Weekly Digest – News and Essays In and Out of Orthodoxy

  • The religious Left’s war against normative Orthodox Judaism– It turns out that many of the most vocal opponents of the new RCA resolution, who condemned and disparaged the RCA and the resolution in the name of Orthodoxy, are themselves not Orthodox. Reminds me vividly of this recent unpleasant exchange.

  • 3 Questions About the Salary Survey — and Answers – Insights into this important survey. (Special kudos to Agudath Israel of America, whose virtual “last place” finish here puts this organization in first place in my book!)

  • Chanukah Shmuess of Rav Aharon Kahn, shlita – Posted as a separate link, by popular request.

  • Misunderstanding Mesorah: Turkeys and Women Rabbis – A true must-read!

  • Vatican II at 50 – Assessing the impact of ‘Nostra Aetate’ on Jewish-Christian relations – Another must-read – of critical importance.

  • Taking Sides on Hanukkah – This JOFA leader is honest about his doubts as to whether he (and like-minded people) would have sided with the Maccabees or the Hellenists. Further proves the point made in my recent Cross-Currents article.

  • HAPPY HANUKKAH! CHANUKAH AND CHOOSING GOOD OVER EVIL – Chanukah seriously misrepresented, regardless of the specific context and intent of the rabbi. The Chashmona’im, who were tzaddikim, tehorim, and oskei Torah (righteous, pure, and Torah personalities), and whose dynasty only later degenerated, are metaphorically compared by this Open Orthodox rabbi to child molesters: “In the Hasmoneans good and evil sit together … that’s a very hard message to get across, that good doesn’t outweigh bad and vice versa.” Elton gives an example that is challenging but prescient in a time of Royal Commissions into child abuse: Imagine a teacher who dedicates his life to teaching young people but you later learn was a child molester. It’s incredibly hard for people who didn’t have that negative experience of the teacher to see how this person could be both charismatic and inspiring, but also very dark… (One Cross-Currents Talkback commenter communicated that my description misrepresents the quoted article, and that the article’s author meant and stated that later members of the Hasmonean dynasty sinned, imputing no fault to the Hasmoneans of the Chanukah story. This is not how the article reads to me, but if that is indeed its message, then the above metaphor as well as the article’s theme do not accurately correlate with the author’s intent.)    

  • Post-Hanukkah Alert: It’s Actually the Festival of Darkness – Another unusual interpretation of Chanukah. 

  • Disgraceful White House Hanukkah celebration 

  • More men making monthly mikvah dunks as menstrual rite – Not only does this introduce foreign elements into Judaism, but it also can lead to more privacy problems – and unclean mikva’os. Please also see here.

  • Halakha Q&A: Rabbi Eliezer Melamed – Now this is good use of Facebook!

  • Rabbi Lau’s condemnation of Naftali Bennett – While one can understandably question the utility of condemning Minister Bennett’s visit to a Conservative day school, anticipating the unnecessary and ugly backlash, some far-left Orthodox rabbis are wrongly criticizing the Chief Rabbi’s stance about the heterodox movements and implying an air of legitimacy thereof: Example 1: “The “chief rabbi” is wrong. Again. Shame on him.” Example 2: “An eighth grader at Solomon Shechter wants to teach the Chief Rabbi a thing or two about how the Conservative school works. And he uses a Talmud story to do it. (And please open the main link – a few leading Religious Zionist rabbis joined Rabbi Lau’s condemnation.)  

  • Arab-Israeli leader ends US trip with applause, but not from the Jews he hoped to reach – Reality checks in. 

  • Review of Open Orthodox Intimacy Podcasts – Despite the sincere intentions expressed in this article, those who have tuned in to these podcasts have been rightfully taken aback by a lack of inhibition, modesty and nuance, as well as by advice that is clearly at odds with our tradition.

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14 Responses

  1. Y. Ben-David says:

    The Chief Rabbi’s condemnation of Bennett’s visit to the Schechter school makes no sense. The State of Israel belongs to all Jews. The ultimate goal is to have ALL Jews around the world identify with Israel, if not yet to make aliyah. This includes the students in that school. Even the Chief Rabbinate recognizes the Jewish identity of those students ( I am presuming that the majority of the students are Jews according to halacha), even if they consider themselves members of the C movement.
    In Israel, Orthodox Judaism is flourishing, whereas the C’s and R’s have very little impact, and all Jews who visit Israel encounter living Judaism. Many, many Jews who had little contact with Jewish observance become “turned on Jews” after coming to Israel and not a few go all the way and become fully observant.
    So what is the point of alienating these Jews in Galut? Does the Chief Rabbi’s denunciation do anything to bring these Jews closer to Torah or does it drive them away? Isn’t there value in increasing the Jewish identity and mitzvah observance even if it hasn’t yet become complete?

  2. joel rich says:

    Compare R’ Kahn’s shmuess (my Take –
    Rabbi -Aaron Kahn-drosho Sichas Mussar Chanukah
    A very Torah only Chanukah! We thank HKB”H for the wars since else we might have been steeped in Greek culture. Very interesting assertion that one can’t have true Daas Torah if exposed to any “outside” influences. [I guess we need to define outside] Then onto pure mesorah and need to fight any outside influence (yes – he is a RY at YU/REITS?!).)

    To that of R’ M Rosensweig (My Take-http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/846555/rabbi-michael-rosensweig/בימים-ההם-בזמן-הזה-the-perennial-challenge-of-cultural-interaction-and-halakhic-integrity–lizecher-nishmas-imi-morasi/
    Rabbi Michael Rosensweig-בימים ההם בזמן הזה: The Perennial Challenge of Cultural Interaction and Halakhic Integrity – LiZecher Nishmas Imi Morasi My take:Mai Chanukah means what is the essence of Chanukah. Starts with technical analysis of Rashi and Rambam position on the relationship of hodaah (Thanksgiving) and al hanisim. However, this reflects grander themes of how we address other cultures. We are in favor of holistic integration with controlling mesorah. Halacha is about norms and values which create a Torah personality – it’s about being orthoval, not orthopraxy. (Me – hameivin yavin as to contemporary applications).)


  3. Joe Bloomenthal says:

    I want to thank you for the hot link to the ethics.org article. It was great. Truly a classic. It now shares a cherished space in my Truth directory on the Chashmonaim and Chanukah

    • Rafael Aishtanoor says:

      You’re joking, right? If not, I don’t anything I could write can help you. Also, in case you are serious, maybe you would agree to the truth of the comparison made years ago from a member of the Rabbis for Human Rights, an Israeli extreme left group, of the Chasmonaim to Hamas. I would send you the link but for your Truth directly, but I cannot find it right now.

  4. Steve Brizel says:

    The last link in particular is yet another proof that OO, and ifs allies cannot distinguish between what it means to be living a life rooted in Kedoshim Tihiyu ( Vayikra 19.2, Rashi and Ramban) and a life where one’s conduct would be described as a Kadesha Devarim 23:18).

  5. Rachel says:

    Great links – thanks. Could I make a request/suggestion – could you format links so they open in a new window? Would make it easier to read all this great stuff – thanks.

  6. LOberstein says:

    This is a comment I copied off of Facebook. I agree with it. Your campaign against Open Orthodoxy is givng them more coverage than they would otherwise have and making t hem martyrs in their own world. If anything, the bans will be counter productive and hurt a lot of good people.

    In all honesty, what in the world is Open Orthodoxy? A men’s Yeshiva that is smaller than the chasidish Kollel in Baltimore and an even smaller women’s yeshiva?
    If Open Oethodoxy does or will exist as a movement or sub-movement then it isn’t clear whether they are about being an Orthodoxy for those who did not identify with Orthodoxy beforehand or whether they are about changing existing institutions and communities.
    That is a difference between YCT in the US and Maaleh Gilboa here; the latter isn’t about outreach at all.

    • dr. bill says:

      well said. as i have often argued what is happening in Israel in a dozen or two institutions to the right and left of maaleh gilboa, makes US OO’s a insignificant event. The center of the MO movement is in Israel.

    • tzippi says:

      Our local MO school hosted an evening with a noted OO scholar. I have no idea how it went, or how it bodes for the direction of the school. Or maybe this scholar campaigned to come town for the publicity for all I know.
      But I found his appearance in town sobering.

    • DavidF says:

      Rabbi Loberstein,

      As someone who has frequently criticicized Rabbi Gordimer for exposing the sham that is OO, please tell us what exactly is worthy of condemnation in your opinion. You have taken very few public stances to my knowledge, nor have you staked your reputation on anything altruistic as Rabbi G. has done. Surely, however, you too, have your red lines in the sand. Where do you draw them? What would motivate you to stand up L’maan Hashem V’Toraso and say “Ad Kan”?

      • Y. Ben-David says:

        Two centuries of Orthodox condemnation of the R and C movements did nothing to stop the majority of world Jewry from abandoning Torah observance for those movements and other Jewish secular causes. I am NOT a supporter of OO but I believe strongly in the importance of maintaining the unity of the Jewish people in spite of the major divisions we have within us. The pressure the state of Israel and world Jewry are under due to the reappearance of antisemitism, including out-and-out genocidal antisemitism makes it imperative that we work together for the common good
        OO wouldn’t exist unless it provided something that some Jews need or want and don’t feel they are getting from the Orthodox world. The only real way to deal with OO is not condemnations but rather providing real answers from the Torah and original thinking form the Orthodox scholarly class to those who believe (wrongly) that only OO can give them what they feel they need.

      • Dov says:

        I have worked for many years on Campus with MO students. I think the need to speak out is important. I agree in the importance of unity , but there is an entire generation of students that are being trained in far LWMO. Schools across the US are hiring teachers and Rebbeim from YCT. There a students from Ramaz, Northshore, Fricsh , etc in Nativ (a year course run by the conservative movement ). These students go to Ramah in the summer. There is no line that has been drawn in the sand. Parents and students alike don’t know what is beyond the line. Some dont care, but most don’t know. The teachers often support the breach in the name of
        peace, unity,”its better than nothing”. So if we are honest , there needs to be people making lines , not to push people away but rather for giving people proper tools to grow and ask.
        OO only exists because these breaches were never cut off at its inception. When parent boards in MO high school advocated certain changes no one stood up. When supper LW Rabbis were hired , no one stood up. When the youth of MO high schools were in USY and going to Ramah growing up no one said anything. The questions and breaches come hand in hand. IF we could scrap the whole system it would be great to have open honest schools , but to have Rebbeim and parent boards who truly believe in the values of MO, but i dont think that is the case. Right now the frum would is in problem-solving mode and sadly this is th only choice , because of the monster that was created because of years of collectively sitting on our hands,

      • DavidF says:

        “Two centuries of Orthodox condemnation of the R and C movements did nothing to stop the majority of world Jewry from abandoning Torah observance for those movements and other Jewish secular causes. ”

        Straw man because no one ever expected it to. Condemnations are not going to stop movements. No one ever thought they would either.
        They serve a very different purpose and that is to recognize that while those who will make the break will continue to do so in most cases, there are many on the fence who will not as a result of the fact that the C and R were condemned. It will also help those who see through C and R return because the differences will be more easily articulated.
        Most importantly, it allowed those who wanted to retain their observance to do so with the support of leaders who clearly and unabashedly stated their condemnations. It solidified the base and that objective is no less important today than it was back then except that now it’s more important for the MO rabbis to speak up than the Charedim.

        “OO wouldn’t exist unless it provided something that some Jews need or want and don’t feel they are getting from the Orthodox world. ”

        Of course they “want” it. Why is that important? Torah Judaism obviously cannot make everybody happy because it asks a lot of us. There will always be people who “want” more freedom and that’s why these movements exist. That doesn’t indicate a flaw in Torah judaism however.
        The bottom line is that you and L Oberstein are very worried about unity, but unity has done nothing to stop people from going off the derech either. Not only that, but it’s allowed plenty who were on the fence to feel like it’s no big deal to take the easier route. No thanks.

      • Y. Ben-David says:

        David F- The search for Jewish Unity has done a LOT to prevent Jews from breaking their links with the rest of the Jewish people and that is more important than ideological purity. That is why Israel has been such a big success in mobilizing ALL of world Jewry to work together instead of fight each other as happened so tragically often before the creation of the state of Israel. And the success of Israel has lead to a massive revival of (Orthodox) Judaism in Israel which reaches all levels of the public, unlike in the US where religious Jews and non-religious (including C and R’s) have virtually no contact with one another.
        Although the Biblical northern Kingdom of Israel was sunk into corruption, avodah zara and its kings promoted a “reformed” Judaism disconnected from the Beit HaMikdash and Yerushalayim, the Nevi’im NEVER gave up trying to bring them back to the Torah. They didin’t simply say that they were “outside the camp” and leave it at that, they worked to show them the true relevance of the Torah.
        As I stated, I am NOT a supporter of OO and I am very troubled by their apparent adoption of the “social justice” package American “progressives” are shoving down everyone’s throat even if it betrays values society has lived by for centuries.but simply drawing lines and then saying they are on the wrong side of it and leaving it at that is destructive. The Orthodox leadership must show a better way to serve as an example.

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