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Sunday, 8 March 2015

There's no place for spiritual bullying!

Daf Yomi Kesubos 31

The question of women’s ordination is a hot topic in the Modern Orthodox world.  Over the last few years, Rabbi Avi Weiss began ordaining women, despite being ostracised by most of his peers.  The first of his protégés, Sara Hurwitz, he endowed with the title Rabba, but to subsequent women he offered the lesser title of Maharat, meaning female Torah leader.

One of the more controversial statements made by Sara Hurwitz was her claim that “having a woman in partnership with men is becoming a necessary part of Jewish communal life.”  As Rabbanit famously pointed out, rebbetzins have acted in this role for thousands of years!   Sara did not need to put down other dedicated female spiritual leaders in order to build herself and her agenda up.

Concerning a pregnant woman who is struck and miscarries, the Torah states, “If there shall be no fatality [of the woman], he shall be punished [with a fine].”
The Mishnah teaches: Anyone who is liable for the death penalty, is not liable to pay a fine.

The Beraisa states: Rabbi Nehunia ben Hakana considered Yom Kippur like Shabbos in terms of monetary payments.  Just like on Shabbos, if one is liable for the death penalty, he is exempt from payment, so too Yom Kippur, if he is liable for Heavenly death, he is exempt from payment.
Rabbi Ashi teaches: This law would apply regarding an Israelite who ate terumah (the priestly tithes) that belonged to him, while at the same time tearing his friend’s clothes.

Priests are different to Israelites in many different aspects.  They eat special food, called terumah.  And they wear special priestly garments.  While Judaism recognizes that different people have different roles in life and paths to serve the Almighty, some people become jealous of those they perceive as holier.  And so this particular Israelite is clearly envious of his cohen cousins and desires to partake of the terumah as well.

But that’s not enough for him.   It bothers him that his cousins get to wear special clothes.  And so not only does he eat the terumah which he shouldn’t be eating, but at the same time he also begins to tear the priestly garments off their backs. 

Many people make the same mistake as this individual.  In their efforts to grow in their spiritual stature, they feel the need to tear down others in the process.  This is called spiritual bullying.  Sara Hurwitz could have simply striven to contribute to Klal Yisrael by serving in a capacity of religious leadership.  But that was not enough for her – she didn’t want to merely partake of the tithes, at the same time she felt the need to rip into the role of rebbetzins who have served faithfully for millennia. 

Your spiritual strivings should never come at the expense of anyone else and their service of G-d.  If you find yourself knocking others and putting them down, that means you are on the wrong track.  You are not serving G-d, you are eating improper tithes.   


Always aim to grow in your service of G-d.  But make sure that you are not bullying or putting anyone else down in the process.  May you merit a life of spiritual growth that does not come at anyone else’s expense!