Letters to the Editor

New OU Guidelines On Female Clergy

Dear Editor,

As reported by the Five Towns Jewish Times (“New OU Guidelines On Female Clergy,” February 2), the OU has reaffirmed its policy prohibiting the hiring of female clergy.

This is no great surprise. Any student of organizations, including religious organizations, knows that  power is not given up easily. Whether it is the Catholic Church shielding abusive priests, or certain sects in Orthodox Judaism threatening the parents of abused children, what’s really at stake is power.

Reading the OU statement outlining the reasons for their reaffirmation of their policy, one can come to no other conclusion.

The  statement  speaks  of  “time-honored tradition,” “mesorah,” “default positions,” “precedent,” and a “weltanschauung emerging from the totality of the vast sea of halachah and Torah thought.”

They state that the Rambam teaches that where a law has not been specifically commanded (because obviously there is no law depriving women of authority or joining the rabbinate), regarding law not explicitly taught one should “take heed to do the good and the right in His eyes, for He loves the good and the right.”

Obviously, the board feels that excluding women based on their powerless and repressed status in the ancient world is what is good and right in the eyes of G-d. Basing decisions on a woman’s place in society based on the status of women in the ancient world is laughable.

The board states that Jewish women are forbidden to be king or have any position of authority (anyone remember Devorah?)! All based not on any clear pasuk, but because that is how it’s always been. It’s men’s work; sorry honey. That is the board’s position; footnote or sugarcoat it as you will.

There is no reason to lose hope, however. Just as women can now learn, just as in-vitro fertilization is now allowed after being strictly forbidden based on another mesorah, just as many other mesorahs over the years have been discarded when found to be just plain wrong, it is only a matter of time before this mesorah and the power of the men in these institutions will be broken — all for the better of the entire people of Israel.

Justin Cohen

The Too-Indulgent Sandwich

Dear Editor,

I have two observations regarding the article about DOMA Land + Sea’s $1,000 Super Bowl sandwich (“Does the $1,000 Sandwich  Satisfy  Halachah?”  February  9).

First, when deconstructing the sandwich’s ingredients, Rabbi Yair Hoff man writes that the use of  certain  Glenlivet  single-malt liquors poses a halachic problem (although not the 12-year-old version used in the sandwich).

He notes that the major kashrus organizations do not permit the use of liquors that have been aged in non-kosher wine barrels.

Rabbi Hoffman is alluding to the age-old “sherry cask” issue.

Some scotches are aged in sherry casks in order to impart the sherry flavor to the liquor. This poses an issue of stam yainam, that is, the consumption of wine made by non-Jews.

However, while kashrus agencies have the right to forbid the use of such scotch, the long-accepted  halachah  (at  least  for  Ashkenazim), is that one may drink a sherry-cask-aged scotch.

Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, devotes three responsa to the topic of blended whiskey to which a small amount of non-kosher wine has been added (Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 1:62–64). Rav Moshe concludes that such wine is nullified in six parts of the whiskey. While acknowledging that there is a stricter opinion, Rav Moshe notes that the lenient view (that of the Taz) has been relied upon for many years.

Rav Moshe wrote this responsum to Rav Pinchas Teitz, zt’l, in 1948, and so the precedent for drinking such whiskey has a very long history.

There are various elements that impact the specific halachic status of sherry-cask single malts. And kashrus agencies, seeking to satisfy a variegated audience, are certainly on firm ground in prohibiting such whiskey in establishments that they certify.

However, Rav Moshe’s lenient psaks for decades carried the day, and so one may drink single malts even if these are aged in sherry casks.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the very premise of a $1,000 sandwich. Our society enjoys unprecedented affluence, and our neighborhood teems with ever-larger homes and ever more-expensive restaurants. Yet the notion that there is no limit, no self-restraint, to our enjoyment of olam ha’zeh should give us pause.

I had many discussions with Rav Aaron Brafman, zt’l, about this very subject. He expressed to me his vehement disdain for the gashmiyus that pervades our circles.

As in so many other matters, he was correct. Judaism does not enjoin us from enjoying the pleasures of this world. However, this does not unleash us to seek ever-expand-ing indulgences.

Our primary purpose in this world is to serve Hashem by studying Torah, by performing acts of kindness, by davening properly, and by doing mitzvos.

Ideally, we would use the material world only as a basis for these spiritual endeavors. (If one does not eat, one cannot function properly.) Indeed, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zt’l, the Satmar Rav, was quoted as saying that a Jew eats not because he wants to, but because he has to.

Most of us are not at the level of the Satmar Rav, and I don’t think Hashem expects us to restrict  ourselves  to  necessities. I have heard rabbanim say that we are not required to live at a level below the median of our surroundings; perhaps we may enjoy a living standard that somewhat exceeds that median.

But the excess that we continue to see, as reflected in an absolutely over-the-top sandwich, should raise eyebrows. We should look inside ourselves and ask when too much is just too much.

Avi Goldstein
Far Rockaway

Remembering Rabbi Yehuda Harbater, a’h

Dear Editor,

I just wanted to mention a few things about Rabbi Harbater, a’h, that people don’t know about him. It is just an indication of something we all know — what a true tzaddik he really was.

We go back more than 30 years. When one of my daughters needed a serious operation at the age of eight, not too many people knew. When Yudi heard about it, he immediately came forward and donated blood. He was a match!

The second thing I wanted to mention was that after I founded the Agudath Israel of Bayswater with my co-founder, Mordechai Tzvi Dicker, Yudi again came forward and was there for us in making the Agudah a flourishing makom Torah that it is today.

Last, but not least, on a more personal subject, I spoke to him on a Friday night after davening, crying my eyes out that my daughter (the same one for whom he gave blood) was not married and there were no prospects on the horizon.

He immediately went home and told his wife that they must help in any way they could to get her married. They spoke to their son-in-law, who spoke to a shadchan, who was the one to make the shidduch.

It was Yudi who started the process that ended in a shidduch for my daughter because of the fact that he cared so much for another person’s pain.

These  are  just  some  examples  of  the  kind of person Yudi was. We can all learn from him.

With great admiration,

Robert Dornbush

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