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Women and Minyan II

 

Why can’t women count in a minyan for prayer? R. Aryeh Frimer wrote a definitive article on the subject over twenty years ago (link). What follows is my own summary of his article, presented mainly to emphasize the broad consensus on the point that women cannot be counted.

There are three schools of thought on this:

I. One school posits that women are never counted in any minyan for any subject, even something in which they are obligated. Tosafos (Berakhos 45b sv. ve-ha), Ran (Megillah 5a) and other rishonim adopt this approach. Among acharonim, the Vilna Gaon (Bi’ur Ha-Gra, Orach Chaim 199:6), Shulchan Arukh Ha-Rav (199:6-7; 263:22; kuntres acharon 7), Minchas Chinukh (296:10), Or Samei’ach (Hilkhos Berakhos 5:3), Binyan Tziyon (vol. 2 no. 8 ) and others follow this approach. Different reasons are offered, which include comparisons to the biblical censuses in the desert, inheritance of land in Israel, prior obligations to family and public vs. private roles.

II. Another approach counts women for a minyan in anything for which they are completely obligated. Since they are not obligated in public prayer, they do not count for that minyan. This approach is adopted by the Shevus Ya’akov (Orach Chaim 3:54), Teshuvah Me-Ahavah (2:229), Toras Chesed (Orach Chaim 4), Tzitz Eliezer (9:11) and others.

III. A third approach distinguishes between a minyan required to publicize a matter and a minyan that is intrinsic to the performance of a ritual. Women count for the former but not the latter. The Re’ah, quoted by the Ritva (Megillah 4a), adopts this approach. The Chazon Ish (Orach Chaim 155:2), R. Chaim Sonnenfeld (Salmas Chaim 1:101), R. Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikra’ei Kodesh, Purim 35, 50 n. 3), R. Ovadiah Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, p. 90) and others follow this approach.

The details of this debate are reflected practically in a number of cases. For example, can women count for a minyan in the reading of Parashas Zakhor, assuming they are obligated in it? Can they count for a minyan in the reading of megillah or the public lighting of a Chanukah menorah? The approach you follow will determine your answer to these questions.

However, there is a universal consensus that women cannot count in a minyan for public prayer.

(See also this post: link)

 

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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

128 Responses

  1. Mike S. says:

    Is there anyone who doesn’t count women for the ten Jews that distinguish between public and private when one is forced to commit an aveirah under threat of death for the purpose of compelling a jew to violate the Torah?

  2. IH says:

    I don’t think anyone would disagree the universal halachic consensus has been that women cannot count in a minyan for public prayer in normal circumstances. But nor is there a clinching, clear, direct, black-and-white halachic prohibition. This is understandable — until the revolutionary change in the role of women in Western society occurred less than 100 years ago, this was a purely academic question. But, that is no longer true. It matters a great deal to the most torah-educated generation of halachic Jews ever in our history, female and male. How many more generations of Jewish women will accept “separate but equal” when everything else that governs their lives is egalitarian?

    In the 20+ years since Rabbi Frimer’s important paper, the lay consensus within Modern Orthodoxy has started to shift and it will continue to do so. Some Orthodox rabbis have sensed the change and are re-focusing efforts to permit that which is permitted (as Rabbi Sperber states so eloquently).

    Halacha has perfectly adequate mechanisms to deal with societal changes: think of Hillel’s Prozbol (mipnei tikkun olam), or Rabbeinu Gershom’s prohibition on polygamy or the democratization of reciting Kaddish by the Chatam Sofer (for Ashkenazim; it has been done for Sephardim earlier as cited by the Yavets). If MO is to be relevant, it must boldly deal with this revolutionary change in the society in which we live. This requires our best and brightest at the flagship YU working with those like Rabbi Sperber, Rabbi Weiss and now Rabbis Tucker & Rosenberg.

  3. mycroft says:

    “This requires our best and brightest at the flagship YU working with those like …, Rabbi Weiss”

    R Joseph Weiss has taught Yoreah Deah at RIETS for decades-not sure R J Weiss would do what IH wants-not aware of any other R Weiss who YUs “best and brightest” would treat as a talmid chacham.

  4. MJ says:

    mycroft, was it worth posting something that will just confuse most people?

  5. DES says:

    “If MO is to be relevant”

    Both an individual’s and a community’s practice of Judaism should be correct and proper. “Relevance,” whatever it means, is irrelevant in determining the proper course of action.

  6. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Mycroft: Did you think you were being clever? Why couldn’t you make your actually quite well taken point in a straighforward way, and note that YU’s Roshei Yeshiva do not view Rabbis Sperber, (Avi) Weiss, Tucker, and Rosenberg as legitimate halakhic authorities and have no interest in working with them? But evidently such straightforwardness is beneath you.

  7. IH says:

    DES: so if not the need to “be relevant” what was the reason for RIETS to decide to teach in English rather than Yiddish (after student protests), for Yeshiva College to be created and for Rabbi Soloveitchik’s groundbreaking initiative to create Maimonides where boys and girls learned together under Orthodox auspices?

    But, I would agree that there is also an issue of justice that drives the need for change even more than relevance.

  8. Artscrawl says:

    IH is right. In a larger sense, alliances must be chosen. I know there is a fear of a slippery slope but while people like R Weiss have been accused of having an agenda, these LW Rabbis have continued to operate under Halachicly defined boundaries. They have not abandoned those boundaries. As long as that holds, they will not go the route of the conservative movement. In essence the whole ethos of Modern Orthodoxy is to do what they are trying to do…make sense of Judaism in a modern world. On the other hand, on the Haredi side of the divide, they are not willing to take up that mission. I think one can have a debate with a R Weiss or an R Sperber and still be part of the same group. Most of the haredim are too far gone. They are not operating on a much more primitive level. We can never make that alliance work, no matter how many accommodations are made.

    For me, I would not censor R Weiss any more. Let him experiment on the boundary line and see how it plays out. Maybe it will provide a path for the reintegration of the conservative movement? Who can tell. One thing for sure…once women have tasted egalitarianism, they are not going back into patriarchy without a fight and who needs that fight now?

  9. Joseph Kaplan says:

    And I thought Mycroft was actually quite clever this time.

  10. Hirhurim says:

    IH: The idea that rabbis need to change halakhah because of public demand is pretty much what caused Conservative Judaism much of its troubles. We don’t conduct surveys and change halakhah based on public opinion. We try to be true to our tradition and hope that people will appreciate that integrity.

    This is not an issue of permitting the permitted. The whole point of this post is to show that it is NOT permitted.

    Tossing around issues like Prozbol and Cherem Rabbenu Gershom without context or classification is just muddying the waters. It is also the classic approach of a movement that I will not name at this time but should be obvious. With that approach, everything is permissible if people just want it enough.

  11. Hirhurim says:

    Artscrawl: continued to operate under Halachicly defined boundaries

    That phrase is too vague to be meaningful. With that approach, every rabbi who drives to shul or performs gay marriages is operating within halakhic boundaries.

    In essence the whole ethos of Modern Orthodoxy is to do what they are trying to do…make sense of Judaism in a modern world.

    I agree, but that is *without* changing halakhah to make it more compatible with our modern sensibilities.

  12. IH says:

    Rabbi Student: with respect, the spectre of the Conservative movement is in your head, not reality. Conservative Judaism was deemed heretical by Orthodoxy long before the issue of women even appeared on the radar: the fissure, as you know, was about Torah mi’Sinai. The Conservative movement did not allow women into their Rabbinical school until 1984, long after many of the first steps within Orthodoxy to deal with the societal change.

    Where there is congruence is that the Conservative movement, from early in its history, was internally divided between the elite at JTS (who were Orthodox in practice) and the masses. MO has been heading in that direction for some time; and, will likely suffer the same fate if its course is not corrected.

    Regarding your last paragraph, I don’t see your point. You have repeated that we don’t make changes to be compatible with contemporaneous society, but this history of halacha (of which I cite just a few examples) disproves this. How is this muddying the waters? It is the essence of the debate.

  13. Hirhurim says:

    IH: With respect, Torah Mi-Sinai had little to do with it. In fact, I’ve never heard that claim before. There were multiple objections, but it was mostly the attitude to texts and halakhah.

    MO has been heading in that direction for some time

    Your proposal is that the scholarly elite cave to the masses. That is precisely where the Conservative movement went wrong. It gives the (accurate) appearance of religious inauthenticity when you change it because it isn’t popular.

    You have repeated that we don’t make changes to be compatible with contemporaneous society, but this history of halacha (of which I cite just a few examples) disproves this.

    Because Prozbol was not a change to halakhah. It is institutionalizing a loophole. The same with Cherem Rabbenu Gershom.

  14. IH says:

    “Because Prozbol was not a change to halakhah. It is institutionalizing a loophole. The same with Cherem Rabbenu Gershom.”

    And, indeed, that is the what Rabbi Sperber, Rabbi Weiss and now Rabbis Tucker & Rosenberg are exploring, as I understand it.

  15. Hirhurim says:

    And, indeed, that is the what Rabbi Sperber, Rabbi Weiss and now Rabbis Tucker & Rosenberg are exploring, as I understand it.

    That is not what they are doing. Rabbi Sperber is trying to override halakhah and Rabbis Tucker and Rosenberg are trying to change it by saying it doesn’t apply, a claim contradicted by a vast literature. I have no idea what Rabbi Weiss is trying to do.

  16. Len Kofman says:

    I am unsure what is meant by “we don’t change halacha because of the public demand”. Obviously we work within a halachic framework but halacha does adapt to the times and certain things that are viewed as forbidden become permitted. If my understanding of history is correct a few hundred years ago if you asked the major rabbonim about girls learning textual sources the way they do now you would have been told that this is wrong and they would show that it has never been done before. Similarly sermons in the vernaculor was likely have been termed “beyond the pale” by many.

    Halacha does change with the time and based on the needs of a society (hence the Oral Torah being an Oral Torah) but there is a framework within which change needs to be made. If the arguement you are posing is that they are trying to go outside the framework then that is reasonable but this seemed more to say that since it wasn’t done before we don’t do it now. This is not the approach of Modern Orthodoxy (and IMHO not the approach that Judaism has historically followed).

    It could just be me and that I have been recently studying the history of the Haskala movement but this post sounded a lot like “chadash assur min hatorah”

  17. Artscrawl says:

    “That phrase is too vague to be meaningful. With that approach, every rabbi who drives to shul or performs gay marriages is operating within halakhic boundaries.”

    Not true. The essence of the argument is that if there are loopholes there are loopholes. If there are not loopholes than nothing can be done until there is a new Sanhedrin. R Sperber has outlined a position that can be defended on Halachic grounds. You may disagree with him but that is just a difference in opinion between two halachic positions. If on the other hand, you talk about changing halacha, that is clearly not allowed. It is the difference between adopting Beit Hillels world view (which we are supposed to do) and adopting Beit Shammais world view (which although perfectly valid is not the way we are supposed to decide halacha).

    “Your proposal is that the scholarly elite cave to the masses. That is precisely where the Conservative movement went wrong.”

    No. Essentially the conservative philosophy even at the scholarly level is that Rabbis today can take on the powers of the Sanhedrin and change halacha based upon changing conditions. This is not just the laity pulling the clergy along. It is built into the fabric of the ideology. If on the other hand, within an orthodox framework Rabbi’s search for leniencies/loopholes to take into account the conditions of the times they are merely following a path that great Rabbis throughout history have followed starting with Beit Hillel.

  18. joel rich says:

    You may disagree with him but that is just a difference in opinion between two halachic positions.
    ======================================
    I refer you to R’ Twersky’s quote in this weks audioroundup
    KT

  19. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Joseph: You really found it clever? Well, at least I agree with you re Myrcoft’s comment in the post about throwing candy in shul.

  20. Artscrawl says:

    “I refer you to R’ Twersky’s quote in this weks audioroundup.”

    Look, I understand the viewpoint that is common amongst certain folks that changes in the mesorah are a product of Daas Torah promulgated by the best and the brightest, but it is unfortunately an ideological position that does not fit with the historical facts. The game of telphone is too transparent at this time. We know that different communities chose different routes. Just the difference in Nusach should be enough to prove this point. Assuming absolute fealty to the mesorah, how is it possible that we have wide divergence in terms of basic prayers. The prayer service seems to me to be the easiest possible thing to keep straight and yet it is not straight.

    I think that there has always been a thread of traditional Judaism that has viewed Halacha as an evolutionary living system and not something to be preserved in a museum.

  21. Hirhurim says:

    Artscrawl: You may disagree with him but that is just a difference in opinion between two halachic positions.

    That is precisely why the phrase is too vague to be meaningful. I also disagree with the rabbis who permit driving on Shabbos. But that’s just a disagreement between two halakhic positions, right?

    Essentially the conservative philosophy even at the scholarly level is that Rabbis today can take on the powers of the Sanhedrin and change halacha based upon changing conditions…

    That is not what was said above: “How many more generations of Jewish women will accept “separate but equal” when everything else that governs their lives is egalitarian?” That is an argument that the rabbis must change halakhah to meet the people’s demands.

    Just the difference in Nusach should be enough to prove this point.

    I don’t understand this argument at all. Prayer has a long history and the similarities are much greater than the differences. Just because prayer evolved within a structure does not mean that rabbis can change halakhah because the laity is demanding it. Apples and oranges.

    I think that there has always been a thread of traditional Judaism that has viewed Halacha as an evolutionary living system and not something to be preserved in a museum.

    I agree, but evolutionary within boundaries and a framework. You can’t contradict a universal ruling (sugya di-sha’asa/di-alma).

  22. DES says:

    IH: so if not the need to “be relevant” what was the reason for RIETS to decide to teach in English rather than Yiddish (after student protests),

    So that the students would understand what the rebbeim were saying?

    for Yeshiva College to be created

    To give Jewish students the opportunity to get a college education in a religious environment and in combination with a strong religious education?

    and for Rabbi Soloveitchik’s groundbreaking initiative to create Maimonides where boys and girls learned together under Orthodox auspices?

    Not sure, but I highly doubt it was to “be relevant.” More likely because it was what was feasible. Why would co-ed classes be more “relevant” than separate ones?

    But, I would agree that there is also an issue of justice that drives the need for change even more than relevance.

    “Justice” according to whose mores? Many people do not think of women’s treatment by Judaism as unjust in the least. Why should they believe that there is an issue of justice at all? What can you invoke to support the notion of “justice” you are advocating?

  23. DES says:

    IH: Perhaps you need to define the word “relevant.”

  24. Hirhurim says:

    I’m wondering what IH and Artscrawl have to say about the mechitzah.

  25. mycroft says:

    “and for Rabbi Soloveitchik’s groundbreaking initiative to create “Maimonides where boys and girls learned together under Orthodox auspices?

    Not sure, but I highly doubt it was to “be relevant.” More likely because it was what was feasible. Why would co-ed classes be more “relevant” than separate ones?”

    Those who say that Maimonides was only coed because “it was feasible” must deal with the reality that I believe Maimonides had enough students for 2 classes per grade-but instead on having one male and one female class there were two mixed classes.
    I assume frequent Hirhurim blogger and former Maimonides teacher Prof Kaplan can state if what I say was historically accurate.

  26. mycroft says:

    “IH: With respect, Torah Mi-Sinai had little to do with it. In fact, I’ve never heard that claim before. There were multiple objections, but it was mostly the attitude to texts and halakhah.”

    At least according to Prof Brill you’re both right-some triedto make the divide over Torah Misianaia-others over atitude to halacha etc.

  27. IH says:

    “I’m wondering what IH and Artscrawl have to say about the mechitzah”

    I believe it is time for Modern Orthodoxy to confront the whole issue of the role of women. That said, mechitza is an emotive issue that dredges up the culture wars of the 1980s and, for me, it is not an issue of egalitarianism at its essence.

    I note that for all your protestations, Rabbi Student, you consistently raise emotional FUD issues in your responses (e.g. “Conservative Judaism”, “drives to shul”, “performs gay marriages”, “override halakhah”, “mechitzah”).

    This is not subtantively different than the response of Agudat ha’Rabbanim to the changes at RIETS as per the books I quoted in the last thread. As Len Kofman posits above, this really is another instantiation of “chadash assur min hatorah”.

  28. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Mycroft: Your point about Rabbi Joseph Weiss waa silly, since he is one of YU’s best and brightest. But what of Rav Asher Weiss, one of the most eminent and distinguished talmidei hakhamim active today?

  29. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Mycorft : Re the Rav and Maimonides, you are correct. As he expressed it, he was afraid that if there were separate classes, the boys, particularly in Limudei Kodesh, wouuld get the better teachers, while the girls would get the weaker teachers.

  30. Hirhurim says:

    IH: I am doing that intentionally but not because they are emotional issues (of the 50’s and 60’s, not really 80’s) but because the difference between the Orthodox and Conservative positions are clear and well-documented. My point is that the methodologies used in the issues currently under discussion were rejected as non-Orthodox (i.e. invalid according to Jewish tradition) by the greatest halakhists of the past century.

  31. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    By mistake I referred to RABBI Joseph Weiss and RAV Asher Weiss. This was unintentional.

  32. IH says:

    Rabbi Student: And my point is that your reaction to the Othodox Rabbis bold enough to explore permiting that which is permitted, is the same as the Agudat ha’Rabbanim’s reaction to the changes at the “nest of atheism and Apikursus” at RIETS in 1932.

    And since this posting is premised on Rabbi Frimer, I note that he continues to debate directly with Rabbi Spreber. Reporting on the Torah in Motion event, The Jewish Week reported “He [Rabbi Sperber] and Rabbi Frimer, who clashed most directly in their remarks, insisted that they remain good friends and will go on debating the issue.”

    Shabbat Shalom

  33. Hirhurim says:

    IH: I am in favor of permitting that which is permitted, assuming it is done in a responsible way. That isn’t what we are discussing. I am sure those who permited driving to shul Shabbos or eliminating the mechitzah also thought they were permitting that which is permissible.

    Are you suggesting that by appearing on a panel with Prof. Sperber, Prof. Frimer is legitimizing him as acceptable and Orthodox? I tend to agree but I bet Prof. Frimer would not.

  34. joel rich says:

    R’LK,
    BCBM refers to him as “New Section: Rav Asher Weiss Shiurim on Parsha and Other” so I wouldn’t worry too much.
    KT

  35. Richard Kahn says:

    “I’m wondering what IH and Artscrawl have to say about the mechitzah.”

    I’m wondering what R. Tucker has to say about the mechitzah.

  36. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Rabbi Student: “Are you suggesting that by appearing on a panel with Prof. Sperber, Prof. Frimer is legitimizing him as acceptable and Orthodox? I tend to agree but I bet Prof. Frimer would not.”

    No, I certainly would not. I watched for months as Prof. Sperber was invited all over the world to speak about Women’s Aliyyot and no one disputed him head on. So I decided to take up the challenge. He would have gone on speaking whether I was there or not. He’s very popular and tell’s people what they want to hear. Now, at least someone is on record vigorously disagreeing with him.

    I will IY”H be critiquing his recent book “On Changes in Jewish Liturgy” this Thursday evening at 7:30 at Machon Lander in Jerusalem. I hope thereafter to publish this critique with documentation. Kudo to Hirhurim for publishing the first critical evaluation of this very problematic text…

    Shavu’a tov and Kol Tuv
    Aryeh

  37. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “He’s very popular and tell’s people what they want to hear.”

    My friend, R’ Aryeh, is certainly entitled to his view of R. Sperber. But this comment about “what they want to hear” is unfair. R. Sperber says what he believes and he would say it, I am sure, to right wing audiences who would not want to hear it (if they would invite him which, I suspect, they would not). I know that when Aryeh speaks to right of center audiences he tells them what he believes because it is what he believes and not because that is what they want to hear (even if those two may be the same). I think he might want to rethink and rephrase this sentence.

  38. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan wrote in part:
    “YU’s Roshei Yeshiva do not view Rabbis Sperber, (Avi) Weiss, Tucker, and Rosenberg as legitimate halakhic authorities and have no interest in working with them.”

    Ain Hacin Nami.I would agree that the above is a fair and accurate statement, as opposed to stating the obvious in a facetious , sarcastic or snarky manner.

  39. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan-If I were to compare the writings of R Dr Sperber and Professor Frimer, I would note that R D Sperber has evolved from being an excellent historian of Minhagei Yisrael and proponent of the necessity of the academic study of Talmud into an advocate for WTGs, supporter for women’s ordination and for wholesale changes in the Nusach HaTefillah. The question remains open whether by associating with a CJ oriented institution in Toronto ,R D Sperber, by his own choice, has walked out of MO completely.

    In contrast, Professor Frimer, while his earliest writings showed a cautious approval of some WTGs, his later writings evidence a substantial critique of feminist driven changes in LW MO.

  40. Charlie Hall says:

    ” while people like R Weiss have been accused of having an agenda, these LW Rabbis have continued to operate under Halachicly defined boundaries. They have not abandoned those boundaries”

    I’ve relayed this story in the past, but it is relevant here: I was personally present at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale when Rabbi Weiss would not permit a woman to say kaddish when there were only nine men present.

    “I have no idea what Rabbi Weiss is trying to do.”

    He has promised a series of lectures on his philosphy of “Open Orthodoxy”.

    “YU’s Roshei Yeshiva do not view Rabbis Sperber, (Avi) Weiss, Tucker, and Rosenberg as legitimate halakhic authorities and have no interest in working with them.”

    I can’t speak for the others, but Rabbi Willig and Rabbi Weiss continue to serve together on the Riverdale Vaad. Both support the local mikveh, eruv, and kashrut supervison.

  41. Noam Stadlan says:

    Steve- I suggest that if you want to join the discussion, you address Rabbi Sperber’s arguments, rather than try to delegitimize him by his associations. (as an aside, the institution is non-denominational, and I recall seeing a quote from him that if it veered to the Conservative, he would not participate. I didn’t realize that teaching Torah to Jews would take someone out of Modern Orthodoxy)

    As we have discussed many times(perhaps ad nauseum in fact), the desire by women to have options for study and avodat Hashem WITHIN halacha is not the the same feminism that was the subject of the Rav’s critique which I feel it is only a matter of time that you will bring up. I strongly suggest that you read Tamar Ross’s book which reviews the stages and goals of feminism as it has changed over time. The women I know who attend WTG, learn gemara at a high level, and engage in other such ‘contraversial’ activities are motivated by a desire to serve Hashem within Halacha, and do so within Halacha. As we have also discussed, your daughter had a bat mitzvah, something that 100 years ago would have been thought of as heretical, but you worked with your posek and did something that was within Halacha, as you and that posek saw it. Things do change.

  42. Joseph Kaplan says:

    Steve, if I were to summarize your “comparison” of Rabbis Sperber and Frimer, it is: you agree with one and disagree with the other — which, of course, is your right.

  43. IH says:

    Steve, Rabbi Frimer and Rabbi Student: I sense that you’ve spent so much time negotiating with yourselves that you’re missing an essential point. On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I live, there is no lack of choice for shuls. The fact that Darkhei Noam (http://www.dnoam.org/About.php) attracts a packed house for its constrained egalitarianism with mechitza – based on Rabbi Sperber’s halachic advice — when both more egalitarian and traditional MO options are readily available, speaks to the demand that exists by Jews who have an MO perspective on the halachic process. I rather suspect its self-selected participants are amongst the best and the brightest of MO.

  44. mycroft says:

    “But what of Rav Asher Weiss, one of the most eminent and distinguished talmidei hakhamim active today?”

    “Lawrence Kaplan on January 7, 2011 at 3:04 pm
    By mistake I referred to RABBI Joseph Weiss and RAV Asher Weiss. This was unintentional.”

    Is your question-what is my opinion of R Avi Weiss?

  45. mycroft says:

    For a fair and balanced discussion on brain death and halacha see the following:

    http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/brain.html

  46. Artscrawl says:

    “I’m wondering what IH and Artscrawl have to say about the mechitzah.”

    I have no problem whatoever with the Mechitzah. My shul has a womans balcony…which I can’t say I love. I would prefer they go to a Mechitzah. Frankly it would probably aid in attendance because people know they can show up and get a seat. If have the seats were reserved for women people would come earlier.

    That said, I am arguing for a lenient position vis a vis women and halacha…not an abrogation of the latter. Halacha comes first, but we should be prepared to explore every leniency if it will result in more people observing the mitzvot.

  47. mycroft says:

    “Lawrence Kaplan on January 7, 2011 at 2:58 pm
    Mycorft : Re the Rav and Maimonides, you are correct. As he expressed it, he was afraid that if there were separate classes, the boys, particularly in Limudei Kodesh, wouuld get the better teachers, while the girls would get the weaker teachers

    By that logic the Rav would have been in favor of mixed classes everywhere that there is a mixed school.

  48. MDJ says:

    Mycroft,
    Who said he wasn’t?

  49. mycroft says:

    “Charlie Hall on January 8, 2011 at 9:12 pm
    ” while people like R Weiss have been accused of having an agenda, these LW Rabbis have continued to operate under Halachicly defined boundaries. They have not abandoned those boundaries”

    I’ve relayed this story in the past, but it is relevant here: I was personally present at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale when Rabbi Weiss would not permit a woman to say kaddish when there were only nine men present.”

    RAW has been attacked by many-I may disagree with his approach but I am not aware of places where he refuses to accept halacha.Frankly-I believe to the extent Rabbi Weiss will be known it will be for his activism-almost the flip side of Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East who will be known for his diplomacy rather than halachik actions.
    Future historians will have to determine who gets credit-if anyone does for the freedom of Soviet Jewry. Some time ago the exhibit at Beth Hatfuzot on the Soviet Jewry movement was mostly about the activists and most prominent form the US of Rabbi A Weiss and Glenn Rcihter and SSSJ.

    ““YU’s Roshei Yeshiva do not view Rabbis Sperber, (Avi) Weiss, Tucker, and Rosenberg as legitimate halakhic authorities and have no interest in working with them.”

    I can’t speak for the others, but Rabbi Willig and Rabbi Weiss continue to serve together on the Riverdale Vaad. Both support the local mikveh, eruv, and kashrut supervison.”
    Of course family relationships can affect peoples actions-as is well known Rabbis Weiss and Willig are cousins.

  50. mycroft says:

    “By that logic the Rav would have been in favor of mixed classes everywhere that there is a mixed school.

    MDJ on January 8, 2011 at 11:55 pm
    Mycroft,
    Who said he wasn’t?”

    I have argued that point with people who I respect-some claim that is a Boston heter etc-my opinion is that there is no evidence for that position.

  51. Aryeh Frimer says:

    Lawrence Kaplan,
    I didn’t mean to cast aspersions on R. Sperber. What I meant to say is that he is very popular BECAUSE he tells people what they want to hear. It is much less popular to tell people know.

    Steve,

  52. Aryeh Frimer says:

    My apologies: the previous post should have been directed to Joseph Kaplan (not Lawrence).

    Regarding Steve Brizel’s comments, Over the years I have not become less of a feminist. I still support women’s tefilla Groups especially for events of transition (Bat Mitzva, Shabbat Kalla etc.) But I now believe that the slippery slope is not something to wave off. I am also deeply bothered by the fact that those attempting to push the envelope are really not properly concerned about the integrity of Halakha. To some extent I feel betrayed…

  53. mycroft says:

    “Aryeh Frimer on January 9, 2011 at 3:59 am
    Lawrence Kaplan,
    I didn’t mean to cast aspersions on R. Sperber. What I meant to say is that he is very popular BECAUSE he tells people what they want to hear. ”

    The same logic applies to essentially people who have become those who are accepted as poskim by various professional societies, or become the posek of a hospital etc- for example ever hear anyone of those poskim ever accept the Aruch Hashulchan on medical fees?
    Or any Rav who follows the Gra versus the Chatam Sofer on mechiras chametz become the one who sells chametz for a major store.

    “Aryeh Frimer on January 9, 2011 at 4:10 am
    My apologies: the previous post should have been directed to Joseph Kaplan (not Lawrence).

    Regarding Steve Brizel’s comments, Over the years I have not become less of a feminist. I still support women’s tefilla Groups especially for events of transition (Bat Mitzva, Shabbat Kalla etc.)”
    Why a WTG for a Bat Mitzva-whats the halachik difference? Shabbat Kalla-let the Kalla and friends go to ufruf.

    “But I now believe that the slippery slope is not something to wave off. I am also deeply bothered by the fact that those attempting to push the envelope are really not properly concerned about the integrity of Halakha.”
    My gut feeling is that for many I agree with you-however there are many who I believe do believe are committed to the integrity of the halacha see eg the beginning of the alphabet Rabbis Mark Angel,Ari Berman-and I will stop there in the beginning of the alphabet and will not comment beyond the beginning of the alphabet.-I just used easy examples of those who are IMHO committed. Sadly there are those who I believe were not committed
    and that is not a new issue-that goes back to at least the 60s.

  54. IH says:

    Rabbi Frimer’s candid responses illustrate the depth of emotion and, dare I say politics, that infuses this debate. Going back to my very first comment in the first thread, I think the draft paper by Rabbis Tucker & Rosenberg offers an opportunity to refresh the debate on substance rather than personal history.

    Modern Orthodoxy was given a free pass to avoid dealing with the revolutionary societal change of the role of women for many years because other movements offered a partial solution. This turned out to not be sufficient for Jews who wanted both halachic integrity and permitting that which can be permitted for women. But, as we turn into the 2nd decade of the 21st century, there are new choices and people are voting with their feet.

    As Ruvie eloquently summarized in the initial thread: “you are missing the point. its more relevant that is important. nobody is advocating a popularity contest. the way i see it is that both the charedei and mo world’s leaders (mo in america) have leaders who do not understand their followers (or their situations) making pronouncements that will cause the flock to go on their own – and seek guidance elsewhere. in the mo community i see more and more people really not caring what rabbis have to say on certain issues. you have probably the most torah educated lay people in jewish history – this rift will be obvious in the next 10-20 years. leaders have lost control over their flock – but they don’t know it yet”.

    Centrist MO has an opportunity to re-engage using the halachic process to institutionalize loopholes to effect change, as has been done historically when Judaism is confronted with an immutable social reality (e.g. prozbol or Cherem Rabbenu Gershom). Take it.

  55. Artscrawl says:

    “Centrist MO has an opportunity to re-engage using the halachic process to institutionalize loopholes to effect change, as has been done historically when Judaism is confronted with an immutable social reality (e.g. prozbol or Cherem Rabbenu Gershom). Take it.”

    Totally agree. There is a huge center to be gained by this, with younger demographics. I for one would like MO to be the gateway to the unaffiliated rather than Chabad. Give them paths to enter that don’t step on the few things that they truly believe in such as equality. If things cannot be changed for Halachic reasons at least struggle mightaly with the issue rather than engaging in the reactive “Judaism never changes”, which we know to be untrue. MO can find solutions to other problems as well such as the conversion issue. Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has some interesting ideas on that subject, essentially a new halachic category for those that are not Jewish according to Halacha but are attached to the Jewish people.

  56. minyan lover says:

    IH,R’Gil,R’Tucker,R’Frimer,R’Rosenberg
    And or any judge , scholar or lawyer reading this thread,

    Can any of you learned sages please explain in precise D
    etail the gra reference referred to in the initial post
    Biur Hagra-Orach chaim 199;6 and any related gra references and whether or not they support or contradict the assertions/conclusions in the R’s Tucker and Rosenberg paper.and the sources the gra relies on.

  57. Mark says:

    R’ Frimer,

    “I am also deeply bothered by the fact that those attempting to push the envelope are really not properly concerned about the integrity of Halakha. To some extent I feel betrayed…”

    If I may ask, are you alone in this feeling or are you aware of other prominent voices that feel likewise?

  58. minyan lover says:

    Mark
    Great question.
    Also,would you happen to know what r chaim volozhin,the mishkenos yakov, the imrei dovid,and or r issac mayer wise had to say on the matter.
    And the sources they based their opinions on.

  59. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:
    “Steve, if I were to summarize your “comparison” of Rabbis Sperber and Frimer, it is: you agree with one and disagree with the other — which, of course, is your right”

    Ain Haci Nami.

  60. Steve Brizel says:

    Noam Stadlan wrote:
    “Steve- I suggest that if you want to join the discussion, you address Rabbi Sperber’s arguments, rather than try to delegitimize him by his associations. (as an aside, the institution is non-denominational, and I recall seeing a quote from him that if it veered to the Conservative, he would not participate. I didn’t realize that teaching Torah to Jews would take someone out of Modern Orthodoxy)”

    Dr Stadlan-IIRC, the institution describes itself as “non denominational” but also has been identified as a “traditional CJ” instititution as well. It is indeed one act to teach Torah to anyone who shows up at a shiur, which RYBS always did, as opposed to identifying with an institution that also been described as having CJ written all over it, but without the name JTS.If the facts demonstrate that R D Sperber has walked away from Orthodoxy, that cannot be denied.

    I think that I addressed and documented the fact that R D Sperber has moved from being a Talmid Chacham and author of wonderful Seforim on Minhagim to setting forth his POV on gender related issues such as WTGs and women ordination and publicly criticized the POV of the RIETS RY.

  61. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Noam Stadlan wrote:

    “As we have discussed many times(perhaps ad nauseum in fact), the desire by women to have options for study and avodat Hashem WITHIN halacha is not the the same feminism that was the subject of the Rav’s critique which I feel it is only a matter of time that you will bring up. I strongly suggest that you read Tamar Ross’s book which reviews the stages and goals of feminism as it has changed over time. The women I know who attend WTG, learn gemara at a high level, and engage in other such ‘contraversial’ activities are motivated by a desire to serve Hashem within Halacha, and do so within Halacha. As we have also discussed, your daughter had a bat mitzvah, something that 100 years ago would have been thought of as heretical, but you worked with your posek and did something that was within Halacha, as you and that posek saw it. Things do change.

    IH on January 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm
    Steve, Rabbi Frimer and Rabbi Student: I sense that you’ve spent so much time negotiating with yourselves that you’re missing an essential point. On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I live, there is no lack of choice for shuls. The fact that Darkhei Noam (http://www.dnoam.org/About.php) attracts a packed house for its constrained egalitarianism with mechitza – based on Rabbi Sperber’s halachic advice — when both more egalitarian and traditional MO options are readily available, speaks to the demand that exists by Jews who have an MO perspective on the halachic process. I rather suspect its self-selected participants are amongst the best and the brightest of MO.

    Noam and IH-both of our daughters had Bat Mitzvas. However, the notion that best and the brightest of MO on the UWS are attending Darcei Noam needs more evidence. I think that a strong case can be made that some of the best and brightest of MO are learning either in Washington Heights and Israel.

  62. Noam Stadlan says:

    Steve- the tzitzis checking is beneath you. Your logic becomes circular. You are defining the left limit of orthodoxy as anyone to the left of you. Therefore it is impossible for someone orthodox, no matter who they are, to hold those views. It is much more intellectually honest to address the substance of the opinion.

  63. Steve Brizel says:

    Dr Stadlan-Many to both our “left and right” had Bat Mitzvas for their daughters. I think that there is a LW, Center and RW of MO. The question becomes when one deserts the same and winds up outside of MO, regardless of whether he or she ends up in the Charedi world or Darcei Noam.

  64. Steve Brizel says:

    Noam Stadlan wrote:
    “Steve- the tzitzis checking is beneath you”

    Checking to see whether one’s Tzitis are Kosher or Pasul strikes me of no small importance

  65. Avraham says:

    artscrawl: “Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo has some interesting ideas on that subject, essentially a new halachic category for those that are not Jewish according to Halacha but are attached to the Jewish people.”
    If you are interested Rabbi Ari Kahn gave IMO a very cogent critique of the article Rabbi Cordozo wrote presenting these ideas. You can access the audio here: http://rabbiarikahn.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&view=wrapper&Itemid=63

  66. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Charlie Hall and Mycroft: You both missed my point. I was responding to IH’s comment about YU’s best and brightest working together with Rabbis Sperber Weiss, Tucker and Rosenberg in dealing with major contemporary halakhic issues and noted that YU’s best and brightest do not recognize the four mentioned rabbis as halakhic auhtorities qualified to deal with such issues. This is obviously something entirely different from the fact that Rabbis Willig and Weiss as rabbis of synagogues in Riverdale sit on the same community vaaad. I would have thought this was aleph bet.

  67. mycroft says:

    “Lawrence Kaplan on January 9, 2011 at 2:32 pm
    Charlie Hall and Mycroft: You both missed my point. I was responding to IH’s comment about YU’s best and brightest working together with Rabbis Sperber Weiss, Tucker and Rosenberg in dealing with major contemporary halakhic issues and noted that YU’s best and brightest do not recognize the four mentioned rabbis as halakhic auhtorities qualified to deal with such issues. This is obviously something entirely different from the fact that Rabbis Willig and Weiss as rabbis of synagogues in Riverdale sit on the same community vaaad. I would have thought this was aleph bet”

    Prof Kaplan-do you believe Rabbi Avi Weiss is of the level that other Rabbis would look to him for guidance on halachik matters-even if they agreed with him hashkafically. He clearly is a knowledgeable person-as I have written I used to attend on alternate weeks a shiur by either RHS or RAW between Kiddush and lunch Shabbos morning in Rubin schul-RHS taught hilchot Shabbos-RAW sort of parshat hashavua. I don’t think any would look to him as a leader in halachik matters-that does not mean he like many Rabbonim is not qualified to pasken as a local Rav. I really can’t think of many RAbbonim who are halachik leaders.

  68. IH says:

    Well, it seems logical the dialogue should start with a private face to face meeting between Rabbi Student and Rabbi Tucker. They each have Orthodox smicha, they each have enough confidence in the subject matter to publicly express views on it and they each are motivated le’shem shamayim.

  69. Noam Stadlan says:

    Steve- checking your own tzitzis is very important. I was referring to checking the tzitzis of others, using it as an expression, not literally.

    As far as Bat Mitzvah’s are concerned, my point is that 100 years ago having a Bat Mitzvah was beyond the pale of orthodoxy, but you and many others who consider themselves orthodox have done so. This is proof that something has changed.

  70. MDJ says:

    IH,
    Rabbis Tucker and Student are so far apart regarding what they consider appropriate modes of halachic argumentation (based on what I’ve heard each of them say), that I don’t think a face to face meeting would really accomplish anything.

  71. IH says:

    אבל מקדש שני, שהיו עוסקין בתורה ובמצות וגמילות חסדים מפני מה חרב? מפני שהיתה בו שנאת חנם. ללמדך ששקולה שנאת חנם כנגד שלש עבירות: עבודה זרה, גלוי עריות, ושפיכות דמים

  72. IH says:

    For the avoidance of doubt, my point is that as leaders both Rabbis Student and Tucker have an obligation to ensure an attempt in good faith is made to reconcile their differences, le’shem shamayim, and that any remaining disagreement, thereafter, is respectful, to mitigate the possibility of Sinat Chinam.

  73. Michael Rogovin says:

    At the risk of opening a flame war on a peripheral issue, Steve: please do not mix up WTG/women’s kriyah services and mixed kriyah services. I have heard Rabbi Sperber speak many times and I cannot recall him saying anything about WTG (though I suspect he would find them problematic even if mutar in that they separate a congregation and that they are insufficiently egalitarian within his view of halachic bounds). R Sperber speaks to mixed kriyah, something that strikes me as more problematic halachicly, but unrealted to WTG. Thus R Frimer can easily opine that a WTG is mutar, notwithstanding the poorly conceived arguments leveled against them, but state that mixed kriyah is asur. One should not mix up the two.

  74. carlos says:

    IH –your last post makes clear that you are missing the boat. Halacha isn’t do it yourself. You apparently think that Gil (and Ethan) is a halachic leader of some sort.

    Gil is a bright, talented guy who runs an interesting blog, and Ethan is a bright, talented guy who has been able to find an audience interested in what he has to say about Torah. They’re both good and capable people who mean well. And they may be people who have interesting things to say about halacha. But neither one is a posek and neither one could possibly decide issues of halacha for the masses.

  75. carlos says:

    I should add that my last post was a COMPLIMENT to both Gil and Ethan, and a clarification to IH.

  76. IH says:

    Carlos, thanks. Of course I never suggested either Rabbi was a posek, just that they have both opined publicly, both have Orthodox smicha and both are motivated le’shem shamayim — and, theerfore, they should discuss their disagreement face to face. Given that we live in times when even an acknowledged posek gadol is ignored by many, the posek issue is a red herring IMHO.

    Michael Rogovin makes an excellent point. Similarly, there are major differences between Rabbi Sperber and Rabbi A. Weiss. We are seeing a spectrum of responses to this daunting question facing MO — except for in the mainstream MO as it presently exists (and dwindles, as per the statistics).

  77. IH says:

    Correction: Given that we live in times when even an acknowledged posek gadol such as RMF is ignored by many, the posek issue is a red herring IMHO. [A specific reference to the Israel bus issue as per Rabbi Enkin’s recent comments].

  78. Charlie Hall says:

    “100 years ago having a Bat Mitzvah was beyond the pale of orthodoxy”

    Not true; the Ben Ish Chai endorsed the idea of a Bat Mitzvah. And he died in 1909. (Did Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan know about the Ben Ish Chai’s position on this issue?)

  79. Joseph Kaplan says:

    Charlie, the Ben Ish Chai’s endorsement is really irrelevant. 100 years ago, no, let’s make that 50 years ago, NO ONE in Orthodoxy, NO ONE, was having bat mitzvot; not the right, not the left, not the MO. NOBODY. If there was any rite of passage for young MO women it was a sweet sixteen. That’s the point; theoretical endorsements notwithstanding, it was beyond the pale of practicing Orthodox Jews. And now that’s changed. And that’s the other point.

  80. sy guy says:

    Joseph – please be a little more considerate when discussing any opinion, especially a halachic one, of one of the pillars of Sephardic Halacha to this very day, the Ben Ish Chai, zechuto yagen aleinu. You are referencing a man who was the undisputed posek of Baghdad, seat of Jewish Diaspora leadership since the first churban, and who lectured to audiences of up to 20,000 – and whose halachic work touches the Sephardic world to this day. In his shadow, “Orthodox” practice, particularly as practiced in Europe and America is what is irrelevant.

  81. Uber Mentsch says:

    Why are you all bringing up opinions of people who’s opinions carry absolutely no weight in the world of psak dinim? Who cares what Sperber and Weiss think? They are not the Gedolim and not even close. If you’re going to quote someone, it should be someone in the category of a Rav Elyashiv or a Kanievsky. I spoke with 4 of my fellow shul attendess over Shabbos, all black hatters, and none had even heard of Sperber or Weiss. An eavesdropper said “oh Weiss, the woman rabbi guy? Feh, an apikorus.”

  82. Uber Mentsch says:

    why was my totally VALID comment deleted?

  83. IH says:

    Lest we forget, on the Bat Mitzva topic:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/nyregion/13synagogue.html

    The first formal Bat Mitzva at Lincoln Square Synagogue was in May 1973 for, now, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

    She can determine dina de’malchuta, but is invalid as a Jewish witness from a halachic perspective.

  84. carlos says:

    I’m going to ask an honest question, and please treat it as a question and not an attack.

    How many people are there actually out there who are (1) shomrei torah umitzvos (by this I mean people who are makpid to make the requirements of all 4 chelkei hashalchan aruch govern their lives and when they run into questions, difficulties etc they consult with their rav and follow his guidance –it’s not enough to walk to shul every shabbos morning) and (2) are followers of R. Sperber, R. Weiss, etc. on these gender innovations?

    Again, this is an honest question as I have no idea where these people are in real life and while I don’t doubt that some exist, I wonder if their numbers are very very small.

    Part of my assumption in thinking about all this is that the behavior of people who aren’t observant cannot possibly determine halacha, though that is obviously separate from my factual question above.

  85. Arie Folger says:

    Can they count for a minyan in the reading of megillah or the public lighting of a Chanukah menorah?

    Pardon my ignorance. I know of a minhag to light chanukah cnadles in a synagogue, but where does minyan play a role here (assuming you mean outside the synagogue)? A couple of reference to responsa will be most appreciated.

  86. IH says:

    Carlos, many more than you think and the phenomenon is growing. Which is the point I and others have been making in these 2 threads.

    The other key question is how many people are out there who really follow Centrist Modern Orthodox rabbinate — there have been views about that as well.

    As the aphorism goes: “getting out of denial is the first step to recovery”.

  87. Shlomo says:

    “I cannot recall him saying anything about WTG (though I suspect he would find them problematic even if mutar in that they separate a congregation”

    Isn’t the whole point of doing WTG, rather than actual “minyan” a la CJ, that structurally it is an individual rather than congregational activity?

  88. Joseph Kaplan says:

    sy guy

    I apologize. I should have made clear I was talking about the Ashkenazic community. My mistake; I certainly meant no disrespect. But perhaps you can elucidate for us whether the Sephardi community followed the Ben Ish Chai in practice and celebrated bat mitzvah for their daughters 100 years ago. Thanks.

  89. carlos says:

    IH, where are these people located?

  90. IH says:

    Carlos, repeating my comment from Motzei Shabbat: On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where I live, there is no lack of choice for shuls. The fact that Darkhei Noam attracts a packed house for its constrained egalitarianism with mechitza – based on Rabbi Sperber’s halachic advice — when both more egalitarian and traditional MO options are readily available, speaks to the demand that exists by Jews who have an MO perspective on the halachic process.

  91. IH says:

    Rabbi Student:

    I am now very confused. In today’s News & Links posting, I followed the link to the Richard Joel interview in the December 5th The Commentator, from which I learned that Rabbi Tucker was supposed to speak at YU, but was then disinvited because as the interviewer infers “we cannot have a speaker beyond the pale of Centrist Orthodoxy”. Richard Joel affirms this in more diplomatic language.

    But, this was well before your posting of “Women and Minyan” of December 30th castigating his draft paper which you surely knew. I must say this leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt. Could you clarify, please?

  92. joel rich says:

    IH,
    Al tiftach peh lsatan :-)
    KT

  93. sy guy says:

    Joseph – I knew you did not mean disrespect, and I note with kindness your response. I am unaware of any of my female ancestors observing bat mitzvah, but am not the definitive source as one would expect that the Ben Ish Chai’s views would be reflected most intently within the Iraqi community. Maybe someone with such a background could weigh in.

    Sorry if my calling you out caused any discomfort, but I am sensitive to the fact that we sometimes are too dismissive of each other’s poskim and halachic methodology – I am guilty myself of ignoring/dismissing Ashkenazic practice whilst entangled in a halachic analysis of the Ben Ish Chai v. Chacham Ovadiah Yosef’s opinions as an example.

  94. Hirhurim says:

    IH: I don’t understand your question. It was in response to this action that people called Rabbi Tucker “non-mainstream Orthodox.”

  95. Steve Brizel says:

    Noam Stadlan wrote in part:

    “checking your own tzitzis is very important. I was referring to checking the tzitzis of others, using it as an expression, not literally.”

    All too often, the expression is used as put down of anyone interested in the finer details of Halacha,

  96. Steve Brizel says:

    Michael Rogovin wrote:

    “At the risk of opening a flame war on a peripheral issue, Steve: please do not mix up WTG/women’s kriyah services and mixed kriyah services. I have heard Rabbi Sperber speak many times and I cannot recall him saying anything about WTG (though I suspect he would find them problematic even if mutar in that they separate a congregation and that they are insufficiently egalitarian within his view of halachic bounds). R Sperber speaks to mixed kriyah, something that strikes me as more problematic halachicly, but unrealted to WTG. Thus R Frimer can easily opine that a WTG is mutar, notwithstanding the poorly conceived arguments leveled against them, but state that mixed kriyah is asur. One should not mix up the two”

    I think that there is a fairly obvious continum of thought that views WTGs, women’s reading the Torah and women’s ordination, all part of a larger egalitarian agenda that is designed to eliminate all gender related differences in Halacha with respect to Tefilah and Minhagei Beis HaKnesses and that R D Sperber’s well documented views on the same have contributed to the same in no small part.

  97. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “All too often, the expression is used as put down of anyone interested in the finer details of Halacha,”

    I don’t believe that’s accurate. It used to refer to people who make it a habit to judge others or, more apt for this blog sometimes, to write people out of Orthodoxy; i.e., checking their tzitzit and finding them supposedly missing. It comes, I think, from the rebbeim who used to pat their students on the back, ostensibly to be friendly, but really to check if they’re wearing tzitzit.

  98. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “I think that there is a fairly obvious continum of thought that views WTGs, women’s reading the Torah and women’s ordination, all part of a larger egalitarian agenda…”

    That’s where you start the slippery slope. Of course, there are thoseto the right of you who would make the same general comment but would start a bit sooner; i.e., ” a continuum of thought that views teaching women Torah shebe’al peh, having bat mitzvot, WTGs etc.” But you wouldn’t like because it would include you in that slippery slope, so you start right after your changes in traditional halachic practice

  99. Nachum says:

    SY guy: With all due respect to you and the greater non-Ashkenazic world (I mean that very sincerely), I don’t think Joseph had to apologize. Charlie Hall, who raised the issue, likes to bring up obscure precedents (especially Italian) to support modern points of view. Now, I agree mostly with the points he’s defending, and think we’d all be better off paying attention to those precedents, but I also feel that it’s somewhat illegitimate to cite them as proof for contemporary, mostly Ashkenazi, disputes. These debates are taking place among 21st Century Ashkenazim (to the great credit, in fact, of non-Ashkenazim, I think), who have a certain set of standards and authorities, which do not include, say, 13th Century Italy.

    That said, I do find it fascinating that the Ben Ish Chai, of all people (well-known for not being exactly a meikil) introduced this. Although I share the skepticism that he was actually followed.

  100. Avi says:

    Despite the many comments not one person has addressed the heart of the issue. If Rabbeinu Tam explains the reason why non-adult males should be excluded from minyan is because it shows a lack of “yekara demalka”-loosely translated “honor of G-d”, can someone really argue that in Modern Orthodox communities and everything to the left, one would be hard pressed to argue that in communities where women can reach the highest office, including women in a minyan is an affront to the G-d’s honor. And please no meta-halakhaic answers. Just pretend we are in a Beis Midrash for a second- and just give me a good svara!

  101. Hirhurim says:

    Avi: The point is that Rabbenu Tam’s view is a minority opinion that most poskim do not allow even in an emergency situation. It is not normative.

  102. IH says:

    Since the answer was one of process…

    Nor, of course, are married women owning property (mid-late 19th century) or having the right to vote (early 20th century) normative.

    Whereas, polygamy was normative enough such that Rabeinu Gershom to put an end to it.

    Normative, in itself, is not sole mechanism of the halachic process. The loopholes that allow change are, by definition, not normative.

  103. sy guy says:

    Nachum – maybe the problem is that it has become acceptable to see things as an Ashkenazi-issue exclusively in an area of Halacha that touches on all of us. And again, not to excuse the pick a posek (however obscure) approach that I personally disagree with, but at least with the Ben Ish Chai you are talking about THE posek of the majority of the Sephardic world. Its interesting to note however that what he recommends is that when a girl turns twelve that she be given a new dress to mark the occasion, and for her to say shehecheyanu to mark her entry in the world of Jewish adulthood. To me, this is closer to the halachic opinion that one should buy his wife jewelry and nice clothes to mark the chagim by increasing her simchah, than it is to serve as license for a party no matter how tastefully done. The Ben Ish Chai’s approach seems to take into account the sensitivities of a girl wanting to mark a milestone, within the framework of practice that was appropriate for the societal norms. In studying his work it becomes clear that the concern for tzeniut amongst the holy people of Baghdad was so great that wives would not eat in the same room as their husbands, so as not to result in the development of any disgust from watching each other eat. Obviously it was a very different culture, but understanding that helps place the Ben Ish Chai’s statements on marking a Bat Mitzvah in an appropriate light.

  104. Nachum says:

    sy guy, all fair. I meant to point out that these debates don’t really happen in the Sephardic world. The most secular Israeli Sepharadi wouldn’t dream of praying in an “egalitarian” place.

    As to the status of the Ben Ish Chai, that’s sort of a recent invention. He has a status similar to the Chafetz Chaim among Ashkenazim in that regard, for similar reasons. I highly doubt you get an accurate picture of everyday life from his work.

  105. Steve Brizel says:

    Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “That’s where you start the slippery slope. Of course, there are thoseto the right of you who would make the same general comment but would start a bit sooner; i.e., ” a continuum of thought that views teaching women Torah shebe’al peh, having bat mitzvot, WTGs etc.” But you wouldn’t like because it would include you in that slippery slope, so you start right after your changes in traditional halachic practice”

    Ain Haci Nami-but not IMO all that relevant to the discussion.

  106. IH says:

    Steve, it is relevant in that it demonstrates the decision as to where the so-called slippery slope is positioned is a political issue. I.e. the same halachic process can be used at any place in this continuum to effect change, if there is a will.

  107. STBO says:

    >“If Rabbeinu Tam explains the reason why non-adult males should be excluded from minyan is because it shows a lack of “yekara demalka”-loosely translated “honor of G-d”, can someone really argue that in Modern Orthodox communities and everything to the left, one would be hard pressed to argue that in communities where women can reach the highest office, including women in a minyan is an affront to the G-d’s honor.”

    Can you explain why contemporary Western women’s freedom to hold high office is halakhically relevant to the question of y’kara d’shmaya?

  108. MDJ says:

    STBO,
    Can you explain why you think that counting in a minyan would show lack of y’kara d’shmaya?

  109. Avi says:

    STBO,
    To answer the question one need merely approach the issue with some common sense. (I really hope that common sense has not yet been rejected as a legitimate tool in learning.) Why are certain tefilos only said with a Minyan? For the simple reason that when at least 10 people are gathered together in tefliah a particular kind of setting has been created and greater glory is given to G-d. “Berov Am Hadras Melech”. The spiritual “advantage” having a Minyan is manifest in being able to special tefilos like Borechu (it’s the best example because the words itself express the fact that a special kind of praise is being given-Borechu-belashon rabim- because a number of people are gathered together and thus it is said responsively-as are most devraim shebikedusha . Something said responsively enhances the “tzibur” experience).
    The affect and advantage of having a large group of people gathered together is only if they are, for the lack of a better term, “full representatives” of the community. 10 adults gathered is “berov am hadras melech”. 10 chidren are not. For example, if someone wanted 200 people to show up to their daughter’s wedding to give her and the chasan honor, if 200 children showed up that would clearly not do the job. In the times of Rabbeinu Tam the same was true for women.
    I would agree that in Meah Shearim and most communities in places like Monsey, women would not be able to counted in a minyan. In those communities women are not seen as being full representatives of the community. However, in most MO communities and everything to the left when 10 women are gathered that is not seen as being any less significant as 10 men. To use the wedding analogy again it would be a success if 100 Modern Orthodox women and 100 men showed up to the wedding.
    R’ Gil, I wasn’t asking about Rabbeinu Tam’s kula to allow one child. I was talking about his reason of yekara demalka. I don’t believe that you can say that Rabbeinu Tam’s understanding of what Minyan is about is not normative. In any event, you responded, as I thought you would with a meta-halakhic answer: “its not normative”. I was asking for a svara. Please anyone show the weakness in my svara above.

  110. STBO says:

    >“STBO,
    Can you explain why you think that counting in a minyan would show lack of y’kara d’shmaya?”

    I’d start by noting the fact that Rabbeinu Tam seems to think so as well.

    Now why did Rabbeinu Tam believe this? I don’t know, but he doesn’t hint that it has to do with women’s non-holding of high office.

    My own view is that public tefillah and public religiosity, specifically religious officiation, are roles that the Torah wanted men to hold, not women. There was after all no shortage of high priestesses and other female religious officiators in the ancient world. The Torah’s delegation of such roles exclusively to men seems to mark a conscious break with that paradigm.

    Why was such a break made? I suspect it has to do with what God wants for the development of Am Yisrael and humanity, and the different roles that the masculine and feminine play in the human psyche and society. One could certainly continue at length on this topic (it’s among the most important in the world)….but that’s the opening of my own thoughts.

    This discussion now enters upon territory that asserts fundamental differences between male and female, and masculinity and femininity, and so will be very uncomfortable for many.

  111. IH says:

    “This discussion now enters upon territory that asserts fundamental differences between male and female, and masculinity and femininity, and so will be very uncomfortable for many.”

    Go on, then… These “uncomfortable” views should be understood by anyone engaging in this discussion.

  112. Avi says:

    I’m happy that finally, although the amount of comments have dropped off, the conversation has stopped hiding behind abstract meta-halakhic claims, and has begun to deal with the heart of the issue, namely, according to the Torah are women ontologically not fir or suited for a public role. I’ve never understood why the obvious source for this question is ignored. After the sin in gan eden, G-d curses the woman that “Hu Yimshal Bach”. Clearly, that has been the situation for millenia. In other words, the Torah seems to be saying that the position of women in society is a result of the curse. The most importnat question in all of this is whether it is permitted or perhaps even desired that human beings overcome the curse. I am not aware of poskim who prohibit women from taking an epidural because of “betztev teldi banim” or people from using mechanized farm equipment because of “bezeias apeicha tochal lechem”. In fact, Rashi brings down the midrash that Noach was called Noach because he brought rest to human beings who toiled since the curse to work the land, by creating the first plow. In other words, Noach was Noach becuase he overcame the curse!

  113. Charlie Hall says:

    “Who cares what Sperber and Weiss think? They are not the Gedolim and not even close. If you’re going to quote someone, it should be someone in the category of a Rav Elyashiv or a Kanievsky.”

    Reality check: In my community, I don’t know anyone who pays attention to what Rav Elyashiv has to say and most people have never heard of Rav Kanievsky. That is not a slur on them but a statement of how irrelevant the Charedi gedolim have made themselves.

  114. Charlie Hall says:

    ‘Charlie Hall, who raised the issue, likes to bring up obscure precedents (especially Italian) to support modern points of view.’

    I was merely objecting to the “beyond the pale” statement. I have no idea whether people actually followed him on this. A lot of things thought to be beyond the pale actually aren’t.

    Case in point: In Rabbi Emanuel Feldman’s article in the current *Jewish Action*, he brings up an incident when he was asked to wear a black robe. He in explaining his reasoning for refusing to do so, he writes that “there are certain behaviors that are so obviously off track—what we call muvan me’eilav, and lawyers call “res ipsa loquitur,” something that speaks for itself and is self-evident—that it need not be recorded in a code of law.”

    Now I am not about to question Rabbi Feldman’s decision, but is is a simple fact that rabbis in many communities were wearing robes long before they were wearing fedoras! Here is an example, from *Minhagim of the Congreation Shearith Israel In the City of New York* by Rabbi Hayyim J. Angel (2009), p. 17:

    “Many Rabbis and Hazanim throughout the Jewish world have worn distinctive garb. The kohanim in Temple times did so also. Wearing distinctive clothing serves as a means of minimizing the person as opposed to the position, and adds prestige to the position itself.”

    “Often enough, Jews have borrowed ideas from their neighbors. Our current garb parallels the outfits worn in many Jewish congregations throughout Western Europe. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch of 19th century Germany wore similar canonicals.”

    “Hazanim in our congregation after Hazan Moses Levi Maduro Peixotto (1767-1828), who served from 1816-1828, wore a gown as we now know it today. Hazan Peixotto used to wear knee breeches, a suit with a long black silk train, a white collar, and bands made of lace. Instead of a cap he was wearing a three corner cocked hat. This new style of pulpit wear took hold in the 19th century, and it is called the Geneva style. This style is based on Academic Regalia for doctoral graduates (see Dr. David de Sola Pool’s *An Old Faith in the New World). ”

    Not only are robes not self-evidently “off-track” they are now long-established minhagim in some communities. At Shearith Israel the rabbis even wear black robes for weekday mincha and arvit!

  115. Charlie Hall says:

    “My own view is that public tefillah and public religiosity, specifically religious officiation, are roles that the Torah wanted men to hold, not women.”

    That is a difficult position given that public tefillah is a d’rabbanan.

  116. Charlie Hall says:

    “The Torah’s delegation of such roles exclusively to men seems to mark a conscious break with that paradigm.”

    Also difficult given that the number of Torah mitzvot applicable today in which men have a chiyuv and women do not is only about a dozen.

  117. Charlie Hall says:

    “Also difficult ”

    By that I meant to apply to our own times. Particularly when there are zero female Muslim religious leaders today, and zero female Catholic priests, to totally deny religious leadership to women is following the ways of the two largest non-Jewish religions in the world.

  118. STBO says:

    I have no strong desire to launch into an extended monograph re: my theories of why the Torah (both Written and Oral) seems to delineate religious officiation so firmly as being in the province of the male sex. Such writing would go on for a looooong time, and I also think an anonymous online forum would be a poor venue to attempt to flesh out that skeleton.

    Re: the curses/consequences following the fruit, none of those curses are mitzvot — they’re descriptions of an existential reality into which humans are cast. If you want to argue that we can now ‘overcome the curse’ by reforming halacha such that women may constitute a minyan….well, the first thing I’d ask is why nobody else has thought of this…?

    The second thing I’d note is that nothing in halacha forbids either epidural anesthetics or mechanized agricultural equipment. But halacha does set out clear qualifications for constituent members of a minyan.

    >“That is a difficult position given that public tefillah is a d’rabbanan.”

    Why is that difficult? In principle it’s a simple progression from the operational guidelines of the Beit ha’Mikdash. Particularly if one considers the general theme of tefilla sublimating the service formerly undertaken in the Beit ha’Mikdash….“u’nshalma parim sfateinu”. It would be thematically consistent that officiation and operation of the service remain in the purview of male leadership.

    >“Also difficult given that the number of Torah mitzvot applicable today in which men have a chiyuv and women do not is only about a dozen.”

    ???

    What’s the relevance?

    >“By that I meant to apply to our own times. Particularly when there are zero female Muslim religious leaders today, and zero female Catholic priests, to totally deny religious leadership to women is following the ways of the two largest non-Jewish religions in the world.”

    Ah-ha! So in the interests of Jewish separatism we must alter halacha to permit female religious officiation!

    This is really gunning for the Too Clever by Half Award….

  119. IH says:

    STBO, shame you enticed us then at 10:40 last night. Out of curiousity, does this same type of analysis also lead to un-PC views regarding non-Jews in general and black people in particular?

  120. STBO says:

    Apologies for any unnecessary enticement.

    >“Out of curiousity, does this same type of analysis also lead to un-PC views regarding non-Jews in general and black people in particular?”

    ???

    I’m mystified by what you believe the connection between these topics should be. But your imputations are both clear and dishonorable.

  121. IH says:

    My apologies, STBO, for conflating your stated view with others who share it together with other views. It was wrong of me to make that assumption.

    That said, as I was sitting in shul today, I was trying to reconcile the beginning of this weeks’s Haftorah:

    וּדְבוֹרָה אִשָּׁה נְבִיאָה, אֵשֶׁת לַפִּידוֹת–הִיא שֹׁפְטָה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּעֵת הַהִיא
    וַיַּעֲלוּ אֵלֶיהָ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לַמִּשְׁפָּט

    with your statement:

    “My own view is that public tefillah and public religiosity, specifically religious officiation, are roles that the Torah wanted men to hold, not women. There was after all no shortage of high priestesses and other female religious officiators in the ancient world. The Torah’s delegation of such roles exclusively to men seems to mark a conscious break with that paradigm.”

  122. Steve Brizel says:

    Avi wrote:

    “Despite the many comments not one person has addressed the heart of the issue. If Rabbeinu Tam explains the reason why non-adult males should be excluded from minyan is because it shows a lack of “yekara demalka”-loosely translated “honor of G-d”, can someone really argue that in Modern Orthodox communities and everything to the left, one would be hard pressed to argue that in communities where women can reach the highest office, including women in a minyan is an affront to the G-d’s honor. And please no meta-halakhaic answers. Just pretend we are in a Beis Midrash for a second- and just give me a good svara”

    WADR, if you don’t accept meta-halachic answers, the discussion reveals more about your lack of knowledge about Mesorah and TSBP than you care to admit. Merely knowing Shas, Rishonim and Acharonim inside out without taking into consideration meta halachic factors reveals one that knows a lot, but is unwilling to view an issue from the perspective of wprking from the reality and perspectives of Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim and instead imposing your views or worse, how Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim should be reread to accomodate your perspective on any issue.

  123. STBO says:

    I am glad you’re not conflating my views with unknown others’ views of other subjects that may be noxious.

    >“That said, as I was sitting in shul today, I was trying to reconcile the beginning of this weeks’s Haftorah:

    וּדְבוֹרָה אִשָּׁה נְבִיאָה, אֵשֶׁת לַפִּידוֹת–הִיא שֹׁפְטָה אֶת-יִשְׂרָאֵל, בָּעֵת הַהִיא
    וַיַּעֲלוּ אֵלֶיהָ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לַמִּשְׁפָּט

    with your statement…”

    What is the relevance? Do you deny that “the Torah delegated such roles [high priests and religious officiation in the Beit Ha’mikdash] exclusively to men”? Do you really think that every posek, talmid chacham, rav, tanna, amora, gaon, rishon and acharon missed the beginning of this week’s haftarah until you came along and noticed it???

    Come on.

    Perhaps they were familiar with Devorah, and the 7 recorded nevi’ot and (per the Gemara) the hundreds of thousands of male and female nevi’im who were not recorded for posterity. Perhaps the halacha regarding minyan and religious officiation was established and remains what it is for a reason or many reasons that are aware of the above and Devorah’s exceptional identity as a judge and leader. (As for that matter was the halacha regarding the constitution of a Beit Din…)

    What is certain is that many aside from yourself, both before our time and in it have noticed the opening verses of this week’s haftarah. Those verses were never seen as motive to upend the halacha regarding religious officiation or constitution of either a minyan or Beit Din.

  124. IH says:

    Come on yourself.

    There is no doubt that by Mishnaic time, the societal context relegated women to non-leadership roles. But, this was not the case in the Tanach.

    So, when applied to the Tanach, your assertion to which I was responding is false.

  125. IH says:

    And on your Beit ha’Mikdash example, do you also extrapolate the Torah wanted only male Cohanim for religious officiation?

  126. STBO says:

    Have you learned Tanach?

    Even in Tanach, Devorah was a pointed exception to the norm. Which makes citations of Devorah in an effort to reform normative halacha so out of place and IMO almost absurd. (As would be attempts to enlist Queen Shlomtzion/’Salome’.)

    Re: kohanim, only male kohanim had a part in the officiation of the Beit ha’Mikdash. (For that matter only males were obligated in the thrice-yearly fulfillment of re’iyah at the Beit ha’Mikdash.)

    The distinction between male and female is much more fundamental than the distinction between kohen and non-kohen.

    If your position is that almost every posek, talmid chacham, rav, tanna, amora, gaon, rishon and acharon until yourself has misunderstood the Torah and halacha….. well good luck arguing that. But I think it’s an obvious non-starter.

    Alternatively you could assert that irrespective of the halacha, the moral demands of the moment simply require that halacha be reformed or overturned to permit women (and minors, and others?…) to be constitutive members of a minyan, etc. You think that argument will go somewhere? Then run with it.

    At least a couple of academics, shuls, and rabbis in NYC and Jerusalem agree with both claims.

    Mainstream Torah observant Judaism, however, will not. And your obvious presumption that those who disagree with you (i.e. those who follow and endorse normative halacha) are moral pygmies will be one of the prime factors that sinks your ship.

 
 

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