The Kosel Compromise and the Conversion Bill – Some Final Thoughts
Although my thoughts on the apparent collapse of the Western Wall Compromise Plan are all pretty much contained here (along with a link to Rabbi Wein’s important article about the Conversion Bill – please read it if you have not yet done so), and I was certainly not planning to pen anything further on the issue for a long time, if ever again, I feel that it is necessary to bring to the attention of readership a brand new public statement by Torat Chayim, the Open Orthodox/progressive Orthodox organization that has come out against the Israeli government’s cancellation of the Western Wall Compromise Plan and against the advancement of the Conversion Bill:
As progressive, pluralistic orthodox rabbis associated with the rabbinic group Torat Chayim, we stand fully as allies with our sisters and brothers throughout the entire Jewish community in support of pluralism in America and Israel. We were disheartened to read that the Israeli government has rescinded its commitment to create a space for alternative and liberal groups to pray at the Western Wall and is moving to delegitimate all conversions but those done by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
Imposing one narrow version of Orthodox Judaism as the official standard for prayer and for conversion in Israel harms the unity of the Jewish people and it harms support for Israel in America. We encourage all Modern Orthodox Jews to publicly support freedom for multiple religious approaches to Jewish life. The Torah demands that we embrace humility in our dealings with fellow human beings. Pirkei Avot teaches: Do not demand to be the sole judge (of what is right or wrong in religious matters) for only God — and not humans representing God — has the capability of being the sole judge. This means that we should bring humility – not arrogance; and wonder – not certainty — to our relationships. The Sages teach that we are stronger when we disagree openly and respectfully while continuing to engage with one another and honor each other’s human dignity. We honor the different paths of our fellow Jews, even if we have our disagreements for the sake of heaven, and we yearn deeply to see a truly pluralistic Israel.
Rabba Dr. Carmella Abraham
Rabbi Dr. Marc Angel
Rabino Daniel Askenazi
Rabbi Ben Berger
Rabbi Dr. Ariel Burger
Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo
Rabbi Menashe East
Rabbi Michael Cooper Emerson
Rabbi Dr. Zev Farber
Rabbi Avidan Freedman
Rabbi Marc Gitler
Rabbi Daniel Goodman
Rabbi Dr. Mel Gottlieb
Rabbi Ben Greenberg
Rabbi Dr. Yitz Greenberg
Rabbi Herzl Hefter
Rabbanit Bracha Jaffe
Rabbi David Jaffe
Rabbi David Kalb
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky
Rabbi David Kasher
Rabbi Ysoscher Katz
Rabbi Will Keller
Rabbi Dr. Eugene Korn
Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz
Rabbi Yehoshua Looks
Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Rabbi Dr. Ariel Evan Mayse
Rabbi Avram Mlotek
Rosh Kehilah Dina Najman
Rabbi Micha Odenheimer
Rabbi Haim Ovadia
Rabbi Dr. Ariel Picard
Rabbi Aaron Potek
Rabbi Dr. David Rosen
Rabbi Abe Schacter-Gampel
Rav Hanan Schlesinger
Rabbi Gabriel Nachman Kretzmer Seed
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Rabbi Daniel Raphael Silverstein
Rabba Ramie Smith
Rabbi Devin Villarreal
Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
Were Torat Chayim (and the other far-left organizations that identify as Orthodox) to lament the fact that there is much divisiveness and misunderstanding of Orthodox Judaism in Israeli society, and to therefore appeal that Halacha be presented to our non-Orthodox brethren with special sensitivity, that would fine and good. I could also appreciate appeals against that which non-Orthodox Israelis perceive as religious coercion, such as mandatory closure of roads on Shabbos in secular neighborhoods. People do not embrace Torah when they don’t understand it and it is forced upon them.
But Torat Chayim and others are taking this in a totally different direction. They actually maintain that it is a positive thing for prayer services which violate Halacha to be conducted at the Western Wall, if that is what heterodox Jews prefer, and they actually maintain that it is fine and good for conversions lacking a unified standard of rigorous halachic scrutiny to occur, despite the fact that such conversions obviously may jeopardize the integrity of yuchsin (Jewish lineage). The above Open Orthodox/progressive Orthodox clergy has signed on to pluralism as a religious value in and of itself, and has placed non-Orthodox practices on a par with Halacha, grossly distorting a teaching from Pirkei Avos, such that both Halacha and practices which violate Halacha are both to be granted equal respect, and affirming that those who assert the objective and exclusive correctness of Halacha over deviation therefrom manifest arrogance(!). Yes, according to the above Torat Chayim statement, differences between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jews pertaining to halachic observance and commitment are comparable with sacred Talmudic disputes between great sages, as Torat Chayim declares, “We honor the different paths of our fellow Jews, even if we have our disagreements for the sake of heaven, and we yearn deeply to see a truly pluralistic Israel.”
This cuts to the very heart of Open Orthodox/progressive Orthodox thought, for if one seriously believes that Halacha is the forever obligatory word of God and is objective truth, one cannot at the same time endorse or defend that which blatantly contravenes Halacha. We recently discussed some Torat Chayim rabbinic members’ views on intermarriage, and we have previously discussed Open Orthodox/progressive Orthodox views on gay marriage, Biblical authorship, and a host of other foundational and dispositive topics that speak to the Divine truth and binding nature of the Torah.
I would like to think that one can be open and Orthodox by spreading Torah in a loving and welcoming manner, while being passionate and uncompromising regarding the Torah’s authenticity and authority – for if the Torah’s authenticity and authority are compromised, the Orthodoxy that one is disseminating ceases to exist. Sadly, time and time again has it been demonstrated that the Open Orthodox/progressive Orthodox movement has embraced the latter rather than the former model.
I have no plans to take up these topics again for a very long time, if ever again (although I may respond to critiques or to exceptional new challenges); in truth, others who are naturally positioned to address these matters – especially rabbinical organizations and leading mainstream Orthodox rabbis – should be fighting these battles.
I close with the words of Rav Soloveitchik zt”l from a 1957 RCA convention derasha on Parshas Chukas (published here on pp. 154-160). Although the derasha was delivered sixty years ago, its words ring true today more than ever.
The Rav addressed the Rambam’s approach to chukim (Torah laws that have no apparent reason). In Hilchos Me’ilah 8:8, the Rambam writes that “lo t’hey machashavto bo k’machashavto b’shar divrei ha-chol” – “one’s attitude towards a chok should not be like his attitude towards secular matters.” The Rav expounded:
What is the Rambam interested in? In our psychological, axiological approach towards chukim. Against ascribing lesser significance to chukim, or secularizing them. In other words, one must not interpret chukim in practical terms and inject contemporary meaning into them…
Any attempt to inject contemporary meaning, which should be in agreement with the morality and the value system of the pagan New York Times, is sinful, and a crime on the part of the rabbi. And that’s what the Rambam means when he says “machashavto bo k’machashavto b’shar divrei ha-chol”. What is the machsheves ha-chol? What is the overriding issue in chol? What is the criterion in chol by which we are guided? Ability. Success. Contemporary success, sensibility. It is the practical interest of man which guides him in his actions. That’s exactly what should not be applied to the interpretation of chukim…
Reverence and awe before the Divine Imperative, without rights to project a matter-of-fact image, is recommended by the Rambam. In fact, an act of surrender reaches its apex in chukim, because the basis of Yahadus (Judaism) is surrender to God. And the act of surrender reaches its high mark, its apex, not in the realization of mishpatim (Torah laws whose reasons seem apparent), but in chukim.
Hand in hand with the feeling of complete surrender and reverence goes a sense of pride and firmness… Questions of the Tzeduki (Sadducee) despair us no more. Objections of the realists bother not our minds any more. We articulate our “insane” commitment to God – “insane” in quotation marks – and feel not embarrassed at all.
There are two different things: bushah and k’limah. K’limah means to be ashamed; it means when there is moral turpitude. Bushah means embarrassment. Bushah does not have to include a feeling of moral turpitude. Bushah is shyness, embarrassment, reticence. Lo yavosh means I don’t feel embarrassed, not that I’m not ashamed. Why should a Jew who wears tzitzis and is proper about shatnez and observes the dietary laws, why should he feel ashamed? He is certainly head and shoulders above the non-observant Jew. Lo yavosh means I’m not shy if anyone asks me a question about the chukim I observe, I’m not reticent. I articulate my attitude of surrender to God, complete submission and total surrender…
To be a Marrano (one who observes Halacha but does not present an attitude of unabashed commitment to it) doesn’t work. It’s practically wrong, it’s certainly ideologically wrong, but basically it’s important to display Yahadus… to fight for Yahadus… displaying unwavering loyalty to Yahadus…
It must be pointed out that many of those rabbis listed as O are only so by self identification. No one to their right (99+% of O clergy) would call them O…
“No one to their right (99+% of O clergy) would call them O”
You just made up that nonsense statement!
It’s interesting that the author of this screed, can’t even say Kotel!
One should note that RYBS in one if the Chamesh Drashos was quite adamant against importing American notions of pluralism when matters of klapei pnim as opposed to klapei pnim were at stake. The quoted petition reeks of apologetics and pluralism as an overarching and all inclusive goal.
My only complaint about this article is Rabbi Gordimer’s insistance that he will not address the issues of OO and PO any further. Rabbi Gordimer, we continue to need your clear and direct refutation of those who distort torah and its message. It may be difficult for you to carry this, but you’ve done so with grace and decency and i hope you will continue.
“We encourage all Modern Orthodox Jews to publicly support freedom for multiple religious approaches to Jewish life”I look forward to seeing all Modern Orthodox Jews reactions to this sentence alone.
as i have mentioned on numerous occasions, Beit Hillel, a predominantly, but not exclusively, Israeli organization, with members across the orthodoxy, issues very precisely worded statements on these issues. Its statement and list of members is worth examining.
arguing for or against anything based on who is on which side is neither persuasive or insightful.
True, but the Torat Chayim proclamation seems to have thrown down the gauntlet to an awful lot of people.
It is also worth reading their responsa available on their website.
Been there done that. Simple question is R Rimon affiliated in any way shape or form?
You can write him and ask.
Take a look at the list of supporters. Neither R Rimon nor R A Bednarsh nor R Rakkafet are on the list. I saw a few Gush Ramim and R J Wolff but the rest of the list of the supporters struck me as quite representative of the LW of MO and RZ. WADR, the absence of R Rimon, a great rav posek and mchaber of wonderful sefarim R Bednarsh, a wonderful RY in RIETS Gruss Kollel and R Rakkafet is quite significant.
What surprises you about R Rakefet not being on the list-he treats R Meir Kahane as a hero-inconsistent with the ideas of Beit Hillel.Notice a granddaughter of the Rav on the list, you cite grandsons of him for proof of chareidi Rav
Mycroft-The granddaughter of RYBS is the head of a seminary that is fairly left wing in its hashkafic POV on a wide range of issues. R Moshe Twersky ZL HaShem Yim Damo was decidedly Charedi but learned bchavrusa with RYBS and tore Kriyah when RYBS was niftar because he regarded RYBS as his rebbe niftar. You might want to read the bio of R Moshe Twersky ZL . You would learn about the Twersky family and RYBS many things that you simply did not know beforehand.
I was at the levaya for Rav Moshe Twersky HYD and paid a shiva call.Acharei Mos kedoshim Emor. Contrast grandchildren you refer to Estimate Rosenberg as head of left wing seminary ,she is as close to the Rav in relationship as was Rav Moshe Twersky.
There were differences in approach between R Chaim and Rav Velvel,every person is different than others. I try and limit any discussion of individuals even those I know to published available sources.
im sure Dr Bill would agree with me that there are those who wrote on the Rav who knew the Rav well , but when wrote limit themselves to knowledge the public can find independently. I try and follow that approach.
another outrageous example of unmitigated chutzpah. Rabbanit Esti Rosensweig and Migdal Oz were guided by her late father RAL ztl and yibadel le’chaim are still guided by her mother dr. tovah lichtenstein. i assure you tovah spent more time learning gemara with the Rav ztl than any of his grandchildren.
if you wish to continue insisting that the rabbeim of TM follow in the Rav’s hashkafa, enjoy your daydreams. why don’t you ask one of your rabbeim for advice on that topic. i heard someone recently asked about a publication by one from TM. even I was shocked, very positively, by the nature of the response.
i have no problem with your viewpoint; it is a legitimate shittah of many gedolai yisroel. but it was NOT that of the Rav ztl and I, like others, mycroft who i do not know for one, are offended by attempts to declare otherwise.
you remind me of a passuk in the beginning of shemot – you can figure out which one.
I agree totally with mycroft’s response. going a step further, let me add this as number 3) to a list of what you do not understand about the halakhic process. ( 1) and 2) are on an earlier stream.) 3)We look at who is on a list (NOT who is not) to give it legitimacy. Rabbis of every ilk can and do disagree. quite often not all are members of a particular group. if you knew a bit more about the israeli scene, there are other more important people missing than those you mentioned. the point is that the group has enough tier 1 people to give it legitimacy. don’t be surprised by disagreement; there are chasidim (even now perhaps, but certainly before WWII) who drove well after sunset on Friday.
I don’t know what you mean by Tier 1 people but the absence of R Rimon and R Bednarsh speaks volumes.
i use tier 1, to cover both women and men. i suspect gedolim would be thought to exclude women. (at least) one woman on that list is in the same league, at least, of many/most/all of your favored personalities/rabbis. ask around; few know her.
btw, your response implies you still misunderstand 3).
Rav Moshe Twersky was an entire.y different person than the Rav in many respects. His attitudes were much more similar to those found in TM. It is certainly logical that he went to be RY in TM, his attitudes in many respects were similar to the more standard Torah World than the Ravs.
I resent the frequent attempt to bring up stale arguments which in an academic context one could refute, but Unfortunately Rav Moshe Twersky is in the Olam haemet and there is a limit as to what one can answer. I try and limit my posts to what is publicly available.
i agree with your thoughts there are certainly those as close to the Rav by family relationship who disagree with RMoshe Meiselman, IMO his viewpoint that he represents the true Rav is an outlier. There are those in the family to the right of the Rav and those to the left of the Rav.
I believe that if one reads the SIL of the Rav and his children one can pick up a pretty consistent viewpoint.
BTW Atarah learned Gemarrah with the Rav at an advanced level. The Rav once invited a female to join his shiur of YU musmachim for the summer. This for starters are just a couple of examples where the Rav was different than many current RY in approach. IMO Migdalia Oz would in general follow the Ravs hashkafa.of course, people ignore the Rav amdMaimonides, because they prefer following people who pick statements that the Rav even assuming he stated them as said could be chakiras in shiur.
I guess I am a little slow sometimes, because I just do not quite get what relevance that the concept of Chok has in this context. To me, that suggests that it is some great unknown mystery as to why the area of the Western Wall should be run according to the dictates of Torah Judaism, but what is so incomprehensible about this matter? On the contrary, it is so very simple, that even I could figure this out. The Western Wall represents our past and future connection to our Holy Temple, which is the holiest space in the entire universe. It is, so to speak, G-d’s Dwelling Place on this Earth. And so ironically, to NOT treat that area with the respect that it therefore deserves, is what strikes me as being mysterious and incomprehensible.
Why the western wall plaza over any other area of the western wall, such as Robinson’s Arch or the Kotel HaKatan?
When the Israeli army liberated that whole area back in the Six Day War of 1967, they famously announced it when specifically the Western Wall was in our hands. And it was to the Western Wall that our fellow Jews gravitated toward when that happened, and have never stopped since then. I have even heard that no matter what time of the day or night it is, that one can always find Jews praying there. I have also been told that the reason why some very religious Jews do not go there, is that it, paradoxically, may be too holy of a place for it to be permitted in our times according to Jewish law. All this put together tells me that the ground on which they are standing, is holy ground.
Perhaps I should stop at this point, but I will go further than that. I happen to think that the entire area, not just the Western Wall, should be in Jewish hands, that we have every right to it all, both from political and religious points of view. We defeated our enemies in June of 1967, which would have normally entitled us to it all. The world only casts doubt on this because we are Jews. And of course, from a religious point of view, all of it of course belongs to us Jews, and not to idolatrous Trinitarians, and not to the followers of Allah who sanctify theft and murder.
Factually incorrect. The announcement was “Har HaBais B’Yadeinu”.
I believe it was “Har Habayit beyadeinu; Hakotel Hamaaravi beyadeinu.”
So despite the fact that the Western Wall is there to help protect the Temple Mount, that is somehow not good enough to satisfy you that it is a place of holiness? What about that famous picture of those three Jewish soldiers awestruck at the sight of the Western Wall? Does that not move you?
raymond, it is a retaining wall built by Herod who expanded the Har habayis and needed an artificial mechanism to create a plaza above. as i explained in more detail elsewhere, it does not have kedushat har habayis despite generations of jews venerating it as a part of our religious history. the plaza around has the same kedusha as the remainder of what was jerusalem during the second commonwealth.
though kedusha is often translated as holiness, the words are hardly synonymous. i feel an elevated sense of holiness entering/seeing the plaza
“What about that famous picture of those three Jewish soldiers awestruck at the sight of the Western Wall? Does that not move you?”
Perhaps the very point you are making is what Rabbi Gordimer can not. The attachment to the Kotel Plaza is Emotional, not Halachic, and emotions come out in different ways. Some Daven, others cry, and some see it as a symbol of the State (inclusive or exclusive).
Rabbi Gordimer is attempting a Halachic argument, which as of yet I have not seen as convincing.
Well I am not a Rabbi and so I cannot speak definitiveely about this, but my impression is that there is a kind of collective wisdom among traditional, Jewish people that can even create law where none existed before. For example, Torah Jews do not eat fish and meat using the same fork. That is one of the reasons why chicken soup is eaten on Shabbat between the gefilte fish and the main course of the meal, which is usually meat: the chicken soup acts as a buffer between the two. This custom that has become like a Torah law, is never mentioned in the Torah, and yet that is the practice, based on generations of religious Jews setting the precedent for that behavior. And so it seems to me that while the Western Wall area has not been officially declared to be an Orthodox shul, that that is what it has nevertheless functioned as in practice, and therefore anybody who hovers in that area, should have the basic decency required to give it at least the same respect as one would give upon entering any Orthodox shul.
What defect or omission in Jewish education allows learned nonsense like OO to gain any following?
The Wall is not an Orthodox synagogue. These rabbis are not interested in signing over control of Orthodox spaces to “heterodox” services. They are standing against a version of Orthodoxy in the public sphere that verges on authoritarianism, or totalitarianism, which many Jews (secular and religious) know all too well from this century past. Religious authorities do not and should not control the public sphere or hold the authority to coerce fellow Jews to express themselves in “kosher” ways. Halachic practice must be entered into willingly, as a matter of choice, by secular or reform Jewry. The iron grip of hareidi control on the main sections of the Wall is experienced by many Jews as a clear statement: your connection to G-d and your mesiras nefesh for the Jewish people are of no value to us here. Ironically, by keeping up this battle the hareidi authorities sustain and nourish divisions and bitterness that otherwise might be ready to heal. This is the opposite of kiruv, and true gedolim (if only we had them!) would make far greater sacrifices of themselves and their kehilos in order to eliminate such a source of rancor and hilul hashem within the Jewish people.
very well said. note that chareidim in Israel are open about this issue. going back at least to the days of the late iconic rabbi schach, some chareidim prioritized their needs above that of secular Israelis. his position on the priority of stipends for yeshiva students allowed it to be bargained for at the expense of legalizing a variety of anti-halakhic practices by the general community. that position was opposed by a variety of gedolim across the orthodox spectrum including the Rav ztl. i don’t think the rav spoke about this publicly. however, those who conveyed his strongly held views to a variety of Israelis are still alive; they can tell you some revealing details.
To what extent do we impose our limited views on halacha?
A not yet observant friend made a bar mitzvah seudah. I am somewhat of a mentor to her and I was in aveilus. I am embarrassed to admit that I had a heated argument with a rav over whether I could attend the seudah but not eat. I also offered to help with the serving. He firmly told me that I could attend services and even a Kiddush but not a seudah. He said I could come in for speeches.
Which is what I did. I found a good book from the library and stayed at the other end of the building. I was able to meet her family and friends and they very much respected my actions.
It is amazing what people can accept if our actions manifest deracheha darchei noam, and a sincere attempt to make the sheim Shamayim beloved through our hands.
Your comment exemplifies the political approach to religion.
politics these days has a negative connotation. i assume you mean something akin to polite
The iron grip of hareidi control on the main sections of the Wall is experienced by many Jews as a clear statement: your connection to G-d and your mesiras nefesh for the Jewish people are of no value to us here.
The many Jews who experience it in this way are, frankly, foolish. One can have a connection with G-d and can have been moser nefesh for the Jewish people, but if he insists on expressing all that by bringing a pig as a korban olah in the Beis HaMikdash he would and should be summarily expelled.
so all forms of prayer other than halachically circumscribed prayer are likened to offering a pig in the beis hamikdash? And yet, “frankly, foolish” you say, to feel this way. Do you recall Chanah, the mekor for our tefilah, and the high priest’s initial rebuking of her? Do you recall Bar Kamtza, and his totally kosher exclusion, for which our acquiescent rabbis were rewarded with the destruction of Yerushalayim?
The only pig being offered here is in the ridiculous caricature of halacha that uses any shtikel sugya at hand to evacuate the sphere of loving your fellow Jew, though he or she is different than you. Do you think we were ever all the same, that it was ever any easier?
For the record I only daven orthodox and am inclined against heterodox services at the wall. But for G-d’s sake we must stop giving them such a cardboard cut-out version of Torah law to battle against again and again. Let them pray how they like, and they’ll have to face G-d, not us. Then they might actually have to observe and revere the services on the other side of the fence.
so all forms of prayer other than halachically circumscribed prayer are likened to offering a pig in the beis hamikdash?
Why do you assume we are talking about “all forms…”? We are talking about active, blatant rejection of the halachic form of prayer! The comparisons to Chanah and Bar Kamtza are indeed foolish.
Let them pray how they like, and they’ll have to face G-d, not us.
Where do you draw the line? Based on what do you draw it? And why should those who find your line too conservative care about where you draw it?
Any free choice act could be construed as a rejection of something, or it could be construed I’m at zchus as a flawed partial vehicle for analogous content. Anyone who has worked in kiruv and paid attention and tried to reach out and value distant Jews has seen many such vehicles for people’s love and devotion; the good ones recognize these as great opportunities to infuse Torah values and concepts into zones of authentic neshama connection.
To call, for instance, a bunch of women who want to read from the sefer Torah an “active, blatant rejection” is a rejection on your side 1) that there is an inner nekudah and potential of kedusha here, 2) that most of these people only have ever encountered orthodoxy as a rejective force against them, 3) that Jews are blessed with freedom to choose their communities and practices, and to test their adherence to Torah in the generations, and 4) that halachic authorities are not in fact in control of the public sphere in Israel or anywhere except the most insular communities, and that their assertion of total control over a public place where Jews of all stripes have always and will always come is the opposite of hastening the redemption and does a great deal to help those who would caricature and reject halacha altogether.
Thank G-d we live in relatively free societies, surrounded with blessings, and we have the privilege to forget what authoritarian government can produce in us and has done to Yidden all through history with coercive control. When halacha is asserted finally as the true law of the public sphere in Israel, may it be soon, it will be by a moshiach who sees human nature far more clearly than the muddy-mettled small-shots hitting each other with little sticks in the name of halacha today.
The Torat Haim and other OO statements are proof the Orthodox and Charedim are the true bearers of Hashem’s Torah. It is only the Orthodox that have their quislings. There is not even one heterodox individual that has anything nice to say about us.
There are a few important points missing here:
1) One can be right and still be wrong by virtue of one’s behaviour. In this case the perception of the outside world of the Chareidi leadership’s actions is “Nyah! Nyah! We hate you and don’t want you davening near us! Nobody cares about you anyway!” And given the various public statements made by Chareidi politicians in the last few days they are not that wrong. This is a delicate situation, many people have just have their feelings hurt and the response has been “Who cares? You’re not religious so we don’t!”
2) There would have been only a benefit to the Chareidi community from supporting the Robinson’s Arch section. It would have denied the moral high ground to the WoW when they would inevitably return to the main plaza to cause trouble again. Instead there seems to have been this triumphalist desire to square the WoW simply because they don’t have seats at the cabinet table.
3) The conversion bill isn’t an assault on the non-Orthodox. It is the Chareidi community saying that only their version and understanding of halacha is correct and can be relied on. That is untrue and incredibly arrogant.
Tafasta mu’at tafasta, tafasta merubah lo tafasta
Any free choice act could be construed as a rejection of something, or it could be construed l’kaf zchus as a flawed partial vehicle for analogous content. Anyone who has worked in kiruv and paid attention and tried to reach out and value distant Jews has seen many such vehicles for people’s love and devotion; the good ones recognize these as opportunities to infuse Torah values and concepts into zones of authentic neshama connection.To call, for instance, a bunch of women who want to read from the sefer Torah an “active, blatant rejection” is a rejection on your side 1) that there is an inner nekudah and potential of kedusha here, 2) that most of these people only have ever encountered orthodoxy as a rejective force against them, 3) that Jews are blessed with freedom to choose their communities and practices, and to test their adherence to Torah in the generations, and 4) that halachic authorities are not in fact in control of the public sphere in Israel or anywhere except the most insular communities, and that their assertion of total control over a public place where Jews of all stripes have always and will always come is the opposite of hastening the redemption and does a great deal to help those who would caricature and reject halacha altogether.Thank G-d we live in relatively free societies, surrounded with blessings, and we have the privilege to forget what authoritarian government can produce in us and has done to Yidden all through history with coercive control. When halacha is asserted finally as the true law of the public sphere in Israel, may it be soon, it will be by a moshiach who sees human nature far more clearly than the muddy-mettled small-shots hitting each other with little sticks in the name of halacha today.
In all those fine-sounding words, you simply haven’t answered the question. All the very same arguments could be made in favor of Jews for J conducting their own service at the Kosel. Are you okay with that? Please answer this question directly and clearly, and explain.
Great question. I will think about this. Good Shabbos.
It is admittedly difficult to draw the line once one has opened up the space to alternative services. But a council of reform, conservative, renewal etc. rabbis serving as an authority over the south wall would likely operate analogously to the orthodox authority on the west wall and draw the line somewhere. I would assume and hope that this would exclude Jews for J, and that if such a case arose these groups would rule against it. But it is indeed a possibility that a Jew who is a member of such a group could mount a protest against the Robinson’s arch authority and make the point (which is a fair one) that their version of Judaism is as legitimate as Reform or Renewal etc. It would be a funny turn of events to have the heterodox groups becoming the ones to draw the line and exclude. But I think they would have to do it here. If they chose the opposite path then it would certainly be an interesting turn of events, but I don’t think it would end up giving credit to these rabbis and their commitment to Jewishness.
The difference between us, I think, is that I don’t view authentic Judaism as a continuum running from O to Reform, with Jews for J off the edge. I view authentic Judaism as a continuum that starts and ends with Orthodoxy, with everything else off the edge. From my perspective, Rabbis who fail to exclude the heterodox ought to be given no credit for their commitment to Jewishness.
All the best.
There is a big difference between Reform and Jews for J. The issue is not about theology, it is about people hood. For about 1900 years it has been clear that followers of Otto Haish have been outside the Jewish people, they specifically did not take Jews side in various wars against Rome. Reform may or may not have same elokayich elockai but they have Ameche ami. Followers of the Nazarene have never been part of the Jewish people, certainly less than 100 years after his death. Any marketing to show Jewish is simply marketing. Reform and C Judaism have been part of Jewish people.
How to deal with heterodox Jews has been an issue dividing classical Torah observant Jews for generations, there is no dispute that we don’t treat as Jews those who don’t treat Jews as ami. For followers of the Nazarene that break came about 1900 years ago, we still have a covenant of fate with RAndC Jews even if one argues that we don’t have the same faith.
Both Jews and non-Jews are welcome at the Kosel, as we know. But the condition is that the service is Jewish. Either Jewish service = Orthodox service, or anything goes.
Although I completely agree with Rav Gordimer’s sentiments here and although I originally supported the compromise which gave the non-O’s the Robinson’s Arch location, realizing that few people would ever visit it, this compromise has snowballed into yet another all-out war by “progressives” against traditionalist forces in Israeli society. This is just another battle against traditionalist values, in the same vein as the “progressives” insistence that simple “live and let live” approach with the homosexual community in Jerusalem was not enough, but they insist on a parade as well to shove their views in the face of those who disagree. One of the people in Netanyahu’s office told the non-O’s at the time of the original agreement not to trumpet this agreement as “full recognition by the state of Israel of the non-O movements” because this would push the Haredi politicians who quietly accepted it into the corner and they would then have to come out against it. All this proves this whole thing has NOTHING to do with “piety” and supposed “love of the non-O’s for the Kotel” but is merely yet another political battle against the hated Bibi and Orthodox community.
However, I do strongly object to the language some of the opponents of the non-O campaign. Calling them “worse than Hitler” or saying “they are not Jews” is VERY harmful. Most of the rank-and-file R’s and C’s really couldn’t care less about the whole issue but using incendiary language like that is merely going to mobilize them against those of us who are trying to defend the sanctity of the Kotel.
It is important to keep one thing in mind. Those who are most vosiferous in pushing non-O rights at the Kotel and post-modernists. They are dedicated to deconstructing old concepts. For example, those who pushed for homosexual “marriage” are the same people that said for years that a marriage certificate is “just another scrap of paper” and that marriage fidelity was an anachronistic concept. So suddenly, the concept of “marriage” for homosexuals is important? Of course, not…the idea is destroy the whole concept of marriage, and it is working.
Same with the Kotel. Non-O Jews wrote the Beit HaMikdash out of theri prayerbooks decades ago. Add to that the their beloved President Obama supported the UN declaration that the Israeli settlements are illegal, and what is the Kotel but just another “illegal settlement”. Therefore, there current concern about the Kotel is just an attempt to destroy the Jewish connection to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem in general. I am not saying that the rank-and-file non-O’s are thinking this, but there is no question that the radical “progressives” leadership, particularly among the “social justice” Reform movement are working with this in mind.
those chutzpah-dich “Heterodox Jews” should confine themselves to government benefits fraud. They would then avoid the ire of R. Gordimer, judging by the topics he has chosen for his recent content on Cross Currents.