This week in Daf Yomi, Rabbi Yuter discusses some life lessons learned from the Jewish wedding. Ep 169 This Week in Daf Yomi Ketuvot 16-22 – Life Lessons From Jewish…
Author: <span class="vcard">Josh</span>
The Talmud was clearly not written with modern day sensibilities in mind, which may lead to disturbing reactions from those who study it. Rabbi Yuter gives some examples from the…
In a rare personal podcast, Rabbi Yuter shares experiences from his first six months as an Oleh Hadash (new immigrant to Israel).
Rabbi Yuter begins a brand new Podcast series called This Week in Daf Yomi discussing topics covered in the previous week’s schedule of daily Talmud study. Today’s edition discusses the…
Rabbi Jeffrey Fox recently published a teshuvah regarding the presence of the male Beit Din at the mikvah immersion of a female convert. My response came out to over 20…
“The world in which we live no longer permits us to reply to every doubt, ‘This is the law,’ or ‘The Torah says so.’ Indeed, very seldom in Jewish history…
This past Shabbat I gave the Devar Torah in my parent’s synagogue. Not only was this my first time since leaving my pulpit, but it was also the first time I had to speak in Hebrew. Although I’ve been in Ulpan for a few months, I’m still a long way off from being able to speak like a native, let alone infuse my usual sense of personality into my sermons. Thankfully, I did have help not only from Morfix but from friends who could not only correct grammar mistakes, but also assist with idioms and figures of speech. I take full responsibility for all errors.
The following text is from my working draft, though annotated with footnotes. Given my 7 minute time limit, 1 I had to use more “meivin yavin” textual references rather than provide actual citations.
- I actually went 8 minutes. ↩
“What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbour: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.” (B. Shabbat 31a)
In the aftermath of the R. Freundel voyeurism scandal, the Orthodox Jewish community has been relentless in its criticism of its current religious establishments. Some have focused their attention on the vulnerability of converts, many of which received a reprieve when the Israeli rabbinate ultimately decided to uphold R. Freundel’s conversions. Others advocated for changes in how a mikvah is operated with Rabbanit Henkin arguing for giving women keys to the mikvah and R. Seth Farber insisting on modifying Jewish conversion law to prohibit men from witnessing a female convert’s immersion. 1 Still others targeting the Rabbinic establishment, epitomized in this case by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). 2 Rabbi Marc Angel pointed to the moral deficiencies of Judaism’s gatekeepers and Dr. Erica Brown criticized the lack of rabbinic accountability. 3
Naturally, certain members in the very same Rabbinic establishment aggressively defended the status-quo in the face of media “misrepresentations” and activists “hijacking” the scandal to further their own agendas. I have no doubt others perceive the defamation of their institutions to be the result of an unfair generalization, where the entire system is disparaged due to criminal acts of one lone individual.
My concern today is not the propriety of these critical generalizations, but rather the predictability of them occuring after a major scandal. Not only have Jews long engaged in generalized delegitimizations, but this traditional rhetorical stratagem has been repeatedly employed by the current Rabbinic establishment, including, ironically enough, the RCA’s own approach to conversion.
- In Farber’s words, “The facts are that while we must meet halachic requirements, we also cannot allow a situation to continue where men are in the mikveh when women are immersing.” The problem however is that Jewish not only does not prohibit men from witnessing this immersion, it most likely requires it. B. Yevamot 47b describes the procedure for converting women as having women assist the convert in the water while the male witnesses stand at a safe distance outside of the mikvah waters. Rambam in Hilkhot Issurei Biah 14:6 adds that the men should turn their faces away so as not to see the naked woman exiting the water, which not only is an affirmation of modesty, but reinforces the obligation for the act of immersion to be witnessed by the men. Even if argues that men need not personally observe the dunking, claiming that men must not be present requires a demonstrating that Biblical or Rabbinic Law is being violated, which necessitates citing chapter and verse of the specific violation. It is only through Rabbinic legislation that specific interpretations be mandated on the entire Jewish population or new prohibitions be innovated. See my series on The Halakhic Process for a more detailed exposition on the system of Jewish Law. ↩
- Disclosure: I am currently a member of the RCA, though I hold no position on its board or any of its committees. All opinions expressed here are my own and are not intended to reflect the views of the RCA or any of its members. ↩
- This is only a small sample of quotes, articles, and op-eds published in public venues. My Facebook wall was inundated with countless more comments regarding these positions and many more. ↩
כִּי אָדָם אֵין צַדִּיק בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה טּוֹב וְלֹא יֶחֱטָא For there is no one on earth who is righteous, who does only good does not sin – Ecclesiastes 7:20…