Thursday, April 21, 2016

When Fellow Jews are Hurt Because of my Principles

Rabba Sara Hurwitz - first woman to be ordained by an Orthodox rabbi
One of the most troubling things about the currents in Modern Orthodoxy today is the fact that some very sincere and honorable women feel slighted and disrespected because of the opposition by rabbinic leadership across the Hashkafic spectrum denying ordination to women.

An intelligent woman that I respect very much recently explained that to me in a facebook discussion. If I understand her correctly, she said that denying something to a woman only because she is a woman, (and no other reason) denies her the ability to be who she really is… and is capable of being based on her personal strengths and talent. That is not denied to men. Which makes it inherently unfair. And since there is no real Halachic basis to deny women the right to be ordained, that makes it hurtful.

I have been having this discussion for quite some time. And I am truly hurt myself, when people are hurt because of my religious views. That is the last thing I want.

Why am I so opposed to giving women Semicha? I have stated my reasons many times. But at the end of the day, the main reason is that rabbinic authorities across the Orthodox Hashkafic spectrum are opposed. Including the Roshei Yeshiva at YU, the flagship institution of Modern Orthodoxy. So it doesn’t really matter what I – or anyone else thinks.

One might deduce from this that I am Charedi in the sense that I believe in the infallibility of rabbinic leadership. This is not the case at all. If one does a cursory look at the many times I disagreed with a rabbinic body on a variety of issues - one will see that I am not like that. At the same time (…and I have expressed this before as well) I do not believe that rabbinic leaders should be ignored. Far from it. They do posses more Torah knowledge than the rest of us. So that in cases where there is universal agreement across the Hashkafic spectrum on an issue, there is little room for people like me or others of lesser stature to debate it with them.

It’s true that some individual and even quite knowledgeable rabbis (but of admitted lesser stature) have argued against the prevailing rabbinic view that a woman may not be ordained. But that view pales when compared to the entire vast body of rabbinic opinion by rabbis of great stature across the Hashkafic spectrum with which they disagree. This in part is why the Modern Orthodox RCA in a recent resolution voted upon by its membership has rejected the idea ordaining women so completely.

The fact that critics have pointed out that it was a close vote does not really indicate the level of opposition. A lot of those (but certainly not all) who voted against the resolution were in favor of it in principle – but felt that a new resolution which basically reiterated their previous position was counter-productive. So they voted against making the resolution, but not against the principles contained therein.

One must respect the rabbinic opinion if it is universal. It is not like the issue of Metzizah B’Peh. Where there is a variety of views by rabbinic leaders – depending on what their Hashkafa is. That’s why the RCA has the policy of rejecting the legitimacy of female rabbis. To say things about them like ‘they are an old boys club’ or the like is untrue and grossly unfair. So that even if some of them were like that (which I don’t think they are) they can’t all be like that.  

At the end of the day, I have to respect rabbinic leadership when its agreement on an issue is across the board in the wide spectrum of Orthodoxy. I firmly believe their agreement on this issue is no less principled that those that disagree with them.

But that does not make me feel any better about hurting fellow human beings that see this is an unfair constraint on their personal growth in Yiddishkeit. They too are principled. And I am personally hurt when my views hurt others even though it is unintentional.