Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Yitzhak Alderstein inadvertently declares his opposition to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, accountants, and bookkeepers.

In his new Cross Currents post Yitzhak Alderstein inadvertently declares his opposition to physician assistants, nurse practitioners, accountants, and bookkeepers.

Because just as he would never "entrust a nidah question to someome who could not independently study a Chavos Daas, or a Sidrei Taharah" Alderstein should be unwilling to let anyone aside from an M.D diagnose and treat his strep throat. Also, he should be unwilling to allow anyone other than a highly trained tax attorney from a big firm to sign off on his annual return.

However, if he agrees that insisting on a superbly-qualified expert for every single case is overkill in medical and financial situations, perhaps it's time for him to wrap his head around the idea that it might also be overkill in certain halachick situations.

Do I need smikha to confirm that pig is treif? Of course not. In the same way, a yoetzet halacha does not need smikha and years of training to properly handle the abundance of rote, mundane nidda questions she will encounter. And just as the PA brings the unusual issues he encounters to a supervising MD, the Yoetzek can bring unusual issues to a Rabbi.

Read: Yoatzot: An Exchange

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Friday, November 13, 2015

Agudah surrenders to the Zeitgeist

An unblurred woman's face! Twitter! The Internet! OMG!! OMG!! Who is minding the Agudah store??

Dov Bear's photo.

Also wan't it just  yesterday that Agudah hated the Internet? And now look at them tweeting like a boss.

Women Rabbis: KEEP YOUR HOPES UP!!!

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Spot the error in this headline

This headline has a mistake. It should read "Three loudmouthed clowns with misogyny issues tell us why women need to remember their place"

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Remembering Jewish Veterans

For Veterans Day lets remember Maurice Rose, and the other 550,000 Jews who served in the armed forces of the United States during WWII

Major General Rose was the son of a Rabbi and the highest ranking Jew in the U.S army. He died leading his men at Paderman. Let's also remember the three WWII era Jewish soldiers who were awarded the military's highest distinction, the Congressional Medals of Honor - Ben Salomon, Isadore S. Jachman, and Raymond Zussman

Nowadays, we tend to forget about the rich Jewish life that existed in pre-war America, and we write out of existence Jewish American heroes like Rose who, also, were victims of the Nazis. 
Here's how the New York Times covered Rose's death:http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html…
WASHINGTON, April 2 (AP)-- Maj. Gen. Maurice Rose, commander of the Third Armored Division, has been killed in action in Germany, the War Department announced today.
Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sauce for the Gil is good for the gander

In light of the recent revelations about how Gil Student personally manipulated the RCA into passing a negative, widely reviled resolution about women and ordination, I have this question: Gil Student is a modern 21st century Rabbi, by which I mean he teaches, answers questions and provides counsel without ever (1) exercising religious authority, (2)  operating as a dayan, or (3) paskening. All of the halachot against ordaining women relate to those three specific things: exercising religious authority, serving as a dayan, and paskening.

Like most 21st century rabbis, Rabbi Student does none of those things... yet he still gets to sit on the RCA and call himself a Rabbi and he is afforded these privileges simply by virtue of the fact that he completed a course of study and passed a test. So why can't a woman who also does none of those things likewise enjoy the privilege of joining the RCA and using a title provided she finished the same course of study and passed the same test?

Or to quote a Facebook friend: "Today we have watered down "semikhah" to being nothing more than a certificate of completion. Outside those who get it due to yichus or paying off the right people. Men are getting it after doing online coursework and don't become rebbeim, pulpit rabbis, Dayanim poskim or sometimes even decent Jews. If that's all it means anymore then how do you argue against giving THAT to a women?"


A rumor is going around that Gil Student holds private smikha, which may mean something awesome, but likely does not - and because its "private" we'll never know.

Why can't a women get the same credential? 

So long as she never exercises religious authority or serves as a dayan what's the problem?

 If a man who has nothing better than "private smikha" - or worse, online smikha, or some other watered down facsimile of smikha -  can join the RCA and carry himself as a Rabbi with all the rights and privileges thereof, why can't a woman pull the same stunt?

Monday, November 09, 2015

War on Christmas

Man, I hate that the War on Christmas seems to start earlier every year. When I was a kid, the war never started until December. Anyway, three cheers for the dirty hippies who launched the preemptive counterattack shown below

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Special thank you to our friends at the New York Times

Special thank you to our friends at the New York Times for excluding Batei Din (that's the plural of Bes Din) from their long, incriminating discussion of religious tribunals. It feels sort of nice to know that the Christian version of the Bes Din is every bit as corrupt, unreliable and unfair as the real thing, and I was very glad that the Times didn't embarrass us by including any examples of actual Bes Din malfeasance in the article

Organizations can compel their customers and employees to resolve disputes in arbitration proceedings bound not by state or federal law, but by religious edict.

Search for more information about #Bes Din# at4torah.com

Transgendered Dress up Games in Boro Park

 Check out these pictures of a Hasidic elementary school reenacting the wedding of Rivka and Issac and pity the poor little boys who were assigned the role of women. Those of you with no local hasidim may not realize it, but this reenactment is an annual event and beloved tradition. God only knows why. It's survival is a mystery right up there with our ongoing insistence on telling little kids that "Rivka was three when she got married" when so many more palatable interpretations are available.
FrumPics's photo.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Male Rabbis says Male Rabbis only (surprise!)

I'm probably reading this wrong, but it sounds like Gil Student is arguing in his Haaretz op-ed that smart OJ women shouldn't care that they can't be Rabbis because the synagogue is so last century. He writes:
"The synagogue is the most visible symbol of Judaism but also the weakest form of religious experience. To an outside observer, the goings on of a synagogue seem like the most exciting part of Jewish life but insiders recognize this as a misunderstanding. [SNIP] This focus on synagogue roles is tragically ironic in the Internet age. While our society is decentralizing, we dare not elevate the brick and mortar aspects of religion"
But if that's true, why does Gil bother to identify himself as Rabbi? If the title is worth so little, why does he use it? And by that logic, why do we need male Rabbis?

The answer, of course, is the title is valuable. It commands respect. It opens doors. Moreover, there are many teaching and communal positions that are either open to Rabbis only, or offer better pay to men who have received smicha.

Why should a capable woman be denied a valuable credential - and the career opportunities that come with it - simply on the basis of her gender? We wouldn't allow a Ph.D or M.D program to withhold their degree from women. What's different about a rabbinical degree? Even if you argue that women can't lead synagogue, it doesn't follow logically that they must therefore be prevented from earning a degree that will other doors for them

Women don’t need a title, or a synagogue affiliation, to teach Torah and influence thousands – so why do some Orthodox circles waste so much effort insisting that…
Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

What is Open Orthodoxy?

They are the new Hasidim.

I keep hearing people say this about Open Orthodoxy, and while I admit the analogy has its appeal, I am not sure its accurate.

The comparison rests on the understanding that the original Hasidim came not to destroy or undermine traditional, rabbinic Judaism but to revitalize it. The original Hasidim saw themselves as marginalized outsiders, with their religious needs left unfulfilled by the establishment insiders. When someone says that the OO are like the Hasidim, they are likely thinking of how the first Hasidim made Judaism accessible and meaningful for unschooled peasants. In their eyes, OO is attempting something similar when it reshapes Orthodoxy so that it can offer more to 21st century women.

The crucial difference, however, is that the original Hasidim were unquestionably operating from within a rabbinic context, and their most radical ideas could be sourced - however speciously - to an unquestionable authority (the Ari) and an unquestionably authoritative book (the Zohar). Meanwhile OO, in its most threatening expressions, looks like nothing more than a Jewish flavor of feminism. While rabbis of the 18th century may have been slow/unwilling to attack the Ari, the rabbis of our day have no such compunctions about attacking Gloria Steinem.

I don't know how to pinpoint the difference between a reformer and a revitalizer. Every reformer - from Jan Huss to Abraham Geiger - thinks he's fixing something old, rather than creating something new. And the opponents of reform, always say "what we have is just fine, by fixing it you're actually breaking it." We don't know yet how OO will be viewed in the light of history. If they are remembered as reviterlizers they are indeed the new Hasidim; however, I think its far more likely they will be remembered as reformers. Time will tell.

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Monday, November 02, 2015

Apparently God talks to anyone nowadays

Query: Should we mock John Boehner or recognize him as a prophet of God?


"On CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday Boehner said he invoked God to persuade his fellow Catholic from refusing to run for speaker to agreeing to do so.
Boehner says he told Ryan: "'This isn't about what you want to do. It's about what God wants you to do. And God has told me, he wants you to" run for speaker"
In a saner world, people who claim God speaks to them would be receiving mental care. not finishing up a term in Congress.

ALTERNATIVE AND MORE LIKELY POSSIBILITY: Boehner knows God didn't speak to him. This is just propaganda designed to impress the rubes, including (unfortunately) some of my fellow Jews are no doubt pleased to learn of Bone-heads "spirituality".

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Propaganda posts

Jews should not be playing the same sort of dishonest games that Palestinians play. An example comes from a post spotted this morning, on MY RIGHT WORD. (see it here)

---- TEXT OF THE POST ----

Stories of a Fake 'Palestinian' Narrative

Rachel's Tomb, Bethlehem, a century ago:-

[Photo of the Tomb in Ruins]

Notice the heavily populated and constructed Arab town of Bethlehem.

---- TEXT OF THE POST ----

Clearly the writer is attempting to imply that the Arab town of Bethlehem didn't exist and he is attempting to do this via an out of context photo. In reality, the Arab town of Bethlehem was just down the road, and you can see from this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RwUjB_lGmtw (shot about 12 years after the photo was taken) that the town was both "populated and constructed"

We object when Arabs tell these types of lies. We should object when Jews do it, too.

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Thursday, October 29, 2015

What we can do about the OTD?

In yesterday's installment, I discussed the first of the two pressing questions Agudah will address at their upcoming convention (Why Do People Go OTD?) and told you what you will - and will not - hear from the panel. Today, we look at the second question:

What can we do about it?

The *real answer*: Stop thinking of the OTD as people who have lost an essential aspect of their humanity. Just as the bike club wouldn't radically change its view of a member who decided to try Judo, we shouldn't start making assumptions about the character, personality and mental health of people who are tired of shabbos rules and dietary restrictions. A guy who has left the bike club has only left the bike club. He hasn't metamorphosized into the sort of person you need to warn your kids about. He isn't suddenly damaged gods.

Instead let's follow the fine example of Isaiah Berlin (an OTD Jew himself), who said: "I believe that there is a plurality of values which men can and do seek, and that these values differ. There is not an infinity of them: the number of human values, of values that I can pursue while maintaining my human semblance, my human character, is finite -- let us say 74, or perhaps 122, or 26, but finite, whatever it may be. And the difference it makes is that if a man pursues one of these values, I, who do not, am able to understand why he pursues it or what it would be like, in his circumstances, for me to be induced to pursue it. Hence the possibility of human understanding." (In the first comment I explain why this is not moral relativism)

The *expected* Agudah answers: Show them how lovely Judaism is, open your house for shabbos, familiarize yourself with cheap kiruv tricks and find situations to employ them,etc. Aside for the last item on the list, this is all good stuff so long as it's not done in a condescending fashion. The fact that you keep kosher or shabbos doesn't, in of itself, make you a better person. It makes you someone who is pursuing a particular set of legitimate human values, and there is no reason to look down on someone who, for reasons of his own, decides another set of legitimate human values are a better match for his temperament. To see ourselves and the OTD in this light may require some reorientation, but is we're serious about achdus, understanding and continuity its an effort worth making.

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why People Go OTD"

Agudah is promising to reveal "Why People Go OTD" at their big convention this December, but attending will cost you several hundred dollars, plus time that might be better spent watching football. DovBear to the rescue! Let me spare you the trouble of going by telling you what you will - and will not - hear.

Why Do People Go OTD?

The *real* answer: People leave Orthodox Judaism for one over-riding reason: They go because the various rituals and observances have lost their significance. No one spends a lot of money, doing things that look and feel foolish, unless there is some payout. That payout can take many forms, and it can be psychological, social, or emotional. But if the payout is not there, you go OTD. What kills the payout? Any number of different combinations of different things. Too many to count, in fact.

The *expected* Agudah answers: Mental illness, a desire to rebel, a desire for sex and drugs, bad friends, bad relatives, a taste of pork during childhood, an immodest mother, a father who bad-mouthed rabonim, that time Cousin Gary took you to a movie, and so on.

Now *some* of the things Agudah is expected to finger are payout murderers. For example, if you grew up in a house where shabbos was denigrated and Rabbis were insulted you probably won't become the sort of adult who gets the warm-fuzzies from observing and obeying. But those payout murderers are contributing factors, not the final straw. Moreover, its impossible to say that what I am calling "payout murderers" will inevitably lead you to go OTD. We all know of siblings who grew up in the same house, with the same upbringings, yet ended up in very different Jewish places.

Search for more information about ### at4torah.com

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Meaningfulness of Jewish Identity

Is being Jewish meaningful without a belief in Judaism? A conversation I had with a friend over Shabbos got me thinking about this. He said that he's unsure of the validity of many of Judaism's claims,  up to and including the existence of God, but that it's important to him that his kids have strong Jewish feelings and  an attachment to Judaism and being Jewish.

I've often seen frum people claim that without the religious component, being Jewish is meaningless. I can see where they're coming from. What it means to be Jewish has, for most of the history of the Jewish people, been shaped by Judaism. Religious rules shaped our culture, influenced our values,  is a large part of what kept us distinct from the larger non-Jewish populations in which we lived, and even defined who was and wasn't Jewish. But being Jewish is about more than that. It is an identity that is separate from and transcends the religious rules that shaped it.

I'm an American, and I have deep feelings for my country. There's something stirring about seeing Old Glory snapping in the wind, something moving about quintessentially American songs like God Bless America, My Country 'Tis of Thee, and The Battle Hymn of the Republic, or even those that have become children's songs, like Yankee Doodle and When Johnny Comes Marching Home. I believe in the Enlightenment principles on which this country was founded and am proud that we were the first nation to form a government on those principles, however poorly we have adhered to them at times.

Despite my being radically different from many Americans in some ways, in others we have much in common. We share many aspects of American culture and many of the same assumptions about the way things should be. Even the most bitter of disagreements about values and policies are framed by those shared assumptions. We share, among other things, a degree of attachment to and pride in our country matched by few other nations around the world.

I'm also a skeptic and a history buff, and I'm well aware that America's founding myths are just that. Myths, often exaggerated and ahistorical stories about our origins that tell of larger-than-life figures doing great deeds. The Pilgrims did not land at Plymouth rock and came here not so much in the pursuit of religious freedom as in the pursuit of the freedom to persecute those who disagreed with their religion. George Washington was a great leader of men who turned down a crown in accordance with his beliefs in the principles of democracy, but he was also ambitious, self-promoting, and a lousy tactician. The colonies went to war with Britain over taxes, but it was triggered as much by the British reducing tariffs, thereby causing the bottom to drop out of the lucrative smuggling business  of some prominent and influential American shipping magnates as it was about the Crown taxing colonists who had no voice in Parliament.

Yet despite my recognition that America's founding myths are not true, despite even recognizing that the United States has many, many flaws, my identity as an American is of great value to me. It informs who I am and connects me to a group of people, past, present, and future, with whom I share values, ideals, and a group identity. It allows me to feel pride in the accomplishments of my countrymen, and motivates me to address my country's flaws. My identity as an American is separate from and transcends the mythos that shaped the American consciousness.

So too my identity as a member of the Jewish people. There's something moving about the Jewish traditions that bind us together as a people. Despite being different from many Jews is some ways, there are cultural constants that we can all relate to. The Jewish people have had a pride in their Jewish identity and a tenacity matched by few others. My identity as a Jew informs who I am, allows me to feel pride in the accomplishments of my fellow Jews, motivates me to address our flaws, connects me to the sorrow of our national tragedies, and  makes me a part of our long, long history.

This all despite my rejection of the truth of the mythology that shaped much of that history.

Being Jewish is meaningful, with or without a belief in Judaism. It is meaningful as an identity. It is meaningful as a shared heritage, as a connection to the past which brought us to where we are today. It is as meaningful as a connection to all the other people who have identified as members of the Jewish people, past, present, and future. Without religion, being Jewish is not meaningful in a metaphysical sense, but so what? Meaning is what we make it, and to me, identifying with other people who share my unique heritage, and with the three-thousand-plus years of Jewish history,  is even more meaningful than being one of God's Chosen People.