Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Nail in the Coffin of Claimed Orthodoxy

R' Gedalia Dov Schwartz and Dr. Norman Lamm
I have to be honest. I am truly saddened by what has happened at Yeshiva Chovevei Torah. There was so much potential there. Rabbi Avi Weiss actually founded a Yeshiva dedicated to creating Orthodox rabbis that were geared to the modern world. They concentrated on making their graduates ‘Rabbis’. Meaning they were better trained in the practical aspects of 21st century rabbinics. They could have had the respect (perhaps grudgingly so) of many other rabbis who had to learn practical rabbinics on the fly.

Most Yeshivos don’t even produce rabbis anymore. In fact it seems that the right wing looks down at Yeshivos that offer Semicha.  Most Yeshiva students on the right seem to almost recoil at the idea of a becoming a rabbi. They see themselves as Lomdei Torah only. That is the beginning and end of it for them. Becoming a rabbi is hardly a value to them. Besides getting Semicha is relatively easy for them and can be done privately.  In some cases – if needed for a job in Chinuch, they can get a ‘Rav U’Manhig’ document which allows themselves to be called ‘rabbi’ without taking a single test on the material required for Semicha.

This is not the case in YU or HTC. They do have Semicha programs. But in the practical aspects of being a rabbi YCT’s program surpasses these 2 institutions by offering a variety of courses in practical rabbinics that their students need to functions as leaders in the modern world.

But, even though they still have these goals and classes to support them, YCT has long ago ceased to be just a training ground for modern day rabbis. It is now the flagship Yeshiva of Open Orthodoxy and has affiliates like Yeshivat Maharat that ordains women. I have discussed my issues with OO and YCT many times. I am not going to rehash them here. Other than to reiterate that I no longer feel they have a place in Orthodoxy. I say this with a heavy heart. But with a clear conscience.

There are many sincere and honorable people that question my strident opposition to these groups. Why, they ask, do I care? Live and let live.. Leave them alone. They cater to a constituency than needs them. Your strong public opposition will only harm  efforts to keep them observant. Besides, They are a small portion of Orthodox Jewry.

I am so vocal about this group because even though they are small now – there is a very distinct possibility that they will grow.And it therefore needs to be made clear that those interested in this movement know that it is not Orthodox.

Now, much like the Conservative Movement  I don’t see them surviving in perpetuity. They too will eventually see their demise. But just like the Conservative Movement, it might take them a hundred years.

Saying this does not  give me pleasure. I do not rejoice at all in it. I lament the turn YCT and its affiliates have taken.

One may ask: How do I know this? What is it about them that makes me so sure it will not survive as an Orthodox Movement? Do their arguments have no merit?

The truth is that I am not the one to answer that question. It has been answered by a number of rabbinic leaders in both the Charedi and Modern Orthodox camp.  Neither group has accepted their arguments at all. One cannot ignore the consensus of the rabbinic leaders from these 2 different segments of Orthodoxy.

The Agudah Moetzes has come out with a strong condemnation of OO, YCT and its affiliates. From VIN - here in part is what they said. And who said it:
“We therefore inform the public that in our considered opinion, ‘Open Orthodoxy’ is not a form of Torah Judaism (Orthodoxy), and that any rabbinic ordination (which they call ‘semicha’) granted by any of its affiliated entities to their graduates does not confer upon them any rabbinic authority.”
The eleven rabbonim who signed on the kol korei , Rav Simcha Bunim Ehrenfeld, Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock, Rav Dovid Feinstein, Rav Aharon Feldman, Rav Yosef Frankel, Rav Yosef Harari-Raful, Rav Shmuel Kamenetsky, Rav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, Rav Avrohom Chaim Levin, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow and Rav Aharon Schechter, represent a wide cross section of the Orthodox Jewish community.
One can discount the proclamation all they want. And they can disregard the names of members of the Agudah Moetzes by saying that these rabbis are of no consequence to Modern Orthodoxy. But what about rabbis that are venerated by Modern Orthodoxy? Are they to be ignored?  The recent proclamation by the RCA rejecting female rabbis - a position OO and YCT support is based on the clearly stated views of their rabbinic leaders. Which include Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, Rav Hershel Shachter, Rav Gedalia Dov Schwartz and Rav Mordechai Willig..

Is there even one rabbi of similar stature that has disagreed with these august figures? It hardly matters that arguments can be made in support of YCT et al - if not a single rabbi of stature accepts them. Even if you reject the Agudah Moetzes - who is qualified to dispute Rav Aharon Lichtenstein? Certainly not  Rabbis Weiss and Lopatin. Knowledgeable as they are - they are nowhere near the stature of any of the  aforementioned rabbonim.  .

There are many who argue the merits of YCT and OO and say that it is all happening anyway – with or without the consent of either the RCA or Agudah. I agree. It is happening. But it is obvious to me that it will never be considered Orthodox Judaism by any respected Rav in any segment of Orthodoxy. 

Calling themselves Orthodox will not make them so. The Shuls that hire YCT graduates as pulpit rabbis will surely be ostracized by mainstream Orthodoxy – much the same way the Traditional Movement was. They claimed to be Orthodox and serving a constituency that needed them. And they too were opposed by the mainstream. And we all know what happened to them. They are practically nonexistent.