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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Orthodox Judaism, Another "Religion," Too?

Hat tip Frum Satire for the video

I've written previously that I don't use the term "Orthodox Judaism" for myself.  I'm a Jew, a Torah-observant Jew to the best of my abilities.  Orthodox Judaism is an American term, based on the name/names of American Jewish organization.  In various countries there are all sorts of names for the various approaches to Judaism, Reform, Liberal, Reconstructionist, Conservative etc.  They don't always mean the same from place to place.  They define Judaism differently, too, and that includes the importance one must place on the traditional Torah Laws and customs.

This means that "What/Who is a Jew?" has become a very complicated and loaded question.  That's because the various "Judaisms" have taken on the crucial role to convert those not born as Jews into Jews according to their varied criteria

For those of us who do our best to follow traditional (small "t") Torah Judaism, this is highly problematic.  Those who "graduate" the various conversion courses are only faux* Jews.  They aren't Jews without the embellishment of a specific "flavor."  There are now generations of families who believe themselves Jewish, but according to Halacha, Torah Law they aren't.  There are even people who are employed as "rabbis" to such* congregations who aren't actual Jews.

Jewish religion is "inherited" through the matriarchal line, mother, grandmother etc.  So if a person comes from an unbroken line of Jewish mothers and is a member of a Reform, Liberal, Reconstructionist, Conservative etc. synagogue, or not a member of any, the person is still Jewish.  The problem is only with converts and their descendants.

Now, what sent me off on this very divisive tangent?  It was one little word in an interview I just heard with Rabba Sara Hurwitz.  The word is "still." Early on in the interview (1:30) she lists the "red lines," things she is forbidden to do even as a "rabba." She said that she's "still doesn't count in a minyan..." The use of the word "still" makes it clear that Hurwitz expects change. That's a serious problem. There are things that can't change without leaving normative, traditional Torah Judaism.

I've been studying in Matan for the past few years.  Matan is a center/institute for Jewish learning for women.  There are some courses and events also open to men.  We concentrate on the traditional sources and stay away from "red lines."  The women who teach there are experts in their fields.  I take courses in Tanach, Bible.  There are also courses in Talmud and Halacha.

Sara Hurwitz seems very sincere in her wanting to serve her congregation.  Her expectation that Halacha can change to suit her agenda is very problematic.

*Reform, Liberal, Reconstructionist, Conservative etc. Jews


Karen said...

Batya, halacha does change, but very slowly, as it should. When I wanted to say kaddish 25 years ago I couldn't find anywhere to do it. Now it isn't universally accepted but it's definitely done much more often. I heard Rabbi Riskin say, very carefully, that a woman could theoretically sit on a bet din as long as she were accepted by that particular community. That doesn't mean he will do it anytime soon, the women in Efrat who are qualified know it's not time yet -- and he knows that too. Sara is allowed to hope that halacha might count her in a minyan one day. As long as she is waiting, rather than saying, I count in a minyan NOW, she still fits within the halachic process. I'm not sure that starting with using "rabba" is a good idea yet, either, but women have been poskining halacha for a long time -- doesn't your rabbi say, 'ask my wife' about certain things? And look what Nishmat is doing. Chana Henkin is my hero for knowing what can be accepted and when and knowing what to call it.

Pragmatician said...

What I don't get is the need to count for minyan. It comes with a certain amount of disadvantages.

I think it has little to do with religion and more with a general feeling of entitlement (I should get to count for a minyan, I should be able to pu on tefillin) etc...

Mr. Cohen said...

You will like my Torah web site, which takes a speaks out strongly against fake Jewishness by patrilineal descent and fake Jewishness by fake conversions by fake Rabbis:


Blog Moderator, the sooner you link this blog to my web site, the sooner I link my web site to this blog. My web site has around 800 Jewish members.

Risa said...

Rabbanit Malka Bina spoke at our shul and told the following story: Her husband teaching her gemarra and they asked R' Shlomo Zalman Auerbach about it. He sat the two of them down and told them that he they could continue but if they told anyone about this psak, he would deny he ever said it!
So I have to agree with Karen here that we have to know what will be accepted and what to call it.

Batya said...

Mr. Cohen, I don't see a site, just an email group.

Karen, basic halachik principles don't change. Women being counted in a minyon just won't happen in normative Torah Judaism. To be full members of a minyan we have to have the same requirements as men to attend.

There have always been female Torah scholars. The title isn't important.

Prag, exactly. I don't need more rules. It's a lot easier for me to doven than it would be if I was required to find a minyan.

Risa, considering that we're mothers, grandmothers, study Torah etc. I'd say we have it all.

MJ said...

Why in the world are you reading so much into the word "still"?

Do you know how many times I've heard my mom say "I'm still your mother blah blah blah."

Does that mean she thinks someday she won't be my mother?

Give me a break. If there is another religion being practiced here its called crazy messianic holier than thou zionism.

Batya said...

MJ, words have power. Hurwitz is in a position that she should know it. I guess you don't.