Volume 58 Number 53 
      Produced: Fri, 06 Aug 2010 10:20:50 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim (4)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  I. Balbin  Meir Shinnar  Janice Gelb]
Certification of Scotch Whisky  
    [Elazar M. Teitz]
Conservative Judaism (2)
    [Ben Katz  Martin Stern]
Rabbinical headcovering? 
    [Hillel Raymon]
Tikkun on a Yahrzeit 
    [Rose Landowne]


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Michael Rogovin (MJ 58#52) wrote:

> I disagree with this test. If that were true then sermons would be
> unorthodox, certainly in the vernacular. So would Bat Mitzvah celebrations.
> Carlebach-type services. Kabbalat Shabbat itself. Singing Yedid Nefesh. I am
> sure there are more examples.

I don't have the time to address each of these, but the practice of sermons
being delivered in the vernacular is about 2000 years old. Pick up any volume of
the Talmud and see for yourself. While the tunes are different, Yemenite
kabbalat shabbat services are effectively Carlebach-type -- everybody sings the
entire thing, together, to what seems to me to be the same tune. Kabbalat
shabbat is part of long tradition of adding pieces to the services -- look at
piyutim.  And I'm not saying "chadash assur min hatorah". I am saying that in
Orthodoxy innovation requires more than "I don't like the status quo."

From: I. Balbin <Isaac.Balbin@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

In Volume 58 Number 52, M. Shinnar wrote:

> With respect to whom one allows to have kibbudim in their shul 
> - each shul has their own standards - (personally, I would be happier with a
> standard that focused on ethical issues, but that is a different
> issue)

In the case at hand, there is no evidence to suggest that the Rabbi who barred
the MJ protagonist from certain kibudim would not equally do so for someone who
was ethicially questionable. Knowing that Rabbi, I am pretty sure that he would,
and that his focus on ethical issues would be considered with at least the same
halachic probity that this issue has evoked.

>  - and given that I suspect that public policy issue is a big
> factor in this decision, this is a way of enforcing public policy.

Public policy is also the HALACHIK domain of a Rabbi and his community. Do you
have evidence for it being outside the pale of Halachic consideration of a Posek?

> That is a quite different issue than a personal attack - that the
> person is not Orthodox - rather than that the person follows an
> opinion that the community rav disagrees with and thinks is dangerous.

I am not aware that the Rabbi in this case has been concerned with the CATEGORY
one ascribes to the MJ protagonist who leads services at Shira Chadasha. My
understanding is that the consideration is of defining those who ARE eligible to
lead services in his own congregation and receive certain kibudim. The Rabbi has
determined that a certain leader of Shira Chadasha is not one of those. That is
not a personal attack in anyone's language. The Rabbi in question would do so,
in my opinion, and I know him quite well, even if the RCV or ORA had no view on
the issue.

> With respect to motivations - yes, it sometimes has a role in halachic
> discussions. However, a psak based on an analysis of motivations will be
> questioned when people who have more first hand knowledge of the people
> involved (to use the tshuva of Rav Moshe cited , I would not presume to
> criticize the halachic reasoning - but can (and many have) criticize
> the metziut (reality) described..), 

You are implicitly short selling the Rabbi of the Shule who doesn't accept the
protagonist. Why would you assume that he isn't aware of his motives of the
protagonist? He may indeed be 100% certain that the protagonist is sincere in
thinking that it is halachically justified to lead Shira Chadasha services.
However, the Rabbi is 100% certain that such actions contravene Halacha. You may
not agree, but so what? I am not sure how the protagonist can be helped by
asking questions of MJ.

> Furthermore, if you read Rav Sperber's article, much of it is
> detailing the spiritual and religious motivations behind the Shira
> Chadasha movement. One may not accept his halachic arguments - but he
> has far more first hand knowledge of the people involved than the
> critics

It would be folly to assume that others who have analysed and criticised Prof
Sperber's opinions are less aware of the sensitivities and the motivation behind
such groups. One could name Poskim, such as Rav Henkin, who the orthodox right
would disavow! I don't believe that Rabbi's Frimer could ever be accused of not
being across this issue either. You really have no evidence to suggest that Prof
Sperber has the only mortgage on understanding this phenomenon.

From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Stuart Wise (MJ 58#51) wrote:

> 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.

One of the main issues for Orthodoxy has been the changing social
circumstances - and public role of women.  The question is what the
proper response should be.  Clearly, it is not always the status quo -
as evinced by the burgeoning Torah studies for women - because
sometimes doing the same thing under different circumstances means
that one is doing something different (you can't go home again..).
Just as the fact that women now receive a secular education means that
they should receive a Jewish education - so too, the fact that women
are very much in the public sphere means that their public role needs
some form of Jewish expression.

The issue of how far and what changes are legitimate is a (the?)
major issue - with multiple responses - but no matter what one accepts
as the right model - including not changing any ritual -  one will end
up with a different model from our matriarchs..(I doubt that your
wife and daughters read Tzena Urena regularly, and if they do, it has
a different meaning for them than for their great great

The question therefore, is the extent to which halacha should have
meaning for the spiritual lives of women living a modern life - and
therefore what changes are legitimate within halacha.  This is not an
all purpose, everything is permitted, clause - the question is what are the
limits - but not realizing that a response is necessary is in
itself highly problematic - and renders one's judgement on the issue

Meir Shinnar

From: Janice Gelb <j_gelb@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 6,2010 at 01:01 AM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

David I. Cohen <bdcohen613@...> wrote:
> What I feel that our discussion has lacked is the question
> of, does the entire zeitgeist behind the "Partnership" idea 
> or the movements typified by JOFA etc. include the 
> voluntarily assuming obligations, or is it just being
> used as a to express spirituality when you want to, or
> "when the spirit moves me"?
> Let me see if I can explain: I am currently in the midst of
> the year of aveilut for my father. This not only entails being 
> at a minyan twice a day (something which I did regularly 
> anyway) but also, at least in our congegation the "chiyuv" 
> (obligation) to lead the davening usually for all 3
> services daily. Frankly, although I know it is certainly a
> huge zechut for my father's neshama, after a while it is 
> too much, and I find myself being a bit thankful when 
> there is someone else to take over for a service.
> So I wonder, have those who so enthusiastically support 
> and participate in "Partnership" also taken upon them-
> selves to be a regular at shul every morning or evening? 
> I realize they they may have no obligation to do so, but
> so what? If it is all about finding ways to come closer to
> God, and, since we believe that public prayer is the best 
> path to do so, where is everyone? Friday night they are at 
> Partnership, but nowhere near any kind of minyan
> on Wednesday?
> I cannot look into anothers mind and see motivation. All I
> can judge by is actions. And what I see in the Partnership 
> service is a method by which a person gets to fulfill a 
> personal desire without any corresponding voluntary
> acceptance of obligations and responsibility. Jewish
> spirituality is not just what I can do, it is also what I must do.

First of all, this seems like a rather odd argument 
from someone supporting the gender-based status 
quo. Most women in Orthodox communities have child-
rearing responsibilities that mean that it is impractical 
for them to attend daily services even if they should 
fervently wish to do so.

Secondly, it seems rather small-minded to insist 
that if women cannot attend weekday services that 
they therefore are not entitled to try to get more 
meaning out of the services that they *can* attend.

Regarding obligation, it might interest you to know 
that this was the crux of the debate on ordaining women 
in the Conservative movement. The Conservative 
seminary requires women candidates "to accept 
equality of obligation for the mitzvot from which women 
have been traditionally exempted, including tallit, 
tefillin and tefillah."

I would be very curious to know whether you hold 
men who get honors in your synagogue to the same 
standard of responsibility that you mention here.

Finally, not that it really has any bearing on the 
general principle but just as a data point, when 
I was in aveilut for my mother, I attended mincha/
ma'ariv every night of the 11 months. (And, btw, 
due to my chiyuv, I also led davening about 90% 
of the time :-> )

-- Janice


From: Elazar M. Teitz <remt@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 6,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Certification of Scotch Whisky 

At the time the correspondence between my father and RMFeinstein, zichronam livracha, on the matter of whisky, I was in my early teens, and away from home attending yeshiva, so I was not too familiar with the details.  However, to the best of my recollection, my father's objection was not to the aging of liquor in sherry casks, since that would have applied to blended and unblended whiskies alike, and his objection was only to the blended.  As I recall it, he had discovered, in discussions with a local distiller, that a wine- or grape-derived pectin was used as a binder for the blend, making it a davar hama'amid [an agent for holding together], which cannot be nullified.  I know that he convinced the distiller to make a kosher blended, and when the time came for adding the wine-based ingredient, my father arranged for a crew of shomrei Shabbos to come to the distillery and be the only ones to open the containers and handle the problematic ingredient.

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From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 6,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Conservative Judaism

In reponse to Orrin Tilevitz (MJ 58#51) and Frank Silbermann (MJ 58#49), I would
suggest that their statements are a bit glib.  

The Conservative movement believes in halachic evolution - that the process of
halachic innovation should not be frozen in time.  See the discussion in Emet
Ve-Emunah: Statement of Principles of Conservative Judaism,JTS, 1988,
"Halachah", pp. 21-25.  Of course many of us disagree with the extent to which
the C. movement has used this principle, but we must conceded that the Modern
Orthodox have accepted a bit of this philosophy in adopting practices such as
not saying Tachanun on Yom Ha-atzmaut, just like we don't say Tachanun on

Ben Katz

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 6,2010 at 10:01 AM
Subject: Conservative Judaism

Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...> wrote (MJ 58#51):
> 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.

He then went on to list examples of each of these where the official
position of Conservative Judaism deviated significantly from even the most
"liberal" version of Orthodoxy:

(1) driving to shul on Shabbat and carrying objects on private
property that is not surrounded by a fence

(2) drinking stam yeinam [unboiled wine handled by a non-Jew], eating fish
in a non-kosher restaurant, permitting any hard cheese, and sturgeon as a
"kosher" fish; 

(3) allowing a woman to go to the mikveh and resume marital relations after
she stops bleeding without counting seven clean days.

While these deviations may have been instituted, I think there is
an underlying philosophy that needs to be examined, rather than only such
specifics. I have read through "A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice" by the late
Isaac Klein, one of the more conservative leaders of the Conservative
movement, and come to the conclusion that its "halachah" works on the following

(1) the primary objective is to justify, wherever possible, whatever the
membership wishes to do in practice,

(2) as a first line, they look for a meikil (lenient) opinion among current
or recent poskim [decisors],

(3) where this fails, they search the earlier literature and base
themselves on a daat yechidi [isolated opinion] that has long been rejected
by the consensus of rabbinic opinion e.g. permitting sturgeon as a "kosher"
fish based on the questionable ruling of the Noda Biyehudah,

(4) if Orrin's third example is correct, though Isaac Klein's work does not
mention such a ruling, it would appear that they even go back to
pre-Talmudic times. (The practice they allow is based on Biblical law onto
which women added the chumra of seven clean days after sensing even a drop of
blood the size of a mustard seed, i.e. conflating the niddah and zivah laws,
which was later accepted by Rav Zeira)

(5) where none of these produces the desired result, they have recourse to
arguing that changed social conditions necessitate a change in practice e.g.
allowing driving to shul on Shabbat since most members live too far away to
be able to walk.

While even Chareidi, let alone Modern Orthodox, poskim might use approach
(2) in situations of great need, it is the later stages that mark a
significant divergence from the traditional halachic process. As regards (4),
though the latter might "turn a blind eye" to infringements of halachic practice
by individuals on the principle that admonishing them might be
counterproductive and only drive them further away, they would never give
a formal hetter [permit] for something clearly forbidden, like driving to
shul on Shabbat.

Martin Stern> 


From: Hillel Raymon <raymhill@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 03:01 PM
Subject: Rabbinical headcovering?

In MJ Volume 58 number 45, Shoshana Ziskind asks:
> 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.
The pillbox-shaped kippah in question was not uncommon among lay Eastern
European men (or at least Litvaks) of Rav Moshe's generation.  The shamashim and
several of the other European-born older men in the shuls I attended in New
Brunswick, New Jersey while growing up in the late 1950's and early 1960's wore
similar kippot.  In fact, a disposable paper version was sometimes available in
the entrance hallway for those who arrived in shul without a kippah (of course,
in those years, they did not arrive bare-headed; in the street almost all men,
Jewish or non-Jewish, wore hats).  Those who regularly wore the pillbox kippot
in America were not necessarily more learned or pious than other men of their
generation--they were simply continuing a fashion they had grown up with in the
"old country", where even young children had worn such kippot.

Hillel Raymon


From: Rose Landowne <Roselandow@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 5,2010 at 08:01 PM
Subject: Tikkun on a Yahrzeit

On Aug 5, 2010, at 4:57 PM, Gershon Dubin wrote:

> Hence the wish that soul be elevated at the time of the yahrtzeit which,
> I believe, is one of the points at which an assessment of his good influences
> is made.

Perhaps one indication of the good influences of the deceased is to have brought
up children properly.  An example of that would be their showing hakarat hatov
for what the community did for them in their time of need, by bringing food and
drink to the community on the yartzeit.

Rose Landowne


End of Volume 58 Issue 53