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The challenges to Orthodoxy are how to deal with its burgeoning numbers

While the other movements are engaged in soul-searching on how to deal with dwindling and aging membership in synagogues, the challenges to Orthodoxy are how to deal with its burgeoning numbers: how to cost-effectively educate the hordes of children the Orthodox are having, how to expand ever-growing synagogues, and where to establish new communities where housing costs—for large homes—are low. But from college campuses, to urban communities of singles and young couples, to suburban communities with families and empty nesters—the numbers all show that Orthodoxy is an attractive type of Judaism, one that is easily replacing any fall-off, and is actually expanding through a relatively high birthrate and an expanding professional outreach movement.
It would stand to reason that Orthodoxy’s greatest challenge—in America, Israel, and around the world—would be having too much self-confidence and sense of triumphalism.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, “Challenges and Opportunities for a Robust Orthodox Judaism”, Conversations Issue 17 (Autumn 2013/5774), 51.

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A possibility of Open Orthodoxy’s niche

It may be that Open Orthodoxy’s niche, and the important role of the hundreds of future ordainees of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the Modern and Open Orthodox yeshiva in Riverdale, New York, will be not only to open the tents of Orthodoxy to anyone interested—and in a sense of mutuality, learning from each other—but to go beyond welcoming to actually making the journey to where our fellow Jews are. Both Hareidi and Chabad outreach welcome all Jews to come to Orthodox homes, Orthodox Shabbat tables and Orthodox places of prayer—and that is admirable connecting. A confident, self-assured Orthodox community will be able to go even further and connect with students, young adults and families where they are. This means learning together with Reform, Reconstructionist, and renewal teachers and students; it means being willing to be on panels even with other rabbis or leaders who will be saying things that are not consistent with Orthodoxy; it means being willing to have Orthodox students spend time with non-Orthodox students, and then Orthodox families find ways of going to the non-Orthodox homes for Shabbat. All without compromising the beliefs or the practices of Orthodoxy!

Rabbi Asher Lopatin, “Challenges and Opportunities for a Robust Orthodox Judaism”, Conversations, Issue 17 (Autumn 2013/5774), 57-58.

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It will be fascinating to see what insights women bring to matters, and if a woman’s perspective affects how halakhah is decided

I agree that it isn’t “fair” that while men can be given the title “rabbi” simply by learning sections of Yoreh Deah, the women must do a lot more to be accepted. But that is required any time new developments come into place. I have been assured by people in the know that the day is coming when we will have first-rate women halakhists and talmudists. It will be fascinating to see what insights they bring to matters, and if a woman’s perspective affects how halakhah is decided. But we haven’t reached that day yet, and just as importantly, the Orthodox world as a whole is not yet ready for that day, as they have not yet become comfortable with the idea of a woman poseket.

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 2”, The Seforim Blog (25 March 2012) {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}

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There is no mention of bringing anything niddah-related to a rabbi in the Meam Loez

R. Moshe Maimon called my attention to the Meam Loez’s discussion of the laws of niddah, addressed to both men and women, and there is no mention there of bringing anything to the rabbi. This omission was rectified by R. Aryeh Kaplan, who in his translation (vol. 1, p. 136) adds: “When in doubt, a competent rabbi should be consulted.”

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 2”, The Seforim Blog (25 March 2012), n. 2 {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}

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The title “rabbi” is indeed significant re: “rabba”

The title “rabbi” is indeed significant. This can be seen by the fact that when Sara Hurwitz was called Maharat there wasn’t any outcry, but when she was given the title “rabba” that is when the controversy really broke out, even though her job description didn’t change in the slightest. Does this mean that there was no objection to a woman functioning as a rabbi as long as she didn’t have the title? Only after she was renamed “rabba” did the RCA adopt a resolution rejecting the “recognition of women as members of the Orthodox rabbinate, regardless of the title.” Yet despite that resolution, there are synagogues where women are still serving, for all intents and purposes, as members of the rabbinate minus the title.

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 2”, The Seforim Blog (25 March 2012), n. 6 {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}

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An irony is that the halakhic textbook written by the most distinguished of these yoatzot turns out to be more stringent, and requires consultation with rabbis more often, than halakhic texts written by men

Another irony is that the halakhic textbook written by the most distinguished of these yoatzot turns out to be more stringent, and requires consultation with rabbis more often, than halakhic texts written by men. See Aviad Stollman’s review of Deena R. Zimmerman’s A Lifetime Companion to the Laws of Jewish Family Life in Meorot 6 (2007), p. 5. I can’t imagine that women think that there is an advantage in having halakhic works written by other women if these works actually reduce female autonomy in intimate hilkhot niddah matters and require more consultation with male rabbis.

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 2”, The Seforim Blog (25 March 2012) {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}

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It is very difficult to connect to Tanakh without the new approach that has been developed in the last forty years…

Just as the Rav commented that that it would be impossible today to (successfully) teach Talmud to students who are secularly educated if not for R. Chaim’s approach, something similar can be said regarding Tanakh. For those with a secular education, who have read great books, it is very difficult to connect to Tanakh without the new approach that has been developed in the last forty years or so. As R. Yoel Bin Nun puts in his preface to Helfgot’s book: “It is impossible to study Tanakh in the land of Israel as if we are still residing in Eastern Europe prior to the Holocaust.”

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 2”, The Seforim Blog (25 March 2012) {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}

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…women rabbis are coming to Modern Orthodoxy, even if the powers that be are standing firmly against it…

Leaving aside the issue of serving as a dayan, it is obvious to me that women rabbis are coming to Modern Orthodoxy, even if the powers that be are standing firmly against it. Yet they have already let the genie out of the bottle. By sanctioning advanced Torah study for women, there is no question that the time will come when there will be women scholars of halakhah who are able to decide issues of Jewish law. The notion that a woman who has the knowledge can “poskin” is not really controversial, and has been acknowledged by many haredi writers as well. Very few rabbis are poskim, but every posek is by definition a “rabbi”, whether he, or she, has received ordination or not. So when we have women who are answering difficult questions of Jewish law, they will be “rabbis”, and no declarations by the RCA or the Agudah will be able to change matters. I am not talking about pulpit rabbis, as this position has its own dynamic and for practical reasons may indeed not be suitable for a woman. Yet as we all know, very few rabbis function in a pulpit setting, and much fewer will ever serve as a dayan on a beit din.
The reason why the issue of ordaining women has been so problematic is because the Orthodox community is simply not ready for it. Yet when women will achieve the level of scholarship that I refer to, and are already deciding matters of halakhah, then their “ordination” will not be regarded as at all controversial in the Modern Orthodox world, and will be seen as a natural progression. People will respond to this no differently than how they responded to the creation of advanced Torah institutes for women. Since women were already being taught Talmud, the creation of these institutes was a natural step.

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 2”, The Seforim Blog (25 March 2012) {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}

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I don’t think that most people in the American haredi world really believe in demons…

I don’t think we need to get all out of shape about demons. To begin with, and readers can correct me if I am wrong, I don’t think that most people in the American haredi world really believe in demons. Yes, I know they study the talmudic passages that refer to demons, and will mention them as the reason for washing one’s hand three times in the morning, but based on conversations I have had with people in the haredi world (admittedly, most of them from the intellectual elite), I don’t think that they take it seriously. (When I say they don’t “believe” in demons, I mean real belief in the role of demons and how they affect humanity, as expressed in the Talmud and elsewhere.) It is almost like the emperor has no clothes, in that they don’t believe it but continue acting as if they do, afraid of what will happen if they are “outed”. (I have found a similar phenomenon with regard to Daas Torah. I have discussed this issue with many people in the haredi world, and have yet to find even one who accepts the version of Daas Torah advocated by so-called Haredi spokesmen and Yated Neeman.) But even if I am wrong in this, there are lots more important things to keep out of Modern Orthodox schools than an occasional reference to demons. How about the negative comments about non-Jews and even racist statements (sometimes under the guise of Torah) that children are exposed to in Modern Orthodox schools? How about rebbes telling the students that there is such a thing as spontaneous generation, which is akin to telling the students to sign up with Flat Earth society?

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 1”, The Seforim Blog (20 February 2012), n. 9 {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/02/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}

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A majority of the Modern Orthodox community supports women rabbis (although not necessarily pulpit rabbis)…

From speaking to many people, my own sense is that a majority of the Modern Orthodox community supports women rabbis (although not necessarily pulpit rabbis). When I say “support,” I mean if asked the question, the reply will be yes. But at the same time, the overwhelming majority of the Modern Orthodox world doesn’t care about this issue at all, and this includes women also. However, I believe that the minority will continue to push this issue, and when women rabbis become a reality, the Modern Orthodox will not reject these women or the congregations that employ them, as we can already see at present with Rabba Hurwitz and other female synagogue rabbis (in everything but name). I think this will happen before the natural development of female poskot who, as already indicated, will by definition be rabbis even without a formal ordination.

Marc B. Shapiro, “Answers to Quiz Questions and Other Comments, part 2”, The Seforim Blog (25 March 2012), n. 7 {http://seforim.blogspot.com/2012/03/answers-to-quiz-questions-and-other.html}