see similar criticism on this blog for chareidi leaders with, as old boss of mine said, chalk on their cuffs. Just to set the record straight, I have questioned/challenged LWMO icons, who I believe have crossed the boundary, including the person at the center of this post, when he visited our community. However, given the slide to the right, there is more chalk covered cuffs on the right. In any case, all this has little to do with my MO perspective or what you call “your biases” or what I call traditional Judaism.
R. Gordimer wrote: ‘The issue is purely legal, not hashkafically factored. And there is no way that matters which require a legal beis din can be gotten around by the parties accepting invalid dayanim, or the like. For dinei mammon yes….’ So you would have no problem with women being on a beit din (accepted by the litigants, which basically is the only way for any beit din nowadays) for issues that do not require non-disqualified judges?
Furthermore since you are making a Halachic and not hashkafic or ideological argument, please provide the source in shulchan aruch or other major source for R. Schachter’s shittah that women are obligated, independent of other considerations, to avoid the public square. You may also want to justify the actions of Bnot tzelafchad when ALL of them came in front of not only Moshe but all of the leaders. Seems quite contradictory to this shittah
Yes, it is clear in Halacha that litigants who accept women to judge them can do so. Again, this is a form of arbitration.
Although we see from the Gemara in Megillah and the Rishonim there that kavod ha-tzibbur creates a fully halachic bar to functioning as a shaliach tzibbur, according to the standard interpretation of poskim – such that an apparently hashkafic value precipitates an halachic axiom – I do not feel a need to justify Rav Schachter’s ruling; he is eminently qualified and does not need to pass these tests of scrutiny. I would also add that the bar to the ordination of women presented by R. Saul Lieberman, as explained by R. Schachter in his teshuva, has nothing to do with hashkafa and is utterly compelling.
Your argument from Lieberman is circular. He argues that women cant be rabbis because they cant be dayanim! you just conceded that they can be dayanim for dinei mamanot.
Kavod hatzibbur is not what we are talking about. I was not asking you to justify R Schachter, just to identity the source for the basic concept he employs. It appears that you, similar to me, are unable to do so. Perhaps that is because it is not present in major Halachic works. Again, where is it written specifically that a woman, more than a man, has an unconditional obligation to avoid the public square and if that is the case, how do you explain the Torah description of Bnot Tzelafchad?
So it appears that you have no Halachic problem with women learning dayanut and serving as judges except in specific situations. So your quibble with R Riskin is over a few specifics and not in regard to his program in general?
“I do not feel a need to justify Rav Schachter’s ruling; he is eminently qualified”
– had Reb Chaim taken this approach regarding the rambam we would be missing a lot of geshmakeh lomdus, not to mention shiur klali material
Dr. Shoshan: No, they cannot be halachic dayanim. They can be judge arbitrators for dinei mammon, per the sugya in Sanhedrin daf 24, if the parties voluntary submit to such. They lack the status of real dayanim, and their panel lacks the halachic status of a beis din.
Dr. Stadlan: I was bringing an example of how what may otherwise be construed as hashkafic is really halachic. As to R. Schachter’s ruling, if he, via his mastery of Torah, detects and fleshes out an halachic position from the concept of women preferably operating privately, that is his right. As to B’nos Tzelofchad, they were appearing before a panel to make a request; they did not act as rabbis or occupy a public office in that incident.
Jewish Observer: Reb Chaim’s objective was to understand the Rambam through analysis – not to question the legitimacy of the Rambam’s rulings. My reply was to the latter point: R. Schachter’s ruling does not need anyone’s approval in order for it to stand.
One can speculate about the Rav’s tz”l opinion endlessly but why do that about RAL’s? Why not just call him?
“My reply was to the latter point: R. Schachter’s ruling does not need anyone’s approval in order for it to stand.”
– I didn’t understand that R Shachter’s bona fides were being questioned. I have no reason to prejudge that the question was anything but a simple follow up to that which you had said that his ruling is halachic not hashkafic. That would naturally prompt the question – ok, so what was the halachic basis? Your response, implying that inquiring about R Shachter’s source is tantamount to questioning his legitimacy comes across as overly defensive.
Once again, you deserve a hearty Yeyasher Koachah for stepping up to the plate and highlighting the dangers of trailblazing when Mesorah is abandoned. Your critics will make all sorts of claims about you, but the only claim worthy of making is that you are one of the few to respond to the cry מי לה’ אלי.
Regarding what the Rav did or didn’t sanction, by this time, I think we should agree that it’s a pointless exercise. His many talmidim all claim to the heirs to his true legacy, but they offer such conflicting views that it’s hard to reconcile them or arrive at any type of consensus. Furthermore, none more than the MO are insistent that it matters not who said what – we must examine the sources and judge the arguments on their own merits. Thus, the Rav’s unsourced opinions are hardly worth quibbling over. Let’s see chapter and verse and decide what the proper approach is.
regarding kevod hatzibbur. please see Rav Henkin here: http://www.aishdas.org/avodah/vol06/v06n072.shtml kevod hatzibbur is understood in one of two ways- one that there is a problem vis a vis sexual morality(which Rav Henkin demonstrates is wrong), and the other that when men are expected to be learned and women are not, it is not becoming for the community when women have to perform certain actions because it reflects poorly on the men. There is NOTHING there about an obligation to avoid the public square. As I have noted before, R. Schachter claims that women have to avoid the public square. period. thereore, the fact that all of Bnot Tzelafchad appeared in front of everyone is the issue the diyyuk you make is irrelevant.
You state that R. Schachter fleshes out an halachic position from a concept. When people with whom you disagree do this, I think you call it neo-Conservatism or doing things that are not in keeping with the Mesorah or the Halachic process.
Even if you want to grant R. Schachter the position, dont you have to admit that something for which neither you nor I can find a Halachic basis for does not have to be binding on those who choose not to pick R. Schachter as their Halachic authority? cant someone choose to have R. Riskin as their Halachic authority? Why is R. Schachter’s position binding on all of Modern Orthodox, especially when the Hashkafic position he derives his Halacha from is decidely non-Modern Orthodox?
So as is (IMHO) always the case it comes down to who is entitled to an opinion and (perhaps not a totally independent variable) who can create facts on the ground. I might even suggest that on a meta basis the discussion between you and R’AG is part of that process – as R’ RZ famously put it :
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’
R’ Gordimer – The published letter referred to by Dr Shoshan makes clear RYBS’s opinion that girl’s should be educated to the same high level as boys in kodesh. Please see the letter if you doubt the clarity with which he expresses this himself, with no need for the intermediation of talmidim of any degree of closeness. It’s worth mentioning that this shita was unique to RYBS among major figures, certainly the extent of it, and you certainly don’t need reminding of the sources which seem to be against teaching torah seh bal peh to women.
It is, presumably, entirely to be expected that these cohorts of highly educated girls, which is a phenomenon never before seen in Jewish history, will grow to be highly educated women some of whom have the ability and desire to further such knowledge in way similar to, well, the men. Since this the logical outgrowth of such an educational policy it doesn not seem suprising that RAL oversees such a program.
Being against the intrusion of feminism is not going to do much do halt the changes set in motion.
Seems that if you wish to be in RYBS’s camp it is to be be dificult to be against the logical endpoint of his educational program. That, R Gordimer, also Does Not Compute.
I suggest reading Rabbanit Bartov’s, one of first two graduates, (long) tshuvah on women serving as judges, giving both pro and con arguments. My suspicion is, as noted above, that women will become a part of the dayanut process without a formal role in those areas where their validity would raise concerns, i.e. giyur or divorce. As suggested, I am sure that RAL and certainly his son and daughter at Gush can accurately give you his position. Rabbis Stav, Riskin, etc. have all probably addressed the issue or can be asked.
Jewish Observer: My reply was not intended to be defensive. It was intended to differentiate between your question and R. Chaim was doing.
Dr. Stadlan: Again, I was employing Kavod Ha-Tzibbur as an example – not using it as the basis for R. Schachter’s ruling. Bnos Tzelophchad is not a proof here, as: 1) They appeared before Moshe (and Aharon, etc.), not the entire tzibbur; 2) There may have been no choice, as who else could have made the appearance? There were no brothers, and their uncles were their potential adversaries in the case. These are details, but to extrapolate from that incident to a case against R. Schachter’s ruling is not compelling. Those whom I would refer to as Neo-Conservative reject fundamentals of hashkafa or halacha. If one receives a ruling from someone other than R. Schachter who is of similar preeminence, he of course has the right to follow that ruling. However, no other poskim of similar or great stature have ruled otherwise here.
Ben Bradley: The issue is not about women learning Torah, including TSBP. The issue is ordaining women as rabbis and their serving as dayanim for conversion and divorce – apples and oranges. To deduce that RYBS’ encouragement of young women to study all areas of Torah means that he supported ordaining them as rabbis is very problematic.
“Jewish Observer: My reply was not intended to be defensive. It was intended to differentiate between your question and R. Chaim was doing”
– bottom line: why, to your thinking, is seeking to identify R Schachter’s source tantamount to questioning his legitimacy? Until you can address that your response will indeed sound defensive your protestations to the contrary notwithstanding
Jewish Observer: I am all in favor of seeking to identify and understand any and all aspects of R. Schachter’s ruling.
Let’s call a spade a spade. The reason that almost all Gedolim prohibited girls from learning Gemara was because they realized that once girls learned Gemara it would not be long before they would seek halakhic leadership positions. RYBS decided that it was permissible to teach girls everything that boys learn. We are now facing the inevitable consequences.
(Girls not learning Gemara is in consonance with the simple reading of the statement in the Gemara itself about teaching one’s daughter Torah. A fear that women would learn Gemara and thereupon seek rabbinic ordination was not at all in sight or present, and was not part of the reasoning for the position of those gedolim that disallowed Gemara study for females. -AG)
“Girls not learning Gemara is in consonance with the simple reading of the statement in the Gemara itself about teaching one’s daughter Torah.”
That cannot be correct or else the vast majority of Gedolim would not prohibit it.
“fear that women would learn Gemara and thereupon seek rabbinic ordination was not at all in sight or present, and was not part of the reasoning for the position of those gedolim that disallowed Gemara study for females.”
I did not say rabbinic ordination, I said halakhic leadership positions. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
(The majority of gedolim prohibited it because the simple reading of the Gemara prohibits it. The reasoning is unaffected by the proposed concern, be it concern that women would seek ordination, or that they would seek Torah leadership of other types. The fact is that gedolim prohibited it based on the Gemara – although I could understand why in 2015, a new generation of gedolim might **also** seek to prohibit it for the practical reason you raise – even though that was not a concern half a century ago, when the issue arose.- AG)
“The majority of gedolim prohibited it because the simple reading of the Gemara prohibits it. The reasoning is unaffected by the proposed concern, be it concern that women would seek ordination, or that they would seek Torah leadership of other types.”
I disagree, One need not be a prophet to see that once one opens high-level Gemara learning to women they will inevitably seek halakhic leadership positions, given that leadership in the Orthodox community is based on knowledge of Gemara. In the MO community girls learning high-level gemara is an accepted fact. Unfortunately, Rav Gordimer you are trying to use your finger to plug a breach in the dam.
Ben Bradley, Let me propose how the Rav ztl (probably) saw this ending: Women assuming roles in the community that develop within the halakhic framework. The Rav was well aware that those roles will not be the ones that necessarily now exist. I agree with you that it is hard to imagine that the Rav was not fully aware that the learning he encouraged would not impact social structures. Those of his close students who did not study (Jewish social) history, may not have familiarity with that background.
1. You are incorrect regarding Bnot Tzelofchad(B’midbar ch. 27): The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher…They approached the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly, and said,
2. What is not compelling is to base an entire approach to women in the public square(women tefilla group, women serving in rabbinical functions, women reading a ketuba under the chuppah etc.) on a concept that is not brought l’Halacha in any major work as far as we both can tell especially when it is contradicted specifically by an episode in the Torah. It is further unreasonable to force that Halacha on people who reasonably(and within Halacha/Hashkafa) dont agree with the ideology behind it. The unreasonableness goes further when you realize that this concept is only trotted out in specific instances. Do anyone tell women, ‘dont take this job or that job or promotion because you will be more in the pubic eye’? Do we decide not to honor women at dinners? Chareidim may do that(by the way probably more for tzniut issues, not specifically because of this particular concept), Modern Orthodox do not. The concept cannot only apply to things that you want to assur. When others do that, you call it picking and choosing and then try to kick them out or Orthodoxy.
3. R. Schachter certainly deserves respect. but you are saying that he is allowed make psak how he wants, not necessarily follow the usual rules, and everyone, even those who have not chosen to follow his psak, have to follow his psak until someone as prominent(determined by….you? what are the criteria for this prominence?) rules differently. So the residents of Efrat, where Rav Riskin is the city rav, cannot follow his psak? If my rav says it is ok, I cannot follow that psak? How do you get to the point where you assur people from following the psak of their own rabbi?
“Jewish Observer: I am all in favor of seeking to identify and understand any and all aspects of R. Schachter’s ruling”
– merely stating that you are in favor of something does not make it the case. The reality is that – just above – you cried foul on someone for doing just that, implying that so seeking is tantamount to delegitimizing. I must say that your debating technique is reminiscent of the famous Cassius Clay rope-a-dope; whereby if you are lacking fortitude you win by tiring out your opponent. I would bet high that RYBS would have preferred the fortitude approach.
The gemara’s prohibition is not limited to gemara. Hence the Chafetz Chaim had to argue that that Gemara did not apply in modern conditions. Virtually all modern poskim accept the CC’s revolutionary psak and agree that it is permissible and indeed necessary to teach women those aspects of Torah that are necessary for their spiritual development in the modern world. The only debate is which aspects of Torah are beneficial for women to study and which are unnecessary or even harmful. See Rabbi Dr. Benny Brown’s extensive analysis of the CC’s psak and how it emerges from the CC’s over all derech in psak and hashkafa in דיני ישראל כד תשס”ה.
Dr. Stadlan: I stand corrected. Lacking a Chumash on hand, I mistook the full scenario, having had in mind the Rashi there (from Chazal) about Bnos Tzelofchad standing at the beis medrash, before Moshe and then Elazar. I share your questions on R. Schachter’s position, although ultimately I defer to his position. As I wrote previously, his ruling is most bolstered by the logic of RS Lieberman – I find that to be the most compelling of all. You write: “…but you are saying that he is **allowed** make psak how he wants, **not necessarily follow the usual rules**, and everyone, even those who have not chosen to follow his psak, have to follow his psak…” The phrases around which I placed asterisks bring us back to the earlier point: I have a very hard time accepting statements about “allowing” RHS to pasken a certain way, or stating that he may not be following the rules, etc. having a title of chief rabbi/rav of a city, or even a country, with all due respect, does not make one an eminent posek, and does not grant one license to dispute other eminent poskim.
Jewish Observer: Please see the quotes in the paragraph above. It is those sentiments that I oppose. Anyone who knows me is aware that I am a critical thinker and do not espouse the current notions of some who refuse to question and understand, and who refuse to be mechadesh in their learning. The difference is between understanding and discounting.
Dr. Shoshan: Agreed 100%. The reason that TSBP comes up, though, as the parameter, is that much of straight TSBP is not seen as necessary for the spiritual development (and practical halachic observance) you reference, unlike the other subjects taught at Bais Yaakov schools.
כל העדה means the Sanhedrin (as it does in Bamidbar 27:21). See Yad Ramah to Bava Basra 119b:
יד רמ”ה מסכת בבא בתרא דף קיט עמוד ב
וא”ת בנות צלפחד מפני מה עמדו לפני אלעזר הכהן ולפני הנשיאים וכל העדה מאחר שהיה משה רבינו מצוי. לפי שהיה משה רבינו חולק להן כבוד שמינה את זה כהן גדול ואת אלו נשיאים ואת אלו סנהדרין, ובבית המדרש היו יושבין והלכו ועמדו לפני כולן כרבי אליעזר.
R. Gordimer- basically you are utilizing Da’as Torah. You have identified a person who you feel is an eminent posek and you are following him, whether you understand his reasoning or not, or even have a source for the psak. The problem occurs when you claim that everyone else has to follow not only this Da’as Torah approach, but accept your definitions of eminence. I hope you can see how unacceptable this is to anyone who does not share your particular point of view. Now you will claim that R. Riskin or others are following some ‘illegitimate’ hashkafa or are influenced by ideologies outside of Halacha. But if R. Riskin was influenced by some ideology that you thought was kosher, you wouldnt have any problem with him using that hashkafa to make psak, in the same way that you dont disagree with R. Schachter doing so. The difference in your mind is that R. Schachter has the status to do so, and has the ‘right’ ideology’, and that R. Riskin lacks the stature and has the ‘wrong’ ideology. Otherwise there is no difference. So when you claim it is all about halacha, it really isn’t. It is about delegitimizing those whose hashkafa you dont agree with.
The truth is that many, perhaps the majority of Modern Orthodoxy dont agree with the ideology that R. Shachter is using- women are obligated to avoid the public sphere. They certainly dont follow it in practice- so if they do follow it, the must all be sinners.
You also describe feminism as anti-Halachic. The truth is that in this context, all feminism means is that everyone- women, deaf/mutes, converts, the blind, and those with other traditional halachic handicaps, are encouraged to be able to maximize what they are able to do within Halacha. Halacha has found ways for all those other groups to maximize participation with minimal outcry. Previous disabilities have been removed. But when it comes to women, those with your outlook all of a sudden cry heresy. It makes no sense.
I would emphasize that my point regarding the source for R. Schachter’s position remains a mystery, and the position is directly contradicted by a specific story in the Torah, not to mention multiple situations in shas. While the lack of a source may not bother you, given your Da’as Torah approach, I hope that it will bother those who prefer to think about and understand their halacha.
The issue is not based on ideology but on halachic expertise. Now, of course, someone who has such expertise but rejects Torah fundamentals cannot be followed for psak, but I defer to R. Schachter not because of his hashkafa, but his halachic preeminence. Of course, if someone such as R. Dovid Feinstein, R. YD Bleich, Rav Willig, or the like, would pasken that women may be ordained as rabbis, I would consider it a legitimate machlokes ha-poskim, but that is not the case.
Feminism and equal rights are different concepts. I would cry heresy likewise would someone argue that a Zar may duchen, as the rules of Kehuna no longer apply – or that we can now elect to become Kohanim. It is not an issue of a different approach, but an approach that defies fundamentals of the process.
I likewise have questions on R. Schachter’s approach, but I defer to it, as no one with equal weight has argued, and those of equal weight undoubtedly concur with his basic conclusion about ordaining women. This is not Daas Torah, but adherence to the halachic system.
Dr Bil-name any of RYBS’s talmidim muvhakim other than RAL who have a PhD. Certainly,R Moshe Twersky ZL, HaShem Yimkam Damo, and Yivadleinu Lchaim Aruchim R Mayer Twersky, R Y Lichtenstein, R Shurkin, as well as RHS don’t have a Phd. Like it or not, RYBS never demanded that his talmidim at all times obtain a PhD in exisential philosophy. That may have been very necessary when Kant, etc was au courant, but today, having a stomache full of Shas and Poskim and knowledge of Halacha LMaaseh are the building blocks to being a Ben Torah and a Talmid Chacham. I remain convinced that RYBS, in all of his writings, championed the Chiddush ( as in the sense of a new understanding, as defined by the Gra) that one could be a Ben Torah and Talmid Chacham in a very profound sense of the term-even with a college education, and that all of his hashkafic writings reinforced that Chiddush.
MB-I stand by my comments re R Riskin’s evolution to the LW of MO.It was and is painful to see how someone who was a an amazing rebbe with a great sense of Kavod HaTorah, who valued Talmud Torah BRabim, and reclaimed the UWS from a secular Jewish desert and helped transform it into a Makom Torah, overlooked the radical philosophical roots of feminism, especially in the feminist critique of the nuclear family by Betty Friedam, one of the primarily Jewish founders of feminism as a ” comfortable concentration camp” . That comment alone should have been raised a red flag that any attempts at legitimizing the feminist critique of halacha would lead to more demands by feminists and their supporters in the area of ritual and over reading texts to support the same. (There is no doubt IMO that the acceptance of the feminist critique of the nuclear family played no small role in the acceptance of gay rights within the US.) The reaction of the Charedi world to his attempts to have Nechama Leibowitz Zicronah Livracha speak behind a mechitzah to a male audience is well known.
Noah Stadlan-compare the reaction to R Riskin’s book by R Gedalyah Schwartz in Tradition, and the efforts of R Willig who sweated out every word of every line in the PNA with ROY ZL and Yivadleinu Lchaim R ZN Goldberg. The RCA’s PNA is legally sound, and has become very accepted within the MO/RIETS/YU worlds. Would you let your children get married without a PNA?
Noam Stadlan: I have no doubt that if anyone here were asked for the names of the preeminent physicians, attorneys, investment advisers, or even contractors in their locales they would have no difficulty doing so and if those names were cross-referenced an easily identifiable short list would emerge. Yet, for some reason when it comes to determining who are the gedolei Yisroel preeminent in halacha and the core of mesorah we are uncertain who they may be? Really?
Relying on the arbiters of mesorah to ascertain what is or is not within the bounds of proper conduct in all areas of living – as opposed to the supremacy of one’s own reason and understanding – is not a weakness or flaw. It is in fact a mitzvah d’oraisa and intrinsic in the acceptance oyl malchus shomayim. Even if one challenges the more recent definition of Da’as Torah and chooses to be unbound by its implications, the transmission of mesorah by authoritative leaders has functioned since Sinai and held us together for thousands of years. Consequently, anyone promoting an unprecedented alteration in observance and practice would most certainly have to be clearly recognized as one of those select leaders. Is it your contention that Rabbi Riskin is counted among today’s gedolim? And I’m sure you know even a well-accepted gadol whose point of view is challenged by the majority of his peers can remain simply a daas yachid who carries limited consequence for the furtherance of Jewish life.
Maintaining the prohibition for women to serve as rabbonim or dayanim does not diminish the maximal participation in Yiddishkeit they may have; it simply defines what the boundary of that involvement can be. I am not disenfranchised because as a Yisroel I cannot receive 5 selaim for a pidyon haben. And Halacha has not found “solutions” for every other group you mention. A cheresh may still not blow shofar for the kahal nor can a blind man leyn as neither of them are among those who have the obligation to perform the particular mitzvah.
Steve Brizel, Please re-read what I wrote. as i said, the rav ZTL did not expect anything from ALL of his talmidim. As to who of his talmidim muvhakim beyond RAL, had/have a Ph.D., try the person RAL considers perhaps the Rav’s best talmid. (Hint – a contemporary of RAL.) Remember, few if any people even approximate the Rav’s abilities so don’t expect many examples of both the lomdus and the Ph.D. degree. I assure you, the Rav did not have in depth conversation wrt hashkafa/philosophy with many/most/any of the people you mentioned. I know that because one of the (few) people (a frum philosophy professor) with whom he (often) did, told me so. But if want some other names who even you might consider a talmid muvhak – try his son, his (other) SIL, R. Rosenzweig, R. Mordechovitz, among others. Other rabbis who are / were in a different orbit include Rabbis Lamm, Wurzberger, (j.j.) Shachter, Rakeffet, and even Rabbis Hartman and Rackman, etc. etc.
Of course, in the main, the Rav created students who would enter general society, something he was (very) proud of. With some he maintained a life-long connection. The number of Ph.D.’s, M.D.’s, lawyers, etc. in this area, some/many of whom have retained a connection to Torah/ lomdus, is endless. In my class alone, the number of advanced degrees is rather large across fields as diverse as meteorology, mathematical logic and neurology.
“Other rabbis who are / were in a different orbit include Rabbis Lamm, Wurzberger, (j.j.) Shachter, Rakeffet, and even Rabbis Hartman and Rackman, etc. etc.”
Rabbi Rackman was ordained way before the Rav came to YU, R JJ Schachter was ordained by Tora Vadaas studied for his Phd after Brooklyn College-his connections with YU came later.
“I would suggest that those talmidim muvhakim of RYBS who indeed spent the most time with RYBS in and out of the shiur and understood his kulos, chumros and hanhagos are those who are indeed most entitled to expressing their opinion as to the Mesorah of RYBS.”
Following that to its logical conclusion would not lead to the person who both you and R. Gordimer treat as the one best entitled to express the Mesorah of the Rav-one would look to the opinions and recollections of those who spent the most time dealing halacha lemaaseh with the Rav and those who spent the most time with him outside of shiur which of course includes Boston where the Rav spent a majority of his time,
“I don’t the the evidence jsutifies the conclusion that RYBS expected all of his talmidim to have a PHd or even view secular education as lchatchilah.”
Nobody is making the claim that the Phd would have been suggested for all of his students but certainly the Rav encouraged some of his students to study for a Phd-even those who were not otherwise interested. It was certainly not a bedieved for the Rav for at least some of his close students.
“Like it or not, RYBS never demanded that his talmidim at all times obtain a PhD in exisential philosophy. That may have been very necessary when Kant, etc was au courant, but today, having a stomache full of Shas and Poskim and knowledge of Halacha LMaaseh are the building blocks to being a Ben Torah and a Talmid Chacham.”
I believe all the examples who the Rav encouraged to obtain a Phd were considered by the Rav at least to be among his best students.
BTW an interesting exercise might be for someone to go through all the Graduation programs and smicha convocations from the time when the Rav started to teach at YU until lets say 1976 and list the names of those who won Talmud prizes or main honorees at their Chag Hasmicha-it may surprise many as to whom the Rav considered his prize students.
Unfortunately both R. Gordimer and Robert Lebovits misunderstood my position and probably that of R. Riskin and most everyone else. we are not saying that men are the same as women or that women can perform every function. So talking about Yisraelim duchening or getting pidyon haben is not germane and just a straw person argument. The examples that Rabbi Lebovits gave actually prove the point I was making. The gemara and early poskim state that some of the groups I mentioned are not michuyav in mitzvot and cant get an aliyah. Yet Rabbi Lebovits does not state those restrictions. Why? because poskim realized that those restrictions were based on a different understanding of the issues, and that Halacha mandated that restrictions not be imposed for no good reason. The same process of evaluation and elimination of restrictions where appropriate should also apply to women. It has been done in theory regarding slaves(see article in Torah u’Madda journal recently). However, not only is there resistence to it, but more restrictions without a specific Halachic basis are added on.
R. Gordimer states that women can serve on a beit din with consent of the parties. My guess is that he thinks it is ok for a women to give a lecture in public. The irony is that these are activities in the public square, specifically the activities that R. Schachter says women have to avoid. But it seems that there is no problem with it. But getting a piece of paper that says they can perform ‘moreh Halacha lifnei Rabbo’- something that can be done in private, is however assur. So the rationale doesn’t fit the restriction in the least, and there really does not appear to be any justification for saying that women can do pretty much every specific activity, but cannot have the title(or at least a similar acknowledgement of capacity).
The analogy of finding the best plumber really doesn’t fit. In my field, there are plenty of incredibly smart, well published and nationally reknown professionals who I would not let touch a member of my family. Furthermore, for the vast majority of problems, there are more than one solution, and reasonable professionals can disagree. Once a certain level of competence is achieved, more knowledge or more experience doesn’t necessarily confer an advantage. there is a lot else that goes into it, including common sense, compassion, knowledge and relationship with the patient, etc. I would add that taking the position that R. Riskin or others cannot pasken is an incredible insult to those who gave him semicha. He has semicha, and permission, if not an obligation to pasken. If he isn’t supposed to pasken, or is incapable of it, then he shouldn’t have semicha. The irony is that R. Schachter claims that some of his musmachim shouldn’t pasken, which then brings into question whether he is actually giving them semicha or what sort of semicha, and at the same time says that women cant get even this watered down semicha.
Unfortunately I doubt that I will convince R. Gordimer of anything, since he seems convinced that attempts to remove halachic disabilities from women are inherently heresy(and an article has been written illustrating how R. Schachter has, without precedent, created a narrative linking feminism with heresy- can be found by googling the key words). I hope that those reading with an open mind will realize that while reasonable people can disagree on the limits of halachic abilities of women, the attempt to remove disabilities is not inherently wrong and in fact Halachically mandated, similar to the process that has occurred with the deaf/mute, blind, etc. I also hope that I have demonstrated that the stated basis restricting women from the public square has no specific halachic basis and is trotted out only in specific instances and in fact stems from an ideology that is inherently not Modern Orthodox. Unfortunately I do not have more time to engage in further debate.
and in fact stems from an ideology that is inherently not Modern Orthodox.
Or perhaps there is disagreement over what modern orthodoxy is, philosophically and empirically (that’s my vote)
I must be missing something really obvious, but is Kol Kevudah not an open source for women avoiding the public square?
Kol Kevudah is such a source, but it needs to applied in a consistent and coherent way. I and I presume the others commenting here, have not seen such an exposition of Kol Kevudah based on the history of its interpretation by poskim through the generations. All we get is blog post and ideological attacks.
Dr. Stadlan: This will also be my final reply in our exchange.
This is not about removing disabilities. It is about adhering to an halachic ruling that has not been contested by halachic authorities of equal or greater weight. As such, whether it is felt that the ruling is logical or illogical does not absolve its authority or application.
I also think that we need to focus on the fact that all major poskim agree that women cannot be ordained. It may be that some poskim feel that the logic of RS Lieberman is the controlling reason here (ani ha-katan would surely go that route, were I in the league to adjudicate this), but regardless, this is the consensus, and it must be accepted.
I view Modern Orthodoxy, at least as defined by its leadership, as strict and traditional halachic and hashkafic fidelity, while embracing the positive aspects of outside culture and being part of that culture, within the bounds of Torah. Rejecting halachic authority, even if we cannot swallow its reasoning, is not what Modern Orthodoxy is about.
Rav Rakefet’s name was mentioned in this discussion as a close talmid of the Rav who is a different type than Rav Schachter. It should be noted that on the specific feminism issue and the general issue of YCT/OO generally, he is very, very outspoken, and is completely in Rav Schachter’s camp. He has openly referred to many aspects of YCT and OO as Conservative, primarily because of the feminism issue. He certainly says women rabbis are ossur.
The only difference between him and Rav Schachter is that Rav Schachter says that women rabbis are ossur also because of serara, and Rav Rakefet doesn’t agree with that. Several years ago, Gil Student published an English translation of notes from the Rav’s shiur where the Rav prohibited women rabbis also based on serara, like Rav Schachter.
I have been reading the various comments, responses, responses-to-responses. I think that most of the readers will agree on some red lines as they relate to title of Rabbi or Posek as well as lead roles in religious and shul liturgy. So, what would be more informative would be to peel away the back and forth and discuss in an intellectually honest way, those titles that women may hold and functions that they may perform. Any such discussion must take into account, many of the functions which women are already occupying independent of title. And if they are doing those things anyway, what is so bad about ascribing a title to it, provided that it does not cross the red lines?
Furthermore, to differentiate between titles and job functions what working women are doing quite publically in their professional careers and what they are allowed to do within the community is somewhat inconsistent. At 1:00 PM on Friday, a woman makes a scientific presentation to a very mixed crowd of colleagues at work. But, the same woman is somehow not allowed to speak at 8:30 to family and friends during her son’s Bar Mitzvah seudah for tzniyus reasons? I’d love to see the razzle-dazzle lomdus to explain that one.
Much is this is really just a matter of labeling. No one seems to have a problem with a Kallah Teacher whom everyone knows answers her share Halachic questions. But, call the same woman a Yoetzet and some get up in arms, even if in actuality she consults with a Rav far more often than the former.
I view Rabbis JJ Schachter and Rackman as within the Rav’s orbit despite their semicha coming from elsewhere or an earlier era.
(For personal reasons,) I like your suggestion of finding out the names of students in the Rav’s shiur who won a Talmud prize at commencement. In my year there were 2 prizes awarded; the other prize went to a current RY, who does not have a Ph.D.
On a more serious note, I was / am privileged to be able to speak to two individuals who very close to the Rav and with whom the Rav discussed philosophy and general issues in depth. In both cases, neither ever quotes the Rav as supporting their viewpoint unless the situation is (almost) identical. And when they do, they describe, in detail, the case they heard directly from the Rav. I would suggest that given the diversity and contexts of his various pesakim, that policy be more broadly adopted.
That is not quite an accurate representation of R’ Rakeffet’s position. Less than two weeks ago he gave a shiur: http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/831634/Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff/Responsa_Literature_-19_-_-Rabbi_Shimon_Schwab-s_Description_of_American_Orthodoxy-_03-08-2015#
From a bit before 35 minutes in until around 55 minutes in he gets into a tangential discussion which touches upon these issues.
Dr Bill-IIRC, RER admired but never consider himself bound by RYBS’s views. RDH tragically walked out of Orthodoxy with his views and actions.
“Of course, in the main, the Rav created students who would enter general society, something he was (very) proud of. With some he maintained a life-long connection. The number of Ph.D.’s, M.D.’s, lawyers, etc. in this area, some/many of whom have retained a connection to Torah/ lomdus, is endless. In my class alone, the number of advanced degrees is rather large across fields as diverse as meteorology, mathematical logic and neurology”
Those facts, while undoubtedly true, does not entitle any of them to a right to Pasken or even suggest that they are Baalei Mesorah of RYBS’s kulos, chumros and hanhagos and hashkafa.
The fact that RYBS, but by no means all of his talmidim to obtain a PhD, can be looked at from this POV-a phD was and is a sign of high academic achievement in a time in the 1940s and 1950s when there was no real Kollel in RIETS, and the then developing RIETS kollel was a work in progress, as opposed to being the numerous kollelim within RIETS today. RAL himself noted that RYBS was instrumental in developing the first of the many Kollelim in RIETS which RAL and then RHS were the first Roshei Kollel, and for which any potential RIETS musmach must spend some time learning in his years learning for Smicha. I would suggest that there is definitely a sense of halachic hierarchy that ranges from anyone who learned in RYBS’s shiur and went onto a secular career, to pulpit rabbanim who considered themselves as Talmidim Muvhakim such as RFS, R B Rosensweig, and R Wurzburger, and then such eminent Talmidei Chachamim and Gdolei Torah as R M Genack, RHS and RAL, as well as some of RYBS’s grandchildren-R Moshe Twersky ZL , HaShem Yimkam Damo, and Yivadleinu Lchaim R Mayer Twersky, R Ilson, R Meiselman,R Shurkin and R Y Lichtenstein. I think that debating over what was Ikar and tafel in the world of RYBS was and is a pointless exercise-I do think that one should devour as much of the Halachic and Hashkafic legacy of RYBS from whoever disseminates the same in a faithful and proper manner-regardless of whether the person has a PhD or ever learned in RYBS’s shiur. R B D Schreiber’s Noroas HaRav series and the Machzorim for RH and YK edited by DR Arnie Lustiger both are proof that one can do so without ever having learned in RYBS’s shiur.
Noam Stadlan: I am only Dr. Lebovits; my sons are the rabbis. They worked very hard to earn that status and I would not wish to have it demeaned (more on that later).
If you are correct that R. Riskin does not view men and women as the same and therefore don’t perform all the same functions, then we already agree on a great deal. The sticking point then becomes precisely where do their functions in Jewish life diverge and what tasks and responsibilities are exclusive to each sex. Of course there will be some lines drawn somewhere that define what Halacha will or will not sanction. The reason I chose to use the examples of the cheresh and suma – and not identify where restrictions were lifted – was exactly because at the end of the day some restrictive boundaries remained. Not all activities were permitted.
“The same process of evaluation and elimination of restrictions where appropriate should also apply to women.” Is it your contention that has not been the case? Do you believe poskim for millenia have systematically excluded women from any alteration in their engagement in Jewish life even where it could have been achieved within the accepted parameters of Halacha? Some sort of “war on women”? I’m sure you’re not implying any such thing, in which case we are left with the fact that rabbanus and dayanus were specifically unchanged as to women’s exception from that role. Therefore to establish an institute conferring hora’ah after 5 years of intensive study or 10 years for dayanus is an unprecedented challenge to the mesorah. BTB, referring to the tremendous work required by any candidate for rabbinic standing as “getting a piece of paper” is incredibly disrespectful. My sons worked very hard to achieve their positions and I have no doubt any woman enrolled in R. Riskin’s program will have to do so as well.
R. Gordimer did not say that women can serve on a beis din with the parties’ consent. Rather, for monetary matters – which don’t require a proper beis din to begin with – women can function as mediators and arrive at binding decisions if the parties agree to such an arrangement. Not the same at all.
I never mentioned plumbers though I have nothing against them. I completely agree with your statement that much more than knowledge is considered when determining who is the best in a given field and specialty. And for the vast majority of situations many solutions can be effective and seasoned professionals can disagree. But for the most extraordinary and precedent-setting problems only the best will be consulted. Likewise in decisions effecting the future of Klal Yisroel much more than book smarts are essential for one to be recognized as a Gadol B’Torah, a leader of our time. There must also be a total immersion in the currents of psak, nuanced sensitivity to historical mesorah, character devoid of ego, and the utmost yiras shomayim since their decisions will have awesome consequences for the Nation.
It most certainly would have been insulting of me to say that R. Riskin should not pasken; but since I never made any such statement no apology is necessary. I simply posed the question: Do you identify R. Riskin as one of the gedolei Yisroel in keeping with an action so far beyond anything ever done before in our history?
You have not received an answer that you find satisfactory as to the Halachic source of restricting women’s “public” behavior (which does not mean the same thing as overt activity in the secular world). That doesn’t mean there is no answer, only that you haven’t heard it yet.
I dont want to leave anyone with the impression that I meant to demean anyone. The reference to a ‘piece of paper’ referred to the situation where men and women both learned all that was needed to achieve semicha, yet the women were not given semicha, but the men were. In that case, the only difference was ‘a piece of paper.’
the pshat in the gemara is that kol kevuda is descriptive, not prescriptive. which is why it is applied to non-Jewish women as well(I am aware of alternative understandings in the Rishonim). The Rabbi Frimers referenced an extensive analysis of the topic in their article on Women Tefilla Group which is quite excellent(both the Frimer article and the referenced article): 201. For an extensive review of “Kol kevuda bat melekh penima,” see the series of articles by Meir Shoresh, Shema’atin 17:60 (Tevet, 5741), p. 57; 18:64 (Kislev, 5741), p. 57; 18:65-66 (Nisan, 5741), p. 106; 19:67-68 (Tishrei-Kislev, 5742), p. 75.
Rav Rakefet often raises tangential issues and calls them ‘questions’ without taking a specific stand at that time. He does this to provide context to the issue he is in the middle of discussing. And he addresses those questions in a direct way at a different time.
In the past, when he addressed the issues head on, he has referred to aspects of YCT as OO as Conservative. There is nothing in the 20 minute tangent which contradicts that.
It is true that his view of to’anot might not be the same as Rav Schachter’s. There is space between their positions. But on the issue of women rabbis and the like, their views are the same.
In that 20 minute segment which was a tangent to discuss the concept of “times have changed” he says that someone asked him a שאלה in אישות, medically related. He said that he didn’t want to pasken and he referred the questioner to his Talmidah to get a psak. Then he said (this is an exact quote from the lecture): “Did the Rav ever call a yoetzet halacha to pasken a difficult question involving דיני אישות, intimacy, and dealing with medical issues? I don’t know. So, times have changed. [Students attempt to interrupt at this point but he silences them.] So, do we have a right to get women involved in psak, you understand? Obviously I feel we do.” Now I’m not saying he agrees with what Rabbis Riskin and Weiss are doing. And he is clearly against partnership minyanim*. But do you contend that R’ Schachter agrees with the above quote?
*Speaking of which, he has a line (not in this specific lecture) where he is discussing women leading קבלת שבת, and says that if a guy is looking at the woman and not the siddur then he’s not a Jew, but if he’s looking at the siddur and not the woman then he’s not a man.
“The only difference between him and Rav Schachter is that Rav Schachter says that women rabbis are ossur also because of serara, and Rav Rakefet doesn’t agree with that. Several years ago, Gil Student published an English translation of notes from the Rav’s shiur where the Rav prohibited women rabbis also based on serara, like Rav Schachter.”
Translating notes of a shiur in good faith does not equal a tape/transcript of the shiur in reliability. Notes are by their very nature selective. Context is everything.
Re serara and smicha and the Rav it is not disputed that the Rav permitted gerim to be part of the smicha program of YU.
A Rav in 20th- 21st century America does not have serara-he has the power of persuasion-he can’t force anyone to do anything. Legally, the schul can get rid of him.
I first heard R Riskin espouse female Rabbis well over 40 years ago-I was spending a Shabbos in the UWS of Manhattan and went to LSS-his sermon that Shabbos was advocating female Rabbis. After schul I went over to him and challenged him on it-his answer Rabbi means teacher whats the problem of learning from teachers like Nechamah Lebovitz- said I have no issue in learning from those like her-but the title then is unnecessary provocative. I haven’t changed my opinion in the more than 4 decades. How much R Riskin has changed is an open question.
Two issues that have been ignored throughout this entire discussion are :
1)have any of the women’s programs that feature learning Gemara, as opposed to what is called TSBP, produced a scholar whose level of knowledge remotely approximates that of any Talmid Chacham /
2)has there been any survey as to how and if what manner learning Gemara has impacted on a woman’s level of observance and views towards marriage? IOW, do such programs proceed from an acceptance of the radical feminist critique of the traditional family and seek halachic change in many areas of halacha?
Steve Brizel, I take it you are not a lawyer, who is taught never to ask questions of a witness, to which they do not know the answer.
As to your first question, the first two graduates of R. Riskin’s institution, WIHL, Idit Bartov and Anat Novoselsky, can certainly hold their own. Their published set of tshuvot, though occasionally controversial, compare favorably with similar articles published by their male counterparts. Remember as well, they come from a universe of a few hundred or so women, versus men who come from a universe 2 orders of magnitude larger. Beyond yeshivish / traditional learning, if you were to include the world of academic Talmud, women (of stature) occupy lead professorships at Yale and Stanford.
As to your second question, I have seen no study. By observation, they appear more committed. BTW, one of the leading academics, a woman who has written extensively on women’s issues in the Talmud, went through an orthodox conversion, during her career.
Devorah Zlochower, one of the early graduates of Drisha, and wife of Rabbi Dov Linzer, is one of the most knowledgable Talmidat Chacham I’ve ever seen. Steve Brizel, I don’t know how one tests these things, but I would offer as a candidate to hold her own with any Talmid Chacham anywhere.
Ye’yasher kochakhem to the Talmidei Chakhamim on both sides of this valuable debate. According to an essay available here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/180069059/A-Synagogue-Employing-a-Lady-in-a-Rabbinic-Capacity-doc, this issue indeed represents a controversy between Birkei Yosef, Minchat Chinukh, Yeshu’ot Yisrael and R. Isaac Herzog vs. Rema and Sha’arei Teshuvah. Interestingly, R. Moshe Feinstein appears to have endorsed both sides of the debate, as explained in Section E.
Dr Bill-take a look at an article and a review of the book that you mentioned at Torahmusings. The article and review were quite critical, and viewed the contents , logic and conclusions therein as being driven by the feminist agenda. Moshe Shoshan and others who are engaged and involved in academic Talmud and Judaic studies who post here may disagree-but I think that the case can be made that such study should never be compared with high level Torah study in any yeshiva from RIETS to any yeshiva in the “yeshiva world.” I would suggest that such a study would be helpful-but like the study of the one year gap programs and the phenomenon of “flipping out”, the bottom line is where and how anyone who attends such a program winds up down the road-choice of spouse, community and schools where you send your children are far more indicative of the impact of such programs than how someone thinks and feels upon their return to the US from a year or two in such a program.
Joe36ct-Take a look at Emunah UBitachon of the CI where the CI defines a Talmid Chacham. I am not sure whether the comparison of Hilcos Nidah and exploring contemporaneous practices in the Middle east and its impact on Hilcos Nidah would pass muster under the criteria of the CI.
Steve Brizel, I said “occasionally controversial” and remarkably the review centered on those tshuvot. I guess both author and reviewer have, like most humans, an agenda. But thanks, your response and the back and forth on Hirhurim prove my point completely; both bechhofer and bartov held there own. I assume that is clear. Looking at Hirhurim, i found other reviews, one that i found interesting. its comments on the tshuvot of novoselsky, unlike those of bartov, were largely complementary.
As to academic Talmud, I suggest you read Christine Hayes’ on sugyot in Avodah Zarah, or Prof. Katz’s, the Shabbos Goy or any of hundreds of other books/articles and then explain your position. Frankly, I could not begin to fathom what you were arguing.
“As to academic Talmud, I suggest you read Christine Hayes’ on sugyot in Avodah Zarah”
I think highly of Christine Hayes and watched many of her lectures online including those on the Bible in Open Yale-she is certainly an example of chochma bagoyim.The issue IMO that Steve is raising is who is authorized to be one who could rely on in transmitting our mesorah and certainly it is limited to people who accept our mesorah-by definition a non Jew is not a transmitter of our mesorah. Thus, no matter the knowledge and there certainly have been non Jews that if their knowledge had been combined with being a maamin could be considered a transmitter of mesorah but knowledge is not the sole criterion.. Thus, clearly a priest in the Vatican who knows the words of Shas and rishonim by heart could not be a baal mesorah.
I intentionally did not give Jewish examples of what beliefs etc are necessary to be qualified to be a transmitter of mesorah but that in essence is what is behind the back and forth of the last few comments. It is not a question of academic knowledge to a believer even if the person could answer all questions that are asked of a gadol hador- it is the requirement of accepting the halachik system as binding.
“As to academic Talmud, I suggest you read Christine Hayes’ on sugyot in Avodah Zarah”
I think highly of Christine Hayes and watched many of her lectures online including those on the Bible in Open Yale-she is certainly an example of chochma bagoyim.The issue IMO that Steve is raising is who is authorized to be one who could rely on in transmitting our mesorah and certainly it is limited to people who accept our mesorah-by definition a non Jew is not a transmitter of our mesorah. Thus, no matter the knowledge and there certainly have been non Jews that if their knowledge had been combined with being a maamin could be considered a transmitter of mesorah but knowledge is not the sole criterion.. Thus, clearly a priest in the Vatican who knows the words of Shas and rishonim by heart could not be a baal mesorah.
I intentionally did not give Jewish examples of what beliefs etc are necessary to be qualified to be a transmitter of mesorah but that in essence is what is behind the back and forth of the last few comments. It is not a question of academic knowledge to a believer even if the person could answer all questions that are asked of a gadol hador- it is the requirement of accepting the halachik system as binding
Notes from shiur that have been carefully reviewed are an excellent source for the Rav’s position on things. The Rav would sometimes discuss in shiur the lomdus behind his public policy statements. Only talmidim who were both in shiur and also understood the lomdus could fully understand his public policy positions.
Regarding geirim, in Shiurei HaRav on Yoreh Deah (p.3), the Rav differentiates between geirim and women (the context is hilchos shechita and the topic is serara appointments). He holds that women can not be appointed to any “minui kahal” position, and the position of shul rabbi certainly comes under that definition.
mycroft, I agree with you about who are Baalei Hamesorah, with four provisos. First, in the short term, we follow a posek, without certainty about his long term position in the mesoreh. Most poskim never achieve enduring influence. Second, it is hardly possible to identify such individuals and their relative importance until many generations pass. Often in our history, it took a few hundred years until only their written works, absent contemporary issues in which they were involved, achieved a place in our mesoreh. It is most often their works, not their personalities, that leave a lasting legacy. Individuals can be under and over valued, given their consonance with prevailing attitudes. Third, scholars of note, impact the mesorah to the extent their views become a part of literature that poskim integrate. To date I have seen minimal (to no) impact from academic and scientific studies on baalei hamesoreh. Interestingly, there are a few clear examples of (occasionally incorrect) use by poskim across the spectrum. Fourth, that said, academics have significantly advanced our understanding of the halakhic process and how it has operated.
Notes from shiur that have been carefully reviewed are an excellent source for the Rav’s position on things. The Rav would sometimes discuss in shiur the lomdus behind his public policy statements. Only talmidim who were both in shiur and also understood the lomdus could fully understand his public policy positions”
Obviously notes from a shiur are a valuable source as to what a person believed-but especially for a Brisker chakiras could be raised which the teacher did not follow in practice. Of course a statement from a shiur for which there are other witnesses has much higher credibility than statements told one one one to an individual with no witnesses. There can be faulty memory and more likely a missing of important context in the retelling. Anything said in shiur has to be considered in context with known actions of the speaker-thus in the Ravs case for 40 years he was the unquestioned halachik authority of the RCA thus positions taken by the Halachik Commission when he was unquestioned head probably have the most credibility as to his positions. A great source of credible positions of the Rav would include members of the Maimonides School Committee-their job was essentially meeting when the Rav wanted some action.
The best credibility on any issue are those who dealt with the Rav halacha lemaaseh. Certainly, those who discussed any issue at length with the Rav and had to implement his policy would have the best guess as to the Ravs position-thus it is conceivable/likely that different people might have greater or lesser credibility depending on the issue.
Why the Ravs public positions are being ignored is an interesting question. BTW for whatits worth I certainly agree that the Rav would be opposed to have a female schul Rabbi.
Dr Bill:I certainly agree at least in general terms with your 139PM post
Baruch, I was in shiur for three years (in the late 60’s) as was my BIL, during a three year period over a decade earlier, and we never remember the Rav discussing the rationale behind his public policy decisions. At most, there might be a cursory reference. I doubt he felt we had the perspective required and there were better ways for time to be spent. He would on occasion, spend (limited) time on a practical halakhic matter if it was relevant to the daf. The (few) people with whom he discussed public policy, as opposed to just stating his POV, were generally not his strongest talmidim in shiur. It is well known who those few individuals were. If you occasionally wonder how a talmid muvhak in shiur, can get (hashkafic or public policy) areas very wrong, this might explain it. I did hear that in his 70’s, the Rav became more open with talmidim at YU, but I have no direct knowledge.
Steve Brizel, I don’t know what question you were answering, but it wasn’t mine. Devorah Zlochower is knowledgable in all areas of halacha. I don’t know what you’re referring to with “comparison of Hilcos Nidah and exploring contemporaneous practices in the Middle east and its impact on Hilcos Nidah”, perhaps it is a thesis or a dissertation, but I can assure you that her breath and depth of knowledge extends far beyond that topic.
“The (few) people with whom he discussed public policy, as opposed to just stating his POV, were generally not his strongest talmidim in shiur. It is well known who those few individuals were. If you occasionally wonder how a talmid muvhak in shiur, can get (hashkafic or public policy) areas very wrong, this might explain it.”
It has been my impression that the Rav discussed public policy decisions on a case by case situation with those who had a practical need to know his position-thus if person X had to deal with communal issue Y he would discuss issue Y with person X. By its very nature students in a shiur were not ones who dealt with those issues on a practical basis.
BTW in a similar way when the Rav learnt with certain people outside of YU shiur the same logic applied-learning his Torah at an age when one was not engaged in communal responsibilities would not be the time to learn how the Rav would rule on practical issues.