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

Simchas Hachayim – A superlative shiur by Rav Aharon Kahn, shlita.

Proud of Our Mission

Chief Rabbinate to offer own plan for egalitarian prayer at Western Wall

Netanyahu ‘committed to government decision’ on Western Wall

Record: World’s oldest Torah scroll still in use

Bizarre Torah Taxidermy in the Heart of Jewish Brooklyn

Rabbis with blowtorches: The business of kosher restaurants

Beware of the Frum Trump

A Galus Tehilah: Time to Cancel a Minhag – By a member of the YCT Jewish Leadership Advisory Board

HotMat, new Shabbat hotplate, offers design and safety appeal

Now-Frum Rapper Fulfills Dream of Moving to Eretz Yisroel

Pew Study of Israel Shows a Nation Fractured Into ‘Tribes’ — Big Split With American Jews

YCT to Publish Rebuttal of RCA Position Against Partnership Minyanim: “The RCA’s Tradition recently published an essay by the Frimer brothers from Israel in which they try to argue that Partnership Minyanim are halakhically invalid. Today the Lindenbaum Center for the Study of Modern Orthodox Halakha sent off to the publisher a teshuva on the topic. The teshuva refutes their conclusions and challenges the fundamental assumptions of their methodology. (It will be available on March 27, at the upcoming YCT dinner.)

Open Orthodox Leaders Object to Referring to God as “He”: “We should never call G-d “He” not only because it is alienating to so many but because we grossly mis-characterize Divinity.

Hence, some Open Orthodox leaders now refer to God not as “Himself”, but as a non-gendered “Godself”:

For example: “God is not as ready to fully give of Godself. God has promised that God’s Presence will go with them, but God has not promised that God Godself will dwell with them.”

And: “God makes Godself known… God would quietly make Godself known. V’noaditi lecha sham.

Last week’s installment of Weekly Digest – News and Essays In and Out of Orthodoxy can be viewed here.

You may also like...

44 Responses

  1. David Zinberg says:

    Rabbi Yanklowitz is absolutely correct.  God is not male.  Have you not read Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles?

    • Arthur says:



      I guess we should address that by ridiculous invented pronouns.

      • Larry says:

        Perhaps the original commenter should  read the 13 ikkarim and take note of how many times the Hebrew pronoun “hu” meaning “he” is used.  I counted six times in the first four Ikkarim.

      • Tal Benschar says:

        Not to mention the second word in shemoneh esreh and every bracha  (atah — the second person male pronoun) or the second word in the Torah (a verb conjugated in the third person male.)

      • Richard says:

        Hebrew doesn’t have a non-gendered pronoun.

        Honestly, it strikes me as straight-up heresy to say that God is male, as it implies that God has a body. If that is not what you  mean, I’d love to hear people explain what they mean when they say that God is “male.”

      • Aaron Emet says:

        “Hebrew doesn’t have a non-gendered pronoun.”

        Perhaps that is by design…

      • Arthur says:

        Richard, nobody but Archie Bunker says that God is corporeally male.  That’s why Mr. Zinberg’s comment was foolish.  Nobody has ever said sailing vessels are actually females even though we sometimes refer to them with female pronouns.

      • Richard says:

        OK, I think you’re missing the point. The idea is that the language we use to describe God, both in Hebrew and in English, does often assume masculinity and, to a lesser extent, maleness. For one example, imagine hearing God – I know that I imagine hearing a man’s voice. You might think that using non-gendered pronouns isn’t necessary to counter this theological error, but it seems to be a good faith attempt to combat commonplace heresy.

      • Arthur says:

        @Richard.  OK.  That’s a different argument than thinking that one needs to inform R. Gordimer, or anyone else here, about what RaMBaM says about God non-corporeality.  I don’t agree with your argument for several reasons, but I wouldn’t characterize it as ridiculous.  However, Godself is utterly ridiculous and makes us appear ridiculous. It’s up there with wearing body bags on airplanes.

      • Richard says:

        I guess that’s a subjective claim. I’ve heard rabbanim speak using either “Godself” or otherwise avoiding using gendered pronouns, and I haven’t found it ridiculous at all.

      • R.B. says:

        @Richard. You seem to be in the know about the OO world. Is this an new official OO policy? It seems that way from the three links R’ Gordimer provided.

      • Tal Benschar says:

        WADR, it is you who are missing the point.  Using the male gendered pronoun (or verb conjugation) to describe the Almighty is as old as the Torah itself, and is used countless times by Orthodox Jews every day when they start a berachah (Baruch Atah Hashem . . .), including the first beracha of Shemoneh Esreh.  Nothing about that contradicts the ikkar that Hashem is incorporeal.
        Simplest proof is that the Rambam himself, who was the chief proponent of the view that ascribing corporeality to God is heresy, nevertheless used the same formulation in numerous berachos.  The notion that masculine grammatical forms somehow imply corporeality or could mislead one into thinking that is utterly preposterous and contradicted by millennia of experience.  The author’s assertion that use of the masculine grammatical form “grossly mis-characterize[s] Divinity” is plainly false; the Rambam did not have a problem with it.  Not to mention how insulting that assertion is of the Torah and Chazal.
        You say “it seems to be a good faith attempt to combat commonplace heresy.”  I disagree with both assertions.  First of all, I do not see this as a “commonplace heresy.”  The vast majority of Orthodox Jews are well aware of the issue and side with the Rambam.  Does the author of the article R. Gordimer cited seriously think there is a rash of Jews believing God is corporeal?  Please cite any evidence to that.
        I also disagree that this is a “good faith attempt” to combat heresy.  The reality is that this is a product of PC think run amok.  The real reason for this absurd suggestion is the author thinks “it is so alienating to many,” by which he is projecting his own modern-informed sensibilities.  This is yet one more example of the complete disdain for masorah.  Please leave the Rambam’s ikkarim out of it.

      • Richard says:

        I don’t think we’re disagreeing that much. Again, I’ll admit that my intuitive conception of God is always as a man, and I’d assume that is true of most Orthodox Jews, even if this doesn’t mean that I think God is corporeal. Just try to hear God’s voice, and you’ll see what I mean.  I think it’s useful to remind people that God is not male/masculine/man but is above gender. If English has the tools to do that, let’s use them.

        I have no reason to think that it’s an OO policy to do this. I’ve heard all sorts of rabbis try to avoid gendered theological language, and I’m just saying that I didn’t find it awkward when done right.

        (And yes, the language that the author uses also strikes me as a little much.)

    • R.B. says:

      Yes, of course it is clear that Yanklowitz is acting on Maimonidean principles and is not groveling to political correctness and extreme gender identity politics. How could we be so obtuse!

      • Mordechai Harris says:

        You’re right and who would have thunk it, Hebrew has a “tragic flaw”, how naughty of G-d to give us the Torah in that language and not in a non violent gender neutral language. It is almost as if the good “rabbi” doesn’t believe in divine and holy language.

  2. R.B. says:

    Anybody have a time estimate for when OO will add the Imahos to the first bracha of the Amidah? I would predict, based on the speed with which they are unveiling their innovations, that this will occur within a year or so.

  3. Shades of Gray says:

    “Hence, some Open Orthodox leaders now refer to God not as “Himself”, but as a non-gendered “Godself””

    It sounds overly PC, but what indeed is the source/ Torah perspective on using the masculine, other than minhag, since Shechinah is feminine?

    (I found on Chabad.org an article titled “Who Is Shechinah, And What Does She Want from My Life?”)


    • dr. bill says:

      reference to God’s male and female characteristics predates chabad by thousands of years, despite Rabbi Google’s ordering of search results..  A way RAL ztl once framed it was referring to our relating to God as both immanent and transcendent.  It  is important to distinguish between God as He is, versus how we relate to Him.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        Courtesy of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on Ki Tissa  in my inbox:

        “That is one of the striking differences between the synagogues and the cathedrals of the Middle Ages. In a cathedral you sense the vastness of God and the smallness of humankind. But in the Altneushul in Prague or the synagogues of the Ari and R. Joseph Karo in Tzefat, you sense the closeness of God and the potential greatness of humankind. Many nations worship God, but Jews are the only people to count themselves His close relatives (“My child, my firstborn, Israel” Ex. 4:22).

        Between the lines of Exodus 33, if we listen attentively enough, we sense the emergence of one of the most distinctive and paradoxical features of Jewish spirituality. No religion has ever held God higher, but none has ever felt Him closer…”

  4. Aaron Emet says:

    I am confused as to why the RCA and its affiliated rabbis are not doing more to combat OO. OU member shuls are now openly hiring “maharats” and YCT graduates and the RCA remains silent, essentially legitimizing OO. They are making a mockery of everything Rav YBS worked for.

    • Larry says:

      Which OU member shuls hired female clergy or YCT graduates?

    • Steve Brizel says:

      If there is another Orthodox shul in town that neither has an OO grad nor a Maharat/female intern, then you and your family, if applicable,  can choose to  daven there and only there, and give your tzedaka to the shul of your choice. That sends as clear a message as possible as to what you view as proper and improper.

      • Aaron Emet says:

        Steve I wasn’t asking what I should do or even what the OO shuls should do. My question was about the RCA and the OU. They either accept OO’s actions or they do not. By not acting against them, they are essentially implying that OO is acceptable. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to know where they stand.

        Further, whether one chooses to avoid an OO shul is mostly irrelevant. Like it or not, agree with it or not, the RCA/OU is the governing body and communal of Modern Orthodoxy and their decisions or non-decisions (especially relating to halacha) will ultimately effect me.

        Lastly, the OU is an organization we all actively invest resources in. Whether its frequenting kosher restaurants, purchasing a shul memberhip, school tuition, or direct contributions we are all putting resources into the OU in various ways.  As an investor, don’t you think it’s fair to want the organization to mirror my thoughts and beliefs?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Where one spends money, time and effort with respect to any Mossad in the Orthodox world depends on your connection to the Mossad and its rabbinical and lay leadership. If you have a connection with such leaders, and you are unhappy with its direction, don’t blog about it-email or write the leaders. They are very receptive to complaints because if there is no response, it is well known that in the buyers’ market that we live in , your money time and effort will go elsewhere.

    • dr. bill says:

      I doubt anything like that would happen for historical reasons as well the slippery slope it would create.  Historically, the OU had shuls without mechitzot, a few had distinguished Rabbis whose names would surprise some.  Many influential synagogues like the Jewish Center, LSS and KJ in NY for example, would see themselves as next on the chopping block.  In any case, such moves tend to splinter organizations.
      BTW, your hyperbole – “They are making a mockery of everything Rav YBS worked for” is really over-the-top.  “everything???”  Besides, must the Rav ztl be dragged into every contemporary issue?

      • Aaron Emet says:

        Dr Bill – I would argue that it is that actions of the OO shuls that are, in fact, splintering the organization. The longer the RCA ignores this situation the more shuls we will see embracing OO. This is not a few shuls without a mechitza. This is a new heterodoxal movement that the RCA, through it’s inaction, has essentially endorsed.

      • mycroft says:

        Does OO reject Torah min hashamayim? If so, please show me statements of its leaders rejecting it? If not please state what your specific charges against OO are that make it heretical.

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        “Does OO reject Torah min hashamayim?”


        Really?  Did you just ignore the many hundreds of instances documented by R Gordimer?



      • dr. bill says:

        Chochom b’ma nishtanah, “many hundred”  – i have often claimed than innumeracy is more widespread than illiteracy.  thank you for another example.

      • Aaron Emet says:


        -I never referred to OO as heretical in my previous posts (though I do view them as such)

        – As Chochom b’mah nishtanah states in his reply to you, please check the cross-currents archive as Rabbi Gordimer has written something in the neighborhood of 250,000 articles on the matter, with various instances of halachic rejection by OO leaders

        – I’m not sure why you’re focusing on Torah min hashamayim when OO’s rejection is mostly focused on Torah SBP

        -If rejection of Torah min hashamayim is your barometer for heresy then the Conservative movement must be fine in your eyes since their “official” policy is acceptance of Torah min Hashamayim

        -Though I take issue with OO’s distortion of halacha and rejection of mesorah, the issue I was addressing here was the RCA’s relationship with OO. Frankly, for the purposes of my argument, it doesn’t matter whether OO’s actions are in line with halacha or not. The RCA’s rules (reaffirmed multiple times since the OO movement began) are quite clear and directly prohibit OO’s actions (specifically with regard to hiring of female clergy) .

      • mycroft says:

        ““Does OO reject Torah min hashamayim?”

        Really?  Did you just ignore the many hundreds of instances documented by R Gordimer?”

        Can you cite me statements by either Rabbis Weiss, Linzer or  Lopatin that deny revelation of the Torah by God. Don’t give me statements of students or or those who they ordained RIETS had some musmachim who later denied Torah misham see eg Rabbi Hartman.

        The following from Rabbi Maryles blog puts down the challenge to prove them wrong.

        *The head of their flagship Yeshiva , Rabbi Asher Lopatin, has since repudiated that view saying that the events at Sinai are ‘non negotiable’ and that the ordainee in question has not yet developed the skills to be able to properly deal with the questions raised by the bible critics.)

      • Chochom b'mah nishtanah says:

        ““many hundred”  – i have often claimed than innumeracy is more widespread than illiteracy. (sic)”

        Thank you for providing a perfect example of  illiteracy in addition too another instance of you deliberately misquoting and using the misquote to bolster your incorrect position.




        And at your ty

      • Steve Brizel says:

        There are no non mechitza shuls in the OU at this time. The last such shul was allowed to remain on the proviso that a mechitza would be installed, but none was installed, so that shul is no longer an OU shul.

      • Aaron Emet says:

        @Steve Brizel – “There are no non mechitza shuls in the OU at this time”

        Give the OO movement a couple more years……

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Yanklowitz seems to conveniently ignore that most, if not all of Nusach HaTefilah and every Birkas HaMitzvah is masculine.

  6. R.B. says:

    BTW, since R’ Gordimer has been posting recollections of R’ Belsky, here is a link to a tune R’ Belsky composed for the Shabbos Zemer Shimru Shabbsosai:http://www.gruntig.net/2016/03/shimru-shabsosai-team-falkowitz-shira.html.

    Didn’t know R’ Belsky was a composer, but accordingly an article I saw, R’ Belsky wanted to be a musician when he was young.

    • A Talmid says:

      Rav Belsky  would teach people the nuances of the notes of niggunim when singing them, as someone reminded me today. One of the nicest parts of Camp Agudah was his teaching niggunim when hiking in the woods or at Niagra Falls, including the niggunim of Rav Baruch Ber, R. Reuvein Grozovsky, or that of R. Meir Shapiro, which his grandfather heard from him when he visited America.

      My friend and I have been sharing “Rabbi Belsky” memories among ourselves.

      It might  be interesting for the readers if you can get someone from the Masmidim program to write a post about R.  Belsky,  in addition to the perspective given by  OU staff which I appreciated. Otherwise, one can wait for YTV which is  collecting submissions from people.

  7. Chava Rubin says:

    An additional  answer  to  the  question  of  which ou member shuls hired female  clergy  or yct grads  I would add that the Hebrew  Institute  of  White  Plains has as its Rabbi a YCT faculty member and a youth  director who is  a 2nd year YCT rabbinical student.

  8. Steve Brizel says:

    For those who are interested, the annexed link is also illustrative behind much of what drives OO in terms of hashkafa.http://www.thejewishweek.com/editorial-opinion/gary-rosenblatt/giving-voice-inclusive-orthodoxy.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This