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August 29, 2014 / 3 Elul, 5774
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Letters To The Editor

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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.

Robert Markowitz
Brooklyn, NY

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.

Jack Lieberman
(Via E-Mail)

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One Response to “Letters To The Editor”

  1. Roy Neal Grissom says:

    Yasher koach to Moshe Phillips. Yet how can Israel and Jewry invoke the historical connection between Jews and 'Eretz Yisra'el without having to deal with the Bible? Yet the Bible as an argument on any public issue has been considered beyond the pale for decades now–ironically, in large part because of historical Xian persecution of Jews. So now what happens? Mainstream Zionism usually ignores the Bible (and certainly HaShem) in its arguments with opponents in favor of a purely secular rationale. To maintain this rationale while invoking the Bible is going to be a problem.

    Furthermore if one begins invoking the Bible on one issue, the floodgates will be opened up to invoking it on other issues as well. Why should the Bible be listened to on one issue but not another? To invoke the Bible while still in political alliance (however "pragmatic") with homosexuals and atheists (as a "minority group") will make the Jewish community hypocritical.

    Perhaps…just perhaps Jews were never meant to turn to secularization for protection? Maybe their mission from Day One has been to teach the Nations about HaShem and His Law, which is the antithesis of secularism, however historically "benign" it has been to Jews (though it has been far from benign to everybody).

    Liberal Jews never let "separation of religion and state" stop them from agitating for ever more destructive policies. How can Orthodox Jews continue to cling to this false concept and refuse to agitate for G-dly positions on all issues?

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