The Ivri Resolution and the Problem with the RCA Resolution


rcaBy an RCA member

Rabbi Goldberg has published an interesting take on the current RCA resolution which represents the 5th or 6th attempt to redefine the resolution and its utility/futility. Rabbi Goldberg’s article is beautifully written and makes a cogent argument for a specific position.

In brief, Rabbi Goldberg bases his reticence about the “Rabbi” resolution on the 2nd of Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People“, specifically , to “begin with the end in mind.” Rabbi Golderg elaborates on that with a thought from his father, to wit, “to determine what you are trying to achieve, what is your desired outcome, and what is the best way to achieve that result”. Hi father’s analogy is very telling:

“For example, he said, when you are out on a date and discussing some subject, telling your date that her position is wrong and relentlessly arguing why your position is right, may allow you to win the argument, but is unlikely to allow you to win the girl. What is the more important outcome for you?“

In other words, winning the argument will lose the girl; ceding the point will win the girl. That would be fine if that were the goal of the argument, but what if the goal is not, “to win the girl”, but rather to find the mate that fits for you? In that case, winning the argument might go a long way to discovering compatibility and help decide – is this the right girl for me?

The upshot of Rabbi Goldberg’s first point is that the resolution was an exercise in “winning the argument, but losing the hearts and minds of the silent majority who are still formulating their feelings towards these issues and see non–nuanced declarations as unconvincing and often offensive.”

This is a very salient point, and one that should be readily conceded to Rabbi Goldberg – IF the goal of the resolution was “to win the girl”. That, fortunately or unfortunately, was not the purpose of the resolution, as we shall discuss shortly.

The second point that Rabbi Goldberg made was this resolution, which has been touted as no more than a rehashing of earlier resolutions, does not fulfill the halachic criteria for effective “macha’ah.” Leaving aside the argument that his second point applies equally to the earlier resolutions, the first of which was unanimously adopted (and that would include Rabbi Goldberg as well), the assertion that this resolution was a macha’ah, a well-intentioned attempt at “constructive criticism”, is both false and groundless. There was no macha’ah there at all; even were it warranted, any bar bei rav d’chad yoma would know that Rabbi Goldberg’s “important caveat ,“ that “Just as it is a mitzvah for a person to say something that will be listened to, so too, is it a mitzvah for a person to refrain from saying that which will not be listened to”, has very limited application and would certainly not apply, halachically, in this case, were it in actuality a “macha’ah.”

The goal was not “to win the girl,” nor was it to protest deviant beliefs and practices. It was to begin defining the boundaries of Judaism.

The leading rabbis that are affiliated with Agudath Israel, all men of great learning, stature and responsibility, and are respected by all walks of Jewish life, articulated what the resolution could not. They placed the religious philosophy of Open Orthodoxy and its leadership beyond the pale.  The RCA resolution, constrained by both inner politics and the difficulty in articulating the difference between non-Chareidi Orthodoxy and Open Orthodoxy, addressed only one symptom, i.e., female clergy. This was not a macha’ah – it was a line in the sand. Call the resolution the ”Ivri Resolution”; “we” are on one side if the “river” and Open Orthodoxy, both in practice and in belief, with its affinity for populist humanist grounding, is on the other side.

The object never was “getting the girl”, i.e., convincing people that Open Orthodoxy is not Orthodox and winning the hearts of the unlearned man on the street, dazzled by the PR and by the “sweetness” of Open Orthodoxy’s purveyors. The object was to begin red-lining the boundaries.

Winning the hearts and minds of the confused but sincere is a different goal, one that would be much easier if less time was invested in “walking the resolution back” and more time and effort was invested, by those same eloquent spokesmen, in hasbara for authentic Judaism.

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  1. To refute the Open Orthodox thoroughly, one must be able to articulate and validate one’s own contrasting views on all points. There is enough diversity in the thinking of RCA members as to make that difficult for the RCA as a group to attempt.

  2. If you saw a shepherd charged with caring for his flock, would you advise him that it would not be helpful to set up boundaries that will ensure that none of his flock be set upon by wolves? Would you argue that it would be more productive to work on the attitude of the wolves, to “capture their hearts and minds”? It may be argued that Orthodox Jewry are losing thousands of members, but the diminution of non-Orthodox Jewry can be measured in the millions. I stand fully behind the current RCA resolution.