Sunday, October 01, 2017

Judaism is More Than About Tuna Fish

 Lila Kagedan - first female rabbi of an Orthodox Shul
When the Rabbinic leaders that guide the OU came out with their guidelines for women's roles in Judaism earlier this year, it was sharply criticized by the left for its inhibitory nature. One liberal rabbi was quoted as saying that the OU should stick to tuna fish. (The OU is the largest Kosher certification agency in the world.)

It appears that the OU is getting some strong internal pressure as well from its members to retain member Shuls that have violated the clearly stated policy against hiring female rabbis. And by ‘rabbis’ I mean anyone serving in that role regardless of the title they use.

The Forward reports on such pressure based on the fact that the OU is considering expulsion of member Shuls that continue to violate those rules.

The argument is that it is divisive to expel member Shuls. That nothing will be gained and much will be lost. I have to disagree.

As I indicated in a previous post on this subject, it isn’t the OU that is being divisive. The member  Shuls that are bowing to social pressure to violate those rules are. The OU’s expulsion of Shuls hiring female rabbis would be the same as the NFL expelling a football team that decided it didn’t like the new rules instituted this year and continued  to play by the old ones. What kind of an organized sport would it be if we allowed some teams to violate the rules? It doesn’t work that way. Surely a religious organization whose leaders have delineated new rules is no worse than the NFL. You either play by the rules or you don’t get to play at all.

That there are players and coaches of the NFL insisting on letting a team stay despite violation of its rules because it’s otherwise divisive does not really matter. The NFL leaders based on the expert opinion of the day have determined that those rules are vital to the game. The players and coaches have no standing to dispute that.

You cannot have teams where some play with one set of rules and the other plays with another set of rules. That destroys the integrity of the game. That they may want to start another league where their own rules apply may not be a desired outcome. But this divisive outcome is overridden by the need to prevent serious injuries to its players. If those teams bolt and start a new league, who is being divisive? The NFL? …or the team that insist on its own rules? 

I actually wrote about this a few weeks ago responding to the Forward’s first article on it. And despite my belief that those Shuls asking to be made exceptions are the ones at fault, it saddens me that all of this is happening. It is divisive. There is no question about that. And that goes  against one of my core issues: Achdus One of my biggest problem within the Torah observant world is the lack of it. I accuse both the right and the left of being guilty of that. The right is a whole other issue worthy of a post of its own. All I will say about that is there is a lot of misunderstanding by the certain elements of right about what modern Orthodoxy really is as a Hashkafa. They look only at certain segments of MO and make judgments about if from that. Which is unfair.

But in the case of the left, you cannot sacrifice base principles on the alter of Achdus, no matter how important Achdus is. Those within the OU that argue against expulsion seem to value Achdus over base principles. Or do not consider what their own rabbinic leaders to have said about it to be base principles. Which their leadership clearly said it is.

Why am I more upset at this than I am at the rejection from the right? Because frankly there are rabbinic leaders that do understand what a modern Orthodox Hashkafa is and do not base it on what they see anecdotally. They are far more accepting of MO that those among them that have no clue about the Hashkafa.

True, they disagree with the Hashkafa. But it's one thing to quibble about the value of secular studies as a part of a Yeshiva curriculum. But it is a very different matter to allow the cultural ethic of egalitarianism to take precedence over a 3000 year Mesorah. A Mesorah that in the past was rarely tampered with - and only then on existential grounds (e.g. The Beis Yaakov Movement). Furthermore only the most knowledgeable and God fearing Rabbonim (No matter whether they are Charedi, Centrist, or Sephardi) have broad enough shoulders to do so.

There is not a doubt in my mind that egalitarianism is the source of new phenomenon of female rabbis. That has been made clear more than once by Orthodox feminists. Most of those women may have noble goals in desiring to be members of the cloth. But none of those motives add up to an existential threat requiring us to abandon 1000s of years of tradition. And yet the desire among some to assert the justness of the egalitarian cause, they felt moved to join the Reform Movement and become a rabbi there! (Or at least one has: the former head of Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance (JOFA).

As I have said many times. This entire controversy saddens me. It's divisive. We need a left wing. They cater to Modern liberal Jews with little or no background who seek some spirituality in their lives. They would never be comfortable in the Charedi world or even in the Centrist world. Because they too have been influenced by the egalitarian zeitgeist. Without a Left wing, many of them will choose Conservative Judaism as more compatible with their values.

I think that this is the motivation behind some of the more serious Rabbis on the left - like Asher Lopatin. In an effort to retain these Jews they have too easily respond affirmatively to the egalitarian argument.  But there is a time to just say no. And they don’t know how to do that.