This from a statement released by Agudath Israel of America, shared with me late yesterday:
Rabbi Avi Weiss has conferred “semikha” upon a woman, has made her an Assistant Rabbi at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale where she carries out certain traditional rabbinical functions, and has now given her the title of “Rabbah” (formerly “Maharat”). He has stated that the change in title is designed to “make it clear that Sara Hurwitz is a full member of our rabbinic staff, a rabbi with the additional quality of a distinct woman’s voice.”
These developments represent a radical and dangerous departure from Jewish tradition and the mesoras haTorah, and must be condemned in the strongest terms. Any congregation with a woman in a rabbinical position of any sort cannot be considered Orthodox.
The document was signed by the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of America, a council of sages (their English rendering) composed of leading scholars and academy heads (roshei yeshiva) in the Haredi (Ultra-Orthodox) community. My response?
Perhaps I should care, perhaps this is just the sort of thing to share with readers all of the time, but I just don’t want to. Am I missing something? Should I care? Or does even caring about such disputes corrode our souls? That’s a little over the top, I admit, but you get the point.
Why spend time fighting over things which most people, including most Jews, don’t even think of as things? Don’t we have better things to do? Aren’t there bigger issues to speak out on than reading people out of their chosen community?
By no means do we have to agree about the wisdom of Rabbi Weiss’ decision or the way in which it was implemented, but is this what should be occupying the minds of a group which presents itself as our nation’s Council of Torah Sages?
It’s not that the men who signed this statement are misinformed, stupid, or insignificant. Each possesses enormous scholarship and has devoted himself to what he believes is in the best interests of both Torah and the Jewish people. We simply disagree about what that means. And I suspect that until we can learn to disagree more agreeably, then we all look pretty petty and foolish to most people. What a shame.