On Halacha and LGBT – Responding to Dr. Aaron Koller

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104 Responses

  1. Steven Brizel says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with R Gordimer. Dr Koller has in effect argued for the abolition of the ideals of a Bayis Neeman BYisrael and the goals and marriage as defined by Chazal as well as denying that Mesiras Nefesh as defined snd exemplified by the actions of Avraham Avinu snd Yitzchsk Avinu are snd have always have been a central motif of Yahadus. RYBS states that HaShem Yisborach abhors child worship but demands sacrifice on behalf of children and that we read the Parsha of Aragon on YKzstMincha to remind ourselves of what sets Am Yisrael apart from the Umos HaOlam in every generation and as manifested by every rationale to walk away from the Chukim of Sefer Vayikra and that which renders us an Am Kadosh

  2. Bob Miller says:

    HaShem created humanity and sustains it. Who are we to claim that His demands on us don’t meet our subjective human values and standards? This is so elementary to a Jew, in particular, that even a Professor of Near Eastern Studies and Chair of a Department of Jewish Studies should understand it. Jewish studies detached from Torah commitment may be a useless discipline altogether.

  3. dr. bill says:

    I do not agree with dr. Koller and I am not entirely clear precisely what he is advocating. eventually, many years from now, when research in this area, absent liberal biases apparent in many current and recent studies, reaches a firm consensus that remains unchanged for a good number of years, the response of poskim may be different assuming the studies show greater support for nature versus nurture and verify the complete sham that conversion therapy is now considered to be.

    Were that to happen the very words of rabbis about the impossibility of God naturally creating such individuals may come back to haunt those making such assertions.

    Dr. Koller cites several basic halakhic texts that academics use to illustrate his point (said more precisely) that the tannaim would neuter even biblical law in the face of strong ethical views that they felt also had a strong biblical base. This topic is very controversial; most scholars believe that this tendency began to disappear during the late 3rd century, with later amoraim justifying such actions by tannaim differently.

    Its use in modern times is rare or more likely non-existent and when used affect mostly rabbinic edicts. Academics would cite various pesakim vis-a-vis women’s education and other modern innovations. Rabbinic scholars will most often disagree.

    Regardless, biblical law has not been treated that way, according to any opinion for over 1500 years if my memory serves me. second, the stability of the evidence is not yet here. third, if and when it is, how poskim will react cannot be easily predicted. This is a complex topic with dozens of relevant sugyot / pesakim to study. My predictions are subject to discussion and debate, but not in this type of blogosphere forum.

    this whole area would profit from less public debate, letting the individual situations be so handled.

    • Mycroft says:

      Agree with Dr Bill about danger of apologetics where it is apparently stated that homosexuality can’t be determined by genetics because God could not create people who are emotionally harmed by a specific mitzvah. I personally disagree, unfortunately, that does not take away from obligation to follow mitzvot. We really don’t know God, we try and come as close as possible but we can’t even approach a basic understanding. That has nothing to do with the requirement to obey what we believe is Gods revelation in the Torah.
      We don’t understand theodicy questions, another type of Sheila we don’t understand. How God judges is none of our business.None of us know Celestial Accounting Principles. We must follow at least Halacha as RYBS said the floor of proper behavior, ceiling is what we endeavor to follow, but floor is Halacha

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Very recent study said that genetics cannot be used to prove disposition towards homosexuality.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroft wrote:

        “God could not create people who are emotionally harmed by a specific mitzvah. I personally disagree, unfortunately, that does not take away from obligation to follow mitzvot. We really don’t know God, we try and come as close as possible but we can’t even approach a basic understanding. That has nothing to do with the requirement to obey what we believe is Gods revelation in the Torah.”

        WASR this is inconsistent and can be challenged to say the least:

        1)People have been rationalizing their transgressions since the dawn of creation
        2) HaShem Yisborach in this world is found in the Daled Amos of Halacha and how Chazal formulated Ikarie Emunah
        3) We may not understand theodicy but RYBS said in a Teshuvah drasha printed in Al HaTeshuva that Scar bVonesh is a core element that cannot be rationalized away .Furthermore, such categories as Tzadikim Beininim and Reshaim have been discussed throughout the ages. and even RYBS discussed RH and YK as being Ymei HaDin VRahcamim

      • dr. bill says:

        steve, more precisely the study looked at major genetic markers and found no correlation. there may be other genetic predictors not yet found.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        The Vidui HaKazter and the Vidui HaSruch both contain many portions , of which there is plenty of room for a cheshbon hanefesh on by all of us on YK. Unesaneh Tokef is recited in its tine because regardless of the historical question of its authorship, it sums up Hashgach Pratis on an individual manner and level in a very simple eloquent and powerful manner that together with Tekias Shofar is supposed to and designed to wake up the spiritually asleep in a manner very close to a dead battery being started in a car.

    • Bob Miller says:

      What we do know is that the Torah did not make exceptions to its ban on such deliberate behavior or to the resulting penalty, to accommodate any inclinations people might or might not be born with. Time after time, Judaism tells us to control or sublimate wrong inclinations.

      • mycroft says:

        WASR this is inconsistent and can be challenged to say the least:
        “1)People have been rationalizing their transgressions since the dawn of creation”
        I specifically wrote ” That has nothing to do with the requirement to obey what we believe is Gods revelation in the Torah.”
        Where am I stating or implying that one is not required to follow mitzvot?

        “2) HaShem Yisborach in this world is found in the Daled Amos of Halacha and how Chazal formulated Ikarie Emunah”
        The Daled Amos of Halacha is required as RYBS stated as the floor of proper behavior, it is not the ceiling of excellent behavior.
        Which are your Ikrei Emunah Rambams? R Albo’s? R Hasdai Crescas? etc
        “3) We may not understand theodicy but RYBS said in a Teshuvah drasha printed in Al HaTeshuva that Scar bVonesh is a core element that cannot be rationalized away .Furthermore, such categories as Tzadikim Beininim and Reshaim have been discussed throughout the ages. and even RYBS discussed RH and YK as being Ymei HaDin VRahcamim”
        There is Sachar vonesh certainly, but none of us know how God rewards and punishes, no one living knows how Gods Rachamim and Din work out in practice. Talking past my point.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      A fair reading would be that while certain halachos and mitzvos and states of observance ( the latter of which Ramban points out were never attained in Jewish history) remain on the books, the level of behavior within Am Yisrael rendered it impossible for such halachos as Sotah to be practiced on a widespread basis. The entire Avodah of Karbanos remain Mitzvos of a permanent Torah basis even in the absence of a Beis HaMikdash. One can disagree with the statement that such halachos were neutered.

      • Yehoshua Duker says:

        Rav Kook, in chapter 10 of LeNevuchei HaDor, writes that animal sacrifice will be abolished due to ethical reasons, as humanity will come to understand that killing animals is immoral. He writes that only the Sanhedrin has the authority to reinterpret the Torah, by making a derasha of the pesukim, to enable such a change (and suggests one potential such derasha himself).

  4. Reader says:

    Very simple.

    This young professor thinks (dreams/fantasizes) that he is greater than Rav Soloveichik z”l, and will gain popularity by being fashionable and kowtowing to the LGBTQPCLIB lobby.

    But he needs to know his place – I am thinking of some places elsewhere in Manhattan like JTS, HUC, or some other similar institution. Let him go to places like those where such thinking belongs.

    Another young fool.

    • dr. bill says:

      Written like someone who has never spoken to Dr. Koller. This is a serious topic where ad hominem assessments do not add to the conversation. My views stated above, do not question his motivations or question his brilliance as a scholar.

      i wonder how folks like you would react to a child or grandchild who came out of the closet? Having friends with children and grandchildren who are gay or transgender, I tend to remember that a broad audience reads what gets posted and how they react to statements such as yours. Ask a rabbi of your choice if your language is proper behavior particularly in Hodesh Elul.

      • Reader says:

        Koller is a great scholar. But scholarship needs to be subordinate to Yiras Shamayim.

        Rabbi Dr. Revel z”l, founder of Yeshiva College, would ask students ‘how is your yiras shomayim’? I heard that personally from someone who learned at RIETS way back in the early years. That is how Yeshiva should be.

        “i wonder how folks like you would react to a child or grandchild who came out of the closet?”

        How would they react to one who started eating chazer, eating on Yom Kippur, married out?

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I heard Dr Koller once openly in public reject the views of Rambam and Chasam Sofer among others as to the unique nature of Lashon Kodesh in a rather dismissive manner. This article and the other linked articles are obviously reflective of his POV on such issues. Any child or grandchild who rejects observance for any reason and stops keeping Shabbos, etc would also be a tragedy . There is an easily recognizable distinction between sympathy and legitimizing that which cannot be viewed as legitimate within halacha.

      • Bob Miller says:

        When we read the sefer Chofetz Chaim, we can see where the author clearly drew the line to exclude certain types of people from the protection of its speech laws. We shouldn’t be too quick to call out individuals as apikorsim, etc., since a wrong identification would be lashon hara itself and have very bad consequences, but we have to understand that such people exist, even in unlikely places.

      • tzippi says:

        I’m not quite “folks like you” but I will answer. First thing, no one wants a suicide, so I’d react with love and affirming the close one’s humanity, with dignity. Then, I would find a rav who deals with this to help me with whatever script I would need, if this close one wanted to live halachically and with a commitment to Yiddishkeit born of integrity. And if not, how to be loving and accepting without condoning.

        I haven’t had to deal with this but am close to others who have, so I’ve had to think of this, if only a second hand level.

      • dr. bill says:

        reader, ask a shul rabbi the reaction to a mechallel shabbat versus a gay man getting an aliyah. rather revealing.

      • Steven Brizel says:

        What if you were a kohen and your son married a futures?A scholar whose approach is redolent with lack of appreciation of the centrality of the Akeidah as bedrock hashkafa 101 deserves special scrutiny as to the merits of his arguments as opposed to being blindly accepted because he is a scholar who is challenging what he perceives to be a sacred cow

      • Steve Brizel says:

        I don’t think that anyone here is throwing rocks without realizing that we live in glass houses . We all have relatives who don’t keep Shabbos eat treife in and out and know of kohanim who have married converts and divorcees and intermarried relatives. That does not mean we should state that we are subservient to Halacha and not embarassed or apologetic for how we observe and engage in our own Akeidahs on a daily level individually and communally to transmit Torah to the next generation .Apologetics such as Dr Kollers show a willingness to jettison any Halacha his sense of logic and ethics find politically and socially incorrect

      • Yossi says:

        Dr Bill,
        What Reader wrote is indeed indicative of someone who never met him. But it’s not an unfair assessment-he IS another young fool in taking these positions. My father was a prominent professor in the Modern Orthodox system, and it used to make him so upset when another young “smarkatch” as he called them (no idea what that means) used to think he discovered America when commentators had been discussing the same idea for ages.

        As for what people would do when a friend of theirs or a child of theirs is transgender, that’s really besides the point. There is definitely an issue of Ona’as Devarim when speaking to an individual, and there is also a need for speaking unequivocally about calling out what is wrong. It’s up to each person to figure out the balance.

    • too tired says:

      I am confused as to why everyone believes this professor is Orthodox in the first place. Has he ever claimed to be? Was claiming Orthodoxy a requirement for his hiring at YU? Is the Department of Jewish Studies part of the limudei kodesh side of the curriculum?

      • Bob Miller says:

        Rav SR Hirsch ZT”L emphasized that secular studies must also be taught in a Torah-consistent spirit.

        If this orientation would make some YU departments lose face among other such departments elsewhere, so what? Does YU as a whole have a specifically Jewish purpose or not?

      • mycroft says:

        I heard Dr Koller once openly in public reject the views of Rambam and Chasam Sofer among others as to the unique nature of Lashon Kodesh in a rather dismissive manner
        There are different viewpoints about Hebrew . I once heard RY Jeremey Weider of YU state Torah was given in Hebrew because Jews spoke Hebrew then, if they spoke Hungarian God would have given it in Hungarian, someone asked him but then how would gematrias work in Hungarian, resp;onse are you taking away the ability of HKBH?

  5. Alan says:

    Rabbi Gordimer and his supporters should remember what more than 200 of his colleagues, including Rabbi
    Hershel Schachter, said in the “Torah Declaration”:

    “The concept that G-d created a human being who is unable to find happiness in a loving relationship unless he violates a biblical prohibition is neither plausible nor acceptable. G-d is loving and merciful. . . The Torah does not forbid something which is impossible to avoid. Abandoning people to lifelong loneliness and
    despair . . . is heartlessly cruel.”

    In other words, the Torah Declaration’s signatories were so troubled by the theological implications of Divine condemnation of our LGBT co-coreligionists to a life of loneliness that they refused to even consider the possibility that sexual orientation was immutable because entertaining this possibility meant accepting (what was for them) the unacceptable. It would seem that Rabbi Gordimer is not as troubled as they were.

    N.B. The Torah Declaration is no longer available online. Why it was withdrawn is not a question I can answer.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Nowadays especially, we often see scientists “finding” exactly what they seek, by filtering information according to their personal inclinations. The further one gets from the world of reproducible experiments, the more this can happen.

      Regarding this Declaration: No one should presume to say that HaShem would never do something totally beyond our meager understanding of His middot .

      • Alan says:

        “No one should presume to say that HaShem would never do something totally beyond our meager understanding of His middot .”

        And yet that’s exactly what 200+ prominent centrist and right wing rabbis did say in the Torah Declaration.

  6. Bob Miller says:

    Alan, I don’t know what such declarations are for in the first place. A solid position paper would be far more useful as a point of discussion.

  7. Steve Brizel says:

    Lets get back to the POV of Dr Koller. It is evident that he has not just dealt in apologetics re the Akeidah but outright dismisses and jettisons the Akediah out right as a source of hashkafa despite the fact that he Musaf of RH and Selichos of Aseres Ymei Teshuvah view otherwise. I have always wondered what Dr Koller and those of a similar POV have in their hearts and minds when they reciite any Birkas hamitzvah or any other simlilar such Tefilah. If the answer is anything less than a whole hearted affirmative belief why pretend otherwise in public or should anyone answer Amen to their brachos?

  8. Steven Brizel says:

    Dr Koller has posited that Mesiras Nefesh in an individual and communal level is a sort of vicarious thrill that parents and a community its have no right to demand or expect. One can argue that such a thesis goes against the many statements of the purpose of chinuch the centrality of transmission of Torah from parents to children and from one generation to the next as well as the importance of living a life as a Kiddush HaShem as well as the concomitant demand and lesson that parents and a community must sacrifice on behalf of children but never sacrifice their children to the Zeitgeist of the times

  9. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr.Bill tell us how RH without the so called Akeidah theology is meaningful I understand that a meaningful RH and being Lifnei HaShem on RH is predicated on our reviewing the fundamentals of Malciyos Zicrronos and Shofaros but what content does is there to Zicronos without the Akeidah and how goes one recite do many of the Slichos in Aseres Ymiei Teshuvsh which are rooted in the in the importance of the Akeidah this is no rhetorical inquiry

    • dr. bill says:

      As those familiar with the rudiments of lord Sacks’ siddur interpretation, reflected very strongly in the ancient niggunim of RH, MZS reflect Anointing God as King, Begging for His mercy and Celebrating the goodness He has shown us. this trilogy is reflected in other parts of the siddur liturgy and niggunim and hazanut MUST refect these important and different themes.

      Zichronot, a prayer for mercy, includes prominently the mercy God showed to Isaac. Did that reflect what was meant to happen all along, a real-test that Abraham passed (or failed), a lesson in the rejection of human sacrifice, a philosophical treatise on the individual versus the community, or any number of other peshatim does not make a large difference. we want the result because of God’s mercy – deliverance from danger, just as Isaac was delivered. interpretations of the story are secondary.

      the stories included in the siddur enhance the proper kavanot each section of tefillah are meant to evoke. I do not concentrate on this or that way to understand the akeidah. That section of the Tefillah, which for me personally centers on Rachel’s cry for her children, is the most moving part of RH. the fact that I believe the only place Rachel is not buried is now called kever Rachel is lo maill ve’lo morid.

      I suspect the various academics may approach MZSsimilarly.

      • tzippi says:

        Interesting.
        I agree with how poignant and moving the passage of Rachel’s cries for her children is. We all have our mile markers in the machzor, fragments, ideas, or commentaries that resonate.
        But it seems pretty clear that the repeated referencing of the Akeidah is not to invoke mercy as per that granted Yitzchak as much as being able to reap the enduring dividends of Avraham’s zechus for going through with it. No, I can’t quote specific sources. But it seems to be a long time standard approach.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        One can argue equally convincingly that anointing HShem as King recognition of Hashgacha Pratis and Divine Intervention in such events as yetzias Mitzrayim Matan Torah are the keys of understanding MZ and S which RYBS called the greatest statements of Jewish Philosophy in print and are why the same are enhanced by Temiad ShofAr al Seder Habrachos

      • Steven Brizel says:

        One can argue that deliverance from physical danger is one of many Pshatim in the Akeidah. YT the emphasis on the Akeidah not just on RH but in its being part of Tefilah on a daily basis and as part of Slichos has far more to do with Mesiras Nefesh of the individual and the community

      • dr. bill says:

        in the three sections of malchiyot zichronot and shofrot, the focus is as i stated and the nusach, properly but rarely heard anymore, reflects that

        however, in the paragraph right before the oldest piyyut in mussaf, ve’khol ma’maminim, we read your point precisely – od yizkor lonu, ahavat aitan, Adionaiynu, u’vabein ha’bne’ekad ….. BTW, note how I punctuated; errors are very common.

        my late father, who i had the zechut of listening to daven mussaf for more than 30 years and whose yartzeit is this shabbos, would recite that paragraph that refers to all 3 avot in a haunting nusach.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        One can very convincingly maintain based on a wide range of sources that we invoke Rachel’s crying with special niggunim that have a haunting nature because Rachel, more so than the Avos or Moshe Rabbeinu is viewed as someone who not only exemplified chesed but who sacrificed completely her own role in Jewish history for that of another. One can argue that kavana in the Musaf and Tekios al Seder HaBrachos is our incorporating a wordless Tefilah by means of the Shofar into the Musaf to elevate the recital of the Psukim into a special Tefilah whereby we state, cite verses from Tanach and reaffirm and then blow the Shofar to underscore that HaShem is the King, that Hashgacha Pratis is present in the world and that Gilui Shechinah occurred in the past and will occur in the future. ( See Noraos HaRav Volume 9, Pages 44-45)

  10. Steven Brizel says:

    More fundamentally one can argue that Dr Kollers entire premise is reminiscent of Ramban comments at the end of Parshas Acharei Mos wherein Ramban writes that Aristotle deserves much criticism for introducing the notion of relativist ethics and its effect on Halacha and the observations of Chasid Yaavetz who stressed that those exiles from Spain whose Emunah was rooted in Emunah Pshutsh survived whereas those Emunah was rooted in logical and rational proofs did not . DrKollers entire premise is rooted unfortunately in what he perceives as ethical S opposed to a committment to Torah HaShem Temimah

  11. Moshe says:

    Gay people cant be expected to give up on loving someone they are attracted to. What if I am attracted to my own sister? Must I give up on love too? Etc etc

    • Steve Brizel says:

      The Torah tells us that Man and woman were created in the Divine Image to form a family unit and to be there for each other physically emotionally and spiritually , and prescribes who you can love and be attracted to. Being attracted to your mother, any female relative or Fido, anyone of the same gender or any person is viewed by the Torah as wrong. Claiming that one will give up on love solely because of such an attraction is a claim that is made with no understanding of why and what the Torah insists and demands from all of us in this area of halacha

  12. tzippi says:

    Since there was no reply, I’ll quote Dr. Bill here: if that was not a rhetorical question, I might try to explain. rest assured their RH is meaningful

    Go for it.
    I can understand having difficulty with a mitzvah, or feeling Hashem’s love while going through challenges, yet barrelling through our obligations anyway, or saying, right now I don’t get it but one day I will and meanwhile I’m still here serving You. I haven’t read what Dr. Koller’s said but have read and heard enough to assume that that’s not how Akeidah theology rejecters (must resist the Dave Barry rock band line) are approaching their service. I’m open to the possibility that I’m wrong.

    • Bob Miller says:

      We get “best effort” credits on our scorecard. But what if we were to commit ourselves to violating a given prohibition indefinitely, or even joined a group created to advocate for this violation? That doesn’t sound like a best effort to improve our behavior.

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote:

    I heard Dr Koller once openly in public reject the views of Rambam and Chasam Sofer among others as to the unique nature of Lashon Kodesh in a rather dismissive manner
    There are different viewpoints about Hebrew . I once heard RY Jeremey Weider of YU state Torah was given in Hebrew because Jews spoke Hebrew then, if they spoke Hungarian God would have given it in Hungarian, someone asked him but then how would gematrias work in Hungarian, resp;onse are you taking away the ability of HKBH

    Ain haci Nami. If I had wings I could fly but the fact remains that many Halachos especially in Hilcos Tefilah are rooted in the uniqueness of Lashon HaKodesh being the language of Maamad har Sinai and Kabalas HaTorah. WADR to both Dr Koller and R Weider, Lashon Hakodesh as the medium of Tefilah is considered as one of the means that unites Jews all over the world in Tefilah and perhaps that is why Rambam considered it very important and indeed a mitzvah to know Lashon HaKdoesh-as opposed to Ben Yehudah Hebrew,

    • mycroft says:

      Actually lashon of Tanach is quite close to Ben Yehudah Hebrew, they intentionally followed most of biblical Hebrew rules to the extent that only words that can be used both zachar and nekeiva are those that Tanach uses both ways.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    Myroft-I don’t understand R Weider’s response re Gematriyos-more than a few basic and quite important halachos are viewed as Midoraiisa solely because they are rooted in Gematriyos.

    • dr. bill says:

      look carefully at each of your examples to see whether the gematria is really the proof of biblical status or only what is often called a semakh to the claim.

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Look at how the number of 39 Melachos and Nisuch HaMAyim are derived

      • Mycroft says:

        You would know better than I, but if IIRC RYBS respected the Ibn Ezra as one of the most important medieval Jewish writer to know even if not sure how much more Shas alone IBN Ezra knew than R Chaim Brisker? Do you recall his exact words, my recollection is weak, but I do believe the Rav treated IBN Ezra with highest respect.
        That ein Shomin gematria ki chol yachol laasot mah sheyirze is obvious. I quoted the IBN Ezra .

      • rkz says:

        Nazir is the clear example

      • Steven Brizel says:

        Take a look at the sugyos that determine the number of days for a Nazir the number of Melachos on Shabbos the required measurement for a Mikva the shiur chalah as opposed to being merely an Asmachta perhaps your concern is that Gemtriyos are not counted in the Braisa of R Yishmael For those interested. Look in the ET under the entry of Gematriya volume 3 pages 31-35 and the discussion and mareh Mykomos cited therein

      • dr. bill says:

        the examples given are all disputable. i am not concerned by what the 13 midot of R. Yishmael omit; nor were all other tannaim concerned. many things were known by mesorah, aka practice, for which sources / “proof” were later extracted from biblical verses. not a topic for a blog discussion.

  15. mycroft says:

    I don’t interpret him to be saying gematrias are not valid but an infinite HKBH could have delivered his message in any language .
    For a different viewpoint of gematria see Ibn Ezra on Bereshis Chapt 14, Verse 14.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      Mycrofft wrote in part:

      “I don’t interpret him to be saying gematrias are not valid but an infinite HKBH could have delivered his message in any language ”

      That does not answer my observation about wings and flying. HaShem dictated the Torah to Moshe Rabbeinu in Lashon HaKodesh which therefore renders Lashon HaKodesh unique and the what which unites Jews all over the world. What HaShem Yisborach could have done but did not do is WADR irrelevant. Regadless of Ibn Ezra’s views in Breishis 14:14 many halachos are rooted in Gemtriyos

      • Mycroft says:

        Certainly God used Hebrew. That did not prevent parts of Tanach, most of Shas not being written in Hebrew. Certainly some leading Rishonim wrote in languages other than Hebrew. Note nothing has prevented major gedolim writing Perushim on Rambams Perush MishnaMishna when they clearly were not able to read in original.

    • Steve Brizel says:

      One can fairly state that while Ibn Ezra is one of the major Pashtanim amoung the Rishonim, and composed many Zmiros for Shabbos that are rooted in Hilcos Shabbos, Ibn Ezra was very infrequently quoted by other Rishonim on Shas or Halacha who were his contemporaries or who knew of his writings. Ibn Ezra’s primary influence is as a Pashtan and composer of Zmiros. One can argue that RYBS who was a strong exponent of learning Payet both in the Machzor and Kinnos clearly found the Ashkenazic Machzor as far more enhancing the Kedushas HaYom of the Yamim Noraim than the Sefardic Machzor which was influenced by Ibn Ezra and his well known critique of Payet.

      • dr. bill says:

        the examples given are all disputable. i am not concerned by what the 13 midot of R. Yishmael omit; nor were all other tannaim concerned. many things were known by mesorah, aka practice, for which sources / “proof” were later extracted from biblical verses. not a topic for a blog discussion.

        see Rambam’s view of IBN Ezra, despite his fascination with numerology and astrology, things Rambam strongly opposed

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Those interested should read this articlehttps://www.jewishlinknj.com/world-us/9250-new-circumstances-demand-new-halachic-views-a-response-to-rabbi-mordechai-willig One wonders why the authors failed and or neglected to mention RMW;s crucial role in developing the RCA PNA which has become accepted de jure in the MO world and has reduced the amount of agunos drastically therein

  17. Yossi says:

    I don’t understand Koller’s view at all. Does he accept that there are SOME things that we won’t change even though they are the highest level of current human understanding of morality? Say intermarriage, for one. Or end of life issues, as it becomes increasingly common for people to want to pick when their life ends.

    Or late term abortions. All these things are believed to be basic, inalienable rights by some. At what point will we need to do those because we’d choose humanity over halacha?

  18. Yossi says:

    I don’t understand Koller’s view at all. Does he accept that there are SOME things that we won’t change even though they are the highest level of current human understanding of morality? Say intermarriage, for one. Or end of life issues, as it becomes increasingly common for people to want to pick when their life ends.

    Or late term abortions. All these things are believed to be basic, inalienable rights by some. At what point will we need to do those because we’d choose humanity over halacha?

  19. Steve Brizel says:

    How ironic that immediately above this thread is R Shafrans discussion about a book that discusses the acts of Mesiras Nefesh and spiritual resistance during the Holocaust ,Perhaps those who would minimize RL what they call Akeidah theology should the above mentioned book as well and others to realize how important Mesiras Mefesh has been throughout Jewish history

  20. Steven Brizel says:

    Dr. Bill what is the maskana of the Gemara Of each of the sugyos that I cited? After much shakla vtarya and rejection of many arguments and proofs the Gemara clearly derives the number 39 as the number of MElachos Min HaTorah and the number 30 as the measure of Stam Nezirus and nisuch HaMayim as based on a Gematriya .these are not merely arithmetic means of reference for a mimetic practice

  21. Steven Brizel says:

    Dr. Bill I am sure that you know that Ritva in RH takes strong issue with Rambams definition of an asmachta and that Pri Megadom in Psicha HaKolleleles also mentions that there are different levels of asmachtos

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr. Bill there are numerous suggestions where a Mishnah states that there are X number of a certain item and the Gemara and Rishonim engage in many arguments proofs counter arguments and counterproofs in finding a basis rooted in the Torah Shebicsav using a variety of means of tools of interpration of of the TSBP for the number cited to determining the basis of the number mentioned in the Mishnah. That is not an attempt to justify common practice

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Bill the subject study concluded that there were no genetic markers for or against same sex attraction .To assume that there may be other generic factors not yet discovered assumes either that the research was flawed or that the study did not meet a politically correct and longed for conclusion

    • Bob Miller says:

      If there is money is continuing these types of investigations, they will continue. “Just pay us X millions more and we’ll have your predetermined answer.”

    • Bob Miller says:

      If there is money in continuing these types of investigations, they will continue. “Just pay us X millions more and we’ll have your predetermined answer.”

  24. elliot reisman says:

    enough with this topic of homosexuality, It has reared its ugly head only in the last 75 years or so due to the influence of christian morals ,who forbid priests to be married There have been homosexual jews in our history since the beginning of time , it’s nothing new It’s a subject better not spoken about Let’s concentrate of the death penalty for sabbath desecration which is also in the torah Where are the demonstrations to kill those who flaunt this mitzvah?

    • Bob Miller says:

      You know we’re still in exile and don’t have our complete judicial system up and running. The ideal system takes all valid considerations into account.

  25. Steven Brizel says:

    Mycroft Who says Lashon HaKodesh is strictly and only Biblical Hebrew?

    • mycroft says:

      I take no position on the subject, but I have a tough time referring to some Hebrew heard on TV as lashon hakodesh

      • Steve Brizel says:

        One could argue that Mishnaic Hebrew and Aramaic are also Lashon Kodesh, as opposed to modern Hebrew

      • Steve Brizel says:

        Mycroftt wrote in response to my points as follows:

        ““1)People have been rationalizing their transgressions since the dawn of creation”
        I specifically wrote ” That has nothing to do with the requirement to obey what we believe is Gods revelation in the Torah.”
        Where am I stating or implying that one is not required to follow mitzvot?

        “2) HaShem Yisborach in this world is found in the Daled Amos of Halacha and how Chazal formulated Ikarie Emunah”
        The Daled Amos of Halacha is required as RYBS stated as the floor of proper behavior, it is not the ceiling of excellent behavior.
        Which are your Ikrei Emunah Rambams? R Albo’s? R Hasdai Crescas? etc
        “3) We may not understand theodicy but RYBS said in a Teshuvah drasha printed in Al HaTeshuva that Scar bVonesh is a core element that cannot be rationalized away .Furthermore, such categories as Tzadikim Beininim and Reshaim have been discussed throughout the ages. and even RYBS discussed RH and YK as being Ymei HaDin VRahcamim”
        There is Sachar vonesh certainly, but none of us know how God rewards and punishes, no one living knows how Gods Rachamim and Din work out in practice. Talking past my point

        1)You missed my point -man has been rationalizing his transgressions against a Divine Command since the dawn of creation
        2Look at Musaf of RH-that is the bedrock of all Ikarei Emunah as formulated by Chazal which have Halachic import as well
        3 We may not know how HaShem work with respect to theodicy but Scar vOnesh and the notion of avoiding being a Beinoni and a Rasha is a prominent feature of both the halachos and hashkafa of the Yamim Noraim where we try to demonstrate our Ahavas HaShem by doing more than what is required Meikar Hadin in many ways

  26. Steve Brizel says:

    The study that Dr Bill and I have been studying contains conclusions and limitations as if the reader was considering buying stock in an initial public offering . Perhaps the same were contained to assuage the LGBT world from seeking a boycott of scientific research that does not absolutely agree with their contentions as it does with any public figure or institution that disagrees with their stances

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    You would know better than I, but if IIRC RYBS respected the Ibn Ezra as one of the most important medieval Jewish writer to know even if not sure how much more Shas alone IBN Ezra knew than R Chaim Brisker? Do you recall his exact words, my recollection is weak, but I do believe the Rav treated IBN Ezra with highest respect.

    RYBS also viewed Ramban both in Milchamas and Hasagos on Sefer HaMitzvos as forerunner of Brisker Derech and viewed Ramban’s commentary on the Torah as a far more authentically Jewish contribution as rooted in Chazal than the MN. RYBS spent much time analyzing Piyutim and Kinos which contained the keys to many Halachos which Ibn Ezra clearly viewed as not being to his literary POV and a waste of time.

  28. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft wrote in part:

    “Certainly God used Hebrew. That did not prevent parts of Tanach, most of Shas not being written in Hebrew. Certainly some leading Rishonim wrote in languages other than Hebrew. ”

    Some parts of Nach were not written in Biblical Hebrew but in other languages which required Drashas Chazal to explain their meaning on various levels. Some Parshiyos in Chumash were written in a certain manner to demonstrate that the passage cannot be understood on a purely Pshuto Shel Mikra basis. Mishnaic Hebrew and Aramaic were the languages used by the people of those locale and were utilized as the means of setting forth the Mishnah and Gemara in a portable means to be studied throughout the ages as opposed to Greek, Roman, Persian or any other language and can be argued as also having a status of Lashon HaKodesh as well. While some ” leading Rishonim wrote in languages other than Hebrew”, their primary and greatest contribution to the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah, as opposed to Jewish history, or what they did in their non-learning endeavors, remains in Lashon HaKodesh. RYBS also emphasized that if there was a conflict between the Perush HaMishnah and the Yad that the Yad was more authoritative because Rambam wrote the Yad later in his life and IIRC in seemingly simple Lashon HaKodesh. ( There is a statement attributed to Netziv or another Gadol that the reason why there are so many kashes on the Rambam is because Rambam did not have a chavrusa).

    Writing about Perush HaMishnah without knowing seeing a Ksav Yad neither detracts nor adds from what any Gadol writes about the same. Such a sefer is a Cheftza Shel Torah Today , we have Kisvei Yad and if you learn any statement from a sefer of a Rishon that is not based on a Ksav Yad, it is as if you heard Krias HaTorah from a Sefer Torah that was never inspected or corrected. I have heard that it is said that sefarim such as Birkas Shmuel are best learned if one’s first language is Yiddish because that was the language spoke by its very esteemed mchaber, R Baruch Ber ZL.

  29. STeve Brizel says:

    For those interested, the editor of the SC newspaper was one of the speakerss(https://yucommentator.org/2019/09/students-allies-and-activists-march-for-lgbtq-equality/ of the rally on Sunday that R Gordimer described and wrote a fairly dismissive response https://yuobserver.org/2019/09/engaging-in-serious-debate-a-response-to-the-reduction-of-professor-kollers-position/)https://yuobserver.org/2019/08/bigotry-heresy-observers-religious-mission-eliminate-intolerance/to this critique https://yucommentator.org/category/opinions/of Dr Koller’s article by a YU student. If you are a YU alumnus and get either paper via email, some things don’t change-the papers have many op eds and articles that both champion causes and POVs that one can argue are LW MO at best, and inimical to the goals of YU , critical without expressing any hakras hatov for the opportunities offered by YU . It is no secret that more than a few staff members go on to work at the secular Jewish media where they can continue to hector all of the Orthodox community and urge support for their pet peeves after spending their years bashing YU and what they view as the issues confronting MO. Once again, as in a very recent instance involving the NYT and a book that looks like it will be DOA with respect to Justice Kavanaugh, the editor of the Observer clearly can be criticized psar with printing a narrative that suits her obvously partisan POV as opposed to objectively exploring the difference between sympathy and obliteration of a Torah prohibition. What both papers but especially the Observer IMO needs are more articles and discussion on how to be a college educated Ben and Bas Torah in 21st Century America as opposed to aiming to be the self appointed consciences of YU who graduate disappointed when it is apparent that their views are at best a noisy minority.

    • Bob Miller says:

      Steve,

      Today, does the YU administration share the general approach you champion?

      • Mycroft says:

        Don’t understate YU except for RIETS being a non sectarian institution. It is very tough for an institution claiming to be non sectarian to restrict comments critical of a religion.

      • Bob Miller says:

        Mycroft,
        What does “YU except for RIETS” do for Orthodox Jews as such that other universities do not? Is it like the Jewish hospitals or JCCs that are really for everybody?

  30. StevenBrizel says:

    I am just a concerned proud and at times critical alumnus of YU JSS and Cardozo no more no less

    • mycroft says:

      Mycroft,
      What does “YU except for RIETS” do for Orthodox Jews as such that other universities do not? Is it like the Jewish hospitals or JCCs that are really for everybody?

      Certainly for most of the University other than undergrad schools what you are saying is true. Undergrad schools, since require simultaneous attendance at a Jewish studies division , even if non sectarian but they are all taught from a traditional viewpoint. Thus, very few non committed to Judaism would want to attend.
      Since YU divested itself of its medical school a big drain on the institution has disappeared so less true now. Your point is true to some extent.

  31. Shades of Gray says:

    Diversity and openness has strengths and weaknesses. There have in the past been different types of controversial issues that have made their way into the student newspapers, or now, the gay protest.

    This is from a 2011 Cross Currents article by R. Adlerstein, ” The Beacon Shining Upon Us”, about a controversy over an article written by a YU start-up student newspaper. The article discussed a promiscuous incident, which then received widespread media attention when the YU student-council voted to defund the newspaper over the article:

    “But what of the content of the article itself? What does it say about a certain part of the student population of the Modern Orthodox world? Nothing that hasn’t been said for decades. Is there more promiscuous behavior today than a decade ago? I have no idea. But similar stories could have been told several decades ago? Does it prove that YU and Stern are morally bankrupt? Not at all. All it proves is that YU and Stern are willing to open their doors to provide a Jewish undergraduate education to a far more religiously diverse group than other schools. That may be wise or unwise, depending on the impact that the less religiously engaged have upon the others. One could believe that it is the wrong way to go, and still admit that the decision is defensible. “

  32. Shades of Gray says:

    Re. the Chasid Yavetz on the Spanish exiles mentioned by Steve Brizel, Aharon Rose writes in “The Haredim: A Defense”(Azure, 2006, available online) :

    ” Thus did Rabbi Eliezer Schach, the revered leader of the non-Hasidic Haredi community in Israel until his death in 2001, frequently make reference in his speeches to the testimony of an exile from Spain, the Hasid Yabetz, who described the behavior of the Jewish intelligentsia: “And the majority who boasted of their wisdom were eradicated and were not exiled. Only the women and the simple, uneducated folk sacrificed themselves.

    In a footnote, Rose provides these references:

    “It should be emphasized that the great historian of the Jewish dispersal in Christian Spain, Yitzhak Baer, accepts the authority of the testimony of the Hasid Yabetz (Rabbi Joseph Yabetz). See Yitzhak Baer, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, vol. 2, From the Fourteenth Century to the Expulsion, trans. Louis Schoffman (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1978), p. 443. Other historians have disagreed with Baer. See Israel M. Ta-Shma, Studies in Medieval Rabbinic Literature, vol. 2, Spain (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 2004), pp. 279-296. [Hebrew] See the discussion of Avishai Ben Haim, Man of Vision: The Ultra-Orthodox Ideology of Rabbi Schach (Jerusalem: Mozaika, 2004), pp. 149-159. [Hebrew] For the citation by Rabbi Schach see Eliezer Menachem Schach, Letters and Articles, part 4 (Bnei Brak, 1980), p. 154. [Hebrew]”

    • mycroft says:

      dr. bill
      September 25, 2019 at 1:42 am
      I assume the end of the story is relevant. Privately, the Rav ztl and Dr. Belkin ztl each chose a trusted lawyer to meet and resolve the issue to their mutual satisfaction. The lawyers met and the issues were (easily) resolved except in the minds of those who do not know the issues involved

      The issue is not whether or not they each picked a trusted lawyer and whether or not they resolved the issue. There was a very close relationship between the two-when Dr Belkin was a student in Brown, he many times went to the Ravs house for Shabbos and Yom Tov. Providence is not that far from Boston. When the Rav came to YU Dr Belkin told his better students to leave his shiur and go the Ravs shiur. The Rav never forgot that
      Issue is whether making YU nonsectarian necessarily impacts YU-I suspect it has to, as a non sectarian school they cant make religious belief and practice a condition of admission, enrollment, graduation etc

    • dr. bill says:

      mycroft, believe me, neither the Rav ztl nor Dr. Belkin ztl was unaware of some of the downside risks. the issue was accurately gauging them against the benefits that such a change would bring. What each thought originally would require a trained historian to interview those in a position to comment (somewhat) accurately. The extent to which future challenges and benefits would produce a different conclusion would be speculation by even those who had intimate exposure to the Rav or Dr. Belkin’s thinking on not just halakhic matters, which he largely discuss openly, but his religious, political, etc. views which he did not make public anywhere near as public. In my estimation, he would talk openly about his personal life, on occasion about his religious views and much less frequently about his political views. one of the reasons his legacy is so argued is his view that even his halakhic views, let alone religious or political views are NOT IN EVERY INSTANCE necessary to be viewed as binding by his students. Often completely misunderstood was how narrowly he defined halakhic versus religious versus kal ve’chomer beno shel kal ve’chomer, political.

      on a very different but similar context, RAL ztl was asked what the Rav might think on something few would hesitate to claim knowledge of what the Rav would say. i cannot quote the whole sentence because i broke out laughing, but he asked the questioner if he took him for……. I do remember the word “fool” with some adjectives for emphasis as well. FOOLS rush in…….., comes to mind reading some of the comments. NOT yours, a kesivah ve’hatimah tova to you and friends and family.

  33. Shades of Gray says:

    Re. the previously discussed Ibn Ezra, and his “Tzomoh Nafshi” composition, according to one online source:

    “the sefer Chut Hameshulash writes that the Chasam Sofer praised this song immensely, saying that it was deep in kabala concepts and that “there is no doubt that ru’ach hakodesh rested upon the writer when he composed this song”.

    There is also a tune to the Ibn Ezra’s Tzomah Nafshi composed by R. Meir Shapiro, the Lubliner Rav.

    • Bob Miller says:

      I have a cassette tape of R. Shapiro’s tunes, including this one, all very uplifting.

      • Shades of Gray says:

        Below is a link to Rav Belsky singing Rav Meir Shapiro’s Tzama Nafshi (Libi U’bisarei-Rav Meir Shapiro, ninth row). To the right of Tzama Nafshi, you can also listen to a recording of R. Belsky’s nusach for parts of Neilah, among many other recordings there.

        zichronravbelsky.com/work-niggunim/

        This link, below, also has “Tzumah Nafshee”, among R. Meir Shapiro’s other nigunim.

        http://www.onlywithjoy.org/#music

        For the last Siyum Hashas, Suki and Ding put out a tape called “Siyum Hashas: A Musical Celebration” which has a track of R. Meir Shapiro’s nigunim including Tzama Nafshi. Another tape is “Nigunei Reb Meir Shapiro” by Chaim Banet.

  34. Shades of Gray says:

    In 2010, there was a mini-documentary about The Observer produced for a YU Short Film Competition addressing “What YU Means to me.”(Google: “Observing Yeshiva University “What YU Means to Me”). At 2:30 in the video, one of The Observer editors says:

    “The best thing about YU is the diversity that is on campus…The Observer best exemplifies that diversity that I feel on campus. It’s a meeting ground for different opinions, ideas, and talks about different events, and their all different — completely different things. You can have one person talking about something that’s “uber-shtark”, and then one person’s talking about something that’s totally secular, like the write-up of a play. I think that The Observer is a great facet of our institution and it really show what we have to offer.”

    I suppose that the issue is how to get the right diversified balance of the portfolio.

  35. Alan says:

    Since Rabbi Gordimer is not allowing comments on his claim that Haaretz overstated the number of people at last Sunday’s rally concerning YU and LGBT Jews, I will make my comment here.

    Two of my immediate family were at the rally as were many friends and acquaintances. Among them were many who are affiliated with YU (at both the undergraduate and graduate level, including semicha) and many who are not. Based on their reports of the rally and those of numerous media reports (other than Haaretz), I believe that the Haaretz report as to the number of people who attended (about 200) is accurate.

    • rkz says:

      I have not been in YU in the last 25 years (since I had the zechut to be here, in Eretz Yisrael), but if what you wrote is true, that is an horrific Chillul Hashem, rh”l.

      • Alan says:

        You’re entitled to your view. The members of the Orthodox Jewish community — our children, siblings and friends — who G-d created gay, and those who love them, would disagree. They would see the large turnout as a sign that many want them to remain part of the community into which they were born and raised — even if rkz does not.

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