Friday, May 07, 2021

If it Walks Like a Duck…

R' Yaakov Kamenetsky a rabbinic giant of the past (Wiki)
How far we have fallen from the traditions of our parents. To the Orthodox right, tradition only seems to matter when there are stringencies.  Lenient traditions have been thrown into the trash bin of history. Often denying they ever existed.  This change has happened during my own lifetime. I am talking about traditions that were the norm as recently as the late 60s. 

To name just one example of many, the idea of having mixed seating at weddings used to be an American Orthodox tradition. The (non Chasidic) Gedolei Hador of that time – Gedolim far greater than anyone alive today - proudly sat with their wives at the same dinner table at a wedding or banquet. Today not a single Gadol of the right will be caught sitting next to his wife at a mixed table in public. 

Traditions are no less abandoned by the Orthodox left. The most obvious of those is the advent of ordaining women for the rabbinate. There is over 2000 years of tradition where a rabbi could only be a male. Today the left considers that an ancient relic of past misogyny that is not based on Halacha. 

I am not going to get into why I believe this tradition has nothing to do with misogyny, or whether a female rabbis contradicts Halacha. Been there and done that more times than I can count. 

But the fact is it does break with tradition. A break that only came about in the 20th century when women became culturally liberated from the misogynistic shackles of the past. And are now able to participate freely in areas that were once limited to men only. Something that is eminently fair and which I salute. Except when it invades the realm of religious tradition. 

I am opposed to breaking religious tradition whether it involves leniencies or stringencies.  Again - for reasons beyond the scope of this post. In my view egalitarianism stops only when there are insurmountable physical differences; and at the door of religious tradition. In the latter case – especially as an exercise in egalitarianism. 

But tradition has not stopped the left from crossing that line. And pursuing a break in tradition for no other reason than the fact that a demand has been created due to the egalitarian spirit of the times. 

Rabbanit Shira Marili Mirvis (Times of Israel
Not that I blame any woman who seeks to exercise what she sees as an egalitarian right to choose a career that best suits her talents. I completely understand that motive. I will grant that in most cases  women who seek to become rabbis are sincere idealistic people who are very bright and study hard to achieve the expertise required for the job. 

I’m sure that in most cases they are motivated to serve Klal Yisroel. It’s just that desire – even by a talented and motivated person does not necessarily mean that tradition can be broken for anything less than existential reasons. Especially when the vast majority of Poskim reject any attempts to do so. 

For a while it seemed like there was going to be some sort of left wing revolution along those lines. But of late that ‘revolution’ seems to have quieted down. Except for what just happened in Israel as reported by the Times of Israel

An Orthodox synagogue in the West Bank settlement of Efrat has appointed a woman to be the community’s sole spiritual leader, the first time that a woman has held such a position in an Israeli Orthodox community. 

Rabbanit Shira Marili Mirvis was nominated with the support of 83 percent of the Shirat Hatamar synagogue’s voting members earlier this week… 

Rabbanit Mirvis is a self identified feminist. Which in my view clouds her motives in choosing this profession. But let us grant that her motives are pure despite her avowed feminism. The fact is that as her role is currently described it is identical to that of a male rabbi. She will be serving as the sole spiritual leader of that Shul. And doing exactly the same things a male rabbi would do. Albeit behind the Mechhitza. 

There is no two ways about it. As World Israel News puts it: 

An Orthodox Jewish community in Israel has become the first to appoint a female rabbi as head of a synagogue… 

This is precedent setting and may yet be the ‘final blow’ to that segment of Orthodoxy that is so far to the left, they may not even realize they have left the reservation. It doesn’t matter that 83% percent of the voting membership of the Shul approved of her as their new rabbi. Judaism is not a democracy. 

Nor does it matter that Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the popular left wing leader of the West Bank city of Efrat has apparently given his approval. He is not a Posek anywhere near the caliber of Poskim on the right and Center are. They completely rejects this kind of event. 

By taking this step this Shul has gone much further than any Orthodox shul. Making matters worse is that Rabbi Kenneth Brander, one of the rabbinic leaders of the left claimed:

…the place of women in Jewish leadership can go fully hand in hand with halacha and our mesorah (tradition) 

Now, I have no problem with Orthodox Jewish women taking leadership positions. I know quite a few Orthodox women  – including women on the right - that have and are doing quite well in those positions. I applaud them for it. But when Rabbi Brander makes that statement in the context of the first female rabbi, he is at best clueless about a 2000 year old tradition. And at worst completely disingenuous. He is in fact quite literally rejecting tradition. 

That they are not using the term ‘rabbi’ to describe her role is a meaningless gesture. As if they somehow think their right flank will somehow be satisfied that their firmly stated guidelines on this issue have not been violated by a simple change of title. When it is quite clear that she is a rabbi. As I often say (paraphrasing Shakespeare), ‘A rose by any other name is still a rose’. 

Who do they think they are kidding? 

It is noteworthy that he Conservative Movement applauded this event with the following: 

The Masorti Movement in Israel also welcomed the news, with the Conservative Jewish stream posting on its Facebook page that “when you break the glass ceiling you do it for generations of women for whom spiritual leadership roles in the Jewish people are possible and worthy goals that they can aim for.” 

The Conservative Movement knows a thing or two about breaking tradition. And now the far left of Orthodoxy can join them.  Because after this,  I’m not sure that they have a place in Orthodoxy anymore.