(A message from the Rabbinical Alliance of America (RAA) and the Igud HaRabbonim)
Recently a swirl of controversy has engulfed the Jewish Community surrounding the role of female clergy and Halacha. Some of our Chaverim have reached out to the Beth Din for a Psak and guidance on this issue. Accordingly, we the undersigned are offering our opinion on behalf of the Beth Din of the Rabbinical Alliance of America.
Due to the importance and critical nature of this subject matter, we are presenting this answer in English to mitigate any error of interpretation.
The Chazon Ish, teaches in Chapter 1 of his classic Sefer Emunah U’Bitochon that HaShem created man in order that all his organs and senses shall see his greatness and serve him. Our intellect and soul are gifts from Hashem that separates man from the animal kingdom. Perfecting our being so that we can truly serve Hashem can only be done through the true study of Torah as transmitted by Moshe Rabbeinu who heard it directly from HaShem. Torah is Divine and the embodiment of the word of Hashem. It is Eternal and has guided us from our very beginning through periods of triumph and destruction. The blessing that the Torah will never be forgotten reached its depths of despair during the years of the Holocaust when the great Yeshivas and long established Jewish communities were destroyed.
Since the rebuilding of Klal Yisrael after the Holocaust, we have seen a regeneration of intensive Limud HaTorah by men and never in our history by women. Great numbers of Jews have returned to Torah observance after realizing that the secular world is empty and devoid of meaning. Unfortunately, the curse of Yavan – Hellenism and non-Jewish ideas have made their way into our community. Those values sadly have become esteemed by certain segments of our community. The idea that Torah is antiquated, is not new: women are not equal, same sex marriage and other foreign values prevalent today are matters that a generation ago were not a concern. Today, certain segments of the Orthodox Jewish community have put them on the forefront and new insights into our sacred heritage are being promulgated.
This is not the first time in our history that this situation has arisen. In Megilas Esther 1:5 the Megilah records that the Jews participated in the King’s feast. The Talmud in Megilah 12a asks–Why did the Jews of that generation deserve to be killed? The answer is they enjoyed themselves at the King’s feast which as the Meam Loez explains was made to celebrate the 70 years non – fulfilment of Jeremiah’s prophecy of redemption. Sadly, the Jews of that generation were celebrating their non-redemption and would continue to remain under Persian rule absorbing their culture. As recorded in the Megillah, it took a Haman and the threat of destruction along with Teshuva and the total willingness to re-accept the entire Torah to save us.
In response to the question regarding the permissibility of female clergy and what is the view of Halacha. Today, Jews the world over do not live in closed off ghettos and are not restrained from Limud HaTorah, Sabbath, and mitzvah observance. Combined with secular education and economic opportunities Jews today live without the fear of persecution and restriction. However, with those blessings come serious side effects. The exposure to secular society has finally entered the tents of Yaakov. Segments of our community have gladly accepted the values of the non-Jewish world. Modern Orthodoxy in prior generations meant that a person is Torah observant while maintaining Shulchan Aruch in the modern world. For proponents of a new movement called “Open Orthodoxy,” this modernity has morphed into acceptance of all the impure values of the Non-Jewish world. The clergy of this movement are espousing philosophies of the generation of the Sin of the Golden Calf. They said of the golden calf – “These are your gods that took you the Bnei Yisrael out of Eqypt” (Shemos 32:4). They have succeeded in bringing a segment of the Jewish people to the ideas of the near defunct and spiritually bankrupt Reform and Conservative movement. These ideas of Reformation and Reconstruction can spell doom to those who follow it.
Recently, this question was presented to leading Rabbis and Roshei Yeshiva of the Modern Orthodox movement. In a lengthy and sensitive explanation, they clarified why women are not included in the positions of the clergy. The question was asked and guidance was given. Sadly, the proponents of this issue refuse to abide by the adjudication of their teachers that their position is contrary to Jewish tradition and Halacha. They espouse a new perversion of Judaism albeit with noble intent. We however, the heirs of Torah True Tradition must adhere to and be guided by the Mesorah – the sacred chain of Judaism as taught by our Poskim – religious decisors.
It is important to note that the Posek HaDor–Rav Moshe Feinstein z”tl in his well-known Sefer Igros Moshe rules in Yoreh Deah Chelek 2 Siman 45 states that women are prohibited to be appointed either as a Shochet, as a Rabbi or to an official position of leadership. The Igros Moshe quotes the source of the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 1:5) which is based upon the Gemara in Yevamos 45b where the Gemara discusses whether women are permitted or prohibited from serving in positions of communal “authority” known as Serarah. Additionally, the Shulchan Aruch in Choshen Mishpat 7:4 states clearly in three words with no dissenting opinion Eisha Posul Ladon–that a woman is Pasul to be a judge.
The Pischei Teshuva comments on this Din in Sif 5 a woman cannot be a Judge or a Shochet but she may be relied upon to discern matters which affect the very Kedusha of Klal Yisrael. This includes Kashrus, Niddah and other family and community matters needing her Bina Yeseira, since she is the Akeres HaBayis. In fact, the very important Law of “Ayd Echad” is derived from this Din. The Pischei Teshuva also discusses the matter of Devora HaNeviah and her great role in our history. We can use this analogy–a Non – Kohen can never serve in the priesthood. The priesthood was given to Aaron HaKohen and his sons. Even if a Non-Kohen wanted to serve – he is a not a Kohen and this contravanes Torah teaching and tradition.
Finally, those members of the Open Orthodox movement that claim to elevate the role of the Jewish woman in our Orthodox communities are those that the Igros Moshe referred to as Minim and Reshaim. Their position is likened to the almost defunct Reform and Conservative movement–that they are not following Halacha and do not fall within the framework of our Torah True Tradition. It is important to note that when women were considered for the position of clergy in the mid 1980’s even the “leaders” of Conservative Judaism recognized that this idea was not halachically permitted and this created a split in the movement.
Throughout their existence, these “leaders” have continuously espoused positions of adapting the Torah to be “modernized” to the society of the time. However, as history has unfortunately demonstrated, their adherents have been decreasing due to the near 100% intermarriage rate. Similarly, the founders and supporters of this “new” Open Orthodox movement are creating another stumbling block for our Jewish people who are being misled through these erroneous changes.
We conclude with Pirkei Avos (6:11) – HaKadosh Baruch Hu created His world; He created it solely for His glory. May HaShem protect His people from those whose tongues appear sweet but in truth spew poison…and may HaShem grant peace and Shalom to all of Klal Yisrael both materially and spiritually, Amen.
Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, Staten Island, NY Rabbi Shamaryahu Shulman, Lakewood, NJ
Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshiva of Staten Island Honorary President & Sr. Judge Rabbinical Court
Rabbi Hanania Elbaz, Brooklyn NY
Rabbi Yehoshua S. Hecht, Norwalk, CT
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Yaakov Spivak, Monsey, NY
Rabbi Herschel Kurzrock, Brooklyn, NY
Chief Judge Rabbinical Court
Rabbi Dov Aaron Brisman, Philadelphia, PA
Assistant Chief Judge Rabbinical Court
Rabbi Chaim Komendant; Passaic, NJ
Administrative Judge Rabbinical Court
Rabbi Eytan Feiner, Far Rockaway, NY
Rabbi Dr. Jonah Gewirtz, Sliver Spring, MD
Rabbi Dr. Aaron Glatt, Woodmere, NY
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, Far Rockaway, NY
Rabbi Dovid Katz, Brooklyn, NY
Rabbi Mendel Mirocznik, Staten Island, NY
Rabbi Moish Schmerler, Woodmere, NY