Women Wearing Tallit?

 

Women Wearing Tallit? A Question and Some Tentative Answers

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America. None of those institutions necessarily agree (or disagree) with these tentative thoughts, and it is possible that the author himself will not, in the future, agree with them either – that is why the word “tentative” is in the title.

Preface

I have to confess that when I sent this piece out to some of my colleagues and friends to read, I received a very thoughtful but actually saddening reply from one of my close friends. He stated (somewhat edited) as follows:

There is, I think, a larger issue looming here, independent of the context of this particular question. Our community is divided into three groups. (1) The first are those who are members of the Modern Orthodox community whose allegiance to our community and its practices are not really dependent on intellectual satisfaction, but are driven by more spiritual ideas. (2) The second are people who are simply content to have a less progressive life in their religious existence than in their professional life, for social, family or other reasons. Both of these groups will be content with your essay. But there is a third group present in our community. This group (3) is not content with a halacha that is lacking modern day sensibilities. This essay argues that we are stuck with various conventions and attitudes even when halacha could afford much greater flexibility. All of us worry if we are providing the right responses for this group, which is made up of people who are who are looking for the same intellectual openness, progressiveness and creativity in all spheres of their life, including Judaism. They are, for sure, less traditional than the rest of the community, but fully bound by halacha. We are at risk of losing this portion of our community and we have to work harder to address the religious needs of this population as it is one that you and I probably identify with most closely. If we are not careful, after writing these kinds of reasonable but conservative responses for a few more decades, you will see that you have not been meeting the needs of this group and we will all agonize over a failed opportunity to strengthen this vital segment of our community.

I recognize that this email preface contains much to consider and I am still processing it, but a share it in place of a preface. I hope it is not correct in its analysis, but worry that it is.

Introduction

Dear Rabbi Ploni,

You wrote:

I am seeking your guidance in regard to a request I received from a woman, new to our community, who wishes to wear a tallit at shul. Currently, no other woman wears one here; but this woman has worn hers for years in other cities. She is a shomeret mitzvah in every visible way, and her request came to me with total respect and modesty. She wears a tallit katan already and has for years. In my heart, I want to say ‘yes’ because I am unaware of any authentic issur; yet, I fear the potential challenge to congregational equilibrium that might be generated. In my conversations with her, I cited Igrot Moshe which licenses a talit for a woman if it is more of a beged isha than a conventional tallit as worn by men. This woman has owned her own all-white tallit for a few years and feels emotionally attached to it. I do not know if I should stand by the position of Igrot Moshe and give my blessings only to a tallit that is manufactured specifically for a woman, or if the more proper answer is to allow her to wear the beged she already owns and ask for her cooperation in terms of continued modesty and discretion. I would like to resolve this matter as soon as possible. I look forward to your recommendation.

I have dreaded receiving this question from a shul rabbi. Not because I am afraid of hard questions – maybe I should be, but I understand that, to some extent, that is now part of my job. Nor is it because this question is outside my area of technical halachic expertise. Such cases (all too common for me) are easy to answer as I say “I do not know” and give them the phone number of a true gadol betorah, Rabbi Mordechai Willig שליט”א who more learned and wiser than me and one whose judgment should generally be followed.

This question is not such a case. I think I do understand hilchot tzitzit well, regularly answer hilchot tzitzit questions, and think this is within my area of halachic competence on a technical level. The problem is that there are two sets of issues to sort through: the technically halachic and the practical implications of when and how to effect profound change in customs within our Orthodox society. The complexity of the issue derives not so much from the difficulty in sorting out the halachot as from difficulties in sorting out the implications of the sociological changes that would result. Because of that problem, and its tension with my view that mitzvot should be encouraged, I dread this question because I see no reasonable way to answer it that resolves all the complex sociological issues reasonably.

I. What is the Current Minhag

There is a deep and strong post-Talmudic minhag yisrael that women do not, in fact, wear a tallit; see Maharil Chadashot 7 for example. Unlike many other mitzvot aseh she’azeman grama that women perform, this is a mitzvah that customarily women do not do. However, unlike tefillin which the gemara and rishonim discuss and explain why women do not and should not wear them (see Tur, Bet Yosef, and Rama OC 38:3) there is no obvious explanation for why women should not wear a tallit, whether it be a tallit katan or a tallit gadol. Indeed, like any mitzvah aseh she’hazeman grama, it is a mitzvah of a Torah level for women to wear tzitzit and certainly according to Rabbenu Tam (and most rishonim) a woman who performs such a mitzvah is divinely rewarded.[1]

II. What Are the Views Among the Poskim

Indeed, when one stops to examine the modern poskim on this matter, one sees, broadly speaking, three views, each with some merit.

One view adopts the model of minhag yisrael torah hu and notes that for centuries pious women have neither worn a tallit nor a tallit katan and we should continue the venerated non-mitzvah performing practice of our great-grandmothers. Since there is a tradition of non-performance, that is enough for us. See Minchat Yitzchak 2:108 and Rav Peelim OC 23, for example.[2]

This view focuses on tradition more than technical halacha as the determiner of our practice.

Another view is that women do not wear a tallit like the tallit worn by men since it is a man’s garment. Therefore, in order to allow a woman to wear a tallit in public we must change it so that it does not resemble the current male tallit. As Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote in 1975 in Iggrot Moshe OC 4:49:

איברא דאיכא רשות לכל אשה לקיים אף המצות שלא חייבתן תורה ויש להם מצוה ושכר על קיום מצות אלו וגם לשיטת התוס’ רשאות גם לברך על המצות וכמנהגנו שמקיימות מצות שופר ולולב וגם מברכות שא”כ גם על ציצית שייך לאשה שתרצה ללבוש בגד שיהיה בצורה אחרת מבגדי אנשים אבל יהיה בד’ כנפות ולהטיל בו ציצית ולקיים מצוה זו. * * * ובתרגום יונתן על קרא דלא יהיה כלי גבר על אשה איתא לא יהי גוליין דציצית ותפילין דהינון תיקוני גבר על איתא לא סבירא להו לתוס’ זה, ופשוט שהתוס’ סברי שאינו מתרגום יונתן.

But since any woman is permitted to perform even those commandments that the Torah does not obligate her to perform, and these women do a mitzvah and are rewarded for performing these commandments. And according to Tosfot’s view they are also told to recite the blessings on these commandments — and in accordance with our custom that they perform the commandments of [hearing the] shofar and [waving the] lulav and recite blessings [on these performances]. If so, with respect to tzitzit as well, it is possible for a woman who wishes to fulfill this mitzvah to wear a clothing item that is distinct from the one typically worn by men but which has four corners and for her to attach tzitzit to it and thereby fulfill this commandment.[3] * * *And Tosfot rejects the view of the Targum Yonatan, which translates the pasuk of “a woman shall not wear men’s clothing,” as “the garment of tzitzit and tefillin, which are men’s accoutrements, should not be worn by a woman”; and it is obvious that Tosfot maintains that this work is not actually from the Targum Yonatan.[4]

This is the view that Rabbi Yehuda Hertzl Henkin is reported to have adopted: Sincere women who want to wear a feminine looking tallit may do so and through this act do fulfill a mitzvah.
This view focuses on the technical halacha more than tradition as the determiner of our practice.

A third view is that of many of my own rabbayim who insist that the motives of people who are making these changes are suspect and we need to resist such change as it is grounded in rebellion against God and a desire to imitate the trend in Conservative Judaism or in contemporary Christianity. They note the next sentence in Iggrot Moshe which states:

אבל פשוט שהוא רק בחשקה נפשה לקיים מצות אף כשלא נצטוותה, אבל מכיון שאינו לכוונה זו אלא מצד תורעמותה על השי”ת ועל תורתו אין זה מעשה מצוה כלל אלא אדרבה מעשה איסור שהאיסור דכפירה שחושבת דשייך שיהיה איזה חלוף בדיני התורה היא עושית גם במעשה שחמיר.

However, it is obvious that this applies only if her soul yearns to perform mitzvot, notwithstanding the fact that she is not commanded to perform them. However, since it is not with this intent but rather stems from her protest against God and His Torah this is not the act of a mitzvah at all; quite the opposite, [it is] a forbidden act, for she commits heresy, thinking it possible for the laws of the Torah to be changed even in a grave matter.

Many of my teachers insist that these are the motives of women seeking to wear a tallit of any type and thus this change in custom needs to be resisted due to the poor motives of those pushing for this change.[5]

This view focuses on sociology more than technical halacha or tradition as the determiner of our practice.

III. Some Thoughts of My Own

While I understand both the traditional and halachic view well, I remain unconvinced of the correctness of the sociological view for a few reasons. First, the facts on the ground that I see make it far from convincing that all the women asking these questions are motivated generally by a desire to rebel. I think many are motivated by a desire to do all the mitzvot God commanded us. Second, and even more importantly, I am uncertain if Rabbi Feinstein is correct in this last sentence as a matter of halacha — although I am a nobody compared to his greatness, I think that as a general matter we do not look at motives for doing mitzvot, and we recognize that shelo leshmah bah lishmah when doing mitzvot, even for adults, and even when not obligated, so long as it is a mitzvah. Rabbi Feinstein’s claim that mitzvot when done with bad motives are sins is not a simple claim.

I think that the approach of most of my rabbayim is much more correct when it comes to women’s tefillah groups (with Torah reading). When engaging in activity that is not a mitzvah at all – and the defense of classical women’s tefillah groups is exactly that it is not a halachic Torah reading at all – the creation of a new ritual that serves no mitzvah purpose is unwise. It focuses women away from the central purpose of halachic conduct, the performance of mitzvot, and allows an outlet that is without religious purpose. It discourages mitzvot and provides as a substitute something with no mitzvah value. This is particularly true when the activity presented to women in merely mimicry without mitzvah content of a mitzvah activity presented to men and untraditional as I have discussed elsewhere.[6]

More generally, I think our job is to encourage people to do mitzvot; of course, first the mitzvot that they are obligated in and then the mitzvot that they get reward for doing even if not obligated in. Based on this analysis, I think women’s megillah reading is mutar, women’s zimun a fine idea, and would even favor other areas of innovation when the underlining conduct is a mitzvah. In a shul in which many women have lulavim and etrogim, I even think there is a mitzvah for women to have separate hoshanot, as when one looks in the classical poskim, one sees that women who have a lulav ought to do the na’anuim for Hallel like a man does and I see no reason to think that hoshanot are different.[7] There are many such examples where the conduct is a mitzvah and we ought to encourage women (and men) to do mitzvot.[8]

But, I do not think that a “tradition” not to do a mitzvah is such a strong barrier to prevent change to doing mitzvot absent a powerful reason (as in presented by tefillin). Indeed, I am generally in favor of abandoning traditions of non-mitzvah performance.[9]

IV. Some Concluding Halachic Thoughts

Which allows me to return to your question of women wearing a tallit: I have no idea really how to answer it in your community. Is this a halachic question, a minhag question or a sociological question. It is technically mutar (indeed, a mitzvah) extremely untraditional, and a huge social change!

One possibility is the one contemplated in the name of Rabbi Yehudah Henkin: we should not discourage women who wish to from wearing uniquely feminine tallitot in public and we should not be afraid of where this will take us, as it will take us to further observance of mitzvot.[10] The Chayei Adam 11:43 states this simply and directly:

נשים פטורות מציצית, מפני שהוא מצות עשה שהזמן גרמא, שהרי לילה לאו זמן ציצית. ומכל מקום אם רוצות ללבוש ולברך, יכולות לברך

Women are exempt from the mitzvah of tzitzit since it is a positive commandment that is time dependent and night is not the time for tzitzit. None the less if they wish to wear them and recite a blessing, they may.

Another second possibility is to adopt only part of Rav Moshe’s view and encourage this conduct in private among women whose motives are clearly sincere. In the past I have adopted this view, truth-be-told. This seems to be the view of those who say we do not object to pious women who wear tzitzit, and included in this list is Rabbi Yitzchok Elachanan Spector, also (see Be’er Yitzchak OC 16) and Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer 9:2).

A third is to adopt the view of some of my rabbayim and discourage this conduct as it is generally advocated by those who are rebelling against God and with bad motives. I understand this view, but I do not think it is correct, both factually and as a matter of halacha when dealing with a mitzvah.[11]

So, I am just not sure what to say. I am more sympathetic to Rabbi Henkin’s view now than I was a decade ago, but this is such a drastic and public change in minhag yisrael that I am hesitant to endorse it, although I am not sure why. But I would not label such action on the part of women as a sin, either. Maybe the Chayei Adam is correct.

So, I write you back uncertain of an answer—and certainly, I recognize that what is at stake here is the tone of the synagogue and community that you are seeking to lead. It seems to me that this is a crucial issue that goes beyond the strictly halachic question of whether a woman can wear a tallit. Should you permit her to wear her tallit to shul, you need to do so with the understanding that others will follow and you will be the rabbi of a synagogue where the custom will be that men and women both wear tallitot.

As I have noted in the in the past, while it may be perfectly fine for our practices to develop along certain permissible lines that diverge from current common custom, these changes, I think, should not be forced, and they must be allowed to develop almost organically and humbly without agenda-pushing. The simple fact is that in our day school girls are not trained to wear tzitzit, and to suddenly introduce this from the top down strikes me as so very artificial and thus somewhat unwise.[12]

In truth, were such a policy to take hold in many Orthodox days schools, the answer to this letter might very well be different – and indeed, you might not be writing me– as the transition from private tallit katan to tallit gadol would be normal. Indeed, to the extent that change in communal practice in this area is a good idea, I would suggest that this policy needs to be implemented (by those who favor it) with children of a much younger age and with a private tallit katan. The idea that schools should encourage the wearing of a tallit katan by both boys and girls because we have a firm tradition that wearing such a garment provides both religious and practical protection against (sexual) sin in these immodest times strikes me as reasonable and for this reason, I encourage tzitzit generally as a core mitzvah for men, even if one without a four cornered garment is not technically obligated. In our community – where both men and women are in the secular workforce and temptation abounds — maybe everyone always wearing a tallit katan has social virtues.[13] But I am not sure.

God should provide you with the wisdom to choose the right path. In the absence of such clarity, I would adopt that part of Rav Moshe’s view as the status quo as correct endorsing such conduct for the pious in private, although I understand other views well. This is the view Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg seems to takes in Techumin.[14]

N.B. A Brief Note about a Puzzling Classical Story involving the Rav זצ”ל

I confess that I am not much of a story teller – maybe I need to expand my style repertoire – but both Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein and his mechutan made reference to a story involving Rabbi Soloveitchik זצ”ל, women and tallit when reading an earlier version of this article. Rabbis Frimer in their excellent article on Women’s Tefillah Groups recount the story as follows:

R. Soloveitchik believed he had good reason to doubt that greater fulfillment of mitsvot motivated many of these women, as illustrated in the following story, related to us by R. Yehuda Kelemer, former Rabbi of the Young Israel of Brookline, Massachusetts. During the mid-1970′s, one of R. Kelemer’s woman congregants at the Young Israel of Brookline was interested in wearing a tallit and tsitsit during the prayer services. After R. Kelemer had expressed to her his hesitations about the matter, she approached R. Soloveitchik — who lived in Brookline — on the matter. The Rav explained that in light of the novelty of the action, it needed to be adopted gradually. Accordingly, he suggested that she first try wearing a talit without tsitsit (which is, of course, allowed for women.) The Rav asked the woman to return to him after three months, at which time they would discuss the matter further. When the two met once again, she described to R. Soloveitchik the magnificent nature of her religious experience in wearing the tallit. The Rav pointed out to the woman that wearing a tallit without tsitsit lacked any halakhically authentic element of mitsvah. It was obvious, therefore, that what generated her sense of “religious high” was not an enhanced kiyyum hamitsvah, but something else. Under such circumstances, the Rav maintained, wearing a tallit was an inappropriate use of the mitsvah. Consequently, the Rav forbade the woman from wearing a tallit with tsitsit. [Rabbi Aryeh A. Frimer & Rabbi Dov I. Frimer, “Women’s Prayer Services – Theory and Practice I” Tradition, 32:2, pp. 5-118 (Winter 1998) at page 41.]

In truth, I find this story perplexing on many levels and I share my amazement with the readers here. First and foremost, I just do not know how to consider such stories in the normative halacha. If the women had responded to the Rav’s request to wear a four cornered garment without tzitzit for three months, by expressing at the end of the three month trial period that “every day her heart had been broken by the knowledge that she was not fulfilling a positive commandment of the Torah” would the Rav have agreed to let her wear a tallit? In public? I confess that I am not certain but one could claim from this story that when confronted with a sincere women, the Rav does permit tallit wearing even in public, without even the feminine tallit limitation of Rav Henkin. According to this story, the Rav did not think that whether a woman should wear a tallit or not was about a public policy concerning Reform Judaism or women generally, but about the mindset of this particular woman, which certainly differs from person to person.

Second, I have halachic questions about this story. I am inclined to think that the ancient minhag that women not wear tzitzit is really that women not wear a four cornered garment, so as to not be obligated in such tzitizit (as the Rama implies in OC 17 and Darchai Moshe on Tur OC 17), whereas the Rav here clearly instructed the woman to wear a four cornered garment, yet without tzitzit. I find that amazing – it is like instructing a woman to eat bread outside a Sukkah, a form of bittul mitzvat aseh kiyumi and an astonishing thing to do. When I see a women eating bread just outside a sukkah on Sukkot, I smile sweetly, put on my most pastoral face, and say “it is mitzvah for you too, to eat in a sukkah.” I cannot for the life of me understand a gadol betorah affirmatively mandating bitul mitzvat aseh kiyumi as a precondition for fulfilling it – even as I can well understand the minhag that women not wear four cornered garments and then not need to wear tzitzit. Would Judaism is better served if women adopted the practice that women wear a male tallit garment without fringes (or better yet, with fringes on three corners!). To me, this seems astonishing, and I am just befuddled as to what the Rav proposed.[15]

Allow me to give a halachic example of this. The Shulchan Aruch recounts that a four cornered garment borrowed need not have tzitzit put on it (unless it is borrowed for more than 30 days – but yet, one may put tzitzit on such a garment if one wishes and the Magen Avraham (14:5) notes that one may make a bracha on such a garment, just like a woman may make a blessing on tzitizt. Surely, placing such tzitzit is a better idea than not if one is going to wear a four cornered borrowed garment?

Finally and most importantly, the world has progressed much since 1970 and this story is bundled in its time and place of progressive Boston of 40 years ago. Orthodoxy is just so different from that world – there is much more observance, education and yirat shamayim within our world, I am simply uncertain how to facture such social observations of decades ago into our calculus.


[1] See Kidushin 31a-b. From Eruvin 96a, it seems clear that tefillin are a more problematic issue.
[2] This is the view taken by the Kabbalists as well; see Sod Yesharim 12.
[3] Rav Moshe in this sentence explains why tefillin – but not tzitzit – are different. He states:

ורק להניח תפילין כתבו התוס’ עירובין דף צ”ו ע”א ד”ה מיכל דצריך למחות בידן משום דתפילין צריך זריזות מרובה בגוף נקי ובהיסח הדעת שמטעם זו אף אנשים שמחוייבין בתפילין נמנעין מלהניחם כל היום אלא רק זמן המועט דתפלה בשחרית, וכן איפסק ברמ”א או”ח סימן ל”ח סעי’ ג’.

It is only with respect to tefillin that Tosfot writes (Eruvin 96a, s.v. Michal) that you must object to them for the reason that tefillin require particular zeal, a clean body, and constant consciousness, such that even men who are obligated to wear tefillin avoid donning them aside for the short time spent praying shachris, and the Remah rules similarly (Orach Chaim 38:3).

[4] The question of whether the view of the Targum Yonatan should be accepted lehalacha or not is complex. My intuition is that Rav Moshe is politely noting that the Targum Yonatan is not normative as he could have added to the list of rishonim who reject the Targum Yonaton that Rambam Tzitizit 3:9 rejects his view, as well as Rosh (Halachot Ketanot Tzitiz 1):, Ran (14b (on Rif pages)) and Rama. For different reasons, it might be reasonable to claim that Bach, Shach and Taz do so also; see YD 184:5. But see Bet Hillel, YD 182:2 who endorses the approach of Yonatan ben Uziel and Halichat Shlomo [Aurebach], Tzitzit page 35, note 27. Tallit katan, worn under one’s garments, it would seem to me, is certainly not covered by this prohibition, no different than undergarments generally.
[5] A modified version of this view is adopted by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef in Yalkut Yosef, Tzitizit 231 which indicates that it is not these women, but these times – when Reform Judaism is directing women to wear talitot – that we should oppose women wearing tallitot in our community. In truth, I find this analysis very difficult to explain, although easy to understand in my gut. Given the broader phenomenon of non-halachic egalitarianism with liberal Judaism, encouraging women to wear a tallit might appear as a concession to non-Orthodox movements. As such, Rav Ovadya insists we all ought to prohibit this development, even if in a different cultural context it would be permissible. To me, this makes sense when dealing with non-mitzvah matters – but the idea that when Liberal Judaism undertakes to do a mitzvah we should eschew this mitzvah in response, seems difficult. In addition, it seems to me on a social level that the strength of this argument is also its weakness. Rabbi Yosef – truly the foremost halachic authority alive today – proposes that even those who objectively support women wearing tzitzit as a mitzvah would not advocate such in our times as such conduct weakens Orthodoxy generally. This might be true, but the reverse might be true also: we strengthen the hand of those who oppose Torah and mitzvot when we prohibit that which halacha permits and encourages for these political reasons. It might lead opponents of Orthodoxy to conclude that we – Orthodoxy’s representatives in our generation – are not advocates for God’s law at all but just politicians.
[6] For more on this, see my “A Brief Note about “Women’s Only Torah Reading” on Simchat Torah” at http://torahmusings.com/2012/10/women%e2%80%99s-only-torah-reading/
[7] Minhag Ashkenaz insists that it is proper for women who want to, to shake a lulav and it is not at all uncommon for women to come to shul with arba minim nowadays. Nowhere in the classical poskim is it recorded that hoshanot with a lulav are different. (In truth, my notes recount that I saw in Eshai Yisrael a view that notes women should not do hoshanot, but I cannot find the view recorded now.)
[8] This note discussed the practice of permitting women to read – after davening and in a distinct place – Ruth, Shir Hashirim or Kohelet and women dancing with a torah on simchat torah. Neither of these cases is at all like a women’s Torah reading or women wearing a tallit in that men are obligated in such a Torah reading and women are not, and both are doing mitzvot when wearing a tallit. In the case of the three megilot, there are two ways to think about the obligation; either no one is really obligated or both genders are obligated. Gra and many others think about reading the three megilot as like reading Esther, and make a bracha; see Gra OC 490:9. Others adopt the view that this whole matter is a minhag and neither men nor women are genuinely obligated to read or hear anything. See Rama OC 490:9. Whichever view is correct, the obligation of men and women are the same (either the same obligated, or the same not obligated) and when a woman reads any of the three megilot from a klaf, whatever obligation she has, she fulfills and she makes a bracha. Such is not the case with women’s Torah reading, which is exactly the mimicry problem or women’s tallit wearing, which is a clear mitzvah.

Women dancing with the torah is simply different since no one is obligated to dance with a torah, neither men nor women, and thus the whole mimicry issue disappears and it is just a matter of tradition. Since neither men nor women are doing any mitzvah at all, it is hard to lay out a firm halachic position, as no matter of halacha is at stake; I would hardly label a man who refused to dance with a Torah on Simchat Torah a sinner. One can oppose this for social-cultural reasons, or favor it for social cultural reasons, without pointing to any firm halachic rule. Different people and communities take different views.
[9] For more on this see my http://torahmusings.com/2009/11/halacha-first/.
[10] See here in the name of Rav Henkin It is widely recorded that the Rabbanit Bruna, wife of the Mahari Bruna wore tzitiz. See Teshuva Maharil Chadashot 7 in note 24.
[11] See eg Tosafot Brachot 17 a sv haoseh. Much more could be written on this and Rabbi Dr. Dov Frimer has pointed me to a contrary Raavad on Sifra Vayikra Parshata 2-3, folio b.
[12] See here (PDF). A few years ago I was asked by a group of parents in an Orthodox run community day school which was struggling with a tzitzit policy for its students what do to. The Orthodox community was not powerful enough in the school to adopt the policy of all boys must wear tzitzit, but with the Conservative rabbis could adopt a policy of “all children must wear tzitzit” as a school wide policy. What should they do?
[13] See for example, Iggrot Moshe OC 4:4 for an exchange between Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and his son Rabbi David Feinstein on why it is so important for me to wear tzitzit.
[14] Techumin 18:120-124 in section 1 (5758). See the article by Professor Eliav Shochatman on this topic in volume 17 as well.
[15] I certainly understand this view according to those who think that it is not a mitzvah at all for women to do any of the mitzvot aseh that they are exempt from – sort of like a man sitting in a sukkah when it is pouring down rain (see Rama 639:7) – but once one adopts the view of Rabbenu Tam that doing these mitzvot is a good thing for women to do and an act that makes God smile – as all mitzvot do – I am befuddled. In electronic conversation with Rabbi Aryeh Frimmer, we considered the following model. Consider whether it is good for a man to have a policy of only eating and drinking anything in a sukkah (on sukkot, of course) which is clearly not required by halacha, but clearly a better policy as noted by the Shulchan Aruch 639:2. The opposite of that is would seem to be less than ideal.

 

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  1. Chaim says:

    I have to ask, when do we find a bitul mitzvas asei kiyumis? Are you referring to beidan rischa or something else?

  2. LongTimeReader says:

    About footnote #5, isn’t there a ma’amar chazal quoted by Rashi that bamos were once loved by Hashem, but then once adopted by ovdei AZ became detestable. Not comparing feminism to AZ, but isn’t that a precedent for the idea that something can go from halachically sanctioned to problematic because it is co-opted by others?

  3. LongTimeReader says:

    2 more Points:

    -Surprised not to see (did I miss it?) reference to the Rama who I think says that women should not wear a tallis because of yuhara.

    - I have always been bothered by that story about the Rav & just don’t get it.

  4. S. Beck says:

    Yashar Koach on a thorough, thoughtful, and CALM discussion of an emotionally and politically fraught subject!! I expect it to be very useful. –s.

  5. emma says:

    (1) I have also always been bothered by that story abt the Rav, for the reasons you mention as well as by the apparent entrapment – he essentially tricked her, if the story is true, into having the wrong experience. sure, maybe she should have known that she was not really doing the mitzvah, but she was just doing it exactly the way a big rabbi told her to. a sincere but not very educated woman could easily think that she _Was_ doing something spiritual if she was doing what a gadol told her was the first step toward doing a mitzvah

  6. emma says:

    (2) Rabbi Broyde, I am puzzled by your analysis in these lines:

    “As I have noted in the in the past, while it may be perfectly fine for our practices to develop along certain permissible lines that diverge from current common custom, these changes, I think, should not be forced, and they must be allowed to develop almost organically and humbly without agenda-pushing. The simple fact is that in our day school girls are not trained to wear tzitzit, and to suddenly introduce this from the top down strikes me as so very artificial and thus somewhat unwise.”

    I would have thought the opposite: Individual, apparently sincere women who begin doing this mitzvah in private and then move into the public realm is just the sort of “organic,” or “bottom up” change that is not “forced.” A “policy” in dayschools, on the other hand, is “top down” and coercive.

    If a dayschool principal asked about allowing a little girl to wear tsitsit out (or at all, since with little kids they end up out sooner or later) what would you say? I don’t see any meaningful distinction between that case and this.
    If a dayschool principal wanted to start requiring girls to wear tsitsit, that strikes me as very top-down, not organic, etc.

  7. emma says:

    (3) I also question whether it is really true that “should you permit her to wear her tallit to shul, you need to do so with the understanding that others will follow and you will be the rabbi of a synagogue where the custom will be that men and women both wear tallitot.”
    There are currently shuls where women who want to do wear talitot, and have for at least a decade or more. I am not aware of any nominally orthodox shul where even half of the women do so. Perhaps a few others will follow, but for whatever reasons the floodgates do not seem to be opening.

  8. Nachum says:

    The story about the Rav has always seemed to me a reflection of his Brisker ideals (which he himself admittedly did not keep to)- something like his story of the Chasid crying at shofar and not (supposedly) arba minim. Lots of *men* get more of a “high” from, say, tallit than the strict observance of a mitzvah. Did he expect more of this woman? Did the story really happen?

    As always, I’ll cite that Hamevasser parody of Nefesh HaRav:

    “The Rav was once a sandak at a bris and the baby began to cry. The Rav looked at the baby and asked, ‘Do you cry when you bench lulav?’”
    :-)

    R’ Broyde, two minor points:

    1. How are you defining “Hoshanot” here? I’m just curious.

    2. Not Eicha?

  9. Moshe Shoshan says:

    I think is missing here is that the reason why people respond with such vehimence against women learning torah/wearing talis/tefillin/becoming rabbis in a manner that far exceeds the halkhic issues at stake is that these are all key elements in the halakhic construction of masculinity. Challenging gender constructs is always threatening to the stability of the over all culture. This is especially so in current times when such changes have come part and parcel with a major upheaval in values and morals in the last 50 years.
    Such responses need to be respected even as we insist on more sophisticated and less emotional response to the challenges of modernity.

  10. Joe in Australia says:

    This issue occurred to me earlier in another context. I have seen rectangular woolen shawls that are typically worn by women (e.g., pashminas) but would presumably need tzitzit if worn by a man. If a woman added tzitzit to her pashmina shawl, would any Rabbinic authorities stop her? On what grounds would they wish to be mevatel a mitzva aseh when the question isn’t “should I wear a tallit?” but “should I take advantage of a leniency when the mitzva is lying there before me?”

  11. Perry Zamek says:

    What strikes me here is that there seems to be a difference in terms of how we pasken halacha in other cases, and in the present issue.
    In other halachic matters, where there are divergent views, including one that is quite lenient, we might answer that “the majority view is X, but if you follow the lenient view, then ‘yesh al mi lismoch’ – you have an authority who backs your practice”.
    Here, in the case of tallit, there is the clear statement of the Chayei Adam, and yet everyone seems to tread warily around the question, rather than simply offering the view of the Chayei Adam as support for those women who wish to wear a tallit.
    Is the reason for this halachic? I tend to think not. I think it has more to do with sociological (or even communal-political) issues – what will the Haredim say? What will the Conservative and Reform say? What will my congregants say? What will by colleagues’ congregants say?

  12. IH says:

    I have no major issue with this post, but perhaps I can shed some constructive additional light on the criticism of “reasonable, but conservative”. I can think of at least 5 ways in which the Talit has significance in the shul context, of which only the first 2 are discussed in R. Broyde’s response:

    1. Fulfilling a mitzvah.
    2. As a spiritual aid.
    3. As a sociological marker (e.g. single or married)
    4. As a leadership marker (e.g. Shatz)
    5. As Kavod la’Torah (e.g. p’ticha, leyning, aliya, hagba, g’lila)
    6. As an individual aesthetic statement

    As someone who regularly davens in a Partnership Minyan, it seems to me that only a small minority of women wear a talit. But, I am often struck by the incongruity that when an unmarried Ashkenazi male is Shatz, or fulfills some function related to the Torah they put on a Talit for the occasion of their function (and then take it off); whereas, most of the women don’t. I have never heard anyone discuss this as an issue of synagogue conduct.

    I also note that in the past 20 years, males within Modern Orthodoxy started to used the Talit as a statement of individual aesthetics. Whether it be in the use of blue rather than black, or multiple colors, or techelet tzitziyot, or even the nusach one uses for the knots.

    A less conservative response would have drawn upon these broader uses of talit to articulate why this is less an halachic issue than an issue of modern engagement with religion through creativity: e.g. imbuing an old artifact with new meaning.

    —–

    Moshe Shoshan’s comment is well made; but, the converse is: what about respect for the other 50% of the demographic?

  13. IH says:

    Additionally: if a man can derive spiritual benefit from davening with his talit over his head, why shouldn’t a women also be allowed to derive such benefit when she davens?

  14. Jacob says:

    I have also always been bothered by that story abt the Rav, for the reasons you mention as well as by the apparent entrapment – he essentially tricked her, if the story is true, into having the wrong experience. sure, maybe she should have known that she was not really doing the mitzvah, but she was just doing it exactly the way a big rabbi told her to. a sincere but not very educated woman could easily think that she _Was_ doing something spiritual if she was doing what a gadol told her was the first step toward doing a mitzvah

    Emma:

    The Rav’s criticism of the woman was not for following his directions. It was for voluntarily sharing her distorted attitude towards the fulfillment of mitzvot. The Rav didn’t coerce her into saying that. Maybe that is exactly the problem the Rav drew out – wrongly assuming what something a gadol directs you to do gains automatic spiritual significance.

  15. emma says:

    OK, but as nachum points out that poblem could have easily happened to the vast majority of ortho men as well, certainly in the 70s. that doesn’t mean they are motivated by something “bad,” just that they are not very educated, and perhaps even “wrong.” is not the proper response to a congregant who is wrong, uneducated, and perhaps unsophisticated to educate rather than to set up a “gotcha” moment?

  16. emma says:

    seriously, if a rabbi tells you the first step towards doing amitzvah is X, apparently in an effort to see if you really want to do the mitzvah, and then asks you how you feel about X, what simple jew would be brave enough to say “actually, i disagree with your advice and found it very troubling.” ?

  17. Noam Stadlan says:

    Another excellent article as usual by Rav Broyde. A few observations:

    1. Perhaps the willingness to confront the sociological viewpoint was the rationale for the Edah tag line- the courage to be modern and Orthodox

    2. R. Adam Fertziger has pointed out how Rav H. Schachter has constructed a ‘meta-narrative’ connecting feminism with heresy where it did not exist previously, ironically creating innovation while opposing it.

    3. Physician and bassist Mark(Moshe) Skier coined the term ‘auto immune Judaism’. Auto immune diseases are where a function that is very useful in combatting external threats(infection) causes damage when turned on the body’s own tissues. The problem sometimes occurs when the external threat has been eliminated but the defense mechanism continues attacking tissues.

  18. To Moshe Shoshan and others:

    I think what underlies much of the traditionalist opposition to “women learning torah**/wearing talis/tefillin/becoming rabbis” is not sociological at all. It akin to what Rav Moshe referred to as a rebellion against God. And contrary to the narrow analysis of this objection in the post, I do not think this is something which is only measured on a case-by-case basis.

    The objection stems from the assumption (correct or incorrect)that God has ordained different paths of worship for Jewish men and women within the gamut of Torah and mitzvos. The exemption given to women from daily time bound mitzvot and advanced Torah learning is indicative of that different spiritual path.
    When individual women ask to take on mitzvot which only men are obligated in, it could very well be that they are sincerely trying to increase their connection to God via these mitzvot. But by choosing these mitzvot in particular, they are perhaps ALSO making the statement that by exempting them from these mitzvot, God doesn’t really know what women need to connect to Him. Women really ought to be able to access the spirituality of these mitzvot as well as men.

    To put it in a sharper way, asking to perform “men’s mitzvot” is a subtle way women express their rejection of the blessing for women “She’a’sani kir’tzono”. It is a way of saying, “No, I am not content to serve God in the way He Himself designed me –in a way uniquely different from men. I know better.

    This, I believe is the main source of the opposition.

    Back to sociology: Of course, when there is a profound lack of charismatic feminine role-models in the Modern Orthodox community who can portray or articulate a Jewish woman’s uniquely different path to spirituality and connection to God, it is not surprising that the women in that community are left to only identify connection to God through men’s mitzvot.

    (**I must correct the first example of “women learning torah”. All Orthodox girls and women learn an awful lot of Torah, as far as I know. Tanach and its commentaries, sifrei mussar and hashkafa, and practical dinim etc. That’s a library full.
    The important difference here is the ultimate value given to women learning TALMUD, its commentaries, and primary halachic sources, in the M.O. world– which until now has been the exclusive domain of men’s Yeshivot.

  19. ben dov says:

    This post suggests two possibilities: either she wants to do mitzvos or she seeks to rebel. There is another- she likes wearing a talis. It’s possible to be attracted to a mitzva, even one that is not required, while being less than zealous for required mitzvos.

    I have no policy suggestions, but I feel clear and certain she needs a gradual (but sensitively done) hashkafa education where the objective value of various practices are better understood.

  20. Jacob says:

    OK, but as nachum points out that poblem could have easily happened to the vast majority of ortho men as well, certainly in the 70s. that doesn’t mean they are motivated by something “bad,” just that they are not very educated, and perhaps even “wrong.”

    Very true. But the difference is that one does not have the luxury to tell a man with bad motivations not to do the mitzvah.

    seriously, if a rabbi tells you the first step towards doing amitzvah is X, apparently in an effort to see if you really want to do the mitzvah…

    The Rav, I’m sure, had no doubt that the woman really wanted to do the mitzvah, but questioned her motivation.

    …and then asks you how you feel about X, what simple jew would be brave enough to say “actually, i disagree with your advice and found it very troubling.” ?

    Such a reply would have been misguided as well.

  21. emma says:

    “such a reply would have been misguided as well”

    ok, jacob, so was there anything she could have done that would have proved her “worthiness” to do this mitzvah?

    (i am treating this story as hypothetical at this point, btw. whether or not it happened, though, the extent to which it is reapeated uncritically says something about the people retelling it, at the very least…)

  22. talmid says:

    I am confused by the מתוך שלא לשמה argument. Tosafot in many places in shas says that when the shelo l’shmah is לקנטר, which is exactly what Rav Moshe suspected, the mitzvot become a סם המות and are not to be encouraged

  23. emma says:

    “But the difference is that one does not have the luxury to tell a man with bad motivations not to do the mitzvah.”

    but why tell the woman not to do it, as opposed to educating her or encouraging somethig mitoch shelo lishmah? i f you found out a woman was shaking lulav because she likes the esrog smell, would the proper response be to tell her not to, or to say something like “well, at least she’s doing the mitzvah” and try to educate her better?

  24. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Long Time Reader: It was the matzevah which was ahuvah al ha-avot, but senuah al ha-banim. IIRC, the Ramban states it was because the Canaanite made it into an IKKAR avodah Zarah. Other reasons are offered as well. See Nehamah Leibowitz, Iyyunim be-Sefer Bereishit, citing Rav Hirsch and Rav Kook.

    A extremist 19th century Hungarian Rav once explained why, at least in his circles, the Orthodox did not study dikduk. True, he stated, the rishonim did study dikduk, but once the maskilm, SRY, made it into an ikkar avodah zarah…. (I believe I heard this story from Prof. David Berger.)

  25. Sass says:

    Noam Stadlan,

    It’s apparent from R Broyde’s citation of Iggros Moshe (1975) that Rav H. Schachter has NOT “constructed a ‘meta-narrative’ connecting feminism with heresy where it did not exist previously, ironically creating innovation while opposing it.”

    Apparently Rav Moshe saw the same rumblings of kfira in the feminist movement that Rav Schachter does, so I’m not sure why you’re trying to attack Rav Schachter this. And I’m also not sure how recognizing the agenda of the feminist movement constitutes “innovation.”

  26. Joseph Kaplan says:

    I remember that when I first read the story about the Rav (which was printed after he was no longer able to confirm or deny it) I didn’t believe it for many of the reasons R. Broyde and other have noted. Still don’t. While at least R. Broyde notes the problems, it would be better to leave such a questionable story out of serious halachic analyses of this issue such as R. Broyde’s.

  27. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    I too and many people I spoke to about it have been troubled by the Rav story for the reasons stated by Rabbi Broyde and Emma. I have often stated that we should be wary about basing too much on private conversations individuals said they had with the Rav or stories they relate about the Rav unless confirmed by mutiple individuals.

  28. Jacob says:

    Yes. She could have said, “I recognize that my actions over the past 3 months had no halakhic or spiritual significance. Rather, I am motivated by a sincere effort to register an authentic halakhic act and gain spiritual benefit by its fulfillment.” Better yet, she could have at the onset told the Rav, “I have no interest in activities that have no halakhic significance any more than I have interest in picking up a lemon during Sukkot. Rather, I am motivated by a sincere effort to register an authentic halakhic act and gain spiritual benefit by its fulfillment.”

    Would the Rav have proceeded to allow such a woman to wear a tallit? I don’t think the story answers that question. Assuming that the story is true, my guess is that the Rav immediately realized the questionable motivations of the woman and consequently drew out a lesson for her and others about how one should properly relate to the halakhic system.

  29. emma says:

    “I didn’t believe it for many of the reasons R. Broyde and other have noted. ”

    I heard that story many times in my MO schooling, from Rav-devotees. It did not occur to me that it might be false until much later.

  30. emma says:

    “She could have said, “I recognize that my actions over the past 3 months had no halakhic or spiritual significance. Rather, I am motivated by a sincere effort to register an authentic halakhic act and gain spiritual benefit by its fulfillment.” Better yet, she could have at the onset told the Rav, “I have no interest in activities that have no halakhic significance any more than I have interest in picking up a lemon during Sukkot. Rather, I am motivated by a sincere effort to register an authentic halakhic act and gain spiritual benefit by its fulfillment.””

    my previous objection still stands. if you go to a rabbi for halachic advice, and he tells you to do X, how many laypeople would think it proper to say “i have no interest in X because it is halachically meaningless”? not only might they assume that, if a gadol tells them to do something, it has halachic significance that the layperson is just missing, but even if they had suspicions it would feel pretty chutzpahdik to contradict the gadol to his face.

  31. Jacob says:

    my previous objection still stands. if you go to a rabbi for halachic advice, and he tells you to do X, how many laypeople would think it proper to say “i have no interest in X because it is halachically meaningless”? not only might they assume that, if a gadol tells them to do something, it has halachic significance that the layperson is just missing, but even if they had suspicions it would feel pretty chutzpahdik to contradict the gadol to his face.

    You mean this wwoman who had a proper understanding of mitzvot didn’t even have it in her to merely question the significance of the Rav’s advise? You mean this woman, who stood up, mind you, in the MO community in Boston in 1970 to ask to wear a tallit was too meek and sheepish to simply ask a question?

  32. Noam Stadlan says:

    Sass- read the article

  33. I was also surprised at the egregious omission by Rabbi Broyde of the “yehurah” problem for women wearing talitot. Rav Soloveitchik felicitously translated this term as “religious exhibitionism”.

    If understood broadly, I believe it can be related to the ideological opposition I described earlier.

  34. Sass says:

    Noam – answer the question

  35. emma says:

    jacob,
    I don’t know if “she” exists. (I suspect i would know her, or be within one-two degrees of separation, if she eixsted, and I have never heard her identified…) That makes it hard to know what could have been expected of her. My point is that it is completely plausible that someone would accept the advice of a rabbi on how to start doing a mitzvah at face value, without second-guessing that maybe he was trying to set her up. Recall you are talking about women who were not yeshiva educated, probably, who were not raised with shakla vetarya or the idea that if you ask a good kashya on a rabbi it’s a good thing…

    So I still think that the story has the Rav setting her up, in a way that the vast majority of modern orthodox adults in boston at the time could have been set up. That doesn’t seem very meaningful to me as an indictment of this hypothetical individual, and certainly not as an indictment of the supposed movement she supposedly represented. Not to mention that the women of my generation, who grew up hearing this story, have largely assimilated its message and are seeking more “authentic,” mitzvah-related experiences than their mothers.

    But as Joseph Kaplan said, this story is perhaps a distraction from the main topic, so if I have not convinced you I guess I agree to disagree.

    I was also curious about the omission of yuhara.

  36. IH says:

    rumblings of kfira in the feminist movement

    And how many Rabbinic sources can we trot out to illustrate the rumblings of kfira in the Zionist movement?

    As R. Broyde correctly states: “the world has progressed much … Orthodoxy is just so different from that world”.

    To be sure, there are some that still firmly believe that Zionism is kfira, but that is no longer the normative view of Orthodoxy in the 21st century.

  37. Rafael Araujo says:

    The issue when it comes to motive IS feminism. If there was no feminist movement today (the world would look differently, obviously), then the claim of lishmah is much more straightforward in the case of a women who wishes to wear a tallis katan/gadol. What feminism has done is make such interests suspect because today, for a woman to want to do something that men normally do but women do not, raises the concern that what is motivating a particular is her desire that men and women be able to engage in the same things.

    The Chayei Odom lived when feminism did not exist. What would he say today, when women and men treated as almost the same in terms of rights and responsibilities then they ever were.

  38. A woman who wants to wear a tallis, knowing full well that women do not and never have worn them, is making a political statement. Period. There is no way that a woman who is sincerely trying to serve G-d with all her heart is going to set herself up as a pioneer in new religious practices. It is arrogant, it is narcissistic.

  39. IH says:

    It is arrogant and narcissistic to claim to know what motivates these women, Ms. Katz.

  40. ksil says:

    I think a bunch of MEN should sit around and debate and look into old, ancient books that were written in a different time, for different people, in a dirfferent society, and decide whether or not WOMEN can wear a wool scarf while praying to the Lord with fringes on the end of it, to bring more spirutuality to their life, and the most liberal Man/expert should proclaim this as fobidden.

    the funny thing is, the talit was probably initiated into the prayer service by some cold bearded man who was wearing an extra wool layer during those cold shacharit mornings in eastern europe, and put fringes on to be mekabel the mitzvah, and within 2 generations, it became LAW, becasue beryl shmeryl was seen wearing this object.

  41. Rafael Araujo says:

    “the funny thing is, the talit was probably initiated into the prayer service by some cold bearded man who was wearing an extra wool layer during those cold shacharit mornings in eastern europe, and put fringes on to be mekabel the mitzvah, and within 2 generations, it became LAW, becasue beryl shmeryl was seen wearing this object.”

    Of course…in fact, are you just quoting from you recently published masterpiece “Ksil Techeiles: Musings on Patriarchally Based Social Impositions and the History of Tallisos and Thermal Underwear”. I saw a used copy on Amazon for only $1.99. A real steal of a deal!

  42. Rafael Araujo says:

    “It is arrogant and narcissistic to claim to know what motivates these women, Ms. Katz.”

    No its not. What Toby Katz wrote is actually a logical derivation, based on current social realities. I am suprised since you trumpet social reality all the time.

  43. Chaim says:

    David Kornreich,

    Women’s study of Gemara is divinely ordained? They are rejecting His path for them by learning a collated book of laws, ideas, and dialogues?

  44. David S says:

    Toby, if you actually read what you just wrote, you can apply it directly to yourself. Why do you feel that you are the arbitrator of such things. Is that not arrogant and narcissistic? Who made you Gadol Hador?

  45. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Toby Bulman Katz: It is your statement which is arrogant, dogmatic, and judgmental. Note that Rabbi Ploni, who actually knows the woman in question, testifies to her being a shomeret mitvot and to her respect and modesty. But you, of course, who never met the womn know better. I am suprised at and disappoited in you. You are generally more thoughtful and nuanced.

  46. emma says:

    re: “I am inclined to think that the ancient minhag that women not wear tzitzit is really that women not wear a four cornered garment, so as to not be obligated in such tzitizit”

    (1) Many contemporary women do wear four-cornered shawls, etc. I suspect this is not a new fashion innovation but do not know the history well enough to say for sure.

    (2) Is there any reason that a four-cornered tichel/headscarf should be exempt from tsitsit? (I never really studied this area, for fear that the more I knew the more I would want to do it…) If not would Rabbi Broyde advise women to avoid wearing such scarves, or to modify them so they no longer have 4 corners?

  47. Shmuel says:

    Its clear that hundreds if not thousands of years of halachik tradition should serve as precedent .If the concern is that not allowing a woman to publicly express her legitimate religious aspirations will lead to their alienation from Orthodoxy , it doesn’t speak too highly of their religious aspirations. Individual women have over the millennia opted to delve into the intricacies of Torah and done so in private why should that change? Schools should Provide a basic education that will result in an observant adult (in consonance with precedent tradition )and who has an appreciation of learning.
    Likewise women have refrained from donning in public Tallis and Tefiillin , why change now ? Let those who seek out high level Torah study do so on an individual and private basis that is kavod bas hamelech pnima
    The number who will then aspire to wear Tallis and Tefiillin will likely be very small , if they are instructed to do so in private only and not make a public display or discussion.

  48. Shragie says:

    While I agree that it is undoubtedly challenging to say the least to be a Western Orthodox Jewish woman, I am very certain that Rabbi Feinstein was aware of this and aware of “shlo lishma”. I find this point very unsettling, Rabbi Feinstein was a very smart man who saw Judaism in a very big picture and wasnt shooting from the proverbial hip. Rabbi Broyde usually exhibits more respect to RMF.

  49. emma says:

    “The number who will then aspire to wear Tallis and Tefiillin will likely be very small , if they are instructed to do so in private only and not make a public display or discussion.”

    ok, the total number of women seeking to wear tsitsit in private _or_ public is small. but you have no idea how small or large the private group is because, well, it’s private. i happen to know some whom im am pretty sure almost know one suspects are wearing tsitsit, but are. i take it you are ok with that?

  50. shul rabbi says:

    “I have dreaded receiving this question from a shul rabbi. Not because I am afraid of hard questions – maybe I should be, but I understand that, to some extent, that is now part of my job.”

    Rabbi Broyde- I read your this line in your article and I read your bio (see below). I am not sure why it is your job to answer these questions? If a Shul Rabbi asked you this, perhaps you should encourage him to research the question and with his singular understanding of his own Kehillah combined with your input, he should make an informed, halakhic pesak of his own for his shul.

  51. Eitan says:

    “As I have noted in the in the past, while it may be perfectly fine for our practices to develop along certain permissible lines that diverge from current common custom, these changes, I think, should not be forced, and they must be allowed to develop almost organically and humbly without agenda-pushing. The simple fact is that in our day school girls are not trained to wear tzitzit, and to suddenly introduce this from the top down strikes me as so very artificial and thus somewhat unwise.[12]”

    Im curious as to what, specifically, “organic and humble” change includes. Isn’t all change within halachic Judaism “top down?” Don’t we always believe that Rabbis must answer our queries- and short of rabbinic approval, there is little halachic wiggle room?

    Rabbi Broyde suggests here that we perhaps have schools implement tallit katan for girls from a young age- though my sense is any halachic principal or teacher at such a school would ask a Rav before making such a change in curriculum- in which case we would be faced with the dilemma once again.

    What are examples of successful, “bottom up,” organic change within Orthodox Judaism, that avoid the subversion of rabbinic authority?

  52. Mike S. says:

    When I was a child, most Orthodox women did not eat in a Sukkah. Now they generally do. I do not think that I ever saw a woman take a lulav when I was a child, and that, too, is now common. Was this arrogant and narcissistic on the part of those who pioneered the practice?

    One should be very leery of assuming one understands one’s own motivation completely, never mind that of someone else.

    Leading rabbonim need to assume achrayos both for being overly permissive in allowing change in response to social circumstances thereby weakening traditions that keep us true to Torah and for being overly strict and driving people away from Torah. That is a tough position to being in a rapidly changing society.

    Its clear that hundreds if not thousands of years of halachik tradition should serve as precedent This argument would be more convincing if we stuck to it for simple issues like how much a k’zayit or a revi’it is. Or that at least most men should support their families. Or that ba’alei battim shouldn’t dress like rabbonim. When the argument is used only in response to a desire to increase women’s communal roles, it doesn’t always sound very sincere. Rabbonim have always permitted a certain amount of adjustment of practice, within halachik bounds, to social circumstances. For example, mechirat chametz and rabbinic salaries were both innovative responses to changing economic circumstances in society. Replacing the previous system of learning with the town Rabbi with the institutional yeshivah was also, in its day, an innovative practice.

  53. micha says:

    Eitan:

    I would think that conscious changes have been historically top-down, but unconscious drift causes minhagim from the bottom up. If this off-the-cuff speculation has any merit, then the very fact we’re discussing it means we’re not talking about “‘bottom up’ organic change”.

    In any case, I think that R’ Broyde makes a comment that has strong halachic implications that aren’t pursued in the letter: [Y]ou need to do so with the understanding that others will follow and you will be the rabbi of a synagogue where the custom will be that men and women both wear tallitot.

    Why is this an issue? Because the LOR needs to be forewarned that the consequence could well be that his shul is margianalized in the community.

    Which raises questions of “al tifrosh min hatzibur”. It’s really non-trivial to take a step that will cause many people to stop considering your community “really Orthodox” — even if unfairly. This not separating from the main camp is the motivation behind minhag hamaqom to begin with, but here it’s not just that you’d be seen as a smaller side-camp of equally observant Jews. You would be reducing your ability to work with other O organizations. And that seems to me to be a serious halachic problem.

    I am also uncomfortable with a discussion of change of practice that ends with “is it allowed”. If we are crafting rite, we also need to ask “is it altogether a step forward”. The Torah’s demands include the pursuit of aggadic values (holiness, emulating G-d, balanced middos, etc… ), not only issur and chiyuv.

    This brings us to the friend’s response, which I hope R’ Gil reposts as a separate blog entry and launching its own discussion. If RGS declines, I’ll comment here, but I don’t like the mixing of two very different topics. It’ll frustrate those who are only interested in one of them.

  54. emma says:

    “the very fact we’re discussing it means we’re not talking about “‘bottom up’ organic change”.”

    This is a catch-22 then. If women just drift into doing things without asking rabbis, they are rebellious, etc. If a woman who is already doing something admittedly permissible actually asks a rabbi, though, then the very possibility of the rabbi giving input makes it a “top down” change.

    I posted above about how I do not understand what is “top down” about this to begin with.

  55. Chaim says:

    Am i the only one that doesnt get this- when do we find a bitul mitzvas asei kiyumis? Are you referring to beidan rischa or something else?

  56. IH says:

    Many of the comments relate to this issue in binary terms. I would again point to the many different uses of Tallit in the synagogue context that are relevant to this discussion.

    To pick just one example: what does a man putting his Tallit over his head as an aid to focusing kavana during the amida have to do with the mitzva of tallit? I enumurate other examples in IH on December 12, 2012 at 7:01 am midway on the previous page of comments.

  57. Noam Stadlan says:

    Sass- the article explains things much better than I can. It is available here: http://www.bjpa.org/Publications/details.cfm?PublicationID=4807.

    Those who oppose this and other issues seem to ignore a major issue: if something is ‘technically’ ok, then it seems that the discussion should include how those directly affected by the peak- ie the women in this case, are in fact affected by the psak. Nachat l’nashim comes to mind, as well as general tzelem Elokim issues- do we have an obligation not to limit people unnecessarily? If you decide that you don’t want to allow women to wear tallitot so that you ramain part of some Vaad, then you need to realize that you have tossed the women under the bus in the name of achdut with people who in fact may not share your hashkafa. that certainly conveys a message that you may not be proud of.

  58. shachar haamim says:

    Since Rabbi Broyde is still considering the email response he received, I’d like to address the final comments in the email – namely:
    “They are, for sure, less traditional than the rest of the community, but fully bound by halacha. We are at risk of losing this portion of our community and we have to work harder to address the religious needs of this population as it is one that you and I probably identify with most closely. If we are not careful, after writing these kinds of reasonable but conservative responses for a few more decades, you will see that you have not been meeting the needs of this group and we will all agonize over a failed opportunity to strengthen this vital segment of our community.”

    It is OK to be worried about this – but what acout the flip side? why is it a given that failing to stregthen this “vital” segment of our community is so important? what happens if this “strengthening” of the segment weakens other segments. The writer automatically assumes that the 3rd segment is the most important one – maybe segment 1 or 2 are more important? maybe stregthening segment 3 will drive people away from segments 1 or 2?
    To my mind segment 2 is THE important bridge to the rest of the shomrei mesorah and mitzvot. It is the bridge to the charedi community, the charedi leumi community, the rest of the national religious community and to a great degree the sefradi religious and traditional community. Will “strengthening” segment 3 weaken these – all important – family and social bonds within the Jewish world?
    I thinlk that the email writers a priori assumptions need to be challenged, and I would be shocked if the writer of this email to Rabbi Boryde has many (or even any) significant connections with members of other areas of the religious and traditional communities I describved above.

    I hope Rabbi Broyde would have some thoughts to add on this.

  59. Shlomo says:

    This is a catch-22 then. If women just drift into doing things without asking rabbis, they are rebellious, etc. If a woman who is already doing something admittedly permissible actually asks a rabbi, though, then the very possibility of the rabbi giving input makes it a “top down” change.

    If a practice is being labelled “rebellious”, you can no longer just “drift” into it, it has already become a public affair and must be decided communally. A true “bottom up” change is non-controversial. And if the rabbi prohibits something, it is not “admittedly permissible”.

  60. jo says:

    What about kavod hatzibur, and women flaunting.

  61. IH says:

    Is a man insisting on wearing the livush in a Modern Orthodox shul, and keeping on his oversized hat when that is not minhag ha’makom, “rebellious”?

    What’s good for the gander, should be good for the goose.

  62. Tal Benschar says:

    There is no “bitul mitzvas aseh” for a woman to wear a four-cornered garment without tsitsis. Women are pattur. Period.

    I don’t see what there is to be befuddled about. The fact that women generally CAN fulfill mitzvos they are not required to is neither here nor there. There is a long-standing minhag that women do not wear a tallis, and the fact that one wants to do so is at least suspect of doing so lekanter. So Rav Soloveichik had good reason to tell her to do that — to test her motivations. Had he simple said No, then she would not have had the mitzvah either.

    Nor does beidan rischah apply, as Tosafos Erchin 2b, points out that does not apply today even to a man, since most garments are not four cornered, let alone a woman, since the universal custom is that women do not wear a tallis.

    R. Broyde, do you intend to address the issue of yuhara as brought down by the Rema? That is a pretty authoritative source to leave out of the discussion.

  63. ruvie says:

    shachar haamin – i don’t think the writer assumes that the third group is the most important one. i don”t understand why the onus is r’ broyde to keep them happy. i do believe that this issue reflects the desires of a small segment of that group (3). i cannot see how that would “weaken” segments one or two.

    to make your point you would need to show how previous new practices for segment 3 weakened the other 2 segments. think of voting, bat mitzvah and learning gemera as recent examples (or leaving the house, and/or working with men in business as old ones).

  64. ruvie says:

    shlomo – ” A true “bottom up” change is non-controversial.” – is true historically? then why would you ever need for a rabbi to pasken? the opposite i believe is historically true – not that it makes a difference on how a rabbi should pasken – i.e. ahistorically.

  65. joel rich says:

    R’ Ruvie,
    Being in aretz with my family leaves little time for blogs (maybe I should get a life?) but what r’shachar mentions is the meta point I post on many issues and it is a shikul hadaat which people can disagree on and we’ll only know 1 data point, and even that only in retrospect. Hopefully moshiach will come before motzai shabbat and you can all join us here (if you’re not blessed to be here already)
    KT and chag urim sameach, just back from walking in the footsteps of the Macabbim

  66. IH says:

    just back from walking in the footsteps of the Macabbim

    Using 1 Maccabees as the guide, R’ Joel :-)

    —–

    BTW, I found this discussion of when one who doesn’t normally wear a tallit make a bracha, and when not, helpful to thinking about R. Broyde’s post: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/coffeeroom/topic/interesting-halacha

    The nuance of bracha does not seem to have been considered by R. Ploni or R. Broyde. Is an assumption being made without validation?

  67. J says:

    I just looked up that Minchas Yitzchak Wow.

  68. Ariella says:

    To the commentators who state that a woman who wants a tallis must desire this religious object only out of nefarious feminist motivations:

    When I was in the fifth grade, my Yeshiva Day School brought in a rabbi to speak about tefilah. He stated that the beauty of the tallis is that men can wrap themselves in it and be private amidst the public kehillah, while women, he added as an afterthought, may be private before G-d in their homes. After the assembly, the school principle, trying to encourage attendance at shul, informed us that the speaker was Sephardi, and in his community girls often do not go to shul, but Ashkenazi girls do. I thought, as a fifth grade child without any exposure to feminism, ‘then how are girls supposed to be private in shul?’

    This question followed me well into my teenage and adult years, where on Yom Kippur I felt self-conscious about crying in shul, for I had nothing to obscure my face.

    When I was engaged to the man who is now my husband, he informed me that he had not gone back home for the Yamim Noraim for years, and did not intend to until after we were married. He explained that he feels uncomfortable going to a shul where most men do not cry during the tefillot, but a tallis would alleviate his discomfort. Even on Shabbat (and I assume during chol as well) he wraps himself in his tallis during shemonah esrei; and I am extremely jealous of him, for he has the privilege of tefillah b’tzibur and b’yachad simultaneously.

    I do not deny that I could take a pashmina or shawl and achieve the same effect. Yet my own discomfort at attracting that sort of attention- I wish to avoid the attention that comes with crying on Yom Kippur- using a shawl would thwart my own goals.

    I could also stay at home. Yet I wish to daven with a kehillah, and my tefillot are of a higher quality in shul.

    I have little theological drive to perform the mitzvah of tzitzit. Simply because I was not raised to practice this mitzvah, I do not have any desire to. (Perhaps if I would learn the inyan in depth I would feel such a drive, but I have more pressing inyanim to study, areas where I have chiyuvim.) Perhaps if I would start the practice, I would feel a great spiritual connection to tzitzit, but at the moment I feel no calling.

    I do not know what the answer is to these questions. I also cannot comment on the halakhic nuances of this matter; my knowledge is insufficient at this time to form an enlightened opinion. But I do not think that my own experiences are so remarkably unique that the status quo ought to be the normative standard if alternative options sanctioned by halakhah exist.

  69. RWMO says:

    Am I missing something in the Minchas Yitzchak? I don’t see what J was wowing about, nor do I see any relavance to the topic at hand in this tshuva about women wearing pants.

  70. Shlomo says:

    Ariella, that is nice, but let’s return to the unmarried Ashkenazi non-Yekke men. What if one of them were to decide on their own to wear a tallit, due to wanting privacy or whatever other reason? I think most other Orthodox men would see it as a weird and quite negative breach of custom (once it was clarified that the wearer wasn’t recently married, hadn’t left it on by accident after an aliyah, etc.). All the explanations in the world would hurt rather than help, as they would show that he considered himself to be 1) needing of special treatment and 2) possessing the standing to overrule custom. 1) is hardly a reason for respect and 2) comes off as very arrogant. And yet, if you look at the sources, there is a good case to be made that men SHOULD all wear the tallit. When it comes to women, for whom there is no such case, should we not expect an equally negative attitude even if no misogyny is present?

  71. Mair Zvi says:

    When I was a little boy about 3 or 4 years old, I had developed a “strong loving and emotional bond” to my stuffed teddy bear, a blanket,(which was in fact a dirty shmattah), and my right thumb which I sucked rather continuously. As time went by, and at the constant urging of my mother, a”h, I eventually grew up and put aside my childish “emotional supports”.
    I humbly suggest your female congregant who has an emotional attachment to her tallis, belatedly follow my lead and “grow up”.
    As the Rav, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, ZT”L, once informed a female congregant who also wanted to wear a tallis,”a woman’s wearing of a tallis has absloutuely no Halachic or religious significance.”

  72. Ariella says:

    Shlomo, that is very very true. I just find the claim of ‘women who want a tallis must be feminists intent upon overturning the halakhic system’ without actually looking at a) motivations or b)halakhah to be offensive and ignorant. Perhaps there is both good cause for unmarried Ashkenazi men to wear a tallis and the legitimacy within halakhah for them to do so. Ignoring the disruption it would cause in the community (for anything novel causes disruption in our community), perhaps in the pursuit of encouraging mitzvah observance we ought to allow unmarried men to wear a tallis.
    And I have difficulty imagining a movement to allow unmarried men to wear a tallis met with as much outcry, vitriol, or controversy as the same movement for women.

  73. “I think most other Orthodox men would see it as a weird and quite negative breach of custom”

    to the contrary, i think it is quite weird to see older single men not wearing a taliS, in general but also amongst peers who are all wearing one. (aside from any embarrassment they may feel, but that’s a different issue.) i’m just guessing, but i assume that when the ashkenazi minhag developed, (all) men mostly got married around the same age and it was convenient to say this is when they start wearing the talis gadol (perhaps it was in early teens, and hence originally yekke and non-yekke minhag was identical?); did the posekim of that time even have reason to consider what older single men should do, or was just not on their radar and they wouldn’t even think that a man would/should go through life never wearing one?

    i don’t recall what exactly he says, but r. aviner has an early teshuva (in am ke-lavi) that iirc permits single men to take upon themselves the practice of wearing a talis gadol.

  74. IH says:

    Gotta love the arrogance and narcissism :-)

  75. IH says:

    Sorry, 4:37 was commenting on Mair Zvi on December 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm.

    I’m with Abba that it is quite weird to see older single men not wearing a tallit.

  76. emma says:

    mair zvi, putting aside your condescension, what is the source of that quote?

  77. emma says:

    I’ve also seen older single men who do wear a tallit, who are not yekkish or sefardic. No communal uproar or rabbinic intervention regarding their lack of respect for minhag ensued. At most they were considered slightly eccentric (usually for other reasons).

  78. IH says:

    It appears to be a misquote from the story previously discussed. Note the precise words as relayed by R. Aharon Feldman in http://tinyurl.com/aapfrx6

  79. micha says:

    Mike S: I don’t think any women “pioneered the practice”. Women sitting in the Sukkah and shaking lulav was minhag in many areas. Populations mix, and now women pick up from other women, and that norm spread to people it otherwise wouldn’t.

    Emma: Yes, it does stifle the masses from consciously coming up with their own rites. In this case women, but it does so in general. And after all, shouldn’t the decision about appropriate ritual be left to the religious leadership (top-down) rather than come up from the grass roots (bottom up)?

    What is unique is that anything which arises organically, rather than from conscious planning, only needs to pass muster after the fact as being mutar, and it’s enshrined as minhag.

  80. Rafael Araujo says:

    Ariella – you may be referring to me. My point is not to say that this is the motivation of all women. Rather, that feminism has made such demands suspect as coming not from some lishmoh intention but for egalitarian aims. I am sorry if that bothers you, but this is the effect that feminism has when it comes to these tricky and fragile matters, which are being pushed generally from the left.

    As for using the tallis to cover one’s head to cry – I have never heard of such a sentiment. In the Biur Halochoh (I forget the siman in Hilchos Teflloh) the tallis is used to cover the face due to kavannah (I believe now the reference is in the siman discussing walking in front of or beside a mispallel – I dont’ have a MB in front of me right now).

  81. IH says:

    Women have now been wearing tallitot for a long enough period of time that while still unusual, it hardly pioneering. As R. Ploni states in his she’ela: “this woman has worn hers for years in other cities. She is a shomeret mitzvah in every visible way, and her request came to me with total respect and modesty.”

    The radical anti-femininst argumentation sounds increasingly shrill when it is trotted out in a discussion such as this.

    —–

    By the by, does anyone know why the plural in Yiddish is given a male suffix — taleisim; whereas in Hebrew it is given a female suffix — tallitot?

  82. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Mike S: I don’t think any women “pioneered the practice”. Women sitting in the Sukkah and shaking lulav was minhag in many areas. Populations mix, and now women pick up from other women, and that norm spread to people it otherwise wouldn’t.”

    Exactly. Even today, women of sefardic/edot hamizrach practice and descent do not take 4 minim. This entire discussion is very Ashkenazi-centered. Do we see these kinds of requests being made in a sefaradic setting?

  83. Sammy says:

    “I cannot for the life of me understand a gadol betorah affirmatively mandating bitul mitzvat aseh kiyumi as a precondition for fulfilling it”

    Why is it so hard to imagine Rav Moshe Feinstein or the Rav recommending to someone to live in Chutz La’aretz? They both held that living in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzva kiyumit.

  84. Anonymous says:

    my question is why is the woman asking the rabbi about her tallis? let her do whatever she wants to do, why is this a question for the rabbi at all?

  85. emma says:

    why is the woman asking the rabbi about her tallis?

    - she wants to know he won’t ask her to leave if she shows up wearing it.
    - she wants to have an answer for the people who will inevitably heckle her
    - she sincerely does not want to be a “rebel” or shake up a community against the rabbi’s wishes.

    any or all of the above.

    sociologically, of course, men who want to do things rabbis don’t like (Eg, kiddush club) just do it first, ask later.

  86. Anonymous says:

    would r. broyde likewise object to women wearing (4-cornered) shawls w/o tzitzit? i think the idea of ביטול מצות עשה קיומית בידים is a contradiction. if you are not obligated to do something, you cannot place yourself in a situation where you are actively not fulfilling your obligation. also, if we are going to talk about innovation, has there ever been a posek who has suggested that women refrain from putting themselves into such a situation?

  87. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) says:

    The RM”A’s concern of Yuhara doesn’t apply here — yuhara is when people look at you and think “wow that person thinks they’re so frum what makes them so special” — in today’s world, a woman taking on the mitzva of tzitzit doesn’t lead to people saying she’s “frummer than thou” it leads to the exact opposite, as we can see from this discussion.

  88. davidwag says:

    Honestly not mocking here – something I’ve been wondering lately. For people who use a tallis to “hide” so to speak during davening… what do they do during mincha?

  89. IH:

    “By the by, does anyone know why the plural in Yiddish is given a male suffix — taleisim; whereas in Hebrew it is given a female suffix — tallitot?”

    1) perhaps it hinges on whether the tav is an essential radical in the word or part of the afformative? (this debate is discussed in a footnote in ben yehuda’s dictionary.)
    2) there is a 3rd possibility: taleyot (attested in the 11th c. parma mishna) (this assumes the sephardi talet)

    i just saw a comment from rav steg (boruch machaye ha-mesim) and perhaps he can respond authoritatively.

  90. Charlie Hall says:

    “asking to perform “men’s mitzvot” is a subtle way women express their rejection of the blessing for women “She’a’sani kir’tzono”. It is a way of saying, “No, I am not content to serve God in the way He Himself designed me –in a way uniquely different from men. I know better.”

    So you would oppose women hearing the shofar? Do women eat in your sukkah?

    Given that the number of mitzvot from the Torah for which men are chayev and women are patur is quite small, and that for many (most?) of them, women are encouraged to take them on and (if Ashkenazic) to say the bracha, that is a rather thin thread on which to build your sociology. And “sheasani kirtzono” itself is a d’rabbanan!

    “we should be wary about basing too much on private conversations individuals said they had with the Rav or stories they relate about the Rav unless confirmed by mutiple individuals.”

    Or when your own rav has pasken’d based on such a private conversation.

    “There is no way that a woman who is sincerely trying to serve G-d with all her heart is going to set herself up as a pioneer in new religious practices. It is arrogant, it is narcissistic.”

    You would also say that the first women to learn Talmud were arrogant and narcissistic?

    “I’ve also seen older single men who do wear a tallit, who are not yekkish or sefardic. No communal uproar or rabbinic intervention regarding their lack of respect for minhag ensued ”

    I was one of those older single men who wore a tallit (with the approval of a rabbi even though I don’t follow other Yekke minhagim). I once encountered someone who was so upset with me that he exclaimed that I’ll never find a shidduch!

  91. Ruvie says:

    Wearing a tallit when single – a relative of mine in israel departed from his family minhag (with permission from his father) with his sons wearing a tallit from bar mitzvah age and on – while his brother’s children stayed with the family minhag. He felt that his children should not be kept from this mitzvah. I wonder if this happens a lot in israel or only my eccentric family.

  92. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) says:

    abba’s rantings:

    I can’t really add much to what you said about the word — according to Jastrow, all the forms you mentioned at attested. Although i heard a theory once that “tallít” is an Israeli neologism and the original was probably “tallét” like many Sefardim and Mizraḥim pronounce it. In Ashkenazi colloquial “tállǝs”, the second vowel could just have easily come from an original /e/ as an original /i/. (similar to how “Rebbe” probably comes from original “ribbi” not “rabbi”; compare “midrash” becoming “medresh”)

  93. SO says:

    Teshuot Chen to Rabbi Broyde for writing about a clearly sensitive subject and presenting it in such a thoughtful and erudite manner.

    Rabbi Broyde writes:
    “God should provide you with the wisdom to choose the right path. In the absence of such clarity, I would adopt that part of Rav Moshe’s view as the status quo as correct endorsing such conduct for the pious in private, although I understand other views well. This is the view Rabbi Zalman Nechemia Goldberg seems to takes in Techumin.”

    Regarding women and the wearing of a Tallit Gadol, Rabbi Z. N. Goldberg concludes that the wearing of a Tallit Gadol by women is strictly prohibited according to all (nir’eh she’assur lechulei alma). Rabbi Goldberg writes that the objective of women who want to wear a Tallit Gadol is to look like men. In this regard, prohibiting women from wearing a Tallit Gadol, he does not appear to equivocate.

  94. Steve Brizel says:

    My problem with R Broyde’s analysis is that the article assumes that men and women share an equal level of obligation with respect to wearing a four cornered garment-which is clearly not evident. Once again, looking at why men were given many Mitzvos Aseh Shehazman Gramah bears consideration-men were given this huge burden because of their insufficient and inadequate reaction to the crucial events in the Torah, which women, in contrast, demonstrated their loyalty to HaShem’s mission on a constant basis without the need or necessity of external and internal reminders.

    IH-men use the talis as a means of enhancing their kavanah as a means of blocking out all distractions during Tefilah. Only if one politicizes what kind of head covering a man wears does wearing a hat become an issue of when in Rome, etc. I was never brainwashed into thinking that wearing a hat is a sign that one adopted the Charedi line lock, stock and barrel, but rather there was a halachic concept involved of proper attire for Shabbos, YT and simchos that knew no hashkafic boundaries and that a kipah per se was insufficient.

  95. Shmuel says:

    If there is no issur per se then I don’t think there’s a problem and it would be an issue of “halachah v’ein morin ken” ie as public policy we would say no but on an individual basis and in private then it’s ok for specific individuals only

  96. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) says:

    Speaking of the “yuhara” issue, I know of a shul rabbi who has a congregant somewhat comparable the one in Dayyan Broyde’s situation — in this case, she grew up Conservative, wearing a tallis when she davened, and now that she’s Orthodox, was feeling very conflicted about the paradox of becoming “more” observant and yet having to give up a mitzvah she was already fulfilling. So the rabbi learned with the women all about the halakhot of tzitzit, and if I understand the story correctly, they designed together a stealth tallis that she could wear without anyone realizing that it was a ‘prayer shawl’ with tzitzis and not just a regular ‘shawl’. If nobody knows you’re fulfilling the mitzvah, it can’t be yuhara…

    And on another topic that has been brought up, I am an unmarried Ashkenazic man and I wear a tallis. I inherited my father alavhashalom’s tallis when he passed away, because I didn’t want it to sit unused in a drawer someplace while I was davening fore the amud so often when I was in aveilus and needing a tallis anyway. I was also frequently davening in a Yekkish shul at the time, and so I just started wearing it (since I was already wearing a borrowed shul tallis when i was there because of minhag hamaqom). When people ask me why I wear a tallis, I usually just tell them that i’m part-Yekkish, which is technically true, since it’s the simplest answer that is also true enough.

  97. ruvie says:

    Rafael A. – “The Chayei Odom lived when feminism did not exist. What would he say today…”
    are you saying he would recommend or recoil? if the latter, do we not believe that halacha is ahistorical (for a posek) although there is a history of halacha? or all women’s desires to do mitzvot that they are not obligated in by definition feministic and therefore treif?

    I really question the use of the word feminism in many the comments and wonder if many understand it and whether any of the practices objected to is at all feministic in the way the word is used in society at large.

  98. Steve Brizel says:

    IH paraphrased R Broyde inaccurately to suit his POV as follows, in which HaIkar Chaser Min HaSefer:

    “the world has progressed much … Orthodoxy is just so different from that world”.

    What R Broyde actually wrote was:

    “Finally and most importantly, the world has progressed much since 1970 and this story is bundled in its time and place of progressive Boston of 40 years ago. Orthodoxy is just so different from that world – there is much more observance, education and yirat shamayim within our world, I am simply uncertain how to facture such social observations of decades ago into our calculus.”

  99. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan-why should we be loath to rely one what an accurate rendition of what RYBS said? I see nothing in R Broyde’s article in which he expressly or implicitly questions the reliability of this story. Contrary to R Broyde, there are at least two shiurim given by RYBS in the early 1970s that are available for easy downloading in which RYBS rejected the feminist critique of Halacha.

  100. Mair Zvi says:

    For a very interesting and highly relevant shiur on this subject by Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet-Rothkoff of the YU Gruss Kollel in Yerushalyim, please “google” YUTorah.org.
    Then click YUTorah on line- enter the name: Rabbi Rakeffet;
    GO to -Sort by relevance-
    Click: newest lectures first.
    Then scroll down to the shiur of Monday October 29th, 2012, entitled:Contemporary Hashkafa- Woman’s Aliot and the Jewish Family.
    Start listening at the 20 minute mark.

  101. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote in part:

    “I can think of at least 5 ways in which the Talit has significance in the shul context, of which only the first 2 are discussed in R. Broyde’s response:

    1. Fulfilling a mitzvah.
    2. As a spiritual aid.
    3. As a sociological marker (e.g. single or married)
    4. As a leadership marker (e.g. Shatz)
    5. As Kavod la’Torah (e.g. p’ticha, leyning, aliya, hagba, g’lila)
    6. As an individual aesthetic statement

    As someone who regularly davens in a Partnership Minyan, it seems to me that only a small minority of women wear a talit. But, I am often struck by the incongruity that when an unmarried Ashkenazi male is Shatz, or fulfills some function related to the Torah they put on a Talit for the occasion of their function (and then take it off); whereas, most of the women don’t. I have never heard anyone discuss this as an issue of synagogue conduct.

    I also note that in the past 20 years, males within Modern Orthodoxy started to used the Talit as a statement of individual aesthetics. Whether it be in the use of blue rather than black, or multiple colors, or techelet tzitziyot, or even the nusach one uses for the knots.”

    Categories 1-5 IMO would seem to have at least some arguably halachic basis. Category 6 IMO seems sociological-anthropological
    and in blissful ignorance of a very timely halachic and hashhkafic idea-Hiddur Mitzvah.

  102. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Steve: I never denied that the Rav rejected the feminist critique of Halakhah. I still maintain that a story about the Rav related by a single individual may be missing a critical nuance, and with regard to the Rav nuance is critical. Do you rely on RYG’s or RDH’s reports of their private conversations with the Rav or, mutatis mutandis, those of R Moshe Meiselman?

  103. Michael Broyde says:

    I am very time pressed as I am off to Israel tomorrow, but I wanted to reply to a few comments. I am so very sorry that I can not reply to many of them.

    Re Bitul Mitzvah Kiyumis – while this is not the best phrase, I do not have a better one. When a woman eats outside a sukah, that is bittul mitzah aseh kiyumis. When a man wears a borrowed four cornered garment without tzitizt, such is the case also. As the notes explain, such conduct is certainly frowned on — that is why
    Shulchan Aruch 639:2 notes that it is good for a man to have a policy of only eating and drinking anything in a sukkah (on sukkot, of course) which is clearly not required by halacha, but clearly a better policy than eating somethings outside the sukah.

    I did not discuss the Rama of Yuhara as I am fairly certain that it derives from the other issurim and is not independent. it clearly can change, as well.

    MJB

  104. IH says:

    Steve — thank you for quoting most of my earlier comment. I am not sure we disagree on category 6, but that doesn’t change the facts on the ground; and, the post and discussion makes clear that sociology/anthropology is a salient part of the debate.

    I do wish, however, to supply the missing context of my comment: perhaps I can shed some constructive additional light on the criticism of “reasonable, but conservative” that R. Broyde reports he received from his friend […] A less conservative response would have drawn upon these broader uses of Tallit to articulate why this is less an halachic issue than an issue of modern engagement with religion through creativity: e.g. imbuing an old artifact with new meaning.

  105. Tal Benschar says:

    The RM”A’s concern of Yuhara doesn’t apply here — yuhara is when people look at you and think “wow that person thinks they’re so frum what makes them so special” — in today’s world, a woman taking on the mitzva of tzitzit doesn’t lead to people saying she’s “frummer than thou” it leads to the exact opposite, as we can see from this discussion.

    if nobody knows you’re fulfilling the mitzvah, it can’t be yuhara.

    These comments betray a basic misunderstanding of what the issue of yuhara here is about. As explained by both the Mishna Berurah and the Aruch ha Shulchan on the same siman as the Remah, Tsitsis is unique because even for a man, there is no obligation per se to put on tsitsis. Only if he goes out of his way to acquire a four-cornered garment is there then an obligation to put tsitsis thereon. A woman is of course pattur from tsitsis, so her wearing them is a double level of voluntary mitzvah — she went out of her way to get a four cornered garment, and she put on tsitsis that she is not obligated to anyway. When there are two reasons you don’t have to do something, and you do it anyway, that implies that you hold yourself to have a very high level of piety — hence yuhara.

    That is why lulav and shofar are different — there a man DOES have a positive obligation to perform those mitzvos, and so for a women there is only a single level of positive voluntary acceptance.

    The AHSH adds that tsitsis is a constant mitzvah, so fulfilling that mitzvah implies a constant level of extra piety, whereas shofar and lulav are limited to special times, and can be performed during a brief period.

    (As a moshol, imagine someone who davens an hour long shemoneh esreh. That would be perhaps understandable if he or she did it on Rosh ha Shanah or Yom Kippur, when our very lives hang in the balance. If someone did that every day, however, unless he or she was exceptionally pious, we would view it as strange and indicative of an inflated sense of self. That is yuhara.)

  106. Ephrayim says:

    “I am inclined to think that the ancient minhag that women not wear tzitzit is really that women not wear a four cornered garment, so as to not be obligated in such tzitizit”

    Really? What is your historical claim based on?
    As is evident from the Talmud, a talit is a toga, the traditional garb during the Greek and early Roman period. Free men and women would wear a talit during those periods, and would never been seen in public without one. While the traditional toga seems to have had only 2 corners, I guess the Jewish version had 4. Assumingly, if a jewish mans talit was especially made with 4 corners (this point is not clear to me, the exact form of the toga is not known, and it may have had 4 corners or something like 4 corners, and the halachik definition of corner is not clear and may have been not as square as assumed, cf. Mor uKetziah)then women whom did not need to wear tzitzit had the traditional toga which was round on the back side. Even assuming that the jewish woman’s talit was different than that of the male’s, it was not intentionally so as you write. From the Talmud it seems that in Babylonia at least, regular women’s clothes had four corners, as is recorded in Sukkah 11a.

  107. Ruvie says:

    Tal B. – “A woman is of course pattur from tsitsis, so her wearing them is a double level of voluntary mitzvah — she went out of her way to get a four cornered garment, and she put on tsitsis that she is not obligated to anyway”

    Not so by lulav and shofar? she goes out of her way to buy an estrog and lulav and then go shakes it – same double level. She goes out of her way to come to shul or at least on time and leave the children somewhere and goes and hears 100 kolot – same double level.

    There is also a view that all the time time you are notal a lulav you are mikayam the mitzvah. See gemera sukkot 41-42 and tosefta on anshei yerushalayim who would walk around with their lulavs all day – even menuchem, aveilim and bikur cholim etc on yom Tov (and possibly shabbat). It was considered a continuous mitzvah – to show osek b’mitzvah.. Ayain sham.

  108. Ariel says:

    I am surprised that R. Broyde did not mention the precedent of Rav Amram Chasida (cited in Sukkah 11a) who put tzitzis on his wife’s apron (a clearly feminine garment, I presume), and seemed to meet no particular objection from the other rabbanan. While Rashi assumes RA”C believed that women are actually obligated in tzitzis, the Ran (Kiddushin 14b in Rif pages) believes this was a middas chasidus, one which the remaining rabbanan did not follow. Apparently, then, according to the Ran, there was a communal practice for women not to wear tzitzis, yet we see no objections to RA”C’s wife wearing them.

  109. emma says:

    Tal B. – “A woman is of course pattur from tsitsis, so her wearing them is a double level of voluntary mitzvah — she went out of her way to get a four cornered garment, and she put on tsitsis that she is not obligated to anyway”
    n the other hand, contemporary women’s fashion, unlike male fashion, regularly _does_ involve 4-cornered garments, as shawls or scarves, etc. so a woman who is already wearing such a think is arguably going _less_ out of her way than a man, if she put tsitsit on a regular 4-cornered garment as opposed to making one specially for the mitzvah.

  110. AA says:

    _if nobody knows you’re fulfilling the mitzvah, it can’t be yuhara_

    Perhaps it’s even more disgusting to think you’re better than everyone and they don’t even know it.

    (I’m not taking a position on various woman’s kavanos; only clarifying the scope of yuhara.)

  111. evidence says:

    “I am inclined to think that the ancient minhag that women not wear tzitzit is really that women not wear a four cornered garment, so as to not be obligated in such tzitizit”

    I don’t think the general public is aware that there’s a minhag for women not to wear ponchos..I’m somewhat dubious that there’s such a minhag. It’s also noteworthy that sources such as targum yonason (a source regardless of authorship) don’t seem to have had such a minhag in mind. There’s enough contrary evidence that I think a source stating explicitly that the origin of the minhag is as you speculate is necessary.

  112. speculation says:

    Maybe women didn’t, over the course of generations,adopt the minhag of wearing tzitzit because worn on top of clothes, it is a somewhat original fashion statement, and perhaps also women benefit in some respects from “passing” as their garb is, and seems to long have been, somewhat less distinctive from gentiles’ clothing than traditional Jewish male garb (even for the Modern Orthodox today, if one assumes the men wear kippot.) Worn underneath clothing, they add bulk and ruin the line of clothes. This theory comes to you courtesy of my wife who says that the main motivation for wearing tzitzit is that it’s an easy opportunity for a mitzva, but that she wouldn’t rush to adopt wearing tzitzit all day because of the fashion issue.

  113. AA says:

    *As the notes explain, such conduct is certainly frowned on*

    HaRav Broyde,
    I don’t see anywhere where such conduct is frowned upon. I only see places where the opposite is smiled upon. There is no ‘bittul’ of anything, only possible gain with ABSOLUTE ZERO loss. It is an unusual concept in Halacha where we are so used to dealing with bittul asei and such, but there you have it.
    Have a safe trip!

  114. speculation says:

    “(2) Is there any reason that a four-cornered tichel/headscarf should be exempt from tsitsit? (I never really studied this area, for fear that the more I knew the more I would want to do it…) If not would Rabbi Broyde advise women to avoid wearing such scarves, or to modify them so they no longer have 4 corners?”

    if a garment is not worn with 2 corners in front and 2 in back (but all the corners in the back) it’s also likely not obligated, and the minhag is not to be makpid on such clothing. (Possibly the kerchief/tichel is too small). The same issue applies to how scarves are typically (not always) worn. Shawls if not folded into a triangle can be problematic.

  115. katan.vs.gadol says:

    It appears to me that the issue of tallit katan and tallit gadol is confounded in this article. For there to be no loss of the performance of the mitzva, a woman need only wear a tallit katan. The widespread ashkenazi minhag for adult single men not to wear a tallit gadol is instructive, as it demonstrates that not wearing a tallit gadol in public may be unrelated to obligation in performance of mitzvot. Wearing a tallit katan also would not seem to involve yehura if observers don’t know one is wearing one.

  116. that.story.about.the.rav says:

    “OK, but as nachum points out that poblem could have easily happened to the vast majority of ortho men as well, certainly in the 70s. that doesn’t mean they are motivated by something “bad,” just that they are not very educated, and perhaps even “wrong.” is not the proper response to a congregant who is wrong, uneducated, and perhaps unsophisticated to educate rather than to set up a “gotcha” moment?”

    If a sincere but unlettered man had told the Rav that wearing non-kosher tzitzit (such as the type of tallit popular in Reform circles) was meaningful to him, one rather doubts that the Rav would have responded by informing the man that he should not bother to acquire a pair of kosher tzitzit as his attitude renders mitzva observance meaningless. Surely he would respond by setting the man straight and encouraging him to acquire kosher tzitzit. Not a very compelling story.

  117. Chana Luntz says:

    I confess that it seems to me (as others allude to) that there are two issues being confused here.

    a) The first is may (or even should) a woman wear a talis.

    b) The second is may a woman wear a talis gadol publically in shul.

    R’ Broyde, it seems to me, spends a lot of time dealing with a) – but a) is not the question being asked here. The woman in question has been wearing a talis, both gadol and katan, for a number of years. She (and the Rav she has spoken to) are not asking whether or not she may continue to do this at home, that behaviour appears beyond question (at most the Rav is asking whether he should insist she change over to a more feminine talis).

    It is the second question that is actually being addressed to R’ Broyde. May she wear a talis gadol publically in the shul of the Rav hashoel?

    Even if the answer to the second question is no, that still does not preclude her from continuing to wear the talis at home – a la those (men) who follow the Ben Ish Chai’s minhag of putting on tephillin at home on Tisha B’Av, saying Shema, and then taking them off and going to shul – or those men whose minhag is to wear tephillin on chol hamoed, but who respect the minhag hamakom of not wearing tephillin on chol hamoed and so do so privately.

    Thus I am afraid that Rav Broyde’s analysis does not seem to me to stand up – unless he is able to argue that wearing a talis gadol *in shul* is a specific mitzvah over and above wearing it at home, and I don’t see how he can.

    Even if he shows (and note this is not even discussed here, but assumed, and although there is a fair bit of textual support, it is not a slam dunk) that there is a mitzvah for a woman to go to shul even if she is not obligated to do so – where is the mitzvah to put on a talis specifically in shul? She can do mitzvah (a) of talis at home, and mitzvah (b) of davening in shul at separate times. The fact that men have come to have the minhag of combining these two mitzvos at the same time does not mean that women have to.

    That is where to my mind the factor on which Rav Broyde and I appear to disagree in a number of posts comes into play. That of nachas ruach. To my mind men get, as has been articulated clearly here, nachas ruach from davening and fulfilling the mitzvah of tzitzis at the same time as, and as part and parcel of, davening.

    And again to my mind, what is driving the real question (assuming you assume positive and not negative motives, as Rav Broyde does) is precisely this desire for nachas ruach in the combination of mitzvos.

    I fully understand Rav Broyde’s discomfort with the story regarding Rav Soloveitchik – but my discomfort goes deeper, which is that the attitude taken in this story appears to contradict an explicit gemora – that of Chagiga 16b, where the gemora speaks positively of engaging in a form of mere “mimicry without mitzvah content of a mitzvah activity presented to men” (to use R’ Broyde’s words) in the form of enabling the women to float their hands over the korbanos in circumstances where they were forbidden to do real smicha (according to Tosphos, because the issur of working with korbanos is d’orisa, according to the Ra’avid’s understanding of Rav Yose, because these particular korbanos were not technically theirs, but their husband’s). If you understand such mimicry without mitzvah content to be a value in and of itself, even if it is not as high a value as full mitzvah performance, then the original requirement of Rav Soloveichik makes some sense (but his subsequent rejection does not). If however you hold that there is no value to nachas ruach d’nashim in circumstances where there is no added mitzvah content, only mimicry, against the gemora on Chagiga 16b, then what Rav Soloveitchik (according to the story) asks the woman to do comes across as a form of sheker. But likewise I cannot see the justification for allowing a woman to wear a talis gadol in shul, rather than only in private, as there is no greater mitzvah content generated by the public rather than private nature of it.

    And again, if one does not reject the concept of nachas ruach d’nashim as of significant halachic value, it can also speak on the question of whether you need the tallis to be a specifically feminine one or not (particularly in the case where the woman is attached to her current, all white, tallis). First however you have to define whether wearing a masculine talis (and it may be different with or without tzitzis) falls within the issur d’orisa of beged ish (noting that R’ Broyde does comment on the separate issue as to whether tzitzis themselves violate the issur d’orisa of beged ish, holding that they do not). If it does, then according to Tosphos, nachas ruach d’nashim does not prevail. If it is at most an issur d’rabbanan, then nachas ruach d’nashim may come into play as per Tosphos and as we posken vis a vis shofar, in which case, certainly where such nachas ruach is already evident, then one would seem permissible to allow the all white tallis.

    Absence a preparedness to look at these sources, however, I can’t see how anything meaningful can be said regarding the current white versus new feminine talis question – which is why it seems to me that here too the real question has been avoided in favour of discussing a question that may be interesting, but was not in fact asked.

  118. shachar haamim says:

    I want to clarify my metapoint.
    There are modern orthdoox rabbis and leaders who believe that if we lose the liberal, progressive end of modern orthodoxy it will be a great tragedy. These types almost NEVER say that if we lose the more traditional, heimish, baalbatish, spiritual or whatever end of modern orthodoxy it would also be a great tragedy.
    I think that what – may perhaps – underly this, if the fact that if the RW end of MO becomes more haredi, deep down everyone feels that this is OK, they are still torah Jews. But if we lose the the LW they will end up as conservative Jews or part of another movement.

    I think that perahps if we -reframe our approach to other movements, this imbalance would go away.
    I don’t think it is a good idea to lose people – intelligent people – to the haredi community. To my mind that would be worse for modern orthodoxy than losing the LW.

  119. Tal Benschar says:

    Not so by lulav and shofar? she goes out of her way to buy an estrog and lulav and then go shakes it – same double level. She goes out of her way to come to shul or at least on time and leave the children somewhere and goes and hears 100 kolot – same double level.

    Ruvie, read the post again. For a man, lulav and shofar are a chovas gavra. A man is OBLIGATED to go out of his way to acquire a lulav and to hear shofar. So a woman doing so is only one step away from a man.

    By tsitsis, OTOH, a man is not obligated to buy a four-cornered garment — only if he buys one does he then have to put on tsitsis. (Just like there is no obligation to buy a house so you can put up a mezuzah. When you buy the house, then you have to get and put up a mezusah.) So for a woman, who is pattur in tsitsis, there is a two-step voluntariness.

    It is an halakhic difference, not a sociological one.

  120. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) says:

    “Perhaps it’s even more disgusting to think you’re better than everyone and they don’t even know it.”

    I have met many women who wear a tallis or tallis katan, and they have never said or given the impression that they think they’re better than all the women who don’t. They’re just happy to be fulfilling a mitzvah. On the other hand, I have encountered a number of men who keep “cholov yisroel”, or Steve here with his black hat, who do express such a sense of superiority — when the first issue is a mahhloket and the second is just social nonsense!

  121. Ruvie says:

    Tal b. – “By tsitsis, OTOH, a man is not obligated to buy a four-cornered garment — only if he buys one does he then have to put on tsitsis.”

    I think it’s only if he wears it there is an obligation to put on tzizit. For we learn in the gemera that a four corner garment that sits in the drawer has no obligation for tzizit. As you said, its similar to mezuzah. The difference today is we obligate men to wear a tallit as religious paraphernalia not as an outer garment – like a cloak- and only during the day for a cloak that is for night purposes only does not require tzizit – from memory I think.

    Tal, since when we buy a tallit today it comes with tzizit – is that still a two step process? Also, if women decide to take on the mitzva of tzizit like shofar does that minhag become an obligation and therefore there is no two step process? Not sure that 2 step process in any event = yuhara automatically but good diyuk on differences.

  122. Rafael Araujo says:

    An interesting sceanario: women today routinely sit in the sukkah. However, when there is some pasul schach and not enough room, women and girls sit under the pasul schach. If one has to choose to “be outside the sukkah”, then the women, who has not mitzvoh to sit in the sukkah, gives up her place “within” the sukkah (even though she remains its walls). Would anybody here argue that since women have accepted upon themselves to sit in a sukkah that they have as much of a right, al pi halochoh, to sit in the sukkah?

  123. emma says:

    Rafael, I _hate_ sitting in the pasul part of the sukkah. If someone invited me for a meal on sukkos that was in their dining room I would not go, so how come people feel free to invite me to their non-sukkah without even a warning? I would rather eat in shifts, at least, but the preference seems to be for the women to forgo the mitzvah so that they can keep men company. Very frustrating.

    In short, what is your point? Even the sukkah is usually not a zero-sum situation (since people could eat in shifts), but tallis is certainly not a zero-sum game.

  124. IH says:

    Rafael — I know this is folk practice among some today, but is there any textual halachic justification for it? I recall reading (perhaps even here) a Rabbinic authority saying stating this practice was wrong.

  125. Benny says:

    AA, Yuhara is something that is in the heart. There is no way to know someone’s personal motivations. The common halkhic issue is “michzei k’yuhara” which obviously can only come up with something people see.

  126. David S says:

    Lets look at an example from real life. We have a person that does not observe Shabbat. We have direct evidence that this person does not adhere to the mitzvot. When he performs any mitzvah, should we not question whether the mitzvah is done out of pure motive or whether it is done selfishly? And if we question it, should we not discourage him performing said mitzvah?

    The fact is, we cannot know what is in the heart of a person when they do a mitzvah. Plenty of observant people have moments when they perform a mitzvah without the proper intent. Do we question them? The whole idea that we are going to question the motive of a woman because she might be have motivation other than the service of Hashem is a slippery slope that we should not embark upon. I can see the issue as a sociological one where unless there is a very good reason to not follow the tradition then we should not change it. I might not agree with all or even many applications of this logic, but at least it does not end in the prospect of Rabbinical thought police.

  127. whoa says:

    “An interesting sceanario: women today routinely sit in the sukkah. However, when there is some pasul schach and not enough room, women and girls sit under the pasul schach. If one has to choose to “be outside the sukkah”, then the women, who has not mitzvoh to sit in the sukkah, gives up her place “within” the sukkah (even though she remains its walls). Would anybody here argue that since women have accepted upon themselves to sit in a sukkah that they have as much of a right, al pi halochoh, to sit in the sukkah?”

    What does “as much as a right” even mean? If they’ve accepted it on themselves, they have to do hatarat nedarim to eat outside the sukkah, otherwise they can’t eat outside it (we generally don’t do hatarat nedarim on yom tov). Even if they haven’t accepted to eat in the sukkah, would you insist that someone stop performing say a mitzva derabbanan so that you could more quickly perform a doreisa that you could perform once they had finished? Why would you ask her to stop doing a mitzva in which she is not metzuve so that you can do one in which you are metzvuve that you can do anyway, if you just wait for her to finish eating. I’ve never heard of women told to sit under pasul schach and hope never to hear of it again. A woman is *in* the sukkah – who would tell her not to fulfill the mitzva of eating in the sukkah? A person who values mitzvot does not blithely ask others to stop performing a mitzva they are in the midst of doing. Think also of what gives one the right to ruin a woman’s simchat yom tov?

  128. Tal Benschar says:

    Lets look at an example from real life. We have a person that does not observe Shabbat. We have direct evidence that this person does not adhere to the mitzvot. When he performs any mitzvah, should we not question whether the mitzvah is done out of pure motive or whether it is done selfishly? And if we question it, should we not discourage him performing said mitzvah?

    The difference is that most mitzvos are obligatory, so a person has to do them regardless of motivation. The general rule there is mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah. I don’t think you will find anyone who would tell a woman not to do an obligatory mitzvah (e.g. kiddush.)

    OTOH, here tsitsis for women is purely voluntary — indeed doubly so for the reasons I have pointed out that distinguish it from lulav and shofar. AND there is a long-standing tradition that women do not wear tsitsis. So in that context, motivation becomes very much an issue.

    (BTW, for those who say that women never used to sit in sukkah or bench lulav, (1) I don’t think that was true universally and (2) a great deal of that depended on circumstances. If you lived in a crowded ghetto in Poland or a crowded tenement on the Lower East Side, then sukkah was very hard even for men. So why should women go out of their way to fulfill it? Today it is much easier for everyone. Similar for daled minim — in many places in Europe there was only one set for the whole kehillah.

    Point is, I don’t think there was any specific minhag for women NOT to fulfill these mitzvos — it was simply that it was difficult, so women who had no obligation didn’t usually bother. Tsitsis, OTOH, there has been long standing opposition by many sources going back to Rishonim, and it seems that almost universally it was not practiced by women, and for the most part that is still the case today. So the two situations are simply not comparable.)

  129. AA says:

    *I have met many women who wear a tallis or tallis katan, and they have never said or given the impression that they think they’re better than all the women who don’t. They’re just happy to be fulfilling a mitzvah. On the other hand, I have encountered a number of men who keep “cholov yisroel”, or Steve here with his black hat, who do express such a sense of superiority — when the first issue is a mahhloket and the second is just social nonsense!*

    Steg (dos iz nit der shteg): How could I have been any clearer that I was not commenting about various woman’s kavanos but only clarifying the scope of Yuhara?

  130. Mair Zvi says:

    I know I will be severely criticized for raising this question, but here goes: Has anyone taken into consideration that this and similar phenomena with regard to personal religious practices that cross gender lines may possibly be a manifestation of what is now fashionably called “transgender” sexual indentity disorder?

  131. LongTimeReader says:

    Another issue that seems to be lurking beneath the surface of much of the debate is whether lo rainu is raya or not.

  132. Rafael Araujo says:

    Mair Zvi – this is not a result of any disorder. I am sure that this women is perfectly fine and healthy. This is a direct result of an increasingly aggressive push or mindsent, in a part of the MO community that wants to see halachic change that mirrors the equality of men and women in our society. As set out the preface by Rabbi Broyde from a colleague, this viewpoint is one that could fracture and split MO, hence his concern that MO try to accomodate these increasingly radical views to maintain the “big tent” inclusivity that some believe or feel is the hallmark of MO.

    This is a clash of philosophies. Ascribing it to some kind of illness, while completely baseless, also takes away responsibility from thoese pushing for these radical changes to the status quo.

  133. ? says:

    “Tsitsis, OTOH, there has been long standing opposition by many sources going back to Rishonim”

    there’s been long-standing opposition to tzizit or to a tallit

  134. David S says:

    “The difference is that most mitzvos are obligatory, so a person has to do them regardless of motivation. The general rule there is mitoch shelo lishmah ba lishmah. I don’t think you will find anyone who would tell a woman not to do an obligatory mitzvah (e.g. kiddush.)”

    This is true in one sense, but it does not answer the point I am making which is that we don’t generally question the motive of a person doing a mitzvah, whether obligatory or not.

    In any case, I think there needs to be a bit more of a clear understanding of what a Mitzvah is. I think its a bit too pat to say a mitzvah is merely optional in some cases. It is still a commandment from Hashem. To be precise, I think it is more accurate to say that mitzvot are absolutely obligatory BUT that there is an exemption for women (time bound) because of their other obligations (those of raising a family etc.). Being exempt is in this view is a legal concept implying that one is immune from prosecution for not doing something for which they are otherwise obligated.

    In other words, women are not liable to Hashem for the sin of not doing the mitzvah that was clearly commanded. This is quite an important distinction because it still implies that Hashem would prefer that a mitzvah is done!

    Indeed, this is the very basis of the obligation to wear a four cornered garment for men. “The Rambam notes that it is not mandatory to buy a tallit katan in order to wear tzitzit, but a punctilious person should not seek to exempt himself (Hil. Tzitzit, 3, 11). The Rambam then writes, “One should always carefully observe the mitzvah of tzitzit, for the Torah says it encompasses all of the other mitzvahs, as is written, ‘And you shall see [the tzitzit]…’”

    According to the Bach, “Although the verse does not seem to indicate one must buy a tallit [katan], nevertheless it appears that it is a big mitzvah to buy and recall the mitzvahs upon seeing [the tzitzit].”

    In a famous responsum Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote to his son Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, shlita, the elder Rabbi Feinstein agrees with his son’s analysis that although there is no absolute halachic requirement to wear a tallit katan, there is a binding custom to do so.”

    In other words, its optional on Men! Do we question the motive of every man that wears a Tallit Katan?

  135. ruvie says:

    david s. – please check your sources – rambam hilchot tzizit 3,11 – i think talks about a tallit – regular one that you can wrap yourself in- atifah- and it should be done at least at prayer service.

    i think people here are confusing (it may be me) with the mitzvah of tzizit with a tallit – biblical mitzvah with a tallist katan – which i think is a derabbanan started around (i think there is no mention in the gemera of a tallit katan but its been a while since i have studied the inyan).
    as chana luntz pointed out so eloquently and with erudition that is not the matter here – tallit katan in general. also see the different berachot on each item. so if a woman wants to fulfill a biblical commandment it would be a tallit not tallit katan (any item that does not enable atifah cannot fulfill the biblical obligation)

  136. ruvie says:

    david s. -rambam
    הלכות ציצית פרק שלישי

    א. כסות שחייב אדם לעשות בה ציצית מן התורה היא כסות שיש לה ארבע כנפים או יותר על ארבע ותהיה מדתה כדי שיתכסה בה ראשו ורובו של קטן המתהלך לבדו בשוק ואינו צריך אחר לשומרו ולילך עמו ותהיה הכסות של צמר או של פשתן בלבד:

    see second line

  137. David S says:

    Ruvie, thanks but not my point. I’m drawing a comparison on the grounds of whether we seek out the intent of someone when he chooses to do a non-obligatory mitzvah. I totally understand that we are talking about two different things, Tallit Katan or Tallit Gadol.

    One could argue that wearing a Tallit Kattan is driven by an urge to fit in with ones group, rather than in order to observe the mitzvot. Should we question the motive of that person that wears a Tallit Kattan for that reason? Even if it is now obligatory as a binding minhag, at one point it clearly was not. It was indeed an area where someone could seek to exempt oneself. If one could seek to exempt oneself at that time then how could it become a binding minhag WITHOUT questioning the motive of the person being bound. No, the whole point is that the Rabbi’s did not question the motives of a person doing a mitzvah. They simply said that you must do it.

  138. emma says:

    “קטן המתהלך לבדו בשוק ואינו צריך אחר לשומרו ולילך עמו”

    i really wonder how old this was back then. these days it might be a full-grown person, sadly…

  139. David S says:

    In fact, what I’m really saying is as follows:

    1) It is a mitzvah for all Jews to wear a tallit (women and men), moreover it is a torah mitzvah, not a rabbinic one. In fact it is so important that it is compared to doing all of the other mitzvot!

    2) Women are exempt from the mitzvah.

    3) Exemption does not mean that the mitzvah is optional, it means that a women is not liable to Hashem for the sin of not doing the mitzvah.

    4) Hashem commanded the mitzvah and therefore the use of an exemption is not the perfect goal of Hashem, although it is acceptable to use such exemption.

    Conclusion: Absent other sociological considerations, a women may do the mitzvah and should be instructed that the only proper way to do the mitzvah is with the intention of doing a mitzvah and not for any other reason.

    Motive does not come into it for the simple reason that we do not generally question the motive of people who do other mitzvot (even ones that are arguably less serious, eg. rabbinic vs. torah). The example I used is the Tallit Kattan, which was not always obligatory on men. Since we do not question the motive of one who wears the Tallit Kattan, we have no basis to question the motive of women except by claiming that they are all motivated by the same exact thing; feminism.

  140. groinem says:

    This is the first I have heard of women eating in the Sukkah. As far as I remember, women do not eat in the sukkah at all. Except during a family meal, which must take place in the Sukkah because of the men. The women are not evicted from the Sukkah. This is in the black-hat yeshivish community in which I grew up. Do MO women eat Chol Ham’ed breakfast in the Sukkah? It does not seem that they were mekabel it on themselves as a din. They just, understandably, want to be with the family for Yom Tov seudos.
    BTW, amongst many chassidim it was considered a segula for ‘ehrlicher kinder’ for a woman not to eat in the sukkah, or generally perform any extra mitzvos, in which she is not mechuyav.

  141. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    Here’s the main question I have:

    When people like R’ Broyde contemplate the fact that there is now a Group 3 which feels the need for Torah to reflect “modern day sensibilities”, does that cause them to perhaps question just a little bit the wisdom of being so immersed in secular culture, to the point where the commitment “modern day sensibilities” is stronger than the commitment to Torah?

    [FWIW, re the story with R' Soloveitchik, I agree with the criticisms of the story, and doubt if it ever happened.]

  142. IH says:

    FP — By raising your question in the form of a false dichotomy, you have foreclosed any conclusion beyond that which you wish to hear.

    Modern Orthodoxy, at its essence, is about synthesizing Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world.

  143. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    What false dichotomy did I set up? I only went with R’ Broyde’s premise (actually his colleague’s, but one that he agreed with).

    He said that we were at risk of losing this group unless we had some way of reconciling the halacha to modern day sensibilities. This implies that if push came to shove and it was a choice of leaving Judaism or losing their “modern day sensibilities”, many in this group would chose the first option.

    I don’t know what you mean, unless you’re claiming that it’s inconceivable that halacha should ever truly conflict with modern day sensibilities.

  144. ab says:

    “This is in the black-hat yeshivish community in which I grew up”

    Don’t know a lot of women who are products of the Brisker chumra environment do you?

  145. Ruvie says:

    FP – you are reading into the letter writer what you wish to believe: your implication is just wrong.

  146. groinem says:

    ab – I did not say Brisk. But I think the Gemoro attaches equal chances to a child being a male or female. Ergo, there must be as many female Briskers as male ones. Actually, I think the Briskers are very makpid on women doing mitzvos. I remember hearing when Reb Avrohom Yehoshua’s first son got engaged that the Kalloh (a friend of my sister) would have to daven three tefillos a day.
    My mother-in-law, who was brought up in a yekkishe enviroment, runs her house in the frummest way imaginable. Every afternoon before the shekia, there are any amount of girls scrambling to daven mincha. But on Sukkos they never go into the Sukkah, except during a family meal. My mother who is also ultra-orthodox, but not yekkish, is the same. Do MO women eat in the Sukkah, absent a family meal?

  147. groinem says:

    AB- I did not say Brisk. But I think the Gemoro attaches equal chances to a child being a male or female. Ergo, there must be as many female Briskers as male ones. Actually, I think the Briskers are very makpid on women doing mitzvos. I remember hearing when Reb Avrohom Yehoshua’s first son got engaged that the Kalloh (a friend of my sister) would have to daven three tefillos a day.
    My mother-in-law, who was brought up in a yekkishe enviroment, runs her house in the frummest way imaginable. Every afternoon before the shekia, there are any amount of girls scrambling to daven mincha. But on Sukkos they never go into the Sukkah, except during a family meal. My mother who is also ultra-orthodox, but not yekkish, is the same. Do MO women eat in the Sukkah, absent a family meal?

  148. Shlomo says:

    I don’t think it is a good idea to lose people – intelligent people – to the haredi community. To my mind that would be worse for modern orthodoxy than losing the LW.

    You sound like one of the Reform/Conservative parents who (according to legend) would be more upset if their child becomes a baal teshuva than if they intermarry.

    So for a woman, who is pattur in tsitsis, there is a two-step voluntariness.

    I would add to this that even for men there is an issue of yuhra with tzitzit (for example, wearing the tallit kattan strings out when the custom of the place is not to). Perhaps because tzitzit are by definition supposed to be seen (“ureitem oto”) and seeing can easily lead to showing off. If men, who by custom HAVE to wear a talit/talit katan have this issue, then all the more so for women who don’t have to and aren’t expected to.

    The common halkhic issue is “michzei k’yuhara” which obviously can only come up with something people see.

    Or something people hear about…

  149. Rafael Araujo says:

    groinem – that is good point and it is my experience as well. I was only talking about Yom Tov/Shabbos Chol HaMoed seudos. My wife only eats in the sukkah during a Yom Tov meal. For Chol Hamoed, I am in the sukkah with son (and 6 year old daughter, if she wishes). Otherwise, my wife eats in inside and does not make any efforts to come into the sukkah to eat Chol HaMoed, save for Hoshanah Rabboh morning, which is really a family meal.

    This is my experience generally in the yeshivishe community.

  150. Rafael Araujo says:

    “I don’t think it is a good idea to lose people – intelligent people – to the haredi community. To my mind that would be worse for modern orthodoxy than losing the LW.

    You sound like one of the Reform/Conservative parents who (according to legend) would be more upset if their child becomes a baal teshuva than if they intermarry.”

    Shlomo – that is the sentiment of many poster here. Its acceptable here to easily attack Chareidim, even if the attack is not any particular issue of the day but for the pure sport and enjoyment of saying “ooh, the Charedim..ikcy, sticky, they have the cooties” kind of mentality.

  151. Rafael Araujo says:

    “FP — By raising your question in the form of a false dichotomy, you have foreclosed any conclusion beyond that which you wish to hear.”

    No, your problem is that you don’t see any conflicts. Well, even among the MO, conflicts are recognized. For you, and I think this is a fair description of your viewpoint, is: where is there is a will, there is a halachic way. Not every self-identified MO person would agree with that.

  152. emma says:

    “Do MO women eat in the Sukkah, absent a family meal?”

    Short answer, yes. at least sometimes. for starters, in a coed school everyone has lunch in the sukkah, starting from a young age. can’t speak for all MO women but i definitely know many who eat in the sukkah even when not eating with family. certainly they would not avoid it if it was right there (ie, in their backyard vs. need to walk several blocks). if you go to an mo shul’s sukkah on a random chol hamoed night i suspect you would see at least some women there. there are even some who go in shifts w husband if they have small kids.

  153. emma says:

    “BTW, amongst many chassidim it was considered a segula for ‘ehrlicher kinder’ for a woman not to eat in the sukkah, or generally perform any extra mitzvos, in which she is not mechuyav.”

    charming. though this does explain why an elderly man, who was chassidish-ish in the old country before becoming completely irreligious in the new, told me that in his youth it was “assur” for a woman to go into the sukkah.

  154. IH says:

    and I think this is a fair description of your viewpoint, is: where is there is a will, there is a halachic way.

    No, Rafael, that is not a fair description of my viewpoint.

    As Rabbi Sperber noted in the article accompanying the Torah in Motion debate: The issue is “not about numbers, but about sensitivity to a segment of our community,” he said, adding: “I don’t see myself as a feminist, but as a halachaist” who believes it is important “to permit that which is permitted.” (ref: http://www.torahinmotion.org/changing_role_media.htm).

    The constructive criticism offered by R. Broyde’s friend is, to my reading, a nudge that “reasonable, but conservative” is the wrong answer for the times. A role model for the role R. Broyde could play, if he so choose, is Rabbi Sperber.

  155. Steg (dos iz nit der shteg) says:

    I don’t see how what the ‘Arukh Hashulḥan and Mishna Brura say about the gavra/mana-ness of the mitzvah really matters. Either way, yuhara is still the issue (even if it only comes about due to the ‘distance’ of the ḥiyyuv), as others have brought up, of *meḥzey* k-yuhara, which is a function of society’s knowledge and reaction, not of the act itself.

  156. Judith Abraham says:

    It has been my understanding, that a woman’s wearing of tallit and tsitsit was not irregular, and only became problematic when R. Meir of Rothenburg simply forbade it. Also, the commandment is given to “b’nei”, and there is no following injunction against the wearing of tallit by “b’not”. The problem with a ‘feminine’ or ‘woman’s tallit’ is that it is lacking in the mystical spirituality that is imbued within the traditional ‘male’ garment. They seem to become little more than decorative accessories. When I attend a morning service, I wear my tallit, with it’s deep blue stripes, and tsitsit, saying the prayers as I put it on, and feeling, finally, that Hashem has clothed me in heavenly wings. I am blessed. And I will not give up that blessing, nor my connection with Hashem, just because someone else questions its halachic viability.

  157. IH says:

    Apropos of this discussion is the following paragraph from Devorah Zlochower’s published essay in http://tinyurl.com/d697j3a

    This notion of nahat ruah li’nashim, allowing women’s ritual participation when it is not required is used by later authorities to allow women to fulfill mitzvot from which they are exempt and even, according to some authorities, to recite the accompanying blessing. Thus, numerous medieval commentators ruled that women may, for example, sit in the sukka and recite the blessings without concern that the berakha which states that God commanded us to dwell in the sukka is a brakha li’vatala, a blessing recited in vain. The notion of nahat ruah li’nashim has been a powerful means of creating greater ritual roles for women, however, it is not an unadulterated good. It is, first of all, an act of benevolent paternalism. It is benevolent in that it gives women something good, the opportunity to do mitzvot, and paternalistic because it is men granting and circumscribing these possibilities. Ultimately, highly unsatisfactory for it is both contingent on the good will and legitimizing power of men and it is a cover-up systemic inequities.

  158. Steve Brizel says:

    Larry Kaplan asked:

    “Steve: I never denied that the Rav rejected the feminist critique of Halakhah. I still maintain that a story about the Rav related by a single individual may be missing a critical nuance, and with regard to the Rav nuance is critical. Do you rely on RYG’s or RDH’s reports of their private conversations with the Rav or, mutatis mutandis, those of R Moshe Meiselman?’

    I would consider RMM’s reports far more reliable than either RYG and/or RDH, but If you would allow the following emendation to the above query, I would consider RHS’s reports superior to that of RMM.

  159. Steve Brizel says:

    David S wrote:

    “Indeed, this is the very basis of the obligation to wear a four cornered garment for men. “The Rambam notes that it is not mandatory to buy a tallit katan in order to wear tzitzit, but a punctilious person should not seek to exempt himself (Hil. Tzitzit, 3, 11). The Rambam then writes, “One should always carefully observe the mitzvah of tzitzit, for the Torah says it encompasses all of the other mitzvahs, as is written, ‘And you shall see [the tzitzit]…’”

    According to the Bach, “Although the verse does not seem to indicate one must buy a tallit [katan], nevertheless it appears that it is a big mitzvah to buy and recall the mitzvahs upon seeing [the tzitzit].”

    In a famous responsum Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote to his son Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, shlita, the elder Rabbi Feinstein agrees with his son’s analysis that although there is no absolute halachic requirement to wear a tallit katan, there is a binding custom to do so.”

    In other words, its optional on Men!

    WADR, I think that you are presenting an incorrect gloss on what is described as a Dvar Reshus which Rambam urges every male to fulfil. There are numerous instances of a Dvar Reshus which Klal Yisrael or segments thereof have accepted as obligatory in nature-such as the recitation of Tefilas Arvis, women hearing shofar, fulfilling Arbah Minim and reciting Sefiras HaOmer. R Asher Weiss has a very good discussion on the various kinds of Dvar Reshus that one encounters in Halacha in his Minchas Asher on Moadim :Chanukah, Purim and Tzomos. Yet, such a practice does not render what was originally a Dvar Reshus a Chiyuv on any level.

  160. Steve Brizel says:

    IH quoted this excerpt from Deborah Zlochower:

    This notion of nahat ruah li’nashim, allowing women’s ritual participation when it is not required is used by later authorities to allow women to fulfill mitzvot from which they are exempt and even, according to some authorities, to recite the accompanying blessing. Thus, numerous medieval commentators ruled that women may, for example, sit in the sukka and recite the blessings without concern that the berakha which states that God commanded us to dwell in the sukka is a brakha li’vatala, a blessing recited in vain. The notion of nahat ruah li’nashim has been a powerful means of creating greater ritual roles for women, however, it is not an unadulterated good. It is, first of all, an act of benevolent paternalism. It is benevolent in that it gives women something good, the opportunity to do mitzvot, and paternalistic because it is men granting and circumscribing these possibilities. Ultimately, highly unsatisfactory for it is both contingent on the good will and legitimizing power of men and it is a cover-up systemic inequity”

    Once again, we see how feminist considerations dictate a how ‘committed feminist” responds to halachic values.

  161. Steve Brizel says:

    I should note that R Asher Weiss in Minchas Asher Moadim:RH/YK/Sukkos noted that the minhag in the descendants of the CS was that women certainly were mkayem mitzvas Arbah Minim with a bracha, which R Asher Weiss, based on Rishonom, described as a mitzvah based on Ritzui or Tefilah, but, due to childcare and household needs during YT, did not sit in the Sukkah.

  162. Anonymous says:

    IH wrote:

    “Is a man insisting on wearing the livush in a Modern Orthodox shul, and keeping on his oversized hat when that is not minhag ha’makom, “rebellious”?

    What’s good for the gander, should be good for the goose.”

    I think that a person wearing the “livush” in a NA shul where casual Shabbos attire is widespread is a way of expressing how one’s Shabbos is supposed to be different from his casual attire after work.

  163. Steve Brizel says:

    Rafael Araujo wrote in response:

    “I don’t think it is a good idea to lose people – intelligent people – to the haredi community. To my mind that would be worse for modern orthodoxy than losing the LW

    You sound like one of the Reform/Conservative parents who (according to legend) would be more upset if their child becomes a baal teshuva than if they intermarry

    The real issue is not the so-called move to the right by some of the next generation of MO into the Charedi world, which can only be documented by where this sector lives, sends its kids to school. etc, but rather that MO needs Halachically and hashkafically committed role models for its next generation than the mega earning professional, etc who is a communal big shot.That, IMO, is one of the reasons why RSP’s recent comments re Shabbos attire in his community attracted such consternation as if he was R”L accusing some of his congregants of far worse violations of Halacha. I would argue that some singularly minded MO raised individuals can and be role models as Talmidei Chachamim, Baalei Midos, and Baalei Chesed and Tznius as role models for MO in the same way as Charedi Talmidei Chachamim and Nashim Tzidkanios serve the Charedi world-even as many in the MO world view such traits and personality ( as well as their roles as Baalei Hashpaah) as reserved for the ground zero of the Charedi world. OTOH, the failure to view such individuals as role models within the ranks of MO, but rather as “frumacks”, “Black hats” or worse, essentially means that MO will always have a sense of religious inferiority and be dependent on the Charedi world for Takmidei Chachamim, rabbanim and mchanchim, while viewing the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah solely for the yeshivah world. IMO, such a course of action would be a mistake of immense proportions.

  164. Steve Brizel says:

    FP wrote:

    “When people like R’ Broyde contemplate the fact that there is now a Group 3 which feels the need for Torah to reflect “modern day sensibilities”, does that cause them to perhaps question just a little bit the wisdom of being so immersed in secular culture, to the point where the commitment “modern day sensibilities” is stronger than the commitment to Torah”

    IH then wrote:

    “Modern Orthodoxy, at its essence, is about synthesizing Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world”

    Look at your own posts on any issue-whenever Halacha conflicts with modernitty and the secular world-Halacha loses. That is by no means a definition of MO.

  165. Steve Brizel says:

    R Broyde received this response:

    “(1) The first are those who are members of the Modern Orthodox community whose allegiance to our community and its practices are not really dependent on intellectual satisfaction, but are driven by more spiritual ideas. (2) The second are people who are simply content to have a less progressive life in their religious existence than in their professional life, for social, family or other reasons. Both of these groups will be content with your essay. But there is a third group present in our community. This group (3) is not content with a halacha that is lacking modern day sensibilities. This essay argues that we are stuck with various conventions and attitudes even when halacha could afford much greater flexibility. All of us worry if we are providing the right responses for this group, which is made up of people who are who are looking for the same intellectual openness, progressiveness and creativity in all spheres of their life, including Judaism. They are, for sure, less traditional than the rest of the community, but fully bound by halacha”

    I would maintain that the above may be sociologically true-but I would have used the terminology of a silent majority that is buffeted by a noisy LW and a RW that have always been debating the proper course of MO.

  166. Ilana Elzufon says:

    Yashar ko’ach! I have two questions on metziut here:

    1) You write: “Should you permit her to wear her tallit to shul, you need to do so with the understanding that others will follow and you will be the rabbi of a synagogue where the custom will be that men and women both wear tallitot.” This strikes me as an unlikely development, unless the shul in question is already fairly strongly “left-wing.” I suspect that in reality women who wear tallitot will remain a very small minority and possibly a minority of one. In my experience, most Orthodox women, including Modern Orthodox, are rather complacent and conservative and have little interest in moving away from traditionally feminine expressions of religiosity. Certainly not something like a tallit, an article of clothing with strong gender associations. A feminine tallit sounds to me a bit like a pink necktie with lace – its femininity is not really mevatel its inherent masculinity – and thus a practice with which many traditional women would not feel comfortable. Why do you think that others will follow? Or is this simply a statement that one must be prepared to accept this unlikely development should it occur?

    2) “I am inclined to think that the ancient minhag that women not wear tzitzit is really that women not wear a four cornered garment, so as to not be obligated in such tzitizit…” Nowadays, a shawl or pashmina is a fairly common accessory for women (depending on the fashion of a particular year, of course). Do you see this as problematic? Should a woman who is makpid to eat bread only in the sukkah also consider attaching tzitzit to her shawl?

  167. groinem says:

    emma
    I personally do not understand how segulos work. But if someone who does understand them claims that not eating in the sukkah for women is a segula for ‘ehrlicher kinder’, why would you make fun of it? Do you understand how segulos work to be sure that this is not a segula? Or are you showing blind faith in the equality of the genders, ignoring any fact that comes against it?

  168. Hirhurim says:

    groinem: We make fun of it because it implies that fulfilling a mitzvah can hurt you spiritually when that is the opposite of what the Torah, in its broadest sense, tells us.

  169. groinem says:

    The segula was publicized, I believe, by the Shinever Rav (yahrtzeit this thursday). I presume he knew what the Torah says about Mitzvos Kiyumiyos. Do you have a source for the idea that Mitzvos Kiyumiyos cannot hurt you?
    Either way, nobody suggested that if the mother does sit in the Sukkah, the children will not be ehrlich. It is just a segula not to sit in the sukkah. How is that something bad happening because of a mitzva?

  170. Chana Luntz says:

    Tal Benschar wrote:

    >That is why lulav and shofar are different — there a man DOES >have a positive obligation to perform those mitzvos, and so for a >women there is only a single level of positive voluntary .acceptance.

    But as the Sde Chemed notes on this (Marechet hamem klal 136) – while this may be the case regarding shofar and lulav, it is not the case regarding sukkah for any meal other than for the first night. A man is not required to eat in the Sukkah the rest of Sukkot, just if he wants to eat, then he has to eat in the Sukkah. And hence if you hold that it is yehura for a woman to wear tzitzit based on this reasoning, you also need to hold that it is yehura for a woman to sit in the sukkah. So in this regard R’ Broyde is being fully consistent.

    BTW, that Sde Chemed there is fascinating because of his discussion and ruling, following the ruling of the Chida (which he quotes there, and can be seen in the Birchei Yosef Orech Chaim siman 654) against Maran (the Shulchan Aruch), that (Sephardi) women can make brachot on mitzvot aseh shehazman grama. A lot of people seem not to be aware of these sources, and appear to assume that Rav Ovadaya Yosef’s position based on the Maran is the only one – but it is a widespread and deep Sephardi position. So if you are ever looking for it, there it is.

  171. Hirhurim says:

    groinem: My source is Kiddushin 31a גדול המצווה ועושה ממי שאינו מצווה ועושה Clear implication is that a woman receives sechar for doing a mitzvah.

    Your response that some rebbe I’ve never heard of said it is meaningless. It’s an appeal to an authority I don’t accept. The bottom line is that when some rebbe says something which contradicts ruach ha-Torah we are going to reject that rebbe, which frankly without any other information I would do anyway.

  172. groinem says:

    You admit you never heard of the Shinever Rov and you would dismiss him before any proof. How is that for intellectual honesty?
    He has a sefer Divrei Yechezkel, which is only his derashos, but the Talmidei Chachomim of Galitzya respected him. His talmid was the Minchas Elozor. The statement is also attributed to his father the Divrei Chayim of Tznaz who has many seforim that you can check out yourself.

  173. DF says:

    This post is charachteristic of all Michael Broyde articles, in that it has every hallmark of his articles: erudition, order, and a glaring absence of any shikul ha’daas.

  174. Hirhurim says:

    Of course I dismiss a rabbi if he says something contrary to the Gemara! I’ve certainly heard of the Minchas Elazar and the Divrei Chaim, but if they said something contrary to the Gemara I’d reject that statement of theirs as well.

  175. Sarah Jacobs says:

    I was a student at Maimonides during the 1970′s. In 1974 I began wearing a tallit at my home shul. At the start of the school year in 1975 or 6 the school demanded that all students daven Shaharit at school. I informed members of the administration before the school year began that I would be wearing my tallit.

    I wore my tallit at t’fillot at Maimonides from that point until I graduated in June of 1978. I would assume that if the Rav had any objections to my wearing a tallit in his school I would have been told to stop wearing my tallit. In fact, the Rav used to daven at Maimonides when he was in Boston. I have no doubt that he both knew that I wore a tallit and had seen me wearing my tallit during t’fillot.

    During that time I was in many discussion about my wearing a tallit. Interestingly, it was my limudei kodesh teachers who were most supportive, understanding the halachic underpinnings of my decision to take on a mitzvah. I was told during that time by more than one of my teaches that Tonya, the Rav’s wife wore arba kanfot under her clothing.

    I find it odd though, that the arguments presented here against women taking on the mitzvah of tzitzit are sociological in basis rather than halachic. I know that when religious rulings are arrived at by that same sort of sociological reasoning by Conservative Reform or Reconstructionist Jews they are met by scorn by members of the mainstream Orthodox community. Using sociology only to maintain chumrot and not to admit kulot seems like poor halachic logic.

  176. emma says:

    “I find it odd though, that the arguments presented here against women taking on the mitzvah of tzitzit are sociological in basis rather than halachic”

    It is especially odd when the sociological observations don’t seem correct (eg, that if one woman does this in shul soon they will all be doing it), and when rabbi broyde has previously made clear (and i believe in a previous comment thread admitted) that fully understanding the sociological trends is not his area of expertise…

  177. groinem says:

    Sorry, you said that you would dismiss his opinion even before you heard this statement. That is intellectual dishonesty.
    Your proof from the gemoro seems valid, but it is strange that precedent in the Rishonim is not available. When the Semag ran around persuading people to wear arba kanfos to be mechuyav in tzitzis, why did he not persuade women to do it? Why is it unheard of historically?

  178. emma says:

    “Your proof from the gemoro seems valid, but it is strange that precedent in the Rishonim is not available. ”

    I believe that R. Gil was bringing the gemara as proof that the idea of not doing _any_ mtzvos in which one is not obligated being a good thing (the “Segulah” you mention) seems wrong. And there is in fact precedent of women doing unobligatory acts like hearing shofar, eating in a sukkah, unobligatory davening, etc.

    I strongly doubt he meant to imply that the gemara he cites means women should wear tsitsis, so your question is misdirected.

  179. Hirhurim says:

    Of course. An argument from authority requires an authority! I always dismiss segulos. Additionally, chassidic authorities are at the bottom of my list, unless they are also noted talmidei chachamim, because of the negative influence of chassidus. And in this case, the statement is against a Gemara.

  180. Tal Benschar says:

    But as the Sde Chemed notes on this (Marechet hamem klal 136) – while this may be the case regarding shofar and lulav, it is not the case regarding sukkah for any meal other than for the first night. A man is not required to eat in the Sukkah the rest of Sukkot, just if he wants to eat, then he has to eat in the Sukkah. And hence if you hold that it is yehura for a woman to wear tzitzit based on this reasoning, you also need to hold that it is yehura for a woman to sit in the sukkah. So in this regard R’ Broyde is being fully consistent.

    WADR to the Sdei Chemed, the argument does not hold water.

    First of all, there may not be a chiyuv of Sukkah to eat in the Sukkah after the first night, but there is a chiyyuv (even on women) to eat (indeed to eat bread) due to Shabbos and Yom Tov. So at least for that, you only have one level away from a man.

    Second, there is a big difference between eating and wearing a four-cornered garment. Everyone eats every day, unless it is a fast day, which is forbidden on Sukkos (except for Taanis Chalom). And while certainly one does not have to eat bread (i.e. during Chol ha Moed), doing so is hardly unusual. The fact that a woman choses to eat a meal on Chol ha Moed is a perfectly normal, regular activity and is hardly a basis for yuhara.

    As opposed to going out of her way to buy a four cornered garment.

    (This of course begs the question raised by Emma as to what if the fashion becomes that women wear a four-cornered shawl.)

  181. Rabbi Ploni says:

    “None the less if they wish to wear them and recite a blessing, they may.”

    Misrepresentation of the Chayei Adam. He said “If they wish to wear them and recite a blessing, they may recite a blessing.” He doesnt simply say “they may”, as the author claims, he says “they may RECITE A BLESSING.” The author conveniently omits the last three words. The clear implication is that if they want to make a blesing on it they may, but they should NOT be wearing it.

  182. emma says:

    “question raised by Emma as to what if the fashion becomes that women wear a four-cornered shawl”

    Even more pointed: I have been in at least one shul where the shul put out a basket of such shawls for the women to keep warm since the air conditioner is set to a temperature that is too low for most women’s comfort. (The men are wearing several layers of wool..) Is there not something at least disconcerting about a shul _encouraging_ women to don a 4-cornered garment without tsitsis?

  183. emma says:

    rabbi ploni,
    so when the chayyei adam says, in the next sentence, “ve-chen ha-din be-chol mitzvos asei she-ha-zeman grama” he means that women “should NOT” be doing those too?

    http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=49395&st=&pgnum=35

  184. emma says:

    (in other words, rabbi ploni, the “clear implication” of which you speak does not exist…)

  185. Y. Aharon says:

    I find Sarah Jacobs’ comment to be most informative and substantive both as to the actual view of RYBS regarding a girl (or woman) wearing a talit in public and the nature of the objections raised.

    I also agree fully with R’ Gil as to the issue of rabbonim or rebbe’im instituting edicts that are opposed to the talmudic conclusions and accepted halacha. These alleged segulot appear to merely a way of discouraging halachically inspired or accepted behavior. One can rationalize the issuance of a “segulah” for women not sitting in a succah in terms of discouraging the elimination of seating space for men – an issue that would be clearly relevant in a rebbishe succah. If so, it has no bearing on what happens in a private family succah that is not expected to be packed with people.

  186. Rabbi Ploni says:

    to Emma – no, it means that in other mitzvos they also can bless, just like the tallis. But he did NOT say they should actually go around wearing it.

  187. emma says:

    He refers to performing other mitzvos as a “chumra” women may wish to take upon themselves and says that the only one they should be discouraged from doing is tefillin. True he says “they may bless” not “They may wear” but how on earth do you see that he really means “and they should not wear”? Surely if he meant they should not wear, while also talking about other mitzvos women might want to do as apparently permissible “chumros,” he should have said so?

  188. groinem says:

    The chayei odom is no more than a seif in shulchan aruch OC 17.
    Hirhurim: The Shinever Rov was the Rov of the town of Shinev. Who told you he was even chassidish if you never heard of him? I hear he was accepted as a Talmid Chochom. If you had never heard of him, you have no business passing judgement on him.

  189. groinem says:

    Hirhurim: Let us stop beating around the bush. Segula did not mean segula. What the Shinever Rav meant was that a woman who focuses on her wifely/motherly duties will have better children. That is a chinuch decision that should be in the hands of responsible Talmidei Chachomim.

  190. Hirhurim says:

    groinem: If that’s what he meant then I wholeheartedly endorse it. If he meant it’s a segulah then I reject it.

  191. emma says:

    “What the Shinever Rav meant was that a woman who focuses on her wifely/motherly duties will have better children. ”

    I am glad you are honest about this, though it’s strange since your initial post was about people who “understand how segulos work.”

  192. emma says:

    you wholeheartedly endorse that a woman, if she is moved to pick up a lulav, should think of something wifely and motherly to do instead?

  193. Hirhurim says:

    No. That if it conflicts she should choose her role as a mother.

  194. Joseph Kaplan says:

    And eating in the succah with her husband and sons can, in some way, conflict with her wifely/motherly duties to the degree that someone would make a “segulah” out of it??? This chinuch decision is one that I would much rather leave to the discretion of the parents than to talmidei chachamim.

  195. emma says:

    the definition of conflict, of course, is somewhat subjective… i also notice you left out “role as a wife,” which strikes me as significantly less defensible.

  196. Hoffa Araujo says:

    “I find it odd though, that the arguments presented here against women taking on the mitzvah of tzitzit are sociological in basis rather than halachic. I know that when religious rulings are arrived at by that same sort of sociological reasoning by Conservative Reform or Reconstructionist Jews they are met by scorn by members of the mainstream Orthodox community. Using sociology only to maintain chumrot and not to admit kulot seems like poor halachic logic.”

    Really. So all along, through the centuries, Jews were not following halochoh but were acting in accordance with sociological norms? And the push for women to wear tallisos is purely halachic, or, as it appears to many Orthodox Jews, a sociological push for change?

  197. Hoffa Araujo says:

    Can anybody confirm what Sara Jacob reported, that Rav Soloveitchik’s wife wore a tallis koton? I never heard that before.

  198. groinem says:

    I presume you, Emma and Joseph are not being serious. You understand that the issue is one of focus not of actions, and he never meant the actual sitting in the Sukkah. In plain language, if your preteen daughter asks you if she should sit in the sukkah, your answer should be “I like your new dress.” If the attitude on the home stresses the inherent roles of respective genders, you have fulfilled the belief system of the Shinever Rov.

  199. shawls etc says:

    once again, if a garment is not worn with 2 corners in front and 2 in back, it’s likely not obligated in tzitzit, and the minhag is not to be makpid on such clothing for men. this excludes most scarves and shawls etc. as they are typically worn.

  200. ab says:

    “In plain language, if your preteen daughter asks you if she should sit in the sukkah, your answer should be “I like your new dress.”

    Did the Shinever Rov believe that women should be vain and frivolos? That they should occupy themselves with fashion and clothing and that this would enable them to be better Jewish wives and mothers? If your preteen daugher asks you if she shoould hear shofar, should you also say “I like your new dress”? In general, should you answer a direct question with a statement on an entirely different topic as a form of respectful communication? One has many questions.

  201. ab says:

    “You understand that the issue is one of focus not of actions, and he never meant the actual sitting in the Sukkah. In plain language, if your preteen daughter asks you if she should sit in the sukkah, your answer should be “I like your new dress.”

    Did the Shinever Rov believe that women should be vain and frivolos? That they should occupy themselves with fashion and clothing and that this would enable them to be better Jewish wives and mothers? If your preteen daugher asks you if she shoould hear shofar, should you also say “I like your new dress”? In general, should you answer a direct question with a statement on an entirely different topic as a form of respectful communication? One has many questions.

  202. Joseph Kaplan says:

    Groinem, I was, of course being serious (as I assume Emma was as well). The Shinever Rov is not my rov and I don’t feel bound to follow his belief system — and I don’t.

  203. ab says:

    “ab – I did not say Brisk. But I think the Gemoro attaches equal chances to a child being a male or female. Ergo, there must be as many female Briskers as male ones. Actually, I think the Briskers are very makpid on women doing mitzvos. I remember hearing when Reb Avrohom Yehoshua’s first son got engaged that the Kalloh (a friend of my sister) would have to daven three tefillos a day.”

    I don’t know what gemara you refer to, but as a matter of empirical fact, there aren’t exactly equal chances of a child being male or female. It’s nice that R AY’s first son’s wife davens three times a day. This is the stance of the aruch hashulchan, and the mishna berura’s heter re maariv is somewhat ambiguous as maariv being reshus only means if you are already doing something else.

    Re brisker and the sukah, all I can tell you is that the women in my haredi family except my mother (who is from a chassidishe home) eat in the sukkah. This is not a sociological study, but neither is the evidence from your family. My conclusion is that some haredi women eat in the sukkah, some don’t. Also some MO women do, and some don’t. I would guess that the percentage of haredi women who eat in the sukkah is higher than the percentage of Mo, but it may be more common among today’s MO than today’s haredi because haredi behavior in relation to mitzvot that are regularly performed has generally been more static over time.

  204. emma says:

    “once again, if a garment is not worn with 2 corners in front and 2 in back, it’s likely not obligated in tzitzit, and the minhag is not to be makpid on such clothing for men. this excludes most scarves and shawls etc. as they are typically worn.”

    esp for warmth, a lot of “pashmina” type shawls are worn with one edge over the shoulder – 2 in front and 2 in back as you say.

  205. Chana Luntz says:

    groinem writes:

    >BTW, amongst many chassidim it was considered a segula for >‘ehrlicher kinder’ for a woman not to eat in the sukkah, or >generally perform any extra mitzvos, in which she is not mechuyav.

    Slightly surprising, given that the gemora in Sukkah 2b says that Helene HaMalka sat in a sukkah and when this was questioned on the basis that she was a woman and exempt, it said that she did so for the sake of her seven sons, and that everything that she did was only according to the words of the Chachamim. This would rather seem to suggest that, according to Chazal, sitting in the Sukkah would be a segula for erliche children, rather than the reverse.

    But then, many Chassidim are known for their (male) disregard of the clear ruling of the gemora regarding sitting in the sukkah on Shmini Atzeres in Chutz L’Aretz, so I guess it is not so surprising here either.

  206. Hirhurim says:

    Chana: Actually, if you read that Gemara carefully you will see that it is no proof for your position. They only assume the sukkah was kosher because one of her sons must have been over bar mitzvah.

  207. Tal Benschar says:

    Groinem: Let me suggest you look up the Shinover Rov and post what he says, because it seems to me you have butchered whatever it is he actually said.

    ___________

    As for women eating in the sukkah, what makes any empirical study hard is that in most families, the women eat there because they want to eat together with the family, especially on shabbos and yom tov meals. IIRC, there is a Chasam Sofer who even says that it is a requirement for a man to have his wife there for meals if they normally eat together. So you would have to focus solely on what they do when they are not eating en famille. In EY, when many people have off during Chol ha Moed, families probably eat most of the meals together even then.

  208. ab says:

    “Chana: Actually, if you read that Gemara carefully you will see that it is no proof for your position. They only assume the sukkah was kosher because one of her sons must have been over bar mitzvah.”

    surely the point is that she in fact ate in the sukkah rather than stayed away.

  209. Chana Luntz says:

    Hirhurim wrote:

    >Chana: Actually, if you read that Gemara carefully you will see >that it is no proof for your position. They only assume the sukkah >was kosher because one of her sons must have been over bar mitzvah.

    Actually, I think if you read that gemora carefully, it says that they were ktanim but that at least one of them must be of the age that they did not need their mother, and hence had become chayav in sukkah for chinuch purposes (see Sukkah 28a-b), even though not bar mitzvah: to wit:

    : כי תאמרו בנים קטנים היו, וקטנים פטורין מן הסוכה, כיון דשבעה הוו – אי אפשר דלא הוי בהו חד שאינו צריך לאמו. וכי תימרו: קטן שאינו צריך לאמו – מדרבנן הוא דמיחייב, ואיהי בדרבנן לא משגחה – תא שמע: ועוד כל מעשיה לא עשתה אלא על פי חכמים

    Indeed this gemora is one the key sources on the question as to whether a woman is obligated in chinnuch of her minor children (given that the gemora in Nazir 29a says they are not), but certainly Rashi here understands that that as what she was doing.

  210. Chana Luntz says:

    Tal Benschar writes:

    >First of all, there may not be a chiyuv of Sukkah to eat in the >Sukkah after the first night, but there is a chiyyuv (even on >women) to eat (indeed to eat bread) due to Shabbos and Yom Tov.

    Not on Yom Tov according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger Orech Chaim siman 1.

    > So at least for that, you only have one level away from a man.

    >Second, there is a big difference between eating and wearing a >four-cornered garment. Everyone eats every day, unless it is a >fast day, which is forbidden on Sukkos (except for Taanis Chalom).

    Note that in the aformentioned R’ Akiva Eiger he disagrees that this is true for women on Sukkos (or any Yom Tov). He holds that since women are not obligated in oneg on Yom Tov, they may fast if they wish (and therefore if they forget ya’ale v’yavo in benching they do not go back).

    But now you are switching arguments. The argument of the Aruch HaShulchan etc is, as you originally pointed out, a halachic argument, about a two step versus one step process, not a sociological argument about what it is common for people to wear or not to wear. The Sde Chemed is responding equivalently, pointing out that if your two step, one step argument is the valid one, then women should not sit in the Sukkah outside of the first night, or perhaps the first night and shabbas.

    Once you switch arguments and get into the question of sociology, then you arguably find yourself on tricky ground. Because if you ask any non frum man or woman in the street, who has never heard of a tallis, and ask them who wears four cornered garments (once you explain what four cornered garments are), they will almost invitably respond – women! Because women’s shawls and women’s ponchos are far, far more commmon today than any equivalent clothing for men. Such shawls and ponchos are readily available in many regular women’s and girls clothes shops today. Thus a woman really does not have to go out of her way to buy a four cornered garment – if anything she has to consciously think that she does not want to get into the bittel aseh question of R’ Broyde to decide not to buy such garments.

    > And while certainly one does not have to eat bread (i.e. during >Chol ha Moed), doing so is hardly unusual. The fact that a woman >choses to eat a meal on Chol ha Moed is a perfectly normal, >regular activity and is hardly a basis for yuhara.

    And so is wearing a four cornered shawl. But that is sociology, not halachic argumentation.

  211. Chana Luntz says:

    > David S wrote:

    >In any case, I think there needs to be a bit more of a clear >understanding of what a Mitzvah is. I think its a bit too pat to >say a mitzvah is merely optional in some cases. It is still a >commandment from Hashem. To be precise, I think it is more >accurate to say that mitzvot are absolutely obligatory BUT that >there is an exemption for women (time bound) because of their >other obligations (those of raising a family etc.). Being exempt >is in this view is a legal concept implying that one is immune >from prosecution for not doing something for which they are >otherwise obligated.

    This would seem to be the Ra’avid’s first explanation (and the one he prefers) in Rabbi Yosi – see his discussion at the beginning of Toras Cohanim (Sifra Vayikra 2:2).

    But let’s start from the very beginning.

    There is a machlokus between Rabbi Meir/Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Yosi/Rabbi Shimon whether or not women are permitted to do postive mitzvos dependent upon time. The actual centre of their discussion is about whether women can do smicha on a korban – Bnos yisroel somchos reshus. This machlokus is brought in a number of places in Shas, including Chaggiga 16b, Chullin 85a and most practically for us, Rosh HaShana 33b.

    The reason why it is most practically is that if you hold like Rabbi Meir/Rabbi Yehuda, then, as set out in that mishna there, women cannot blow shofar on Rosh HaShana (and that means that nobody else, ie a man, can do a blowing specifically for women and only women).

    Now there are two reasons given for the position of Rabbi Meir/Rabbi Yehuda:

    (a) that given that women were not obligated in these mitzvos, for them to do them is bal tosif (eg Rashi Rosh HaShana 33a);

    (b) that given that women were not obligated in these mitzvos, they will not do them properly and there will come to kilkul and zilzul of the mitzvah (most clearly in the Ra’avid in the aforementioned Toras Cohanim, but various other rishonim).

    There are also two explanations given in the rishonim to explain Rabbi Yosi’s position:

    (a) the concept of bnos yisroel reshus means, as David S says, women were exempt from the requirement to fulfil the mitzvah, but if they do so, they fulfil a mitzvah aseh from the Torah as much as a man does – to the extent that the general torah principle of mitzvas aseh doche lo ta’aseh applies to such actions. So that, just as a man is permitted to put on tzitzis (with techeles) of shatnez, even though shatnez is a lo ta’aseh, but aseh doche lo ta’aseh, so too, if a woman puts on tzitzis with techeles, even though she has no chiyuv, that is also permitted, because the aseh that she is performing is doche the lo ta’aseh (This is the first position of the Ra’avid explaining Rabbi Yosi’s position in the Torah Kohanim, and the position he prefers in Rabbi Yosi).

    (b) while a woman may perform positive mitzvos dependent upon time, and if she does so, her action is enough to push off a *rabbinic* prohibition, it is not enough to push off a Torah lo ta’aseh. Thus, a woman cannot wear tzitzis with techeles with shatnez, nor can she do smicha with all her strength on a korban, but she can blow (or have others blow for her) a shofar on Rosh Hashana, as the prohibition on blowing shofar on Rosh Hashana is only rabbinic, and if in the fulfilment of the mitzvah, such blowing is doche the rabbinic prohibition. Similarly (according to some) she can make a blessing over such mitzvos, as making an unnecessary blessing is only rabbinic. This is the view of Tosphos in various places including Rosh Hashana 33a and is the second view in Rabbi Yosi brought in the Ra’avid. A further discussion can take place on this view as to whether the permission to act is only due to the principle of nachas ruach d’nashim, or whether there some intrinsic value in the mitzvah performance. There are some suggestions in various of the Tosphosim as to the latter view, but it may be that at the end of the day they hold the former view (ie is it about making women feel good, not about women actually performing some level of mitzvah).

    Note that the Ra’avid himself rules like Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda, that women may not perform a mitzvah like shofar, and certainly may not bless, but Tosphos rules like Rabbi Yosi, and so do many other rishonim.

    The assumption thus here is that we are poskening like Rabbi Yosi (otherwise forget all your women’s shofar blowings) – and if we are poskening like Rabbi Yosi, then it does open up the possibility of understanding Rabbi Yosi like the Ra’avid’s first explanation – and indeed it would seem that that is the underlying sentiment of Rabbi Broyde – ie that there is real mitzvah value in such performance, and I would presume he is reading Tosphos towards that understanding.

    However even if you do hold that, vis a vis explicit mitzvah performance, there is mitzvah value in such performance, as R’ Broyde appears to do, I do not think you can as a consequence extinguish the concept of nachas ruach d’nashim as a talmudic principle that should be factored into any halachic discussion involving women’s issues. The Ra’avid in his first explanation of Rabbi Yosi, while stressing that women who in fact brought a korban were allowed to do smicha with all their strength, and in the ezras Yisrael just like the men, being doche the lo ta’aseh of working with kodshim, added that the case of nachas ruach d’nashim and smicha was in the case of wives of the korban bringer, who felt that they had a stake in their husbands possessions (even though strictly halachically they did not), and thus in order to give them nachas ruach, the korban was brought to the ezras nashim, and they did a floating of the hand type smicha over it.

    I confess that re the piece by Devorah Zlotchower, I personally am not much interested in critiques of paternalism, and am not sure what if anything it adds to our discussion. The discussion here is centred on what ruling a man (R’ Broyde) should give to another man (the Rav Hashoel), regarding the wearing of a tallit in shul by a women within the framework of the halachic tradition of legal ruling. I do find it frustrating when people appear not to be willing to look at the full scope of that tradition, and within the scope of that tradition, I can see room for flexibility in ruling in ways that are more or less accommodating of modern sensibilities. But once you step outside the daled amos of the halacha, I guess I struggle to understand exactly where we are left as Orthodox Jews.

  212. MJ says:

    I’m surprised that no one has brought up the idea of the aesthetics of ritual beyond the generality of the “sociological”. Ritual is usually not simply a private act, but a public performance whose function is in and of itself partly social. The aesthetics of such performances are integral to their social role, which today includes demarcating gender and denominational boundaries. As such, the question of women wearing a tallit gadol is tied up with the fear of changing the aesthetics of the synagogue, as much as R. Moshe Feinstein’s objection to placing the ezrat nashim on the ground level was. For someone coming from a particular background having the ezrat nashim take up half the ground floor of the shul would be a jarring departure from tradition, and having many women wearing a tallit gadol would probably have the same effect on many contemporary Orthodox shulgoers. However, just as R. Moshe’s views on the spacial arrangement of the shul have been rejected by mainstream MO shuls, I can imagine the day when the same could be true of women donning a tallit gadol.

    (as an aside, it is interesting to see the somewhat reverse-parallel discussion within Conservative Judaism over women not wearing kippot)

  213. IH says:

    Chana – notwithstanding your lomdus, I confess that I find your unwillingness to grapple with the sociological aspects of this discussion perplexing. It seems evident that voices on both sides of this debate ultimately rely on sociology (as you point out in your last response to Tal).

    Further, you seek to draw a red line so as to avoid dealing with the issue of shawls/pashminas for women. But, that seeming inconsistency in today’s halachic praxis has already been raised by several people within this discussion (e.g. Emma and Ilana Elzufon). It seems to me the discussion would be far more enlightening if you came out of your comfort zone and addressed these issues rather than trying to exclude their consideration (as if that were possible after 200+ comments).

  214. Hirhurim says:

    ab: surely the point is that she in fact ate in the sukkah rather than stayed away

    The point is that she did it because of her kids, not out of a desire to fulfill the mitzvah.

  215. groinem says:

    Joseph: I meant taking the Shinever Rav seriously, not whether you meant it seriously.
    The Shinever Rav is an oral quote, I may find it in a collection of oral quotes, but that will not be more accurate than mine.
    AB – you seem not to be familiar with the Galicianer way of speaking. The answer of “I like your dress” is loaded with meaning that a Galicianer would expect his daughter to understand. If you don’t it should be translated.
    The Brisker point I made was just that they are not the same as the rest of the Charedim regarding women doing mitvos. I don’t know if RAY’s DIL davens three times a day. It is just that that was the story being told at the time. The Chofetz Chaim’s son says that his mother never davened when she had young children, regardless of what the MB paskens. (see back of vol. 3 of Kol Kisvei Chofetz Chaim for many fascinating things about the CC incl. this)
    The gemoro (bechoros 20b) says that the chances of a male child or a female child are equal.
    One last point, AB. Do the women in your family eat in the Sukkah on their own? When the men are not around such as Chol Hamo’ed breakfast, or kiddush shabbos morning while the men are in shul etc?

  216. Responding to Charlie Hall on December 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm (my apologies for the delay.)

    I originally said:
    >>“asking to perform “men’s mitzvot” is a subtle way women express their rejection of the blessing for women “She’a’sani kir’tzono”. It is a way of saying, “No, I am not content to serve God in the way He Himself designed me –in a way uniquely different from men. I know better.”<”So you would oppose women hearing the shofar? Do women eat in your sukkah?”Given that the number of mitzvot from the Torah for which men are chayev and women are patur is quite small, and that for many (most?) of them, women are encouraged to take them on and (if Ashkenazic) to say the bracha, that is a rather thin thread on which to build your sociology. And “sheasani kirtzono” itself is a d’rabbanan!”<

    The ones that women have been traditionally been encouraged to take on are not ones which have any particular male associations with them. Studying talmud and primary halachic sources, wearing a tallis, and wearing teffilin do indeed have such associations. That's the sociology I'm building on in this comment and I don't see why it's thin at all.

    But my point from the bracha of "She'a'sani Kirtzono" was not at all sociological but rather ideological or theological. It simply asserts that God has provided distinctly different paths to avodas Hashem for men and women, and when women try to ignore those differences they are sending a negative message about their confidence in the wisdom of God's decision to give them a different path.

  217. Previous comment was truncated. Re-posting.
    Responding to Charlie Hall on December 12, 2012 at 8:33 pm (my apologies for the delay.)

    I originally said:
    “asking to perform “men’s mitzvot” is a subtle way women express their rejection of the blessing for women “She’a’sani kir’tzono”. It is a way of saying, “No, I am not content to serve God in the way He Himself designed me –in a way uniquely different from men. I know better.”

    Charlie responded:
    “So you would oppose women hearing the shofar? Do women eat in your sukkah?”

    Women hearing shofar is unique in many ways:
    1) I believe The practice predates the feminist movement of the 60′s.
    2) Only one man performs the blowing for everyone. Not every man blows for himself–which would then make it more “a man’s mitzvah” like talis, and more problematic.
    3) Women are more present in shul anyway for the Yomim Noraim making their fulfillment of this mitzvah less conspicuous. I am not very comfortable with an “all women’s shofar blowing” for this reason.
    3) The mitzvah of Shofar has strong elements of tefilah and teshuvah and is an integral part of our securing a favorable judgment on the Yom Hadin. That is probably the overarching motivation for women to want to hear shofar–which is beyond anti-feminist critique. This is why I do not actively protest “all women’s shofar blowing”.

    About sukka, the women in my family (both MO and Hareidi) only sit there when the family as a whole is located there– for meals, games, or entertaining guests. They have no qualms whatsoever to sitting under the pasul part when there is limited room in the kosher part.

    There is a great vort said in the name of the Chasam Sofer which explains why Jewish women have no need for the spiritual goals of the sukka. The women in my family are flattered by this vort and feel greatly complimented.
    I don’t want to elaborate but it dovetails with the Vilna Gaon’s explanation for the timing of Sukkos after Yom Kippur and the receiving of the Second Luchos.
    I am sure similar vorts exist regarding the reason for women’s exemption from other mitzvos which are not patronizing but genuine, and genuinely complimentary to women.

    Charlie said:
    “Given that the number of mitzvot from the Torah for which men are chayev and women are patur is quite small, and that for many (most?) of them, women are encouraged to take them on and (if Ashkenazic) to say the bracha, that is a rather thin thread on which to build your sociology. And “sheasani kirtzono” itself is a d’rabbanan!”

    My response:
    The ones that women have been traditionally been encouraged to take on are not ones which have any particular male associations with them. Studying talmud and primary halachic sources, wearing a tallis, and wearing teffilin do indeed have such associations. That’s the sociology I’m building on in this comment and I don’t see why it’s thin at all.

    But my point from the bracha of “She’a’sani Kirtzono” was not at all sociological but rather ideological or theological. It simply asserts that God has provided distinctly different paths to avodas Hashem for men and women, and when women try to ignore those differences they are sending a negative message about their confidence in the wisdom of God’s decision to give them a different path.

  218. To underscore groinem’s point and challenge Rabbi Student’s assumption based on the gemara in Kiddushin that there can be nothing objectionable with fulfilling uncommanded mitzvos, I found an interesting passage in the 13th Drasha of the Drashos HaRan:

    הדרוש השלושה עשר
    (דף תקכג-ד הוצאת מוסד הרב קוק)
    עוד טעם אחר למה שאמרו: “גדול המצווה ועושה” וכו’—לפי שידוע שיש מן המצוות הרבה דביקות במינים ומיוחדות בהן. כעין המצוות התלויות בארץ ומצוות שנצטוו בהן הכהנים ולא נצטווינו אנחנו בהן. ולפיכך, מי שאינו מצווה ועושה לא יגדל שכרו כי אין רצון ה’ בו ובמינו– אחרי אשר לא צווה בו.
    ואע”פ שהתורה כולה דרכיה דרכי נועם, אפשר כי יש במצוות טעמים שנתייחדה בהם במי שמצווה ועושה. וכבר נתברר בדברי רבותינו ז”ל שישראל שמקיים שבת יגדל שכרו וגוי ששבת חייב מיתה! ואע”פ שלא נלמד כן בשאר המצוות אלא על מה שבאה המניעה מהם, שאילו כן, היה אסור למי שאינו מצווה ועושה לקיים את המצוות חלילה.
    מכל מקום, נלמוד לשאר המצוות שאפשר שלא תשלם כוונת המצוה וסודה במי שאינו מצווה בה כאשר תשלם במי שציוהו ה’ יתברך.
    ולפיכך גדול המצווה ועושה כי חפץ בו ה’ יתברך יותר מן האחר באמת.

    The Ran is saying clearly that when Hashem doesn’t command you to do something, it is a strong indication that God has no desire for you to do it and there is nothing to be achieved spiritually by it.
    I.e., it’s not your path.

  219. emma says:

    re: I like your dress being “loaded with meaning,”
    “If you don’t it should be translated.”
    - yes, please do. Speaking as a litvak I have no idea what loads of meaning you are talking about.

  220. groinem says:

    emma: When a daughter asks a father if she should sit in the sukkah, she is expressing a desire to fulfill her spirituality and tachlis in life (not her base desires) in the form of keeping mitvos that were only commanded to men. A father’s answer “I like your dress” would thus mean “You are doing great the way you are and keep it up. Advance spiritually in a feminine manner and you will be best off”.
    I am also a Litvak, but I have met many chassidim of different strains. I stayed a misnaged, but now I understand why.
    Your off-color joke does not belong in a serious website.

  221. ab says:

    “you seem not to be familiar with the Galicianer way of speaking. The answer of “I like your dress” is loaded with meaning that a Galicianer would expect his daughter to understand. If you don’t it should be translated.”

    I think I well understand; maybe you don’t?

    “The Brisker point I made was just that they are not the same as the rest of the Charedim regarding women doing mitvos. I don’t know if RAY’s DIL davens three times a day. It is just that that was the story being told at the time. The Chofetz Chaim’s son says that his mother never davened when she had young children, regardless of what the MB paskens. (see back of vol. 3 of Kol Kisvei Chofetz Chaim for many fascinating things about the CC incl. this)”

    The Brisker are a significant and influential segment of haredim. Also, it’s not only a matter of a particular family or yeshiva, but of widespread influence. I know that many of the girls schools teach to daven shacharis and mincha and not maariv, and this is common practice (and presumably is also the reason that you mentioned mincha in your original comment about your family). But it’s not as though one doesn’t find any haredi women who daven maariv, apart from a one-off story about such and such a rosh yeshiva’s daughter-in-law or daughters. I grant that it’s unusual to insist on the woman davening maariv as a condition of marriage, but if the issue is whether such meticulousness is outside haredi norms, I think it’s not, and such meticulousness is also typically viewed positively within haredi society. Probably more haredi women daven maariv than eat all their meals in the sukkah.

    “The gemoro (bechoros 20b) says that the chances of a male child or a female child are equal.”

    In context, the gemara is not making a precise point about odds. ruba zecharim would work too, as long as daughters together with mapilos is more than live zecharim (the point the gemara is getting at)

    “One last point, AB. Do the women in your family eat in the Sukkah on their own? When the men are not around such as Chol Hamo’ed breakfast, or kiddush shabbos morning while the men are in shul etc?”

    yes. (That was the subject of this discussion, not whether they eat yom tov meals, but whether they personally make a point of eating in the sukkah.) Can you explain why, if the sukkah is convenient to the house – say on the porch – a woman shouldn’t eat all her meals in the sukkah or at least attempt to do so?

  222. ab says:

    “would thus mean “You are doing great the way you are and keep it up. Advance spiritually in a feminine manner and you will be best off”.”

    I fail to see how a pre-teen girl wearing a nice dress = advancing spiritually.

  223. emma says:

    i had no intention of making an off color joke, and, frankly, re-reading what i wrote now i am still not sure that i did.

  224. Deborah says:

    Rabbi Broyde, thank you for including the preface. I have never heard a clearer classification of groups within Orthodoxy, and feel perfectly described by the third group: I feel increasingly alienated by a lack of creativity, intellectual honesty, and compassion in many Orthodox congregations and conversations. Every time rabbinic leadership responds to sincerity, struggle, and spiritual need with inflexibility where flexibility is possible, it chips away at my faith in the relevance and integrity of Orthodoxy. I wish that as a community, we were more concerned about alienation and exclusion than about adherence to sociological traditions often not rooted in halakha at all.

  225. But it’s not *just* about sociology. It’s also a serious ideology with a technical halachic term: yehurah.

  226. ab says:

    “The Ran is saying clearly that when Hashem doesn’t command you to do something, it is a strong indication that God has no desire for you to do it and there is nothing to be achieved spiritually by it.”

    He says that another reason for gadol hametzuve etc. is that maybe and another time maybe the eyno metzuve will not get the complete benefit of the mitzva and it may be actually less desirable than the mitzva of a metzuve in keeping with the lesser schar. Not nothing is achieved spiritually, but MAYBE less is achieved.

    Have you noticed that the traditional explanation (not Rabbi Meiselman’s but e.g. the Tur’s) of the bracha of she’asani kirtzono is that it is tziduk hadin? The theme of the bracha is not separate but equal, and feeling complimented and flattered.

    What makes your innovative explanations that make women feel that the mitzvos they are exempt from are undesirable for them any better than feminist innovations? The struggle to find such explanations is a product of feminism…

  227. groinem says:

    Another Galicianer expression: Gei lern mit a goy bartenura!

  228. ab says:

    “Another Galicianer expression: Gei lern mit a goy bartenura!”

    Agav, that’s a very nice suit you’re wearing.

  229. Sarah Jacobs says:

    “What makes your innovative explanations that make women feel that the mitzvos they are exempt from are undesirable for them any better than feminist innovations? The struggle to find such explanations is a product of feminism…”

    Have you thought that perhaps women want to take on mitzvot out of yirat shamayim rather than out of anger or political rage or even out of feminism?

  230. IH says:

    But it’s not *just* about sociology. It’s also a serious ideology with a technical halachic term: yehurah.

    DK — Do you agree with this definition? http://www.thejc.com/judaism/jewish-words/yuhara

    And, then, doesn’t this apply to my earlier question: Is a man insisting on wearing the livush in a Modern Orthodox shul, and keeping on his oversized hat when that is not minhag ha’makom, “rebellious”?

  231. ab says:

    “Have you thought that perhaps women want to take on mitzvot out of yirat shamayim rather than out of anger or political rage or even out of feminism?”

    that’s what I was saying…

  232. shachar haamim says:

    “Deborah on December 18, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Rabbi Broyde, thank you for including the preface. I have never heard a clearer classification of groups within Orthodoxy, and feel perfectly described by the third group: I feel increasingly alienated by a lack of creativity, intellectual honesty, and compassion in many Orthodox congregations and conversations. Every time rabbinic leadership responds to sincerity, struggle, and spiritual need with inflexibility where flexibility is possible, it chips away at my faith in the relevance and integrity of Orthodoxy. I wish that as a community, we were more concerned about alienation and exclusion than about adherence to sociological traditions often not rooted in halakha at all.”

    Deborah – as you are one of the first commenters to address the “meta” issues – which even Rabbi Broyde didn’t addresse in his comments response, please allow me to comment.
    I too am modern orthodox. I too seek flexibility. I will teach my daughters talmud and hope they can be as learned as my sons – each one according to their own way. However, I feel that sociological traditions – perhaps not all, but many – are important. I would hate to see modern orthdoxy develop in a way that will alienate my haredi relatives. Or my haredi leumi neighbors and friends. I would want all of them to be able to daven in the shul where I will make the bar and bat mitzvot for my children. I think we can try to acheive cretivity, intellectual honesty and compassion in the modern orthodox and dati leumi community (I live in israel), but WITHOUT alientaing our shomrei torah umitzvot relative, friends and bretheren. Unfortunately all too many of the modern orthodox leaders and rabbis who seel to advocate this creativity simply do not have the capacity, connections, willingness and/or emotional intelligence to engage in this task. They take it for granted that losing the “left wing” of modern orthodoxy will be terrible, while losing the “right wing” is “nisht geferlech”. I think it would be TERRIBLE to lose the right wing of modern orthdoxy to the haredi world. and create a barrier between modern orthodoxy and the haredi and national religious worlds, rather than it being a bridge

  233. Joseph Kaplan says:

    Shachar,

    I too want my hareidi relatives to come to my family smachot in my shul. But how do we accomplish that without always saying, e.g., “well they need a 6 ft. mechitzah so let’s have that” or “they won’t listen to a woman give a dvar torah so let’s have grandpa speak rather than grandma”?

  234. groinem says:

    ab – The word Agav ruins it. You will never get Galicianer citizensip!

  235. Tal Benschar says:

    The critcism of R. Broyde and some posters as “sociological” is misplaced. There are many halachos which are dependent on social conditions. The most famous example is the issur of kli gever and begged ishah. If an item of clothing is generally worn by only one gender at that time an place, then the Torah forbids the other gender to wear it. (This is how it is paskened in Shulchan Aruch.) What the common practice is at that time and place is obviously subject to change. As I always say, in Scotland a man can wear a kilt, in New York it is ossur as a skirt.

    Since I mentioned this, given that tsitsis (and tallis, whether gadol or katan) are almost exclusively worn today by men, why is there no issur of kli gever? I asked this above and no one has even tried to answer it.

  236. Tal Benschar says:

    Responding to Chana Luntz on December 18, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Not on Yom Tov according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger Orech Chaim siman 1.

    That view of R. Akiva Eiger is not universally accepted. I think most women are makpid to wash on Yom Tov as well as Shabbos.

    But now you are switching arguments. The argument of the Aruch HaShulchan etc is, as you originally pointed out, a halachic argument, about a two step versus one step process, not a sociological argument about what it is common for people to wear or not to wear. The Sde Chemed is responding equivalently, pointing out that if your two step, one step argument is the valid one, then women should not sit in the Sukkah outside of the first night, or perhaps the first night and shabbas.,/i>

    I don’t think so. The “two-step” argument of the Mishna Berurah and the AHSH is that (a) even for a man, you have to go out of your way to acquire and wear a four-cornered garment to even be chayyav and (b) women are pattur in tsitsis.

    The first one is certainly halachik in the sense that there is no obligation on the man to go out ans buy a tallis. But the issue here is yuhara, not the obligation of tsitsis. The point is, that a woman who puts goes out an buys a tallis and then ties on tsitsis is going through a double step to perform a mitsvah. IMO, that has a sociological, or better yet, a psychological component — the only reason she is doing it is to perform a voluntary mitzvah. If that is something she would do anyway (e.g., all women in that time and place wear four-cornered garments) there is no arrogance in doing what everyone else is doing anyway.*

    That is why I don’t think Sukkah is comparable — a woman eating on Sukkos, even on Chol ha Moed, is not doing anything unusual or abnormal. (Modern day shawls, as I said, are a good question. But the post here is talking about tallesim, which in my experience look quite distinct from women’s shawls.)

    I should add that Sukkah is problematic for another reason. As you seem to agree, at least some of the meals — first night, Shabbos — are indeed obligatory on a man, so at least for those you only have one step and no yuhara. Furthermore, women have another reason to sit in a sukkah: to join their families in meals, which enhances both their and their families’ simchas yom tov. (As I noted, the Chasam Sofer holds this is obligatory!) Given these perfectly legitimate reasons for a woman to sit in a sukkah, it would be very difficult to say, sometimes a woman sitting in a Sukkah is yuhara, sometimes it is not. As opposed to tsitsis, which lacks this contextual and temporal variety.


    > And while certainly one does not have to eat bread (i.e. during >Chol ha Moed), doing so is hardly unusual. The fact that a woman >choses to eat a meal on Chol ha Moed is a perfectly normal, >regular activity and is hardly a basis for yuhara.

    And so is wearing a four cornered shawl. But that is sociology, not halachic argumentation.

    As I noted, yuhara is in part a psychological/sociological determination.

    ___________
    * Tosafos in Shabbos makes the same distinction about beidan rischa,/i>, which they say does not apply today because we do not normally wear four-cornered garments. In a society where everyone wears such clothing, someone who goes out of his way to avoid it appears to be trying to shirk mitzvos. Whereas today, the norm is not to wear such clothing.

  237. Tal Benschar says:

    WHOOPS! The italics on the last post were messed up. Gil, you can delete. Here it is properly:

    Responding to Chana Luntz on December 18, 2012 at 6:01 am

    Not on Yom Tov according to Rabbi Akiva Eiger Orech Chaim siman 1.

    That view of R. Akiva Eiger is not universally accepted. I think most women are makpid to wash on Yom Tov as well as Shabbos.

    But now you are switching arguments. The argument of the Aruch HaShulchan etc is, as you originally pointed out, a halachic argument, about a two step versus one step process, not a sociological argument about what it is common for people to wear or not to wear. The Sde Chemed is responding equivalently, pointing out that if your two step, one step argument is the valid one, then women should not sit in the Sukkah outside of the first night, or perhaps the first night and shabbas.,

    I don’t think so. The “two-step” argument of the Mishna Berurah and the AHSH is that (a) even for a man, you have to go out of your way to acquire and wear a four-cornered garment to even be chayyav and (b) women are pattur in tsitsis.

    The first one is certainly halachik in the sense that there is no obligation on the man to go out ans buy a tallis. But the issue here is yuhara, not the obligation of tsitsis. The point is, that a woman who puts goes out an buys a tallis and then ties on tsitsis is going through a double step to perform a mitsvah. IMO, that has a sociological, or better yet, a psychological component — the only reason she is doing it is to perform a voluntary mitzvah. If that is something she would do anyway (e.g., all women in that time and place wear four-cornered garments) there is no arrogance in doing what everyone else is doing anyway.*

    That is why I don’t think Sukkah is comparable — a woman eating on Sukkos, even on Chol ha Moed, is not doing anything unusual or abnormal. (Modern day shawls, as I said, are a good question. But the post here is talking about tallesim, which in my experience look quite distinct from women’s shawls.)

    I should add that Sukkah is problematic for another reason. As you seem to agree, at least some of the meals — first night, Shabbos — are indeed obligatory on a man, so at least for those you only have one step and no yuhara. Furthermore, women have another reason to sit in a sukkah: to join their families in meals, which enhances both their and their families’ simchas yom tov. (As I noted, the Chasam Sofer holds this is obligatory!) Given these perfectly legitimate reasons for a woman to sit in a sukkah, it would be very difficult to say, sometimes a woman sitting in a Sukkah is yuhara, sometimes it is not. As opposed to tsitsis, which lacks this contextual and temporal variety.


    > And while certainly one does not have to eat bread (i.e. during >Chol ha Moed), doing so is hardly unusual. The fact that a woman >choses to eat a meal on Chol ha Moed is a perfectly normal, >regular activity and is hardly a basis for yuhara.

    And so is wearing a four cornered shawl. But that is sociology, not halachic argumentation.

    As I noted, yuhara is in part a psychological/sociological determination. It is not yuhara to do what everyone else is doing.

    ___________
    * Tosafos in Shabbos makes the same distinction about beidan rischa,/i>, which they say does not apply today because we do not normally wear four-cornered garments. In a society where everyone wears such clothing, someone who goes out of his way to avoid it appears to be trying to shirk mitzvos. Whereas today, the norm is not to wear such clothing.

  238. ab says:

    “ab – The word Agav ruins it. You will never get Galicianer citizensip!”

    you’re half yekkish, what do you know

  239. To ab:

    “Have you noticed that the traditional explanation (not Rabbi Meiselman’s but e.g. the Tur’s) of the bracha of she’asani kirtzono is that it is tziduk hadin? The theme of the bracha is not separate but equal, and feeling complimented and flattered.”

    I am only trying to establish the ‘separate paths’ part here. Once you can accept that, my job is done. I never argued that the paths are ‘equal’. You’re making a straw man.

    “What makes your innovative explanations that make women feel that the mitzvos they are exempt from are undesirable for them any better than feminist innovations? The struggle to find such explanations is a product of feminism…”

    I don’t think they are innovative when they come from classic, pre-feminist sources like the Chasam Sofer.

    And I vehemently disagree with your implication that any gesture to bolster women’s religious self-respect is, by definition, a product of feminism. It greatly depends on how you go about it.
    Feminism typically bolsters women’s religious self-respect by giving them the equivalents of male religious expressions and powers. (I happen to think that this approach actually undermines women’s religious self-respect by tacitly conceding that the real religious experience is defined by what the men do.)
    The traditional approach bolsters women’s religious self-respect by emphasizing and perhaps discovering new dimensions of religious significance in what women have always uniquely excelled at.

    It does not take a feminist mindset to notice that most of the colossal screw-ups in Tanach were perpetrated by the men and that the women typically rose above the male spiritual weaknesses and failures.

  240. To Sara Jacobs:

    “Have you thought that perhaps women want to take on mitzvot out of yirat shamayim rather than out of anger or political rage or even out of feminism?”

    First, I don’t think this is an either/or situation. One can have sincere religious goals but still be completely confused or misled about what one’s religious goals ought to be. Orthodox feminists certainly want more spirituality. But feminism has fundamentally distorted the picture of what kinds of spiritual goals and priorities women should have.

    Secondly, there is a technical problem: I don’t understand how taking on optional mitzvot can be a product of ‘yirat shomayim’. Yirat Shomayim should mean a ‘fear of punishment’ or ‘fear of spiritual failure’. I don’t see how taking on optional mitzvot can be motivated by such fears if one is not commanded to perform them and cannot be punished for neglecting them.

    But perhaps you meant something more lofty and sublime like Ahavas Hashem? But the Drashos HaRan is challenging this too: how can you show ahavas Hashem by taking on optional mitzvot when you really don’t know that Hashem wants them performed by you? Wouldn’t it show more sincere ahavas Hashem to first concentrate on excelling at the mitzvot that you know for a fact Hashem wants you to perform?

  241. groinem says:

    ab – I checked again and I have no yekkishe blood. One grandfather was born in Germany to ostjude from Galicia (Yaroslav) but he escaped as a young child.

  242. Chana Luntz says:

    Dovid Kornreich writes:

    >To underscore groinem’s point and challenge Rabbi Student’s >assumption based on the gemara in Kiddushin that there can be >nothing objectionable with fulfilling uncommanded mitzvos, I >found an interesting passage in the 13th Drasha of the Drashos >HaRan:

    ….

    >The Ran is saying clearly that when Hashem doesn’t command you to >do something, it is a strong indication that God has no desire >for you to do it and there is nothing to be achieved spiritually >by it. I.e., it’s not your path.

    And yet it is the same Ran that says in Chiddushei HaRan on Rosh Hashana (daf 9b in the pages of the Rif):

    ר’ יוסי ור’ שמעון אומר נשים סומכות רשות לענין הלכה נקיטי’ כר’ יוסי ור’ שמעון דר’ יוסי נמוקו עמו.

    כיון שכבר הורה ר”ת ז”ל נקיטי כוותיה ומברכות דכיון שנוטלות עליהן שכר דהא א”ר יוסי בר’ חנינא גדול המצוה ועושה ממי שאינו מצווה ועושה ומדקאמר גדול אלמא למי שאינו מצוה ועושה שכר יש לו הלכך בכלל מצוה הן ומברכות. ולא תימא כיון שלא נצטוו היאך יאמרו וצונו וכדדייקי’ גבי נר חנוכה בפרק במה מדליקין (כ”ג) היכן צונו דלא קשיא דכיון שהאנשים נצטוו ואף הן נוטלות שכר שפיר מצי אמרי וצונו

    ie the gemora in Kiddushin is not enough – it needs to be read in conjuction with the concept of נשים סומכות רשות . Without such a concept then one might indeed understand it as not being your path (as with non kohanim performing kohanic mitzvos and as Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehuda understand the halacha for women vis a vis mitzvos aseh shehazman graman) – but because we rule that the Torah itself gives women reshus, nashim somchim reshus – that is a form of commandment, allowing for the vitzivanu as postulated by the Ran – and being to my mind the correct source for the bitel aseh of R’ Broyde – which therefore applies regarding women, but does not apply regarding a non kohen who does not, for example, engage in a bitel aseh by not duchaning.

  243. Chana Luntz says:

    Tal Benschar writes:

    >Since I mentioned this, given that tsitsis (and tallis, whether >gadol or katan) are almost exclusively worn today by men, why is >there no issur of kli gever? I asked this above and no one has even >tried to answer it.

    The simple answer is that this has been true since the first Jew wore the first tzitzis and, for that matter, the first tephillin. And yet aside from Targum Yonason – in our long history of commentary on this, nobody has considered this an issue. In particular, in the discussions regarding Michal ben Shaul and her wearing of tephilin in Eruvin 96, and whether or not the Chachamim did or did not protest – the reasons given for protesting are either based on the view of Rabbi Meir/Rabbi Yehuda that ain nashim somchim – ie that women in general may not perform mitzvos aseh shehazman graman, or based on the concept of needing a clean body. If there were a halachic problem of kli gever, then it would be discussed and dealt with by such commentators -ergo, there isn’t.

    Now why there isn’t is a seperate question. I think the most common view is that tashmishe mitzvah and tashmishe kedusha cannot be considered to be kli gever. This is easy to see if you understand nashim somchim reshus in the deep sense – ie something that the Torah gives permission for women to be involved in cannot be kli gever.

  244. ab says:

    groinem my apologies, it was your mother in law that was yekkish. I was too occupied with admiring your tie …

  245. ab says:

    david kornreich: in the same comment in which you discuss the bracha she’asani kirtzono, you discuss the quest for vertlach that turn the exemption from mitzvot into something greatly complimentary and flattering. I don’t dispute that such vertlach can be found here and there if you seek them out; there is even a midrash to that effect that applies to the entire class of mitzvos asey she’hazman grama and can be put to all-purpose use. However, the dominant understanding is that women are exempt from mitzvas asey she’hazman grama because they are meshubad (as a class) and this is the ikar. The ikar *for every Jew, male or female* that one should seize opportunities for mitzvos. I find it impossible to conceive of a halachist, say someone like R Elyashiv z”l, telling a woman to get up and sit in the posul area of the sukkah absent urgent need. In my opinion, this is not how a yireh shamayim acts. Yiras shamayim is a generic term; the mesilas yesharim gives zerizus as the first active goal/trait to develop (zerizus for ones own actions, not for preventing others from doing mitzvos which apparently some have in abundance). What “Technical problem” is there between even yiras haonesh and seizing mitzvot, including ones one is not metzuve in? One is supposed to always think of the account of positive and negative deeds as balanced, and to seize each opportunity for zechus. The more yiras shamayim, the more urgent the need to grasp every mitzva that comes ones way. The Ran does not say what you wish him to say. He says MAYBE (he keeps repeating that word) the eyno metzuve doesn’t get the full merit of the mitzva and MAYBE that is why the schar of eyno metzuve is not as great as the metzuve. He is speculating that the lesser schar of the eyno metzuve may correspond to lesser benefit, not to no benefit. If you weren’t undermining the self-respect of fellow Jews who happen to be women with e.g. mis-readings of the Ran to imply that there is no religious merit to women performing mitzvos they are not obligated in, maybe you wouldn’t need to search for vertlach to “Bolster” women’s self-respect? Maybe you could leave them and their self-respect alone as they eat their yom tov meal.

    “It does not take a feminist mindset to notice that most of the colossal screw-ups in Tanach were perpetrated by the men and that the women typically rose above the male spiritual weaknesses and failures.”

    Starting with chava, right?

  246. charles hoffman says:

    the problem with women wearing a tallit is that men are afraid that when women take over religion they might actually force men to acknowledge that they alone don’t have all the answers

  247. groinem says:

    ab – you also hate my mother in law?

  248. To Chana Luntz:

    “ie the gemora in Kiddushin is not enough – it needs to be read in conjuction with the concept of נשים סומכות רשות . Without such a concept then one might indeed understand it as not being your path (as with non kohanim performing kohanic mitzvos…”

    I claim the the Ran in Drashos is not lacking any element from Rosh Hashana. This is because it explicitly acknowledged that the situation of “אינו מצווה ועושה” is NOT identical with situation of non-Kohanim doing avoda or Non-Jews keeping Shabbos. And STILL he says the two situations are analogous. They share a similar theme, the only difference is in degree.

    To ab:

    “I find it impossible to conceive of a halachist, say someone like R Elyashiv z”l, telling a woman to get up and sit in the posul area of the sukkah absent urgent need. In my opinion, this is not how a yireh shamayim acts.”

    You are avoiding the main issue. Should the woman get up and sit in the pasul area to make room for a boy or a man? What does your generic concept of yirat shomayim dictate in such a situation?
    I contend that it must engender the attitude that Hashem’s will takes precedence above all else. In this case, Hashem revealed that He wants men to sit in sukka and exempted women. This means the woman would gladly give up her optional mitzvah to accommodate the man’s obligation.

    I don’t see how a genuine yireh shomayim can say, “When I see an opportunity for an optional mitzvah, I’ll grab it–regardless of what Hashem Himself prefers I do.”

    “The Ran does not say what you wish him to say. He says MAYBE (he keeps repeating that word) the eyno metzuve doesn’t get the full merit of the mitzva and MAYBE that is why the schar of eyno metzuve is not as great as the metzuve.”

    A few comments:
    1)The Ran only says “maybe” twice.
    2) The Ran also makes a couple of absolute statements with no qualifying “maybe” attached.
    3) I was straddling a middle ground between the absolute statements and the qualifying maybes with the term “strong indication”.

    4) More importantly, no matter how you read it, the Ran is unequivocally making a limited form of analogy between a non-Jew keeping Shabbos and the eyno metzuveh performing optional mitzvos. This is the basis for my conclusion that optional mitzvos are not the preferred spiritual path that Hashem has chosen for those who aren’t commanded to perform them.

  249. Deborah says:

    Shachar, what you describe is the exact opposite of my experience: I have found that rabbis are far more concerned with alienating the right than the left. Maybe it’s different in my New York community than in your community in Israel. But even so, although I hear your concerns, I have to echo what another commenter said: it’s very hard not to alienate the right without making halakhic decisions that violate (leftist) Modern Orthodox values such as enhanced roles for women. And I wish this were not the case, but I feel such a great chasm between my values and the values of the right-wing world that I’m not sure I could come to much of a compromise on issues that matter to me– especially because I don’t see willingness to compromise coming from the right. For evidence of this gap, see a great many comments in this thread that relentlessly question women’s motives and equate feminism to evil. I believe that feminism, like the abolition of slavery, like the modern notion of human rights, is progress. And it’s honestly hard for me to really care about appeasing people who think that women who would like to be seen as full humans are somehow angering G-d. Misogyny masquerading as religious conviction is still misogyny.

  250. Why does attending shul without a wearing a talit make a woman appear not fully human? Isn’t that a just a little bit superficial (and degrading to the many women who don’t wear a talit)? I think this kind of feminist rhetoric is over the top.

    Feminism has certainly made progress in the social, economic and political realm (as well as wreaked much social havoc), but it has only caused harm in the religious realm.

    The reason behind the difference is that in social, economic, and political spheres, human beings are the sole arbiters of the acceptable norms. It would be immoral for one type of human to “play God” and make themselves superior to another type.
    But in the religious sphere, God is the sole arbiter of the norms. I think we ought to allow God to “play God” and let Him decide which spiritual paths He wants different types of people to take.

  251. IH says:

    …but it has only caused harm in the religious realm

    DK — You are entitled to your opinion, but not to represent it as fact. And with respect, who appointed you as God’s messenger of what He wants?

    To my mind, R. Sperber is far more compelling in regard to what He wants on this issue than you are: “The issue is ‘not about numbers, but about sensitivity to a segment of our community,’ he said, adding: ‘I don’t see myself as a feminist, but as a halachaist’ who believes it is important ‘to permit that which is permitted.’”

  252. ab says:

    “You are avoiding the main issue. Should the woman get up and sit in the pasul area to make room for a boy or a man? What does your generic concept of yirat shomayim dictate in such a situation?
    I contend that it must engender the attitude that Hashem’s will takes precedence above all else. In this case, Hashem revealed that He wants men to sit in sukka and exempted women. This means the woman would gladly give up her optional mitzvah to accommodate the man’s obligation.”

    Did Hashem reveal that you shouldn’t move the seats closer together? If that fails, eat in shifts. What will you do if a woman accepted the mitzvah and never skips eating in the sukkah? Insist she peform hatarat nedarim before yom tov? Tell her that this was wrong of her in case she encountered a man in a sukkah with posul areas? One must also ask if it was taken for granted that part of the sukkah can be posul, and the women would eat in those sections, or any effort was made to prevent this situation.

    “1)The Ran only says “maybe” twice.
    2) The Ran also makes a couple of absolute statements with no qualifying “maybe” attached.
    3) I was straddling a middle ground between the absolute statements and the qualifying maybes with the term “strong indication”.”

    He says so when the relevant topic comes up, and not when he is not speculating. There’s no middle ground to straddle as the statements that are abosolute are nonspeculative and noncontroversial restatements of things that are givens, and the point you are discussing about the eyno metzuve is expressly labeled as speculative possiblity and quite clear. He has already adopted the middle ground, namely that there is benefit to the eyno metzuve doing a mitzva, but possibly not complete benefit, and you’ve come up with a reason to distort his point and shift his middle ground to a new place so that you can say that God does not desire what he rewards (the schar for the eyno metzuve) in the same way that he does not desire what he punishes (goy sheshavas).

    “4) More importantly, no matter how you read it, the Ran is unequivocally making a limited form of analogy between a non-Jew keeping Shabbos and the eyno metzuveh performing optional mitzvos. This is the basis for my conclusion that optional mitzvos are not the preferred spiritual path that Hashem has chosen for those who aren’t commanded to perform them.”

    You’ve come up with a way to disapprove of an eyno metzuve doing mitzvos they aren’t metzuve in, though it’s not in your power to forbid them to. (You also can’t apply this across the board, since women have already accepted to hear shofar, take lulav etc and have also introduced a concept of “masculine associations” to cover this gap. Sukkah doesn’t fall into either category, so you only ask women to not eat in the sukkah when areas of the sukkah are posul). The only problem is that this is not what the Ran says. The Ran says chalila that it would be forbidden for the eyno metzuve to do these mitzvos. His framework is based on permitted/forbidden and schar/punishment. As there is schar for the eyno metzuve, there is benefit. Would you make your entire sukkah posul so that men also have nowhere to eat just to prevent women from eating in it? Then it’s also not OK to distort the text just because you’ve decided to wage milchemes mitzva on feminism, and really it’s not Ok, absent urgent need,to tell fine women to give up on eating in the sukkah because in your mind it’s wrapped up with some kind of battle about feminism.

  253. ab says:

    “ab – you also hate my mother in law?”

    I assume this is again meant to represent galicizianer wit?
    On the larger point “BTW, amongst many chassidim it was considered a segula for ‘ehrlicher kinder’ for a woman not to eat in the sukkah, or generally perform any extra mitzvos, in which she is not mechuyav.”
    some go a little further and don’t worry too much about the details of the mitzvos she is mechuyav in, such as minor fast days, etc.

  254. To IH:
    “DK — You are entitled to your opinion, but not to represent it as fact. And with respect, who appointed you as God’s messenger of what He wants?”

    That’s right, go ahead and shoot the messenger.
    I thought it was non-controversial that God has different roles for different people. Isn’t that clearly implied when He obligated certain types of people in certain spiritual activities and not others? I don’t see how this simply fact of Jewish law and its straightforward implication can be disputed.

    To ab:
    I see the tone of your comments has turned bitter and hostile. I therefore do not see the benefit in arguing this topic further with you.
    But there is no use in denying the clear–though critically circumscribed analogy that the Ran has indeed made.
    Good day.

  255. IH says:

    DK — Many of us don’t see Halacha in respect of the role of women in binary terms; nor Feminism in Manichean terms.

    That said, if “I thought it was non-controversial that God has different roles for different people” what is your responce to Joel Rich’s comment at the beginning of this week’s Audio Roundup:

    The torah has basic rules about inheritance. For all those who say halacha determines ethics, how does one justify arranging their will to bypass the halachic default rules?

  256. The Kuzari at the end of the Third Essay acknowledges the situation where halacha seems to run counter to our moral and religious instincts. I mark the critical passages in bold:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Kitab_al_Khazari/Part_Three

    Were our laws not fixed and confined in unbreakable rules, they would not be secure from the intrusion of strange elements and the loss of some component parts, because argument and taste would become guiding principles.
    “The Karaite would have no compunction in using the implements of idolatry, such as gold, silver, frankincense and wine. Indeed, death is better than this. On the other hand, he would abstain from using parts of the pig, even for purposes of medicine, although this is in reality one of the lighter transgressions, and only punished with ‘forty stripes.’ In the same way he would allow the Nazirite to eat raisins and grapes rather than be intoxicated with mead and cider. But the opposite is true. This prohibition only refers to the products of the vine, but there was no intention of prohibiting intoxication altogether, as one might surmise. This is one of the secrets known only to God, his prophets and the pious.
    One must not, however, charge traditionists or those who draw their own conclusions, with ignorance in this matter, because the word shēkhār is common property. They have a tradition that the ‘wine and strong drink’ (Lev. x. 8), mentioned in connexion with the priests includes all kinds of intoxication, whilst the same words in the case of the Nazirite only refer to the juice of grapes.

    Every law has certain limits fixed with scientific accuracy, though in practice they may appear illogical. He who is zealous tries to avoid them, without, however, making them unlawful, as e.g. the flesh of an animal in peril of death, which is lawful. For it is uncertain whether this animal will die, because some one might assert that it will recover, and then be permitted. A diseased animal which externally looks in good health is unlawful, if it suffers internally from an incurable illness, with which it can neither live nor recover.

    Those who judge according to their own taste and reasoning may arrive in these matters at an opposite conclusion. Follow not, therefore, thy own taste and opinion in religious questions, lest they throw thee into doubts, which lead to heresy. Nor wilt thou be in harmony with one of thy friends on any point. Every individual has his own taste and opinion.

    It is only necessary to examine the roots of the traditional and written laws with the inferences codified for practice, in order to trace the branches back to the roots. Where they lead thee, there put thy faith, though thy mind and feeling shrink from it.

    Common view and assumption deny the non-existence of the vacuum, whilst logical conclusion rejects its existence. Appearance denies the infinite divisibility of a body, whilst logic makes it an axiom. Appearance denies that the earth is a globe and the one hundred and sixtieth part of the sun disc. There are also other matters which astronomy establishes against mere appearances.

    Whatever the Sages declared lawful they did neither in obedience to their own taste or inclination, but to the results of the inherited knowledge, handed down to them. The same was the case with what they declared unlawful. He who is unable to grasp their wisdom, but judges their speech according to his own conception, will misinterpret them in the same way as people do with the words of natural philosophers and astronomers.
    Whenever they settle the limits of the code, and explain what is lawful or unlawful in strictly juridical deduction, they indicate apparently unseemly points.
    They consider it revolting to eat the flesh of a dangerously sick animal, or to gain money by means of legal trickery, or to travel on the Sabbath with the assistance of the Erūb, or to render certain marriages lawful in a cunning manner, or to undo oaths and vows by circumvention, which may be permitted according to the paragraph of the law, but is devoid of any religious feeling.
    Both, however, are necessary together, for, if one is guided by the legal deduction alone, more relaxation would crop up than could be controlled. If, on the other hand, one would neglect the legalized lines which form the fence round the law, and would only rely on religious zeal, it would become a source of schism, and destroy everything.

    He basically says Chazal were well aware of the conflict between the letter and spirit of the law but managed to overcome the tension by clearly articulating non-halachic missives.
    They can’t always eliminate halachic abuses, but they can try to use powers of persuasion to influence people not to take unfair advantage of halacha.

  257. IH says:

    That begs the question in the context of your assertion that “I thought it was non-controversial that God has different roles for different people”.

    According to both the Torah and Rabbinic law, the laws of inheritance clearly indicate that God has different roles for different people. No?

  258. emma says:

    dovid kornreich, you have now twice implied that you believe God’s different roles for different people are heirarchical in some way. first you acknowledged that you believe they are separate but denied that you claimed they are “equal.” now you analogize them to humans deciding who is “superior.” i admire your honesty, but for clarity, can you confirm that you do, in fact, believe men’s torah-ordained role is superior?

  259. What I personally believe regarding whose Torah-ordained role is superior is supremely irrelevant. All that really matters to me is that Orthodox feminists acknowledge that there are in fact different spiritual paths that God has mapped out for different people, and that we ought to–in the words of Pirkei Avos– bend our will to His.

    And I don’t think it is feasible to make that evaluation in any objective terms. Perhaps Kohanim have a superior role over other Jews in objective terms. I’m not sure. Its a completely counter-productive exercise.
    Subjectively, each type of Jew ought to have tremendous pride and feel that his or her unique role in serving the Creator is a spiritual privilege, is of vital importance to the Jewish community, and is of inestimable value.

  260. IH says:

    and that we ought to–in the words of Pirkei Avos– bend our will to His.

    As normative Orthodoxy does with inheritance?

  261. Joseph Kaplan says:

    and interest and loans (shmitah) and chametz she’avar alac haPesach.

  262. groinem says:

    Joseph – Tosphos asks the question about bechor (I think in Bechoros) and answers because it is too difficult to be makpid on me’ilah. The chometz issue is not an issue because the Torah wants you to remove it from your posession and you did. The shemita issue is answered by the gemoro in gittin. All the heteirim for ribbis are based on the fact that there is no true loan. They are only loopholes for someone who doesnot understand the basic idea of ribbis. There is no way of lending money to someone, with the full responsibility being on the borrower, and the borrower being obligated to pay interest. There is full submission to the Torah’s will in all of these things.

  263. IH says:

    See, in particular, the last section (“IS IT PERMITTED TO DISTRIBUTE ONE’S ESTATE DIFFERENTLY FROM WHAT THE TORAH INSTRUCTS?”) in http://e.yeshiva.org.il/midrash/shiur.asp?cat=245&id=12098&q=

    Here we can see several valid reasons from a human perspective to not follow the Torah and Rabbinic Halacha on inheritance. But, this is overruling God’s commandments due to human consideration (e.g. Shalom Bayit) and, thus, a refutation of DK’s argument in his last 4 commments above).

  264. To IH:

    I really don’t understand your comparison on two basic levels–which is why I ignored it until now.

    1)This may seem like hair splitting apologetics to you, but to me there is a trenchant difference between clear, quantifiable, financial disadvantages which are incidentally caused by halacha one the one hand (more on that below), and the divergences in spiritual paths via mitzvah obligations or exemptions which express how God wants various people to serve Him, on the other.

    I can easily identify a financial disadvantage when I see one. But I do not see how any reduction in mitzvah obligations automatically qualifies as a spiritual disadvantage. Especially when there are classic ideas in rabbinic literature which explain clearly why the lack of obligation for women does NOT translate into a spiritual disadvantage at all.

    Contrast this to the Kohanim differences. Like I said above, it is much more clear to me that Kohanim have been given objective spiritual advantages over non-Kohanim. (And remember, Kohanim have also been given sever financial disadvantages as well. They do not own any permanent real estate in the Land of Israel! In an agricultural society, that is a decree of poverty. Kohanim had to live on “hand outs” called Terumah.)
    But can you imagine? They can actually enter the inner chambers of the Beis Hamikdosh and offer sacrifices to Hashem. What I wouldn’t give to be able to do that and bask in the glory of the Schechinah.

    But on second thought, I don’t exactly consider myself spiritually DISadvantaged just because I can’t do the avodah. I have other avenues of extreme closeness to God that are still available to me. I have the potential for prophecy, the ability to comprehend God’s mind through understanding His Torah, and I can do His mitzvos.
    Women can do all those things as well to achieve closeness to God.

    I find it hard to accept the argument that any type of exemption from any mitzvah automatically qualifies as a spiritual disadvantage. It’s mostly a matter of keeping perspective and understanding what the particular reason for the exemption is. In general, it’s because each type of person’s path to God is unique and special. If a person wants to trade it his path for someone else’s, I suspect it may just be a lack of appreciation for one’s own path due to lack of education or inspiration. There is no justification to alter common practice when a little more understanding and appreciation of one’s own path can solve the problem at the core.

    Another reason the comparison fails is because the Torah doesn’t usually decree poverty on people outright (except in the case of Shevet Levi).
    I think it is fair for us (and for Chazal) to assume that God doesn’t want people to suffer financial disadvantages for its own sake. The financial losses that halacha incurs is usually a result of some human-generated circumstance.

    Examples:
    1) When a person owns a beer factory–he stands to lose much by keeping halacha doing bittul chometz. What contributes significantly to the loss? His decision to go into the chometz business in the first place!
    2) When a person earns most of his income by lending money–he stands to lose much by keeping halacha not charging ribbis to Jews. What contributes significantly to his loss? The decision to go into banking!
    3) Lack of Inheritance for daughters and non-elders is less clear, but is still ultimately due greatly to human factors:
    –The deceased doesn’t always have boys or more than one boy. Sometimes the girls actually inherit directly.
    –The deceased doesn’t always die wealthy. Sometimes the inheritance really isn’t worth a whole lot to get upset about by those who are losing it.
    –The girls or non-elders don’t always need the money. Sometimes they are independently wealthy or marry into a very rich family and couldn’t care less about having or losing a share in their father’s estate.

    So the financial disadvantage to women and non-elders in Jewish inheritance law is very much situationally determined. I can easily understand why it is appropriate to circumvent the halacha to avoid severe financial disadvantage–since that was never the stated goal of the halacha at all.

    But when we are discussing exemptions from mitzvot for women, there is no human-situational element involved here that gives rise to this exemption. That to me sends a clear and direct message to the exempted party that God would rather you do something else to become close to Him.
    Contending with or griping over this exemption, or acting as though you are obligated when you are not, seems to be sending a message back to God that you really don’t think God knows how He should be worshiped.

  265. IH says:

    DK – It’s you that are hair-splitting. The refutation is straightforward. Within the context of the religious sphere, God commanded that inheritance be implemented in a certain manner inheritance based on different roles that He established for different people. In that case, modern normative Orthodox Judaism overrules His will on the basis of human needs (not just financial, but psychological as well – Shalom Bayit).

    The Kohanim example is a poor analogy, because we do not have the biblical Kehuna in either its spiritual or its financial form. Our post-exilic (safek) Kohanim are a ritualistic substitute which has its own set of complicated issues and resulting leniencies.

    Generally speaking, your repeated argument that “I find it hard to accept the argument that any type of exemption from any mitzvah automatically qualifies as a spiritual disadvantage” reminds me of the conservative meme that “it’s easy to give away someone else’s money”.

  266. Within the context of the religious sphere, God commanded that inheritance be implemented in a certain manner inheritance based on different roles that He established for different people.

    I find that to be much larger conjecture than the implication from exempted mitzvos. How exactly are the laws of inheritance found in the religious sphere?
    I could more convincingly argue that they are strictly in the financial sphere: In the typical ancient family situation, absent the father, the oldest brother is responsible for the welfare of the younger siblings; and the brothers are responsible for the welfare of the sisters. The laws are obviously designed to provide economic support for dependents who do not typically support themselves.
    How is this law within the religious sphere?

    Mitzvos by contrast, are intrinsically religious. That’s a trenchant difference. Its not hair splitting at all.

    Our post-exilic (safek) Kohanim are a ritualistic substitute which has its own set of complicated issues and resulting leniencies.

    You left out one very important law which gives Kohanim an enormous social advantage even today which clearly illustrates their superior status: Vi’kidashtem.
    see:
    http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%93%D7%95%D7%A9_%D7%96%D7%A8%D7%A2%D7%95_%D7%A9%D7%9C_%D7%90%D7%94%D7%A8%D7%9F#.D7.99.D7.99.D7.A9.D7.95.D7.9E.D7.99.D7.9D
    and
    http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%A6%D7%95%D7%95%D7%AA_%D7%A7%D7%99%D7%93%D7%95%D7%A9_%D7%96%D7%A8%D7%A2%D7%95_%D7%A9%D7%9C_%D7%90%D7%94%D7%A8%D7%9F#.D7.94.D7.90.D7.99.D7.A1.D7.95.D7.A8_.D7.9C.D7.94.D7.A9.D7.AA.D7.9E.D7.A9_.D7.91.D7.9B.D7.94.D7.9F

    So I stand by my comparison as relevant.
    If I can make peace with Vi’kidashtem when the social advantage given to Kohanim is undeniable, kal ve’chomer women can make peace with their lack of obligation when the argument for disadvantage is entirely subjective and largely due to feminist indoctrination.

    …reminds me of the conservative meme that “it’s easy to give away someone else’s money”.

    Touche.

  267. Charlie Hall says:

    Surprised to see this thread still active after two weeks. David Kornreich’s three examples are interesting, in that for each, the rabbis have come up with a halachic workaround!

    Regarding another comment:

    “in the religious sphere, God is the sole arbiter of the norms.”

    This may be considered to be true in some other religions, but it is clearly not true for rabbinic Judaism. There are countless mitzvot of rabbinic origin. It was the Rabbis, and not God, who created the institution of communal tefillah and exempted women from the 6:30am phone calls when the shul is short for the minyan.

    I’ve thought about the three points of view that Rabbi Broyde mentions. Looking back over the past 200 years of Judaism, I think that a convincing case can be made that ONLY “technical halachah” arguments will preserve Judaism. “Tradition” just hasn’t been strong enough to prevent the development of heterodox movements and the loss of most of the Jewish people from observance, and I can’t see that sociological arguments can have a lot of sway in for a people whose basis for living is supposed to come from text and tradition.

  268. but it is clearly not true for rabbinic Judaism. There are countless mitzvot of rabbinic origin. It was the Rabbis, and not God, who created the institution of communal tefillah and exempted women from the 6:30am phone calls when the shul is short for the minyan.

    If you really believe that the mitzvot of rabbinic origin have no deeper source than the whim of the rabbis, why indeed should “technical halacha” arguments preserve Judaism.

    I would argue that every single piece of rabbinic legislation has much deeper roots in either the written or oral law, and they drew from concepts and values that are found outside the “technical halachic” sphere.
    Your example of communal tefilla certainly comes from examples in Tanach of communal sacrifices or communal worship in the Temple.
    Chazal state that what obligates women in tefilah in the first place is the basic human religious need to plead for God’s mercy!
    That’s not a technical halachic argument but a profound religious one.
    There are many such examples.

  269. [...] Michael Broyde, Women Wearing Tallit?, [...]

  270. [...] a recent post, R. Michael Broyde expressed puzzlement over a story about R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik and a woman [...]

  271. Shimon says:

    Re the anecdote about the Rav: surely the Rav’s response was a test. Perhaps the woman in question ‘failed’ that test the moment she agreed to wear a four-cornered garment without tsitsit. Just a thought.

  272. RJBZ says:

    the greatest Sage of all time – Moses Maimonides, the Rambam.– explicitly permits women to wear the Talit. One would think that the case was closed – but think again…

  273. velcro soul says:

    I don’t admit to expertise, as I’ve had an enlightening night learning for the first time about the prohibition on benefits from loaning, the default form of inheritance and the procedure to circumvent it with an ultimatum, and incidentally reading a bit about another topic. I’m new to the Judaism thing.

    The big-picture thing I’ve gotten is that Judaism sees the world as having some property dynamics which, like the new moon, we can affect. Judgement becomes uncircumventable with death and because of that: from the unburied, a tumah source occurs; indebtedness becomes immediately a very powerful force in the “world” of property dynamics, but if that’s not present then the property ownership moves to the heirs, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it unless they try to live under a sheker (because society makes it hard not to, because they don’t have the knowledge of halacha to see and correct the actual situation, and then, blind, they Heaven forbid stumble.)

    From what I’ve seen so far, this set of laws seems to be a description of a reality that must for various reason be, that we are privileged to have those laws so that we can see that reality bli sheker and then work within that l’shalom.

    On the other hand, the surrounding society might use some model of that reality that contains sheker, and then we have to work with the reality of that society in addition to the reality of the property rights, l’shalom.

    Now to try to apply that to the question at hand. Somehow, for men refraining from the mitzva during its proper time means another sort of “indebtedness” becomes uncircumventable.

    But for a women there’s no “mitzva of tzitzis” debt unless you earmark (to keep the monetary analogy) your behavior. What makes its nature as a mitzva important is that after creating that indebtedness, you would know that the payment is acceptable.

    Going from there, here’s a monetary analogy to what seems to be going on with women wearing tallit.

    Male situation:
    A man owns a small estate and a bachelor’s degree. He has two sons and one daughter. Unfortunately, he neglects to pay off his college tuition, and it kept building interest throughout his life. On the day of his death, that debt finally matches the value of his estate, and as a result, he has nothing to leave on to his children.

    Female situation:
    A man owns a small estate. He has a single son. College tuition prices have been hiking up, and on the day of his death, he finds he has just enough money to put one child through college, if they’ll work for it. On the day of his death, he gives the money to his firstborn son, instructing him to use it and go through college. (It is clear that the money will create a result of known value. However, the man certainly had no obligation to channel the money in the specific way, whereas the first man definitely had such an obligation.)

    (Not sure if that works at all, mostly just trying to hold in elements of what DK had said so far in something cogible. Would help if I could read the Vi’kidashtem link.)

 
 

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