Weekly Digest – News and Essays In and Out of Orthodoxy – Week of Parshas Tetzaveh 5776

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66 Responses

  1. mycroft says:

    “It is interesting that this West Coast school posed the question of Kol Isha specifically to this Israeli rabbi, who is involved with Open Orthodoxy, rather than to an American-based, more well-known and mainstream posek, such as Rav Sauer (of Los Angeles) or Rav Schachter.”

    I don’t recall the Chareidi world asking RYBS ZT’L sheilas.

    • dr. bill says:

      It is actually quite different than portrayed.  No one asked Rav Bigman (or others) for a pesak nor did he give one.  As was the case in traditional Judaism, the head of school, Rabbi Ari Segal read multiple teshuvot, including one by Rabbi Bigman, and paskened for himself.  (Poskim asked for supporting opinions in monumental cases.) As I said repeatedly, there a more than a dozen prominent RY/Poskim/academics/Rabbis in Israel who will become the intellectual leaders of Modern orthodoxy.  As we become a yet more global community, their influence will grow.  If you want to battle manifestations of OO kindred spirits, the big league is in Israel.

      • Larry says:

        This is no different from when the principal of SAR read the Teshuvot on his own and decided to let female students wear Tefillin.  Once an educational institution is committed to coeducational Talmud study, the slope gets slippery in a hurry.

         

      • mycroft says:

        Of course, the Rav was committed to coeducational Talmud study.

      • Larry says:

        Is there an example of a coed MO high school where the commitment to Talmud study, mitzvot and tzniut approaches that of a  single sex high high school? Is there an example of a coed high school that in any way shape or form has increased its yirat shamayim over the past 20 years?

        At best, these schools tread water against the headwinds of secular values.

      • Charlie Hall says:

        One of the very few halachic questions the Rav ever addressed in writing was a question of whether a new school should have coeducational Jewish studies. He insisted that it must.

      • True, but... says:

        “Of course the Rav was committed to Talmudic study” is true, but entirely irrelevant.

        Of course the Rav’s expressed commitment to coeducational Talmudic study was expressed (approximately) 30 to 60 years ago, before there were “Orthodox” women wearing tefillin and “orthodox” programs giving “semicha” to women.

        Plus, the Rav’s stated reason for insisting on women’s Talmud study was that differentiation between the sexes in this regard was a large factor in weakening religious observance at the time. That is no longer the case.

        The important question to ask is whether we should at the present be committed to coeducational Talmudic study.

         

      • True, but... says:

        “Of course the Rav was committed to coeducational Talmudic study” is true, but entirely irrelevant.

        Of course the Rav’s expressed commitment to coeducational Talmudic study was expressed (approximately) 30 to 60 years ago, before there were “Orthodox” women wearing tefillin and “orthodox” programs giving “semicha” to women.

        Plus, the Rav’s stated reason for insisting on women’s Talmud study was that differentiation between the sexes in this regard was a large factor in weakening religious observance at the time. That is no longer the case.

        The important question to ask is whether we should at the present be committed to coeducational Talmudic study.

      • larry says:

        I cannot comment on the Rav’s committment or insistence on coeducation because I do not know the facts.  But it is evident that RHS does not insist on coeducation.  It is ancedotally evident to me that the schools which have a greater commitment to Torah study, mitzvot and tzniut are single sex.  Whatever reasons one has for coeducation to me are entirely mitigated by the vastly superior Torah education provided by single sex high schools relative to their coed peers.  The overwhelming majority of Orthodox poskim insist upon single sex education wherever possible.   I see the principals of certain co-ed MO high schools as key aiders and abettors of inappropriate halachic reforms which weaken Orthodoxy.  It would seem that certain left wing MO co-ed schools only use Judaism where it fits their secular values.   They are sliding down a slippery slope.

      • Steve brizel says:

        I agree with Larry and true but on the issue of whether rybs would gave championed women learning Talmud if he knew that such programs would never suffice to satisfy the demands of feminists and their supporters and apologists

      • mycroft says:

        “Steve brizel
        I agree with Larry and true but on the issue of whether rybs would gave championed women learning Talmud if he knew that such programs would never suffice to satisfy the demands of feminists and their supporters and apologists”
        Are you making the claim that the Ravs being in favor of learning Talmud was some of horaas shah to placate feminists?
        The Rav started to teach his own daughters Talmud no later than the 40s

      • mycroft says:

         

        ““Of course the Rav was committed to Talmudic study” is true, but entirely irrelevant.”

        If one treats the Rav seriously one would not say his opinion on any matter is irrelevant. Thus, one who says his position on women’s talmud study is irrelevant could not then attack someone who believed in synagogue based WTGs which the Rav opposed as not following the Rav.

         

        “Of course the Rav’s expressed commitment to coeducational Talmudic study was expressed (approximately) 30 to 60 years ago, before there were “Orthodox” women wearing tefillin and “orthodox” programs giving “semicha” to women.”

        Some Orthodox women were raising questions on this matter during that time period, BTW explain to me why womens semicha is bad if one accepts yoetzet halachot. Both semicha and yoetzet halacha give permission to pasken certain types of shailot. It is RHS who always insists that most musmachim don’t have the right to answer complicated sheilos-so whats the difference?

         

        “Plus, the Rav’s stated reason for insisting on women’s Talmud study was that differentiation between the sexes in this regard was a large factor in weakening religious observance at the time. That is no longer the case.”

        You believe that women are willing to tolerate being kept in a lower position now than 30-60 years ago-not that it should make a difference the Rav believed in teaching girls the same material as boys.

         

        “The important question to ask is whether we should at the present be committed to coeducational Talmudic study”

        One can debate that-but if one wishes to ignore the Rav on coeducation? Don’t attack others for ignoring him on issues where you agree with him.

      • dr. bill says:

        There is a recording of RAL ztl talking about his preference for single sex schools beyond a grade I cannot remember.  When asked about the Rav ztl’s position his response might give pause to anyone who has the audacity to speak authoritatively about what factors influenced the Rav’s reasoning on this topic.

    • Tal Benschar says:

      Whom do you think they were asking their Shaylos to?  Maybe it was a certain world famous poseik who lived on the Lower East Side?

      • mycroft says:

        I believe back then people asked sheilas to their own RY/Rebbe/Rabbi. RMF was respected but it is plain revisionism to believe that all asked him their sheilos.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        Not all shailos, but shailos relating changing basic Halacha as understood, such as being mattir Kol isha, or for women putting on tefilin, if R Moshe was not asked directly, the Rov who was aksked would speak to R Moshe.

        This is pretty clear from many of the shutim in Igros Moshe.

      • mycroft says:

        I suspect that during the time when both the Rav and RMF were active the Rav received more questions that impacted more people than RMF. The Rav was the head of the halacha commission of the RCA-the vast majority of pulpit Rabbi back then were members of the RCA and YU grads-that has all changed. The Rav gave smicha to the most practicing Rabbonim. The Rav would answer many specific halacha lemaaseh questions.

        BTW-in the early 60s the Rav was responsible for the redesiging of schechita pens in North America-used today by all.

  2. Natan Slifkin says:

    “It is interesting that this West Coast school posed the question of Kol Isha specifically to this Israeli rabbi, who is involved with Open Orthodoxy, rather than to an American-based, more well-known and mainstream posek, such as Rav Sauer (of Los Angeles) or Rav Schachter.”

    What a strange comment. They invited as scholar-in-residence someone who represents their worldview, and they asked him questions during his visit. Are you saying that Americans shouldn’t invite non-Americans? Then did you have a problem with BRS inviting Rav Asher Weiss? Or are you saying that people are only allowed to ask questions of famous and “mainstream” (whatever that means) poskim? Then do you have a problem with all the different splinter chassidic groups that don’t do that? And by the way, there are plenty of frum Jews who would not consider Rav Schachter to be at all mainstream!

    • R.B. says:

      If R’ Schachter is not considered mainstream, I wonder what that makes R’ Bigman?

    • Steve brizel says:

      What is BRS and why would anyone object to r asher Weiss as a posek.r Weiss speaks and gives shiurim in charedi mo and rz venues

      • dr. bill says:

        Boca Raton Synogogue.  What is being pointed out is that is commonplace for non-local Torah scholars to be invited, as Rav Bigman like Rav Weiss were.  In fact, Rav Weiss addressed complex medical sheailot during a session at BR, given his role as halakhic medical authority at sharai chesed ( I believe), in Israel.

    • tzippi says:

      I agree, it makes sense that they should ask someone whose written work was a basis for the principal’s decision.

      And yet it makes equal sense that they also ask an American authority. Who that authority should be is a very good question. But this is all part of the “centralism problem”: not asking local authorities. Sometimes it is necessary to go to the top (the Rav Moshes, zt”l, for example) and considering how big this issue is, it is arguable that this is one of those cases. I would still think that consulting a local or American authority of stature would be a good idea in this case.

      Of course, it is very possible I wouldn’t be comfortable with the authority they would choose. (And I’m most definitely not referring to Rav Schachter.)

  3. mycroft says:

    “Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that mikvahs in the country must open up to non-Orthodox conversion rites.”

    The ruling is consistent with the viewpoint of the Rav:”Until the 1950s, Jews of all denominations were generally allowed to use the same communal mikvaot (ritual baths) for the purposes of converting to Judaism, observing the rules of niddah in regard to laws of marital purity, ritually cleansing dishes, etc. However the Orthodox movement increasingly denied the use of mikvaot to non-Orthodox rabbis for use in conversions… Rav Soloveitchik counselled Orthodox rabbis against this practice, insisting that non-Orthodox have the option to use mikvaot” from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_B._Soloveitchik

    • Steve brizel says:

      See chamesh drashos for a more complete view of how rybs viewed such issues

      • mycroft says:

        See the totality of how the Rav paskened lemaaseh for how he viewed issues. What he said in practice beats ideas that can be taken from one drasha or another. The Rav was complex. Certainly how the Rav ruled in practice is much more important than what he said at shiur.

        Thus, as a leading living Rabbi told me about ideas being attributed to the Rav after his p which were contrary to what the Rav told other Rabbis during his  lifetime-I don’t know where he got his information from.

      • dr. bill says:

        You are completely correct.  What one paskens trumps what was said even in a strictly talmudic context, kal ve’chomer, in a (homiletic) drasha.  As is well known great rabbis were severely castigated by their peers for deriving a new halakhic ruling from even what a rishon says in explaining a gemara.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Are you referring to RIZM’s critique of the Brisker Derech? IIRC, R Vellvel ZTL had a rather trenchant response to that well known comment.

      • dr. bill says:

        Steven Brizel, of course not RIZM critique of the Brisker method.  we are discussing Psak NOT derech haLimmud.  it is an area which still lacks a good historical study.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Proof please

      • dr. bill says:

        read the letters of RIZM ztl to a Gadol.  His view was supported by other Gedolai Yerushalayim.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        Problem is that very little of what RYBS paskened l’maaseh is known in his own words. The different reports of what he paskened about similar sheilos from different people mean that it is very hard to speak definitively about even that aspect of him. He didn’t write teshuvos, he answered questions. His halachic legacy therefore remains as complex as his hashkafic legacy.

      • dr. bill says:

        his hashkafic legacy consists of more essays than anyone orthodox thinker of the recent past.  more are being published from his manuscripts posthumously.   unfortunately, it often requires familiarity with areas foreign to most of his talmidim who knew him only as a RY.  He published few teshuvot, but answered many sheailot presented to him.

      • mycroft says:

        “Problem is that very little of what RYBS paskened l’maaseh is known in his own words. ”

        Hw paskened more non individual sheilos probably than anyone-he was undisputed Head of RCA Halachik Commission for decades. More is known of his positions in his lifetime than most gdolim. What is unique about the Rav is that the RY of the institution where he taught for decades don’t really believe in his message thus they try and limit what he said by stating the Rav didn’t mean what he did for general use, was only for Boston 1930 etc.

        “The different reports of what he paskened about similar sheilos from different people mean that it is very hard to speak definitively about even that aspect of him.”

        Most often the people who are engage in revisionism of the Rav are quoting supposed personal conversations with him-NOT halachik personal sheilas that they claimed they asked him lemaaseh.

        “He didn’t write teshuvos, he answered questions.”

        Read Helfgots book-if much there is not the equivalent of written psak-tell me why it isn’t.

        His halachic legacy therefore remains as complex as his hashkafic legacy

      • mycroft says:

        “His halachic legacy therefore remains as complex as his hashkafic legacy”

        True to the extent that the Rav was very nuanced-every individual sheila could be different based on facts-BUT that should be true about Psak in general.

        It may be complex but even in halacha one can recognize revisionism -eg if the Rav ruled some way for his entire career-it is just plain revisionism to believe that he didn’t believe in the principle. It is equally misleading to limit him to the facts.In secular courts a well known game of overturning previous decisions wo admitting it.This has happened to the Rav in his decisions.

        to paraphrase Dr Bill to understand what the Ravs halacha is requires a good faith attempt to believe that he meant what he said and  unfortunately, it often requires familiarity with areas foreign to most of his talmidim who knew him only as a RY.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        Dr Bill. His hashkafic legacy of essays is, I believe, overwhelmingly reproduced from his lectures, not his own written word. That may or may not be significant in understanding it.

        Mycroft. Even regarding written teshuvos eg R MF, there’s a debate as to their applicability outside the context of the individual sho’el. However at least when someone publishes their own teshuvos it can be understand they intend them to have wider application. However when teshuvos are reported by third parties, or the least not written up formally by the posek concerned, do you not think there’s are lot of room for considering that the teshuva may be specific to the time and place? In which case the teshuvos become more of a history than a legacy.

         

  4. tzippi says:

    Is it me or was R. Yankelewitz’s article patronizing?
    What should be the Ultra-Orthodox response to “diverse sexuality”? Is compassion and understanding not enough or must it be embrace of same-sex marriage?
    And telling agunos to wait till Moshiach? I know of at least one situation where one day there were buses coming from several communities to protest in front of a recalcitrant husband’s house. I don’t think this was a one time event. (True, the local effort was spearheaded by a YI rabbi because of personal connections but I’m sure there were “ultras” who went, or who would have had circumstances allowed.)

    • dr. bill says:

      You ask: “Is it me or was R. Yankelewitz’s article patronizing?”  Anyone who reads the article and emphasizes the few phrases that trouble them is reading uncharitably.  IMHO, it’s you, but you fear not, you have company.

  5. Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

    I wasn’t necessarily saying as opposed to RYBS, because he was an acknowleged leading posek for his communities.  He was not just the regular pulpit rabbi and clearly R Bigman does not compare in any form to to RYBS,

     

    I was not saying RMF to the total exclusion of other recognized leading poskim.  Certainly there was R Yonason Steif or Rav Henkin and R Yaakov and others.  They were not the general pulpit rabbis,  they were who the significant sheilos were referred to.

    • mycroft says:

      BTW-RYBS was not merely a RY-he acted as aRav of a city-in earlier years he would go to about 6 different schul-twice a year and speak Shabbos morning. He was the Rav hamachshir  for the mea company etc

    • dr. bill says:

      where oh where did anyone compare Rav Bigman to the Rav ztl.  Yiftach be’doro k’shmuel be’doro, tells us we are not suppose to wait for one of a future generation to be born.

      and who do you think compares to the Rav?

  6. mycroft says:

    “I cannot comment on the Rav’s committment or insistence on coeducation because I do not know the facts.  But it is evident that RHS does not insist on coeducation.”

    What does RHS viewpoint on anything have to do with theRavs viewpoint-they are different people with different hashkafas.

    ”  It is ancedotally evident to me that the schools which have a greater commitment to Torah study, mitzvot and tzniut are single sex. ”

    Probably so, but that simply reflects the self selection of those who insist on single sex schools. How is tzniut defined? Length of dress and sleeves?

    “Whatever reasons one has for coeducation to me are entirely mitigated by the vastly superior Torah education provided by single sex high schools relative to their coed peers. ”

    How do you define superior Torah education?

    “The overwhelming majority of Orthodox poskim insist upon single sex education wherever possible.”

    A given but the posek without whom there would have been essentially no MO in theUS did not agree with the others.

    • True, but... says:

      What does the Rav’s viewpoint from 30-60 years ago have anything to do with what we should be doing today?

      “How do you define superior Torah education?”

      However one defines it, the statement that the single sex high schools provide the superior education is accurate. Any attempt to claim otherwise is sticking your head in the sand.

      • mycroft says:

        “What does the Rav’s viewpoint from 30-60 years ago have anything to do with what we should be doing today?”

        So you don’t believe the viewpoints of the following should be considered today the mechaber, Rema, Chasam Sofer, SRH, Chayei Adom, Rambam,  Rabina, Rav Ashi, Moshe Rabeinu all from before 30-60 years ago.

        ““How do you define superior Torah education?”

        However one defines it, the statement that the single sex high schools provide the superior education is accurate. Any attempt to claim otherwise is sticking your head in the sand.”

        What is superior education?Knowledge of blatt gemara?, knowledge of tanach? knowledge of halacha?knowledge of Hebrew? knowledge of our past?

      • Ben Bradley says:

        “So you don’t believe the viewpoints of the following should be considered today the mechaber, Rema, Chasam Sofer, SRH, Chayei Adom, Rambam,  Rabina, Rav Ashi, Moshe Rabeinu all from before 30-60 years ago”

        That sounds like obfuscation. Because, as I’m fairly certain is clear to you, most of the authors above explicitly wrote their works to be a permanent record of their thought and opinion. Apart from the obvious exception of Moshe Rabeinu, who wrote G-d’s words instead.

        Whereas the viewpoints of RYBS did not have this feature at all, rather were expressed in a specific communal context and not published by him for wider consumption. That’s not to say we can’t learn from it but it’s clearly not as widely applicable as the others you mention. Context, as ever, is vital.

         

    • Steve brizel says:

      Mycroft look at the facts on the ground. Why is it that the gap year is viewed as an important element in whether a young man or woman will raise a bayis neeman  byisrael

      • mycroft says:

        Two  principle reasons come to mind:-1)self selection process those who are interested in spending at least some of the time in a free year learning are in general going top correlate positively with those who are more interested in yiddishkeit in the first place; 2) those who don’t punch their ticket by going to a gap year program will not be welcome in the club-similar to pressures found that kick out of our club those who don’t attend day schools.

         

      • Steve brizel says:

        The gap year is viewed as the last serious chance at developing into a serious Ben or bas Torah and aiding participants into taking shmiras hamitzvos seriously.

      • mycroft says:

        Are you saying that regular 12 yrs yeshiva/day school education can’t enable one to develop shmiras hamitzvos? Are you saying that a gap year is enough to develop into a “serious” Ben Torah?

        I am not aware of any proof. I am very familiar with “Flipped Out” but that study-the book has 3 separate sections with 3 separate authors- shows impact a year or two after returning. What counts is impact decades later.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote in relevant part:

        “Are you saying that regular 12 yrs yeshiva/day school education can’t enable one to develop shmiras hamitzvos? Are you saying that a gap year is enough to develop into a “serious” Ben Torah?”

        Look at RAL’s comments for what the average days school student is confronted with in choosing between R Akiva and Lhavdil Michael Jackson -Torah is one of several subjects that he or she must pass tests to show some proclivity in-It is not viewed as the raison de etre of one’s life until one spends at least a year learning Torah and appreciating that fact. The gap year or gap years are viewed as the last possible chance to inculcate that POV. I know many a Ben Torah and Bas Torah whose commitment was definitely strengthened by the gap years and whose commitment after 12 years of day school education was deeply aided and facilitated thereby.Like it or not , today- k-12 day school education is one of the keys of Jewish education.

  7. YbhM says:

    <i>WHY THE WAR OF WORDS ABOUT OPEN ORTHODOXY WON’T MATTER – Well written and insightful, and hopefully its prognostication will turn out to be incorrect,</i>

     

    The author’s basic point is that millenials don’t accept authority, so that “Orthodoxy” will transform into something more experiential and multifaceted.

    He is probably correct that “authority” is in trouble these days.

    But he is missing something basic ie.  there is a fundamental difference between halakhic research (which requires only textual skills and a good database) and psak halacha (which requires sincerity, middot, and breadth of Torah knowledge).

    There are too many people who lack awareness of this basic point.

     

     

     

     

    • mycroft says:

      So someone who can memorize shas and poskim is not automatically a posek. Agreed but how do YOU test sincerity, middot and Torah knowledge in people you have never even spoken to.

    • dr. bill says:

      Ikkar choser min hasefer in both areas: halakhic research often requires knowledge of the historical context and psak often requires shimush.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    None less than RAL’s own daughter has recently bemoaned the inability of RZ and MO men and women ( presumably at least those that she encounters)  to inculcate an awareness of the difference between Kodesh and Chol and Chol and Chol. I think that what RYBS did privately with his own daughters in the 1940s in the pre feminist era when there was absolutely no radical feminist agenda in the US with the stated goals of eradicating all gender based differences in Halacha and Minhag has no bearing on the issue of whether women should learn Gemara in any fashion today. I think that much study is needed to see whether the study of Talmud by women enhances their Yiras Shamayim and Avodas HaShem or merely is another form of surrender to feminists, and their supporters as a means of enhancing what could be called a pronounced form of gender based envy of men by  women and the enhancing of feminism and its critique when in fact Talmud Torah, especially that of TSBP, is a serious responsibility assigned to men based on the events in this week’s Parsha.

    • mycroft says:

      “I think that what RYBS did privately with his own daughters in the 1940s in the pre feminist era when there was absolutely no radical feminist agenda in the US with the stated goals of eradicating all gender based differences in Halacha and Minhag has no bearing on the issue of whether women should learn Gemara in any fashion today.”

      The Rav did not change his mind one iota about Talmud learning for girls until the end. The feminist movement was in full flower by that time.

    • mycroft says:

      “None less than RAL’s own daughter has recently bemoaned the inability of RZ and MO”

      Quote me the Rav or any of his children-when one gets beyond that level there are drastically different viewpoints.

      BTW-RAL made aliyah before any of his children were bar/bat mitzvah age. Even relatives of the Rav who grew up in Boston have drastically different viewpoints ofthe Rav.

      • Steve brizel says:

        Take a look at matzav.com there is a copy of a letter from rybs in 1982 urging his talmidim to support the important work of BMG and a copy of a check written by rybs to  BMg. Re women and learning talmud rybs never viewed it a Torah obligation for any woman to learn bhasmadah mrubah simply because there is no such obligation

         

      • mycroft says:

        It was standard for many MO people to give checks to BMG. Cleaning out my parents house after my mothers ptirah I found a few cancelled checks from decades ago to BMG from my family.

        MO has always supported chareidi institutions-the reverse doesn’t happen

      • Steve brizel says:

        My comment focused on mo today and the issues on the ground not rybs approach in generalu

      • mycroft says:

        A separate argument-you follow people like Rav Willig who take that approach-it appears R  Wieder would disagree-a separate issue.

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote in part:

    “Read Helfgots book-if much there is not the equivalent of written psak-tell me why it isn’t.”

    There are many halachic inquiries ( see Pages 3-77) , statements of what RYBS’s views on educational issues ( 77-109)  the issues facing Orthodoxy in  the 1950s ( 109-157), interreligious affairs ( 247-267), RZ and religious/state issues in Israel ( 163-241) and an entire section denoted as Torah, Philosophical and Personal Insights ( 271-337) therein. Are you maintaining that all of the letters throughout this excellent book constitute a Sefer Psak ala a Sefer of ShuT? That argument makes sense for much of the contents of the book in terms of setting forth halachic and meta halachic responses of RYBS on the issues therein, but I think that Pages 271-337,with the exception of Pages 311-321, cannot be viewed as Psak Halacha by any reasonable definition of that term.

     

    • mycroft says:

      Whast the Rav wrote expresses his viewpoint. Anything else on any side-right or left- claiming otherwise is pure revisionism

      • Steve brizel says:

         

        Please read the book. There are  numerous articles that cannot be rightly called psak halacha in any sense of the term

      • mycroft says:

        I have read Helfgots book many times-it is the number 1 source that I am aware of to get an unbiased view of the Ravs viewpoints. Whether or not something is a psak-if one wants to know what the Rav believed on an issue read it.

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