On August 5th, R. Yosef Kanefsky created an internet storm about the status of women in Orthodoxy by denouncing one of the standard daily blessings. The resultant debate, beginning during the mourning period of the “Nine Days” and continuing beyond, demonstrated the ongoing schism within the Modern Orthodox community. R. Kanefsky posted an ill-timed essay to the Morethodoxy blog explaining why he no longer recites the morning blessing “she-lo asani ishah — who did not make me a woman.” R. Kanefsky, a rabbi in LA who received his ordination from YU, served as R. Avi Weiss’ Assistant Rabbi for six years (link) and is currently both a member of the RCA and a national officer of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, stated that “each morning we actually reinforce the inherited prejudice that holds that women possess less innate dignity than men.” He concluded that he “cannot take God’s name in the context of this blessing anymore.” In fact, he suspects that “at this point in history,… it constitutes a Desecration of the Name, God forbid.”

Women’s Changing Status and Liturgical Reform

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I. Changes

On August 5th, R. Yosef Kanefsky created an internet storm about the status of women in Orthodoxy by denouncing one of the standard daily blessings. The resultant debate, beginning during the mourning period of the “Nine Days” and continuing beyond, demonstrated the ongoing schism within the Modern Orthodox community.

R. Kanefsky posted an ill-timed essay to the Morethodoxy blog explaining why he no longer recites the morning blessing “she-lo asani ishah — who did not make me a woman.” R. Kanefsky, a rabbi in LA who received his ordination from YU, served as R. Avi Weiss’ Assistant Rabbi for six years (link) and is currently both a member of the RCA and a national officer of the International Rabbinic Fellowship, stated that “each morning we actually reinforce the inherited prejudice that holds that women possess less innate dignity than men.” He concluded that he “cannot take God’s name in the context of this blessing anymore.” In fact, he suspects that “at this point in history,… it constitutes a Desecration of the Name, God forbid.”

He later regretted his wording and took down this post. However, he subsequently posted two essays defending his liturgical decision. In the first additional essay (link), he argued that there is a minority opinion supporting a more inclusive blessing (“she-asani Yisrael – who has made me a Jew”) that is post facto acceptable. He seems to have moved from omitting the blessing entirely to modifying it. In the second additional essay (link), R. Kanefsky argues that practices change based on evolving circumstances. In this essay he reverts to omitting the blessing and implicitly argues that since women’s status is different today, the new circumstances require reevaluating (and rejecting) the blessing.

II. Objections

R. Dov Fischer posted two essays to the Cross Currents website in response to R. Kanefsky’s essays (I, II). In both, he accuses R. Kanefsky of taking a Conservative approach to Judaism. R. Avraham Gordimer similarly objected to R. Kanefsky’s attempt to mold Judaism according to “contemporary Western social values” (link).

R. Joshua Maroof objected to R. Kanefsky’s proposal in several essays (I, II, III). He argues that R. Kanefsky is misunderstanding the blessing and improperly utilizing precedents for change.

R. Avi Shafran called on the RCA and OU to expel R. Kanefsky and his shul for crossing the line of Orthodoxy (link).

III. Defenses

R. Asher Lopatin posted two essays supporting R. Kanefsky (I, II). In the first, he adduced minority texts and theological concepts supporting changing the blessing to a positive formulation. In the second, he argued that Judaism routinely adopts secular values into sacred practices.

R. Zev Farber (link) argued that the blessing is obviously offensive and must be changed. The sages of the Talmud may have viewed women as inferior, but everyone in that era did and the rabbis should not be blamed for this prejudice.

IV. My Take

I see two issues here. The first is an attempt to change the liturgy, specifically the text of a blessing. I am generally uncomfortable with the changing of texts for grammatical or historical reasons. Historically, those who have tried to “improve” the liturgy have often inadvertently caused more harm. I don’t like it and I won’t be a part of it, but I won’t overly object to it either. Textual arguments about the text of the blessing and its fluidity or lack thereof address this issue, which I do not consider insurmountable even if I do not particularly support it.

The second issue is changing Jewish practice for ideological purposes. R. Kanefsky has an agenda and he is clear about it. Judaism has, in the past, discriminated against women and continues to do so. We need to change that and altering or omitting this blessing is part of the task. He wrote in his initial post:

Simply for lack of male reproductive organs, otherwise qualified women are still barred from the rabbinate, and from many positions of communal leadership. She can be a judge, but not a dayan. A brain surgeon, but not a posek. And often she must content herself with davening in a cage in shul, from where her desire to say kaddish for a parent may or may not be tolerated.

R. Kanefsky wants broad religious change and this blessing is only the start. Women deserve religious equality, he seems to be saying. They can do anything in the secular world yet Judaism discriminates against them. We need to change Judaism to remove anything that might be considered discriminatory. In short, we need complete religious egalitarianism. That is what I see in R. Kanefsky’s words. I expect in short time that he will also be demanding the inclusion of the Matriarchs in the beginning of the Amidah, as Prof. Daniel Sperber has recently permitted (link).

These three blessings are mentioned in the Talmud (Menahot 43b). They have nothing to do with hieararchies of dignity, for we believe that every human being is equally formed in the image of God. Rather, they are acknowledgments of the special responsibilities of Jewish life. Heathens, slaves and women are exempt from certain commandments that apply to Jewish men. In these blessings, we express our faith that the commandments are not a burden but a cherished vocation.

–R. Jonathan Sacks, The Koren Siddur, p. 26

As others have pointed out, the earliest text we have of this blessing includes an explanation why men thank God for not making us women. We are thanking God for obligating us in more commandments (Tosefta, Berakhos 6:18 – link). I suspect that any explanation of the blessing that does not consider the sages of the Talmud misogynists will be rejected as apologetic yet the original source focuses on commandedness and not on personal value.

R. Yehuda Henkin (Bnei Banim, vol. 4 no. 1 – link; Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women’s Issues, p. 26) writes:

Everyone, then, agrees with Rashi’s second explanation that “shelo asani ishah” refers to a man’s greater obligation in mitzvot. A number of rishonim also cite social reasons in keeping with Rashi’s first explanation, but they, too, accept the second explanation as primary… The problem is that while the Sages’ entire joy lay in the worship of Hashem and the fulfillment of His commandments, over the course of centuries men read other connotations into the blessing.

Despite the Tannaitic explanation of the blessing, some people still misunderstand it and are offended by it. Should we change the blessing to accommodate them? I don’t think so, for two reasons. First and primary is that this is part of an explicit agenda of religious egalitarianism that is incompatible with halakhah. Even if this first step can be accomplished within halakhah, it amounts to the proverbial removal of one of the two Yekum Purkan prayers which was Reform’s initial innovation. We cannot be part of the first step toward a non-halakhic goal. Second, we should educate rather than change. A synagogue is supposed to be a place of prayer and learning, certainly learning about prayer. Omitting or changing a prayer due to misunderstanding is neglect of a synagogue’s and rabbi’s role in the Jewish community.

If this blessing was an isolated issue, I would not object to R. Haskel Lookstein’s elegant suggestion (link). He initially established in his synagogue that the blessing be recited quietly. This was misunderstood as omitting the blessing so he now begins the services at a later point to entirely avoid the issue. R. Yehuda Henkin similarly suggested this or that the beginning of the blessing be recited out loud but not its conclusion. Neither allow a change to or omission of this blessing from the Talmudic form, despite the existence of manuscript variants that were generally due to fear of censors (recall that this lessing is part of a trio that includes thanking God for not making us gentiles). However, since this is an ideological issue being promoted by forces of religious reform, I even object to the institution of these suggestions as well.

Is R. Kanefsky and his synagogue outside the orbit of Orthodoxy, as R. Shafran suggested? The rhetoric has crossed the line but I’m not certain the practice has. If so, despite the clear inevitability of schism (if it hasn’t happened already), the RCA and OU have a little more time before they have to take action and pick sides. A little more time.

About Gil Student

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

254 comments

  1. Why was the article “ill-timed”?

  2. During the Nine Days accusing most Orthodox Jews of causing a Chillul Hashem

  3. Yes, I just reread the first paragraph more closely. though I don’t think it is really right to interpret his statement about chilul hashem personally. That is, he is not blaming individuals for making a chilul hashem, but rather saying that our community’s continued practice of saying this bracha creates a chilul hashem. That is, he was using the term colloquially.

  4. A Little Sanity

    Judaism, going back to the Torah itself, mandates different roles for men and women respecting religious practice. The prevailing ethos in modern liberal society is that men and woman should have equal opportunity in all things (except with respect to what is physically impossible).

    The issue is really quite simple. Do we continue to adhere to the Torah’s “hashkafa”, or do we reject it in favor of the modern liberal approach (even while, perhaps, not crossing any “mid’oraisa lines). Those who favor the latter approach should think carefully upon the implications of their position. Today, women’s equality and gay marriage are leading liberal causes. Tomorrow, perhaps, it will be euthanasia and enforced population control. If Judaism is just another word for floating in the wind of modern social currents, why do we need it? Let’s just all sign up for moveon.org and be done with it.

    (BTW, Judaism is not synonymous with conservative values either. Judaism is synonymous with JEWISH values as expressed in mitzvot, which we believe are divinely revealed.)

    Our forefathers were not afraid to absorb influences from other cultures that did not contradict the Torah, and we should follow their lead. They were also prepared to die to protect Judaism from alien influences that clearly contradicted Torah values. We at least should not be so quick to jettison our heritage for a mere mess of trendy porridge.

    One final observation for those who agree with R. Kanefsky: We do not need to speculate on the probable effect of the proposed changes. The Conservative movement has recently gone down that road. How has that worked out for them?

  5. R. Kanefsky’s synagogue still recites the blessing, partially quiet, per the psak of the Bnei Banim. His article was only about his own personal discomfort, so his shul should not be impugned because of his own personal essay.

  6. Although it isn’t/wasn’t “Orthodox,” KOE didn’t have the sha”tz say anything aloud until Rabbi Yishmael Omer (I don’t know whether this is where KJ starts or not). They also made sure that the misheberach for the congregation wasn’t said aloud until “umisheoskim betzarchei tzibbur beemunah,” to avoid the implication of women not being part of the kahal. I say “isn’t/wasn’t” and use the past tense because KOE is nearly, but not quite, defunct at this point.

    I know of one coed MO high school which starts Birkot HaShachar and has the sha”tz get up through “shelo asani ishah” before pausing, at which point one of the girls says “sheasani kirtzono” aloud, with the sha”tz continuing afterwards.

  7. “That is, he was using the term colloquially.”

    And even so, he realized his error in using this inappropriate language and withdrew his original comment and rewrote it. How many of those who have criticized R. Kanefsky, some in quite strident tones, have ever admitted an error of judgment publicly? That’s a rhetorical question; I believe the answer is very few, unless, of course, they have never made errors of judgment.

  8. “One final observation for those who agree with R. Kanefsky: We do not need to speculate on the probable effect of the proposed changes. The Conservative movement has recently gone down that road. How has that worked out for them?”

    We do not need to speculate on the change in recent years of teaching Torah to women in the MO community. The Conservative ….. Or, we do not need to speculate on the change in recent years mandating complete segregation of men and women by certain groups within the Chareidi community. The Conservative….. Shall we go on with this simplistic analysis and comparison?

  9. Israel Fathers Rights Advocacy Council

    What was Ill timed about the statement? What time would have been preferable?

  10. A Little Sanity:

    Your comment is a nice sound bite, but unfortunately doesn’t reflect the historical reality of Judaism.

    Was the Rambam being loyal to the “Torah’s hashkafa” when he declared that the deepest secrets of the Torah, Maaseh Bereshit and Maase Merkavah were equivalent to Aristotelian physics and metaphysics? If not, are you saying that you are frummer than the Rambam?

    Was Rav Hirsch being loyal to “the Torah’s hashkafa” when he wrote: “Picture every son of Yisrael a respected model of righteousness and love spreading not Judaism-this is forbidden- but pure humanitarianism” (Nineteen Letters, Letter 16).

    “Pure humanitarianism” sure sounds a lot like a “modern liberal approach.”

    The fact of the matter is that there is no eternal unchanging “Torah Hashkafa”. When Rabbis were convinced that a political, scientific or religious ideal was true, even if it came from the Goyim, they had no qualms about interpreting Judaism in conformity with it.

  11. A Little Sanity

    MO,

    “Was the Rambam being loyal to the “Torah’s hashkafa” when he declared that the deepest secrets of the Torah, Maaseh Bereshit and Maase Merkavah were equivalent to Aristotelian physics and metaphysics?”

    What brachah or mitzvah did he change as a result?

    ““Pure humanitarianism” sure sounds a lot like a “modern liberal approach.””

    From Wikipedia: “In its most general form, humanitarianism is an ethic of kindness, benevolence and sympathy extended universally and impartially to all human beings.”

    Doesn’t sound foreign to Judaism to me. Some “liberal” values are consistent with Judaism, as are some “conservative” values. The point is, as Jews, we should look to the Torah and Chazal for our values, regardless what current ideological fads dictate. Otherwise, what are we really worshiping?

  12. “Simply for lack of male reproductive organs”

    I hadn’t realized that his argument rested on this. Of course, he is, possibly, very wrong, although it would challenge his entire worldview to admit this. There are substantial differences between men and women in much more than “reproductive organs,” as cute as it may be to write that, and those differences (together, yes, with certain facts resulting from the different reproductive systems) may well be the basis of the wisdom of the Torah (i.e., God) and Chazal (and, if you wish, biological, anthropological, and historical evolution) dictating different gender/sex roles.

    But don’t take my word for it: The greatest feminists will openly argue that women have some sort of deeper abilities that allow them to do certain things. There’s even a justice of the United States Supreme Court, a heroine of the Left, who says such things. But let a *man* (or woman) suggest that this makes women *less* qualified to do certain things, or men more qualified to do them, and, well, all hell will break loose. Witness poor Lawrence Summers, vilified by those actually proving his point by doing so.

    Gil, I understand your point about not liking saying things quietly for ideological reasons. But let me point out, as always, that for nothing to do with ideology, most every shul in Israel says the brachot quietly and begins with R’ Yishmael or Mizmor Shir. Cuts a few minutes off davening, too. 🙂

  13. By the way:

    1. I’m speaking about minds, which are biological. I don’t assume to know anything about souls, although that could be an angle.

    2. We all know exceptions. That’s not the way statistics, or the world, works.

  14. Simple solution to this is to use the wonders of modern technology and post it notes, to do the brachot at the time that the Gemora says to do the brachot. And save shul for the things that need to be said by the Kehila.

    In today’s Judaism there seems to be no shortage of knowledge of how to do these things, and plenty of ability to do them.

  15. how do the brachot of shelo asani fit into the concept of “כב כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל חָכָם בְּחָכְמָתוֹ, וְאַל-יִתְהַלֵּל הַגִּבּוֹר, בִּגְבוּרָתוֹ; אַל-יִתְהַלֵּל עָשִׁיר, בְּעָשְׁרוֹ. 22 Thus saith the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches;
    כג כִּי אִם-בְּזֹאת יִתְהַלֵּל הַמִּתְהַלֵּל, הַשְׂכֵּל וְיָדֹעַ אוֹתִי–כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה, עֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד מִשְׁפָּט וּצְדָקָה בָּאָרֶץ: כִּי-בְאֵלֶּה חָפַצְתִּי, נְאֻם-יְהוָה. {ס} 23 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD who exercise mercy, justice, and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. {S}
    KT

  16. Joel, the bracha is doing exactly what that pasuk implies in this context. The gemorah says this brachot is about mitzvot observance, not wisdom,might, or riches, but only in Gd and his commandments.

    The real truth though, is that the brachot don’t apply to those two passuks at all because we are not discussing wisdom, might, riches, mercy, justice, or Righteousness. (they are not terms that come up in the bracha)

  17. The problem with both R Kanaevsky’s essay and R Student’s (and others’) response is that neither the position that we never adopt outside values, nor the position that we must make the Torah compatible with outside values is really tenable in its extreme form. For example, the Torah permits slavery, polygamy and prefers yibum to chalitza. We do none of those, and at least the last goes back to the Gemarra. (And polygamy was discouraged in the times of Chazal as well.) And we have all seen the consequences of considering the Torah to always reflect societaly values–if that is all Torah is it has no purpose. So neither R Kanaevsky’s discomfort with sexual differences in Judaism, nor his opponents’ discomfort with any change in practice is decisive per se, nor is reading the two sides talk past each other illuminating. The goal of the Torah is “tikkun Olam B’malchut Shaddai”, and neither the tikun olam part, nor the malchut Shaddai part is unimportant. The leaders of the generation must consider which social changes the Torah would consider progress, which are inimical to the Torah, and how practice needs to evolve. It takes more nuance for the discussion to be useful; there is real tension between Torah values here. One thing that has changed in the past 200 years or so are the pace of social change, which makes it very hard for religious practice, correctly based on tradition, to evolve naturally at the same pace. Some would claim that the presence of Jews ideologically committed to heretical interpretations of Torah is new, but in fact, Chazal and the Rishonim and the Acharonim were all familiar with such movements before the haskalah–there were the Sadducees, the early Christians, the Karaites, the Sabbateans and dozens of other groups, many of which are long forgotten.

  18. mike s. – nice analysis of the curent situation in the beginning of the post but the ending needs to be explained (see below). clarification on polygamy – was it discourage or was it only affordable for the rich and therefore limited in fact? did not some rabbis when away from home for an extended period take new wives as reported in the gemera?

    when you say “Some would claim that the presence of Jews ideologically committed to heretical interpretations of Torah is new…” are you implying that this situation and others in modernity is equivalent to karaites,sababateans and other heretical beliefs and not lsham shamayim (and therefore those people like r’ kanefsky are out of the parsha)?

  19. On August 5th, R. Yosef Kanefsky created an internet storm about the status of women in Orthodoxy by denouncing one of the standard daily blessings.

    Untrue. It has been denounced many times before. I remember us learning about it in grade school and them teaching us the most specifically about this bracha – they knew it would be problematic. The issue was his purposeful omission and his non-acceptance of the standard response as satisfactory.

    First and primary is that this is part of an explicit agenda of religious egalitarianism that is incompatible with halakhah.

    How do you know it is incompatible with halacha? Where is your evidence? These arguments have been consistently circular. Not once in any of the “female issues” that people continue to crop up over the years for a most sorry excuse for a schism has anyone made a clear halachic argument that these people are outside the bounds [even if foolish.]

    The second issue is changing Jewish practice for ideological purposes. R. Kanefsky has an agenda and he is clear about it.

    What constitutes ideological? Orthodoxy did not adopt the Hungarian model, which utterly rejected the innovations. Speaking in the vernacular has the same source as organs in shul. We all know that R SRH considered himself as a means of bridging the Orthodox and Reform until he thought the Reform changes went to far due to intermarriage concerns (show me where in his most famous works, 19 Letters and Horeb , where he puts the Reform Jews as outside Judaism [as opposed to wrong and misunderstanding]. He says their changes were to be integrated into Judaism.)

    R. Kanefsky wants broad religious change and this blessing is only the start.

    I don’t know whether he does or does not. I do know that, if, in fact, you are basing your view solely on his essay alone, that your assumption does not have a particularly strong basis.

    We cannot be part of the first step toward a non-halakhic goal.

    Tell it to R SRH. Tell is to most of German urban Orthodoxy. Tell it to those Orthodox elsewhere influenced by the haskalah.

    My take is this: Whatever its original purpose, it is not surprising that people take it badly. At least one time I have heard a woman denounce Orthodoxy as sexist and use this blessing as an example why; this rabbi is not creating the problem. If people want to pretend this blessing is not having a cost they are kidding themselves. Now whether to remove the blessing, better educate those exposed to this blessing or just absorb the cost, I’m not going to say. But if there is a halachically permitted solution option I think its foolish to dismiss it merely because someone somewhere is going to use it as a pretext to require woman to mitzvot aseh shehazman grama.

  20. r’avi,
    my point is that we are thanking HKB”H (as explained in post-We are thanking God for obligating us in more commandments ). How is this different than thaking HKB”H for making us smart or tall etc.(i.e. you get what you get-big deal-it’s the ROI you give hkb”h on his investment that counts)?
    KT

  21. “did not some rabbis when away from home for an extended period take new wives as reported in the gemera?”

    They were influenced by a Persian practice that exists to this day, even under Islam; so Prof. Ellman.

  22. Why should anyone be surprises by R Kanefsky’s comments-which merely echo the views of the well known apologetics and critics of TSBP, who claim to wrap themselves in the mantle of MO? I would argue that R Kanefksy and those who he relies on, except for R Henkin, have sawed themselves off the proverbial limb by asserting such dubious claims that the Mesorah would be different if transmitted by women, that the TSBP is sexist, and where there is a halachic will, there is a halachic way-all of which are arguments which IMO, are well beyond the traditional views.

    WADR, viewing Rambam and RSRH as helpful does not help the cause of feminists. The MN was a brilliant exercise in apologetics for a society impressed by Aristotelian based philosophy, but as RYBS, Ramban, in his commentary on Chumash, articulated a far stronger hashkafic perspective. Likewise, RSRH’s writings and actions, were one of many reactions to the rise and challenges presented by an increasingly radical RJ. Again, while TIDE, as stated in the first translation of The Nineteen Letters and the Collected Writings, championed having a strong secular education and appreciation for secular culture, both RYBS and REED noted that TIDE produced observant Baalei Batim, but did not produce Talmidei Chachamim.

  23. Rafael Araujo

    Steve – I believe that many MO Jews are simply uncomfortable in their own skin and face a personal crisis in trying to live al pi halochoh while, in their minds, feeling that they are upholding and continuing a mysoginist, sexist, patriarchal system. This is creating a crisis of confidence among MO Jews, leading them to either leave MO, continue status quo while personally in turmoil, or trying to change Judaism in their image, halochoh and tradition be damned. It is a major problem, and its not going to go away.

  24. R’RA,
    And how would you classify tosfot in Pesachim’s statement “d’kulhu nashim didan chashuvos ninhu v’tzrichos hashebah”?
    KT

  25. ruvie:

    I was not thinking of people like R. Kanefsky at all when I spoke of heretical movements, but of those movements that openly reject at least one of: The Divine origin of the Torah, the authority of Torah She Ba’al Peh or the binding nature of halacha.

    As far as polygamy in the time of Chazal I believe it was both generally impractical, but also ideologically discouraged. For example, the statement that one could only take two wives if he can treat them equally, the Midrashim addressing the effects of Ya’akov’s favoritism among the wives and children, and so on. And even very wealthy Tannaim, like R. Elazar ben Azaria and R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus only seemed to have had one wife. The only favorable mentions I can think of polygamy are either when the man was compelled to travel between two distant cities, so the rival wives did not interact directly, and when R. Tarfon, who was a Cohen, married (kiddushin) a large number of women during a famine so they could eat trumah, but that seems more as tzedakah than a true marriage–I don’t know how many, if any, of those women he performed nisuin with.

  26. Shalom Rosenfeld

    R’ Joel —

    Dikduk police here: “b’ashro, b’chochmaso” — in my static level of what I have now. (Note that Hebrew has no word for “have”, it’s not something you “do.” “Yesh li mechonit” = “There exists a car that is mine.”)

    Instead, “haskel v’yadoa”, cue Rashi, Zachor, Shamor, Haloch UVacho — the ongoing process.

    So if it’s “SheLo asani goy” — “woop dee do, I’m not a goy, I’m awesome, now I can go back to sleep”, then Yirmiyah has a mussar shmooze for you. If it’s “wow I have the opportunity to go out there and do a lot of mitzvas now”, that’s what we’re looking for.

  27. HAGTBG: >> On August 5th, R. Yosef Kanefsky created an internet storm about the status of women in Orthodoxy by denouncing one of the standard daily blessings.

    Untrue. It has been denounced many times before.

    Which part of my statement is untrue? Are you denying that he denounced the blessing or that he created an internet storm? From your remarks, it seems you entirely agree with what I wrote and only feel a need to add the obvious, that other people have denounced it before. Thank you for bringing that to our attention because I could not figure out why R. Yehuda Henkin wrote a responsum on the subject for a blog post R. Yosef Kanefsky was going to write years later. It’s all starting to make sense now.

    How do you know it is incompatible with halacha?

    Because I have discussed it many times before and have read the many writings on the subject. I take it that you believe that it is compatible with halakhah. Do you take the approach of Prof. Joel Roth (women take a neder), Prof. Mayer Rabinowitz (it’s all derabbanan at best) or Prof. Judith Hauptman (the Talmud is sexist)?

    What constitutes ideological? Orthodoxy did not adopt the Hungarian model, which utterly rejected the innovations.

    You are mixing apples and oranges by taking without nuance historical examples that are only marginally relevant and raising them as examples. Hungarians said you can’t give a sermon in the vernacular but RSRH did, so let’s get rid of the mechitzah and eat chazir on Yom Kippur!

    >> R. Kanefsky wants broad religious change and this blessing is only the start.

    I don’t know whether he does or does not.

    Re-read that paragraph and you will see where I get this idea from.

    Tell it to R SRH.

    See above.

    But if there is a halachically permitted solution option I think its foolish to dismiss it merely because someone somewhere is going to use it as a pretext to require woman to mitzvot aseh shehazman grama.

    It is not someone, somewhere. It is the very people about whom we are discussing.

  28. Rafael wrote:

    “Steve – I believe that many MO Jews are simply uncomfortable in their own skin and face a personal crisis in trying to live al pi halochoh while, in their minds, feeling that they are upholding and continuing a mysoginist, sexist, patriarchal system. This is creating a crisis of confidence among MO Jews, leading them to either leave MO, continue status quo while personally in turmoil, or trying to change Judaism in their image, halochoh and tradition be damned. It is a major problem, and its not going to go away”

    Rafael -I agree with your take,but would suggest that Chazal’s solution for Am HaAratzus and/or Apikorsus of Talmud Torah in its most pure and undiluted form remains the only path to extricate oneself from such a self-imposed dilemna.OTOH, IMO, it is imperative as R D D Berger has noted, that we must be ready to reject the writings of those authors, whose hashkafic orientation cannot be squared with, minimize, apologize for or R”L, would abrogate basic Yesodei Emunah.

  29. “yet the original source focuses on commandedness and not on personal value.”

    It’s strange that you distinguish between the two. Gadol metzuveh v’oseh mi’mi she’eino metzuveh v’oseh. Sure Dama ben Nesina may be an exception, but so is Bruriah. The clear position of Chazal in this debate is that Jews are qualitatively better than gentiles, at least in this respect.

    In general I find it somewhat unnerving when apologists cite the Tosefta as if it’s some sort of “antidote” to the more misogynistic interpretation. It’s actually just as misogynistic (by today’s standards, not by late antique standards) as the “other” explanations adopted later by Rishonim and Acharonim, and the two are not at all in conflict. V’ha raayah, the Rishonim and Acharonim who adopt both types of explanations clearly did not see any conflict.

    In fact to assume otherwise requires the sort of contortions, however well intentioned, that you see in Rav Henkin:

    “Everyone, then, agrees with Rashi’s second explanation that “shelo asani ishah” refers to a man’s greater obligation in mitzvot. A number of rishonim also cite social reasons in keeping with Rashi’s first explanation, but they, too, accept the second explanation as primary…”

    …Or they’re all the same reason.

  30. Jerry: It’s strange that you distinguish between the two. Gadol metzuveh v’oseh mi’mi she’eino metzuveh v’oseh.

    Gadol metzuveh v’oseh means that the reward is greater, not that the person is greater! See Tosafos.

    It’s actually just as misogynistic

    I agree that it is misogynstic by contemporary standards because it admits to a difference between men and women. However, it is less misogynstic because it does not claim that the difference is one in personal value but merely in circumstance.

    People who reject any difference in role or circumstance between men and women will never accept the halakhic system. We are only in conversation with those who accept that men and women are treated differently by halakhah but are put off by suggestions that women are inferior.

  31. Jerry-FWIW, I do not consider the argument of the Tosefta or the Sugya in Kiddushin that discusses Gadol HaMtzuveh as apologetic, but merely working from the following elementary and axiomatic understanding that the Jewish Peolple’s special covenenant with HaShem is based on their acceptance of mitzvos-which no other nation accepted. While all of mankind is created Btelem Elokim, Klal Yisrael has a special relationship with HaShem that is rooted in Bris Avos and Bris Sinai. That is the hallmark of Kedushah-not some contemporarily articulated notion of superiority based on theories that all differences between people are racist.

  32. So if it’s “SheLo asani goy” — “woop dee do, I’m not a goy, I’m awesome, now I can go back to sleep”, then Yirmiyah has a mussar shmooze for you. If it’s “wow I have the opportunity to go out there and do a lot of mitzvas now”, that’s what we’re looking for.
    ===================================
    Why wouldn’t each of us say, Wow, for whatever reason in his infinite wisdom HKB”H created me as an X with Y resources and z rules, let me now go do the best I can with it. BTW it also goes to the question of what is the correct answer to a goy who asks “does HKB”H want me to convert?” (but of course women, non-cohanim etc. don’t have the choice)
    KT

  33. What do you make of the sources R. Kanefsky quoted in the original article (emphasis added):

    As Rabbi David Avudraham explained the blessing in the 14th century, “and we say this blessing because women are not commanded to perform time-bound mitzvot. A man is likened to a worker who enters the field and plants there with permission. A woman is likened to one who enters the field without permission.

    Or as Rabbi Yehoshua Schwab put it in the 16th century, “we say this blessing daily because the [male] Israelite soul is holier … than that of a woman’s. Although a woman is connected to mitzvot, and is of Israelite seed, her soul is not similar to the soul of a man.

    Or as Rav Kook put it in the 20th century, “and [there is] an innate difference between the soul of man, who acts, and legislates, and conquers and proclaims, and the soul of woman, who is acted upon, is legislated for, is vanquished, and proclaimed about through the actions of men. And great is the obligation of thanksgiving upon each and every man that he was not made a woman.

    Do these fit with your assumption that “different levels of obligation” is unconnected to value/worth? Do these sources trouble you? (Or were they somehow misrepresented?)

  34. Thank you for bringing that to our attention because I could not figure out why R. Yehuda Henkin wrote a responsum on the subject for a blog post R. Yosef Kanefsky was going to write years later. It’s all starting to make sense now.

    You were simply not accurate in starting your piece. No one cared that he denounced it; he wasn’t the first by far. They cared that he stopped saying it. I do not believe that the internet storm had what to do with him dredging that element in his article and had he merely written “tbhis bracha makes me uncomfortable,” no one would much have cared. Don’t blame me for pointing out that you were not accurate or maybe not agreeing with you that his having an issue with the bracha was the problem.

    Because I have discussed it many times before and have read the many writings on the subject. I take it that you believe that it is compatible with halakhah.

    In its “pure” form, almost certainly not. But then a pure egalitarian is unlikely to associate with Orthodox Judaism. A pure anything-else is unlikely to associate with Orthodox Judaism. Life is not about pure but balancing values as you well know. Pretending that because pure egalitarianism is not possible in halacha therefore even accommodating it where accommodation is possible because that somehow undermines halacha is, to my mind, a forced argument. Or at least containing some unstated assumption I do not share. Pure democracy is against halacha too, so now we should abandon democratic principles? The point was wrong.

    You want to make yourself the enemy of all egalitarianism because some of it would be impermissible? Fine. But then have the honesty to not pretend that halacha is mandating your response.

    You are mixing apples and oranges by taking without nuance historical examples that are only marginally relevant and raising them as examples. Hungarians said you can’t give a sermon in the vernacular but RSRH did, so let’s get rid of the mechitzah and eat chazir on Yom Kippur!

    And you, it appears, are not getting my point.

    Earlier you wrote: ” Even if this first step can be accomplished within halakhah, it amounts to the proverbial removal of one of the two Yekum Purkan prayers which was Reform’s initial innovation. We cannot be part of the first step toward a non-halakhic goal.” You most certainly were not talking about “getting rid of the mechitza” or “eating chazir on Yom Kippur.”

    By the logic of your comment, no speaking in the vernacular nor any other innovation that may have been adopted by the non-halachic. See?

    It is not someone, somewhere. It is the very people about whom we are discussing.

    Where do they say it? And even if they do, why would it limit your response to the elements of what they want that are permitted?

  35. emma: Those are secondary explanations, as R. Henkin explained. I have never heard of R. Yehoshua Schwalb before so R. Kanefsky must have had to look really hard to find something he could use. I think the Rav Kook quote needs to be seen in the context of his overall philosophy.

  36. Emma-WADR, R Kanefsky merely engaged in the familiar, but so tiresome technique of cherry picking of sources. I think that all of the sources that you cited illustrate that all three authorities understood that men and women have different spiritual functions and needs, despite their Divinely legislated spiritual equality. Unfortunately, IMO, neither R Kanefsky nor his defenders understand or respect that basic concept. All too often, feminists, IMO, negate to discuss that there are other spiritual personae who also “suffer” from perceived spiritual inadequacies but who are on very high spiritual levels-for example, the Melech Moshiach cannot serve as a witness, and Kohanim have many mitzvos and issurim that have no application whatsoever to a Levi or Yisrael.

  37. Shalom Rosenfeld

    Emma,

    The Tosefta said it’s about obligations. That also fits well with the placement; the brachas are after “lehavchin bein yom” (waking up), but before “pokeach ivrim” (opening your eyes). What clicks on as soon as you’re awake, before you even open your eyes? Your obligations. Must I keep kosher? Shelo asani goy. Must I hear megillah? Shelo asani aved. Men: must I wear tefilin? Shelo asani isha.

    It’s certainly possible that some later have given misogynistic explanations; I really don’t care what they said. The Talmudic reasoning is sound as-is. (Similarly, Rabbi YH Henkin proves that the only clear Rishonic explanation of “kavod hatzibur” vis-a-vis women’s leining/aliyot is that men are obligated in Talmud Torah and it makes them look like slackers. To say “Hazal said it’s not kavod hatzibur because they thought girls had cooties” is a straw-man argument.)

    I don’t know who this R’ Yehoshua Schwab is, so I can’t comment. (But it’s always fun pulling random quotes from rabbis no one’s heard of. As RYBS told Professor Lieberman, there were nincompoops in the Gaonic era too. Moshe Koppel has a quote from some unheard-of rabbi in the Acharonic period who said “even if you have no sense of smell, say the bracha on besamim; the scientists say that’s not so, but what do they know, they say the world’s round when everyone knows it’s flat!” We do no favors to our holy Torah by defending every thing every single post-Talmudic rabbi-type person has said.)

    As for Avudarham, time for Choshen Mishpat 101: “Yored letoch sdei chaveiro.” If the going rate for mowing a half-acre yard is $50, then if random stranger mows my yard without asking, I still have to pay him, but either $50, or his costs, whatever’s less. Whereas if I hire someone to mow my yard, he gets paid whatever’s agreed-upon. The point is there’s more reward; Avudarham was restating “gadol hametzuveh” in pecuniary language. (But if you’re not familiar with the halachic concepts he’s referencing, yes it sounds misogynistic. As R’ Gil said, the solution here is more education.)

  38. HAGTBG: No one cared that he denounced it; he wasn’t the first by far. They cared that he stopped saying it.

    I don’t think that’s true. I cared that he denounced it and called it a Chillul Hashem. See, for example, R. Dov Fischer’s opening paragraph which includes much criticism but also (twice) the denunciation of the blessing: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2011/08/08/who-hast-not-made-me-a-liberal-rabbi/

    >> I take it that you believe that it is compatible with halakhah.

    In its “pure” form, almost certainly not.

    Good, so when you asked how I know that egalitarianism is incompatible with halakhah, that was just a rhetorical argument because you agree with me.

    Pretending that because pure egalitarianism is not possible in halacha therefore even accommodating it where accommodation is possible because that somehow undermines halacha is, to my mind, a forced argument.

    That’s a separate issue. You believe that we should be as egalitarian as possible without crossing the (undefined) line. I see two problems with that. First, the line quickly becomes blurry and people keep pushing it without increasingly forced arguments. We see that already with R. Ethan Tucker’s neo-Conservative group. Second, it is a pedagogical disaster. We are telling women that they are equal and can do whatever they want but then hold them back at some invisible line that they don’t see and which some rabbis say doesn’t exist. You can’t hold that line and you are basically sending women into pure egalitarianism.

    You want to make yourself the enemy of all egalitarianism because some of it would be impermissible? Fine. But then have the honesty to not pretend that halacha is mandating your response.

    I don’t understand where you are getting this. Where in this post do you see a claim that I am only interested in theoretical halakhah and not public policy?

    By the logic of your comment, no speaking in the vernacular nor any other innovation that may have been adopted by the non-halachic.

    That is only if it is, indeed, a first step toward a non-halakhic goal. In RSRH’s case, speaking in the vernacular was not a first step but a fortification against those steps. In this case, the very same people pushing the line are also pushing this as a first step. But this is only about non-halakhic issues. Changing actual halakhah is quite separate, and even there you have to differentiate between different halakhos.

    >> It is not someone, somewhere. It is the very people about whom we are discussing.
    Where do they say it? And even if they do, why would it limit your response to the elements of what they want that are permitted?

    R. Yosef Kanefsky and the R. Avi Weiss/YCT chevra are the same people pushing for women to lead services and be rabbis, and for greater acceptance of homosexuality within Judaism. In his original article, R. Kanefsky denounces contemporary Orthodox Judaism because women can do anything in the secular world; why can’t they do it in religion also?

  39. R. Gil,

    First, I think those explanations suggest that the line between the “different” explanations R. Henkin draws may not be so clear (As Jerry suggested above). But second, let’s say that they are just later accretions. Does that mean they are not important to the meaning of the current practice? That seems like a pretty radical position for a traditionalist.

    Also what about R. Kook’s philosophy makes the quote better? I am aware that R. Kook is not exactly the first to see male/female as mashpia/mekabel, etc. That does not change the fact that he recognizes that, while both may be necessary, it is simply better to be on the male side of all those dichotomies, either materially, spiritually, or both.

    Steve, where in the quoted sources do you see recognition of “spiritual equality”? (I would gladly accept quotes from the same authorities from elsewhere.)

  40. Can somebody please enlighten me who is this 16th century rabbi Yehoshua Schwab?

  41. Shalom Rosenfeld, I accept your point re: entering the field as a way of talking about remuneration – thanks. but don’t you think there is a bit more to the analogy? Why, after all, does the permissionless worker get paid less? Is it not because he did something somewhat transgressive (or at least irregular), or has less of a relationship with the field owner?

  42. Oh, now I get it. Yehoshua Schwab is an ashkenazi incarnation of Yehoshua ibn Shuiab. Cute.

  43. Of course one can also discuss the Avudraham’s opinion as to _why_ women are not commanded in certain mitzvot: subservience to husbands.

  44. And “Or as Rabbi Yehoshua Schwab put it in the 16th century” means that his sefer (Derashot al haTorah) was first printed in the 16th century (Cracow 1573) and the rabbi lived in the 14th century. Even cuter.

  45. Emma asked:

    “Steve, where in the quoted sources do you see recognition of “spiritual equality”? (I would gladly accept quotes from the same authorities from elsewhere.)”

    All three sources, if read carefully and objectively, articulate that men and women have different roles. None come close to denying that man and woman were created in the Divine Image. To the contrary, that is a given that requires no elaboration.

  46. emma: It sounds like you (and R. Kanefsky) are looking for reasons to be offended by the blessing. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for it, which is supported by the earliest sources and the vast majority of commentators. Why look for reasons to reject it?

  47. This is a pretty sorry excuse for a schism.

  48. >Even if this first step can be accomplished within halakhah, it amounts to the proverbial removal of one of the two Yekum Purkan prayers which was Reform’s initial innovation.

    This isn’t true, by the way. As a hobby I’ve been extensively researching this.

  49. See, for example, R. Dov Fischer’s opening paragraph which includes much criticism but also (twice) the denunciation of the blessing: http://www.cross-currents.com/archives/2011/08/08/who-hast-not-made-me-a-liberal-rabbi/

    This would be the same article where the rabbi denies that some women’s sections resemble cages. Anyway that paragraph starts “The article explained why he no longer recites a brakhah formulated by Chazal that dates back to Gemara times.”

    Good, so when you asked how I know that egalitarianism is incompatible with halakhah, that was just a rhetorical argument because you agree with me.

    No, because the fact that pure egalitarianism can not be accommodated is not particularly applicable or relevant.

    I see two problems with that. First, the line quickly becomes blurry and people keep pushing it without increasingly forced arguments. We see that already with R. Ethan Tucker’s neo-Conservative group.

    Valid concern.

    Second, it is a pedagogical disaster. We are telling women that they are equal and can do whatever they want but then hold them back at some invisible line that they don’t see and which some rabbis say doesn’t exist. You can’t hold that line and you are basically sending women into pure egalitarianism.

    This is a slippery slope argument I don’t get. And I assume that you teach your daughter she is on some level equal. I guess that means she is being sent into the arms of pure egalitarianism.

    Its not like pedagogically you give the students a choice. They are taught what you want them taught. And if halacha can be broadened and that is what they would be taught, I am really unclear how that would foster “pure egalitarianism” anymore then allowing bat mitzvot did. You really think if your daughter was taught to say the brachot quietly it would somehow make her a pure egalitarian?

    I assume the “invisible line” is the halacha. I assume the “invisible line” is the point one believes the rationales for allowing something are forced and dishonest (and one no longer needs to use at-least-as-forced guess at the bad motivation of people they never met in order to prohibit something).

    Where in this post do you see a claim that I am only interested in theoretical halakhah and not public policy?

    You are definitely interested in public policy. I just wish the arguments were framed as public policy instead of not.

    In his original article, R. Kanefsky denounces contemporary Orthodox Judaism because women can do anything in the secular world; why can’t they do it in religion also?

    And I assume and was long taught there is a halachic answer to that as R. Kanefsky’s assumption is the exact same one we carry with us in other spheres of our life.

  50. Gil,

    You really should change this line: “Is R. Kanefsky and his synagogue outside the orbit of Orthodoxy”. R Kanefsky’s shul still says the beracha in the part-quiet way discussed in the Bnei Banim, as do many shuls. His piece was about his own personal views. His shul has not changed anything in the liturgy. So I don’t think you should reproduce R. Shafran’s incorrect accusation.

  51. This blessing is nowhere close to my favorite thing to get upset about, actually – at 7 am I don’t think the man mumbling it is thinking much of anything, frankly, and I do like some of the more apologetic explanations for sheasani kirtsono (that women have more “free will” b/c of fewer obligations, etc). Now if you want to talk about “hakahal . . . hem unsheimem” then you might find me a bit more indignant.
    I just question whether the majority explanation is really as neutral as you seem to think, or as separable from the less neutral readings. At this point I suspect that enough ink has been spilled that if you stop your average orthodox jewish male on the street and ask what the bracha is about you would get something about “mitzvah obligation and nothing more,” but I highly highly doubt that would have been the case 100 years ago, say.
    Another thing – once upon a time rabbis were honest about the fact that the traditional position of women was a secondary, negative one. They justified it w/ reference to Eve’s sin, etc. The fact that now most rabbis, in good faith, do not permit themselves to agree is itself evidence of the subtle acceptance of some amount of “egalitarianism” into even your way of thinking…

  52. “The fact that now most rabbis, in good faith, do not permit themselves to agree is itself evidence of the subtle acceptance of some amount of “egalitarianism” into even your way of thinking…”

    emma,

    Isn’t that a good thing?

  53. HAGTBG: that paragraph starts “The article explained why he no longer recites a brakhah formulated by Chazal that dates back to Gemara times.”

    Yes, and in which he twice objects to R. Kanefsky’s denunciation of the blessing.

    No, because the fact that pure egalitarianism can not be accommodated is not particularly applicable or relevant.

    Yet that is what I said, whether you think it is applicable/relevant or not, and you agree with it.

    This is a slippery slope argument I don’t get. And I assume that you teach your daughter she is on some level equal.

    But I do not teach her to perform Jewish rituals in the same manner as men. I teach her that men and women have different roles and obligations in Judaism.

    When rabbis teach communities that women have equal ritual roles, they are preaching “pure” egalitarianism as practiced in the Conservative movement which claims to follow halakhah.

    I assume the “invisible line” is the halacha.

    But the definition of halakhah is a moving target because anyone innovating a practice claims he is following halakhah. The Conservative movement with its “pure” egalitarianism claims to follow halakhah and the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy is not far behind. See my posts where I quote Prof. Daniel Sperber and Prof. Tamar Ross advocating this:
    http://torahmusings.com/2010/04/next-frontier/
    http://torahmusings.com/2010/05/next-frontier-ii/

    You are definitely interested in public policy.

    Absolutely. Every community needs public policy. I don’t know anyone who would deny that.

    And I assume and was long taught there is a halachic answer to that…

    Yes, that men and women have different roles and obligations in Judaism. Which is different than the secular world.

  54. aiwac,
    I think it is a good thing. but R. Gil seems not to.

  55. although, I think it would be a better thing if there were more honesty about the change in attitude.

  56. R Gil responded to the following query and observation:

    “This is a slippery slope argument I don’t get. And I assume that you teach your daughter she is on some level equal.

    But I do not teach her to perform Jewish rituals in the same manner as men. I teach her that men and women have different roles and obligations in Judaism”

    FWIW, that is how we instructed our daughters as well.

  57. r’ gil – “But I do not teach her to perform Jewish rituals in the same manner as men.”

    i am perplexed to what you mean. does she listens to the shofar differently, shake the lulav with a shinuy, sit in the pasul part of the sukah, ? everyone understands that yahadut has many differentiation between the sexes. but when women perform mitzvot (whether commanded to or not) do they not do it the same way?
    “When rabbis teach communities that women have equal ritual roles” – does this straw man really exists? or are you channeling r’ shafran?

  58. emma – to admit this is equal to admitting that outside societal values effects halacha and orthodoxy. of course, this is the opinion of the charedei community not the mo – but maybe the new and improved mo where “the others” are relegated to michutz l’mechana category. that’s the reality of our world.

  59. So it seems to me Gil that it comes down to this:

    You believe the main public policy concern is that some rabbis have an agenda to teach pure egalitarian ideals. They are willing to adopt arguments that are increasingly halachically forced – perhaps even intellectually dishonest – as they go further into their agenda. And while these rabbis might not modify practice as far as their rhetoric and may be quite sincere in trying to balance their halachic and ideological ideals they are only one more cycle towards pure egalitarism being forced into a halachic framework, when, in truth its incompatible. And indeed, their steps can only lead to sin, schism and untruth and therefore must be stopped for the benefit of all Torah Jews.

    I, on the other hand, think that if someone wants something and its not prohibited then it should be allowed, and lets have “the market” (i.e. the community) sort it out. That egalitarian principles can clearly to some degree be accommodated halachically (as they already are) though I am no posek who could say when or where. And I note the intellectual dishonesty present for at least 20 years in the movement against egalitarianism in their questioning the motivation of people they never met, instead of merely assuming people have default assumptions set from nearly every other aspect of their life. Indeed some, like R’ Frimer, have made efforts into saying where the line is, w/o resorting to ad hominems against a group (not that you personally have Gil). If people believe the arguments of the “egals” is wrong, then make the argument, and the market will decide. But lets not make this a schism issue.

  60. Ruvie wrote in part:

    “i am perplexed to what you mean. does she listens to the shofar differently, shake the lulav with a shinuy, sit in the pasul part of the sukah, ? everyone understands that yahadut has many differentiation between the sexes. but when women perform mitzvot (whether commanded to or not) do they not do it the same way”

    Let me attempt to answer this series of questions to a rather self evident premise-our daughters ,of course, listened to the full Tekias Shofar. They shook the lulav on the first day-but only after I did, and sat in the kasher as well as the pasul section of the sukkah. They go to davening on Shabbos and YT, but understand very well that Tefilah BTzibur is the domain of their father. Obviously, the halacha does not assume full blending of all differences between genders in their performance of mitzvos.

  61. Ruvie wrote:

    “emma – to admit this is equal to admitting that outside societal values effects halacha and orthodoxy. of course, this is the opinion of the charedei community not the mo – but maybe the new and improved mo where “the others” are relegated to michutz l’mechana category”

    Ruvie-WADR, it is time to wake up and smell the coffee, especially in light of RAL’s views on Shirah Chadasha type partnership services. For the same reason, I question whether any of the most vocal supporters and proponents of gender based change are viewed as legitimate Baalei Mesorah who are perceived by the overwhelming majority of the committed MO worlds as personae who are the proper addresses for grappling with halachic and hashkafic issues.

  62. “Baal Mesorah” is technical Brisker lingo that isn’t applicable outside of Brisker circles. You can through an entire lifetime of traditional Judaism without dealing with who is and isn’t a “Baal Mesorah,” as it only exists if you’re a Brisker. Ironically, RJBS is certainly no “Baal Mesorah” to the rest of the Briskers.

  63. Moshe Shoshan

    “Obviously, the halacha does not assume full blending of all differences between genders in their performance of mitzvos.”

    This is beyond dispute. However, the exact barrier between mens and women’s observance varies. In some communities women are very makipid to eat only in a kosher sukkah. There are even women who sleep in the sukkah. In others the barely enter the sukkah.
    In some communities women almot never go to shul. In others it is normal to find a number of women behind the mechitza
    during weekday shacharis.

    These are all halakhicly legitimate practices. What appears to be gender bending in some communities is praiseworthy halakhic practice in others.

  64. I think the push by the “morethodoxy” crowd to feminize Orthodox Judaism has to do with the decline of men in our society. Most men aren’t interested in a religion that promotes the latest fads or gets taken over by women. These men will tune out and then opt out.

  65. If I happened to hear someone saying to their friend “Thank God I’m not Shlomo” would I not be offended?

    If some unfair tragedy had just happened to me – lost my job or had a serious illness in the family – I would understand the comment as “Thank God such unfair tragedies have not happened to me”, which would at least carry with it a bit of understanding and sympathy. Under any other circumstances, the comment would certainly be offensive.

    Can people who find such a comment offensive when directed at them think it inoffensive when directed at women?

  66. steve b – i fail to understand some of your distinctions. does it make a difference if you are the first or second one to shale the lulav (i buy my daughter her own so not differentiate her from her brothers)? the only reason a woman would sit on the pasul side if there is no room and men are metzuveh and come first – otherwise they are not fulfilling anything (and not performing any mitzvah and therefore not analogous).

    do not understand:”They go to davening on Shabbos and YT, but understand very well that Tefilah BTzibur is the domain of their father”

    why do you think that tefilah btzibur is the domain of men? specifically, i understand that men only make a minyan but i am not commanded (last i look in the sa) to daven in a minyan or hear kriyat hatorah. why do you think that women -who do not make a minyan- can not have the same fullfilment in davening btzibur? [i believe r’ frimer believes this (from a thread a long time ago) but i did not see the sources (or wasn’t convinced at the time) that this a halakhicaly correct assumption. what does domain of their father mean (maybe you mean you can participate in the public ritual (baal tefilah etc) but does this effect any kiyum of the mitzvah?

  67. Moshe Shoshan wrote in part:

    “This is beyond dispute. However, the exact barrier between mens and women’s observance varies. In some communities women are very makipid to eat only in a kosher sukkah. There are even women who sleep in the sukkah. In others the barely enter the sukkah.
    In some communities women almot never go to shul. In others it is normal to find a number of women behind the mechitza
    during weekday shacharis”

    I would suggest that all of the above merely represent levels of observance of various mitzvos that women were never obligated in, but which they accepted upon themselves.

  68. anonymous -1:56pm was ruvie

  69. Anonymous wrote:

    “why do you think that tefilah btzibur is the domain of men? specifically, i understand that men only make a minyan but i am not commanded (last i look in the sa) to daven in a minyan or hear kriyat hatorah. why do you think that women -who do not make a minyan- can not have the same fullfilment in davening btzibur? [i believe r’ frimer believes this (from a thread a long time ago) but i did not see the sources (or wasn’t convinced at the time) that this a halakhicaly correct assumption. what does domain of their father mean (maybe you mean you can participate in the public ritual (baal tefilah etc) but does this effect any kiyum of the mitzvah”

    I would suggest in all seriousness that you have misstated R Frimer’s view because he has very stringent limitations to what he views as permissible. OTOH, IMO, the sources are very clear-ten men who wish to have Tefilah BTzibur constitute a quorum for Tefilah. Women who attend a normal Tefilah BTzibur get a kiyum for answering Amen, listening to Chazaras HaShatz and Krias HaTorah, but AFAIK, are not obligated to attend, even on YT, when some Rishonim, such as Ramban maintain that Tefilah BTzibur is a Torah obligation. It is IMO incorrect to maintain that women who cannot comprise the basic unit of Tefilah BTzibur have the same Kiyum as a man.

    Baal Mesorah means a Talmid Chacham whose lifetime of learning and Tzidkus has rendered him a person who can link us back to prior generations. It is not a Brisker invention any more than the Brisker usage of the terms Cheftza or Gavra. It is a corollary of the Mishneh in Avos that strongly recommends Aseh Lcha Rav Ukoneh Lcha Chaver Lhistalek Min HaSafek because we all need someone who cannot only guide us in learning and Psak, but to serve as a person who can link us back to prior generations, as well as help us decipher what is either Meta-Halacha or Ratzon HaTorah for what is not explicitly written as opposed to substituting our attitude that if something isn’t explicitly permitted or prohibited , then of course, it is either prohibited or permitted, despite the fact that Psak often requires reconsideration as to whether that which was previously permitted or prohibited should remain so.

  70. Hirhurim: “Gadol metzuveh v’oseh means that the reward is greater, not that the person is greater! See Tosafos.”

    Exactly. And the Tosefta is saying that this is why it’s better to be a man than a woman.

    Hirhurim: “However, it is less misogynstic because it does not claim that the difference is one in personal value but merely in circumstance.”

    It’s only circumstance on an individual level, so this is a meaningless sentence (albeit a clever rhetorical trick). What it means on a categorical level – which is what concerns us in tfilah – is exactly what the Tosefta (and the brachos themselves) says: it’s better to be a man than a woman; better to be a Jew than a gentile, etc.

    You keep trying to kvetch out how it’s just “separate but equal.” That might be bad enough (not necessarily in theory but in practice, where such a principle is ripe for abuse), but the Tosefta, and all the other sources through to the Rishonim and Acharonim don’t even say that. They all say it’s a hierarchy.

    This is how the bracha has been traditionally understood throughout the centuries and this is what it means.

  71. Ruvie wrote:

    “steve b – i fail to understand some of your distinctions. does it make a difference if you are the first or second one to shale the lulav (i buy my daughter her own so not differentiate her from her brothers)? the only reason a woman would sit on the pasul side if there is no room and men are metzuveh and come first – otherwise they are not fulfilling anything (and not performing any mitzvah and therefore not analogous). ”

    Do you buy your daughter, a Kipah, Tzitis, a bechor ( presumably of a CI or Nodah BiYehudah shiur) for the Seder and Tefilin as well so as not to differentiate her from her brothers? I suppose that when your daughter became Bas Mitzvah you bought her a Shas, Rambam and SA as well as other seforim to indicate that her role in learning identical to that of her brothers, as opposed to a Tanach, Siddur and Machzorim. WADR, what a distortion of what it means that women accepted certain Mitzvos Aseh Shehazman Grama. At the most, women accepted the Mitzvah of Daled Minim and the traditional practice as recorded by SA and many Poskim is for a father to recite Al Netilas Lulav, and then let his wife and daughters do so , especially on Yom Rishon of Sukkos, so as to avoid the issue of Matanah Al Mnas Lhachzir, which is a real problem for a person who has not yet fulfilled Netilas Lulav. Obviously, a woman can sit on the Pasul side of a Sukkah because she is not obligated in the same manner as a man-even if she chooses to eat all of her meals in the sukkah or to sleep in the sukkah-practices, especially the latter might implicate considerations of Tznius unless you have a special Sukkah for women only, but which cannot obliterate the fact that women are not obligated to eat in the Sukkah.

  72. >It is not a Brisker invention any more than the Brisker usage of the terms Cheftza or Gavra.

    Pray tell which pre-brisker sefarim have used this term (with sources). And then we can analyze if they used it in the same manner that briskers do.

    I find it ironic that the term baalei hamesorah has no real precedence in the actual mesorah.

  73. Chardal wrote:

    “I find it ironic that the term baalei hamesorah has no real precedence in the actual mesorah”

    How about the first Mishnah in Avos?

  74. OK, an example:
    your 11 year old son says, at the dinner table in front of his mother and sisters (say, 8 and 13 years old). “I’m so glad I’m not a girl because then I would not have as many mitzvos when I grow up and would not have as much chance for schar.” What, if anything, do you say?

  75. SB- btw, I was given several bechers for my bat mitzvah. (wouldn’t have occured to my parents necessarily since we already had more than enough to go around the family but i got them from others). I assume your wife and daughters drink grape-based bevarages at the seder. What do they use?

  76. Jerry wrote:

    “It’s only circumstance on an individual level, so this is a meaningless sentence (albeit a clever rhetorical trick). What it means on a categorical level – which is what concerns us in tfilah – is exactly what the Tosefta (and the brachos themselves) says: it’s better to be a man than a woman; better to be a Jew than a gentile, etc.

    You keep trying to kvetch out how it’s just “separate but equal.” That might be bad enough (not necessarily in theory but in practice, where such a principle is ripe for abuse), but the Tosefta, and all the other sources through to the Rishonim and Acharonim don’t even say that. They all say it’s a hierarchy”

    I guess Zacar Unekevah Brah Osam -Btzelem Elokim has little, if any relevance to the intrinsic equality of man and woman because you are fixated on the public ritual role of man and woman, while ignoring the fact that Kohanim have far more mitzvos of a positive and negative nature than a Levi or Yisrael.

  77. Emma wrote:

    “your 11 year old son says, at the dinner table in front of his mother and sisters (say, 8 and 13 years old). “I’m so glad I’m not a girl because then I would not have as many mitzvos when I grow up and would not have as much chance for schar.” What, if anything, do you say”

    I would reply as follows-men and women are different,but spiritually equal from the days of Brias HaOlam and the fact that you have so many mitzvos does not mean that your sisters are spiritually not your equal in any shape or form

  78. Emma wrote:

    “SB- btw, I was given several bechers for my bat mitzvah. (wouldn’t have occured to my parents necessarily since we already had more than enough to go around the family but i got them from others). I assume your wife and daughters drink grape-based bevarages at the seder. What do they use?”

    Some of us , drink wine, others grape juice, for reasons related solely to being able to experience a Shtiyah Arevah as per RYBS’s view that grape juice, as opposed to wine, provides such a kiyum at the Seder. However, whether it myself or our family members, we all drink from the same sized kos.

  79. ” It is IMO incorrect to maintain that women who cannot comprise the basic unit of Tefilah BTzibur have the same Kiyum as a man.”

    Interesting intuition, but do you have a source for it?

    For a contrary view, see, for example, R, JDB here: http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/downloadPublication.cfm?PublicationID=10204.
    “A woman may satisfy that obligation either by davening privatelyor with a minyan. If she chooses to pray privately’ she is in no way remiss; but if she does pray with147a minyan she enjoys the kiyyum (fulfillment) oftefillah be-tzibbur. Not the least of the advantagesof tefillah be-tzibbur is the assurance that “Theprayer of the community is always heard; even if there are transgressors among them, the Holy One,blessed be He, does not disdain the prayer of themultitude” “

  80. “we all drink from the same sized kos”
    great, so why should a daughter not be given a gift of a ritual object that she will presumably be using anyway?

  81. steve, i see from your respnse that you at least understand the apparent problem with “i’m glad i’m not a girl.” note the hypothetical boy never said women were not “spiritually equal,” but something about the comment inherently carries that connotation, such that you would want to correct the misperception. Do you now see why the bracha carries that connotation to many, even if it is explained as being based solely on level of mitzvah obligation?

  82. More to the point, I’m unclear as to how Gil and others would reconstruct Chazal’s perspective on this bracha.

    After all, anyone who has even dabbled in the study of late antique cultures contemporaneous with Chazal know that these cultures were, to borrow a phrase, “patriarchal societies” that considered women of inferior worth. Persians and Romans were both conspicuous in this regard. Their writings on women, or tangentially touching on women are all read in this light (or variations on it).

    Chazal’s writings, likewise, contain numerous statements that reflect this contextually quite normal worldview. This bracha is in many ways the least of them: just read the Bavli! And yet you wish to deny that Chazal shared this worldview, or that their statements reflect it. This can mean one of three things:

    1) Chazal were light years ahead of their time. And coincidentally their REAL views (when interpreted properly, of course) just so happen to match views that would be considered by much of modern American culture to be eminently acceptable (i.e. that women are not, God Forbid, inferior to men, it’s just that men and women are certainly different from each other; America is a fairly culturally and politically conservative country, and the majority of Americans find this quite acceptable). How convenient! …Actually what you’ve done in this scenario is precisely what you accuse your opponents of doing: trying to halacha into contemporary values.

    2) Chazal may have believed that women are inferior to men, which was the unanimous belief of contemporary societies. But this doesn’t matter because it’s not as if Chazal were really innovating anything. They were preserving traditions that date back to Matan Torah and were ordained by Hashem. Hashem does not consider women inferior to men, Chas V’shalom, so it was only a matter of time before these traditions were understood as they were REALLY meant to be: expressing mere differences between men and women, not a hierarchy. One problem with this analysis is that some of the premises of this scenario are highly suspect (I’m not sure how much of what Chazal say about women can be traced back to Har Sinai (this is a separate question that must weigh the views of the Rishonim on how masorah works), and I certainly would not agree that Chazal did not innovate anything). But more importantly, I find it extremely difficult to believe that the Divine view of women as of exact equal worth to men managed to sneak by all of Chazal, the Rishonim and most Acharonim (even Rav Kook!!!) unbeknownst to them, but Gil Student is somehow able to divine them with ease.

    3) Chazal believed, as did everyone then, that women as a group were inferior to men. This is reflected in the many negative things they say about women. Chazal should not be looked down upon for this, God Forbid, since they simply acted within the cultural boundaries of the time. Surely many of the things we take for granted now will be exposed as lunacy some centuries hence, and we surely would expect to be treated with respect regardless of some future set of standards. Once this is acknowledged (as it must be by any honest reader of texts or student of history), we can turn to a completely different question: how does the halachic process take this into account? Clearly we can’t change things willy-nilly, so what do we do?

    The only question now, Gil, is which one of these have you picked? As it stands, it sounds like you’ve opted for the revisionist option (option 1), which is unfortunate.

  83. Steve: Psukim from Chumash are not relevant to this discussion, of course.

  84. Steve: “Thank God I’m not a gentile or a woman.” Kvetch it however you want.

  85. >Baal Mesorah means a Talmid Chacham whose lifetime of learning and Tzidkus has rendered him a person who can link us back to prior generations.

    Only it does not, and that’s precisely why the term is objectionable (given that it is Brisker lingo). You know the famous RJBS-Abarbanel brouhaha. While to a certain degree such a story does indicate a certain commendable feistiness on the part of the Rav, it is patently absurd to say that a man whom the Mechaber calls a “nesher ha-gadol” isn’t a “Ba’al Mesorah” accordif to your definition, “a Talmid Chacham whose lifetime of learning and Tzidkus has rendered him a person who can link us back to prior generations.”

    Furthermore, by your definition there are far more ba’alei mesorah than frankly the Briskers will acknowledge.

  86. [emma]>steve, i see from your respnse that you at least understand the apparent problem with “i’m glad i’m not a girl.” note the hypothetical boy never said women were not “spiritually equal,” but something about the comment inherently carries that connotation, such that you would want to correct the misperception. Do you now see why the bracha carries that connotation to many, even if it is explained as being based solely on level of mitzvah obligation?

    WADR, I believe those connotations are all in your head. It’s normal and even positive for 11-year old boys to feel superior to girls, and for 11-year old girls to feel superior to boys! These kids don’t think there is a problem with the brochas until an adult tells them there is. I believe it’s the same way with the adults – the more people (especially rabbis who should be defending and explaining Judaism) keep saying the brochas are insulting, the more other people (i.e. the laity) start believing it.

  87. canuck, my point is that steve seems to think something about “i’m glad i’m not a girl” requires a response of “the fact that you have so many mitzvos does not mean that your sisters are spiritually not your equal in any shape or form.” if it’s really so innocuous why not just “that’s nice dear?”

  88. Jerry posed this interrogatory to R Gil and commented:

    “1) Chazal were light years ahead of their time. And coincidentally their REAL views (when interpreted properly, of course) just so happen to match views that would be considered by much of modern American culture to be eminently acceptable (i.e. that women are not, God Forbid, inferior to men, it’s just that men and women are certainly different from each other; America is a fairly culturally and politically conservative country, and the majority of Americans find this quite acceptable). How convenient! …Actually what you’ve done in this scenario is precisely what you accuse your opponents of doing: trying to halacha into contemporary values.

    2) Chazal may have believed that women are inferior to men, which was the unanimous belief of contemporary societies. But this doesn’t matter because it’s not as if Chazal were really innovating anything. They were preserving traditions that date back to Matan Torah and were ordained by Hashem. Hashem does not consider women inferior to men, Chas V’shalom, so it was only a matter of time before these traditions were understood as they were REALLY meant to be: expressing mere differences between men and women, not a hierarchy. One problem with this analysis is that some of the premises of this scenario are highly suspect (I’m not sure how much of what Chazal say about women can be traced back to Har Sinai (this is a separate question that must weigh the views of the Rishonim on how masorah works), and I certainly would not agree that Chazal did not innovate anything). But more importantly, I find it extremely difficult to believe that the Divine view of women as of exact equal worth to men managed to sneak by all of Chazal, the Rishonim and most Acharonim (even Rav Kook!!!) unbeknownst to them, but Gil Student is somehow able to divine them with ease.

    3) Chazal believed, as did everyone then, that women as a group were inferior to men. This is reflected in the many negative things they say about women. Chazal should not be looked down upon for this, God Forbid, since they simply acted within the cultural boundaries of the time. Surely many of the things we take for granted now will be exposed as lunacy some centuries hence, and we surely would expect to be treated with respect regardless of some future set of standards. Once this is acknowledged (as it must be by any honest reader of texts or student of history), we can turn to a completely different question: how does the halachic process take this into account? Clearly we can’t change things willy-nilly, so what do we do?

    The only question now, Gil, is which one of these have you picked? As it stands, it sounds like you’ve opted for the revisionist option (option 1), which is unfortunate”

    Barruch HaShem, R Gil chose Option 1.

    I would suggest that option 3 should and can be rejected preliminarily and easily because it rejects the idea that Chazal were and remain great leaders in our times, as opposed to being merely the leaders of their generation. Option 1, which is not revisionist, works from the premise that Chazal were fully aware of how women were treated within the Roman world , viewed Rome as reflecting a cultural view that was not only abhorrent , but decadent and rejected both the Greco Roman hedonistic view of relations between the genders as well as the Christian puritanical views of marital relations. Assuming that Chazal’s view of women merely mirrored Roman mores cannot be reconciled with the fact that the so called benevolent rulers of Rome not only destroyed Bayis Sheni, but which actively sought during Hadrian’s reign to uproot the power of TSBP . That strikes me as the actions of a politically and culturally intolerant power structure, which had no sympathies for how the Tanaim viewed the world and the role of the Jewish People therein. No wonder that because of his comments about the values of Roman civilization and its technological and engineering achievements, R Shimon Bar Yochai was forced to live in a cave.For more on how Roman intellectuals such as Seneca and Tacitus viewed Judaism, see the article in the most recent issue of Azure on the roots of anti Semitism.

    Obviously, one can find vast differences between Rambam and Raavad ( or Ramban) on the latter issue, but to claim that Chazal’s views simply mirrored that of either Rome or Persia requires proof.

    Option 2, for very different reasons, strikes me as problematic because the Torah simply proclaims spiritual equality between man and woman in terms of their being created Btzelem Elokim, but Chazal understood that there were gender based differences that were best formulated in the sugyos that deal with Mitzvos Aseh Shehazman Grama and elsewhere in Shas that focus on gender based differences run counter to contemporary notions of equality, but fail to take proper cognizance of the fact that Chazal sought to preserve the Tzelem Elokim of man and woman by preserving their differences instead of claiming that no such differences existed.

  89. for the record, when i was a kid i thought the biggest problem with these brochas was that the men’s one was printed in normal print in my siddur, while the women’s version was in small type. that made me feel marginal more than the content.

  90. Emma wrote:

    “for the record, when i was a kid i thought the biggest problem with these brochas was that the men’s one was printed in normal print in my siddur, while the women’s version was in small type. that made me feel marginal more than the content”

    WADR,the same erroneous argument could be made about the way that the text of Krias Shema is printed in many Siddurim.

  91. Steve,

    So basically Chazal hated the Romans for destroying Bayis Sheni, and expressed this hatred by rejecting the Persian view (which was also the view of every other culture known to them) that women were of inferior worth to men. Right? And the WAY in which they expressed this was…by writing lots of negative things about women?… Wait, that can’t be right…

    Well lucky for Chazal their words can be kvetched into Steve’s Overarching Theory of Everything.

  92. Yes, silly 11 year old Emma. She should have realized that typographers vary font size in many places.

  93. Canuck-Emma and I don’t generally agree, but I will say that Am HaAartuzus of any form should not be tolerated, especially by children who think it is cute. We have very good friends who we visit for Shabbos in fairly Charedi community, and I took exception to their almost categorical use of Bnei Cham at their Shabbos table for a certain ethnic group by mentioning that all of mankind was created BTzelem Elokim.

  94. >[emma] canuck, my point is that steve seems to think something about “i’m glad i’m not a girl” requires a response of “the fact that you have so many mitzvos does not mean that your sisters are spiritually not your equal in any shape or form.” if it’s really so innocuous why not just “that’s nice dear?”

    I prefer the second answer: “that’s nice dear.” Children have no issue with a boy saying “i’m glad i’m not a girl” – it’s obvious to them that that is a reasonable statement. Adults seem to have a harder time understanding this.

  95. Rafael Araujo

    “Once this is acknowledged (as it must be by any honest reader of texts or student of history), we can turn to a completely different question: how does the halachic process take this into account? Clearly we can’t change things willy-nilly, so what do we do?”

    Please take a look at what Rabbi D. Sperber is proposing to do. That is the future of “change things”. Once egalitarianism is accepted as a determing principal in halochic practice and minhag, what the future holds is no less than a complete overhaul of Yiddishkeit. I see that many here believe that there will be a wall, that somehow LWO will hit and not move beyond. I say: rubbish! We see in the society around us that when egalitarianism and other modern rights movements, like homosexual rights, get moving, there is no stopping them in the changes made. I mean, who in their right mind would expect gay marriage to be legal in Canada, and few states 25 years ago?

    Let’s face it: conservative religious values in Western society are quickly becoming the banner held aloft by a shrinking minority of Orthodox Jews, RW Catholics, RW Muslims, and the like.

  96. By the way, Steve’s “premise” is, of course, nowhere stated by Chazal. Ever. Or by any Rishon or Acharon. But Steve is convinced, so end of story.

    It should be noted, of course, that not only do Chazal not once connect the evil of the Roman caesars to general Graeco-Roman treatment of women, but that this tenuous logic REALLY falls apart in the Bavli. Yaakov Elman makes two important points in this respect: 1) Most Amoraim (including the most influential ones like Rava and Shmuel) had great respect for Persian culture, and 2) Chazal’s treatment of women is very Persian throughout the amoraic period, but by the end of the amoraic period is actually MUCH WORSE than contemporary Persian norms, since the Persians were forced to evolve somewhat the social status and roles of women in light of changing circumstances. Those circumstances did not really affect the Bavli’s sages, so their views stayed the same.

  97. Jerry wrote:

    “So basically Chazal hated the Romans for destroying Bayis Sheni, and expressed this hatred by rejecting the Persian view (which was also the view of every other culture known to them) that women were of inferior worth to men. Right? And the WAY in which they expressed this was…by writing lots of negative things about women”

    WADR, that was a distortion of my comment on the issue. The facts are that Chazal rejected both the hedonistic and puritanical ethos of Rome and the Christian world. Obviously, you reject the notion of spiritual equality with a differentiation of function between the genders or view the same as having a negative connotation about women.

  98. Steve: “but to claim that Chazal’s views simply mirrored that of either Rome or Persia requires proof.”

    …Which has been extensively provided by scholars whose works you adamantly refuse to read. Yaakov Elman is just one Orthodox example.

  99. Jerry wrote in part:

    “It should be noted, of course, that not only do Chazal not once connect the evil of the Roman caesars to general Graeco-Roman treatment of women, but that this tenuous logic REALLY falls apart in the Bavli.”

    Really? How about the relevant passages in the Bavli in Shabbos and AZ about how R Shimon Bar Yochai viewed Roman civilization and the rejection of the Torah by all of the nations of the world?

  100. thanks anonymous 🙂

  101. Steve: I wasn’t criticizing your approach, as much as agreeing with emma that kids don’t generally need elaborate explanations. The response you gave to your friends (who use an un-PC term) was very good.

  102. Steve: “The facts are that Chazal rejected both the hedonistic and puritanical ethos of Rome and the Christian world.”

    This is a typically (for Steve) broad, sweeping statement that has several components parts, each of which, as you say, “requires proof” (which you do not, of course, bother to provide).

    Some questions: Who is “Rome”? Is “Rome” one person? Define “hedonistic”? Define “Christian”? Are “Christian” and “Roman Catholic” synonymous? Which Christians were “puritanical” and when? Define “puritanical”? Who is “Chazal”? Is “Chazal” one person? When, where, and how did “Chazal” reject “Rome’s” “hedonism,” and “Christianity’s” “puritanism”?

    I’d be genuinely shocked if you could answer even one of these questions (with something other than a typically Steve-esque “WADR your questions are all besides the point”), but suffice it to say this hypothesis is just completely ludicrous and based on myriad false assumptions and misinformation.

    All that aside, of course, I’m not sure exactly sure what hedonism and puritanism has to do with the worth of women relative to men. You somehow seem to think the connection is obvious.

  103. Jerry-please don’t write or attempt to silence differing views with apologetics about how Rome viewed Chazal and vice versa from an academic POV.

    I have read R Ellman’s fascinating articles in Chakirah, but IMO, they have a basic flaw-they attempt to minimize the uniqueness and importance of TSBP in its purest sense before Chasimas HaTalmud by engaging in what can be best called comparative religious study of Persian norms,etc. That is nice from a historian’s POV, but utterly irrelevant to how a Jew views TSBP and its transmission. That being the case, one can easily concede that Jewish life in Persia was far different than under Roman rule.

    However, the so-called enlightened Roman society and intellectuals viewed basic mitzvos such as Shabbos and Bris Milah as abhorrent to their view of mankind. The bottom line was that Roman persecutions, especialy under Hadrian, were a clear and present danger to the continuation of TSBP.

  104. steve b. – “It is IMO incorrect to maintain that women who cannot comprise the basic unit of Tefilah BTzibur have the same Kiyum as a man” why? at least show me sources that this assumption is totally incorrect. i do not know – you may be right – that MEN have a torah obligation to daven in a minyan ( i guess when the sa write “yistadel adam” to pray in a minyan he didn’t know of this torah obligation). you are stating that i some cases women perform the same mitzvot (ones that they are not obligated to do ) differently – but the examples you state do not work. i am challenging your assumption. you misread or misunderstood my statement about r’ frimmer – reread.

  105. Steve: Do you know who R. Shimon bar Yochai is?

  106. Steve, I’m glad to hear you’ve found the “basic flaw” in all of Yaakov Elman’s scholarship. Considering that you can’t even spell his name correctly, I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I highly doubt your competence to evaluate his entire oeuvre in a single sentence.

    Of course Elman is just quoting data. You can’t wish away data.

    When it comes to all the negative things Chazal (especially in the Bavli) say about women, these are data points. They are facts. Dan l’chaf zchus demands that we understand these as INEVITABLE products of unanimous social norms. There aren’t really any other alternatives that are not sad apologetics or revisionism.

  107. jerry,
    it should be obvious that you and steve are not going to stop talking past each other. i would recommend dropping this before it gets too far afield and hoping that gil or someone else actually responds to your original questions.

    ruvie,
    i challenged steve on the same assumption, and brought a source to the contrary, and got no response. i actually think these off-the-cuff assumptions are the most intersting part of this discussion (like r. gil’s “gut feeling” re: women and beis medrash style learning). these unsupported instincts are what drives this debate, on both sides…

  108. Jerry wrote in typical fashion:

    “Some questions: Who is “Rome”? Is “Rome” one person? Define “hedonistic”? Define “Christian”? Are “Christian” and “Roman Catholic” synonymous? Which Christians were “puritanical” and when? Define “puritanical”? Who is “Chazal”? Is “Chazal” one person? When, where, and how did “Chazal” reject “Rome’s” “hedonism,” and “Christianity’s” “puritanism”

    WADR,this is not an academic seminar, or a series of interogatories, but when I use the terms Rome, I use the same to mean the Roman Empire, its leadership and its intellectuals as the dominant political regime of its time. I am well aware of the differences between such emperors as Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, but R Shimon Bar Yochai’s comments strike me as a trenchant critique of Roman culture, which incorporated much of Greek influence without creating its own cultural legacy other than some huge buildings and a very limited sense of democracy that gradually dissipated after the assasination of Julius Caesar.

    I use the term Christianity to mean Pauline Christianity, and its rapprochement with Rome, and divisions into the RCC and Byzantine branches.

    Hedonism clearly refers to the often expressed views of women as sexual objects to be exploited without any consideration of any moral implications and puritanism as viewing physical intimacy as an immoral act, which the RCC enshrined in its view of celibacy, which it still views as the highest possible moral state. I use the term Chazal collectively, as traditionally understood, to be the Helegele Tanaim and Amoraim, and their views expressed in the Talmud and Midrashim.

  109. Jerry wrote”

    “Steve: Do you know who R. Shimon bar Yochai is”

    What a question-Of course, R Shimon Bar Yochai was one of the Gdolei HaTanaim and considered by many to be the author of the Zohar. Next question please.

  110. Jerry wrote:

    “Steve, I’m glad to hear you’ve found the “basic flaw” in all of Yaakov Elman’s scholarship. Considering that you can’t even spell his name correctly, I’m sure you’ll forgive me if I highly doubt your competence to evaluate his entire oeuvre in a single sentence”

    Once again, we see that academics express the intellectually intolerant POV that deems anyone other than from within their own orientation as lacking the “competence” to offering a critical perspective.

  111. steve b – “I suppose that when your daughter became Bas Mitzvah you bought her a Shas, Rambam and SA ….”
    my boys received a yad to lain with (designed by their mother). my daughter received candlesticks (designed by her mother and multiple times costlier – but my daughter lained (to our surprise – my wife is not a wtg goer) with her brother’s yad. maybe i should have given the boys candlesticks. a becher she has as do the boys.

    the point is that the observant of said mitzvot are the same – which you contested (lulav is an issue of matanah but if that is a problem so are the lulavs in all the shuls that people borrow to use – but the kiyum and the ritual are exactly the same – although there maybe a theoretical barrier on matanah).

    jerry – thank you for your insights (especially historical) please keep posting.
    steve b – may i suggest you read some books on history for the first 600 years of the common era? you can rely on the tales of the midrash for your information. i would suggest shaye cohen – from macabees to the mishnah or a more recent excellent analysis (actually though provoking)- schwartz -Imperialism and Jewish Society, 200 BCE to 640 CE -discusses your topic of Hellenistic and Roman-Byzantine rule extensively.

  112. Steve: “What a question-Of course, R Shimon Bar Yochai was one of the Gdolei HaTanaim and considered by many to be the author of the Zohar.”

    Well there’s your answer, then.

  113. Ruvie asked the following question:

    ““It is IMO incorrect to maintain that women who cannot comprise the basic unit of Tefilah BTzibur have the same Kiyum as a man” why? at least show me sources that this assumption is totally incorrect. i do not know – you may be right – that MEN have a torah obligation to daven in a minyan ( i guess when the sa write “yistadel adam” to pray in a minyan he didn’t know of this torah obligation). you are stating that i some cases women perform the same mitzvot (ones that they are not obligated to do ) differently – but the examples you state do not work. i am challenging your assumption. you misread or misunderstood my statement about r’ frimmer – reread”

    A ninyan is defined as consisting of ten males. I think that we agree that even under this fairly universal definition, one can differentiate between weekdays and YT, which Ramban defines Tefilah BTzibur as one of the characteristics of Mikraei Kodesh. That being the case, merely because women accepted some positive time bound mitzvos does not mean that they are on the same level as men in terms of their kiyum-they certainly can answer Amen and gain a Kiyum of Talmud Torah in listening to Krias HaTorah as Talmud Torah Brabim, but assuming that women voluntarily assumed to only eat or sleep in the Sukkah requires proof that such conduct was accepted in the times of Chazal and Rishonim.

  114. Ruvie wrote:

    “the point is that the observant of said mitzvot are the same – which you contested (lulav is an issue of matanah but if that is a problem so are the lulavs in all the shuls that people borrow to use – but the kiyum and the ritual are exactly the same – although there maybe a theoretical barrier on matanah).”

    FWIW, I would suggest that today, with the advent of arbah minim sales in almost every frum community, reliance on a borrowed lulav makes no sense for the average person who can purchase a set of Arbah Minim and thereby fulfil the Torah obligation of Lachem.

  115. Jerry wrote in part:

    “All that aside, of course, I’m not sure exactly sure what hedonism and puritanism has to do with the worth of women relative to men. You somehow seem to think the connection is obvious”

    In all seriousness, Chazal championed marriage as an institution that required communal approval and protection of the wife, mutual respect and viewed physical intimacy neither as the hooking up that was characteristic of Roman culture nor as disgusting which was and remains a puritanical view that even influenced the views of Rambam. Why else would we have works such as Igeres HaKodesh and Baalei HaNefesh, which clearly advocate the beauty of marital intimacy, as opposed to the extremes of either unbridled hedonism or a view that marital intimacy is a physically disgusting act?

  116. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg)

    Any cursory look at the history of the Siddur shows how many times it has been edited and re-written on the basis of ideological fads. The Kabbalists, starting with the AR”Y in Tsefat, did it. There was a plague of overzealous wannabe grammarians in Ashkenaz who did it, starting with R’ Shabtai Sofer. And the Western Sefardic (Spanish-Portuguese) nusahh was gone over *again* after Shabbetai Tsevi in order to *de*-kabbalafy it.

    You don’t even need to be an academic. The GR”Aniks who publish the Eizor Eiliyahu siddurim documented much of this in their footnotes.

    Liturgical change has happened over and over again — we just don’t notice it most of the time because after all it’s the winners who write the prayerbooks.

  117. Rafael Araujo

    “Of course Elman is just quoting data. You can’t wish away data.”

    With all due respect to Prof. Elman, I really don’t see how he is any different from the perspectives expressed at JTS. Reading his writings and Jacob Neusner’s, I don’t see the difference.

  118. Jerry wrote:

    “Steve: Psukim from Chumash are not relevant to this discussion, of course”

    Evidently, RYBS felt otherwise.

  119. Steve: “I use the same to mean the Roman Empire, its leadership and its intellectuals as the dominant political regime of its time.”

    You need to read books. “The Roman Empire” as you use it here is widely considered incoherent. Legislators in Rome had very little to do with how provinces were administered, and the provinces themselves mostly reflect the common law traditions of their respective peoples.

    What is “its time”? As far as the rabbinic period is concerned, it saw broad chunks of time when Rome was actually a junior power. It also saw the crumbling of “the Empire” and its split in two. Depending on how far you wish to extent the rabbinic period (does Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer count, for example? Or Midrash HaGadol?), the rabbinic period also saw the rise of Islam and the implosion of the Persian Empire.

    You talk about “Roman culture” as if it’s a monolith but, as noted, this could mean a hundred different things depending on when or where you’re talking about.

    Your use of “Roman Empire” here is, as I suspected, incoherent.

    Assuming your definition of “hedonism” (which, I note, seems to be precisely the opposite of, say, Epicurean hedonism) where do you see this in the ancient world? I will only accept precise textual citations.

    You seem to have defined “Christianity” as “Pauline Christianity.” I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why you have done this, given everything we have learned in the last couple of decades about early Christianity.

    Even “Pauline Christianity” seems to you to mean Roman Catholicism. You also mention the Orthodox Church. Aside from the fact that you’ve excluded almost every important church in the East, including the Assyrian Church, all streams of Oriental Orthodoxy, etc. You also seem to have no idea that these are, in many ways, mutually incompatible models – especially when it comes to issues like women, asceticism, celibacy, etc.

    You define “Chazal” as every single rabbinic figure in, as you say, “the Talmud [sic] and Midrashim.” I’ll be charitable and assume that you don’t mean the late midrashim. I’ll even spot you the earliest, pre-Churban tannaim. You are then talking about every rabbinic figure over the course of nearly 600 years, wherever they may have lived. And you say that this monolith has precisely one position on this matter (which also just so happens to be your own position).

    Looks like it’s time to take emma’s advice.

  120. Steve Brizel on August 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    who wrote that comment?

  121. emma – i agree – these assumptions are questionable and leaves room to permit the permitted when appropriate but people are trying to draw the line in the sand in the wrong places and this is leading many mo to distrust many of its “rabbis” (as well as the rise of scholarship by religious folks that contradict them). lets hope gil will venture in and answer some of the questions raised recently.

    steve b – i forgot why i wanted to paste this quote but it was n reference to something you said about separate but equal or both equal in tzelom elokim: based on a mishnah in sotah: mavin yavin
    צוו חכמים שלא ילמד אדם את בתו תורה מפני שרוב הנשים אין דעתם מכוונת להתלמד אלא הן מוציאות דברי תורה לדברי הבאי לפי עניות דעתן

  122. jerry – i will take option 3 for 500 dollars please

  123. Jerry-let me respond to your points in the following fashion:

    1)The Roman Empire is hardly an incoherent expresssion.I consider Rome’s time period as an empire to be at least from the campaigns against Carthage until the conquest of Rome by the barbarians.How each little province engaged in legislation, etc is irrelevant to how the Empire as a political force conquered vast portions of North Africa and Europe and how it engaged in what can only be considered religious persecution on a fairly systematic and despotic level during the reign of Hadrian against R Akiva & Co.

    2)Rome was hardly a junior power. Here and there local populations resisted its initial rule such as in Gaul, Germany and Parthia. Its rule stretched throughout North Africa, Europe and what is now the UK. The Tanaim, especially R Akiva & Co., saw Rome at its most oppressive and powerful and the Amoraim saw Rome decline and crumble.

    3)Let’s be real-Roman culture as expressed by its intellectuals cannot be dismissed as easily as you seem intent on doing. WADR, why are not the views of Seneca and Tacitus worthy of being considered mainstream unless one wishes to whitewash their openly anti Semitic views and give them a revisionist spin?

    4) How one can analyze early Christianity without the crucial supercessionist role of Paul of Tarsus misses the boat.

    5) Obviously, the Tanaim and Amoraim are the classical definition of Chazal. I would agree that Midrashim can easily be divided as early and late, and would accept a working time period from Pre Churban to Chasimas HaTalmud. Why do you discount the importance of R Shimon Bar Yochai,and his views on Roman civilization and culture, regardless of the view that one takes on his authorship of the Zohar?

    6) Like it or not RCC elevated ascetism and downplayed physical intimacy. The roles of the Greek Orthodox and Assyrian branches may be relevant for historians, but all differences between Judaism as we know it today, especially with respect to the need to observe Mitzvos, and Christianity have to be traced to Paul’s views.

    7) I consider hedonism in its Egyptian and Cyrenaic definition ( see this link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonism#Epicureanism) , to be two of the main ideological bases of legitimization of a sexual ethic that views “anything goes as long as noone gets hurt”. The fact that Epicurean hedonism is defined in almost completely contradictory terms is irrelevant for this discussion. WADR, Roman society was hardly known for its Chesed.

  124. Joseph Kaplan

    I have been following the discussion here and on a listserv about shelo asani isha. I can be convinced that the reason for the bracha, at least originally, was because of the relative number of mitzvot peopelk are onbligated to perform. What I do not understand is the negative format of the bracha, especially in light of the other two categories in the series — goy and eved — which are certainly categories who are looked down upon for reasons other than the number of mitzvot they are obligated in. (As R. Frimer noted elsewhere, neither of those categories has kedushat Yisrael which means, as I understood him, something different from mitzvah obligation, though he can correct me if I misinterpreted him, though i think not).

    It seems so obvious to me that a positive formulation would connote the intended meaning without the negative connotation (i.e., thank you God for making me me with all that entails vs. thank you God for not making me him or her). But I fear that this is an issue that cannot be resolved by argument (as the discussion so far amply demonstrates). You either hear it or you don’t. To me (and others) it’s simple, almost axiomatic, that negative=pejorative; to the other side, it’s simple and axiomatic that it doesn’t. Another hundred comments or even another 100 posts will not enable one side to hear what the other does.

    I can live with this. If you don’t hear it and you don’t have a pejorative thought in your head, go ahead and do weaht you do; it won’t effect what I think of you. But what truly bothers me is the vehemence shown against those who hear as I do. As far as I can tell, no one wants to do away with thanking God every morning for making us what, in His goodness, He made us — Jewish, free, male, female with all those categories connote. All we differ about is how to formulate that thanks. How that disagreement leads sensible people like Gil to want to write others out of Orthodoxy is both disturbing and puzzling (although, I note, that it is not puzzling about some people who are not nearly as sensible).

  125. Ruvie commented:

    “steve b – i forgot why i wanted to paste this quote but it was n reference to something you said about separate but equal or both equal in tzelom elokim: based on a mishnah in sotah: mavin yavin
    צוו חכמים שלא ילמד אדם את בתו תורה מפני שרוב הנשים אין דעתם מכוונת להתלמד אלא הן מוציאות דברי תורה לדברי הבאי לפי עניות דעת
    How about quoting other Tanaim who clearly disagreed with this Tana?

  126. Anonymous ben Anonymous

    As many have noted, the three “shelo asani” blessings reflect real halachic differentiations between Jew and gentile, freeman and slave, man and woman. Discomfort with those differentiations has a long history, reflected for example in the early Christians’ attack on precisely those three differentiations, in precisely the same order (Galatians 3:28). Thus, R. Kanefsky’s critique of the “shelo asani” blessings based on egalitarianism is a fundamental departure from traditional Jewish hashkafa.

    But there is another point, which has not received sufficient attention. A concept can be expressed nicely, or offensively. Consider a small child who receives a toy truck for his birthday. Which reaction is better: (1) “Thank you, thank you, I love this toy, I love it!” or (2) “Ha ha, I got a truck and my brother didn’t!” I think most parents would (or should) teach their children that option 2 is offensive and improper. Can’t we thank God for giving us more opportunities to perform mitzvot, without pointing out that others do not have those opportunities? After all, cohanim do not say “shelo asani yisrael”; they say “asher kideshanu bikdushato shel aharon.”

  127. Joseph Kaplan-I have heard RHS suggest that the term “Goy” refers only to Klal Yisrael and the usage of the term in Birkos HaShachar is a misnomer. I agree with that aspect of Anonymous ben Anonymous’s recent comment re the long origin of those who are discomforted by Halachic differentiations such as Jew and Gentile, man and woman, and freeman and slave-which are various ways of saying Mtzuveh vAino Mtzuveh, terms that one experiences throughout the Talmud, Rishonim and Acharonim. With respect to the second part of his comment, I would argue that the Nusach of every Birkas HaMitzvah contains praise to HaShem for commanding us with a mitzvah in the same manner that Birkas HaTorah is considered by R Velvel ZL as praise for Torah.

  128. Emma wrote in part:

    “steve, i see from your respnse that you at least understand the apparent problem with “i’m glad i’m not a girl.” note the hypothetical boy never said women were not “spiritually equal,” but something about the comment inherently carries that connotation, such that you would want to correct the misperception. Do you now see why the bracha carries that connotation to many, even if it is explained as being based solely on level of mitzvah obligation”

    At the risk of reiterating something in this thread, I have a keen dislike of Am HaAratzus, even and especially when presented by kids, and maintain that spiritual equality has absolutely nothing to do with how gender based divisions are applied in Halacha. I realize that academics and others may disagree and consider Chazal to be mysoginist R”L or worse, but I maintain that spiritual equality as a person created Btzelem Elokim has nothing to do with a person’s functional role as man, woman , Kohen or Melech HaMoshiach, and was assumed so as a given to the point that it needed no elaboration or defense.

  129. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “It seems so obvious to me that a positive formulation would connote the intended meaning without the negative connotation (i.e., thank you God for making me me with all that entails vs. thank you God for not making me him or her).”

    Let me pose another observation. Ramban in Shmos with respect to the Aseres HaDibros suggests that Mitzvos Aseh represent Ahavas HaShem and Mitzvos Lo Saaseh represent Yiras HaShem, which are equally necessary. Perhaps, and this either legitimately can be seen as warranting further inquiry or be viewed as poor drush, one can explain the divergent Nusachos by claiming Shelo Asani Goy and Shelo Asani Ishah represent Yiras HaShem and Sheaasni Kirtzono represents Ahavas HaShem, as defined by Ramban.

  130. Steve b – I agree but I quoted the rambam who pakens this way…. Based on the mishnah- and one wonders why our daughters were bereft of Torah for so long? Would you view the rambam”s view of womens capabilities in learning to be true? Do you think its limited to limud torah or generally all subjects – if not why not?Is it fair to judge him on today’s standards…. Or should we disregard current views and data because chazal and tsbp concluded differently?

  131. Ruvie asked:

    ” agree but I quoted the rambam who pakens this way…. Based on the mishnah- and one wonders why our daughters were bereft of Torah for so long? Would you view the rambam”s view of womens capabilities in learning to be true? Do you think its limited to limud torah or generally all subjects – if not why not?Is it fair to judge him on today’s standards…. Or should we disregard current views and data because chazal and tsbp concluded differently”

    Excellent comment and question. Look at it this way, when the BY movement was endorsed by the CC, the Gerrer Rebbe and R Chaim Ozer, Zicronam Livracha,it was noted that prior generations of women did not need a formal Jewish education. I would suggest that this rationale can be understood on the well known statement of RHS that which was previously permitted or prohibited does not always remain so, especially when one is dealing with a changed metzius. The Rambam’s psak based on the Mishnah in Sotah may have very well at one time been correct, but as in many other cases, all of which arise on a case by case basis, Poskim and Talmidei Chachamim look at the metzius in their times as well and consider whether the prior Psak should remain in place or not. That is one of the inherently dynamic aspects of TSBP.

  132. [Joseph Kaplan]>To me (and others) it’s simple, almost axiomatic, that negative=pejorative

    That doesn’t make sense, to me at least. If you liked the prayer, you wouldn’t care about the negative statement.

    >I can live with this. If you don’t hear it and you don’t have a pejorative thought in your head, go ahead and do weaht you do; it won’t effect what I think of you. But what truly bothers me is the vehemence shown against those who hear as I do. As far as I can tell, no one wants to do away with thanking God every morning for making us what, in His goodness, He made us — Jewish, free, male, female with all those categories connote. All we differ about is how to formulate that thanks

    I agree that vehement language isn’t helpful. But, perhaps if you hear something pejorative in the prayer, the problem is with your perception. Aren’t Jews supposed to follow the halacha, even if they don’t understand it? If each rabbi has the discretion to modify the liturgy, where will it end?

  133. Joseph Kaplan

    “That doesn’t make sense, to me at least. If you liked the prayer, you wouldn’t care about the negative statement.”

    I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense to you. The idea of the prayer as expressed by many of those supporting it is that it means to be positive. Okay, let’s accept that. But it’s expressed in the negative. And I do care about that because I don’t want to express something negatively if the meaning (which requires an explanation since it’s certainly not obvious on its face) if its meaning is positive. That’s not how I speak and that’s not how I taught my kids to speak.

    “I agree that vehement language isn’t helpful. But, perhaps if you hear something pejorative in the prayer, the problem is with your perception. Aren’t Jews supposed to follow the halacha, even if they don’t understand it? If each rabbi has the discretion to modify the liturgy, where will it end?”

    We’re dealing with liturgical language that has been pretty flexible as others have pointed out. We’re not talking about eating on Yom Kippur or lighting a fire on Shabbat. Where will it end? In this case, my answer (Im sure not yours) is with people who are a bit more sensitive about the language they use and how it effects others. Pretty good result as I see it. I don’t think it will result in eating on YK and fires on Shabbat.

  134. To Joseph Kaplan 7:25 pm
    ” I don’t think it will result in eating on YK and fires on Shabbat.”
    The first liturgical change that the Reform movement made in Germany could not have been more “innocent” or “trivial”. All that changed was the “simple” omission of the second Yekum Purkan on Shabbat.
    Once you open the door to change even the tiniest crack, you have no way of knowing how huge the resulting breach may eventually become.

  135. Mair Zvi,

    The liturgy has changed so frequently and so drastically prior to the Reform movement that your example is probably merely an outlier.

    Steve,

    Almost nothing you writ about the Romans and early Christians is right. At all. You can feel free to write whatever you wish of course, but you need to be a bit (okay a lot) more well-read before anyone can take you seriously on these subjects.

  136. steve b – the beauty of torah is its reinterpretation through time – sometimes its not what the text meant then but means to us now. i understand the logic of changed mitziut – it enables us to innovate without admitting it (and at times there are actual qualitative changes). with regards to women and education – i will take any reason to get there because its the right thing to do – even if i think its made up.

    but here is the rub with what i quoted. rambam and chazal in general had a viewpoint about women’s abilities (or lack thereof) and THIS is our mesorah -unless you are suggesting that women’s brains today are different than those times – you have a problem. that answer may work in the yeshivish/charedei world ( where the gaonish chap is employed to a ridiculous degree- earth was flat in time of chazal….) but we are dealing in the mo reality where women think differently.

    btw, beit yaakov was endorsed after it started and became a movement.

  137. >>>To me (and others) it’s simple, almost axiomatic, that negative=pejorative
    >>That doesn’t make sense, to me at least. If you liked the prayer, you wouldn’t care about the negative statement.
    >I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense to you. The idea of the prayer as expressed by many of those supporting it is that it means to be positive.

    I meant that a negative statement (i.e. gramatically negative) doesn’t axiomatically or inherently have a pejorative meaning. For example: “I’m glad I am not a poor person” is a negative statement, and it is not pejorative to poor people.

    I believe others have suggested the alternate blessing to “shelo asani isha” was proposed historically because of cencorship or self-cencorship, because the alternate blessing allowed one to avoid the one the potentially dangerous “shelo asani goy.” I don’t doubt that you are able to compartmentalize this issue. But, other less educated and committed Jews might conclude from this that halacha is offensive and can be revamped to suit their desires.

  138. “The first liturgical change that the Reform movement made in Germany could not have been more “innocent” or “trivial”. All that changed was the “simple” omission of the second Yekum Purkan on Shabbat.
    Once you open the door to change even the tiniest crack, you have no way of knowing how huge the resulting breach may eventually become.”

    That’s simply not true. Wouldn’t you say omitting musaph is a little more significant than omitting a yekum purkan?

    See here, pg 240

    http://books.google.com/books?id=ndApAAAAYAAJ

    Since it’s NOT true that the first liturgical reform was minor, it is nothing but a self-serving trope that making one teeny tiny insignificant change leads to Reform Judaism. Since that never happened, we have no basis in precedent to say that it has.

  139. “Can’t we thank God for giving us more opportunities to perform mitzvot, without pointing out that others do not have those opportunities? After all, cohanim do not say “shelo asani yisrael”; they say “asher kideshanu bikdushato shel aharon.””

    That’s an interesting question. My general take on the morning brachos, particularly in focusing on the quantity of mitzvos, is that the brachos serve to counter a person’s yetzer harah to disparage living a life of mitzvah obligation. The morning, right after waking, is perhaps the time of day I am least interesting in pursuing obligations, or viewing a life of obligation as something of intrinsic value. I want to sleep. I want comfort. I want to live, essentially, a self-oriented existence. I might look in turn at a gentile, servant, or Jewish woman, and envy each of them for having relatively fewer mitzvos to observe, and hence fewer ways in which they can be found “lacking,” or restrained from living a life as they see fit. By focusing on the fact that it is in fact a blessing (of sorts) that I was not created like them, I am working against my yetzer harah to envy them.

    The woman’s brachah, thanking God for making her according to His will, I view as an expression of faith in God’s knowing what He’s doing, so to speak. A woman might think that, if the mitzvos are in fact all-important, in an ideal world Hashem should create all people with equal quantities of mitzvos to observe. After all, if a mitzvah is a good thing, why not have everyone equally obligated, men and women in particular? But her brachah teaches us that in fact the world would not be a better place if this was the case. Somehow there would be a lack, even though it is difficult to comprehend how, given our above understanding of the importance of mitzvos.

    One can say, of course, why can’t she make the bracha–“shelo asani ish?” I think the answer would be that to do so would lead to the risk of a woman inappropriately disparaging the mitzvos (e.g. thank God I’m not a man–who wants to daven three times a day, and put on tefillin, etc!) On the one hand she needs to acknowledge that the world is in fact a better place for her being created as she is, and not as a man, but on the other hand it would be inappropriate to openly bless God for not giving her more mitzvos. So the wording of her bracha has to reconcile these opposing perspectives.

    I know this may seem like BS to some, but I think it is consistent, and fits within the hashkafic framework, presented by those earlier sources, mentioned in the above post. I’m not convinced, for the record, that classic Jewish communities of antiquity completely lacked chauvinistic perspectives, but I think people read too much into the brachos, especially in light of the classic rationales, given above, that predated modernity by many centuries.

  140. Joseph Kaplan

    “I meant that a negative statement (i.e. gramatically negative) doesn’t axiomatically or inherently have a pejorative meaning. For example: “I’m glad I am not a poor person” is a negative statement, and it is not pejorative to poor people.”

    Would you feel comfortable about saying that while sitting next to a poor person? I wouldn’t. I’d much prefer to say I’m glad I have enough to comfortably support my family. But even that’s not a good example. How about this: If someone lives in a country where people of color are discriminated against, and you were sitting next to such a person who you know is proud of the way God made him notwithstanding the prejudice shown to him, would you rather say I’m glad I’m not a person of color or say I’m glad I am the way God made me? I know what I’d rather do and what i’d be uncomfortable doing.

  141. “Would you feel comfortable about saying that while sitting next to a poor person?”

    I’m not sure this is analogy given is comparable to the blessing re: the greater obligation of mitzvos Jewish men observe. There is no yetzer harah to envy poor people. There is a yetzer harah, however, to envy individuals who have fewer obligations. Many Jews wish they were non-Jews all the time.

  142. Steve, what is amaratzish about saying “i’m glad i’m not a girl b/c i have more mitzvos”?

  143. >>“I’m glad I am not a poor person” is a negative statement, and it is not pejorative to poor people.”

    >Would you feel comfortable about saying that while sitting next to a poor person?

    No, of course not. I don’t disagree with your intention (to make your speech more sensitive); I do think there are unseen consequences that need to be considered. Namely, your reasoning may be misunderstood and used by others in ways you haven’t considered.

    However, let’s assume the three blessings in question are potentially offensive to the subjects of those blessings (i.e. women, indentured servants, non-Jews). If that’s true today, it was also true at the time the prayers were instituted. Do you agree that Chazal would certainly not intentionally institute blessings which could offend good people unless they strongly believed that the benefits outweighed the drawbacks?

  144. Joseph Kaplan

    “If that’s true today, it was also true at the time the prayers were instituted.”

    I’m not sure about this. First from a question of metzi’ut — women were not in shul, were not in day schools where they davened with boys, were not educated about tefillah in general and men’s brachot. But also, I try hard not to impose 21st Century morals anachronistically. They might not have been offensive then; relationships among sexes were different then; there were different social rules about comments cross-gender then. I might criticize people today for saying things that I would not criticize Chazal for saying. Likewise, I feel that in matters like this we should not be necessarily be bound by what the mores were in Chazal’s time if it is an area, like liturgy, where we have some flexibility.

    One other point I wanted to make vis-a-vis poor people. What if it weren’t simply a statement I’m glad I’m not a poor person? What if it was I’m g;ad I’m not a thief, a stupid person and a poor person? Context counts.

    BTW, I very much appreciate the tone and content of our discussion/disagreement.

  145. [Joseph Kaplan]>One other point I wanted to make vis-a-vis poor people. What if it weren’t simply a statement I’m glad I’m not a poor person? What if it was I’m g;ad I’m not a thief, a stupid person and a poor person? Context counts.

    Those examples you gave (being a thief or stupid person) are red errings. My initial point was to let you know that you were mistaken to say it was axiomatic that negative statements are equal to being pejorative.

    There is nothing inherently shameful with being a woman, an indentured servant or a non-Jew. After all, G-d puts each of us in one category or another, and even determines our wealth and intelligence, no? However, Chazal believed Jewish men should each morning acknowledge their blessing not to have been placed in those three named categories. Perhaps these blessings are still important for Jewish men to contemplate on. Not being stupid and not being poor are also blessings, but these things are relative qualities, and many of us can’t really honestly admit we aren’t stupid or poor :-).

    I understand that the manners and culture described in the Talmud may at times seem strange to us. But, do you really believe that 21st century modern morals (with all the decadence of a libertine culture) are superior to the morality of Chazal? Aren’t Chazal exemplars of Torah morality?

  146. “But, do you really believe that 21st century modern morals (with all the decadence of a libertine culture) are superior to the morality of Chazal? ”

    Life is complex. In many ways, today’s society is much more vulgar, crass and decadent than in days gone by. And in many other ways, it is much more tolerant, sensitive and thoughtful. It might be easier if life were black and white. But it’s much more interesting and challenging since it’s not.

  147. It appears to me that the original formulation of “she’asani Yisrael” found in our text of T.B. Menachot 43b is a way out of the problem that some have about the presumed negative connotation in “shelo asani isha”. While the Tosefta Berachot 6:23,24 has the formulation of ‘shelo asani goy, isha, and boor’ with the lesser number of obligatory mitzvot as the rationale for the isha beracha, the gemara in Menachot distinguishes between eved and isha in terms of status (a slave has a lower status – “eved zil tefei”). The Rif largely adopts the wording of the Tosefta (he concludes with ‘goy, eved, isha’) but uses the reasoning of the gemara Menachot. There is a basis, however, for adopting the text of Menachot as is found in the Vilna shas. If the order is Yisrael-isha-eved (‘boor’ according to the tana) that follows the order of obligation or involvement in mitzvot, or status. If the text is changed to goy-isha- eved, then the order is more difficult to rationalize.

    Modern man, even of the Orthodox persuasion, tends not to view women as being of inferior status. After we are all people of the Covenant and are all created in the divine image. Moreover, today’s women have achieved essentially equal social status in the greater western world. They have entered institutions of higher learning and the professions in large numbers. The daily intonation of ‘shelo asani isha’ appears incongruous if not demeaning. If, however, it is mitzvah status that differentiates us and justifies the beracha, then kohanim should be able to make a special ‘she-asani kohen’ beracha by the same token. In any case, a positive formulation of ‘she-asani Yisrael’ would be partly consistent with the wording in T.B. Menachot and avoid a negative connotation. Of course, it would not be entirely consistent if ‘shelo asani isha’ were omitted. The argument that ‘she-asani Yisrael’ would make the following beracha of ‘shelo asani aved’ superfluous would be obviated by using the order, ‘goy, eved, Yisrael’.

    I am not qualified to advocate a public change in the tefilot. However, some minor changes in tefilot have ample precedent. The tefila for the government and for the state of Israel aren’t ancient, nor are the kabbalat shabbat tefilot. The Av Harachamim tefila was composed as a result of the pogroms of the 1st crusade. The changes that Hasidim made to the traditional nusach Ashkenaz are far more radical than not saying ‘shelo asani isha’, yet no one accuses them of being outside of Orthodoxy. I assume, then, that the advocacy by a widely respected posek of such a change could make an impact. Is there such a posek with the drive and audacity to advocate such change in the face of much vehement opposition?

  148. >Life is complex. In many ways, today’s society is much more vulgar, crass and decadent than in days gone by. And in many other ways, it is much more tolerant, sensitive and thoughtful. It might be easier if life were black and white. But it’s much more interesting and challenging since it’s not.

    I like your answer because it seeks to humanize the sages of the Talmud while acknowledging some good aspects of our modern society. I believe I already made this suggestion. But, here it is again. If anyone is uncomfortable with one or all three of the blessings in question, they are free to use the alternate blessing, and this should be done quietly or privately, so as not to cause a dispute.

  149. … In addition, don’t advocate to change the liturgy. We need to keep the siddur as is.

  150. >I am not qualified to advocate a public change in the tefilot.
    >I assume, then, that the advocacy by a widely respected posek of such a change could make an impact. Is there such a posek with the drive and audacity to advocate such change in the face of much vehement opposition?

    Perhaps, but it would be very divisive. Isn’t it better to educate people on the wisdom contained in the prayers?

  151. R. Nissim Alpert suggests an insightful rationale as to why these berakhot are formulated in the negative. Hazal wanted to communicate to us that the Creator only gives us the opportunity. He defines who we are not; it is up to us to define who we are and maximize our positive potential. (R. Joel Rich, personal communication (January 2011); see also comments to .) Interestingly, the same idea appears in the writings of 19th century R. Zadok haKohen. (R. Zaddok haKohen Rabinowitz of Lublin, Pri Tsaddik, vaYikra, Parashat Emor, sec. 7, s.v. “veAhar kakh.”):

    And the reason one should not recite “who has made me an Israelite” is that man functions with freedom of choice, and one can be called an Israelite only if he chooses properly. And who can be sure that he/she will chose correctly? Hence, we can only recite the benedictions “who has not made me a non-Jew or a slave.” But, nevertheless, one has the choice to choose [whether to do these mitsvot] because he is not a non-Jew or a slave. The same is true for “who has not made me a woman”—it is in his choice to fulfill or not to fulfill those mitsvot that stem from men’s greater mitsva obligation.

  152. I have pointed out in several discussions, that, for many feminists, there is much more at stake in this battle over she-lo Asani isha than just its formulation. Despite the fact that all Jews share the same level of kedushat Yisrael (Jewish sanctity), Jewish law, nevertheless, distinguishes between the obligations of kohanim (priestly clan), leviyim (Levites) and yisraelim (other Israelites), as well as between males and females. This lack of identity between the religious obligations of men and women leads us to the inescapable conclusion that Judaism is most definitely not egalitarian. And this is the crux of the problem!

    Women’s exemption from mitsvot asei she-ha-zeman gramman—about which there is no dispute—is derived in the Oral Law through the use of the hermeneutical principles (Kiddushin 34a). Maimonides (Commentary to Mishna, Kiddushin 1:7) posits that this exemption is rooted in ancient oral tradition. In either case this exemption is deemed to be biblical in origin. The bottom line, then, is that halakhic Judaism maintains that God Himself ordained and commanded non-identical roles for men and women. This clearly does not sit well with many feminists. Indeed, Judith Plaskow believes that this is “a profound injustice of the Torah itself in discriminating between men and women.” (Judith Plaskow, “The Right Question is Theological,” in Susannah Heschel, ed., On Being a Jewish Feminist: A Reader (New York: Schocken, 1995), pp. 231-232; cited by Tamar Ross, note 8, supra, p. 118.)

    For those whose highest commitment is to halakha, this lack of identity in religious roles is a resounding rejection of certain basic feminist values. It suggests that the Torah’s set of priorities is not always consonant with those of modern day radical feminism. All this comes through loud and clear in “she-lo asani isha” and is the fundamental reason that feminists have battled for a more egalitarian language—like she-asani yisrael for males and she-asani yisraelit for females. The latter communicates nothing about the different levels of mitsva obligations of men and women—which is the whole purpose, content and intent of the berakha, as is clear from the above-cited Tosefta and the Yerushalmi. Using a language for these benedictions that does not emphasize the difference in religious roles is, to my mind, not only contrary to the intent of Hazal and halakhically wrong, but also theologically incorrect and misleading.

  153. For further discussion of Kedushat Yisrael of Men and Women referred to in the previous post, see at length:
    Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer, “Women’s Prayer Services: Theory and Practice. Part 1—Theory,” Tradition, 32:2 (Winter 1998), pp. 5–118, text following note 25. Available online at:
    .

  154. Corrected Post
    For further discussion of Kedushat Yisrael of Men and Women referred to in the previous post, see at length:
    Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer, “Women’s Prayer Services: Theory and Practice. Part 1—Theory,” Tradition, 32:2 (Winter 1998), pp. 5–118, text following note 25. Available online at: http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0021.pdf.

  155. Creating a nusach that formalizes the change in the liturgy being discussed requires more consensus and time, but it seems to me that Gil got it right a few years ago in his reconsideration of those troubled by davening Nachem on Tisha b’Av:

    […] On thinking about it, I’ve become more understanding of the view that we should change the prayer or at least allow people to change it privately. Not that I am advocating such position, but I think I understand them better.

    The Gemara (Yoma 69b) relates how Jeremiah and Daniel deviated from Moshe’s formulation of prayer (“Ha-Kel Ha-Gadol Ha-Gibor Ve-Ha-Nora”) because they saw destruction and exile that seemed to contradict God’s greatness and awesomeness. The Gemara explains that God’s seal is truth and these two sages could not bring themselves to lie about him. […] 

  156. Joseph Kaplan

    R’ Aryeh, You don’t like sheasani Yisrael? And it’s all about mitzvah obligation? Well, I’m no Hebrew expert so I won’ try to formulate it, but how about something that says that directly; that clearly, without any negaqtivity, says something like “who has fully obligated me in shmirat mitzvot”? You come up with the language; I’ll say it (privately — when I daven from the amud on yahrtzeit, I follow the siddur). And then we don’t have to argue about what’s apologetics.

  157. Apropos the discussion on the socio-historic context in understanding talmudic texts, in the last few days — on my way to and from a family simcha in the Galil — I was again reminded of the complexities edited out of the texts.  In the Talmudic era synagogue in Chorazim (ref: Menachot 85a) there is a prominent Greek Medusa decoration (to ward off evil, presumably).  And in Beit She’arim, where R. Yehuda ha’Nasi and his children are buried, one sees Jewish sarcophagi with Greek god decorations as well as menorot, lulavim, shofarot, etc.

  158. Joseph Kaplan at 7:06
    I play in Hazal’s court and I play by their rules. That’s what Orthodoxy is all about. Changing a Matbe’a she-tav’u hakhamim is ferbotten, so I don’t go around changing the text. But I do interpret it in a fashion so problems don’t arise.

    She’asani Yisrael is a non-existent Berakha – it was introduced by the censor. There is no doubt about that. It was discussed in the poskim only in bediavad situations. This brings us to a fundamental problem with R. Kanefsky’s (and Rabbis Lopatin and Sperber’s) analysis, which has to do with a blurring of the difference between le-khathila (pre-facto) and be-di-avad (post-facto). leKhathila refers to the obligatory way one is required to act under normative conditions. For example, Hazal say that one should not use a milchig spoon she-eino ben yomo (not used in the last 24 hours) to stir hot chicken soup. Similarly, Hazal indicate that one should not place food into utensils that have not been immersed in a mikva. In both cases, be-di-avad the food remains perfectly kosher. Nevertheless, Hazal’s ruling in both these cases is not a recommendation – but rather a clear directive on how one is required to act. Under normative conditions, it is forbidden to act otherwise. (See: “di-Avad,” Encyclopedia Talmudit, VII, p. 406ff; Shai Akavya Wosner, “Al Koharentiyyut veEfectiviyyut beHalakha: Birrur Rishoni shel haHavkhana bein leHatkhila ve-diAvad,” Dinei Yisrael, 20-21 (5760-5761), pp. 43-100.)

    This is also true regarding the obligatory prayer text and benedictions. Hazal forbade changes le-khathila – even though be-di-avad or bi-she’at ha-dehak (under dire circumstances) the change may be valid. Thus, Maimonides, writes (M.T., Hilkhot Berakhot, 1:7):
    The wording of all the blessings, Ezra and his court enacted them, and it is inappropriate to change them, nor to add to one of them, nor to detract from one of them, and anyone who changes the wording coined by the Sages in the blessings is simply erring…

  159. Let the wisdom of Dr.Aryeh Frimer be the bottom line in this discussion.

  160. Joseph Kaplan

    The wisdom, erudition and intellectual honesty of my friend R’ Aryeh is always something to give great consideration to in discussions such as these. “Bottom line,” though, is a different story.

  161. Aryeh Frimer: “The latter communicates nothing about the different levels of mitsva obligations of men and women.”

    It actually communicates it very well.

    However, I think the larger point is not whether another formulation is perhaps more ancient or original than ‘she’lo asani isha,’ but whether the current formulation means only what you suggest it means, or implies what you suggest it implies.

    Again, I reiterate, there are some (and you may be among them) who argue that relative commandedness not only is all that is expressed by this bracha, but that it also can be separated from any comment on the relative worth of men and women. I wish it were so, but I have not seen any convincing justification for this position.

    When people raise formulations like ‘she’asani yisrael’ or ‘she’tzivani b’mitzvos harbeih’ (just made that one up), they don’t mean to suggest more plausible original reconstructions of the bracha. On the contrary, the point is really that if, when Chazal formluated this bracha, all they meant was to express a Yisrael’s myriad mitzvah opportunities (and NOTHING more), then there are dozens upon dozens of possible ways that this could have been done without making it seem that not being created a woman is something to be thankful for, while the reverse would not be true (and without making it seem that having been created a woman is just a jot better than having been created a slave or gentile).

    All the Reb Tzadok’s in the world can’t change this. They can offer up some nice post-hoc explanations that at least take a bit of the sting out of the pshutah shel bracha, but that’s it. And besides, the flip side of the Reb Tzadok coin is the Avudraham’s and the Rav Kook’s and numerous other authorities who, when saying this bracha, clearly heard within it what some/many feminists are hearing.

  162. I have a slightly different take on the original article. I admit that it is speculation. I know that R’ Kanefsky was involved recently in a particularly ugly agunah situation regarding a relative of one of his congregants. It took years and years to finally resolve, and featured not a few boneheaded moves by the beit din involved. And it allowed a malicious, not-necessarily-sane individual to make a mockery of Torah. My theory is that R’ Kanefsky’s feelings of frustration about this case, writ large against the lack of possibility of addressing the general agunah problem of our era, came to a head, and that his declaration about the brachah in question is his desperate response.

    My opinion is that such a response isn’t merely ineffectual, bordering on sad, but could actually be counter-productive. That is, if you want to advocate for change of what might the most important Torah issue of our day, you shouldn’t present yourself as an proponent of the very ideology that people on the other side of the issue fear is the motivation for such change.

    Having said that, I believe that Torat Hashem Temimah, and that the marriage and divorce halacha are of course divine and flawless. Nevertheless, the fact that men are able to pervert this divine system so easily – and that there are so many who have no qualms doing so – something must be done not only to spare our people from such pain but to spare the Torah itself from such desecration. This is where the situation seems prozbul-like to me. We need to do something about the agunah situation in order to save Torah itself. (Again, not to minimize the human toll involved.) But in our time is there even any kind of authority that can develop any sort of response that can be thought of as “official” in any way?

  163. R’ frimer -” This lack of identity between the religious obligations of men and women leads us to the inescapable conclusion that Judaism is most definitely not egalitarian. And this is the crux of the problem”
    ” The bottom line, then, is that halakhic Judaism maintains that God Himself ordained and commanded non-identical roles for men and women. This clearly does not sit well with many feminists.”

    I think a thornier issue would be if Hashem ordained different roles form men and women did Hashem also ordain inferior class and rights status as well? What does an orthodox feminist like yourself handle the difference between men and women regarding inheritance laws, divorce laws, and Limud Torah (per the gemera

  164. “First from a question of metzi’ut — women were not in shul, were not in day schools where they davened with boys, were not educated about tefillah in general and men’s brachot”

    I think it’s clear that the metizut was that women were in shul. we learn schar halicha froma woman. in the yalkut, the schar of arichas yamim for davening btzibur is also taught in connection to a woman, and that is clearly a case of a woman who was in shul daily. if the aggadata about the merits of going to shul revolve around women, at minimum we have to conclude that women were in shul. to me it sounds as though they were more likely to be in shul than they are today – though admittedly that’s not clear, and maybe there’s some other reason that women who went to shul are held up as examples from which to learn about the merits of tefila betzibur, e.g. to encourage them to attend. Why is your default assumption that contemporary MO or LWMO women are more “involved” and have made great strides in communal/ritual involvement at least as far as tefila betzibur is concerned relative to women in chazal’s era?

    in any case, since birchot hashachar were originally said in connection to actions (as sefardim do today), it seems unlikely that the bracha of shelo asani isha was originally said in shul as part of tefila betzibur.

  165. Joseph Kaplan

    “in any case, since birchot hashachar were originally said in connection to actions (as sefardim do today), it seems unlikely that the bracha of shelo asani isha was originally said in shul as part of tefila betzibur.”

    So maybe we shoulod go back to that practice. Maybe Chazal instituted the bracha in this form knowing it would be said privately, and would not have done so had they known that their practice (though not their matba’ah) would change and it would be said in front of women. I’ve been asked, in essence, weren’t Chazal as sensitive as we are? Well, maybe they were, but maybe it’s the change in practice that makes them appear less sensitive. So at the very least, if we use their words let’s use them as intended.

    As noted earlier by, I think, Nachum and others, Israel has, to a certain extent, made this issue less volatile by starting shacharit tefillah betzibur at mizmor shir. Not a full solution, but better than we have here in chu”l.

  166. is less insult taken over the bracha in israel than in the US?

  167. Rafael Araujo

    “is less insult taken over the bracha in israel than in the US?”

    I don’t know. But I do know that the Amazon women will kill you if you recite it 🙂

  168. >So maybe we shoulod go back to that practice. Maybe Chazal instituted the bracha in this form knowing it would be said privately, and would not have done so had they known that their practice (though not their matba’ah) would change and it would be said in front of women. I’ve been asked, in essence, weren’t Chazal as sensitive as we are? Well, maybe they were, but maybe it’s the change in practice that makes them appear less sensitive. So at the very least, if we use their words let’s use them as intended.

    This seems q

  169. This seems quite disingenuous. Are you saying that Chazal, out of sensitivity, would now tell us not to recite the shelo asani isha blessing?

  170. “This seems quite disingenuous. Are you saying that Chazal, out of sensitivity, would now tell us not to recite the shelo asani isha blessing?”

    No, he’s saying that maybe we should say it privately, at home, which is how Chazal instructed that these berachos be said in the first place. Actually, it’s pretty remarkable how we can just ignore the explicit Gemara. Sounds almost like Reform Judaism.

  171. Re: Israel. I recall a significant buzz at a prominent women’s beit midrash when one of the male teachers (a prominent rav at gush whom I will not name now) expressed discomfort with the bracha and I believe even said he would like (in theory) to see it removed or changed. The next day he led shacharit at a minyan attended by many of the female students and said the male bracha as usual.
    The point of my anecdote being that you can find people in either country who take offense. Their relative predominance I don’t know.
    Also interesting, in the case of that rav he sympathized with the reasons for the change but did not feel he could implement it. But if we are going after people’s motives then he should be at least suspect too, no?

  172. Perhaps we can explain Chazal’s formulation of “shelo asani isha” by approaching it from a different perspective.

    After the original sin of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, HaShem punished Adam an Chava with curses.

    Bereishis III:16-“unto the woman He said,I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your pregnancy; in pain shall you bear children; and your longing shall be to your husband, and he shall have dominion over you.”
    Bereishis III:17-19 “…and to Adam He said…with the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread…”

    Because Chava was first coerced by the Serpent and then coerced Adam,it appears that she received greater and more curses than he did.
    Notice that, although unstated in the verse, the curse of Chava also includes the “curse” of monthly menstruation.

    RYBS has said that Chava’s curse, that your husband will have dominion over you, i.e. rule over you, is ontological. That is Hashem made it part of a female’s psychological make up that she is more emotionally bound to her husband than he is to her. Therefore her love for him exceeds his love for her. Perhaps this why the Torah allows a man more than one wife, while a woman is limited to one man.

    Could it be that this understanding of male and female’s physical, mental and psychological make up is what influenced Chazal?

    The bracha thus becomes not a statement of the inferior intelligence of the female. It is a recognition that women in general have a more difficult life than men and men therefore are required to give thanks for this simple fact.

    My apologies to any feminists who might take offense at this opinion.

  173. There is nothing on this subject that I can add that R A Frimer has already said in his usual cogent and intellectually honest fashion.

  174. MO has never disowned its Amcha-Howwever, its leading Talmidei Chachamim ( especially RAL and all of the RIETS RY) have never accepted a life rooted in a Bdieved approach to Torah , Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim as a Lchatchilah approach.

  175. Joseph Kaplan

    “This seems quite disingenuous. Are you saying that Chazal, out of sensitivity, would now tell us not to recite the shelo asani isha blessing?”

    [Sigh]; and we were having such a nice discussion. iAE, I am, of course, saying no such thing. I never say about anyone who’s not alive what they would say today were they were alive. That’s a talent I don’t have (and think no one really has it although many claim they know). All I was saying was that people have raised an argument that changing the bracha out of sensitivity to woman today is an implicit statement that Chazal weren’t sensitive to womenn then. All I was saying was that, based on what someone said was the practice then — i.e., saying the brachot as one gets up and not in shul — sensitivity towards women was not the same issue then as it is today. So what we do today does not, implicitly or explicitly, become a criticism of Chazal. What would Chazal do today? Ask them, not me. But it’s for people today, under the circumstances we have today, to decide what to do based on our analysis of the sources and surrounding circumstances. We are the ones who have to take responsibility.

  176. Mair Zvi,
    I believe you are in a very traditional mode with your belief that (1) it is better to be a man than a woman, (2) the “betterness” has to do with everyday life rather than mitzvah obligation, and (3) this disparity not “unfair” per se since it flows from chava’s sin.
    However, for some reason, the apologists for this bracha do not want to go there – at least not to (2) and (3). not only that, they deny that the bracha can mean or has meant that to many jewish men. thanks for proving them wrong.

  177. I find R.D. Aryeh Frimer’s rationales for continuing the ‘shelo asani isha’ recitation to be unsatisfactory. He states that ‘sheasani Yisrael’ is inappropriate and is based on language introduced by censors. It is odd to argue that one shouldn’t be able to say ‘sheasani Yisrael’ because one may not be on a sufficiently high spiritual level. ‘Yisrael’ implies only that one is a member of covenanted people. It implies the acceptance of obligations and associations rather than achievments. Further, the argument that we only give thanks for what we are not should result in women saying ‘shelo asani ish’ since women have their unique potential. Finally, I am not persuaded by a blanket, unreferenced statement that the text in T.B. Menachot on ‘sheasani Yisrael’ is clearly due to the censor. I won’t pretend to be a scholar, but the usual censorial ploy throughout shas is to convert ‘goy’ to ‘akum’. Why here did the censor change a supposed negative beracha (‘shelo asani goy’) into a positive one (‘sheasani Yisrael’) rather than to continue the mode of expression but changing ‘goy’ into ‘akum’? Besides, ‘sheasani Yisrael’ fits the T.B. Menachot order of yisrael, isha, eved (or boor) better than ‘goy, isha, eved’. I note that the Rif, when he adopts the language of the Tosefta changes the order to ‘goy, eved, isha’ since that progression is more logical.

  178. Joseph Kaplan: Perhaps calling your statements disingenuous wasn’t a compliment. I regret offending you. But, I just wanted to point out what I thought is an inconsistency in your various statements on the subject of the three “insensitive” prayers.

    Earlier, you noted that Chazal were less sensitive than those in our times (I assume you meant towards women, servants, non-Jews and homosexuals). You did say that you don’t judge Chazal harshly for this, and acknowledged they were sensitive based on their own cultural standards, just now ours. The issue I thought could be disingenuous on your part is that later on, you said Chazal would agree to replace the three “insensitive” prayers by a single “positive” alternate, because the prayers were no longer recited privately and quietly, so Chazal would surely not countenance insensitivity towards those people today who find the prayers offensive. Did I mischaracterize your positions? If not, do you see the contradiction? Good Shabbos to you and everyone here.

  179. Joseph Kaplan: I keep misunderstanding your posts. You can ignore my questions in my last post, since you agreed that Chazal couldn’t travel in time to answer our questions. However, you seem to believe we can go against the original recommendation of Chazal to say the three prayers, if a valid halachic argument can be made to do so. Doesn’t this reverse the normal halachic method of doing an analysis of the source texts first, before determining what action to take?

  180. Joseph Kaplan

    “Doesn’t this reverse the normal halachic method of doing an analysis of the source texts first, before determining what action to take?”

    Here we’re just going to have to disagree. I don’t believe either direction is normal depending on all sorts of factors.

  181. I had written that I saw nothing to contribute or comment on , but the following comment by Joseph Kaplan struck me as warranting a comment:

    “All I was saying was that, based on what someone said was the practice then — i.e., saying the brachot as one gets up and not in shul — sensitivity towards women was not the same issue then as it is today. So what we do today does not, implicitly or explicitly, become a criticism of Chazal. What would Chazal do today? Ask them, not me. But it’s for people today, under the circumstances we have today, to decide what to do based on our analysis of the sources and surrounding circumstances. We are the ones who have to take responsibility”

    How breathtakingly simple and reminescent of the notion that where there is a halachic will, there is a halachic way. WADR, viewing Chazal as having no bearing or right to be considered as having a right to a POV does considerable violence to TSBP and Mesorah. Once upon a time, such concepts were rightly considered CJ. Unfortunately, we now see the same as proof of where LW MO stands on such issues.

  182. Joseph Kaplan

    Steve, I don’t mind your taking out your usual talking points (rabbinic will/halachic way), or your accusing people who disagree with you of being Conservative. That’s par for the course when you get involved in a discussion — even when you said you were finished. (No, I’m not saying you don’t have the right to comment or to express your “POV”; express all you want.) But only you could read into my comment that I viewed Chazal as having no right to a POV. No one who actually understands the English language could possibly come to that conclusion. Sometimes it’s a good idea to actually read what you’re commenting about.

  183. steve b. – r’ hayyim hirschensohn – (20TH CENTURY) (malki ba-qodesh pt.IV) – comments on shelo asaini ishah – But in truth, i wish to say to you that all the poseqim, both rishonim and aharonim, did not feel this at all, but only the early hazanim in their prayer books knew a little bit of it – which in TRUTH THE BABYLONIAN TALMUD WAS OPPOSED TO THIS BLESSING….THE OPPOSITION OF THIS BLESSING IS EXPRESSED, EVEN THOUGH NO ONE SEEMS TO HAVE FELT THIS….it is clear to me that both rav aha bar yaakov and his son were opposed to this blessing EVEN IF ITS INTENTION IS THAT SHE IS NOT OBLIGATED TO PERFORM THE COMMANDMENTS….THESE PERFECTED INDIVIDUALS FELT THAT THERE WAS A CERTAIN AFFRONT HERE TO THE DIGNITY OF WOMEN….

    i am not saying we should be change the blessings but there seems to be precedent that its ok that say there may be a problem here in the way that the blessing is phrased that may cause some hurt feelings (and that is not the intention of the brecha and if so what can be done). to say one misunderstands is not that helpful (and sounds not convincing and apologetic). to be afraid to give an inch may be too short sighted (just look how well the hatam sofer did with modernity). to pillar others with cj and lwmo is not being helpful and intellectually honest. and the schism continues – and for what?

  184. Ruvie at at 12:39 pm writes:
    I think a thornier issue would be if Hashem ordained different roles form men and women did Hashem also ordain inferior class and rights status as well? What does an orthodox feminist like yourself handle the difference between men and women regarding inheritance laws, divorce laws, and Limud Torah (per the gemera

    You are asking tough questions and I don’t have simple answers. And I know that modern man often finds what I am about to say as foreign. But I do believe that what gives each of us spiritual importance is the role Hashem ordains for us. I don’t feel that the Kohen Gadol is “Better” than me, provided I do my role and he does his. Don’t measure inportance by Kavod or public exposure – but by Retson haBorei. I warmly suggest reading R. Saul Berman’s 1972 Tradition Article on the subject. Women’s role has fewer specific mitsvot but more flexibility.

    Obligations have repercussions in Halakakha. Hence, one who is obligated (male or female) can be motsi others and count for a minyan for that ritual. All this has repercussions as far as Tefilla Be-tsibbur from which women are exempted.

    Limud Torah – that’s a long story, but fundamentally it was a public policy decision, which fell by the wayside because the leading gedolim a century ago realized that public policy was now in the opposite direction.

    inheritance laws – women are supported by the estate, hence don’t inherit. The problem is that we have to deal with secular law which has a different vision. The problem can be easily avoided by writing a Halakhic will.

    divorce laws – I’m getting in over my head. But is connected to the Torah’s vision of marriage being a contractual agreement between the Hatan and Kallah only. Neither the State nor Church is a party to this agreement and hence cannot annul it, without the agreement of both sides. There is much more to this , but this will have to suffice.

  185. R Frimer – Can you explain why you view yourself as a feminist?

  186. again from where do we derive that women are not obligated in tefila betzibur if not from the fact that they are not counted in minyan for it? is there anyone who locates the deduction that women aren’t counted in minyan from a pre-existing exemption from public prayer?

  187. Anonymous 2:38 am asks:
    R Frimer – Can you explain why you view yourself as a feminist?

    Standing on one leg: As a “Halakhic Feminist,” I have searched for ways to increase women’s involvement in Jewish spiritual and ritual life (nahat Ruah), and I remain confident in the inherent viability of the halakhic process. But through it all, my highest commitment has been to the integrity of Halakhah. I firmly believe that without Halakhah as our anchor, we would rapidly lose our direction and raison d’etre.

    For further discussion, see: (a) “Guarding the Treasure: A Review of Tamar Ross, Expanding the Palace of the King –Orthodoxy and Feminism,” Aryeh A. Frimer, BDD – Journal of Torah and Scholarship, 18, English section, pp. 67-106 (April 2007). PDF file of the as published article available online at http://www.jofa.org/pdf/uploaded/1206-DQLN0171.pdf; PDF file of the as submitted article available online at http://www.lookstein.org/articles/treasure_frimer.pdf. (b) Aryeh A. Frimer, “Feminist Innovations in Orthodoxy Today: Is Everything in Halakha – Halakhic?” JOFA Journal, 5:2 (Summer 2004/Tammuz 5764), pp. 3-5. PDF file available online at: http://www.jofa.org/pdf/JOFASummerFinal1.pdf; (c) Aryeh A. Frimer, “On Understanding and Compassion in Pesak Halakha – A Rejoinder,” JOFA Journal, 5:3 (Winter 2005/Tevet-Shvat 5765), p. 6. PDF file available online at: http://www.jofa.org/ pdf/JOFA Winter%20pdf.pdf.

  188. aygc on August 26, 2011 at 3:16 am asks about women and Minyan. Please read:
    (a)“Women and Minyan,” Aryeh A. Frimer, Tradition, 23:4, 54-77 (Summer 1988). PDF File available online at: http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0019.pdf;HTML file available at http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/tfila/frimer2-1.htm;
    Word file available at http://mj.bu.edu/rsrc/MailJewish/MjReaderContributions/WmnMinyanRev4.doc.
    (b)“The Status of Women in Halakha – Women and Minyan,” Aryeh A. Frimer, Or HaMizrach, 34, 69-86 (5745/1985) (In Hebrew). PDF File available online at: http://bermanshul.org/frimer/SpireBW200_1S019b.pdf

    There is also a Website which contains my articles and A series of 80 shiurim on Women and Halakha given from 1997-2000 at Tiferet Moshe Synagogue – Rabbi Jacob Berman Community Center. Audio files, source material and unedited lecture notes available online at http://bermanshul.org/frimer/ or http://tinyurl.com/662ws9p.

  189. r’ frimer – funny in that i just reread the saul berman article you referred to when you mentioned z’man geramah in your previous post (a most excellent article).

    “All this has repercussions as far as Tefilla Be-tsibbur from which women are exempted”

    where do we learn that men and women have different obligations for tefillah betzibur? i think we discuss this a while ago. even though women cannot make a minyan why would their davening betzibur be different than men (who although can make a minyan are not (to my knowledge) mezuveh to daven betzibur as an individual obligation)? it seems or its possible that men and women have the same obligation – or lack -there?
    in regards to the examples on inheritance, divorce (or marital in general), and limud torah (this is just a sample) the system and power structure is most favorable to men and women are at a major disadvantage (forget about being equal). i would assume you would say its hashem’s will or ratzoin haboreh – you see the problem if one takes that in all areas of halacha -( it can be a cope out)?. but we see chazal recognizes in certain circumstances that biblical law does not protect women enough and have produce remedies – demanding a ketubah for every marriage to rabbenu gershon edict of a women unable to be divorced against her will. why can’t that work continue? why are we midgets and not k’yiftach bedoro?

    if you are advocate of ratzon haborei wouldn’t you expand it based on hashem’s own written words in the torah and his will as He communicated to us? why get around his will with an halakhic will? teaching women is tifleis – women do not have the capacity or the mind to learn – per the gemera — yet we ignore these issues and find away because of what – secular values? i think we pick and choose but the contradictions are inherent and we resort to apologetics because otherwise we end up abandoning the system. i think this is the crux of the “modern” jew problem. as the rav once said – i forget the phrase(please correct me) – to be a modern jew (or was it just jew) is to live in or with tension on a daily basis.

    to those that argue that feminism is just another fad – can you imagine a day when we go back to women not leaving the house more than 2-3 times a month (per halacha in the rambam), prohibiting education of women in torah (per gemera), prohibition in the workplace (mingling of the sexes – who will support the kollel chevra?), not allowed to vote(supported by many gedolim including rav kook), not allowed to hold public office, unequal pay for the same service? what type of world will that be? oh those terrible secular values.

    btw, thank you for being so kind and patient in answering the questions on the threads- especially me. is orthodox feminist an oxymoron? do feel like its “clowns to the left of me jokers to the right here I am stuck in the middle with you”? bekavod. shabbat shalom

  190. r’ frimer – previous post should read – do YOU feel like its “clowns to the left of me jokers to the right here I am stuck in the middle with you”? pre-shabbat cooking frenzy and lack of attention to details.

  191. Joseph Kaplan-this was part of your verbatim language:

    “All I was saying was that, based on what someone said was the practice then — i.e., saying the brachot as one gets up and not in shul — sensitivity towards women was not the same issue then as it is today. So what we do today does not, implicitly or explicitly, become a criticism of Chazal. What would Chazal do today? Ask them, not me. But it’s for people today, under the circumstances we have today, to decide what to do based on our analysis of the sources and surrounding circumstances. We are the ones who have to take responsibility”

    Try reading some of Samuel Holdheim’s views re Moshe Rabbeinu-he had the same idea.

  192. See for existence, this link.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samuel_Holdheim
    When someone says :

    “What would Chazal do today? Ask them, not me. But it’s for people today, under the circumstances we have today, to decide what to do based on our analysis of the sources and surrounding circumstances. We are the ones who have to take responsibility”

    The above IMO is perilously close to views that were once considered the hallmark of RJ. It is indeed a tragedy that such views are considered acceptable within LW MO.

  193. steve b. – that also can be said to be the view of the rav – a description from an observer of the recent symposium:

    “..how, for Soloveitchik, maintaining an Orthodoxy both firmly rooted in the tradition and open to the outside world could be accomplished not according to predetermined formulas, but rather through balancing complex competing values.

    Read more: http://www.forward.com/articles/141791/#ixzz1W9rObEKY

    can you stop with the labeling already.

  194. Ruvie-Please don’t ever mention RYBS in the same breadth with Lhavdil velef valfei Havdalos Samuel Holdheim.

  195. Ruvie-FWIW, I reject the notion that MO must include, embrace and disregard the problematic views of thinkers who view the Bris Avos and Bris Sinai as non-binding, who repudiate much of Shas as sexist, who assert that TSBP would have been different if the Tanaim and Amoraim would have been female, and who insist that there is a halachic will, there is a halachic way. A person who adheres to every possible CI and Brisker Chumra and espouses such a POV IMO should be viewed as R D Berger has pointed out, as having views that are simply beyond the pale, simply because such views have consequences of promoting a POV that cannot be squared with the Mesorah. When such views or views that regurgitate the views of RJ or CJ are pronounced by a person that identifies himself as LW MO, it is important to draw the line and recognize that the same are simply prima facie evidence of Orthopraxy writ large.

  196. Ruvie quoted the following excerpt:

    “how, for Soloveitchik, maintaining an Orthodoxy both firmly rooted in the tradition and open to the outside world could be accomplished not according to predetermined formulas, but rather through balancing complex competing values”

    RYBS’s record and views speak for themselves. I would object strenuously to RYG being allowed to provide any assessment of RYBS’s legacy.

  197. Ruvie wrote:

    “where do we learn that men and women have different obligations for tefillah betzibur”

    Ask yourself a simple question-how is a Tzibur for the purposes of Tefilah defined?

  198. Ruvie-I saw R Frimer’s response to your query and would add the following-R Asher Weiss points out that according to many Rishonim and Acharonim, Hilcos Edus includes a built in kulah for women so as to avoid the stringencies required for Edus that requires two witnesses in circumstances such as Agunos, etc. Imagine what Agunos would have to go through if the Halachos of Edus were identical to that of any Halacha involving Shnei Edim.

  199. Ruvie-I have read more than a few articles about R Chayim Hirschenson ZL. RCH was a brilliant Talmid Chacham, but one whose writings reflect the POV that compromise on many issues was necessary to save early 20th Century Torah Judaism from heterodox movements and worse in the US. I think that one can argue that his views were simply never viewed as mainstream on any major or minor halachic subject and that his writings have relevance only for historians, etc.

    With respect to modernity, perhaps the CS was right.

  200. For more on R Chaim Hirschenson ZL, see the annexed link.
    http://www.edah.org/backend/journalarticle/5_1_shapiro.pdf
    It can be safely said IMO, that the approach summarized in the linked article by R D M Shapiro neither is the approach of the Charedi world nor the RIETS, OU and YU worlds-all of which are actively invested in kiruv and chizuk activities on a wide front, and which do not seek the approval of the heterodox movements on issues which RYBS viewed as Klapei Pnim.

  201. lawrence kaplan

    I wish to point out that R, Kanefsky’s quote from Rav Kook is misleading. R. Kook in his commentary on the siddur proceeds to comment on SAhe-asni kirtzono,” and says:

    With all the advantage (yitron) that the man who is active and who imprints the impressions of his influences and deeds upon the world and life possesses, corresponding to this the woman who is acted upon possesses an advantage as well….

    He then explains that because of their more passive nature women are less likely than men to deviate from the divine will.

    Moreover, in an unpublished letter to his daughter (See Avinoam Rosenak, The Prophetic Halakhah, pp. 251-252) Rav Kook describes men as spiritually sick, who therefore need study and commandments, in the same way as a sick person needs medicine. Women, who are naturally spiritually healthy, have no need for all this.

    Whatever one thinks of these arguments, to say that Rav Kook values men more than women is simply not true.

  202. steve b – i do not think you understand the point being made on tefillah betzibur. on the rav – i guess the way you view rch is the same way the charedeim viewed the rav – but then again, acharei mot- kidoshim t’hiyu. shabat shalom – the food is burning.

  203. steve b – yes sometimes following a chumra allows in certain circumstances a kula that would not be allow otherwise – especially in conversion. but is that what you thump your chest with? what a great way to run a religion – we got kulas if you follow our chumras! shabbat shalom.

  204. Ruvie-RCH’s ideas were never accepted as mainstream, and represent a defensive approach by a great Talmid Chacham that only RYBS turned around with his very courageous stances which saved MO from becoming swept away by the then dominant CJ. In contrast, if you go to BMG, you can easily request the volumes of RYBS’s shiurim and drashos.

  205. Joseph Kaplan

    “’What would Chazal do today? Ask them, not me. But it’s for people today, under the circumstances we have today, to decide what to do based on our analysis of the sources and surrounding circumstances. We are the ones who have to take responsibility.’

    The above IMO is perilously close to views that were once considered the hallmark of RJ. It is indeed a tragedy that such views are considered acceptable within LW MO.”

    Which is exactly what the Chofetz Chaim and Gerer Rebbee did with BY and the Rav did with coeducation and teaching women advanced TSBP and MO in general did with bat mitzvah and advanced secular education and women participating in advanced leadership roles in the community and and and. In addition to your comment being wrong and foolish, it is boring — the tired trope of accusing me and others of being Reform (although I guess I’m getting worse; last time I was only Conservative). If there is, in your words, a “tragedy,” it’s that we can’t have a discussion on these matters without people like you making such unwarranted, indeed childish, accusations. Thankfully, the vast majority of the discussion in this thread — with much vigorous disagreement on all sides — has been a discussion and debate of ideas and sources which did not sink to your level.

  206. Ruvie wrote:

    “steve b – yes sometimes following a chumra allows in certain circumstances a kula that would not be allow otherwise – especially in conversion. but is that what you thump your chest with? what a great way to run a religion – we got kulas if you follow our chumras! shabbat shalom”

    Actually, was that not how the Talmud understands how Rus HaMoaviah was presented with Halacha-some Chumros and some Kulos?

  207. Joseph Kaplan: “Thankfully, the vast majority of the discussion in this thread — with much vigorous disagreement on all sides — has been a discussion and debate of ideas and sources which did not sink to your level.”

    And then there was me…Sigh. I fully agree with you that it’s better to have the sort of discussion that (for the most part) you had with Canuck. I’ve mostly enjoyed this thread ever since.

    Lawrence Kaplan,

    Thanks for the note on Rav Kook. It’s possible that R. Kanefsky’s quote was misleading, but I think the larger issue is that R. Kook’s position is unfortunately the best that can be expected from this bracha.

    Furthermore, the idea that the “true intent” of this bracha is to lament that men require more mitzvos than women because of the challenging struggle that characterizes the male religious encounter with God seems to be presented as if this should make women feel better: “You don’t realize how tough we have it!”

    But it sometimes sounds to me – and maybe it really is just me – that this approach renders the religious life of women simplistic. After all, in other contexts the Rav, for instance, glorifies the chaos and struggle of the religious life. So I think even those offering up these sorts of explanations for this bracha really believe in their heart of hearts that the supposed challenges that come along with “being a man” are really a good thing.

    At the end of the day, I think people like R. Frimer are doing a wonderful service by seriously engaging these issues in a non-condescending and understanding manner. But my only gripe, I guess, would be that R. Frimer’s position would be much more satisfying, and his solutions much more easily acceptable – I think to me, as well as to many others who likewise consider themselves “halakhic feminists” – if it was accompanied by an admission that it is AT LEAST POSSIBLE(!) that this bracha really may have been meant in a way that we would now consider unfair to women. To so strenuously insist otherwise without even allowing for the possibility that this may be wrong (and sometimes, perhaps unconsciously, sounding so dismissive of those who disagree) I think takes a bit of credibility away from R. Frimer and others.

  208. Joseph Kaplan,

    Just to clarify, that parenthetical “for the most part” was a reference to your 5:47 comment from (I think) yesterday!

    General Thread,

    I’ve been thinking of a decent way to express what nags at me regarding the Rav Kook type of explanation for the bracha. The best example I can come up with is the Fortune 500 CEO telling the company’s low-level temps, “You’re so lucky to be temps! You don’t have to go to all the high-pressure meetings that I do, or make all the tough decisions that I do, and you don’t have to have all that stress of running a Fortune 500!” Of course the temps ALSO don’t get the massive paycheck and annual bonuses of the CEO, nor the tremendous prestige and job satisfaction that accompany running a Fortune 500 company. I think we all instinctively reject the CEO’s argument here as specious (and a little obnoxious). So too here.

  209. Joseph Kaplan

    Jerry, Hey, Canuck and I had a pretty long discussion. Let me be very clear that I enjoyed the give and take very much even if we (I’m shocked, shocked) did not convince one another.

  210. JK: As did I. My thanks to you both. Gut Shabbos

  211. jerry – i for one also enjoyed your discussion as well as the others. as the gaon mel has often said- “its good be king” – to your previous comment on ceos. shabbat shalom.

  212. ruvie on August 26, 2011 at 8:13 am
    We know that women are not obligated in Tefilla beTsibbur because that is what the overwheliming consensus of Poskim say. See Note 85 of “Women’s Prayer Services: Theory and Practice. Part 1 – Theory,” Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer, Tradition, 32:2, pp. 5-118 (Winter 1998). PDF File available online at: http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0021.pdf; HTML file available at: http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/tfila/frimmer1.htm#start; Word file available at: http://mj.bu.edu/rsrc/MailJewish/MjReaderContributions/WmnSrvRev15-1.doc.

  213. Ruvie, In continuation of the previous post: Hazal as a rule freed women from Rabbinic obligations, like public prayer and Kri’at haTorah which required women to leave the home and make a public appearance. They are obligated in private prayer but not public.

    As far as Limud Torah she-be-al peh, though woman are biblically exempted they are not biblically excluded. The Tiflut argument is Rabbinic and a public policy consideration, which was later passed when it became clear that Public policy moved in the opposite direction.

  214. Jerry 5:26 writes: “But my only gripe, I guess, would be that R. Frimer’s position would be much more satisfying, and his solutions much more easily acceptable … if it was accompanied by an admission that it is AT LEAST POSSIBLE(!) that this bracha really may have been meant in a way that we would now consider unfair to women. To so strenuously insist otherwise without even allowing for the possibility that this may be wrong (and sometimes, perhaps unconsciously, sounding so dismissive of those who disagree) I think takes a bit of credibility away from R. Frimer and others.”

    Why should I be motsie la’az on Hazal, when I find two leading gedolim (Maharsha and Rav Reuven Margaliyyot) who give an explanation which rings true to me as a modern man (with feminist sensitivities) and which jibes with the reason given by the Yerushalmi and Tosefta!!??

  215. R. Frimer,

    As I noted above, I find R. Margaliyyot’s answer potentially even more unsatisfying (and it certainly doesn’t work with the Tosefta at all – it turns it on its head!). And while I have not a shred of doubt that R. Margaliyyot meant this explanation to provide nachas ruach to women, a goal which you have admirably highlighted, the sentiment – as I also pointed out above (through an analogy) – is actually a bit disingenuous.

    Moreover, I cannot understand how such an admission would possibly be motsie la’az on Chazal. Aderabba, to NOT admit this is, in many people’s eyes, to make Chazal, chalilah, into a chuka v’etlula! Besides, the type of people who would be satisfied by such an admission (like me) are almost always the type of people (again like me) who have tried their utmost to assure their fellow Jews that this would NOT, chas v’shalom, be seen as being motsie la’az on Chazal in anyway. In all honesty, I’m not even sure how this motsie la’az would work. Is it motsie la’az to point out that Chazal didn’t live in 20th century America? Strange.

    That being said, it seems to me that many people are, in good conscience, concerned that this discussion will cause people to be motsie la’az on Chazal. Even if I disagree, I can understand. But AT THE VERY LEAST surely there must be some way to validate what seem to me to be the very legitimate discomfort of some feminists who are also genuinely bothered by the fact that so many gedolim throughout the ages seem to NOT have understood the bracha as charitably as R. Frimer.

  216. To reiterate, R. Frimer, what nags at me a little is the ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY with which some insist that R. Margaliyyot’s reason is the only pshutah shel bracha. Since it doesn’t seem at all to be pshat in the Tosefta (it’s really the hefech of the Tosefta’s reason) – although I assume that you think it is – and since there are many gedolim of previous generations who have not understood it this way, it seems a little jarring, I guess, to see the ‘other’ interpretation of the bracha dismissed as 100% wrong.

  217. The fact that R. Frimer cannot countennace the idea that Hazal thought that men were superior to women is a perfect example of the falsity of the idea of pure “Torah Hashkafa.” He has so internalized the contemporary egalitarian ethos that he cannot even imagine that Chazal do not espouse it.

  218. A delayed response to “A Little Sanity” (ALS)

    ALS asked what difference Rambam’s internalization of Greek philosophy made lehalakha.

    One answer is he fact that the Rambam considers study of aristotelian philosophy as the highest form of Talmud torah.

    In hilkhot yesode hatorah he includes philosophy as part of Gemara (compare hilkhot yesode hatorah 4.11 with Hilkhot Talmud Torah 1:11). When you add to that that in the introduction to the Mishneh Torah he says a person need only study Torah Shebekhitav and the Mishneh Torah it is clear that he does not see studying Gemara as having anything more than prepatory value. This is confirmed by the parable of the palace at the end of the Guide.

    ALS sees R. Hirsch’s call for all Jews to embrace humanitarianism, i.e. a love and concern for all human beings as no novelty at all.

    I would reply that I know of no pre-enlightenment rabbinic figure who thinks that it is incumbent on the *average Jew* to love all human beings. At most it is seen as saintly quality for yichide segula. The fact that Hirsch extends the call to “Pure humanitarianism” to all Jews is clear evidence of his having internalized enlightenment values.

  219. lawrence kaplan

    Jerry: My point was that R. Kanekfsky did not accurately represent Rav Kook’s view, not that that view is above criticism. Indeed, I indirectly indicated that that Rav Kook’s view is unsatisfactory by adding: “Whatever one may think of Rav Kook’s arguments.” FTR, I agree with the gist of your criticisms of his view.

  220. LK: Thanks for the clarification. My apologies for jumping the gun.

  221. r’ frimer – “In continuation of the previous post: Hazal as a rule freed women from Rabbinic obligations, like public prayer and Kri’at haTorah…”

    can you point to the source in chazal – i assume talmud – to the exemption of public prayer for women as a time bound mitzvah specifically? i may not have been clear in my previous post. my assumption is that there is no obligation for women in public prayer. but is that true for men as well – are they mechuyav individually? a community is obligated to have a minyan and kriyat hatorah but no man must attend (sa says – yistadel adam). if that is true – could it be that men and women are not obligated for public prayer and may to some degree on the same level? women are obligated in prayer even though it seems like a time bound commandement (not obligated in ktiyat shema) per berakhot 20b – to all its a positive commandment that is not time bound (the argument her eis that its talking about individual prayer only). one wonders why tefillah b’tzibur is not listed as a time time bound commandment in these places?

  222. r’ frimer – to the other point, are you saying that there were no biases in chazal regarding women and their abilities and rights as oppose to men? i am not asking to judge them based on today’s standards of fairness. as you have stated public policy does change – women’s learning – but it does upend 1000 years of tradition where community resources were not allocated – or an equal priority -to educate our women in general and specifically in torah.

  223. Ruvie, Blogs are for one liners. You tend to ask me questions on which people have written Seforim. Fundamentally, There is a mahloket as to whether Tefilla beTsibbur is a Hovat haYahid or Hovat haTsibbur. If the former, each male must attend. If the latter, it is the obligation of each male to make sure that there is a functioning minyan; only when such has been secured does actually praying within a minyan become a hiddur mitsvah. For extensive discussion see text and note 102 of “Women’s Prayer Services: Theory and Practice. Part 1 – Theory,” Aryeh A. Frimer and Dov I. Frimer, Tradition, 32:2, pp. 5-118 (Winter 1998). PDF File available online at: http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0021.pdf; HTML file available at: http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/tfila/frimmer1.htm#start; Word file available at: http://mj.bu.edu/rsrc/MailJewish/MjReaderContributions/WmnSrvRev15-1.doc.

  224. Joseph Kaplan

    Re the fact that the girsa of “sheasani yisrael” was a product of the censor, I just saw that R. AJ Heschel once quipped that sometimes the censor did us a favor.

  225. Besides, the type of people who would be satisfied by such an admission (like me) are almost always the type of people (again like me) who have tried their utmost to assure their fellow Jews that this would NOT, chas v’shalom, be seen as being motsie la’az on Chazal in anyway. In all honesty, I’m not even sure how this motsie la’az would work. Is it motsie la’az to point out that Chazal didn’t live in 20th century America? Strange.

    I find this last sentence to be a little disingenuous. Are you conceding that Chazal’s conceptions of gender inequality are not INHERENTLY unjust or immoral? That Chazal merely don’t jibe with fleeting 20th century morality?If so, why all the agitation for changing the bracha? Why not wait till the passing winds blow over?
    I suspect that in every feminist’s heart of hearts they do feel that gender inequality is INHERENTLY immoral. This automatically implies that if Chazal are admitted to have harbored conceptions of gender inequality, their conceptions would be immoral. That is how the Motzi La’az on Chazal works.
    I don’t see how an honest feminist can assure their fellow Jews of anything by talking his way around this problem with a bunch of chas ve’shalom’s.

  226. DK: “Are you conceding that Chazal’s conceptions of gender inequality are not INHERENTLY unjust or immoral?”

    I certainly don’t think they were immoral, inherently or otherwise.

    DK: “This automatically implies that if Chazal are admitted to have harbored conceptions of gender inequality, their conceptions would be immoral.”

    I admit to being more than a little perplexed about how this sort of delayed judgment on morality works. What is the statute of limitations on morality? In other words, the underlying logic of this argument seems to be that if a given decision is suitable for context X, then it must ALSO be suitable for every other context (Y, Z, Q, etc.). Consequently, if it is not suitable for context X, then it likewise mustn’t be suitable for every other context (Y, Z, Q, etc.).

    Once one recognizes that this framework is far compelling, your question falls away.

  227. Jerry:
    I certainly don’t think they were immoral, inherently or otherwise.

    I think this is more of an evasion than a response.
    So let me rephrase the question to avoid wriggle room:

    Please answer the following questions with a “yes” or “no” first, and additional commentary/qualifiers afterward.

    Do you believe gender inequality is an immoral/unjust/insensitive notion? On a par with spitting in someone’s face for no good reason?

    Is it just immoral/insensitive for you but not for Chazal? Would you have no qualms with Chazal hypothetically advocating spitting in people’s faces for no good reason?
    Is it just immoral/insensitive for you but not for me?
    Or is it immoral/insensitive for everyone to hold at all times (ie. inherently immoral/insensitive)?

    If you believe that gender inequality is an NOT immoral/insensitive notion for everyone at all times, then why would you advocate changing the text of the liturgy to suit a subjective, fleeting sensitivity?

  228. If I read the feminist critique of patriarchial societies accurately, they are claiming that the trend towards equality is a trend which is moving towards a more just and moral society and away from a less just and moral one.
    They are not coldly relating to this trend as some kind of sociological phenomenon with pendulum swings.
    They see it as a Hegelian advancement of human culture bestowing us with a superior moral environment over our ancestors–in the same way we see indoor plumbing and electricity as technological advancements which gives us superior quality of life over our ancestors.

    I think it is quite disingenuous to turn around and say “but for Chazal’s time, it was understandable and it wasn’t immoral for them”.
    It is admirable to try to avoid being motzi la’az on Chazal, but its really just lip service.

  229. Ruvie posed the following query:

    “r’ frimer – to the other point, are you saying that there were no biases in chazal regarding women and their abilities and rights as oppose to men? i am not asking to judge them based on today’s standards of fairness. as you have stated public policy does change – women’s learning – but it does upend 1000 years of tradition where community resources were not allocated – or an equal priority -to educate our women in general and specifically in torah”

    Perhaps, that is because feminism first appeared as an issue in the 1970s, at the earliest. IMO, it is revisionism writ large to claim that Chazal ignored issues involving women, when, one can argue, that they were never on the communal agenda to begin with, until the era when women began to work out of the house and to have a secular education.

  230. DK: Since we live in a complex world full of nuance – and since your writing is not nearly tight or precise enough – your questions cannot and should not be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”

    Rather than explaining why I no longer beat my wife, I’ll reiterate one more time: It is specious to claim that since a particular decision suits context X, therefore it must suit contexts Y, Z, Q, etc.

    The inverse is also false: If a decision does not suit context X, then it cannot suit context Y, Z, Q, etc.

    You’ve attempted to employ several analogies in service to your point. The simple answer to all of your objections is the above logical formulas.

    When you try to maneuver others into calling Chazal immoral or insensitive (and despite your slash marks, those two are not the same thing), you’re falsely equating actors with context. It is wholly appropriate, as I and others have done, to characterize a context as desirable or undesirable. And, by the by, when this option is available to halacha, it takes it (see the various chachomim throughout the ages who offer full-throated condemnations of the contexts that allowed for, or made necessary, everything from animal sacrifice, to eshes yefas toar, to slavery, to polygamy, et al.).

    But sometimes, as in this case, the context is a given, and we are instead asked to evaluate the actors (here, Chazal). My point – and I realize I am stating the obvious – is that it simply is incoherent to judge the actors without the context.

    What you have attempted to do is ask others to judge the context (which I have done repeatedly), but then apply that judgment to the actors in a manufactured “Aha!” moment. I hope to have shown why this doesn’t work.

  231. As for whether it is possible to claim that our society has, in certain respects, evolved along a positive trajectory from the time of past sages, I’ll simply note that this issue has already been dealt with in several other contexts, for instance, in assessing the halachic perspective on things like monogamy, slave bondage, democracy, etc. The following is a quote from R. Gerald Blidstein:

    “So too, I think, regards our horror at slavery. The [Jewish] tradition is, on the whole, tolerant of the institution – we are not. (I spare us the apologetics in which this topic is usually enveloped). I say “tolerant” – not uncritical – for we know well that biblical texts find slavery unpalatable, and rabbinic traditions are positively critical. But halakha lives with human bondage. Here too, our complete rejection of slavery fulfills the biblical vision of man created in the image of God and the Edenic ideal of two free individuals – even if, historically, we do not owe the abolition of slavery or even our present understanding of the content and problematics of freedom, to the Jewish historical or intellectual experience alone.”

    It is unquestionably better not to tolerate slavery than to tolerate it. So it is not inconceivable that modern society can get something right (even while it gets so many other things wrong).

  232. Jerry-simple question. You posed the following observation:

    “When you try to maneuver others into calling Chazal immoral or insensitive (and despite your slash marks, those two are not the same thing), you’re falsely equating actors with context. It is wholly appropriate, as I and others have done, to characterize a context as desirable or undesirable. And, by the by, when this option is available to halacha, it takes it (see the various chachomim throughout the ages who offer full-throated condemnations of the contexts that allowed for, or made necessary, everything from animal sacrifice, to eshes yefas toar, to slavery, to polygamy, et al.).”

    Aside from the Ramban’s view on Karbanos as explicated by R Meir Simcha, which you offer merely Rambam based rationalist POV, who says that Yefas Toar, slavery, polygamy were viewed as ideal for all times?

    Cannot one argue and offer a reasonable explanation without the same being viewed as non PC apologetics that aside from the hopeful restoration of Karbanos which we daven for on a daily basis, that all discussions of Eshes Yefas Toar, Eved Ivri and the like, which you term as “slavery”,( but which should never be compared to America’s experience with the same) or polygamy, were for the purposes of Drush Vkibel Scar?

  233. Jerry wrote:

    “I admit to being more than a little perplexed about how this sort of delayed judgment on morality works. What is the statute of limitations on morality? In other words, the underlying logic of this argument seems to be that if a given decision is suitable for context X, then it must ALSO be suitable for every other context (Y, Z, Q, etc.). Consequently, if it is not suitable for context X, then it likewise mustn’t be suitable for every other context (Y, Z, Q, etc.).”

    What about Hakaras Hatov which is a central element of emunah which we underscore at every Seder? Perhaps, there is no statute of limitations for expressions of one’s gratitude.

  234. Jerry wrote:

    ” Is it motsie la’az to point out that Chazal didn’t live in 20th century America?”

    WADr, the answer depends on your attitude. If you view Chazal as relevant today, not just because they were great figures in their time, then there is no issue of Motzie Laaz. OTOH, if your POV is that we can’t ask Chazal and that we can make our own decisions, regardless of the greatness or knowledge base of Chazal, IMO, that is perilously close not to Motzei Laaz, but classical RJ theology as expressed by Holdheim and others.

  235. DK,

    Here’s another quote from R. Blidstein that expresses the same idea in even starker terms – and I think it has some applicability here. In discussing the tension sometimes felt between the traditional halachic sources and the best notions of democracy, R. Blidstein writes:

    “In addition to scouring our sources, we can do something else, evne though we are not accustomed to doing it explicitly, and that is to admit that we have a problem. We can admit that we are uncomfortable with some of our materials. True, halakha generally proceeds by interpretation, not confession; by the legal process, not by moral discourse. But I think that we ought not be ashamed of the fact of our discomfort and its sources. Such a situation is often just below the surface in the writing of Rabbi Kook, and is probably one of the reasons for the fascination it holds.”

  236. To Jerry:

    You keep assuming that I am asking you to pass judgment on Chazal as people outside their context. I am not. I got your point about context even before you stated it. If you read my posts with nuance, you will discover that I am asking you to pass judgment on their notions of gender inequality. The question then remains: Do you find their notions of gender inequality immoral? Unjust? Insensitive?

    I maintain that you don’t have to impugn Chazal as people in order to be motzi la’az on them. Rendering their conceptions as “not for us liberated moderns” has the same deleterious effect on our ability to uphold talmudic Judaism as a belief system that can continue to provide us with a moral compass in the modern milieu and inform us of what our goals and attitudes in life should be.

    I’m perfectly fine with people saying they are personally uncomfortable with certain halachos or notions of Chazal and that they find them hard to relate to. But the feminist critique seems to clearly present Chazal’s notions of inequality as morally inferior–again, having the effect of rendering much of what Chazal has to say about women as something to categorically reject, ignore or to desperately get around using legal loopholes.

    My point is really to answer your initial question of how the motzi la’az on Chazal works.

    (P.S. To Steve Brizel: At the risk of being insensitive, I respectfully request that you not repeatedly comment and offer your input on a conversation that two other commentors are engaged in. I’m aware that a comment thread is an open forum, and that anybody can join in, but I think you are abusing it to the point where a discussion gets derailed and loses focus altogether. Please accept my apologies for being so critical.)

  237. Is R. Kanefsky and his synagogue outside the orbit of Orthodoxy, as R. Shafran suggested? The rhetoric has crossed the line but I’m not certain the practice has. If so, despite the clear inevitability of schism (if it hasn’t happened already), the RCA and OU have a little more time before they have to take action and pick sides. A little more time.

    I don’t understand this at all. The schism is inevitable, maybe it has already happened already, but the OU and the RCA have a little more time. To do what, exactly? Why should they need or want more time? Is the motto now “hop ye about upon two boughs” for as long as you can?

  238. lawrence kaplan

    Steve: Do you now see that is not only the “lefties” like my brother who get upset with your commenting style?

  239. Larry Kaplan-I had no idea that conversations on this blog were “exclusively” limited to the participants.

  240. lawrence kaplan

    Steve: We re not talking about your legal rights here, just your commenting style.

  241. Larry Kaplan-private conversations IMO don’t belong on a blog. Once you are engaged in a discussion here, I don’t see any real basis for limiting anyone’s involvement.

  242. Modern Orthodoxy is assur min ha-Torah, perhaps?

  243. I wouldn’t be so negative and absolute. There is a wide spectrum of views and nuances contained in Chazal which are continuously being explored and developed by qualified thinkers steeped in traditional learning.
    I sincerely believe each generation has been endowed with its giants of spirit who can reliably “channel” Chazal and assimilate modern sensibilities into Judaism in authentic and appropriate ways. (Yes, I know that’s a lot of qualifiers.)
    But with the Jewish feminists, (Orthodox or otherwise) we have the assimilation going in the opposite direction. They are not seeking guidance from Chazal and tradition as to what they should feel and how they should respond to feminism. Its much too late for them. They have received all of their sensibilities directly from the surrounding culture and see Chazal and tradition only as obstacles standing in their way.

    As Reb Gil said too briefly in this post,the solutions (and the problems) start and end with education. I understood this to mean looking primarily to tradition to educate us and inform our basic moral sensibilities and values.
    Modern thought should only have a supporting role. But for too many modern Jews, modern thought occupies center stage and the input of traditional Torah values in their lives is relegated to the 10 minute rabbi’s sermon on Shabbos.

  244. “Ruvie,
    We know that women are not obligated in Tefilla beTsibbur because that is what the overwheliming consensus of Poskim say”

    i’m not sure if you meant to answer ruvie or me, since I asked this question several times (maybe ruvie asked the same question). naturally the consensus is that women aren’t obligated in tefila betzibur, whatever the nature of that obligation for men (communal or individual). the issue is how and why do the poskim conclude women aren’t obligated. I contend the only basis for this conclusion in poskim is that women aren’t counted in the minyan for public prayer, and from this fact we know they aren’t obligated. you argue for the opposite direction of causation. what i asked is for a source for this. can you direct us to the source that concludes that women are exempt from public prayer and deduces from that fact that women aren’t counted in the minyan for public prayer. because all i see is the reverse logic, that as we already know that women aren’t included in the minyan for public prayer, we therefore realize they are exempt. can you provide a source that establishes the logical sequence you argued for.

    As a logical matter, even if you assume that women are included for the minyan for mitzvos in which they are obligated in, the logic is different for public prayer. with other mitzvos, there is an existing individual obligation, which is either enhanced or whose nature changes or which can be effectuated in the presence of a minyan. for public prayer, even if there is an individual obligation for men to show up for public prayer and not only to establish the minyan for prayer or to pray together if ten men are already present, the individual obligation is to join as an obligated member. There are two reasons to favor tefila betzibur. One is because of the maalot of tefila betzibur. However, these maalot of tefila betzibur apply as much to women who daven with the existing tzibur as to men, and there’s no reason to encourage men to take advantage of tefila betzibur more than women, nor is there reason to assume that taking advantage of the special maalot of tefila betzibur is obligatory. Rather, it is encouraged. The second aspect is to ensure that individuals show up in order that the community have a minyan for tefila betzibur to benefit all the individual members of the community. Whether this is merely encouraged or an actual obligation, the encouragement or obligation is only for men, because women aren’t counted to the minyan and their presence or absence doesn’t affect whether the minyan exists. This is the only logical reason to exempt women from tefila betzibur if it is an individual obligation, and if it is a communal obligation they are necessarily exempted.

    Again, if all this is incorrect, please provide a source that establishes an a priori exemption for women from tefila betzibur from which it is deduced that they don’t count in minyan. I don’t believe such a source exists.

    “In continuation of the previous post: Hazal as a rule freed women from Rabbinic obligations, like public prayer and Kri’at haTorah which required women to leave the home and make a public appearance. They are obligated in private prayer but not public”

    Come now. We have no evidence that this is the reason they “Exempted” women from public prayer (in fact, I don’t believe, as already argued, that they exempted women from public prayer, so much as excluded women from the count of minyan for tefila, so they are necessarily exempt from public prayer by its very nature. Not counting in minyan is learned from drasha and not based on any explicit rationale of not requiring them to appear in public.

    Women are exempt from kriat hatorah because they are exempt from talmud torah and kriat hatorah is public talmud torah.

    I press these points because of your own call in the title of the other thread to “keep the conversation honest.” To me it seems that you are trying to fit public prayer (and now also kriat hatorah) into handy pre-existing apologetic frameworks. You agree that women’s obligation in public prayer is unrelated to mitzvos asey shehazman grama. But it’s as though you are trying to fit tefila betzibur into the framework of mitzvos asey shehazman grama anyway, because then the apologetics come naturally – women are exempt from obligation, which grants them flexibility and choice to fulfill or not to fulfill, but the “cost” or tradeoff is that they can’t exempt men. Now you are arguing that women are exempt from private prayer for reasons somewhat analogous to exemption from m”a shehazman grama. They are not required to appear in public, freeing them to choose whether they wish to pray publically or not, but by not requiring them, we must in tradeoff not count them in minyan. Yet what source is there for this admittedly convenient framework?

  245. “women are exempt from private prayer”

    correction: public prayer

    “I don’t believe such a source exists”

    primary source. i’ve seen contemporary sources that argue as you do that women are only not counted in minyan because exempt from public minyan, but not ever seen this claim sourced in gemara/rishonim or even later poskim. I’d be happy to be corrected and discover a source for the claim.

  246. AYGC,
    PLEASE read: Aryeh A. Frimer, “Women and Minyan,” Tradition, 23:4, 54-77 (Summer 1988). PDF file available online at: http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0019.pdf (PDF).
    The Meiri in Berakhot states explicitly that women count for a minyan for every ritual they are Hayyavot. In addition the Ran, Meiri, Sefer haMikhtam and other Rishonim hold that women count for a minyan by Megilla because they are Hayyavot like men. Once you’ve established the principle that Hiyyuv equals tsiruf to a minyan it goes both ways. Hence it follows logically – which is the position of the tens of aharonim that I cite – that if women don’t count for a minyan for tefilla be-tsibbur, it is because they are not hayyavot. The Arukh haShulhan says this explicitly by Zimmun beShem.

  247. R. Frimer and I have been discussing the issue of minyan on the other thread (Keeping the Conversation Honest). Since it has come up here too, I think we should continue it in a single thread.

    The last point was as follows:

    Tal Benschar wrote: “Can you cite a single Rishon that holds that women count for a minyan with respect to Kiddush Hashem (martyrdom)? Or that minyan in that context is in any way related to obligation in that mitzvah?”

    To which R. Frimer responded:

    In all honesty, I cannot. All I have are the Rishonim I cited above that state that the rules of minyan are guided by obligation. If you insist on separating kiddush Hashem from all other Minyan requiring rituals because it is de-oraita and they are derabbanan, then you cannot then come back and try to learn anything from kiddush hashem to these rituals. They may use the same derasha – but one is a real derash (KH) while the other is merely an asmakhta. Hazal borrowed the concept of MInyan by KH and applied it to Rabbinic rituals. So says the Ran explicitly. Hence the rules may be different. All the rest is in the article

    First of all, let me thank R. Frimer for his intellectual honesty. Second, I would add the following points:

    1. As I wrote before, it is clear that Rashi in Sanhedrin holds that counting for a minyan for Kiddush Hasehm has nothing to do with being obligated in that mitzvah. So the view of the Gra is shared by Rashi, and as far as we know no other Rishon contradicts it. (As I wrote before, this is the most straightforward reading of the gemara.)

    So rather than discount this as the “minority” view, I think it behooves anyone who is honest that this is at least one of several mainstream views, if not the predominant one.

    2. The difference between Kiddush Hashem and Devarim she be Kedushah is not so much that one is deoraysa and one is derabbanan. The difference is what is the function of the minyan.

    In Kiddush Hashem, only the person who is being moser nefesh is being mekadesh shem shomayim. The ten are merely an audience that make it bepharhesya. (To use the Biblical phrase, they make it toch bnei Yisrael.) So whether they are chayyav in Kiddush Hashem is irrelevant. The requirement of ten Jewish men is learned from the gezeirah shaveh of toch toch, edah edah.

    As I pointed out, Rashi in Megillah seems to learn that davar she be kedushah works the same way — a single person who has not yet recited the davar she be kedushah may do so before 10, even if they already have discharged their oblgiation. But R. Tam and the Rambam hold we require that at least the majority (6/10) of the minyan be obligated to daven now. (The Shulkhan Arukh poskens that lechatchilah we hold like R. Tam and the Rambam, but bedieved we can follow Rashi).

    The second view seems to hold that davar she be kedushah means more than recited certain prayers AMONG a minyan, it is a prayer BY the minyan, a communal prayer. While Chazal borrowed the number 10 for a community, what they instituted requires that the minyan itself be obligated in and participates in the communal prayer. Hence if a majority of the ten have already prayed, there is no basis for a davar she be kedushah, acc. to this view.

    (R. Frimer’s article notes the shittah of the Ramban who differentiates between davar she be kedushah — where he requires a majority who have not yet recited the prayer — and pirsumei nissah, like Megillah, where he seems to hold like Rashi. IOW, in reading the Megillah, it is not a communal exercise, but merely an audience of 10, and for that even those who have already heard the Megillah may participate.)

    So it is only in these derabbanan halakhos that involve a communal participation where obligation becomes an issue.

    3. Turning back to Kiddush Hashem, the hashkafic implications are clear: the Torah considers ten men to consitute an “edah” which makes an act bepharhesya. The exclusion of women, even though they are without a doubt obligated on Kiddush Hashem, is a powerful indication that when it comes to constituting the “public,” women are expected not to be involved. And this is a deoraysa concept. (Whether this is meant to facilitate women dealing with their domestic responsibilities or for some other reason is speculation.) IIRC, R. Meiselman in his book about feminism explains the halakha in this very way: that a Jewish “public” is be definition the domain of men.

  248. R frimer, thank you for the link to the article. I appreciate learning that R. Margoliot formulates obligation in tefila betzibur as the cause of not being counted in the minyan for it, as you do. Now my question is on him as well as on you. Not all agree that women are counted to the minyan for mitzvos in which they are individually obligated, and relatedly, the nature of the minyan is different for mitzvos in which an individual obligation exists and those for which the essence of the obligation is to form a minyan. The case of zimun is instructive in that there is no obligation to seek out a group and be mezamen with them. The aruch hashulchan says that since we see that women are not mezamen beshem and don’t count for a minyan for zimun, they can’t be obligated in zimun, and the opposite logic also holds, that if they are obligated in zimun, they must form a minyan, because the nature of the obligation is that obligation and counting in a minyan go hand in hand. IIRC, the Ramban is of the opinion that the obligation in tefila betzibur is similarly only that those obligated and/or counted in the minyan who happen to be together with others counted, but I don’t think this is normative. When all agree that if women aren’t counted in the minyan they aren’t obligated to join a minyan – even those who hold that there’s an individual obligation to seek out an existing minyan, and also those who don’t assume that individual obligation equates with counting for the minyan – I don’t see how one can reach a conclusion other than that the obligation of tefila betizbur is inherently on those counted for the tzibur rather than the reverse logic.

  249. Tal Benschar, can you please provide citations for all gra references. Also what did the gra have to say about women and any kind of minyan.

  250. aygc,
    I’m not sure that I follow you argument and, hence, understand your question. However, as I stated, I am basing myself on the Meiri, Ran and other Rishonim who state that whenever women are hayyavot equally with men – they count for a minyan. Hence, it is clear that the starting point of the discussion is whether one is Hayyav or not.

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