Category Archives: YCT

Responding to “Saying Kaddish for Open Orthodoxy”

On his blog Harry Maryles writes:

I say this with a heavy heart. But I think the time has come to say Kaddish for Open Orthodoxy. Kaddish is the prayer traditionally recited upon the loss of a loved one – like a parent or child. This is how I feel about this loss…. But even with all of that, speaking for myself only, I did not think they warranted being expelled from Orthodoxy. Until one fine day Zev Farber, one of YCT’s prime products revealed that after studying biblical criticism he concluded that the Torah was probably written by different people at different times in history. That is a heretical view.

YCT president, Rabbi Asher Lopatin reacted to that by reaffirming his belief in the traditional view that the Torah is the word of God as recorded by Moshe; and this is what his Yeshiva YCT teaches. But he nevertheless defended Zev Farber’s right to question those foundational beliefs – calling him a major Talmud Chacham, and continued to embrace him as one of YCT’s own. That (as I have indicated in the past) is a deal breaker for me. I challenge my good friend Asher do explain how you can assert traditional views to be the truth and at the same time say that one of their brightest graduates has a right as an Orthodox Jew to question it?…


Okay, so he says that these Orthodox Jews are no longer Orthodox, because they accept the results of higher biblical criticism (they show that the text of the Torah is like the rest of the Bible, and like the Mishnah – it has a history, it was edited over time.) So I just submitted this response to the blog. Let’s see if this comment is approved:

Harry, your article here is very well intentioned, and in general I do agree that words only have meaning when they have specific meanings. But your essay here shows a complete lack of knowledge of the true, traditional, historic Jewish view of this subject. Your entire argument rests on the assumption that historic Judaism is the same as modern day Orthodox Judaism, and that this religion requires a literal belief that Moses literally wrote every single verse in the Torah, in his lifetime, and that this text came down to us today with practically zero changes and editing.

i’m sorry, but any educated person knows that this is complete fantasy, in every way. First off, the various versions of the documentary hypothesis are not ‘disproven’, as so many fundamentalist apologists claim. While certain dating aspects are still under consideration, it is considered a proven fact that the Torah, as have it today, has indeed been edited from earlier, yet post-Mosaic, sources. For a good summary, see “Who Wrote the Bible?” by Richard Elliot Friedman.

Yet equally important is the fact that historically, Jews have *not* been required to believe this. The idea that we all were required to do so is literally an urban myth. Please read The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles Reappraised (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization) by Rabbi Professor Marc Shapiro,

Further, by yet a third line of reasoning, your claim is wrong: Most Orthodox Jews who claim to follow Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith, have literally no idea what Maimonides believed. His only detailed explanation of what he means by God, Revelation, Torah, etc. is in his Guide for the Perplexed, and that work is totally meaningless when read, unless one already is familiar with with Greek Aristotelian philosophy, which is not studied in most yeshivas.

The only Jews I have met who actually understood any of Maimonides’s 13 principles come from western enlightenment-tradition friendly Modern Orthodox Jews, who studied philosophy and the Guide, from Conservative Jews, and from members of “the academy”, professors of medieval Jewish philosophy (they’re a mixed bag of open modern Orthodox and tradition leaning non-Orthodox)

Every single Hasidic Jew, who claims to follow Maimonides’s 13 Principles, doesn’t, as Kabbalah violates Maimonides’s understanding of Jewish theology.

Saying Kaddish for Open Orthodoxy


Open Orthodoxy

Rabbi Avi Weiss writes
… Since the early ’90s, Orthodoxy has undergone a number of great shifts. Responding to a precipitous move to the right within Modern Orthodoxy, a plethora of institutions and organizations have emerged.

These include the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA), Edah, YCT and YM, the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF). In Israel, too, Beit Morasha, Beit Hillel, Ne’emanei Torah Ve’Avodah and others were founded and today women are being ordained (receivingsemikha) from Yeshivat Maharat as well as Yeshivat Har’el.

Modern Orthodoxy, which 25 years ago faced a significant decline, has been reclaimed by tens, even hundreds of thousands of adherents.

Debate has surfaced over what this reassertion should be called. In the end, names are secondary to the substantive changes that have been put in place. Still, names matter as they are descriptive of what we are, our mission and values, taking into account the changes and challenges of the times….
Open Orthodoxy