Category Archives: Archives 5765


Iyar 5765 – Open Letter from Rabbi Orlofsky

1 Iyar 5765
A Letter From Rabbi Orlofsky

Dear JEMSEM Readers,

First of all, I would like to apologize for my less than perfect attendance record this past year. I have too many obligations and unfortunately, my JEMSEM responsibilities has been among the casualties.

One issue that has occupied a disproportionate amount of my time has been an unfortunate situation that I would like to address publicly for the first time. That is the issue of the kol koreh that was released some months ago regarding three of the works by Nosson Slifkin. I stress “publicly” because apparently two drafts of my letter were released to the public and so I have been thrust into responding to letters that I never meant to release. I am finally, as a result of the drafts that have been floating around, releasing my letter officially on JEMSEM, since this is the only official forum I have.

First, I would like to establish a general approach to my answers offered on JEMSEM. Rabbi Tendler, who answers the “Ask The Posek” questions once sent me a question and asked me to respond. I told him it was a halachic question; I am not qualified to answer halachic questions. If he will tell me what the halacha is, I will do my best to explain why it is that way.

I suppose this approach could be described as apologetics; I prefer to see it as humility. In the words of the Sheriff in “Cool Hand Luke” (ask your grandparents) “A man has to know his limitations”. I have been accused on occasion as having no theology, meaning I don’t innovate a new approach to religion. I agree. I have always tried to follow my Rebbeim and be true to their views, and I am neither a scholar nor perfect. None the less, I think I have done some good over the years presenting Torah positions in a way that people can understand and accept.

On JEMSEM we have discussed approaches to many questions. All the views expressed in my column represent my own understanding. I am sure I have made mistakes. Sometimes they are simple mistakes based on the fact that I have no editor. When I wrote an article for the HaModiah, it sometimes took weeks of writing and back and forth with my editor, as well as with the editorial board, before my articles were published.

On JEMSEM, I shoot off a response, sometimes stopping to reread it, sometimes not, before clicking the “SEND” button and that is it. No doubt all of my responses in the archives could use a good review and editing, but that is a task I must leave to others or I will never have time to write anything new.

Recently, however, it has come to my attention that I may have misled my JEMSEM readership. Several months ago, a letter was signed by many gedolei Torah establishing a halachic position regarding Torah and Science. The attitude that Chazal can be wrong when it comes to science was deemed to be illegitimate. Among the signatories was the person I consider to be my Rebbe, HaRav Moshe Shapiro Shlita.

As such, I have asked JEMSEM to take down my two responses regarding Torah and Science and request that those whom I may have misled please accept my apologies.

Let me make clear; I am not saying you have to accept my view on this subject. There are gedolei Torah who disagree and feel that it is acceptable to espouse such a view. But though I try to present all the Torah views on a subject, I personally try to express the views of my Torah authorities

I will shortly be posting my latest draft of my “letter to no one in particular” on my understanding of the Slifkin affair. If you are interested, you can read it; if not, then don’t waste your time.

I wrote this letter to clarify the issues for myself and for a number of B’nei and B’nos Torah who felt their emunas chachamim had been shaken. Usually there are two sides to an issue; Gadol A says this and Gadol B says that and everyone follows their Rebbe. In this case for some reason it became gedolim A say this and they are stupid, evil, irresponsible, etc.

You can agree with these gedolim or not, but it is inappropriate to attack them or question their competence. That was my motivation for writing the letter. To allow those who wish to still believe in the gedolei Torah to at least understand their point of view.

Many people have chosen to close their eyes and wait for this all to go away. I considered that. But if there is one individual whose opinion I can affect and restore their emunas chachamim, then all the time I have spent and all the abuse I have been subjected to, is more than worthwhile.

Dovid Orlofsky


Nissan 5765 – The Mechitza Opposition

4 Nissan 5765
The Mechitza Opposition

Dear Rabbi Orlofsky,

I´m living with my husband in a European city where there´s a Jewish, not-very-religious community. When we saw the shul the first time, we were pleasantly surprised to see men and women seated separately – even though there was no mechitsa. So we appreciated, but stayed outside, in the corridor. Some people immediately understood our dilemma, and discussed the necessity of a mechitsa even before we even dared to mention it. Now we heard that out of 200 members, 8 would still be opposed to a mechitsa, a change “just for us”.

As Orthodox Jews, we know we have to set the right example, but kiruv is not easy, and we don´t want people to think negatively about frumkeit or Torah as a result of this. Is there anything we could say? Should we behave in a certain manner?

We can´t daven inside the shul as long as there´s no mechitsa, but we don´t want anybody in the community to feel rejected, “accused” or hurt in any way.

Some people feel that our coming to shul (the building) but not coming inside the praying place is not very nice. On the other hand, one Shabbos when the chazan (seemingly Shomer Shabbos, but I don´t know for sure) asked the ladies to sit outside just for the reading of the Torah, so that my husband could have an aliya, they all went readily outside to the corridor where chairs had been placed, with understanding smiles – with the exceptions of 3 women, who then were asked to sit in the back. So it seems to be that these are open-minded and respectful people, and with that in mind we want ensure that we aren’t hurting them.


Dear Friend,

Let us give another example. Let us say that the shul was serving non-kosher food at the kiddush and someone noticed that you and your husband weren’t eating. There was a suggestion by 200 of the congregants to change the menu to glatt kosher food and eight people insisted they wanted it to remain treife. Would you take the same position of holding your distance?

If a mechitza is a good thing than by bending over backwards to accommodate 8 people, you are allowing 200 people to be held back from davening in a proper shul. Why should the concerns of the 8 people take precedence over the 200?

Obviously one needs to be careful in one’s approach. I think an expression of appreciation for the people who are willing to accommodate you is positive, but actually electioneering for the change is not.

Dovid Orlofsky


Cheshvan 5765 – “Orthodox” Feminism & Spiritual Fulfillment (?)

2 MarCheshvan 5765

“Orthodox” Feminism
& Spiritual Fulfillment

Lichvod Rabbi Orlofsky,

I’ve been back from seminary for a few months and I have a chavrusa on Shabbos with a friend of mine who went to a more “modern” seminary. When we were learning last week, she expressed to me her frustration at being a woman, or more precisely, being different from men. She said that she sometimes feels jealous of what the men get to do and feels upset that more women don’t go to daily minyan, and mincha on Shabbos.

Baruch Hashem, I am not bothered by these problems and I never really was. I understand that we have a different tafkid and Hashem made us the way we are, etc. I tried to convey this to her, but I found it difficult because of our different schooling to express it in a way that would not insult her more.

Is there anything else that I can say?
Thank you very much!

Name & Seminary withheld upon request

Dear Name Withheld,

What I try to express to people like this when they say they want to be like men is, why? Why do you want to do everything that men do? Don’t you recognize that men and women are different? And if they aren’t, why didn’t Hashem make us asexual? He could have, you know.

The problem is that the things that society values (externality, physical strength, aggressiveness, etc.) are primarily male characteristics. The power that women have is not as valued in our secular society and often ignored.

Therefore the women’s movement in the seventies tended to downplay female attributes. Feminists cut their hair short, wore mannish suits, smoked and tried to act like men. As the movement evolved, however, women realized that they had strengths and abilities that were different than men and while equality in status (i.e. equal pay for equal work) remained a goal, forcing women to act like men was not.

The sad thing is that Orthodox feminism is mired in the outdated ideas of the seventies. The idea that if a man does it I should do it is something that contradicts the concept that G-d created men and women differently; physically, psychologically and spiritually. It’s one thing to wish away the words “Ezer kinegdo” but it’s intellectually dishonest and spiritually devastating for women to lose out on their fulfillment because of outdated feminist ideology.

There are women who claim that they can only reach spiritual fulfillment through the spiritual means that men have available. It’s strange that I have never heard this from a woman who wasn’t also a feminist. But the more overriding point is the one that was illustrated by Rav Solovechik. A woman came to him and said she wanted to wear a talis for tefilla. Rav Solovechik said, “That’s not how we do things in Judaism. You have to work up to a particular level. First try wearing the beged without the tzitzis and if
you feel anything after a month we will add the tzitzis.”

A month later the woman came back to him and said that in fact she had enjoyed deep spiritual satisfaction from wearing the arba kanfos. Rav Solovechik said that that was strange because what she did was of no spiritual significance at all. The term he used was “spiritual paganism”.

Anyone can convince themselves that what they’re doing gives them spiritual fulfillment. The reform girl who leads the service at her Bat Mitzva, the Jews for J, all claim they are feeling spirituality. We have always had one approach to determining true spiritual fulfillment: the Torah and the Chazal.

“Ko somar l’bais Yaakov vihigged li bnei yisroel,” the Torah says. There was one approach to maamad Har Sinai for men and one for women. As I said, one can wish away all the chazal that disagree with their position, or fall back on the claim that Conservative Judaism used to build their entire philosophical edifice, “times have changed”, but you can’t do that and claim to be true to Jewish tradition.

I don’t know how effective any of this will be on someone who has already been brainwashed into believing that women are inferior and that unless you do everything that a man does, you’re second class, but at least I hope this gives you some clarity for your own position.

Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky


Tishrei 5765 – Tznius and Style

Lichvod Rabbi Orlofsky,

I was in Post-shalhevet and really enjoyed all of your shiurim and value your advice because I think you understand people and answer questions based on what’s best for this person. Basically, my question is in terms of clothing and tznius. B”H, I happily wear very tznius clothing – appropriate everything, stockings included. I happen to like styles. Bais Yaacov girls wear dark cardigans and pleated dark skirts. I like colors and style – do you think this is just as acceptable if its tznius?

Thank you!
Name Withheld


Dear Friend,

There are few areas in modern society that are as difficult for a woman as tznius. We all went to seminary and we all learnt about the importance of tznius and yet it remains a tremendous challenge for us.

A Baal tshuva once asked me why is it that baalas tshuvos tend to dress more tzanua than FFB’s. Sadly, I understood what he meant. The answer I gave him was that to a girl who grows up frum, tznius is usually reduced to a set of rules; this long, this high, these many inches, etc. A student doesn’t necessarily understand that there is a difference between the rules of the dress code than the rules of how to correctly write a heading on their composition.

When a baalas teshuva decides to take on the laws of tznius at an older age, it is a reflection of a deeper understanding. They have gotten to the heart of the matter. Namely, that the goal is not to dress tzniusly, rather the goal is to be a tzanua. That relates to how we talk, how we act, how we conduct ourselves in public situations and yes, how we dress.

There aren’t enough rules to cover all situations where tznius applies. Would anyone have ever said don’t wear a skirt so baggy that it is falling off? Or don’t wear a shirt that fits like a second skin? Or a shirt that doesn’t ride up when you pick up your arms? Until recently, these things were self-evident. Today everything has to be spelled out and even then we can’t cover every possibility.

So after this long introduction, the answer to your question is, it depends. A top that comes high enough and covers your arms and isn’t to tight but has blinking light bulbs all over it is not tznius. That’s not the style yet, but give it time. Likewise neon colored clothing is obviously designed to catch people’s attention and get them to look at you. That is the antithesis of tznius. Tznius sends a subtle (or not subtle) message to men that says, “don’t stare at me!”

Do modern styles send that message? Then they aren’t a problem. Now here I want to add a caveat. Certain styles are not inherently priztusdik, but they draw attention simply because of the novelty associated with them. I’m thinking of the style a few years back of wearing sweaters that hung down to the floor. In and of themselves they weren’t inherently not tznius, but because they were a novelty, they caused heads to turn and people to look. That is what we are trying to avoid.

Hatzlacha and may Hashem give you the strength to not only be tzanua, but to feel happy and comfortable with it.


Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky