Friday, February 05, 2010

Rabba or Maharat? Who cares!!!!??????

Oh my G-d. (Don't want to offend anyone by spelling it out) Because, Lord knows, everyone has to weigh in on this. Mahara't? Rabbah? Not wanting to re-hash the whole debate, (click here for story) I have been reading the comments on the popular orthodox web site, Vos Is Neias, and I have come to believe that our people are insane.

For those of you who want the short version, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Rosh HaYeshiva of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and senior Rabbi of The Hebrew Institute in Riverdale, last year, ordained Sarah Hurwitz after she completed seven years of study, the same as any man would do. Because the HIR is a modern Orthodox synagogue, and because Rabbi Weiss was smart enough to realize that he would take a lot of heat for the action, chose a title that indicated ordination, but was different enough not to threaten the establishment. After a year of everyone wondering what the heck "Mahara't" meant, (it meant nothing to anyone outside of the HIR) they decided to change the title to Rabbah, a feminized version of Rabbi. I think that it is kinda dumb and funny, and they should just call her Rabbi, but it brings us a step closer. I have to admit, I have come to this position reluctantly, because I admit, I was one of those who felt that Halacha, Jewish law, should not casually be tossed aside. Over the past few years, however, i have been challenged (primarily by my wife) to look deeper into many of the things that "feminists" push for, and have found them to have halachic integrity. I Put the word feminist in quotes, since I don't think it applies. This is not a feminist issue. It is a thinking Jew's issue. And too often, we don't think. We rely on everyone else to think for us, under the guise of "they are gedolim - greater thinkers than we are" and i think, to some extent, because it is easier. There are those who would have us think that we cannot upend halacha or tradition, but that is completely against our tradition. Consider that 100 years ago, Sarah Schenirer departed from traditional Judaism by creating a system of educating, get ready here, GIRLS! I wonder how many people today would argue against giving girls a Jewish education? And that took a mere 100 years or so. Another 150 or 200 years before that, they were going to excommunicate the Baal Shem Tov, the father of chassidut for his radical thinking. I think that one took hold.
So back to the beginning about our people being insane. Change happens. All throughout our history, Rabbis have changed Jewish law. Who gets to decide which Rabbis have the right to do that? Answer is, we all do! So for me, Kudos to RabbiS Weiss and Hurwitz!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Eyes Wide Open

Last night, at the New York Jewish Film Festival, I watched a movie called Eyes Wide Open, a movie about Aaron, an ultra-Orthodox butcher in Jerusalem and a dedicated husband and father, who hires Ezri, a handsome student, as his apprentice. When his time with Ezri comes at the expense of his family life, Aaron faces threats from neighbors and town elders. Haim Tabakman’s sensitive feature debut explores the devastating consequences of forbidden passion.
It is now the second film about gay life in the Orthodox/Haredi world that I have seen in the last two weeks.

That either says that there seems to be an awful lot of interest in gays in the orthodox world, or that there is a lot more of it than people would imagine. I have lots of ideas about this, but I won't bore you with my thoughts. It is funny to me that with the groundbreaking work by Rabbi Steve Greenberg in the film Trembling Before God and just the repeated media exposure over all sorts of Rabbis and Clergy involved in same sex relations, that people still question. The Cantor at our Conservative Temple is openly gay, and lives with her partner, with whom she had a public ceremony in her shul. A few years back, a member of our Orthodox community hosted a reception for their daughter attended by over three hundred people celebrating the marriage of their daughter to another woman. The Ketubah was on display for all to see.
Yet despite the progress we have made, there are still those who refuse to be tolerant. There was a funny moment last night, at least I thought it was funny, when following the film, the director got up to answer questions. The director, who was Israeli, had long blond hair, and clearly did not appear to be from the Haredi world. A woman got up, and said, "have you ever lived in the Haredi world, or gone to a Yeshiva?" She went on, to say sarcastically, " I can translate it into Hebrew if you don't understand." He replied, not only do I understand, but I also understand your tone... this drew laughter from the audience. He paused and said, " I did not go to Yeshiva, nor did I live in the Haredi world. What happened was, one morning, I got up and decided to make a science fiction film about the Haredi world...... and at that point the woman shouted, "and that is exactly what you did" and stormed out of the theater. He went on to say that he had done pretty extensive research, and interviewed many people, and felt his movie was pretty true to form.

And by the way, I felt the film portrayed a highly sensitive and difficult subject in a very thoughtful, tender and respectful way.

Frankly, I am pretty sure that the incidence of gays in the orthodox world would mirror the statistics that we see everywhere else, but i think that both opportunity and societal pressure limit the ability for people to express themselves.

Look, I understand that as an observant Jew, balancing the Biblical commandments with reality presents a challenge. However, as a therapist, I also know that we often keep our eyes wide shut.

That doesn't really solve anything either.