Volume 58 Number 48 
      Produced: Wed, 04 Aug 2010 05:46:29 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim (6)
    [Martin Stern  Martin Stern  Martin Stern  Susan Kane  Stuart Wise  Mordechai Horowitz]
Chumra and issur 
    [Ben Katz]
Mystical and spiritual influences on halacha (2)
    [Harry Schick  David Tzohar]
Rabbinical headcovering? 
    [Sapper, Arthur G.]
Sephardic discrimination 
    [Janice Gelb]
Tikkun on a Yahrzeit 
    [Stuart Wise]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 2,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

On Sun, Aug 1,2010, Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...> wrote:

> On a bit of a related note I've seen similar situations where the
> response depends on the financial situation of the person wanting to
> lead services.
> In my shul the Rabbi bars a member from leading services because on the
> high holidays he leads services at a Conservative shul but allows a
> wealthy retired Conservative Rabbi to lead services and has even honored
> the wealthy Conservative Rabbi (educated in an Orthodox yeshiva) at the
> shul dinner with accolades to his lifetime of leadership in the Jewish
> community.

I think Mordechai is being a bit unfair to assume that his Rabbi is
motivated by financial considerations. Since the wealthy retired
Conservative Rabbi has left the Conservatives now attends his Orthodox shul,
we should be melamed zchut [make the best interpretation about him] and
assume he has done teshuvah [repented] on his previous connection with the
Conservative movement. This is the precise reverse of the member leading
services in one, who is mesayeia le'ovrei aveirah [giving encouragement to
non-Orthodox movements].

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 2,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

On Mon, Aug 2,2010, Sam Gamoran <SGamoran@...> wrote:

> Mark Symons <msymons@...> wrote:
>> A relatively new phenomenon is the so-called "Inclusive Orthodox" or
>> "Egalitarian Orthodox" congregation, where women participate to a much
>> greater extent than in traditional "Orthodox" congregations.
>> ...
>> Therefore, a question arises as to whether a man who acts as a Baal Koreh
>> or Baal Tefilla at a congregation like that, should not be allowed to also
>> act as a Baal Koreh or Baal Tefila in a "mainstream" Orthodox or "Modern
>> Orthodox" Shule (even if he himself observes Mitzvot such as Shabbat,
>> Kashrut and Taharat Hamishpacha).
> I would like to some inverse questions.  Is it necessary to even ask where
> else someone who davens (prays) or leyns (read the Torah) in a "mainstream"
> Shul is also doing it?  Is one even permitted to "follow around" after
> someone else to see where they are spending their time so as to be able to
> disqualify them?

Sam is making a valid point but I think that Mark has a slightly different
scenario in mind - where the person is not merely a 'suspect' but is well
known as an active supporter of such an "Egalitarian Orthodox" congregation.
While we should not ask about a person's out-of-shul activities, we cannot
ignore them if they are a matter of common knowledge. If we deem such
"Egalitarian Orthodox" congregations as effectively non-Orthodox then such a
person would be as disqualified as someone who officiates at, for example, a
Conservative synagogue.

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Mon, Aug 2,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

On Mon, Aug 2,2010, David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> wrote:

> Whether someone who participates in such a non-Orthodox congregation should
> be allowed to lead orthodox services or given an aliya is a completely
> different question. I am not a posek lerabbim (a recognized halachic
> decisor) but IMHO even someone who regularly participates in a Reform
> service,if he is halachically Jewish and if he does not desecrate shabbat
> publicly, there is no problem with honoring him to get an aliya etc.

I think the distinction must be between those tinokot shenishbu [people with
scanty Jewish education] who attend services at a non-Orthodox congregation
and those who are ideologically committed to those movements. The latter are
essentially minim [heretics] and cannot be given any role or honour in an
Orthodox synagogue if only to avoid the appearance that their deviation from
Torah Judaism is somehow not entirely unacceptable.

From: Susan Kane <suekane@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 3,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

To complement Leah's comment, the biggest difference between any Orthodox minyan
and any non-Orthodox service is not what women do or don't do - but whether the
participants are, in fact, Orthodox. 

An Orthodox community is shomer shabbat and kashrut.  The expectation is that
community members follow halacha and that they are fully observant. 

You will be hard pressed to find those norms in any Conservative shul outside
JTS (the Conservative seminary) itself. 

In my minyan, which is Conservative for most purposes, there is no mechitsah and
women participate equally. 

But what really makes the minyan non-Orthodox is that we make decisions by
consensus - with input from Conservative and other rabbis and after much study
and reflection - but not based on a psak halacha. 

In addition, most of the members are not shomer mitzvot.  The level of
observance within the shul is quite varied and there is no assumption of
personal observance - only that you follow community norms when they affect others. 

Mine is a very different shul from the one Leah describes and the key difference
is not whether I lead Mussaf. 

Even if one does not agree with the halachic reasoning behind these Orthodox
minyanim and even if one would not choose to daven there - what purpose is
served by drawing lines not only against the members of these communities but
also against rabbonim who advise them?

This reminds me of a story by a member of my shul.  He was attending a
presentation on different movements. 

The Orthodox rabbi said : an Orthodox Jew observes shabbat, kashrut, and taharat

The Conservative rabbi said: a Conservative Jew accepts the rulings of the
Rabbinical Assembly. 

My friend was glad to know that even though he could not be considered a
Conservative Jew, he was indeed an Orthodox one!

Boston, MA

From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 3,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Reply to Leah S.R. Gordon:

Thank you for your comprehensive explanation, and you are correct, I still  
don't quite understand it all. Why, for instance, is it important for a 
woman to read the Torah in public? What does having this type of equality mean 
to an Orthodox woman?  When I read your post, visions of Blu Greenberg 
kept popping into my mind, and quite honestly, I am not sure that what she and 
her husband practice is what most of would call Orthodoxy. 
Generations of men and women have realized their distinct roles in  
Yiddishkeit without crying foul. My wife and daughters are quite happy in the  
roles they have elected to fill, and they respect our traditions. I can see  
their devotion to Hashem in the way they do the mitzvos and daven, and in  
conversation and observation I never got the impression that they felt something 
was missing. 
Still, while I do respect other people's views and practices, I must  say 
this does sound like a hybrid form of Conservative Judaism, which on the  
books calls for observance along the lines of Orthodoxy but with their unique 
Stuart Wise

From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Leah writes

> Apologetics about "different roles" aside, we all know the statistics
> that religious women leave Orthodoxy more often than do men, and
> that they do it because of being marginalized in terms of participation
> and leadership.  It is the rare Jewish woman in 2010 who is satisfied
> sitting where she can neither see nor hear, much less participate, in
> the davening in shul.

> Orthodox men can shout us down as much as they like, but those feelings
> are real, and we are not under lock and key.

What evidence do you have that it's Orthodox men?  Your statement is nothing
more than bigotry and sexism. You yourself answered the question why all Torah
Jews reject your non-Orthodox minyan when you wrote

"...I personally think that it is a fool's errand to try to align with Orthodox
halakha, and I say this as a proud/active Partnership Minyan member..."

Your minyan is not halachic because their are no Orthodox poskim (religious law
deciders) who support such minyanim.  Indeed feminists intentionally misquote
Rabbis.  They demonize Torah Jews in the name of feminism.

Recently I received an email from the anti-Orthodox JOFA announcing they were
having an anti-Israel demonstration last July 22nd over Anat Hoffman's arrest
for disrupting prayer at the women's side of the Kotel with their monthly
demonstration with a sefer Torah.  They intentionally misrepresented the
positions of Rabbis like Rabbi Riskin pretending they support Women at the Wall.
 Having learned at Rabbi Riskin's yeshiva I have specifically asked him about
WOW and he condemned then in no uncertain terms because the Rabbi of the wall
opposes them and they have no right to ignore the ruling of the local Rabbinic

Rav Henkin whom they often try to pretend supports them has written that while
there is some theoretical support for a private service there is no support for
it in a synagogue.  I recommend people read the essay in his most recent book
Understanding Tzniut

As long as you see halacha not as a source of guidance, you are outside of Torah
Judaism. So its not Orthodox men who are against you, its halacha that is
against you.

The real women at the wall, the ones who pray their quietly without cameras and
press releases are the real victims of non Orthodox feminist activist groups
like WOW. These activist groups do a real disservice to those women within the
confines of halacha who are taking on new roles and leadership in response to
the needs of our times. 


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 01:01 AM
Subject: Chumra and issur

David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> wrote in MJ 58 #46:

> The question of chumra vs. issur is a little more complicated than the
> view of the OU publication quoted by Martin Stern would lead us to believe.
> If someone takes a chumra upon himself by vow, or by observing this chumra
> three times this is an issur for him just as it is assur to eat pork. He
> can be released from his vow only by appealing to a bet din. The same is
> true of a chumra adopted by a large part of Am Yisrael or legislated by
> takkanah or gezeira (proclamation or edict). Some examples: Kitniyot on
> Pesach for Ashkenazim, mixing fish and milk for Sephardim, prohibition of
> bigamy for Ashkenazim. These chumrot became issurim with the authority of
> Torah as it is written 'You shall not deviate from what they will tell you
> to the right or the left - Rashi- even if they tell you that the left is
> right and the right is left (Devarim 17:11).

There is much scholarship on the Rashi cited by Mr. Tzohar.  I believe many
manuscripts read "when they tell you that the right is right and the left is
left, based on a Yerushalmi.  The oft-quoted Rashi cited by Mr. Tzohar leads to
an untenable position for us empiricists.

Ben Katz


From: Harry Schick <learn111@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 3,2010 at 02:01 PM
Subject: Mystical and spiritual influences on halacha

Regarding David Guttman's comments (MJ 58#46) on removing the mystical from Judaism:

First, I am not sure how someone connected to the mystical writings of those
such as the Ari, Rashbi, Ramchal and Vilna Goan diminishes or takes away from
Judaism in general or one person in particular. That is, how does my study and
adherence to such "unfortunate" interpretations negatively effect the way
someone else practices their religion?

And when these are wiped away, do we do away with everything that these mystics
added or do we pick and choose those things to keep and those to discard? -- or
did I miss the point all together?

Harry Schick

From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Mystical and spiritual influences on halacha

R'David Guttman (MJ 58#46) posited an elaborate theory, writing that mysticism
and spirituality are a malady of the Exile and that the Rambam is part of some
rationalist "mesora". According to him this mesorsa existed in Sefarad while
the northern Ashkenazim were influenced by the superstitions of the
surrounding Gentile culture. Leaving aside his take on how the Rambam dealt
with questions of tumah and tahara, there is no evidence for a rationalist
mesorah either before or after the Rambam.

Mysticism has nothing to do with the Galut. The tannaim engaged in mystical
speculation (chavurat R'Akiva and yordei hamerkava). The whole way of life
of the tannaim and amorai Eretz Yisrael was centered around strict
observance of the laws of tumah and taharah. The Talmud Yerushalmi describes
in detail how Jewish society was divided into "perushim" or "chaverim"  who
observed tumah and taharah and a'mei haaretz who did not . This had nothing
to do with ritual purity of the Temple. The chaverim couldn't trust the
a'mei haaretz to prepare food in taharah and therefore couldn't eat with

There was a continuous mesorah of mysticism - it is called Kabbalah. Kabbalah
has its roots in the mysticism of the tannaim but reached its fruition davka
[specifically - MOD] among the Sefaradim such as R'Moshe Cordovero and the Ari
haKadosh and his disciples in Tzfat. The Chassidic Rebbes were masters of
Kabbalah from the Ba'al Shem Tov down to the last Lubovitcher Rebbe (who BTW was
a Sorbonne trained scientist). Likewise the spiritual leader ,of the Mitnagdim
R' Eliyahu the Gaon of Vilna was a famous kabbalist as were many of his disciples.

If anyone was influenced by Gentile culture it was the later Lithuanian
Yeshiva world of Brisk culminating in the Thinking of Rav Soloveitchik which
reflected Western rationalist thought.

I understand that R' Guttman and others are uncomfortable with mysticism. It
is not politically correct especially in academic circles. It is not enough
however to dismiss as "bunk" an entire stream of thinking that has been part
of Judaism for at least  2,000 years.

David Tzohar


From: Sapper, Arthur G. <asapper@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 3,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Rabbinical headcovering?

Shoshana Ziskind asks in v58n45, whether the headcovering worn by, e.g., Rav
Moshe Feinstein, means that one "had a rabbinic background."   I believe that
the answer is no.  Both of my great-grandfathers from Krinik, Poland, wore the
same headcovering as Rav Feinstein.  While one was a rebbe (he taught the Talmud
to the boys of the town and was known as "der gelernter" (the learned one)), the
other was a pious leather worker and also ran the bathhouse.


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 3,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Sephardic discrimination

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> wrote:
> On the other hand, only citing certain publications which are known to 
> take a partisan stance on a matter would suggest that those taking
> the opposing one were not consulted. Since it is well known that certain
> papers have a tendency to distort the facts, it is essential to consult
> others with a different bias to have any hope of getting to the truth.
> One can only judge a case on the basis of what a person publishes and not 
> be expected to be aware of any sources not disclosed.

I agree that it helps to check facts from any publication or source. I 
certainly try to cross-check before publishing any citation. You seem to 
be saying that if I cite a publication that you are convinced is biased, 
that fact should immediately be discounted because of the publication 
from which it came. If you have sources that contradict facts that I have
presented, feel free to provide them and I will stand corrected. But 
discounting them merely because of their source is no way to get at the 
truth either.

-- Janice


From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 3,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Tikkun on a Yahrzeit

Can someone provide me with an explanation behind the custom of providing  
tikkun -- cake and schnapps in its most common form -- on a yahrzeit? Truth be 
told, I grew up outside New York and really did not see it. Yet,it is a 
widespread  practice that is executed from the simple to the absurd. But what 
exactly does it mean to say L"chaim to the neshamah? It seems to suggest 
that somehow there is something we can say or do on earth that could somehow 
affect the soul of the departed? After a year, does the neshama [soul - MOD] not
its final reward?
Stuart Wise


End of Volume 58 Issue 48