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Yated Blasts Chovevei Torah for Ordination of Female Rabbi, Calls on YU, RCA & OU to Denounce ‘Open Orthodoxy’

Tuesday July 14, 2009 9:02 AM - 47 Comments

chovevei-torah1The American Yated Ne’eman has published its second extensive critique on Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, an institution that calls itself Orthodox but which the newspaper says is far from it. In the first article two years ago, the Yated demonstrated that Chovevei Torah is a yeshiva that professes to be “Orthodox,” but, in fact, deviates from normative Orthodox thought, halachah and practice as accepted by rabbonim and poskim from across the entire spectrum of Orthodoxy.

In this past week’s edition, the Yated, in an expose by Yisroel Lichter, reveals what it says is perhaps the most serious halachic and hashkafic breach by Rabbi Avi Weiss amd Chovevei Torah, the appointment of Ms. Sara Hurwitz as female rabbi in his shul while taking pains not to actually call her a rabbi.

The following is a portion of the Yated report (July 10), reprinted with permission:

Chovevei Torah has hijacked the title “Orthodox” to describe its affiliation. The leadership has thus acted shrewdly, because they desire to re-define “Orthodoxy” and introduce numerous halachically prohibited practices, while simultaneously taking advantage of everything associated with inclusion in orthodox affiliated synagogues and organizations. 

The Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Semicha Class of 5769/2009,

The Yeshivat Chovevei Torah Semicha Class of 5769/2009.

To understand Chovevei Torah and its ethos we must see it in the context of being the institution of learning that professes to represent “Open Orthodoxy.”

Open Orthodoxy is the brainchild of Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. Weiss, along with a number of far left rabbis, has embarked on a systematic campaign whose aim is to radically change or reform Orthodoxy as we know it.  

Indeed, Open Orthodoxy seeks to assume the name “Orthodox,” thereby connoting fidelity to halachah, while openly adapting and advocating precepts that are wholly unorthodox and even anti-Orthodox.

 ”Open Orthodoxy” has continued to espouse positions that are more in line with Reform and Conservative thought while still trying to don the mantle of Orthodoxy.

It is with great reluctance that the Yated has undertaken to point out a number of the more recent excesses of Rabbi Avi Weiss and others who espouse “Open Orthodoxy.” We had hoped that our brethren affiliated with organizations such as Yeshiva University, the Rabbinical Council of America, (RCA) and the Orthodox Union, (OU) would have been more forthcoming in vociferously protesting these excesses, the silence of these organizations regarding many aberrations has forced us to unwillingly raise our voice in protest, so that our lack of protest should not mistakenly be construed as silent acquiescence.

 

The “Non-Semichah” “Semichah

Perhaps the most serious halachic and hashkafic breach is Rabbi Weiss’ insistence in appointing Ms. Sara Hurwitz as female Rabbi in his shul while taking pains not to actually call her a Rabbi. In this manner he can remain-at least in syntax-in line with Orthodoxy.

Needless to say, Rav Moshe Feinstein and all major authentic poskim have unequivocally prohibited a woman from assuming the role that Ms. Hurwitz has filled. Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe O.C. IV:70.) was asked if it is permissible for a women to publicly recite a tefillah in front of men. From the teshuva we learn that a certain Rabbi instituted a custom in his shul that a woman would come down from the Ezras Nashim into the shul and recite a tefillah in English in front of all of the men. Rav Moshe writes, “It is obvious that that this is assur-prohibited. To me it is a wonder that an Orthodox Rabbi should do such a thing.” Rav Moshe goes on to address the petitioner, “You yourself write that Hagaon Rav Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman has stated that it is assur. It is obvious and clear that that it is assur. I do not understand why this Rav saw fit to translate one prayer into English and to recite it in front of the congregation. Could he not find any man who could translate a prayer in front of the men that he felt compelled to choose a woman. Surely this does not bring to Yiras Shomayim. On the contrary this itself [a woman reading a prayer in front of men] is something that is a davar assur-a thing that is prohibited.”

Rav Moshe’s words are clear. The only thing we can add is that if Rav Moshe saw it is assur for a woman to get up in front of a shul to say a prayer even in English, how much more so would he prohibit the conduct of Ms. Hurwitz who gets up and gives sermons in front of the entire congregation.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, Rosh Yeshiva of RIETS and seminal Rabbinic authority of what has become known as Modern Orthodoxy or Centrist Orthodoxy, said, that it’s “Negged HaHalachah–against halachah” for a woman to be a shul president and it’s “Aino Nachon-not right” for a woman to be on the Board of Trustees (quoted by Rav Herschel Schachter, “Kuntres B’Inyanei P’sak Halachahh“, Published in Beis Yitzchok #38 [5766]).

On March 22, 2009, the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale held a formal ceremony officially installing Ms. Hurwitz in her new position. The following is the Hebrew and English text of the “Semichah“, “non semicha” document given to her at her installation:

 chovevei-1

MaHaRa”T - Redefining a Woman “Rabbi”

In his own comments at Hurwitz’ installation ceremony, Rabbi Avi Weiss, said, ” Zeh Hayom assah Hashem, nageilah venismicha bo - This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be happy in it - ki bah moed - for the time has come. Today, we confer on Sara Hurwitz, the title MaHaRa”T - Manhigah Halakhtit Ruchanit Toranit , as she becomes a religious leader in Israel. This title fully reflects everything that religious leadership is about and welcomes Sara as a full member of the clergy. Sara is a manhigah halakhtit, a halakhic leader with the authority to answer questions of Jewish law asked by her congregants and others. Sara is a manhigah ruchanit , a spiritual leader with the qualifications to offer pastoral care and spiritual guidance, and the right to lead lifecycle ceremonies within the framework of halakha.  Sara is a manhigah Toranit , with the knowledge to teach Torah, the written as well as the oral law in every aspect of Jewish learning.

MaHaRa”T - Manhigah Halakhtit Ruchanit Toranit - a halakhic, spiritual and Torah leader; A full communal, congregational, chovevei-2religious leader, a full member of the clergy, leading with the unique voice of a woman. MaHaRa”T Sara. In achieving this status, Sara is building upon the progress of women and upon the recognition of what Jewish women have earned over the years. For years now, women have been studying at the Drisha Institute which has paved the way for the highest level of learning for women, at Midreshet Lindenbaum, and at the Stern College -Yeshiva University’s Graduate Program in Advanced Talmudic Studies. Women are already serving as Yo’atzot Halakha, many in synagogues, offering advice on the most intricate and intimate questions of family life. And women are also serving as To’anot Rabbaniot, arguing Jewish law before rabbinic courts. And today women are serving in leadership roles in Orthodox congregations in Chicago and New York. Sara’s step of becoming MaHaRa”T Sara - a full communal, congregational, and religious leader has naturally evolved from these past pioneering efforts. And yet, what Sara has achieved today is distinctive. Sara, under the tutelage of halakhic experts, has studied the established traditional texts that are required to become a religious leader, and based on her mastery of these texts, is assuming a full religious leadership position in a synagogue.

MaHaRa”T Sara is brilliantly qualified in mind, heart and soul to lead halakhically, spiritually, and as a teacher of Torah. I have seen firsthand over the past six years how MaHaRa”T Sara has dealt with difficult questions in halakha, questions that she can now answer independently. And I have seen how MaHaRa”T Sara’s counseling has touched the lives of those in need, and how her spiritual guidance has touched the souls of so many at prayer services, and during significant rites of passage ceremonies. And I have seen how MaHaRa”T Sara’s teaching has inspired hundreds of students. MaHaRa”T Sara carries herself with a rare combination of confidence coupled with humility. A readiness to listen, to learn, to grow. And so MaHaRa”T Sara, we bless you. We bless you with health, life and fulfillment… We bless you, as you rise and come forward to join me in officially becoming part of the religious leadership of Israel.”

A Struggle… to Force “Openness” on the “Closed”

Rabbi Joshua Maroof, Rabbi of the Magen David Sephardic Congregation in Rockville Maryland, and a rabbi who ostensibly wrote a “teshuvah” giving halachic legitimacy for the radical aberration in halachahh and Jewish tradition represented by Hurwitz’ appointment as MaHaRa”T, came all the way from Baltimore to participate in the ceremony. This is what he said there, “Today’s success represents a tremendous step forward to a new stage in a mighty struggle. And Sara Hurwitz’ emergence as a spiritual leader of profound wisdom and impeccable character marks the dawn of a new era in negotiating the challenges and obstacles that face us in that struggle.

“I say that we are engaged in a struggle, and that this is only a step, because we all know that the principle Sara represents is far from being well established in today’s Orthodox communities. Indeed, there are many among us - not in this room, but within Orthodoxy as a movement - who still cling to outmoded ideas and dogmatic notions about who is or is not qualified for Torah leadership. They are concerned with chromosomes rather than character and value anatomy over ability. They are skeptical of or opposed to what we are proclaiming here, and believe that gender identity is a more fundamental qualification for leadership than either Torah knowledge or observance. And the momentous events of today will do little, at least in the short run, to change their attitudes. So it is obvious that Sara Hurwitz’ accomplishment, the Kiddush Hashem she has orchestrated and which we all applaud, is still incomplete, and that the struggle to establish the principle of justice must go on.

“In fact, I firmly believe that our struggle cannot be deemed truly successful until the little girl attending a Gan in New York, and the young woman studying in a seminary in

Yerushalayim, and the housewife living in Bnei Brak, all know that the potential for

Torah leadership is within their grasp.

“But even that is not enough. No, we still won’t be finished, our task will not be completed and our mission will not be accomplished, until the little boy in Cheder in Bene Brak, and every rabbinical student in New York, and every man learning in kollel in Yerushalayim recognizes that his gender does not grant him a monopoly on our God’s Torah.

“Unfortunately, concern with the present state of affairs is not shared by enough of the leaders of the Orthodox community. Many of them will travel across the country or across the world to fight alleged injustice, but they remain indifferent to the injustices being perpetrated daily against fifty percent of the Jewish population, who are systematically denied equal access to the Torah, our most precious commodity.”

Women Should be Rabbis… but with a Different Title

In Hurwitz’s own remarks she said, “We live in a world today where women have reached and assumed significant positions of public leadership. It is no longer noteworthy to see a female head of a corporation or political office. Yet, when it comes to synagogue leadership, women are not yet in the foreground. However, in many ways, due to the vision of Rabbi Weiss, women have recently ascended into public roles in synagogues, assuming leadership positions. The mechitza of the HIR, of this bayit, ensures access to both men and women to ascend the bimah, making it viable for women, and me in particular, to address the congregation….”

Ms. Hurwitz goes on to say, “And so, it makes sense then, that my title is MaHaRa”T. As you have already heard it is an acronym for Manhiga Hilchatit, Ruchanit, Toranit. It is a word that incorporates the job of a rabbi, — a public leader, a halachik decisor, a pastoral counselor and spiritual guide, and Torah scholar. But, we have our work cut out for us. Although this new word, this title, may not seem to have the same connotation and weight of history as “rabbi”, we can change that. Over time the title Maharat will be reclaimed to have the meaning that the title rabbi now conveys. It is my hope that the women who are already in communal and spiritual leadership positions in shuls and schools will be given the distinction of this title. And it is my dream that young orthodox girls will be able to say: when I grow up, I want to be a Maharat, and serve in the capacity of a female orthodox rabbi…” 

Even the most cursory look at Hurwitz’ remarks show clearly that the entire convoluted title of Maharat is just a smoke screen. She said it as clearly as anyone could: “But, we have our work cut out for us. Although this new word, this title, may not seem to have the same connotation and weight of history as “rabbi”, we can change that. Over time the title Maharat will be reclaimed to have the meaning that the title rabbi now conveys…. It is my dream that young orthodox girls will be able to say: when I grow up, I want to be a Maharat, and serve in the capacity of a female orthodox rabbi…”

Maharat is Weiss’ superficial way of claiming to be within the realm of traditional halachah, while really flaunting it. Perhaps writer Jonathan Mark of the Jewish Week-not a fighter for traditional orthodoxy by any means-put it best when he said, “I’m having a hard time rooting for anyone who believes women should be rabbis but who won’t say it out loud, who wants to backdoor it, to fake it, by calling the woman not rabbi but Manhigah Hilkhatit Ruhanit Toranit, as if that will fool the traditionalists…”

In another article Mark wrote, “So hey, YCT, I’m going to give you a clue: If some of you aren’t getting hired by OU shuls, or not getting admitted to the RCA, it’s not because of Sara Hurwitz. So you might as well call her rabbi, if that’s what you really believe…”

Shooting the Arrow and then Painting the Bull’s Eye

Now let us analyze some of the remarks made by Rabbi Joshua Maroof, Rabbi of the Magen David Sephardic Congregation of Rockville Maryland. Rabbi Maroof along with Dr. Rabbi Daniel Sperber of Bar Ilan University, and Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, of Alon Shvut, wrote ostensibly halachic teshuvos that set out to enumerate the halachic legitimacy for Hurwitz’ appointment.

We do not even want to publicly analyze the actual teshuvos in these pages because that might give the appearance of granting them some degree of legitimacy. Suffice it to say that they are lightweight stuff, and any serious talmid chochom that has spent a few years really learning can easily see through the superficial scholarship and lack of elementary conformance with the rigorous analysis of the full body of halachic sources on the topic.

The “teshuvos” remind us of the famed words of the Dubno Magid. The Dubno Maggid was wont to explain the ideas in the Torah with parables. He had a parable for everything. The Maggid was once asked, “How are you able to come up with a parable for everything?” He replied, of course, with a parable.

“There was once a marksman whose arrow always found its way to the middle of the bulls-eye. He was asked, “How do you do it?” The marksman replied, “First I shoot the arrow into the tree and then I paint the bull’s-eye and target around it.”

“It’s the same with me,” said the Dubno Maggid.

With regard to the above mentioned Rabbis, even the most superficial analyses of their “teshuvos” show that they painted the teshuva around the answer that they decided to give, that their ideas of modern Western feminism and egalitarianism were what generated the sources and the final ruling. Needless to say, the halachic process requires any legitimate Rabbi to analyze the sources and derive the halachah from an impartial analysis of the sources without any regard for previously formulated personal opinion.

These particular rabbis are already involved in controversial women’s issues. Their positions on these matters have repeatedly been rejected by poskim from all streams. To use these “fringe rabbis” as the basis of weighty, precedential issues such as female semichah just shows how arrogant and uninterested in real halacha Weiss, Hurwitz et al, really are.

Female Leadership in Corporations = Female Leadership in Synagogues?

In truth, Hurwitz, in her own acceptance, said outright why she feels she deserves the position - it had nothing to do with halachahh or idealism, but rather with her understanding of feminism. “We live in a world today where women have reached and assumed significant positions of public leadership. It is no longer noteworthy to see a female head of a corporation or political office. Yet, when it comes to synagogue leadership, women are not yet in the foreground.”

So there you have it - because females head corporations they must head synagogues too. As if a synagogue is a corporation and therefore halachah must be reshaped to societal norms.

Rabbi Maroof’s remarks at Hurwitz’s installation leave no room for giving him the benefit of the doubt either.

He said, “There are many among us - not in this room, but within Orthodoxy as a movement - who still cling to outmoded ideas and dogmatic notions about who is or is not qualified for Torah leadership. They are concerned with chromosomes rather than character and value anatomy over ability. They are skeptical of or opposed to what we are proclaiming here, and believe that gender identity is a more fundamental qualification for leadership than either Torah knowledge or observance.”

So according to Maroof, Scores of poskim that include, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and yblct, Rav Elyashiv, are “Clinging to dogmatic ideas and dogmatic notions. They are concerned with chromosomes rather than character.” What he is saying is that our venerated poskim are anti-women. That their own rigorous adherence to the halachic process that brought them to the conclusion that halachah does not permit women to serve in positions such as Hurwitz and publically give sermons to men etc. is rooted in their discrimination against women. Afra L’pumei.

What is perhaps an even greater travesty on the part of Maroof and his ilk is his attack on the most basic Mesorah of Halachic Jewish life throughout the ages, which specify distinct and different roles for men and women. What Maroof, Weiss and the other left wing fringe elements in Modern Orthodoxy are doing are doing is perpetrating an open barreled attack on the Mesorah and the halachic system as practices throughout the ages. 

Maroof continues, “So it is obvious that Sara Hurwitz’ accomplishment, the Kiddush Hashem she has orchestrated and which we all applaud, is still incomplete, and that the struggle to establish the principle of justice must go on. In fact, I firmly believe that our struggle cannot be deemed truly successful until the little girl attending a Gan in New York, and the young woman studying in a seminary in Yerushalayim, and the housewife living in Bene Brak, all know that the potential for Torah leadership is within their grasp. But even that is not enough. No, we still won’t be finished, our task will not be completed and our mission will not be accomplished, until the little boy in Cheder in Bene Brak, and every rabbinical student in New York, and every man learning in kollel in Yerushalayim recognizes that his gender does not grant him a monopoly on our God’s Torah.”

Firstly, all of the poskim throughout the ages were guilty of “injustice” to women. He then tells us that the “struggle” must go on until every housewife in Bnei Brak and man learning in kollel in Yerushalyim will fall into lockstep with his ideas of modern feminism, and “Recogniz[e] that his gender does not grant him a monopoly on our God’s Torah.” Maroof is saying that throughout the ages, the great Rabbis and poskim ruled as they did because they want to grant men “A monopoly on our God’s Torah. 

The Bimah of HIR - For Jews or for Gospel?

In her remarks, Hurwitz also said, “The mechitzah of the HIR (Hebrew Institute of Riverdale), of this bayit, ensures access to both men and women to ascend the bimah, making it viable for women, and me in particular, to address the congregation….”

In another insight into the “openness” of “Open Orthodoxy” we find that the use of the bimah is not limited to women like Hurwitz or even Jews. In a report in the Riverdale Press we learn of a unique manifestation of openness in the way that the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, Rabbi Weiss’ shul where Hurwitz serves, celebrated this past year’s Martin Luther King Day.

“Members of the Green Pastures Baptist Church choir led a handclapping crowd in a gospel tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale on Monday night,” was the caption of the picture of a number of women holding microphones singing the gospel from the bimah of the synagogue, as the congregation looked on in adulation. I am sure that the women were flattered to sing the gospel at such an important venue. The question is, is it a testament to the “Openness” of open orthodoxy, when a Baptist choir is allowed into a shul to sing the gospel, or is it a sign that all vestiges of Orthodoxy have fallen out…?!

I hope this writer will be forgiven for sounding cynical but it seems that there is far more “openness” displayed from the bimah and pulpit of Rabbi Weiss’ shul for members of the Green Pastures Baptist Church than there is for the “housewife in Bnei Brak,” or “the man learning in kollel in Yerushalayim”!

Unorthodox Orthodoxy or Simply Not Orthodox?

This is the Orthodoxy and the Judaism that Open Orthodoxy and its affiliated educational institution, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT), desires to foist upon the Jewish Nation. When perusing YCT’s curriculum it is clear that they attach far more importance to present day fads of “social justice” then they do to fidelity to authentic Jewish learning, and halachah.

A glance at the YCT course schedule shows that the over a four year program there is only one year of required gemarah learning, which translates over the course of the program into an average of 67 minutes of Gemarah per day. Contrast that with the YU Mazur undergraduate program that requires 4.5 hours per day, or Lakewood type Yeshivos which require anything from 8-11 hours per day, and you have an idea of the paucity of true Torah knowledge that YCT graduates possess upon graduating. That in itself is the most ample proof that YCT has emasculated the position of Rabbi from a position where moral authority stems from depth of his scholarship and Torah knowledge, to a Rabbi that is a glorified Social Worker, whose moral authority is shaped by the particular modern progressive ideas of morality and social norms prevalent in the non-Jewish society in which we live.

This is perhaps why we continue to find so many serious breaches in the so called “scholarship” of YCT.

For example, YCT published a companion to Sefer Shmuel in which one contributor posits that our version of Sefer Shmuel is corrupt. He bases his opinion on a study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Obviously this is outright kefirah.

An article devoted to open orthodoxy would not be complete without bringing in the latest excesses of YCT ordained graduate, Rabbi Darren Kleinberg. Kleinberg has once even been publically censured by Avi Weiss for participating in a joint conversion with Reform and Conservative Rabbis. Nevertheless, to the best of our knowledge, his semicha has never been revoked or questioned.

In an article published in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, Kleinberg writes his feelings upon attending a “warrior initiation” ceremony of a young man about to join his elders as a bar mitzvah. You couldn’t make up this stuff if you tried, so we will just quote from Kleinberg’s words and let them speak for themselves.

“The ritual we shared began with a Native American prayer-chant accompanied by the rhythmic beating of a drum. The song, although in a foreign language, directed my senses to what was to follow.

“Following the chant, 12 men and two not-yet-men (the bar mitzvah boy was accompanied by his younger cousin) got onto their hands and knees and crawled, one after the other, into the cramped hut. The diameter of the hut was no more than 15 feet and was no greater than five feet at its highest point. Just as the Mishna describes how the courtyard of the Temple expanded, as it were, on Yom Kippur to allow for the people to bow down during the service, so too, as the ritual continued and the intensity grew, it seemed as if the hut was expanding around us….

“For the next two or more hours, I participated in one of the most moving and meaningful rite-of-passage ceremonies I have ever experienced. Once inside, the doorway closed, enveloping us in darkness, the smell of herbs rose from the pit in the center and the temperature increased. Each of us shared with the bar mitzvah some insight from our own journeys in life and offered with it a blessing…

“As well as prayers and blessings for our “warrior,” we also offered prayers for loved ones in need of healing and for a world in need of fixing. And with the passing of each of the four rounds, we concluded with a traditional Hebrew song, or a Native American chant or a good, old bluegrass sing-a-long.

“By day’s end, after the sun had dropped below the horizon - appropriately drawing our attention to times of transition and transformation - we crawled back out of that hut not only cleansed, but also spiritually replenished by our experiences with each other and by the knowledge that we had appropriately prepared our young “warrior” for the day he would be called to the Torah and join his tribe alongside his elders.”

Kleinberg is a person that Rabbi Avi Weiss, lauded as, “brilliant in Tanach and Oral Law,’ ‘best of the best [of YCT graduates],’ and a ‘pastoral genius.’” 

 ”Mi L’Hashem Eilai?”

Reading all of the above material leaves us with very mixed feelings - feelings of surprise, indignation and affront, but perhaps most of all feelings of sadness and sorrow. Sadness and sorrow that our fellow Jews have resorted to filling their neshamos that are so thirsting for spiritual succor with such drivel that passes for the ersatz spirituality of today. 

Perhaps the time has therefore come for institutions such as RIETS, OU and the RCA to actually come out and declare YCT and “Open Orthodoxy” a movement beyond the pale of Orthodoxy, a halachically and hashkafically illegitimate representative of Orthodoxy that cannot take advantage of membership in their affiliated shuls or battei din

Yes, we know such a move would anger many supporters and make things uncomfortable for some of these institutions. Nevertheless, there are times when principle must trump organizational, financial and political considerations.

In the weekly parsha we recently learned how Moshe Rabbeinu, the humblest of men, understood that when there are those that contest the very principles of Judaism it is time to say, “Suru na me’al oholei ha’anashim hareshaim ha’eileh-Turn away now from the tents of these wicked  men…”

Eliyahu Hanavi told the nation, “Ad masi atem poschim al shtei se’ifim-How long will you dance between two opinions? If Hashem is G-d - go after Him and if the Baal is - go after it!”

Make no mistake about it, the question here is not one of fine print in Sheailah and Teshuvah seforim but rather it is a question of whether you are going to affiliate yourself with Hashem or Baal. Are you affiliated with Hashem or the 21st Century Baal that desires to make a forbidden and toxic Kelaim mixture that combines a smattering of Torah with the notions Western Liberalism, Feminism and Egalitarianism?

We are certain that the vast majority of Rabbis in the above mentioned three organizations understand that “Open Orthodoxy” and its institutions can unequivocally be categorized as affiliated with “Baal”.

Now is not the time to be quiet anymore. Open Orthodoxy and YCT are not going away.

Come out, say it and confine and relegate them to their rightful place together with Conservative, Reform and other non-Halachic and anti-halachic denominations.

{The quoted portions of the article originally appeared in Yated Ne’eman, July 10, 2009}

{Matzav.com Newscenter}

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47 Responses to “Yated Blasts Chovevei Torah for Ordination of Female Rabbi, Calls on YU, RCA & OU to Denounce ‘Open Orthodoxy’”

1. Comment from Pinny fan
Time July 13, 2009 at 2:38 PM

The Yated is dead on. One question: Why did Pinny hide behind a pen name?

2. Comment from lemonhead
Time July 13, 2009 at 2:46 PM

To Yated: Rav Shach would be proud of you. Keep it up.

3. Comment from shemen
Time July 13, 2009 at 2:51 PM

Brilliant article.

Pinny fan, why do you think Rabbi Lipschutz wrote the article?
mayb e Chaim Bashevkin did.

4. Comment from Shuey
Time July 13, 2009 at 2:51 PM

I agree with this letter. But I think they can right a letter saying how we are not orthodox. And thell have legitimate points. We practice stuff hashem would frown apon. like nepatism in yeshivas. intolerant dress code. and the learning gap in shidduchim.

5. Comment from A-Rod
Time July 13, 2009 at 2:55 PM

avi weiss is an old problem. why are we even giving him the time of day

6. Comment from AL Kedar
Time July 13, 2009 at 2:56 PM

So the terrorist really did succeed in bombing a riverdale shul

7. Comment from american citizen
Time July 13, 2009 at 3:26 PM

Will the organizations of OU, YU and others put R. Avi in his place PROBABLY AS QUICKLY as the Agudah, Yated, Hamodia, put the Shabbos protesters who threw rocks and garbage in the face of others in their place?

8. Comment from chemed
Time July 13, 2009 at 3:38 PM

american zitizen, the YATED defended the shabbos protestors!!! the onjly one to defend the kavoid of shabbos! everyone else threw them to the wolves.

9. Comment from Scarsdale Jew
Time July 13, 2009 at 3:50 PM

Why should the OU, RCA, and YU be automatically responsible for YCT? YCT isn’t accepted by them. (YCT also dislikes them since their alumni find it hard to get jobs when they compete against YU Musmachim.)

YCT is a problem for us all. The Yated should be commended for their article.

10. Comment from SolomonA
Time July 13, 2009 at 4:10 PM

American Citizen.

I can not understand your post.
Do your words mean to equate the protesters of Chilul Shabbos, to R. Avi Weiss and Yeshiva Chovevei Torah.
While we may be pained and dismayed by the “actions” of many protesters, nevertheless the cause they stand for and the cause they fight for, are Mizvos Hashem, Kedushas Shabbos.
On the other hand, the actions of R. Avi Weiss and Yeshivas Chovevei Torah, at times seem noble, but their cause is one of reforming orthodox Jewry, reforming established orthodox practice and defiance of the Torah and Halacha.

Such equations and comments are unfitting and distastful.

11. Comment from Gabe
Time July 13, 2009 at 5:49 PM

Why won’t the Yated talk about “same gender marraige”, R”L?!

12. Comment from egg
Time July 13, 2009 at 6:43 PM

matzav is the yated

13. Comment from Reb YId
Time July 13, 2009 at 9:35 PM

All 67 minutes are used to search a Tanna or Amorah who was a woman.

14. Comment from midwesterner
Time July 13, 2009 at 10:10 PM

The Yated takes upon a lot of kovod HaTorah issues which other publications shy away from. Kol hakovod to them. And to Shuey, why bring in other issues now? Pray tell, how do you know Hashem would frown upon someone’s perception of a learning gap or intolerant dress code? Hashem also frowns upon people who are intolerant of those who stand up for the truth.

15. Comment from whyohwhy
Time July 13, 2009 at 10:24 PM

And today women are serving in leadership roles in Orthodox congregations in Chicago and New York.
in chicago? where? i have not heard about this.

16. Comment from american citizen
Time July 13, 2009 at 10:51 PM

Att: Solomon
No equation bt Kedushas Shabbos (in the proper manner) and the new innovations of YCT.
The equation was in how quick to the gun organizations are in condemning actions that besmirch the name of gd.

17. Comment from Rabbi Joshua Maroof
Time July 14, 2009 at 12:58 AM

Dear Editors,

The July 10th issue of Yated Ne’eman contained an article by Yisroel Lichter on the subject of “Open Orthodoxy” and women’s ordination in which my views, affiliations and public statements were completely and shockingly misrepresented. I was deeply pained by the fact that these false and inflammatory rumors about me were disseminated in Yated Ne’eman, a newspaper avidly read and respected by my rabbaim, my chaverim and myself. I thank you in advance for allowing me this opportunity to correct the misunderstandings and distortions that were conveyed in that article. I hope that, for the sake of honesty and fairness, my response will be printed in the Yated in an unedited and uncensored form.

Throughout his article, Mr. Lichter portrayed me as a radical member of the “Open Orthodox” movement, referring to me as a “left-wing fringe element” no different than a Conservative or Reform rabbi. The reality is that I have absolutely no connection whatsoever to Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and I categorically reject “Open Orthodox” ideology.

I exclusively identify myself with the Center-Right/Yeshivish segment of Orthodox Judaism. Indeed, the speech I delivered at Sara Hurwitz’s ceremony - from which select quotes were reproduced and maligned by Mr. Lichter – I mentioned twice that “I hail from the right wing of Orthodoxy”. This particular phrase was unfortunately omitted from the Yated article; however, my affiliation is well known to those who have had personal contact with me, including many representatives of Open Orthodoxy, who would be surprised to learn that I am being labeled a left-wing radical by the press.

If I were a left-wing fringe rabbi, then being condemned in Yated Ne’eman would not matter to me. The reason I am so deeply upset about the unfairness of your article – an article that asserted, in black and white, that I am not even entitled to the benefit of the doubt – is because I am very far from being a leftist. I feel as if I have been dragged through the mud in full view of my own community without so much as a chance to respond to the allegations being made against me.

Mr. Lichter claimed that I have a history of advocating controversial positions on women’s issues and that, therefore, I lack credibility. While I cannot speak for the other rabbis who were criticized in this vein in the article – I am unfamiliar with their backgrounds in this respect – I can say that this is patently false with regard to me. The only area in which I have promoted the cause of women in particular has been the area of Torah study, and the only public pronouncements I have made about this subject are the ones referenced in your article. I have neither adopted nor espoused any radical or controversial halakhic positions on this or any related topic. I have never been involved in or associated with any organizations, projects or activities devoted to the advancement of a liberal agenda.

My perspective on women’s issues was misrepresented in your paper and many of my statements were taken out of context. The author of the article implied that I dismissed great Torah luminaries as “dogmatic” or “anti-women” because of their opposition to the notion of women holding positions of communal leadership. However, in my written teshuva, which the Yated regrettably refused to publish but which is readily available online, I explicitly cited and affirmed the Rambam’s view that serara (political leadership) is prohibited to women. Of the three teshuvot utilized by Rabbi Weiss to support his initiative, mine was the only responsum to do this; sadly, this very significant distinction was overlooked by Mr. Lichter. Anyone who examines my words carefully will see that my premises, arguments and conclusions are fully consistent with the rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein Z”L, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Z”L, and other gedolei Torah.

All of my comments regarding expanding the range of leadership opportunities for women were made exclusively with reference to the study and teaching of Torah, and had nothing to do with women’s ordination or their employment in synagogues. In this regard, the thoughts I expressed find broad support in the writings of many Torah giants, including but not limited to the Tosfot in Masekhet Nidda, the Sefer Ha-Hinukh, the Hida in Birke Yosef, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik Z”L, Rabbi Ben-Tsion Meir Hai Uziel Z”L, the Lubavitcher Rebbe Z”L, and former Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel Rishon Letsion Rav Mordechai Eliyahu.Granted, there may be differences of opinion on some aspects of this issue, but my position is a far cry from heresy.

Surely Miriam, Devorah and Hulda were well-versed in every area of Torah and halakha and provided instruction and guidance to Am Yisrael in their time. All of these women must have received a thorough education in Torah Shebichtav and Torah Shebal Peh and were certainly counted among the premiere Torah authorities of their age. Beruriah, the wife of Rabbi Meir, Chava, the grandmother of the Chavot Yair, and Rebbetzin Bayla, the wife of the Derisha, were similarly recognized and praised for their outstanding erudition. Is this not sufficient precedent for the notion that an inspired woman can achieve great heights in Torah scholarship and can serve as a role model and teacher for her people – provided, of course, that the halakhic principles of modesty and propriety, as well as restrictions on serarah, are observed?

While I realize that, without the benefit of context, some of my remarks could have been misinterpreted by the casual reader, they were not intended to have any radical or, chas veshalom, disrespectful implications. I was speaking in an impassioned manner of the value of Torah learning and my hope that its beauty be made available to a wider audience – men and women - across all segments of Orthodoxy. Moreover, I expressed my wish that scholarly women – again, both Modern Orthodox and Charedi - who excel in the study of Torah be granted the opportunity to teach and inspire other Jews rather than being disenfranchised or having their accomplishments discounted because of their gender.

Let me clarify that the criticisms contained in my speech were directed at people who - because of bias or preconceived notions - try to prevent G-d fearing women from learning and contributing to communal leadership even in halakhically permissible ways. My point was to condemn those who oppose women’s involvement in Torah study regardless of its halakhic legitimacy. Contrary to the accusations of Mr. Lichter, I did not intend to cast aspersions – chas veshalom - on individuals whose reservations and objections are firmly rooted in halakha and based purely on Shas and Shulchan Aruch, such as the great poskim of the past and present.

My participation in Sara Hurwitz’s ceremony was motivated by my desire to acknowledge her significant attainments in Torah study and to celebrate the fact that women with Torah knowledge can have a positive and lasting impact on the spiritual growth of our communities, provided that they operate within the framework of halakha. If my presence at that event was misconstrued as a tacit endorsement of Open Orthodoxy, its institutions or its peculiar interpretations of Jewish law, then I am profoundly regretful of my decision to attend.

I thank you again for allowing me to provide this clarification of my ideological affiliations, halakhic opinions and actions for the benefit of the Yated readership..

Sincerely Yours,

Rabbi Joshua Maroof
Rockville, Maryland

18. Comment from Abe
Time July 14, 2009 at 1:16 AM

Shalom to all!
My only problem with the article is in the way that the teshuvos of Rav Sperber and Rav Bin-Nun were written off. In a serious Torah environment, teshuvos need to be analyzed and dissected. They need to be approached objectively, even if we feel that they were not written objectively. We must not succumb to the same errors that we feel others may have made; k’vod hatorah demands more of us. It is my firm belief that if they made errors in their teshuvos, and these errors are pointed out to them, they will make amends and correct the mistakes. (And if I am mistaken in this, then so be it, for we live in a time that we need to increase ahavas yisrael.) And if no errors were made, then perhaps we should be open to learning something new - even if a certain practice may not suit us. What are we scared of? This is the way of Torah as it has been handed down to us since the days of Moshe at Sinai.

19. Comment from Shlomo Zalman
Time July 14, 2009 at 5:08 AM

Rabbi Maroof wrote a spirited article in his own defense. Unfortunately, it will fall on deaf ears. Rabbi Maloof, you are learning the rules of the game the hard way. Yated has written you off, end of discussion. The “Dons of the Families” as we say in Hebrew , “Lo sofrim otcha”.
May God give you strength.

20. Comment from sam
Time July 14, 2009 at 6:06 AM

I think its ridiculous that the author talks about torah as if there is a single daas torah and that there are no shivim panim.

They burnt the Ramabam’s books when he published them too.

The fact that Rav Moshe Feinstein had a specific psak does not mean that no one can disagree.

sam in virginia

21. Comment from Anonymous
Time July 14, 2009 at 7:11 AM

Rabbi Maroof,
How naïve are you, and how naïve do you think the Olam Hatorah is?
The biggest context of your speech is its location. You gave chizuk to a woman and organization that are celebrating what they hope will be the beginning of the downfall of Traditional Orthodox values!
Need I say more.
A Fellow Rabbi.

22. Comment from LEADERS OF kLAL
Time July 14, 2009 at 9:02 AM

Nobody is addressing the real issue. The fact is that we have always had women as leaders. Devorah Haniviah was a known leader and people constantly came to her for advice and guidance. Childoh Hanvia was the famous Neviah who was second only to Yermia Hanavi. Today, it somehow became the in thing, to be more frum than all out ancestors.

23. Comment from tzippi
Time July 14, 2009 at 9:40 AM

Rabbi Maroof, thanks for joining the discussion. I look forward to your article in the Yated. I hope it answers the questions your response here raises, mainly, if you didn’t agree with the psuedo-smicha, what were you doing there? Didn’t you realize that your presence implied complete acquiescence?

You mention that Yated omitted your self-references to being more right-wing. That’s a sin of omission. Were there any sins of commission, i.e. were there any particular quotes that attributed you to that were misquoted or twisted?

Regrettably, the tone of the gathering was that until now, all the great leaders, from earliest times down through some of the greatest leaders from the heart such as Rav Yaakov, Rav Moshe, Rav Pam, Rav Henoch Liebowitz, Rav Simcha Wasserman, yibadel l’chaim Rav Grossman of Migdal Ha’Emek (I could include so many more; I stop here and only mention that anyone who reads about their lives will be moved and changed) were sadly mistaken and misguided, if not downright vicious and determined to keep that ceiling impassible for women. Ma she’ain kain the great and enlightened Rav and YCT rosh yeshiva, who has a psuedo-mechitza and would never, never, never let women do anything they wanted.

I hate polarization. I come from long time American stock where we could fully join in with anyone who was shomer Shabbos, and look at those who weren’t with compassion because we understood what nisyonos were faced in the first half of the 20th century. This is how I was raised and would love to look at the world. But there is something very dangerous going on, and while if I were editing the Yated I might do things differently on occasion, let’s just say, kudos to Yated for the YCT exposes.

24. Comment from SolomonA
Time July 14, 2009 at 9:58 AM

Rabbi Maroof

Thank you for your letter to the editor.

I accept what you write in your letter, agreeing that you are generally in the center/right Torah community. However, it is precisely for that reason that your presence at Ms Hurwitz’ ceremony is questioned, and criticized.
Furthermore, your choice of words, and the tone of your speech was totally in opposite of what you generally stand for. It exhibited a complete change of your previous ideas and opinions.
Therefore, even if Mr Lichter, omitted some of your remarks, and did not mention some of your previously published opinions, it does not diminsh his correct understanding of your actions. It is, unfortunatly, you yourself, who, by virtue of your presence, speech, choice of words and tone of voice has negated and cancelled your previously held opinions and beliefs.
Rabbi Maroof, I also regret your presence at that ceremony, and it would serve you better, if you would come out with a public policy statement clearly disassociating yourself from Chovevei and its drive to produce “Orthodox Women Rabbis”
I do wish you Hazlocho and that you succesfully teach Torah and Mizvot to your followers.

25. Comment from Scarsdale Jew
Time July 14, 2009 at 11:01 AM

In all fairness to both sides could someone post Rabbi Joshua Maroof “Teshuvah.”

26. Comment from Confused
Time July 14, 2009 at 11:47 AM

http://rjmaroof.googlepages.com/womenhoraah.pdf

27. Comment from Confused
Time July 14, 2009 at 11:59 AM

See also

http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com/2009/07/my-response-to-yated-neeman.html

and comments there

28. Comment from LookingForEmes
Time July 14, 2009 at 12:06 PM

Rabbi Maroof

I see on your shul’s website

http://www.mdscbe.org/rabbimaroof.html

that you are a musmach of Rabbi Yisrael Chait(Rosh yeshiva of Bnei Torah in Far Rockaway). I am curious what your Rosh Yeshiva has to say about your participation. What would he have done? Is that of any concern to you?

29. Comment from yossi24
Time July 14, 2009 at 12:15 PM

Following is quote from JTA article of March 3, 2009. I guess they also are guilty of quoting out of context.

Joshua Maroof, a Maryland rabbi and one of Hurwitz’s teachers, says he is religiously right of center and describes himself as sitting opposite an “ideological gulf” from Weiss, who has staked out liberal positions on a number of hot-button issues. Maroof says, however, that not only would he support Hurwitz’s ordination as a rabbi, but so would many Orthodox rabbis, who he notes privately recognize there is no legal problem with a woman assuming the title.

In contemporary times, rabbi denotes a teacher and legal decisor, Maroof says, not an officiant at religious functions.

“Most Orthodox rabbis are aware that there’s no prohibition on woman rabbis,” Maroof told JTA. “I think there are many Orthodox rabbis who think this would be a great thing, and they’re hoping that somebody else would have the courage to do it, as long as it’s not them.”

30. Comment from Truth be told
Time July 14, 2009 at 12:16 PM

The YATED has never in all the years of publication brought to the open two point of TORAH VIEW. I am specifically focusing on last years discussion of “Shmittah’, never once was the halachic analysis, discussion and psak of the Kovno Rav in allowing certain kulos in SHmittah seriously to be considered. The psak of Rav Kook was based on the Kovno Rav’s decision.

Letters to Editor are edited & changed to fit a POV of the paper. Please be aware that this is the modus operates of almost all publications.

31. Comment from Shuey
Time July 14, 2009 at 1:59 PM

To midwestener. I was in an out of town city for shabbos and the rav was a chovivei guy. I have to say that while they may be less makpid on halacha. I have to say that we create/make up halachas that destroy our society.I dont know which one hashem dislikes more. Black hats. Ask any talmid chacham if its a real halacha. etc. WEAR IT. but dont look down at someone who doesnt. its a completely bogus halacha. doesnt apply. I know someone who learned for thirty years, is great with kids, and would actually help kids in yeshiva instead of turning them off. But no, he cant get a job because he is not a son/son in law. and im not even getting started with the learning gap. I cant afford the lachatz.

32. Comment from Milhouse
Time July 14, 2009 at 2:40 PM

Yossi24, what is your objection to that quote?

33. Comment from agudish
Time July 14, 2009 at 2:50 PM

What about Agudah Why doesnt Agudah say something too? Why should they get to keep quiet? lets hear their condemnation too!

34. Comment from Missing Something
Time July 14, 2009 at 4:45 PM

I guess it’s buried in the article somewhere, but I can’t find the info on when YCT actually gave a woman semicha. she doesn’t appear in the photo of the Semicha Class, and the document shown was not semicha, nor was it given by YCT (from what I can tell).

You can call a horse a cow as much as you want, but it still remains a horse. Maharat does not equal rabbi. Stop feeling so threatened by the concept.

35. Comment from Rachel R
Time July 14, 2009 at 5:19 PM

Is this an article or a Ph.D. thesis? Will someone please edit it down a reasonable length, with all the points clearly made and no rhetorical “fillers.” Also no venom, please.

There are some real issues here, and they should be addressed with seriousness and respect. For instance, is it forbidden, inadvisable, permissible with adjustments, or simply OK for a woman to give a sermon to a mixed audience? Does it matter if it’s a “speech” or a “class” and whether it’s given in shul or not?

Is the issue whether women can answer halachic questions (as many rebbitzens do all the time) or that she is given an official certificate from somebody about it?

In terms of tolerance and open-mindedness, can the author state clearly and briefly exactly what are the points of halacha, without indulging in snark-type remarks?

Yes, the times are changing, but our responses have to be in line with Torah - not hetarim and not chumros - and certainly not with personal machlokes-style “attitude.”

36. Comment from midwesterner
Time July 14, 2009 at 5:46 PM

To Shuey, I see you and I are on our own discussion. I don’t have to ask a Talmid Chochom since the answer is that NO one said that Black Hat is halacha- it’s more of a statement about a way of life. You obviously have sour grapes about yeshivish people so nothing I say will change your attitude. I wish it were different. We are very open-minded people and are friendly to all types. It seems that you might be creating the rift by lumping us all together.
And if someone is great with kids and can’t get a job at a specific institution, even in the business world, most people can’t good jobs unless they are related to the boss. The boss built up the business so he wants to hire his cronies and relatives- it’s not just in yeshivos.
May Hashem help you realize that there are many special friendly ‘black hat’ Jews who would do anything to help a fellow Yid. If you keep an open mind you may come to realization soon- especially when it’s in the 3 weeks and we have to rectify the sinas chinam which destroyed the beis Hamikdash.

37. Comment from tzippi
Time July 14, 2009 at 7:24 PM

Rachel R, my problem is that this really seems to be agenda-driven, not so much that this woman is really bright, wants to learn, can - there are some round holes who are carving out their own round pegs as the square ones don’t work - but rejoicing that the glass ceiling’s been broken. Not sure who the real Rabbi Maroof is. His quotes, as quoted in Yated, are quite provocative, to say the least.

38. Comment from Shades of Gray
Time July 14, 2009 at 8:13 PM

I am not sure why the Yated needs to write about this.

This is a problem within Modern Orthodoxy, whose members generally do not read the Yated. The Yated, instead, should submit the same criticism to online sources(eg, Matzav, Hirhurim, or Cross Currents), which will then spread it online, and it will be seen by those who need to read it.

What is relevant to the Yated, whose readership is Charedi, are problems within the Charedi community, which perhaps should be spoken about publicly and more forcefully.

For example, to quote Rabbi Yaakov Horowitz in “They Do Not Represent Us” on incidents such as zealotry in Beit Shemesh and elsewhere in Eretz Yisrael:

” Charedi publications should report this incident in the news sections of their papers and condemn them in their editorials. Additionally, we should treat these thugs like the ‘rodfim’ that they are and do our best to see that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. ”

http://www.rabbihorowitz.com/PYes/ArticleDetails.cfm?Book_ID=904&ThisGroup_ID=262&Type=Article

39. Comment from Mike S
Time July 14, 2009 at 8:19 PM

Chovevei Torah did not give Ms. Hurwitz any title whatsoever; that was R. Weiss acting outside the institution. It is thus completely disingenuous to demand that others attack Chovevei Torah over the matter.

40. Comment from Herr und Mijnheer Adolf Röjnl Hæglein von Märsk van Truije
Time July 14, 2009 at 9:04 PM

chemed and SolomonA:

The Yated is condoning behavior that is the epitome of chillul haShem!

41. Comment from emes
Time July 14, 2009 at 9:35 PM

yct had nothing to do with this and you know it the bochruim were against it not makip on halacha you say the same thing about riets bthw in riets they learn more then 5 hrs talmud not bust buying there wifes shatels

42. Comment from Rabbi Joshua Maroof
Time July 14, 2009 at 11:38 PM

I have responded to many of the issues raised here on the comment thread of my blog, http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com. I encourage you to visit it to find responses to some of the legitimate questions raised in this forum.

43. Comment from Dikduk
Time July 15, 2009 at 3:30 PM

Can you really take a Jewish paper seriously that can’t speak Hebrew and has a grammatical error in its very name? (See Devarim 23:14)

44. Comment from Dikduk II
Time July 20, 2009 at 4:38 PM

Dikduk — you are quick to criticize the Yated’s title due to grammatical considerations; however, their title can be understood in a way which is absolutely grammatically correct. Instead of reading “Yated” with a kammatz, read it with a pattach. Thus, it would be an instance of semikhut — “Yated shel Ne’eman” — “the peg/stake of the faithful.” (My comment has to do with grammar alone, not with the substance of the article and issue at hand).

45. Comment from Dikduk
Time July 23, 2009 at 7:41 AM

Dikduk II — fair point — though in that case if it were “of the faithful” — it would be yated haneeman, or even haneemanim pluralized. read as semikhut with a patach as you suggest would make it the stake of a faithful (person) — possible — but I think they more likely if they intended semikhut it should have the definite article.

46. Comment from RA
Time February 24, 2010 at 11:08 PM

Teh article mentioned the 1 year of gemorah but did not explain what was done with the rest of their time spent at YCT - instead calling it glorified social work school. What your readers may not realize is that YCT students spend a year on shabbos, a year on kashrut, and a year on niddah - rishonim through Rav Moshe and Rav Ovadia. Yes they learn Gemorah all day but can they answer halachic questions with any more depth than the basic Mishnah Berurah answer?

47. Comment from RA
Time February 25, 2010 at 7:13 PM

I now know that dialogue is impossible if comments are truncated and rearranged to create new meaning. The final question on my previous post was not about YCT students but about those you keep comparing their level of learning to - YU students and Lakewood Students - they are the ones who learn gemorah all day but only learn halachah in brief format from Mishnah Berurah. I now know i should treat all other posts on this site from now on - who knows what the moderator does to the original posts

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