By Avrohom Gordimer
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, president of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) – the flagship seminary of Open Orthodoxy – explained this unexpected name change:
“We want to focus on the important work we are doing in the Orthodox community and beyond … rather than focus on a label that … has become a distraction.”
When public figures speak about issues “becoming a distraction”, it usually means that they are engaging in damage control. And this is no different.
For the past two decades, Open Orthodoxy has introduced and embraced countless hair-raising innovations, such that each new innovation further evidenced the fact that this movement was not Orthodox by any stretch. As one commenter remarked, “It reminds me of an open marriage”. Orthodoxy, whose definition signifies strict adherence to tradition, cannot be paired with progressive secular values and practices. An Orthodoxy which is open to incorporation with that which is antithetical to its essence ceases to be Orthodoxy.
A mere perusal of Rabbi David Rosethal’s book on the subject leaves no doubt about the non-Orthodox character and trajectory of Open Orthodoxy. The broader Orthodox community is well aware of the problems, and has largely responded by shunning Open Orthodoxy. Hence the need for Open Orthodoxy to change its name, in a quest to shed its negative image.
But now that Open Orthodoxy is rebranding itself and clearly seeks to identify with a more mainstream label, we must ask what this means:
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer ordain female rabbis? The most preeminent halachic authorities of the generation forbid the ordination of women as rabbis, but will Open Orthodoxy now heed the ruling of these Torah sages?
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer support “partnership minyanim” (prayer groups led in part by women and in part by men), including women officiating at shofar blowing in the cornerstone synagogue of Open Orthodoxy?
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer promote the legalization of gay marriage?
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer encourage the deletion of some of the morning blessings and their replacement with a pluralistic alternative?
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer introduce and advocate for modifications to conversion procedures?
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer ordain and include in its leadership ranks people who deny the historicity of the Torah and its Sinaitic origin? (Hyperlinks intentionally omitted.)
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer engage in prohibited interfaith activities and issue interfaith statements that contravene halachic precedent?
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer feature clergy who sanction intermarriage?
- Will Open Orthodoxy no longer pursue a nontraditional approach to halachic adjudication?
The obvious answer to all of the above is No. These and numerous other controversial practices manifest what makes Open Orthodoxy unique, as Torah and secular progressive values are melded into a concoction that begets all types of deviant and radical outcomes. When the Torah is filtered through the unholy mesh of secular progressive values, and one identifies with those values, the result is something quite at odds with the Torah.
One commenter who read several halachic responsa of senior Open Orthodox leaders remarked that, “It reads as if the goal is see how much they can get away with.” It is sad, but when outside values dictate one’s approach to Judaism, this is the impression that is created.
On the verse of “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Devarim 6:5), Rashi cites the interpretation of the Sifri: “’With all your heart’ – (implying) that your heart not be in disagreement with God.” This means that one must espouse and embrace the Torah’s values. It is not enough to be in technical compliance with Halacha; one must love and cherish the attitudes and positions of the Torah as God presented them.
We conclude with the timeless words of Rav Yosef Dov Ha-Levi Soloveitchik zt”l of RIETS regarding Torah values in contemporary society:
“We must not yield – I mean emotionally, it is very important – we must not feel inferior, experience or develop an inferiority complex, and because of that complex yield to the charm – usually it is a transient and passing charm – of modern political and ideological sevoros (rationales). I say not only not to compromise – certainly not to compromise – but even not to yield emotionally, not to feel inferior, not to experience an inferiority complex. The thought should never occur that it is important to cooperate just a little bit with the modern trend or with the secular modern philosophy. In my opinion, Yahadus (Judaism) does not have to apologize … to the modern woman … There is no need for apology – we should have pride in our Masorah, in our heritage. And of course certainly it goes without saying that one must not try to compromise with these cultural trends and one must not try to gear the halachic norm to the transient ways of a neurotic society, which is what our society is.”
This is the authentic Torah/Orthodox approach, my friends. It is unfortunate that the Rav’s words are so foreign and removed from the ideology of Open Orthodoxy, by whatever name it goes.
This article originally appeared on Arutz Sheva.