Jewish Press Tells Live Reform Rabbi Not to Quote a Dead Orthodox Rabbi

Well just when you think you have seen everything along comes the alleged newspaper, the Jewish Press and takes up arms against an enemy soldier who dares to invoke the name and words of a beloved saintly deceased Rabbi.

That's one way to avoid discussing the real issue. Orthodox rabbis who are employed by the State of Israel are in revolt against the liberal conversion policies in place. It was Sharon who made decisions to grow the Jewish people faster by converting more willing souls to Judaism.

The state population stands now at over 7 million. The State is strong and growing stronger. Sure, this decision meant allowing more non-Jews to convert.

This is a big struggle. Grow faster via conversions or grow slower or not at all via conversions. There ought to be a debate over the issues.

It's pretty hard to avoid speaking to this issue and all the allied questions of who controls marriage and divorce in Israel. But lo and behold the Jewish Press found a way to sidestep it all.

It turns the debate over the lifeblood of our people into an excuse for carping about Rabbi Yoffie's choice of which authorities to cite.

I'd like to know where the JP stands on the question of whether to fire the insubordinate rabbinic employees of the State who refuse to carry out its deliberate policies.

How's That Again? - Eric Yoffie Invokes The Rav
By: Editorial Board Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Reform movement has long chafed at the so-called life-cycle standards maintained by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. Despite the importuning and protestation of Reform leaders, since the founding of the state such matters as marriage, divorce and conversion have been accepted as being under the purview of the chief rabbis, who were mandated to enforce Orthodox standards as a common bottom line.

The frustration of Reform leaders with that state of affairs is quite understandable, given the movement’s revisionist approach to fundamental issues bearing on the integrity of the Jewish bloodline.

Even so, it was dismaying to read a recent article by Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, titled “Reform Reflections: The Rav Was Right.” The gist of the piece was that the great gaon Rav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik, zt”l, would have supported efforts to prevent the Chief Rabbinate from enforcing Orthodox standards on marriage, divorce and conversion.

Rabbi Yoffie referred to a reported comment of the Rav regarding his refusal to accept an offer to become Israel’s chief rabbi: “One of the reasons why I did not accept the post of chief rabbi of Israel – and the offer was made to me several times – was that I was afraid to be an officer of the State. A rabbinate linked up with a state cannot be completely free.”

While the Rav expressed admiration for Israeli rabbis, he nonetheless explained that “the mere fact that from time to time halachic problems are discussed as political issues at cabinet meetings is an infringement on the sovereignty of the rabbinate.”

But in a lecture delivered in 1972, Rabbi Yoffie writes, the Rav was less complimentary about the Israeli rabbinate. Therefore, he postulates, it is wrong to assume that only Reform and Conservative rabbis oppose the current unholy alliance in Israel that marries the Orthodox rabbinate to the apparatus of the state and makes each party the servant of the other. In fact, a significant stream of modern Orthodox thinking has expressed profound doubts about the advisability of relying on the coercion of the state to enforce halachic precepts. The Rav…was always insistent that Mizrachi could best encourage observance of Torah through education rather than through legislation resulting from political influence.

The notion that the Rav would side with the likes of Eric Yoffie – particularly on the question of whether there should be an enforceable Orthodox standard in Israel – is the epitome of absurdity.

In his classic November 19, 1954 article in Der Tag, the Rav presented his now famous challenge to non-Orthodox groups, dismissing the Reform movement for acting “as the Christian apostle, Saul of Tarsus, did in his days. It rejects the halacha and its mitzvos ma’siyos [performance of commandments] entirely and selects the universal ethical principles of the Torah.”

The Rav proceeded to excoriate the Conservative movement, writing that while at least we know where we stand with regard to Reform ideology, the Conservatives speak of halacha without delineating what they mean by the term. “Against this kind of confusion Orthodoxy wages a battle, for its sees in it a very great danger,” he declared.

And then he wrote something that, while directly addressing Conservatives in 1954, can well serve as the ultimate rejoinder to Eric Yoffie some 53 years later:

I hope that the representatives of the Conservative camp will act just as carefully as the atheistic Mapai did in Israel. The Mapai realized that if it wanted to avoid a schism in the ranks of Jewish family life, it must transfer the authority on the laws of marriage into the hands of the Chief Rabbinate. The same must be clearly understood by the leaders of the Conservative movement, because obstinacy in this instance may split the American Jewish community into two camps.
We think Eric Yoffie needs to leave the Rav alone and look elsewhere for support.

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