Torah Talk With Rabbi Rabbs

This week we have two Torah portions — Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9–30:20) and Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1–30).

Rabbi Rabbs goes off on the Ten Commandments of Chabad Jews (I love Chabad and Aish HaTorah, but I enjoy hearing Rabbs’ rant):

* You shall accept the Rebbe into your heart as your personal Lord and savior, and even though you shall preach that Judaism forbids intermediaries between Jews and G-d, nevertheless, you shall secretly pray to the Rebbe at his grave
* You shall loudly proclaim that G-d created the Heavens and the Earth, but at the same time, you shall make ridiculous comments such as “The Rebbe Runs the World”, and you shall tell Jews to light Sabbath candles and put on Tefillin not because Judaism says so, but because the Messiah loves you
* You shall never publicly state that the Rebbe is dead, and you shall believe with absolute certainty that Elvis, Jim Morrison, and Michael Jackson are actually quite alive
* Even under threat of death, you shall never publicly state that the Rebbe is not the Moshiach, and you shall loudly proclaim that it is possible for a dead man to be the Messiah, even though the Rebbe himself said “The Messiah cannot come from the dead.”
* When asked to name a Jewish Holiday, instead of responding with Passover, Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, or Yom Kippur, you shall respond with an obscure date on the calendar that has no relevance to anyone outside of Chabad, such as Yud This Kislev or Yud That Nissan, and you shall celebrate those dates by getting drunk and performing a séance for your dead rebbe, and then upon waking up in the morning, running to the living room to see if he delivered any presents overnight
* Even though you don’t grow long payas as the Ba‘al Shem Tov advised, you don’t wear your tallis katan over your shirt as Chasidus has championed, and you don’t even remotely dress like the other Chasidic groups, nevertheless, you shall not only claim that you are Chasidic, but that all of the other groups have it wrong
* You shall love all Jews regardless of their backgrounds, and you shall welcome them into your communities and homes, all for exactly six months, at which time, if they haven’t become Chabad and haven’t accepted the Rebbe into their heart, you shall ostracize them, turn them into a pariah, embarrass them publicly, spit at them as you pass by them, and even threaten them with physical violence — UNLESS, they still have long hair and wear an AC-DC t-shirt, in which case you shall continue to be nice to them because they are obviously less Jewish than you
* You shall champion an outright criminal that stole millions of dollars, violated various labor laws, and compromised kosher foods standards, and you shall falsely claim to do so because he is a fellow Jew, when in reality, if that crook weren’t a Chabad member, you’d let him fry in an electric chair, and when six Jews were murdered in a Chabad shul in India, including three rabbis, the only two victims you will ever mourn, post photos of, and consider to have been alive will be the Chabad couple that ran the shul
* Because you are allergic to all Torah-observant Jews who aren’t Chabad, you consider them a fungus in the way of the Moshiach, and you do your best not to associate with them, the most honest thing you shall ever do is on your Facebook Info page where it asks for religious views, rather than identifying yourself as Jewish, you shall instead state that you are Chabad.
* You shall not take offense to these 10 Commandments, and you shall turn the other cheek as Jesus has commanded, and instead of getting angry, you shall perform the greatest Mitzvah of all — use your energies to deface public property by covering nearby street signs with cool Rebbe bumper stickers.

Rabbi Rabbs talks about female rabbis:

The issue of women rabbis, to a certain extent, depends on your definition of what a rabbi is. If you think that a rabbi is a high-paid master of ceremonies directing traffic in shul and giving the odd speech, then your only halachic barrier is probably the somewhat difficult-to-define (yet real all the same) concept of tznius. “Kol kavuda bas melech penima” (Tehilim 45; 14) requires that a woman focus her activities in a more private forum. It’s hard to set concrete borders to this idea, but it is widely utilized in halachic literature.

If you think of a rabbi as a communal leader with authority then you’ll have to deal with the Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 1; 5) “one may not appoint a woman as king. . .similarly, any other positions in Israel must be only filled by men.”

If your rabbi is to consider serious halachic sha’alos, then it’s
theoretically possible (the Minchas Chinuch says that the judge Devorah issued halachic rulings in issur v’heter). However, given the enormous energy and many decades of full-time Torah study necessary to qualify anyone for such pursuits, I’d say that the likelihood of your finding a suitable woman is somewhere between nothing and zero.

Finally, if your rabbi will teach Torah publicly, you’ll have to get around the tznius issue mentioned above and the various problems surrounding women learning Torah she’bal peh (see Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 1; 13)


Frequently asked questions on all of that:

1. What about Rashi’s daughters that wore Tefillin?

A: Rashi’s daughters were not rabbis and their wearing Tefillin was not in contradiction to anything I just said

2. How could Queen Shlomis have been praised in the Talmud if there should not be a female “king”?

A: She wasn’t really a queen – rather the wife, and later widow, of a king. Now, her husband wasn’t really king either, but a member of a wealthy and powerful family who, de facto, held power. She is praised because of her wise and beneficial actions which were really irrelevant to her position.

3. Rabbi Benzion Uziel, following Tosfos, the Chidah, and Sefer HaChinuk, says that a woman may be a queen as long as the people accept her as such. He says that a woman is ineligible for kingship only when the king is appointed by the Sanhedrin. However, when the king is instead chosen democratically by the
people, he says, nothing keeps a woman from being a king.

A: Electing someone democratically isn’t even called being a king or queen. That clearly requires Sanhedrin.

4. How does the Rambam explain Devorah?

A: I think a strong argument could be made that Devorah actually avoided direct authority by insisting that Barak lead the Jews’ battle (under her direction). And as far as her halachic teachings (in the opinion of the Minchas Chinuch), one can really say simply that she was never appointed to any position: people just came to her…

5. Other commentators say that Devorah (the judge) was “like a king”, and that she was able to exercise serarah (authority), notwithstanding her being a woman, because the people accepted her. Women are forbidden to exercise serarah over
men only when the men are insulted by a woman’s having authority over them.

A: That only deals with one of the problems of women rabbis that I mentioned. The others would seem to still be issues.

6. Rambam also says converts are limited from holding positions of power over born Jews and of serving on a Bais Din against born Jews. Yet, we see that nowadays, that doesn’t stop gerim from becoming rabbis. I even had a rosh yeshivah who is a ger. So, the argument is that just as a ger can become a rabbi even though the Rambam says no, so too a woman can become a rabbi even though the Rambam says no.

A: Roshei yeshivos and rebbeim aren’t “communal leaders” but various types of teachers – and thus the Rambam isn’t applicable. I don’t know what justification geirim have as community rabbis (although I’m certainly not passing judgment on anyone in particular without knowing specifics).

7. What about Ovadia the Prophet? Wasn’t he a ger? Does being a prophet count as being a leader?

A: Neviim are NOT the type of leader that would be a problem.

guest16: Man, a girl shows up one time and now they just letch at her over and over again
guest43: The highest status person ever to appear before Luke’s cam was that Levinas woman,
guest43: Also a convert
guest43: Tall, BRILLIANT woman
guest43: And great looking, too
guest16: she is very smart, so was suissa, he’s had smart people before
guest43: Monica O
guest43: The total package
Bernadette: Every single week you bring her up!
guest43: Elegant, brilliant, tall, lovely, accomplished.
Bernadette: Honestly, why not ask the Levinas woman out?
guest43: I am transfixed by her
guest43: We live thousands of miles apart
Bernadette: Fischel/Tzaddik, love knows no bounds…distance shouldn’t make a difference.

guest19: the recent torah portion really pushed one word into mind – anthrapomorphism. does god really have all these emotions? does god really get angry?
guest16: he’s probably pissed right now
guest16: if Rabbs takes a dump so Gd takes a dump?
guest16: Gd’s tallis is mentioned in the talmud
guest19: wouldn’t god always understand our viewpoints? how could he really get angry? because his creations are going against him?
guest43: Some Chabad girls were handing out literature in front of Zabars the other day. Very cute and wholesome looking
guest43: Their literature says “God’s personal bailout plan. Join the West Side CJL – Chabad for the High Holidays….We are all members.”
guest19: coming back? reincarnation?
guest16: oh no, one hopes not
guest19: does rabbs believe in reincarnation?
guest43: Reincarnation — is there any basis in Torah for this belief?
guest43: NO
guest19: can converts who follow the law come back as jews?
guest16: he said they come back as the Beatles?
guest43: The Litivish rabbis of old dressed like 18th Century Polish Nobelmen.
guest43: Ie, like Roman Catholic goyim
Shira90: we’re here to bring light into the dark
guest19: whats a good jewish brand for clothing?
guest23: levis
Shira90: once you pop that torah open man…well you’re either hooked or not
guest43: This sense of community is what made Christianity so popular in early Roman times
guest43: When Christians got sick, the early church took care of you lots better than the pagan priests did when one of their own took ill.
guest43: This is also how the Mormons recruit.
guest43: Community…structure…social life.
guest43: That’s the key. Not theology.
guest19: it’s interesting how shameful it can be to wear the yarmulka eating a big mac
guest43: If a man enters into gay marriage to become another man’s wife, should he to to mikvah before lying with his man as though he were a woman?
Shira90: i agree that wearing something that is distinctly jewish changes how a person acts ans sees themselves
Shira90: I feel the same way about dressing modestly
guest43: How do you feel about strippers who identify themselves as Jewish to their customers?
guest19: he robbed a bank, but he was wearing his tzitzis!
guest43: On the one hand, it is moris eyen, but on the other hand, what if the stripper mentions this because she is looking for a Jewish man to marry to take her away from all of this sin?
Shira90: okay so what of the people that see t he jewish guy at the macdonalds? Doesn’t that do something to how people see judaism and jewish people?
guest43: “A stripper who is shomer negila has a price above rubbies”
guest19: are you really telling me Rabbs during your lap dances you don’t try to cop feels!?
guest43: This is why a man should not speak too loudly because he might lose his voice at exactly the moment he needs to tell the stripper to get off his lap
guest43: Strippers and Torah are worth another book of Gemarah
guest19: I still wanted to know how they would feel to be commanded to love god (as moses)
guest43: “Stripper Halacha”
guest43: So is it kosher to go to a club like Scores where there is no touching ?
guest43: Next time get some hot chicks in here to talk torah
guest43: Get Monica O
guest43: Get some wayward Persian Princess to talk about her community

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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