Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Yated - a Mamzer?

The recent article in Yated about YCT, (I will not link it here as there is no need to further Lashon Hara and Rechilut) brings to mind an interesting comment by a great man of the last generation who as usual in these cases, was prescient. Although he was talking about the Israeli Yated his take applies here too.

Rav Simcha Wasserman Z”L once told me that when they came to him (after he had moved to Yerushalaim) asking to subscribe to the Yated Hane’eman publication he told the gentleman that approached him that he was reluctant to be an instrument for being Marbeh Mamzerim – promoting Mamzerim. To the man’s surprised look he explained that Mamzerim are considered “Me’uvat Lo yuchal Litaken” a wrong that cannot be righted. In a moment of passion two people create a mamzer that remains such for generations. The same goes with the Yated. In a moment of passion, a disagreement of two factions within the Agudah, a new newspaper was established. One day the factions will make peace, the paper will by then have a life of its own without a purpose. A “Me’uvat Lo yuchal Litaken”.

People who knew R. Simcha will recall the sparkle he had in his eyes when he told these stories. Hachacham einav berosho.


  1. That is an argument that has been made by those who disallow reading any newspaper. All newspapers are built on reporting news- that is, Lashon Hara and Rechilus.
    You should be prepared to take this argument to its logical conclusion, perhpas read 'goishe' newpapers alone.
    YCT's problem is that it does not clearly define its mission. It aspires to produce scholars and chaplains at once, social workers who are prepared to use sociology, psychology etc in the communal context and yet, spends a great deal of time on modern cholarship and its issues. It does not study much of traditional sources. It is shcizophrenic and does not attempt to provide a mediator. If you don't agree, ask the students. It is not a serious institution of learning but it apsires to travel in august company. Whatever you think of the Yated's article, it may help YCT to clarify what it is and what its mission should be and in this fashion, may be a blessing. If anyone had asked me, I would suggest that it retain a Mashgiach, a person who in his personality can demonstrate how all these disparate facets can be integrated, if such a person can be located and recuited - no mean task.

  2. Avakesh,
    YCT has stated its mission, so how would you like it to be more clearly defined?
    When you say that YCT "does not study much of traditional sources", where are you deriving this? As a student of said institution, I beg to differ - traditional sources play a central role in our education.
    You also suggest that YCT "retain a Mashgiach", although YCT already does have such a mashgiah ruhani in Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Blanchard.

  3. I consider Rabbi Weiss a good friend and a mentor. During my time in Riverdale, he was the primary source of encouragement for me to leave my chosen career path as a psychologist and take up the pulpit rabbinate - something I had never ever even imagined pursuing professionally, and in fact had a strong aversion to at first.

    He is a human being of profound sensitivity and I learned a great deal from observing his interactions with congregants, interns and employees (I was none of these, being the Rabbi of the Sephardic congregation that borrowed space from his shul - although I did teach the Daf Yomi at HIR every morning for 2 years, and contributed to educational programs there as well.)

    Rabbi Weiss is genuine and sincere and I owe him a lot for the inspiration he gave me to change my path in life. I spoke about this publicly at the last HIR dinner I attended before relocating to Maryland.

    That being said - with all due respect to Rabbi Weiss, Rabbi Linzer and many of the YCT graduates whom I consider personal friends (one is my wife's brother-in-law and a wonderful rabbi in his own right) - I have an issue with any institution that considers itself Orthodox but questions the binding force of the 13 principles of the Rambam.

    The religious leadership of YCT, at least in part, seems to advocate a bottom-line Orthopraxy with an option of Orthodoxy for those who are so inclined. With the passage of time, this trend has become increasingly pronounced, as far as I can tell, with the musmachim of YCT looking and talking more and more like Conservative rabbis as the years go by.

    Again, I have a deep affection for Rabbi Weiss and many of the teachers and graduates of YCT (admittedly, even some of the very controversial ones who've been lambasted in the papers are people whose company I enjoyed immensely while I was in NY and whom I consider my friends.) However, I believe that Orthodoxy must draw the line when it comes to the fundamental tenets of the Torah system, i.e., the 13 principles. And, as I know from personal dealings and discussions with YCTers, the 13 principles are far from being universally accepted in its Bet Midrash.

  4. R. Maroof, I suggest you revisit the YCT BM. The problematic liberals have all been driven out or away (or into silence), and what is left in their place would feel entirely comfortable at YU. What you're seeing is the first few ordained classes, which had a mix of hashkafot, taking their first steps in the field. I'm betting they get disowned by YCT within 10-20 years.

  5. My last contact with YCTers was only a year and a half ago. How much of an upheaval could have occurred since then?

    Most of the controversial rabbis have, after all, been from the past few graduating classes. As far as I can tell, the earlier products of YCT were much more centrist in outlook and observance.

    And my objection to R' Linzer's endorsement of what is essentially orthopraxy still stands (disregarding my personal feelings of warmth toward him).

    Don't get me wrong - I'd love to see a place like YCT that was genuinely Orthodox succeed.

  6. "As far as I can tell, the earlier products of YCT were much more centrist in outlook and observance."

    I have no idea where you get this from, and in any case, there are only three graduated classes! Without naming names, I count 3-5 (out of 9) in the first class; 5/12 in the second class; and 2/7 in the third class who are on the left. That's declining trend, and it's getting lower all the time. There are maybe 4-6 _total_ who are on the "left" right now. I bet the raw numbers are higher at YU! :-)

  7. Rabbi Maroof,

    I don't mean to hijack this post, but what are your thoughts on Marc Shapiro's "The Limits of Orthodox Theology"?