Rabbi Alan J. Yuter Bitch Slaps Rabbi Avi Shafran

Rabbi Alan J. Yuter writes in the NY Jewish Week:

Orthodox Rabbi Avi Shafran does not like the bashing of haredi rabbis. He then bashes the late Conservative Rabbi Louis Finkelstein who, while one may disagree with the gentleman, was a very pious and learned Jew. (Letters, Sept. 1) Recent research has shown that he viewed himself independent from and not responsible for the actions of the Conservative Movement.

Rabbi Shafran correctly finds women’s leadership roles to be innovative. But are they really forbidden by Jewish law? There are medieval precedents for such leadership, and the world-class modern Orthodox scholar, Rabbi Daniel Sperber of Bar Ilan University, relies on these precedents.

Rabbi Shafran chides The Jewish Week for not buying into Agudath Israel’s definition of Orthodoxy. There are many claimants to Orthodoxy. Rabbi Moses Eisenemen wrote that Orthodox women should not do mayim aharonim, the after-meal hand washing, although the Talmud calls the rite an obligation, and Tosafot claims that the rite no longer applies because the reason for the rule [Sodom salt is not found in France] no longer applies. For some, Tosafot’s reasoning sounds Conservative. And an Orthodox Judaism that tells women they may not do what the Talmud obliges them to do should not criticize other observant Jews for their affiliations and then complain about haredi bashing

Rabbi Alan J. Yuter

Baltimore, Md.

Yuter 1, Shafran, 0. Shafran down for the count.

[Hat Tip: CP’s Friend.]

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12 Comments

Filed under Haredim, Modern Orthodoxy

12 responses to “Rabbi Alan J. Yuter Bitch Slaps Rabbi Avi Shafran

  1. Neo-Conservaguy

    Rabbi Yuter is on the mark. If only more such rabbis would step up the the plate on a regular basis we might get some balance back in observant Judaism. However, does the title of this post really honor him – would he approve?

  2. PishPosh

    It seems that the grip of the Rabbis is in its last throes. We need to go back to the simplicity inherent in the Torah and ditch all these thousands of layers of opinions.
    Mayim Achronim, Nagel Vasser, bunkem and bosh handed down by the post churban clique of Rabbais.
    Milk and Meat, six hours, half an hour, a bunch of nonesense handed down by a bunch of sycophants who to this day base all their knowledge of Avodah on the so called Bait Sheni, which was nothing more then a showcase for Hordus, one of Edom/Esavs kids to boast to the world his greatness.
    When will we as a people wake up and realize that these Rabbis are not the Shmalya and Avtalyons, the Hillels or Shammais of ancient days. These Rabbis today are nothing but yeshiva mill graduates that would have sold Rebbe Akiva out to the Romans themselves if it would have served them.
    They need to go, we need the Sanhedrin, not dozens of Nusachs and Minhagim. We need our Kohanin back to their Avoda and stop pretending that somehow all this Mikveh dipping makes us anything more then posers. The area of Tahara was the Kohens provence for the most part. Lets stop this Teffilin humbuggery and admit that in this area the Karaism are right. The tefflin are nothing more then second commonwealth talisman by those same people who have allowed Torah to be so shamed by the actions of the people that Shmarya reports on here.

    And yes let the Sanhedrin try and legislate a return to a more vegetable based diet. Can there be anything more beautifull then walking down a street anywhere and seeing fruit and vegetagble gardens growing, giving oxygen looking beautifll, I wouldnt mind an apartement overlooking an etrog grove.

  3. Yochanan Lavie

    I’m ba-ack!

    Great comments, Neo & Pish. I would like to see a post-rabbinic Judaism. That would take the best that rabbinism has to offer, along with the best of alternative traditions such as Karaism and the Ethiopians, etc. Alongside that, we should also examine modern scholarship to help us understand the world of the Torah, and see how we can make it live in this post-Modern world. Paradigms don’t last forever, but Hashem does. I don’t think S/He wants us to be stagnant, stuck in an obsolete European mode.

    As for outlawing meat, carnivores like me would starve. I’d rather see humane schechita, and an end to factory style farming.

    “The tefflin are nothing more then second commonwealth talisman,” Pish writes. I thought a talisman is an old guy on the Lower East Side who sells religious objects (LOL).

  4. S.

    He should have mentioned that the Gra ruled that women should bentsch mezuman when they eat together.

    Frankly, however, the amoraim and the baalei ha-tosafot and probably even the Gra weren’t Orthodox Jews, so its a little specious to cite their rulings and behaviors as a yarstick for Orthodox behavior.

  5. But nusach and minhag are fundamental protections for respecting diversity within Judaism. Actions demanded by minhag and values reflected in nusach represent the legacy of our tradition. If these actions or values are inhumane or hatedul then definitely something has gone awry, and deserves reform.

  6. Neo-Conservaguy

    Without rabbinic intervention there would be no Judaism today. If you think otherwise, spend some time learning secular history of that era. The Karaites are rabbinic Jews to some extent – no one can craft an entire religious system from the written text of the Torah/TaNaKh alone, and they simply make up their own interpretations to fill in the gaps and determine literal vs. metaphorical meanings of the text.

    As for this quote: “These Rabbis today are nothing but yeshiva mill graduates that would have sold Rebbe Akiva out to the Romans themselves if it would have served them.”

    …I’m no fan of many Orthodox rabbis for the past few hundred years (past 60 years worst of all), but let me point out that our friend R. Akiba of blessed memory had his moments that would have placed him solidly with today’s haredim. Are you aware, for example, of his proposed position on mamzer? It would have effectively declared most of the living Jewish population of the time (and ours) bastards due to the strictures he held.

  7. Schneur

    Some background to Rabbi Yuter’s comments. Yuter was an ordained Conservative rabbi who studied at that great Halachic instittution JTS , and for many years a pulpit rabbi in a Conservative synagogue. He then decided to become orthodox and was appointed as a rabbi in a small NJ town. Along the way in an article he atacked in the pages of JUDAISM MAGAZINE the gaon and posek Rabbi Moshe Feinstein as being influenced by politics in his psak , defending the Conservative movement as the true traditionalist branch of Judaism.
    While I am not a idol worshipper of gEdolim, I sense that Reb Moshe views on Judaism are more authentic than those of a movement in which few of its members can read Hebrew few observe the Sabath in any manner, fewer observe kashruth. Most of todays Conservative rabbis hardly have the rabbinic education of a 12 year old in BRooklyn yeshiva. Thus they are hardly qualified to decide what the din or halacha is or how psak is arrrived at.Of course there were af ew exceptions like Boaz Cohen, Isaac Klein etc.
    Rabbi Yuter is busy defending his old teachers and his not so distant past.
    Me thinks Shafran has got it right.
    Its interesting to note that all the Conservative leaders are absolved of rsponsibility for the direction and state of their movement. Yuter absolves Finkelstein in this letter, even though Finkelstein was both the ideological and directional leader of the whole of Conservative Jewry for close to 40 years. Yet according to Yuter he carried no achrayus for the state of the movement.
    Saul Lieberman is given a free pass for the dsad state of the Rabbiinic knowledge of the average JTS graduate even though he was RECTOR of the school for over 30 years.
    The ex chancellor Dr. Schorsch delivered afiery farewell address critical of much of the current ideas of the movement as if he were not THE LEADER of the very same movement the last 20 years.
    And finally Dr. Halivni in his autobiography claims he resigned from JTS when they decided to ordain female rabbis. Is it not ironical that the shul he served as rabbi has gone head to do the same.
    So who is responsible for the state of the Conservative movement, ?? Shall we blame Mordecai Kaplan for it ?
    I knew Dr. Finkelstein and he was a fine Jew and scholar, I heard only good things about Reb Shaul and I know DR. Weiss-Halivni as a fine heimishe Yid. But their Torah ideology has led their followers to strange places.

  8. Schneur,

    I don’t see how Yuter’s background changes the picture. His point, which I think is clear, is that haredim pick and choose which aspects of halakha they will leave stable, which they will change, and which they will ignore, while they pretend to ignore or change none of it. You also must remember that Conservative Judaism was pulled to the left by Kaplan & Co. and pushed there by Modern Orthodoxy’s greated affiliation with haredim and the right. If the Rav’s couse had truly been followed, perhaps HaLivni’s group would be much larger, or the Conservative Movement a lot more centrist.

    But no matter which way you slice this, one thing should be clear – Shafran is putz.

  9. Neo-Conservaguy

    “Most of todays Conservative rabbis hardly have the rabbinic education of a 12 year old in BRooklyn yeshiva.”

    It’s a cute line, but hardly true. Besides, the Conservative rabbis can also speak English.

    JTS remains a high quality teaching institution – with one of the greatest Judaic collections in the world – without regard to the left-wing leanings of the RA and the laity. That laity has largely rejected the more traditional positions of Finkelstein, Lieberman, and Weiss Halivni and moved toward embracing completely egalitarian worship.

    I’m no shill for the movement and I have many issues with it based upon experience rather than what someone else told me, but I personally know modern Conservative rabbis that have sent know-it-all frummies that came to debate them running away with their tails hanging low. I’d love to see some MO tough guy try to debate someone like R. Roth; they might learn a thing or two while getting their YU-educated, RCA-approved tuchas handed to them.

    There is no mystical aspect to text knowledge that precludes anyone from any movement from learning it well, and no institutional parameters set by JTS that preclude living an observant Jewish life. I would argue that is NOT true for Orthodox institutions of today that largely refuse to teach text-study from a historically-educated perspective. Without context, there can be no true understanding of why various legal positions were held by our sages, and why some of them changed over time.

  10. NOCLUE

    What context can possibly allow homosexuality
    or gay rabbis; which it is widely reported both JTS and the RA will allow come December?

    And so what if R. Roth, who is the preeminent Halachist at JTS, can hold his own in a debate? I bet I could hold my own against R. Roth and I have no pretense to being a great scholar.

  11. Neo-Conservaguy

    I don’t want to set R. Roth up on a pedestal, but I would suggest you learn a little more about him before taking on that challenge. Perhaps you’ve swallowed a little too much of the propaganda served up by the Orthodox establishment regarding the knowledge of JTS scholars. Make no mistake about it, they know their stuff. Also, don’t forget there is a mechitsa minyan at JTS as well as the egalitarian one.

    For what it’s worth, R. Roth is strongly against the proposed legal findings regarding the issue of homosexuality with regard to marriage and ordination. So are other promenent Conservative/Masorti rabbis, but you have to understand there are multiple levels of politics in every movement.

  12. Anonymous

    Yes R. Roth, at least nominally, opposes the change in policy. But he is also participating in a road show whose main purpose is to pave the path so the decision does not meet too much resistance.

    As for taking on the challenge, I said I could hold my own. I did not denigrate R. Roth’s scholarship. If you arrange the forum, I will show up.

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