Monthly Archives: July 2015

Modern Orthodox Judaism joining Conservative Judaism through ordaining women Rabbi

I’ve read a great many articles describing in detail how Conservative Judaism evolved to enhance the status of women within Jewish law. From the 1960s to the 1990s this was a big issue. During all that time many modern Orthodox rabbis and lay people read the same articles written by Conservative Jewish rabbis, and it’s absolutely influenced women in the modern Orthodox Jewish community.

A generation later MO Rabbis are now practically quoting Conservative Jewish legal positions, which is awesome, but it does kind of concerns me that they are being disingenuous about their sources, it’s a little bit like plagiarism. The Secretary of the Committee for Jewish Law and Standards, CJLS, from the conservative movement, had been sending out upon request copies of their papers for years to Orthodox rabbis. Then their books were published for the mass audience.

Now we have hundreds of Orthodox Jews, and dozens of male Orthodox rabbis, now ordaining women Orthodox rabbis in exactly the same way , and for exactly the same reasons, yet not citing your sources. Lol. Welcome to Conservative Judaism anyways 🙂


The little known haKotel haKatan – Small Western Wall

Although for religious, social and political reasons, this is no substitute for allowing all Jews to daven at the larger, more recognized area of the Kotel (Western Wall), it is important to note that there is a small, little known, part of the Kotel not controlled by the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox)


There is a section of the Temple’s retaining wall far closer to the sacred Holy of Holies than the traditional site of prayer, and it’s open to all

Nothing remains of the Glory That Was Jerusalem during the Second Temple era but a wall on the western side of the Temple Mount. … It is the only remnant of the Temple that Jews can touch, pray to and weep upon. As such, it is Judaism’s most hallowed site.

But there is a section of the Western Wall far closer to the Holy of Holies on the Temple Mount than the traditional site of prayer and perhaps that much more sacred. It is called the “Small Wailing Wall” (haKotel haKatan) and is open to all. There is even room there for notes to God, while at the traditional site every nook and cranny is crammed full with tiny scraps of paper.

This important site is found off HaGuy Street inside the Old City walls, a byway replete with bustling markets and historic buildings. …

The little Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem

צניעות, tzniut, modesty. What were you taught?

GOOD FOR HER!  Women are more than the sum of the body parts that they are willing to display for profit. Bekah Pence is a woman I would be happy for my daughter to read about, or see on TV.

In Judaism we have teachings about  צניעות, tzniut, modesty.  Sadly, most of our community no longer studies or observes such laws and custom – modern Jews generally leave their implementation to the Haredim (ultra-Orthodox), which have become more and more misogynistic, or we follow the secular trends of trying to make women appear mostly nude, and conform to biologically unrealistic, photoshopped, norms.

How do rabbis in your community teach צניעות , if at all?
What books do they suggest you read?
How do you teach צניעות to your sons and daughters?

Sticking to her personal modesty standards is not something new for Bekah Pence. Earlier this year, the 29-year-old returned missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints searched tirelessly for appropriate formal wear as she competed for and eventually won the title of Ms. Virginia United States.

While preparing for her next pageant, the Ms. United States competition, Pence learned of three mandatory outfits that she did not feel comfortable wearing. Determined to compete only if the outfits could be altered, Pence once again found a way to uphold her standards. Throughout the pageant, she learned that her determination impacted many and even gave another contestant the courage to compete.

“I think something that was reiterated or came through more strongly this time around is just not being afraid to keep your standards because you never know how it will affect someone,” Pence said. “Sometimes (LDS Church) members just don’t realize that personally deciding to keep the commandments, it literally directly impacts others.”

Pence learned of the mandatory outfits just weeks before the national competition for women ages 26 to 39 in Washington, D.C., on July 3.
Modesty in a Ms United States competition

Should we follow the Shulkhan Arukh as authoritative?

from a conversation about halakhah (Jewish law), someone stated “Oh I forgot that Shulchan Aruch doesn’t mean that much to you”

Should it? The Shulkhan Arukh, an important code of Jewish law written by Rabbi Yosef Karo, was never meant to be a binding code of Jewish law. It was always just a student abridgement of the real work of its author, the much larger Beit Yosef (Hebrew: בית יוסף‎) , which offered a much wider range of halakhic views on every subject.

Publisher: Morasha LeHanchil

Publisher: Morasha LeHanchil

Apologetics aside, no Orthodox Jewish group today accepts the Shulkhan Arukh’s decisions as fully authoritative. The moment it was published, other rabbis immediately began writing their own commentaries on it, making other rulings.

Despite the pious claims that the Shulkhan Arukh is the most widely accepted code of Jewish law, in reality, it is only the form of the Shulkhan Arukh that became authoritative. For instance, The “Rema” (Moses Isserles) 1500s, immediately wrote a gloss on the Shulkhan Arukh which superseded the Shulkhan Arukh itself, for followers of the Rema. The same then happened by many other rabbis, for many other groups.

What is most disappointing, is that they very same Orthodox rabbis who claim that Shulkhan Arukh as authoritative, are ignorant of history on this subject. How can they claim to respect Rabbi Yosef Karo, and his book, when Yosef Karo said not to ever do this?

The Encyclopaedia Judaica notes:

Karo wrote the Shulchan Aruch in his old age, for the benefit of those who did not possess the education necessary to understand the Beth Yosef. The format of this work parallels that adopted by Jacob ben Asher in his Arba’ah Turim, but more concisely; without citing sources. …The author himself had no very high opinion of the work, remarking that he had written it chiefly for “young students” (Shulchan Aruch, Introduction). Karo never refers to it in his responsa, but always to the Beth Yosef. The Shulchan Aruch achieved its reputation and popularity not only against the wishes of the author, but, perhaps, through the very scholars who criticized it.

– – – –

The work of Rabbi Karo had already been opposed by several Sephardic contemporaries, Yom-Tov Zahalon, who designated the Shulchan Aruch as a book for “children and ignoramuses” (in his responsa, no. 67, beginning), and Jacob Castro, whose work Erekh ha-Shulchan consists of critical glosses to the Shulchan Aruch. Moses Isserles and Solomon Luria – the Maharshal, were Karo’s first important adversaries in Eastern,Europe.

Further in response to those who wished to force the rulings of the Shulchan Aruch upon those communities following Rambam, Rabbi Yosef himself Karo wrote:

“Who is he whose heart conspires to approach forcing congregations who practice according to the RaMBaM [Maimonides] of blessed memory, to go by any one of the early or latter-day Torah authorities?! … Is it not a case of a fortiori, that regarding the School of Shammai — that the halakhah does not go according to them—they [the Talmudic Sages] said ‘if [one practices] like the School of Shammai [he may do so, but] according to their leniencies and their stringencies’: The RaMBaM, is the greatest of all the Torah authorities, and all the communities of the Land of Israel and the Arab-controlled lands and the West [North Africa] practice according to his word, and accepted him upon themselves as their Chief Rabbi. Whoever practices according to him with his leniencies and his stringencies, why coerce them to budge from him? And all the more so if also their fathers and forefathers practiced accordingly: for their children are not to turn right or left from the RaMBaM of blessed memory. And even if communities that practice according to the Rosh or other authorities like him became the majority, they cannot coerce the minority of congregations practicing according to the RaMBaM of blessed memory, to practice like they do. And there is no issue here concerning the prohibition against having two courts in the same city [‘lo tithgodedu’’], since every congregation should practice according to its original custom…”

– – – –

This, then, is the authentic, historical view of rabbinic Judaim. Halakhah, yes, But fossilizing halakhah in one code, from one man, forever, no:

“…however great the literary value of a code may be, it does not invest it with infallibility, nor does it exempt it from the student or the Rabbi who makes use of it from the duty of examining each paragraph on its own merits, and subjecting it to the same rules of interpretation that were always applied to Tradition”.

– Rabbi Professor Solomon Schechter.

This traditional view, in fact, is the official view of Conservative/Masorti Judaism.

Solomon Schechter 1902 Photographer Saville

A Blessing for the Images from Pluto

A Blessing for our awe of what we are discovering at Pluto
– What a great article from Coffee Shop Rabbi 🙂

Coffee Shop Rabbi

Today the NASA spaceship New Horizons will fly past Pluto and snap the closest images ever taken of that heavenly body. I thought some of you might like to learn the appropriate blessing for seeing natural wonders.

Baruch atah Adonai, Elohaynu Melech ha’Olam, she’ka’kha lo b’olamo.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Ruler of Time-and-Space, who has such creations in Your world.

(The image featured with this article is in the public domain. It was taken by the New Horizons ship on its approach.)

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The Scroll of Pain and Sorrow

Two days in the Jewish year stop for the reading of a scroll that is not the Torah. On Purim, we listen to the Scroll of Esther. On Tisha B’Av, we listen to the Scroll of Eicha, also known as the Book of Lamentations….

Eicha was written in response to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by the Babylonian army. It is written in a literary form that we don’t hear much in the 21st century: it is a lament, a passionate expression of grief and heartbreak….

Coffee Shop Rabbi

Two days in the Jewish year stop for the reading of a scroll that is not the Torah. On Purim, we listen to the Scroll of Esther. On Tisha B’Av, we listen to the Scroll of Eicha, also known as the Book of Lamentations.*

Eicha does not mean “lamentation.” As with all the names of the books in the Hebrew Bible, it is the first significant word of the text, in this case, the very first word. It is both a word and a howl of pain: “HOW?”

Eicha was written in response to the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple by the Babylonian army. It is written in a literary form that we don’t hear much in the 21st century: it is a lament, a passionate expression of grief. It is both highly structured (an acrostic) and full-throated in its expression of heartbreak.

We don’t…

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The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים ×‘כותל

The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל.

Shulamit Magnus writes that:
The organization known as “The Women of the Wall” has radically shifted gears and has a different goal than the one for which this group (the original Women of the Wall) was founded and for which it fought– and won. What they are now after is egalitarian, mixed prayer at a five-star Robinson’s Arch, at which the Reform and Conservative movements will have recognition. For this, they have given up the goal of women’s pluralistic, inclusive tefilla at the kotel [the Western Wall]. They are using this cause to advance different goals; they have given up the independent, autonomous women’s movement and are allied with those movements.

We warmly support, the right of Jews who wish to make a new prayer site at Robinson’s Arch, or anywhere else. While we think it would be a terrible, short-sighted, mistake to cede the Kotel, the historic holy site of the Jewish people, to any segment of Jewry to run as its private preserve, with the right to exclude other Jews, if Conservative and Reform Jews wish the deal, outlined above, for themselves, we wish them well.

What we reject is the right of anyone, in those movements, in the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) establishment, or in the Government of Israel, to trample our legally recognized rights as Jewish women to full, religious expression at the Kotel.

Religious coercion is not what we normally associate with those movements, with “progressive” Judaism in general—or with feminism. But that is an intrinsic part of this deal and those negotiating it are party to that. Efforts to dismiss our position as that of a “few” individuals is a knowing distortion among many being asserted, amid patronizing, paternalistic mischaracterizations.

Basic principles are not negotiable. Upholding them is about integrity, vision, and fundamental commitments. Jews know this well. We have done it for thousands of years, which is why we are still around. We are about fresh, new visions of and for Judaism and for Jews, women and men, and respect for historic legal pronouncements that recognize the religious rights of Jewish women at the Kotel. These must be enacted fully on the ground, becoming the base for holy, new possibilities for the Jewish people in Jewish sacred space—for true wholeness– shelemut—literally, “integrity.”  To this path, we are committed, and on it, we proceed.

via The Original Women of the Wall – תפילת נשים בכותל.