Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Torah Sages Condemn Rabbah, Modern-Orthodox Woman Rabbi

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?

Big yawn.
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.

  • Gil

    In the age of the Zugot Hillel’s school won out in their Halachic disputations with Shammai’s school. The majority ruled in Torah interpretation. Torah is not a scientific treatise. Biblical scholars state that the Book was rewritten and redacted many times. As to rabbis being men, it was man who wrote the Bible – and made man the first human created by God. If ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny – the human embryo is first in an undifferentiated state – then later shows primitive genital development exhibiting the female state – and if there is a Y chromosome – will develop into a male fetus. Q.E.D. Female was the first human.Remember parthenogenesis. As to rabbis being male – as Freud states: “Anatomy is destiny.” With women limiting the number of their brood – and perhaps foregoing their reproductive capacity – it has allowed women to enter the occupational world of the men. Torah teaches us that their were female judges – why even Mose’s wife circumsized their two sons. Women outnumber the men in medical schools and law schools, and many of the graduate schools – physiologically they outdo the men – compare the number of widows with the number of widowers. Even the early Hebrew tribe called God by a female name. The arrogance of Orthodoxy, Jewish, Catholic or Muslim, to consider their rabbis, priests or imams males only, is beyond chutzpah. I always get a kick out of DaVinci’s “Last Supper”- only males present at a Passover seder- oh hum- who did the meal preparation, the serving, and cleaning, the men folk? I realize change is difficult, but necessary and healthy. Here is to anyone academically, intellectually, and spiritually equipped to enter the sacred inner sanctum of the clergy. One further note – the College of Cardinals examine the genitally of the priest nominated by them to be Pope. They do not wish to be fooled by an Italian family of history who wished to have their daughter sit in the Papal seat.

  • Gil

    Typo correction- there were rather than “their were.” I hope that I didn’t offend some sensitivity soul. Some of which I stated was “tongue-in- cheek.”

  • Your Name

    Aren’t women God’s children too?

  • Gil

    “Your Name”- Of course women are God’s children. Women have been given a bad “rep” in bibles written by man. Eve beguiles Adam to eat of the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – Q.E.D. the woman is culpable of bringing about the downfall of man. No matter what the later sages interpret the meaning of “tree of knowledge of good and evil” means; the gist is that woman brought evil and sin into the world.In the New Testament Mary Magdalene, closely associated with Jesus, was a reformed prostitute. Evidently the writers of the N.T. could not bear the close relationship of the two. Why even the aborigines of Australia have myths of the first couple, where the wife disobeying the husband and cutting a sacred tree looking for honey – lets loose bats that bite the two, and therefore limits the life span of man. Pity the women who had to put up with the nonsense of man – why even an orthodox rabbi will not shake the hand of a woman – in case she may be menstruating – and be “impure” -and she had not entered the ritual bath called a Mikvah. The Talmud has a whole section on impurities and human discharge. There are sections in Torah which deal with same. I am all for appointing qualified women to the calling of rabbis, priests, imams, and ministers. In the story of Passover, both men and women, were both emancipated. Lets get “with it.”

  • Jewish Mother

    Gil, since you don’t understand the issue, and obviously are not a believing Jew why are you commenting as if you are?

  • Gil

    To Jewish Mother- Number one- I fully understand the issue. Number two – A believing Jew according to whose standards? Number three- Having studied Judaism for over 70 years I am left with more questions than answers. No one can understands God. We are not Torah Jews, we are rabbinic Jews – and that leaves open a wide door of human interpretations.

  • Gil

    Typo Error – Can understand–Not “can understands”

  • Your Name R shimery

    Jewish mom , are you a real Jew? You do not sound like one.

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