Weekly Digest – News and Essays In and Out of Orthodoxy – Week of Parshas Shemini 5776 – EXPANDED EDITION

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44 Responses

  1. Reader says:

    “……Trump supporter …..the most populous segments of Orthodoxy do appear to be

    Don’t be fooled by smoke, mirrors, distortion, and sensationalistic reports from publications you wouldn’t generally read.

    Talk is cheap. When it comes to actual voting, lemayseh, most Hassidim are tied quite tightly to the Democratic party, and its welfare state, no matter what a few Hasidic politicos might like you to believe.

    Redneck Hassidim that listen to conservative talk radio may sometimes imagine themselves as part of the general redneck population supporting him, but even they often realize that they are a group apart after a while.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    R Gordimer deserves a hugh Yasher Koach for deciphering what is set forth as a “responsum” but which really is no different than the Dylanesque “the times they are a changing” rationale behind such “responsa” as the purported basis for appointment of  women rabbis, allowing driving to and from shul, and similar departures from halacha. Once again, it is evident based on an unjustifed and unwarranted reading of the  of the Bach on Page 5 that in such instances modernity takes precedence over adherence to halacha. Exceptions to the rule never mean that the rule is not on the books.

    What is missing especially from  the analyissof the teshuvah of RMF is that RMF understood that the mashgicha was the only person capable of rendering proper hashgacha of both genders, a classical instance of a bdieved or a shas hadchak gadol meod, as opposed to the same being a Lchathilah situation.

    • dr. bill says:

       I had no doubt that Rabbi Katz’s teshuvah would get your juices running.  However, writing “… appointment of women rabbis, allowing driving to and from shul, …” demonstrate a remarkable level of discernment.  Given that sentence, I am hardly surprised that Rabbi Katz’s differentiation between the Bach’s case and the changed status of women in contemporary society escaped your grasp.  It is a tad more subtle than distinguishing between women rabbis and driving.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        We disagree-it is IMO a classical example of a preordained conclusion that is supported by a house of cards or conflation of texts -IIRC, there is a very acute comment of the Ramban that describes such “scholarship” that seems apt but I can’t find the exact phrase.

      • YbhM says:

        Given that sentence, I am hardly surprised that Rabbi Katz’s differentiation between the Bach’s case and the changed status of women in contemporary society escaped your grasp.  It is a tad more subtle than distinguishing between women rabbis and driving.

        Given that OO leaders are supposedly so “open” and “subtle”,  one might think that they would be willing to discuss whether certain aspects of the different roles ascribed to men and women in halakha might representative an objective difference between men and women.  Or at least to discuss whether traditional roles might be “better” than contemporary roles.

        But of course this is wrong, as OO support of feminism is axiomatic and undiscussable.

      • joel rich says:

        as in general society

        kt

      • dr. bill says:

        i think OO leaders would acknowledge objective differences between the archetype male and archetype female given, at a minimum,  obvious biological differences.

        just for accuracy, i was not addressing the subtlety of OO leaders; however, a number have impressed me with their subtlety.

      • YbhM says:

        i think OO leaders would acknowledge objective differences between the archetype male and archetype female given, at a minimum,  obvious biological differences

        dr. bill I’m beginning to think that you are deliberately not arguing in good faith.

      • dr. bill says:

        i assume you know who used the term archetype when discussing fundamental differences between men and women?  and if you must get personal, chances are you have nothing of substance to add.

  3. Micah Segelman says:

    I also disapprove of the way this particular protest of Trump was handled. But I think the many people at AIPAC who enthusiastically applauded when Trump said President Obama “… may be the worst thing that ever happened to Israel, believe me, believe me” were far more damaging to our interests than the actions of this one individual. And I think it would have been good to point to the rebuke of Trump by 40 Rabbis including our own Rabbi Adlerstein as a much more responsible way of getting their message across.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      See my comments to Reb Yid. Obama is a leftist radical who is not a friend of Israel and whose domestic policies ignore the basic constitutional principle of separation of powers-a rule known to anyone with a basic familiarity with the Constitution of the United States.

      • mycroft says:

        Sadly it is not at all clear that the next President of the US will be better for Israel or respect the US Constitution any better than Obama has.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Cruz has far more respect for Israel and the US Constitution than any other candidate.

      • Reb Yid says:

        “Obama is a leftist radical”

        Have you checked your stock portfolio lately compared to where it was at the end of GWB’s term?  All of the doomsday folks were of course proven dead wrong.  The POTUS completely bailed out the big banks whose misdeeds, frauds, etc caused the whole mess.  Not that any of these folks went to prison for any of this, God forbid, or even lost their jobs, pensions, etc. (although quite a different story for the rank and file employees).

        We can go on and on here, but if you’re wondering why Bernie Sanders has such a following and is making it so difficult on Hillary–it’s anger that our current President hasn’t been nearly progressive enough on a variety of issues and that Clinton is basically saying it’s going to be the same and a continuation of Obama’s policies with her in charge.

         

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Obama is a radical who has used executive fiat to implement what Congress won’t pass and what the Federal courts would easily strike down. Sanders reminds me of the socilaist teachers that I had in high school who viewed socialism and communism as their expression of their Jewishness and   is an advocate of  and apologist for the worst excesses of socialism-a wonderful theory that has ruined every country where it has been the dominant economic theory and has remained dominant in such paradises as Cuba and North Korea only being a totalitarian dictatorship in practice that suppresses political liberty, and dissent and economic competition simply because as Van Hayek noted, socialism is and has always been the road to servitude in its mantra that there is a free lunch guaranteed for all .

      • Reb Yid says:

        “Obama is a radical who has used executive fiat to implement what Congress won’t pass and what the Federal courts would easily strike down”

        Compared to all other 2 term Presidents, Barack Obama has issued considerably fewer Executive Orders.  If you’re going to criticize this particular President, all other Presidents that preceded him over the past 100 years are far more guilty than he is of this offense:

        http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/data/orders.php#orderlist

      • Steve Brizel says:

        A president who fiddles like Nero while Rome burns-doing the wave at a baseball game while a guest of a Communist totalitarian dictator and then dancing the tango in the aftermath of a brutal Islamicterrorist assault on an airport- demonstrates his lack of basic understanding and fitness for the job of President of the United States.

  4. lacosta says:

    burning the flag is less noxious than the hanging in effigy of a Tzahal soldier in Meah Shearim.  As Pew data claims  15%  of haredim serve in the army , that means thousands of haredi lives are in danger at the hands of ill-meaning vile anti-zionists who portray their haredi brethren in terms that would be fitting for Streicher’s  Volkishe Beobachter, and would be willing to bring to fruition the biblical command of ‘uviarta hara mikirbecha’….

  5. Reb Yid says:

    The author of this post is seriously castigating R’ Herzfeld for not working “behind the scenes”?  Pot, kettle, anyone?

    And where was the author of this post when Bibi insulted the President of the United States (as well as many others) time after time ?  This approach has entirely boomeranged on Israel–what goes around comes around.  If Bibi and the GOP weren’t so intent on embarrassing our President and the Democratic Party–if they had actually tried to work with them behind the scenes….

     

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Jeffrey Goldberg, Michael Oren and Dennis Ross have all spelled out in detail Obama’s anti Israel , leftist and radical POV in detail-You seem to forget that Churchill also spoke to Congress prior to Pearl Harbor when much of Congress was gripped by an isolationist fever. Speaking the truth to power is what Netanyahu did to Obama-both privately and publicly to avoid the abject act of appeasement that is the most polite phrase that I could think of to describe the treaty with Iran.

      • mycroft says:

        “Jeffrey Goldberg, Michael Oren and Dennis Ross have all spelled out in detail Obama’s anti Israel , leftist and radical POV in detail”

        I may well agree with them-and have read at least something ball of them but that does not mean that it is best policy to insult someone who has power over you.

        “-You seem to forget that Churchill also spoke to Congress prior to Pearl Harbor when much of Congress was gripped by an isolationist fever.”

        In due respect to Israel-it does not have the world standing vis a vis the US that the UK had pre WWII.

        “Speaking the truth to power is what Netanyahu did to Obama-both privately and publicly to avoid the abject act of appeasement that is the most polite phrase that I could think of to describe the treaty with Iran”

        It may well be so-of course others including the late Meir Dagan would disagree with that statement.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Even if you are alone-there is something to be said about standing up to power when the exercise of appeasement places your country in danger of an existential threat that has been aided and abetted by the nation that you thought was your strategic ally based on a wide commonality of interests. That is especially true given the majority of the UN-a collection of corrupt and near bankrupt oppressive third world plutocracies and dictatorships that have no sense of what “human rights” mean.  Why should Netanyahu have acted as if Israel in the 21st century was the equivalent of Czechoslovakia at the Munich Conference?

        The facts were that FDR had to sell both American people and Congress on Lend Lease before it was passed because there were significantly large isolationist forces and public personalities ( Joseph Kennedy Sr., Charles Lindberg,  and many members of both houses of Congress ,etc) who urged the US to avoid any involvment in WW2, and who even rooted for a Nazi victory. Netanyahu deserves  a huge credit for not meekly acquiescing to the Iran treaty.

    • Shmuel Landesman says:

      I don’t understand this post by an anonymous Reb Yid.

      Bibi was invited to address the Congress of the United States.

      He didn’t shout at the President and make a fool of himself. He also spoke appropriately, which is more than Herzfeld did.

      • Reb Yid says:

        You and Yaakov Menken (who brings up Winston Churchill addressing Congress in a related thread elsewhere) are using inappropriate historical analogies.

        Churchill was invited by both houses of Congress to support FDR in his fight against the Axis powers.  Everyone was on the same team.

        Here, Bibi isn’t even invited by a single House.  He’s invited by Republican leadership only in the House of Represenatives (indeed, Democratic House leaders were completely unaware).  He completely bypasses informing the President of the United States in the process.  And, of course, the reason he comes to speak is to lambast the sitting President’s policy on Iran.

        He most certainly made a fool of himself, was incredibly disrespectful and has done untold long-term damage (not just from this single incident) in relations between Israel and many other constituencies, whether in the US or elsewhere.

      • Reb Yid says:

        My bad–it was Steve Brizel and not Yaakov Menken who made the Churchill reference.

      • Steve brizel says:

        I was incorrect in my reference to when Churchill spoke

        However netanyahu merely sought to point out what Obama willfully ignored and ignores the threat of islamoterrorism

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Churchill spoke to Congress three weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the Pacific rapidly becoming a Japanese lake due to the fall of large parts of Southeast Asia , China, Singapore and the beckoning loss of the Phillipines, as well as the Royal Navy enroute to losing two of its largest ships in the Pacific, and the American surface fleet gravely weakened, while Hitler was on the gates of Moscow, and having  failed to bomb GB into submission was engaged in using U Boats to starve both the British and the USSR into submission, and a US that had just begun to gear up for a long war economically and militarily as it awoke from a largely isolationist and even appeasement pre Pearl Harbor mode. The North African campaign was not going well. The Holocaust was not even known in the  scope then underway to the American Jewish community in late 1941. Churchill spoke to cheer Americans on in what they now knew would be a long war to defeat Fascism and Nazism. That being the fact, one cannot ignore the fact that appeasement of the left  right , and terror has a long and dishonorable history in world politics which Netanyahu valiantly spoke against. If that amazing speech embarrassed the chattering classes that support the president, such embarrassment was long overdue.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        See my post on when and why Chruchill spoke to Congress correctly as you mentioned after Pearl Harbor. Time will tell whether Obama or Netanyahu was right-we already see the Iranians with the aid and approval of the US  testing ICBMs with one address -Israel-and we know from the sources that I quoted that Obama does not understand or value American leadership in foreign policy, does not believe that Islamic terror is a threat and does not understand Israel’s strategic needs. Why shouldn’t Netanyahu have spoken out-especially with the liberal media, academia and the Democratic Party, except those Democrats indicted in a political vendetta , having deserted Israel’s back?

        Churchill also spoke in prophetic style about the fall of the Iron Curtain over Europe after he had been turned out of office and while not a small percentage of liberals were already advocating better red than dead. History proved that Churchill was right about the Iron Curtain- a fact that liberals tend to forget in their blame America guilt complex.

         

  6. “The author of the new Yeshivat Maharat responsum fails to note that the Remo’s approach to modern-day semicha cannot serve as the basis for ordaining women as rabbis for the simple reason that the Remo was not referring to semicha as the conferral of rabbinic title, rabbinic position or rabbinic authority, but rather as a technical affirmation of knowledge and the removal of a prohibition to pasken even privately and on a lay level.”

    Isn’t that kind of exactly what the point was? That the Rema defines semicha in today’s era as mere “technical affirmation of knowledge and the removal of a prohibition to pasken even privately and on a lay level.”? On what basis are you claiming that the way the Rema defines semicha in that context is an exception rather than the rule?

    (The Rema is not the exception per se. Both the Rema and the other position are normative, yet they address different contexts. My point was that since the Rema’s vision of semicha does not confer rabbinic title, position or authority, it cannot be used as the basis for Yeshivat Maharat’s semicha, which is clearly one of rabbinic title, position and authority. In other words, the Rema views semicha as a technical matter whose only utility is to remove an issur and to verify knowledge; the Rema does not view semicha as ordination to the public rabbinate, or even as the conferral of a title. Thus, the Rema’s semicha cannot be used as a basis for Yeshivat Maharat semicha, which indeed is very much ordination to the public rabbinate and the conferral of a public rabbinic title. Kol tuv, AG)

    • mycroft says:

      ,” it cannot be used as the basis for Yeshivat Maharat’s semicha, which is clearly one of rabbinic title, position and authority”

      I am not taking any position on female ordination-but 21st century American Rabbinate is one of persuasive authority rather than of authority that can be mandated. I heard a recent shiur by RHS concerning employment contracts of Rabbonim etc and he made the point that typical American Rabbonis is not inherited and Rav is entitled to payment for terms of his contract-according to him typically 3/5 years it is not open ended like many in previous centuries. Certainly NY law would not permit an open ended unreasonable transfer of money to clergy-the running of the religious non profit is legally in the hands of Boards of Directors. How this relates to the question of women being “ordained” is not one that I feel confident in diuscussing-but I do feel confident in stating what American musmachims powers are lemaaseh.  I am not discussing what is “ought” but what “is”

    • dr. bill says:

      Let’s unpack this topic a bit.  I find term like “rabbinic title, position and authority” too ambiguous.  Those who would disallow women rabbis tend to stress their roles as dayanim and/or being in a position with serrarah.  Those who promote women rabbis tend to stress their educational, pastoral, administrative and/or halakhic decisor roles.  I have little doubt about  which might be more reflective of many (left leaning MO) synagogues.  Frankly, I would have preferred a different path akin to what Dr. Lamm suggested a few years ago.  But temperaments on both sides have made that less realistic / relevant.

    • 1. So then what issue do you have with Yoatzot which seem to be precisely the semicha described by the Rema?

      2. I think the argument being made by Yeshivat Maharat is that the Rema’s definition of semicha is descriptive of the real import of the “title position and authority” of the modern public rabbinate rather than a mere description of another type of semicha that isn’t semicha (which would then beg the question of what real-life situation was the Rema actually referring to?). In other words, nowadays the semikha that we give is merely one that removes the issur of paskening and verifies knowledge, in the absence of *real* semikha. That appears to be the pashtus of the Rema in the Shulchan Aruch and Darkei Moshe, sourced in the Teshuvah of the Rivash, (though to be fair he does appear to complicate that in his Teshuvot.) The argument then would be that the semikha given by Yeshivat Maharat is a mere heter hora’ah, like most semikha given today (including that of RIETS), and those communities that want to employ a Maharat can do so on their own cheshbon. I don’t think that’s crazy, necessarily.

      (I do not believe that the notion of Yoatzot contravenes the Rema. In fact, the Sefer Ha-Chinuch (M. 152) refers to the issur of paskening while intoxicated as applicable to learned women who can pasken. My question about Yoatzot relates to broader and practical considerations – not to the idea being banned by the Rema. In terms of the semicha as described by the Rema, I agree with you that it does not exclude women, for in truth, it does not pertain to modern Western semicha given by rabbinical seminaries. In other words, it cannot be used to bar or to sanction YM ordination, as such ordination is outside of the scope of the Rema. Kol tuv, AG)

  7. As regards R. Linzer’s devar torah, the notion of torah she’baal peh and halakha being man-created truth rather than objective truth has its precedents in the sources. See the Ramban’s Introduction to Milchamot Hashem, the introduction to the Ketzot HaChoshen, and Emes L’Yaakov al HaTorah, Bereishit 1:26.

    • dr. bill says:

      I wholeheartedly agree and think you understate your case.  The human element built into the halakhic system is what gave it vitality and allowed it to establish itself in varying environments.  Those demanding an absolute, objective, unchanging, etc. nature in order to be considered God’s law are reflecting a Greek hashkafa which infiltrated Jewish thinking.
       
      The Megillah was the only biblical text not found among the Dead Sea scrolls.  As the gemara (Megillah 7) states explicitly, it was the Rabbis who responded to Esther’s request – kisvuni ledorot.

      • YbhM says:

        <i> The human element built into the halakhic system is what gave it vitality and allowed it to establish itself in varying environments.</i>

        The language that you are using is “weaker” than the language used by Rabbi Linzer  … if the “human element” can mean human-discovered rather than human-created, then your statement is uncontroversial …

        Whereas Akiva Weisinger’s term “human-created truth” is utterly perplexing  …

        <i>Those demanding an absolute, objective, unchanging, etc. nature in order to be considered s law are reflecting a Greek hashkafa which infiltrated Jewish thinking.</i>

        This is a strawman, as noone contends that halakha does not evolve  ….  the central issues, which OO never addresses are: a) what do they mean by weasely phrases like “human created truth”, “creating halakhic realities” etc.  such phrases have no meaning unless you are conversant in the works of William James  b) once you are creating your halakhic realities how to you know when to stop?  Why not go as far as Blu Greenberg  – who suggested extending to notion of pikuah nefesh to allow abortion for career enhancement?

      • Whereas Akiva Weisinger’s term “human-created truth” is utterly perplexing  …

        I used the term I used because it is precise in conveying what the sources I quoted actually say. You can see for yourself. And yes, it is quite a bit stronger than “human-discovered.” Torah She’Baal Peh as a corpus of law created, rather than rediscovered, by human beings is an idea which goes back to at least the Ramban. Not every Rishon agreed with the Rambam’s account of the origins of Torah she’baal peh.

        such phrases have no meaning unless you are conversant in the works of William James

        I find the implication that discussion of Judaism ought to be limited to only those below a certain level of cultural literacy perplexing, to say the least

        Why not go as far as Blu Greenberg  – who suggested extending to notion of pikuah nefesh to allow abortion for career enhancement?

        Depending on how one is defining “career enhancement”, ie, if it would interfere significantly with one’s ability to make a living, this is not as crazy a position as you’re claiming. Though its not generally openly spoken about, there are poskim who are known to be significant makilim in this area. V’ein kan makom l’ha’arich.

      • dr. bill says:

        I meant “human created.”  I do not want to get into what “Talmid Atid Le’chadaish” might mean nor what “was already given at Sinai” might mean.  These are deeply philosophic topics best discussed interactively and privately.
         When you write “noone contends that halakha does not evolve ..” I can only say, I do not think you are correct.  And btw, I purposely wrote God’s law as opposed to halakha evolving.  I recently read a book written a few years back, called “The open canon” by avi sagi that presents a broad cross-section of views by gedolai hamesoreh on topics closely related.
         

  8. YbhM says:

    Although readers are advised to consult the entire article for full context, here are a few snippets

    Your excerpts are a fair representation of the essential message.  What the context provides however is a soothingly high level of “Torah literacy” and bekiut that enable some listeners to feel comfortable with what is in the end a nihilistic message.

    “Our interpretation, our Torah she’b’al peh, creates halakhic realities for us, and it is this interpretation that defines the scroll as the mitzvah object for the mitzvah of reading the Megillah.”

    Taken at face value, this statement would/could suggest that all of Judaism has no objective truth but provides a valuable social function.  Or perhaps it accepts some Pragmatist notion of truth or Mordechai Kaplan-esque theology.  But as we all know, Rabbi Linzer and other OO personalities would both deny and refuse to discuss these implications.

    There are lot of people today whose religiosity comprises an irreconcilable mix of Hasidic, Litvish, and rationalist elements.  Despite the apologies and rationalizations,  what is evident from Rabbi Linzer’s essay is that OO is essentially about throwing Millenial PC egalitarianism into the mix.

  9. Shmuel Landesman says:

    Thank you for posting this important info Rabbi Gordimer.

    Unfortunately, Open Orthodoxy is slipping away from mainstream normative halacha faster than anyone could have imagined.

     

    • dr. bill says:

      i wonder if you listed the 100 most indicative practices of normative halakha and how many OO  have modified by year of introduction, what we might learn.  I think they have slowed down on halakhic innovation and are concentrating on solidifying their inroads.

  10. mycroft says:

    “Trump may very well be the next President, and for someone to take it upon himself to attempt to very publicly disrupt Trump during major a pro-Jewish speech at a landmark Jewish event evidences recklessness and hubris. Although the protesting rabbi explained that he was acting upon the lesson of Purim, he failed to realize that the miracle of Purim occurred through a behind-the-scenes, private and quiet scheme, and that, as Rav Soloveitchik zt”l explained, it was a function of the sheer humility of Mordechai and Esther, who sought to avoid the spotlight. For this rabbi to so publicly label a man who may be our next President as wicked and compare him to Haman in a Washington Post article is very irresponsible, no matter how one feels about Trump and the other candidates.”

    AGREED!!!!!!!!

    Of course, a fortiori the same thought applies to how one treats an existing president.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Mycroft wrote in part:

      “Of course, a fortiori the same thought applies to how one treats an existing president.”

      One lesson that the American Jewish community has learned since the 1940s is that we don’t engage in AZ of any president at the expense of the national security of Israel. No Israeli PM has ever seen their duty as serving a sacrificial lamb or in political terms, a Benes or Masaryk, the PM of Poland in 1939,or the Shah of Iran, to jump at the command of the President of the US. We should always remember that while LBJ suggested an armatta to break the Egyptian siege of the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, Congressional doves such as Mike Mansfield and JW Fullbright opposed any such assistance, thus leaving Israel with neither a condemnation nor support from the US in the days prior to the commencement of the Six Day War. We should also remember that both Truman, who in private, used anti Semitic language and never allowed a Jew into his house, recognized Israel, as opposed to FDR, and that Nixon, who stole the thunder of the Democrats by recognizing China and engaging in high level negotiations with the USSR, and maintaining the extant civil rights laws, despite his highly paranoid view of everyone, directed that all available aid be forwarded ASAP to Israel during the dire moments of the Yom Kippur War.

  11. YL says:

    Donald Trump is wicked and hurtful individual as evidenced by: a) he cheated on his wives and publicly embarrassed them b) holds ridiculous “rallies” where people get hurt c) he is hijacking the election process – spouting “positions” on important issues that he knows little about. He is dangerous to the country and the fact that he praised Israel is obvious. He is at AIPAC, after all. (this is besides the point – but it’s crystal clear that Ted Cruz is the right man for the job, out of these candidates.)

    You may disagree with Rabbi Herzfeld’s approach, but to say that he was completely out of line is ridiculous. He was showing that Americans are not mere sheep that clap and celebrate whoever is leading the polls. One ought to be a mentch when running for the Presidency. Respectfully – and yes even publicly – refraining from celebrating a candidate is well within his rights. Whether it offends anyone is irrelevant. Trump surely doesn’t mind. People criticize the President all the time – it doesn’t mean they are being foolish and jeopardizing their community’s future. It means they are exercising their free speech.

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