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Tale of a Tallis

 

In a recent post, R. Michael Broyde expressed puzzlement over a story about R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik and a woman who wished to wear a tallis in an Orthodox synagogue. I have come across another, more positive discussion in the writings of R. Chaim Navon. R. Navon’s recent book, Gesher Benos Ya’akov, is a fascinating and eloquent presentation of a moderate position (to my left) on women’s ritual roles within Orthodoxy which I hope to discuss soon. In the meantime, I present his discussion of R. Soloveitchik’s story.

But first, the story as told by Rabbis Aryeh and Dov Frimer (“Women’s Prayer Services – Theory and Practice I” in Tradition, 32:2 Winter 1998, p. 41):

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 tallit 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.

R. Chaim Navon writes (Gesher Benos Ya’akov, pp. 147-148, my translation):

Let us return to the story of the woman who desired [to wear] a tallis with tzitzis. What would have happened if she had recognized the halakhic facts and rejected R. Soloveitchik’s advice to wear a tallis without tzitzis? Allow me to speculate that even in such a situation, the Rav would not have permitted her to wear a kosher tallis. I suggest that this would have been his reaction even in a third situation: if the woman had returned to him and said that she felt in her heart that her mitzvah was deficient. Even then, the Rav would not have breached this boundary [and permitted her to wear a kosher tallis].

If so, why did R. Soloveitchik devise this test? I suggest that he wanted to show this woman how irrelevant religious inspiration (hislahavus ha-dasis) is to this question. We should assume that this woman’s intention was for the sake of Heaven but the path she chose to demonstrate her intent was mistaken [in R. Soloveitchik's view]. An inspired religious experience does not guarantee that a change [in religious practice] is proper and successful.

The principal of the religious girls school “Pelech” in Jerusalem spoke of a time when 250 of her students were waiting for a minyan of men to arrive before beginning Kabbalas Shabbos. One of the young (female) teachers went to the front of the womens’ section and began singing “with a sweeping Chasidic melody” the prayers of Kabbalas Shabbos. The students answered her, “at first hesitantly but afterward with a song that strengthened from verse to verse, that intensified from chapter to chapter, a prayer of the like that has never been heard before.”

I do not necessarily oppose womens’ [-only] Kabbalas Shabbos prayers. There are two sides to this question and in specific communities, the scale tilts–in my opinion–in favor of womens’ [-only] prayer like this on occasion. However, I think that the inspiration and emotion are not decisive considerations in the question of whether to hold prayers like this. Every innovation breeds inspiration. We have to examine how much inspiration a woman will have in her thousandth time praying like this, not her first. I question whether we will find unique inspiration in the thousandth prayer.

On the other hand, let us assume for theoretical purposes that even after twenty years of womens’ [-only] Kabbalas Shabbos prayers we still find soaring inspiration. Even then, I would say that inspiration is not the only spiritual consideration. Prayer with pure intent is a lofty level and an important religious value. But when it will disturb the fabric of the religious life fashioned by tradition, we have to weigh the damage with the benefit.

 

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Gil Student

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

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

95 Responses

  1. Noam Stadlan says:

    Sigh. Once again we are examining Women’s motivation and inspiration. In other words, do they deserve to be able to do something? They have to earn the right in some way?

    We should start with the fact that Halachic psak over the years has reflected the norms of the surrounding culture. In other words, some of the decisions are more a reflection of regnant culture than Torah values. Rav Eliezer Berkovits identified Torah True versus Torah tolerated attitudes. The first step in this analysis logically is to determine whether the fact that women haven’t done or weren’t allowed to do something is in fact Torah true or a manifestation of cultural influences from the past. When the Rambam stated that a woman shouldn’t leave the house more than 1-2 times a month, is that Torah true, or a reflection of his culture?

  2. emma says:

    Wmen’s only kabbalat shabat at a girls’ school is a nonstory. Inspiration or not I don’t see how it disrupts the “Fabric” of religious life. In this way it is totally different from a women-only service in an adult community. What’s weird (and unique to the more “left” leaning places)is that they initially had the hava amina to get a minyan of men at all.

    looking forward to the review.

  3. Reuven Spolter says:

    I fail to see the connection between the two examples you gave here. Tzitzit is a positive commandment, irrespective of one’s religious or spiritual experience. Kaballat Shabbat is no such thing. In fact, the recitation of Kaballat Shabbat might very well be for the sole purpose of spiritual inspiration. Why is it alright in your view for men to “change” the prayer, institute communal singing (Carlebach minyanim, etc.) but to exclude women with the claim that it “disturbs the fabric of religious life”? Really? How so? Are multitudes of women who regularly attend Kabbalat Shabbat now going to Women’s Kabbalat Shabbat? What pirtzah are you afraid of? Why can’t we let women have meaningful religious experiences that clearly fall within the confines of halachah without always claiming, in knee-jerk fashion, that it’s some kind of break with tradition?

  4. oppose.what?? says:

    “I do not necessarily oppose womens’ [-only] Kabbalas Shabbos prayers.”

    How is this different than high school girls, led by a “chazzanit” who sets the pace and marks the place, davening (and singing hallel together at rosh chodesh assemblies), as takes place throughout the beis yaakov system and at summer camps? Must we turn every natural, halachically untroublesome development into an “issue”?

  5. Nachum says:

    Gil, I have to be honest: By adding your “[-only]” where you did is essentially inserting your judgment into a place it doesn’t belong. In case you didn’t realize it, you’re essentially saying, “Don’t complain, women! You always can daven, albeit not on your own!” Now, I’m not saying I disagree. But R’ Navon is writing one thing and you are writing another- apples and oranges- that’s completely unrelated to his point.

    Again, I’m not saying I disagree the Rav (or, depending how true the story is, “the Rav”- this story seems to have gone through at least three people before reaching us, which sets off all sorts of warning bells) here, but can’t we admit that this is a strict Brisker view, one that disapproves of any emotion when, say, blowing or hearing the shofar (from Halakhic Man) apart from simple fulfillment of the mitzvah? Look, maybe this is an ideal. Maybe not. But it’s an ideal that probably 99.999% of Jews can’t or even don’t want to achieve. Not even the Rav himself lived up to every standard of his.

    Imagine this: What if the woman (or, again, “the woman”) had said, “Well, I really felt spiritually uplifted, but it would be ideal if there were actually tzitzit attached, because, you know, that’s the mitzvah.” Under the Brisker ideals, is that still not good enough?

    Obligatory Hamevaser Purim version: The Rav was once a sandak and the baby started to cry. The Rav looked at the baby and said, “Do you cry when you bentch lulav?”

    Now I must tie some tzitzit. For a man or woman, I have no idea.

  6. joel rich says:

    r’ns,
    another way of looking at halacha/minhag is that (some might say by the unique rules of its internal system)the status quo is champ and only is defeated by a knockout (not even a tko).
    KT

  7. Anonymous says:

    And what about these Amen groups for women? I assume the Rav would say they are nonsense also, as Judaism is not about. creating experiences for religious highs. Yet the Charedi world has no problem with creating this new form of ritual for women

  8. Mike S. says:

    And what of Chazal allowing women to do a form of smicha on their korbanot? I did not hear the story circulating until long after the Rav’s ptirah, but perhaps one of his talmidim who heard the story first hand might have asked him?

  9. Noam Stadlan says:

    R. Joel
    I absolutely agree. Status quo is champ and change needs to be justified. But some of the justification can be to show that the issue was influenced by the culture

  10. Hirhurim says:

    Noam Stadlan: Once again we are examining Women’s motivation and inspiration. In other words, do they deserve to be able to do something?

    Where do you get this from? R. Navon, in an earlier section, explicitly says that we may not examine women’s motivation! And here he says, “we should assume that this woman’s intention was for the sake of Heaven.”

    Reuven Spolter: Why is it alright in your view for men to “change” the prayer, institute communal singing (Carlebach minyanim, etc.) but to exclude women with the claim that it “disturbs the fabric of religious life”?

    I’m not sure why you are speaking to R. Navon as if he reads this blog. But I believe he is saying that with any innovation, you have to examine IF it disturbs the fabric of religious life. Clearly, not every innovation does.

    Nachum: I have to be honest: By adding your “[-only]” where you did is essentially inserting your judgment into a place it doesn’t belong

    I added it because I believe it accurately reflects the author’s intention. What do you think he meant?

    can’t we admit that this is a strict Brisker view, one that disapproves of any emotion when, say, blowing or hearing the shofar (from Halakhic Man) apart from simple fulfillment of the mitzvah?

    That is not what R. Navon said. He explicitly disagrees with your reading and claims that emotion is important but not as important as other values.

    Anonymous: And what about these Amen groups for women? I assume the Rav would say they are nonsense also, as Judaism is not about. creating experiences for religious highs. Yet the Charedi world has no problem with creating this new form of ritual for women

    Why do you think that everything the Charedi world allows is OK? Although there is a difference. The Amen groups are a chiddush, not a shinuy. They aren’t changing synagogue practices but adding a new practice outside the synagogue. I’m not saying that makes them acceptable but they are certainly missing a key problematic aspect.

    Mike S: And what of Chazal allowing women to do a form of smicha on their korbanot?

    Indeed, they did, which shows that SOME things are permitted even if they have no halakhic significance. It does not prove that EVERYTHING is permissible.

  11. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “I suggest that he wanted to show this woman how irrelevant religious inspiration (hislahavus ha-dasis) is to this question. We should assume that this woman’s intention was for the sake of Heaven but the path she chose to demonstrate her intent was mistaken [in R. Soloveitchik's view]. An inspired religious experience does not guarantee that a change [in religious practice] is proper and successful.”

    I suggest that if this is what the Rav, one of the greatest teachers of the past generation (and many other generations) wanted to show, he could have certainly explained this idea to the woman without putting her through an embarrassing situation. It’s almost as if at the end of the story he’s saying nyah nyah nyah to her — and especially under R. Navon’s understanding that the Rav would have said the same thing no matter what the woman’s reaction had been. The Rav was not a “gotcha” guy which this story makes him out to be. I simply don’t believe it and was surprised, and saddened, when the Frimers, who I like and respect greatly, printed it.

  12. Nachum says:

    Anonymous:

    What makes you think R’ Navon approves of Amen groups? I can think of reasons that have nothing to do with anti-feminism to oppose them.

    That said, Sephardim have a similar practice at yahrtzeits.

    Gil:

    Of course that’s the meaning of what he said. But your usage- brackets, dash, etc.- is so intrusive that it clearly places a stress on something he had no intention of stressing. I still think you had another motivation, even if you didn’t realize it. :-)

    As to his explanation, well, that’s R’ Navon’s explanation. I take the story at face value, even if I don’t believe it. (I mean, trace it back. R’ Broyde writes a blogpost citing another rabbi who heard the story from the woman- supposedly. That’s a game of telephone at best (maybe she misheard/misunderstood/misreported the Rav) and a fictional urban legend at worst.

  13. Hirhurim says:

    The story was told by R. Yehuda Kelemer, who was a participant!

  14. Nachum says:

    And who told him? And who repeated it in his name? Did he write it firsthand?

    Sorry, the lawyer in me coming out, along with R’ Leiman’s famous dictum about “al pi shnayim eidim yakum hadavar.”

  15. emma says:

    As for the story, I would have thought there would be a “shmua” as to who the woman is/was. I have some old boston connections, but I keep forgetting to ask…

    As for girls davening together, I am still puzzled by how that story fits in here. Agirls high school, which is what pelech is, is precisely a non-synagogue setting, and girls daven without men, but with singing, in high schools and camps _all the time._ I simply do not understand why Rav Navon thinks it is noteworthy. Is it because they had originally tried to get men to come, and then changed their mind and gone women-only in the middle, making it seem more like a “sunstitute”? If they had never planned to have a minyan there would be nothing to say…

  16. Mike S. says:

    Mike S: And what of Chazal allowing women to do a form of smicha on their korbanot?

    Indeed, they did, which shows that SOME things are permitted even if they have no halakhic significance. It does not prove that EVERYTHING is permissible.

    Indeed. That is why I was hoping someone who may have heard this from the Rav directly might have asked him the question, so that we could learn how he evaluated the cases.

  17. IH says:

    As a reminder, in the previous post was this contribution (which I later ran by a friend who attended Maimo at the time and it rang true for him):

    Sarah Jacobs on December 17, 2012 at 11:48 am

    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.

  18. Lawrence Kaplan says:

    Did R. Kelermer confirm the atory with the Rav or did he rely on the woman’s recounting of it? And what of the story of Sarah Jacobs? Again, I am very wary of determining the Rav’s views on critical issues on the basis of isolated stories or single incidents. there are too many variables or unknowns. One needs to rely on the Rav’s published writings, public addreses, and his views as related and confirmed by MULTIPLE reliable disciples, like the Rav’s view re remaining in the SCA (confirmed by Rabbis Walter Wurzburger and Louis Bernstein and Moe Fuerstein and Julie Beran) or his view regarding WTG’s as determined by the Rabbis Frimmer on the basis of their interviews with many many students of the Rav.

  19. Nachum says:

    “Using sociology only to maintain chumrot and not to admit kulot seems like poor halachic logic”

    I wouldn’t quite class this as a “chumra” and “kula” issue, but yeah.

  20. Fotheringay-Phipps says:

    I too have a hard time believing the RYBS story, mostly because of the “gotcha” aspect noted above.

    But besides for that, I don’t even agree with the point of the story altogether. It’s human nature to be inspired by something that has some superficial connection to something that has some exalted history and meaning. People use all sorts of crutches of this sort to inspire themselves. And frankly these days people need all the inspiration they can get.

    I don’t think that’s the only consideration, but if a woman was inspired by wearing a talis with or without tzitzis, or – FTM – if she was inspired by wearing a fake beard :) – it counts for something. Rachmana liba ba’i.

  21. Mark says:

    IH,

    Would you happen to know whether Sarah Jacobs still wears a tallis when she davens?

  22. Michael Broyde says:

    In the course of my short writing about women and Tallit, a women named “Sarah Jacobs” posted the following story on December 17, 2012 at 11:48 am:

    ” 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.”

    I would like to use this posting as an example of what I think is wrong with much of our analysis of stories of gedolim. I had written a post-script to my own article explaining the difficulties I had with a story involving the Rav and tzitzit, but I understood that the story was authentic and worthy of commenting on, because the Rav was the focus point of the story and had a central and speaking role. While I, in truth, do not understand the Rav’s view, I have no doubt that it represented his view, although I do not fully comprehend it. Certainly my defecency.

    Here we have a model of a different kind of story. Let me translate it back into my English albeit with an explanatory twist for the reader. Here is what Sarah is actually saying:

    I came from a non-Orthodox home and wore a tallit in my non-Orthodox synagogue. I was a student at Maimonides and at some point (not sure exactly when) the school began to require all students to daven in school so I undertook to do so and I wore a tallit. From the fact that school did not object (not approved, just did not object), I can assume that both the school and the Gadol who was the halachic authority in the school had no objections to my decision to wear such a tallit. After all, if he did not approve, I would have been told to stop.

    This kind of reasoning is unwise and unfair to the Rav. I could see many explanations why the school did not object to this misconduct on the part of a student that had nothing to do with approval. To wit:

    1. Maimonides made an outreach decision that if this was your way of becoming closer to Torah, it is better to be silent in the face of an averah lishmah. I frequently see sincere individuals on the path of return engaging in sincere sin and I am silent so as to be welcoming.

    2. Maimonides made a political decision that if they wished to force students to daven in the school, they would not object to this conduct as it is better you should daven in an Orthodox shul with a tallit that a Conservative one with a tallit.

    3. Maimonides was afraid if pressed on this topic, your parents would pull you out of the school and they needed the tuition. I have counseled this policy many times in many complex day school settings. Shev ve’al taaseh adef.

    4. The Rav saw this and objected to it, but other members of the administration felt that an objection was unwise and not worth the fight, so the Rav let it pass. Many have recounted that the Rav privately objected to certain policies of Maimonides but allowed other voices to carry the day.

    5. The Rav saw this and objected and so did other members of the administration and spoke to your parents about this. Your parents did not tell you. I certainly did not always tell my children when school called to complain – and I assume my parents did the same.

    6. Maybe the Rav really did not notice. If I had to wager (I never saw the Rav daven in a coed setting) it is well within the pale of halacha to imagine that the Rav had a policy not to look at the women in the women’s section.

    I am sure there are other possible explanations as well.

    In short, the idea that a person can claim from a story in which the Rav never spoke and never voiced any reason or opinion, and no one spoke in his name in his presence – but just people were silent in the face of conduct — what the Rav must have thought, seems a huge stretch.

    Sarah’s comment that “I have no doubt that he [the Rav] both knew that I wore a tallit and had seen me wearing my tallit during t’fillot” and “if the Rav had any objections to my wearing a tallit in his school I would have been told to stop wearing my tallit” would seem to be terribly unfair to the legacy of a giant, and a bad methodology generally to think about stories of great torah personalities.

    I confess that I am uncertain as to the Rav’s view on women wearing a tallit (as I expressed in my short piece), but this story adds almost nothing to the data.

  23. Hirhurim says:

    I find it hard to believe that Tonya Soloveitchik wore tzitzis. Her three children are still alive. Can anyone check with one of the them and ask?

  24. IH says:

    Mark — I don’t know her, but if you clicked on her name in the original, it leads to: http://www.sewnewyork.blogspot.com/

    R. Broyde — By the same token, isn’t this post “unwise and unfair to the Rav” for the same reasons?

    Gil — As Prof. Kaplan asks, have you asked R. Kelemer directly? I assume this is the present Rabbi of the Young Israel of West Hempstead (based on Google).

  25. Hirhurim says:

    IH: No, I have not. Please feel free to do so.

  26. IH says:

    Maimonides made an outreach decision that if this was your way of becoming closer to Torah, it is better to be silent in the face of an averah lishmah. I frequently see sincere individuals on the path of return engaging in sincere sin and I am silent so as to be welcoming

    Nu, R. Broyde, and where was this reasoning in your original post as a possible response to the shaila you were asked? Forgive me if I missed it.

  27. emma says:

    Rabbi Broyde, do you mean that a female student wearing a tallit would be “averah lishmah” in the actual sense (according to the Rav), or are you using the phrase loosely?
    I understood from your prior article that you do not believe a woman wearing a tallit is technically prohibited (nor that the Rav necessarily thought so), so I am curious as to why you now call it an “aveirah.”

  28. S. says:

    In context it sounds like he means it loosely, i.e., as a transgressive act, not as a “sin.”

  29. ab says:

    “Why do you think that everything the Charedi world allows is OK? Although there is a difference. The Amen groups are a chiddush, not a shinuy. They aren’t changing synagogue practices but adding a new practice outside the synagogue. I’m not saying that makes them acceptable but they are certainly missing a key problematic aspect.”

    the story under discussion took place in a school, not a synagogue.

  30. sass says:

    Re: Dr. tonya Soloveitchik
    I’d also be curious if Sarah Jacobs could report the names of the teachers who told her this about Dr. Soloveitchik…

  31. Scott says:

    Many men, especially chasidim, dip in the mikvah each morning, and there’s absolutely no mitzvah in it.

  32. Scott says:

    An observation: I’ve seen tallit-wearing women in many MO synagogues, but it’s usually just one woman per synagogue. There seems to be no clamor for it.

  33. Sarah Jacobs says:

    In answer to your points about my experience of wearing a tallit at Maimonides:
    1. Maimonides made an outreach decision that if this was your way of becoming closer to Torah, it is better to be silent in the face of an averah lishmah. I frequently see sincere individuals on the path of return engaging in sincere sin and I am silent so as to be welcoming.

    – The culture of Maimonides at that time was very far from this sort of sensitive Kiruv sort of an approach. If they didn’t like your practice…they told you straight out. The administration and the teachers didn’t care a whole lot about one’s fine intentions but they did care a whole lot about practice.

    2. Maimonides made a political decision that if they wished to force students to daven in the school, they would not object to this conduct as it is better you should daven in an Orthodox shul with a tallit that a Conservative one with a tallit.

    No,this was not an issue at all.

    3. Maimonides was afraid if pressed on this topic, your parents would pull you out of the school and they needed the tuition. I have counseled this policy many times in many complex day school settings. Shev ve’al taaseh adef.

    I was a scholarship student.

    4. The Rav saw this and objected to it, but other members of the administration felt that an objection was unwise and not worth the fight, so the Rav let it pass. Many have recounted that the Rav privately objected to certain policies of Maimonides but allowed other voices to carry the day.

    This response is just plain silly. What the Rav said or wanted went. In the 1970′s the Rav was still in good health. Our practices during t’fillot were his ( no singing, nusach only) It was my impression that some discussion had taken place between the administration and the Rav and that my actions were deemed to be OK.

    5. The Rav saw this and objected and so did other members of the administration and spoke to your parents about this. Your parents did not tell you. I certainly did not always tell my children when school called to complain – and I assume my parents did the same.

    This is again silly speculation and is simply not true. I don’t know why you have such a strong need to fabricate fairy tales.

    6. Maybe the Rav really did not notice. If I had to wager (I never saw the Rav daven in a coed setting) it is well within the pale of halacha to imagine that the Rav had a policy not to look at the women in the women’s section.

    T’filla was in the Maimonides shul. I was behind the mechitza. The Rav certainly did daven there while he was in Boston. The Rav would generally spend all of Sukkot in Boston. ( there were other times during the school year when he would daven shaharit with the students. I davened in the same room with the Rav – albeit behind the mechizta –countless times between seventh and 12th grade.

    Sarah’s comment that “I have no doubt that he [the Rav] both knew that I wore a tallit and had seen me wearing my tallit during t’fillot” and “if the Rav had any objections to my wearing a tallit in his school I would have been told to stop wearing my tallit” would seem to be terribly unfair to the legacy of a giant, and a bad methodology generally to think about stories of great torah personalities.

    Why in the world would it be unfair to the legacy of the Rav to simply state the truth?

    I find it odd that you are far more comfortable creating fabrications that disparage someone you don’t know and have never met than to accept my words as simply being true. During those years I had many discussions with my teachers and with Rabbi Cohn the principal of Maimonides about the halachic issues around my wearing a tallit. My teachers were supportive. Yes, this includes my limudei kodesh teachers. The only people who gave me a hard time were fellow students.

    I think that rather than my telling of my experience somehow diminishing the Rav it actually shows him to be the great halachic mind that he really was, one who can appreciate the subtlety of halacha rather than just taking the easy way out and just saying “No”.

    I’m kind of surprised that you would go to so much effort to create 6(!) different completely false back stories when the simple truth is exactly what I said. It might be more difficult for you to bend your brain about the simple truth that I wore a tallit at Maimonides with the knowledge of the Rav and without his objection.

  34. Mark says:

    Sara,

    I appreciate very much your clarification although it wasn’t aimed at me. Can I trouble you tell me whether you still wear a Tallis? By davening only? What about regular tzitzis?

  35. IH says:

    Indeed. The obsession with women interested in “becoming closer to Torah” (using R. Broyde’s words) by extending traditions used by men is simply bizarre.

    And, frankly, even if the story were true — who cares? The Rav is famous for tailoring psak to inividual people. And to propogate it without even picking up a telephone to the man named as the source…

    If this is what the the leadership choses to spend their time on, no wonder so many people feel leaderless.

  36. IH says:

    Oops. 4:46pm was a follow-on to Scott at 3:56pm. And my who cares was about the story from R. Kelemer related by Gil in his post.

  37. IH says:

    R. Broyde — Please do the right thing and apologize to Sarah Jacobs. Demonstrate leadership.

  38. Sarah Jacobs says:

    Mark -

    I stopped wearing a tallit after I stopped davening b’tzibur every day.

    I wore a tallit again during my time saying kaddish for my father.

    I make tallitot, primarily for women. I also make arba knanfot for women that following the opinion stated in Iggeret Moshe, are a begged isha, with tzitzit and can not be confused with a beged ish.

  39. Shlomo says:

    Um, why does Sarah Jacobs need an apology? R’ Broyde is not attacking the reliability of the story, only its relevance to this discussion. If you’re offended by the possibility that your story doesn’t prove the point you want it to prove, that’s your problem.

  40. Nachum says:

    “but I understood that the story was authentic”

    Not good enough. “Understood” how? I want someone who *knows* the story to be authentic.

    By the way, last Friday at the Kotel, I had a revelation: Dozens of Birthright kids jumping in a circle around a Chabadnik screaming (I am not making this up) “Dreidel dreidel dreidel” and “Ain’t gonna work on Saturday” in the men’s section (not the plaza) while others are trying to daven is a lot more disruptive than a few women with tallitot on the other side of the mechitza.

  41. IH says:

    Shlomo — let’s let R. Broyde decide. It’s his credibility on the line.

  42. Mark says:

    Sara,

    Thank you.

    Nachum,

    Are you kidding? Is a crazed chabadnik really representative of most Ortho jews? If it is, there’s plenty of other madmen at the Kosel you can use for a proof.

  43. Shlomo says:

    IH, I bow down to your authority to apportion credibility to everyone.

  44. joel rich says:

    wadr r’ broyde said “I could see many explanations why “. there was no statement that these were factually correct, just possible alternative explnations and in fact even after the response, some might still be – unless we appoint a special prosecutor with power to call witnesses from the olam haemet, we really won’t know.

    KT

  45. IH says:

    In my view, people who aspire to be communal leaders are judged to the standard appropriate for that leadership role. I am waiting to see how R. Broyde chooses to respond (and silence, too, is a response).

  46. mycroft says:

    ” Many have recounted that the Rav privately objected to certain policies of Maimonides but allowed other voices to carry the day.”

    When while the Rav was alive the 2 heads of the school committee were his wife followed by his daughter Dr. A Twersky. I find that those who don’t like the Ravs modern side use revisionist history stating that the Rav didn’t like things at Maimonides.

  47. Tal Benschar says:

    wadr r’ broyde said “I could see many explanations why “. there was no statement that these were factually correct, just possible alternative explnations and in fact even after the response, some might still be – unless we appoint a special prosecutor with power to call witnesses from the olam haemet, we really won’t know.

    I think that is R. Broyde’s point. All we know is something out-of-the-ordinary happened at Maimonides. That tells you little about what R. Soloveichik thought about it. In this case, shtikah lav ke hodaah.

  48. Tal Benschar says:

    “IH, I bow down to your authority to apportion credibility to everyone.”

    Baruch ha cholek chochmaso le basar va dam

  49. Tal Benschar says:

    By the way, last Friday at the Kotel, I had a revelation: Dozens of Birthright kids jumping in a circle around a Chabadnik screaming (I am not making this up) “Dreidel dreidel dreidel” and “Ain’t gonna work on Saturday” in the men’s section (not the plaza) while others are trying to daven is a lot more disruptive than a few women with tallitot on the other side of the mechitza.

    IIRC, I believe it was R. Kook who darshened why, of all the non-kosher animals, the donkey that is born a bechor has kedusha and requires pidyon, whereas that is not true of any other non-kosher animal. The reason is that others flaunt that they have one of the simanei kashrus — the pig sticks out its cloven hooves, the camel moves its head around as it chews its cud — whereas the donkey displays no pretense of kashrus.

    A meshuganeh that everyone knows is a meshuganeh is a lot less dangerous than a meshuganeh that others think is normal.

  50. emma says:

    Tal, the stated infraction of the Women of the Wall is disturbing the peace or some such. The legal justification for arresting them is that they bother people, not that they are “dangerous” to the religious establishment.
    Nachum’s story, and your response, demonstrate what everyone knows, which is that the stated justification is a pretext.

  51. Tal Benschar says:

    And what about these Amen groups for women? I assume the Rav would say they are nonsense also, as Judaism is not about. creating experiences for religious highs. Yet the Charedi world has no problem with creating this new form of ritual for women

    I love how people spout things out of utter ignorance.

    The purpose of Amen groups is not to achieve a “religious high.” It is based on a gemara in Berachos that one who answers Amen is greater than one who said the berachah. There are also mystical reasons, going back to the Zohar, about how saying Amen has many positive impacts in the world, and apparently there is even a story there that one of the Rabbonim used to go from shul to shul to try to answer Amen to many berachos and tefillos.

    (In fact, Amen is based on a deoraysa in Parshas Sotah, and if you learn the Mishnayos in Shevuos, it is a way to accept a Shevuah. It is also a way of being mekayem a tefillah or a beracha — it is another way to be yotsei, even without shomeah ke oneh.)

    The purpose is to gain this merit (usually for a sick person) and increase kavod shomayim. When one says Amen, it is a kiyum of whatever berachah or tefillah was said before, which you are affirming.

    Here is an article from OU Action on it:

    http://www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/article/14455/

    Note that the intiator was the daughter of the Bobover Rebbe, and she did so with the approval and blessing of R. Chaim Kanievsky, one of the gedolei ha dor.

    I don’t know what R. Soloveichik would have thought of it, but he knew enough to know that it is not nonsense — it is definitely a halakhic kiyum. (The article points out that it is one way to fufill the takkanas David ha Melech to bless Hashem 100 times each day.)

  52. Tal Benschar says:

    The legal justification for arresting them is that they bother people, not that they are “dangerous” to the religious establishment.

    The legal justification is that they are violating a court order. That is the law everywhere — you are supposed to follow a court order now matter how ridiculous you think it is, or face contempt.

    “The rule of law that Alabama followed in this case reflects a belief that in the fair administration of justice no man can be judge in his own case, however exalted his station, however righteous his motives, and irrespective of his race, color, politics, or religion.” Walker v. City of Birmingham, 388 U.S. 307, 320-21 (1967).

    It is really odd that when the Charedim peacefully and legally protested the Israeli Supreme Court decisions several years ago, that certain people (I don’t mean you Emma) were up in arms that this undermined the rule of law, but suddenly when a group of a different ideology acts in contempt of that same court, then they think it is unjust to arrest them.

  53. IH says:

    For the record, the legal situation is more complex (and in flux) as we all know. See the links at the top of http://womenofthewall.org.il/about/legal-status/summary-of-the-verdict-of-women-of-the-walls-court-case/ for 1) An unofficial translation of the 2003 Supreme Court Decision; and, 2) The 6 January 2013 Petition to the Supreme Court that is co-incident with PM Netanyahu’s charge to Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.

  54. Anonymous says:

    >The purpose of Amen groups is not to achieve a “religious high.”

    Right. The women are not achieving a “religious high” in their fellowship circles.

  55. IH says:

    The author of the OU Action piece Tal cites is the founder of the Women’s Tefillah Group in Sydney, Australia.

    If you Google her, you will find the following in a JOFA newsletter: “In response to many requests, Gael Hammer of Sydney, Australia, is developing a world-wide (outside N. America) JOFA network to provide support for women seeking increased participation in Orthodox religious life and ritual.”

    I guess anything she did beyond the Amen group, though, would run foul of Tal’s declaration yesterday that “it is an attempt to have women act like pseudo-men and in the process make them feel good, but in reality it means nothing.”

  56. Tal Benschar says:

    IH, you do understand the difference between writing an article about someone else doing something and doing something youself, right?

    And yes, WTGs fit into what I described. What else the authoress has done or not done, I don’t know.

  57. Tal Benschar says:

    Anonymous: Right. The women are not achieving a “religious high” in their fellowship circles.

    You know, the internet is a great tool. There are on-line dictionaries now. Try looking up the word “purpose.”

  58. IH says:

    authoress

    How quaint. Jewess, also?

  59. Scott says:

    I’ve noticed that there are no more actresses. An actor is an actor, male or female.

  60. IH says:

    Language evolves, like halacha. Waitress is still around. But, when was the last time you saw authoress poetess, or Jewess?

  61. Tal Benschar says:

    I’ve noticed that there are no more actresses. An actor is an actor, male or female.

    What do they do at the Oscars? Two awards for Best Actor?

  62. IH says:

    To avoid confusion, perhaps we should refer to the new female combat soldieresses (and yes, soldieress was in the 1913 Websters). I’m not sure it would be wise to call them pseudo-men, though, Tal.

  63. Nachum says:

    Of course it’s good to say amen- to a real bracha. Sitting around saying brachot so people can say amen is something new and odd. Some may say it’s a form of prayer. :-)

    I thought I was being pretty clear in my Kotel story, but apparently not: I never said the guy was normal, or exceptional, or representative. I said he was *disruptive.* So if you’re going to argue that a woman in a pink tallit somehow “disturbs” others (men or women) prayer, you ought to open your eyes and see what the Kotel really is.

    I’m not complaining- I know full well what I’m in for when I go there. (I don’t like the people who yell at tourists- most likely not Jewish anyway- who take photos from the back, for example.) I go for certain other reasons. But I’d expect that most people should know what they’re in for to. If you want a quiet spiritual experience, go up to the Har HaBayit, or stay home.

    By the way, there were lots of women dancing too.

  64. mycroft says:

    “Tal Benschar on January 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    wadr r’ broyde said “I could see many explanations why “. there was no statement that these were factually correct, just possible alternative explnations and in fact even after the response, some might still be – unless we appoint a special prosecutor with power to call witnesses from the olam haemet, we really won’t know.

    I think that is R. Broyde’s point. All we know is something out-of-the-ordinary happened at Maimonides. That tells you little about what R. Soloveichik thought about it. In this case, shtikah lav ke hodaah”

    fair enough-IF YOU APPLY THE SAME STANDARD TO ALL STATEMENTS IN THE NAME OF THE RAV INCLUDING THOSE WRITTEN DOWN BY LEADING RY.

  65. mycroft says:

    “I love how people spout things out of utter ignorance.

    The purpose of Amen groups is not to achieve a “religious high.””
    PERHAPS THE MAIN PURPOSE IS TO BECOME A WOMENS SOCIAL OUTLET-but certainly some women going there because they enjoy hearing Hallel led by a chazzanit could be at least interpreted as such. I don’t know the standards of Amen groups I have never been there-closest I came was one tine 2nd day Rosh Hodesh Ellul I get a call can you come over to blow shofar for us-Amen group -otherwise we won’t hear shofar-I said no if you’re interested in hearing shofar go to a minyan and before ledavid you’ll hear shofar.

  66. Sarah Jacobs says:

    Perhaps it makes sense rather than speculating about what women derive from Amen groups or women’s t’filla groups or sitting in a sukkah or wearing a tallit, to actually ask them what they get out of the experience.

    I assume that many of you posting have wives or mothers or daughters students who participate…why is it so difficult to simply ask the women involved rather than creating fantasies of what women might be thinking?

  67. Hirhurim says:

    Why in the world would you think that we haven’t?

  68. IH says:

    Gil — I am hopeful you will reinstate my anguished comment of 10:38am that you deleted when R. Broyde is ready with a response. I can resubmit it if necessary. As far as I can tell, it did not violate any of the Commenting Rules you have established.

  69. Hoffa Araujo says:

    “Why in the world would you think that we haven’t?”

    You know the answer to that. Its obvious. Only those seeking to expand women’s roles consider women’s opinions. Us neanderthals, opposed to these initivates, have not. Which assume that women are generally okay with these changes since why would a women veto such changes unless she has Stockholm Syndrome.

  70. Sarah Jacobs says:

    Hirhurim…The replies to Broyde’s original post about women and tallit were far snarkier about why women might want to wear tallit, or be part of a WTG.

    I also want to add that unlike many posters here, I am not hiding behind a pseudonym. I posted in such a way that it’s easy to find me, to verify who I am, and to verify the truth of what I’m saying. If you click on my name it takes you to my blog…I have been entirely honest and straightforward in everything I have written.

    Being quite so public in this forum is not entirely comfortable for me, but I do believe that my experience has something important to add to this conversation.

  71. Steve Brizel says:

    I agree with Tal’s assessment of R Broyde’s response-RYBS was acutely aware of whom he was dealing with when faced with a halachic inquiry, and especially whether the query was a lchatchilah or bdieved type of situation-IOW, someone who was a barely observant MO baal habayis, whether in NY or elsewhere, a RIETS musmach with a practical inquiry and a talmid in his shiur for a number of years, would all receive different responses.

  72. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft-I agree with Tal, as opposed to your assessment of Amen groups. The main functions are that of social outlet and a shiur. If you knew the women who attended and the speakers that speak at such groups, those are the reasons. FWIW, I think that many BYs have the institution of a “chazanit”, and noone has ever confused the same with a WTG.

  73. mycroft says:

    “RYBS was acutely aware of whom he was dealing with when faced with a halachic inquiry, and especially whether the query was a lchatchilah or bdieved type of situation-IOW, someone who was a barely observant MO baal habayis, whether in NY or elsewhere, a RIETS musmach with a practical inquiry and a talmid in his shiur for a number of years, would all receive different responses.”

    Essentially agree-but if so why should we be concerned with the answer he gave in private conversation to a talmid chacham-I’d be more interested halacha lemaaseh in what he told the baal baas as to what the Rav would have held for the majority of Jews.

    “Mycroft-I agree with Tal, as opposed to your assessment of Amen groups.”
    I am not surprised
    ” The main functions are that of social outlet” in hachi name- and a shiur.”
    “If you knew the women who attended” -why do you assume I am not familiar with many who go to Amen groups ” “and the speakers that speak at such groups, those are the reasons.”
    I suspect if mycroft, S Brizel, or Joseph Kaplan were the speakers at the next Amen group attendance would not change too much.

    ” FWIW, I think that many BYs have the institution of a “chazanit”, and noone has ever confused the same with a WTG.”
    The issue is why clearly not for halachik reasons of chazanit after all BYs and WTGs both use it-the problem is metahalachik-really who is behind it and why. Not that I am in favor of WTGs but the issue is really behind it to those opposed to the WTGs.

  74. Shlomo says:

    Of course it’s good to say amen- to a real bracha. Sitting around saying brachot so people can say amen is something new and odd.

    IIRC, some men have a custom to do the same thing with birkot hashahar.

  75. moshe shoshan says:

    what i dont get about rhe story is thag woman wearing a talis w/o tzitzis would have halackic signicance in terms of begeg hameyuchad letefia. why is this worse than a gartle?

  76. Nachum says:

    “IIRC, some men have a custom to do the same thing with birkot hashahar.”

    Funny you should mention- I heard birchat hashachar for the first time in years yesterday. (They’re generally not said aloud in Israel.) But I think I know what you mean. Yes, odd.

  77. Hirhurim says:

    I believe men do it with birkos ha-shachar because of the opinion that answering amen counts for the required 100 daily berachos.

  78. Nachum says:

    Gil: If you daven three times a day, you’ve got well over ninety. Shabbat is another question, of course.

    You’re also supposed to get ninety amens in, apparently.

  79. Hirhurim says:

    Nachum: Shabbat is another question, of course

    I thought that is what we are discussing. I’m not familiar with it in any other context.

  80. groinem says:

    Gil – Besides 100 berachos, there is a (maybe lesser) obligation to say 98 Amens. That is where the minhag of birkos hashachar comes from. The Matei Efrayim mentions it as a minhag on Yomim Noro’im, when various dignitaries would say berachos out loud before davening. He does not like it because they will end up spending too much time on it and miss the zeman tefilla.

  81. Hirhurim says:

    groinem: Never heard of it. 100 berakhos is a din derabban mentioned in the Gemara. Do you remember where in the Mateh Ephraim he discusses it? Is it Yom Kippur Shacharis?

  82. Nachum says:

    In the commentary on the Birchot Hashachar, Artscroll says “Tzadik” stands for 90 amens, four kedushas, ten kaddeshim (not sure how those add up), and 100 brachot.

  83. Steve Brizel says:

    Just curious-has anyone ever heard of an instance of a woman wanting to wear a Talis Katan on a daily basis?

  84. Steve Brizel says:

    IH wrote:

    “To avoid confusion, perhaps we should refer to the new female combat soldieresses (and yes, soldieress was in the 1913 Websters). I’m not sure it would be wise to call them pseudo-men, though, Tal”

    We would view them as affirmative action soldiers, firemen and policemen, whose standards were dumbed down to eradicate the differences between men and women.

  85. mycroft says:

    “Steve Brizel on January 31, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Just curious-has anyone ever heard of an instance of a woman wanting to wear a Talis Katan on a daily basis?”

    Just curious-has anyone ever heard of an instance of a woman wanting to wear a Talis Katan who benches and says a bracha achrona when appropriate?

  86. Joseph Kaplan says:

    “Just curious-has anyone ever heard of an instance of a woman wanting to wear a Talis Katan on a daily basis?”

    R. Haviva Ner-David (who not only “wants” to wear one but but actually does).

  87. emma says:

    “Just curious-has anyone ever heard of an instance of a woman wanting to wear a Talis Katan on a daily basis?

    yes. several who actually do. most of whom have not publicized that decision.

    “Just curious-has anyone ever heard of an instance of a woman wanting to wear a Talis Katan who benches and says a bracha achrona when appropriate?”
    yes, again.

  88. emma says:

    “We would view them as affirmative action soldiers, firemen and policemen, whose standards were dumbed down to eradicate the differences between men and women.”

    steve, i think you have officially jumped the shark…

  89. Nachum says:

    Emma, Steve is stating an objective fact. You can look it up. Female soldiers have much lower fitness standards than male ones, and for a real reason. (Men and women, surprise, are built differently.)

    Good point about the tallit katan, but nu.

  90. emma says:

    It is an “objective fact” that having female police officers “dumbs down” the force? In a country where many police forces have zero or minimal fitness and physical ability requirements, and many officers never or almost never have to exert themselves? (Not to mention the desirability of female officers to talk to sex crime victims.)

    “Female soldiers have much lower fitness standards than male ones”
    In what country?
    I don’t deny population-level differences in physical ability between men and women. that’s just obviously true. But it is also objectively true that among the population with superlative physical performance there are both men and women. (and, in the US at least, a majority of both genders would fail…)

    There aren’t a lot of female fire fighters, for a real reason. But if someone can and wants to do the job, how is that “dumbing down”?

  91. emma says:

    (*should have specified female sex crime victims.)

  92. Nachum says:

    Emma: He said the *standards” were dumbed down, which is a fact, sorry.

    “In what country?”

    The US.

    “I don’t deny population-level differences in physical ability between men and women. that’s just obviously true. But it is also objectively true that among the population with superlative physical performance there are both men and women”

    This is called “statistics.” Exceptions don’t matter.

  93. emma says:

    right. statistically it makes more sense to have one standard than to have a gender-based rule. i have not followed the us military issue that closely but i thought there was going to be one standard.
    i was really annoyed by the inclusion of police. seriously, police often have _no_ physical standards, and telling me that excluding women would somehow raise the level of physical competency better than having physical standards is ridiculous. seriously, i see a lot of people in law enforcement every day. an overweight 40 year old of either gender is just going to have a hard time chasing down a 19 year old male, most of the time. (call that statistics, again.)
    firefighters do have standards. if ome departments lowered them or fudged them to incude women, they dshouldnt have. but the idea that every female firefighter is a product of “dumbed down” standards is almost certainly false. again, it’s statistics. any standard that large minorities of men can pass will be passable by some women as well.

  94. Nachum says:

    Emma, the standards *are* different now, and will likely remain so.

    I know fire departments are strict about this, and trust that any female firefighter can do the job.

 
 

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