Let’s Not Institutionalize Mediocrity

letter-447577_1280

[This post is a response to a comment by Dr Meir Shinnar to a previous post.]

No, no, a thousand times no.

We do not misunderstand. And we do not challenge the fact that women’s roles have expanded in almost all parts of the Orthodox community, in some cases more than in others. Some of us as individuals welcome these changes (myself included) more than others. That is not the issue. We have not seen massive upheaval about women serving as principals, heads of social service agencies, therapists, attorneys and accountants. You are setting up a straw man.

It is frustrating to come back to the same argument again and again, each time taking longer to wade through increasingly more complex comments, all of which miss the point.

There is halacha, and there is meta-halacha. The latter is part of any legal system, and in the case of ours, explicitly endorsed by the Gemara, the Shut literature, and Shulchan Aruch. You can run, but you can’t hide.

“The opposition of Aguda (and some within the RCA) to the rabba without any clearly formulated rationale of what the problem is – either halachic or traditional” is not highly problematic, as you say. What is highly problematic is the inability of some within the RCA (and everyone on the far left) to recognize that there are decisions that are made – decisions that are normative and binding upon the community – that cannot be pinned on specific mekoros. There are times that the leaders of a community sense that something is unhealthy, that a line must be drawn in the sand. Rabbi Lamm has invoked “tradition” as what is being trampled upon here; further to the right the vocabulary shifts to Daas Torah. These are variations on a common theme.

The opposition you speak of cannot be smugly sneered at as coming from the benighted Aguda camp. Virtually all the people I have spoken to about this come from the YU camp. As you probably know, a few weeks ago, a hurried attempt was made within the RCA to push for stronger language against Maharatitude than the original RCA release. In very, very little time, one hundred members (myself included) signed that document. I doubt if many of them had dual membership in Aguda (although some did).

“The fact that some wish full egalitarianism is not a license to prohibit what is permitted.” Entirely incorrect. License is granted by halacha itself. As I appended to some earlier comment, look at Choshem Mishpat Siman 2. Batei din can act outside of the law to protect the community from transgression. (Look as well at the single most important responsum regarding the rights of a majority to legislate against a minority – Shut Maharam Me-Ruttenberg v.4 # 941. Inter alia, he takes for granted that legislating l’megdar milsa is legitimate. Later teshuvos assume that this is true even for a minority legislating against a majority!) If full egalitarianism is seen as a threat to kedushas Yisrael, then indeed there is room to draw boundary lines artificially. With the exception of the YCT crowd v’hanilvim aleihem, the majority of the community senses the need for such boundaries, even if many clamor to understand why they are drawn exactly where they are. But in the final analysis, all boundary lines seem arbitrary. Does it make much sense that if you eat one gram less than a kezaiyas you have not fulfilled the mitzvah of eating matzah, but the one additional gram makes all the difference in the world?

The issue is not Aguda v. YU. All those I have come across who think that the issue of ordaining women is a critical one, and that a statement must be made that repudiates the approach of Rabbi Weiss et al, are rabbanim who have personally experienced deep levels of learning and its personalities – and have stayed connected with it b’lev v’nefesh. They are people who take the term “ben Torah” as the highest form of compliment to which they can aspire. They hail from YU, but they are as concerned about creating a ziyuf ha-Torah as anyone further to the right.

Herein lies a tragedy within a tragedy. The immediate – not long-term – loser in this debate is going to be the relationship between the Yeshiva world and the Centrist one. Within the Yeshiva world, different Roshei Yeshiva have been of different minds regarding whether bridges should be built between the camps, or existing ones should be burnt. I have been for many years an outspoken champion of the former approach. If the RCA does not act to distance itself from the YCT crowd, I fear that the latter will have scored a victory. They will argue that Centrist rabbis speak a Torah language so different from the one spoken in the RW yeshivos, that real communication is impossible. The constant call, “Prove it! Show it to me in a Rambam! Find the siman in Shulchan Aruch – and if you can’t, I can reject it,” is so foreign to yeshiva-trained people, that it might just as well be coming from another planet.

Curiously, you offer us a much clearer perspective on why we must move to affirm that women cannot be rabbis. You point to de facto changes in the role of the rabbi, which “include public communal roles, administrative roles, teaching roles, chaplaincy, counseling, etc. – essentially every single component role of a shul rav…” Surely these words are not your own, or they are a terrible slip. Every single component? What about being a talmid chacham? Does that not even make it to the list?

We often, in Jewish life, maintain public standards that are different from common, ordinary practice – simply to remind people of the truth. There is nothing dishonest or hypocritical about this. We recognize that we may fall short of where we should be – but we refuse to enshrine mediocrity by making it a community standard. Yes, there are many shul rabbis who are woefully ignorant. But that is not the way things should be. (In the US, we need no reminder of this. In parts of the 20th century, we trained rabbis in many disciplines who remained, however, ignorant regarding Torah. They were well meaning, but those decades were not times of great halachic consistency and rigor. Much of the growth of haredi America can be attributed to young people turning their backs on the institutionalized ignoring of halacha that they found in their local shuls, and their running to the only places that they could find practices resembling what they saw in Shulchan Aruch.) Males have yeshivos in which they can become competent talmidei chachamim. Admitting women to the rabbinate amounts to a statement that rabbis do not have to be talmidei chachamim. This is not a statement that the community ought to make. Perhaps this is what we all sense in our rejection of maharats and rabas. This can change only when there will be yeshivos for women in which they can immerse themselves in learning for years, spending almost all of their waking hours learning. I’m not sure that such institutions will ever be a good thing for women. You set your sights far too low when you state that the training given women today “might not correspond to higher level bet midrash learning, has a relatively high level textual mastery.” I must take firm exception to that statement. It is comparable to saying that a physician may never have had an opportunity to go to medical school, but he/she picked up a good deal in an on-line extension program. Are you ready to admit such a person into your cardiologists’ association? There is no such thing as high level textual mastery without an experience comparable to higher bet midrash learning.

May we all be zocheh to see the day when there will be so much Torah learning – like the days of Chizkiyah when between Dan and Beersheva neither boy nor girl was found who was not expert in dinei taharos – that solutions to the problem will suggest themselves.

I suspect, though, that titles will not be much of an issue.

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22 Responses

  1. Steve Ehrlich says:

    I wonder what the Conservative experience was here? It would be instructive to do some cross denomination study and ask how the admission of women into their Rabbinate (in 1983?) changed their movement. Yes, I know we are not them, but I’m curious what consequences were of this decision. What was now done differently?

  2. L. Oberstein says:

    “I would posit that the mediocrity issue that was raised by Rabbi Adlerstien is actually a point in favor of women rabbis. While our current situation gives us many men who turn to the rabbinate for no other reason than their years in kollel have given them no training for any other career, ordaining women would (at least at first) give us only the most highly motivated candidates (and presumably only the most learned.)”

    This comment makes certain assumptions that are at variance with the facts on the ground. I belong to a shul in Baltimore looking for a new rav. The fellows you describe would never even be brought in for an interview. Most of the people in the shul have a good secular education and want a rabbi who is conversant with their world. This stereotype of the naive yeshiva bochur who can always become a rabbi is not grounded in reality.

    True, women who are learned are the ones seeking positions, but their education is not at all equivilant to years in yeshiva. being a “yoetzet halacha” is like being a paralegal, not a lawyer. If you mean that a women is able to teach, counsel, be a role model, etc. then that makes her a good pastor, not a rav (Rabba).

  3. Tzvi says:

    [YA – I can’t imagine why you would say this. There are lots of talmidei chachamim around, and many of them serve in shuls, both yeshivish and Centrist.]

    Rabbi Adlerstien,

    I agree that their are lots of talmidei chachamim around – that doesn’t mean that the majority of shul rabbis are talmidei chachamim. And given the chance, I see no reason that women can’t exceed the standard of the average shul rabbi.

    My point is that mediocrity is already institutionalized, and at least at first, the standards may be raised by bringing in women who will be motivated by (hopefully) reasons that are lishem shamayim rather than purely parnassa reasons as is the case with many rabbanim currently serving.

    [YA – We are using the word “institutionalized” differently. I mean that the community cannot bestow full public acceptance upon half-baked learning. Sure, individual shuls hire rabbis with very poor Torah skills – but they don’t have to. Men studying in yeshivos don’t have to remain amei ha’aretz – they can apply themselve and choose to learn. But no (I repeat, no) institution exists that would allow a woman anything that resembles the opportunities for real mastery of text and depth that men have in dozens of yeshivos.]

  4. dr. bill says:

    joel rich
    April 27th, 2010 at 5:45 am
    There is halacha, and there is meta-halacha.
    ========================
    Bingo! Now the question is how does meta-halacha develop – KT

    [YA – Too tired to find it now, but there is a pretty famous piece in Pachad Yitzchok which shows that both types exist.]

    Read Creativity and Tradition – from the late Prof. Ta-Shma. one of the best treatments of this subject, with some biases. he does not get into the modern period but concentrates on the medieval period. he has a somewhat more traditional stlye than prof. katz ztl (and his students) with fabulous examples (including a treifot in milk story from early chasidai ashkenaz.)

  5. Tzvi says:

    I would posit that the mediocrity issue that was raised by Rabbi Adlerstien is actually a point in favor of women rabbis. While our current situation gives us many men who turn to the rabbinate for no other reason than their years in kollel have given them no training for any other career, ordaining women would (at least at first) give us only the most highly motivated candidates (and presumably only the most learned.)

    I don’t think our current system does a good job of giving us rabbis who are talmidei chachamim in any of the streams of Orthodoxy, but anecdotal evidence tells me that I am more likely to get a learned rabbi in a more modern shul, if only because the more modern rabbis chose the rabbinate as a career instead of falling into it by default. I think this effect would be more pronounced if women rabbis were accepted.

    [YA – I can’t imagine why you would say this. There are lots of talmidei chachamim around, and many of them serve in shuls, both yeshivish and Centrist.]

  6. joel rich says:

    Dani, Someone told me that in the Yeshiva world it is different – it would be “The constant call [from the RW], “Prove it! Show it to me in a Rambam! Find the siman in Shulchan Aruch – and if you can’t show a specific permitting statement , I can reject it,” is so foreign to MO-trained people, that it might just as well be coming from another planet.

    BTW I go back to the Meta Ramban on kedoshim tihiyu as a key determinitive of meta.

    KT

  7. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein, you wrote in response to my earlier comment that “I’m not a navi, so not prepared to say what the future will bring. Read The Moon’s Lost Light (Heshelis), with haskamos from gedolei Yerushalayim, and then get back to me.”

    Are you saying that this book has a credible approach about the future evolution of Jewish womens’ roles but that you’re not sure about accepting it?

    [YA – The work is a speculative one. It shows a theme in certain kabbala seforim regarding changing roles for women as we approach the time of Moshiach. Like all other prognostication based on Maamarei Chazal, prudence is in order.]

  8. Binyomin Eckstein says:

    the lack of recognition that one can be a ben torah in the deeper sense and support rav weiss is what is truly problematic

    What’s problematic about realizing that one cannot be a ben Torah in the deeper sense and simultaneously support a position that is not espoused by any recognized Gadol BaTorah? I submit that the two are mutually exclusive.

  9. Dani says:

    I found the following sentence fascinating:

    The constant call [from the Modern Orthodox], “Prove it! Show it to me in a Rambam! Find the siman in Shulchan Aruch – and if you can’t, I can reject it,” is so foreign to yeshiva-trained people, that it might just as well be coming from another planet.

    The idea that the yeshiva world is somehow LESS text oriented than its Modern Orthodox counterparts is not something that is obvious to me at all. In fact I’d say this is a pretty innovative statement.

  10. Joe Hill says:

    “Some of us as individuals welcome these changes (myself included) more than others.”

    Why do you welcome it? (Other than to be a good feminist.) Was the role of women in Torah Judaism for the past 1,000 or 2,000 years deemed insufficient in your eyes?

    [YA – I believe that Divine Hashgacha creates not only different challenges to us in different times, but different opportunities. HKBH has created different realities for women today. Our job is not to be blind to the gifts of those realities, while not relaxing our grasp for a moment of the core values of our mesorah.]

  11. Meir Shinnar says:

    Let me answer a few of his points.
    1) Metahalacha vs halacha. Yes, there is metahalacha, but the question is its relevance to this debate – and a fundamental difference between the MO and aguda community.To point to a related debate within the YU/RCA community over women’s tefilla groups – it is well known that rav soloveichik did not halachically assur them – even though he was against them (as one rav stated the rav told him in response to a question, halachically it is muttar muttar – but if you ask me, I wouldn’t do it). Rav Mayer Twersky has argued that this translates to a metahalachic issur –

    Metahalachic considerations are important in assessing what we should do – but there is a limit to such considerations and what we impose on the community as a whole. (I would say that this is a major divide between the Aguda and the traditional RCA/YU world – that there is (was?) a reluctance for the rabbinic leadership to impose their views beyond halacha …)Thus, it is quite clear is that Rav Soloveichik never tried to ban or exclude those who ran women tefilla groups – and he had the power and stature within the MO community to do it if he chose.

    2) Arbitrariness. RYA has argued that halacha always has arbitrary guidelines and limits. I agree. However, metahalacha is not arbitrary – it is not a chok (and the arbitrariness of halacha is a reflection that every halacha has an element of chok) -it encompasses specific ideals that it is trying to promote.

    The point that I have made is that there are expansions of women’s roles today that are viewed by large portions of the community (and their rabbinic leadership) not merely as not technically assur – but desirable. What is not clear is the ideological, theological, or metahalachic rationale that would delineate why those other options are desirable, but the term rabba and being a shul rav is not. The inability to delineate such a rationale means (and I think that it is understood that way) that one actually views the other roles as problematic as well – even if one is not now prohibiting them (to use a somewhat different analogy than yours of a kzayit of matza – it is for issurim – and a chatzi shiur of an issur is problematic, even if not fully assur…)

    Again, I am in agreement that halacha is not egalitarian – both in strict halachic and in metahalachic terms. However, I do not understand, nor has RYA been able to elucidate, why rabba is diferent than a high school principal – and seems in many ways far less radical – both halachically and metahalachically. I am not asking for technical cite from the rambam.

    3) The issue of women rabbis, while as a practical issue is novel, as an expected consequence of the revolution in women’s learning is old (on hirhurim,someone cites that in the late 70s, rav parness was opposed to advanced talmud studies for women – because it would lead to women wanting to be rabbis, and there was no halachic program). Such ro’eh et hanolad was not unique to rav parness, even though the timing and nature of it were not known. Indeed, one of the talmidim muvhakim of rav soloveichik gave a shiur at an RCA convention in the early 80s about why women rabbis are permissible, and it is reasonable to assume that those who instituted such learning knew what the final consequences would be…

    4) Mediocrity. First, this is a red herring. If one wants to argue that there is no intrinsic problem, but that women have not yet reached the requisite level of mastery of texts – that is a different issue, and I don’t have personal knowledge of her. However, that is a specific factual issue that can be resolved with a bechina …

    Second, this is related to a different argument.. Rav Soloveichik is known to have objected to the notion of rabbinical training as a professional training – his object was to train talmide chachamim – torah lishma -but he recognized the professional training model as the German model. YCT has clearly adopted the seminary model –

    Third, Having lived in several communities, and known many different rabbanim (mostly MO, some with RW backgrounds), some of them were outstanding talmide chachamim (not just my assessment), others were quite far from that (being charitable…). However, given the multiple roles that they play in the community, their success as a communal rav was not correlated with their stature as a talmid chacham – some talmide chachamim were very successful, some were abysmal failures, some not so scholarly were very successful in their community . Yes, the community has to have talmide chachamim – but that is not necessarily the role played by the shul rav today. (I confess I am personally happier with a rav in the talmid chacham model than in the chaplain model, but I don’t impose my desires on the rest of the community..). Perhaps things should be different – but the reality that I know is not of shul rabbanim who are universally great talmide chachamim…If that is the criteria, many other rabbanim should be thrown out of the RCA…However, the determining criteria should be their level of scholarship – not gender…

    5. The general opposition to innovation that RYA notes. I don’t have access here, but, IIRC, in the Seride Esh teshuva on bat mitzva, he notes that the more traditional community would be generally opposed to it because it violates tradition, and explains why that shouldn’t be a problem. the question is that from a metahalachic perspective, I view this as similar to bat mitzva – RYA thinks differently…(lo rainu eyno ra’aya does apply – precisely because of the lack of training until now..) – but the level of general opposition reflects more an opportunity for education than as a reflection of truth…

    6)Lastly, RYA writes
    ll those I have come across who think that the issue of ordaining women is a critical one, and that a statement must be made that repudiates the approach of Rabbi Weiss et al, are rabbanim who have personally experienced deep levels of learning and its personalities – and have stayed connected with it b’lev v’nefesh

    I would say that there are rabbanim on the other side who also have experienced deep levels of learning and its personalities – and have stayed connected with it b’lev v’nefesh. Yes, there are ideologues (on both sides) – but the lack of recognition that one can be a ben torah in the deeper sense and support rav weiss is what is truly problematic

  12. L. Oberstein says:

    The growth of the observant orthodox community has been phenomenal. What unites us is a common belief in Torah Min Hashamayim. There are many communities within that big tent and we can’t expect everyone to think the way we do. What is normal in Teaneck is not normal Lakewood, but one is not less Jewish than the other.
    There is nothing that I disagree with in your posting, you are correct in your observations. How do we deal with women who are educated and able to rise to the top in many professions and find their gender role confining? It won’t go away, in time ,there will be more women who are not comfortable with the roles assigned to them in an age when all women were assigned such roles.The times have already changed and just as there is a growth of feminism , there is a backlash against women in which no picture of a woman is allowed, no mention of her name even in an engagement announcement. If the Maharat phenomenon is not normal, then why is ereasing women from Hamodia, Mishpacha, Yated, etc. normative? It has gotten to the point that we are pressured to do likewise in other publications or be considered “outside of the camp”. My point is not to take up the cudgels for women’s ordination but to state that there is a tremendous insult in the erasure of women from chareidi society, except in strictly segregated settings. It is an insult to treat our wives and daughters that way and we should be thankful more do not leave our fold.

  13. tzippi says:

    I tend to simplify things, and this to me seemed simple enough: there aren’t rabbis of great stature who are widely accepted who back ordination for women, the scholarship isn’t serious in any event, and it is clear from the rhetoric (quotes from Ms. Hurwitz upon her ordination) that this is agenda-driven.
    It’s seems likely that to those in favor of this shift, “agenda-driven” may be seen as a positive value in and of itself. I wonder just how effective communication will be at this point if there is no longer some fundamental common ground.

  14. DG says:

    RYA,
    I have found the evolution of this conversation to be revealing. Though I accept everything you say, I nevertheless get the feeling that your approach is not being met with the satisfaction that it should and I am beginning to suspect why. It appears that this issue has uncovered an underlying lack of clarity about how halacha works that runs deeper than one would have expected, especially from the cross-currents readership. Apparently, people need to hear a more powerful presentation on this topic than is found in your blog-style, somewhat arai type of comments.
    Not surprisingly, the underlying issue was addressed (almost) directly, though in a more limited way, by the left-wing Edah Journal (which I hesitate to cite) in asking “what is the halakhic status of this need to go beyond the technical parameters of halakhah? If rabbinic decisors believe a particular behavior, permitted on a technical level, is not in consonance with the overarching objectives of the Torah, does that activity become halakhically forbidden? Would we apply the term asur to it? Or, perhaps, do individuals have the discretion at a legal level to disregard rabbinic apprehension over such behaviors?” (link to article below)
    Though the form of the question is less than ideal (and here especially, the right question is most of the answer and, I might add, the wrong question will only obscure the answer), the article does seem to speak directly to a primary divergence between the left wing and the right one, especially as it pertains to the current rabba question.
    I think what is needed here is (a) a response to the position of this article which, though it doesn’t mention women rabbis, does advocate against the meta-halacha as you describe it and (b) a recognition in the response of how central this question is to the departure of the left wing from the what many of us would call the true path.
    Just a few words of my own: I believe their departure stems from different views not just of halacha specifically but of Torah SheBaal Peh generally. Halacha is one expression of Torah SheBaal Peh which, in its entirety, represents the full complement to the Torah SheBichsav in expressing an all-encompassing vision of how our Creator wants us to live, both as a people and as individuals. The facet called halacha speaks to the specific and quantifiable in life but it is far from the only binding dimension of the Torah. Its specific and quantifiable nature makes it easiest to debate and institutionalize but that is happening, unfortunately, at the expense of the greater vision – one which is no less binding. The “overarching objectives of the Torah,” as the Edah article describes them, are even MORE essential, as losing sight of them can undermine everything else.
    The left wing, I believe, in seeking more latitude for their modern leanings, turns a blind eye to the comprehensive vision in an attempt to navigate their ship through the “technical parameters of halacha” to a destination kinder to contemporary values. They seem to imagine that the Torah is not as concerned about where you end up as in whether each step is technically approved. The opposite is of course true – where you end up is most important (even at the expense of halacha. See Rambam Mamrim 2:6-9).
    The concept of daas Torah is this comprehensive vision which arises in those with the extraordinary privilege to learn and understand ALL dimensions of the Torah and who achieve thereby an understanding of life in this world that is in consonance with “the overarching objectives of the Torah” (though in my estimation, today’s daas Torah has added a layer of guidance that is not a necessary reflection of this true vision and which is at least at risk of becoming rapidly outdated but that’s another issue).

    [YA – You are entirely correct. The issue needs more thorough treatment than can be accorded in a blog format. What we need is talmidei chachamim in every community to address the issue of meta-halacha, extra-legal powers of beis din, etc. IIRC, R Hershel Schachter gave some shiurim years ago on these points – before the issue at hand consumed everyone’s interest. I suspect that it can be found at yutorah.com]

  15. Charlie Hall says:

    “Admitting women to the rabbinate amounts to a statement that rabbis do not have to be talmidei chachamim. ”

    Are you implying that a woman can not be a talmid chacham?

    “This can change only when there will be yeshivos for women in which they can immerse themselves in learning for years, spending almost all of their waking hours learning.”

    Men get semichah today without attending such a yeshivah. There is even an online internet semichah program run by a charedi organization! Semicha today is now basically like an academic degree. (In his wonderful daf yomi shiurim that I download from the OU web site, I heard Rabbi Moshe Elefant say this three times during his discussion of the sections in Sanhedrin that dealt with semicha in the time of Chazal.)

    “I’m not sure that such institutions will ever be a good thing for women.”

    There are such institutions today. I know people who attend them and people who teach in them; they seem like very frum and dedicated people. What is your objection to them?

    You may be right that we need to beef up standards. But this is a general issue and has nothing to do with women receiving semichah.

    [YA – “Frum and dedicated people” is no substitute for years of complete immersion, three sedorim a day. There are no short cuts to becoming talmidei chachamim. Go back to the words of Esti Rosenberg that I cited. If you think that a person can become a talmid chacham without ten years of intensive learning and mastery of diyuk in the words of Rishonim, then you’ve already dumbed down the concept far more than I am ready to accept. There are no places in America that provide anything remotely approaching the kind of background to women necessary to become talmidei chachamim.]

  16. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein wrote , “Perhaps this is what we all sense in our rejection of maharats and rabas. This can change only when there will be yeshivos for women in which they can immerse themselves in learning for years, spending almost all of their waking hours learning. I’m not sure that such institutions will ever be a good thing for women.”

    I hope I read this wrong. What do you mean, Rabbi Adlerstein, by “not sure” ? If you follow the logic of your article up to that point, where is your elbow room to allow for this possibility at all, even theoretically? Otherwise, you appear to be saying that there could be some acceptable arrangement to allow female rabbis once the applicable training and standards are upgraded. In that case, your whole article becomes an argument for delay and not for rejection.

    [YA – I’m not a navi, so not prepared to say what the future will bring. Read The Moon’s Lost Light (Heshelis), with haskamos from gedolei Yerushalayim, and then get back to me.]

  17. Ori says:

    Perhaps this is what we all sense in our rejection of maharats and rabas. This can change only when there will be yeshivos for women in which they can immerse themselves in learning for years, spending almost all of their waking hours learning. I’m not sure that such institutions will ever be a good thing for women.

    Why are there no such institutions for women? Why not take a page out of Hillel(1), assume the desire to serve as a Rabbi is sincere, and let them do the kind of Torah study that would either justify it or prove it is a bad idea?

  18. David says:

    Rav Adlerstein,
    If you admit that the boundaries are “arbitrary,” then it’s only natural that we will not agree on exactly where the line is drawn. Please explain, then, why it’s so clear that conferring some kind of rabbinic title on a woman is clearly and unquestionably outside the bounds. I accept your premise, that we must distance ourselves from contemporary egalitarianism, but every group in Orthodoxy has its own idea where the line is drawn. But then how could we be so angry at those advocating for a rabba? They’re just drawing the line a bit to the left than the place where you draw it, no?

    [YA – No, not where I am drawing it, but at a point that rov minyan v’rov binyan of bnei Torah draw it. If you need to draw a line somewhere, that is where to draw it.]

  19. aj says:

    good article. i just want to respond to say that I absolutey agree that any revolution that happens in women’s learning should be in the beis medrash, and let things flow from there, and not begin in shuls. sure women can give drashas, visit the sick, and all this, and there are women who can and probably have studied SA enough to answer some questions and refer others to a rav, iow to function as some shul rabbis do, but there’s no need for more of that. Let women learn, publish, and etc in the beis midrash and if a revolution is coming, let it come when the level of learning is high enough to compete at a higher level. Perhaps this sounds unfair to women, and I’m asking them to prove themselves at a higher level than some men have to prove themselves, but IMO this is the way to go. Women can state the halacha, they can present chiddushim, and even if there are problematic situations in asking shailos, those can in prnciple be worked around so that women can function to answer shailos. What we need is proof that there is any need for this and that women are contributing something other than revolution for its own sake. This proof can and will only come from the beis midrash. It’s apparent to me that the reason we are seeing the issue being pushed in shuls is that women are “competing” with men who begin learning gemara in elementary school, put in many hours in beis midrash, so that at age 30 plus they already know an awful lot and it’s hard for women who typically come to learning at a later age to catch up. But these women can learn the semicha curriculum and so are aiming for that level. I agree that those who want to press the issue should aim for a higher level of learning and forget the jobs in shul for now, and leave that issue to resolve itself if and when women are learning at the highest levels. There probably aren’t that many women who are wanting this, and maybe it’s not suitable for most women, but this issue must be dealt with in the beis midrash before one can even think of introducing radical changes in shuls.

  20. Garnel Ironheart says:

    Perhaps RYA mentioned the major difference between the YCT/LWMO understanding of what a rabbi is and the RWMO/Agudah understand by accident, perhaps on purpose but it seems he has articulated the divide spot on. This is the comment:

    > Curiously, you offer us a much clearer perspective on why we must move to affirm that women cannot be rabbis. You point to de facto changes in the role of the rabbi, which “include public communal roles, administrative roles, teaching roles, chaplaincy, counseling, etc. – essentially every single component role of a shul rav…” Surely these words are not your own, or they are a terrible slip. Every single component? What about being a talmid chacham? Does that not even make it to the list?

    Having grown up in a small town Orthodox shul where 99% of the members were not Torah observant, and now as a member of another small town Orthodox shul where 95% of the members are not Torah observant, I can tell you this with great confidence: No, being a talmid chacham does not make the list.

    Although people are loathe to admit this, Judaism outside Orthodoxy has been tremendously influenced by the Chrisian majority around it. They “daven” on Sunday which means some sing-a-long psalms and a sermon. We daven on Saturday which means some sing-a-long songs and a sermon. Their priests/reverends/ministers are inspiring religious figures with some knowledge of the Bible, enough to give people moral lessons in it. Our rabbis therefore should be inspiring religious figures with some knowledge of the Bible, etc.

    I am willing to bet that very few people in a YCT-affiliated shul have spent time in a shtark yeshiva setting or if they did they probably did not become influenced by it. Their Judaism is of the feel-good variety that characterizes the Reformatives to their left. Being inclusive, up to date, politically correct and in tune with the dominant secular liberal culture is important. Knowing what the Chasam Sofer might have said on an obscure topic of no immediate daily relevance is not.

    As a result, there is no point in having a talmid chacham in such a place. His skills and knowledge will simply be wasted there. No one will want to hear a sermon about the difference in approaches to tzaraas between the Rambam and the Ramban. They want to hear about “tikun olam” and the Jewish approach to global warming.

    However, I would disagree with RYA on one point. Yes, the existence of meta-halacha is unquestionable, however the idea that it requires no reasoning to back it up is something I would oppose. “You just can’t do that” is not an answer a thinking person can accept no matter how deep his yiras Shomayaim and even when meta-halacha is involved, there is usually a relevant reason that can be shared. Once again, the answer “You just can’t make a woman a rabbi” isn’t an answer that will sway anyone away from the suductive arguments of the YCT gang. There has to be more.

    [YA – I respond to parts of this here.

  21. joel rich says:

    There is halacha, and there is meta-halacha.
    ========================
    Bingo! Now the question is how does meta-halacha develop – is it more top down, bottom up or a combination of the two (same question is true of halacha) anecdotally it would seem that meta is more towards the community side of the spectrum than the plain version (see taanit 26b re:nahagu) in that the community and its leadership together develop an approach to the surrounding circumstances (e.g women may now leave their homes more than once a month). I suspect both sides are using halacha as a tool to push towards their meta view (as they should). Personally I’d rather see the meta visions discussed then the “micro” which imho is much driven by the meta.
    KT

    [YA – Too tired to find it now, but there is a pretty famous piece in Pachad Yitzchok which shows that both types exist.]

  22. Nachum says:

    Wishful thinking doesn’t make this true:

    “different Roshei Yeshiva have been of different minds regarding whether bridges should be built between the camps”

    I am, erm, slightly skeptical of this. I await evidence. The Modern Orthodox world has been attacked by leadership in the Charedi world since day one (which wasn’t so long ago, relatively speaking), and remains so until this day, female rabbis or no.

    [YA – And yet my statement remains true. I know this from personal experience, without any degrees of separation. It is true of multiple people, including multiple voices on the Moetzes. Nope, you are not going to get the names from me. One small example. Years ago, I was invited to attend and speak at an RCA convention. (I ultimately joined, but I was not a member then.) I was invited as an “outsider,” as a member of the Dark Side. I asked several roshei yeshiva what they thought, and received more than encouragement to respond to the olive branch that was extended. I can think of at least one member of the Moetzes at the time who would not have been at all encouraging.]