Letter and Response on Non-Orthodoxy



This is in reference to an earlier article that was published here and appeared as well in Yated Ne’eman. Rabbi Lopatin wrote a letter in regard to that article and the author responded to him in last week’s Yated. Here is the exchange for the benefit of Matzav readers.

Dear Editor,

As the new president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, I want to thank the Yated for bringing to the frum community important issues that need to be discussed and taken seriously. Torah MiSinai, yearning for Moshiach, yiras Shomayim and commitment to halacha as transmitted to us by the masters of the mesoret are all fundamentals of Yiddishkeit which our yeshiva not only believes in be’emunah shleimah, but also teaches to our students and works hard to promote in the Jewish community.

We find our home in the Orthodox world of gedolim and simple Jews who have kept Yiddishkeit alive and growing over the millennia. People of any persuasion and any denomination can consider us whatever they want, and I respect their right to form their own attitudes and understandings of who we are. I personally try to leave judging up to Hakadosh Boruch Hu, but perhaps even people who are harsh on us – as the Yated sometimes is – hopefully mean only to help us come closer to Hashem’s Torah and to give us healthy mussar. In any case, our yeshiva and all the Open and Modern Orthodox Jews we represent are committed – with humility and yiras Hashem – to remaining an active and vocal part of the Orthodox movement no matter who tries to push us out. Chassidim always respected the Gaon MiVilna even though he put them in cheirem. We also respect gedolim and rabbonim who may make declarations regarding who we are. We know that our talmidim need to learn the Torah of Rav Elyashiv zt”l and Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l and all the living and past gedolim. We look to the Torah-true mesoret of p’sak for determining how to live our lives and how to grow as bnei Torah.

I realize that many of the innovative ideas and practices of Open and Modern Orthodoxy might make people uneasy. In the past, chassidus made the Gaon MiVilna extremely uneasy, as I mentioned above, and the kiruv movement, the Zionist movement, even the movement to formally educate women all have made people uneasy. All these movements appeared to many of our gedolim to be a break from the past. Yet, as they stayed loyal to the world of Torah and mitzvot and proved to Anshei Shlomeinu they were arguably a true embodiment of our mesorah, even if many still disputed the validity of their ideas and practices, they were accepted as part of the Orthodox world.

While the ideas and practices of Open and Modern Orthodoxy are already integral to many in the Orthodox world, I hope they become accepted by the entire breadth of the Orthodox world over time. In the meantime, we welcome vigorous debate – as the Netziv says, “pilpul” – and the rough and tumble of kinas sofrim to challenge us and make us think as well about how we are part of the mesoret we cherish and cling to with passion.

I welcome more articles about Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and hope more and more people can be brought into the conversation. Push us hard! We are ready with Torah, we are ready to listen and always “hafoch bah vahafoch bah” to reexamine every action we take and every idea we promulgate. Together, the world of those who love Torah – Chovevei Torah – will, with Hashem’s help, be a kiddush Hashem and a model of ehrlichkeit and mentchlichkeit to Jews everywhere who are thirsting for Toras Emes. That’s what we are here to do. That’s YCT.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin

President, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah

The Editor responds:

Rabbi Lopatin preaches a nice game, but the movement he heads fails to practice the path he writes of.

He says, “We look to the Torah-true mesoret of p’sak for determining how to live our lives and how to grow as bnei Torah.” However, the fact is that the movement consistently rejects this “mesoret of p’sak,” as it sanctions and promotes that which halacha forbids, such as toeivah relationships, tampering with and feminizing the halachic seder hatefillah, learning from heretics and granting them legitimacy, ordaining women as rabbis, etc.

He writes, “Torah MiSinai, yearning for Moshiach, yiras Shomayim and commitment to halacha as transmitted to us by the masters of the mesoret are all fundamentals of Yiddishkeit which our yeshiva not only believes in be’emunah shleimah, but also teaches to our students and works hard to promote in the Jewish community.”

If this is so, why does this movement’s star Yodin Yodin YCT musmach/posek/board member and head of its Vaad Ha-Giyur, Rabbi Zev Farber, publicly write that he does not believe that Avrohom and Sarah existed, that he does not believe that G-d ever communicated with man, and that he does not believe that the Torah was actually given to Moshe? And how is it that the movement continues to retain him in his many influential positions?

Why does their rosh yeshiva, Rabbi Dov Linzer, repeatedly write about the harshness of G-d’s decrees that man tempered through its own interpretation and “hearing the softer voices” that allowed us to not accept the Torah as G-d gave it?

Why does Rabbi Linzer compare contemporary Orthodox leaders to the meraglim and suggest that we should bend the Torah in order to conform to prevailing liberal humanist ideas?

How does YCT’s embrace of “rabbis” who defy Torah and the toeivah marriage agenda fit with the platitudes contained in Rabbi Lopatin’s letter?

Rabbi Lopatin, you yourself lobbied with a female Reform rabbi to help pass recognition of toeivah unions in Illinois. Many of your movement’s rabbis are pushing that same agenda. If you and your movement’s members who engage in this conduct have no respect for a posuk in the Torah, which leaves no wiggle room, and lobby the government as an Orthodox rabbi for something that the Torah unequivocally condemns as an abomination, how can you claim fidelity to Torah MiSinai and commitment to halacha? How can you claim to be following the mesorah? Which mesorah? Whose mesorah are you following?

The movement’s rabbis have denied publically and vocally other ikrei emunah, and some of them are pushing for radical changes in gittin which all gedolim and poskim have deemed invalid. How is that consistent with what you write here?

By your standards, how are Reform and Conservative different from Open Orthodoxy? They also claim fidelity to G-d and Torah and mesorah, albeit with a very different approach. Like Open Orthodoxy, they have openly allowed for rejection of ikrei emunah and halachic authority.

You write, “We know that our talmidim need to learn the Torah of Rav Elyashiv zt”l and Rav Ovadiah Yosef zt”l and all the living and past gedolim. We look to the Torah-true mesoret of p’sak for determining how to live our lives and how to grow as bnei Torah.”

What you don’t write is that at the same time as you learn their holy words, you study the works and teachings of apikorsim. Your school mocks the life-missions of Rav Elyashiv and Rav Yosef, and the halachic positions that they took throughout their lives, which are in direct contradiction to all of the interesting halachic rationales that emanate from Open Orthodoxy. It is easy to say that you learn the Torah of Rav Elyashiv and look to the mesorah of his p’sokim and then not follow it. We can only judge by actions, and they are clearly wrong.

Were those rabbis alive, they would condemn your school and reject its deviations from halacha and mesorah. They would not recognize its semichah or geirus. You cleave to a philosophy that finds merit in discredited movements and their teachings. It is disingenuous for you to claim to be following the paths of Rav Elyashiv and Rav Yosef when nothing could be further from the truth.

You write about yiras Shomayim, yet the first and most elementary step in yiras Shomayim is to realize that Torah and halacha are not things that can be shaped to fit with contemporary mores. Yiras Shomayim also includes fearing talmidei chachomim and not having the audacity to implement halachic innovations without the approval of widely accepted, acknowledged poskim who are links in the chain of Torah and mesorah.

“[Looking] to the Torah-true mesoret of p’sak for determining how to live our lives and how to grow as bnei Torah” does not mean making up your own interpretations of halacha and changing halachic norms that have been observed for centuries.

You yourself wrote previously, “It is the responsibility of those in the outreach community and the pluralistic Orthodox community, who are comfortable counting Conservative, Reform or Renewal rabbis as mentors and teachers, to find a way to show other Orthodox Jews that pluralism is only going to strengthen an already strong Orthodoxy, not destroy it.”

Wrong again. Our duty is to follow Jewish law as codified in the Shulchan Aruch and by the great accepted poskim throughout the generations. Observant Jews have always lived their lives that way and always will.

One who reads your letter here without reading my article which you are responding to could imagine you as a modern-day Baal Shem Tov reaching out to the masses in an innovative historic manner, facing the scorn of sad Litvaks. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I suspect that you know that.

You mock us, writing previously that there “is not true pluralism in the Hareidi world; the families [who invite in irreligious people for Shabbos meals] don’t necessarily want to learn about Kant or feminism from their [non-religious] guests, but they do want to connect with them, and it is an encouraging first step towards the openness of Abraham and Sarah’s tent.”

Do you think the Baal Shem Tov, or any Chassidic leaders since the founding of that movement until this very day, would agree with that statement, or with having women lead services, or with studying Gemara with maharat candidates, or with maharats officiating in any capacity?

On a personal level, Rabbi Lopatin, you may be a nice man, but you are seriously misguided. We reach out our hand in friendship and welcome you back to the fold.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. Go R’ Pinny the only one to tell it like it is, others give a half hearted statememt. others wimp out and yet others also wont take a stand.

    The last of the Mohicans

  2. Rabbi Lopatin’s letter is very well written and sounds very convincing to anyone like myself who doesn’t really know what YCT really believes in. Thank you to the editor for responding with such an informed and well written response which seems to leave no room for a comeback. I wonder if Rabbi Lopatin will have the guts to respond

  3. Nice reply by the editor. Also, how we he defend the most recent abomination of Avi Weiss calling for Israeli government’s recognition of Reform and Conservative movements religious rights to call themselves and their so-called converts Jews?

  4. Asher, stop being a coward. Have the guts to come out once and for all and say what you and Mr Weiss really feel towards us authentic adherents of the Torah, our Gedolim and our Mesorah.

  5. Do I read that right? He compares himself and his weak brain with – lehavdil – the Gaon of Vilna, Rabbi Elyashiv and Rabbi Yosef?

  6. I know R Lopatin and he is a gem of a mensch.
    I don’t agree with YCT yet I am shocked that he lowered himself to write to the Yated, opening himself up to further ridicule.

    I would like to see the editors of the Yated similarly open themselves up and write to another publication apologizing for years of sinas chinam and hotZaas Shem Ra.

  7. All the deviant – Samaritans y”s, Christians, y”s, Muslims y”s, Qaraites y”s, Shepsels y”s, and Coin-Serve-atives y”s, proclaimed their “orthodoxy” and stove to be embraced by the g’dolim. The Cons apparently didn’t get a monster potch, and so they grow more and more vild. And the main objection to them, was that they traversed on Minhag Avosaynu. To my knowledge, not one of the above regurgitations ever ignored a to’ayvah (except the Shepsels).
    These guys are very attractive to the weakly observant, who want it all. They “speak the talk and walk the walk”. The bottom line is that’s it’s a terrible steer’a to venerate the Mo’akh of the G’dolim, but not their Lev – and the Minhagim are the Lev of the G’dolim.
    I am so impressed that you let this Jesuit say his piece, and was khiluq in such a firm, persuasive manner. It was good hizzuq for us lumpen, although I doubt if someone who despises the character and lifetyle of the Gedolim and their dedicated COMMUNITY will give it any ear. Your fine, historic rejoinder has the style of the RSG. Y’yasher Kohacha.

  8. Rabbi Lopatin, do you really think that ANY of the gedolim whom you mentioned, from Vilna Gaon to Rav Elyasav would condone the practice of “Rabbi” Avi Weiss having coed/gospel choirs singing from in front of the Aron Kodesh??!! Thats what happens in that “shul” on a Shabbos every year close to ML King day!! why dont WE start protesting EVERY time ANY of the media, electronic or print, refer to the YCT crowd/HIR gang as ORTHODOX? Why dont WE start telling the Jewish Press that we wont buy that paper anymore until they drop Avi Weiss as a columnist?

  9. Interesting that Matzav’s response begins in the more condescending 3rd person and then somehow transitions to second person and “you”. Sort of sad that people don’t know how to write in English anymore.

    I am not a fan of YCT and many of their recent statements and actions are beyond the pale. But,, it would have been more effective to write a response properly, respectfully, and with a point-by-point challenge to what Rabbi Lopatin wrote.

  10. All of Klal Yisroel should be thankful for Reb Pinny and his Avodas HaKodesh in exposing these fraudsters. Looking forward to “Rabbi” Lopatin’s response. Not holding my breath though! Admit your faults and Do Teshuvah before it’s too late!!

  11. Rabbi Lopatin,
    1.How can your have the shamelessness claim to have even a remote connection to Torah (Orthodox Judaism) when you “lobbied with a female Reform rabbi to help pass recognition of toeivah unions in Illinois. ” DO YOU LEARN CHUMASH??? ARE YOU AWARE THAT THERE IS PUNISHMENT OF STONING PRESCRIBED FOR SUCH deviant BEHAVIOR ??!!??. How can someone who claims to be orthodox promote Aveiros that are chiuvei Misa and furtermore make a chilul Hashem by promoting it among non jews. DO YOU NOT HAVE A LITTLE FEELING FOR THE HONOR OF HASEM YISBORACH ?? PLEASE do teshuva by publicly recanting these errors. Please do so for the sake of Hashem’s honor and for your own OLAM HABOH.

    2. How can you and Avi Weiss stand silently when someone who represents your yeshiva states blatently blasphemous (and VERY FOOLISH) things like “posek” Zev Farber, publicly write(ing) that he does not believe that Avrohom and Sarah existed, that he does not believe that G-d ever communicated with man, and that he does not believe that the Torah was actually given to Moshe?”
    Such a person is light years from having any shaychus to Judaism. He is a walking blasphemer of Hashem’s name. Is Hashem’s honor important to you?? . Please do the right thing and either A. Do Teshuva or if chas VeSholom you don’t admit that your movement is new mutation of Reform. Calling yourself Orthodox is the worst form of MISREPRESENTATION. Remember that Moses Mendelsohn who was a big Talmud Chochom started his slippery slide by “merely” doing away with the Yekum Purkan Prayer. In a very short period – everyone of his Grandchildren became meshumadim. I invite the reader to read Rav Avugdoe Miller’s recently released book on the holocaust and they will understand this whole inyan and the disasters that this kind of activity leads to.
    Thanks for your time. Rabbi Lopatin you sound very sincere. We look forward do your returning to true Daas Torah and Mesorah very soon. I know that in your heart you know the real truth.

  12. As a Chassidishe woman, I am offended by Rabbi Lopatin’s attempt to justify YCT by comparing it to Chassidus. I have seen similar attempts by various ‘open’ Orthodox rabbis who justify the Maharat women rabbis by pointing to the creation of the Bais Yaacov system.

    Both comparisons are disingenuous or ignorant and typical of the Open Orthodoxy holding up Torah to justify every end:

    Chassidus and the Bais Yaacov schools were not created in order to go along with the social mores and ethical non-Jewish mores of the day, but PRECISELY TO FIGHT IT.

    In the case of Chassidus, the non-Jewish class based system infiltrated the frum- community so that, like the peasants, the simple Jew was looked down upon and not valued. This resulted in a weakening of Yiddishkeit and the Mesorah. The Baal Shem Tov brought the Jewish people BACK to Torah and SINAI, by teaching the East-European Jewry that this type of behavior was not in keeping with Torah and that every Jew, simple or not, was beloved in the eyes of Hashem. Chassidus is based on the Zohar, and Torahs Nistar that was handed down from generation to generation – it is the mesorah all the way. Chassidus was taught to strengthen the MESORAH.

    In the case of the Bais Yaacov movement: The breakdown of the Shtetl life, due to secular and social forces that had NOTHING to do with Yiddisheit, caused for the first time that Jewish girls were not home, and were not learning the Mesorah from their mothers, and furthermore were being exposed to apikorsus in mandatory schooling, resulting in a weakening of the Mesorah. Bais Yaakov was created to strengthen the MESORAH.

    Open Orthodoxy, however is all about being accommodating secular and popular culture. It takes an APOLOGETIC stance to the MESORAH and is constantly trying to fit into the social mores of the day and to the politically correct ideas of our times and moving the Torah until it fits into their Western, politically correct ideas.

    In essence, Open Orthodox communities HI-JACKED JEWISH terms and ideas to cater to POLITICALLY CORRECT anti-Torah values.

    Examples: Ahavas Yisrael, an ancient Jewish teaching, is in now about loving and embracing gays and being non-judgemental about deviant lifestyles.

    Feminism, is also hung under the bannner of Ahavas Yisroel, and every FEMINIST value, becomes justified under Ahavas Yisroel for women. So that a woman has value only if she is publicly acknowledged or takes part in aliyos, or becomes a rabba under the guise of Ahavas Yisroel, totally discounting the vital and important role to Jewish continuity that our mothers and grandmothers played, which BH produced all that is Torah Yiddishkeit today.

    Another example: Baal Tashchis is hi-jacked so that SAVING THE PLANET becomes a mitzvah midoraisah and believing in global warming becomes one of the 13 ikrei emunah. Similarly, ANIMAL rights activism, which is driven by far left deviants who make no distinction between the Holocaust and chicken farms, is framed under beautiful concept of Tzaar Baalei Chayim, hi-jacking an ancient Jewish idea to further today’s leftist agenda, so that Kaparos is now to be Halachically proven to be a violation of Yiddishkeit, an aveiro, and destroying a man and a community because of perceived tzaar baleei chayim, completely unfounded and untrue.

    In my humble opinion, open orthodoxy is far, far more devious and dangerous than the reform movement ever was. Where the latter openly disregarded Halacha, Open Orthodoxy OFFICIALLY holds Halacha as sacred (except when it doesn’t suit them – at which point they change Halacha to suit their needs, yet continue to call it Halacha). This way, can give semicha to women who do not even cover their hair etc. As distasteful as the following analogies are, they are apt: it is much like the person who goes to the mikvah holding a sheretz in his hand, or the chazir that sticks out his split hooved foot to prove that he is kosher.

    In a nutshell, the definition of Open Orthodoxy is the exercise of retro-fitting the Halacha and the Mesorah through creativity and doublespeak, to accommodate the Open Orthodox Weltanschauung, which is simply today’s Western PC ideas: Gay rights, feminism, saving the planet, animal rights etc.

    For those who say, who cares?
    The danger that the Open Orthodox movement pose is to the minimally educated Jew, who is fooled by the AUTHENTIC Language and reference points. Hence, an Open Orthodox rabbi will quote the Kotzker Rebbe to prove a politically correct idea. Better yet, he will also quote (lehavdil) Martin Luther King Jr in the same sentence, likely using the Kotzker to validate MLK and some anti-Torah idea. And on and on it goes.

    Asher Lopatin is intelligent and well spoken, but he is either disingenuous or ignorant when he claims to hold up the Halachic banner even as he tries to disassemble it.