Volume 58 Number 51 
      Produced: Thu, 05 Aug 2010 11:07:18 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim 
    [Stuart Wise]
"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim (2)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  I. Balbin]
Certification of Scotch Whisky  
    [Immanuel Burton]
Conservative Judaism and "Biblical criticism" 
    [Janice Gelb]
Egalitarian/Partnership Minyanim 
    [Yisrael Medad]
In defense of Yitz and Blu Greenberg 
    [Frank Silbermann]
rabbinical headcovering 
    [Bernard Raab]
What's in a name? 
    [Carl Singer]


From: Stuart Wise <Smwise3@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject:  "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Reply to Leah Sarah (MJ 58#50)....
I do appreciate your taking the time to explain. Regarding my wife and  
daughters davening. Throughout school and camp, the girls are always davening  
together as a group, with no one leading but all davening together, 
sometimes  singing together. Because of that, perhaps, they never have the empty
feeling of  exclusion that you describe, and hence don't have the need to be on
an equal  plane with men when it comes to davening.
I see your point, but I also see the danger inherent. Everything may start  
out separate but equal as it were, but don't you see how it could lead to 
more  ambitious women wanting to tear down any barriers, and hence no longer 
a new  creation -- men and women in one minyan without the original intent 
I happen to have had my exposure to the Conservative movement, my father,  
A"H, having served in a several such congregations (at a time when it was 
common  practice for Orthodox rabbis to take such positions) and then by 
chance I  happened to work with the movement, and what your describe on the 
surface  doesn't sound much different from what Conservative women were longing 
for. I  don't know, I may be old fashioned but it occurs to me that our 
matriarchs  didn't have concerns, at least that we know of, their place in Torah
observance. Through centuries, frum women accepted their role--not as  
inferior or as if they were being deprived of something -- but as what halachah  
assigns to them. I have no doubt you have a spiritual uplift from the  
partnership minyan, but truth be told, the reasons for this minyan and your  
explanations are really no different from what I heard at United Synagogue  
(Conservative) conventions.
Stuart Wise

From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Janice Gelb (MJ 58#49) wrote:

> I think it insults the many Conservative rabbis and
> Jews whom I know who are observant of Shabbat, kashrut, and taharat
> hamishpacha. And the movement itself calls for such observance.


As an Orthodox Jew (and I"ll explain in a minute what I mean
by that), I don't know what the first sentence is intended to mean, 
and the second sentence is misleading.


The official position of Conservative Judaism is, AFIK, that

(1) driving to shul on Shabbat is OK, as is carrying objects on private
property that is not surrounded by a fence or other enclosure, actual or
constructive (i.e., an eiruv); 

(2) one may drink stam yeinam [unboiled wine handled by a non-Jew], one 
may eat fish in a non-kosher restaurant, one may eat any hard cheese, and
sturgeon is a kosher fish; 


(3) a woman may go to the mikveh and resume marital relations after she 
stops bleeding, without counting seven clean days (as to the position, 
I dont know if it's embodied in an official responsum, but was being taught 
to JTS rabbinical students in the late 1970s). I personally don't know anybody
who follows these positions while otherwise observing the laws of kashrut, 
Shabbat, and taharat hamishpacha, but I'd have difficulty concluding that such 
a person was shomer Shabbat or kashrut within the conventional definition of 
the term. While I personally know a handful of Conservative Jews who would not
dream of doing any of these things, they are the elite and at the far the right
wing fringe of Conservative Judaism. And while I have no statistics of what
percentage of Conservative-affiliated Jews observe any of the laws of Shabbat,
kashrut, and family purity systematically, that number is almost certainly
minuscule. To take just one example: there are Conservative synagogues all over
the U.S. in places where there are no Orthodox synagogues. In how many of them
is there a kosher restaurant or a mikveh?

Conservative Judaism may officially endorse halachic observance in some
fashion, but as a practical matter it is, and has been for many decades, a
refuge for those who are not halachically observant in any systematic way and
do not want to be made to feel guilty about it.

Frank Silbermann (MJ 58#49) wrote:

> I was told, in the context of the "who is a Jew?" issue, that the main
> objection to the Conservative movement is not any specific halachic ruling
> but rather the teaching of "Biblical criticism" (ideas that the Torah was
> assembled from the writings of four authors rather than dictated by G-d to
> Moses).

> So wouldn't that be the main criterion in determining our response to 
> members of this shul?

I think you are confusing several things. Biblical criticism of this sort was
actually a Christian invention"although of course fundamentalist Christianity
believe that God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Sinai, and that the
teachings of Jesus later superseded that law. It is true that this sort of
Biblical criticism is also taught at JTS, and perhaps this once was a criticism
directed at the movement. But 

(1) that same sort of Biblical criticism is now engaged in by some people who
are halachically observant in the conventional sense and would
completely reject Conservative Judaism's approach to halacha 


(2) I would bet that the vast majority of Conservative Jews have never heard of
Biblical criticism and, if asked, wouldn't care.

In short, beliefs that the five books of Moses are the word of God but
that today the laws in them are not binding or have been superseded, or (on the
other hand) that the five books of Moses are actually a pastiche of
politically-motivated tracts but that the halacha, whatever its source, is
completely immutable, are not inherently contradictory. 

IMHO, what Conservative Judaism stands for "assuming that it is a halachic
movement at all, in any sense, and that itself is a matter of some internal
debate within the movement"is that halacha can be changed when one does not like
the result it leads to and particularly when members of the movement are
violating it regularly anyway. By contrast, Orthodoxy believes that change in
halacha--if it can change at all--needs a far better reason than that

By contrast, Orthodoxy believes that halacha, if it can change at all, needs a
far better reason than that. In Orthodoxy, that something hasnt been done, at
least not in any systematic manner, in 2000 years is ordinarily sufficient
reason why it shouldnt be done today. By this test, synagogue innovations with
women leading parts of the davening or requiring a superminyan to daven,
whatever their technical basis, are not Orthodox.

From: I. Balbin <Isaac.Balbin@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

In respect of Meir Shinnar's post (MJ 58#49).

The facts are that the Rabbinic Council of Victoria (RCV), and I suspect the
Orthodox Rabbi's of Australia (ORA) groups do not approve of Shira Chadasha in
Melbourne. RCV and ORA are entitled to their views, clearly. Furthermore, a
Rabbinic member thereof is entitled to decide that someone who chooses to follow
opinions that are not accepted by the RCV or ORA should be prevented from
assuming Shliach Tzibbur/Ba'al Koreh duties in a member Shule. To my knowledge,
there has been no public besmirching of the said individual although he clearly
is still unhappy that he or his service is not accepted by the Rabbinic
establishment in Melbourne, Victoria and that as a result he is barred from
leading in a mainstream shule. 

Motivation is a halachic consideration, as evidenced for example in Igros
Moshe's comments on women and extra mitzvos.

I don't understand a comment that barring leaders of Shira Chadasha from certain
duties in member congregations to be Choshed B'Chsherim (suspecting the
righteous). This isn't a case of suspicion. It is a case of clear cut choices.
It is a case of a group of people choosing their own path at variance with
established norms of a Rabbinic Body/Community (who happen to also call
themselves "Orthodox"). The members and lay leaders of this temple (there is no
rabbi) continue on their chosen path, but it is difficult to understand why they
persist in thinking that a post to this group and the responses thereof may
result in a change of attitude by the established Rabbinate here. Reality is
that there will not be a change in the view of the RCV or ORA in the foreseeable
future. Live with it.

Perhaps the Shira Chadasha group should try and influence the single
Conservative Temple here in Melbourne (who also consider themselves egalitarian
and have a conservative rabbi) to change their practices and adopt the practices
of Shira Chadasha at least as far as services are concerned. Certainly Shira
Chadasha would see that as a step forward for Conservatives.


From: Immanuel Burton <iburton@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Certification of Scotch Whisky 

In my posting in Mail.Jewish v58 n46, I said that the London Beis Din says that
one should avoid whiskies that explicitly mention sherry casks on the label. 
This doesn't appear to be entirely accurate.  A friend of mine in the UK emailed
me the text from the London Beis Din's kosher food guide about whisky:

1) No additives are allowed in Scotch Whisky with the exception of Caramel
Colour which is kosher.

2) Ordinary Scotch whisky whether Single malt or Blended without any 
mention of the use of sherry, port or other wine casks on the label or marketing
literature, can confidently be consumed without any concerns relating to it
having been in contact with wine casks.

3) Whisky which has been matured in wine casks has been subject to detailed
Halachic consideration by major poskim (including Minchas Yitzchok Vol 2, 28
and Igros Moshe Yore Deah Vol 1, 62 and 63) who did not forbid its 

4) There is a new process however, known as Wine Cask Finishes (also 
referred to as double or second maturation) which is a secondary process that
some claim is specifically designed to enhance the flavour of otherwise fully
matured whisky and impart a recognisable taste of the wine. This process may not
be covered by all the aforementioned heterim and accordingly some may wish to
avoid products so labelled. The London Beth Din continues to allow all types of
Scotch Whisky, based on Teshuvos Igros Moshe.

Does point 2 imply that there are concerns with whiskies that mentions sherry,
port or other wine casks, or does point 3 allay any such concerns?  Or does
point 4 bring such concerns back again?

Immanuel Burton.


From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Conservative Judaism and "Biblical criticism"

Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...> wrote:
> I was told, in the context of the "who is a Jew?" issue,
> that the main objection to the Conservative movement is not
> any specific halachic ruling but rather the teaching of
> "Biblical criticism" (ideas that the Torah was assembled from
>  the writings of four authors rather than dictated by G-d to
> Moses).

Please note that the above is not a fundamental 
tenet of Conservative Judaism. An especially 
important point to make is that although individual 
respected rabbis of the Conservative movement might 
hold various opinions on this matter, the movement 
itself does not have an official position on 
this issue to my knowledge, and most Conservative 
Jews are likely unaware of the scholarship in 
this area.

That said, people bringing up Conservative Judaism 
here might be interested in this examination of various 
theories of revelation by various movements from a book 
by Rabbi Elliot Dorff:


-- Janice


From: Yisrael Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 07:01 PM
Subject: Egalitarian/Partnership Minyanim

Not having lived in the States for 40 years, although we did spend two
years in Golders Green, London, I had decided to stay clear of the issue
of "Partnership/Egalitarian Minyanim" mainly because I am not familiar
with the community need for such a way of davening although Leah's post
was very much appreciated for its insight into the rationale for them.
By the way, I hope the list members have read point 3 in Marc Shapiro's
post over at Seforim Blog
html) which is relevant to the issue.
Another issue is perhaps a feeling of mellowing.  If you're happy with
your davening and do not try to impose it on others, and can find enough
Orthodox basis, after all, some matters in this field are adjudicated
according to a Halachic principle of social acceptance which we have
discussed before.
Nevertheless, yet another reason, subliminal, was the feeling that the
issue would attract the type of responses that are less than logical and
more emotional.  As the inadvertent use of a term like "minim" or the
response of "What evidence do you have that it's Orthodox men?" to a
rather general point, not meant, as I read it, to be specific, of
"Orthodox men can shout us down as much as they like" proving
less-than-average reading & comprehension ability.  Or such claims that
appear to me weird such as women/feminists promoting such prayer
arrangement are "demonizing Torah Jews".  There is no useful
contribution made in ranting.
I also cannot agree with a statement made here such as "As long as you
see halacha not as a source of guidance, you are outside of Torah
Judaism" for in the matter of ascending the Temple Mount, I know quite
well that while the Rabbinic establishment is opposed to entry into the
Har Habayit, I am also convinced that that is not the Halacha, that many
admit so and that almost all assign overwhelming importance to political
aspects to their decision when trying to decide "according to Halacha"
despite the Halacha.
Yisrael Medad


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: In defense of Yitz and Blu Greenberg

Jeanette Friedman wrote (MJ 58#50):
> Blu founded JOFA because of agunot. Unfortunately, her motto, "where there 
> is a halachic will there is a halachic way" proved to be too much for the 
> men in charge. As a result, women will NEVER get gittin from recalcitrant 
> husbands who beat them up no matter what until they pay up and hand over 
> custody, and maybe not even then. IMHO, JOFA has copped out and resigned itself
> to feeding the ugly beast by using the prenup only, leaving the pikuach 
> nefesh of battered women married to batterers in the dust.
> Maybe, when another frum woman is battered or beaten or stabbed to death by 
> her "frum" husband, the rabbinate will take pikuach nefesh seriously. 
> Until then, women's lives are at stake.

I do not think the rabbinate will take pikuach nefesh into consideration.
After all, the woman does have the option of being an agunah.
One thing that might prod them is if JOFA creates a program to send Krav Maga
instructors to the homes of such women for benefactor-paid private instruction.


From: Bernard Raab <beraab@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 02:01 AM
Subject: rabbinical headcovering

Shoshana Ziskind (MJ 58 #45) wrote:
> I just was given some old family photographs and one aspect was a little
> intriguing. I've seen so many pictures of Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, with what I
> always assumed to be a traditional rabbinical kippah and to my surprise, in a
> couple of pictures one of my alter zeides is wearing what looks to be the same
> type of kippah. My question is, can I assume he had a rabbinic background or is
> that not enough to be able to make that assumption. Also, was it rare for women
> from Russia around 100-120 years ago to cover their hair? My family was from
> Bobroisk which is somewhere near Minsk. 

I don't know about women of Russia covering their hair, but the type of
yarmulkah in the photo was quite common for simple Jews of all stripes. As the
"skullcap" type became more prominent, the "pillbox" type became more the
province of the Rabbi/Cantor class, but that was an evolutionary development. I
have no source material for any of this; just the observation of a lifetime of

Bernie R.


From: Carl Singer <carl.singer@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: What's in a name?

My high school classmate, Bill Shakespeare asked what's in a name when
discussing the flower family rosaceae.

The following quotation is from the Jewish Virtual Library -- an
organization that I do not know:

The specific term "Orthodox Judaism" is of rather recent origin and is used
more as a generic term to differentiate the movements following traditional
practices from the Liberal Jewish movements.

I had heard (undocumented) some time ago that the term "Orthodox" was foist
upon Torah observant Jews by those who wanted to paint Torah observant Jews
as "right wing" as opposed to centrist.

Whether or not this is correct we must realize that labels, including
self-labels, are of little value.




End of Volume 58 Issue 51