Friday, September 23, 2011

Rampant Obesity and Celebrating Ten Years of Idolatry: Ami at a Crossroads (Part I)

In this month's edition of Ami magazine, Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has an article, "Modern Orthodoxy at a Crossroads," on the challenge posed to Orthodoxy by Rabbi Avi Weiss and his attempt to ordain women. I respect Rabbi Adlerstein as a usually thoughtful Haredi perspective and he deserves credit for presenting Modern Orthodox Jews as human beings and serious Jews. That being said, this article is an exercise in the sort of self-congratulatory sanctimoniousness whose only purpose is to pat the author, and by extension the reader who agrees with him, on the back, while completely ignoring the issues at hand and inhibiting any actual discussion.

In Rabbi Adlerstein's narrative, a small click of supposedly "Orthodox" rabbis have conspired to undermine elements of Jewish tradition, such as having a solely male clergy and not calling women up to the Torah. These "extreme radical leftists" present themselves to the secular media as Orthodox mavericks challenging the status quo, putting pressure on more "moderate" Orthodox rabbis to go along.

As I have written previously, I am not interested in debating the issue of how Orthodoxy should respond to the social and political changes in the status women over the past century. I do not have a set solution to the problem. My concern is not over whether or not women will be ordained (I assume though that it will happen whether I like it or not) or what title they will be given. I only insist that whoever makes these decisions does so based both on traditional sources and an awareness of the social realities on the ground that brought these issues to the table. For example, it is a non-option to tell women to stick to children, kitchen and synagogue (behind the mechitza).

What concerns me about Rabbi Adlerstein is that he is someone involved in making these decisions yet he clearly does not grasp the social realities behind the issues. Just an example of how out of touch with reality he is. He dismisses the Los Angeles Jewish Journal as being "read almost exclusively by the non-Orthodox." I read it and know other Orthodox Jews who do. It should be axiomatic to him that the Jewish Journal's readers are precisely the people that Orthodoxy needs to reach out to; those Jews who care enough about Judaism to read a Jewish magazine, but for "some strange reason" are not reading Ami.  Nowhere in the article does Rabbi Adlerstein consider the possibility that his opponents, instead of "plotting" to hoist "politically correct" values on an unsuspecting Jewish community, are on the front lines of trying to save Orthodox Judaism and are having to make some hard decisions. The fact that Rabbi Adlerstein's community does not yet have to deal with these issues, should be cause for thanks to be expressed by thoughtful planning for the moment the crisis comes to have acceptable options. (I imagine that a Haredi leadership that spends the next twenty years convincing its own members that it honestly cares about women might be able to hold off on women rabbis when Haredi women decide they might want to be rabbis.) It should not be an opening for sanctimonious judgment as to who is "Orthodox."

Rabbi Adlerstein de facto eliminates any consideration of social issues by specifically knocking Modern Orthodox rabbis for their lack of source skills, while saying nothing about whether Haredi rabbis are qualified to comment about an issue regarding liberalism, without a deep understanding of liberalism and actual liberals. Education is a zero-sum game. You cannot talk about rabbis needing to be more knowledgeable about Jewish texts without also implicitly saying that they do not also need an understanding of political theory, history and a little bit about the sort of actual real life people they are going to be offering spiritual guidance to.

(To be continued ...)


Garnel Ironheart said...

The problem with your thesis is that Rav Adlerstein's view of "Morethodoxy" is not wrong.
From their writings it a few things are clear:
1) They are interested in introducing egalitarianism into Judaism because they are egalitarian and are bothered by being loyal members of a faith that isn't. Therefore the faith has to change.
2) They are not interested in using traditional sources. One recent piece on changing one of the morning blessings was so off base in its attempt to use the halachic literature that the author had to yank it from the website after a torrent of criticism pointed out his faulty logic and reasoning. Another author published a letter which from start to finish criticized him but then concluded that the letter writer had actually offered support for his position.
3) Just as Chareidi poskim who first decide something is forbidden and then develop a teshuvah to justify the position while condemning their oppoents as apikorsim are wrong, so too are the Morethodox who also decide on a position first and then marshall what twisted points they can to justify it.

Adam Zur said...

I suggest that there is no such thing as a rabbi. This is a fictitious profession made up solely with the purpose of making money by fraud. My reasons for this is that it is contrary to the Talmud is well known. So the Talmud cant be used to support the idea of a rabbi. If there would be semicha from Mount Sinai that would be different but there is not. So the whole category of a rabbi today is first fraud and furthermore it is not innocent fraud but fraud with purpose to receive money in a illegitimate way. So you want to add women to think scam? This reminds me of a true story of a real woman pirate (talk about equality). She was caught and hanged --but before she was hung she said a very profound thing. She said it is good that she is being punished because if not for punishment for crime everyone would be a pirate. I want to add that since there is no punishment for being a rabbi nowadays therefore everyone too stupid to be a doctor or lawyer becomes a rabbi.

However i do want to add that I agree there can be such a thing as a rosh yeshiva or a person that tells people want the Talmud says when he is asked. This is legitimate. But I haven't seen any of these for along time. I once saw the real thing at the Mir yeshiva. But after tasting the real thing --real Talmudic scholarship everything since then tastes phony.

Izgad said...

This is not a battle between objective halachists and those simply trying force their own values into Judaism. Both sides are starting with value judgments about how Judaism should react toward modern egalitarianism. Like science halacha is a balance and a back and forth dialogue between text and practical reality. Everyone starts with a window of options. No matter what the question neither of us are going to conclude "rape women and impale babies on pikes." Thus any conversation about such actions is going to be why we are not. I see this when I try talking to Haredim about Kupat Ha'ir. Since "gedolim" are behind it the conversation becomes how "is it not avodah zorah." If Haredim want to do that with Kupat they can hardly complain when others do the same with women rabbis.

Keep in mind that if I believed that the future of Orthodoxy was at stake I could justify eating pig. Appointing women rabbis is peanuts. Thus the real issue comes down to whether or not failure to have women rabbis is going to harm Judaism.

Adam Zur said...

Sorry i did not say exactly what i meant. Now i will try to correct that. the legitimate function of a rav is to say over what it says in the mishna and Talmud about a given situation. Nothing more or less. If this is a man or a woman or a Chinaman makes no difference. the only thing that matters is the question are they actually telling the questioner what it really says in the Talmud. For if the rabbis is making up his own halchot then he is not a rav. For this reason few so called rabbis today have the legitimacy of being called a rav.