Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Orlofsky Platonic Relationships Shiur

So, to the many people who have sent me this shiur in the hopes that I suddenly drop all my male friends, be happy! I have listened to it.

A couple of points:

1. I cannot understand how anyone is convinced by this Rabbi. To the contrary, I wonder that they don't lose all respect for him based on the incredibly simplistic presentation which focuses more on horror stories (and the insinuation that they will happen to you) than anything else.

2. His obvious gloating regarding the way that he made a fool out of the girl who questioned him and asked whether she could learn Gemara by saying to her, after she told him that when the Gemara tells us that women will not find their fulfillment through this that is merely eitza tova, "What, and should I give her eitza ra'ah (bad advice)?" does not befit a rabbi of any kind. A rabbi should care for others, he should help others and be kind to them. He should not take pleasure in dashing a girl's illusions or making a fool out of her, as though it were some kind of contest that he "won" because he made her feel stupid. The fact that he could so callously say, "Oh, and so then she ran out crying," and allow the entire audience to laugh at this girl's expense disgusts me.

3. He quotes the story regarding Beruriah and R' Meir's sending a student to seduce her. He uses this to support the idea of nashim daatan kalos heim. They are daatan kalos when it comes to being seduced. And he wishes to suggest that women "fall for dumb lines" whereas men would not. However, he is using selective quoting to prove his point. He hasn't explained Kiddushin 81a. (Update: Actually, since he seems to believe men are animals, I guess that is his explanation.)

4. "Guys are only partially human." Says Orlofsky, "when the guy and the girl are holding hands, the only one who is holding hands is the girl. The guy is already at the next step." I am not going to debate the difference between how sex drives express themselves in men and women, but to the men, I ask you- do you really believe you're only partially human? You don't find that kind of talk and terminology degrading and false? You should know that at Beis Yaakov this is exactly what we are taught. Men are animals whose desires have to be controlled (which is why women have to be tznius) and because of this, girls are frightened on their wedding nights (no, I'm not joking) because they're scared the man is going to be out of control because he is so sex-starved. Incidentally, The Beatles' song "I Want To Hold Your Hand" (which was insanely successful and is the essence of every love song as opposed to sex song) was written by men, not women.

5. I have to look up this Igros Moshe which is so supposedly pashut and "black-and-white halakha is it's wrong."

6. "You should know that he's wrestling with himself on a different level than you are." For the information of the various men out there, that depends on the girl. Some girls get sick of being told that they have no comprehension of what the guys are going through.

7. "Guys don't usually have platonic relationships with girls they don't find attractive." I don't think that's true at all. Also, I think it is perfectly possible to realize that someone is a pretty or handsome person and nonetheless not be attracted to them. Orlofsky speaks of this but he claims that you can become attracted to somebody over time and therefore you're still not 'safe.'

8. "All men are potential pigs," Orlofsky says. "Every man is a potential murderer. Right? And therefore a guy who likes to throw knives at people and shoot into crowds is not the kind of guy who I hang around with. So any guy has the potential to dehumanize women. [...] Dehumanizing each other is the strongest drive we have. And that's the reason why when Adam and Chava ate from the Eitz Ha'Daas the first thing they said was, 'Hey, we're naked; let's make clothes.' [...] I have the potential to dehumanize someone. That was scary to them. I want cover myself up!" - Okay, are we really comparing a guy who is friends with girls to a murderer? Really?

9. Queens College premarital sex, tefillin dates, mikvaos that have to matir for single women to use so they won't be chayav kareis- of course all these things exist but not every guy who is friends with girls is engaging in premarital sex, for goodness' sake.

10. "What about gay guys?" someone inquired. So Orlofsky took care of that by quoting R' Micha Berger who supposedly said that the common statement is that these two men cannot help themselves. "You know what can't help yourself means?" Orlofsky continued. "That means that you have two guys who are about to engage in a homosexual relationship and smoke is coming through the door and someone is screaming, 'Fire, fire, fire' and they go through with it anyway. That's can't help themselves." And then he claims that if the motivation is strong enough, you can fall in love with anything. And then insinuated that the straight guys will claim to be gay if it gets them to be around girls they like. Now, we all know that the Tucker Maxes of the world will do that, but I don't think that extends to every guy in the world. More importantly, this statement was so dismissive (of homosexuals and people in general) that it disturbed me as well.

The basic argument of this whole speech is that guys are ruled by their sex-drives and there's no way that they could possibly get past that to have intellectual or intelligent relationships with girls. No guy, ever, is capable of that. We'll tell you every horror story to prove that point and none of the good stories about the nice guys who really are friends of yours. Because they don't exist and if you meet one that's only because he's lying. To me this is an utterly ridiculous argument. It makes about as much sense as saying you shouldn't eat any food because you might come to eat treif. Don't be friends with any male because you might end up in a sexually problematic situation. We create boundaries in our own life, don't we? I choose not to eat treif and I can also choose not to have premarital sex. I can control my own actions. So now you'll say, yes, but it specifically says not to trust yourself with regard to arayos but it never says don't trust yourself with regard to not eating food. You're right. So then don't be in yichud with your guy friend and that should solve your problem. Hurrah. This entire argument is predicated upon the same 'can't help themselves' idea that Orlofsky later claims cannot be with regard to homosexuals. So it's untrue per his own point of view! That's the most amusing part.


the apple said...

At least use his title. You don't have to agree, but you should be respectful in how you refer to him.

Chana said...


I would use his title if I were referring to him as R' Dovid Orlofsky. I was using the convention of citing only the surname (in the same way that I would cite authors/ anyone else in a formal paper or essay.) I have used this convention before on my blog, whether with the Rav or others. Had I referred to the speaker as merely "Dovid Orlofsky" without the title you'd be right, but I did not.

The Cousin said...

I've only skimmed your post (for now--I promise to come back and read it in full later).

But quickly on point 4--if men are only "partially human"--is the Rabbi himself then classifying himself as partially human as well? He is a male, no?

I'll say this much. A teenage boy/young male is usually driven by his testosterone during that age period. That being said, it takes an individual to have the internal willpower to overcome the hormonal influence to "instantly jump to the next step".

That said-I know/have known females who are more inclined to have the "next step" mindset than males too.

Point 7 is false.

Point 9--what is a "tefillin date?" (dare I ask?)

The basic argument of this whole speech is that guys are ruled by their sex-drives and there's no way that they could possibly get past that to have intellectual or intelligent relationships with girls. No guy, ever, is capable of that. We'll tell you every horror story to prove that point and none of the good stories about the nice guys who really are friends of yours

I think the proble is that the Rabbi is presenting his agrument in binary terms. There's no middle ground--when in reality, there is quite a large gray area.

I choose not to eat treif and I can also choose not to have premarital sex. I can control my own actions.

It all comes down to an individual's self control and personal choices. The end.

/So says this "nice" Jewish (human) "male"

Chana said...

Oh beloved Cousin of mine, hello!

Point 4- Yes. The Rabbi unequivocally agrees that all men by nature of being male, himself included, cannot be trusted with the female sex.

Point 9- A tefillin date is when you have someone who (theoretically) is being falsely religious. He sleeps with his girlfriend (so he is engaging in premarital sex, which is forbidden per halakhic Judaism) but then dons tefillin the next morning and serves God/ says his prayers like nothing at all is wrong with his observance. So he took his tefillin along with him to his girlfriend's house when he slept with her.

And Cousin, you and I both know there is a middle ground, but to be fair, the Rabbi's audience at th is particular event was a crowd of young teenagers. That having been said, I believe he thinks this should extend to all men and women.

Anonymous said...

My summary was - all men are pigs- until you marry them. Then they magically turn into bnai torah!

I suppose he must be convincing to someone but I found it embarrasing the first time I listened.

Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

This particular lecture is popular with Orthodox religious youth. However, I do believe that this Rabbi issues blanket statements when it comes to platonic relationships and most of the statements he makes in this shiur describe men unfavorably.. It's important to explore all concerns no matter how taboo a topic is and not simply state that it's wrong.

Off the Derech said...

Good post.

Like most rabbis, this man is a complete doofus.

What a horrendous view of human nature.

Shades of Grey said...

I recall agreeing with a lot of what R' Orlofsky said when I initially heard this shiur several years ago (back in high school, incidentally). Specifically after being exposed to the behavior of the vast majority (though not all) of the guys (Jewish and not-Jewish) in my co-ed secular high school. I felt I was different in many ways - and I certainly was with regard to personal maturity - and did have platonic friendships with several girls I knew from NCSY and the local Jewish community.

Was the thing about only being friends with girls who were attractive true? Yes - I remember noticing that with a bit of surprise. And yes, I did develope closer feelings for some of them, but never expressed them (with one exception), being the lilly-livered sort that I was. That one exception never returned my feelings in quite the same way, but we did develop a brother-sister connection that remains (to a much lesser degree) today.

I personally think I benefitted from having these platonic relationships in high school, and it certainly kept me from getting into trouble with actually dating anyone in my class/having a girlfriend (due to hashkafic notions that I learned FROM THESE GIRLS about the futility of pursuing such relationships in high school). But the relationships were, for the most part, long distance - since they all lived/went to school in other cities/states, and actual time spent in each other's presence was limited to a few days a month at most. So I can definitely see where a more constant togetherness could have been theoretically troublesome.

Viewing the shiur 7-ish years later, as a more mature college student, I still think that R' Orlofsky raises some valid points - for high schoolers. I was utterly disgusted by some of the things I saw/heard from the high school guys hanging out in our dorm lounge over the past three years. Enough to confirm my suspicions that things have gotten worse for high school guys than when I was that age.

I certainly would like to give high schoolers (male and female) a lot more credit - and there probably are examples of better behaved/mature kids out there than those I have encountered. But I feel discouraged from empirical experience.

I do agree with every point you said in general - more specifically with relation to men and women our own age. Hopefully we've all had some time to move past the hormone raging mindset of the high school years and become more rational and adult in our perspectives.

I don't like the way R' Orlofsky expresses his points (much like you do), but high schoolers can be very thick-headed at times and need to be verbally "beaten over the head" to understand certain points. Maybe not the girls, but certainly the guys.

The real question is - how can we, knowing the issues at hand - best figure out a way to express the dangers that come with such friendships to those younger than us (and one day, our own children)? Clearly the terminology used here (though perhaps effective to a degree) is upsetting in many ways, and needs to be replaced. I really don't have an answer for that dilemma... but it MUST be addressed.

Erachet said...

I agree with the Apple.

Josh said...

Mt. Sinai had a Question & Answer session with Rabbi Blau last year where he was asked whether men and women in this community could have platonic relationships. As I recall, he answered "Yes, but you have to be very careful that you're not fooling yourselves."

Tobie said...

I heard this speech in 11th grade, at a point where I did not personally have any male friends because I went to an all girl's high school. I thought it was complete balderdash then and nothing I have learned since has changed my mind.

The Cousin said...


Thanks for the clarifications!

No mention by the rabbi however, of how being with a group of platonic female friends can cause a male headaches though? (sarcasm implied)

Time to go back to cooking...
(or is that another activity from which as an "animal" I should be refraining from? As animals don't cook their food?)

Chana said...

Oh darling Cousin, don't take the words to heart. You're hardly an animal; you're an awesome person and I still want to kidnap you and have you spend time with me!

oliveoil said...

"My summary was - all men are pigs- until you marry them. Then they magically turn into bnai torah!

I suppose he must be convincing to someone but I found it embarrasing the first time I listened.

Joel Rich"


All men are pigs until you marry them...could be that once a person is married he can now channel his sex drive and he can focus on becoming a ben torah.


If the Beatles would still be performing today, they would be singing about black pantyliners.

Ask Joel how radical it was to sing about holding hands in the 60's.

Off the Derech said...

Remind why rabbis like this deserve any respect?

The whole speech was just so sad and absurd. And the amount of rhetoric he used was alarming. The propaganda would be fine in a Nazi rally. Not in an educational institutional. Oh wait, it's religious, so let's all turn the other cheek politely when brainwashing happens. *Hurl.*

Saying anyone is a pig is extremly alarming. All human ms have an innate sex drive. Just ask Freud. Sex is one of the most powerful motivators. However, that doesn't mean no one can be trusted, and it certainly doesn't mean one's sex drive disappears after marriage (though the rabbis want you to think that). Everyone is obsessed about sex to some extent, from the youngest age to the oldest age, regardless of who they are. That's just the way it is. That doesn't mean people need to live their lives in solitary confinement, nor does it mean that most people don't behave normally. Not like animals. That's why gender segregation is extremely cruel in schools, if you ask me. Leave it to Judeo-Christian religions to fetishize the whole thing.

And if you think what the rabbis tell girls about guys is awful, wait til you hear what they tell guys about girls!

I just chucked my dinner.

Off the Derech said...

By this logic, unmarried, non-Torah learning non-Jews must be REALLY big pigs.

I thought you MO people were better than that.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Because most people can't turn on a dime.

BTW - I would love to answer your holding hands question but as Robun Williams was mechadesh - if you claim to remember the 60's, you weren't there.

Of course if you knew me then (did you?) you know I wasn't cool enough not to know them till too late.

Joel Rich

yosef said...

This makes me just think even less of R. Orlofsky than I already did. Didn't know that was possible.

Anonymous said...

Technology truly is an inescapable aspect of our daily lives, and I am fairly confident when I say that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.

I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as memory becomes less expensive, the possibility of uploading our brains onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's one of the things I really wish I could experience in my lifetime.

(Submitted on BB for R4i Nintendo DS.)

Anonymous said...

I think it is time that the platonic friendship debate concludes. Platonic relations can indeed occur between man and wife or a hetero man and a hetero woman, platonic love between a man and woman is as romantic as physical love (or lust as this can be called by some). Both are romantic loves or attractions. Between men and women it is a state of flirtation. Flirtation is not always sexual. Maybe to the immature mind it is. One must understand the balance that makes a relationship work. Ignorance will only cloud one's judgment and views. Platonic love does exist but it is widely misunderstood. Like sex, one can have multiple partners if one so chooses. Romance is a delicate balance of physical love and platonic love. Love based on merely sex is clearly not a mature love. The balance may vary but the romance is still there. Platonic love between a man and a woman vastly differs from platonic love between a parent and a child or platonic love between a human and it's pet(s). Boundaries between a man and a woman are very delicate. Humanity is imperfect. We are all responsible for our own actions, decisions and beliefs and values and therefore our own consequences as well. We all want different things. It is important to clarify what platonic love is between man and woman(hetero) and the importance of clarification. A happy and successful relationship can be defined by its balance of platonic and physical love. After all it may prove to be difficult to find happiness and a strong connection with your partner if that friendship is not there. I will not touch on boundaries. Life is boundless if one so chooses it to be. I will not touch on the difference between right and wrong either. People make mistakes, some learn from them, some don’t and some don’t want to. People will do as they please. As I have said above people want different things and value different things. My purpose here is to clarify what platonic love truly is. It is a beautiful thing when completely understood. People will define boundaries according to their values and personal moral. Rather than debate one must educate them selves and be honest with them selves. A closed mind is not a mind open to truth and wisdom. Truth and wisdom will bring one to true enlightenment and a clear peace of mind. Sometimes in life one has to explore to find answers. One must under stand that truth may be spoken and maybe unspoken, seen or unseen. Mistakes do happen. Some risks are worth taking and some are not worth taking. Propaganda and mis-information closes the minds of many. How can one evolve as a person with a closed mind and the acceptance of reality? How can one be true with a partner if they are not truthful with self?

Anonymous said...

I listened to the speech and read all the reviews and comments. I strongly believe that many people aren't truly being honest with themselves when it comes to relationships with the opposite gender. Contrary to popular belief, some things mentioned have been proved scientifically. Judaism aside, science has stated time and again that: firstly the human race would have died out eons ago if sexual relationships weren't pleasurable, which is why g-d in his infinite wisdom has created the human body the way he did,and secondly men are impulsive and often don't think about consequences to their actions which in turn causes them to do things without thinking.
I feel like you listened to this not wanting to change so your obviously gonna hear what will make you happy. If you don't want to drop your male friends then don't. No one really cares if you want to hurt yourself.

Anonymous said...

u r so totally out of it!!! u have no idea what guys go thru! u obviosly dont understand the male pyche... when u become a guy.. get back to me and then see if what the rabbi said was true... guys dont like girls emotionally the way girls like guys... guys r ALWAYS one step ahead... so true!!

Sherri said...

By this logic, unmarried, non-Torah learning non-Jews must be REALLY big pigs. I thought you MO people were better than that.