Latest update: March 31st, 2014
Not So Operatic
Harvey Rachlin’s article comparing the Shabbat morning service to a great grand opera was nothing less than awe-inspiring (“The Shabbat Morning Service: Like an Opera – Only More,” op-ed, Feb. 14).
Unfortunately, his experience in shul is not one that is shared by the majority of worshipers in Orthodox congregations. Instead of a sonorous voice and soaring melodies flowing through the room, we are more likely to be treated to a whiney, nasal and/or off-key belching of what purports to be our service to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
If davening is supposed to be in lieu of korbanot, what is being offered would not have been deemed an acceptable sacrifice under any shitah. Perhaps if our congregants were instructed in the halacha regarding who is permitted to lead the service (having yahrzeit is not a qualification) and how the service is to be performed (some of the required melodies are called miSinai for a reason) our Shabbat davening might indeed become the fascinating, memorable, religious, and spiritual experience it should be.
Modern Orthodox Schism (I)
Re the recent articles, editorials and letters to the editor concerning the growing schism in Modern Orthodoxy:
The controversy over who makes authoritative decisions in Orthodoxy sparked by troublesome developments in the “Open Orthodoxy” movement (including the designation by Rabbi Avi Weiss of so-called rabbahs and the more recent announcements by the heads of SAR Academy and the Ramaz School that female students may put on tefillin if they wish to do so ) is not without precedent.
Some 25 years ago, several Orthodox Rabbis, most of them graduates of RIETS, formed the Orthodox Roundtable, sometimes referred to as the RCA Roundtable. Their plan was to tackle, within halachic parameters, key problems facing the Orthodox community.
These were mostly individuals who knew their way around the halachic literature and were certainly people of serious accomplishment. Yet even they would admit they were not on the level of the Talmudic giants whom Jews have relied on for centuries for definitive halachic decisions. Ultimately, the group disbanded in the face of criticism from elements within the RCA as well as from some of the roshei yeshiva at RIETS.
If the Orthodox Roundtable met with such resistance, we should expect even more of a backlash to the ideas being spouted by the champions of Open Orthodoxy. That is why I can only hope that Rabbi Hershel Schachter’s eloquent challenge to the SAR and Ramaz initiatives (“More on the Tefillin Controversy,” editorial, Feb. 14) will be followed by similar reactions from the RCA and RIETS ranks.
Modern Orthodoxy is facing an epic identity crisis and the time to address it is now.
Modern Orthodox Schism (II)
I was very impressed with Rabbi Hershel Schachter’s erudite responsum concerning women wearing tefillin. He is certainly someone to admire. Yet even he seems not to grasp the nature of the problems facing Orthodoxy.
Today women are out in the world as never before. They are proving themselves every bit as creative and capable as men, and even more devout. To keep them restrained by narrow interpretations of halacha when there are valid interpretations supporting a more progressive approach is simply wrong. It is not natural and cannot lead to anything good in the long run.
Netanyahu’s Modest Proposal (I)
Re Shlomo Greenwald’s Feb. 7 op-ed “Netanyahu’s Modest Proposal”:
Benjamin Netanyahu has to be my favorite Israeli politician, with Dore Gold a close second. Ideas such as Netanyahu’s change perceptions and when perceptions change it opens up whole new opportunities.
Netanyahu’s Modest Proposal (II)
Shlomo Greenwald’s op-ed was an articulate, well-written article that made me think – and consequently agree.
Dodi Lee Lamm
Netanyahu’s Modest Proposal (III)
It is my fervent belief that until the Arabs agree to allow Jews to live in this proposed new state there can be no peace. This agreement would be evidence of a true wish for peace.
William Lewis (Zev) Wexler
All Things In Moderation
Re Sara Lehmann’s Feb. 14 “Right Angle” column (“Conservatives Not Welcome in New York?”):
While understanding many of Ms. Lehmann’s problems with New York City’s liberal agenda, I take offense to her objection to what she describes as “the draconian gun-control bill rammed through the New York legislature soon after the Newton massacre.”
As a psychologist working at a corrections facility, I see first hand the devastating effects of the easy accessibility to firearms, especially among the juvenile population. This access is rampant in many inner city neighborhoods where guns and drugs seem to go hand in hand as both accepted and expected possessions.
What I also find revolting is when mentally unstable individuals somehow are given access to guns and other lethal weapons with which, not surprisingly, they commit the vilest criminal acts.
That is why I am a very strong advocate of strict gun control laws and personally believe that only those who work in law enforcement or other security-related jobs or live in rural areas populated by wild animals should be permitted to bear arms. For everyone else, easy access to firearms – especially without proper training and regardless of mental stability and appropriateness – is a prescription for the kind of disaster we have witnessed on all too many occasions.
For these reasons I am dismayed with Ms. Lehman’s embrace of the “right to bear arms,” which she ironically seems to juxtapose with the “right to life” (which to me is the direct opposite).
But what I find most disturbing about people like Ms. Lehmann is that, in their eagerness to subscribe to a particular agenda, they become ideologues who filter out whatever aspects of their agenda may not be so appropriate.
As a true independent (not to mention a Torah-abiding Jew), she should realize that not everything endorsed by conservatives is so appealing, just as not everything subscribed to by liberals is so repulsive. Other examples, besides our much-too-lax gun control laws, include the conservatives’ position on environmental issues and their lack of sensitivity to the underprivileged. I feel the so-called liberal agenda in these areas are more compatible with our Torah values.
Unfortunately, in our current extremely polarized environment everything is viewed as black and white and there is little room for more nuanced thinking. For these reasons I do not subscribe to either the conservative or the liberal agenda but feel there is a need for a more moderate agenda that combines the best of conservatism and liberalism.
That would include being very pro-Israel in foreign policy but, on the domestic front, taking a rational approach to guns, the environment, and certain social issues including compassion to those less privileged. This is the agenda I would embrace.
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