Yet More Morethodoxy?

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siddurBy Avrohom Gordimer

Last week, Cross-Currents featured an essay by guest contributor Rav Dov Fischer about the recent Morethodoxy articles which called for deletion of the morning berachah “She-lo asani isha.”

Morethodoxy has continued on this route, posting yet another article on the topic:

The final paragraph of this latest Morethodoxy article, which is the article’s punch line, raises great concern:

Even if we adults feel comfortable with the matbe’a of “shelo asani isha”, clearly, our children perceive an undercurrent of male superiority in this bracha. Whether we choose “she’asani yisrael” or some other solution (I have been saying “she’asani isha” for years, because I am truly grateful for being female and because there is liturgical precedent for it), we must recognize that the negative messaging is getting through. Even if our girls and boys absorb negative gender stereotypes from our surrounding culture, I would not want them to perceive them from within our holy tradition.

The article, without invoking any halachic reasoning (other than an unfounded claim of liturgical precedent for reciting “she-asani ishah”), preaches abrogation of the current text in Birkhos Ha-Shachar in favor of a different text, for the current text creates “negative messaging” and “negative gender stereotypes”.

The author of this article seems to place herself above Chazal in terms of deciding the appropriateness of the messages that our liturgy sends to the youth. This greatly troubles me, and I am confident that many others within Orthodoxy, from all stripes, share this troubled feeling.

Again, the author of the article invokes no specific halachic justification for her campaign to emend Birkhos Ha-Shachar; the negative messaging and negative stereotypes which this liturgy allegedly engenders apparently suffice to do away with it and come up with a nusach that Chazal and later halachic authorities did not recognize or accept. This seems quite dangerous.

When pressed with, “You mean that we can just do away with Halacha because we are not comfortable with it?”, the author will likely resort to the novel and quite unbelievable argument offered in the earlier Morethodoxy article for this innovation: the halachic trick to intentionally exempt oneself from the “she-lo asani” berachos by reciting “she-asani Yisrael” as the second morning berachah (which the Bach, Taz, Magen Avraham, Mishnah Berurah and all poskim explain as an invalid approach) – and she will say that, of course, this is what she meant all along and would never change Halacha solely because she does not feel comfortable with it. However, even if the author really did have in mind the dubious utilization of the above halachic “trick”, the principle here is that of changing Halacha when it does not comport with our modern Western social values, and the way to get around the Halacha or to change it without outright voiding it is a mere technicality; conformity with Western social values determines Halacha, so long as we can rig it on a technical level. (This reminds me of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s (of RIETS) homiletic explanation of “Kavata ittim l’Torah?” – “Did you make the times comport with the Torah, or did you make the Torah comport with the times?”)

But why return to this general issue, after Rav Fischer already gave it a lengthy treatment?

The first answer is because Morethodoxy is pushing the issue quite aggressively. This is the third Morethodoxy article in a week about this topic (the first Morethodoxy article was issued in two versions, with the second version, written in a gentler tone and including the above halachic artifice, replacing the retracted first version), and there appears for some reason to be a campaign to push this issue to the max and give it major public airing. (See here and here , also posted in the last two weeks, where other Open Orthodox leaders add various levels of support to the Morethodoxy articles. This equals five (minus one retracted) articles in the past two weeks on this agenda topic of Open Orthodoxy.)

However, more fundamentally, is the realization that these Morethodoxy articles and the momentum to modify our liturgy in order to match contemporary Western social values is not a campaign of one or two individuals. Morethodoxy is the internet mouthpiece of the greatest spokespeople of Open Orthodoxy.

Morethodoxy’s roster and its writers consist almost exclusively of members of the advisory board and leadership of YCT/Yeshivat Maharat, as well as of the officers and committee members of the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), co-founded by YCT and Yeshivat Maharat dean Rabbi Avi Weiss and populated by YCT-affiliated rabbis. This collection of the leaders of Open Orthodoxy, all aligned with the same institutions and organization (YCT/Yeshivat Maharat and IRF), is what Morethodoxy is all about.

Thus, when we read of these radical halachic and hashkafic changes, we must realize that they are part of a campaign by a movement and much of the leadership of its affiliate institutions and organization; it is not the work of one person; it is not being done in a vacuum; and it is being aggressively promoted and lobbied.

Will we be silent, or look the other way, when a movement within our ranks, which has its own yeshivot and rabbinical organization, appears to push the agenda further and further, with great publicity and no official or public challenge?

As American Orthodoxy moves forward, let us think about these critical issues, and if or how to respond. Let us think of what Rav Soloveitchik zt”l would say, recalling his mighty condemnation of attempts to modify synagogue worship and liturgy and his strident opposition to approaches which contravened Chazal. Let us ask our halachic leadership about the innovations being campaigned for; let us ask ourselves what we should say and do, how this all will impact on Orthodoxy for future generations, and how it relates to Orthodoxy’s mission to further and to preserve our Mesorah.

Rabbi Gordimer is a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar. The opinions expressed in the above article are his own and do not represent either of these entities.

{Cross Currents/ Newscenter}


  1. When I started reading your article I immediately smelled that the one behind “Moreorthodoxy” is Chief “Maharat” Sara Horowitz who is out to conquer the Torah with her female “smicha”.

  2. Presumably most of Matzav’s readership don’t care much one way or the other about Moronthodoxy’s ediorials or opinions. Time and time again it has been shown that, in today’s climate, those who try to dilute the Mesorah walk away looking stupid BH.

  3. Does anyone know the Mekor for the Bracha?
    How long has it been part of the Mesorah?
    Why did Chazal deem it necessary to include it in Birchas Hashachar?

    All too often we attack the other side blindly without thought — perhaps we can put aside our blind hatred of all things Avi Weiss/YCT and put our collective minds together and come up with something that will help? Why push them away further?
    I’m sure there must be a mesorah somewhere out there with a different nusach, or do these brachos predate the churban bayis (unlikely)

  4. This is extremely dangerous. Ran Nochum Zev Dessler zt”l told me that a Reform shul in Cleveland started out as Orthodox, but decided to delete the tefillah Yekum Purkan since they couldn’t understand the relavance of being mispallel for the batei medrashim/talmidei chachamim in Bavel. It was all downhill after that, deleting more and more parts they just didn’t understand….

  5. There are many reasons for the 3 brachas,
    a) not a goy, b)not a slave c)not a female.
    as an example that i have in mind everyday is that in order to understand who i am, i must understand what i am not. And i am not a goy. Once i understand that i can understand what i am as a jew. That is to do mitzvot. All 613 categories.
    After that i am thankful that i am commanded in all 613, compared to a slave who has less mitzvos to fulfill but more then a female.
    And finally i thank Hashem that i am not a female who has even less mitzvos to fulfill.

    There are many complicated books and reasons for all aspects of davening. I recommend R’Shimon Schwab, who talks about why all are in the negative form etc.

    many many questions, so much top learn.

  6. The religious world should not only condemn the idiocy of the new ‘orthodoxy’ (guess they want to be part of the NewAge religion) of the Maharat crowd but best that we just ignore them. Or better still, the religious groups such as Agudah, the Igud, etc., should see about having them put in a cherem or just call them ‘reform, reconstructionist’, etc. The arrogance and audacity of the thinking by so-called observant Jews has crossed all red lines and they should be put in their place. They are the Jewish feminists who want to be like the non-Jewish feminists (it’s really part of a political agenda). This is because these women have no inkling of true yirat Shamaim or real history of our great sages of yesteryear. And they really think because this is the 21st century, they know better. We are at the lowest rung (having reached the 50th level) and they have the nerve to think they are above our ancestors. If they understood that these great sages knew even then that there is equality in Judaism but there are just different roles for men and for women, they would not come out with mindless and unHalachic suggestions which they would love to make happen. It’s as simple as that. If they cross these red lines, then they are no longer considered orthodox and should be called either conservative or reform.

  7. Being against “all things Avi Weiss/YCT” has a basis and is not from blindness. We are not pushing them away. They are moving away, of their own accord.

  8. 11. Comment from Yes
    Look, I’m not a fan of Avi Wiess, but are you willing to say that nothing Avi Wiess has ever done has been worthwhile – if so then you’ve just proven my point.
    And, moving away on their own does not negate our responsibility to pull them back. isolating and berating them has the same effect as a child putting their fingers in their ears — its not going to make them go away!

  9. To #10:

    With all due respect:

    If we do not protest what these publications say, it will be thought that what they say is correct, when it is not.

  10. #12

    1) Whatever good Rabbi Weiss does, is not a condoning of his teaching an invalid Hashkafa.

    The 2 sides of the coin to proper observance of the Torah are knowledge of Halacha AND proper Hashkafa.

    2) May I respectfully ask you a question, regarding pulling people back.

    If a Rabbi such as HaGaon HaRav M. Feinstein ZT”L would respectfully request that Rabbi Weiss completely rescind the Maharat / Rabba ordination of Ms. Hurwitz and not consider her a rabbi, would Rabbi Weiss comply?

  11. Mr. # 11:
    Avi Weiss always was and still is a
    ????? ???? ????
    And as to the rest of this argument let’s remember
    ?? ????? ?? ??? ???? ????? ????? ?????
    The whole article is neo-apikorsus.

  12. Baruch Dayan Emes.

    These Morethodoxy “leaders” have caused yet another branch of our nation to wither and fall off, and its “shitah” is to be discarded along with the others such as the Tzedokim, Reform, and Conservative.

    Which is to say, that the leaders are choteh umachateh es harabim, and the followers must be sought out and brought back to the true Mesorah.

  13. #5
    the Mekor of this brocho is….
    we thank hashem that if we had to do the work of a woman and keep taryag it would be impossible to keep thats why women don’t have all the mitzvos, so they can do their job bringing up the family and Males can do the Davening and learning

  14. There was a b’racha ???? ??’ ?????? ?????, which I believe came about as a result of censorship for fear of Christian retribution. However, even when this b’racha was used, it was in place of ??? ????? ???, not ??? ????? ???!

  15. Again, I think that we are paying too much attention to this.

    It is correct that we cannot totally ignore such things, but I believe it is sufficient to point out that someone who refuses to recite the berachah may not serve as a shliach tzibbur and move on.

  16. It is in Rambam (who btw MO hold up as the example of a balanced religious leader)Tur and Shulchan Aruach.

    That is good enough for me.

  17. If someone is looking to pick on anything in all of Yiddishkeit they will find it. Why must there be “equality” among genders? Why stop there? If we say “she asani yisrael” are we insinuating that ANYONE is good enough to do birchas kohanim? Does a Levi feel injustice at having to “serve” a Kohen? We know exactly what happened to the eser shvatim who broke away from Malchus Yehuda…is it fair that only the first born son has a pidyon haben? One can’t help their birth order…

  18. She-lo asani; banana, rubber band, gorilla, mud puddle, etc.

    There are a lot of things that I am not, thank G-d. I am not in a position to argue what should or should be not in the davening. The men of great assembly that set up that stuff were guided by G-d, so they knew what to include and what not to include. I will not argue with Chazal. They KNEW which direction to send us, they KNEW the right path


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