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

I had the pleasure over the last few days of interacting with 2 of Open Orthodoxy’s leading lights. One was by telephone with Rabbi Jeffery Fox, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maharat. The other was by way of Facebook with Rabbi Ysoscher Katz, Chairman of the Talumdic Department at YCT. The conversations were both respectful and enlightening.

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I was impressed at the way each conducted himself and represented their points of view. These are the kinds of teachers that I would love for my children to have experienced. They are caring and kind. And most of all they truly believe they are serving God and serving Klal Yisroel. There is not a doubt in my mind about that. And yet, I could not disagree with them more. They have chosen a path that has departed from many centuries of Jewish tradition.

One of the things I have been guilty of not doing sufficiently is defining exactly what I mean by Orthodox Judaism. Let me briefly do that now. There are three basic components, all of which are required:

1. Mandatory observance of Halacha. 2. Belief in God… and that His Torah is true. Which includes the belief that biblical figures were real and the events described therein actually happened. 3. Tradition is not to be deliberately tampered with except for existential reasons.

Admittedly, this last one is somewhat ambiguous. I am sure for example that our traditions have changed over the 2 millennia since the destruction of the 2nd Temple. Some of it by conditions forced upon us – like the actual destruction of the 2nd temple. Some by rabbinic legislation via additional decrees and restrictions to protect us from biblical level sin. Some things in Judaism have changed because of technological advances. Other things have changed unintentionally as non Jewish culture and values have over time been absorbed by us. It should therefore be no surprise that the lifestyle of a Jew today has little resemblance to the life of a Jew during the 2nd Temple era.

But the one thing that did not change was rabbinic resistance to change in tradition challenged by the prevailing social winds… unless those winds made us look less religious than the culture in which we lived. That is where Open Orthodox rabbis have gone wrong. They are changing traditions because of the prevailing winds. They are thus – not leading. They are following.

There is definitely a need for a Left Wing in Orthodoxy. And there are no finer leaders capable of doing that than Rabbis like Asher Lopatin, Jeffery Fox and Yisoscher Katz. I had high hopes that Rabbi Lopatin would pull back the reins on the extremes YCT was chasing – bringing it closer to where it once was. But it seems he’s done the opposite and gone even further in that direction – to the point where the Left Wing has… left.

This brings me to the reason for this post. I am not anxious to get into yet another contentious debate over this issue. I take no pleasure in publicly debating good and decent people with whom I disagree. Nor am I particularly happy to be demonized for my views. I realize that my strong views are probably hurtful to them. So I had hoped that my last post on this subject would indeed be my last. But, alas, I felt the need to respond to a Times of Israel article by David Bogomolny who said the following:

I find myself very troubled by Rabbi Maryles’ and Rabbi Gordimer’s public, haughty declarations of Open Orthodoxy’s demise.

I do not want to cause David any grief. At the same time there needs to be clarity about what is and isn’t acceptable in Orthodoxy. That is where this debate lies.

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