Limmud-Gate and Learning to Debate With Love

The following d’var torah was given by Lindsay Simmonds at the first UK partnership minyan in November. To find out about how (and why!) to form a partnership minyan in your own community, sign up for the Live Video Webinar on the topic of partnership minyan, to take place on December 18, 8:30 EST.

Shlomo HaMelech in Proverbs 18 states that:

יט אָח–נִפְשָׁע מִקִּרְיַת-עֹז ומדונים (וּמִדְיָנִים) כִּבְרִיחַ אַרְמוֹן. 19 A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.


Even for those of us who enjoy the flourishing of partnership minyans, and who care for the minutiae of halakhic debate and its religious significance, we ought to be aware that these minyanim are a radical departure from normative Orthodox Jewish practice in the UK.

A woman praying at the partnership minyan that was held at the 2013 JOFA conference in NYC.

A woman praying at the partnership minyan that was held at the 2013 JOFA conference in NYC.

I’m not going to dance around the politics today. I’m diving in.

I want to touch on the notion of halakhic debate, and radical thought and practice in the UK for a few moments. But most significantly, I want to think about how we manage that debate and how we do not evoke anger, fracture or G-d forbid engender hatred between Jews – but rather foster an attitude of love and even religious pleasure in the eclectic ways of being a Torah Jew.

As I am sure many of you are aware there has been significant to-ing and fro-ing in the debate over attendance at the renowned annual, pluralistic Jewish learning conference, Limmud, these last few weeks. I believe that the way in which this issue has been handled, or mishandled, might shed light on our own journey; perhaps even give us perspective for a more dignified debate.

To be sure, historical evidence proves me wrong – the great Jewish debates over the centuries have caused enormous rifts, insurmountable fractures and left many labelled outcasts or apikorsim.