“Open O’ers? What is that?”
We will get that, but first a piece about the Tefilah of HaNosain Teshu’ah, then a bit of news.
The prayer for the secular government has its origins in Sefer Yirmiyahu (29:7) “Seek the welfare of the city.. and pray to Hashem on its behalf..” It also appears in Pirkei Avos (3:2), where Rabbi Chananya S’gan HaCohanim says, “Pray for the welfare of the government.” However, the prayer of HaNosain Teshu’ah first appears in the form that we know – in the Pinkas Ha’Ir of the Worms dating back to 1096 CE. In the photograph above, we find the Tefilah in a siddur from England.
What if, for the sake of argument, the government under discussion is “evil” so to speak? Is the prayer recited then too? Let’s realize that Rabbi Chananya was referring to Roman times where the local populations were exploited and murdered in order to achieve goals and aims of the Roman Empire.
Now the news: Arutz Sheva recently ran an article that highlighted how Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, dean of the Valley Beth Midrash in Phoenix, Arizona, has rewritten the traditional prayer for the government – “so as to avoid actually blessing the 45th president. It has also been reported that he declared a fast day for Friday on the occasion of the next president’s inauguration. Forget about the halacha that we don’t do fast days on Erev Shabbos, but let’s get back to his new version of “HaNosain Teshuah.”
“Because of my commitment to the integrity of prayer, starting this week, I can no longer recite or say amen to the Shabbat prayer for the success of the U.S. President,” Yanklowitz wrote.
The prayer itself reads in part: “Guide the incoming leader of this country away from his basest instincts, thwart his plans to target certain groups and strengthen white supremacy; for You know, G-d, that all were created in Your image.”
It continues, “We pray that the decrees from the Executive office do not harm the innocent. We pray that any policies that are meant to harm the vulnerable in prioritization of the powerful and privileged will be quashed. Should there be plans that will merely benefit the most privileged Americans, but not all of humankind and the planet we call home, may they fail. May our nation not consort or conspire with totalitarian despots but reaffirm our commitment to freedom and democracy. Grant us the strength to demonstrate spiritual resistance, to imbue our sinews with the highest integrity. Give us the wisdom and courage to do what’s right to protect the most powerless and defenseless in society.”
Now the explanation for Open O’ers.
It is suggested that for the sake of not misleading others, Orthodox publications and news sites should not be calling Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz “Open Orthodox” because by no means is he Orthodox. This just serves to confuse the non-Jewish media into thinking that he does represent Orthodox Judaism is some sense. He does not.
We should be calling them Open O’ers instead.
His writings, from a theological sense, reflect a perspective that is so beyond the pale that it does not fit into Orthodox Judaism in any sense.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s writings on Mashiach being a Christian concept that influenced Judaism, and other writings of his, clearly place him far outside the orbit of Orthodox Judaism. The following quotes are from an article he had published in the Jewish Week, February 1, 2012.
“We have made too many mistakes throughout history, thinking that the Messiah is a person or event.. It was Christian influence that helped further this idea of the single divine human. The Jewish notion, preceding that, suggested that all people are imbued with Divinity.”
“At the end of the day, I would like to suggest that we are Moshiach—we are the ones we have been waiting for.”
This article is a flat-out denial of a cardinal principle of Judaism – the arrival and anticipation of Moshiach. He has written that the identity of the much waited for Messiah is “us.” This flies in the face of the Talmud, Maimonides and thousands of years of Jewish tradition.
It is disingenuous for Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz to claim that he is Orthodox and deny fundamentals of Judaism. Open O’er is a much better designation.
In a Tisha B’Av reflection, this past Tisha B’Av, Rabbi Yanklowitz actually denies the rebuilding of the third Beis HaMikdash. Below are some quotes and the link.
“The fantasy of returning to one centralized monolithic form of Judaism is not only wishful thinking. It’s also dismissive of two of the most important aspects of modern Jewish life: diversity and adaptability.”
“Further, in any centralized system of authority, abuses of power and limits of transparency and empowerment have proven to be inevitable. The new paradigm that the Temple’s destruction and exile from Israel enabled is one that says, Bring G-d into your hearts and into the wide world every day and in every way; the Temple was a vehicle for this once, now we have so much more.”
“ It is natural to long for past models in a world of uncertainty but we must move forward with courage, creativity, and open hearts to build a world of justice, kindness, and holiness where G-d can reside.”
These articles and more have placed Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz far outside the orbit of Orthodox Judaism. The “I’m okay, your okay” attitude cannot stretch the boundaries of the umbrella of orthodoxy to include someone who denies the meaning of the idea of Moshiach and of rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash.
This is not a matter of misinterpretation, he really writes and believes this. The very Tefilos of our synagogues, our Shmoneh Esreh, indeed, even of the last line in the counting of the Omer would have to be thrown out in order to comport with Rabbi Shmuly’s theological writings.
It is particularly sad, because it is clear that Rabbi Shmuly is a man of great sensitivities. His work in Haiti, in improving conditions for prisoners, in calling for greater transparency in charitable organization, all point to a man of good midos. His concern for social welfare, for immigrant rights, for the downtrodden and weak; indeed, his concern for others – are all very important and admirable qualities.
There is obfuscation going on here, of the highest order. The obfuscation involves not only this Rabbi, but an entire group of others, presenting their ideas that lie far beyond the pale of orthodoxy, as if they are orthodox.
Chovevei Torah and Open Orthodoxy have taken the most radical positions on issues of Biblical Criticism, changing the formulation of blessings instituted by the Men of the Great Assembly, recognizing marriages that the Torah clearly prohibits and engaging in interfaith activities that are clearly forbidden by Halacha.
Rabbi Zev Farber, a leading Open Orthodox thinker, has taken the position that Sefer Dvarim was not written by Moshe Rabbeinu and came significantly later. This is not and cannot comport with the theological views of the Talmud, the Shulchan Aruch, and Orthodox Judaism. [See for example, http://thetorah.com/torah-history-judaism-part-3/ and http://thetorah.com/torah-history-judaism-part-4/ for starters.
Elsewhere Rabbi Farber has written:
“The same holds true of the description of the development of Israel. The idea that the twelve tribes of Israel were formed by the twelve sons of Jacob has all the appearances of a schematic attempt of Israelites to explain themselves to themselves: “We are all one family because we are all children of the same father.” These Torah stories are not history, the recording of past events, they are mnemohistory, the construction of shared cultural-memory through narratives about the past.
…It is impossible to regard the accounts of mass Exodus from Egypt, the wilderness experience or the coordinated, swift and complete conquest of the entire land of Canaan under Joshua as historical.
The popular idea that the Torah’s holiness stems only from the historicity of its claims, dictated by the mouth of G-d, strikes me as an attempt to depict the Almighty as a news reporter.”
[See http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2013/07/26/belief-in-torah-min-ha-shamayim-damage-control-by-yct/#ixzz33RD0Wyx6 ]
Orthodox organizations should, in this author’s opinion re-designate “Open Orthodoxy” to “Open O’ers” to stop the terrible confusion.
The author can be reached at email@example.com