Thursday, January 23, 2014

Disagreement Does Not Mean Rejection

Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh HaYeshiva of YCT
I have written many times about my problems with the Hashkafos of Rabbi Avi Weiss,his Yeshiva Yeshivat Choevei Torah (YCT) and its philosophy of Open Orthodoxy. Just to mention a few of the problems:

1. Rabbi Weiss has created and supports Yeshivat Maharat that ordains women for the rabbinate. He has stopped short of calling them rabbi (or rabba as he did with his first odainee) at the request of the RCA who threatened to expel him if he continued. But calling them Maharat does not change the fact that he considers them rabbis. 

The material these women study is the same as men who study for the rabbinate and they are tested on it the same way. Calling them by another name changes nothing. Outside of Rabbi Weiss and his schools, Orthodox opposition to female rabbis is universal. I have discussed why this is the case in the past. But it is beyond the scope of this post.

2. Open Orthodoxy goes way beyond loving the sinner and hating the sin when it comes to homosexuality. I have no problem with same sex attraction and neither does the Torah. But I do have a problem with acting on it in ways which the Torah tells us is a capital offense. This does not mean I can’t have sympathy for those who sinfully succumb to their desires. But Open Orthodox rabbis practically permit it. Or at least claim that Torah would consider such acts involuntary and therefore not subject to the prohibition (Oness Rachmana Patrei).  This kind of thinking turns the Torah on its head and virtually permits a clearly stated forbidden act.

3. YCT is too easy on those within their own movement that question whether the events at Sinai ever happened. Even though YCT does not question it, they tolerate those who do. That takes being Dan L’Kaf Zechus to an absurd degree, in my view.

4. And then there is their public engagement with non Orthodox rabbis in theological matters. There too they have gone astray. By publicly embracing them in religious contexts they are in effect being seen as legitimizing theologies that are illegitimate. This is something that Rabbi Weiss’s mentor Rav Soloveitchik prohibited. I agree with him.

I will however say that on this last issue I am sympathetic even as I disagree. I understand that they see this as a form of reaching out to secular and non Orthodox Jews in order to try and stop the hemorrhaging of Jews out of Judaism via apathy and intermarriage – a fact documented by various surveys to one degree or another.

Because of this I do think we ought to re-think whether we should interact with non Orthodox rabbis and movements. But I believe we need more input from a broader base in Orthodoxy than just the left in how to go about it. But I digress

These are just a few of my problems with Open Orthodoxy, YCT, and Rabbi Weiss.  And yet, I am opposed to the suggestion by some that advocate throwing  him and his Yeshiva out of Orthodoxy. As I’ve said many times, even with all of the serious issues I have with him, Rabbi Weiss has never advocated violating Halacha. His ‘sins’ are all Hashkafic or deal with matters of public policy.

I believe in Achdus, with both the right and the left. As I recently said, we have more that unites us than divides us.

Apparently I am not the only one who thinks this way. There are prominent people on the right who do as well. The Spinka Rebbe (not the one who was imprisoned for money laundering and fraud – there is more than one Spinka Rebbe) is one of them. Or at least his Gabbai is. I’m sure he has the same problems if not more with the Hashkafos of OO, YCT, and Rabbi Weiss. And yet he embraces them in the spirit of Achdus. The following is from Rabbi Dov Linzer, Rosh Yeshiva of YCT: 
Last night, we ended our week with a kumsitz and had the special zchut of experiencing a truly uplifting moment. Just as the students were about to leave for the night, Rav Avi entered in to the yeshiva arm and arm with a chossid. Rav Avi had made a shiva call in Williamsburg to the family of Menachem Stark, a Satmar chossid who was brutally murdered, leaving behind 7 children. 
As he was leaving the shiva house, the gabbai of the Spinka Rebbe asked him if he needed a ride. Rav Avi asked to be taken to the train, but the gabbai wouldn't even consider just driving Rav Avi to the train. Instead, he drove Rav Avi all the way back to Riverdale (and would then have to drive back to Brooklyn for a dinner he was chairing to support the poor). 
The two of them joined the Winter Learning students in song and dance. The gabbai of the Spinka Rebbe gave the students an inspirational bracha and then was on his way. It was amazing to experience this unifying moment, and it was a great way to cap off an invigorating week.