Is This Really Dialogue?

 

Is This Really Dialogue?

A Reply to the Interesting Substance of a Critique in Dialogue’s Inaugural Edition of my Tradition Article on Uncovered Hair

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta, and is a member (dayan) in the Beth Din of America

Preface

In 2009, I published an article in Tradition Magazine explaining how one could understand the Talmud, a group of Rishonim, the Tur, the Shulchan Aruch, and the Levush to permit married women in contemporary society to forgo covering their hair. I recognized that the approach I outlined had been rejected by the Jewish law authorities of the last centuries and made clear that I was not advocating a change in the normative halacha, but merely proposing a limmud zechut for why married women did not cover their hair.[1] Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman published a critique of my position in a later volume of Tradition and I replied at length.[2] Recently, the inaugural issue of the journal Dialogue For Jewish Issues & Ideas published another response to my article by Rabbi Yosef Wiener and Rabbi Yosef Ifrah entitled “Controversy or Contrivance? The Attempted Justification for Uncovered Married Women’s Hair.”[3]

I might have chosen to ignore the article for its disrespectful tone[4] or strident, condemning style,[5] but I came to feel that notwithstanding its tone, the article made enough substantive points of halacha to warrant a response. I had hoped to publish that response in the journal Dialogue, but to my surprise—even though the journal is named Dialogue For Torah Issues and Ideas—the editors expressed no interest in publishing an article-length reply. They were only willing to let me submit a short letter to the editor, which I did, but which could not cover the relevant issues satisfactorily.

Before I move to the substance of the matter, I want to spend a few paragraphs explaining why I have generally held off writing such replies, and why I am breaking that pattern now. In addition, since my original article came out, two or three important new sources have been published which support my suggestion. Reviewing those will set a helpful and appropriate atmosphere for considering Rabbis Wiener and Ifrah’s points.

The Joys of Silence and the Price of Dialogue

Years ago, I gave a public shiur on a topic I had just written an article on, (I think it was about celebrating Thanksgiving) and when it was over, a person approached me, smiled sweetly, and told me that “I was much less impressive in person than in writing.” I was taken aback at the time, but have come to understand that my most effective mode of sharing my understanding of halacha is in writing. When I write, I have discovered that I can be more precise, elegant, and fine-tuned than any other method of communication available to me.

Yet, my writing is not finely tuned enough to forestall all criticism, much of which is ad hominem and mean-spirited. And it is not fine-tuned enough to make it productive to respond to each of those criticisms. Let me explain.

First, many have misunderstood my writings to mean the opposite of what’s being meant, In each of the four long articles laying out a rationale for why Orthodox women of previous generations did not cover their hair, I explicitly said, in many different ways, that “as a rabbi of little stature, I have no intention in deciding halachic practices for the community that would be in opposition to the rulings of the great poskim of our generation.” I repeated this in a shiur distributed by yutorah.org, and I repeated this again in my response to R. Shulman’s reply.[6] Since even a casual reader ought to understand my view by this point, I almost question the motives and integrity of people who insist that I must have meant something else—that I have some sort of baseless agenda to bring new halachic practices into the mainstream. I chose not to respond, therefore, each time someone leveled this critique.

Second, some of the criticism of this article has come from Torah giants of our generation but in a tone that would have steered the conversation to the personal rather than the constructive. Even at the cost of bearing harsh criticism, I believe that kavod ha-Torah militates against entering into such fights, and to respond only to the many wise and thoughtful Torah scholars who have disagreed with me politely, publicly when in public, and privately when in private is the give and take of Torah—and it makes halachic Judaism more authentic. But the name calling, subtle and not so subtle jibes at my personal integrity, and mean spirited tone in many of the articles and postings made it challenging to respond other than in this manner which undermines the general principles of kavod ha-Torah—and I simply cannot bring myself to impugn on the honor of Torah.

My third reason for staying away from the fray has been more selfish. Since I stepped down from the active synagogue rabbinate, I have found time to return to intense learning. This has afforded me the opportunity to publish articles on a broad variety of topics and to give shiurim in many different places. Furthermore, I am still actively involved as a dayan in the Beth Din of America. To get into the back and forth of every criticism would take away from those endeavors, ones I find to be far more productive. No matter who wins a mud fight, everyone gets muddy. I prefer to learn Torah than to roll in the mud. If I were to stop my learning and respond in kind to every ad hominem attack, the volleys back and forth would continue in a non-productive way.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that it is better to be silent than respond to the many ad hominem attacks. Rabbis Wiener and Ifrah’s reply is worthy of a response, precisely because it is not ad hominem in nature, but forces one to grapple with the sources, as Torah discourse should be.

Additional Sources Supporting My View (Published Since the Original Article)

As a last preliminary step, I want to note additional sources that support my position which have come to light since my article came out. One, a recollection by David Keter of a conversation he had with Rav Shach, tz”l states:

Rav Shach met me at some length, and told me very clearly and directly that whether hair covering was obligatory or not when most modest women did not cover their hair was a dispute between the Shulchan Aruch and the Rambam, since Rambam called hair covering a dat Moshe and Mechaber called it a dat Yehudit. Rav Shach told me that it was better to be strict on this matter, but one who was makil, yesh al ma lismoch [has what to rely on]. When I pressed Rav Shach about explaining the basis for the Mechaber’s view, he told me that the Mechaber is adopting the view of the Tur, which must have been his view of the Rosh as well, although Rav Shach indicated that he did not see that view in the Rosh himself.[7]

Second, Tradition’s blog, Text and Texture, recently published a retranslation of the Ben Ish Chai‘s Judeo-Arabic work in this area—Sefer Chukei Nashim. This made it clear that the Ben Ish Chai also had a limmud zechut on this topic. The new translation reads:

Look at the women of Europe whose custom is not to hide themselves from strangers. Nonetheless their clothes are orderly; they do not reveal their bodies except only their faces, necks, hands, and heads. It is true that their hair is uncovered and this custom of theirs is not possible according to our laws. But, they have one justification. They say “Yet still, this custom (of having their hair uncovered) was accepted by all their women – both Jewish and Gentile – to go with their hair uncovered like the revealing of their faces. It does not cause sexual thoughts in men when they see it with their eyes.” These are their words which they answer for this custom and we do not have an answer to push away this answer of theirs.

The last sentence, which was not translated into Hebrew at all and which I had never seen before, makes it is clear that a limmud zechut is being put forward.[8]

The third is an interpretation suggested by Rabbi Mordechai Willig in the course of two lectures on this topic. After thoroughly reviewing the exchange between myself and R. Shulman (referred to in note 2) and concluding that my view was wrong and R. Shulman’s was correct with regard to the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Rabbi Willig—who is absolutely firm in his view that married women must cover their hair as a matter of normative Jewish law—considered a completely different approach focusing on the views of Rambam and Rashi that hair covering is a subjective dat Moshe.[9]

Together, these three sources provide substantial support for my original suggestion. David Keter notes that Rav Shach understood the Tur and Shulchan Aruch to classify hair covering as being both a dat Yehudit and subjective, as I had proposed. Rabbi Willig insists that this approach is wrong, but considers the possibility that both Rashi and Rambam consider hair covering to be a subjective dat Moshe. The Ben Ish Chai, like Ra’aviah, simply considers the obligation to cover subjective at its core. Had these three views been widely known before I published my initial article, I might not have bothered to publish at all. But, until I started writing, the small number of Aharonim who permitted married women to leave their hair uncovered, and the various potential justifications, were virtually unknown. I feel that my articles have thus accomplished their purpose: to explain why the conduct of married women who do not cover their hair could be justified as consistent with one or more minority views found within halacha.

Replying to “Controversy or Contrivance? The Attempted Justification for Uncovered Married Women’s Hair”

With all that, Rabbis Wiener and Ifrah’s substantive comments deserve a full discussion, to which I now turn.

A. Correcting a General Misperception

I will begin by correcting what seems to be a misrepresentation of my article as a whole. If one were to read only Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener’s piece, one would get the impression that I am the first person to suggest that whether married women cover their hair or not is a matter of custom and practice. For example, they write:

…We must state unequivocally that R. Broyde’s halachic justification for the practice of women who do not cover their hair is completely erroneous, for it is based on irrelevant and non-existent sources.[10]

It is worth remembering that I am not, in fact, the first to say this. Anyone who reads my article and is familiar with the subject would know this. I will quote here from three of the most explicit sources I quoted in the article:

1. Rabbi Yehoshua Babad

R. Babad writes in his responsa (Sefer Yehoshua 89):

The basic principle is that any part of the body which is always seen, and which it is not the common practice of women to cover, and which men are used to seeing, is not considered ervah; people are not stirred by such because they are used to seeing this, and no biblical prohibition is involved at all [in uncovering them]. But when body parts that are customarily covered are partially exposed and people find this stirring, then it is considered ervah and it is biblically prohibited [to uncover them]… The Gemara was thus impelled to answer that biblically, having one’s hair exposed but braided is sufficient, but according to dat Yehudit even braided hair is also forbidden, since the practice of women was to go out with their hair covered by head-scarves, then in that era in particular going with braided hair was considered to be brazen, and women who did so violated dat Yehudit. But were it the practice of all Jewish women to go with their heads entirely uncovered, there would be no prohibition at all, even for married women… even were the opposite to be the case, that married women went with their heads uncovered and single women covered their hair, it would be forbidden for single women to go without their heads covered, but permissible for married women.

2. Rabbi Yosef Messas

In a letter on the subject of women’s hair covering (Collected Letters 1884),[11] R. Messas writes:

Know, my child, that the prohibition of married women to uncover their hair was quite strong in our community, as it was in all of the Arab lands, before the influx of French Jewry. However, in short order after their arrival, the daughters of Israel transgressed this law and a great dispute arose amongst the rabbis, sages, and God-fearing learned masses… Now all women go out with uncovered heads and loose hair…Consequently, I have devoted myself to find a justification for the current practice, for it is impossible to fathom that we can return to the status quo ante… Accordingly, now that all the daughters of Israel have agreed that hair covering is not an indication of modesty, and certainly the absence of a head covering carries no disgrace… this prohibition has been uprooted from its foundation and become permissible. …The upshot of all this is that hair covering for women is only obligatory from the standpoint of custom alone.

3. Rabbi Moshe Malka

R. Malka expresses his essential agreement with R. Messas’ position in a responsum (Va-Heishiv Moshe 35):

…After close analysis of the words of our Master [R. Yosef Karo], OH 75:2, I saw that the great Rabbi [Messas] was indeed correct… One sees that women’s hair is considered ervah only when it is covered and in a place where women normally cover it. But when it is uncovered and in a place where women normally do not cover it, it is not considered ervah. The reason is that hair which is normally covered but has become exposed leads to erotic thoughts; but this is not the case where it is always exposed: it does not give rise to erotic thoughts in people who are accustomed to seeing it all the time, as in the case of single women—there is no prohibition when the hair is always uncovered [in that society]…. Thus the position of [R. Messas] now stands, that this matter is based on local practice, and wherever the entire local populace goes with their heads uncovered, there is no issue of erotic thoughts. And it seems that women nowadays rely on this, as they go about with their heads uncovered in the markets and streets and no one protests, for they have something to rely on.

Furthermore, we can now add to this list as a fourth source, the clear and direct view of the Ben Ish Chai quoted above.

Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener are certainly aware of these sources and even quote a piece of my response to R. Shulman that references them. However, instead of recognizing that at least these authorities either would or do permit married women in modern society to go out with their hair uncovered, they avoid addressing the works of these achronim by saying that the reasons offered by these authorities are not identical to the reasons I give.

It is rather difficult to understand this assertion as I advance many arguments in my article, some of which dovetail with these authorities and some of which do not. Moreover, this claim hides the fact that these authorities explicitly permit married women to go out with their hair uncovered. This is exactly the position I am advocating as a limmud zechut!

The above authorities are, of course, a distinct minority of poskim, and the argument about the subjectivity of women’s modesty requirements certainly does not represent the consensus of the gedolai Aharonim in regard to hair. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that I am not the first to say that hair coverage could be a matter of social customs and practices; this is not a position I invented out of whole cloth, but represents a well-trodden path of a number of halachic decisors (poskim) over the past few centuries. My contribution was simply an attempt to explore this position and ground it more solidly in more traditional sources—thus offering some justification for women who implicitly follow it.

B. Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and Levush

Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener do not make my reading of the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and Levush the key to their critique. Nevertheless, they do attempt to offer a number of alternative reads for these sources to counter the one I suggested. Primarily, they argue that the reason these three works change the category of uncovered hair from dat Moshe to dat Yehudit is because there is no difference between the two categories, practically speaking.[12]

Although this is a possible interpretation of these sources, it leaves them unable to answer the question I raised in my response to R. Shulman; namely, if Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener are correct, where do we see a source to limit the prohibition of exposed hair to married women? Even ha-Ezer 21 clearly states:

Jewish women should not go out to the market with their hair exposed, whether single (penuya) or married.

The simple reading is that all women must cover their hair according to halacha. There are only two ways out of this: either to argue that single means divorced or to argue that this reflects the subjective standards of the Sephardic/Arab world, where all women did cover their hair. The former argument, although suggested by several Aharonim,[13] runs afoul of the very next words of the Tur:

But it is permitted to gaze upon a single woman (penuya) – whether a virgin or previously married – in order to determine whether he finds her attractive, for the purpose of marriage.

It is more than a little difficult to believe that the Tur means two different things by the same word in the same sentence. This is why I argue that the latter is the correct position. Furthermore, this clarifies the tension between Even ha-Ezer and Orach Chaim, as the former implies that all women cover their hair and the latter that only married women do. I have argued that the Even ha-Ezer passage, as a quote from Rambam, reflects the practice in Arab countries and that the passage from Orach Chaim, a quote from Ra’aviah, reflects the practice in European countries.

Although I cannot deny the possibility that they are right, I may be forgiven for suggesting what seems to me to be a much more plausible alternative. Why the Tur may have thought that this was the view of the Rosh is the subject of the next section.

C. Rosh and Tosafot

In my article, I suggested that in veering from the formulation of Rambam, the Tur might have been basing himself upon the position of his father, the Rosh.

Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener deal with my reading of several statements of the Rosh. I would not claim that their alternative reading is obviously less valid than mine, and although I still prefer my own, I admit that more than one interpretation is possible. What I do find problematic is that they spend several pages on those readings, but dismiss in a short sentence the one source where the Rosh seems to be absolutely clear about his understanding, i.e. in the Tosafot ha-Rosh.. The Tosafot ha-Rosh (Gittin 90) restates the position of the Tosafot, and is commenting on a perceived contradiction between the text in Gittin and the text in Sotah. Here is the text of the Tosafot ha-Rosh:

“Do you really mean to say [he sees her] bathe with other men?” – Rashi of blessed memory explained that if that were the case, there would be circumstantial evidence that she is unfaithful and thus forbidden [to her husband], and the Talmud would not have said in that case one ought to divorce such a woman, but rather one must divorce her. If you challenge this by saying, if that is true, then certainly one must also divorce a woman who goes out with her head uncovered because she violates dat Yehudit, yet it is an unresolved question in Sotah (25a) as to whether or not a husband may choose to stay married to such a woman [and the Talmud does not draw such an inference]. One may answer that there [in Sotah] the violation was rabbinic [and so one need not in fact divorce such a woman], but here [actually bathing with other men] would be a biblical violation…

To understand this, Tosafot, followed by Tosafot ha-Rosh, interpret the term “dat” in Sotah to refer to dat Yehudit. They further understand that one may remain married to a woman who violates dat Yehudit but not a biblical prohibition. The specific example brought is of a woman who goes out with uncovered hair, and thus—according to Tosafot ha-Rosh—violates a dat Yehudit, a rabbinic modesty infraction.

One could, perhaps, argue that Tosafot and Tosafot ha-Rosh are referring to a woman who goes out wearing only a partial covering (a kalta), but this is extremely hard to believe, as there is no indication in the text that this is the (unusual) reality they are envisioning.

Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener dismiss my citation of the Tosafot ha-Rosh so concisely as to be cryptic:

The Tosafos HaRosh in Gittin, cited by R. Broyde, is another simple citation of the text of the Mishna.[14]

I do not know what this critique is supposed to mean. I can only say that the contrary is true. The word Yehudit was added by Tosafot and Tosafot ha-Rosh. If they believed that a woman going out with her hair exposed was a violation of dat Moshe, why add the word Yehudit? The word “dat” on its own, which is what appears in the text of Sotah, would be perfect, as it would imply that she could be violating either, depending on the degree of her hair’s exposure. But they clarify that ambiguity in Sotah by clearly stating that a woman’s uncovered hair is a violation of dat Yehudit.

Additionally, the fact that the Rosh, Tur, Tosafot, etc. believed that uncovered hair was meant in the Mishnah as a sign of promiscuity is supported by the view of one of the Rosh’s “grand-students.” R. Menachem ben Aharon, the author of the Tzeidah la-Derech and a student of R. Yehudah son of Rosh, makes this point explicitly:

And what is dat Yehudit? Going out to the marketplace or through an alley or courtyard which many people frequent in the manner of promiscuous women.

It was with all this in mind that I read the Rosh’s other statements the way I did. I will not go in to the many interpretations offered by myself, R. Shulman, and Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener. However, I would like to underline my main point from the Rosh’s comments in Ketubot. He writes:

The rule that a woman who violates das Moshe and das yehudis does not receive her kesubah payment applies specifically to cases in which she causes her husband to sin or to come to harm (“hi machshilaso”), such as those in our Mishna and the like—for instance, feeding him forbidden fats or blood, or making vows and not fulfilling them (for one’s children [die on account of this sin]). However a woman who violates other prohibitions, such as if she herself were to consume a forbidden item, does not forfeit her kesubah. With regard to das yehudis, the husband is able to deprive his wife of her kesubah on account of her brazenness (“chatziphusah”) and on account of the suspicion of infidelity (“chashad zenus”).[15]

The simple read of this is that violations of dat Yehudit humiliate the husband, which is why he would not have to pay her ketubah should he divorce her. Violations of dat Moshe, on the other hand, forfeit her ketubah payment in the case that they cause the husband to sin or the death of his children. All other sins committed by the woman are irrelevant when it comes to ketubah payments.[16] My argument is simply this: Since this definition precludes considering a woman going out with her hair uncovered to be in violation of dat Moshe, the Rosh must believe it is a violation of dat Yehudit. This interpretation is supported by the Tosafot ha-Rosh and Tosafot referenced earlier. The objection that this does not seem to fit into the Gemara is an important one, but it doesn’t change the meaning of the words.

D. Ketubot vs. Berachot

In my original article, I suggested that Tosafot, the Rosh, and the Tur may have assumed that the Talmudic analyses in Ketubot and Berachot disagreed about the nature of the requirement for a woman to cover her hair, a mahloket ha-sugyot. Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener reject the idea categorically, stating that there is no reason to see tension between the two discussions.

Saying it does not make it so; the disagreement between these two sources is worth noting. The sugyah in Ketubot states that women going out with their hair exposed violate a biblical prohibition based R. Yishmael’s inference from a verse in Numbers. The sugyah in Berachot labels women’s hair ervah (nakedness) based on a verse in Song of Songs. Unless Berachot is disagreeing with Ketubot, why would R. Sheshet (an amora, living later than R. Yishmael, the rabbi of the discussion in Ketubot) use a verse in Song of Songs when the earlier and more authoritative Tannaitic midrash had derived this from a verse in Numbers? There are several plausible explanations, but it seems reasonable to say that R. Sheshet did not consider the midrash of R. Yishmael halachically binding or correct, and therefore, he required a different verse.

Further evidence that the sugyah in Berachot sees this matter differently than Ketubot is that all the derivations in Berachot are really asmachtas, a hint for a rabbinic decree, and the derivations in Ketubot are derashot, genuine laws learned from verses. That would explain why the verses in Berachot quoted all refer to parts of the body or actions that would be considered somewhat provocative at the time, thus requiring more rabbinic interpretation into which category they fit. Verses that refer either to obviously sexual or non-sexual parts of the body are not quoted in Berachot.[17] Since verses in the Song of Songs describe almost every part of a woman’s body,[18] this was clearly a conscious choice, meaning any derashot here are not verse driven but stem from a pre-existing notion of what parts of a woman’s body (or what behaviors) are borderline erotic.

Furthermore, Berachot does not address a specific prohibition for women to dress immodestly. The only halachic significance the Talmud finds for its discussion of provocative dress or behavior is how women’s choices affect men.

Understanding the flow of the passage in Berachot makes this clear. Rabbi Yitzchak states than even a handbreadth of a woman is ervah, and the Gemara discusses this by noting that maybe Rabbi Yitzchak is suggesting a prohibition to look at women in general. However, this idea is countered by the already-stated principle of R. Sheshet that staring at any part of a woman, erotic or not, is forbidden. The only alternative possibility the Talmud can think of is that the halachic significance of Rabbi Yitzchak’s statement is that a man could not say the Shema in a woman’s presence if she was thus exposed. Why does the Talmud not simply suggest that the significance is that a woman should thus not be permitted to appear this way in public? It would seem that this is not a halachic category this sugyah recognizes, despite the derasha in Ketubot that states just that.

E. Shmuel vs. Rabbi Yohanan in Ketubot

I further suggested that even the sugyah in Ketubot itself is unclear as to whether the position of Shmuel[19] is accepted as binding. Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener repeat R. Shulman’s assertion that “this can hardly be entertained even as pilpul.” Let me spell out more clearly what I am suggesting.

The sugyah begins by pointing out that the Mishnah in Ketubot seems to be in tension with a midrash halacha. Whereas the Mishnah, by placing exposed hair in the category of dat Yehudit, implies that the act is one of maintaining a societal norm, the midrash halacha states that the Torah specifically commands women not to go out with their hair exposed. The normative statement in the Talmud makes it problematic that the Mishnah would list the practice as only a violation of dat Yehudit. Is there any way, the Talmud wonders, to remove this tension and understand the Mishnah and the midrash as being in agreement?[20]

Rav Yehudah, quoting Shmuel, suggests that there are levels of exposure when it comes to hair. The Torah only forbids a woman going out with her hair fully exposed, whereas dat Yehudit extends that to going out with a hairnet or braids. The midrash, then, referred to the absolute prohibition of complete exposure; the Mishnah, on the other hand, focused on the requirement for a married woman to fully cover her hair.

I find this to be a classic example of a counter-intuitive solution (שינויא דחיקא) since both the midrash and the Mishnah use the exact same term: “exposed hair.” It is surprising to suggest that when the midrash says a woman may not go out with exposed hair, it should be understood to be permitting partial covering (kalta), but when the Mishnah sees exposed hair as a violation of dat Yehudit, it means to prohibit going out even with kalta!

It is for this reason, perhaps, that the Gemara then presents R. Yohanan’s suggestion, which seems at odds with Shmuel’s. The simple understanding of R. Yohanan in this context is that the term “exposed hair” does not include a hairnet or braids and that in certain contexts, women could even go out wearing only that type of covering/hairstyle. This seems to oppose Shmuel’s answer that says hairnets and braids are not a matter of partial covering, but partial exposure. For R. Yohanan, neither the midrash nor the Mishnah could be referring to women with kalta, as the term “exposed hair” never means this. Hence, the midrash and the Mishnah contradict, according to R. Yohanan, and we follow the Mishnah.

The Yerushalmi can easily demonstrate the fact that this reading is more than just “pilpul.” The Yerushalmi on this Mishnah records R. Yohanan’s position as an independent gloss on the Mishnah, with no reference at all to a contradiction between it and a midrash and no reference Shmuel’s (or anybody’s) solution to this problem. This explanation harmonizes the Bavli with the Yerushalmi, and as the Kessef Mishneh (Gerushin 13:18) notes, “Any way that we can interpret the Bavli to prevent it from arguing with the Yerushalmi is better, even if the explanation is a bit forced (דחוק קצת).”

Again, this is not the only possible read, but this does not mean it should be summarily discounted.

F. Miscellaneous Specific Points Made by Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener that Deserve a Response

1. Quoting the Mishnah Without the Gemara

In their review, Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener make the following assertion:

R. Broyde assumes that an unmodified citation of the Mishna is indicative of a ruling that is at odds with the Gemara’s qualification. This argument is preposterous. These Rishonim do not intend to dispute the Gemara by mentioning the words of the Mishna; rather they assume the Gemara’s conclusion. They do not deem it necessary to cite the entire text of the Gemara in order to reference the concept of overes al das, as referencing the Mishna includes an understood reference to the Gemara’s elucidation of it. This should be apparent to anyone who reads the words of the Rishonim with an awareness of the passage in Kesubos.[21]

Rabbi’s Ifrah and Wiener seem to infer that any reference to the Mishnah, in whatever context, automatically incorporates the Talmudic sugyah’s interpretation of that Mishnah. In my opinion, this claim is not true, as it fails to take into account the various genres—the various assumptions, interpretations, and inferences—in rabbinic writing on and particular Mishnah.

I certainly agree with Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener that when a Mishnah alone is referenced correctly and carefully in a discussion of another topic, it may be understood as a shorthand reference to its sugyah and not a formulation of the actual halacha on that topic as seen by that writer. This is why when I referenced the responsum of Rif (73), I said that it was only a possibility that he believes all hair covering to be dat Yehudit, since the responsum was primarily interested in the category of women who act flirtatiously with other men.

However, when a Mishnah is referenced in the appropriate section of a halachic treatise without the Gemara, things are a bit more complicated. It is certainly possible that an author is merely putting forward a summary overview and did not intend to be thorough or that he may have the Gemara in mind as normative despite not quoting it. So for example, the Behag who quotes only the Mishnah with no modification may not mean anything more by this than a short reference. However, the same cannot be said for works which offer more detailed presentations or which can be seen as responding to other works.

For example, I pointed out that just like the Tur and Shulchan Aruch “changed” the formulation of the halacha to reflect the Rosh and Tosafot and not Rambam, so too the Semak changed the formulation of the halacha from that of the Semag (who follows Rambam) back to that of the Mishnah. One cannot just claim here that the Semak simply preferred the Mishnah’s text with all its ambiguity, but really believed the halacha was in line with the formulation of the Semag, as it is well known that R. Yitzhak of Corbeil wrote his work with the specific intention of taking the Semag and “de-Rambaming” it.

A similar argument stands for cases like that of the Sefer ha-Ittur, the Ritvah, and the Kol-Bo. These works quote the Mishnah and then modify it with certain pieces of the Gemara and not others. This is not a case of simple shorthand writing but represents a conscious choice by the authors to elucidate the Mishnah with the pieces of Talmudic commentary that seemed to them to be normative statements of halacha — statements that effectively capture the Mishnah’s halachic explication.

One can quibble about particular sources or cases, but what should be clear is that Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener are painting with too broad a brush and making a generalization worth noting. Essentially, their axiom is really no axiom at all.[22]

2. Ritvah

In reference to the previous section, the Ritvah is one of the Rishonim who implies that a woman exposing her hair violates only dat Yehudit.[23] His reasoning might stem from his interpretation of Kiddushin 82a. There, the Ritvah quotes examples of righteous men violating or ignoring prohibitions meant to distance men from women. Since it makes no sense to argue that rabbis have a dispensation to violate halacha, the Ritvah explains their conduct by suggesting that the halachot about a man distancing himself from behaviors that may lead to sexual impropriety or lewd thoughts are subjectively determined.

Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener respond by writing:

R. Broyde’s mistaken application of Ritva could be employed to do away with many of the laws found in Shulchan Aruch Even Ha’ezer.[24]

I am not sure which laws in particular Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener are referring to, but my overall answer to this claim is that it is the view of the Ritvah that some of the laws found in the Shulchan Aruch Even ha-Ezer on matters of sexual impropriety need not be followed in a time and place where they are no longer sexually improper. Furthermore, that point is made exactly by the Pitchai Teshuva in Even ha-Ezer 21 who quotes this exact Ritvah to explain why we do not observe some of the prohibitions found in the Shulchan Aruch Even ha-Ezer 21! The Ritvah believes that all of the prohibitions categorized as “removing a person from sexual impropriety” are subjectively determined. This is why, nowadays, people greet each other’s wives all the time, although this is specifically forbidden in the Talmud.

This position is not only the Ritvah’s, but it is Tosafot’s as well in Kiddushin 82a[25] and it is clearly the normative position of halacha nowadays, being cited by the Rama in Even ha-Ezer 21:5. Also, if one still feels unsure of this point, keep in mind that it is commonly permitted by almost all poskim for a male doctor to perform a gynecological exam on a woman who is not his wife—not because no other medical care is accessible, but because this doctor is on the “in network” health insurance plan or otherwise might be the convenient one available. And certainly, this wouldn’t be grounds permitting an issur. The reason this conduct is permitted is because non-sexual touching is permitted, as a matter of halacha, and this is a subjective determination, as the Ritvah notes.

Going back to my argument in the article, my point was simply that perhaps the reason the Ritvah seems to categorize uncovered hair as dat Yehudit is because he believes that, by their very nature, laws about modest dress are subjectively determined based on time and place, just like he argued explicitly with regard to modest behavior. Again, this is not the only possible interpretation of the Ritvah, but it remains, in my opinion, a reasonable one.[26]

3. Ra’aviah

Similar to my argument with regard to the Ritvah, I claimed that the reason Ra’aviah does not mention uncovered hair as part of dat Moshe is because he believes that the sugyah in Berachot supersedes the sugyah in Ketubot. Giving the matter further thought, I grant that Ra’aviah’s quote of the Mishnah in Ketubot is not really an indisputable proof that he believes the Gemara is not normative, since it could just be a shorthand reference. Nevertheless, I do believe that there is a strong possibility that Ra’aviah’s understanding of Berachot would preclude him from believing that there could be an absolute biblical prohibition for married women to go out with their hair exposed. Ra’aviah writes:

All the things which we mentioned above as ervah, are particularly when they are not generally exposed. But an (unmarried) maiden who generally exposes her hair need not be concerned, and the same applies to a woman’s voice [for those who are accustomed to hear it].

Ra’aviah’s definition of ervah is that which is generally covered. Although one could interpret this as relevant only to the recitation of Shema, one could also apply it as a general law of modest dress (this is the position of R. Yehudah cited in the Or Zarua, among others.) If the latter is true, there would be an automatic application to the laws of the ketubah, and one would be required to state that in a society where women generally do not cover their hair, there would be no violation of dat, and the woman would not lose her ketubah. Therefore, through this interpretation by Ra’aviah, uncovered hair wouldn’t fall within the parameters of dat Moshe. This would fit well with the position of the Rosh, which is outlined above.

In response to this argument, Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener write:

Even if one were able to derive from Raaviah that the general prohibition to uncover the thigh and other limits is dependent upon local custom, this cannot be the case with regard to hair. The fact that the Gemara in Kesubos cites a different verse than that of Brachos would indicate a more rigid application of that prohibition. Raaviah would have no reason to create a machlokes hasugyos when there is a clear way to reconcile the two.[27]

This argument suffers from a number of problems. First, it is factually incorrect. The Or Zarua, for instance, states this interpretation explicitly with regard to hair:

That which Shmuel said: A woman’s hair is considered ervah, as it says, “Your hair is like a flock of goats,” my teacher R. Yehudah b. Yitzchak explained as not dealing with the recitation of the Shema.[28]

Second, why would the fact that the two gemarot cite two different verses indicate a “more rigid” application? Perhaps if one reads the two sugyot in tandem, one could suggest that there are two separate prohibitions on a woman going out with her hair uncovered, but this is difficult to understand. Is there something more provocative about a woman’s hair than her voice or leg?

This is why I suggested that the existence of two derashot implies a mahloket ha-sugyot, as I explained above. Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener may claim that there is “no reason to create a mahloket ha-sugyot” since “there is a clear way to reconcile the two,” but I beg to differ. The reconciliation of the sugyot is not easy, and mahloket ha-sugyot is an eminently reasonable way to deal with the problem.

To clarify why, in their opinions, Ra’aviah cannot believe there is a mahloket ha-sugyot here, Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener further argue:

The Kesubos passage does not hinge upon the Berachos passage at all. The Berachos passage relates to the recitation of Shema, which requires that the concentration of the reader be devoid of any impure thoughts. Therefore, ervah in this regard is limited to that which could potentially distract the reader. The Kesubos passage, however, relates to the fundamental requirement of covering one’s hair in public. It is for this reason that a different verse is quoted there. Indeed, the two passages clearly deal with two entirely different issues – the Kesubos passage with the objective prohibition of prias rosh, and the Brachos passage with the subjective (according to this understanding of Raaviah) prohibition of reciting Shema in front of ervah.[29]

In my opinion, this argument misconstrues the purpose of the overall sugyah in Ketubot. As mentioned above, whether the overall purpose of the sugyah in Berachot is to deal with the laws of Shema or the laws of modest dress is a matter of dispute among the Rishonim. However, the overall purpose of the sugyah in Ketubot is not, as Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener contend, to discuss the laws of modest dress. Rather, its purpose is to delineate what is considered a violation of dat Yehudit such that the husband is no longer required to make the ketubah payment upon divorce.

This is a critical point. Once one recognizes that the main concern of the sugyah is to discuss the parameters of the violation of dat Yehudit, it becomes possible to argue, as I did above, that the midrash of R. Yishmael and Shmuel’s response are really tangential to the sugyah. Hence it is not surprising that the remainder of the sugyah discounts them in favor of R. Yohanan and that the sugyah in Berachot does not even take R. Yishmael’s derasha into account when delineating its own modesty requirements.

Finally, Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener claim:

The fact that no authority since the time of Raaviah has thought to turn these passages into a machlokes hasugyos itself attests to the error of this approach.[30]

It is true that my reading of the sources as a mahloket ha-sugyot is not stated explicitly by others. Nevertheless, there are authorities who have a like understanding of Ra’aviah, the Rosh, and the Tur.[31] For example, R. Moshe ibn Habib (EH 126), discussing the question of whether betrothed women need to cover their hair, writes:

It seems simple, in my humble opinion, that since they have already developed the practice of going with their hair uncovered, there is no need for concern, as Rosh wrote at the end of the third chapter of Berachot, regarding the statement of R. Sheshet that the hair of a woman is considered ervah, that this applies specifically to married women, who normally cover their hair, but for unmarried women to normally go with their hair uncovered is permissible. So also wrote the Mordechai, citing Ra’aviah; the Hagahot Maimoniyot, Hilchot Keri’at Shema 3:[60]; Tur, Orah Hayyim 75; and our master [the Mehaber, ibid. 75:2]. If you are inclined to dismiss this and say that there can be no proof from these sources, as they are all speaking about a single woman, but with a betrothed woman it would be forbidden—that argument is void. Consider the reasoning behind why the decisors ruled that it is permissible for single women: since they do so regularly, it does not arouse improper sexual thoughts, and the same is true in our case.

R. Habib believes that one can extrapolate from Ra’aviah’s reasoning that all the laws of modesty, including hair covering, are sociologically determined. This is, essentially, how I interpreted Ra’aviah as well.[32]

4. Rashi

Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener strongly oppose this possibility that Rashi could consider hair covering subjective. Thus, as their concluding sentence to their section on Rashi, they write:

…It is clear that the two explanations given by Rashi are both consistent with the notion that fully uncovered hair violates das Moshe.[33]

But I am not the first person to suggest that one of Rashi’s two explanations in Ketubot may imply a subjective, as opposed to objective, prohibition. I will not rehash the many different (and sometimes contradictory) attempts to use Rashi as part of my limmud zechut. I will simply cite here two precedents from eminent Aharonim who did the same:

R. Yeruham Perlow (Sefer Hamitzvot Aseh 96)

There is no question according to the first explanation of Rashi, for we can say that this means from the fact that we disgrace her in this manner commensurate to her act of making herself attractive to her lover [by uncovering her head] we can infer that it is forbidden…. However, according to Rashi’s second explanation, which he indicated to be the main explanation, there is a great difficulty: Just because [not going with their heads uncovered] was the practice of the daughters of Israel, must we say that it has the status of a biblical prohibition? Perhaps it only has the status of a custom that the daughters of Israel adopted of their own accord. And even though this custom is mentioned in the Torah, it nevertheless does not generate a biblical prohibition … if so, then what is the source for the prohibition of going with one’s hair uncovered… Perhaps one might answer that we do not derive a biblical prohibition from the verse itself, but because the verse teaches us that such was the custom of the daughters of Israel, we conclude that this is a matter of promiscuity and leads to sexual immorality; accordingly, such conduct would itself be biblically forbidden as it falls into the category of “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind.”

R. Yosef Messas (Collected Letters 1884)

The difference between the two explanations [of Rashi] is that according to the first, it seems that the reason the Kohen uncovers her hair is in order to publicly disgrace her… this seems to imply that it is prohibited for us to uncover a woman’s hair in public to disgrace her for no reason, but in order to punish her commensurately, the Torah permitted this prohibited act to be done in order to disgrace her. However, she herself has no prohibition to go with her head uncovered, for if she wishes to disgrace herself, she may do so at any time. Accordingly, now that all the daughters of Israel have agreed that hair covering is not an indication of modesty, and certainly the absence of a head covering carries no disgrace… this prohibition has been uprooted from its foundation and become permissible…[34]

Indeed, my original article quotes many other Aharonim adopting one or another explanation of Rashi. Obviously, the above two interpretations are contradictory to each other, and one can debate the convincing nature of either of them. My point is only to demonstrate that Rashi’s intention is, in fact, a matter of dispute among the Aharonim, and there is nothing unprecedented in attempting to use one of his formulations to defend the position that women’s hair covering is a subjectively determined and perhaps might not necessarily be a biblical requirement. So to, this understanding of Rashi supports a limmud zechut for women who follow this position.

5. R. Yaakov Reisher

In his Shevut Yaakov, Rabbi Yaakov Reisher makes a strong argument that the meaning of kalta in the Talmud is braids, not workbasket or hairnet. This position is accepted by a number of authorities. Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener do not dispute this as a viable interpretation of halacha. Instead, they write:

This approach, too, suffers from a basic flaw. According to the view of Shevus Yaacov, it is permitted for a woman to appear in public with her hair uncovered, provided that it is in a braid. The practice R. Broyde seeks to defend, however, is not that of braided hair; but rather of unbraided, fully uncovered hair. Accordingly, even the Shevus Yaacov would agree that such a practice violates the prohibition of prias rosh. R. Broyde seemingly attempts to evade this problem by equating unbraided hair to hair that is “untidy,” and “overly exposed to the point that it is disheveled.” Thus, normally brushed hair that is not disheveled would assumedly be permitted. While it may be true that, according to the approach of Shevus Yaacov, the provocative nature attributed to hair correlates to its being unkempt, any grooming short of braiding is nonetheless indisputably included in the prohibition.[35]

First, it would seem that Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener agree here that there is a legitimate position in halacha that married women may go out in public with their hair braided. I am happy that we at least agree on this point.

Second, although I admit that I may have been pushing the position by claiming that disheveled is the same as unbraided, I think that Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener have gone too far in the other direction, making the extremely disputable statement that “any grooming short of braiding is indisputably included in the prohibition.” R. Reisher’s point is that free-flowing hair has an erotic quality and that is why it is prohibited biblically. It would seem to me a reasonable understanding of the Shevut Yaakov’s position to claim that grooming methods other than braiding which undo the free-flowing and erotic quality of women’s hair would also remove the biblical prohibition. Hence, I would argue that the Shevut Yaakov would plausibly permit short hair, hair done up over the head, or other similar hair arrangements.

6. Maharam Al-Shakar and the Kaf ha-Hayyim

Considering the critiques in R. Shulman’s and now in Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener’s article, I would like to reframe my position on the Maharam Al-Shakar. First of all, I concede that my translation of the Kaf ha-Hayyim was too broad, and I thank Rabbis Shulman, Ifrah and Wiener for the correction. That said, I think that, unfortunately, the importance of Maharam Al-Shakar’s responsum has been lost in the shuffle.

Maharam Al-Shakar was responding to the question of whether a man could recite Shema in the presence of a woman who has wisps of hair protruding from her head covering. The background to the question is that observant Jewish women in various communities differed in how much hair they covered. Maharam Al-Shakar writes (35):

It is clear that there is no need to be concerned for that hair at all, because the practice is to expose it—even with regard to the recitation of the Shema. The rule that a woman’s hair is considered ervah only applies to hair that women normally cover…but that which is regularly uncovered and which a man is comfortable seeing is permissible, even as we have explained. So have written the great commentators of blessed memory, as did Ra’aviah…

Maharam Al-Shakar continues by arguing that if a woman were to move from a place where women cover these hairs to a place where women do not, she could then follow the custom of the place and stop covering them, assuming she does not intend to return. This position is then quoted as normative by Magen Avraham and Kaf ha-Hayyim.

Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener, following R. Shulman’s lead, argue that this responsa cannot be used to determine Maharam’s position regarding hair covering or modesty in general. The responsum is dealing with a level of “hair-coverage” more extensive than that discussed explicitly in the Talmud.

Possible as that may be, it is equally possible that Maharam Al-Shakar’s analysis indicates that he understood the laws of modesty and hair covering to be socially and subjectively determined, as I suggested was reflected in Berachot and Ra’aviah’s understanding. In fact, this is the exact argument of R. Yosef Messas (Responsa Mayyim Hayyim, 2:110):

Maharam Al-Shakar, responsum 35, wrote in the name of Ra’aviah that the Talmudic statement that the hair of a woman is considered ervah, etc. is limited to the recitation of the Shema and to hair that it is their practice to cover… Thus, nowadays when women worldwide have abandoned the ancient custom and reverted to the simple practice of not covering their hair, it in no way indicates a deficiency in their modesty or promiscuity, God forbid.…

Again, R. Messas’ understanding of Maharam Al-Shakar is not the only possible one, but it is also not to be casually dismissed, especially since I already demonstrated how plausible this was as a reading of Ra’aviah.

Let me add one other point: R. Moshe Malka, who accepts R. Messas’ position as normative, claims that this is also the position of the Kaf ha-Hayyim as well, not because of his use of the Maharam Al-Shakar/Magen Avraham, but because of his quote from the Hukkei Nashim of the Ben Ish Chai. Now that the Arabic text has been retranslated with more accuracy,[36] (and the Kaf ha-Hayyim certainly was reading the original Arabic) R. Malka’s (and my original) understanding may well end up being correct after all.

7. Terumat ha-Deshen and the Idea of the Subjective Dat Moshe

Finally, Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener argue forcefully and at length that my use of the Terumat ha-Deshen was entirely misleading. Their main point is that since Terumat ha-Deshen believes that the prohibition against exposed hair is rabbinic, and since it is an interpretation of Rambam, using it in this context would demonstrate only that dat Moshe—which is Rambam’s holding on hair exposure—could in certain cases refer to rabbinic prohibitions. This was actually the point I was making in my article, and thus, we are in agreement.

However, Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener correctly point out that at times in my article I overstated my case and implied that Terumat ha-Deshen believed that the uncovering of hair was actually dat Yehudit, even putting him in the list of Rishonim who argued this. They write:

In a particularly egregious example… he includes Terumas Hadeshen in his list of Rishonim who he claims hold uncovered hair to be das yehudis (conclusion of article, p.174). Apparently, the mere fact that Terumas Hadeshen informs us that Rambam understands the prohibition to be rabbinic (as cited by R. Broyde on p.134) is utilized as a basis to label it das yehudis. This postulation ignores that Rambam – upon whom Terumas Hadeshen is commenting – explicitly classifies it as das Moshe.[37]

I agree. Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener are correct that it is impossible to categorize Rambam, and the Terumat ha-Deshen who explains him, as believing that exposed hair is a violation of dat Yehudit. I thank Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener for this correction. I should have noted that Terumat ha-Deshen could be adopting the view that Rambam accepted the notion of a subjective dat Moshe.

The idea that Rambam and Terumat ha-Deshen believe that the prohibition for a married woman to go out with her hair uncovered is subjectively determined and can change based on their social norms is not difficult to understand, even as it remains a dat Moshe. Once one thinks—as the Terumat ha-Deshen does in the name of Rambam—that hair covering is a rabbinic obligation for all, then the obligation can easily be understood as a subjective dat Moshe, which changes as social norms change. Let me explain at some length this idea.

Why did Terumat ha-Deshen (242) think that Rambam understood the obligation of hair covering to be rabbinic? I suspect it’s because Rambam never distinguished between the obligation of single women and married women to cover their hair. Terumat ha-Deshen is arguing that since it is inconceivable that a single woman has a Torah obligation to cover her hair, and since Rambam puts together single and married women’s obligation, it stands to reason that there is no Torah obligation for anyone—neither single nor married—to cover their hair.

But still, doesn’t Rambam say that covering hair is a dat Moshe? I think Terumat ha-Deshen would answer: It is a dat Moshe, but dat Moshe only means “something found in the Torah” and nothing else. Since the Torah says “u-parah et rosh ha-isha,”[38] hair covering becomes a historical dat Moshe. This might be exactly what the Meiri (Ketubot 72a) is referring to when he states, “Dat Moshe is the category governing a mitzvah written in the Torah or hinted at in the Torah.” Hair covering is hinted at in the Torah and thus the obligation to cover is technically speaking a dat Moshe. Of course, (and this is exactly why Terumat ha-Deshen indicates that explicit the obligation to cover is in reality rabbinic) just like single women do not have to cover their hair when modest single women in society stop covering their hair, the same is true for married women as well.[39]

Essentially, according to Rambam, hair covering is a dat Moshe but only in the historical sense, meaning that it is found in the Torah of Moshe; it functions, however, like a dat Yehudit, in that it can change according to time and place. I should have been clearer, although the functional difference between a subjective dat Moshe and a subjective dat Yehudit is purely historical in this view.

G. Summary of My Response to Rabbis Wiener and Ifrah

After all the give and take, I think I have shown that we are left with Aharonim who either would permit (R. Babad) or do permit (Ben Ish Chai, R. Messes, and R. Malka) modern day married Jewish women to go out with their hair exposed. To buttress this position, I suggested—and continue to believe as a possibility— that the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and Levush can be read as being in consonance with this position, since they seem to characterize all hair covering as dat Yehudit. Further, I noted that their position may be based on the reading of the Rosh and Tosafot in Gittin, who formulated this idea from the Gemara.

That view would be well explained if the Rosh and Tosafot thought there was a mahloket ha-sugyot between Berachot and Ketubot. Perhaps they believed that the sugyah in Ketubot, and specifically the midrash with Shmuel’s harmonization, is not normative. Finally, I suggested the possibility that the sugyah in Ketubot itself did not consider Shmuel’s position to be normative and that R. Yohanan’s position, and the remainder of the discussion in the Gemara, was being in tension with Shmuel and the midrash.
This is, in short, my limmud zechut for observant women who do not cover their hair and my defense of the explicit ruling of the above listed Aharonim.

Conclusion

I conclude with three points.

First, I worry about the tone of discussion within our Orthodox community, because I see less reasoned dialogue and more conclusory language and strident tone. We need to recover our sense of how discourse about Torah matters ought to take place, although I have no immediate recommendations for how to do so. I can only say that we will bear terrible communal consequences if the level of civil discourse continues to fall. We should worry that our rhetoric will drive learned Jews into other disciplines, leaving the leadership of Orthodoxy to those willing to bear spiteful and ad hominem attacks. I doubt this is good for us.

Second, providing justifications for the common practices of the Orthodox community of previous generations is healthy and proper; they are our family, and we should be proud of how they conducted themselves, even if we conduct ourselves differently. Part of our respect for previous generations, especially the generation of leadership that built Orthodoxy in the US, should involve our avoiding as much as possible the conclusion that they acted without any foundation at all in Jewish law—on this or any other topic. I wrote my original article to provide some explanation and reasoning for such practices in a technical halachic sense and to prevent others from merely positing that uncovered hair by a married woman is a violation of Jewish law with no rationale or justification.

Third, as the reader can see, I acknowledge some small errors and inaccuracies in my original essay—even as the overall argument has only been strengthened by being called to respond to these substantive critiques. I appreciate the opportunity given to me by Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener to hone my thoughts, and I await their reply.


[1] See “Hair Covering and Jewish Law: Biblical and Objective (Dat Moshe) or Rabbinic and Subjective (Dat Yehudit)” Tradition 42:3 95-179 (2009). See http://www.traditiononline.org/news/_pdfs/0095-0180.pdf. In this reply, I have occasionally not provided references to some of the sources cited as they are all cited in the original article.
[2] See “Hair Covering and Jewish Law: A Response” Tradition 43:2 73-88 (2010) and “Hair Covering and Jewish Law: A Response” Tradition 43:2 89-108 (2010).For an explanation of what is a limmud zechut, see pages 107-108. For both of these articles, see http://www.traditiononline.org/news/_pdfs/0073-0108.pdf .
[3] Dialogue Issue 1, pages 50-83 Spring 2011
[4] For example, the article does not even give the reader the full name of my article, a page reference where exactly my articles on this topic can be found (just somewhere “in Tradition Fall 2009″). No pages or hyperlink so that the reader can actually find the article they are replying to.
[5] Nor am I the only one to sense this. Rabbi Harry Maryles notes “In the final article two rabbis – Yosef Wiener and Yosef Ifrah – deal with Rabbi Broyde’s article with an undertone of derision.” http://haemtza.blogspot.com and Rabbi Gil Student notes “Two kollel guys write a lengthy article to rehash old arguments against R. Michael Broyde’s article on women’s hair coverings, using what I consider overly strong language.” http://torahmusings.com/2011/05/new-periodical-dialogue-11/
[6] The one in Hebrew in Techumin can be found here http://www.michtavim.com/BroydeTehumin2007.pdf, the initial article in Tradition can be found referenced in note 1: and a reply to Rabbi Eli Baruch Shulman which can be found referenced in note 2 (along with R. Shulman’s excellent reply to my original article). The shiur in question can be found posted at http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/740351/Rabbi_Michael_Broyde/Hair_Covering_and_Halacha.
[7] See http://torahmusings.com/2010/09/hair-wars-ii. Rabbi Dr. Aharon Rakefet verified to me through a relative of Rav Shach the truth of the basic claim that Mrs. Shach did not cover her hair until well past 1940.
[8] http://text.rcarabbis.org/the-ben-ish-hai-and-women%e2%80%99s-hair-covering-an-interesting-case-of-censorship-by-jacob-sasson/
[9] See as an initial matter lecture six which can be found at: http://www.yutorahtorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/754863/Rabbi_Mordechai_I._Willig/Women_in_HalachaHalacha_#6_-_Hair_Covering in which Rabbi Willig closely reviews my disputer and argues very cogently that my explanation is far from persuasive and then he continue to lecture number seven at: http://www.yutorahTorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/754864/Rabbi_Mordechai_I._Willig/Women_in_HalachaHalacha_#7:_Hair_Covering_(Cont’d)_&_Kol_Isha in which he presents this approach.
[10] Wiener and Ifrah, page 75.
[11] He writes something similar in a responsum as well (Mayyim Hayyim 2:110):

Know, my child, that the prohibition for women to uncover their hair is extremely well founded! For the custom practiced by all women of ancient times was to cover their hair, and one who did not do so was considered to be promiscuous…Thus, nowadays when women worldwide have abandoned the ancient custom and reverted to the simple practice of not covering their hair, it in no way indicates a deficiency in their modesty or promiscuity, God forbid…

[12] They argue either that the Tur does not record deoraittas, since one needs to follow derabbanans anyway or that the Tur believes that dat Yehudit is a fixed decree with no subjective element.
[13] They argue either that the Tur does not record deoraittas, since one needs to follow derabbanans anyway or that the Tur believes that dat Yehudit is a fixed decree with no subjective element.
[14] Wiener and Ifrah, page 68.
[15] This is Rabbis Wiener and Ifrah’s translation.
[16] Schematically: dat Moshe = causing the husband to sin, dat Yehudit = humiliating him
[17] E.g. eyes, nose, feet, etc.
[18] And a man’s.
[19] In our texts the first position of the Gemara is suggested without a name; many Rishonim have this as Shmuel’s position and I have adopted that convention.
[20] It is, of course, possible and legitimate for a Mishnah and a beraitta to contradict, reflecting different Tannaitic views. Nevertheless, the Talmud strives to create synthesis where possible.
[21] Wiener and Ifrah, page 65.
[22] Additionally, there is a certain amount of circularity in their argument, since if every quote of the Mishnah by definition includes the interpretation of the Gemara as normative, there is nothing left to discuss.
[23] Ritvah is attempting to work out the sugyah to fit with both Shmuel and R. Yohanan:

…there are three rules with regard to this law: In a courtyard, even without a work-basket, there is no prohibition against uncovering hair; in the marketplace, going even with a work-basket is a violation of dat Yehudit; and in an alley, it is permissible to go with a work-basket but not without one.

I understand the middle phrase as meaning that going out with her hair exposed, even if only partially (and certainly fully), is a violation of dat Yehudit. R. Shulman, in his response, disputed this reading, as do Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener. I really have nothing more to add and leave it up to the reader to decide.
[24] Wiener and Ifrah, page 61.
[25] S.v. hakol Leshem Shamayim.
[26] Other than their argument against the substance of my point, Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener spend a page discussing my imprecise translation of a passage from Berachot. I wrote that R. Yohanan was looking at the women where the text said only that he was sitting by the entrance to the mikvah. Rabbis Henkin and Shulman already caught this mistranslation, and I have previously conceded the point. I concede it again. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that even if one assumes that R. Yohanan saw no actual nudity, there must have been something he was seeing or experiencing that made his students question his behavior and made him answer that “to me they are all geese”; hence the substance of my point is not really affected by this correction.
[27] Wiener and Ifrah, note 24.
[28] See my original article, note 16.
[29] Wiener and Ifrah, page 57.
[30] Wiener and Ifrah, page 58.
[31] i.e. the German Tosafists and their followers
[32] In fact, this interpretation so upset R. Ovadiah Hedaya that he wrote (Responsa Yaskil Avdi 4:9): “It is unfortunate that such was written.”
[33] Winer and Ifrah, pages 67-68.
[34] It is worth noting that Rabbi Willig also expressed the opinion that this second view of Rashi would imply that the requirement for a woman to cover her hair is based only on social custom. See: http://www.yuTorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/754864/Rabbi_Mordechai_I._Willig/Women_in_Halacha_#7:_Hair_Covering_(Cont’d)_&_Kol_Isha.
[35] Wiener and Ifrah, page 64.
[36] See above in the section entitled “Additional Sources Supporting My View (Published Since the Original Article)”.
[37] Wiener and Ifrah, page 54 n.11.
[38] “He will uncover her hair”
[39] I confess that I have thought about this Terumat ha-Deshen many times over the past years and never thought of this wonderful explanation. Rabbi Willig provided this explanation in the course of his limmud zechut on this topic. See http://www.yutorahTorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/754864/Rabbi_Mordechai_I._Willig/Women_in_HalachaHalacha_#7:_Hair_Covering_(Cont’d)_&_Kol_Isha in which he presents this approach.

 

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120 Responses

  1. Glatt some questions says:

    Given the editors refusal to allow Rabbi Broyde to respond at length to some pretty harsh criticism, perhaps the publication DIALOGUE might consider changing its name to MONOLOGUE.

  2. S. says:

    Rabbi Broyde, in my opinion honorable and pleasant discourse will begin at the top, not the bottom. I noticed that you purposely refrained from mentioning R Shlomo Miller, who calls you Aron Choriner. Well, if he is nasty then why aren’t 2nd and 3rd and 4th tier rabbis going to be kinder? We learn from our guiding lights. So in my opinion pleas for how halachic discourse ought to take place cannot take aim at the low hanging fruit.

  3. Charlie Hall says:

    “the editors expressed no interest in publishing an article-length reply”

    I don’t understand why not. In academic publishing, this kind of exchange is valued.

  4. Charlie Hall says:

    “honorable and pleasant discourse”

    Those who engage in dishonorable and unpleasant discourse dishonor themselves, not their targets.

    Thank you, Rabbi Broyde, for doing your best to keep this at a high level.

  5. Jon_Brooklyn says:

    Charlie: in academic publishing, journals aren’t devoted exclusively to publishing articles from one political platform. Academia is about truth; Dialogue is about war.

  6. Shimon S says:

    Talking about “disrespectful tone”, is it really necessary to quote the Baal HaBlog calling Rabbis Wiener and Ifrah “two kollel guys” (footnote 5)?

  7. not surprised says:

    The fact that the editors of “dialogue for Jewish Ideas and Issues” were unwilling to let you address your critics at length(despite the fact that they spent many pages directly criticizing you) illustrates their unwillingess to contemplate views and facts that are not in consonance with their world view. Perhaps they need to be reminded of the difference between Hillel and Shammai and why the views of Beit Hillel were accepted. They are forming their own religion- one that eliminates the parts of Judaism they dont agree with. It is no different than Reform, except each has eliminated a different part. It is high time that the thinking Orthodox recognized this and reacted appropriately, rather than kow-tow to people who think we know nothing and are heretics.

    Rabbi Broyde is correct. There needs to be a more civil discourse. However, the problem is that one side recognizes the value of an evidence and source based argument and is willing to consider being swayed by such an argument. The other side makes arguments from authority, and in a circular manner, so that someone who holds contrary(usually less extreme)views obviously cant be an authoritative source. The issue is whether common ground is possible under these circumstances. I am pessimistic. One side is unwilling to give up its approach to halacha and the wide range of views expressed there in, and the other is unwilling to extend ‘authority’ or legitimacy to anyone who doesn’t agree with their views.

  8. naftoli says:

    It is not clear to me why Dialogue has the responsibility to publish a full length essay by Rabbi Broyde. If everyone who has expressed displeasure with one of their articles had the right to publish a full length response, לא שבקת חיי. Perhaps one who is being attacked has the right for a “letter to the editor” type response, but you cannot expect a journal to publish full length essays (aside from the one’s they choose). Rabbi Broyde had tens of pages in Tradition dedicated to his article, do you think tradition would have published the Dialogue article? Or perhaps JOFA would even consider publishing the R’ Kobre article? Being open to ideas, or even dialogue, does not mean giving full reign to position not espoused by the publication.

  9. Jon_Brooklyn says:

    Naftoli: you are a shining example of how sophistry and rhetoric can be used to spin an argument for even the most ridiculous proposition. Next time I’m looking for an example of intellectual dishonesty, I will recall this post. Thanks.

  10. traditional jew says:

    Does anyone know if Tradition allowed Rabbis Ifrah and Wiener to publish there?

  11. Also traditional says:

    My sense after reading the article from Rabbis Ifrah and Weiner was that the quality of the article was poor from a literary perspective. This detracted considerably from its central argument If the editors had wanted to go head to head with Rabbi Broyde, they should have chosen authors with more scholarship and sophistication in expressing their ideas. Instead, the article had a lot of dramatics that overwhelmed the substance of their arguments. For that reason, I doubt it would been accepted for publication in Tradtion. There have been plenty of intense intellectual debates in Tradition assuming the articles met the editorial standards of writing and debate.

  12. Retired Rabbi says:

    Who cares? Why must we continue to cower and be apilogetic because of some Hareidim? It’s high time Modern Orthodoxy grew a pair.

  13. Moshe Shoshan says:

    Rabbi Broyde,

    Have you been in contact with David Keter. I have tried to find out more about him but I have not been able to find any one of that name.

  14. dov weinstein says:

    Small typo correction:
    Rabbi Yosef Messas (Collected Letters 1884) should be, I assume, 1984. He lived from 1892 to 1974.

  15. mycroft says:

    Re covering of hair-
    Of interest is a 2 minute conversation that I heard. A least reasonable close talmid ofthe Rav was visiting my schul and after davening someone asks him what isw the Ravs heter to not require married women to cover their hair. To my surprise the person who has written on the Rav but not in this matter stated he had askedthe Rav the same question and the Rav answered he had no sevara to permit married women not to cover their hair BUT since gdolei LITA permitted it he can’t say that it is assur for women to not cover their hair.
    Note important nuances-taht if someone asked the question in a svara manner Rav could have answer no Svara-but since true to Brisk practice history means a lot in Yahadus the Rav thought that gdolei litas approval meant practical permission not to cover a married womens hair. Note of course, the Ravs wife, 1 daughter and one sister who as married women did not cover their hair.

  16. Glatt some questions says:

    It is not clear to me why Dialogue has the responsibility to publish a full length essay by Rabbi Broyde.
    ———————
    Because in their very first volume, in explaining the need for another publication, they emphasized how they were going to cover topics from both sides and allow halachic discourse on important issues.

  17. Glatt some questions says:

    …the Rav answered he had no sevara to permit married women not to cover their hair BUT since gdolei LITA permitted it he can’t say that it is assur for women to not cover their hair.
    ——————————–
    Are their written piskei halacha from the gedolim of Lita that clearly say that a married woman does not have to cover her hair, or even that it is not assur to not cover one’s hair? Or was it more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that the people of that generation engaged in, and the women decided it would be OK to leave their hair uncovered?

    I think there is a difference.

  18. ruvie says:

    glatt some questions – “I think there is a difference”

    not sure if that is correct. a prior example would be the tosafists in the middle ages where they justified local practices after the fact.

  19. Dovy says:

    R. Broyde,

    How can you quote “David Keter” as a valid source when no one has ever heard of him, there is question as to whether or not he exists, and my sources tell me that Tradition would not print his article because of its questionable origins?

    Who is David Keter & why is his recollection article-worthy?

    Thanks.

  20. S. says:

    >not sure if that is correct. a prior example would be the tosafists in the middle ages where they justified local practices after the fact.

    They justified it. They didn’t just remain silent.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Speaking of lack of civility and fairness in dialogue:

    http://vesomsechel.blogspot.com/2011/08/protest-cross-currents-smear-campaign.html

    They are still lambasting Rabbi Maroof even after he clarified his position to (most of our) full satisfaction.

  22. MA says:

    “Let me add one other point: R. Moshe Malka, who accepts R. Messas’ position as normative, claims that this is also the position of the Kaf ha-Hayyim as well, not because of his use of the Maharam Al-Shakar/Magen Avraham, but because of his quote from the Hukkei Nashim of the Ben Ish Chai.”

    Please clarify, because R. Malka doesn’t quote Hukei Nashim. He quotes the Ben Ish Chai on parshat Bo (who himself quotes his Hukei Nashim) and he doesn’t state that this is the position of Kaf haChaim. R. Malka says nothing about the Kaf HaChaim and the Ben Ish Chai, so how can you quote him as saying this?

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    R Broyde is eminently correct. R Broyde’s discusssions with R Shulman and R Willig should be contrasted with the style of writing in Dialogue.

  24. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    The idea that everyone has to be civil with everyone else no matter what they’re saying is a contemporary non-Jewish ideal that is extensively contradicted by numerous sources in the Bible, Talmud and other writings of that era, and by the consistant practice of Rishonim and Achronim throughout Jewish history.

  25. A Little Sanity says:

    Rabbi Broyde,

    Is it not even more urgent to ask “Is this really God’s way we are following when we make such casuistry the focal point of our existence?” Is not the pursuit of such casuistic thinking a cause of the consuming arrogance that some scholars exude[I am not in any way referring to you here], seemingly to the exclusion of the justice , kindness and personal modesty that the neviim tell us God wants from us. Is such thinking not also the source of the caustic personal attacks so prevalent in our community? Does it not lead to hyper-rationalizations that underlay the vile crimes that one who regularly reads a newspaper soon learns that “frum” Jews are involved with, on a weekly, if not sometimes daily, basis? Can we be surprised when so many of our ethically sensitive youth abandon frumkeit when they see all this. Hath not a Jew eyes? Es brent. Undzer shtibel, es brent!

    I am by no means advocating any rejection of halacha per se, God forbid, or even of traditional halachic reasoning. But we should not lose sight that halacha is but a means by which we worship God. When halachic minutia become the supreme object of our adoration, and halacha is applied with clinical inflexibility, the bad behaviors above described emerge inexorably. Such legal fetishism is a form of avoda zara. So was it apparently in the time of bayit rishon (as we read in the navi just ten days ago), so was it in the time of the gemora (which is tellingly comprised of large swaths of aggada, not just halachic shakla v’tarya), so was it in the time of the baal shem tov, and so is it now. And the even deeper tragedy is that we can go into shul on a shabbos, hear the haftorah, and not even realize that it is we who are being addressed. Oy meh hayoh lanu.

  26. Shades of Gray says:

    “The idea that everyone has to be civil with everyone else no matter what they’re saying is a contemporary non-Jewish ideal that is extensively contradicted by numerous sources in the Bible”

    I agree, but one source in the direction is the Netziv in the Hakdamah to Bereishis.

    Also, the question is effectiveness. I recall a statement made at the Agudah convention by a member of the Moetzes about four years ago, to the effect, that “we can not always engage in ‘ymin m’kareves’, but neither do we want to be too busy with ‘smol docheik’, because ultimately it is not very effective.

    Some of the factors involved are the ability to criticize the positions of the yeshivah world on the internet, and also the exposure of more people to anti-Torah ideas. With these factors, one has to be maekareiv people either with emotion, ie, beauty of Torah, or with in depth, direct, intellectual responses(I’m speaking about issues like Science and Torah). Harsh, negative, rabbinic criticism, even if meant well, is less effective in an open environment.

    One can still be decisive, firm, but civil as well(I’m thinking of recent examples from both Charedi and MO leaders), with the message: “if you don’t like it, then leave!”. But “if consistant practice of Rishonim and Achronim throughout Jewish history” is no longer effective, I don’t know if it should be used just because it was a mesorah.

  27. chardal says:

    >The idea that everyone has to be civil with everyone else no matter what they’re saying is a contemporary non-Jewish ideal that is extensively contradicted by numerous sources in the Bible, Talmud and other writings of that era, and by the consistant practice of Rishonim and Achronim throughout Jewish history.

    I am not sure you want people on your left to accept this point, for if they are anything like me, the kind of words, analogies, and metaphors that come to mind about the ultra-right in general and about the looney group that published “Dialog” in particular would not be pretty. In the end, supporting the value of civility in the face of disagreement is a value that may have much more value to the right than to the left.

  28. Carlos says:

    Fotheringay-Phipps:
    “The idea that everyone has to be civil with everyone else no matter what they’re saying is a contemporary non-Jewish ideal that is extensively contradicted by numerous sources in the Bible, Talmud and other writings of that era, and by the consistant practice of Rishonim and Achronim throughout Jewish history.”

    Perhaps one isn’t required to always be civil in all circumstances, but do you dispute that “d’racheiha darchei noam” is a good starting point for how one treats others?

  29. Shades of Gray says:

    Personally, I am willing to give the publication “Dialogue” a chance.

    In the internet age, there has to be more Dialogue; even if they have a narrower point of what they accept editorially, one can respond elsewhere. True “Dialogue” is good for Torah, as R. Alfred Cohen writes(see link, below):

    “It strikes me that this is indicative of one of the major problems in the Jewish community – there is precious little objective examination of principles, but rather defensive polemic to protect a particular position. The unwillingness to consider other points of view and the lack of preparedness to counter objections with facts is an unhealthy feature of our polarized Jewish society. This turns a sober, serious inquiry about the deeper requirements of Jewish hashkafa into dogmatic argumentation, which in the long run weakens, rather than strengthens, belief”

    “…Most importantly, I think it is time we remembered that Judaism has never demanded a unitary view; dissent and open discussion have always characterized Jewish scholarship. Disagreeing with someone is not heresy, nor even rejection of Daat Torah.”

    http://www.jlaw.com/Articles/cohen_DaatTorah.pdf

  30. Donny says:

    R’ Broyde,

    Even if you claim to be innocently being melamed zechus, can’t you see the obvious consequence being that more women will use your articles as justification to violate well-accepted halacha? Do you really deny this inevitable result, and do you really think it’s worth it?

  31. KenR says:

    After all the give and take, I think I have shown that we are left with Aharonim who either would permit (R. Babad) or do permit (Ben Ish Chai, R. Messes, and R. Malka) modern day married Jewish women to go out with their hair exposed

    Rabbi Broyde,

    Pardon my ignorance, but aside from the Ben Ish Chai, I am unfamiliar with the other names. As a member of Botei Din, isn’t there a concept of Pasqening via ROV?

    My second point is that just because women were lax in covering their hair, does that mean that we must find a Limud Zechut? Do you think the women were thinking, Hey, I am not going to cover my hair today because Rabbi Messas permits it?

    If people today are lax about speaking Lashan Hara, would you feel comfortable with a Rav writing a paper as a Limud Zechut?

    Respectfully,

    Ken R.

  32. Rafael Araujo says:

    “If people today are lax about speaking Lashan Hara, would you feel comfortable with a Rav writing a paper as a Limud Zechut?”

    There exists a limud zechus for lashon horo. Please read the comments on this blog by many about the development of Sefer CC and see article by Dr. (I’m not Erica) Brown.

  33. S. says:

    >Some of the factors involved are the ability to criticize the positions of the yeshivah world on the internet, and also the exposure of more people to anti-Torah ideas. With these factors, one has to be maekareiv people either with emotion, ie, beauty of Torah, or with in depth, direct, intellectual responses(I’m speaking about issues like Science and Torah). Harsh, negative, rabbinic criticism, even if meant well, is less effective in an open environment.

    The yeshiva world is past the point where it needs to recruit children of modern or marginally orthodox homes like it did 50 years ago. It grows now through natural growth, making doctrinal purity in every sphere far easier to demand.

  34. emma says:

    KenR,
    Is there any limmud zechus that does not take the form of finding textual support for people whose behavior was likely not actually textually/legally motivated? It seems to me you are attaching the general traditional enterprise of limmud zechus rather than the details of its application here.

  35. Shades of Gray says:

    Speaking of “limud zechus” for previous generations, there was a letter to the editor in this week’s AMI’s women magzaine, responding to an article titled “Did Bubbe Eat Bugs?” , regarding a Limud Zechus based on various poskim, for the previous generation taking lenient positions on certain types of checking bugs, that are apparently unacceptable as halacha lemaaseh(the editors issued a disclaimer that people should ask their Rav regarding the matter).

  36. Moshe G says:

    The assumption that Torah discussions ought to be civil and respectful is one I instinctively sympathize with, but seems to be contradicted by the way many Rishonim behaved. Just look at how Raabad lambasts Rambam, or the Ramban and Baal HaMaor. Does R. Broyde (or anyone else) have a sevara for why or if they were justified in doing that? Is it because they on a “higher madreiga”?

  37. emma says:

    re: civility, I have to agree that harsh words are quite traditional. I do think, though, that those who use them have to be pretty confident they are in the same “league” (or perhaps a higher league) than those they criticize. When the ramban criticizes the baal hamaor it is milchmtah shel torah. probably also when a chareidi talkmid chacham uses harsh words about rav soloveitchik. but when a mediocre student in that chareidi rav’s yeshiva permits himself to use the same language, it is more problematic. the criticisms of rabbi broyde have, it seems to me, been of both sorts.

  38. S. says:

    Re Rabbi Broyde’s limmud zechus, I guess he could undermine my whole idea by just saying that wasn’t what he had in mind, but in my opinion what he was attempting is as follows:

    Fact (/ opinion): There are many pious and modest Orthodox women who don’t cover their hair

    Therefore instead of only saying they are sinners, there is some value for them and for their community to also give an edifying explanation as to why they are maybe not circling the drains of hell and brining tsunami and cancer to the world. In my opinion he did that because one of the roles of a rabbi is not only to be mochiach but also to edify. Chazal did not only say who doesn’t have a place in olam habah, they also said that all Israel has a place, “ve-amech kulam tzadikim,” etc. Rabbis didn’t only say “Jews are sinners,” they also said they are full of mitzvos. So Rabbi Broyde was saying nice things about *his* community.

    The truth is that the limud zechus really would have been more appropriate 40 years ago, because today hair covering is far more widespread even in MO circles. You might even be able to make the case that covering is the norm in all Orthodox communities, although I guess that’s debatable. Furthermore, some could argue that specifically right now when hair covering is winning there’s no reason to slow it down, which his article could do. But that’s a judgment call. If his idea was to edify and say something nice about his own kehilla kedosha, then it really comes down to a judgment call and he made his call.

    That the other community feels like he’s stepping on their toes and implanting bad ideas in the heads of their wives, sisters and daughters is not surprising. A lot of us feel that they do the same thing.

  39. Shades of Gray says:

    “The yeshiva world is past the point where it needs to recruit children of modern or marginally orthodox homes like it did 50 years ago”

    It’s just as applicable, IMO, since we live in an open world(see for example the AMI article “The Imposters Among Us” regarding the effect of the internet on the yeshiva world, as well as other similar discussions). In other words “kiruv kerovim”.

  40. emma says:

    “right now when hair covering is winning”
    (sidepoint: not sure you are right, empirically, except to the extent that everything done by the yeshivish is “winning” because they have more numbers.)

  41. S. says:

    >(sidepoint: not sure you are right, empirically, except to the extent that everything done by the yeshivish is “winning” because they have more numbers.)

    I think it incontrovertibly is. 50 years ago, probably even 30 years ago, the average Orthodox girl in the US did not cover her hair after she married, an in some Orthodox circles the percentage was close to zero. I can’t say what the number is now, but I bet that its already high enough that we can say that on average Orthodox girls of many different kinds of communities do cover their hair, or at least have a high awareness about it. It’s gone a long way from the shul doily. I guess you can argue about what “winning” is, but certainly the trend reversed.

  42. S. says:

    A lot of it’s driven by the “realistic” sheitel, and also the funkiness of scarves, no doubt, but I think my subjective personal impression and observation doesn’t lie.

  43. emma says:

    i agree compared to thirty years ago, i just also think, based only on anecdotal experience, that the tide may be starting to turn just a little. not that not covering will go back to the norm, but that the noncoverers among the younger generations may make up a more substantial minority 10 years from now than now. personally i also actually see more noncovering among my frum friends in israel than here. and they don’t wear doilies on shabbos, they wear hats or scarves – and then take them off on the way home. i guess we will have to wait and see.

  44. S. says:

    Yes, Israel is different. I was talking about Bavel.

  45. emma says:

    even in bavel, i see some stirrings. Definitely still more women who do cover whose mothers don’t than the reverse, but more of the reverse than there once was, i think. anyway, like i said, i have no data on this, so i will leave my impression fwiw.

  46. S. says:

    It could be, but is it possible that it’s a little bit of you having gotten outside of your box and you’re just experiencing more (I say this from your partial biographical descriptions which I’ve gleaned from your comments)? I will grant that many things in Orthodoxy look different to me now than they did years ago as well, but some of it is real change and some of it is probably just more experience in the real world on my part. I guess it’s enough of our impossible to prove observations.

  47. emma says:

    yes, i’ve thought of that, but i am also thinking mostly of ppl i grew up with. but it is distinctly possible that i just know more about my peers than i do about the people somewhat older than me. i am also influenced by the general meme that religion is getting less cool in america. whose influence on orthodoxy also remains to be seen.

  48. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    Shades of Grey: “I agree, but one source in the direction is the Netziv in the Hakdamah to Bereishis.”

    He doesn’t say “no matter what they’re saying”.

    “Also, the question is effectiveness.”

    Agreed. That’s a judgment call. (See the 3:39 PM comment by S.)

    In any event, it doesn’t give R’ Broyde grounds for complaint if others think it’s more effective to be more strident.

    Carlos: “do you dispute that “d’racheiha darchei noam” is a good starting point for how one treats others?”

    It’s an excellent starting point. But it’s not always the ending point. IOW, there can be other considerations.

    S.: “Fact (/ opinion): There are many pious and modest Orthodox women who don’t cover their hair.

    Therefore instead of only saying they are sinners, there is some value for them and for their community to also give an edifying explanation as to why they are maybe not circling the drains of hell and brining tsunami and cancer to the world. In my opinion he did that because one of the roles of a rabbi is not only to be mochiach but also to edify. Chazal did not only say who doesn’t have a place in olam habah, they also said that all Israel has a place, “ve-amech kulam tzadikim,” etc. Rabbis didn’t only say “Jews are sinners,” they also said they are full of mitzvos. So Rabbi Broyde was saying nice things about *his* community.”

    Interesting thing is that someone recently told me of an address that R’ Quinn of YTV gave on RH or YK in the final year of his life. He pointed to the laxity of previous generations (citing himself as one example) in certain mitzvos, e.g. headcovering (for both men and women). He observed that today’s generation has a hard time relating to otherwise observant and Godfearing Jews casually disregarding these mitzvos. But that’s how it was, and when something is commonly transgressed, it just seems permitted. And in today’s generation (he concluded) that sin is monetary issues, various types of fraud and embezzling that are widely practiced by otherwise observant and God-fearing Jews. This, he felt, was comparable to the lapses of previous generations in their areas.

    So, following (what you suggest is) R’ Broyde’s approach, what we need now is for someone to come along and write lengthy articles showing that all these frauds have valid sources, and are time-honored practices, and people who do them cannot be said to be sinners.

    And you know what? You can find a “limud zechus” for most of these practices that is far more glatt and intellectually honest than what R’ Broyde does for hair covering.

    So have at it.

  49. S says:

    The fact that there has been a strong trend in the MO community toward covering hair makes the argument against R Broyde even stronger. Why would he want to risk reversing the positive trend that we’ve witnessed over the past few decades by possibly giving MO women more room to rationalize their behavior?

  50. Donny says:

    S,
    The fact that there has been a strong trend in the MO community toward covering hair makes the argument against R Broyde even stronger. Why would he want to risk reversing the positive trend that we’ve witnessed over the past few decades by possibly giving MO women more room to rationalize their behavior?

  51. HAGTBG says:

    Why would he want to risk reversing the positive trend that we’ve witnessed over the past few decades by possibly giving MO women more room to rationalize their behavior?

    Perhaps so that hair covering does not become a line as to who is Orthodox … which will just push many people away. Even if they have become a minority.

  52. HAGTBG says:

    And you know what? You can find a “limud zechus” for most of these practices that is far more glatt and intellectually honest than what R’ Broyde does for hair covering.

    So have at it.

    Not the same. For western Jews, if people didn’t think there was a halacha of head covering, there would no element of morality or ethics that would lead to hair covering. Hair is not an aphrodisiac; and the sheitel only makes sense in the context of looking good but keeping to the letter of the law (i.e. you end up looking worse for your husband then you do for everyone else). Fraud, embezzling (i.e. items based on lying and theft) I’d like to think, most people think is generally wrong.

  53. Shades of Gray says:

    Did anyone see the recent AMI Women’s article “Did Bubby Eat Bugs?”. If someone were to write a limud zechus for that(as one person wrote in to AMI this week quoting sources as a limud zechus, rather than the nature of infestation being different, or the assumption that they had siyatya dishmaya to avoid bugs), should there be the same concern that it would result in a deterioration in people’s observance of halacha l’maaseh?

  54. S. says:

    F-P

    >He doesn’t say “no matter what they’re saying”.

    Right, but there can be little doubt that he also means things which people think they absolutely cannot be silent about. Obviously everyone has a different idea of what that is, but the point is that in order for him to have a point at all it has to be some of these kinds of things.

    >Interesting thing is that someone recently told me of an address that R’ Quinn of YTV gave on RH or YK in the final year of his life. He pointed to the laxity of previous generations (citing himself as one example) in certain mitzvos, e.g. headcovering (for both men and women). He observed that today’s generation has a hard time relating to otherwise observant and Godfearing Jews casually disregarding these mitzvos. But that’s how it was, and when something is commonly transgressed, it just seems permitted. And in today’s generation (he concluded) that sin is monetary issues, various types of fraud and embezzling that are widely practiced by otherwise observant and God-fearing Jews. This, he felt, was comparable to the lapses of previous generations in their areas.

    No yarmulke = stealing? Oh . . . kay. I’m reminded of the Berditchever’s limud zechus for smuggling, that you can’t find chametz among Jews on Pesach, but you can find contraband silk! I guess there are all kinds of God-fearing, and all types of laws and all types of law-breaking.

    >So, following (what you suggest is) R’ Broyde’s approach, what we need now is for someone to come along and write lengthy articles showing that all these frauds have valid sources, and are time-honored practices, and people who do them cannot be said to be sinners.

    Cute. Maybe you can tell us exactly what a limud zchus is and isn’t.

    Donny

    >The fact that there has been a strong trend in the MO community toward covering hair makes the argument against R Broyde even stronger. Why would he want to risk reversing the positive trend that we’ve witnessed over the past few decades by possibly giving MO women more room to rationalize their behavior?

    I said as much myself, noting that such an article seems like it would have made more sense when bare heads seemed like the way things are and will always be, namely decades ago. I mean it was yehareg ve-al ya’avor to have secular education in school for kids 200 years ago, but that died down, didn’t it? So you can conceive of situations where the battle ends, one side wins, what used to be assur is now muttar and we all move on. Maybe 50 years ago rabbis could have said the same thing about hair covering as we say about secular education. But that’s a judgment call. I guess Rabbi Broyde wasn’t around decades ago to write that article.

    But I think the point is that not every Orthodox woman does or will cover her hair, and one rabbi decided it was time to stand up and say that they are not harlots, or slatterns, to use a word I recently learned from Jonathan Rosenblum (not relating to hair, ch”v).

    PS Does anyone else find the drop-a-post and run thing by various authors unsettling? I can understand if an author doesn’t want to spend all day engaging comments, but this is a blog, not a syndicated column.

  55. are you getting carried away? says:

    S:

    “to also give an edifying explanation as to why they are maybe not circling the drains of hell and brining tsunami and cancer to the world.”
    and
    “one rabbi decided it was time to stand up and say that they are not harlots, or slatterns, to use a word I recently learned from Jonathan Rosenblum (not relating to hair, ch”v).”

    who in the audience believes that women of the past who were otherwise observant, but didn’t cover their hair, are “circling the drains of hell”? “harlots”? “slatterns”?
    women who don’t cover their hair aren’t subject to this type of rhetoric or the subjects of it.

  56. mycroft says:

    “HAGTBG on August 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm
    Why would he want to risk reversing the positive trend that we’ve witnessed over the past few decades by possibly giving MO women more room to rationalize their behavior?

    Perhaps so that hair covering does not become a line as to who is Orthodox … which will just push many people away. Even if they have become a minority.”

    What percent of married women who belong to OU or even NCYI member synagogues nationwide cover their hair?

  57. mycroft says:

    “Glatt some questions on August 15, 2011 at 6:59 am
    …the Rav answered he had no sevara to permit married women not to cover their hair BUT since gdolei LITA permitted it he can’t say that it is assur for women to not cover their hair.
    ——————————–
    Are their written piskei halacha from the gedolim of Lita that clearly say that a married woman does not have to cover her hair, or even that it is not assur to not cover one’s hair? Or was it more of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that the people of that generation engaged in, and the women decided it would be OK to leave their hair uncovered?”

    The Rav was not the only one who had close family members not covering their hair-I read once that Rav Rudermans wife did not cover her hair when she first came to America-later on she did it was wriiten in contrast to their daughter R Weinbergs wife who always covered her hair.
    Certainly “To my surprise the person who has written on the Rav but not in this matter stated he had askedthe Rav the same question and the Rav answered he had no sevara to permit married women not to cover their hair BUT since gdolei LITA permitted it he can’t say that it is assur for women to not cover their hair.” is consistent with the Ravs wife, sister, and daughter not covering their hair.

  58. Hirhurim says:

    Regarding talmidei chakhamim and politeness, see Chavos Yair no. 152: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=857&st=&pgnum=166

  59. HAGTBG says:

    What percent of married women who belong to OU or even NCYI member synagogues nationwide cover their hair?

    Not remotely close to 100% of course. Possibly not even the majority, but who knows. That just increases the need to make sure they are not treated like they are bad Jews. After generations of women in frum communities across continents not covering their hear upon marriage, at certain points the clear and overwhelming majority, there is a strong need to limud zchut. It will not be the case that 100% of women will cover their hair and it should not be made into a club by which to drive someone away from the community.

  60. Anonymous says:

    I would love to think that R. Broyde is just trying to ‘melamed zechut’, and as I read the article I really felt he was sincere about just trying to melamed zechut. But then I reconsidered. I find hard to believe that an article published in three different places, each expanding on the previous, with many rebuttals, over a few years is truly just to get the word out that our grandparents weren’t sinners. R. Broyde labored 83 pages in translating into english many many reponsa. Was this necessary just prove his point; wouldn’t it suffice to just mention the explicit authorities that permitted it? Such a article was authored by Marc Shapiro (http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0060.pdf) way before Broyde’s. (Once I mention the article, I was wondering why Broyde didn’t list the Yad Halevi as of the explicit authorities that permit not covering hair. He mentions it in Tradition, but when he recounts the permitting poskim above he doesn’t. ) Why does he find it so important that he needed to publish three times? Why not in a jewish newspaper or magazine, they have more circulation? He speaks of undertones, but what are the undertones of his paper suggesting? I know he put in clauses to preempt this type of criticism, but that’s what lawyers like him are good at; it doesn’t change his intention.

    The other issue I have is a hashkafik one. When we have a halacha that can be interpreted so that it won’t apply in current times but it is not 100% proven, should we try to abrogate it to make life easier? or is our tradition that even rabbinical decrees shouldn’t be abrogated unless it is 100% proven. This issue comes up many many times in halacha. Even Tosphot only said such things when a old minhag supported it. Others rejected abrogation even so, even though they had no proof that the law was still applicable in current time and place. It is a epistemological difference. I think that R. Broyde would agree that his limud zichut is not the cause of women not covering their hair. Even he would agree that this minhag was started bissur. If the orthodox outlook is that we don’t abrogate laws until entirely proven except when the old minhag is that they are, then hair covering has no case. It is a new minhag which doesn’t warrant special treatment. If the orthodox outlook is otherwise then we need to look into many other things which we can rationalize are not applicable anymore. That is how the reform movement started off. They started with Yom Tov Sheini and ended up with בא מאלכי והעמידם על שלש. We need to be consistent. Throwing out ideas like this start relatively harmless but end up with much bigger implications then seen at the outset. Stuff like this shouldn’t be published in English. There are too many unlearned people reading them and they may start to do there own rationalizing, which for a unlearned person are mostly erroneous.

  61. correction says:

    בא מאלכי והעמידם על שלש

    micha

  62. joel rich says:

    Throwing out ideas like this start relatively harmless but end up with much bigger implications then seen at the outset.
    ===========================================
    perhaps, but as previously mentioned, it is a judgement call-often depending on whose ox is being gored.
    KT

  63. mycroft says:

    “HAGTBG on August 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm
    Why would he want to risk reversing the positive trend that we’ve witnessed over the past few decades by possibly giving MO women more room to rationalize their behavior?

    Perhaps so that hair covering does not become a line as to who is Orthodox … which will just push many people away. Even if they have become a minority.”

    Unscientific-but my niece in Israel goes to a mamlachti dati school I once went to pick her up outside the school-the vast majority of women picking up their children were NOT covering their hair.Apparently one must be shomer shabbos to send ones child their.

  64. mycroft says:

    “often depending on whose ox is being gored.
    KT”

    Agreed.

  65. Mike S. says:

    I cannot speak to Rabbi Broyde’s motives, but it seems to me that a good reason for a limmud zechut in this matter is to counter the ever increasing tendency, which is both counter to the Torah and ugly, of judging a woman entirely by her dress and hair covering. Or even worse, judging a man by his wife’s dress and hair covering, thereby simultaneously infantalizing the wife by treating her as other than an adult responsible for her own actions, and inappropriately judging both spouses by surface appearance.

  66. Glatt some questions says:

    There are very few 20-somethings who are getting married in the Orthodox world today who choose not to cover their hair. And I think there is a sociological factor playing out here. Thirty years ago, there were plenty of Orthodox women who chose not to cover their hair, and were just as Orthodox in their observance (Shabbos, kashrut, taharas hamishpacha, etc.) as today’s young women who are getting married. However, because covering one’s hair is such a visible sign of being “part of the club”, an Orthodox young woman getting married today would have to be pretty brave to decide not to cover her hair. While it’s very clear that there is a very strong halachic basis for women to cover their hair, I would argue that most young women are observing the law to either satisfy their husbands and/or be more accepted as part of the Orthodox world. And if there was a way to be considered and accepted and percceived as “fully Orthodox” without covering one’s hair, I do think there might be many more women who would not cover their hair today once they got married.

  67. Glatt some questions says:

    There are very few 20-somethings who are getting married in the Orthodox world today who choose not to cover their hair. And I think there is a sociological factor playing out here. Thirty years ago, there were plenty of Orthodox women who chose not to cover their hair, and were just as Orthodox in their observance (Shabbos, kashrut, taharas hamishpacha, etc.) as today’s young women who are getting married. However, because covering one’s hair is such a visible sign of being “part of the club”, an Orthodox young woman getting married today would have to be pretty brave to decide not to cover her hair. While it’s very clear that there is a very strong halachic basis for women to cover their hair, I would argue that most young women are observing the law to either satisfy their husbands and/or be more accepted as part of the Orthodox world. And if there was a way to be considered and accepted and perceived as “fully Orthodox” without covering one’s hair, I do think there might be many more women who would not cover their hair today once they got married.

  68. yosef lewinson says:

    Glatt some questions-

    “I would argue that most young women are observing the law to either satisfy their husbands and/or be more accepted as part of the Orthodox world”

    and i would argue that they cover their hair because they want to keep halacha

  69. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    S: “Right, but there can be little doubt that he also means things which people think they absolutely cannot be silent about. Obviously everyone has a different idea of what that is, but the point is that in order for him to have a point at all it has to be some of these kinds of things”

    “Some of these types of things.” Agreed. There’s a line, and the question is where it is. So the devil is in the details, and you can’t just begin with the presumption that everyone should be nice in all circumstances without addressing the specifics of this situation. It depends on situational factors and also on just how valid the things that R’ Broyde is saying are. (Of course, this is something that most commentors to this thread and similar discussions have not done – and frankly are not equipped to do.)

    “Maybe you can tell us exactly what a limud zchus is and isn’t.”

    From a technical standpoint, all these things are limudei zechus. If you write a justification of anything that people are lax about, whether non-hair covering or financial frauds or purifying a sheretz, it’s all a limud zechus. But that’s not the end of the story.

    The questions are 1) whether they’re valid limudei zechus or – unfortunately I risk running afoul of this blog’s censorship policies here, but you get my drift 2) whether they are truly intended as limudei zechus or are attempts to undermine halacha, and 3) regardless of author intention, whether they will have the practical effect of undermining halacha.

  70. Glatt some questions says:

    Glatt some questions-

    “I would argue that most young women are observing the law to either satisfy their husbands and/or be more accepted as part of the Orthodox world”

    and i would argue that they cover their hair because they want to keep halacha

    ————-

    I should not have said “most women” as that is not fair to the many women who sincerely cover their hair to comply with halacha. But I do believe there are women who cover their hair for the reasons I describe.

    My main point was that 30 years there were just as many equally knowledgeable women getting married who were committed to living a halachic life as there are today, and for some reason many of them felt fully comfortable not covering their hair and were not questioned about their commitment to halacha. They knew that the halacha required a woman to cover her hair once she was married. Unless you are ready to say that women 30 years ago were either ignorant of the halacha or had no problem flouting the laws of covering one’s hair, I think the only way to explain the phenomenon is by saying that something changed sociologically — and that it is much more difficult for women getting married today to leave their hair uncovered compared to 30 years ago.

  71. shmuel says:

    R Broyde says ” I worry about the tone of discussion within our Orthodox community, because I see less reasoned dialogue and more conclusory language and strident tone.” One need look no further than the comments of the Ramban on the Baal Hamaor’s commentary to the Rif, or many statements of the Raavad or others regarding the Rambam to see that arguments ad hominem are deeply rooted in rabbinic discourse. In fact the gemmara itself uses rather harsh phrases suchas “k’midumeh li shein moach b’kadkado” when one ammora strongly disagreed with his colleague. It is understandable that one who is passionate about Torah and halachah might use hyperbole and such other techniques to emphasize a point, even though they generate “more heat than light.”

  72. michael broyde says:

    1. Moshe Shoshan on August 15, 2011 at 4:43 am asks if “I have you been in contact with David Keter. I have tried to find out more about him but I have not been able to find any one of that name.” and the answer is “no” – but his comment is consistent with others that people have made to me “off the record” and consistent with the data concerning Mrs. Shach. This also answers the question posed by Dovy on August 15, 2011 at 8:42 am.
    2. dov weinstein on August 15, 2011 at 5:16 am states “Small typo correction: Rabbi Yosef Messas (Collected Letters 1884) should be, I assume, 1984. He lived from 1892 to 1974.” This is not correct. It is collected letters number 1884. I am sorry for the ambiguity.
    3. MA on August 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm states “Let me add one other point: R. Moshe Malka, who accepts R. Messas’ position as normative, claims that this is also the position of the Kaf ha-Hayyim as well, not because of his use of the Maharam Al-Shakar/Magen Avraham, but because of his quote from the Hukkei Nashim of the Ben Ish Chai. Please clarify, because R. Malka doesn’t quote Hukei Nashim. He quotes the Ben Ish Chai on parshat Bo (who himself quotes his Hukei Nashim) and he doesn’t state that this is the position of Kaf haChaim. R. Malka says nothing about the Kaf HaChaim and the Ben Ish Chai, so how can you quote him as saying this? “ I am so sorry for the lack of clarity. What I intended to say is that Now that the Arabic text of the Chukai Nashim has been retranslated with more accuracy, (and the Kaf ha-Hayyim certainly was reading the original Arabic) R. Malka’s (and my original) understanding may well end up being correct after all, as a coincidence. This should have been a detail in a footnote.
    4. KenR on August 15, 2011 at 3:06 pm asks “isn’t there a concept of Pasqening via ROV?“ and the answer is OF COURSE. That is what makes something a limmud zechut. You then ask “If people today are lax about speaking Lashan Hara, would you feel comfortable with a Rav writing a paper as a Limud Zechut?” and I think the answer goes as follows. It seems to me that the case of hair covering is relatively unique in that this practice made deep inroads even into yeshivas and other mekomai torah. If you stopped to look at Roshai Yeshiva in America — and certainly in Lithuanian Orthodox Yeshivot in America until well past 1950 and in Lithuania even more so until WW II — one saw that married women not covering their hair was a normative practice common even in mekomai torah, even among great rabanim, and thus it is worthy of more of a defense than many of the other practices mentioned. I do not believe that this was a case of temptation and succumbing which ought not be justified. The Chazon Ish puts this social phenomena differently. He stated “In Lithuania, most women were not meticulous to cover their hair and even very righteous women were lenient in this.” (42 Sipurim Chadashim Memarana Chazon Ish” Mevakshai Torah, Tamuz 5769 volume 49 page 70).
    5. mycroft on August 15, 2011 at 6:19 am recounted a story involving the Rav “A least reasonable close talmid ofthe Rav was visiting my schul and after davening someone asks him what isw the Ravs heter to not require married women to cover their hair. To my surprise the person who has written on the Rav but not in this matter stated he had asked the Rav the same question and the Rav answered he had no sevara to permit married women not to cover their hair BUT since gdolei LITA permitted it he can’t say that it is assur for women to not cover their hair.” Any recitation of the view of the Rav is complex. It is well known that the Rav said very different things to different people on this topic — all you need to do is compare what Rabbi Schachter notes in Nephesh Harav 255 (which is perhaps close to the story you quote) with what Rabbi Schachter notes in Mepenimai Harav 210 which goes as follows: “One student asked the Rav if it is true that which he heard recounted in the name of Rav Moshe Soloveitchik, concerning that which is recounted in the gemera in Ketubot 72a that “Rosho parua deorayta he” that it appears that this is not really a Torah obligation, but rather an asmachta from the rabbis. The Rav answered that he does not recall if he heard this from his father, but in truth it appears that such is the case from the formulation in the sifri on the verse “upra et rosh haisha” that it teaches Jewish women to cover their hair, and it states “af al pe shein raya ledavar zecher ledavar” and from that formulation is appears clear that this is not a genuine torah obligation.” That sure sounds like a limmud zechut to me, and upon this limmud zechut one can certainly build much – the foundation of the Terumat Hadeshen’s approach to the Rambam and the notion of subjective dat moshe flow from this approach.
    6. S on August 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm wrote “PS Does anyone else find the drop-a-post and run thing by various authors unsettling? I can understand if an author doesn’t want to spend all day engaging comments, but this is a blog, not a syndicated column.” I am sorry – I am simply very busy on many fronts and I will try to be more diligent. I, like many others, sometimes have workload problems. I will try to read and comment and I am sorry that I unsettled you.

  73. Shlomo says:

    When halachic minutia become the supreme object of our adoration, and halacha is applied with clinical inflexibility, the bad behaviors above described emerge inexorably. Such legal fetishism is a form of avoda zara. So was it apparently in the time of bayit rishon (as we read in the navi just ten days ago),

    On the contrary, during bayit rishon we ignored the numerous halachot requiring us not to mistreat the poor, widow, stranger, etc.

    More generally: your approach can easily bleed into an abandonment of the letter of the law because, after all we know the spirit of the law and that is more important. The reality is that Torah contains both moral imperatives and unexplained legal minutae, and we are not free to abandon either of them.

    not sure you are right, empirically, except to the extent that everything done by the yeshivish is “winning” because they have more numbers.)

    I’ve seen dati leumi women walking around in a head scarf and short shorts. I guess you could call that winning the battle yet losing the war. :)

    He pointed to the laxity of previous generations (citing himself as one example) in certain mitzvos, e.g. headcovering (for both men and women). … But that’s how it was, and when something is commonly transgressed, it just seems permitted. And in today’s generation (he concluded) that sin is monetary issues, various types of fraud and embezzling that are widely practiced by otherwise observant and God-fearing Jews.

    Beautiful. (S.: there’s no need for pilpul on this.)

  74. mycroft says:

    “mycroft on August 15, 2011 at 6:19 am recounted a story involving the Rav “A least reasonable close talmid ofthe Rav was visiting my schul and after davening someone asks him what isw the Ravs heter to not require married women to cover their hair. To my surprise the person who has written on the Rav but not in this matter stated he had asked the Rav the same question and the Rav answered he had no sevara to permit married women not to cover their hair BUT since gdolei LITA permitted it he can’t say that it is assur for women to not cover their hair.” Any recitation of the view of the Rav is complex. It is well known that the Rav said very different things to different people on this topic — all you need to do is compare what Rabbi Schachter notes in Nephesh Harav 255 (which is perhaps close to the story you quote)”
    I suspect the source that I heard it from discussed it with the Rav-note this source only answered the Ravs opinions in an after schul conversation with a YU grad-he never wrote about it. It is evident to many that if the Rav believed it was assur halacha lemaaseh for a women to go bareheaded-his wife wouldn’t have done that. One who merely was aware tangentially about their relationships wouold know that is an obvious point. The Ravs wife although a Phd devoted her life to promoting the Ravs causes see especially Maimonides.

  75. mycroft says:

    “My main point was that 30 years there were just as many equally knowledgeable women getting married who were committed to living a halachic life as there are today, and for some reason many of them felt fully comfortable not covering their hair and were not questioned about their commitment to halacha. They knew that the halacha required a woman to cover her hair once she was married. Unless you are ready to say that women 30 years ago were either ignorant of the halacha or had no problem flouting the laws of covering one’s hair, I think the only way to explain the phenomenon is by saying that something changed sociologically — and that it is much more difficult for women getting married today to leave their hair uncovered compared to 30 years ago”

    It was not universally accepted by a longshot 30 years ago in MO circles that one was required to cover their hair. The Ravs wife who BTW was niftar 44 years ago was just one of many examples of frum women who did not cover their hair. People follow examples-practice counts more than svara-thus seeing RYs wives not cover their hair made it acceptable. The Rav was not the only RY buy a longshot whose wife did not cover their hair.

  76. mycroft says:

    “I’ve seen dati leumi women walking around in a head scarf and short shorts. I guess you could call that winning the battle yet losing the war. :)”

    I have seen in the US- women who cover their hair who have very little else covered.

  77. mycroft says:

    “yosef lewinson on August 16, 2011 at 9:29 am
    Glatt some questions-

    “I would argue that most young women are observing the law to either satisfy their husbands and/or be more accepted as part of the Orthodox world”

    and i would argue that they cover their hair because they want to keep halacha”

    Certainly there are many who got married a few decades ago and did not cover their hair-when their kids became marriageable age they started covering their hair so as not to harm their kids chances of marrying a chareidi if they so desire.

  78. emma says:

    the fact that many women cover their heads while not observing other halachot of dress (often more clearcut and/or more obviously related to what we would call actual “modesty”) strongly suggests that it is not just a desire to follow halacha that has motivated the trend towards widespread hair covering.

  79. [...] see R. Michael J. Broyde’s reply to the article in Dialogue here: link. In 2009, I published an article in Tradition Magazine explaining how one could understand the [...]

  80. yosef lewinson says:

    mycroft on August 16, 2011 at 10:45 pm
    “yosef lewinson on August 16, 2011 at 9:29 am
    Glatt some questions-

    “I would argue that most young women are observing the law to either satisfy their husbands and/or be more accepted as part of the Orthodox world”

    and i would argue that they cover their hair because they want to keep halacha”

    Certainly there are many who got married a few decades ago and did not cover their hair-when their kids became marriageable age they started covering their hair so as not to harm their kids chances of marrying a chareidi if they so desire”

    I was talking about women covering their hair today because of halacha, not 30 years ago.

    Glatt some questions on August 16, 2011 at 8:48 am
    However, because covering one’s hair is such a visible sign of being “part of the club”, an Orthodox young woman getting married today would have to be pretty brave to decide not to cover her hair.

    why was it not a visible sign of being “part of the club” 30 years ago, but today it is?

  81. emma says:

    30 years ago, or more like 50, people were less interested in being visibly identifiable as in the club to begin with. they were just in the club. they knew it, their friends knew it, and that was that. they didn’t need/want objects to wear to mark them as such.

  82. ruvie says:

    i am surprise nobody has mentioned the fact that most women go to learn in israel for the year at a midrasha/seminary where they are taught you must cover your hair as oppose to 30 years ago it was a small minority.

    “and i would argue that they cover their hair because they want to keep halacha”

    i think whomever originally said this assumes that 30 years they didn’t want to keep halacha. i think the statement is wrong and false. its a new identifier even for lwmo.

  83. yosef lewinson says:

    ruvie on August 17, 2011 at 10:41 am

    i am surprise nobody has mentioned the fact that most women go to learn in israel for the year at a midrasha/seminary where they are taught you must cover your hair as oppose to 30 years ago it was a small minority.

    “and i would argue that they cover their hair because they want to keep halacha”

    i think whomever originally said this assumes that 30 years they didn’t want to keep halacha. i think the statement is wrong and false. its a new identifier even for lwmo.

    if you read all of the posts you will see that i was talking about today, and not 30 years ago

  84. ruvie says:

    yosef – my point is that it has more to do with the post high school year in israel (and the influences of the rebeim and teachers) than keeping “halacha” as oppose to 30 years ago.

  85. emma says:

    arguably, 50 years ago the rebbeim and teachers (and rebbeim’s wives) would have been much less invested in teaching about this particular practice than they are now. I agree that the way women (and men) are now taught is part of the cause, but it is also part of the symptom of a broader shift.

  86. ruvie says:

    emma – i don’t disagree but the major factor and influencer – i believe – is the year in israel (on a personal basis, i see this in my own family). no doubt the shift to the right also plays a role. i was just surprise that no one mentioned it in the discussion.

  87. IH says:

    I beg to differ, slightly. 30’ish years ago the focus was on teaching tzniut as a multi-dimensional approach to how one conducts one’s self. The change that has taken place is a focus on the mechanics rather than the approach. This is why we see un-tzniudik, but technically proper (according to the RWMO rulebooks) attire – e.g. skintight blouses with sleeves that reach below the elbow and hair covered.

  88. Joseph Kaplan says:

    One impoertant issue with hair covering is that it does not fit into the understanding many people have about tzniut. IOW, if you tell women not to go sleeveless or wear miniskirts or shorts because of tzniut, they understand how those rules, whether they agree and/or follow them or not, are related to tzniut/modesty; they understand why some believe that plunging cleavage or tight jeans are not modest. But tell women that because they are now married modesty requires them to cover their hair when a day before it was perfectly all right, many will ask “huh, why?” and not get a very good answer.

  89. Anonymous says:

    >The change that has taken place is a focus on the mechanics rather than the approach.

    Not really. Although some might argue that focusing on the mechanics makes it impossible to instill an approach also, there can be little doubt that in the schools, women’s gatherings and tznius books there is plenty of emphasis on the approach. It could be that they are in their own planet talking about speaking softly and so forth, but they definitely deal with an approach and not just with skirt lengths.

    However, what many girls and women have learned is that it possible to eschew the approach but still conform to the letter. This may make themselves feel better about a blatant violation of halacha which, pious as they are, they simply cannot justify. This may make their mother feel better. This may make no one feel better. But if the elbow is covered than it’s the same thing as not having eaten on a fast day. They didn’t blatantly violate the law.

    I think what has changed is that many people just cannot bring themselves to blatantly ignore the letter of the law. They do try to instill the spirit, but you can’t put that on paper, so it’s easier to ignore it. People aren’t perfect, and some girls and women are always going to want to dress provocatively, law or no law, approach or no approach.

    Frankly, we would all do well to mind our own business and stop obsessing over how women dress, whether we ourselves are male or female.

  90. Marko says:

    Gil, for those of us not so proficient in Hebrew, can you give us the gist of the chavos yair you cited about rabbis and polite discourse?

  91. Shlomo says:

    Emma: 30 years ago, or more like 50, people were less interested in being visibly identifiable as in the club to begin with. they were just in the club. they knew it, their friends knew it, and that was that. they didn’t need/want objects to wear to mark them as such.

    Nostalgia?

    IH: 30’ish years ago the focus was on teaching tzniut as a multi-dimensional approach to how one conducts one’s self. The change that has taken place is a focus on the mechanics rather than the approach.

    Nostalgia?

  92. Guest says:

    “People aren’t perfect, and some girls and women are always going to want to dress provocatively, ”

    For every frum women who can’t bring herself not to skimp a little on tznius, there are several frum men who can’t bring themselves not to stare at women whether modestly dressed or not. The former violation is more noticeable to others, but I would argue that they are equal in significance and severity. If you’re going to pasul women for tight clothing, then many more men need to pasuled as well. Including many of the men who all of us would consider at first glance to be behaving acceptably.

  93. Anonymous says:

    >For every frum women who can’t bring herself not to skimp a little on tznius, there are several frum men who can’t bring themselves not to stare at women whether modestly dressed or not.

    Exactly. And both of these are reasons why we should all mind our own business and stop obsessing about how women dress, as I said. Even if we did the burkas, some women would still skimp a little and some men would still try to see something. End of story.

  94. emma says:

    “Shlomo on August 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm
    Emma: 30 years ago, or more like 50, people were less interested in being visibly identifiable as in the club to begin with. they were just in the club. they knew it, their friends knew it, and that was that. they didn’t need/want objects to wear to mark them as such.

    Nostalgia?”

    OK, I’ll bite: I don’t have nostalgia for the days you just couldn’t wear a yarmulka to most workplaces, and that’s definitely part of the reason that fashion-as-religious-marker was not as popular back then. But that does not change the fact that the perceived importance of dress in religious identification seems to have increased.

    Now, if you want to talk about those little menorah-shaped bnai brith, hadassah, etc pins/necklaces that many of those ladies wore, maybe they did have their own way of visibly “belonging,” though not as specifically orthodox.

  95. IH says:

    The popularity of the hijab amongst muslim women coincides with the populatity of head coverings amongst Jews. Nostalgia?

  96. mitch morrison says:

    agree with an earlier post that R Broyde is extending beyond the traditional role of Melamed Z’chut. And that’s fine with me. i live in a community where probably 90+ % of married women cover their hair. what is most interesting is how many of them hate doing so — headaches, hair loss, feeling less attractive to themselves and/or husbands, etc. what, for me, is most compelling in R. Broyde’s position is his Conclusion.
    Truth is the overall frum community is very defensive and frequently kneejerk in our positions. we are less tolerant to divergent opinions and rebut them with extreme harshness that often rests more on rhetorical devices than sound halakhic rebuttal. i’m personally grateful for R. Broyde’s argument just as i am for the Yad Halevi’s commentary on Sefer HaMitzvot. but even beyond the issue of women’s hair covering, R. Broyde is espousing a more civil and patient tone that would help ameliorate many of the ills we suffer from in the religious community.

  97. Glatt some questions says:

    why was it not a visible sign of being “part of the club” 30 years ago, but today it is?
    ———————-

    Because the rules of the club have changed. And because today we put much more emphasis on outward displays of frumkeit to show that we belong.

    Thirty years ago married Orthodox women felt comfortable making a choice. I think the large majority of them knew that it was halachically proper for them to cover their hair. But they knew that if they chose not to, they would not feel ostracized (eg, people questioning their level of frumkeit, whether to eat in their home, whether their kids should play with their kids and later marry their children, etc.) and be accepted into the Orthodox community equally, the same way that their counterparts who chose to cover their hair were accepted.

    Today I’m not sure the same thing holds true.

    So I ask everyone, are we better off in the Orthodox community now, with a higher percentage of women being very careful about the laws of covering one’s hair?

    I’m not sure the answer is yes

  98. mycroft says:

    “emma on August 16, 2011 at 10:57 pm
    the fact that many women cover their heads while not observing other halachot of dress (often more clearcut and/or more obviously related to what we would call actual “modesty”) strongly suggests that it is not just a desire to follow halacha that has motivated the trend towards widespread hair covering.”

    af sear isha erva-implies that the rest of the body clearly had to be covered-hair was the question and thus af even it had to be covered.

  99. mycroft says:

    “Glatt some questions on August 18, 2011 at 5:46 am
    why was it not a visible sign of being “part of the club” 30 years ago, but today it is?
    ———————-

    Because the rules of the club have changed. And because today we put much more emphasis on outward displays of frumkeit to show that we belong.

    Thirty years ago married Orthodox women felt comfortable making a choice. I think the large majority of them knew that it was halachically proper for them to cover their hair. But they knew that if they chose not to, they would not feel ostracized (eg, people questioning their level of frumkeit, whether to eat in their home, whether their kids should play with their kids and later marry their children, etc.) and be accepted into the Orthodox community equally, the same way that their counterparts who chose to cover their hair were accepted.

    Today I’m not sure the same thing holds true.

    So I ask everyone, are we better off in the Orthodox community now, with a higher percentage of women being very careful about the laws of covering one’s hair?

    I’m not sure the answer is yes”

    Part of the general question of “raising the bar” to being allowed to be Orthodox.
    see the following from http://www.jcpa.org/dje/articles2/demographics.htm
    “Eleven percent of American Jews defined themselves as Orthodox in the 1970 study, or approximately 600,000 people. That figure has remained relatively consistent.”
    the following from http://judaism.about.com/od/americanjewry/a/amjewcost.htm
    ” Expense

    In 2002, Professor Gerald Bubis, Founder and Professor Emeritus of the School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, researched the cost of Jewish living in conjunction with the American Jewish Committee. Professor Gerald Bubis estimated that American Jewish families today require $25-$35,000 a year of discretionary income for intensive Jewish experiences. Intensive Jewish experiences refers to synagogue membership, Jewish Center membership, Jewish day school and camp experiences, Federation donations, kosher food and more.

    Bubis estimated average costs for an American Jewish family with two school-age and camp-age children:
    Synagogue Membership = $1,100
    Day School (two children) = $22,000
    Day Camp (two weeks, two children) = $1,200
    Resident Camp (one month, two children) = $5,000
    Jewish Community Center = $500
    Minimal Federation gift = $200
    Total (not including cost of kosher food) = $30,000
    Costs of Jewish living can be lowered dramatically by sending children to after-school programs instead of day school programs. Jack Wertheimer’s study of Jewish Education in the late 1990′s found that out of approximately 1.1 million Jewish children in America, about 180,000 attend day schools and 260,000 attend after-school programs.

    Costs of Jewish living can be increased dramatically if there are more than two children in the family.”

    “from 2000

    The present estimate for Orthodox Jews in Eretz Yisrael is between 900 thousand and one million; in North America, between 550-650 thousand; and in the rest of the world between 120-150 thousand, making for a total of between 1.67-1.8 million”

    http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/world-jewish-population.htm

    Note from 1970-to 2000 the amount of Orthodox Jews has remained constatnt-with all the fertility of chareidi world and even the RWMO world-query average number of children of RY and mechanchim what has happened-or is it only ?RY and mechanchim who can afford 9 children.
    Of course, raising the bar and not allowing one to attend talmud ATorah and be Orthodox has also sent many chutz lemachene.

  100. IH says:

    “being allowed to be Orthodox” [in the US]

    I don’t follow this, mycroft. The demographic studies are all self-reported affiliation. I am quite confident that Orthodox women who do not cover their hair, still say they are Orthodox.

    BTW, when I responded to the NY Demographic survey a few months ago (a random phone call I happened to answer) it took extra work to be listed as something other than O, C, R or R. Independent/Non-Dom was on the list, but only after I asked.

    Your overall point though — better stated in the past — is correct. Orthodox affiliation is, at best, flat — even from 1990 to 2010 — despite all the triumphalism.

  101. Anonymous says:

    > I think the large majority of them knew that it was halachically proper for them to cover their hair.

    I’m not sure if that’s true. That’s like saying that a large majority of Modern Orthodox people know that its halachically proper to wear a beaver hat and a long black bekishe. Which is to say they don’t think that at all. I would wager that a large majority of those who didn’t cover their hair saw it as one of those things that crazy frum people did and it didn’t really apply to them.

  102. emma says:

    mycroft of 5:51, while i am not sure i understand your comment, i think it agrees with me that other forms of covering are both more clear cut halachically and more obvious from a “modesty” perspective than hair covering.

  103. mitch morrison says:

    mycroft and glatt:
    two major difference between now and 30 years:
    1)the great wave of baalei teshuva, which started in earnest in the 1960s and exploded in 80s-90s.
    2) the growth of yeshivot in Israel and the 80%-90% rate of kids spending at least 1 year in yeshiva after HS. in the 1970s-80s, the rate was dramatically lower and many of those kids who did spend time in Israel (myself included) waited till after either their sophomore year of college or after they earned their college degree. many of these kids that i met were already becoming ideologically moored and sought out yeshivot that reflected or would support their hashkafot. today, kids are going to yeshivot that often are not representative of their family or day school’s hashkafa. i’m not judging this, but merely stating what has become well documented.

  104. Shlomo says:

    The popularity of the hijab amongst muslim women coincides with the populatity of head coverings amongst Jews. Nostalgia?

    I meant nostalgia on the part of commenters here, not on the part of the average woman who does or does not cover her hair.

  105. mycroft says:

    “Anonymous on August 18, 2011 at 9:34 am
    > I think the large majority of them knew that it was halachically proper for them to cover their hair.”

    It was not generally assumed to be halachikaly required in MO circles-remember it was well known that the Ravs wife did NOT cover her hair. Remember the Rav was undisputed authority of MO-.
    I am leaving halachik arguments to others I am arguing with the sociological fact that you claim.

  106. Glatt some questions says:

    I think the large majority of them knew that it was halachically proper for them to cover their hair.
    ====================
    I would wager that a large majority of those who didn’t cover their hair saw it as one of those things that crazy frum people did and it didn’t really apply to them.
    =====================
    The two are not incompatible. One can feel that something is technically proper from a halachic standpoint, and still feel that only crazy frum people do it (because from a sociological standpoint, they feel comfortable not doing it and can still be considered Orthodox).

  107. IH says:

    Indeed. Perhap the example in the “Forbidden Reading” thread is an example. It took time for the consensus that eventually made overturning a halacha from the mishna (no less) normative.

    See under: tipping point.

  108. Anonymous says:

    >The two are not incompatible. One can feel that something is technically proper from a halachic standpoint, and still feel that only crazy frum people do it (because from a sociological standpoint, they feel comfortable not doing it and can still be considered Orthodox).

    Right, but that’s why I gave the example of the beaver hat and bekeshe. There are people who wear them who think its halachically required (distinctly Jewish dress). Conversely, pretty much all Jews who do not dress like that are pretty sure that it’s not and that its only something that crazy frum people do.

  109. mycroft says:

    BTW0-when one speaks to many women who cover their hair-it is not because they believe it is any ervah-it is similar to the reaspn why many customs have a man not wearing a talis until he gets married-simply an idntification of marriage. It is not simply a sociological acceptance of more chareidi beliefs-I believe that one can find women who attend a feminist schul like Yedidya in Bakka who cover their hair. IMHO sociologically there is a different dynamic going on then mere acceptance of “more religous actions”

  110. mycroft says:

    “Anonymous on August 18, 2011 at 9:34 am
    > I think the large majority of them knew that it was halachically proper for them to cover their hair.

    I’m not sure if that’s true. That’s like saying that a large majority of Modern Orthodox people know that its halachically proper to wear a beaver hat and a long black bekishe. Which is to say they don’t think that at all. I would wager that a large majority of those who didn’t cover their hair saw it as one of those things that crazy frum people did and it didn’t really apply to them.”

    It was not sociologically accepted as a mandatory halacha-the Rav but he was far from the only one who clearly accepted the halacha lemaaseh of not requiring a married women to wear a head covering. There are many chakiras that he could ahve answered in shiur or in private conversations with talmidim but look at his family. Those who onow the basic about his family know that his wife who did everything for the Rav would have covered her hair if the Rav demanded it. There were many others who did not cover their hair. Thus it was not clearly understood that it was a requirement. Today assuming more universal acceptance it is more likely to be a requirement-not for halachik logical reasons but simply as one that if sociologically true frum women bahave in a certain way thus bnos yisrael etc. But that reasoning would be a separate reason from all the discussions that go back and forth certainly as a halchik matter on the sources just too many gdolim wives did not cover their for it to be assumed a halacha like benching etc.

  111. mycroft says:

    “mitch morrison on August 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm
    mycroft and glatt:
    two major difference between now and 30 years:
    1)the great wave of baalei teshuva, which started in earnest in the 1960s and exploded in 80s-90s.”

    Great wave-we are happy for any BT-but the percentages are very very small-remember listening to a lecture by Barry Kosmin stating what percentage of Jews are more traditional than parents and it was very small.

    “2) the growth of yeshivot in Israel and the 80%-90% rate of kids spending at least 1 year in yeshiva after HS. in the 1970s-80s, the rate was dramatically lower and many of those kids who did spend time in Israel (myself included) waited till after either their sophomore year of college or after they earned their college degree. many of these kids that i met were already becoming ideologically moored and sought out yeshivot that reflected or would support their hashkafot. today, kids are going to yeshivot that often are not representative of their family or day school’s hashkafa. i’m not judging this, but merely stating what has become well documented.”
    The impact of the year in Israel has not to the best of my knowledge been studied for longterm impact on great numbers of those who studied in Israel a decade or later. Flipping Out to the best of my recollection had a summary of a thesis that discussed a study 1-2 years later.,

  112. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “The demographic studies are all self-reported affiliation. I am quite confident that Orthodox women who do not cover their hair, still say they are Orthodox.

    BTW, when I responded to the NY Demographic survey a few months ago (a random phone call I happened to answer) it took extra work to be listed as something other than O, C, R or R. Independent/Non-Dom was on the list, but only after I asked.

    Your overall point though — better stated in the past — is correct. Orthodox affiliation is, at best, flat — even from 1990 to 2010 — despite all the triumphalism.”

    Demographics always have to be considered in how demographers define their subjects. Authors who have a “big tent” approach to Jewish identity and continuity and unfortunately have little interest in checking out major Orthodox centers, whether MO or Charedi.

  113. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft-invoking RYBS on the issue of women covering their hair is IMO problematic. There are at least two other views associated with RYBS-namely that he flatly considered to consider his wife Zicronah Livracha as a proof for other women, and that he told all who asked him outside of Boston-that married women were certainly obligated to cover their hair. It should also be noted that RYBS’s views as to what was permissible and prohibited for the Brookline community were by no means absolutely or substantively identical to what he told talmidim in RIETS on this or other subjects, when they sought RYBS’s advice as their rebbe and Posek, as opposed to the delineation of a halachic guideline for a far more decidedly modern constituency in Boston.

  114. mycroft says:

    “Steve Brizel on August 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm
    Mycroft-invoking RYBS on the issue of women covering their hair is IMO problematic.”
    He is the major reason why those who didn’t cover their hair didn’t.

    “There are at least two other views associated with RYBS-namely that he flatly considered to consider his wife Zicronah Livracha as a proof for other women,”
    He considered his wife above other women.

    “and that he told all who asked him outside of Boston-that married women were certainly obligated to cover their hair.”

    “all”-if ever a case for the famous proof please or data please that is it. There is no doubt that different stories have been told about the Rav from within some of those in the RIETS orbit-but one must be very careful- There is the famous problem in dealing with any Brisker -one has to be careful if something said in Yeshiva is halacha lemaaseh or simply a chakira to discuss in shiur.
    To give anThus the Ravs family lit candles at home for the second night of Yom Tov-despite any different chakiras that he might have said in shiur or in private hypothetical Torah discussions with prized students.

    “It should also be noted that RYBS’s views as to what was permissible and prohibited for the Brookline community were by no means absolutely or substantively identical to what he told talmidim in RIETS on this or other subjects, when they sought RYBS’s advice as their rebbe and Posek, as opposed to the delineation of a halachic guideline for a far more decidedly modern constituency in Boston.”

    Assuming true that would be an argument against telling the general community that they must cover their hair. No one is making the argument that a women must not cover their hair. Certainly, no one is arguing that the Rav felt

  115. mycroft says:

    “It should also be noted that RYBS’s views as to what was permissible and prohibited for the Brookline community were by no means absolutely or substantively identical to what he told talmidim in RIETS on this or other subjects, when they sought RYBS’s advice as their rebbe and Posek, as opposed to the delineation of a halachic guideline for a far more decidedly modern constituency in Boston.”

    Assuming true that would be an argument against telling the general community that they must cover their hair. No one is making the argument that a women must not cover their hair. Certainly, no one is arguing that the Rav felt that it is a mitzvah for a married woman to go wo hair covering. Much more relevant to what should be advocated for the general Jewish community would be what the Rav practiced as a model for normal baal batim than what he supposedly stated to RIETS students.

  116. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft, WADR, please accept the following comments as a response:

    1) RYBS was well known for emphatically refusing to consider his wife Zicronah Livracha as evidence in support for any other woman not to cover her hair.
    2) RHS mentioned in a hesped in 1993 that RYBS was very adamant to any talmid in RIETS who asked him that their wives should cover their hair.

    3)RYBS was well known for answering Baalei Batim who were barely observant and not all that educated in the sources,in a very different manner as opposed to his approaches with talmidim in RIETS, who had a far greater level of knowledge and observance, different approaches to halachic issues, as opposed to what you claim he “supposedly stated to RIETS students”. I think that what you pose as “normal Baale Batim” unfortunately assumes that they are and should remain devoid of desires to grow in Avodas HaShem, which many Bnei Yeshiva, both in RIETS and elsewhere view as an impotant spiritual trait.

    IMO, Hilcos Eruvin, where RYBS clearly adhered to the well known Brisker shita that defines a Reshus HaRabim, was one example of a chumra that was followed in Boston and W Heights for decades-but which no longer is followed in either locale.

  117. mycroft says:

    “Steve Brizel on August 24, 2011 at 9:28 am
    Mycroft, WADR, please accept the following comments as a response:

    1) RYBS was well known for emphatically refusing to consider his wife Zicronah Livracha as evidence in support for any other woman not to cover her hair.”

    This language about his wife is not universally accepted-it is gospel amont RW revisionists. It is accepted by any who even knew slightly the dynamics of the Rav and his wife that his wife would not have done things to displease the Rav.

    “2) RHS mentioned in a hesped in 1993 that RYBS was very adamant to any talmid in RIETS who asked him that their wives should cover their hair.”
    Not straight contradictory but implied contradiction is the story that I have written when a talmid of the Rav who was a musmach of RIETS was asked while visiting my schul what is the Ravs svara for the heter for women not covering their hair-he stated that he asked the Rav that question and was told he had no svara but could not assur anything that gdolei Lita approved of.

    “3)RYBS was well known for answering Baalei Batim who were barely observant and not all that educated in the sources,in a very different manner as opposed to his approaches with talmidim in RIETS, who had a far greater level of knowledge and observance, different approaches to halachic issues, as opposed to what you claim he “supposedly stated to RIETS students”.”
    I heard this person answer this question and he at the time was no longer a RIETS student having received smicha decades earlier-supposedly stated to RIETS students-is an integrity charge against either me or the source which I heard from. The source never wrote about this wrote about other things but clearly I remember the answer as does the other person who heard it.

    “I think that what you pose as “normal Baale Batim” unfortunately assumes that they are and should remain devoid of desires to grow in Avodas HaShem, which many Bnei Yeshiva, both in RIETS and elsewhere view as an impotant spiritual trait.”
    You know full well the question to the Rav about svara for permitting women to not cover their hair was not posed by a Baaal Baas to the Rav.

    “IMO, Hilcos Eruvin, where RYBS clearly adhered to the well known Brisker shita that defines a Reshus HaRabim, was one example of a chumra that was followed in Boston and W Heights for decades-but which no longer is followed in either locale”
    That is adifferent issue entirely -is the Ravs permission lemaaseh of women not covering their hair be followed today. We hoiwever are discussing the Ravs viewpoint -not halacha lemaaseh.

  118. [...] See Rabbi Michael J. Broyde’s most recent iteration of his position on hair-covering in Hirhurim for one perspective on this. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); [...]

  119. [...] helped get the letter published on the Hirhurim Orthodox blog in fall 2010, then wrote a follow-up article in 2011 in which he cited that letter as further evidence for his [...]

 
 

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