The Tie Rule is Bad and the Jacket Rule is More Nonsensical

We stirred up quite a controversy with our "Dear Rabbi" column where we offered advice regarding a rule requiring the wearing of a necktie in a local synagogue on the Sabbath in order to receive an aliyah - a Torah honor.

A local synagogue which has such a rule took this as a direct criticism and published an odd rebuttal letter in its bulletin, sent out to all its members. (Yediot Yeshurun, see the scans to the right.)

The synagogue action was strange because (a) they did not publish the original question and my answer, just the rebuttal; (b) they did not mention my name as author of the column; and (c) they did not identify by name the newspaper in which it appeared.

The shul bulletin called me "the columnist" and referred to a "local Jewish newspaper". As I understand the rules and norms of civility, the distributors of a communal bulletin are obliged by professional standards and by common courtesy and fairness to publish in their synagogue bulletin my original article under my name as the original author (Rabbi Dr Tzvee Zahavy) and to list the place of original publication, the Jewish Standard. It is clear that the synagogue has different norms.

The necktie controversy continues this week with this letter from a Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene to the Jewish Standard.
The mark of a competent rabbinic authority is his/her capacity to seek the advice of another rabbinic authority in cases where the law may not be black and white since it is impossible to master the entire corpus of halakhic literature and keep up with all the responsa (“Dear Rabbi,” June 7). The current brouhaha over wearing ties on Shabbat ought not to be flippantly dismissed. Nor should a synagogue’s right to maintain certain standards be cavalierly denigrated. In fact, synagogue ordinances regarding how Jews ought to dress have a distinguished literary history. In addition, the spring 2013 issue of the “Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society” contains a detailed essay called “Casual Saturday? Dressing Down for Shabbat,” which makes the case, based on clear halachic guidelines, for wearing a jacket and tie on Shabbat.

Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene
Fair Lawn
Greene misstates and wrongly characterizes the following.

My "Talmudic Advice" column does not purport to be a halakhic decision column. There is no "brouhaha over wearing ties on Shabbat." The question under discussion was addressed to a rule requiring a man to wear a tie to receive an aliyah. There was no flippant dismissal or cavalier denigration of synagogue standards or ordinances. There was no intent to review the "distinguished literary history" (whatever that means) of dress ordinances.

So again this Q and A was not about generally "wearing a jacket and tie on Shabbat." It was about a mean-spirited shul constantly denying without exception a Torah honor over a period of many years to one member who does not ever wear a tie.

Distorting and re-framing my question to "rebut" it and to cast aspersions on me because he does not agree with my advice is not Talmudic -- and well that surely is not the mark of "a competent halakhic authority." It's a rhetorical dirty trick. I am quite disappointed in Rabbi Dr. Greene for doing just that.

It is a shame that nonsensical petty rules in shuls are used under the guise of "halakhah" to "flippantly dismiss" and "cavalierly denigrate" the sensibilities and preferences of honorable and respectable members of a community and that there is so little empathy for that in our local rabbinic community.

But wait. One more thing. That reference by Rabbi Dr. Greene to "a detailed essay" should read as follows, because he wrote the article that he cites:
In addition, in the spring 2013 issue of the “Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society” I published a detailed essay called “Casual Saturday? Dressing Down for Shabbat,” in which I make the case, based on clear halachic guidelines, for wearing a jacket and tie on Shabbat.

No comments: