New York, NY -
Never one to shy away from taking on challenging issues within Orthodox Jewry, world-renowned Talmud scholar at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber spoke to an overflow crowd on October 18th at The Jewish Center in New York City about “Why Modern Orthodoxy is True Orthodoxy.”
In speaking about the differences between modern Orthodoxy and ultra-Orthodoxy, Sperber said that Modern Orthodoxy is willing to view Halacha as a “constantly developing entity, and it is willing to face challenges.”
This was the 15th annual lecture sponsored by The Yavne-Shapiro Program in Torah and Jewish Ethics in cooperation with BIU. All past lectures have been held at the BIU campus in Ramat Gan, Israel. It was held for the first time in New York, and was coordinated in cooperation with the American Friends of Bar-Ilan University (AFBIU).
A long-time advocate for greater women’s rights within Orthodox Judaism, Rabbi Sperber said he approved of women taking a greater part in Halachic affairs and more active role in Jewish services. He said, “The Modern Orthodox establishment condones these changes, which are completely rejected by our more ultra-Orthodox brethren.”
Rabbi Sperber argued that true orthodoxy regards Halacha as something “which is constantly growing, constantly reevaluating the situation, constantly readapting itself to changes in society.” He said this is in contrast to current ultra-Orthodox thinking, which believes “that anything not done in the past should not be done now.”
Citing an example of how in Israel today Halachic rulings and interpretations have “basically been kidnapped” by ultra-Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Sperber said he was shocked when thousands of Jewish conversions were overruled by the Israeli Supreme Court. He decried what he perceived as the extremely stringent Halachic interpretation of conversion laws. Rabbi Sperber said that retroactive cancellation of conversions is wrong because the person can never be sure of his or her own future. “Modern Orthodoxy cannot countenance such actions,” he added.
He urged members of Modern Orthodox synagogue to support rabbis who have the courage to stand up to ultra-Orthodox counterparts, saying these rabbis cannot do it all by themselves. Only in this way, he argued, will we regain the “original face of Halacha.”
To support Bar-Ilan programs that promote Jewish and Zionist values as reflected in Rabbi Sperber’s teachings, contact Gary Baskind at 212-906-3904 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click the links below to see video from the lecture: