IRF’s Wide Range
Re Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz’s Jan. 31 op-ed column, “The Chief Rabbinate’s New Deal”:
Rabbi Zev Farber’s theoretical proposals to solve the wrenching problem of agunot are his own personal positions and are not the policy of the International Rabbinic Fellowship(IRF).
The IRF is a growing fellowship of Orthodox rabbis, clergy and communal scholars from the entire range of the Modern Orthodox rabbinate.
Rabbi Jason Herman
International Rabbinic Fellowship
John Kerry adamantly wants to carve a Palestinian state out of the center of Israel, even though Palestinians assassinated the U.S. ambassador in the Sudan, aided in the murder of 241 Marines in Lebanon, allied with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, and celebrated the 9/11 attacks on America.
It is unconscionable for the secretary of state to promote the agenda of murderers of Americans.
In God we trust; not in a delusionary John Kerry.
Chaim ben Zvi
UNESCO’s Historical Revisionism
You recently reported that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had canceled a planned exhibition on the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, on the grounds that it could undermine current negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The decision is, of course, a slap in the face to Israel and Jews everywhere. Yet there is a certain peculiar logic to UNESCO’s decision. The current Israel-PA negotiating process seems to be based on the notion that the Judea-Samaria territories belong to the Palestinian Arabs, no questions asked. That’s why every time Israel builds a few apartments in those areas, the international community screams about “illegal settlements.” Yet when the Palestinian Authority builds not just a few apartments but entire new neighborhoods in the territories, nobody says a word.
The canceled exhibition would have highlighted the 3,000 year-old Jewish presence in the Land of Israel – a fact that might upset the entire basis for the international community’s constant pressure on Israel to withdraw from those historically Jewish lands. In an honest negotiating process, that would not be a problem; historical facts would be weighed along with other factors in considering the competing claims.
Religious Zionists of America
Whither Modern Orthodoxy?
I was pleasantly surprised by your Jan. 31 editorial “Who Speaks for Modern Orthodoxy?” – especially given the silence you referred to on the part of the OU and the RCA concerning inroads being made into the Modern Orthodox community by proponents of the oxymoron called “Open Orthodoxy.”
What is most interesting regarding that movement’s latest deviation from normative Orthodoxy is that in the past, movement leaders would hide behind the mantra of “avu shteit” – where in the Shulchan Aruch is it prohibited? – when questioned about their practices. But this time is different.
In discussing the exemption of women from the mitzvah of tefillin – and referring to a scenario where a woman feels she would like to go beyond what is required by the letter of the law and don tefillin – the Rema (Aruch Chaim, volume 1, 38:3) states that we are “mochin b’yadan” – that we must protest in the event of such circumstances.
Such unambiguous terminology leaves us with no doubt as to how halacha views this unfortunate practice. Your call for the RCA and the OU to end their deafening silence could not be more appropriate.
Kudos to The Jewish Press for speaking out in your wonderful editorial “Who Speaks for Modern Orthodoxy?” The silence of the major Orthodox groups you mentioned – the very groups that should be setting standards and criticizing the self-appointed authorities – is shocking.
This inaction has resulted in the dangerous perception that Modern Orthodoxy has no standards and that any rabbi who has a popular following can decide when and how to make major departures from longstanding Orthodox practice.
I have no doubt that Rav Soloveitchik, as he did in his lifetime, would have spoken against the outliers’ drift toward Conservative Judaism in their embrace of non-halachic conversions, interdenominational dialogue, and women rabbis (among other troubling developments).
As was pointed out in the editorial, only the RCA, the OU and Yeshiva University have the standing and the influence to stanch the drift.
The Rav On Women Wearing Tefillin
“Who Speaks for Modern Orthodoxy?” was on target, especially in its recognition of the silence of the OU, the RCA, and the roshei yeshiva of YU.
I’d like to share a story about women wearing tefillin that involved Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, recounted by Rabbis Aryeh and Dov Frimer in their article “Women’s Prayer Services – Theory and Practice” in the Winter 1998 issue of Tradition:
R. Soloveitchik believed he had good reason to doubt that greater fulfillment of mitzvot motivated many of these women, as illustrated in the following story, related to us by R. Yehuda Kelemer, former rabbi of the Young Israel of Brookline, Massachusetts.
During the mid-1970s, one of R. Kelemer’s woman congregants at the Young Israel of Brookline was interested in wearing a tallit and tzitzit during the prayer services. After R. Kelemer had expressed to her his hesitations about the matter, she approached R. Soloveitchik – who lived in Brookline – on the matter.
The Rav explained that in light of the novelty of the action, it needed to be adopted gradually. Accordingly, he suggested that she first try wearing a tallit without tzitzit (which is, of course, allowed for women.) The Rav asked the woman to return to him after three months, at which time they would discuss the matter further.
When the two met once again, she described to R. Soloveitchik the magnificent nature of her religious experience in wearing the tallit. The Rav pointed out to the woman that wearing a tallit without tzitzit lacked any halachically authentic element of mitzvah. It was obvious, therefore, that what generated her sense of “religious high” was not an enhanced kiyyum hamitzvah, but something else. Under such circumstances, the Rav maintained, wearing a tallit was an inappropriate use of the mitzvah. Consequently, the Rav forbade the woman from wearing a tallit with tzitzit.
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