Volume 56 Number 77 
      Produced: Sun, 14 Jun 2009 08:33:40 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Being called a Rabbi (2)
    [Mordechai Horowitz]
Jewish Chaplains (3)
    [Carl Singer  Yisrael Medad  David I. Cohen]
Judaising Foreign Words 
    [Lisa Liel]
Lunar Jew 
    [Menashe Elyashiv]
Rabbinic ordination issues (2)
    [Mordechai Horowitz  Carl Singer]
requesting comments about THE SEARCH COMMITTEE by Marc Angel 
    [Leonard  Paul]
Woman Rabbi 
    [Martin Stern]


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 11,2009 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Being called a Rabbi

Orrin wrote 
> So let me ask my question again: why exactly can't a woman get one of these
> degrees?

I've already asked about Rabbi Weiss's program that the forward described as
ordaining Jewish women.  Unfortunately no one responded to that email with more

But women are just as capable of learning Gemorra and halacha as men.  The fact
that we have no women Orthodox Rabbi's today is not because no women can pass a
semicha test on Yoreh Deah.  There is a growing number of women learning at a
very high level. So any issues regarding women Rabbi's is not based on learning


From: Stephen Phillips <admin@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 12,2009 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Being Called a Rabbi

> From: Mordechai Horowitz 
> All I know is my friend passed the test on Aveilut and is now
> entitled to represent himself as a Rabbi.

> He is not able to read a single daf of Gemora and has never looked at
> the Shulchan Aruch on the inside.

> He was allowed to take his test open book with all his English
> materials in front of him and passed.

> He's a nice guy, means well but shouldn't have the title of Rabbi.
> Thankfully he isn't planning on working in the field but I shudder
> that he could.

The Semicha Program that Yechiel Conway was referring to is the Pirchei
Shoshanim Shulchan Aruch Learning Program (see http://www.shemayisrael.com/smicha/).

I feel I may take some credit for your friend's Semicha. There are 84 Shiurim
which were originally written in Hebrew by HaRav Yitzchak Tzvi Oshinsky. Rav
Oshinski is now a full-time Dayan of the Israeli Rabbanut and he has published a
sefer on Hilchos Aveilus. The Shiurim were translated into English and I edited
these and added many footnotes.

Now it is true that the Aveilus program may be studied, and Semicha obtained, by
using the English Shiurim alone. However, the organisers of the program now will
not allow someone to obtain Semicha in Hilchos Aveilus without first obtaining
Semicha in Issur v'Heter [the laws of kashrus].

The Issur v'Heter program (to which Yechiel also referred) is a different kettle
of fish altogether. You have to be able to study (on Melicha, Basar b'Chalav and
Ta'aruvos) the Tur with Beis Yosef, the Shulchan Aruch with every Shach and Taz,
and preferably also the Pri Megadim and modern Sefarim like the Badei
HaShulchan. For myself (I obtained Semicha in Issur v'Heter almost 2 years ago),
I found it useful  also to learn the relevant Gemorras, Rashi and Tosefos, the
Rambam's Mishneh Torah and the Toras HaBayis of the Rashba. Now you can't learn
any of the aforementioned Sefarim without a pretty good knowledge of Hebrew.

I quote below from Rabbi David Bendory (who made the "brutal" comment). Rabbi
Bendory also has Semicha from HaRav Zalman Nechemia Goldberg and HaRav Gedalia
Dov Schwartz:

I have been enrolled in the Issur v'Heter program for approximately one year and
IY"H will be musmach by Rav Channen sometime in Marcheshvan. Prior to this
program, I had lacked structure in my learning since starting my career. I am a
Vice President in Private Wealth Management Technology at Goldman Sachs in New
York City. In spite of my busy professional schedule, Pirchei Shoshanim has
given me a seder that both requires and enables me to learn for at least 90
minutes daily.

Unfortunately, there are many in the Jewish world who have made semicha easy to
obtain. Rav Channen is not among them. We all know someone who knows someone who
flew to Israel, sat with a rav for an hour, and emerged musmach. I challenge
anyone to sit through one of Rav Channen's written exams. They are simply brutal
-- and I say that as an accomplished professional who graduated from Princeton
University with a 3.9 GPA and scored a 33 on the MCAT. (Please forgive me for
boasting, but I think it is important to demonstrate my credibility in
recognizing a rigorous intellectual challenge.)

This is not "Semicha by E-mail"; it is simply semicha. It may not be the
traditional way of learning, and no one will argue that it is as rigorous as
learning in kollel full-time, but it is a full and challenging semicha nonetheless.

David Bendory
New York, NY

Many, like Rabbi Bendory, use the program as a basis for learning for Semicha
from other Rabbonim. I know of one who, using the Shiur notes to structure his
learning, obtained Heter Hora'ah from R' Moshe Sternbuch and another who has has
just obtained Semicha from the Rabbanut of Israel (meaning he passed exams in
the 6 required topics of Issur v'Heter, Shabbos, Aveilus, Mikva'os, Nidda and

Stephen Phillips


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Wed, Jun 10,2009 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Jewish Chaplains

Carl A. Singer wrote:
> "(In a manner similar to
> that of many Y.U. Smicha Rabbis of yesteryear who were encouraged to take
> Conservative pulpits.)

David Cohen wrote:
> YU musmachim were never encouraged to take Conservative pulpits, although
> some did.  The confusion occurs because during the 40's, 50's and 60's,
> there were nominally Orthodox synagogues with mixed seating.


"never" is a powerful word.  I know of Y.U. Musmachim who would disagree
with your statement -- let's see what others recall.

Kol Tuv,


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 11,2009 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Jewish Chaplains

I have been asked to submit this to the list from a chaplain's wife in the
field [who wishes to remain anonymous]:

> Yisrael,
> Thanks for sharing this. Here are some of my thoughts:
> I would agree with most of the sentiments expressed. Clearly, Carl 
> Singer knows what he's talking about [...]
> A rebuttal to the original posting which I think is important is (in 
> line with CS's remark #1), becoming a chaplain isn't just "you show up 
> and they take you." Even when there is a shortage of Jewish chaplains 
> (which there is), there are standards (some basic military standards, 
> too, not just those pertaining to chaplains). Normally, any chaplain is 
> required to have at least a Master's-level degree in his religious 
> studies. I'm not sure that the particular program that is alluded to 
> meets that requirement, in terms of the time spent and credits or credit 
> equivalents earned.
> It's definitely a challenge to come up with creative halachic solutions 
> in the military context, but my husband's ministry is based on not 
> having "halacha for us" and "halacha for them". In my husband's case, 
> while his service may have mixed seating, we so rarely get anywhere near 
> a minyan that it is generally a non-issue. When we do get a big crowd, 
> say, for High Holiday, he generally davens himself before the 
> service.....not only to be able to daven where and how he wants, but 
> also to free himself up to interrupt, explain, announce page numbers, 
> and generally play the role of teacher/director for the congregation. 
> Some other decisions where this thinking comes into play are, for 
> example, making a seder at the right time (or, as late as possible and 
> then talking a lot before getting to kiddush) rather than just giving 
> people a "model seder"; keeping a strictly kosher chapel program rather 
> than having pot-luck meals; and saying Borchu and Kaddish even with a 
> small group or clearly non-minyan, under the heading of "an educational 
> experience" , giving people practice and familiarity for when they do 
> find themselves in more normative Jewish contexts.

From: David I. Cohen <bdcohen@...>
Date: Thu, Jun 11,2009 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Jewish Chaplains

Carl A. Singer, Ph.D. wrote:
> (In a manner similar to that of many Y.U. Smicha Rabbis of yesteryear who were
> encouraged to take Conservative pulpits.)

As my father got smicha [ordination] from YU in 1943, I have first hand
knowledge that this is not true. YU musmachim [ordained graduates] were never
encouraged to take Conservative pulpits, although some did. The confusion occurs
because during the 40's, 50's and 60's, there were nominally Orthodox synagogues
with mixed seating.

Some YU musmachim were given a heter to go to these shuls with the idea of
preventing them from becoming Conservative, with the proviso that the Rabbi had
a finite amount of time to eliminate the mixed seating and have a mechitza
installed, or he had to leave.

I hope this clears up a popular misconception.

David I. Cohen


From: Lisa Liel <lisa@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 09:01 AM
Subject: Judaising Foreign Words

Mark Symons wrote:
>(This leads to the issues of commonality between languages: 
>Interesting how adding H to P is like a siman rafeh [weaker form] for the P - 
>therefore it may be more appropriate to transliterate words like 
>musaf, shofar with PH - as I think the Routledge/Adler Machzor does 
>- rather than with F!)

True, but if we do that, we should be consistent, and transliterate 
bh instead of v, and kh instead of ch (which some already do).



From: Menashe Elyashiv <Menashe.Elyashiv@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Lunar Jew

> suppose that a Jewish lunar-naut would be instructed to refer to his home base
> for z'manim, if he was so inclined. Should that be the new paradigm for air
> travellers as well?
> Just asking--Bernie R.

Many years ago R. Goren wrote about that, but sorry, I don't remember where.


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Rabbinic ordination issues

Carl wrote
> The last clause - re: Jewish Chaplain - is both inaccurate and
> troubling to me for multiple reasons.
> 1 - It might be considered a "snide remark" demeaning military chaplains.

I would hope you would judge me favorably and realize that nothing snide was
meant.  Rather the organization in question strongly supports putting its
members in the US military as chaplains. 

Carl continues
> 2 - This covertly asserts that being accepted as a chaplain in the US
> Military is some litmus test of smicha.  Or at least a minimal standard for
> same.
> ....Chaplains are vetted by various organizations as meeting the ordination
> standards of that organization.

I'm really unsure as to your objection.  If this organization did not enable
these people to get semicha they would not be able to be chaplains


> The purpose of a Military Chaplain is to provide spiritual and moral support
> to troops - regardless of their religious affiliation....
> ...The shortcoming here is that some look to this as a well-paying job rather
> than a "calling"  -- some orthodox chaplains find conflict between their 
> duties and halacha.  For example, abstaining from leading or participating in
> a mixed seating "minyan" -- a dereliction of duty (in my not so humble 
> opinion)  while others daven privately and then lead a "minyan" for the
> troops. 

So it seems that an organization interested in training Jews to be Rabbis so
they can take jobs as Chaplain's need more not less education than a typical
Rabbi due to the halachic challenges of the US military.   I can't see how
passing a strictly Issur V Heter course or a 9 month Aveilut course or even a 2
year Shabbos course gives someone the  qualifications for this extremely
challenging position.


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Rabbinic ordination issues


My apologies.

I was unaware of your context re: discussing an organization that is vetting
for the chaplaincy.  I thought you were speaking generically of on-line
smicha and followed your previous post re: someone granting smicha to women,
etc.   Did I miss another posting in between?
In any case the clause re: chaplaincy was ill-placed.

The problem with non-performing chaplains remains.   I'm not focusing on the
quality of the religious training but on their ability and commitment to do
their duty.  Say what you will about their ordination, etc., but we have
Jewish chaplains from both Conservative and Reform movement who do their

Colonel, U.S. Army Retired


From: Leonard  Paul <lenpaul@...>
Date: Tue, Jun 9,2009 at 06:01 PM
Subject: requesting comments about THE SEARCH COMMITTEE by Marc Angel

On the recommendation of a friend in Israel, I read THE SEARCH
COMMITTEE, a novel by Marc Angel. The plot focuses on a search for a
Rosh Yeshiva following the untimely death of the predecessor. I found
underlying themes of the story a stretch but fascinating reading that
was hard to put down. Among other things, the author puts the reader
in the position of the search committee.

My questions to the list are the following:
If any of you have read this book, do you have any comments?
Do you have any comments about the way daily life in a yeshiva is depicted?

I recommend the book for raising interesting questions in a way that
gives a great deal to think about.

Many thanks.
Leonard Paul
Elkins Park, PA


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Jun 12,2009 at 02:01 AM
Subject: Woman Rabbi

> On Tue, Jun 2,2009 at 06:01 AM, Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote:
>> Sorry for being pedantic but that semichah only died out during the
>> Byzantine period when Theodosius suppressed the post of Nasi and,
>> slightly later, when Justinian forbade the teaching of deuterosis,
>> i.e. Mishnah and Midrash, in an attempt to 'persuade' Jews to
>> convert to Christianity by undermining the oral tradition.

On Thu, Jun 4,2009, Lisa Liel <lisa@...> wrote:
> With all due respect, I'd like to see some evidence for that.  It was
> during the Hadrianic persecutions that smicha was outlawed, on pain
> of massacre, by the Romans.  There was a Nasi even after this, and
> Justinian certainly did increase the shmad, but that doesn't mean
> that smicha survived until his time.

Though Hadrian interfered with Jewish practice and tried to stop semichah,
he was not successful. After his death, a modus vivendi was established
between Rebbe and Antoninus (Marcus Aurelius?) in which the Jewish community
was granted a large measure of internal self-government. The only proviso
was that only born Jews were exempt from the ban on circumcision thus making
conversion difficult for males. Incidentally, it was in the light of this
that the Christians broke away by abolishing the rite for their members
which made their religion much more popular in the Greco-Roman world.

The best proof of my claim is that the Sanhedrin continued to function at
least to sanctify the sighting of the New Moon This was only possible so
long as its members had the traditional semichah. This came to an end when
Theodosius suppressed the post of Nasi and we started using the fixed
calendar of Hillel 2. By the time of Justinian, any surviving musmachim
would no longer have been alive.

Martin Stern


End of Volume 56 Issue 77