Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Rabbi Riskin on Conversion

Originally published 6/18/08, 12:16 AM. Link doesn't work.
A provocative posting by Rabbi Shlomoh Riskin
Kol Tuv / Best Regards,

My favorite night of the year has always been the night of Shavuot, when I go from hill to hill of the seven hills of my beloved city of Efrat, giving Torah study class after Torah study class until the early-morning daybreak service.

This year, however was different. Instead of joyous songs, I heard jarring sobs. Instead of the Torah scrolls in the arks and the Torah books on the shelves dancing with rapture and rejoicing, they reeled with dismay and disappointment. The very letters of black fire were weeping, the very parchment of white fire was wilting.
Yes, this Shavuot night, my beloved Torah was crying.

For the remainder of this article please visit:
Jerusalem Post Article


Anonymous said...

The problem with this article, and every other MO article on the subject, is that it talks about emotion, it talks about fairness, it talks about what was done wrong, etc. But it never talks about halachah.

Go to the Black Hat blogs and you'll see teshuvos quoted chapter and verse. You don't see that in the MO responses, just appeals to mushy sentimentality.

In the end, what's the difference between Rav Riskin's response and a Conservative who says we oughtta count women in minyan because "it's fair" and "the right thing to do"?

Rabbi Richard Wolpoe said...

This is a valid point. That C's and MO's are not disciplined in citing sources. I am not so sure that all RWO's [right Wing Ortho's] are careful about citing sources either.

For example, R. Moshe Feinstein is quite adept at either omitting relevant sources or putting his own spin onto others. [I can cite soruces on this

I am no expert on him, but Rav Ovadiah Yosef [ROY] seems to be highly disciplined in his approach to Halachah. He is a stright-shooter for the most part.

The late R. Shimon Eider was actually quite good at both citing sources and coming out as a moderate in many issues. I really miss him and I thought he would be far more polific than he was. I do not know what halted his publications.

Shemirat Sahbbat Kehilcheta DOES cite sources, but often cherry picks them. You have gotta watch out for this pattern


Anonymous said...

I saw something similar to this on another blog. Basically the putdown to Modern Orthodoxy was that Chareidim are more concerned with halachah and even if the result doesn't seem fair, they accept it. Modern Orthodoxy is more concerned with being fair so if the halachah doesn't result in that, they don't accept that.
I think that's a poor approach that writes off a legitimate approach to halachah but it would help if Riskin would mention sources that prove his side is right rather than just get his Torah wet.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

The fact is that within the walls of Torah you can almost find a quote that would support any opinion. If the test for being on the Sanhedrin was the ability to m'taheir a sheretz, declare something ritually pure that is inherently ritually unpure, we have a clear indication of the potential breadth that can exist within Torah. The demand in a true analysis of Torah is not just to quote sources that support your view but to also recognize the sources that challenge your view and then try to work out the difficult challenge of balancing these two forces.

In this vein, people like to quote, for example, eilu v'eilu as an indication of the tolerance that Torah expounds. But do they also quote the statements of Chazal in regard to the tzedukim and minim -- we do not find in such cases the tolerance of eilu v'eilu. The result is that while we can advocate for tolerance within the pale, we must accept that there is little tolerance for positions outside the pale -- so we have to first make a decision on the line of demarcation of the pale before we can comment on diverse opinions. (There is of course a different form of tolerance for some outside the pale based on the concept of tinok she'nishba but an extended discussion on the full gamut of Torah tolerance is not for now. One is invited to look at my Slifkin articles - which deal with aspects of the subject - on the Nishma website, indexed at ) To fully understand Torah you must see both sides -- and these sides are often in conflict -- and you can't just see one side even as you quote souces that present that side. The Torah does present this side but it also presents another side and demands of you to balance and determine how to live within both parameters.

So I do not fully agree that Rabbi Riskin did not present halachic sources. He did not deal extensively with the details of gerut, although he did quote some sources, but he did present some sources on the issue of interpersonal behaviour and the attitude that a judge should have. The problem, though, is not what he quoted but that he did not present the full picture. The same is true with the Charedim. True, they may quote more direct sources on a specific halachic issue but they also select and also do not necessarily consider broad general principles that are also part of Torah and the Halachic system. To be honest, when I read stuff on this type of issue, my response is usually to scream -- how could they leave out the other side?

A final point on Rabbi Riskin's words. I may in fact agree with his general contention that we must be sensitive to the human conddition and the specific human situation, but as I read his words I could not help thinking that a Reform or Conservative rabbi could have written the same response in regard to Orthodox rabbis with their specific standards. Aren't we making it oppressive thereby for many people? I happen to agree with Rabbi Riskin's basic thesis that what occurred to Rabbi Druckman was unacceptable and the lack of sensitivity to the situation was contrary to the expected sensitivity of a dayan or posek, but you have to be more exact in your argument which includes presenting the full picture.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Anonymous said...

> To be honest, when I read stuff on this type of issue, my response is usually to scream -- how could they leave out the other side?

Quite easy. Chareidi thinking is very simplified. There is their way and the wrong way. Given this underlying assumption, there is no need to quote opposing sources since they, de facto, have no legitimacy in the first place.