Who is schnorring to fund Steven Greenberg’s trip?

The prime supporter and collector to fund Steven Greenberg is allegedly non other than that famous Jewish personality, who spoke at Habonim on Shavuos about how he ‘finally managed to break away from Orthodox Judaism’ -Mark Cherny.

We love you Mark, not just because you are a mad St Kilda supporter, but because despite what comes  out of your mouth, you cannot break away. No Jew can give away their essence, which contains Godliness. Yes, I’m aware that Science maybe your god, and I’m not getting into that topic here.

It is ironic that Mark who disavows Orthodoxy, is finding the funds to enable the non Orthodox Steven Greenberg to speak at an Orthodox Shule! Can you see what I see? As I understand it, all Orthodox Shules turned down Mark, except for Caulfield. Perhaps Steven Greenberg himself can convince Mark to remove the shade covering his glowing inner Jew-the Neshoma he disavows because it’s not in a test tube.

What I don’t understand is why Rabbi Genende was seemingly seduced by cheap populism. Modern Orthodoxy opposes Steven Greenberg and his husband. I’m sure Rabbi Genende will vigorously oppose Steven Greenberg, but is a function for young adults the correct address for this discussion?

By now, everyone knows that the ARK Centre and Shira Chadasha are the two outliers that have welcomed Steven. No shock horror in those two places opening their arms.

Bottom line: It should have stayed with ARK and Shira Chadasha and Michael Barnett’s group, which includes ‘intermarried homosexuals’, no less. Maybe Steven will try to convince intermarried homosexuals to stop their relationship because they are assisting a Ben Noach to sin?

Rabbi Riskin: the other side of the coin

[Hat tip NB]

This is from Rabbi Yoni Rosenzweig who was a Rosh Kollel in Mizrachi for a several years. I do not know him, and I think I only spoke to him once on Purim over a passuk in the Megilla at Rabbi Sprung’s house. I say I “think” because it was Purim and the memory is hazy 🙂

That being said, the interaction between my car and it’s bluetooth implementation and my phone, causes a shiur (I have about 2000 on my iPhone) to come on when I drive. On Friday, I heard part 2 of one from Rabbi Professor Sperber (who is known for his fantastic series on Minhagim). There were aspects that disturbed me. I will try to listen to Part 1 and 2 and blog about that in the future.

One thing I did come away with was that Professor Sperber’s description of his daughter’s Judaism, and what I know of Shira Chadasha in Melbourne are many many miles apart. Below, is what Rabbi Rosenzweig apparently wrote on Facebook in response to Rabbi Gordimer (I haven’t seen the original)

Rabbi Riskin gave an interview yesterday in which he posited that the Reform an Conservative movements are not enemies, but rather partners (see link in the comments). In response, Rabbi Gordimer wrote a scathing response (link below in the comments).

I must take issue with Rabbi Gordimer’s comments. I would like to start off by saying that as my family was also very close with The Rav, and also very much involved in YU, I have – despite my growing up here – always been privy to many stories regarding Rabbi Riskin, both positive and negative, and have been “kept in the loop” through those circles and connections.

But I never really knew Rabbi Riskin until I started working for him (and still work in one of his institutions). Throughout my work in Ohr Torah I have had many opportunities to sit with him, discuss both practical and theoretical issues, and hear his position on many a topic.

I can say two things without hesitation: (1) Rabbi Riskin and I disagree on a whole bunch of stuff. I can count on more than two hands the Halachic and philosophical positions he has taken which I disagree with. We have very different outlooks. (2) Rabbi Riskin is a completely authentic and genuine person. He doesn’t pander, doesn’t change his opinion in order to get as many “likes” as possible. That’s not his way. He really and genuinely believes in his positions, and thinks they will benefit the Jewish people.

Rabbi Gordimer’s insinuations otherwise are scandalous. To call Rabbi Riskin a “superstar Rabbi”, or to say he is just trying to be “politically correct” or to “gain popular appeal” – that’s just slander. If he wants to talk about the issues, he can do that, but to attack Rabbi Riskin’s character is off-the-wall, especially as it misses the mark completely.

Even to claim he is Open Orthodox is doubtful in my eyes. Look at the article Rabbi Riskin published in Techumin, regarding women receiving Aliyot to the Torah. He outright prohibits it. Is that the psak of an Open Orthodox Rabbi, trying to gain public appeal and score points with the liberal public? Or is that the position of someone who will tell you what he thinks is right, regardless of how it makes him look (and no doubt people looked to him to allow that as well)?

My father – who sat in The Rav’s shiur – once told me that no matter what, he believes anyone who was in The Rav’s shiur and was close with The Rav, is kept honest by that experience, because whenever he does anything, he sees The Rav’s face in front of him, and that keeps him from straying off the straight and narrow.

So I don’t worry about Rabbi Riskin, who has done so much for the Jewish people – even if you think his comment was mistaken this time around. I worry about that the people who slander him, that the flame of their self-righteousness shouldn’t blind them from seeing the forest from the trees.

Attention: the dormant Rabbinic Council of Victoria

The following is from Arutz Sheva from the respected Rabbi Gordimer re Rabbi Riskin’s creeping to the left.

[Hat tip DS]

Rabbi Gordimer is a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America, and a member of the New York Bar. His writings on Jewish topics are published widely.

It is sometimes hard to believe what we are reading, as things are turned upside down in an effort to be politically correct and gain popular appeal. Orthodox Judaism has never sought to be politically correct – on the contrary, it has stood its guns no matter what direction the winds are blowing. Unfortunately, with the case of Modern Orthodox rabbis who have crossed the line into Open Orthodoxy, it has become almost commonplace to read the unbelievable, things that would never have been expressed were Rabbi Soloveitchik zt”l, the Torah luminary of American Modern Orthodoxy, still with us. Sometimes, shocking ideas are articulated in direct contravention of his views, with the excuse that “times have changed.” Since when has that wellworn excuse been used in Orthodoxy?

This, much as it hurts to write it, seems to be the case when it comes to rabbinic superstar, Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, who seems to be on a much publicized collision course with tradition. There was the “Rabbi Jesus Video” (which Rabbi Riskin later said did not represent his views, due to the video’s poor editing), his promoting the chanting of Megillath Ruth by a woman at the main minyan of a synagogue under his jurisdiction, and other ideas that fly in the face of Orthodox tradition. A once modern rabbinic icon who did much to bring people closer to Torah, Rabbi Riskin has in his later years adopted positions that fly in the face of normative Torah understanding. (Please also see the later portion of this linked article regarding Rabbi Riskin’s involvement with Christian ministries.)

Although one could have otherwise, perhaps favorably interpreted Rabbi Riskin’s hair-raising idea in his recent public pronouncement on Arutz Sheva that the Reform and Conservative movements are partners in Jewish outreach to have been intended to express the demarcation between acceptance of Reform and Conservative Jews themselves and unequivocal opposition to their leaders and their interpretations of Judaism, a view held by respected rabbinic authorities, that is clearly not what Rabbi Riskin said.  Rather, Rabbi Riskin stated:  “They’re not tearing Jews away but bringing them closer… That may have been true at the beginning of the Reform Movement, but it’s very different now – they’re trying to bring Jews closer. Not to the wholeness, the fullness of Orthodox Judaism that I love and that I know, but nevertheless they’re trying to bring Jews closer.” In other words, it is the leadership of the Reform and Conservative movements whom Rabbi Riskin praises!

This leadership is bringing Jews closer to what? Intermarriage?  Christmas trees and menorahs in the living room? A total departure from normative halakhic Judaism?

Let us look at that greatest danger to the continuity of the Jewish people, not the just as important continuity of its halakhic framework. On a factual level, not only are most Reform Jews (and non-Orthodox Jews in general) intermarried today, and not only does the head of the Reform movement extol intermarriage, but there has been serious discussion within the Reform movement to permit its rabbis to themselves be intermarried. The Reconstructionist movement has gone further, formally allowing its rabbis to be intermarried, and a large plurality of rabbis in the Conservative movement favor the performance of intermarriages. In fact, the Conservative movement’s USY youth group now permits its leadership to interdate

To endorse these movements as positive and as forces for bringing Jews closer to Judaism is downright wrong and even farcical. Although these groups may espouse some type of Jewish identity, they embody and encourage assimilation and the abandonment of Jewish tradition and commitment. And it is happening before our eyes.

Theologically, the Reform and Conservative (as well as the Reconstructionist) movements reject the Singular Divine Authorship of the Torah and the other Cardinal Principles of Faith, and they have disavowed the binding nature of halakha.

It is therefore not only incorrect to refer to these groups as partners in bringing Jews closer to Judaism, but it is dangerous, as such a statement empowers and validates groups which threaten the very integrity and future of authentic Judaism in every manner.

There is no need for elaboration, as the issue is not subtle or nuanced; endorsing the heterodox movements is tantamount to endorsing the dismantling and destruction of traditional Judaism.

Many of my friends were immensely impacted by Rabbi Riskin in a most positive way during his early tenure in the United States, as he energetically established Torah institutions of the highest caliber. My friends miss the old Rabbi Riskin. We all wish that he would return.

The views expressed in this article are solely the author’s opinion and do not represent any organizations. 

More on Open Orthodoxy and Shira Chadasha

I have a number of Rabbi Shmuel Goldin’s books and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. 

In an op-ed in January in the Jerusalem post he convincingly buttresses the views of the Rabbinical Council of America in a rebuttal of a pro open orthodox opinion by Baruch Stein. I have been meaning to reproduce Rabbi Goldin’s piece for some time.

Absent, as well, is any acknowledgment of the complexities involved; complexities notably evident in the complete positions of the same authorities whom Stein chooses to selectively quote.

Consider an astounding pattern that has appeared over and over again in recent Jewish experience. Individuals or groups advocate radical change in Jewish tradition and then have the temerity to deride those who simply refuse to accept their unilateral “suggestions.”

Until now, this phenomenon has primarily been evidenced in interdenominational debates. Today, however, it is clearly occurring within the Orthodox community, as adherents of “open orthodoxy” move to unilaterally challenge the boundaries of Jewish practice and then publicly attack those unwilling to follow their lead as out of touch, misguided and obstinate.

Baruch Stein’s recent op-ed in the pages of this paper is a classic example of this disingenuous pattern of attack. Through an amalgam of disconnected quotes, statements, inaccurate comparisons and half-truths, Stein proceeds to make a case against the Rabbinical Council of America, Agudath Israel and others for failing to fall in line with the drive toward modernization of Jewish practice. Quoting a series of clearly partisan sources, including Rabbi Asher Lopatin, president of Chovevei Torah, the flagship seminary of the Open Orthodox community; Rabba Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, one of the “newly ordained women”; Meira-Welt Maarek, a graduate of the Susi Bradfield Institute for Halachic Leadership; and Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, Stein makes the case that the RCA’s rejection of the ordination of women and other halachic changes “is extra-halachic,” lacks a textual frame of reference and is, in fact, “PR stunt by the rightwing membership of the RCA in order to further deepen the dividing lines among orthodoxy.”

Absent in Stein’s piece is the admission that many of these changes are based upon minority opinions within the halachic world and that the majority of Modern Orthodox decisors in America reject these changes at this time. Absent is any recognition of the real possibility that the “divisions” in the Orthodox community today are deliberately being created by the very groups pushing the envelope of change, with full cognizance that their advocated policies will not be accepted by many. Absent is the honest acknowledgment of the use of these familiar tactics: create unilateral change and then attack those who fail to fall in line.

Absent, as well, is any acknowledgment of the complexities involved; complexities notably evident in the complete positions of the same authorities whom Stein chooses to selectively quote.
Rabbi Riskin, for example, cited by Stein as an advocate for change in women’s role in orthodoxy, himself opposes the full ordination of women as rabbis. In a recent letter to members of the RCA leadership, Rabbi Riskin wrote: “We do not wish our women [graduates] to use the title of Rabbi or Rabbah, especially because the Synagogue is largely devoted to Communal Prayer and Communal Torah Reading, two areas in which women may not serve in the capacity of ba’alot tefillah [leaders of the prayer service] and ba’alot keriyah [Torah readers]; neither may they be Assistant or Associate Rabbis, who may be called upon as the sole religious leader in the absence of the official Synagogue Rabbi.”
Would Stein maintain that Rabbi Riskin is caving in to the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) world because of his opposition to full women rabbis? Even more egregious is Stein’s conflation of legitimate opposition to unilateral halachic change with the apparent acceptance of all sorts of horrible excesses, including, and I quote: unwanted marriages, systematic corporal punishment in schools, vigilante attacks on those suspected of listening to radio and reading secular magazines, the unwillingness to participate in the halachic imperative of self-defense, the abuse of halachic converts, the abuse of government programs intended to help the underprivileged, and more.
In Stein’s world black and white world, if you’re against women rabbis, you are guilty of all the above, because of “misguided rejections of modern unknowns.”
In a recent column in another forum, I bemoaned the looming split (some would say the already irrevocable split) in the Modern Orthodox world. What makes this split even more devastating, I argued, is that it didn’t/doesn’t have to be.
Much positive movement is already taking place in the Modern Orthodox community in the areas deemed critical by proponents of change today.
Increased Jewish education and the creation of appropriate leadership roles for women; resolutions concerning ethics within the Jewish community; studies of the conversion process and advocacy on behalf of halachic converts; discussions of greater inclusion into the Orthodox community and more are all unfolding in many forums and settings.
Halachic change can be prodded, but it must eventually occur through evolution and consensus, so that our Judaism will be recognizable as the Judaism of our grandparents and our children’s Judaism will be recognizable as our own. The mandate of every Jewish generation is to fashion a critical balance: a Judaism that enfranchises as many of the generation as possible, yet remains true to the traditions of our people. That balance can only be struck through honest, thoughtful discussion and debate – not through simplistic and unwarranted accusation and attack.
In the final analysis, there is something that Stein and I can agree upon: he claims that now is the time for the RCA “to take a stand.” I agree. The parameters of that “stand,” however, will be determined both by halachic guidelines and by the approach of those around us. If the proponents of “change” are willing to work together in mapping the path of modern orthodoxy towards the future, guided by Halacha and halachic process, they will find many willing partners within the RCA. If their expectation is, however, that change can be determined by minority opinion and summarily mandated and forced upon orthodoxy, they will indeed find that the RCA “will take a stand.” In the judgment of history, the resultant split within the Orthodox community will be on their ledger, not ours.
The author has served as rabbi of Congregation Ahavath Torah in Englewood, New Jersey, for over three decades. He is past president of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently chairman of its review committee on conversions. His articles have appeared in The Jerusalem Post and numerous other publications.

Shira Chadasha’s “Modern” Orthodox appointee

Let’s dispense with this rotund canard. Shira Chadasha is not considered part of (modern/centrist) and certainly not mainstream Orthodoxy. It is part of the break away left wing “Open Orthodoxy”. The appointee (who was the first from Avi Weiss’s program who insisted on being called “Rabbi”) worked at “Mount Freedom Jewish Center” in New Jersey which is intellectually honest and describes itself as Open Orthodox. Open Orthodoxy, through  Chovevei Torah, is definitely not considered Modern/Centrist Orthodox. As Rav Schachter told me, Am Horatzus is absolutely rife therein; none of them know Mesora and Mesoras HaPsak.

It  is well to the far left. Some within Modern Orthodoxy don’t want to cut them off, but it is inevitable. It will happen. The RCA made this very clear when it stated:

Oct 31, 2015 — Formally adopted by a direct vote of the RCA membership, the full text of “RCA Policy Concerning Women Rabbis” states:

  • Whereas, after much deliberation and discussion among its membership and after consultation with poskim, the Rabbinical Council of America unanimously passed the following convention resolution at its April 2010 convention:
    1. The flowering of Torah study and teaching by God-fearing Orthodox women in recent decades stands as a significant achievement. The Rabbinical Council of America is gratified that our members have played a prominent role in facilitating these accomplishments.
    2. We members of the Rabbinical Council of America see as our sacred and joyful duty the practice and transmission of Judaism in all of its extraordinary, multifaceted depth and richness – halakhah (Jewish law), hashkafah (Jewish thought), tradition and historical memory.
    3. In light of the opportunity created by advanced women’s learning, the Rabbinical Council of America encourages a diversity of halakhically and communally appropriate professional opportunities for learned, committed women, in the service of our collective mission to preserve and transmit our heritage. Due to our aforesaid commitment to sacred continuity, however, we cannot accept either the ordination of women or the recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.
    4. Young Orthodox women are now being reared, educated, and inspired by mothers, teachers and mentors who are themselves beneficiaries of advanced women’s Torah education. As members of the new generation rise to positions of influence and stature, we pray that they will contribute to an ever-broadening and ever-deepening wellspring of talmud Torah (Torah study), yir’at Shamayim (fear of Heaven), and dikduk b’mitzvot (scrupulous observance of commandments).
  • And whereas on May 7, 2013, the RCA announced:

    In light of the recent announcement that Yeshivat Maharat will celebrate the “ordination as clergy” of its first three graduates, and in response to the institution’s claim that it “is changing the communal landscape by actualizing the potential of Orthodox women as rabbinic leaders,” the Rabbinical Council of America reasserts its position as articulated in its resolution of April 27, 2010… The RCA views this event as a violation of our mesorah (tradition) and regrets that the leadership of the school has chosen a path that contradicts the norms of our community.

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America

  • Resolves to educate and inform our community that RCA members with positions in Orthodox institutions may not
    1. Ordain women into the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title used; or
    2. Hire or ratify the hiring of a woman into a rabbinic position at an Orthodox institution; or
    3. Allow a title implying rabbinic ordination to be used by a teacher of Limudei Kodesh in an Orthodox institution; and,
  • Commits to an educational effort to publicize its policy by:
    1. Republishing its policies on this matter; and,
    2. Clearly communicating and disseminating these policies to its members and the community.

This resolution does not concern or address non-rabbinic positions such as Yoatzot Halacha, community scholars, Yeshiva University’s GPATS, and non-rabbinic school teachers. So long as no rabbinic or ordained title such as “Maharat” is used in these positions, and so long as there is no implication of ordination or a rabbinic status, this resolution is inapplicable.

As for what drives the new clergy Lila Kagedan at Shira Chadasha, this quote from Lila is very telling.

“I was drawn to ritual. I felt committed to the halachic process, but to be honest, I became absolutely disgruntled several times growing up,”.

One of those times was when her 13-year-old brother was permitted to sit on a beit din for the annulment of vows before Yom Kippur. “Meanwhile, I felt like I had no status.”

Need one say anymore about what motivates such females as opposed to Yoatzot Halacha? I suppose she also feels upset that she can’t Duchen because she’s not a male Cohen? Let’s get real here.

Call a spade a spade and dispense with the charade. If they think they uphold Halacha, good luck to them. I hope they do and may it improve, but the need to force their modes of worship over well established nomenclature that rejects such modes, only indicates they have no respect for established Rabbinic Poskim and leadership. Reform don’t call themselves Orthodox, and neither do Conservative. I don’t see why putting the adjective “Open” before Orthodox is anymore than a not so clever ruse. There are many learned Jewish Orthodox women in Melbourne who exercise their scholarship and feel empowered to do so.

They don’t feel “I had no status”. The existential imperatives of Judaism come second to them as they academically dance around terminology (hopefully with a Mechitza).

Anyone who even remotely thinks this is the model of Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soltoveitchik is simply an intellectual fraud.

I wonder what Caulfield’s Rabbi Genende’s stance on this is? I wrote to the RCV that this would happen over a year ago. It’s time the RCV not only put out stance like the RCA, I’d be happy if they formally affiliated with it.

An example of Mori V’Rabbi, Rav Hershel Schachter’s Centrist World View

It is so easy to say why this clear thinking enormous Talmid Chacham is effectively the Posek for the Rabbinic Council of America and the Orthodox Union. I reproduce an article he just published (c) Torah Web entitled “Volunteering Mitzvos”. What he writes is אמת לאמיתו.

About two years ago I came across a “teshuva” written by a Conservative clergyman. The thrust of the essay was that since the Tanoim established the halacha that women are exempt from wearing Teffilin because they are exempt from learning Torah, and today we expect women to learn Torah just like men, therefore women are no longer exempt from wearing Tefillin.

Needless to say, this is totally incorrect. The halacha that was formulated by the Tanoim that women are exempt from learning Torah has never changed. The laws of the Torah are not subject to change; the immutability of Torah is one of the thirteen principles of faith of the Rambam, and in our generation it has become the main point of distinction between Orthodox Judaism and other branches of Judaism. For centuries Orthodox women have been volunteering to shake a lulav on Succos and to listen to shofar on Rosh Hashonah. No one has changed the halacha that women are exempt from lulav and shofar, rather women have been volunteering to observe these mitzvos as an ainah m’tzuvah v’osah. In the days of the Bais Hamikdash only men were obligated to give machatzis hashekel towards the purchase of the korbonos tzibbur but the mishnah records that a woman may volunteer to observe the mitzvah as an ainah m’tzuvah v’osah.

We don’t recommend in all cases that one volunteer to perform a mitzvah that he is exempt from. The Shulchan Aruch quotes from the Talmud Yerushalmi that if it is raining on Succos and sitting in the Succah would be very uncomfortable, not only is one exempt from the mitzvah, but also it simply does not make any sense to volunteer to observe the mitzvah – when sitting in the Succah is very uncomfortable there is simply no kiyum ha’mitzvah. If the lights in one’s Succah have on gone out on the evening of Shabbos or Yom Tov and eating in the Succah would be very uncomfortable, but one’s friend has a Succah a one hour walk away, one would not be obligated to walk for an hour in order to sit in the Succah. Nonetheless, if one did go out of one’s way and walk for an hour, when one finally arrives at the friend’s Succah and sits there comfortably, Rav Akiva Eiger says that one may recite the brocha of leishev baSuccah. In this instance, the one who walked the hour is volunteering to observe the mitzvah in a fashion of aino m’zuvah v’oseh.

Rabbi Soloveitchik, who gave a shiur on Gemorah in Stern College, did not intend to disagree with the Talmudic principle that women are exempt from talmud Torah. He merely felt that in that generation it made good sense that the opportunity should be available for women to volunteer to studygemorah, in the same way that women have been volunteering for centuries to observe lulav and shofar. At that time he recommended that the gemorahs studied by women should not be Maseches Baba Kamma or Maseches Sanhedrin, but rather Maseches BrochosPerek Kol Ha’bosor,Maseches Shabbos, etc. which discuss dinim that are relevant to women halacha l’ma’aseh.

The Ta’noim understood from a phrase in the beginning of Parshas Vayikra that the mitzvah of semicha (i.e. that the one who brings a korbon must lean on the head of the korbon before sh’chitah) only applies to men and not to women. The expression “Bnai Yisroel” which appears in chumash so many times sometimes comes to exclude geirim (converts), sometimes comes to exclude women, and sometimes excludes neither. The Tanoim had a feel and a sense for how to darshon the pesukim based on the context of the passuk.

During the period of the second Bais Hamikdash, many women felt bad that they were not permitted even to volunteer to do this mitzvah of semicha since doing so would be a violation of avodah b’kodshim (getting work/benefit from a korban by the korban supporting their weight when they lean on it). Men who are obligated to do semicha are obviously not in violation of this prohibition of avodah b’kodshim, but since women are not obligated to do semicha, were a woman to do it voluntarily she would be in violation of this issur. As a result, many women wanted to perform an “imitationsemicha” (i.e. without actually leaning on the head of the animal but merely by having their hands float on top of the head of the animal). The permissibility of this was a big dispute amongst the Chachomim. Many were of the opinion that the performance of such an “imitation semicha” might possibly lead mistakenly to a violation of avodah b’kodshim if women would actually lean on the animal, and therefore it should not be permitted. The accepted opinion is that we do permit it, but we have to be careful that one thing should not lead to another.

The bottom line is that each of us has to observe all mitzvos that we are obligated in. However, when it comes to someone volunteering to do that which is not obligatory on him/her, there are rules and regulations pertaining to each individual mitzvoh/halacha specifically, and to observance ofhalacha in general, and it is not so simple to determine when one should or should not go beyond that which is obligatory.

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The Fallacy, Delusion and Myth of Tikkun Olam

Everyone wants to (or should aspire to) improve the world. The words “Tikkun Olam” (fixing (sic) the world) though have been exchanged as the task of a Jew. The problem is that Tikkun is not defined, ill-defined, or defined in a virtual partial vacuum of traditional Orthodox Judaism. It has become a catch cry of tree huggers, New Israel Fund supporters, Reform, Ameinu, Conservative, Shira Chadasha and Conservadox. Ironically, none of these groups recite it in the Aleinu Prayer thrice daily. Eating in a “vegetarian restaurant” or sharing “interfaith hands” and more, have become the new flag of a newly defined version of Judaism. Judaism is not defined by Jews. There are halachic formulae distributed at Sinai. These are applied. They are not created. The further we are from Sinai the more careful we must be to check innovations and new decisions with recognised leaders in the application of the formulae. It’s almost laughable that these Tikkun Olamniks will enter into a Buddhist temple (with its blatant idolatry) barefooted to show their respect for Buddhists, but they will (occasionally) visit a JEWISH Shule, without wearing the customary hat for women, sleeves, longer dress or skirt, or iPhone in pocket, discussing football or other things ad nauseam. I would like a dollar for the number of speeches at Bar and Bat Mitzvas where the “themes” have nothing whatsoever to do with Judaism or Jewish truths. Enough from me. Here is a nice article on the topic from the Algemeiner Journal [Hat tip Magyaro] which is worth reading.

It is so very difficult, indeed utterly unbearable, to sit silently by while Jews, and now the general religious and secular communities, completely misuse and distort the term Tikkun Olam– certainly not intentionally or out of any malice, but rather out of ignorance in the pursuit of virtuous goals and principles which may be applicable to general society and civilization but which have tragically become a poor substitute for authentic religious observance.

This repair rhetoric has become an obsession, a catch-all credo. Everything today is Tikkun Olam. Enough with the Tikkun Olam. It is a senseless and meaningless misconception, its true meaning nothing like it is commonly used and purported to be.

It is not at all a centuries-old tradition, it is not a call to action, and it is not a commandment. And to be clear, Tikkun Olam does not even mean repairing the world in the sense of social justice. Nor in traditional sources is Tikkun Olam in any way even a direct human imperative or action, but rather one that is left in G-d’s hands.

We cannot, and are not instructed to, save the world, or even to repair it. Judaism teaches no such thing. Rather, we are instructed to conduct ourselves properly, to observe the Mitzvos, the Commandments (which are not good deeds, but rather commandments, required imperatives), and in that way to contribute to society and civilization both by example and through practice and action.

For Jews those Mitzvos include not simply socially or politically correct precepts such as giving charity and engaging in political action, but also observance of the Sabbath, dietary restrictions (Kashrus), daily prayer, and other commandments which seem to have fallen out of favor and are ignored, if not openly denigrated and violated, in some segments of the community, as they substitute the false panacea of something they call Tikkun Olam for the authenticity of true Judaism, clinging desperately to Tikkun Olam to avoid their actual responsibilities as Jews to observe the Torah and the commandments.

The term and concept Tikkun Olam appears nowhere in the Torah itself, but first appears only in the Mishna and Talmud in the context of the courts and halakhic (legal) regulations involving disputes and legal rights.

Subsequently in Kabbalah the term was used to refer to the upper worlds or to the repair of the individual soul damaged by the sin of violating or neglecting Jewish law. Following that, the only mention of Tikkun Olam in prayer is in the Aleinu prayer recited at the conclusion of every service, but even in that context it means either that G-d, not man, will ultimately repair the world, or, as others interpret, it does not mean repair of the world at all but rather is a prayer for the uprooting of idolatry, the rebuilding of the Temple and establishing G-d’s kingdom on earth, through the observance of the commandments and not through any separate social imperative.

Indeed, scholars from across the spectrum and diversity of the Jewish community have acknowledged and bemoan the misuse and distortion of the term Tikkun Olam by the community.

Thus Rabbi Jill Jacobs observed years ago (Zeek, July 2007) that, “In its current incarnation, Tikkun Olam can refer to anything from a direct service project such as working in a soup kitchen or shelter, to political action, to philanthropy. While once regarded as the property of the left, the term is now widely used by mainstream groups such as synagogues, camps, schools, and federations, as well as by more rightwing groups wishing to cast their own political agendas within the framework of Tikkun Olam.”

After quoting Arnold Jacob Wolf (“Repairing Tikkun Olam,” Judaism 50:4), who writes, “All this begins, I believe, with distorting tikkun olam. A teaching about compromise, sharpening, trimming and humanizing rabbinic law, a mystical doctrine about putting God’s world back together again, this strange and half-understood notion becomes a huge umbrella under which our petty moral concerns and political panaceas can come in out of the rain,” Jacobs points out that one of the key figures in the Kabbalistic school of thought which developed the concept of Tikkun Olam was the same person who codified Jewish law, since it is individual observance of halakha, Jewish law, which is the way to repair the world.

Professor Steven Plaut of Haifa University wrote about “The Rise of Tikun Olam Paganism” (The Jewish Press, January 23, 2003), calling it a “pseudo-religion,” “social action fetishism” (The Jewish Press, November 19, 2008) and a “vulgar misuse and distortion by assimilationists.” He concludes that Tikkun Olam is quite clearly “a theological notion and not a trendy socioeconomic or political one,” observing that, “It would be an exaggeration, but only a small one, to say that nothing in Judaism directs us to the pursuit of social (as opposed to judicial) justice.”

Most recently there was the publication earlier this year by Oxford University Press of the scholarly book Faith Finding Meaning: A Theology of Judaism by Rabbi Byron L. Sherwin, which also highlights the current fallacy (pages 33-35). Calling it “a blatant distortion of the meaning of the term,” a “substitute faith” and a “shibboleth,” he writes that “the current [promiscuous] usage of this term represents a category mistake, is a blatant example of conversion by redefinition, and constitutes a paradigmatic example of the reductionist fallacy” which is merely “liberation theology without the theology.” He concludes, “Tikkun Olam means ‘for the proper order of the Jewish community.’ It is a long way from that definition to ‘build a better world.’”

Please. Everyone. Enough with the Tikkun Olam. For Jews who truly do want to engage in Tikkun Olam, the only honest and authentic Jewish way to do that is to encourage observance of the Torah across the entire spectrum of the Jewish Community. That in fact is actually what our responsibility is, nothing more and nothing less, and the rest is up to G-d—if we do our part, so will G-d.

Grand Rabbi Y. A. Korff, the Zvhil-Mezbuz Rebbe of Boston, is Chaplain of The City of Boston and spiritual leader of the Zvhil-Mezbuz Beis Medrash in downtown Boston and Newton. This column first appeared in The Jewish Advocate of Boston.

What made Mizrachi back flip on Moshe Zalman Feiglin’s planned talk at Shalosh Seudos?

I hear there are powerful forces that insisted that Moshe Feiglin’s talk at Mizrachi’s rather tame Shalosh Seudos, be cancelled. He was due to speak there by error or naturally. Mizrachi in Melbourne have certainly allowed right-wing revolutionaries from Ateret Cohanim to speak there, but Moshe Feiglin was cancelled. Was it because of the marxist left wing conservadox organisations like Shira Chadasha or is that Hadasha who had the Chutzpa to join the Reform and others and advertise their opposition to free speech. To them, I say go hug a tree. You will feel fulfilled. Go find a rabbi who fits your pre-defined view of Zionism and Judaism and give it a logo. Off you go. What was so damned offensive about Moshe Feiglin, someone tell me. I heard him on Friday night and knew little about him. He sounded fine to me. Are these the same dark forces that considered Rabbi Sprung too right-wing and who complain bitterly when Rabbis (for whom they have no respect) decide that certain whisky should be avoided. These are people who think they own Judaism. Guess what? They don’t. Ex nihilo is nonsense. The world was always filled with God. It was a matter for him to form a world such that והלכת בדרכיו not the ways of the humans who decide what is and is not moral, what is left and what is right.

So, I looked him up. I found this. Nothing objectionable:

Although Manhigut Yehudit is an educational organization that does not endorse political candidates, we believe that you will find Moshe Feiglin’s words at the Zehut Founding Conference to be enlightening and inspiring:

Dear Friends,

I must admit that I am very moved. I have participated in quite a few events in my life and have made quite a few speeches. But when you begin to understand the depth of the crisis and upheavals facing Israel and the world; when you understand that what we are doing here this evening is laying the foundation for the only leadership that is capable of understanding reality and thus, for dealing with it; when you understand that – you understand that tonight’s event is formative; it is an historic event.

A New Leadership Movement: From Zionism of Existence to Zionism of Destiny

Make no mistake. This is not a group of a few hundred Israelis who have decided to form another political party. What is happening here tonight is nothing less than a revolution.

Tonight, we are founding a new leadership movement for the Nation of Israel. Tonight, we are founding the only leadership that has the tools to truly deal with the approaching tsunami – from within and without!

Tonight, we are creating national leadership that will bring the State of Israel from one era: Zionism of Existence, to a completely new era: Zionism of Destiny.

The Vision: Identity, Meaning, Liberty

Everything so sorely lacking in Israeli politics can be found in this movement. First and foremost, what we have completely forgotten:

We have vision!

Our vision includes:

Loyalty to our identity

A message of meaning

A battle for liberty.

True answers can only be found within this vision:

Answers based on liberty to deal with all our current challenges: Housing, education, cost of living, health and of course security and foreign relations.

Only those who have vision and know the answer to ‘why?’ can provide the true answers to ‘how’.

Without Destiny, Existence is Endangered

Seventy years ago, the crematoria of Europe were extinguished and our Nation began to rise from the ashes. The State of Israel’s first seventy years are also about to be completed.

There is no doubt that the State of Israel is a success story. It has realized the vision of the prophets and has been the conduit for the unequaled historical miracle in which all parts of the Nation of Israel have participated.

But it is specifically the physical success that has made us vulnerable to a gnawing, paralyzing weakness that threatens all the achievements of the Return to Zion.

From a physical standpoint, we have never been greater and stronger; both economically and militarily. But internally – we have never been so weak.

Sometimes I feel that I should apologize to my children: I had so much fun growing up in this country. Israel was a country that radiated security and faith in the justice of its cause. What confusion and lowliness we are bequeathing the next generation – exactly at the most critical time!

Our parents, the generation of the War of Independence and the Six Day War, the generation of the Yom Kippur War and Entebbe, gave us a state that stood proud. They gave us a state in which a drizzle in Sderot meant that autumn was coming – not rockets coming out of the sky.

Missiles on Tel Aviv? Who would ever have thought?

Our parents gave us a state in which there was no need for security guards at the entrance to every shopping mall and train station.

They gave us a state whose existence was not questioned by any cultured person in the world.

They gave us a state in which every soldier in uniform understood what he represented and nobody dared attack him.

They gave us a state that would immediately obliterate any entity developing nuclear weapons to destroy us – with no warning, no speeches and no lobbying the Congress.

Our parents gave us a state in which every young couple could afford housing; a state that no matter what school you attended, you emerged an Israeli patriot.

They gave us a state in which little girls could play hopscotch on the corner unguarded.

A state without ‘protection’.

A state in which every Jew could walk freely – everywhere.

And what are we giving our children?

A threatened, helpless community that begs the world and the US air force for help?

A state that has lost its faith in the justice of its cause, a state that – more and more – the world considers a mistake?

A state in which young couples can only dream of owning their own home.

A state in which the schooling falls far short of our potential.

A state in which parents are forced to guard their children while they play outdoors.

A state in which personal liberties are being eroded.

The world is not exactly waiting patiently while we return to ourselves. The entire old order is crumbling before our eyes.

ISIS is replacing the Arab states.

Nuclear ayatollahs set the world agenda.

Europe is quickly becoming Moslem.

America stands by those who attempt to destroy us.

Where is the leadership of old? Leadership that would know how to present a vision and strategy in the face of the existential challenges falling upon us?

This is the new leadership that we are building today, here in Tel Aviv.

No more state that flees its message

No more state that flees its meaning and history.

Today, we are heralding the connection of all of these to the liberty of man.

Dear friends,

The era of religious and non-religious is over!

The era of Right and Left is finished!

All the ridiculous molds that divided us time and again are a thing of the past.

The Israeli young people yearn for the meaning taken from them.

They crave to dig deeply into their identity and liberty.

Israel’s young people desire leadership that will give them all these things. Leadership that will truly solve:

The housing shortage, the collapsing educational system, the high cost of living – leadership that will restore security to our streets.

We have all those gifts – and more – to give:

Housing: We know that liberty means that the land belongs to the citizens – not to the state. Land must be allotted by lottery to all army veterans in Israel.

The bureaucratic red tape must be cut and people must be allowed to build as they please on their land. And most important of all, we know that this is our Land and we should build throughout our country.

Education: We know how to truly solve the problem with education in Israel. Because we know that liberty means that we are responsible for the education of our children- not the State. The State will give vouchers to the parents of every child and the parents will decide where to redeem them.

Just imagine countless ‘boutique’ schools competing for your vouchers – just like the maternity wards compete for the social security funds that they receive for every new mother who gives birth in their hospital.

Every teacher will be a private tutor. And every student will be a king!

Cost of living: We know how to truly deal with the high cost of living and how to propel the economy forward. Simply, we must:

Open the Israeli market to competitive imports
Close the Standards Institute
Cut down the government mechanism to at least half
Nullify the tax on companies
Return the state payment for army veterans to social security
Stop funding our enemies.
War can never be over when the Israel Defense Force vocabulary does not include the word ‘victory’.

It is impossible to win when it is not clear who the enemy is (The rocket? The tunnel? Terror?)

If you cannot figure out who you are, (A Jew? An Israeli? A citizen of an amorphous state?) you will clearly not discover who your enemy is. Maybe we were sent here by the UN?

Now we can understand that a person or country that has no identity will never enjoy peace.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen: Only Zehut will bring peace!

We have the answer to the ‘why’? And thus, we can provide all the answers to the ‘how’?!

Dear friends, now it is in our hands!

The energies, the people, the clear plan and the will and preparedness to lead are all in this hall. They are in no other place and so, the responsibility is on our shoulders. We have all the tools with which to bring about a true revolution.

We have a year – not more – to reach every corner of this country.

Now friends, it is in our hands. And we have good reason to be excited at the eve of the New Year. To be excited and to thank the Creator, Who has brought us to this momentous and historic time, in which we have merited to establish leadership with vision for our Nation.

Shanah Tovah

I heard in Shule that he’s “homophobic”. Sorry, what does that mean. Does that mean that he beats up gay people or does it mean that he happens to accept Torah that the act of homosexuality is a SIN. Are the politically correct anonymous powers behind Mizrachi afraid to say the word תועבה … if so, they should join Shira Chadasha, the “Shule of Song”. Too far? Uncomfortable seats? Only for the young? Do me a favour people get a life.

Okay, so I looked for more, and found this.

While other Knesset members will ride off into the political sunset after their successors are sworn in to the parliament Tuesday, outgoing Likud MK Moshe Feiglin will go to the Party Registrar’s Office to officially create his new political home.

Feiglin left the Likud after he failed to get selected for a realistic slot on the party’s list for the new Knesset. He announced that he would form a party at an event held at the same time that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated with his party’s new candidates.

Feiglin’s faction will be called Zehut, which means identity in Hebrew. It will push for Israel to decide what it means to be a Jewish state.

Speaking at the Knesset after he received his “former MK card,” Feiglin boasted how people waited in line to pay NIS 500 to join the list of party founders that would be submitted to the registrar. He said 60 percent of the initial 500 founders were not religious and that Zehut would not be sectarian.

“Establishing Israel’s identity is the key to its future,” Feiglin said. “The loss of its identity is the problem, and returning it is the solution.”

Feiglin said he turned down offers of realistic slots on multiple party lists, preferring to sit out the current Knesset and build a new party from the bottom up.

“The Likud is not the answer to anything,” he said. “I prefer to advance my ideas on my own. My ideas attract curiosity and appreciation. I didn’t need a stage. What I want is to provide an alternative of leadership.”

Feiglin said that if MK Yair Lapid could start a new party and win 19 seats and Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon would win 10, he could win 20 in the next election, which he believes will take place soon after what he called a “Pyrrhic victory” for Netanyahu.

His political predictions proved right in the past. He wrote on Facebook ahead of the 2013 election, when Bayit Yehudi was polling 16 seats, that it would fall to eight when the Likud would warn its voters that the Left could come to power.

Zehut will be registered as soon as the Interior Ministry verifies the Israeli residence of everyone on its list of founders in accordance with the law.

Feiglin hopes the current Knesset will pass a bill allowing Jews abroad who are not citizens to join Israeli political parties.

Many secular people attended a pre-Passover toast Feiglin hosted Sunday night in Jerusalem.

Uri Noy of Petah Tikva, who was one of them, said he was surprised to see so many people not wearing kippot.

“The upheaval is really happening,” he said. “I came to Feiglin because I saw that in the [2006] Second Lebanon War, Israel did not fight back. I got turned on by him, and I’ve supported him since then.”

Noy said he was in Likud with Feiglin and he was glad they left because the Likud has not been true to its political platform that calls for keeping and settling the land of Israel.

He said there was nothing wrong with a secular Jew supporting the building of a Third Temple, noting that Zionist founder Theodore Herzl wrote in favor of it in his book Altneuland.

“Leaving the Likud is not giving up,” said Binyamin Nakonechny, a former Likud central committee member who was the first person who joined Zehut. “Feiglin has faced political setbacks throughout his career but he hasn’t given up. He has just started over.”

Okay, I can’t see anything that would cause the Marxist tree huggers to try and muzzle free speech. Then I saw he was sentenced to prison for opposing the Oslo Accords (sounds like Russia to me). Well, even the left-wing moustached types cannot say anything good about the useless 20 year old Oslo Accords. They were and are bullshit. Sorry, that is fact. Try a few stabbings to remind you. Then I thought to myself, maybe he was into religious coercion etc and I found this on wikipedia

Feiglin, responding to a report that Israel’s first permanent Arab Supreme Court judge Salim Joubran had refused to sing Israel’s national anthem, asserted Joubran: “must return his Israeli ID card and make do with the status of ‘permanent resident.’

Guess what, I agree with him. It’s a joke. The Marxist libertarian left wingers in our Jewish people are so self righteous that they don’t understand basic logic.

If someone supports a Kahane policy that doesn’t make them Kahane!

Try and get that through elementary logic.

Feiglin said:

Feiglin referred to U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden as a “diseased leper” in a 2010 op-ed column published by Israel’s third largest news outlet, Maariv.

Was he wrong? Is Obama any different? What good has Obama done for Israel except kiss the orifices of Iran since he came to power.

Then I heard he was a homophobe because:

“”Throughout history,” Feiglin explained, “from Rome to Europe in our day, the approval and spread of homosexuality presaged the decline of nations and cultures. If one reads the Torah portion ‘Noah’ – this comes as no surprise. . . .The organizers of a pride parade do not wish to gain rights. They strive to force homosexuality as a culture upon the public sphere. . . . A minority has no right to take over public assets. Let the marchers kindly go back to their individual closets. And let them do it without whining, because no one interferes with their affairs in there. Let them give up their attempts at takeovers, and leave the public sphere to normal people. . . .Feiglin added in an additional post: “I have no problem with homosexuals, most of whom are, most likely, good and talented people and no one wants to interfere in their private lives. I have a problem with homosexuality as a culture. This culture subverts the status of the family. And without the family there is no nation, and without a nation there is no civilization.”

Okay, he has no problem with what people do in their private lives, but opposes Pride parades and the creation of Pride cultures. Guess what. So do I. Does Shira Chadasha or Mizrachi embrace Parades in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. I don’t tell people what to do in their bed rooms.

But then I found the answer. It’s got to be the pathetic political correctness of our good tree hugging leftists.

Feiglin is banned from entering the United Kingdom due to a decision by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, made public in March 2008, excluding Feiglin on the grounds that his presence in the country “would not be conducive to the public good.” A letter to Feiglin from the Home Office said that Smith based her decision on an assessment that his activities “foment or justify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts and foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.”Feiglin responded, “Seeing that renowned terrorists like Hizbullah member Ibrahim Mousawi are welcomed in your country in open arms, I understand that your policy is aimed at encouraging and supporting terror.”

So what terrorism has Feiglin fomented. Since when do we follow anti-Semitic Britain? To all you libertarian democrats and supporters of free speech I say hang your heads in shame. There are far worse right wingers in the Likud, and Mizrachi would haven did let them in to speak, that was when old Mr Lamm ע’’ה was alive. Alas, his son, Danny obviously no longer has influence. As to my own views, I am outside Israel, but as long as he isn’t advocating terrorism (like the Muslims who advocate terrorism AND live in Australia) what is wrong with free speech? I was also gob-smacked when Australia wouldn’t allow that anti-abortion campaigner in. Unless there is something about him that I don’t know, we are heading towards totalitarian Russia, where if you have charisma, they certainly won’t let you in to talk.

This is political correctness gone mad

Shira Chadasha: a confused reconstructionist stream based on human definitions of social justice

There are two ways to approach Judaism: you accept it for what it is, or you consider it a piece of plasticine that you can mould according to a human (or humanistic) philosophy that you already believe in, based on societal values or your own philosophical catechisms.

My feeling, from encounters with some who attend Shira Chadasha services, is that they are more aligned with the latter than the former. Even acceptance of unambiguous Halacha seems to depend on the influence of values and opinions of society in 2015. “It doesn’t matter if the pants don’t fit; we will make them fit.”

We just read Acharei/Kedoshim where the Torah unambiguously and without any prevarication deems the homosexual act by men as an abomination, to the extent that if the Beth Hamikdash was still standing, stoning would have been the punishment meted out. It’s a charming thought in 2015, but that is the fact. On the matter of female homosexuality, whilst not explicit in the Written Law, it was always considered forbidden by the Oral Law based on Egyptian sexual mores which were not acceptable.

Shira Chadasha pin their “orthodoxy” on permissive opinions of Rabbis. No amount of Daniel Sperber or other `academic style’ Rabbis which Shira Chadasha cling to, can with any ounce of historical or societal ‘need’ under the single mantra of ׳תיקון עולם׳ expunge these halachos (to which the אומות העולם are also constrained from the Noachide perspective) and simply will them away, debate them, or place them in a ‘too hard basket’.

Let us not forget the words that follow לתקן עולם in the עלינו prayer : במלכות שקי. If a homosexual asked one of the doyens (I don’t know what word to use to describe the managerial hierarchy in Melbourne) of Shira Chadasha whether they have committed an abomination by having a sexual affair with the same-sex, and the doyen could not or would not say “I’m afraid so”, then the doyen is an halachic fraud. Yes, one can continue with other words, but the Halacha is unambiguous both to Sperber or Mendel Kaplan or anyone they wish to rely on for their new prayer mode.

Yes, there is more than one way to address people who find they constantly sin in this way, or have a predilection which is responsible for such. It is also possible that there  are markers that may predict the predilection, but it certainly doesn’t require some false notion of equality or rights for others to behave like a mensch towards people who were born with such a tendency.

Hungarian Charedim and Litvak types will likely not give an aliya to anyone who sins perpetually, whatever the sin might be. They speak of whether someone is Shomer Shabbos. If not, they will ignore them and consider them as lepers.

I remember at Elwood Shule they used to bring this argument up to Rabbi Chaim Gutnick ז’ל all the time. They would ask him

‘how can you give so and so an Aliya, he drove to shule

What I can tell you is that at the end of the service or kiddush, Rabbi Gutnick used to stay in his office and wait until everyone had left. Only then would he begin walking home. Why? In this way, he never saw anyone openly sin. All he would see is someone coming to shule, and from his perspective, the minute they came to Shule they were at least a בעל תשובה and he had no reason to instruct a Gabbai not to give them any honour. (there were other factors, but let’s not go into that period of history).

The fashionable terminology of our time is ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’. What does that mean in the context of someone’s sexuality? Clearly one cannot treat all equally as some are committing a sin which has absolutely no technical out (unlike the halachic calisthenics used to create the strange creäture that is the Shira Chadasha- anti-mimetic, and a poorly supported stance of a great minority of Rabbis, none of whom are considered broad enough from a halakhic point of view to create the changes inaugurated in the services they have conjured. Now that’s the Jerusalem version where many are quite frum and consistently so. I won’t even go to the Melbourne incarnation which seems to have more holes than swiss cheese.

With this in mind I read about a function that was presumably held in the Shira Chadasha Kiddush

Finding Your Way Out of the Closet
On Saturday, 18 April, Shira is proud to welcome Wayne Green to speak after the kiddush.
His talk will be an exploration of one’s journey through discovering life as a Jewish and Gay man. Navigating how to be connected to the community, to Judaism and one’s self against that which the odds are stacked against.

Wayne Green is a passionate leader and contributor to advocacy and equality for LGBTI rights in the Jewish Community.
Wayne works full time in the State government in management in client services. Wayne also works in the evenings doing early detection and prevention for HIV in the wider Melbourne community.
Wayne is also the Founder of JAG Melbourne (Jewish and Gay), which is a social group in Melbourne connecting young Jewish LGBTI adults.
JAG provides a range of social activities as well as community advocacy, education and engagement for inclusion and acceptance of diversity.

Diversity Statement
At Shira there is a respectful and welcoming attitude towards those who form minority groups in our society. Therefore, Shira seeks to find ways of understanding our texts and traditions in order to give full dignity and equality to all LGBTIQ Jews. Shira supports the ‘No to Homophobia’ Campaign

Firstly there are no “rights” for LGBTI in the Jewish Community anymore than there are rights for Pork eaters or Sabbath breakers. What are these rights? To be considered as if they are not committing acts which the Torah explicitly calls an abomination. It doesn’t matter what type of tree hugging ‘Diversity Statement’ one creates with an 11th commandment, an abomination is an abomination and cannot be willed away by cutely worded and beautiful statements.

What is the advocacy that they wish to allow on their premises? How does abomination equate to acceptance of diversity and equality. Why promote JAG ? Is there a need to also have a group of ‘Jewish Thieves’ and give them rights and social activities? In Poland, there really was a Shule of Thieves. I kid you not. That was their profession. Before the war, the Gabbay was Hersh Feivel Gottfried and his wife was known as Channa der Fresser. She being a lot taller than Hersh Feivel, forced him into high healed boots. On Shabbos, they did not steal. They had the best Kiddush/lunch in Warsaw. As soon as Havdalah was made, they began pick pocketing continuing their profession.

What has this to do with sexuality? If someone is Orthodox, then they know there are two sides of the ten commandments, there are also Mishpatim and Chukim, but above all they SUBMIT to the will of Halacha as the authentic expression of Judaism. They don’t go on some journey re-interpreting texts to make an abomination an equality of diversity.

Now, I have a number of acquaintances who are gay; others who eat pork and are married to non Jews, and one who is married to a self-proclaimed non-Jewish witch! I treat then with the same hello as I treat anyone else, and in fact the most recent homosexual who has had two IVF boys from his ‘marriage’ to another male felt that I showed him no disrespect to the extent that he bought me a bottle of wine when he left the work place. He had no problem coming to my office and chatting about the problems of bringing up his two ‘sons’. As uncompromising as I am about forbidding “white out” to be used on a Torah, I can and do still treat people as human beings.

There is, however, no place for the institutionalisation of abomination, groupings based on abomination, or even Jewish public rights in this regard. If I am a compulsive liar, I don’t create a Jewish liar’s group and expect equal rights because they find a part of my DNA which indicates a proclivity to tell untruths.

I do understand Shira Chadasha’s support for such meetings and talks. Perhaps it will morph in time to giving Reviii to a homosexual to make them feel ‘wanted’ and they will say that this is how they will convince a person not to sin. We all sin, and all have strong tendencies. Why make an issue of this one? Why offer a platform for sin? Does it really need to be highlighted?

There is another way. Have a weekly Shiur in Mussar, Jewish Ethics and learn about desirable character traits and perfecting one’s own personality. There is no need to promote a talk in the same way as a boxing match.

I don’t know Wayne Green. If I met him, I do NOT need (or want) to know that he is an habitual sinner of type a, b, c or d. That’s none of my business. It also should not be important for Wayne to promote himself as such anymore than Hersh Feivel Gottfried or Channa der Fresser should wear t-shirts saying “THIEF”. I’m unaware of where the Rambam or any one of that ilk advises that one should publicise their problems and demand acceptance of abomination while being stoned.

It all sounds like at best temporal tree-hugging feel good stuff and at worst a dilution of Judaism where abomination is somehow translated into תיקון עולם or social justice and where these do gooders can be the only ones to make an “understanding parade” out of sinning and still include it in the rubric of Halachic Judaism.

I think they may have the wrong address. Alma Road and Temple Beth sounds like a reform place where you can make a blessing over anything that goes. Orthodox Judaism does not have those degrees of freedom. Period.

Open Orthodoxy-Conservative Orthodox by any other name

Don’t know what I’m talking about? See this article and this one. This is the “Orthodoxy” that is anything but Orthodox, but which Shira Chadasha subscribes to.

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) There will be several people walking around the UT campus with the label “illegal immigrant” on their clothing. Any UT student who catches one of these “illegal immigrants” and brings them back to the YCT table will receive a $25 gift card.

Egalitarianism is Treyf and can’t be cooked

The following is a Dvar Torah from Mori V’Rabbi, R’ Hershel Schachter שליט’’א via Torah Web. Rav Hershel is not an Agudist, and is clear thinking Posek par excellence who importantly follows the methodology of Psak that he inherited from his teacher, the Rav, R’ Soloveitchik זצ’’ל and who is the Doyen Posek for the Poskim at YU, and co-chief Posek for the OU. He has been outspoken on a number of issues (and I have written about them in the past). For example:

  • He unambiguously says that suspected pedophiles be reported to the police and there is no Din of Mesira
  • He supports pressuring recalcitrant husbands who don’t want to give a Get, using Rabbeinu Tam’s method, and does so on a case by case basis

He is not an academic. He doesn’t need to look up Bar Ilan CDs or Otzar Hachochmo. He has Kol HaTorah Kulah at his finger tips. When one actually speaks to him, one is struck by his incredible humility and ehrlichkeit. He is softly spoken, and isn’t afraid to say “I don’t know”.

About fifty years ago the Yiddish press carried a news item that the Vaad Halacha of the conservative movement issued a “psak halacha” that one may drink Welch’s Grape Juice. Their reasoning was that Talmud states that there is no prohibition of stam yainom on yayin mevushal and the grape juice was cooked.

Rav Soloveitchick came into his class the next day, related to the students what he had read, and asked if anyone knows what was incorrect with the statement. The only one among the students who knew anything about the topic at the time was Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein who had a smile on his face. The Rov asked him to explain to the other students where the error was. So R’ Aharon explained:

The main reason Chazal prohibited stam yainom was out of fear that it could possibly lead to intermarriage; the concern that perhaps the nochri may have been menasech the wine and then later allow someone to drink it was very farfetched. However, once Chazalinstituted the prohibition out of concern of chasnus, they extended the issur to include even kosher wine handled by a nochri lest the nochri was menasech it for avodah zora. In the event that the wine had previously been cooked, it would be even more unlikely that thenochri would be menasech it, and therefore in that case magah ha’nochri would not make the wine prohibited. But since in the case of Welch’s Grape Juice the wine was processed by nochrim before being cooked, the fact that they cooked it afterwards was irrelevant. The wine was forbidden because the concern of b’noseihem (intermarriage), which is the primary reason for the issur of stam yainom to begin with, still applied even though the farfetched concern of nissuch no longer applied.

The fatty parts of the sacrifices that have to be burnt on the mizbeach must to be raw; if they are first cooked, the kohein does not fulfill his mitzvah of haktorah. This haktorah lacks the element of raiach nichoach because the smell will simply not be the same. Similarly, the blood of a korban may not be cooked before being sprinkled upon the mizbeach; if it is cooked first, it’s not considered dam (blood) but merely the “juice of the meat”. It is for this reason we assume in Shulchan Aruch that eating dam shebishlo is only forbiddenm’dirabbonon – such blood would not be acceptable in a korban, and that is the entire basis for the biblical prohibition forbidding dam.

The same is true regarding wine. Yayin mevushal is considered inferior and would not be accepted for nisuch on the mizbeach. Since it would not be accepted on the mizbeach in the Beis Hamikdash, we assume that the nochrim would probably also not use it for their avodah zora. For that reason, if a nochri handled kosher wine where there is no issue of “binoseihem” but only the concern of nissuch, if the kosher wine had already been mevushal the chachomim never prohibited it.

One must remember that in the old days, the Conservative movement had a number of people who were Talmidei Chachomim. There were also a number of Orthodox Rabonim who worked in their JTA because it was a job, and it paid. Of course, their method of Psak via democratic vote doesn’t turn them into some quasi Sanhedrin.

In our day, we have the academic Professor, Rabbi Sperber who is cited as the authority to permit partnership minyanim. Tradition magazine recently featured a destruction of Sperber’s permissive ruling for places like Shira Chadasha, and their neo-modern egalitarian inspired mode of service by the famous erudite academic brothers, Professors Frimer, who have written on many of these topics over decades.

As far as I know, the Melbourne Shira Chadasha don’t have minyanim three times a day. Why? I guess one only has to be egalitarian on Friday Night and Shabbos? Whilst there are some misguided and ernest people who attend there, they stay outside the pale of normative Psak and Mesora and Orthodoxy. The majority from what I can tell, struggle with many of the normal non-egalitarian Mitzvos, that  Prof Sperber would say are non negotiable and would consider completely forbidden.

What is striking about the articles over the years on various egalitarian topics involving the “rights of women” in Judaism by the Professors Frimer, is that they undertake a painstaking analysis of topics, and then discuss these with Gedolei HaPoskim. They will quote R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and his famed son-in-law R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg et al. These are not “immovable right-wing poskim” but innovators who call a spade a spade when it comes to Halacha, but who maintain adherence to Mesora that has been the link between generations since Moshe Rabbenu (whose Yohr Tzeit is tonight if you follow the opinion that you also commemorate the second Adar).

Like the Grape Juice, the issue of these partnership minyanim was Treyf Lechatchila. As R’ Moshe noted, it was born not from Judaism, but the modern feminist movements. It cannot and should never be decided by the Sperbers and Kaplans of this world. The former is famous for his erudite academic work on Minhagei Yisrael, but that does not catapult him into the position of a Posek, let alone one who is qualified to make far-reaching changes to the definition of Kvod HaTzibbur. His opinion has been negated by R’ Yehuda Herz Henkin as well, and Rav Henkin is not exactly a Posek who remains beholden to a dormant lack of momentum. He and his wife head Nishmas. My cousin, is a Yoetzet Halacha and knows a heck of a lot more than I do. Speaking to her many times, I find a woman who is not driven remotely by feminism or egalitarianism. She is a Torah Scholar who doesn’t need the Avi Weiss Maharat denomination, and is most effective helping and answering and referring questions for women, as need be.

Rabbis are torn on how to deal with Shira Chadasha. They all agree that this is not an Orthodox prayer service. It could be classed as a right-wing mode of Conservative prayer service. If the membership are attacked, this may strengthen their resolve. If they are ignored, they may grow unfettered. They latch onto anything “modern” and are happy to adopt Carlebach style sing-song (Davening is much more than a sing-song. Chazal mandated strict rules) or Eastern influenced forays into Parks to daven/meditate in concert with nature.

The correct mantra is חדש ימינו כקדם

The Shule/Beis Medrash/Shteibel vs the outdoors

[Apologies as this may seem like a repost for some readers. WordPress seemed to get confused, so I have re-published as a new article]

There is seemingly a trend that has taken hold in the last 12 months or more. We’ve seen it employed by Orthodox Jews, some Orthodox Shules, and the Conservadox Shira Chadasha. The trend is to move out of the Shule and into the outdoors, presumably for a heightened, perhaps more “spiritual” davening. To be sure, it’s not (yet) regular, and is something that is utilised at chosen times. Many of these services revolve around music, and “nature”.

I am a musician. I’m not a “mathematical” musician in the sense of analysing a score and declaring it a piece of genius. Rather, I was blessed (I guess) to have a special חוש/sense for music to the extent that I can play a piece after I have listened to it.

I am inspired by music. I find that it touches my Neshama. It’s something that can uplift me, or just as importantly it can solemnise my feelings to the extent that I’m “at one” with those ambient feelings. Feeling melancholy I may choose Rachmaninov, for example; I love Russian classical music as it seems to accurately reflect the oeuvre of the tragedy of much of Jewish history. On Yom HaShoah, when I hear the ‘Partisan Song’, it never fails to stir and uplift.

Halacha discusses what type of music is acceptable. Obviously, love songs, as mentioned by the Rambam, aren’t in the frame. Some, such as R’ Moshe Feinstein based on the fact that he felt the Pshat in a Gemora was more in tune with the R’ Yosef Karo, the Mechaber, than the Ramo) went as far as prohibiting pleasurable music all year around as an expression of זכר לחורבן. This view is not widely accepted.

As I always reiterate, my pitputim are just that. Ask your own Rov if you have any questions or concerns. Rav Ovadya also had interesting Teshuvos on this (I can’t recall whether it was in Yabia Omer or Yechave Daas). If my memory serves me correctly, he even permitted muslim prayer tunes to be set to Jewish words and used as part of Tefilla!

I’m a traditionalist, especially when it comes to authentic Jewish expressions of connection with Hashem and preserving the Mesora via modes of accepted expression, additions and location.

I’m lucky enough to also feel exhilaration when learning, and I prefer delving than more surface-oriented coverage. The latter is instructive and important, in the sense of המעשה אשר יעשון but it doesn’t perhaps titillate me when compared to the combination of intellect/neshama as elicited by חכמת התורה. That for me, provides a tangible connection to אלוקות. Your mileage will vary, of course, and that’s perfectly fine. There have always been at least two approaches. הרבה דרכים למקום

Many of our current youth seek tangible and immediately perceived connection through their senses. Some are limited in their ידיעת התורה armoury, and the soul-like, metaphysical connection through song, works effectively as a catalyst. A catalyst towards what, one might ask? Is it a means or an end? Effectively in my Weltanschauung, is when this leads one to the level that they can meditate on Shmoneh Esreh in the very least, and through that seek to “connect”. Shmoneh Esreh is Tefilla.

As Rav Soloveitchik always pointed out, Judaism has never been reactive or temporally focussed on modes of pomp and ceremony and new forms of worship: these cross the line of Mesora. We are bound, happily, through our Mesora. To Chazal, Mesora is Halacha, and it regulates accepted methods and modes of Tefilla and delineates the unacceptable.

We don’t make up new integral prayers (as opposed to תחנות and בקשות) or modes of prayer. We follow the Nusach of our Mesorah, and we do not deviate. It is, of course, well-known, that when faced with the rising influence of conservative temples in the USA, the Rav stood steadfast, and would only allow “innovation” that didn’t step beyond Mesora and Halacha. Sometimes, protective mechanisms were needed to entrench a barrier against a temporal but threatening breach. These need to be approved by an expert Posek. One does not innovate on the basis of a more academically inclined analysis of sections culled from the Bar Ilan responsa DVD. That does not a Psak make.

There is the story recorded by Mori V’Rabbi, Rav Schachter, of a Baal Teshuva who would have offended his family by not attending the Bar Mitzvah of his brother. The Bar Mitzvah was to be held in a conservative temple. The Rav, whose Psokim one may not generally extend to their own situation, ruled that the Baal Teshuva should attend so as not to cause Agmas Nefesh and Machlokes on the strict proviso that in respect of the conservative service he:

  1. Daven in a proper Orthodox Minyan beforehand
  2. Sit when they stood
  3. Stand when they sat
  4. Not answer Amen

In no way, should he give the impression that he was participating in davening per se at a conservative temple. Each situation is different, of course, and a Posek needs to be appraised of the complete circumstance before issuing their Psak Din.

R’ Shlomo Carlebach, a controversial figure, is in vogue, especially in sing/song style prayer. Allegations, about him, abound. Some are most concerning and sinister. Yet he was also proffered love by the Amshinover Rebbe שליט’’א, widely considered as one of the “holiest Rebbes” of our generation.

A young Amshinover Rebbe with R’ Shlomo Carlebach

At the same time, in Igros Moshe, Even HoEzer (in the middle of a Tshuva), Reb Moshe Feinstein intimated that nigunnim performed before a certain period in Reb Shlomo’s life were acceptable, but those after that date were not to be played or sung.

Rabbi Groner ז’ל personally told me that he was a chavrusa/learning partner of R’ Shlomo. He asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe, after Reb Shlomo diverted to a more controversial path, how to interact with him. The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered that Rabbi Groner should be Mekarev R’ Shlomo, but never under the umbrella or Mosdos of Chabad per se.

I once used a Carlebach melody at Yeshivah Shule in Melbourne, and Rabbi Groner advised me not to do it again, for these reasons. He, of course, told me this privately and quietly after Shule, as I walked out after ravening. I know that Rabbi Groner’s son, Rabbi Chaim Tzvi also adheres to this approach in the Chabad House where he is Rabbi.

Many of our youth seem to seek spirituality. Authentic Jewish spirituality can be achieved in a number of Masoretic ways. I’m not sure, though, whether home-grown techniques of spirituality lead towards מעשה בפועל or if they are all permitted anyway. One would hope so, even if contraindicated, as per Reb Moshe or others. We should assume that seekers are earnest in their quest for interaction with אלוקות. The method of T’filla and the place of T’filla however, must remain the mainstream Chazal-mandated approach. Yes, there is a place for התבוננות, reflection and meditation. The Breslaver Chassidim require it once a day, the Baal Shem Tov himself did it—each to their own.

Lately, I’ve noticed various Orthodox groups (I consider Shira Chadasha conservadox in my nomenclature despite spirited sound-bites on a Melbourne TV show attempting to convince us that they are Orthodox) seek to leave the sanctuary of Shules and Shteiblach, or even house-minyanim and seek the outdoors through the aegis of an open area/park or similar setting.

I am not enamoured halachically by house minyanim on a regular basis during, say, summer months. There are shules close by.

ברוב עם הדרת מלך

is not a platitude. It is a halachic requirement.

Sometimes, perhaps mostly, so-called alternate services are accompanied by a Carlebachian inspired sing-song. As a musician, I know this can stir the heart. The effect is amplified when there is a knowledge of Pirush Hamilos. [ I cringe if the wrong style of tune is used for a passage or chapter. I even cringe when commas are placed at the wrong places: a sure indication that a basic understanding of the structure of Tefilla and Pirush Hamilos needs serious attention. ]

But what does Halacha say about davening in an outdoor setting? I’m assuming that Dina D’Malchusa is followed and council permits are obtained. Parks are not normally designated as places of worship. Imagine if Muslims, Xtians and Buddhists also decided to utilise parks for their places of worship. I, for one, do not think it is appropriate.

The encounter with Hashem is a private one (in the sense of occurring in a house of God), that should be constructed through the agency of a quorum of ten males and a suitable separation of males and females. Dogs, children playing, plain schmutz and the like, do not appear environmentally appropriate. As summarised in Shulchan Aruch Siman 90 S

לא יתפלל במקום פרוץ כמן בשדה

Shulchan Aruch (‘סע’ ה) rules that one should not daven in an open area, for example, a field. The rationale he gives for this halacha is that when one davens in a place that is closed one will have more awe for the King and will have a broken heart which is advantageous for davening. Mishnah Berurah writes that if a place is surrounded by walls it is an acceptable place (ס”ק י”ב מובא דבריו בחיי משה) to daven even if there is no roof.

Shulchan Tahor maintains that l’chatchila, ideallyone should daven in a place that has a roof in addition to walls. However, if the walls extend ten tefachim higher than the average person’s height, one could daven there in a pressing circumstance.

Eshel Avrohom adopts a more lenient approach and contends that it is sufficient if there is a wall in front of the person davening even if there are no walls on his sides. He also adds that this requirement is only for shemone esrei but for pesukei d’zimra one may even daven in an open area.

Sefer Toras Chaim (סק”ז) asserts that this halacha applies when someone davens by himself but it is acceptable for a tzibbur to daven in an open place since the experience of davening with a tzibbur will cause him to have a broken heart and awe of the King. Kaf HaChaim (אות ל”א) cites Ritva who rules that if a minyan is davening together this issue does not apply.

Sha’arei Teshuvah (סק”א) implies, however, that this issue applies to a tzibbbur the same way it applies to an individual.

So, while there is room to be lenient I would think, and this is borne out by opinion, that praying in a park/field is perhaps a stepping stone to the ideal, which is to pray in an ascribed place, viz, a Shule with all its concomitant Kedusha (ironically) and regulation. At the end of the day, it is the iconic Mikdash M’at, a miniature of the Beis Hamikdash itself. See especially the Kitzur Minyan HaMitzvos from the Rambam where he clearly describes this as a D’Orayso, a Torah imperative. We are enjoined to simulate the Beis Hamikdash through both the prayer, the behaviour and the building structure!

A certain man rushed to daven Maariv but missed borchu. Naturally, he wished to daven with a minyan that was just beginning so that he could answer borchu in the beginning of the tefillah. There actually was another Maariv which began a few minutes later but the minyan was outside the sanctuary, in a place without walls. This man wondered what he should do. On the one hand, he knew that it is preferable to daven in a place with walls as we find on today’s amud. On the other hand, he was loath to miss borchu. When this question reached Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, shlit”a, he ruled that davening in the shul with walls is preferable. “Even if you will miss borchu it is still better to daven with the minyan inside. Even though the davening outside is complete with borchu, davening without mechitzos is less than ideal.” אבני ישפה, תפילה, פי”א, ס”ו, ובהערה ז

In another place they would pray Minchah in a largish stairwell. Although a minyan always stayed inside, some of the people would wind up joining them outside the building. Since there were no functional walls out of doors, one of the group protested. ”The Shulchan Aruch rules that it is forbidden to daven in a place without mechitzos. It is therefore b’dieved to daven outside.” But those who stood outside disagreed. “As long as you are part of a minyan which davens inside it shouldn’t matter what you yourself do. It is not as though I have less kavanah, so why assume that inside is superior for every individ- ual?” When this question reached Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, he ruled that they should indeed pray with the minyan inside. “Those who daven in a stairwell should remain together inside, and not have some people davening inside the building while others are outside.” תפילה כהלכתה, פ”ב, הערה פ”ה

Pardon the pun, but we need to see the wood from the trees. If it is desirable in our age to enfranchise those who would otherwise not seek to daven, through Carlebachian/Breslav, outdoor or “spirit grow style” techniques, then that is an intermediate level, and an expert Posek must be consulted. However, it should always be understood that this level is a stepping stone to the ideal. The ideal is to daven in a Shule or Beis Medrash and to be become a Doogma Chaya, a living example, of how one should comport oneself in a Mikdash Me’at, a miniature version of the Beis Hamikdash. The laws of a Beis Knesses and Beis Medrash are directly derived, according to many, such as R’ Chaim Brisker, from the Beis Hamikdash itself. The Rav gave many examples of this in his Torah.

In a tangential way, even though there is leeway to innovate in respect of melodies during the Nusach HaTefilla, one must remember that some elements are inviolate. Can anyone imagine singing Kol Nidrei to another tune? Cantor Be’er from YU’s Belz School of Music has written a wonderful article where he delineates the Tefillos and categorizes those which one may innovate, tune-wise.

I remember as a boy that both L’cha Dodi and Kel Adon were sung, but this took place in the Masoretic mode of the Chazan and congregation pausing between stanza in the form of “saying and answering” (Davar Shebikdusha, as expounded by the Rav)

Mesora must be protected and cherished.

שמע בני מוסר אביך ואל תטוש תורת אמך

Mesora must be protected and cherished. It alone provides the protective borders within which we can serve through an authentic Jewish service.

Carlebach in prayerful bliss: From Ha’aretz

Populist revisionist excursions into Jewish ritual

As per the web page of “Uri Letzedek”,

Rabbi Ari Hart is a co-founder of Uri L’Tzedek and rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah. A leader of several initiatives that bring together Orthodoxy, the Jewish community, and the world at large to make positive change, Ari launched Or Tzedek, the Teen Institute for Social Justice, served on multiple community boards and social justice organizations, and has taught at schools, synagogues, and summer camps around the country. He also served as a Nadiv Social Justice Fellow for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs and as Court Appointed Special Advocate for neglected and abused children in Cook County. Ari was recently selected by the Jewish Week as one of the 36 under 36, a list of “forward-thinking young people who are helping to remake the Jewish community,” and his work bringing the Hispanic and Jewish communities of Northern Manhattan together was profiled by the Jerusalem Post. Ari learned at Yeshivat HaKotel, Machon Pardes, and graduated from Grinnell College in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in music theory and composition.

The controversial figure, Rabbi Avi Weiss, stated

Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Rabbinical School, as an Orthodox institution, requires that its students daven only in synagogues with mechitzot [partitions for the separation of men and women]. The phenomenon of women receiving aliyot in a mechitza minyan is currently being debated on both a halachic and communal level within the Modern Orthodox community. YCT Rabbinical School does not currently take a position on this issue.”

Well excuse me Rabbi Weiss, why don’t you take a position. You are either for it halachically or against it. You may qualify your response if you wish, but in Halacha, Shtika KeHoda’a, silence is acquiesence.

It is little wonder then that YCT alumni are refused membership of the Rabbinic Council of America (the RCA). The history of Rabbi Weiss’s on again, off again Rabbinic ordination of a woman by any other name, is well documented. He is entitled to his opinion, but his opinion is not in accord with Rov Binyan and Rov Minyan of the Gedolay HaTorah of even the RCA (who the Aguda consider to be too left wing and accord no status).

As Rav Soloveitchik expressed so eloquently many times, there is an existential truth and a halachic boundary within the sinaitic transcendental framework which can not and may not be discarded or dislodged. Although one may find meaning through the prism of modern thought, and the catch phrase of “Social Justice” aka “Or LaGoyim”, these are not Halachic terms, and the meaning one finds cannot rerospectively metamorphose fundamentals of Halacha. In particular, on matters of  most enormous ramification, one must have exceedingly broad Halachic shoulders, to assume a new solitary position. We are not beholden to some quasi Daas Torah, but we are beholden to a hierarchy in the reputation of a Posek and their arguments.

Another example is the Nuevo Shira Chadasha style service. In my observation, the frumkeit exhibited through the gymnastic attempts to equalise female participation in davening one day each week, is contraindicated. This is the opinion of Gedolay HaPoskim, including the head of Nishmat, HaRav Yehuda Herzl Henkin (whom nobody would describe as misogynist artefact of yesteryear)

So, it comes as no surprise that the Huffington Post of all places, has a piece from Rabbi Ari Hart [Hat tip to RYL]. I will copy Ari’s short huff and puff, and intersperse my own quick reaction.

“Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has not made me a woman.” — Morning Blessings, Artscroll Siddur, p. 12.

I’m supposed to say that each morning. If I were a woman, I would recite this instead: “Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has made me according to Your will.”

These difficult, even painful blessings are a part of a series of otherwise beautiful meditations thanking God for the everyday gifts of sight, clothes and freedom.

Difficult? Painful? So the Anshei Knesses Hagdola instituted difficult pain and “supposed” us to recite it each morning? Would Ari have been happier if they had formulated it as “thank you for making me a man?” Nope. He wouldn’t have been happier. Ari would only be happy if the blessing was couched in the neo-humanistic style of “Blessed are you good for having created me a Human who is equal to all other Humans, Jewish or otherwise”.

Well, clearly they chose not to do so. Why? To use Ari’s subsequent logic, perhaps one could bless Hashem that one was chosen for their particular role, which is to be the prayer spokesperson for their family in a daily minyan?

Does he want a new prayer added “Asher Kideshanu BeMitzvosav VeTzivany Lihyos Or LaGoyim“.

It’s all fine. The Reform movement would probably do that for the infinitesimally few days that they frequent their temples.

Those other blessings roll easily off my tongue, the praise genuine and sincere. But for years I’ve struggled with praising God for not making me a woman. And I’m not the only Orthodox rabbi who struggles with it.

And if you were the only Orthodox rabbi who struggled with it, would your remarks be any less valid? If you use that logic, then the vast majority of Rabbis do not struggle with it, so perhaps there is something deficient in your understanding of this Bracha. But no, there can’t be anything deficient in one’s own logic, it must be that there is some misogynist agenda at play here. What else could it be? (And yes, I am aware of different versions of the  Brachos)

As a committed Orthodox Jew, I have accepted the entirety of halacha — the Jewish path of law and tradition — upon myself. This includes guidelines on rituals, holidays, charity, legal matters, sex and, yes, prayers. Not only do I accept it on myself, but as a rabbi, I teach it to others.

There are parts of halacha that I love, and parts that I struggle with. This blessing though, this blessing is really tough. Written by male rabbis nearly 2,000 years ago,

There you go: the argument of age. Funny, when it suits us we are ancient, and when we don’t like something ancient is an evil word. It was written 2000 years ago. Forget the fact that  other parts codified 2000 years ago roll nicely off Ari’s tongue. Forget the fact that they were also written by males, that’s okay. What would Ari do if it was written by a committee of males and females 30 years ago, and they decided that it was appropriate for the male who was “encumbered” with a myriad of different responsibilities to never ever show disdain for the fact that he happened to be born into his gender and associated role and bless God in a similar vein to blessing God with Dayan HaEmes when God forbid someone passes away. Oh yeah, Ari, don’t forget this same group of men, 2000 years ago, also agreed universally that if God forbid a little girl or little boy was murdered in some anti-semitic attack while trying to distribute charity to a group of homeless refugees from Africa, that the parents have to bless God with Dayan HaEmes. Should we do away with that blessing? Should we come up with some new interpretation? Or is the correct approach to study the metaphysical meaning behind such statements if and when we have trouble rolling such off our tongues.

I didn’t want my father הכ’’מ to pass away. I could not understand why he “deserved” to leave this world in the quick and sudden way that he did, thereby causing so many of us to grieve in the most painful of ways. Yet, I knew, that I was in a chain, a continuing chain, and that although I am by definition limited, I must recite and bless a truthful and righteous God and find the strength and meaning therein. How more misplaced can that prayer be to the fragile human motif?

these words evoke for me the sexism too prevalent in the Orthodox world and beyond.

That’s your problem Ari. You’ve understood that the Anshei Knesses Hagedola were a set of “men” who caused you through this blessing to think about sexism. Wanton discrimination on the basis of gender, race and colour is not permitted, though. To be sure, discrimination is most definitely part of the Jewish religion. A King who witnesses a murder cannot testify. A woman cannot be Moshiach. Are you comfortable with the 12th Ani Maamin Ari? Perhaps they should be rewritten. Maybe the Cohen Gadol’s wife should share turns in entering the Kodesh Kodashim? If they had an operation which caused Ari to menstruate through his genitals would he feel more equal by also being Tameh for seven days and decree it incumbent on males to do so in the name of equality? If and when Medicine makes it possible for men to carry a fetus in a sterile implanted bag, will people do so in order to feel the pain of Eve? What about justice for the snake? After all, he did us all a great favour by causing us to have free choice. Shouldn’t he get his legs back so he doesn’t slither like some criminal in the night?

These words have echoes of the religious misogynists who throw chairs at a woman for praying at the Western Wall or force women to sit at the back of Israeli buses.

You can do a whole lot better than that Ari. What about the Satmar maniacs who kiss Ahmadinajad? I guess your esteemed colleagues at YU don’t count. Are they a pack of bigots? But wait, what argument would you use if the women prayed at the wall, and throwing chairs was outlawed. Where would you run to in order to try and make us feel guilty for being a male Orthodox adherent?

This blessing helps enable the religious sexism that silences women’s voices, keeps them from positions of communal leadership, and denies them study of our sacred texts.

Oh Ari, such lines are really poor. Women’s voices where I come from are most certainly never silent. Yes, I’m not meant to hear them sing individually in public. Are you? Or has that changed? Yes, there is the Din of Serara which we can debate. But, I know many boards which have female representation, even in 50/50 divisions, and you know, I don’t know how many men are part of the Woman’s Mikvah Committee.

Do I want any part of that sexism? No.

Judaism isn’t. What religion are you railing against?

So do I say the blessing? Yes.

Here’s why:

Sadly, there are some excellent reasons to be grateful for not being a woman in this world. For example:
As a man, I will most likely make more money working at a job than if I were a woman. And as an Orthodox rabbi, I couldn’t have my job if I were woman.

Great, but where I work, my boss is a female who makes almost ten times as much as me. Shall I stop saying the blessing?

Being a Rabbi is not a job. It is a role. Understand the difference.

So long as I stay out of jail, the odds that I will be raped are very low.

Not if you are in prison, kiddo. You will be attacked from the rear in ways you wouldn’t believe. Maybe men should take drugs so that they are no longer physically stronger than women. Would you take them if available?

If I were raped, I probably wouldn’t be blamed for it.

We need Rabbis to continue to ensure that Jews never attempt such that modern defence.

I can be ambitious professionally and no one will question my gender.

They may well question your religion. Why not abandon it?

Most political, religious and cultural leaders are guys, just like me!

Then quit? There will be one less. Give your wife? a go?

In most prayerbooks and Bibles, God and I share a gender.

Don’t read those Bibles. Read the ones which tell you God has no gender.

There aren’t billions of dollars spent every year trying to make me feel bad about how I look and selling me things to change my appearance.

That’s business. You think the hair restoration folk for males and the viagra peddlers are doing things for equalities sake, or some religious imperative. Get real.

I get to be a hero if I change a diaper or spend time with my kids, and most people won’t look down on me if I don’t.

Really? You should read about the number of people who send their kids off to childcare at an early age so as to enable both parents to earn enough to get by. I know a few Mr Mums. They often get snickered at. Funnily Mrs Mums don’t. Fix that.

Saying this blessing every day challenges me to face these and other difficult facts about men and women in today’s world. It forces me to remember that work as a spiritual leader in the Orthodox community would not be possible if I were a woman (though that is changing thanks to the pioneering work of Yeshivat Maharat, but not without a fight).

Nonsense. My cousin is a spiritual leader. She is a woman. She learns Shas and Poskim better than I do, is a Yoetzet Halacha and graduated from Nishmat. Difference is, she isn’t a feminist. She wouldn’t even be bothered with these meaningless titles. She isn’t there for “equality”. She is there because she has a spiritual role to play, entirely within the gamut of Halacha, and what is more she is more than comfortable in her own skin. Oh, and her husband changes nappies.

This blessing calls me to recommit to building a world where inequality and oppression do not exist.

What about male oppression? How do you recommit to that. Yes, it does exist. What about introducing a special additional prayer for the homosexual? What about the handicapped man? What should he say? What about the Cohen who cannot duchen? That’s not fair. What about Orei Miklat? Surely, harmless criminals should be repatriated within the same society? We can go on and on and on.

It calls me to recommit each day to building a world where saying “thank you God for not making me a woman” will disappear, not because it is offensive, but because it is meaningless.

If it is meaningless, then you have simply not understood the axiological basis of Orthodox Judaism which is founded on differing roles. Why not call yourself conservative? Why bother with affiliation with the RCA.