Yeshiva University Dean of Rabbis Denies News Account & He Won't Take My Semicha Back

When I got my semicha (1973) I was proud that it said "Yoreh Yoreh Beissur Veheter" giving me my own franchise to issue religious decisions regarding what is forbidden and what is permitted in accord with the Torah, Talmud, commentaries, codes and responsa.

Now my school YU has been saying of late through its great gadol and potent posek that in some public policy matters involving our religion, local rabbis can't do that unless they adhere to the halakhah and the mesorah as defined in Washington Heights. Well "the" halakah does not exist and "the mesorah" is a vague account of the transmission of religious authority. My franchise was never conditioned on those settings.

I've been making religious decisions regarding what is forbidden and what is permitted for people in my community and family since 1973. But since the rabbi rules seemed to have changed, I made an offer to my school. It's brief and it's copied below, emails between me and Marc Penner.
Would you like me to mail my semicha back to you?

[Link to my post]

Tzvee Zahavy
No, I doubt that's necessary. We do not take back semikha and are not about to start doing so.
In an attempt to protect the dignity and confidentiality of the student, the yeshiva has kept quiet about the issues in this case. The actions of the yeshiva were not, as you present them, a punitive measure relating to a minyan that he held in his home.

Kol tuv
Rabbi Marc Penner
Sent from my iPad (please excuse any mistakes)
Thanks for your reply. I am surprised to hear [back] from you.

I do not write news or research stories. I only comment and offer opinion after others have already published materials. In this case I relied on the account by Gary [Rosenblatt] in the Jewish Week and on the TJC story as I cited. You may want to straighten Gary out - on or off the record.

And no. I don't buy it. If you wanted to protect the dignity of the student you would not have written him that letter. I have no way of knowing what you are punishing a student for doing - but that letter was not the way to issue a reprimand. I'd hurry and retract it all if I were you [by saying e.g.,] "Yeshiva does not demand loyalty oaths or fealty statements from their students. It is unfortunate that I was misinterpreted."

Good luck.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not very kind of you to post his cell phone number..