Volume 39 Number 43
                 Produced: Fri May 23  5:10:30 US/Eastern 2003

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Modern Orthodoxy Definition (Chumras), Addendum
         [Carl Singer]
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
A Serious but Halachic Approach to the Orthodoxy Problem (2)
         [Binyomin Segal, Edward Ehrlich]
Yeshiva Torah V'Das
         [Shaya Potter]


From: <CARLSINGER@...> (Carl Singer)
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 06:33:37 EDT
Subject: Re: Modern Orthodoxy Definition (Chumras), Addendum

      From: Allen Gerstl <acgerstl@...>

      Binyomin Segal argued against my position that a type of chumra
      based upon pietistic extra-halachic considerations and
      characterised by the phrase "u-baal nefesh yachmir" (and someone
      who cares particularly for his soul will be stringent) was a
      hallmark of modern chareidi orthodoxy. He thus argued that such
      types of chumras are also found within general halachic
      practice. My position was that the "siyag ve-geder" type of chumra
      was normative within general halachic practice and that the other
      type of chumra was a hallmark of chareidi practice.

      I should add that I agree that there are indeed some "baal nefesh
      yachmir" types of practices that are found in normative halachic
      practice. My point however is that it is only in chareidi practice
      that such is a norm for general halachic observance as opposed to
      a practice applicable to only a few halachot.

This is a bit closer to home -- in a pluralistic Orthodox community*--
now that we have categorized chumras and given them a life of their own
-- how does the community institutionally and individually deal with the
various mainstream orthodox institutions and individuals within it.  (I
added the term "mainstream" to preclude tangential discussions.)

* BTW -- do we define community as everyone within reach of my email,
everyone who lives in the a contiguous political unit or everyone who
lives within Shabbos walking distance?

Specifically -- here's a list of positives:

Maintain and support community-wide organizations such as
	 Mikvah, Chevra, gemach's, tzedukah funds, hospital visitation, food
	 for shut-ins, etc.
Work together to establish kashruth and support kosher restaurants & stores
Present a united front to local government on communal issues (safety, etc)
Support the Jewish local school(s)
Establish mutual respect among institutions, leadership and individuals
Address each other with respect and not speak loshen horah

here's a list of negatives

Spread rumors about goings on in other institutions
Deride other institutions for their outreach efforts (which necessarily include
       associating with Jews less "frum" than themselves.)
Focus relentlessly on differences -- "They use the eruv", "Their Mehizta is too"
Become Ostriches and pretend that they're the only "true"  Jews in town.

Both positives and (unfortunately) negatives could go on at length.  In
a nutshell is the Orthodox Jewish community united or balkanized.

Having lived as an adult in 4 different Orthodox communities: Cleveland,
Philadelphia, Edison NJ, and Passaic NJ -- granted over a 40 year span
of change -- there are lessons to be learned.

Carl Singer


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himels@...>
Date: Wed, 21 May 2003 14:02:10 +0300
Subject: Orthodox-Conservative-Reform

When Alana Suskin states that Orthodoxy and Conservatism have more in
common than Conservatism and Reform do, this may or may not be true,
however all of this "in common" talk is totally negated by a basic
undermining of the Conservative position halachically, and that is in
regard to conversion. Granted that the Conservative movement requires
the entire ritual (and here I lay aside the fundamental question of what
"acceptance of Mitzvot" means in regard to Conservative conversions),
there is a far more basic problem in this regard: in the interest of
"Jewish unity," there are many Conservative clergymen who will accept
the conversion of any person by any Jewish clergyman. In other words,
this would include people converted by Reform clergymen, where such
things as Milah and Tevilah never took place. Thus, by their actions,
these clergymen - while possibly insisting on all the rituals of
conversion in regard to the conversions they perform - will then inject
into the Jewish fold people who are clearly not halachically Jewish.
That is a far cry from Orthodoxy and Conservatism having much in common.

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Binyomin Segal <bsegal@...>
Date: Fri, 16 May 2003 19:26:59 -0500
Subject: Re: A Serious but Halachic Approach to the Orthodoxy Problem

Douglas Moran had some comments about the halachik issues I raised.

> Actually, Binyomin, Russell specifically referred to a Chabad and a
> Conservative rabbi (the Conservative rabbi being intermarried).
> ...
> I think we should be careful about lumping them together, or
> substituting one for the other.

Douglas is of course correct here. One should be careful about lumping
and substituting. I chose to use reform judaism as the model to
understate the case. The fact is that many (most?) of the poskim deal
with them in very similar ways in regard to their heretical nature. In
fact the tshuva from Rav Moshe that I referenced was about conservative
judaism. I am not saying there is no difference, but both are seen as
heretical. I'm sorry my choice made it less clear.

> It is hardly unknown for Conservative Jews to make the jump to BT
> status.  I don't know of many Reform Jews doing the same thing,
> though.

Although this is really a side point, I have to object. I have being
working in kiruv for almost 20 years and have seen BTs come from lots of
different places. I don't know of any statistical work that's been done,
but anecdotally I certainly have not seen evidence for this

> So then the issue of a Chabad and Conservative rabbi meeting and
> cooperating comes down to two people who disagree about halacha, not one
> observant Jew and one who not only has heretical beliefs but is actually
> demonstrating their heretical beliefs for a congregation!

In fact, as I mentioned before, many poskim (Rav Moshe first among them)
would have viewed this as scenario 2 - an observant Jew with one
demonstrating his heretical beliefs (even if those those heretical
beliefs were about the nature of halacha).

> I think this argument could just as easily be turned around and used by
> a Reform Jew as a reason for *their* rabbi to not meet with a Chabad
> rabbi.  "Those people are psychos!  Do we really want our rabbi meeting
> with theirs?  Doesn't that just make it look like we don't really
> believe in the legitimacy of our movement, and have to go asking advice
> of an Orthodox rabbi?"

This is of course true. And when the reform masses do indeed (as a
whole) make this argument, that is when they no longer see orthodoxy as
being "more real" than it seems logical to conclude that at that time
this would not be a concern.

For me there is little doubt that historically Jews in this country did
indeed see orthodoxy as being "more real". IT SEEMS TO ME that today it
is in fact a mixed bag - some (as Douglas pointed out) are very
protective of their legitimacy while others still see orthodoxy as "more
real". At what point we draw the line and say the tide has turned is
certainly beyond me.

> I would opine that throwing up walls between the observant and
> the non-observant, cutting the two communities off from each other
> (which is what Binyomin seems to be implying here; forgive me if I've
> mis-interpreted, Binyomin), will only exacerbate this problem.  

I tried to make clear that personal interactions between private
individuals are not restricted. We do not call individual Jews heretics
today. And so the personal interactions that build real community are
not restricted at all. In fact, they are encouraged as a way to reach
out to our brethren. It is only the public relationships that have
restrictions. My concern with the given case (actually not my concern, I
was reflecting what I understood from rav moshe's opinion and similar)
is that the community rabbis learning together might come close to the
public relationship.

> Everyone knows that teenagers rebel.  How much more so will they rebel
> if their community is not only isolated from the secular community at
> large, but even further is isolated from the *Jewish* community at
> large?  This strikes me as a very risky and self-defeating strategy.

Again, this seems like an aside, but one I want to address. I have some
experience with teenage rebellion. As far as I know, there is NO
evidence that community isolation makes rebellion more likely or more
intense. It might make them more noticeable. (If the lines are blurry,
crossing them is less obvious). But that is not necessarily a good
thing. As a basic philosophy, there is evidence that we SHOULD raise
children isolated (protected) from bad influences. (For example consider
Sarah's demand that Yishmael be sent away). Heretical beliefs certainly
qualify as bad influences (even though the people are not bad!) HOWEVER,
I should probably make clear that all that said, attempting to raise our
children really sheltered today is probably a bad idea. The chance of
successfully isolating your child from bad influences in modern society
are nil. As a result, you need (I believe) to directly confront those
influences with your child, to teach them the skills they need to deal
with them. This is not possible if you are (pretending) raising your
child in isolation.


From: Edward Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Date: Sun, 18 May 2003 22:10:13 +0300
Subject: A Serious but Halachic Approach to the Orthodoxy Problem

Binyomin Segal wrote:

>Ok, lets back up a step or two. From the strict halacha, one is not
>allowed to associate with heretics. Today, most (all?) poskim seem to
>agree that, at least in general, we do not confer that halachik status
>on individuals. And so, there is no problem with associating with a Jew
>that has heretical beliefs because they are not given the status of a
>However, while that is true of individuals, many poskim have a different
>attitude when discussing anything that is organizational.  That is,
>while an individual reform Jew does not have the status of a heretic,
>the Reform movement does. Therefore, any organizational cooperation
>between orthodox and reform is prohibited as a matter of law.

I understand that Common Law recognizes the legal entity of a
"corporation" which can sue and be sued and has an existence independent
of the individuals or other corporations that own it, but since when
does Halakha recognize such an entity? An individual Jew can recite a
brakhah, receive an aliyah to the Torah, refrain from eating a
cheeseburger, honor his or her parents or, lhavdil, can eat pork, ride
on Shabbat or curse his parents.  In short, individual Jews observe or
do not observe the Halakha.  Organizations can not observe Halakha only
individuals can.  The Union of Orthodox Synagogues has done much fine
work in certifying products as Kosher but it doesn't itself keep Kosher.
The Union may exist as a legal entity - a "corporation" - under U.S.
law but it has no standing under Halakha.

>One of the concerns is the prohibition of granting credibility to
>heretics and their beliefs. As a result, the lines between corporate
>cooperation and private friendship can get messy. When the orthodox
>Rabbi in town learn with the reform Rabbi in town it lends credibility
>to the reform positions. This would seem to violate this halacha. (But
>it may also mean that if the orthodox rebel in town chooses to learn
>with the reform Rabbi, no halacha has been violated.)

Why does it lend any credibility to reform positions?  The only
reasonable conclusion one can draw is that both individuals like to
learn.  I would no more assume that the Orthodox rabbi now accepts the
Reform position on mehitzah then the Reform rabbi now accepts the
Orthodox position.

If the Orthodox rabbi decides to stop learning Torah with his friend
that would definitely decrease the amount of learning - for both of
them.  It would seem to me instead of stretching for reasons to prohibit
such learning, we should be trying to find some way to justify it.  It's
obviously better - no matter what mitzvot the other rabbi is observing
or not observing - that both of these Jews learn Torah.

By the way, although Binyomin talks about the "reform position"
according to the original posting, the non-Orthodox rabbi is a
Conservative rabbi which shows how meaningless and even harmful these
terms are.

If there are Halakhic problems arising because of non-observance of
certain mitzvot, they must be dealt with.  But the introduction of
non-Halakhic criteria - such as membership in an organization - only
needlessly alienates large segments of the Jewish people and ultimately
decrease the observance of Halakha.

Ed Ehrlich <eehrlich@...>
Jerusalem, Israel


From: Shaya Potter <spotter@...>
Date: 20 May 2003 15:33:56 -0400
Subject: Yeshiva Torah V'Das

> From: <Phyllostac@...> (Mordechai)

> The name alone is a tipoff, in fact. The name Torah Vodaas (Torah and
> [presumably secular] knowledge) is actually very close to the 'Torah
> Umadda' (Torah and knowledge) motto of Yeshiva University ! Names of
> institutions usually reflect visions of their founders - they are not
> usually picked at random out of (even black) hats - rather they are
> products of deliberate choices.

I believe (don't remember where I read this) that Yeshiva Rav Yitchak
Elchana (RIETS aka YU) was originally an Agudat Harabanim yeshiva as was
Torah V'Das.  The Agudat Harabanim was not particularly happy w/ the
hanhala of RIETs decision to create an undergraduate men's college
(yeshiva college) and put most of their efforts into Torah V'das after
that point, but still were involved with yeshiva affairs at least up to
picking a new president after Rabbi/Dr. Revel died as they supported
choosing the Rav as the new president, and interesting (to me at least)
"The Commentator" (the yeshiva college paper) editorialized against
picking the Rav as the president because of this endorsement.


End of Volume 39 Issue 43