Volume 58 Number 72 
      Produced: Sun, 15 Aug 2010 12:36:52 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim 
    [Russell J Hendel]
"statement of principles" regarding homosexuality 
    [Russell J Hendel]
Kabbala and gender issues 
    [David Tzohar]
Terminology for homosexuality 
    [Batya Medad]
The Jewish Observer and women's learning 
    [Jeanette  Friedman]


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

I thought it appropriate to this topic, to mention my explanation of MINYAN (the
10-male requirement), according to which MINAYN is a FAULT in men and therefore
WOMEN should not feel deprived for not participating. I think this an important
point: Too often I see articles of the form  "Men have this, We (women) want it
also". I think women should want good things that men have (such as the right to
learn); I don't think women should want things that specifically address male

I believe the requirement of 10 males (minyan) as well as all related items,
such as the prohibition of saying certain prayers (e.g. Barchu) UNLESS 10 males
are present arises from the following considerations:

1. The institution is rabbinic according to everyone. No one can claim that
repetition of the shmoneh esray is Biblical; No one can claim that saying
Barechu is Biblical. It is Rabbinic. We have to ask WHY the Rabbis instituted
this enactment.

2. The Talmudic derivations refer to the CONGREGATION OF SPIES (A biblical
phrase in Num. 13, Num. 14). There were 10 spies  who maliciously slandered
Israel because of their conservative viewpoints (There was too much risk in
attacking). The acceptance of slander by these 10 spies led to the downfall of
an entire nation of several million people (600,000 males above 20 and related
females). This is a great tragedy brought on by 10 men. The entire nation
(actually all the adult males except Joshua and Kalev) were disallowed from
going into Israel - all because of the slander of 10 men.

3. The Talmud learns from the Biblical phrase CONGREGATION OF SPIES, that 10
creates a CONGREGATION. But wait a minute. We just said that this whole
institution is Rabbinic. The use of words to infer halacha must be justified by
a Sinaitic tradition and this can't be the case because the law was not Biblical.

4. I would therefore argue that the Rabbis CREATED the concept of a MINYAN=10
males, and they also created what the MINYAN=10 males allows: saying certain
prayers such as Kaddish, Borechu etc. They did this to create an atmosphere of
importance that 10 males constitute a congregation. They created this atmosphere
to symbolically warn such CONGREGATIONS that what they say if slanderous could
hurt an entire community. 

In other words, I view the entire minyan concept and its related concepts as a
Rabbinic invention to remind men - even a few men - even "just 10" - that their
words can seriously affect the community. In other words, the MINYAN was created
to commemorate the horrible sin of the spies.

That being the case there is no reason in the world for women to want a minyan
nor should they want to say the things reserved for a minyan. Women largely are
honest and do not slander to be politically conservative. They participated
neither in the act of slander nor in the acceptance of that slander. Hence there
is no reason for them to 'want' to be like the men who had serious faults.

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: Russell J Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: "statement of principles" regarding homosexuality

I see this discussion as abstract; there is no enumeration of the 12 items on
the signed document. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to discuss which of the 12
are clearly acceptable and which are controversial (Note: I suspect some mj
readers are not motivated to click and read the entire document - My summary is
only 1-2 lines per item. Perhaps this would facilitate more discussion. I
obviously however have left out some nuances but I believe my summary good. If I
added words to the original document, I inserted them in parenthesis). Let me
now comment:

I believe articles/items #1,2,3,4,6,10 would be acceptable to any orthodox
(right/left), conservative, or reform person. In enumerating these articles, I
have followed Orrin's inquiry and explicitly broadened the statement to
homosexual or any other Torah sin. These 6 articles state that for any person
committing homosexuality or any other Torah sin, or any person with a strong
urge or preference to commit homosexuality or any other Torah sin that

#1) There is a Biblical prohibition of (verbally or physically) abusing them.

#2) The prohibition of not abusing them (#1) is independent of scientific
declaration on the innateness or lack of innateness of these traits.

#3) Notwithstanding the above the Torah demands observance to halacha (e.g. The
Torah desires opposite sex marriages).

#4) Torah prohibitions are on ACTS not on URGES (The document notes the
technical "hirhur" - perhaps translated as (active?) fantasizing as a possible

#6) Community leaders and lay people should exercise extreme sensitivity to
"sinners" who contemplate suicide They must be helped.

Again: How could anyone dispute any of the above (whether on the left or right).
 On the other hand, I objected mildly to #5,#10. I strongly demurred to

Here is #5-#10 and my mild objections.

#5) Homosexuals/Torah sinners have the right to reject therapies that they
consider useless.

#10) Halachah rejects an all or nothing attitude towards observance.
Homosexuals/Torah sinners should be encouraged to observe all mitzvoth.

My response/objection: True: I would have liked to see a statement that "Torah
Judaism believes in man's capacity to repent. All sinners are encouraged to
research, read books, speak to individuals, etc. to find out how to change their

NOTE: In this regard I believe that the Torah flatly rejects that homosexual
**action** COULD be hard wired. Since of the dozen sexual prohibitions in Lev.
18 only homosexuality and bestiality are called abomination (Toayvah) and filthy
(tevel), I conclude that these words are PSYCHOLOGICAL not MORAL. They do not
evaluate the ACT but the NATURALITY OF FEELING (I don't see a way out of this).
I think the proper attitude towards homosexuals is that they were born with the
same capacity and desire of heterosexual relationship as everyone else but that
traumatic incidents in childhood or adolescence or adulthood or witnessed
traumatic incidents of friends INDUCED them in their CURRENT feelings. I really
believe that the Torah has a right to override psychological science.
Fortunately, THE DOCUMENT CAREFULLY AVOIDED THIS. I however would be happy to
discuss this.

Finally, I strenuously objected to #7-9,#11. I was shocked by #12. Here are the
statements and my objections

#7) The document is neutral on whether sinners should be OPEN or SILENT about
their situation.

person is sinning (not oriented) homosexuality, he should NOT talk about it
(Except to relevant people who could help them)


MY RESPONSE: Membership yes; full no. e.g. We sometimes disallow aliyoth to
sinners. We disallow cantorship to sinners. Why should homosexuals be exempt.
RESPECT is not blindness. It is OK to be a homosexual member. But we aren't
blind to their sinfulness. To allow him the right to be the Rabbi, Cantor, or
get an aliyah is quite another thing. Isn't the whole purpose of a synagogue a
sort of a private club where we teach our children our values. Don't we have a
right to such privacy. If we allow homosexual membership, we are sending the
wrong message to our children. We have a right to our own internal Chizzuk

#9)While acknowledging the "stringent" criteria for being a cantor the document
cops out and leaves it to each synagogue to determine  whether e.g. homosexuals
 are eligible to be e.g. high holiday cantors.

MY RESPONSE: The document should encourage this not be allowed. Choice of a
cantor sends a message to the congregation and to our children. We have a right
to deny that message.

#11) A) We must  accept the FAMILY members related to sinners. B) We should
encourage NORMAL family relationships with them.

MY RESPONSE: I endorse A. I reject B. A married couple with small children has
not only a right but also an obligation to shield their children from models of
adulthood contrary to our beliefs. I would DISCOURAGE Jewish families from
dining out with homosexual couples. (Of course, there is nothing wrong with
inviting a non-open homosexual for a Sabbath meal)

#12) A) Discourage homosexual-female marriages. B) Require disclosure of past
prior to marriages.

MY RESPONSE: I agree with B). I was shocked at A). When I say "shocked" I mean
really shocked. There is a Biblical obligation to marry and reproduce. There is
a Biblical obligation to repent. Who gave anyone the right to discourage it. The
document states "Because  such marriages have problems" Really? All my
heterosexual friends have problems in their marriages! What has gotten into
everyone. Maybe the homosexual's marriage to a female would cure them. Did
anyone ask why this woman wants to marry such a person. I have known homosexuals
 who successfully got married. In fact you do also! What would have happened to
Talmudic Judaism if Resh Lakish (who according to many opinions was homosexual)
did not marry Rabbi Jochanan's sister.

As I said: I have brought these one line summaries to encourage further
discussion. I also brought them to show that certain issues are highly
acceptable while others seem to have problems. I mentioned my own view on "hard
wiring" which I would be happy to discuss.

Finally I close by noting that the American Presidential order on homosexuals
was directed to jobs (not to the justification of marriages).

Russell Jay Hendel; Phd ASA; http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 14,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: Kabbala and gender issues

The discussion on gender issues such as partnership minyans has revolved
around practical questions in halacha and to a lesser extent broader
sociological questions. What has not been touched upon is the real source of
all these questions. What does Torah tell us about the basic relation
between male and female. 

For this we must leave the revealed Torah and venture into the hidden Torah. I
have barely gotten my feet wet in roiling sea that is kabbala. I have never
studied the Zohar itself, but I am familiar with its concepts from the study of
 the works of Chassidic masters such as Tanya, Noam Elimelech , Sfat Emet and
most importantly Rav Kook and his desciples. Lately I have also heard the Torah
of R' Yosef Ginsburg which is based on the teachings of the late great
Lubovitcher Rebbe.

One of the basic concepts is that while Gd is absolute in his unity there
are male and female aspects. Adam was created in the image of Gd and had
both of the male and female aspects. Man however is not a god. Only the
Almighty rules alone. Man cannot rule alone therefore the female aspect was
separated and woman was created from Man. Man was created from the earth and
the breath of life was breathed into him directly from the HKBH thus infusing
him with both nefesh beheimi (material 'beast' life force) and neshama
elokit (immortal soul which is itself Divine.) The story of the sin of Adam
and Eve in the hidden Torah is much too complicated for treatment in this
framework but we can say that when Adam and Eve left Eden their roles were
clearly defined. Woman was the mother of mankind superior spiritually but
mushpa'at (passive - literally impressed upon) in relation to man.

While this is just a shorthand of the Kabbalistic view of the relations
between men and woman, I hope that I have made the point that the discussion
of gender issues in the Torah from the standpoint of halacha and minhag
barely scratches the surface of the broad mystical underpinnings of this

David Tzohar


From: Batya Medad <ybmedad@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Terminology for homosexuality

Let's cut out the euphemisms and just call a homosexual a homosexual (or
lesbian in the case of a female).  I like simplicity and I don't want to imply



From: Jeanette  Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 11,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: The Jewish Observer and women's learning

Nisson Wolpin, who edited the JO for decades was a very special person. 
Over the years, as with this list, the Agudah and most of its "members" swung 
to the right wing edge of the planet. Except for some  old-timer 
baby-boomers, most of the "new" Agudah establishment and members have no use
for English insights to Torah that were way too "liberal" by their standards. 
Younger yeshiva chevra DON'T READ ENGLISH much, don't appreciate the 
intellectual abilities of a fellow like Nisson (or his good use of language and 
grammar). And like every other publication in the age of the Internet, the JO 
had to subsidize itself with ads. But if there are no readers, advertisers 
don't buy space. It's like circular suicide.
Rabbi Wolpin is no longer employed by the Agudah, and I will rue the day  
when they get rid of Rabbi Kolodny who runs the archives as well. The new 
guys really don't like the old guys who built the organization because they  
are seen as too modern.
Moishe Sherer and my father, the former world VP of the  organization, must 
both be spinning in their graves as a result. Sherer said to me and others 
that if the Agudah ever took a nickel from the Conference on Jewish Material 
Claims Against Germany, they should close their doors for corruption. The 
moment he passed on, they started sending proposals to the Claims Conference, 
including a request for $300,000 to digitize files in Israel (about 15 
linear feet of them). They got $100K for the job --- but it didn't make sense to 
me, because that same year as they applied for that grant, in my father's 
memory, I gave Kolodny a complete set up--computer, printer/scanner/copier, 
CD writer, Internet connection, 200 CDs with jewel cases, and a cabinet to 
store it all, for the exact purpose of digitizing the archives. He didn't 
even have a fax machine or a copier in his office, and they tried to kidnap 
the machine I gave him as he was taking it up in the  elevator! 
When I asked the then exec. dir. why he went to the CC, he said that  
everyone feeds at the CC trough.
That's when I wrote off the Agudah completely. Do not expect anything as  
"open-minded" as the JO to rear its lovely head at the Agudah ever again. An  
organization whose spokesperson can write an article saying that Madoff 
wasn't such a bad guy has to make you wonder what planet they are  on.
As for the recent discussions about women's learning, I can tell you this:  
My great-grandmother (the Stryzower Rebbitzen) had a houseboy, Langsam,  
(now living in LA) who remembers when the Minchas Elazar came to visit his 
mother (yes, my great-grandmother), the rebbitzen, in Stryzow. Langsam's 
sister was about to leave for Krakow to study at the Beis Yakov and his father 
asked the Minchas Elazar for a brocha for his daughter. 
The Minchas Elazar cursed her instead. It didn't matter to him at all, that 
after his father died, his own mother would "fir a tisch" on Friday nights 
and give a dvar Torah, but Sarah Shenirer was a blot on Yiddishkeit, and 
the Minchas Elazar's curses were legendary. (He and Reb Yoeli, the Satmar 
Rebbe, once cursed each other over the grave of the Dinever Rebbe, and as a 
result, legend has it neither of them had sons.) 
He also blamed the Zionists for the ascent of Hitler and warned his  
Chassidim not to flee for their lives as the Holocaust approached. As one of 
his Chassidim wrote to me, "It was better they go to Gan Eden than be  
assimilated in America or be cursed Zionists in Eretz Yisroel." 
I guess the Torah edict of "Bacharta B'Chaim" was one Halakha the Minchas 
Elazar didn't feel obligated to keep. If he can pick and choose what to 
observe and what not to observe in a time of Pikuach Nefesh, then I am  curious 
to know why anyone paid attention to him. 
There's more, much more, but my mother and cousins plead with me to keep  
the "family secrets."
I guess that that's their definition of Torah Judaism, but it's not mine.
Jeanette  Friedman 


End of Volume 58 Issue 72