Category: Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

Jewish History Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Podcasts Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah Who's Who in the Talmud

Jewish History Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Podcasts Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah Who's Who in the Talmud

Jewish History Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Podcasts Politics of Exclusion in Judaism Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Podcasts Religion Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

By popular request I started recording my classes. While I’m currently in the middle of a series called The Politics of Exclusion in Judaism where we define Who is a Jew by who doesn’t make the cut. We started months ago with Biblical Sources, followed up by Rabbinic sources, and we’re currently in the middle of going through Rambam’s Hilkhot Teshuva. Today’s class covered Hilkhot Teshuva 3:9, discussing Maimonides’ two types of “Rebels” which would cause a person to lose their share in the World to Come.

Jewish History Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Judaism Podcasts Politics of Exclusion in Judaism Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

The opinions expressed here are my own and are not intended to reflect those of any individual or organization.

Introduction

This past week the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), voted on whether or not women ought to be admitted to the organization. This was not the first time the IRF considered such a proposition. In 2008, before the advent of “Maharat” or “Rabba“, the IRF recognized that women have been functioning as religious leaders within Orthodox Judaism. In Israel women serve as “To’anot Beit Din” – advocates for women in religious courts and “Yoatzot Halakha” – halakhic consultants regarding family purity. Even without formal titles women serve as Torah educators alongside men and several synagogues employ women in some religious capacity. In fact the Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus (JLIC), under Orthodox Union (OU), sends married couples to college campuses across the country with the expectation that the wife serves the campus Jewish community alongside her rabbinic husband. Regardless of the semantics of titles – or lack thereof – Jewish women assume professional roles similar to those performed by male rabbinic counterparts and thus should not be excluded from conversations affecting the Jewish community at large based solely on gender.

When I was first confronted with this question I supported the theoretical inclusion of women into the group, even if it meant removing “Rabbinic” adjective from the organization’s name. I even submitted to a subcommittee my own proposal defining criteria for women to be treated as rabbinic colleagues given that no comparable title existed at the time.1 And yet despite my earlier positions and after hearing passionate arguments in favor of admitting women, when the IRF finally voted on including women, I voted “no”. My decision may appear at first glance to be inconsistent, dishonest, or indicative of intimidation from opposition. On the contrary, as I will explain in this essay my principles remain intact. My position is not based on the identity politics of gender but on what I perceive to be the role and function of rabbinic leadership in Judaism.

Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

In Jewish theology there are two essential yet contradictory doctrines: divine providence, defined for now as God’s active participation in the world, and free will, man’s ability to make his own decisions. The tension should be obvious, that any action or event taken by man is either the result of God’s direction as part of a divine plan, or that we as humans have the ability to make our own decisions and thus face natural consequences.1 The more one of these doctrines is emphasized the other is diminished.

These competing interests can sometimes form theological paradoxes, as we discussed in a class I gave last night on Elections in Judaism, particularly in the thought of Ramban.

Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

ואינו דומה שונה פרקו מאה פעמים לשונה פרקו מאה ואחד
One who studied 100 times is not comparable to one who studied 101 times. (B. Chagiga 9b)

One of the reasons Jews spend so much time reviewing the Torah is that you never know when you miss something or the new insights you can clean from viewing the same text with fresh eyes. Speaking for myself, these “aha!” moments can be truly joyous at discovering a new approach, or frustrating in the, “how could I not have seen this before” sense. Today I’d like to discuss a recent example of the latter, one which will have profound implications for how Judaism, and indeed all biblical religions, ought to relate to homosexuals.

Note: I pre-apologize if anyone has already noted what I am about to write. My intent is not to present an innovative reading, but to demonstrate how easy it is to overlook the obvious.

Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava

Since The Jewish Week reported that the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale had held a special minyan featuring a woman leading Kabbalat Shabbat, the Modern Orthodox Jewish establishment has been apoplectic with yet another example of R. Avi Weiss pushing the envelope of women’s roles in Judaism. Cutting through most of the distracting rhetoric is R. Michael J. Broyde who posts his thoughts on Hirhurim Torah Musings.

Jewish Culture Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava