By I. Schwartz
Already known for breaking every rule in the book, such as giving semichah to women, bringing church choirs into his shul and dancing with priests and bishops in the bais medrash of his yeshiva, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, Rabbi Avi Weiss has now publicly declared that conversions of Reform and Conservative clergy should be considered for recognition in Eretz Yisroel and that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s “Orthodox monopoly” in these areas should end.
In an October 24 article in the Times of Israel, Rabbi Weiss writes, “Israel as a state should give equal opportunities to the Conservative and Reform movements. Their rabbis should be able to conduct weddings and conversions. For that matter, civil weddings should also be recognized by the State. As in America, it should be left to the general public – if they wish, in consultation with their local rabbis – to decide whether to accept or reject these conversions and wedding ceremonies.”
Say that again? Rabbi Weiss, claiming to represent Orthodoxy, is promoting the recognition of invalid conversions and marriages? Although Rabbi Weiss’ other antics are well-known for their folly and unOrthodox character, this latest campaign of his places at risk the Jewish status and halachic personal status of millions of Israelis. It is incredible that someone who claims fidelity to halacha seeks to bring about mass violation of halacha in the strictest of areas. It is really shocking.
As if he is the superior rabbinic authority here, Weiss bashes the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) for having “capitulated to the Chief Rabbinate and imported Israel’s failed rabbinic centralized format to the US.”
Just what was the RCA’s sin? In a joint effort to put a stop to questionable geirus by ostensibly Orthodox rabbis, the Rabbanut and the RCA created a program called Geirus Practices and Standards (GPS), in which the poskim of the Rabbanut and the RCA decided that only certain botei din in North America are authorized to perform conversions that will be recognized by the Rabbanut as RCA-endorsed. Conversions performed by other rabbis who may be RCA members will not be granted this automatic recognition. In other words, geirus standards were upgraded.
Rabbi Weiss, claiming that the GPS program denies individual rabbis the autonomy to preside over geirus as they see fit, condemned the program and the RCA years ago and started his own breakaway rabbinic organization, International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), as a response.
The Rabbanut often seeks data from local rabbis about the personal status of people who come to Eretz Yisroel and seek to marry, divorce or convert. The Rabbanut recently rejected a personal status letter from Rabbi Weiss about a couple whom he knew before they made aliyah.
Although Rabbi Weiss’ reaction to this rejection of his letter by the Rabbanut is to call for a dismantling of the Rabbanut’s authority, perhaps Rabbi Weiss should consider that his own radical innovations and breaches of Torah are perhaps what the Rabbanut looked to in not accepting his rabbinic credentials for the letter he submitted. Is Rabbi Weiss’ engagement in reforming Orthodox practice and his rejection of superior halachic authorities in issues of personal status perhaps not the real issue here?
Sadly, Rabbi Weiss’ paths in this area have been passed on to one of his star ordainees. Rabbi Dr. Zev Farber, who has Yodin Yodin semichah from Rabbi Weiss’ yeshiva and who is an IRF board member and is the coordinator of the IRF conversion authority. The Yated has chronicled his denial of Torah MiSinai and radical articles he has written which reject Torah belief and practice. Farber is now pushing for the establishment of a network of rabbis who will handle all marriages and divorces for the Open Orthodox community, and will utilize the halachically-rejected hafka’as kiddushin (annulment of marriage) and kiddushei ta’us (marriage under false pretenses) schemes to declare any marriage as invalid without the use of a get should a husband refuse to give one.
Farber presents his entire program in an October 11 article on the Open Orthodox Morethodoxy website, where he is a staff writer. Writing, “I imagine that this will mean a radical shift in the divorce process in our communities,” Farber seeks to resuscitate the discredited “Rackman Solution” for dissolving marriages to apply it and kiddushei ta’us to all cases as necessary, thereby manipulating the system without license.
This proposal would result in masses of people being considered mamzeirim by virtually all poskim, but should we really be surprised at this endeavor, seeing from whence it came?
Rabbi Weiss and his following have declared war on halacha. They have openly stated that halacha can be undermined and that Jewish personal status can be jeopardized. If this does not prompt serious action, will anything?