Yeshiva University RIETS Threatens to Withhold Ordination of Wayward Rabbinical Student

The Jewish Week weakly exposed some elements of a story of rabbinic school intrigue ("‘Your Semicha Or Your Wife’YU withholding ordination from rabbinic student who participated in ‘partnership minyan.’"). It wasn't an illuminating account.

The Jewish Channel followed up with texts and data relating to the murky matter.

What wayward behavior does a rabbinical student have to perform to trigger threats against him by his school that they will not grant him rabbinic ordination?

Perhaps, if he is caught eating a bacon cheeseburger on Yom Kippur, that will lead to his loss of ordination. But that is not the case here.

Perhaps if he is caught committing adultery with his menstruating mother-in-law, that would be the trigger of his demise from the rabbinical ranks. But that surely is not the case here.

What egregious act did the student commit to merit the threat of his nuclear annihilation from the clergy ranks even before his career was launched?

He prayed with women.

Apparently this young man helped his wife attend a partnership minyan. So Yeshiva's dean of rabbis told him to sign a loyalty oath or forget about receiving his blessings. He must forswear such rebellious activities.

They sent him a very problematic letter, reproduced at TJC. I'm pretty sure that the letter is grounds for a major lawsuit. Its vague stipulations make little sense to me. But it's clear, if you are going to require a fealty oath to halakhic authority, as YU has defined it this week ("One of the central principles of RlETS is a fealty to halakhah and the halakhíc process"), as a condition for ordination, then surely you must do so at the beginning of the first enrollment of the student, not at the end of his five years of studies. Wow, if word gets out that that's what they do over there, nobody will gamble in that casino.

You cannot change the rules of the rabbi game in the metaphoric bottom of the ninth with two outs, the fourth quarter with 10 seconds left on the clock.

Astonishingly you have to step back and take a deep breath and think for a minute. Just think. Nothing terrible will occur if the Orthodox allow their women to be called to the Torah or count for a minyan. It would be a great thing. This latest situation is just one more catastrophic error by YU.

But most remarkable in the letter from the dean is that it's clear that Yeshiva University is no longer a place where the pure values of Torah and Talmud dominate. Those words are not mentioned by the dean. Rather it is where the rigorous adherence to things called halakhah and mesorah rule the roost, to the exclusion of  our cherished Torah and Talmud. How utterly bizarre.

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