Sunday, February 03, 2008

No opinion

I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker the other day concerning kashrut. It turns out that, until she's married, she will eat foods only if they're certified kosher by kashrut supervisors/mashgichim that her father approves, and after she's married, she'll eat foods only if they're certified kosher by kashrut supervisors/mashgichim that her husband approves. I asked her whether she was allowed to have her own opinion. I don't think she'd ever considered the question, but the answer seemed to be "No." Is this approach typical among Orthodox women? Does an Orthodox man have any more freedom to choose his approach to matters of halachah/Jewish religious law, or is he equally bound by the tradition(s) of his family?

24 Comments:

Blogger Leora said...

One usually follows one's husband's customs after marriage. Like, if your husband waits 3 hours between meat and milk, you get to take on his custom and wait 3 hours, too.

My question is: does your co-worker have an opinion on anything? My guess is that is really your question.

Sun Feb 03, 02:51:00 PM 2008  
Blogger SuperRaizy said...

Leora's right, of course. Orthodox women do generally follow their husband's customs. But I have a friend whose father is Ashkenazi and whose mother is Sepharadi. Before they got married, my friend's father asked his Rabbi if he could take on his wife's customs instead of the other way around. His rabbi responded that when a newly married couple creates a new home, they can adopt any set of customs that they want to, but they must then stick with those customs for life. And so my friend's family always followed Sepharadi customs. This is the only time that I have ever heard of this being done

Sun Feb 03, 05:05:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

So following one's husband's minhag/custom is the usual procedure. That's what I'd heard. Just checking. But whatever minhag one chooses is one's minhag for life. This, I had read but hadn't entirely believed. Is *anyone* in the Orthodox community allowed to have an opinion of his or her own concerning minhagim?

Sun Feb 03, 09:06:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Alex in Miami said...

That's a question of Hashkafa. How important is Mensorah to people (Minhag gets bandied around a lot, but isn't quite appropriate here). For example, Kitniyot, parts of Nusach (which Selichot and when, for example, during Elul), are actual Minhag and binding. Other things are just a matter of Mensorah, and customs are important, but not as legally binding.

Unless you actually ask the Rav to rule on the issue, you're likely to always get a wishy washy Mensorah trumps Halacha nonsensical answer, because nobody really wants to get into it. Very few customs rise to the level of Minhag, but differentiating there gets tricky. The general rule of thumb, erring on the side of caution, is to always treat a Mensorah as permenant.

That said, people in Orthodoxy do what they want, then justify it later. They pick a position, then find a Hashkafa that matches it. That happens to be how the brain makes decisions, but that doesn't make it less appropriate there.

I know of plenty of reversals of Superraizy's scenario (mostly because I live in an Ashkenazi community, so I don't know the Ashkenazim that take their wife's Sephardi customs, but I'm sure it happens).

In general, if you ask the Rav, you'll get an answer. If you just act on the matter, then ask a Rav, they'll deal with facts as established. That may seem silly, but that is established in many areas of Halacha. A behavior is forbidden doesn't prohibit (always) the fruits of that action).

However, as a rule, an unmarried woman is considered part of her father's household, so follows his customs. A married woman is part of her husband's household, so follows his customs. There really isn't, for practical reasons, any other option.

There is no reason, in Halacha, for an unmarried woman to not follow her father's customs, because until about 80 years ago, she'd live in his house. That said, in practice, plenty of women will move to a new community and adopt new practices there... every BT does it, and every woman who, as a single woman, moves to a community other than her parents will as well.

Why adopt the husband's vs. the wife's? Well, let's avoid the simple answer of declaring it patriarchal sexism, and look at the the time of the Talmud. A man might have two or more wives, then what? Should wife one's customs be followed, and wife two gets no say? The household, from the time of the Torah until at the latest, the Ashkenazi split-off of the Reform movement, was the man, his wife (or wives, depending on land and time), and children.

Regarding switching customs... the reality is, if you do so, what stops you? To be formal, one should do a renunciation of vows, but few even to that.

Shira, you have probably put more time into thinking about it than your co-worker has. Few people think about everything, they pick and choose where to put their brain power.

Regarding an opinion of Minhagim? Nope, at least not in theory, Minhag is legally binding, Mensorah is not. So asking about an opinion regarding a Minhag is like asking an opinion about Halacha, the law is the law. The difference between Minhag and Halacha is that all Jews follow the same Halacha, but Minhagim are different and equally valid... now since we follow different commentators on Halacha, even that isn't true, but it should be. :)

Mon Feb 04, 01:23:00 AM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al titosh torat imecha!

I was taught that for minhagim pertaining to the running of the household and the kitchen it is the wife who has most influence and those to do with religious custom it is the husband.

It is obvious though that this is a rule for deciding what minhag the family unit adheres to. I do not see any reason why the wife should have to adapt to her husband's minhag in issues that are personal. IOW if she wants to wait three hours between meat and dairy and her husband six, they can each stick to their own minhag while teaching the kids the father's version.

I have noticed that humans like to justify their behaviour after the fact. IMHO the family dynamic and the usual powerplay inherent in every relationship, decides whose line is followed, the minhag issue is then defended accordingly...

Mon Feb 04, 07:39:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Basically what was said above, but no different for the male. The man takes on whatever he's had from his parents. The idea is to keep respective "Mesorahs" as intact as possible. That said, people will occasionally take on customs from the wife's side (my s-i-l and b-i-l took on her minhagim primarily), or change family minhagim for various reasons. Often when people do this they have to be 'matir neder', but it's fine to do.

It's not a matter of 'not thinking' or not having an opinion.

Mon Feb 04, 09:49:00 AM 2008  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

I adopted a lot of my wife's customs (like waiting 6 hours instead of 3) because my own family's were a little ill-defined.

Mon Feb 04, 10:40:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Alex, I agree that it certainly makes sense for a single woman living at home to follow her father's minhag. I was a bit surprised, though, that this particular co-worker, a single woman living on her own, would also do so. As you said, "in practice, plenty of women will move to a new community and adopt new practices there... every BT does it, and every woman who, as a single woman, moves to a community other than her parents will as well." I would have thought that that was the normal thing to do. Apparently, that's not necessarily the case, at least officially.

"Shira, you have probably put more time into thinking about it than your co-worker has." That's probably because I'm looking at it from the outside. It's a bit like when I was studying French, and noticed odd things about, for example, French slang that native speakers took for granted.

Alex and Ezzie, I must admit to having been quite taken aback the first time I read about "matir neder/renunciation of vows." (Naturally, I read about it on a blog, just a few months ago.) I had no idea that switching minhagim was such a big deal that it was considered to be breaking a vow.

Um, Shaigetz, what does "titosh" mean? I'd look it up, but it has two Ts in it, so I'm pretty much stumped before I start (tet? tav?).

Actually, Shaigetz, I can see where having two different minhagim in the family--such as Abba waiting six hours, Imma waiting three-- could get confusing for the kids. On the plus side, they'd certainly learn tolerance from a young age.

Mark/PT, you'll be amused to know that, since my mother, just to be different :), waited until all four of us kids had moved out of the house and *then* went kosher, I picked my own minhag--three hours seemed reasonable, so that's what I chose.

Mon Feb 04, 10:50:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Received via e-mail from Mordechai Y. Scher:

"I think your post and the repsonses are not identical. My wife defers to me on most matters concerning hechsherim, etc. simply because I'm more up on that stuff than she is. That is certainly a 'knowledge based' issue, and can be discussed between spouses. I know quite a few homes where the wife is the one in the know on those things.

Minhag, however, is a deeper philosophical issue. A family's or community's minhagim are the time-established and sanctified patterns by which they uniquely worship Hashem. This is one of the ways that 'variety' plays out in Torah, but it is not happenstance. To simply 'adopt' a minhag because I like it is to celebrate my ego. That's personal religion; and it weakens my ties in some way to historical religion. To preserve minhag is to uphold the function of tradition and strengthen my ties to community and nation and history. But minhag differs from other halachic tradition because it has more idiosyncratic and creative elements. Traditionally, a woman marries into her husband's family and community. Since minhag funcitons at those levels, not the personal level, she also takes on her husband's minhagim.

At least, that is how I understand it. I hope this helped."

Yes, it did help. For openers, it never occurred to me that choosing one's own minhag could be a form of ego trip.

Also, I guess I've always thought of minhag as a personal choice--one either observes it or one doesn't. I've never been bonkers about the idea than minhag is said to be as binding as halachah/Jewish religious law--why should a non-law be binding?

The other obvious problem for me, as a card-carrying Jewish feminist, is that minhag in traditional Conservative and Orthodox synagogues is almost always opposed to what I would think would be permissible for women even according to an Orthodox interpretation of halachah. Seriously, why can't a woman lead Ashrei? It's not davar bi-k'dushah/a prayer that can only be said in a minyan. And why is it customary, in many traditional homes, for a man to lead both kiddush and motzi? What's the problem with having both spouses praise HaShem at the table, with the man reciting kiddush and the woman saying motzi? If we always do what our ancestors did, women would still be semi-confined to the home, as they were in the days of the Rambam/Maimondes. And our ancestors didn't believe that women should study Gemarah, either. Many now disagree.

Mon Feb 04, 11:35:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Alex in Miami said...

"Shira, you have probably put more time into thinking about it than your co-worker has." That's probably because I'm looking at it from the outside.

True, I also observe things that FFBs never think about, some of which makes sense, some doesn't (talking about the Sephardi Shul down the road is silly and patronizing, it's a Sephardi Synagogue or Beit Knesset, not a Shul). You are also much more likely to question and challenge things. You came into this as an adult, and therefore are trying to pick and choose what works for you.

Also, I guess I've always thought of minhag as a personal choice--one either observes it or one doesn't. I've never been bonkers about the idea than minhag is said to be as binding as halachah/Jewish religious law--why should a non-law be binding?

Minhag routinely trumps Halacha. Shemeni Atzaret is clearly a "concluding Shabbat" for Sukkot from the text, and the Shulchan Aruch rules that one should continue to eat in the Sukkah then. The prevalent custom is not to do so, and we follow the custom.

it's intellectual dishonest, but practically reasonable. The first "Jewish Day School" is about 110 years old? The generation that is now having children is the first generation of Orthodox Jews where Jewish education is actually the norm. Until recently, one couldn't rely on a knowledge community, so people were told "do what your parents did."

The line between Minhag and Mensorah is a fine one, but if you treat Minhagim as non-binding, then it's all Mensorah, and nothing really matters. The strongest connection in the Jewish world is the idea that what we practice is a direct continuation of the line from Moshe Rabbenu.

That's really important, because without that concept, the Jewish religion falls apart. We can't rely on Biblical Judaism, which requires a Sacrificial System we don't know how to implement without the Oral Law (regardless on your feelings as to the origin of it, the written Law may have made perfect sense to the Israelites leaving Egypt, but when our frame of reference of De Goyim is Protestant America and not Idolatrous Egypt, we need or traditions) and has no real concept of personal religion. The evolution of the personal religion and codification in the Talmud is critical to modern Judaism, and that idea of Mensorah is critical to that.

Regarding the single woman not in her father's house... "on the ground," if she moved to a community different from how she grew up (a choice to change), she's probably adapt the local customs for all but ritual, and keep family ritual in the home... But unless changing Hashkafa, why should her "apartment days" create a third set of practices for her to follow between her childhood and married life? The idea of a single adult life is a relatively recent one in Judaism.

Instead of seeing the woman as oppressed by it, realize how liberated she is. She gets to live under two sets of Minhagim (her father's and her husbands), while men inherent their father's with no say in the matter. In fact, women can choose their Minhagim, by looking for a spouse whose customs they like. :)

A single woman who becomes enamored with a certain Hassdic Sect, Yeshivish community, etc., can move their and look for a spouse however the community does so. The men, Halachically speaking, have no such option.

That said, many families have sons that embraced a different expression of Frumkeit, and the "maintaining of family Minhag" in that case (MO father, son joins a Hassdic sects) is clearly only on the most superficial of levels, because they changed their entire expression of Judaism.

Tue Feb 05, 12:17:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

Shira, I'm baffled. I thought mesorah was the idea that halacha was given in an unbroken chain through the ages, and is the justification for more recent halachic rulings (that they descend from the original authority of Hashem and Moshe).

Now we have Jews talking about MINHAG (customs, traditions) as MORE binding than law?? WTF?

Frankly this sounds like either a perversion of Judaism, in which all local traditions become fossilized - sort of like the height of chasidic fashion getting stuck in 1880's Poland - or an uprising of the am ha-artzim against the learned rebbes - "my custom trumps your law" .

Tue Feb 05, 11:46:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

“talking about the Sephardi Shul down the road is silly and patronizing, it's a Sephardi Synagogue or Beit Knesset, not a Shul” I’ve always thought that it was a bit inappropriate to describe a synagogue in a folk-language (Yiddish) that is not the traditional folk-language of the members of that synagogue.

“Until recently, one couldn't rely on a knowledge community, so people were told "do what your parents did." Ah, now you know why I keep the Out of Step Jew’s blog on my blogroll even though OOSJ in Kfar Saba is no longer blogging—he has a wonder set of links in his sidebar. And one of them is a link to an essay by Rabbi Haym Soloveitchik, “Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy,” that says pretty much the opposite of what you’re saying. His basic premise, if I understand it correctly, is that much of the current strictness of interpretation of Jewish law comes from the conviction that the traditions being transmitted in the classic manner—mimetically, that is, from parents (and friends and community) to children—are being corrupted somehow, and that “case” law—halachic decisions derived on a case-by-case basis—are, therefore, increasing being replaced by “code” law—a one-text-fits-all-cases approach. Here’s the article. I strongly recommend that you print it out and read it on Shabbat.

I guess that my problem with minhag/custom and/or mesorah (tradition?) is similar to the problem that I have with halachah/Jewish religious law—I simply can’t bring myself to take an all-or-nothing approach. If I think that a rule of any kind is unreasonable and/or unjust, I find it difficult just to hold my peace and accept it because that’s the custom, tradition, and/or law. As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, if I think that the Emperor has no clothes, I’ll say so, even if the emperor in question is the King of the King of Kings. Ages ago, the Rabbis ruled that a woman is not permitted to hold a position of public authority. Ages later, the National Council of Young Israel decided that that meant that a woman is not permitted to be president of a Young Israel synagogue. So a woman can be CEO of an international corporation but not president of her local congregation? That’s what happens in a system in which change is either very slow in coming or is not permitted at all. That's why I have a difficult time with the idea that we must always uphold the minhagim of our ancestors. My parents recently gave up observing the Ashkenazi minhag against eating kitniyot during Pesach/Passover because, since the majority in Israel (where they now live) is Sefardi, it was becoming increasingly difficult for their now-very-senior selves to get to a store where they could find Pesach food made without kitniyot. Should they have stuck with their parents' minhag and gone hungry all Pesach instead?

Tue Feb 05, 01:05:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Frankly this sounds like either a perversion of Judaism, in which all local traditions become fossilized - sort of like the height of chasidic fashion getting stuck in 1880's Poland - or an uprising of the am ha-artzim against the learned rebbes - "my custom trumps your law" .

"an uprising of the am ha-artzim against the learned rebbes - "my custom trumps your law" .
" .???!!! Now *that's* certainly one I never thought of! The problem is, as you said, that custom, too, becomes fossilized, which is why there are so many men in Brooklyn, Jersusalem, and elsewhere walking around in fur headgear that looks more like unidentified flying objects than hats to me. This may very well be a case of rebellion becoming tradition. What we needs is a bit more of what Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan described as "Judaism as an evolving religious civilization," with an emphasis on the "evolving" part.

Tue Feb 05, 01:20:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Alex in Miami said...

if I understand it correctly, is that much of the current strictness of interpretation of Jewish law comes from the conviction that the traditions being transmitted in the classic manner—mimetically, that is, from parents (and friends and community) to children—are being corrupted somehow, and that “case” law—halachic decisions derived on a case-by-case basis—are, therefore, increasing being replaced by “code” law—a one-text-fits-all-cases approach.

I didn't read it carefully, but I took the exact opposite from it. He argues that historically, Judaism was transmitted via family/community, because we lived in these enclosed communities.

Now that we don't live in them, we depend upon the schools to transmit them, and schools transmit texts. He also points out that more work is available in common languages (English/Modern Hebrew, the spoken languages of the Diaspora), so people read them.

His notion of life in the "old country" vs. "here" is 90% buying into the common Haredi mythos that don't have much basis in facts anyway.

Did some Jews live in small downs in Poland in poverty? Absolutely. Did the majority of Jews come from that world, absolutely not, and no Jewish census supports that. The "Destruction of European Jewry," somehow, through a guilt process, allowed those segments of Judaism least suited to modern life (and therefore most successfully wiped out violently by it) to define themselves as the true Jews.

The more numerous and moderate Western European Jews more or less shrugged their shoulders and ignored them, content with their Judaism and more or less embarrassed by their superstitious and backwards looking co-religionists.

Ashkenazi does NOT mean Eastern European, and the notion that we should follow Eastern European Minhag is bizarre. The Lithuanian Jewry's being wiped out was not a function of them being the only legitimate expression of it, it was a function of their leadership ignoring facts around them and terrifying their followers that if they moved to the United States or Palestine, horrible things would happen to them and their families.

This is the tradition adopted as "true Judaism."

The problem with Haredization is that they have created a BUNCH of mythos about recent events that are easily refuted by facts, but Haredi Judaism is not fact based anymore. The brilliant logical minds of the Talmud have been slowly replaced with anti-knowledge fanatics.

The people I blame, the leadership of the Modern Orthodox Camp and the Conservative movement. The MO Camp has REFUSED to provide leadership on this matter, and let the Haredi call themselves true-Jews and the MO camp "not really Jewish." The Conservative movement has followed their laymen into non-practicing, and decided to focus on gay marriage instead of Shabbat/Kashrut/Niddah, and walked off a cliff.

Without a change, in 2-3 generations, the Jewish world will be divided between the "cultural Jews" with Jewish surnames and gentile mothers, and an increasingly ignorant Ultra Orthodox camp that decries knowledge and celebrates ignorance.

Reading old texts is great, but if you don't master the logical way that they reached conclusions, you haven't learned a thing.

Wed Feb 06, 01:44:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Shira - That's almost exactly the opposite of how I understand the essay. He's criticizing the writing down of coda to an extent in that it turns what was tradition into case law instead, weakening the pass-down aspect among other things.

Minhag DOES trump halacha. Not only is a minhag that is taken on by the community binding like halacha, but throughout the Talmud we see Rashi/Tosfos ask Q's about practices that are clearly different from the halacha; the response is "that became the minhag, so that's it."

Minhag is definitely not just some kind of choice. Chumros, et al, might be.

Wed Feb 06, 09:22:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Apparently, I didn't express myself very clearly.

Alex, you said, "He argues that historically, Judaism was transmitted via family/community, because we lived in these enclosed communities.

Now that we don't live in them, we depend upon the schools to transmit them, and schools transmit texts."

Believe it or not, that's pretty much what I had in mind when I said that the transmission of tradition was being corrupted: The communities that would have transmitted it no longer exist.

Ezzie, you said, "He's criticizing the writing down of coda to an extent in that it turns what was tradition into case law instead, weakening the pass-down aspect among other things."

Believe it or not, we're talking about the same problem, namely, that we're relying entirely on texts, rather than on mimetic tradition. What your grandmother taught you--and what your grandmother's rabbi taught *her*--is no longer "kosher" enough for you and your wife and daughter.

Sorry about the misunderstanding.

Thu Feb 07, 10:26:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Minhag DOES trump halacha. Not only is a minhag that is taken on by the community binding like halacha, but throughout the Talmud we see Rashi/Tosfos ask Q's about practices that are clearly different from the halacha; the response is "that became the minhag, so that's it."

Minhag is definitely not just some kind of choice. Chumros, et al, might be."

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? That sounds like that rule from "Rabbi Yishmael omer" ("Rabbi Ishmael says," the traditional list of ways in which Torah/Bible is interpreted to arrive at halachah/Jewish religious law) that certain biblical statements can be interpreted to be *either* strict or lenient rules, depending on circumstances. (Massive oversimplification and probably all wrong, but I'm trying.) In a similar fashion, minhag/custom can sometimes be more lenient than halachah and sometimes stricter.

From my own perspective as a non-Orthodox Jew, the problem with both halachah and minhag is that they're cast in stone, much like the tablets that Moshe brought down from Mount/Har Sinai. How does one bring about change in laws and/or customs that simply don't work anymore? I'm talking about matters as serious as ruining Israeli farmers economically and making poverty-stricken ultra-Orthodox Israelis poorer by insisting on the literal observance of shmitta/the Sabbatical year in Israel, and leaving woman "chained" for life in dead marriages because only a man is authorized to give a get/Jewish religious divorce. I'm also talking about the Ashkenazi minhag against eating kitniyot during Pesach/Passover, which creates health problems for people who can't eat gluten. How and/or why can a minhag that can cause illness, or, rarely, as in the case with some recent ritual circumstances done using metzitzah b'peh, even death, trump halachah?

Thu Feb 07, 11:24:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

And how can *either* a halachah or a minhag be more important than the halachah requiring the violation of other halachot/laws (such as the laws of Shabbat/Sabbath) in a case in which a human life might be at risk?

Okay, maybe this is getting a bit off my own original topic. Excuse me while I step off my soapbox. :)

Thu Feb 07, 11:35:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Alex in Miami said...

Shira - I'm talking about matters as serious as ruining Israeli farmers economically and making poverty-stricken ultra-Orthodox Israelis poorer by insisting on the literal observance of shmitta/the Sabbatical year in Israel, and leaving woman "chained" for life in dead marriages because only a man is authorized to give a get/Jewish religious divorce. I'm also talking about the Ashkenazi minhag against eating kitniyot during Pesach/Passover, which creates health problems for people who can't eat gluten.

Believe it or not, that's pretty much what I had in mind when I said that the transmission of tradition was being corrupted: The communities that would have transmitted it no longer exist.

A few thoughts on these topics.
1. Shmitta: Shmitta is an important mitzvah, and the arguments that it isn't binding are intellectually dishonest, and about to fall apart within 2-3 Shmitta years. The argument that it isn't binding is the idea that the Shmitta/Yovel cycle only applies when the Jews live in Israel, defined as a majority of Jews living in Israel. Israel has a plurality, and growing toward a majority. Given how many Diaspora Jews captured in US Jewish Census surveys aren't Jews by Halacha (non-Halachic conversion, mother non-Halachic conversion, Jewish father but noy mother), it's very possible that Israel sits at 45% - 48%, not 40% that surveys show. Either way, given the growth in Israel and decline in the US each year, probably in 14 years, definitely in 21 years, the majority of Jews live in Israel. Even playing games and not counting the Jews in Eilat and other areas if you want to stall the numbers, we're approaching the point of the majority of Jews living in Israel, so this issue needs to be addressed.

That said, why does Shmitta have to bankrupt farmers? It's a cost of being Jewish, and needs to be taken into account for all Jews, not just those farming. A system of farm subsidies, careful harvesting, selling through a Beit Din, etc., could alleviate some of the costs. Israel can certainly afford to financially support their farmers without bankrupting the nation to observe Shmitta, it just requires a desire to be Jewish.

2. Chained Women: tragedy created by secular courts, easily fixed. The Rabbinic Approved Prenups can provide monetary penalties for failure to give a Get that can be enforced by a secular court. Doesn't do anything for those already in that status, but it's a least solved going forward. That may not be appealing to you as a feminist, but sometimes you can't solve every problem, but at least we can prevent it in the future.

3. Kitniyot -- already falling apart. Many Jews in Israel don't follow, and rebellious Nat. Religious Rabbis are ruling that Jews in Israel may adopt local custom and eat Kitniyot. There isn't a Halachically valid way to eat Kitniyot in the US without moving to a Sephardi neighborhood, the local Minhag IS to avoid it. But over time, the minhag will fall apart in Israel. See, Zionism solves all problems... :) Israel has only been here 60 years, so we're just starting to deal with this, but Diaspora Judaism will slowly re-Middle Easternize, as the center of Judaism continues to move from NYC to Jerusalem.

4. The article: I think we agree, I took issue with the idea that it is "corrupted." The nature of schools is that they can only teach texts, you can't teach "what did your mother say." This has also resulted in a ridged idea of Minhag... sure Father technically trumps, but the reality is that families pick and choose in their early years of marriage, and that becomes to family custom.

I think that the Day School Movement is about to collapse, because it's an utter failure, and we'll swing back toward tradition, but who knows.

Thu Feb 07, 01:27:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

1. Re shmitta, when you speak of "selling through a Bet Din," I assume that you're referring to Otzar Bet Din, which even Jameel seems to say is not necessarily a reliable way to provide sufficient affordable food to all (at this time). OrthoMom also linked to an article about the unintended consequences of shmitta—standing on one foot, this law that was intended to help the poor actually makes them even poorer. What’s so fair about that? No wonder some of the more reasonable rabbis are jumping through hoops trying to figure out a work-around.

2. Agunot/Chained Women (women "chained" in dead marriages), you're assuming, first of all, that all Orthodox rabbi accept pre-nuptial agreements, second of all, that all couples consent to sign them, and third of all, that they're completely enforceable. I don't believe that any of those assumptions is universally valid.

3. "Kitniyot -- already falling apart." Frankly, I hope you're right.

4. "The article: I think we agree, . . . The nature of schools is that they can only teach texts, you can't teach "what did your mother say." Yes, I think that's Rabbi Haym Soloveitchik was talking about.

Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but I think that you and I are both part of the problem. It seems to me that one of the points that Rav H. Soloveitchik was making was that the influx of baalei t'shuvah ("returnees" to Orthodox Judaism) and/or Jews by Choice (for the uninitiated, that's the modern, politically-correct term for "converts") is one reason why there's now more reliance on texts. Since both of us come from non-Orthodox families (we'll conveniently ignore, for the moment, the fact that I'm still not Orthodox), and, therefore, have no "mimetic traditon" to follow, how else would we learn except by reading? Of course, I doubt that R. H. Soloveitchik ever figured on blogging as one source of Jewish learning.

"I think that the Day School Movement is about to collapse, because it's an utter failure, and we'll swing back toward tradition, but who knows."

Nu, do you have a better idea? How many Jews home-school their kids? If the Day School Movement is a failure, let's a) figure out how to fix it, and b) figure it how to pay for it!

Darn it, Mr. Credit in Miami, get yourself a *Jewish* blog, already!

Thu Feb 07, 04:39:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Alex in Miami said...

1. Shmitta -- it's a problem, but selling the holy land to Goyim cannot be the solution... but perfectly Rabbinic. The fact is, diaspora solutions make no sense in a Jewish state, and we need real solutions. It's also a Torah Commandment, so even without a valid reason, we have to deal with it. :)

2. Understood on your issue with assumptions, but you mention it like it's an tackled problem. It IS being dealt with, the numbers of actual victims are small, and it's tragic, but don't put the blame on the Rabbis without putting blame on the secular courts for dissolving Jewish marriages and those IN the marriages that let them dissolve without Get.

3. It'll be one of those quirky things, where Jews in America don't eat it, Jews in Israel do, and some oddballs in furry hats in Israel don't either.

4. Well, I do not believe the Haredi Fantasy where before the Reform Movement/coming to America/assimilation/television/whatever, all Jews were Orthodox. Pre-Reform, things were no doubt much more like the Sephardim... there was one concept of how to be Jewish, and people observed or didn't observe. People moved, picked up local custom, pronunciations, etc. This obsession with Minhag via father may have always been the theoretical law, but certainly wasn't likely to be the case in practice... do any of the Sephardi families with the Surname Ashkenazi have any remaining Ashkenazi Minhagim?

Regarding Day Schools: Impossible to fix, the Rabbinate and Lay Leadership cooperate too much in underlying corruption. They depend upon taking money from non-observant Jews with 1-2 kids that pay full tuition to educate religious families with 4-5. They pay Rabbis with question qualifications like they have Ph.Ds.

They are a fundamentally flawed model, and nobody wants to fix them. Paying for it, like George Hanus wants, will only reinforce the corruption.

It works is areas of NYC where the local Jewish community has so corrupted local government that that community gets sufficient kick-backs from the state to fund it. Whether in artificial appraisals, "faith based charity" work with no actual charity being done, etc., the economics start to balance out.

The Ben Gamla Charter school approach in Florida at least deals with the funding issue. If you could get the state to fund all secular education AND Hebrew language education, then all you need to do is handle Judaic subjects, which the day schools handle horribly.

After school Hebrew School sucks, but if you aren't teaching Hebrew, and dealing with kids from somewhat religious homes, then you're covering enrichment learning, which could work.

There isn't a good solution, but the lousy quality and high expense of Jewish Day Schools makes them a failed experiment. The perpetual increases in tuition above inflation/wage growth plus a desire for large families means that over time, they price everyone out. The schools depend on large donations from largely BT/non-observant families that bring money in for them to suck dry, but the well of that is drying up, because the non-observant community is drying up. Look at the big donor families that finance the schools, generally they are the generation after the one that became religious, bringing their wealth with them. How long can that last?

Thu Feb 07, 05:29:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Whoa, this comment thread has become a runaway train! Let me make just one response that I think is absolutely necessary before I attempt to get this train back on track.

Here's one of the few bits of Talmud that yours truly the am haaretz (Jewishly-illiterate person) knows: Dina medina dina--the law of the land is the law. From a purely halachic/Jewish religious law point of view, we Jews cannot blame the courts for granting civil divorces--they are upholding the law of the land, which is their job. The Torah created the aguna problem, and by G-d--literally speaking, from an Orthodox perspective--the Torah (and/or its interpretors) is going to have to solve it.

Fri Feb 08, 12:26:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Meanwhile, back at the original topic, here’s a comment received via e-mail from Noam, whose net nanny won’t give him access to my blog. (Since neither of his own blogs, bava dilbert or The Noshing Express [see my sidebar] seems to be active at the moment, let me link you to Noam’s, a.k.a. Dilbert’s, former hangout, where he was the long-term chief guest [and, finally, only] blogger.)

“as far as the narrow answer to the question, the woman is not obligated to change her list of approved hechsherim(kosher certifications). As far as the rest, I don't know. my best guess is that it is something that the husband and wife work out. However, I think they have to be consistant as far as ashkenaz/sephardi. That is, if they eat rice on pesach, they have to start slichot at the begining of elul. You cant just routinely take the lenient opinion.”

Fri Feb 08, 12:40:00 AM 2008  
Blogger Alex in Miami said...

Re: Dina medina dina

It's not that simple... that primarily covers business matters... it doesn't cover everything...

If the law of the land required one to have an idol on their front lawn, we can't comply, even if it is the law.

Further, that doesn't deal with personal status issues. A woman, once married to her husband, is his responsibility and her sexuality is purely his. A civil divorce is binding for matters of local business law, but doesn't chance the personal status. So even though for business dealings we must treat the couple as divorced, "Dina medina dina," that doesn't allow one to covet her sexuality... she remains another man's wife, even if the local courts say no.

If the local law prohibited Jews from registering their marriages, we would still have them. We would then all have to file our taxes as single people, and comply with all business laws as single people... but that wouldn't change how we internally look at it.

Fri Feb 08, 03:06:00 PM 2008  

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