Rabbi Weiss: Please Don’t Confuse Form with Substance
Winds of secession are in the air. Rabbi Avi Weiss and his disciple, Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, yesterday announced their immediate resignation from the Rabbinical Council of America, and Rabbi Weiss subsequently issued a broad explanation for his new trajectory, presenting his view of the recent history of Orthodoxy and his launching of the Open Orthodox denomination and its rabbinical and educational institutions. (Truth be told, Rabbi Weiss resigned from the RCA many months ago. His announcement of immediate resignation is quite puzzling and appears to be part of a wider plan of action.)
Rabbi Weiss presents Open Orthodoxy as the new manifestation of Modern Orthodoxy, arguing that
Since the early ’90s, Orthodoxy has undergone a number of great shifts. Responding to a precipitous move to the right within Modern Orthodoxy, a plethora of institutions and organizations have emerged. These include the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), Edah, YCT and YM, the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF). In Israel, too, Beit Morasha, Beit Hillel, Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah and others were founded and today women are being ordained (receiving semikha) from Yeshivat Maharat.
Modern Orthodoxy, which 25 years ago faced a significant decline, has been reclaimed by tens, even hundreds of thousands of adherents.
In other words, according to Rabbi Weiss, Open Orthodoxy is merely a continuation of Modern Orthodoxy, after Modern Orthodoxy abandoned its mandate.
Rabbi Weiss further elaborates:
Others, like myself, prefer a new term: “Open Orthodoxy.” In the ’60s and ’70s, Modern Orthodoxy dealt primarily with two issues: secularism and Zionism—more broadly, the modern secular world, and the modern State of Israel. Modern Orthodoxy insisted that one could be Orthodox while embracing the humanities and science, even as one could be Orthodox while committed to the rebirth of the State of Israel.
“Modern” issues of 40 and 50 years ago are no longer modern. We are, in fact, in the postmodern era, as we face new issues and challenges.
The dividing line within Orthodoxy today revolves around inclusivity. Is Orthodoxy inclusive of women—encouraging women to become more involved in Jewish ritual and Jewish spiritual leadership? Notwithstanding the Torah prohibition on homosexuality, are those in such relationships included as full members in our synagogues, and are their children welcomed into day schools? Do we respect, embrace, and give a forum to those who struggle with deep religious, theological, and ethical questions? Do we insist upon forbiddingly stringent measures for conversion, or do we, within halakhic parameters, reach out to converts with love and understanding? Should Orthodox rabbinic authority be centralized, or should it include the wide range of local rabbis who are not only learned but also more aware of how the law should apply to their particular communal situations and conditions? Are we prepared to engage in dialogue and learn from Jews of other denominations, and, for that matter, people of all faiths?
Put simply, is our focus on boundaries, fences, high and thick—obsessing and spending inordinate amounts of time ostracizing and condemning and declaring who is not in—or is our focus on creating welcoming spaces to enhance the character of what Orthodoxy could look like in the 21st century? To quote the late Rabbi David Hartman’s description of having been raised Orthodox: “I grew up in a home where I didn’t feel piety needed an object to hate. I felt close to God without saying, ‘I don’t like him, I don’t go into his shul.’ I never felt piety through anger and negation, but piety was the result of internal conviction and joy.”
This is Open Orthodoxy. While insisting on the foundational divinity of Torah and observance of halakha, this Orthodoxy is not rigid. It is open to a wider spectrum.
Unfortunately, Rabbi Weiss’ account of recent Orthodox history leaves much to be desired, and his association of Open Orthodoxy with Modern Orthodoxy is likewise quite wanting.
Modern Orthodoxy has not made “a precipitous move to the right”, as Rabbi Weiss asserts. While Torah study and mitzvah observance have dramatically increased over the years in most Modern Orthodox communities, thank God, these communities are still Zionistic, committed to secular education, and heavily involved with the “outside world”.
Geirus (conversion) standards in Modern Orthodox communities, as emphatically insisted upon by Rav Yosef Dov Ha-Levi Soloveitchik zt”l of RIETS, included and continue to include an unqualified Kabbalas Ha-Mitzvos (Acceptance of the Mitzvos) requirement. Due to a concern of some Modern Orthodox rabbis failing to maintain consistent standards, and in order to assure a uniform, lechatchilah (best practices) caliber of geirus, the RCA entered into a unified conversion protocol with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. For Rabbi Weiss and his colleagues in the Open Orthodox rabbinate to portray this as the disenfranchisement of local rabbis in favor of unnecessarily tight standards and unfair oversight, is very inaccurate, to put it kindly.
Taking a step back, the issue here is one of form versus substance. For Modern Orthodoxy, the rule of Halacha and Mesorah (traditional Torah practices and attitudes) is a must. Deviation from Halacha and Mesorah, be it in the cast of mitzvah observance, beliefs, synagogue practices, and so forth, is not in the equation. (It is unfortunately true that much of Modern Orthodoxy has routinely suffered from some laxity in observance on the part of laity, but we speak here of official policy and accepted theology.)
In stark contrast, Open Orthodoxy has materially departed from this model and commitment. Its ordination of female clergy, significant modification to geirus procedures, inclusion and embrace of heresy, celebration of same-sex marriage and acceptance of homosexual relations, deletion of berachos from the daily service, and much more (please see, e.g., here and here), distinguish the Open Orthodox denomination from Orthodoxy of any type. Unlike Modern Orthodoxy, which has retained the substance of Orthodoxy and has adopted some differing forms, Open Orthodoxy has abandoned much of the substance of Orthodoxy and has instead adopted new and foreign substance – substance that is actually quite similar to that of the Conservative movement of several decades prior. (Please see here.)
The immense boundaries and fences of which Rabbi Weiss speaks are an exaggeration and a straw man, but rest assured that whatever boundaries and fences needed to be erected were so done in order to protect Orthodoxy from the assimilationist practices of the heterodox movements, which plunged headlong into halachic dilution, compromise, and abandonment, and have all but disavowed any commitment to Jewish tradition or continuity.
Rabbi Weiss: It is Open Orthodoxy, not the rest of Orthodoxy, which has veered. Unfortunately, your new denomination, which has already created a seismic schism, will be responsible for any new boundaries and fences that mainstream Orthodoxy may in the future be forced to erect.
In some locations, the schism is already manifest. In the greater Washington DC area (where I have relatives) there has already been formation of two rival rabbinical Vaadim. I believe there are other locales where this has happened. This is only nationalizing what has occurred locally.
The problem is that “modern” signifies up to date. In the popular mind, this can mean keeping up with the changing values of secular society, as opposed to applying Torah values to the current situation.
Yasher Koach Rabbi Gordimer for calling a spade a spade and not a manual earth restructuring implement. The themes that is constant amongst OO/NC’s activities is that they are attempting to intellectually assimilate Orthodoxy into a post modern value system that is based on various forms of feminism, “social justice” and a rights instead of responsibilities attitude that is directly in contrast to halacha. Although modern orthodoxy by its very name will have some evolution b/c of the modernity that it interacts with changes over time, there are boundaries that when you go over them you forgot the Orthodox part. It should be noted that the comment by Rabbi Adlerstein about “mazel tov America on the SCOTUS ruling” was said by Ari Hart from YCT. He said Lo’ Tov Heyos Adam Levado, but he conveniently forgot the rest of the pasuk “e’eseh lo ezer k’negdo”. But despite OO/NC’s sad path we bh have the continue flourishing (albeit not perfect) growth of Torah Judaism throughout the U.S.A. and Eretz Yisroel. Passaic, Baltimore, the 5 towns, Monsey and Lakewood are all flourishing and cities throughout the country have demographically growing Jewish communities that are committed to Toras Hashem and able to function to a degree with modernity.
Again, there is silence by the RCA and OU. They [RCA] reiterated their opposition to women rabbis but not much else. Why didn’t they expel Avi Weiss before he resigned? Why didn’t they say that any RCA member who hires a female clergy or YCT male rabbi faces expulsion? Why didn’t they issue a proclamation that no YCT graduate should be hired as a rabbi or educator? WHy don’t they officially proclaim that OO is a new denomination outside of Orthodox Judaism? Why are shuls with YCT rabbis allowed to remain in the OU?
“Geirus (conversion) standards in Modern Orthodox communities, as emphatically insisted upon by Rav Yosef Dov Ha-Levi Soloveitchik zt”l of RIETS, included and continue to include an unqualified Kabbalas Ha-Mitzvos (Acceptance of the Mitzvos) requirement. Due to a concern of some Modern Orthodox rabbis failing to maintain consistent standards, and in order to assure a uniform, lechatchilah (best practices) caliber of geirus, the RCA entered into a unified conversion protocol with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. For Rabbi Weiss and his colleagues in the Open Orthodox rabbinate to portray this as the disenfranchisement of local rabbis in favor of unnecessarily tight standards and unfair oversight, is very inaccurate, to put it kindly.”
The RCA conversion protocol you linked to, from 2007, was excellent. Unfortunately, one person whose name heads that RCA document created a huge chillul Hashem with his personally scandalous behavior, totally at odds with what Torah morality requires.
Another signatory subsequently stepped down from the RCA conversion committee, saying that in the wake of the aforementioned scandal, the RCA had come under pressure from the media and feminist groups to significantly weaken its conversion standards.
In stepping down, R’ Steven Pruzansky wrote:
“The GPS (Gerus Protocol and Standards) system did not fail in DC; a person failed. That person allegedly breached every norm in our protocols. There is an impulse – quite common on one side of the political divide in America – that if someone breaks the law, what is needed is a restatement of the law, or another law. But if laws stopped criminals, there would be no criminals. We have plenty of laws.
“The GPS system has always had its detractors, inside and outside the RCA, and those detractors are exploiting this crisis to change the system.”
It should be pointed out that among the seemingly long list of organizations that R’ Weiss lists, one is defunct, two are headed by him, and two are basically one-man operations of the same man.
That’s the American side. The Israeli side is, notably, nothing like the American one. None of the organizations he mentions can be described as “Open Orthodox.” Israeli Orthodoxy (in all forms) is so different from any form of American- and Israeli society is so different from that of American Jews- that, ironically, “Modern Orthodox” can both mean much more conservative than, say, the YU form in the US and *also* mean much more “innovative” than the YCT form- sometimes in the same organization, and yet always not as “pushing the envelope” as the OO are. He’s simply being dishonest in claiming them.
Mind, there *are* groups in Israel that do go as far as OO. But it’s clear why he’d want to avoid mentioning them here.
I am waiting for an essay in which HaRav Gordimer comes out for, not against, something
Ever hear the expression-If you don’t like the way that I play ball, I’ll just take my bat and play elsewhere. That IMO is the sum and substance of the statement that is the subject of R Gordimer’s excellent article.
“In Israel, too, Beit Morasha, Beit Hillel, Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah and others were founded and today women are being ordained (receiving semikha) from Yeshivat Maharat.”
The updated version of the Tablet article reads:
“…women are being ordained (receiving semikha) from Yeshivat Maharat as well as Yeshivat Har’el.”
“Modern Orthodoxy has not made “a precipitous move to the right”, as Rabbi Weiss asserts.”
It depends on how one defines MO- but one can’t ignore that there certainly has been a major change in the YU smicha program since the Rav stopped being the effective head of RIETS. See egFrom my previous cross- currents post
“In the United States, I believe that the influence of my father, the Rov, is on the decline…And yet, there are former students, notable among them a number of faculty members or former faculty members at RIETS, who have not only turned their backs on the complex worldview the Rov espoused but are anxious to claim that the Rov him-
self turned his back on this view. It has even been claimed that “Whatever
he (the Rov) did aside from learning Torah came to him coincidentally.”
It is, indeed, preposterous to think that his major philosophical essays,
which interweave general philosophy and science, are “coincidental.” From page 15 of pdf file of article by Dr Tovah Lichtenstein
Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2015/05/20/rav-aharon-lichtenstein-
The following footnote from an article by Prof Waxman might indicate why RIETS does not reflect Modern Orthodoxy or the Orthodoxy of the Rav
“7 This may, in part, help explain the perception of the “move to the right.” It may well be that Modern Orthodox rabbis, including those ordained at RIETS in the latter part of the twentieth century, were considerably more to the rightthan were their predecessors. In other words, the move to the right may have been within the RIETS semikhah (ordination) program, under the influence of a revisionist approach to the thinking of its revered head, the late Rabbi JosephB. Soloveitchik (“the Rav”), rather than within Orthodoxy as a whole, but is so glaring because rabbis are much more visible than the laity. On revisionism with respect to the Rav, see Lawrence Kaplan, “Revisionism and the Rav: The Struggle for the Soul of Modern Orthodoxy,” Judaism 48,3 (Summer 1999): 290-311
The change in RIETS means that effectively the center of Rabbonim who received smicha from RIETS are not MO-thus the opening for Rabbi Weiss to attract MO.
One should not construe from my observations that I agree with much of what Rabbi Weiss does-I am merely arguing that the revisionism of RIETS/YU away from the Rav and his hashkafa left an opening for YCT to capture some of the old MO.
Bob Miller brings up an important point. He writes:”The problem is that “modern” signifies up to date. In the popular mind, this can mean keeping up with the changing values of secular society, as opposed to applying Torah values to the current situation.”
I agree with the first sentence but would rewrite the second as follows: In the charedi mind, we must maintain previous practice even in new circumstances, as opposed to applying Torah values to the current situation. Over a century ago, secular knowledge was of little value in Eastern Europe, a society that charedim are trying to recreate. No one outlawed boys after bar-mitzvah or a few years later from apprenticing or otherwise working. Secular education was then not the perquisite to employment it has become. Current opposition to secular education was the result of reapplying rules to a new, modem, changed environment. Zionism represents a similar albeit less obstinate stance by many in the chareidi community.
Currently I would argue that other issues from geirut to ikrai he-emunah to the role of women have witnessed a slide to the right. Only in such an environment, can some in the charedi world, co-opt the Rav ztl. FWIW, I believe women as Toanot, Yoatzot in many areas, talmidot chachamim, is where women’s “rabbinic” roles should be focused. But let’s be clear; there have been excesses on both right and the left. But as Nachum pointed out above, developments in Israel, which I believe involve first-rate talmidai chachamim and scholars, are happening in a quieter more significant way. I cannot recall reading anything of significance, except for a few random teshuvot or articles, by the people strongly associated with OO. OTOH, I have read many books / seforim (and teshuvot / articles) written by Israeli authors whose views are hardly chareidi. Ki mitzion taitzeh Torah may be realized in an important way.
So congrats on having Avi Weiss removed from the RCA. Wait, he wasn’t? He resigned and left on his own terms? Why was he still part of it? Didn’t the RCA, an entity which Rabbi Gordimer is an executive board member, disapprove and expel him for all the things that Rabbi Gordimer wrote about? Oh, it didn’t. Rabbi Gordimer – I have said it before and I’ll say it again, instead of these “masterful” writings which accomplish nothing practical, have your organization do something like issue a proclamation that no YCT graduate should be hired as a rabbi or educator or more importantly, that OO is a new denomination outside of Orthodox Judaism and expel any shul/rabbi who subscribes to their theories.
Would the RCA permit a conservative/reform rabbi join its ranks? Why then does it allow OO believers into the club?
One thing I miss about not living in Riverdale any more is the Friday night davening at HIR. Truly special. The place is packed–men, women, and children. The davening, singing and kavannah are amazing. Quite a few of these individuals were not raised going to shul on Friday nights, let alone being observant Jews.
This doesn’t happen without Rav Avi. He has impacted more individuals to become more observant Jews than most other individuals in the world–period.
That alone merits him hakarat hatov for generations. Some of the vitriol spewed here is beyond contempt.
Rabbi Gordimer has written another of his endless articles pointing out that Open Orthodoxy is a lot different than the version he believes in. I have exhausted my responses as it is futile. I agre with Reb Yid that what many miss is the personality and mission of Rav Avi Weiss and his charisma. Rabbi Gordimer’s articles are totally beside the point for most of the people who are attracted to his camp.
Since so many of the participants in this blog seem highly educated and sophisticated, please take a moment and enlighten me as to when in Jewish History, logical and halachic arguments have stopped or even slowed a new movement in Judaism. I know that the Rav, whom many of you seem to know much better than I (I only heard him once)said it was better to daven at home than listen to a shofar in a mixed seating Conservative shul. Did that make the slightest difference in reality? Did anyone listen to that psak? The Vilna Gaom condemned Chassidism in the harshest terms and refused to even meet the Baal hatanya,did that slow the growth of that revolutionary movement that was vigorously opposed by the scholars of that time? What effect do any of you expect from vituperation. No one argues that you are factually acurate much of the time, but,so what. All you accomplish is self satisfaction that you are the real Jews and the young men and women at Chovevai and Yeshivat Maharat are off the derech. They aren’t closing down because they are meeting a desire and a yearning by many Jews for a differnt approach. With all due respect, you just don’t get it. Rav Avi is writing that what he has done is emphasize inclusiveness over exclusiveness. That is the polar opposite of what many of you advocate.
Well, guess what. The frum world is far more in danger from being overtaken by people who reject science and secular education and lock women up behind higher and more opaque walls and won’t print their picture. I think the conquering of our communities by extreme misogynists is a bigger danger than tolerating some relative free thinkers whose brains still work. It is preferable in my mind to mindless acceptance that the world is 5,750 years old and that Slifkin is the main danger to the planet. Which team is really normal?
Dr Bill (regarding your comment of June 30, 2015 at 9:46 pm),
Above (June 30, 2015 at 11:50 am), I wrote “applying Torah values to the current situation” intentionally, as that is the basic Hirschian approach to Torah Im Derech Eretz. To Open Orthodoxy, Torah values themselves are negotiable. To some others, the nature of the current situation is irrelevant to practice.
After hearing that “Smicha” had been given to 2 women granting them, according to the Harel program, “Rabbinic” status, I spoke to
2 very respected modern orthodox Rabbinic graduates of Yeshivat Har Etzion about the the director of Harel and his’/ their decision
to grant rabbinic ordination to these women. I asked if the Rav of the Rabbinic leaders of Harel , Rav Aharon Lichtenstein AND his
revered father0-in-law were in favor of granting ordination to women, even if the opposition might not have to do with their level of mastery
of the subject matter. Their response was unequivocal-BOTH Rav Lichtenstein AND RAv Soloveitchik were NOT in favor of granting
Rabbinic Ordination to women. and THAT does NOT mean that women are inferior. Not EVERY Kohen could be chosen to become the Kohen Gadol. Do the leaders of Maharat and Harel NOT think that there might be a Tzniut and Hirhur problem if a male Jew consults a female Rabbi? There are Halachot that Chazal instituted in order to keep the Jew away from potentially “breaking” a Negative Torah command.The Kohen Gadol was removed from his home a week before Yom Kippur and kept under observation so that he would not become a Baal Keri and become disqualified to lead Am Yisrael on Yom Kippur. NOT EVERYTHING GOES! I admire Rabbis Weiss and Hefter for EVERYTHING they’ve done for the Jewish people.Sometimes Rabbis make mistakes-serious ones.
STOP! YOU’RE CROSSING INTO A DANGER ZONE!
A masterful move on Rabbi Weiss’s part. Now there are no barriers to him or his students from taking leadership over the Jewish Theological Seminary. In one shot they can provide new blood and argue they are making JTS frummer, and at the same time have control of millions in Manhattan real estate and one of the largest and most valuable Judaica libraries in the world.
@ Rabbi Oberstein – Rabbi Gordimer may have written another article pointing out OO/NC’s fallacies and you seem to have ince againresponded not on the substance of the issue but with a mixture of non sequitur issues about “science” and “Slifkin” and arguing that strategically OO/NC isnt going to be affected by R’ Gordimer’s work. If you think R’ Gordimer wont be effective then why respond every time? Do you think your comment will be effective?
If I can paraphrase the title of this very article, you are again “confusing form and substance” you actually are arguing Avi Weiss’s charisma is more important then the facts. First of all, your examples of R’ Soloveitchik’s opposition to davening in a conservative synagogue and the Gaon’s opposition to Chassidus are actually excellent examples of how upholding our mesorah and opposing deviances from Torah has made a tremendous impact. The Conservative movement today is rapidly crumbling in part b/c of Orthodox opposition that exposed the theologically untenable positions of a non-halachik movement and the Gaon’s opposition will even be admitted to by chassidim as helping temper any extremities in the movement to actually ensure they stay within the fold (obviously there is still work to be done in changing the chassidim a little :). With all due respect, if you do not see how issues such as torah min hashamayim, taking out brachos from davening and redefining rabbonus based on feminist ideology are bigger issues then the height of a mechitzah or of a picture of a women in a paper (which I agree with you), then you just dont get it. Also “extreme misogyny” and “rejecting science” are your words. Who are you talking about? B/c if you believe in krias yam suf or the ananei hakavod or any nes then many would call you a “rejector of science”. And extreme misogyny? I am pretty sure you dont support female Rabbinic ordination so are you a misogynist? If what you want is a cultural Orthodox Judaism that you grew up with 40 years ago a so called “middle of the road” that you like to say, I am the first to endorse tradition but realize while the torah remains constant the milieu that it finds itself in can change and we have to adapt.
So perhaps you yourself have given 2 options as to what defending Orthodoxy from the “vituperative” attacks that OO/NC level at Orthodoxy (note Avi Weiss’s language above in criticizing the “hate” of thhose to his right) can do. 1) It can ensure its exclusion from Orthodoxy (and not take anyone with it) and will set it up for eventual failure, or it can cause OO/NC to temper its behavior and hopefully eventually return to a Judaism that is based on mesorah and halacha and is not intellectually assimilated.
Inclusiveness can have both good and bad aspects. Jews have been rightfully choosy about which ideas and practices we consider Jewish. Some are compatible with Torah while others are not. We don’t pasken by plebiscite.
Sick of reading comments from Jews who have forgotten what Torah and Halacha are about. Weiss is a renegade and should not be, in any way, considered a rabbi. Rabbi Gordimer’s post here is absolutely right. But, as far as the OU and the RCA are concerned; they have blackened their names by not ousting Weiss. So, how can they be trusted? Something is not right – are they all being blackmailed, or ??? There is no such thing as ‘open’ orthodoxy – it’s oxymoronic. Torah is Divine and no one can fool around with it. In the end, all heresy will wind up in the trashbin of history. In the meantime, it is causing tzarot to innocent people who don’t know better.
To pick up on one of Rabbi Oberstein’s points–Rav Avi has said many times that the Jewish community is only as strong as its most vulnerable link.
This is the crux of what he means by inclusiveness. He is sensitive to every individual, no matter his/her background or obstacles he/she may face, in affording him/her opportunities to be a full participant in Jewish life. There have been amazing Shabbatonim with children who are developmentally challenged (mentally or physically). One of my most enduring memories of Rav Avi was the Dvar Torah he gave that Shabbat. It was directed at those individuals, so they could understand it–but everyone else in the congregation could learn from it, too. It was deeply, deeply moving and the furthest thing from condescension–every person in that sanctuary felt validated.
At my son’s pidyon haben, he took time to also hold up our twin son (born minutes later) for a time so that he would not be neglected, either. He holds free Sedarim during Pesach to include more recent immigrants and more “marginal” Jews who might otherwise be left out.
The list is endless. He and his disciples have attracted a tremendous following because this kind of attention to personal detail and inclusivity is simply not the norm in most other Orthodox setting. In fact, quite the opposite is usually the case.
If this isn’t your cup of tea–I fully respect that. But think twice before you cast heaping insults on Rav Avi–he’s done a tremendous amount of good in his life.
Avi Weiss (the founder of “Open Orthodoxy”) said:
“The dividing line within Orthodoxy today revolves around inclusivity.”
Authentic Judaism is NOT INCLUSIVE.
That is hard to accept for Jews raised on
American-style egalitarianism, but it is true.
See Shir HaShirim, chapter 4, verse 12:
My [beloved] sister is like a fenced garden;
My bride is like a sealed fountain.
ספר שיר השירים פרק ד
יב) גַּן נָעוּל אֲחֹתִי כַלָּה גַּל נָעוּל מַעְיָן חָתוּם
@ Reb Yid
Noble words and kol hakavod for people being excellent social workers. One simple question for you, does Satmar’s excellent bikur cholim system mean you agree with them on the way they view the State of Israel?
Mycroft-you are rehashing your previously expressed POV, which I have responded to previously here and elsewhere. Ain Chadash Tachas HaShemesh.Yet, you continually to ignore the fact that noone today in the MO world even remotely approaches RYBS’s unique combination of Gadlus BaTorah and secular knowledge. Just as one must haul down the Confederate flag and admit that Communism was a lost cause, so too, one must simply acknowledge that noone was bequeathed the full package of RYBS while realizing that YCT and its leaders simply were never considered inheritors of any portion of the Mesorah of RYBS. To assume otherwise is revisionism wrought large.
Viewing that fact as the cause for the development of YCT IMO lacks any awareness of that YCT and its fellow travelers do not view themselves as talmidim of any Gadol BaTorah with regards to Halacha and Hashkafa. In the wake of the departure of the founder of YCT from the RCA, the answer to the question as to who should be the address for any halachic and hashkafic questions in the committed MO world in the US is obvious-the RY of RIETS.
Reb Yid-One can and should easily be able to applaud Satmar’s amazing Bikur Cholim system which sets the mark for that amazing mitzvah and obviously disagree with and ignore the Satmar “Shitah” on the State of Israel, which one can easily find many statements of Rishonim and Acharonim who disagreed with the same.
I’ll do you one better–I disagree with much of Rav Avi’s politics, particularly regarding Israel.
It’s not difficult to find all kinds of disagreements with all sorts of folks if that’s the mindset we’re in. Chabad (or parts of it, anyways) have all kinds of pronouncements that make some wonder how “Jewish” (and/or “halachic”) they are.
But the qualities I enumerated above are what I’m looking for in my Rav. If I’m especially lucky, like when I was living in LA, I have the privilege of having a rabbi like Rav Kanefsky who also embodies my political beliefs–but that is a bonus.
We should stop spending so much time trying to find faults with Jews who are trying to make the Jewish and Orthodox worlds a better place.
Mr. Cohen, Your comment: “Authentic Judaism is NOT INCLUSIVE…” reflects a denial of the authentic history of halakha (and particularly hashkafa), documented in 2 centuries of rabbinic literature.
Bob Miller, I am unsure about what you mean when you write: “I wrote “applying Torah values to the current situation” intentionally, as that is the basic Hirschian approach to Torah Im Derech Eretz.”
There have been many approaches to “applying Torah values to the current situation.” In addition to the Hirschian approach, approaches by Rabbis Hildesheimer, Kook and Soloveitchik ZTL have been varied and in many cases each rejected (parts of) the approach of another. Despite R. Hirsch’s actual history and writings, he has suffered the most revisionism; even an occupant of his position a century later has termed his approach a “horaat shaah.” Each has established (different) movements that are flourishing to varying degrees, with differences within and between movements and how movements are developing in Israel and the US. However, unlike current chareidi daas torah, all four continue to confront the society around them, albeit (perhaps even very) differently. OO has not had a leader of even the approximate stature of any of the four; it will struggle until that (eventually) happens establishing both boundaries and greater legitimacy.
Why does Weiss and his gang feel that they can outsmart our holy Sages who, literally, had Ruach HaKodesh? These rebels are no different than the rebels of 200 years ago who started the infamous Reform Movement. What happened to them will happen to these apikorsim, but, hopefully, in a much shorter time. Today, the only difference between the reform and Xtians is Yoshke. The same awaits this cult. That there are observant Jews who even need to discuss the validity of this movement shows how far the Jewish people have drifted from authentic Judaism.
I will re-post my question from another post , but I feel each time this is dealt with the crux of this issue is not answered —-Thanks for the thoughtful replies , what i admire most about this site is that even when there are disagreements , it is done with respect. My question is more how would you reply to a far left talmid of YU who claims he is acting in the name of his Rebbe and time will prove him to be correct. We have seen many innovations being made with this same battle cry. Whether the issue is Woman’s minyanim, Maharats, arguments that Halachically a married one does not need to have hair covering, etc. the arguments are always made from the LWMO camp that they are challenging the status quo . The reply back from most of Rabbi Gordimer’s articles have mostly been that this is beyond the pale of orthodoxy. IMHO that argument doesn’t address the LWMO argument. They would reply; “of course this is innovative , but this is what is right and what RYBS would have done if he was in my shoes.”
I for one am from a yeshiva background our starting point is tradition is the chazakah and to break this muchzak you need prove to me that the “old style way” is wrong.
So to pose the question again how would the wonderful commentators on this site answer question like this:
(taken from Ysoschar Katz’ facebook wall)
Paying it Forward?
Superimposing an ancient debate onto a contemporary disagreement, Rav Herschel Shachter compares his Rabbinic colleagues who try to address agunah and conversion issues to the corrupting Mityavnim (the Jewish Hellenizers), and the conservative Rabbis who oppose the modernizers to the heroic Chashmonaim.
He is not the first one to make this analogy. Years ago some Chareidi gedolim (R. Aaron Kotler, R. Moshe Feinstein and the Satmar Rav) claimed that they were the contemporary Chashmonaim, while R. Soloveitchik and the rest of the Roshei Yeshivah at Yeshiva University were the Mityavnim. From the Charedi perspective these MO leaders deserved this derogatory moniker because they trimmed (or shaved) their beards, dressed modernly, and condoned Torah U’Madda, practices that are anathema to “orthodoxy.”
Sad then to see that several years later the recipients of this derogatory label denigrate others with the same trope formerly used to delegitimize them.
Ironically, this anachronistic retrojection is also complicated historically. The Chashmonaim were indeed victorious, but their victory did not last for ever. Kohanic hegemony was eventually replaced by Rabbinic authority, a political change which also heralded a philosophical shift. Kohanic conservatism was replaced by Rabbinic moderation.
Practically that would then mean that those who espouse a modern and progressive orthodoxy are the intellectual heirs of chazal, while those who champion the status-quo are actually advocating a view which was ultimately rejected
Read more: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2015/06/15/ordination-of-insubordination/#ixzz3egvpfq1R
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution
@ Reb Yid – Alas the one area I agree with Avi Weiss on 80% (politically speaking) we disagree as well. But you didnt actually respond to the crux of my question or of the issue OO/NC raises. Does the good people do negate the hashkafic stances people take? These are two separate questions and arguing that Avi Weiss does good is irrelevant to the question of is his worldview Orthodox? Do you fail to see that they are 2 separate issues? Regarding Chabad though I am pretty sure we are on the same page (although its really of all them) who have an almost neo-christian worldview of a dead messiah coming back to life (and many other issues) but they are still jews as are the OO/NC crowd.
I live in Riverdale now and have been to many shuls and neighborhoods in the more right wing world where many Rabbonim do tremendous chesed with perhaps a little publicity seeking in the process. Come and check some of those shuls out. In L.A. you have Rabbi Muskin and Rabbi Jonathan Rosenberg in the valley. Check them out we would love to have you experience it.
And since you are so positive about klal yisorel and shouldnt “find fault” can you applaud Satmar for their bikur cholim?
July 1, 2015 at 5:00 pm
“Mycroft-you are rehashing your previously expressed POV, which I have responded to previously here and elsewhere. Ain Chadash Tachas HaShemesh.”
Which I stated openly ” See egFrom my previous cross- currents post”
“Yet, you continually to ignore the fact that noone today in the MO world even remotely approaches RYBS’s unique combination of Gadlus BaTorah and secular knowledge.”
I’ll state that is true not only in the MO world but throughout all Yahadus
“…one must simply acknowledge that noone was bequeathed the full package of RYBS while realizing that YCT and its leaders simply were never considered inheritors of any portion of the Mesorah of RYBS.” They are clearly not following in the footsteps of the Rav-it is obvious not really worth discussing. That both Dr Tovah Lichtenstein and Prof Waxman have stated that current RY of YU do not follow in the hashlkafa of the Rav is the chidush it would not be obvious to many people. …
“Viewing that fact as the cause for the development of YCT IMO lacks any awareness of that YCT and its fellow travelers do not view themselves as talmidim of any Gadol BaTorah with regards to Halacha and Hashkafa.”
That YCT leaders do not follow any Gadol Batorah which IMO is probably a true statement does not detract from my sociological comment
“The change in RIETS means that effectively the center of Rabbonim who received smicha from RIETS are not MO-thus the opening for Rabbi Weiss to attract MO.
One should not construe from my observations that I agree with much of what Rabbi Weiss does-I am merely arguing that the revisionism of RIETS/YU away from the Rav and his hashkafa left an opening for YCT to capture some of the old MO.”
” In the wake of the departure of the founder of YCT from the RCA, the answer to the question as to who should be the address for any halachic and hashkafic questions in the committed MO world in the US is obvious-the RY of RIETS.”
Assuming that Dr Lichtesntein and Dr Waxman are correct in that present RY of RIETS are not committed to the hashkafa of MO why would a believer of such hashkafa ask one who does not believe in such hashkafot a a hashkafic sheila.
I would argue that charedi daas torah confronts the world around it as much as any other philosophy. Of course, you would disagree with its position as regards that outside world. As for Torah im Derech Eretz, anyone who has studied the history of Rav Hirsch’s kehilla will tell you that from the day he died until the kehilla went up in flames on Kristalnacht, there was a steady retreat from Torah im Derech Eretz. It did not flourish; it withered away, until all that was left were college-educated Jews paying lip service, and little more.
@ Dov – I apologize for being dissmissive of Ysoschor Katz’s post but anyone who says the R’ Moshe Feinstein called R’ Soloveitchik from the misyavnim is just ignorant. R’ Moshe and RYBS were close, related and the stories abound of their relationship. Y. Katz’s ignorance is only exceeded by his arrogance, b/c he then makes something up and then tries to turn a figment of his imagination into some sort of historical precedent. I would suggest Y. Katz goes to learn by R’ Schachter and learn not only from one of the greatest talmidei chachamim alove today but also from someone whose personal middos, yashrus and bein odom l’chaveiro is second to none.
What I am saying is that your starting premise is irrelevant to this discussion. Or at least to me, at any rate.
I want certain features for my Rav, and you want certain features for yours. I’m not going to be attracted to Satmar Chasidim, but so what? I’m not going to spend my time nitpicking all of the things Satmars do (or for that matter, Rav Avi does) that I may disagree with.
Further, who is to say that there is a “correct” hashkafic position? Different strokes for different folks.
At minimum, people who disagree with what Rav Avi does should leave him alone. I don’t go around slamming what every other Rav does that I disagree with.
What I think people are reacting to here is a pattern by Gordimer of slamming. It feels as though he is waiting for these opportunities to pounce. So the relevance of bringing up Weiss’s kindnesses is in response to a quest to identfy why such disdain might be appropriate, one is compelled to rule out Weiss being a total menuval such that he has earned unending scorn. Satmar’s kindnesses are legendary and do, in fact, earn them the stature of them not deserving to be davka pounced upon
Reb Yid – it doesn’t surprise me that you disagree with Rabbi Avi Weiss’ politics on Israel and are more comfortable with the next generation of his students (e.g. Rabbi Kanefsky).
While Rabbi Weiss believe that Zionism and support for the State of Israel is an essential component of Open Orthodoxy, it is inevitable that this will be weakened as Open Orthodoxy strips away at any form of support for Jewish particularism (let alone exceptionalism). So more and more we will see Open Orthodox rabbis who become non-Zionist or even anti-Zionist.
But then again – Rabbi Avi Weiss has about as much insight as to how his movement will look in 15, 20, 40, 50 or 100 years as R. Mordechai Kaplan did when he “founded” Reconstructionist Judaism (which he wouldn’t recognize today.
I’m not qualified to opine on the history of the Hirschian kehillah or of any other group committed to TIDE on some level. Whichever way you slice it, Torah is inviolable and contains within itself the ways to handle matters in the world as they arise, including new circumstances in the surrounding culture. Going with the flow can lead us down the drain.
My response to a dear friend on this issue:
As we’ve discussed, there’s not much I can debate (hard to debate differing axioms)with people who feel that Rabbi Weiss has the ability and authority to make major changes outside of the traditional halachic process and still be part of the Orthodox halachic world. It’s hard to know what the future will bring but the parallels with the Conservative movement are striking (then again Chassidut comes to mind as well). HKB”H will decide.
Lawrence Reisman, I do not know the history of Rav Hirsch’s Kehilla, but I remember reading Dr. Leiman’s critique of R. Schwab’s view. I also read From My Eyes, an autobiography Prof. Katz wrote, where he describes what happened when Rabbi Schwab returned to Frankfurt around 1934, published his famous piece, and the response of Rabbi Breuer, the rav of the community, who encouraged Prof. Katz, to write a rather vehemently critical response. I assume that it was below his dignity to respond to someone so much younger and therefore encouraged prof. katz who was of similar age. I tend to trust these historians.
dr. bill – I don’t understand how being mattir an issur deoraisa following last week’s SCOTUS has anything to do with inclusion at all! You are raising a strawman when you attack the Chareidi world on issues like secular education, etc. What you don’t seem to be bothered by is that a member (actually two) of a movement that claims to be within the Orthodox camp wrote something that is beyond the pale, more so than not permitting children to receive a good secular education. But time and time again, you come on here like you feel you have to balance things out, and start raising all of the deficiencies of the Chareidi. Well, I got to tell you, but OO should be viewed by you as being contrary to the mesorah and mimetic tradition. Their entire approach is based on finding textual basis, some obscure daas yachid or another, to support their left-wing vision of the world. This is the same critiscm raised against the Chareidi world, innovating based on finding new deios in the Rishonim and Achronim, and departing from accepted trading. I would expect that you would at least view both OO and Chareidim in the same light. Since you don’t, your bias is very apparent.
Dr. Bill: The postscript on Rav Schwab’s piece was that before being offered the position of rav of KAJ, he had to repudiate the piece and agree never to translate it into English. However, all this was nothing more than lip service. The practice of TIDE has already atrophied by 1934.
@ Reb Yid – As in the last conversation we had it seems we are not even having the same discussion anymore. Your premise is (correct me if I am wrong) since Avi Weiss helps out people and is a warm individual we therefore should give him a pass for an ideology that many people think is beyond Orthodoxy. I simply disagree as would any intellectually honest person. These are two separate issues. Avi Weiss might be getting trememndous sechar in olam habah for x.y.z thats for hashem to decide. But we have to perpetuate our mesorah and when a so called Orthodox movement embraces the “ordination of female clergy, significant modification to geirus procedures, inclusion and embrace of heresy, celebration of same-sex marriage and acceptance of homosexual relations, deletion of berachos from the daily service” we must stand up and speak out.
I note that again you didnt give Satmar crdit for its bikur cholim thats fine. Nor do you have the courage of your convictions to not use pseudonym. I see you used to live in Riverdale so next time you come back to visit please swing by the Young Israel I look forward to picking up this conversation.
@ Jewish Observer – It feels to me as if every chance Avi Weiss and co have a chance to take a heretical stance that ignores judaism’s balance of universalism and particularism in favor of particularism they do. Edmund Burke (paraphrased) “all we need is for good men to do nothing for heresy to flourish”. Also you can use such terms as “menuval” but the fact remains irrespective of the good he does his worldview just simply is not Orthodox. If he claimed he didnt believe in the divinity of the torah would you argue but he helped people with shabbos packages? And yes Satmar’s views on the state should be critiqued as well.
Not sure you follow my line of thinking, but that’s OK.
On Satmar, who says I don’t give them credit? You’re reading into something not in evidence–by your logic I’m not giving anyone credit if I don’t publicly acknowledge them, which is ridiculous. Incidentally, whatever their views are on Israel are immaterial to me, at least insofar as who I would want to have as my Rav.
What is “heresy”? I suppose a couple of generations ago Bat Mitzvah was heresy, too. As far as Rabba Sara–what exactly is she doing that is bothering you so much? Is she serving as a witness (no)? Have you spent any time with her yourself–she lives in the ‘hood, you know. See what she does at HIR, in the community, spend a Shabbat meal and learn with her. I’ve done all of those things and more–I think a lot of the “fear” is simply castigating the “other”.
As far as Rav Avi, it’s not just that he’s “doing good”. He is correctly defining the rabbinate in a way that addresses the contemporary US Jewish community (and Orthodox Jewish community). That is a different model, but so what–we’ve had all kinds of evolving models for all kinds of entities and institutions. Time does not stand still, although ossifying portions of Orthodox Judaism have made Rav Avi’s model a necessity for the better. It is not for everyone (certainly not for the Hashkama minyan type of Jew), but that’s fine. There are plenty of other models out there as different portals for different kinds of folks.
joel rich wrote—-
but the parallels with the Conservative movement are striking (then again Chassidut comes to mind as well). HKB”H will decide.
— the problem is that here on earth , the job of orthodox jews [and especially haredi] is havdala: declaring what is treif and what is muttar. thusly, it matters practically to decide what of OO falls under a category of muttar; and what is treyf as a conservative chazer….
reb yid —
i am not sure that the non-leftist parts of O [ probably 80% , the democratic voters do it for lucre/mammon not social justice ] are interested in the rabbis advocating the PC social justice that is the ikkar in non-O movements , and are maybe more concerned with tora and mitzvot [the tafel]….
“It feels to me as if every chance Avi Weiss and co have a chance …”
– Reb Shmuel, you response would be on point had the discussion topic been – who’s a worse guy, Gordimer or Weiss. My purpose was to bring some rationale to the theme that you correctly picked up on, that folks are turned off by Gordimer. I offered a hypothesis as to why. Your proving that Weiss is oich a bad guy, maybe even worse, may be true but is neither here nor there. The question is – does my theory make sense?
Guess who wrote this:
[Orthodox and Conservative Judaism are] “so very different in … three fundamental areas: Torah mi-Sinai, rabbinic interpretation, and rabbinic legislation”
“Torah mi-Sinai (“Torah From Sinai”): Modern Orthodoxy, in line with the rest of Orthodoxy, holds that Jewish law is Divine in origin, and as such, no underlying principle may be compromised in accounting for changing political, social or economic conditions, whereas Conservative Judaism holds that Poskim should make use of literary and historical analysis in deciding Jewish law, and may reverse decisions of the Acharonim that are held to be inapplicable today.
Rabbinic interpretation: (Modern) Orthodoxy contends that legal authority is cumulative, and that a contemporary posek (decisor) can only issue judgments based on a full history of Jewish legal precedent, whereas the implicit argument of the Conservative movement is that precedent provides illustrations of possible positions rather than binding law. Conservatism, therefore, remains free to select whichever position within the prior history appeals to it.
Rabbinic legislation: Since the (Modern) Orthodox community is ritually observant, Rabbinic law legislated by (today’s) Orthodox rabbis can meaningfully become binding if accepted by the community (see minhag). Conservative Judaism, on the other hand, has a largely non-observant laity. Thus, although Conservatism similarly holds that “no law has authority unless it becomes part of the concern and practice of the community”  communal acceptance of a “permissive custom” is not “meaningful”, and, as a result, related Rabbinic legislation cannot assume the status of law.”
I’ve long felt that the most incriminating document against OO is that article- for rather obvious reasons. Avi Weiss himself *may* still be on the O side of the divide, but, as R Gordimer has chronicled, a heckuva lot of his star disciples are at best somewhere in the muddled middle.
I can’t seem to be able to cut and paste but footnotes 35 and 36 of his article are worth reading just for the irony involved.
@ Reb Yid – I think we are not even discussing the same issues anymore. I asked you about Satmar twice and you didnt answer. I have never met Sara Hurwitz, could be she is a very nice person. But ordination of female clergy is simply not Orthodox. Do we have discuss that issue at length? Re: Avi Weiss you should realize the connective tissue between his right wing politics with Kahane and his left wing religious identity is simply anti-establishment. If your definition of the “modern rabbinate” is a glorified social worker whose intellectual compass is defined completely by what is viewed as moral by the NYT/urban elite then fine, we also disagree as to what a Rabbi’s role is. I think the rabbinic model should be one of spiritual (halacha and hashkafa) and social guidance based on our mesorah.
@ Jewish Observer – (Note another anonymous commenter) I didnt pick up on any such theme. R’ Gordimer has became a fidei defensor and others should pick up the sword as well (which one day will be turned into a ploughshare) what bothers me isnt that R’Gordimer reacts but rather that sadly there is constantly something being said or done that needs to be responded to. As a person Avi Weiss may be a good guy (not for this discussion) but his hashkafos are simply unOrthodox and hurting klal yisroel.
I can’t speak for Shmuel, but as for me, I don’t believe your theory is valid. I don’t think Rabbi Gordimer has any personal ill will toward A Weiss, nor do I think he relishes the opportunities to constantly point out the flaws in the OO movement.
My guess is that he’s either motivated by a sense of במקום שאין איש or more likely, he received directives from above. He works for the OU which quite possibly for political reasons cannot take an official stance on OO although they’re firmly against it. Instead of the OU coming out as an organization against OO, more likely they’ve asked Rabbi Gordimer to express their own sentiments [and his as well] and to apply as much pressure as possible to make it clear that OO is not an acceptable movement.
He’s doing his best, but more is certainly necessary.
Commenter “Reb Yid”: “I suppose a couple of generations ago Bat Mitzvah was heresy, too.”
That is rank ignorance, as well as false, and the strange word of “heresy” proves it. The proper word is, “normative.” Thinks like bat mitzvahs and girls education were never normative, but no one ever said the entirety of tradition stood upon such practices. Indeed, there are Talmudic opinions in favor of girls education, and forget about bat mitzvah, even bar mitzvah celebrations only came into vogue relatively recently. To compare that with the notion of a woman rabbi displays a profound lack of judgment, and a confusion over what is and what isn’t core principles. It suggests that the commenter is either overly enamored with current (and passing) fads, or insufficiently infused with the totality of Jewish tradition.
Mycroft-thanks for your response, which, again is repetitive of your prior posts and IMO not responsive to my comment:
1)Whether anyone in the MO world remotely approaches RYBS’s unique combination of Torah knowledge and secular knowledge is as much a pressing issue as yearning for the “lost causes” of the Confederacy and Communism-a profound waste of time for a community where the issue is the hashkafic and halachic challenges of this time, as opposed to the 1940s. Ask anyone who has graduated from a MO high school-RYBS’s writings in hashkafa are considered nice summer reading, but hardly essential .In the Charedi world, it is obvious to any intelligent observer that each generation has its Manhigim and Poskim.
2)We know that two of RYBS’s own grandchildren, who were phemomenal Talmidei Chachamim certainly could not be described as following RYBS’s approach.
3)Who or where else would any commmitted MO person turn to for the answer to any halachic or hashkafic inquiry?
Perhaps, the issue is that while MO has always had the potential to be a very profound Hashkafa in the US, MO as a hashkafa has to realize that the America of the 21st Century is not the America of the 1950s and that some serious thought should be given to declaring that the commitment to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim always takes precedence over any challenge based on the Zeigeist of the times rather than meekly seeking either an accommodation or even worse, declaring that pluralism or inclusiveness trump Halacha, and that there is a hierarchy in who one may or seek halachic or hashkafic advice from on any given issue. One need not be a sociologist or have a PhD to realize that these issues have been festering for years.
July 2, 2015 at 4:06 pm
Mycroft-thanks for your response, which, again is repetitive of your prior posts and IMO not responsive to my comment:”
I respond to posts-to the extent the posts raise the same issue as before the same responses may be appropriate.
“1)Whether anyone in the MO world remotely approaches RYBS’s unique combination of Torah knowledge and secular knowledge is as much a pressing issue as yearning for the “lost causes” of the Confederacy and Communism-a profound waste of time for a community where the issue is the hashkafic and halachic challenges of this time, as opposed to the 1940s.”
We all llook to the past for guidance the Chafetz Chaim died before the 1940s as did the Rambam, Ramban etc.
“Ask anyone who has graduated from a MO high school-RYBS’s writings in hashkafa are considered nice summer reading, but hardly essential .”
There are very few high school students who can understand the Ravs hashkafic works-there is a leading RY of RIETS who once told me that he doesn’t usually try and exp;ain the Ravs hashkafa to his talmidim because he has trouble understanding it-BTW he told me who he went to go to have it explained to him-not a YU RY.
“2)We know that two of RYBS’s own grandchildren, who were phemomenal Talmidei Chachamim certainly could not be described as following RYBS’s approach.”
If my math is correct the Rav had 9 grandchildren their hashkafas could be drastically different. The Rav a granchild of Rav Chaim Brisker had different hashkafor than R Chaim. Rav Chaim was certainly not in favor of a college education but the Rav and all his siblings I believe had post graduate education-social work, another sister I believe a professor, brother Phd Chemistry another bother law degree and the Rav Phd. What does that prove about Rav Chaim Brisker.
3)Who or where else would any commmitted MO person turn to for the answer to any halachic or hashkafic inquiry?
“Perhaps, the issue is that while MO has always had the potential to be a very profound Hashkafa in the US, MO as a hashkafa has to realize that the America of the 21st Century is not the America of the 1950s”
So the Torah and hashkafa that the Rav taught in the 1950s is not relevant?-I believe RHS was in the Ravs shiur during the 1950s
“and that some serious thought should be given to declaring that the commitment to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim always takes precedence”
I note that you quote Shimon Hazaddik Kohen Gadol -of course the avaodah sadly can’t be done now-R Shimon ben Gamliel at the end of perek post churban states din, emet, vshalom
“…that there is a hierarchy in who one may or seek halachic or hashkafic advice from on any given issue. ”
Source for that statement-one can choose ones own Rebbe-you are lucky enough to have a great source for your questions-if he were a Rav in my community I would be happy to have him as my Rav but he is not my Rebbe/Rav -but where is the source that I can’t ask my own authority today-we do not have centralized authority.
“One need not be a sociologist” a musmach of RIETS son-in-law of a leading YU RY-during his time second in influence to the Rav- BTW read his Towards a Sociology of Psak http://traditionarchive.org/news/article.cfm?id=104508 important concepts “or have a PhD” daughter of the Rav widow of RAL and very knowledgeable in her own right.
Dov, To answer your question, I believe Rabbi Katz has responded reasonably, largely historically, and with temperance to what I assume he views as excessive rhetoric. Comparisons on all sides are often exaggerated, though there is a famous sugyah to which I assume Rabbi Katz is arguably referring. I have never met or heard Rabbi Katz, but for someone who walks a fine-line (perhaps with chalk on his cuffs) and invites attack, I think he and a number of other OO leaders, are difficult to classify. Because he and some of his colleagues do not attack and, in fact, tolerate some OO practices and fringes, they tend to get tarred and feathered. I think they are no different from other parts of the orthodox spectrum that celebrate with felons on their release from incarceration and tolerate other troubling behavior.
Lawrence Reisman, Just compare college attendance from the Washington heights community in the 50’s through the 70’s to the last 30 years. In my three years teaching at CUNY in the mid 70’s I met a number of students from the German community, who came to talk as I was one of the few orthodox faculty who taught in the Graduate School. IMHO, the rabbis of Frankfurt did not oppose R. Schwab for only theoretical or Kevod haRav reasons; read Prof. Katz’s comments on his life in orthodox Frankfurt in the early 30’s.
Rafael Araujo, Your analogy is both illogical and factually incorrect. The extent of opposition to secular education is nearly universal in various chareidi communities. Such universalism cannot be claimed among the OO community on LGBT issues. Your analogy is thus illogical. As to incorrect, if you can find an example of my view on this subject, which says that a position that would be matir any issur de’oraysa, outside the halakhic process is part of orthodoxy based on a principle of inclusion, it was written by an imposter. Homosexuality is a complex issue and if it occurred among your friends or family or their children, you too might be equally reticent. I posted a brief comment on the opinion published below, indicating my opposition to public statements made on all sides. Unfortunately, I know more than I wish I did about how orthodox professionals currently deal with various individual cases.
The comment by Reb Yid that struck me was: “Further, who is to say that there is a ‘correct’ hashkafic position? Different strokes for different folks.”
Of course, the very word “hashkafah” means outlook. There is a Torah Hashkafah, and a non-Torah Hashkafah! Many of our Mitzvos are purely Hashkafah, e.g. to believe in H’, not to believe in Avodah Zarah, to judge every person favorably, to NOT judge a “Meysis” [one who promotes idolatry] favorably, and the list goes on. And of course, the Rambam’s 13 Ikkarim are purely Hashkafos.
Anyone has the “right” to leave the Derech H’, it’s just a tragic and tremendously foolish move. What they don’t have the right to do is to portray a non-Torah Hashkafah as if it were Torah, or as if it is in any way representative of “Orthodoxy.”
The latest is that Asher Lopatin of YCT has resigned as well. To all three I would say, “don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” except that I was never an RCA member. It’s still a good line and I hope Rabbi Gordimer will use it.
I am quite certain that Rav Gordimer’s writings have been influential in the RCA’s rejection of YCT alumni and bringing us to this point. Now one can merely hope that the OU will require that OU shuls hire only RCA Rabbis (of course, if that means Lakewood-trained OU shul rabbis have to join the RCA, Modern Orthodoxy really will “veer to the right”), and we’ll have sealed the breach and cemented OO’s place somewhere to the left of the Union for Traditional Judaism, which dropped the word “Conservative” from its name as it became more Orthodox… both well outside the sphere of “Orthodoxy”, also known as Torah Judaism.
“While Torah study and mitzvah observance have dramatically increased over the years in most Modern Orthodox communities, thank God, these communities are still Zionistic, committed to secular education, and heavily involved with the “outside world”.”
Since when is Zionism equal MO-on one hand chardal is definitely not MO but Zionistic -while a follower of SRH would follow TIDE but certainly not be Zionistic. As far as commitment to secular studies most today follow Torah uparnassah indistinguishable from American chareidi beliefs-very few have the Ravs belief in knowledge lishma eg he could try and pick the mind of a grad student to clarify his knowledge of quantum mechanics certainly not for his parnasssah.
“Geirus (conversion) standards in Modern Orthodox communities, as emphatically insisted upon by Rav Yosef Dov Ha-Levi Soloveitchik zt”l of RIETS, included and continue to include an unqualified Kabbalas Ha-Mitzvos (Acceptance of the Mitzvos) requirement. Due to a concern of some Modern Orthodox rabbis failing to maintain consistent standards, and in order to assure a uniform, lechatchilah (best practices) caliber of geirus, the RCA entered into a unified conversion protocol with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. For Rabbi Weiss and his colleagues in the Open Orthodox rabbinate to portray this as the disenfranchisement of local rabbis in favor of unnecessarily tight standards and unfair oversight, is very inaccurate, to put it kindly”
If there is an action that IMO the Rabbinate will have to answer for after 120 is the shameful way that for political purposes they threw under the bus decades of gerim. The excuse given was that a centralized limited body of those permitted to certify gerim would be more reliable was sadly disproven when one of the point men attacking other ferus pled guilty to crimes that certainly were averos that would make one pasul leedut.The RCA/CR immediately stated that those who were megayer under his auspices the gerus would stand-for reasons of compassion that why should gerim who converted in good faith suffer. Of course, they had no compassion for gerim who converted in good faith following the then RCA/CR guidelines. Thus, the RCA stands behind gerus of one who we know violated fundamental halachot while does not stand behind gerus of those who there is not even a hint of scandal and are in olam haemet. The ultimate irony by those citing the Rav the RCA doesn’t even stand behind gerus done by Rabbis who were trusted by the Rav.
Yaacov Menken, a number of items you label as hashkafic are in fact halakhic. In each case there is machloket wrt details. The status of Rambam’s ikarim were broadly and strongly disputed by many rishonim. Hashkafic writings that RMF ztl viewed as not possibly that of a Rishon in fact were. There is machloket in halakha and yet more so in hashkafa. There clearly are views that reflect a Torah Hashkafa and there are views that do not. But at a level of sufficient detail, there has been and is a degree of machloket. In reality, many of the great hashkafic thinkers were influenced both in modes of thinking and expression by a general weltanshauung. My favorite example is one influenced by Kant attacking Aristotle’s influence on Rambam; we now recognize that such influence can invade the inner sanctum of Bnai Brak. The relative size of white, black and gray areas and the identification of boundaries between them continues to engage serious theological debate. This is a significant area well beyond a blog exchange. Fully debating an individual hashkafic item, is rarely useful; debating the overall area of hashkafah is completely useless.
“I am quite certain that Rav Gordimer’s writings have been influential in the RCA’s rejection of YCT alumni and bringing us to this point.”
The RCA had an issue since 2007 with YCT(see JTA, “Is Yeshivat Chovevei Torah kosher enough?”, 9/7/12). R. Shmuel Goldin was quoted in the article:
“If a graduate of that school decided to go for a secondary smicha, and that includes a private smicha if that private smicha is acceptable to the RCA, they could be accepted…There is a Smicha Standards Committee that determines what individuals and institutions get accreditation.”
Why didnt RCA kick him out in 2007? And why does the OU continue to hire YCT musmachim as educators for their campus programs. Disappointing that fear and lack of execution has brought this problem on ourselves .
FWIW, R A Birnbaum in this week’s print edition of the Yated mentioned that an assissatnt rabbi at HIR issued a “mazel tov” on the recent SCOTUS decision declaring gay marriage the law of the land and cited Breishis 2:18-yet another perversion of the classical understanding of a basic and bedrock Torah principal by a OO supporter.
R Menken – You’re so clearly aware that there are different and incompatible hashkafos in the rishonim and earlier, that I find it hard to believe you meant quite what you said. Of course there are some major and broad issues which all agree on but, as I’m certain you’re aware, there is much debate about details of the ikkarim in the rishonim which affect one’s overall way of seeing the world And quite apart from ikkarim, moving to the modern area, can you really suggest that the hashkafos of, say, R Hirsch, the Chasam Sofer and R Chaim Brisker (to choose some near-ish contemporaries) are identical about issues such as the place of secular studies and interaction with wider society? Of course not, if you’ll excuse me answering my own question.
So please, a little more intellectual honesty.
Now Ben, you’re so clearly aware that the arguments of Rishonim (and even Tana’im) hardly mean that there is no such thing as a non-Torah Hashkafah, that I find it defies credulity that you actually think that. “Some” major and broad issues? No. Nothing at variance with the Rambam’s 13 Ikkarim qualifies as a Torah Hashkafah, which means the Hashkafos of 99.98% of the world’s population are non-Torah Hashkafos.
The “coordinator of the Va’ad Giyyur” of this “International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF),” Zev Farber, believes and promotes the belief “that the Torah is not the Word of God, that God did not give the Torah at Sinai, that God did not ever communicate with the Prophets, that He did not bring the Jewish People forth from Egypt, that He did not author the halachos of Torah She-b’al Peh, that the Torah is the flawed work of biased men, and that the narratives in the Torah, including the Exodus and the existence of the Avos, Imahos and Shevatim, are false.”
The idea that a machlokes regarding “the place of secular studies and interaction with wider society” somehow compares to that, and turns Farber’s open kefirah into a “Torah Hashkafah” that observant Jews can live with, is so patently ludicrous that it can’t possibly be what you meant. Please enlighten us.
And you might spare us the condescension.
“you’re so clearly aware that the arguments of Rishonim (and even Tana’im) hardly mean that there is no such thing as a non-Torah Hashkafah, that I find it defies credulity that you actually think that.”
There clearly are essentials of a Torah Hashkafa- Torah minhashamayim, sechar vonesh, that there was an Exodus from Egypt-others may add some-but there are not as many universally accepted ikkarim as many believe.
“Some” major and broad issues? No. Nothing at variance with the Rambam’s 13 Ikkarim qualifies as a Torah Hashkafah,’ ”
To paraphrase a leading YU RY-who says we pasken like the Rambam on Ikkarim and even assuming we did who says God paskens like the Rambam. Many Rishonim disagree with some of the Rambams ikkarim. We simply don’t pasken such issues-even as to Gods lack of corporeality the Ravad states “gadol mimenu..”
“The “coordinator of the Va’ad Giyyur” of this “International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF),” Zev Farber, believes and promotes the belief “that the Torah is not the Word of God, that God did not give the Torah at Sinai, that God did not ever communicate with the Prophets, that He did not bring the Jewish People forth from Egypt, that He did not author the halachos of Torah She-b’al Peh, that the Torah is the flawed work of biased men, and that the narratives in the Torah, including the Exodus and the existence of the Avos, Imahos and Shevatim, are false.””
The discussion involves Rabbi Weiss-not Rabbi Zev Farber-BTW one must be careful not to confuse Rabbi Zev Farber with Rabbi Seth Farber-both involved in conversion type issues but have entirely different hashkafot. I don’t think it would be fair to state that Rabbi Grodimer agrees with YTC-he is employed by the same organization OU in its JLIC (Jewish Initiative Learning on Campus) that has as representatives on campus those ordained by YCT-thus don’t discuss R Zev Farber in a post about Rabbi Avi Weiss.
mycroft, you’ve missed the boat with this reply. Whether or not everyone agrees that each and every one of the 13 Ikkarim is mandatory, without which one is a kofer, no one can claim that to disagree with any of them is a “Torah Hashkafah.” No Rishon questions the truth of the Ikkarim, the debate is whether one is a kofer for denying one — which does not refer to all of them. Farber has wandered off the reservation.
And I don’t know who Seth Farber is, but Zev is, once again, “coordinator of the Va’ad Giyyur” of this “International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF),” the IRF created by Avi Weiss, the same IRF that Avi Weiss praised in his resignation from the RCA. “Don’t discuss R Zev Farber in a post about Rabbi Avi Weiss”? I understand that the idea that Weiss has a kofer b’kol haTorah kulah “coordinating” his geyrus, which means if any of the three dayanim share his views, they are certifying non-Jews as not merely Jews but “Orthodox”, is extremely troubling to those of us who actually care about Torah U’Mitzvos, but let’s not hide our heads in the sand about this “troubling” fact.
Rabbi Gordimer, as a member of the OU, is certainly one of the leading voices to end any association by that organization with YCT alumni, since they are unqualified to serve as Orthodox Rabbis in any capacity whatsoever. But your claim that because Gordimer and some YCT alumni are both connected to the OU, that is somehow comparable to Farber being chosen by Weiss’ own organization for a crucial position in conversions, just offers us further proof that anonymous commenters feel free to drag down the intelligence level of the discussion, secure in the knowledge that none of their friends will ever know they said something quite so silly.
R Menken: “you’re so clearly aware that the arguments of Rishonim (and even Tana’im) hardly mean that there is no such thing as a non-Torah Hashkafah”
That’s correct, and I never said nor suggested such a thing. You pulled a classic straw man argument. I was addressing the issue of differing Torah haskafos, not the obvious existence of non-Torah hashkafos. My point, as I think was clear, is that there were Rishonim who disagreed with the Rambam about the substance of his statements in the full version of the ikkarim in the hakdama to perek chelek. Which is why Rav Adlerstein’s rebbe R. JD Bleich discusses the issue of psak halacha in the area of ikkarei emuna. His view, not shared by all contemporary talmidei chachamim, is that there is indeed such a thing as psak in this area effectively rendering other opinions verboten and therefore the Rambam’s ikkarim are mandatory for us. But why would such a discussion even be needed if not for the existence of differing opinions? According to you you’d need to say there were Rishonim with non-Torah hashkafos. Your call.
“The idea that a machlokes regarding “the place of secular studies and interaction with wider society” somehow compares to that, and turns Farber’s open kefirah into a “Torah Hashkafah” that observant Jews can live with, is so patently ludicrous that it can’t possibly be what you meant.”
Well of course it’s not what I meant because it’s not what I said. And how did Farber get into the conversation? That’s another big straw man.
Lets start again. You stated, in response to Reb Yid, that ‘There is a Torah Hashkafah, and a non-Torah Hashkafah!’. From your other comments it’s clear you were not talking only about ikkarei emuna but about hashkafa in general and I was making the point, by means of varied examples, that your statement is so inaccurate as to be untrue. To be absolutely clear – I’m not a pluralist, chalila, I’m a ma’amin. I have no truck or sympathy with OO ideology and mostly agree with R Gordimer’s essays on the subject. However the Torah true statement is that there are Torah hashkafos and non-Torah hashkafos.
The fact that heterodoxy makes a meal of the truth that there is diversity in Torah thought and mangles it into kefira does not affect the essential truth that there indeed a range of genuine Torah opinion on many, many things.
Ben, I’m glad you agree with me. You see, if you were talking about “differing Torah Hashkafos” then you wandered off the topic of Rabbi Gordimer’s post.
The topic here is Avi Weiss and YCT, and Farber and his “hashkafah” is obviously, completely a part of what Weiss, YCT and the IRF are about. They have, after all, neatly danced around the edges and refused to disavow his espousal of kefirah.
And that has been the topic of my comments throughout — please reread them if you still think otherwise. I never said there is no gradation or room for differences of opinion within a Torah Hashkafah — but there is most definitely a Torah Hashkafah, and a non-Torah Hashkafah, and that’s precisely what I said.
As I said, glad we agree!
““The “coordinator of the Va’ad Giyyur” of this “International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF),” Zev Farber”
About the only time I check the IRF website is to check accusations against them. See
and I don’t notice R Zev Farbers name listed. Another name is listed as coordinator.
” if you still think otherwise. I never said there is no gradation or room for differences of opinion within a Torah Hashkafah — but there is most definitely a Torah Hashkafah”
Agreed-but the dispute we have is whether or not ” Nothing at variance with the Rambam’s 13 Ikkarim qualifies as a Torah Hashkafah,’ ””
Certainly, the vast majority today believe in essentially the Rambams 13 Ikkarim as representing Traditional Judaism but that doesn’t mean it is universal-besides R Moshe Taku who clearly was a corporealist-there are debates about some eg even Rashi some claim was a corporealist. Reread Tanach and Shas and commentators before medieval philosophers -see if one would see an ikkar of Gods in-corporeality.
We certainly have major debates even today re Kabballah-is it part of classical mesorah or not. We have those on both sides of the fence. But certainly Torah minhashamayim, sechar vaonesh , yiziat mizraim being an actual event are parts of necessary hashkafa.
I agree with R Menken-One cannot separate the role and views of R Farber from that of YCT. The issue is not that of a Machlokes Rishonim in belief in the Ikarim, but rather the haskfafic and halachio views of YCT and its leadership.
I occasionally have offline e-mail exchanges about my posts with other commentators or non commentators. In an exchange today I wrote “Obviously, to me to repeat the obvious RHS, or RH Reichman are much closer to Ravs hashkafa than RAW or YCT-but that is obvious to a 2 year old” The other party stated “Then say so”
Thus, my request to have my personal thoughts about individuals hashkafa posted-which IMO are not usually relevant.
“The “coordinator of the Va’ad Giyyur” of this “International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF),” Zev Farber”
He stepped down in November 2013(see “Rabbi Yair Silverman to Serve as Coordinator for IRF Vaad HaGiyur” — “Rabbi Silverman is replacing our founding Giyur Coordinator Rabbi Zev Farber, who has stepped down from this position. We are thankful to Rabbi Farber for the critically important work he did on behalf of the IRF over the past many years…”).
R. Adlerstein commented about this in “Jonathan Sarna, Please Call Home” (see comment there, November 7, 2013 at 8:49 pm, “But it will take more than a shift at the helm of IRF to assure the rest of us that some sort of turn-around is in the works…”)
Thank H’ for real Rabbis such as Rabbi Menken and Rabbi Gordimer. After reading the comments here from others, I’m dumbfounded by the literal blasphemy of those who call themselves orthodox. What’s happening to our people?
Rabbi Menken, When you wrote:” No Rishon questions the truth of the Ikkarim, the debate is whether one is a kofer for denying one — which does not refer to all of them.” I am perhaps misunderstanding you. I read you as claiming that each of the ikkarim is agreed to as TRUE, by all rishonim; any disagreement is limited to whether a) it is an ikkar or just a true belief or b) whether disbeliever is a kofer or just wrong.
If I am interpreting you correctly, then what you assert is incorrect. Prof. Marc Shapiro wrote a whole book on the subject, outlining countless Rishonim and later figures who disputed many aspects of Rambam’s ikkarim. I am on vacation w/o required seforim but IIRC, Ravaad’s sharp disagreement about God’s lack of corporeality goes well beyond just being an ikkar. Regardless of just Raavad’s position, that position was hardly universal. If one takes that ikkar to its ultimate level, something I do, it creates complexity in understanding (at least) another one of the ikkarim.
All this is independent of the significant machloket, if Rambam’s ikkarim have become normative in one view or to the other extreme, if the ikkarim in asserting a “belief that – emunah she” are a foreign notion to the primary beliefs of Yahadut that are expressed as “belief in – emenuh beh.”
With all the discussion as to the differences and disputes among the Rishonim, Misnagdim versus Chassidim, 19th century Eastern European gedolim versus the Torah im Derech Eretz of Western Europe regarding what constitutes authentic Torah adherence, do any of those past occurrences really relate to the situation at hand? Those are not the precedents that parallel the contention we are seeing today. It is a distraction to engage in a squabble over distinctions of beliefs when we are pressed by efforts to fundamentally alter identity and observance.
No question this is outside of Chazal. However what is totally perplexing is you allow every other Apikorus group, such as chabad to stay in the fold and do extreme damage. Too inconsistent to be of any leadership value. Either they are all out and you uphold chazal or just get out of the way – because you are irrelevant in your cherry pick.