Glenn Beck, Radicalized Islam and Reform Rabbis

  • 0

I know that Glenn Beck is primarily an entertainer. I don’t think most people take him to be a scholar or expert on most important matters. He is a radio personality. He has a nice voice, a good shtick and a loyal following. Sure, I found his Nazi references ironic (see: Glenn Beck and PETA in Lockstep (Goose Step?) on International Holocaust Remembrance Day). But overall, I don’t care all that much what he has to say. In much the same way that I don’t care what more liberal entertainers have to say. It’s just entertainment.

But yesterday, Beck made another inane comment that made me realize something.

First, the context:

Beck is talking about the 400 rabbis who took out an ad to protest his Nazi references. His point has been that these rabbis are not really religious rabbis, they are social action rabbis who don’t care about religion. Instead they “worship” liberalism. So there is no reason to take them seriously.

Now here is the comment:

“When you talk about rabbis, understand that most — most people who are not Jewish don’t understand that there are the Orthodox rabbis, and then there are the reformed rabbis. Reformed rabbis are generally political in nature. It’s almost like Islam, radicalized Islam in a way, to where it is just — radicalized Islam is less about religion than it is about politics. When you look at the reform Judaism, it is more about politics.”

My only real commentary on this is that the when you make an analogy you can be as broad or as narrow as you want. You could analogize the Religious Right in the GOP to radicalized Islam too. Watch this: the Religious Right in the GOP is just like radical Islam, they want to enforce a religious law on all people. See what I did there? Anyway, the test of an analogy is to see if it makes sense in any other contexts. So, do radicalized Islam and the GOP share anything else? Not really. So it’s a dumb analogy.

Reform Rabbis and radicalized Islam share even less.

Oh and FYI, Orthodox Rabbis are also plenty about politics.

But here is what this whole thing got me thinking: Almost a couple hundred years ago, Reform Judaism was in its infancy and was gaining traction among the young Orthodox Jews in Germany. People were jumping off the orthodox bandwagon by the dozen. It presented a real problem for the future of Orthodox Judaism. In response, two general approaches were developed. The Chasam Sofer and Rav Samson Rafael Hirsch the leaders of each. They each tried as best they could to stem the tide of those abandoning Orthodox Judaism.

No matter their tactics, it turns out that today Reform Judaism and Orthodox Judaism have very little to do with each other. Further, the bandwagons have very few people jumping back and forth between them. For almost all Jews today, there is no conscious choice between Reform and Orthodox. Most stay where they are or leave organized religion entirely.

My point is that practically speaking, there is no longer a battle between Reform and Orthodox Judaism.

Yet, the rhetoric from both sides still sounds like it is 1860. Most Orthodox Jewish rabbis would probably agree with Beck that Reform Rabbis are not “real” rabbis. Orthodox Rabbis frequently confuse the word “Jew” with “orthodox” and basically call anyone not orthodox, not Jewish. I doubt we will see too many Orthodox Rabbis “defend the honor” of their reform counterparts.

(Similarly, I cannot recall hearing an Orthodox Rabbi being praised by a Reform Rabbi. It just doesn’t happen.)

I hereby offer my puny voice. I disagree with Beck. I think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism.

Really, even the most cynical of Orthodox Rabbis should agree with this. Why? Because if not for Reform Judaism, almost all secular Jews would completely lose their connection to Judaism. Isn’t it better, even from an orthodox perspective that Jews retain a Jewish identity? Marry other Jews? Contribute to the social welfare of the world? Come to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? How about every Shabbos? Advocate for Israel? Isn’t Judaism as a whole stronger if there is a reform movement?

I think the answer is yes.

I will even take it a step further. Reform Judaism challenged Rav Hirsch and the Chasam Sofer to sharpen their hashkafos and approach to Judaism. Today Reform Judaism challenges us to fine tune our observance as well (within the construct of halacha of course). Without mentioning specifics, I think it is worth noting  that Orthodox Judaism is being challenged by Reform Judaism in a good way. It’s a mild form of kinas sofrim (competition among scholars). That is also a good thing.

So in summary, I think Glenn Beck’s obtuse criticism of “Reformed Rabbis” is misguided. He probably thinks that all reform Jews are evil and not “really Jews” just like many Orthodox Jews. (Where would he get this from? Let’s just say there are some Orthodox Jews in his ear…) But I disagree. I salute Reform Judaism and its Rabbis. Although we may disagree about theology, we all desire for Judaism to remain strong and vibrant. Like many presumed enemies, we have much more in common than we may think and if the rhetoric is toned down, we may actually be able to work side by side (even if not hand in hand) towards our common goals.

Link: Media Matters

UPDATE: Beck apologized. Kind of.

  • Kishmirintukas

    I think you’re right on the mark with one small exception. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a reform temple where the rabbi hasn’t quoted some Chassidic master or tale, so they do in their own way praise the orthodox.

    • None

      I assure you that Orthodox is not represented by “Chassidic masters or tales.” Why must you insult and disparage Orthodoxy by using silly strereotypes? I’m sure Rabbi Fink did not mean to condone such kind of hurtful slurs, even if this article sounded that way. Check out Aish.com . Where do you see anything connecting “Chassidic tales” with what it means to be a proud Orthodox Jew?

      • That’s not what he said.

        He was simply pointing out that Reform Rabbis do pay homage to Orthodox Judaism by including Chassidus in their talks. No reason to go postal…

        • None

          And you call Beck the entertainer?

          You think a Reform Rabbi eating Gefilte fish and mentioning a “Chassidic master” in their sermon, means that they “pay homage to Orthodox Judaism”?

          Could you cite even ONE source text, where an Gadol B’Torah showed respect and honor (or in your elegant words “a salute”) towards Reform Judaism?

          What does your failure to be able to make such a citation say about your position?

          • So if a gadol never said something, no one else can say it? Seriously?

            You discredit your valid points when you make silly appeals to authority like this.

            And all is says about my position is that it is a new one.

            • None

              As the Chazon Ish said (who I may naively assume you do not view yourself as a bar plugta) regarding a much more trivial halachic/hashkafic question:

              “If those Rabbonim of generations before me did not allow it, how could I?”

              You really don’t realize that Judaism is not a Democracy. You can not create new positions in halacha and hashkafa, unless mandated by the leading experts in Torah law.

              • ALLOW WHAT?!

                WHAT HAVE I ALLOWED?!?!

                • None

                  We do not respect Reform Jews for their knowledge or religion, we love them because they are our brothers- even if they have wandered from the truth that their great-grandparents died for (something that you apparently do not recognize).

                  It’s simply alarming to read your reckless mistatements and disregard for the biggest Rabbonim in history who have set a precedent, which you have no problem adulterating.

                  You really don’t understand what you wrote that is completely contradictory to the psakim of the Gedolei Torah that had to combat the haskalah?

                  You don’t realize that you are being mizalzel piskei halacha v’haskafah?

                  Do you really think you are on the level to do such a thing?

                  Why don’t you understand that you can’t use the Jewish Religion for your “soundbites”? It is not on the same opinion playing field as your articles discussing “rape laws.”

                  • WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

                    So because I see redeeming qualities to reform judaism I am being mizalzel piskei halacha v’haskafah? (As if there is such a think as a psak hashkafa…)

                    Further, you have only reinforced my point by admitting that the piskei halacha were made because gedolei yisrael HAD TO COMBAY THE HASKALAH. Do you see any haskalah around your neck of the woods? What would those gedolei yisrael say today? When there is no haskalah…?

                    • None

                      Do you recognize the severe problems that Reform Judasim caused/causes?

                      Do you realize why it’s crucial not to legitimize Reform Judaism?

                      Do you understand why the approach of all the Gedolei Yisroel towards Reform Judaism, has not changed?

                      Do you really know anything at all about Reform Judaism?

                      Could you list any texts or works that you have read, written by leaders of the Reform movement?

                      Could you cite where to find the halachic decisions (cited by more than one of your readers) regarding how to relate to Reform Judaism?

                      Do you realize the serious problem with publishing your article without having a clear answer all of the questions above?

                    • Sure many things cause problems. There are good qualities and back qualities to just about everything in the universe.

                      No. I don’t see why it’s “crucial” not to “legitimize” reform judaism. (Either way, I am not “legitimizing” it. Let me ask you, if I were to say that we should appreciate the good things that Christians do, would I be “legitimizing” Christiainity? Certainly not. If I saluted their Priests as good leaders would it be so offensive to you as well?

                      I am not aware of any recent piskei halacha regarding reform Judaism that I have contravened.

                      Yes.

                      Just articles, conversations and observations. No “texts”

                      I could find R’ Moshe’s Teshuva and R’ Hirsch’s letters.

                    • None

                      Well, you get another 10 points for shock and drama (AKA: Political Soundbite). I mean it’s quite scary that you have no problem saying: “I don’t see why it’s “crucial” not to “legitimize” reform judaism.”

  • Holyhyrax

    >His point has been that these rabbis are not really religious rabbis, they are social action rabbis who don’t care about religion. Instead they “worship” liberalism. So there is no reason to take them seriously.

    I think in general he does have a point with the former (even though many many are still spiritual), the latter doesn’t really follow. I have heard reform rabbis making great points.

    >Really, even the most cynical of Orthodox Rabbis should agree with this.

    Interestingly enough, I only hear the opposite from OJ rabbis 😛

    >Isn’t Judaism as a whole stronger if there is a reform movement?

    It’s too broad of a question I think. In some aspects it does help sharpen OJ, but at the same time, I think to does weaken the next generations of Jews

    • Weakens?

      How would they be better off with nothing?

      • Anonymous

        I don’t know about weakens, but I will say that the existence of Reform (and Conservative) negatively affects my kind of Judaism (what is commonly called “Modern Orthodox”, perhaps the worst name that could have been chosen for it). I believe that the inexorable push to the right is at least partially, if not mostly, due to the existence of RJ and CJ to the left of us religiously. That inexorable push to the right is squeezing me, and many like me, out of Orthodoxy. Not because our practices are changing, but rather because Orthodoxy is being redefined with a decidedly strong change to the right. To me, it’s very sad because it means that my kids and grandkids won’t experience the Orthodox community as my father and I did.

        Just to be clear, I do NOT blame Reform or Conservative Judaism, I place almost all the blame on an insecure right-wing Orthodoxy.

      • Holyhyrax

        Its difficult. If there was no reform Judaism mechatchila would there be nothing? Or would people slowly find certain things within the broad scope of “orthodoxy” to latch onto? I am saying weakens, in terms that going through the generations, the Judaism starts lacking more and more.

        So at this point in history, is reform filling in a specific void for some Jews? Yes, perhaps so. Do I think Judaism in general is stronger and better because of reform? I don’t think I would go that far.

        Of course, none of this speaks to the character of reform Jews, who at times, I admire more orthodox Jews 😛

        • There would be nothing. Assume it and thank reform for providing “something”.

          • Holyhyrax

            I don’t think that is so easy to assume. There may have been something else in its place. Perhaps a stronger conservadoxy.

            • …and how is that better?

              • Holyhyrax

                A strong Conservadoxy would have adhered more to halacha for example, as originally intended. Yes, there would be changes, but the changes would have occurred within the system. Tradition would have played a stronger role.

                Of course, this is also easy to say since Conservative was also a response to Reform. My only point is that I don’t see a reason to assume “nothing” would have existed. Reform filled in a void and therefore people were attracted to it. But people could have been attracted to any number of things.

    • Susan Barnes

      Actually, the whole thing about Reform rabbis not be religious is ridiculous. One can be committed to social action and still be religious. The are not mutually exclusive, God forbid. To imply otherwise is absurd. Reform rabbis study and teach Torah and Talmud, lead Jewish life cycle events and services, pray with their congregations, and do many other religious acts, in addition to teaching others about the Jewish religion.

  • None

    “I think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism.”

    Would you like a list of sources that clasify your shocking statement as kefirah?

    • No thanks.

      • None

        Strange response.

        • I’m familiar with the piskei halacha. They are specific to events and shared learning.

          And none of them say that what I said is kefira.

          • None

            Did you ever read Wissenschaftlicher Aufbau des Judenthums? How could you preach on such a topic without doing any research? It’s at best reckless….

            • None

              Should I assume by your lack of response, thatnot only didn’t you read it- but you don’t even know what it is?

  • Izzy

    I agree that Beck’s analogy was a bad one, but I happen to agree with his broader point. I find it difficult to believe that most of the rabbis who signed that statement were not motivated by politics. I am willing to bet that the majority of them are poltically left-of-center. So he was corret in characterizing the statement as political.

    “Orthodox Rabbis frequently confuse the word “Jew” with “orthodox” and basically call anyone not orthodox, not Jewish.”
    That is an ugly canard, that in my experience, bear no resemblance to the truth. I have never heard any learned Othodox person, much less a rabbi, say that Reform Jews are not Jewish. I have heard it said that Reform Judaism is not true Judaism, but that is a completely different statement, and I trust you see the distinction.

    “I think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders…” Really? Learned in what? In law school, I attended a Jewish Law course co-taught by a very prominent Reform rabbis who is one of the national leaders of the Reform movement. I can tell you some things he was not at all learned in: classic Jewish texts, halacha, or classic Jewish Philosophy.

    • Izzy, what you call an ugly canard happens all the time. On Twitter and Facebook among OJs all the time. They are the butt of jokes and delegetimized as Jews on a regular basis.

      They are learned in other areas than you and I. But still learned. Yes, they do ignore a lot of what we call classic texts but they know other things that we do not.

      • None

        “They are learned in other areas than you and I. But still learned. Yes, they do ignore a lot of what we call classic texts but they know other things that we do not.”

        Please list the things that they know, which “we” don’t.

        • Nach

          • Fefef

            that is just not true. In the couple of years of Reform Rabbinical school, there is very little nach. I have yet to meet a reform Rabbi who is an expert in nach, and the rare exception to that who does is not statistically any more likely than the ones in the yeshiva. this is just misinformations

            • Susan Barnes

              Just as a point of information, Reform rabbinical school is 5 years, not “a couple.”

          • None

            Why you would make a statement that everyone knows is clearly false is beyond me.

            • It was the first thing I thought of because whenever I talk to less observant people they frequently ask me questions on Nach that I am embarrassingly unequipped to answer.

              • None

                So, because you feel that when you talk to “less observant” people, they know Nach better than you, that means to you that Reform Jews know Nach better than Orthodox Jews.

                Ok…As long as we cleared that up.

            • It was the first thing I thought of because whenever I talk to less observant people they frequently ask me questions on Nach that I am embarrassingly unequipped to answer.

      • Izzy

        Izzy, what you call an ugly canard happens all the time. On Twitter and Facebook among OJs all the time. They are the butt of jokes and delegetimized as Jews on a regular basis.”
        I am not sure what you mean by “delegetmized as Jews.” If you mean that OJs dont believe that Reform Judaism is a legitimate form of Judaism, then that is correct, and I sincerely hope that you don’t believe otherwise. And if OJs sometimes make that point by mocking Reform Jews, than that is perhaps not the most constructive way to make the point, but it is still a valid point. However, any Orthodox rabbi will tell you that Reform Jews are just as Jewish as you and I. That is an important distinction. When you use vague terms like “delegetimized as Jews,” it makes me wonder whether you are missing that distinction, or are being deliberately vague as a way of glossing over that distinction.

        “They are learned in other areas than you and I. But still learned. Yes, they do ignore a lot of what we call classic texts but they know other things that we do not.”
        I know a lot of people that are quite learned in a lot of areas in which I am not. I have met, and been lectured by brilliant legal scholars, statesman, businessman, etc. But that does not make them leaders (although some of them may be), and certainly not religious leaders. When someone holds themselves out as a Jewish religious leader, yet is functionally literate when it comes to classical Judaism, I find it difficult to respect them as a religious leader.

        • I mean that reform Judaism is treated as an abomination, threat, destructive and terrible “force”. When in truth it is not. It simply exists side by side with other streams of Judaism without affecting orthodox Judaism or orthodox Jews in any negative way.

          If they are more learned than their “flock” they are qualified to lead them.

          • Izzy

            OK, but that is quite different from what you originally said, which is why called it a “canard.” I would agree that mainstream Orthodox belief regard “reform Judaism “as an abomination, threat, destructive and terrible.”

            = the blind leading the blind.

            • What I said was that it happens too often that reform Jews are called not Jewish. It was an example of hostility.

  • Susan Barnes

    Thank you for this post. It’s great to see an Orthodox rabbi say such things about Reform, and in public, no less. My Reform rabbi often says there is a lot we can learn from the Orthodox, and there is a lot they can learn from us. So there is respect going both ways, at least in some circles.

    • None
      • Susan Barnes

        Thanks for the suggestion, but after reading the following review on Amazon, I think I’ll pass:
        “As I read I felt as if the two Rabbi’s were talking at each other, and not to one another. Worse, neither of them seemed capable of directly addressing the comments, concerns or criticisms of their fellow participant. Instead they obfuscated, and used rhetoric in place of solid logic (Talmudic or otherwise). The issues I had hoped the authors would choose speak to were the fundemental assumptions upon which their understanding of Judaism was based. Instead they seemed more interested in parables/stories (which I recognize for its Yiddishekit, but it lacks substance for this dialogue)which seemed to have minimal relevance.”

        • None

          I hate to use the absolute cliche, but “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” Certainly not by some random commentor on Amazon.com.

          The book was warmly endorsed by a leading Reform Rabbi and a respected Orthodox Rabbi. Does that not sound worth reading?

          If you must, read the first few sample pages on Amazon, and then decide if the comment you read sounds the slightest accurate.

        • Izzy

          I read the book, for a course in law school. I would not say they were talking at each other, but it was less a conversation and more people taking turns talking. At times they repsonded to each other’s points, but often they did not. I do think they covered the fundamentals of their beliefs, especially the Orthodox rabbi.

    • Thanks

  • None

    The following are the “headlines” picked from your shocking essay:

    Rabbi Fink:

    1) ” I don’t think most people take him to be a scholar or expert on most important matters.”

    2) “Oh and FYI, Orthodox Rabbis are also plenty about politics.”

    3) “Orthodox Rabbis frequently confuse the word “Jew” with “orthodox” and basically call anyone not orthodox, not Jewish.”

    4) “I think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism.”

    5) “Reform Judaism challenged Rav Hirsch and the Chasam Sofer to sharpen their hashkafos and approach to Judaism..It’s a mild form of kinas sofrim”

    6) “I salute Reform Judaism and its Rabbis.”

    You truly took a page out of Obama’s failed script. Instead of writing about the truth and beauty of Orthodoxy, you choose to grovel before the Reform movement.

    • 1) Do you?
      2) They don’t?
      3) They don’t?
      4) They are.
      5) Absolutely.
      6) I do. It certainly beats the alternative (complete assimilation)

      I write plenty about the beauty of Orthodox Judaism. This post was not about Orthodox Judaism. It was about Reform Judaism. And what in the world does this have to do with Obama?

      • None

        “I do. It certainly beats the alternative (complete assimilation)”

        You realize you are at odds with every Gadol that ever spoke out regarding Reform Judaism?

        Which sect of Judiasim are you affiliated with?

        • Really? Like who?

          I am affiliated with Orthodox Judaism but I respect all streams of Judaism.

          • None

            Did you ever read Wissenschaftlicher Aufbau des Judenthums? How could you preach on such a topic without doing any research? It’s at best reckless….

  • anonymous2

    > Orthodox Rabbis frequently confuse the word “Jew” with “orthodox” and basically call anyone not orthodox, not Jewish. I doubt we will see too many Orthodox Rabbis “defend the honor” of their reform counterparts.

    – Counterparts??! Are you kidding me? Your average reform Rabbi would not be able to come close to the doctrinal knowledge as an average Orthodox Rabbi. In fact, the Reform encourage estranging the lessons of the text and the Talmud. They can hardly be called counterparts.

    At the same time, just because a person is not orthodox does not make them not Jewish it only establishes that they have either crossed the line on kefira or are hovering over the threshold. It mainly provides a forum for those who want to identify as Jews without ANY of the responsibility of carrying that privileged status!

    I think you are allowing your liberalism to interfere with your real core beliefs here and knowledge of what is true and not true. I would encourage you to rethink your position on this one.  

    > Really, even the most cynical of Orthodox Rabbis should agree with this. Why? Because if not for Reform Judaism, almost all secular Jews would completely lose their connection to Judaism. Isn’t it better, even from an orthodox perspective that Jews retain a Jewish identity? Marry other Jews? Contribute to the social welfare of the world? Come to shul on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? How about every Shabbos? Advocate for Israel? Isn’t Judaism as a whole stronger if there is a reform movement?

    I think the answer is yes.

    This is also very far from the truth and again where I believe your general political views are clouding what you might be trying to represent. The Reform movement is not integral in any way, shape, or form to the sustenance of Judaism; in fact, quite the contrary, many times it proves to be a chilul Hashem (desecration of G-ds name). It provides a forum where doing as you wish is OK and leaving behind the understanding and teachings of Torah of those that lived before us and were exponentially smarter than us. This is most prevalent regarding the safeguarding of Halacha. Reform believes that many of the “old school” laws dont apply to todays day and age. Torah stands directly opposed to this view. The Torah and its rulings are meant to be supreme and eternal. Reform rejects this idea for the most part.

    • None

      Query: Why is it that intermarriage is virtually non-existent amongst Sefardic Jewry in America? I submit to you Rabbi Fink that this is because there is no such thing as a Reform Sfardi Jew. Amongst Sfardim either you are are a practicing religious “orthodox” jew or you are non-practicing; but there is no variety as to what the jewsh religion is or its practices and/or requirements are. Reform judaism is not a protection from intermarriage–it is direct cause of intermarriage. It allows people to retain a Jewish identity to the point where modifying the religion and disavowing Toras Moshe M’Sinai is commonplace. It essentially allows people to say that they are practicing Jews all the while intermarrying or even engaging in homosexuality. Indeed, who can even know what sorts of mamzeirus problems will be caused by the reform in a few generations down the line when iy”h their grandchildren are chozer b’teshuva and wish to marry your grandchildren…. You say that this is a good thing. I think its the core root of the problem. But hey, I guess all is well as long as they attend Temple every shabbos..

      • No. It’s because they look less like Americans so it takes longer to assimilate. Plus, they have only been here for a few generations. Anglo Jews have been here since before the revolution.

        • anonymous2

          What do you say to my comment? I think you should reconsider your position and the impact of your statements in this article.

          • I say that although you make some valid points, I disagree with your absolute dismissal of any redeeming qualities within reform Judaism. Sorry.

            And this has nothing to do with politics. My politics fluctuate depending on the issue. I don’t have any allegiance to any overall scheme of political positions.

            • anonymous2

              “Any redeeming” is a much much lower threshold than where you have placed them. Either way I take your response to mean you essentially agree with my point.

        • Anonymous

          E Fink – It’s because they look less like Americans so it takes longer to assimilate.

          Huh? I don’t know what Americans look like in Santa Monica, but here in South Florida, Sefardi Jews look exactly like Americans.

          • More precise: Sephardim have a harder time blending in with the Anglo majority in the USA because of their generally darker skin.

            • Anonymous

              Here in South Florida, they fit right in 🙂 We have all shades in varying proportions, but very mixed overall.

              But with regards to assimilation in the modern world, I think there are 2 dangers and they are as related to each other as they used to be. There’s the old danger of intermarriage, one you take that step, you usually have severed a big portion of your relationship with Judaism. But the new danger (and it’s not really so new, just much more accessible) is secularism. While in the past, it was almost unheard of to have no religious affiliation, today it is perfectly acceptable, even laudable in many circles, to have no religious affiliation at all. So, in the past, to abandon Judaism, you generally had to take some positive step toward adopting some other religion, while today, you can simply stop being Jewish and start being nothing (religion-wise).

              So back to the point. We know that Sefardim don’t suffer as much from the first danger. The question is, do they suffer from the second, and do they suffer in the same proportions that Ashkenazim do? And if not, why not.

          • More precise: Sephardim have a harder time blending in with the Anglo majority in the USA because of their generally darker skin.

        • Pikesville

          So your belief is that it has nothing to do with the fact that there are no variations/denominations from the Mesorah amongst Sfardim but only due to some sort of supposed inter-racial stigma that you are referring to?

        • The Nudnik

          IIRC, the first Jews who came to these shores were Sefardim, fleeing from Brazil. I believe most of them assimilated.

  • YV

    re “social action rabbis”

    The day all Rabbis (and Jews) are know for their social action first and foremost … is the day we will have the utopia we pray for three times a day
    Bimhera biyamenu

    Yes indeed, Orthodox Jews have much to learn (I include myself in that)

  • The Law

    Rabbi = one who has smicha.

    its a defined term. so to say someone is a real rabbi or not is pretty simple to back up. or establish.

    • As you know, that’s not really true anymore.

      But besides that, Beck was saying that if they aren’y orthodox they are meaningless BECAUSE they are purely political.

      • The Law

        Thats YOUR take on what he said.

        • Apparently I wasn’t the only one. Even Beck himself has apologized. Time to move on…

          • None

            Why don’t you realize that his apology had nothing to do with the point in your post?

  • I will accept this post as among the most hopeful for relations between the Orthodox and Reform and this Beck thing should demonstrate the importance of that. Perhaps it is hard to see things from another person’s perspective, but my experience has seen more hostility from Orthodox to Reform Jews than vice versa and have never heard a Reform Jew deny the legitimacy of Orthodox Judaism the way the Orthodox challenge us.

    Some of the challenges to American Jews include questions about whether Jared Loughner attacked Congresswoman Giffords because of her faith, but, of course, a portion of the Jewish community in this country refuses to accept that the congresswoman is, in fact, a Jew. That saddens me, but is also so irrelevant in the context in which it arises after someone tried to murder her.

    So thank you, Rabbi. Your salute to Reform Judaism is a step forward. And I quite agree that whatever it is that divides us, should pale against what we have heard from certain non Jews, about Jews. To fail to act as one people in the face of a hatred of us all is simply wrong.

    • Thank you. And thank you for commenting.

      • None

        Based on the comments this article is receiving, it seems like your Reform Jew following is increasing and your Orthodox Jew following is declining.

        When you use your blog to convert a pure and sacred thing like the Jewish Religion into political sound bites, you not degrade the sanctity of something that must remain apolitical, but you ostracize yourself from those who you claim to asscociate yourself with.

        • Calm down.

          What is offensive to you about this? Reform Judaism is NOT A THREAT to you and your way of life. Why treat it like one?

          • Holyhyrax

            It’s not about “him” or “his” way of life that he is talking about.

          • None

            No one here is criticizing Reform Jews.

            Everyone agrees that you could be civil and respectful with Reform Jews, while making clear that we will not be ashamed by our true proud heritage- which they have watered down and altered.

            We do not respect Reform Jews for their knowledge or religion, we love them because they are our brothers- even if they have wandered from the truth that their great-grandparents died for (something that you apparently do not recognize).

            It’s simply alarming to read your reckless mistatements and disregard for the biggest Rabbonim in history who have set a precedent, which you have no problem adulterating.

            It’s stange how you choose to divert cricticism of YOUR opinions, against Reform Judaism.

            • What precedent have adulterated?

              I simply argued that we as orthodox Jews should be more appreciative towards reform judaism and cease hostilities toward them. Why is this so offensive?

              It’s funny because when I posted this I KNEW it would be controversial. But a few people read it and said “what’s the big deal?”

              To each their own…

              • None

                Ok.

                So you changed from saying:

                1) “I think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism.”

                2) “Reform Judaism challenged Rav Hirsch and the Chasam Sofer to sharpen their hashkafos and approach to Judaism..It’s a mild form of kinas sofrim”

                3) “I salute Reform Judaism and its Rabbis.”

                To:

                1) “I simply argued that we as orthodox Jews should be more appreciative towards reform judaism and cease hostilities toward them.”

                In other words, you just offered a retraction for your article.

                I accept.

                • Um no. I retracted your insane interpretation of my article.

                  • None

                    So you actually think that there’s no difference between saying:

                    A) “Do not be hostile towards Reform Jews”

                    Or saying:

                    B) “I think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism…Reform Judaism challenged Rav Hirsch and the Chasam Sofer to sharpen their hashkafos and approach to Judaism..It’s a mild form of kinas sofrim…I salute Reform Judaism and its Rabbis.”

                    • Of course there is a difference.

                    • None

                      Thus your retraction.

                  • chiller

                    There is nothing wrong with recognizing the valid points mentioned and appreciating the fact that perhaps you may not have meant exactly what you said and in fact retracting various interpretations of your comment. It actually would be commendable.

                    • Except that it’s not true.

              • Matt

                The idea that we are one is true, and like the Nazis came for everyone regardless is a strong point for not encouraging divisiveness. That being said I do think Reform is a threat. I have to choose now whether or not to go to a wedding ceremony endorsed by a Reform rabbi. . Did I neglect to mention the marriage is mixed & will have a priest too? A reform relative does not understand why I can’t go into the Church for the ceremony if her Reform Rabbi allows it. The idea that a Jew can only feel a connection via a certain framework is untrue. A Jew is Jew, and will always have a spark. To legitimize the idea of Reform as acceptable is not a positive step. Do I have reform guests at my Shabbos table? Yes. Do I tell them what they practice is true Judaisim? No. Do I feel Reform has what to offer? No. I don’t think you feel that way either. Would you let a Reform Rabbi give a shiur on Nach in your shul? Seriously. what long term effect will that have on your congregants?

                • This will be my last comment to a group that makes the word “intolerance” seem tepid. That you feel the right to discuss whether one or many of you can “legitimize the idea of Reform as acceptable” makes me shake, almost in rage. Reform Judaism has watered down nothing. In your gross ignorance of the subject, and your view that only the Orthodox are entitled to define Judaism, what you say is worthy only of debate among yourselves, and you are welcome to it. Just don’t try to impose your stuff on me, or on the rest of the Jewish world. I heard a story the other day about Orthodox using Debbie Friedman’s beautiful havdalah music and it made me smile though I know that if they knew who wrote it, and what she stood for, they might well be repelled. The music, though, remains beautiful and symbolizes the end of what we call Shabbat, and you call Shabbos as well as anything ever heard on this earth, whether you approve of Debbie (of blessed memory) or me, or any other Jew.

                  • Re Debbie Friedman see: http://bit.ly/h691Bg

                  • Holyhyrax

                    Should people always tolerate bad ideas?

                    Hey…nobody is throwing stones at you here.

                    • I suspect this can’t make sense to you, but to read people describe call the Judaism that has been part of my life since before I can remember, or called a “bad idea” are stones being thrown at me.

                      And, yes, people should tolerate other people’s “ideas” which do not become “bad” because they are not yours.

                    • Holyhyrax

                      Maybe there should be a distinction between tolerate and respect. I don’t have to respect every bad idea out there, just like you don’t. We tolerate it, because we have to. We live in a free country. Also, like you, I am aware with people born into it. I respect reform Jews without necessarily respecting the reform movement.

      • The Law

        i think that is YOUR take on what he said.

  • itchiemayer

    Izzy makes some great points. IMHO, If Reform Judaism did not do marriages, conversions or accept patrilineal descent, I could possibly agree that they were overall helpful to the Jewish world. Instead they are causing increases in the numbers of mamzerim and challalim in the Jewish world and spreading heresy. I can’t call that a positive in any way.

    • YC

      If two people are not married they cannot do many things include adultery, create a mamzer, get divorced ….

  • Anonymous

    From the conversation about this on Facebook:

    Elchanan – … when you read the post did you have any inkling that Rabbi Fink does not think that reform Rabbis are real Rabbis? Wouldnt you consider it fair to say that from the post, it was clear that he felt the opposite? That is in fact the largest issue here.

    Well, the title of the post includes “Reform Rabbis”, so the question is does R’ Fink consider them Rabbis or is he saying that they consider themselves to be Rabbis. I think the latter because later in the post, there is a clear sentence where R’ Fink defines Reform Rabbi in his own words (” learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism”).

    And I disagree, I don’t think that is the largest issue here. The fact is that the Reform exist. Not only do they exist, but they have numbers (for now, at least). So they have to be “dealt with” somehow, certainly on some level. They’ve discarded most of Torah, so we can’t relate on that level anymore. So how can we relate? How do we relate to a large bunch of Jews* that have discarded Torah yet still maintain certain vestiges of Judaism? Perhaps the suggestion in R’ Finks post is reasonable. Better affiliated to something with a vestige of Judaism that to nothing.

    * Perhaps the real biggest issue is that Reform has a different definition of “Jew” and over time are including more and more people that we don’t consider Jewish (i.e. of a Jewish mother or halachically converted).

    • Susan Barnes

      Discarded most of Torah? That is one of the most ridiculous statements I have ever heard about Reform Judaism. Wait until I tell my Torah Study class about it this week!

      • Anonymous

        Perhaps I should have said “much” rather than “most”, but “most” may actually be valid depending how you weight parts of the Torah.

        Quotes from the Declaration of Principles (http://ccarnet.org/Articles/index.cfm?id=39&pge_prg_id=3032&pge_id=1656) –

        3. We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only its moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.

        4. We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state. They fail to impress the modern Jew with a spirit of priestly holiness; their observance in our days is apt rather to obstruct than to further modern spiritual elevation.

        However, I will say that Rabbi Yoffie is a potent force within Reform Judaism attempting to bring Torah back. I will quote from his Ten Principles Proposal (http://urj.org/about/union/leadership/yoffie/tenpri/) –

        Personally, I welcome a new openness to ritual practice and Jewish study, and I have argued repeatedly for a Torah-centered Reform Judaism.

        His repeated arguing for a “Torah-centered Reform Judaism” implies that it wasn’t all that Torah-centered and requires changes in that regard.

        Just please know that I have no intention to offend any Reform Jew out there.

        • Susan Barnes

          I would suggest that the parts about diet, priestly purity, and dress do not constitute a very large part. And as you say, Reform in general is moving to include much more that was once excluded. This includes more people observing more of the laws of kashrut. I think you’d be surprised how much Hebrew, ritual, etc. you would find in the Reform synagogue I attend, which I don’t believe differes substantially from others in that regard.

          I don’t think that Rabbi Yoffie’s argument for a Torah-centered Judaism means that Reform isn’t Torah centered, I think he’s just emphasizing what it ought to be, and what he doesn’t want it to stray from.

          At any rate, weekly Torah study, regular reading from the Torah at services, regular drashes on the Torah, regular classes on the Torah, regular references to Torah on the synagogue website and in written and spoken cvommunications all speak to our rootedness in Torah.

          • Anonymous

            Susan – I would suggest that the parts about diet, priestly purity, and dress do not constitute a very large part.

            Priestly purity, sacrifices, etc we’ve all (i.e. all Jews) have disposed of already. The bigger discarding of Torah was in the first statement (#3) that I quoted from the principles – rejected all but moral laws. That almost discards all of Torah in itself since there exists a moral code outside of Torah that covers nearly everything that the Torah’s moral code covers.

            It is very nice to see more attention to ritual by Reform Jews, I think for many it can elevate spirituality and will definitely bring all of us closer to each other as Jews.

            • Susan Barnes

              Spend some time with some active Reform Jews, and you will see the moral laws are far from being discarded.

              • Susan Barnes

                Oops, it looks like I misread what you said. You didn’t really just say that if you follow only the moral laws, you’ve thrown out most of the Torah, did you? Because it’s hard for me to believe anyone would say such a thing. Seriously, we’re all following the same Torah, it’s just that some people interpret it differently than others.

                • None

                  Have you ever studied Orthodoxy?

                  Do you understand that their interpretation has been constant and unchanged for thousands of years?

                  Do you every wonder why it would make sense to make new “interpretations” of Judiasim now, after generations upon generations of all Jews recognizing one accepted understanding (Orthodoxy)?

                  • You realize that this statement is false. Throughout our history many things have changed. This is a plain fact.

                    • None

                      Really??

                      The Written Law and the Oral Law has changed?

                      The Written Law and the Oral Law has never changed. As time advances we find additional ways to apply the same unchanged laws to new technology, etc.

                      Rabbi Fink, lets see you list which verses or lines from the Written or Oral law that you believe has changed.

                      (Oh, and please don’t give another silly one liner, instead of stating facts to support your post).

                    • I said “many things”. Just refuting your inane belief that OJ is the same as it was at Sinai.

                    • None

                      Oh, and apparently you don’t accept 8 and 9 of the Rambam’s thirteen principles (doesn’t that mean your a kofer?):

                      RAMBAM:

                      “8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that we now have is that which was given to Moses.

                      9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be another given by G-d.”

                    • None

                      This is kind of embarrasing.

                      You were questions regarding the fact that you wrote something that contradicts Jewish faith, and the Rambams 8th and 9th principle.

                      Your response was a link to a post you submitted to a different blog, that further disproves (and reflects the fact that your words are heretical according to the religion you subscribe to) what you said on your own blog.

                      You don’t even seem to understand what you posted in Rav Weinberg Zt”l’s name. In fact you seem to have no problem twisting and adulturating the words of someone you call “your Rebbe.”

                      Rav Weinberg simply explained that when the Rambam states in the 8th principle: “I believe with complete faith that the entire Torah which is now in our possession is the same as that which was given to Moshe Rabbeinu, may he rest in peace,” it does not reffer to any potential MISTAKEN alteration regarding TECHINICAL SPELLING errors, that may have creeped in over thousands of years.

                      However, Rav Weinberg stated clearly that (as Rabbi Blumenfled explaines):”…Without the Oral Law, the Written Law remains ambiguous and cannot bind man to the service of God. That’s why the various splinter groups throughout history that have attempted to keep the Written Law without the Oral Law have all but disappeared. Thus, regarding the Oral Law as well, if Moshe Rabbeinu could have edited or changed a word, there would no longer be a Torah. For anything an individual would not like, anything of inconvenience, that would be the very word or idea he would claim that Moshe had changed. As long as the possibility existed of one sentence, one letter being not from God but from man, one could pick and choose whatever he liked.

                      As discussed, if the Torah is subject to choice, it has no meaning. This is the basic flaw of any segment of Jewry that feels it can choose which laws are relevant and which are not. In essence, these Jews are transforming a body of absolute law and ethics into one of relative law and ethics. As they shift and twist to conform to the passing fantasies and outlooks of society, their tailor-made “Torah” becomes more and more attenuated…The Torah is absolute. There can be no choosing of what to follow and what to reject. There can be no changes without destroying the very fiber of Torah, and without creating a situation where man will no longer be serving God.”

                      Please see: http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/48925267.html

                    • Once again, you figured out how to twist my words into heresy. Congratulations.

                      I simply posted the link so that you would see that saying there are no changes in the written / oral law is inane. Which it is. I never said it was permissible to “edit” the Torah. It’s your overactive imagination again.

                      Changes are not allowed to be made if they are deliberate. But the various ways of serving GD and the acceptable gamut of hashkafos have changed. Again, all within the confines of halacha.

                      My point above, was and remains that your incredulous assertion that anyone who has studied orthodoxy knows it has not changed at all is in fact not true.

                      Please find evidence of chassidus prior to the 17th century. Please find evidence that kollel was the de facto standard for all Jews prior to the 20th century. There are plenty such examples.

                    • None

                      I wrote:

                      “Have you ever studied Orthodoxy?

                      Do you understand that their interpretation has been constant and unchanged for thousands of years?

                      Do you every wonder why it would make sense to make new “interpretations” of Judiasim now, after generations upon generations of all Jews recognizing one accepted understanding (Orthodoxy)?”

                      You responded:

                      “You realize that this statement is false. Throughout our history many things have changed. This is a plain fact.”

                      To which I replied:

                      “Really??

                      The Written Law and the Oral Law has changed?

                      The Written Law and the Oral Law has never changed. As time advances we find additional ways to apply the same unchanged laws to new technology, etc.

                      Rabbi Fink, lets see you list which verses or lines from the Written or Oral law that you believe has changed.

                      (Oh, and please don’t give another silly one liner, instead of stating facts to support your post). ”

                      To which you answered:

                      “I said “many things”. Just refuting your inane belief that OJ is the same as it was at Sinai.”

                      ….another silly one liner….instead of stating facts to support your post….what you just wrote has a din of kfirah according to the Gedolei Rishonim……but you don’t even seem to realize it….

                      But seriously, stop selling out your beleifs to garner more readership.

                    • None

                      Rabbi Fink:

                      “Once again, you figured out how to twist my words into heresy. Congratulations.”

                      I did not twist any of your words. I quoted you verbatim. Perhaps it just dawned upon you, what a terrible error you made.

                      “I simply posted the link so that you would see that saying there are no changes in the written / oral law is inane. Which it is. I never said it was permissible to “edit” the Torah. It’s your overactive imagination again.”

                      You posted the link as a basis for your beleif, that the 8th principle of the Rambam is not to be taken at face value. I showed how you twisted Rav Weinberg’s simple explanation (that the principle is not inclusive of techinical spelling changes- that don’t change the meaning of the laws), into support for saying “that the Torah changes” (R”l).

                      “Changes are not allowed to be made if they are deliberate. But the various ways of serving GD and the acceptable gamut of hashkafos have changed. Again, all within the confines of halacha.”

                      No one is talking about changing “ways to serve G-d.” This discussion is whether there has ever been a change in the Oral Law or Written Law. You said that you beleive that has been “many changes.” I explained that your view is considered heresy according to the Torah.

                      “My point above, was and remains that your incredulous assertion that anyone who has studied orthodoxy knows it has not changed at all is in fact not true.”

                      See above.

                      “Please find evidence of chassidus prior to the 17th century. Please find evidence that kollel was the de facto standard for all Jews prior to the 20th century. There are plenty such examples.”

                      Chasidus and kollel life have no relevance to this discussion (unless one has ADD). The point is, that the chassid and the Kollel Yungerman have the same Oral Law and Written Law, that is unchanged since we received them from Moshe Rabeinu.

                    • Please cite a rishon who says that contemporary OJ is the same as it was at Sinai.

                      Whose tefillin did Moshe wear? Rabbeinu Tam or Rashi? Did Moshe Rabbeini eat chicken with milk or not? OR even better, which way did he light his Chanukah candles? 8 –> 1 or 1 –> 8?

                    • And really? The Kollel yungerman and the Chassid have the same exact oral law?

                      Do they both eat in the sukkah or out of the sukkah on Shmini Atzeres? What’s their “exactly the same” nusach for the amidah? What did Moshe Rabbeinu do?

                    • None

                      Rabbi Fink:

                      “Please cite a rishon who says that contemporary OJ is the same as it was at Sinai.

                      Yawn. Again, the Rambam states:
                      “…One who says that verses and stories like these [in the first group] were written by Moshe out of his own mind, behold! He is considered by our Sages and Prophets as a heretic and a perverter of the Torah more than all other heretics, for he believes that the Torah has a “heart” and a “shell” [i.e. an meaningful part and a meaningless part] and that these historical accounts and stories have no benefit and are from Moshe our Teacher, may he rest in peace. This is the meaning of [the category of heretic who believes that] “The Torah is not from Heaven” [which is listed in the Mishnah (Sanhedrin 10:1) as one who has no share in the World to Come]. Our Sages, may their memory be a blessing, explain that this is [even] someone who says that the entire Torah is from the Almighty except for a particular verse which was written by Moses alone. And on this [person, the Torah writes], “For he has scorned the word of God… [his soul shall be absolutely cut off, his sin is upon him]” (BaMidbar [Numbers] 15:31). May God, blessed be He, forgive the statements of the heretics.
                      …All this is also true for the explanation of the Torah, which was also received from the mouth of the Almighty [the Oral Torah]. The manner in which we today make the Sukkah, Lulav, Shofar, Tzitzis, Tefillin, and other items is precisely the manner that God, blessed be He, instructed Moshe, who then instructed us and Moshe was reliable in relating [God’s word].”

                      “Whose tefillin did Moshe wear? Rabbeinu Tam or Rashi? Did Moshe Rabbeini eat chicken with milk or not? OR even better, which way did he light his Chanukah candles? 8 –> 1 or 1 –> 8?…And really? The Kollel yungerman and the Chassid have the same exact oral law?…Do they both eat in the sukkah or out of the sukkah on Shmini Atzeres? What’s their “exactly the same” nusach for the amidah? What did Moshe Rabbeinu do?”

                      Rambam:

                      “…All this is also true for the explanation of the Torah, which was also received from the mouth of the Almighty [the Oral Torah]. The manner in which we today make the Sukkah, Lulav, Shofar, Tzitzis, Tefillin, and other items is precisely the manner that God, blessed be He, instructed Moshe, who then instructed us and Moshe was reliable in relating [God’s word].”

                  • Anonymous

                    None – Do you understand that their interpretation has been constant and unchanged for thousands of years?

                    Are you kidding? Interpretation has changed constantly, and continue to change constantly.

                    The only things that don’t change are dead.

                    • None

                      Oh, and apparently you don’t accept 8 and 9 of the Rambam’s thirteen principles (doesn’t that mean your a kofer?):

                      RAMBAM:

                      “8. I believe with perfect faith that the entire Torah that we now have is that which was given to Moses.

                      9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be another given by G-d.”

                • Anonymous

                  All I did was quote the Reform Declaration of Principles – “and today we accept as binding only its moral laws” – and added that most of those moral principles referenced also exist outside of Torah.

            • Susan Barnes

              Thank you, MarkSoFla, for inspiring my latest blog post at http://kissamezuzah.blogspot.com/2011/03/613-commandments-do-we-follow-them.html

  • dman

    Regarding Reform rabbis praising Orthodox Rabbis:

    “I am surrounded by people. My days are filled with talking, listening, challenging, teaching, discussing, and being present for others. And yet, without question, being a rabbi can be a very lonely calling.
    “The Rav wrote most eloquently about this particular type of solitude in The Lonely Man of Faith and the need to find a group of friends with whom one can seek God’s Presence. Though there is a loneliness inherent in the faithful individual, it is possible to cultivate meaningful relationships within the bounds of the Covenantal community.”

    Full post:
    http://rivster.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/appoint-a-teacher-acquire-a-friend/

  • In response to None above (http://disq.us/1av5c7) dibur hamaschil Yawn:

    That’s NOT what the Rambam says in his hakdama to the Mishneh Torah. In fact, it’s impossible to honestly reconcile both. Although I would have to see the rest of the context to be sure. So I think what he probably meant in your quote is that we are mechuyav to treat our current halacha / practice as the law given to Moshe. Meaning it is equally binding even if there were times where it was in dispute or held in question.

    • None

      You sound confused 🙂 Perhaps ask your father (who you say is a talmid of Rav Weinber Zt”l) for assistance.

      • We’ve discussed it many times.

        • None

          Well, in conclusion (for accuracy sake, everyone is directed to read the full context of the discussion above):

          1) The Torah, the Written and Oral Law has never changed since the Jews received it on Sinai, and never will change in the future.

          2) Torah Jews (aka: Orthodox Jews) are commanded to believe the above principle, and those who don’t are considered kofrim.

          3) Reform Jews don not believe the above principle.

          • None

            Oh yeah…and

            4) Rabi Fink sided with the Reform Jew opinion.

            • 1) It has. Sorry.

              2) We are commanded to TREAT the Written and Oral Torah as unchanged.

              3) This is correct.

              4) No.

              And enough with the name calling. If you want to debate, fine. No more insults please.

              • None

                The only name calling was authored by you (eg: you use to word “inane” the majority of your postings).

                You don’t debate you simply flip-flop or change the topic.

                I have repeatedly cited textual sources.

                You have not done so even once.

                • Dorron Katzin

                  To “None”:

                  I have a difficult time taking seriously postings by someone who remains anonymous.

                  • None

                    To “dman” (an anonymous blogger on this site):

                    Do you also have trouble taking the Rambam seriously (apparently Rabbi Fink might, so at least you have company)?

                    • To “None” (who does not have the courtesy to tell us who s/he is):

                      My last post as dman was supposed to display my name. It is Dorron Katzin. If you go on Twitter, you can find me.

                      I have no problem taking the Rambam seriously. Neither does Rabbi Fink, as far as I can tell.

                      But I cannot take YOU seriously if you will not post with your name.

                    • None

                      1) Is there anything that I wrote that you don’t agree with (if yes, please state)?

                      2) I sourced everything I wrote.

                      Just wondering, when you read a well documented paper, where the author used a pen name, do you not take the paper seriously? Do you only take source material seriously if you know the name of the one who brought it to your attention?

                    • To “None”:

                      “Just wondering, when you read a well documented paper, where the author used a pen name, do you not take the paper seriously? Do you only take source material seriously if you know the name of the one who brought it to your attention?”

                      Yes, as a matter of fact. When I go for psak, I know whom I am asking. If that individual chooses to seek the advice of another rabbi, he tells me who he is consulting.

                      Your tone of personal attack on Rabbi Fink and others, coupled with your cloaking yourself in anonymity, destroys any credibility you might otherwise have.

                    • None

                      You are correct not to turn to a blog for a psak halacha.

                      This is an internet discussion. I think I could speak for Rabbi Fink, when I say that no one here is issuing a psak halacha.

                      There is nothing personal here. It’s a simple discussion attempting to arrive at the halachic truth.

                • None

                  Oh, and returning to your original post on this page, you stated:

                  “I think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism”

                  Yet, you also just publicly stated that you recognize that Reform Jews are Kofrim.

                  So, you have no problem praising kofrim, and stating that they are important for the future of Judaism.

                  • Precisely. Why is that so hard to understand?

                    Just because they are outside the realm of orthodox Judaism does not by definition mean they can’t be any of the things that I say they are.

                  • This is the first time I feel like you accurately portrayed my position. Mazel Tov. IY’H many more.

                    • None

                      Uh…I’m assuming you are not aware of the Sin of publicly praising an apikoris?

                    • There is none.

                    • Anonymous

                      None – Uh…I’m assuming you are not aware of the Sin of publicly praising an apikoris?

                      Are you saying that Reform Rabbis are learned enough to be termed apikorsim?

                    • None

                      Rabbi Fink:

                      Above, you state that you are allowed to praise a kofer.

                      Please respond to the following source (which once again brings me to point out, that in the course of this entire discussion you have failed to cite even one Torah source).

                      1) Sha’arei Teshuvah, Sha’ar 3:189: (Who writes explicitly that even praising for his positive traits and deeds while ignoring his evil traits and deeds is not permitted. He finds support for this in the verse in Mishlei (28:4) which states that those who desert the Torah are the ones who praise a Rasha.)

                    • The Law

                      for some reason i cant seem to be able to post a “reply” to “None” and his halachic citation. I think that he is somewhat broad in his attempt to attach Rabbi Fink’s post to a violation of the Shaarei Teshuva as i dont think rabbi fink “ignores their evil traits”, (though i do have a problem with labeling Reform “Rabbis” as kofrim or their traits as “evil”, but i digress).

                      In classic jewish fashion i will answer your question with a question:

                      In Baruch SheAmar, rav baruch halevi epstein asks why we say ma tovu as soon as we enter shul for shacharis; couldnt we find someone else to quote other than Bilam? Maybe a line from David HaMelech? Moshe Rabbeinu? The Avos? he answers CITING RAMBAM (i notice how you love RAMBAM) that we are obligated to accept emes from ANY/EVERY source regardless of how base we think that source may be. How do you deal with that?

                      Secondly, i point you to Sanhedrim, perek Cheylek where it discusses what various items were learned from “Acher”. Should we have rejected him completely? or more likely absorb his good qualities/traits while tossing his bad ones?

                      i think the answer is simple. we can praise reform “rabbis” (and i use the term EXTREMELY LOOSELY in this context) when they get something right, but it doesnt mean we accept or praise their understanding/interpretation/observance of judaism/halacha.

                      in this posting, i think the reform “rabbis” who took out the ad against glen beck were dead wrong and i was embarassed that they did it. but that has nothing to do with my response to your comment….

                    • None

                      “The Law”:

                      “I think that he is somewhat broad in his attempt to attach Rabbi Fink’s post to a violation of the Shaarei Teshuva as i dont think rabbi fink “ignores their evil traits””

                      Please look at the Shaarei Tesuvah before commenting. You seem to have missed the point. He says that it is forbidden to praise them (even if it’s in regard to positive traits they might have).

                      “In classic jewish fashion i will answer your question with a question:
                      In Baruch SheAmar, rav baruch halevi epstein asks why we say ma tovu as soon as we enter shul for shacharis; couldnt we find someone else to quote other than Bilam? Maybe a line from David HaMelech? Moshe Rabbeinu? The Avos? he answers CITING RAMBAM (i notice how you love RAMBAM) that we are obligated to accept emes from ANY/EVERY source regardless of how base we think that source may be. How do you deal with that?
                      Secondly, i point you to Sanhedrim, perek Cheylek where it discusses what various items were learned from “Acher”. Should we have rejected him completely? or more likely absorb his good qualities/traits while tossing his bad ones?”

                      So what you mean to say is that you think that the Rabeinu Yonah was not aware of the Rambam? And without getting distracted by your loose quotes, don’t you understand that one recognizing the emes from any source, is not the same thing as saying you are allowed to praise that source? Your second point is for a different unrelated discussion.

                      “i think the answer is simple. we can praise reform “rabbis” (and i use the term EXTREMELY LOOSELY in this context) when they get something right”

                      And the Rabeinu Yona says you are not allowed to. Apparently you (like Rabbi Fink) think that you could argue with the Shaarei Teshuvah.

                    • None: Do you follow the entire Sefer HaYirah? Same Rabbeinu Yonah. I’m guessing not.

  • In response to None (http://disq.us/1axwxr) dibur hamaschil “Above”:

    I don’t think that Rabbeinu Yona is the authoritative source on this issue. The Rambam (upon whom we base almost all of our codification of apikorsus) makes no such ruling.

    • None

      Strange.

      You make extreme reckless statments, and when you are disproved, instead of retracting and apologizing- you get some other blogger (“The Law”) to post a feeble and faulty response in your place.

      Can’t you at least have the courtesy to admit when you make an error?

      • What makes you think I “got some other blogger” to do anything?

        And I stand by my statement. There is nothing wrong with praising specific things about an apikores. And further I also stand by Mark who questioned in reform rabbis would even have apikores status. (I think it is moot either way)

        • None

          Do you also stand by your statement that you: “think Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism,” and that “Reform Judaism challenged Rav Hirsch and the Chasam Sofer to sharpen their hashkafos and approach to Judaism..It’s a mild form of kinas sofrim”?

          • Statement 1: Yes

            Statement 2: Conjecture. I maintain that it is a valid possibility.

            • None

              1) Rabbi Fink (who understands and states that Reform Rabbis are Kofrim) states:

              “Reform Rabbis are learned, spiritual leaders and teachers who are important for the future of Judaism”

              “Reform Judaism challenged Rav Hirsch and the Chasam Sofer to sharpen their hashkafos and approach to Judaism..It’s a mild form of kinas sofrim.”

              2) After Rabbi Fink is shown the Sha’arei Tshuva 3:189 who writes that even praising for his positive traits and deeds while ignoring his evil traits and deeds is not permitted, and that the Rabbeinu Yaona finds support for this in the verse in Mishlei (28:4) which states that those who desert the Torah are the ones who praise a Rasha, Rabbi Fink states the following:

              “There is nothing wrong with praising specific things about an apikores.”

              And:

              “Do you follow the entire Sefer HaYirah? Same Rabbeinu Yonah. I’m guessing not.”

              • I’m still not convinced reform rabbis are kofrim.

                • None

                  So you are doing another 180, regarding something you stated just four hours ago?

                  I wrote:

                  “Well, in conclusion (for accuracy sake, everyone is directed to read the full context of the discussion above):

                  1) The Torah, the Written and Oral Law has never changed since the Jews received it on Sinai, and never will change in the future.

                  2) Torah Jews (aka: Orthodox Jews) are commanded to believe the above principle, and those who don’t are considered kofrim.

                  3) Reform Jews don not believe the above principle.”

                  And Rabbi Fink responded:

                  “1) It has. Sorry.

                  2) We are commanded to TREAT the Written and Oral Torah as unchanged.

                  3) This is correct.

                  4) No.”

                  • None

                    Sorry for clarity, I also wrote:

                    “4) Rabi Fink sided with the Reform Jew opinion.”

                    To which you responded (as copied in the prior post):

                    “4) No.”

                  • Sheesh. An OJ who knows better, and has studied the material and does not believe in Torah M’Sinai could be a kofer. And yes reform Jews deny our version of Torah M’Sinai. If they have enough knowledge to rise to the level of a kofer, they would kofrim.

                    But one can still praise them for something good. RY notwithstanding.

                    • None

                      The Rabeinu Yona describes your view (that you could publicly praise a kofer) as one “who deserts the Torah.”

                      What is the name of the Rishon who you are relying on? (I’m assuming you don’t have the audacity to directly argue with the Rabbeinu Yona)

                    • I rely on the omission of the Rambam. He makes no such statements about kofrim and he discusses the halachos of apikorsus in depth.

                • Pikesville

                  I’ve been observing this back-and-fort/flip flop session. If I may filter things down at this point to one question for Rabbi Fink: IF in fact reform rabbis did indeed have the HALACHIC status of kofrim would you agree that your previous praises of them are assur and/or should be retracted?

                  • No. I agree that RY may not approve of them. But I maintain it is permissible to seek the good in anyone. Even kofrim.

                    If a kofer discovered the cure for cancer would you praise them?

                    • Pikesville

                      Why the deflection? The RABEINU YONA is not just “[dis]approv[ing] of them” he is addressing PRECISELY what you speak of–namely, praising kofrim. Should I now take you latest statement ie. “I agree that RY may not approve of them. But I maintain it is permissible to seek the good in anyone. Even kofrim.” as your agreement that reform rabbis are indeed kofrim? (hint: they disavow torah m’sinai)

                    • 1) I maintain they may or may not KNOW enough to be kofrim. Please stop trying to be medayek and twist to say otherwise…
                      2) I am not deflecting anything.

                    • Pikesville

                      I am replying to your most recent comment here because you seem to have disabled the reply option to your post. I apologize but I am now quite confused as to the coherence of your last few statements so please clarify how all of the following are consistent with one another. If you feel I am taking things out context please explain how as an alternative to just saying so:

                      First, you acknowledged that your previous statements are untenable according to Rabeinu Yona–a Rishon–stating that we pasken like the Rambam (we won’t get into whether the Rambam would also hold it is assur to praise kofrim at this moment).

                      Then, after apparently realizing that it is not such a good thing to be at odds with a Rishon while being unable to find a Rishon in support of your position, you retreated to a position where you stated that you are not “convinced” that reform rabbis are kofrim. I understood that to mean that in the even you WERE convinced that reform rabbis were kofrim then you would agree that your position is assur, hence my original post.

                      You responded by that by saying taking a position directly on point addressed by Rabeinu Yonah as being assur.

                      It seems you have now retreated to your middleground where you seem to acknowledge that disavowing torah m’sinai IS kefirah AND believing such a thing is a hallmark of kfirah YET you are stating that a reform rabbi who holds such beliefs may not be learned enough to understand that he in fact holds heretical beliefs.

                      If this is correct, then aside from being a huge flip-flop, it is also not only contrary to Rabeinu Yona, you are implicitly arguing on Reb Chaim’s famous understanding of Rambam in Hilchos Daos (“Nebech an apikoris iz oichet an apikoris”)

                    • (Not disabled. There is a limit to replies because otherwise the thread gets too physically narrow for comments.)

                      And I am not flip flopping. I have maintained the same opinion for over a week now. It’s not my fault that somehow the cognitive abilities of the commenters seems to be severely limited.

                      My position is and always has been:

                      Denial of TMS is apikorsus.
                      RJ is by definition apikorsus.
                      Most RJ are not apikorsim.
                      There’s nothing wrong with praising apikorsim for laudable acts or positions.
                      I am now aware of a RY to the contrary, I don’t believe this is a mainstream opinion.

                    • None

                      Additional context for source material against your position. I’m still waiting to hear a Rishon (or Achron) who says that you are allowed to praise kofrim. I am still amazed by the fact that you are unashamed to say that you publicly argue with one of the Gedolei Rishonim (the Rabeinu Yona), based on what you consider a hashmatus HaRambam.:

                      “191. One may come to praise the wicked through simplemindedness. For the simpleton says that it is good to praise, whether the praise be deserved or not. And, unknowingly, he praises the dead; for our Sages have said that the wicked are considered dead in their lifetime (Berachot 18b). They are accounted shades in their lifetime, and are called “dead,” as it is said, “But the dead know not anything” (Ecclesiastes 9: 5). And this unintentional sin is accounted intentional; for the master will not love that servant who loves his foes and befriends those who are distant from him. Reason should render this evident. And it is said, “But as for the fools, they carry away shame” (Proverbs 3: 35). This has been previously explained.”

                    • None

                      I figured you would be able to apply who would be considered the “wicked,” and who would be the “simpleton”- in the context of our discussion.

                      Just to avoid another silly comment on your part, wicked is a translation of “rasha,” which is what a kofer is called in the Torah.

                    • None

                      This is not meant as an analogy in any way whatsoever, it’s just to paint how crazy your question above is:
                      If a guy was in jail for murdering an innocent child, publicly worshipping a can of dung, and being m’anes a married woman, and he discovered a cure for cancer- would you praise him?

                      He has a din of a Rasha, and he commited transgressions that he is obligated to die, before preforming them.

                      As you recognize that one must be ready to be killed before publicly denying Torah M’Sinai. As the Reform Rabbis publicly do.

                      I think the main problem is that you are not really bothered by kefirah. You don’t really recognize that one who is a kofer has a din of “ein lo chelek l’olam habah.”

                      Otherwise you wouldn’t be able to laud and praise them (and speak of their “importance for the future of Judaism”).

      • Anonymous

        None – You make extreme reckless statments, and when you are disproved, instead of retracting and apologizing- you get some other blogger (“The Law”) to post a feeble and faulty response in your place.

        Wrong. And a very stupid statement if I might say so. We all happen to know each other from previous discussions here and elsewhere. In fact, The Law (who is not a blogger), me (who is not a blogger), and R’ Fink often disagree to a great extreme. You need to go back and look at previous posts and the comments make.

        If anything needs to be retracted, it’s your statement above.

        • None

          MarkSoFla:

          “And a very stupid statement if I might say so.”

          Nothing like addressing the points in the discussion. I guess now that it’s over your head, you have been reduced to name calling.

          I’m guessing that Rabbi Fink agrees. If you have nothing to add to the discussion (regardless of which position you wish to take), then it’s probably more mature to stay out.

          • Anonymous

            None – name calling.

            I was very careful not to call names. I said the statement was stupid. And it was and still is! You accused R’ Fink of “getting some other blogger” to comment without even a tiny bit of research on your part and without any evidence whatsoever (unless you consider disagreeing with you to be evidence). Facts are:

            1) Not a blogger.
            2) Disagrees with R’ Fink vehemently on many things (look at previous comment threads).
            3) Wasn’t “called” in any way (not to mention that his personality wouldn’t allow for such thing:)

            You still haven’t addressed why you think the Reform Rabbis are apikorsim (and not in class of “tinok shenishba”, for example).

            But I will admit that I am not so learned and much of this is over my head. For example, I’ve never seen anything (or at least don’t recall seeing anything) by Rabbeinu Yona until you mentioned him above.

            • None

              “You still haven’t addressed why you think the Reform Rabbis are apikorsim (and not in class of “tinok shenishba”, for example).”

              Reform Rabbis publicly deny fundamental principles of Judaism (as explained above), which are prerequisites for one to be called a Torah Jew, as opposed to a Kofer/apikoris.

              “But I will admit that I am not so learned and much of this is over my head. For example, I’ve never seen anything (or at least don’t recall seeing anything) by Rabbeinu Yona until you mentioned him above.”

              I am humbled by your honesty. I hope that you will retain your wonderful trait of seeking Torah knowledge and not allow it to be impacted by the shocking not-accepted views expressed by the author of this website.

            • None

              “You accused R’ Fink of “getting some other blogger” to comment without even a tiny bit of research on your part and without any evidence whatsoever…Wasn’t “called” in any way (not to mention that his personality wouldn’t allow for such thing:)”

              The thing I find the most interesting is the fact that Rabbi Fink does not have the common decency and integrity to admit that he did indeed do just that.

              • None

                Rabbi Fink:

                Are you willing to admit that indeed, you asked “The Law” to respond?

              • I asked you a question first. How would you know of any communication between me and “The Law”?

                Answer it honestly and maybe I will answer your question.

                As an aside, you would be a great witch hunter. All you do is imagine incediary ideas, fabricate ideas based on those imaginary ideas, make accusations, divert attention to whatever smidgen of inconsistency you think you have found. Honestly, you come off as condescending, presumptuous, arrogant, bombastic and above all annoying. I’m just about done with you.

                • None

                  Earlier Rabbi Fink wrote:

                  “Enough with the name calling. If you want to debate, fine. No more insults please.”

                  Now Rabbi Fink writes:

                  “…you would be a great witch hunter..you come off as condescending, presumptuous, arrogant, bombastic and above all annoying…”

                  Your tactic of repeatedly insulting an individual instead of responding to the clear facts and sources that are presented is self-defining.

                  Thus far, there have been 166 comments on this site. You, the Rabbi, and write of the initial post, was unable to cite even 1 source in response to the multiple citations presented by a group of intellectually honest individuals.

                  Why would you recklessly attack and villify individuals who’s only interest is to have an open, intelligent, and honest debate?

                  • Because you don’t want to have debate. You want to somehow discredit me or show that I am a terrible person. There are nearly 600 blog posts on this blog.

                    NO ONE has ever acted the way you have in this “discussion”. That my friend, is YOUR fault. Not mine.

        • None

          Just for the record, (because it appears that Rabbi Fink prefers to insult commentors on his site, rather than honestly responding to factual questions, with factual answers) the following is from Rabbi Fink’s Twitter postings today (which could be found when you click his profile link that appear on every comment he posts):

          @daniopp Thanks. via web in reply to daniopp
          @daniopp Wanna take it to him yourself? Please? http://disq.us/1axwxr via web in reply to daniopp
          @daniopp http://TwitDoc.com via web in reply to daniopp
          @daniopp Commenter on my blog says it’s assur to praise anything about an apikores. He cites a Shaarei Teshuva (Rabeinu Yona). Thoughts? via web

          • Anonymous

            None, soliciting comments on ones blog post isn’t the same as ” get[ting] some other blogger to post a feeble and faulty response in your place”. You overstated your case.

            • None

              Huh?

              Earlier you wrote that:

              “You accused R’ Fink of “getting some other blogger” to comment without even a tiny bit of research on your part and without any evidence whatsoever (unless you consider disagreeing with you to be evidence). Facts are…
              ‘The Law” “Wasn’t “called” in any way (not to mention that his personality wouldn’t allow for such thing:)”

              • Anonymous

                Yes, I was wrong (regarding “in any way”) because I hadn’t seen those tweets at the time. But you were also wrong because the request was for comment, not for “response in your place”.

          • Anonymous

            None – Rabbi Fink prefers to insult commentors on his site

            He only insults some of the people that comment.

            🙂

            • There’s a first time for everything.

          • Who are you? And why won’t you leave me alone?

          • You say it as if there is something wrong with eliciting ideas from a friend.

            The Law happens to be an expert in halacha. We were HAVING a halachic discussion. I have been thoroughly sick of you and your comments so I thought it would be nice to have a 3rd opinion around here.

            The fact that you think this is some sort of crime of the highest order speaks volumes about your paranoia and McCarthy mentality.

            • None

              Rabbi Fink:

              Seriously get a grip. Stop trying to avoid the issues by talking about “witch hunting,” “paranoia,” and “McCarthyism.”

              You really are not fooling anyone.

              Instead of admitting you made multiple serious errors, you try to tear down the person who merely stated arguments backed up by scriptual texts.

              As of yet, you have been unable to produce one text or makor in the Rishonim or Achronim that supports your radical statements.

              You obviously realized that you were unable to defend or support your views, so you had to tweet for somone else to offer a weak response in your place.

              The fact that you can’t answer on your own is very revealing.

              But perhaps you wish to redeeem yourself? Cite a Rishon who Achron who supports your view (an disagrees with the sources that have already been cited, that consider you views to be prohibited according to the Torah), or offer a retraction.

              Or of course, you could continue with your snide childish insults.

              • Holyhyrax

                >As you recognize that one must be ready to be killed before publicly denying Torah M’Sinai.

                I am familiar with three reasons to be killed rather than transgression. Adultery, Killing, and Idoltry. Is this a new one?

                • None

                  Perhaps Rabbi Fink would like to answer your question (and all the other halchic questions that have been posed here).

                  • Holyhyrax

                    I will.

                    But what is your take on the question?

                    • None

                      As Rabbi Fink seems to be in the midst of giving shiurim on The Rambam and Hilchos Chillul HaShem, it seems improper to comment on the topic before the Rabbi has an opportunity.

  • None

    Rabbi Fink:

    After watching this clip of Glen Beck, do you still have the same glee in attacking and bad-mouthing him?

    Glen Beck stands up for you, and you spit in his face.

  • Yohanon

    You wrote:”Because if not for Reform Judaism, almost all secular Jews would completely lose their connection to Judaism.”

    I’m not certain that’s universally valid. I know many heloni (non-observant Jews) in Israel who light Shabat candles, recite the blessing on the hallah, and celebrate the ragalim. They may drive on Shabat, light fires (many still smoke), watch tv (in the “old days” tv from Lebanon, Jordan, & Cyprus), and they may roundly criticize the political and mercenary rabbinute, but they DO have a strong connection to both Judaism and to Israel – albeit perhaps more to Israel than Judaism. North Africans tend to look at Jews as less observant than me/more observant than me/like me; O/C/R and other designations are useless in context of observance.

    • Probably should have said secular American Jews.

  • Pinchos Woolstone

    most Jews do not identify with any grouping, what percentage attend a Jewish place of worship on RH or YK?

    • Over 50% fast part of the day on Yom Kippur according to Pew.

  • Susan Barnes

    First, thank you for this post. Second, I’d like to mention that I have heard Reform Rabbis praising Orthodox Rabbis, and saying that both Orthodox and Reform could learn some things from each other.