Sunday, 15 January 2017

Statement on Ordination of Women as Rabbis | TORA

From RRW


Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I am wondering how to understand the position of TORA. Is the argument akin to a machloket Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel with no indication that one who upholds a view allowing the ordination of women is beyond the pale OR is the argument that this position places one outside the pale of Orthodoxy? Of course, I could ask
someone from TORA this question -- and hope to -- but I am interested in hearing how others see this issue.

My concern, actually, extends beyond this one issue. While I am one who believes that smicha should not be given to women, I find it difficult, on the basis of this one issue, to declare someone who does so to be outside the pale of Torah. (To be honest, I have always had a predilection to understand eilu v'eilu in the broadest way.) Yet at the same time, there is a further problem in that the issue really goes beyond this simple matter of ordaining women. I remember also reading that in a early meeting regarding the first ordination of a rabbah/maharat, there was a female Reform rabbi included in this meeting. She then made some kind of statement that
the fact that this discussion took place showed how Orthodoxy was catching up with the rest of the world. The fact that this occurred, that this individual was included in a discussion regarding Torah, really bothered me. Her attendance within that discussion was clearly, in my opinion, outside the pale of Torah -- yet this is not really a specific women's ordination issue. This women's issue,
thus, must include a clarification of where we draw the lines and when an argument in the negative still accepts another opinion as within the pale and when it does not -- with clarification as to why.

What I actually find is that in many statements made by various advocates of smicha for women one finds other pronouncements that are clearly outside the pale of Torah such as the promotion of LGBT relationships as halachically acceptable. This, I find, furthers the problem in that the focus can become the women's ordination question with a further and even greater Torah problem, then, often ignored. Furthermore, the two issues become connected to the detriment of
Torah in that a debate regarding this ordination -- which I believe would be at the extreme of what is acceptable within the pale but still within the pale, while I disagree with this conclusion -- is then used to justify the other issue as also within the pale, just by connection. The question cannot thus just be women's ordination and opinions must be expressed in a recognition of a broader

I should also perhaps add, in connection to TORA, that I also don't think that a recognition of strong disagreement within Torah, including the formation of different groupings within Orthodoxy, is a challenge to the unity of Orthodoxy. There was a Beit Hillel and a Beit Shammai. I have no problems, thus, with TORA taking stands that would lead to the formation of a specific grouping of like minded individuals, even as it may accept others with differing viewpoints
within the general umbrella of a greater Orthodoxy. If they do believe, though, that those who ordain women are outside the pale of Orthodoxy, based on this one view, I would like to know why.


Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

What I am, of course, really trying to identify is what is the dividing line between what is in the pale and what is outside of it. Back when the Conservative movement came up with their argument to allow for the removal of a mechitzah, there must have been some reason for this decision to be defined as outside the pale. The question is: what was that reason? It might have been something in the mechanics of the psak. It might have been that the argument
originated with individuals who already misapplied halacha. It might have been a meta-Halachic reason. I wish we exactly knew why. It might have been that the group which was already introducing this innovation was already outside the pale so there was no issue. In our world today, though, what is happening is that this whole issue of smicha for women is emerging right within our broader societal
constructs. Orthodox families have family members in shuls with maharats -- and these families will want to consider everyone within the family to be frum. This inherently demands further clarification of what is happening -- and will be a strong practical push to extend a concept of eilu v'eilu rather than define the matter as outside the pale. What then happens with views that are even more
problematic. This whole question must also be seen within this societal context notwithstanding its inherent importance in Halacha and hashkafa.

RRW said...

Warning a bit long..


In each of these cases, there was Halachic justification for the position, yet the Gedolim Resisted

1. Organs in shul on Shabbos and Y"T - Hamburg circa 1810

2. No need for Mechitza - USA and others 1940'-1970's

3. Semichah for women

The Gedolim in each era took strong stands in opposition

Rabbi Hecht wants to know - what sets these outside the pale of Eilu vo'eilu?

I have no definitive scientific answer

Here are my concerns
1. The Aforementioned "pushing the envelope". Traditional people usually are uncomfortable with that mindset

2. As a historian, these intuitively appear as a "break" from Orthodoxy, because the next move and the next move will widen the gap. ‎JTS circa 1900 was just about Orthodox. A few cracks and they left the pale for the most part. One of the dynamics IMHO they no longer looked to mainstream poskim. MM Kaplan and Lou Ginzberg became the voices at JTS. R Shaul Lieberman might have been the last voice that still had a Kesher to Mainstream Orthodox p'sak, and perhaps a tenuous one at that.

EG R Dovid Weiss Halivni saw this issue as a break, and he led a small reaction to the C rejection to Tradition.

I'm not sure where to draw the line. In cases like these, it seems obvious to me that the line has been drawn already.

To my way of thinking, the Gedolim are essentially being "ro'eh es hannolad". Which is similar to my historical perspective‎. Meaning the issue at hand, though apparently a minor break now, will be seen over time as a watershed event.


‎As a matter of gut feel to me, the ones pushing for women's Semichah seem to have a worldview (weltanshauung) of envelope pushing. If more cautious, judicious types called for this change, maybe it could be different. The metaphor for this is "Nixon goes to China"
‎Had EG Mcgovern gone, it might have triggered an outrage.