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Principle, not Expediency

I appreciate Rabbi Grossman’s defense of the practice of taking multiple and potentially contradictory positions. Jewish tradition is based on the principle of eilu v’eilu–that conflicting positions each have standing and integrity in their own right, provided that the argument at hand is made for the sake of heaven. In fact, this is the core principle behind our endeavor here at Virtual Talmud.

So why does the Law Committee’s action leave me cold? Perhaps because I feel it was less a matter of principled disagreement than it was the refusal to take a stance on an important issue–one that has implications for an entire class of people and their legitimacy in a segment of the Jewish community. JTS Chancellor Eisen’s survey to find out the views of rabbis and laypeople across the Conservative movement on the subject of inclusivity simply reinforces the perception–rightly or wrongly–that this decision is about expediency, not principle. And when expediency is the basis of intolerance and exclusion, we all lose.



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grammyro

posted February 16, 2007 at 5:29 pm


i used to think most jewish rabbis were special and unique among men: but now it seems as though the rabbis are getting too confused with their own words (just like the catholics and protestants). the torah clearly states homosexuality is an abomination. so what’s the issue? it is wrong! period. no gray area! too many people want to conveniently form biblical teachings around their lives. instead we need to foem our lives around biblical the teachings. i would wonder what the motivation is behind those who lean towards condoning the practice: politics, tithings, or simply just wanting to be accepted by men? think about it.



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Dave

posted February 16, 2007 at 5:51 pm


The interesting part of this is that in an effort to increase their falling numbers, the Conservatives are trying to appeal to people who have a limited number of offspring, to say the least, while alienating those people who have the most. Its not surprising that numerically oriented Jews don’t tend to enter the rabbinate (Schneerson excepted), but I didn’t think it was this bad.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 16, 2007 at 6:17 pm


Okay? Let’s think about this logic for a while. How can we form our lives around Biblical teachings when the context and the content of the society in which those teachings were given no longer exist? And how can we understand these teachings when we have never lived in that time frame? Can we fully understand something when we look at it through biased {by our own experiences and culture}lenses? Let’s comtemplate the above logic using other areas of the Torah. Shall we? What about Deuteronomy 22:17? Who wants to implement this into our lives? Shall we kill a rebellious son? Deuteronomy 18-21. The Torah mentions slaves. Shall we once again allow slavery? If we enter a neighbors field, shall we take whatever we want to eat it. So long as we don’t put anything in a basket or our pockets? Deuteronomy 23:24. Deuteronomy 24:14? How many people follow that? Let’s look at few more! Deteronomy 18:9-13?! No one should consult the dead, right? {Hmm…why am I thinking about a man named Jesus?} Deuteronomy 21:10-14. Is Intermarrying okay so long as a woman was captured during a war, and brought home to be a wife???? Hmm…???? Is the Torah as clear as it seems to you? Shalom!



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mmiller

posted February 16, 2007 at 7:35 pm


Go GJR! The “pick and choose” group has for decades found it perfectly acceptable to pick and proclaim laws (from any source) to support bigotry and hate, but manage to overlook or dismiss laws (once again from any source) that are either inconvenient or counter to their quest.



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Scott

posted February 16, 2007 at 7:59 pm


Isn’t it obvious that the first poster was not a Jew?



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Grethel Jane Ri

posted February 16, 2007 at 8:38 pm


All the more reason to respond, Scott! ;) Gut Shabbes, ya’ll! Shabbat Shalom to you from Western NC!



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Tzvi

posted February 17, 2007 at 1:59 am


Its funny but I’ve seen a lot of blasting and carrying on against gay men and lesbians. My question for my jewish brethern…It says in torah 3X that one”should not oppress the widow, the Orphan, or the stranger in your midst”, and it adds emphasis in last time by adding:”For you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. I see this as a case of us oppressing those among us who are the stranger, or rather the Strangers among us, as we are the strangers. As a gay jew, with a strong background in jewish Philosophy(something most of the yeshiva boys I’ve known don’t have), I have to say that while I see the descision by the Conservative movement to be perplexing, its akin to saying we don’t want to deal with this now, lets make a statement that says nothing and hope that everyone will be satisfied. Its 2007 and there are STILL Conservative synagoges that will NOT give an allyah(sp.) to a woman, nor will they count them as a minyan., yet they are still part of the “conservative” movement. That’s the problem with trying to promise everything to everyone, no one gets anything. And part of this came from the fact that there was a student at JTS who wanted to do her internship at Cong. Beth Simchat Torah, and JTS refused to allow it. Oh well I’m reconstructionist, I believe that G-d is more than a power, but has the influence indirectly, through us, rather than over us.



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David

posted February 18, 2007 at 1:55 am


1/ Saying we shouldn’t do what the Torah commands that we CAN do because there are things in the Torah we CAN’T do would lead to us eventually doing little that the Torah commands. 2/ Since like most Jews I can’t (under)stand Buber and other philosophers in unimportant. Trying to understand Torah is important. 3/ Non-egalitarian Conservative synangogues understand that the growth among the Jewish people is coming from the more Orthodox-and so they are trying to appeal to such people



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Scott

posted February 18, 2007 at 2:47 am


Non-egalitarian Conservative synangogues understand that the growth among the Jewish people is coming from the more Orthodox-and so they are trying to appeal to such people. They’re just having more babies. We should try to do the same. Also, in a generation, we’ll see what the retention rate is in Orthodox circles.



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Tzvi

posted February 18, 2007 at 10:01 pm


david, you wrote the following: >> 2/ Since like most Jews I can’t (under)stand Buber and other philosophers in unimportant. Trying to understand Torah is important. >>> Torah is nice if you want to organize a government, make sacrifices to G-d, or even build a place to worship. Torah is rather silent though on MANY issues. That’s where philosophy comes in, asking the BIG questions, like what is the nature of G-d? what does G-d want from me(besides that I sacrifice the required animals of the right species)? things like that. You should try to read a bit of Philosophy, it would do you good, and much of it is rather straight-forward. Moses mendohlsohn, in his book JERUSALEM postulated that ritual is a constantly changing thing, that the way we do things today is NOT the way our parents did them, and not the way that their parents did them, nor their parents before them. Its all evolutionary. Passover is the ultimate expression of this, where we are encouraged to ask question, begining with the basic:”why is this night different from al others” to what are the nature of the laws and customs. Law without the philosophy to think about things is like Justice without Mercy. You should read Orot Ha Teshuvah(Lights of penitence) by Rav Kook….then talk to me about what you don’t understand about your place in creation, which would appear to be not a very big one.



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Dave

posted February 20, 2007 at 6:34 pm


1/ Will congregations that support policies that directly or indirectly limit the number of children (abortion, homosexuality, etc) have more children? Not likely. 2/ Kiryas Yoel has an 8% growth rate net of incoming and outgoing. 3/ Philosophy is of Greek pagan (Hellenizing) origin. Just last December we celebrated the Macabbees victory over this Modern philosophy is about as straight-forward as the Pacific Coast Highway, although the latter is filled with beautiful sites and the former is made to be understood by only a select group of fellow academics people who can spout their own gobblygook in order to feel superior.(I, Thee, Thou?) 4/ Moses Mendelsohn in his actions practially created Reform Judaism, one of the major acts of division in modern Jewish history 5/ I don’t ask that question on Pesach as I’m never the youngest present. 6/ Most people’s place in Creation is very small



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Scott

posted February 20, 2007 at 7:55 pm


1/ Will congregations that support policies that directly or indirectly limit the number of children (abortion, homosexuality, etc) have more children? Not likely. 2/ Kiryas Yoel has an 8% growth rate net of incoming and outgoing. I honestly think that some of the Orthodox cannot wait to see if Reform and Conservative (and maybe Modern Orthodox) Jews actually die off. That is how much it seems some of you hate the rest of us.



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celesteno

posted February 20, 2007 at 8:58 pm


Regarding the following: Let’s comtemplate the above logic using other areas of the Torah. Shall we? What about Deuteronomy 22:17? Who wants to implement this into our lives? Shall we kill a rebellious son? Deuteronomy 18-21. The Torah mentions slaves. Shall we once again allow slavery? If we enter a neighbors field, shall we take whatever we want to eat it. So long as we don’t put anything in a basket or our pockets? Deuteronomy 23:24. Deuteronomy 24:14? How many people follow that? Let’s look at few more! Deteronomy 18:9-13?! No one should consult the dead, right? {Hmm…why am I thinking about a man named Jesus?} Deuteronomy 21:10-14. Is Intermarrying okay so long as a woman was captured during a war, and brought home to be a wife???? Hmm…???? —- I find it interesting that the only time non-O Jews take the Torah literally is when they’re trying to wiggle out of halacha, otherwise its infinitely malleable. If you did a little more study and learned Torah beyond a simple surface level than you would know that these comparisons in this debate are laughable. The conservative movement made a wishy washy decisions period. It’s blatantly against the Torah (even for someone as liberal as I am on this issue), if the Conservative movement wants to tell itself that what they did was within halacha–more power to them, doesn’t make it true though.



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Scott

posted February 20, 2007 at 9:46 pm


Celestino, We do not believe that Torah fell out of the sky nor do we believe it was dictated by God. Therefore, Torah is not literal and halacha is changeable.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 21, 2007 at 2:26 am


As quoted,”If you did a little more study and learned Torah beyond a simple surface level than you would know that these comparisons in this debate are laughable.” Does Torah honestly promote this kind of behavior? And does Torah study lead to this path? I also do not call such behavior presented and documented in the Mishnah. Would our Sages ever have responded to each other this way?



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celesteno

posted February 21, 2007 at 4:56 pm


Scott I never said the Torah was literal. I said that people pull out specific lines in the in the Torah –with the expectation that people will take them literally when they want to make certain points. And because of this surface level approach they do not actually understand or know how these things were in fact carried out, how they applied, etc. which if they knew would completely invalidate the point they are trying to make. GRL, You’re being really sensitive, I didn’t mean anything by my statement. i think you’re reading too much into it. I meant that if you looked beyond the surface of all of those posukim you gave as an example, and see how they were applied it would invalidate your argument–because none of the things you listed happened in the manner in which you’re inferring (because you’re taking the literal English meaning rather than how it was actually done in the biblical period and beyond)). Sorry, if you got something else out of it.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 21, 2007 at 7:50 pm


Celesteno, You appology is accepted. However, I want to point you to the fact that you missed my orginal point in regard to my post that you responded to! I suggest taking another look at my post and the post that mine was a response to. Without doing that and understanding my point, you have built a straw man to knock down. The point I was making is very similar to yours. The post was also in respone to a previous post. So, please double check the posts. Todah Rabbah! Beside the area in the Torah that the debate is over, is not identical to the areas before and after it. “A man shall not lie with a man as with a woman” in the orginal Hebrew does not contain the same Hebrew words as “uncover nakedness”–which is used in the previous areas before and after the passage. I haven’t grasped Hebrew, yet. But, I have a Rabbi. He is the one I ask these things of. As far as Mishnah is concerned, I’ll ask my Rabbi about it. Or… there is an website where you can listening to the Mishnah as it is being translated by an Orthodox Rabbi. You have to hear the entire page, but you can find out what the Mishnah says. {If there is a will, there is a way!} Shalom, Geulah bat Avraham Avinu bat Sarah Imeinu {GJR}



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celesteno

posted February 21, 2007 at 10:53 pm


GJR, I actually don’t think we’re making the same point. Correct me if I’m wrong, but yours seems to be that we are having a hard time applying the laws because they were developed in a societal context vastly different from ours and then gave your examples as proof of other laws that we have a hard time understanding in our current society. I was just saying that if you look at the way the examples you mention were actually carried out, all the halachas involved you would realize that they don’t sound as extreme or off the wall or out of our understanding as you would think (some of the examples you mention rarely or never occurred in biblical times much less our current society—the various qualifications for some of these were never met). I’m a firm believer that we can base our lives around Torah and halacha–however to fully understand how to do that takes a certain level of learning and understanding that a lot of people frankly just don’t have (people need a complete understanding of how the halacha has worked throughout Jewish history before discrediting it by looking at a line in the Torah and discrediting it as antiquated–and no this is not directed at you in particular). I’ll have to see if I can find sources, I don’t know where to find it online off the top of my head.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 21, 2007 at 11:52 pm


Celesteno, you missed the message. I do not know how you missed it, but you missed it. Perhaps, you are looking through a biased lens? As quoted “I was just saying that if you look at the way the examples you mention were actually carried out, all the halachas involved you would realize that they don’t sound as extreme or off the wall or out of our understanding as you would think” This is another straw man. Who exactly do you mean by “a lot of people”? And what exactly do you mean my learning and understanding? I am associated with a Reform synagogue. My rabbi has over 25 years experience. He carries a BHL, a MHL, and a DD. Believe you me, I have access to someone who is more than able to teach and guide me. I am his student. It is also incorrect information to establish that the Reform movement in general discredits the Torah as antiquated. It is also incorrect to lump all Reform Jews into the same grouping and to push misinformation at the “facts” about them. For anyone interested in finding out facts about the Reform movement, pleae visit these websites: http://urj.org/index.cfm? http://rj.org/ What is Reform Judaism? http://rj.org/whatisrj.shtml This is the latest “Statements of Principles” of the Reform movement: http://ccarnet.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=44&pge_id=1606 If you examine the Principles you will find 8 statements about what the Reform movement affirms about the Torah. For the record, I–speaking as an individual Jew–do not affirm that the Torah is antiquated. Also, my level of study includes more than Reform sources–Breslov included. But, my own Rabbi is the main source of guidance. He is the one I go to in regard to finding out information about halakha and to have my questions responded to. Shalom!



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celesteno

posted February 22, 2007 at 2:45 am


You are assuming that I was making a statement about reform judaism, I wasn’t. You’re also assuming I’m looking at a through a biased lense–I don’t know you, how could I be biased? I also wasn’t making a statement about your learning or understanding–it was a general you–not specifically intended toward you. By the way, I know what the Reform movement stands for (better than most who affiliate with the movement I might add) I’ve read several of the incarnations of their Platform, various books on their history and philosophy, and taught at a Reform Hebrew school (doesn’t include the several Reform Rabbis and leaders I know). However, honestly the vast majority of Jews in this country have woefully poor Jewish education. As for your rabbi and his credentials (especially regarding halacha), I’m not going to argue you over it. Take my comments how you will, you seem to think I’m out to demonize whatever denomination you’re a part of. I’m not, I tried to make that clear before.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 22, 2007 at 5:13 am


Celesteno, I shared what I did to inform you that I have access to a decent Jewish education through a well-educated Rabbi. I also wanted to inform others–not just you–that the Reform movement doesn’t view the Torah as antiquaed. To say that I was “assuming” anything about “you” is also another straw man. Yes. A vast majority of Jews do have a poor Jewish education. That is an issue. I can’t help but wonder if you, Celesteno, have a negative bias toward the “majority” because they are not as well educated. This is an issue that is not mine. However, I do encourage you to take sometime and do some self-examination. Can you step outside of your box for a few seconds and read what you said in regard to “most Reform” and the “majority of Jews”? When you are in another Jew’s shoes how does that paragraph sound to you? How would you respond to the phrase, “I know what the Reform movement stands for (better than most who affiliate with the movement I might add)”? Would you take that as negative or as positive? Is it a “you” focused or “I” focused message? What about the audience? We all have biased views. A bias comes from many elements of our lives–culture is one example. The key is in recognizing our biases so as to interact better with other people inside and outside our community. I noticed that I had typed “my” instead of “by” in my previous post. I do appolgize about that. I sometimes make these errors in writing and typing–an issue that has developed in the past 2 years or so. My field of study is Early Childhood Education with Emphasis in Special Education. I am being trained to recognize the importance of self-examination before interacting with children, families, and community. Shalom!



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celesteno

posted February 22, 2007 at 3:39 pm


I don’t understand the whole straw man business, You made a comment, I replied and now you are attempting to psychoanalyze me. I don’t feel like I’m the one being condescending, I’m not a third grader please don’t speak to me as such (and please stop putting words in my mouth). I don’t consider myself superior to anyone, regardless of their lack of education. However that lack of education often affects religious debate because since one person has a lot more information than the other its not an equal conversation.I think it’s sad that most Jews don’t have a basic Jewish education and in real life actively work to correct that. The reform movement does in practice view Torah laws as antiquated (that’s how they teach it both in Hebrew schools and in classes offered by their rabbis (as well as the way they present it on panels). For example, If I never hear one more Reform rabbi say that kashrut was an ancient health practice and therefore doesn’t really need to be observed unless you think it will create some type of sensitivity I would be happy beyond belief. If you knew how much info I would have to correct with my bar mitzvah students that they learned in Hebrew school it would boggle your mind (and I’m not talking about R (or any other denom v. O perspective either) If you find otherwise mazel tov. AS for my statement about knowing more about the movement than those that affiliate with it–it wasn’t meant to negative or positive, but a true statement about the Reform community (most people affiliate with it because of what they don’t do rather agreeing with or even knowledge of their philosophy). Which by the way I was a part of in various parts of the country for years, so what you’re taking as a bias is really personal experience. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it doesn’t make it false. There are hard truths about the O community as well, they’re just not relevant to the discussion at hand.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 22, 2007 at 4:32 pm


Truth is a matter of perspective which is subject to one’s viewpoint. The world is not black and white. I think biases are a very important aspect of this whole discussion. Researchers have discovered that people have unconcious biases and beliefs. http://www.projectimplicit.net/media.php Biases develop out of three causes: fear, misinformation, or ignorance. ” Biases can be negative or positive. Sterotyping stems from biases. Both create warped views of other groups and/or cultures. I feel that every single one of us who has written about or responded to the discussion on homosexuality has either a negative or positive bias about GLBTs. Futhermore, we have biases {negative and positive} about different groups of Jews and non-Jews. Also,when people communicate, they present the message in a form that reflects their own cultural understanding. Those on the other end of the communication, decepher the message in a form that reflects their own cultural understanding. There are cultural differences within groups and outside of groups. Effective communication has an element of accepting diverse cultures in their own viewpoint and conditons–not an outside viewpoint and conditions. It is extremely important to self-examine and to educate one’s self about life experiences, ethics, and behavior of diverse groups and cultures. This helps create a positive view of diverse groups and nonjudgmental attitiudes about diverse groups. Diversity can be within a group and outside a group. Shalom!



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celesteno

posted February 22, 2007 at 5:30 pm


HOw about I not use the word true, and use the word fact if it makes you feel better. Of course the world isn’t black and white–I never said it was. If you want to continue to lecture me without knowing anything about me, fine. Recognize your own bias and unwillingness to understand that sometimes people present facts that you don’t want to acknowledge, not everything people say that you disagree with is based on an unconscious bias (or is a direct reflection on or directed specifically toward you). How does your dissertation on diversity and bias disprove any of my points–which by the way are based on the actions and articles of people within the group I’m discussing? And just being I am about as diverse as you can be. I am also all about the gays (marched in the parades, wrote pro-gay legislation,etc) –however does halacha says gay behavior is ok, no.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted February 22, 2007 at 7:41 pm


The post I made was a general post that brings forth information to consider in regard to the dicussion presented by the orginal post by the rabbi. It was not directed at anyone. I suggest that everyone remain calm and try to refrain from any form of fallacy which includes ad hominem and straw man. http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ Description of Straw Man: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/straw-man.html Shalom!



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