5/07/2006

Rabbis, Rabbis, Rabbis


Three interesting news items from the last few weeks, all regarding Rabbis.

The first is about Rabbi Michael Cook of HUC, who thinks that ignorance of the New Testament is the Jews’ Achilles’ Heel. Interesting. I always thought it was ignorance of the old one. Shockingly, the guy is a professor of New Testament studies. When you’ve got a hammer, the whole world is your nail.

The second is about the Rabbanut’s outrageous non-recognition of RCA conversions. I agree that there are problems with giyur in the American Orthodox world, just are there problems with the Rabbanut and their conversion process (understatement of the year). But this is such an incredible slap in the face of American Orthodoxy. Perhaps the most disturbing part is the response of the RCA president. His job is to be outraged, not to try to diminish the magnitude of this. The politically-appointed Rabbis that fill the ranks of the Rabbanut bureaucracy are left to measure the tzitzis of American Orthodox Rabbis who are often the only access to yahadus and Torah around. It’s sickening. Now, I’m sure that some of my Conservative readers will see some poetic justice in this. I think it’s different, ve-acamo”l.

The third is an article about the ordination of Haviva Ner-David as an Orthodox Rabbi. I’ve written about the need to create a recognizable means of acknowledging learned Orthodox women for a variety of practical purposes. The watering-down of semikha in general (I’ve heard of a semikha where one is tested on 50 blatt Gemara of their choice and Kitzur Shulchan Arukh) has turned this whole thing into a joke. Arguments that suggest that women haven’t achieved the level of scholarship deserving of the title should consider my third-grade Rebbe. In this case, I’ve actually read her book. Pioneering, but really bizarre; what you’d probably expect from the person trying to become the first female Orthodox Rabbi.  There’s some solid critique, but I found her approach to ritual commandments to border on fetishism, and didn’t find myself enriched by this book. I had my reasons for becoming a Rabbi; anger wasn’t amongst them. So forgive me for my lack of excitement that she has joined our ranks. This will inevitably open doors for more women which can become positive development.
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