Monday, 18 February 2008

Orthodoxy Is More Than Ritual

Originally published 2/18/08, 12:54 PM, Eastern Daylight Time.
So many people like to express their tolerance of Orthodox Jews. They will go out of their way to ensure that kosher food is available for them or to ensure that they are able to observe Shabbat -- and on a certain level that has to to appreciated -- but I am always somewhat surprised by where the line is drawn on that tolerance. In ritual matters, or what is often referred to as ritual matters such as Kashrut and Shabbat, tolerance does indeed seem to be the order of the day -- but what about other issues. I find it interesting how people who would never expect an Orthodox Jew to eat non-kosher and, as such, will do everything to respect this aspect of Orthodoxy, will simply expect Orthodox Jews to violate other aspects of Halacha that, for some reason, these people do not define as essential.

Another example seems to have surfaced in the Israel military as presented in,7340,L-3508063,00.html. I don't get it. The Israeli military will ensure that Orthodox Jews have kosher food, so why can't they ensure that these soldiers will not have female instructors? Is it because some Orthodox Jews would not insist on an absence of female instructors? Does tolerance only exist with a monolithic vision of others? There are differences within Orthodoxy, doesn't each vision, with their distinctions, deserve tolerance? For these individuals, regardless of the opinion of others within Halacha, have a right to follow their view. Is it because the military is concerned with poskim having more authority than military commanders, the concern that existed at Gush Katif? That is a most complex issue and when entering a communal structure there is a problem of differing views of Halacha circumventing the action and goal of the collective -- but that should only concern us when the actions of the collective are indeed challenged. In this case, what could be the problem with meeting the religious perspective of these individuals and ensure that their company only has male instructors?

In the end, I think that problem is in how people see Orthodoxy. As long as we are keeping kosher or privately observing Shabbat, there is tolerance. But bringing Orthodoxy to the world, voicing opinions that touch upon the general issues and ways of the world, as tolerance seems to be a forgotten value.



ZA said...

Dear Rabbi Hecht
Could you point me to the source in Halakha, forbiding female instructors for non-Torah matters?
I know I'm sorta ignorant about that, but this is news to me, especially, being a member in a shul were even Torah matters are discussed and even taught publicly, by females. I've never heard ant protest from any of the Rabbis, and there are quite a few of them in my Orthodox shul.

Anonymous said...

Choice of food isn't so controversial. After all, there are vegetarians, allergies, lots of different diets so kosher is just another one of them.

Gender of instructor crosses into a personal nature. By saying that a female cannot teach males, it might be implied that this is because she is inferior to them. That causes people to draw a line.

Anonymous said...

This is the real world. You can't please everyone.

In some cases, there may be a limited supply of instructors that are qualified to teach a certain subject area of military training (orienteering, rifle practice, grenades, weapon maintenance, gas mask use, PT, hand-to-hand combat, use of specific kinds of equipment and vehicles, etc.)

People have to live in the real world and make choices and think through their priorities. If X's rebbe holds that X cannot have a female instructor, then is it incumbent upon the IDF to make sure that they train enough male instructors for every subject? What if only 2% of the Orthodox population have rebbes who will not give a heter for this issue?
Is this an intelligent use of limited resources for a country that is continuously fighting for its survival?

Making decisions in the context of limited resources is an important thing to learn. The IDF cannot cater to every possible issue, so the Orthodox who have a problem with that need to look at the big picture and start weighing priorities.