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

Chief Rabbi: Could we sit and study Torah without soldiers?

US Religious Zionists Fought in ’48 War

Opinion: Yom Hazikaron – Thoughts On The Ultimate Sacrifice

The Knock on the Door

The Rabbi and the Professor

Passaic-Clifton Hosts Survivor Rabbi Jacob Jungreis

Are profits everything? The 2016 race and a Jewish businessman’s lament

The Launch of PORAT

In Depth: ZAKA founder explains why Haredim entering the workforce is a Torah value

Leading rabbis: Shoot terrorists on sight – Whether or not one adopts this directive, the fact that this conference was convened is very significant.

Harav Moshe Chadash Delivers Shiur in Yeshivah

Rebellion in Gur: Hasidim reject new technology regulations

The Politics Of Rape

What We Talk About When We Talk About the Menu – This Open Orthodox leader writes that, “I do not think Jewish organizations should serve only kosher food.”

Rare Chickenpox Outbreak In Williamsburg Blamed on Unvaccinated – How can parents not be sure to vaccinate their children in this day and age?

Texas to ignore Iran nuclear deal and maintain sanctions, Governor says

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

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24 Responses

  1. Y. Ben-David says:

    Thank you for posting the piece about the American Religious Zionists who fought in Israel’s War of Independence.  The role of both American Jews and the religious in that war has unfortunately been downplayed in the past. It is fortunate that people are now being made more aware of their contribution.

    The Makor Rishon newspaper recently had a piece about the religious unit in the Alexandroni Brigade in the 1948 war  consisting of something like 70 men that was almost completely wiped out in a battle with the Egyptians in the southern part of the country. Unfortunately, their heroism has not received the recognition it should have, but now, a young religious woman is coming out with a film about them.  Not only were they heroes on the battlefield, but their steadfast insistence on observing the mitzvot of the Torah did not endear them to some of their superiors, however, others, who were not themselves observant were inspired by their dedication to both the Torah and their military duties.

  2. Steve Brizel says:

    R Potek’s piece IMO is seriously flawed , Noone who claims to have the ordination of a yeshiva in 2016 should engage in apologetics such as :

    “(Rabbi Hartman said we shouldn’t obsess over the details of kashrut, urging: “Take your head out of the pot.”)
    Which reminds me – isn’t it time to take our heads out of the pots and talk about the things that really matter?”
    I thought that Dr Brown’s column could have been more forthright and stated that  the pursuit of the LW progressive agenda or a totally libertarian agenda have nothing to do with Jewish continuity. In 2016, there is nothing wrong in saying that the pluralist agenda has failed because it has no room for the observance of Torah and mitzvos on an individual or communal level in its vision. Like RDH, R Potek, who is identified as a YCT graduate, seemingly is unaware that Maacalos Asuros ( as well as all of the halachos relating to marriage and marital intimacy) is one of the two elements what comprises Sefer kedusha in the Yad HaChazakah, and is viewed by the commentators to Parshas Shemini as the critical elements of living a life endowed by Kedusha, or is engaged in a deliberate minimization of the importance of the same. How a life where one does not obsess with Kashrus has anything to do with the presidential race mystifies me.

    • R.B. says:

      Actually, Steve, R’ Potek’s view is downright scary! According to Potek, eating shellfish or pork or basar treifah would also constitute a “kashrut” choice we should accept, an interpretation as those who eat see fit, rather than an intentional or a cultural rejection of hilchos kashrus.

      Also, this is a money quote about what is disturbing about this view of kiyum mitzvos and shmiras kashrus: (“Rabbi Hartman said we shouldn’t obsess over the details of kashrut, urging: “Take your head out of the pot.”)

  3. dr. bill says:

    This Open Orthodox leader writes that, “I do not think Jewish organizations should serve only kosher food.”

    End-to-end nonsense.  I was impressed, and not really surprised, when a reform event that would attract orthodox participants used a hashgacha everyone accepted.  Rabbi Potek is way, way off the reservation; I doubt that even the late Rabbi Hartman’s quote is being applied fairly.  Maybe, just maybe, Rabbi Potek’s perspective is useful in his day job in certain, (limited) contexts, but hardly wrt the dietary observance of a jewish organization. Nonetheless, calling him an OO leader, only furthers the non-sense.

  4. Eli Blum says:

    “Rare Chickenpox Outbreak In Williamsburg Blamed on Unvaccinated – How can parents not be sure to vaccinate their children in this day and age?”

    The same way that the Supreme Leader (Rebbe) can shrai that the government should give his Yeshivos money while he doesn’t teach them how to interact with the world around them, let alone secular subjects which are required by law.

    Doublespeak and ignorance of the pawns, intentionally caused by the leadership. They (who fought in secular court) will have to answer for all their actions.

    • Sarah Elias says:

      Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

      Chicken pox is an uncomfortable but rarely dangerous illness.  The mortality rate for chicken pox is 1/100 of 1% (.001%).

      Where I live (a very advanced first world country), the chicken pox vaccine is not routinely offered or recommended.  My pediatrician considers it unnecessary for a normal and healthy child under the age of 13.

      Not vaccinating against chicken pox is not the same as refusing vaccinations against measles or diphteria and has nothing to do with ignorance, superstition or whatever you’re trying to imply.

      • Sarah Elias says:

        (Sorry, 1/100 of 1% is .01%)

      • Eli Blum says:

        Different argument, not the one Rabbi Gordimer is making. Furthermore, the other outbreaks in Williamsburg (measles for example) refute your assumption that it is ONLY Chicken Pox.

        As an example, see


        I don’t really have issues if you do your research and decide that Chicken Pox vaccine (specifically) is not for your children, and would prefer your child catch it naturally for stronger immunity (perhaps?). How many in that community are even capable of such research (on the Tamei Internet or Public Library they won’t be caught walking into?!) with the education that they have from their schools is extremely small, and that is the fault of leadership.

      • sb says:

        Though your bias against chassidim is clear. It would be wrong to assume that they are the center of the anti-vax crowd.

        In fact, if you do some basic online research, you will find that the antivax crowd actually tends to be college educated.

        Clearly college education doesn’t make your decisions any smarter.

      • Arthur says:

        I’ve always assumed the low vaccination rates among some chassidim was a function of poverty and/or ignorance, not b’shiitah. It’d be interesting to have the facts.

    • Eli Blum says:

      “Though your bias against chassidim is clear. It would be wrong to assume that they are the center of the anti-vax crowd.”

      Moving the goalposts?

      And here I thought you would argue that Chassidim do make educated choices 🙂

      As a Misnaged, I am biased against many Chassidus (with some major exceptions) and Rebbes. Not the Chassidim (people) though, they have been told this is the only way to serve Hashem, and would be ostracized and shunned if they leave (which many still do). I’m not even going to start with Meshichists.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    R Potek’s piece strikes me as equally problematic for the following reasons. Let’s assume that you have to go to an office party or to a simcha or party of a relative whose level of kashrus out of the house could be defined as either highly questionable or glatt treif. For the sake of “inclusiveness” and “pluralism”, why shouldn’t any Torah observant Jew be able to at least have a kosher meal that is under proper supervision double wrapped and brought to the locale of the party ? I am not even assuming that the party would be 100% acceptable to the average Orthodox person. Either you value the attendance of the Torah observant employee or relative, and make the necessary arrangements or you don’t. IMO, R Potek offers a rationale, which IMO consists of the minimization  of the importance of Kashrut for the observant employee or relative. When taken to its logical conclusion, the same rationale can be utilized with respect to Shemiras Shabbos as well.

    • Reb Yid says:

      Where do you read that in his piece?  R Potek says that absolutely kosher food (or rabbinically certified kosher food that Orthodox Jews in the given gathering with the most rigorous criteria for the “manifest” rabbinic standards of kashrut, at any rate) should be offered at all Jewish organization gatherings.

      But what he’s also saying is that kashrut means different things (or may not mean much at all) to different groups of Jews.  So vegetarian Jews should be accommodated, for example.  Those with interest in eco-kashrut, for example, should have food made available to them as well.  Same with ethical kashrut.  I give R Potek credit for pushing the envelope to including even more additional categories here–to Jews who are simply conscious about the foods that they eat and the implications thereof (even if not rabbinically certified kosher), and some of these foods might not fit any of the categories mentioned above.

      I had a very similar experience when being invited to address a national Board of Directors meaning of the Union for Reform Judaism a while back.  There was sealed rabbinically certified (unquestionable credentials from the local Denver community) kosher food that was provided to me, paper plates, plasticware, etc.  In terms of non-rabbinically certified food, there was vegetarian food at the table, fish at the table, chicken at the table, and meat at the table.

      Anyone who goes to national conferences of broad-based Jewish organizations that are multi-day affairs already experience this in terms of prayer service options.  Those who think that there should only be one service for all miss the idea that one size does not fit all.  R Potek extends this to food options.  No doubt this will provoke controversy in the Jewish community, but his point is quite valid–if Ms. Brown is serious about pluralism in the context of eating, she should put her money, so to speak, where her mouth is.

      • Arthur says:

        You’ve misconstrued the editorial.

        He did not merely say various food choices should be offered to accommodate people’s preferences.  That in and of itself should be disagreeable to hardly anyone.  However, he went further and wrote that all the choices need not be kosher, and then launched himself into space by suggesting that it’s even better if they’re not kosher because serving traif to some will make the meal more pluralistic.  That’s an astonishing thing for a supposedly orthodox rabbi to write, and even for one who lacks fealty to halacha the argument is juvenile.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Again, note the parallel I suggested with the different prayer service options.

        If one is committed to pluralism, it is indeed “better” that a whole variety of options are offered.  There is no reason why this should not apply to food as well.  For this discussion it’s irrelevant that he’s Orthodox because his attack was focused on Ms. Brown’s rather myopic view of pluralism.

        If you are committed to pluralism, you are not privileging your viewpoint over other viewpoints in the group.  You are committed to your own individual viewpoint, but that need not mean that everyone adopt yours (or that you adopt theirs).

      • Arthur says:

        Sometimes one’s favorite talking points aren’t responsive to what’s actually being discussed.

        It’s not irrelevant that Potek identifies orthodox. (If he does — he was recently ordained by YCT but I don’t know how he self-identifies today.) Rather, that’s the MAIN THING. If a Reform or mail-order rabbi wrote that editorial it would not be noteworthy in the least. It’s noteworthy, and under discussion here, because a recent graduate of a seminary that at least promotes itself orthodox has gone on public record to promote a gigantic and unmistakeable issur.

        The prayer service example, besides missing the point, are not a “parallel.”  Unlike prayer services, which to a large degree are mutually exclusive, all food preferences could be met with kosher food.  Except for one: an insistence on non-kosher food. But requiring one’s food not be kosher is just being bratty.  And maybe self-hating.

        Now, I realize it’s real groovy today to throw around “privilege” because it serves as a way to personally insult those you disagree with while making it sound like social critique.  But it doesn’t actually make syntactical sense as you’ve used it here.

        As for the point you seem to be trying to make, that every viewpoint should be treated as equally valid, see my May 18 8:25pm reply.  However, this, too, is a red herring, because the notoriety of the editorial is that it came from an orthodox(?) rabbi who as such should be expected to reject certain viewpoints, e.g., that it’s ok to serve and eat non-kosher food.

      • Arthur says:

        There are some (thankfully not many) who believe it is proper to commit certain types of financial crimes.  Should we encourage them in this, offer them opportunities to steal, withhold condemnation, because having thieves among promotes greater pluralism than having everyone follow dina d’mlachusa dina?  If R Potek thought through his position before publicly espousing it, he would have to answer yes.

      • Reb Yid says:

        To your 5/19 4:52 post (which will not allow me a space to reply):

        Again, he is an individual who is responding to someone else who claims she is being pluralistic.  And he shows quite clearly that she is not.  Whether or not you or I like it, kashrut (in the traditional sense) is not seen as essential (or even desireable) by some Jews or Jewish movements.

        For you to assume that “traditional” kashrut meets everyone’s needs, and equally for every Jew, is a) simply not true and b) goes against the very tenets of pluralism.

        No doubt that the majority of people on this blog are not fans of pluralism.  So be it.  But for an individual like Ms. Brown to start touting “pluralism” in her response to Jewish groups that don’t offer kosher food, R’ Potek calls her bluff plain and simple.  Ms. Brown has a different idea of what should be done, and the merits of it can of course be discussed.  But one thing is abundantly clear–it falls short of being truly pluralistic.

      • R.B. says:

        “For you to assume that “traditional” kashrut meets everyone’s needs, and equally for every Jew, is a) simply not true and b) goes against the very tenets of pluralism.”

        Now you are making things up. How in the world can kashrus not meet everyone’s “needs”? Eating basar v’chalav, chazir, seafood are not “needs”! They are choices, desires. We don’t have to indulge peoples choices to eat lobster, shrimp and pulled pork sandwiches. Jewish organization do not have to meet those desires. Further, there are plenty of vegans who keep kosher and they are just fine.

        In any event, this view puts to bed the claim any claims that OO will try to bring Yidden closer to Torah u’Mitzvos, since pluralism, or misapplied pluralism, does no such thing. It allows people to remain at whatever they are, live and let live.

      • Reb Yid says:

        I am responding to R.B.’s 5/20 10:30 am post here since there is no reply option after his post.

        I am not speaking for myself in this thread, but rather for the spirit of pluralism.  Like you, I assume, I would want to order a rabbinically approved kosher meal.

        But your implicit bias is clear.  For you, the “highest” form of eating is by having a rabbinically supervised meal.  Presumably, in your way of thinking, some Hasidic Jews for whom even this is not sufficient and who would request a meal with Chassidishe shchita and teudah are practicing an even higher form (and such a meal should absolutely be provided if taking pluralism seriously).

        Along the same prayer lines–there are some Jews, no doubt many on this board, for whom only an “Orthodox” service will do in terms of prayer worship, and moreover the higher the mechitza, the “better” or more “kosher” the worship service is.

        Understand, however, that there are Jews and Jewish groups out there who would not only dispute these assumptions but would be more and more offended–for one  example, the extent to which women are shunted to the background and not allowed equal access to seeing and hearing the ritual activities is considered derogatory, not praiseworthy.

        And in terms of food, these Jews will have big problems consuming kosher food from someone like Rubashkin or others whose business ethics and general disregard for mitzvot bein adam l’adam make them highly questionable from their perspective.  They might prefer on high principle to eat locally grown food, organic, from CSAs, from people they know who treat their workers with respect and a living wage, etc.

        By the way, do not be surprised in the coming decades if you see more and more young observant Jews involved in the broader Jewish community who take a stance like this.  These are Jews who take being Jewish incredibly seriously.

        In a pluralistic mode, we do not place value judgements on whose values or principles are “correct” or “more correct”.  We acknowledge and respect everyone’s choices without having to be compelled to buy into the other individual/group’s way of prayer or eating, for example.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Minimization of the spiritual importance of kashrus, or inventing a pseudo kashrus based on one’s own sensitivities, which is a fair reading of both R Potek and the link to an interview with RDH, on a communal level , certainly has an adverse impact on the view of kashrus as a mitzvah to be observed on an individual level and in the context of the family. In  fact, when you read both together, the statements of R Potek and RDH are strikingly antinomian in nature and reek of a view that the need for adherence to kashrus has R”L been superceded, a classical medieveal  anti Semitic canard,  as to the importance of kashrus. IOW, what you eat is nowhere as important as your views on the “larger issues” in life because details don’t count as long as your views are decidedly “progressive” in nature.

        Like it or not, obviously Orthodox organizations will have dinners that are under top notch hashgachos. What you describe as “eco-kosher”, vegetarian, and “ethical kosher” are far different and should never be confused with or substituted for a meal that meets the rigorous baseline of kashrus as defined by any of the major hashgachos in the US.

      • Reb Yid says:

        Again, for these Jews it’s hardly a minimization of the spiritual importance–it’s increasing the meaning and spirituality of the act.

        They don’t have very far to look, either–try the entire Sefer Amos for starters (a portion of which was read in shul the Shabbat before last).  Devastating critiques of Chok Bli Musar were not invented by Millennials.

  6. R.B. says:

    I think I found the quote that Potek relies upon from R’ Hartman. Reading it, which appears in an interview with Krista Tippett from a few years ago, shows it was taken out of context. As I understand it, he used that phrase to refer to paying to attention to how Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel challenges Judaism.

    The full quote is:

    Ms. Tippett: “One of the large themes in your thinking and writing is how Jewish sovereignty, how the fact of the state of Israel, in fact challenges Judaism.”

    Rabbi Hartman: “Absolutely. Because it says to you, stop looking at pots and pans. If its dairy or meat. Take your face out of the pot and look, look at the society. The state of Israel gives me a whole range of responsibility.”


  7. Y. Ben-David says:

    This mania for being “inclusive”, “non-judgmental”, “pluralistic”, etc has reached absurd proportions when Orthodox Jews demand that we recognize some bizarre “right” of non-observant Jews to eat non-kosher food in Jewish institutions and gatherings. Fortunately, in Israel, where I live, there is a much healthier attitude in that religious, kashrut-keeping Jews have a full right to be full participants in society and so the menu in public institutions and events should reflect Jewish values.
    This wasn’t necessarily obvious in the early years of the state.  When the Israel Defense Forces was created in 1948, certain anti-religious elements also demanded the “right” to eat non-kosher food in the army. They were willing to concede that religious Jews should get kosher food if they want it, which, due to the type of ineffiencies armies are prone too, would lead to religious soldiers frequently ending up with nothing to eat. Rav Shlomo Goren, who was the Chief Rabbi of the IDF went to Prime Minister Ben-Gurion and insisted on only kosher food for the IDF. Ben-Gurion was able to convince his non-religious colleagues by saying that everyone can eat kosher food whereas not everyone can eat non-kosher food and that it would be too complicated and expensive to maintain two separate provision systems.


    People respect other people who stand up for their beliefs. I do not believe that most non-observant Jews will be offended if offered only kosher food at Jewish communal events. This crazed, post-Modernist obsession with “non-judgementalism” and “inclusiveness” is merely   a gateway to nihilism who most absurd extrapolation is saying that Israel and its enemies merely have “different narratives”. It is time for proud Jews to put their foot down for Judaism.

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