The Open Orthodox movement is taking leave of any semblance of halakhic legitimacy at an alarming pace. Debating the acceptability of reciting a blessing ordained by the Sages of the Talmud was merely a strategy for testing the proverbial waters, an attempt to see whether the introduction of changes in religious practice under the banner of feminism and gender equality would be countenanced by the Orthodox community. It was a successful experiment, indeed, because the response of the Modern Orthodox world to this blatant deviation from halakhic methodology and traditional observance was tepid at best and apathetic at worst.
Only weeks later, further movement in the direction of full-blown egalitarianism is being publicly advocated and endorsed by musmachim of YCT and representatives of Yeshivat Maharat, with the support of other unaffiliated and/or simply non-Orthodox institutions. Those of us who have been monitoring the developments within Open Orthodoxy over the past several years should not be surprised to find its spokespersons giving their rubber stamp to "minyanim" that permit women to lead sections of the tefilla, read from the Torah, and perform other functions that range from the highly questionable to the outright forbidden. Nonetheless, it pains me to witness this turn of events, because I had hoped - against all odds and for the sake of the unity of Klal Yisrael - that this would not happen. What is most troubling tragic is that, due to the slow, quiet process of evolution that is responsible for these changes, the radical quality of their implications has been obscured.
It should be mentioned that the Talmud teaches us that a talented scholar can find numerous seemingly persuasive arguments to permit something that is known to be prohibited. In fact, the ability to do so is considered a sign of tremendous intellectual acumen and a masterful command of Torah knowledge. This means that even a very convincing and well constructed argument can lead to patently false conclusions.
The Open Orthodox camp has marshaled a number of unconventional responsa, original, erudite arguments and abstruse sources to legitimize their positions, just as the Conservative scholars of the 20th century found scattered sources and generated unprecedented arguments to justify their innovations. At the end of the day, however, halakhic tradition beginning with the Mishna, Tosefta and Gemara in Masekhet Megillah has been unequivocal in its stance that women may not read the Torah for the community. The reason behind this principle can be analyzed, discussed, studied and debated, but it remains an iron-clad rule, a dictate of the Sages that we, as Orthodox Jews, must be fully committed to observe.
Aside from the speciousness of creative attempts to "explain away" the halakhic principle that forbids egalitarian Torah reading, the fact is that the traditionally understood meaning of this principle has been applied across the board in our communities for millenia; and this fact, in and of itself, is a sufficient reason to dismiss any and all challenges to its validity. מנהג ישראל תורה היא - the universal, customary practice of the Jewish community is itself an indisputable part of our Oral Tradition.