Rabbi Riskin is wrong

In a previous post, I mentioned the issue at hand.

He has published a response (below) to the RCA resolution claiming it was political and not halachic. His arguments about Deborah and Bruria are well known and existed well before the RCA, so to claim them as proofs for his opinion is rather vacuous. Bruria is brought in a Tosefta in Kelim, but in the Mishna it is brought in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua (from memory chapter 2). Was that a political decision by Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi or was there more to it. Were the Rabbis afraid (despite Deborah et al) to name Bruria? If so, why is that? Was Rav Yehuda Hanasi a slave to social mores or were his social mores determined by Mesora which does not deny the Bruria’s of this world, but does deny them Sroro unless it’s a Horoas Sho-oh. I’m not aware of Rabbi Riskin’s appointment as a prophet, but I’d suggest he has bigger fish to fry. What is the divorce rate in Efrat compared to similarly sized towns in Israel? Why is that? That would bother me much more. Unfortunately, Rabbi Riskin doesn’t have Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, both of whom he would have consulted today about such a pronouncement. I will take Rav Hershel Schachter as a Halachist over Rabbi Riskin any day of the week. By the way, does Rabbi Riskin consider Open Orthodoxy Conservative (like the Aguda pronounced yesterday)? Does he consider them conservative with a big C?

I have written to the Rabbinic Council of Victoria. So far, I have not elicited a response. I won’t let go though, till they issue their response. This issue is too fundamental for each Rabbi to make their own determinations. It’s a question about which group you align yourself with, and I suggest very strongly that the Rabbinic Council of Victoria align itself formally with the RCA.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the municipal chief rabbi of Efrat and one of the most prominent leaders of Modern Orthodoxy, has criticized a recent resolution adopted by the Rabbinical Council of America which banned its member rabbis from giving any form of ordination to women or hiring women in a role of religious or spiritual leadership.

The RCA resolution said its members may not “ordain women into the rabbinate, regardless off the title used” or “hire, or ratify the hiring of, a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution.”

It appeared to be mostly aimed at institutions associated with the liberal Orthodox movement loosely defined as Open Orthodoxy, including Yeshivat Maharat in Riverdale, New York, founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss, which gives ordination to women to serve as spiritual guides and give rulings in Jewish law, or halacha.

Riskin, along with other rabbis in Israel, is himself an RCA member and oversees the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute for Halachic Leadership (WIHL) at Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, which gives women a qualification that amounts to ordination, although it is not labelled as such.

And Riskin has also appointed a graduate of WIHL to a position of spiritual leadership, the first such appointment to the Orthodox world in Israel, when he hired Dr. Jennie Rosenfeld last year to work as a halachic and spiritual guide in Efrat.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post earlier this week, Riskin said that the RCA’s resolution was “unfortunate” and argued that it was not based on the substantive issues of women’s ordination.

“I believe the resolution they made wasn’t halachic as much as it was political,” the rabbi said.

“As such it was quite unfortunate. There is no question whatsoever that throughout the generations women have often provided halachic and spiritual leadership as is shown from Sarah the prophetess to Deborah the judge, from Bruriah, the daughter of Rabbi Hananya Ben Teradyon of Talmudic times to the rulings of major halachic decisors of today including former chief rabbi Bakshi Doron, that state that women can become the great religious leaders of the generation, the ‘gedolei ha’dor’, and that they can provide rulings for halachic direction.”

Riskin also said he was “very taken aback by the inclusiveness of the resolution.”

The terms of the RCA’s resolution banning the ordaining and hiring of women appeared to include women who graduate from the WIHL.

Women at WIHL complete a program of Talmudic and halachic study comparable to ordination programs undertaken by men, and upon graduation are given the title of Morot Hora’ah and are certified to serve as spiritual leaders and arbiters of Jewish law.

“The guide must be halacha and not politics,” continued Riskin. “One can argue about the titles and what title to give, but halachic and religious leadership can certainly be given to women.

“The RCA certainly understand this, and their resolution makes no sense halachically since they accept yoatzot halacha. That’s why it seems to be a political decision and not one based on halacha.”

Yoetzet halacha are women qualified to give halachic guidance on issues pertaining to Jewish law in the field of family purity, and the position has become an accepted part of Modern Orthodoxy in the last 15 years.

The RCA’s resolution says explicitly that it does not apply to “non-rabbinic positions such as Yoatzot Halacha.”

Giving ordination, or equivalent qualifications, to women, and the adoption by qualified women of a role in making rulings on Jewish law, is a new development in the Orthodox world, and not widely accepted. The mainstream haredi world completely rejects it.

Speaking to the Post, Executive Vice President of the RCA Rabbi Marc Dratch said that the qualification given by WIHL did not come under the definition outlined by the resolution.

“Rabbi Riskin’s program does not ordain women to be clergy in the American sense,” said Dratch. “He has been an innovator in many ways and my hope is that this should not be a point of separation between Rabbi Riskin and the RCA.”

Talking more broadly about the resolution, Dratch said that he hoped it would not lead to further division, and noted that some members of the RCA leadership had publicly stated that they were opposed to the resolution, not necessarily because they disagreed with it but because they felt it was not the best way to deal with the issue.

“It’s a serious issue but we hope it will not come to a situation which will create an un-breachable divide. We need ways to engage in a better dialogue which requires patience and respect for the integrity of the Orthodox community.”

In terms of the practical impact of the resolution, Dratch said that if an RCA member rabbi were to act in contradiction of the resolution, a concern could be brought to the association’s executive committee which could then convene a mechanism to evaluate the concern and, if required and so decided, take action.

It would not lead to the automatic expulsion of the member he said, and noted that there had always been RCA members “who deviate from the mainstream” and that “only very, very rarely has a member been expelled.”

Meira Welt-Maarek, a recent graduate of WIHL who serves alongside a school rabbi as a spiritual leader in a high-school in the Alon Shvut settlement also under Riskin’s direction, labelled the RCA resolution as “political,” saying it was not presented with any sources to support it.

“A halachic argument has a textual frame of reference and they have none, it’s just an opinion which creates divisions,” Welt-Maarek told the Post.

“Women also stood at Mount Sinai, and halachic discussions can only benefit when more people share their perspective. The Torah goes beyond political divisions and barriers. My job is to allow everyone to have access to the Torah and create their connection and path to it.”

More on blurring out women from the world

I had written about this here.

Check this out from Agudas Yisrael.

(from kolbishaerva blog)

and compare to pre-war picture of graduating class of Beis Yaakov

Graduating Class of Beis Yaakov. Clear faces!

Hamodia’s grievous sin of G’Neivas Daas

I don’t have a subscription to Hamodia. Occasionally my wife buys it. One Erev Pesach I saw it at a shop and it looked so thick, I thought I might but it. In the worst, at least some might enjoy it.

The problem is that nothing has changed. The paper is Sheker VeChozov. It is chock full of lies and unbridled revisionism. It is a paper of indoctrination for the Oilom Goilom who follow in single file.

There was a wonderfully researched piece about R’ Yissochor Shlomo Teichtal הי’’ד whose Yohr Tzeit was around that time. I learned some interesting facts that I did not know. So far so good. Apart from his famous שאלות ותשובות משנה שכיר there were two enormous factors that made R’ Teichtal stand apart from other greats in his generation

  • Despite being probably the Talmid/Chossid Muvhak of the Munkatcher, he had not trouble saying “Rebbe, you were wrong, very wrong” about the holocaust and israel
  • He abandoned his Munkatch way of life, stayed frum and his אם הבנים שמחה which was hidden from the world by his family for decades is now a classic that everyone should read and has been translated into English.

But no. Hamodia told us everything up to that point. How could they mention the contents of that incredible ספר and the challenge it raised to the charedi establishment. So instead of reporting the truth, and teaching it the way it was from a גאון עולם a giant of the last generation, they decided “No, we won’t tell our readers that this man underwent an enormous transformation where he rejected the teaching than someone as great as the Munkatcher, and pointed out chapter and verse where he thought the Munkatcher was incorrect.

This is the problem with Hamodia and the problem with Artscroll. They have no fidelity to the truth. Artscroll in its newly published מקראות גדולות had the Chutzpa and temerity to refuse to publish words of the Rishon, the Rashbam! They censored him. Hamodia is no different. They take their stories put them through the ‘Aguda Cleaner Solution’ so that everyone can only read a sanitised lie or half truth.

There is nobody with any faults in Hamodia. Anyone who passes away was incredible, an impeccable Tzaddik.

Tell it the way it was. Stop the stupidity of banning books by R’ Nosson Kaminetszky, such as the ‘Making of a Gadol’. On the contrary, when we see that people are people and not Malochim we stand a better chance to aspire to their lofty heights.

Hamodia has created a monster: a self perpetuating ‘everything is beautiful’ monster in the frum world. It isn’t. There are pedophilles, adulterers, money launderers, fraudsters as well as the genuine article. Stop sanitising our underwear. Hamodia thinks we will be exposed to the real world and not get shocked at cattle prodding dayonim who take thousands to electrify someone till they give a gett. And they have the Chutzpa to complain about הגאון הגדול מאחיו מורי ורבי רב צבי שכטר when he invokes Rabbeinu Tam.

They talk about “off the Derech” and the “Shidduch Crisis”. Maybe they should start pursuing Emes and stop hiding behind transparent bushes.

I finished the article about R’ Teichtal and threw the paper away. I didn’t want to soil my hands with such blatant omissions which amount to ball faced lies and plain old indoctrination.

Agudas Yisrael and Yom Ha’atzmaut: then and now

[Hat tip to Mark]
The letter below was penned by famed Rosh Yeshivah of Telz in Cleveland and member of the Moetzes Gedolai HaTorah in the USA, Rav Eliyahu Meir Bloch ז’ל. I had heard about the sentiments, but it is all the more powerful when one reads the actual letter. Well, not quite the actual letter, but a translation of the letter, which I lifted from the following article.


With God’s help, Sunday, Parashat Bechukosai, 5714

My respected friend, Mr. David Ulman, Shalom and with eternal blessing!

First I would like to express my gratitude to you for contacting me to request clarification with regard to the holiday of Independence without judging or criticising from afar. Now let me respond to the matter with clarity.

  • The copy of the advertisement that you sent to me is indeed correct. Furthermore, this event was attended by the Women of Agudath Israel and Pirchei Agudath Israel. The reason that their attendance was not mentioned [in the ad] is simply due to the fact that they decided to attend later [after the flyer was published], and they became an official part of the evening’s program.
  • Before we discuss the actual matter we must first clarify the following questions:
    1) Is Yom ha-Atzma’ut a worthy matter for the Ultra- Orthodox community to deliberate and to express a stance regarding it[s celebration]?
    2) Is it worthy of celebration?
    3) Is it worthy for the members of Agudath Israel to unite with the members of Mizrachi in a fashion which allows us to express our approach and influence others to act according to the spirit of Agudath Israel?

In my humble opinion, one must respond to these questions as follows:

  1. The independence of Israel and the establishment of the State are important events in the life of our nation. It is worthy for members of Agudath Israel to participate when there is a possibility to express their thoughts and views before a large forum in order to influence them regarding the approach of the Agudah and to refute the negative sentiments against Agudath Israel.
  2. In my opinion, despite all of the defects and deficiencies in the leadership of the State of Israel, its mere existence, which happened via revealed miracles, is of great significance that deserves recognition and appreciation. This recognition must be publicly expressed for two reasons: First, because the truth must be expressed. Second, that all should know and recognise that our war against the Government of Israel is not targeted against the existence of the State.
  3. Participation with Mizrachi in a fashion that Agudath Israel is free to express its views was recognised as the correct approach by creating a religious front that Agudath Israel is always willing to renew. Although I know that we disagree with Mizrachi on our fundamental beliefs, and in no way are our views consistent with each other, and consequently our actions are totally different, still there are many issues on which we can work together and, through this, strengthen the ultra-religious and its influence on the life of the nation.

After this preface let’s discuss the issue of our participating in the celebration of Yom ha-Atzma’ut. The collective meeting for Yom ha-Atzma’ut was not particularly festive; it was simply a symposium conducted by all the Orthodox factions and gave everyone the opportunity to express their views. Of course, if we would not have attended, the meeting would have turned into a platform focused on criticising Agudath Israel and its leaders who are the “Gedolei ha-Torah.” Our participation on the other hand caused the speakers to speak politely and allowed Agudath Israel to express its views in front of more than one thousand people. Hence even if we would not have related to the State of Israel in a positive fashion, our participation would still have been of value. However, in my view since the creation of the State of Israel is indeed an important milestone in the life of our nation, our relationship to it, therefore, is positive, and our participation is obligatory.

Our participation together with Mizrachi is despite the fact that the religious political front was canceled. In Cleveland there is a religious front by the name “Orthodox Jewish Association” comprised of representatives of ultra-orthodox synagogues, Agudath Israel, Mizrachi, Young Israel and representatives of the educational institutions of the ultra-orthodox. A condition was established that if there is any issue with which one of the participants disagrees, the organisation cannot act. For example when rabbi… came here as the representative of the so-called Jewish Agency’s Torah Department, during their month of propaganda, and most of the organisation’s members were willing to participate in an open forum, Agudath Israel and our educational institutes did not agree, despite our personal relationships with rabbi…. Of course Mizrachi acted independently, but not in the name of our joint religious organisation. Due to this organisation, thank God, we were able to eliminate non-kosher at United Jewish Appeal banquets and gatherings and accomplish other positive outcomes that strengthened the religious position and its respect in the community. Therefore, if we would not have agreed to organise the Yom ha-Atzma’ut gathering of course we could have stopped the organisation from attending. However, our view is positive [towards Yom ha-Atzma’ut] and therefore we did attend. It is noteworthy that nothing was done without consulting with us. We oversaw all preparations to insure all would be in accordance with our interests. For example, no irreligious attended and all women sat in a separate section behind a Mechitzah etc….

To summarise, I feel it correct to clarify why this was conducted this year and not in previous years. The reason did not emanate from our side but from the side of the other factions. In past years all the Zionist factions would conduct the gathering in accordance with their approach and of course we are neither part of them nor their ways. But this time they approached us with a proposal that the gathering would be only with religious people in accordance with the spirit of Torah and asked us if under these conditions we would be willing to participate. And thus, despite the fact that this year we are actually at war with the Mizrachi even more so than in previous years, we still feel it was the correct approach to demonstrate to them that on issues on which we are in agreement we can work together.

In general, I already expressed my view that we lost a great deal by refraining from recognising correct issues just because the irreligious and those manipulated by them, the Mizrachi, agreed to them, because through agreeing with them we would have strengthened their false opinions. In my opinion, our views did not find receptive hearts within the nation not because of our stance against their incorrect views; rather it is because of our negative position against the correct views such as learning Bible, speaking Hebrew and Eretz Yisrael. The populace cannot understand our concerns and, moreover, when we emphasise our positive views they will accept us and allow us to fight the falsehoods. In addition, I must express that this attitude of ours is not unique to our life in America. We acted this way in Lithuania as well despite the fact that then, as now, we were totally zealous concerning anything that, God forbid, is not in accordance with the spirit of Torah. We did not regress because of persecution, denouncement and sometimes even suffering, sorrow and much damage to our holy Yeshiva.

With this I am your friend, I respect you and bless you, 

Eliyahu Meir Bloch

To report or not to report? There is no question.

Aguda has played with words on this issue for a long time. It seems they are all words and no action. The Law, however, has different and more transparent standards. See this article.

The impending gathering about the Internet at Citi Field

Most of us will be aware that certain sections of Charedi Judaism (who call themselves כלל ישראל) are organising an enormous gathering of males (no women allowed) to conjure strength and provide direction in the fight against the iniquity of the internet.

Many pixels will be excited by this event as it unfolds. The following is a guest post by the pseudonymous  “Yosef Drimmel” on Rabbi Slfkin’s blog. It is a brilliant piece and I reproduce it here for comment. I couldn’t agree more with Drimmel.

May 20, 2012, Flushing, NY – A gathering of Ultra-Orthodox Jews from the New York tri-state area was held today at Citi Field. 40,000 men gathered here as approximately 40,000 women followed the events in their neighborhoods via satellite connection. This remarkable event filled with excitement and optimism offered a unique reflection on almost twenty years of Internet use and its effects on a generation.

Leading Rabbis spoke passionately about the various problems facing the community today and urged people to use the Internet and any tools available to address them. An introspective atmosphere was created that united laymen and leadership fostering a commitment to truth and transparency.

The leaders acknowledged they were short-sighted and unrealistic when in the past they attempted to ban the Internet entirely and that methods such as forced signatures on school applications were inappropriate and ineffective. Instead they expressed that many schools need to focus more on the academic and social growth of their students and less on their ability to conform to exclusive rules.

In a humbling manner, some rabbis went so far as to suggest that in the past they felt threatened by the dissemination of information and opinions over the Internet. But in the end they realized that transparency and open dialogue are in the greater interests of Klal Yisroel.

Perhaps the most moving moment of the day was the public apology issued by the leadership in the name of the entire community to the victims of decades of sexual abuse that occurred within our community, noting that it was the Internet that gave a voice to those who had none in the face of the establishment. A new covenant was drawn promising complete cooperation with law enforcement and advocating tougher laws to prevent and report child abuse. A number of enablers were removed from their positions and a new fund to support victims was created.

Some of the speakers also brought attention to the problems of Internet addiction. Expert psychologists and social workers discussed the pathways and pitfalls of excessive use of the Internet, a human challenge more than a religious one. Emphasis was made for teachers and clergy to be aware of individuals suffering from emotional problems of all sorts and to understand the best ways to help people. The disastrous stories of well-meaning but incompetent rabbis who offered counseling proved to be very enlightening to many in the field.

Some attention was paid to the unfortunate availability of pornography on the Internet. While no rabbi wanted to make a fire-and-brimstone rant against basic human instinct, even-keeled advice was offered regarding coping with this distraction and enjoying a healthy lifestyle and fulfilling relationships. A new program was presented to educate brides and grooms on the subject of positive attitudes about intimacy, mutual love and respect.

In the final remarks, the rabbis pledged to move forward with the continuous forging of new ideas. Future gatherings will probably be at a lower cost and scale but focused on actual changes and improvements the community will need to make. Future agendas will include problems and questions such as attitudes towards education and employment, proper allocation of charity funds, funding Jewish education as a community, today’s shidduchim system, agunos, extremism and intolerance, segregation of Ashkenazim and Sefaradim, participation in the Israeli workforce and armed forces, the system of Halachic rulings in Israel and America, reliance on subsidies, and integrity and honesty.

 Many of the attendees left the event feeling invigorated about their future and that of their children and grandchildren, echoing the sentiment that through justice and kindness we may merit the coming of the Messiah.

See also here for another excellent critique.
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