Volume 54 Number 20
                    Produced: Thu Mar  1  5:07:40 EST 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Conservative Responsa (3)
         [Orrin Tilevitz, Richard Schultz, Guido Elbogen]
Torah-Centered Judaism (3)
         [Ari Trachtenberg, Lisa Liel, Daniel Geretz]


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Sat, 24 Feb 2007 20:14:09 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Conservative Responsa

In response to 

> Does anyone know what to do with photo copies or print outs of
> Conservative Responsa? I was planning on throwing them out, but they
> do quote regular Rishonim and Achronim.

Yehonatan Chipman writes:

> . . .the implied assumption of this question is infuriating.  How do
> you know that the authors of such responsa are "apikorsim"?
> Admittedly, there are people in the RAA (Conservative rabbinical body)
> who could be classified as such, but there are also Gd-fearing,
> learned Jews there.  Some of their responsa may also contain stupid
> and erroneous arguments, but so does some of the stuff written by
> Orthodox Jews, and at least some of their teshuvot are
> worthwhile. . . . you will find that the permissive position [on
> homosexuals], by Elliot Dorff et al, is marred by serious errors
> . . .but do not deny the binding nature and holiness of the Torah and
> the halakhic process.  . . . It should be added that the RA also
> adopted a non-permissive teshuvah on the subject, by Joel Roth . . ..

I am surprised that Avi is allowing this thread at all.  His rules
stipulate that the validity of Conservative Judaism isn't a valid
subject for this list.  Anonymous's question presumes that Conservative
Judaism is doctrinally inconsistent with the Torah and Mr. Chipman's
response presumes that it is not. So that subject is being discussed,
and both posts should have been rejected.  In fact, official
Conservative doctrine - to the extent there is such a thing these days -
is that the RA Law Committee has the ability to override, not merely
reinterpret, rabbinic or toraitic halacha.  So while not denying the
binding nature of halacha, per se, the movement officially permits its
rabbinic decisors to deny that halacha.  That's the whole idea behind
the Law Committee.  The reader can determine for himself or herself
whether that is Apikorsus.

In any event, the same Rabbi Joel Roth announced his resignation in the
wake of the homosexuals decision because it "was arrived at entirely
independent of halachic reasoning, and that the defensibility of their
after-the-fact reasoning was not relevant to them. The decision simply
had to be as it was. The combination of the above lead me to believe
that the permissive position validated by the law committee was really
outside the halachic framework, and I resigned from the committee."


That is, Rabbi Roth himself is saying that the Dorff teshuva is outside
the halachic process; on what basis does Mr. Chipman say otherwise?

But for an entirely different reason, I question the mindset that leads
a person even to ask whether a document that looks like words of Torah
may be destroyed merely because the author is alleged to be a heretic.
Several years ago, it was reported that Steinsaltz gemaras were turning
up in garbage cans in Bnai Brak after Rav Steinsaltz was similarly
condemned as a heretic.

From: Richard Schultz <schultr@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 22:40:14 +0200
Subject: Conservative Responsa

Yehonatan Chipman <yonarand@...> writes:

>    At the risk of being considered apikorus myself: there are a number
> of teshuvot by Rav Moshe Feinstein which view Conservatives as
> "beyond-the-pale" by defintion.  But some of what he says there can
> only be viewed as being based on misinformation: for example, there is
> a teshuvah in the Iggerot Moshe that one shouldn't answer "Amen" when
> a Conservative rabbi says "hamotzi" at a communal luncheon, because
> they don't believe in Gd.  That is simply untrue!

Do you have a reference for this teshuva?  The one I know about is the
one in which he says that one *should* answer "amen" to a bracha made by
a Conservative rabbi (he uses the term "rabbai" transliterated into
Hebrew in orderer to distinguish them from an Orthodox "rav") "mipnei
darkei shalom" (for the sake of the ways of peace).

					Richard Schultz

From: Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...>
Date: Sun, 25 Feb 2007 12:47:15 +0200
Subject: Re: Conservative Responsa

Yehonatan Chipman states:

      for example, there is a teshuvah in the Iggerot Moshe that one
      shouldn't answer "Amen" when a Conservative rabbi says "hamotzi"
      at a communal luncheon, because they don't believe in Gd.  That is
      simply untrue!

Why untrue? If they really believed, they wouldn't reject many if not
most sections of the Shulchan Aruch and hashkafot that have preserved
Judaism for generations, substituting a watered down compendium of laws
designed for membership retention.

All major religions outside of Judaism (inclusive of those describing
themselves as R & C) have as a central core, belief in G to provide
substantiation as being monotheistic. However the general attitude of
most sect members to issues that may be considered ungodly often belies
that belief.

Except for the Rambam who holds belief as fundamental principle, for
many orthodox it is the practice of the halacha and hashkafa that brings
a person to believe. Perhaps that is best illustrated by the fact that a
non Jew after an orthodox conversion is expected/required to fulfil all
applicable mizvot. However affirmation of belief is not an integral



From: Ari Trachtenberg <trachten@...>
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2007 13:13:06 -0500
Subject: Re: Torah-Centered Judaism

> From: Andy Goldfinger <Andy.Goldfinger@...>

> Here is a web page that reprints a criticism of Yeshvat Chovovei Torah
> (YCT) from Yated Neeman ...
> http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/?p=5269#more-5269

Honestly, I didn't have time to read through the entirety of the
meandering text, but, ultimately, it appears that the author has a
problem with the dictum in Pirkei Avot "Whoso is wise, he who learns
from everyone."

Though I'm not advocate of YCT, the crux of their message, as related by
the article, is that they believe in learning from everyone, including
Conservative, Reform, unaffiliatiated and non- Jews.  This seems to me
to be an entirely Jewish perspective completely consistent with halacha!
Would you only rely on halachically knowledgable Jewish doctors to form
a halachically binding medical opinion?  No, you learn the medical
opinion from anyone, but apply it through specific halachic guidelines.

Ari Trachtenberg,                                      Boston University

From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2007 12:28:38 -0500
Subject: Re: Torah-Centered Judaism

On Fri, 23 Feb 2007 11:51:57 -0500, Daniel Geretz wrote:

> This is a general trend that is one of my pet peeves.  For example, I
> self-idenfify as Modern Orthodox (whatever that is). However, I feel
> that it takes nothing away from me to acknowledge both male and female
> Conservative and Reform Rabbis as such; to recognize the institutions
> that trained them as Yeshivot, and to recognize them as musmachim.
> These individuals derive their legitimacy not from me or from my
> rabbis or from the Orthodox movement

See, this is part of the problem.  Orthodoxy is not a "movement".
That's the language of the various movements.  By using such language,
they redefine reality so that Judaism comes in different flavors, and
it's up to the individual to choose which one he or she wants.  No
different, really, than preferring chocolate over vanilla, or vanilla
over strawberry.

But this is in completely opposition to the fundamental idea of Judaism,
which is that we have Truth which was given to us at Sinai.  If what we
hold to be true is, indeed, true, then the heterodox movements are
false.  More than false -- they are harmful to themselves, to all Jews,
and to Hashem's creation in its entirety.

Their only mitigating factor is that most of them don't know any better.

To say that they "derive their legitimacy" from anything implies that
they have legitimacy.  They don't.  Or rather, if they do, we don't.
Not all propositions can coexist.  I've spoken to many non-Orthodox Jews
who say that they have no problem with Orthodoxy, so long as we
recognize that it's not the only legitimate way.  That's like saying, "I
have no problem with water, so long as it isn't wet."  It only shows
that the person saying it doesn't understand the nature of water.  Or
the nature of Judaism.

> I believe that, as Jews, we all share a common goal which is to
> elevate our Tzelem Elokim (image of God). What that is exactly, where
> we start, how far we get, how we do it, why we do it, how we benchmark
> what we've done, and all of the other subsidiary questions - those are
> a secondary matter.

The problem is that in Judaism, what we do, how we do it, and why we do
it, is everything.  To reduce the Torah to "Thou shalt elevate thy
Tzelem Elokim" (v'tu lo) is not justifiable in any way.  It's okay to
see a theme in Judaism, but to then take that theme and act as though
everything else is either legitimate or not based on that theme is
pretty much what the Reformers did with their "Prophetic religion".  It
hollows out Judaism and leaves nothing behind.

> When we start out by disparaging our opponents, we deny ourselves
> common ground with which to explore legitimate issues.

And when we start out by granting our opponents legitimacy that they
have not earned, we betray the truth that we received at Sinai.


From: Daniel Geretz <danny@...>
Date: Mon, 26 Feb 2007 13:53:15 -0500
Subject: Torah-Centered Judaism

I have now had an opportunity to read the Yated Ne'eman article, and I
continue to stand by my remarks about the inappropriateness of engaging
in ad-hominem attacks as a debating strategy.  A number of other posters
have elaborated on this, and I echo their sentiments.

For me, this discussion can follow one of several possible avenues
(there are probably others):

1. Posters can submit posts "pro" and "con" the opinions espoused in the
article - to wit, whether the specific activities of YCT fall under the
rubric of "halachic Judasim" or not.  I also think that there is wide
variation in what is defined as "halachic Judaism" (clearly, YCT has a
different idea of "halachic Judaism" than Yated, and there is a lot of
territory between...) I am well aware that one of the fundamental
precepts of this list mandates that discussions fall under the umbrella
of "halachic Judaism." On the face of it, it seems fair to discuss the
boundaries of this area.  On the other hand, the boundary may very well
be a narrow or wide gray area between, or to the right or left of either
Yated or YCT. I am concerned that this topic generates particularly
strong feelings in some, and, as a result, this discussion will
degenerate to violations of the halachot of Lashon Hara, r"l. I know Avi
well enough to know that he will not be party to that.

2. Acknowledging that we may differ on the interpretations of "halachic
Judaism," how do we deal with our discomfort or unease when confronted
with someone who has a vastly different "spin" on "halachic Judaism"
than our own?  At the heart of this question is how we fulfill the
biblical commandment of ahavat yisrael (loving one's fellow Jew).

IMHO, I think the second avenue is a more productive one, so I will put
in my two cents' worth.

There is a general principle that the Torah contains no "superfluous"
commandments.  For example, we learn from the commandment not to murder
that it is normal human nature, for at least some people some of the
time (reminds me of Abe Lincoln), and in some circumstances, to have
murderous feelings.  If this was not the case, Hashem would not have had
to include that injunction in the Torah.  The same is true for
homosexual behavior - it must be normal human nature for some people, or
there would be no need for an injunction against it.

I believe that this principle operates on two levels.  One level is that
because Hashem has commanded ahavat yisrael, it must be normal human
nature at least some of the time, for some people, for this not to be
the case.  I submit that this circumstance is "even when you have
violent disagreements about issues" or "even when you are unfcomfortable
with them."  This is a tremendous personal challenge for me.

A second level is that because behavior like homosexual behavior *for
example* (and with which I am personally very uncomfortable) falls under
the rubric of normal human nature, we as halachic Jews need to be
equipped in some way to confront the issue in some manner.  Simply
ignoring an issue and pretending that it does not exist is not realistic
nor is it an authentic Torah-true response. Nor will ignoring an issue
make it go away or be less of an issue. Acknowledging difficult,
uncomfortable issues and grappling with them in a halachically
appropriate way is the stock-in-trade of Torah Jews.

I believe that we all face challenges. Each one of us is ultimately
responsible to decide for ourselves how to deal with those challenges,
and what works for one person may not work for another.  As a community,
we need to work harder to find common ground despite these differences,
so that we can work together to effect the coming of the Mashiach in our


End of Volume 54 Issue 20