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July 31, 2015 / 15 Av, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’

Kosher Sex

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

{Originally posted to author’s website, Emes Ve-Emunah}

About 15 years ago, Orthodox Rabbi Shmuley Boteach wrote a book called Kosher Sex. It catapulted him to celebrity status. But he was also roundly criticized for it by most Orthodox rabbis. Now It seems that YCT (Yeshiva Chovevei Torah ) Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Dov Linzer has embarked on a similar path. He is participating in a podcast of similar content.

He is joined by Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus, a woman who bills herself as an Orthodox sex therapist. According to the Jewish Week she was profiled in the New York Times about her work with Charedim. I’m not sure there is any difference between what Rabbi Boteach did and what Rabbi Linzer is doing. Other than the fact that Rabbi Linzer’s efforts are free to the public online and available to anyone who wishes to access it.

I have to wonder about the propriety of this. I have my issues with YCT. And have spelled them out quite clearly in the past. One of them in fact raises questions about a hard line being crossed. A line with respect to the tolerance of rabbis in their midst that have cast the the events at Sinai into the realm of fiction.

But leaving all that aside, a new issue has arisen that is keeping YCT firmly implanted in controversy. The Jewish Week reports about a new website jointly hosted by YCT and JOFA (Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance) that features a program called the Joy of Text… a play on the title of a very popular book of the 70s entitled the Joy of Sex – an illustrated sex manual by British author Alex Comfort, PhD. That should give you some idea about the purpose of this podcast.

It isn’t a program about Taharas Mishpacha – family purity laws. That would be fine. It is basically a a sex manual for Orthodox Jews. It features Issues like the permissibility of sexual fantasies… which kind are permitted and which are forbidden and whether sex toys are permitted and in what context.

I’m not quite sure what to make of it. On the one hand, there ought to be more information about these things disseminated to young people before they get married. My guess is that there is precious little of it now. I am told by people involved in these things that that these issues are indeed discussed. But my guess is that they fall woefully short of touching the entire gamut of issues involved. Knowledge is power. Halachic knowledge is Halachic power.

So at first blush it would seem that there is everything right about this. Nothing to criticize. Sex is an important part of marriage. It ought not be put on the back burner of educating young men and women about marriage. Understandably, however, most people are reluctant to talk about it. Including, and perhaps especially those that ought to be – Mechanchim. Teachers who mold the character of our young. That makes it kind of a conundrum. But it shouldn’t be.

My reservation is in the public way it is being done. And that one of the participants is the Rosh HaYeshiva of YCT. Is it really appropriate for a Rosh HaYeshiva to be talking publicly about sexual fantasies and sex toys? Even if his entire purpose is to provide the Halachic perspective on this?

I’m conflicted about this particular way of tackling this very sensitive issue. And yet I think there is a need. Perhaps instead of a podcast it might be more appropriate to encourage people to consult with rabbinic experts and a therapist privately about these matters.

Of Fleas, Eagles and Gripes

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

A week ago, when a private letter from Rabbi Ezra Schochet, addressed to the Beis Din of Johannesburg and Chabad Rep Rabbi Yossi Goldman, was leaked to CHI, calling it “prohibited and unacceptable” for any Chabad Rabbi to allow Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to speak in their synagogues, I didn’t give it much thought. I studied under Rabbi Schochet and understood why he doesn’t want Boteach giving public speeches in Chabad institutions — Rabbi Schochet feels that Boteach’s printed materials and publicized actions are beyond the limits of orthodox theology and go against some of Chabad’s fundamental beliefs and the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s instructions.

I don’t feel that it’s necessary for Rabbi Schochet to be specific when stating his opinion since his concerns are blatantly obvious to anyone who has read Boteach’s book and is familiar with basic orthodox theology and Chabad’s core values. Judaic scholar Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, in a letter clarifying some of the problems with one of Boteach’s books, wrote “Any knowledgeable person who will read the book will see that many of the assumptions and theories are contradicting the Halacha, and the Jewish traditions.” Dr. Lawrence H. Schiffman, Vice-Provost of Undergraduate Education at Yeshiva University and Professor of Jewish Studies, wrote a critique of Boteach’s book “Kosher Jesus” addressing some of these concerns. Even Yossi Goldman,“one of the world’s most successful communal rabbis”, in an email defending the rationale behind his invitation to Boteach, wrote ”I am relieved by my decision to deliberately ensure that he is, in fact, not speaking on that topic”.

Rabbi Schochet, dubbed by his colleagues and students as “the Rosh” ( “ראש” , literally “Head”) for his brilliant analytic style, depth of understanding and vast Talmudic scholarship, is a strong minded scholar and educator who is known within Chabad for speaking his mind even when others are silent. And like many serious scholars he can come across as harsh to those that don’t know him. When Messianism ran amok in Chabad in the early 90s, shortly before the Rebbe’s passing, the Rosh was among the few leaders unafraid to speak out against the craziness. The story goes – and I stress that it is unconfirmed – that the Rosh and Steven Spielberg had a falling out after the Rosh chastised Spielberg for building a bathroom with see-through walls. The Rosh undoubtedly thought it was immodest and foolish and told Spielberg so, even at the risk of losing a major donor. I don’t think Boteach’s bullying scares him much.

I knew Boteach was going to respond but I naively thought he would use the opportunity to honestly address some of the controversy surrounding his persona. Boteach, in his op-ed, accuses the Rosh of sending his letter to two “gossip-mongering and illiterate websites – who trade in daily attacks on leading figures in Chabad and beyond”. As far as I know the letter was only published on one website not two. The editor of the website told me that he was amused that Boteach was critical of his website. “Before we had a falling out and Boteach threatened to sue me, he would send me articles some of which I printed. Ironically, despite Boteach’s claims, I never received anything directly from the Rosh, not now and not ever,” he said.

Personally, I have no issue with Boteach lecturing and consider myself to have a friendly relationship with him. But I’m hardly a good example because I probably wouldn’t be bothered even if Spinoza was given a platform.

Boteach certainly has every right to defend himself but, sadly, his op-ed does none of the above. Instead he falsely maligns the Rosh as a radical comparing him to an Islamic extremist and implies that he is running a “Taliban madrassa.” Over the years, the Yeshiva in Los Angeles attracted all different types of students with many different religious standards. Boteach owes an apology to the thousands of Yeshiva alumni including those former Yeshiva students who have gone on to successful professional careers. Graduates from the Yeshiva include prominent Shluchim, rabbis, doctors’ attorneys and educators, and the list goes on.

Boteach Pal Booker Wins Senate Seat in NJ

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Now, that’s how you write a Jewish Press news brief! Old time close friend of our regular contributor Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Newark Mayor, Democrat Cory Booker, easily defeated his Republican opponent in Wednesday’s special election, and will serve the remainder of the term of late Senator Frank Lautenberg, who died in office in June at the age of 89. So, in a way, the seat remained Jewish.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Booker had 55 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Steve Lonegan, a Republican former mayor of Bogota, N.J., and state director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, according to The Associated Press.

Of course, the freshman Senator will have to hit the ground running, since Lautenberg’s term will expire next year, and the champ will have to earn his title one more time.

Dr Oz and Rabbi Shmuley Dance the Hora in Hebron

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Earlier this week, as part of their ongoing journey through the Holy Land, Turkish-American cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Mehmet Oz and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, aka “America’s Rabbi,” visited the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the ancient city of David in Jerusalem.

Dr Oz commented: “I love the fact that I’m here in Hebron, where it all began. It’s a very special place.”

“I’m told that Hebron means ‘connected’ in Hebrew,” the renowned surgeon who was introduced to American audiences on the Opra Winfrey show in 2004 added. “Being here connects us to the roots of our shared beliefs, the very spot were Abraham, the father of monotheism, is buried.”

The Dr. Oz Show, a daily television program focusing on medical issues and personal health was launched by Winfrey in 2009.

Boteach and Oz prayed for peace together from the book of Psalms, and lit candles at the holy site.

Following the prayer, Rabbi Boteach commented: “The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron is one of the only places on earth where one can see both Jews and Muslims praying together at the same site. We pray for the day when we will all pray together as brothers, just as Dr. Oz and I have done today.”

On exiting the cave the Rabbi and the surgeon joined an impromptu Hora dance circle with the local residents and took photographs with some the Israeli soldiers stationed there.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and This World: The Jewish Values Network are hosting Dr. Mehmet Oz and his family on their first visit to Israel. The trip was initiated by Rabbi Shmuley, who crowned Oz and his wife “Champions of Jewish Values,” together with Elie Wiesel and Sheldon and Miriam Adelson.

Shmueley and Oz met on the Opra show.

Cory Booker, NJ Torah-Versed Black Christian, on Way to Senate

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is leading the Democratic primary polls and if he wins, he is a shoo-in for a general election victory to replace Frank Lautenberg in the Senate.

Already touted as possible presidential candidate in the future, Booker’s interest in Jewish studies began approximately 20 years ago when he met a Chabad rabbi. A “chavrutah” Torah study partner is – who else? – Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

The Wall Street Journal noted Monday that his wide contacts with Jewish sources have helped him fill his campaign chest, even though Lautenberg’s family is far from thrilled with his candidacy and have endorsed one of his opponents, Rep. Frank Pallone.

Booker, a black Christian, usually appears at a Passover Seder, and he is so interested in Israel that he once took his parents to visit the Jewish state.

His knowledge of Judaism “could put many of us to shame,” New Jersey philanthropist and Jewish Federation leader Lori Klinghoffer told the Journal.

Booker has been in politics since a young age, after having grown up in a predominantly white upper-class borough of Bergen County. His parents were among the first black executives at IBM.

After earning a law degree at Yale, he moved to Newark to become a tenants’ rights attorney when he was  only 27. He quickly moved into politics and was elected to the city council in 1998. Booker narrowly lost his seat in 2002 but regained in four years later and then became mayor.

Pro-Israel PAC Endorses Booker for Lautenberg’s Senate Seat

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

NORPAC, a top pro-Israel political action committee, endorsed Newark Mayor Cory Booker for New Jersey’s U.S. Senate seat just hours after he signaled he would run.

“With the recent passing of our friend, Frank Lautenberg, the United States Senate lost one of Israel’s and the Jewish community’s greatest friends and supporters,” NORPAC said in an email Thursday announcing a June 16 fundraiser for Booker, just hours after reports emerged that he was circulating petitions to qualify for the seat vacated by the death this week of Lautenberg.

“We must ensure that this seat is filled by someone with the same passion and commitment to those critical issues,” said the email from the New Jersey-based PAC, one of the top-earning pro-Israel PACs. “We believe we have found just that candidate – Newark Mayor Cory Booker.”

It was not clear from the announcement whether Booker would appear at the event.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, set an October date for a special election to fill the seat of Lautenberg, a Democrat.

Booker, a popular Democratic mayor who has presided over a revival of the blighted city, has deep pro-Israel roots dating to his days at Oxford University, when he led a group for Jewish students and others called L’Chaim House. He has maintained a close friendship with the founder of L’Chaim, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who last year failed in a Republican bid for a seat in the U.S. Congress. Booker and Boteach frequently appear together at speaking events.

Separating Religion and Politics – Rabbi Shmuley Loses

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

In a race we closely watched, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach lost the NJ 9th District race to his opponent Bill Pascrell 76.1% (97,646) to 22.8% (29,214).

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/separating-religion-and-politics-rabbi-shmuley-loses/2012/11/07/

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