The Next Frontier

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While everyone is still debating the current issue of women in rabbinic positions, essentially arguing with facts that are already on the ground, I’d like to offer a prediction about what the next issue will be: halakhic egalitarianism. I believe that the next area where the envelope will be pushed in the self-defined Orthodox community is women fulfilling mitzvos on behalf of the entire community which includes men. I am putting this on the table right now not because I want to encourage this direction, but because I believe it is the next step and we should be aware of it sooner rather than later. I am not, after all, the only one in the world who knows how to read, especially the sources below which were just published in a book by JOFA. This is where, in my admittedly speculative opinion, we will be in a few short years.

For years I wondered why the papers in the Conservative movement advocating for the ordination of women did not quote Tosafos in Rosh Hashanah 33a which suggests that someone who is not obligated in a mitzvah can fulfill it on behalf of someone who is obligated in it on a rabbinic level. While this view is a minority, it is adopted by the Magen Avraham (282:6). I suspect that Conservative scholars were looking to advocate that women can fulfill mitzvos for anyone, even those who are biblically obligated (cf. Prof. Joel Roth’s paper, note 69), and therefore this Tosafos was insufficient. But my prediction is that the next push of the envelope will be towards this type of halakhic egalitarianism.

I already see seeds of such a move. Note that I am not suggesting that either of the scholars I quote below are advocating for this. However, they presented the sources and readers are free to take them and use them.

The following is from R. Mendel Shapiro’s article on women’s aliyyos, reprinted in Chaim Trachtman ed., Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives, p. 214:

Yet another explanation for why women may read [from the Torah] on behalf of men is offered by R. Samuel Halevi Kolin in Mahatsit ha-sheqel, and R. Aryeh Leib Gunzberg in Turei even, based on the principle of Tosafot that rabbinically ordained mitsvot (such as qeri’at ha-Torah) may be performed by the nonobligated on behalf of the obligated.

All you have to do is find rabbinic obligations and women can, according to this view, take the communal lead on them. How much in the synagogue service is not rabbinic? There are even sources that allow you to go farther.

The following is from R. Daniel Sperber’s “Congregational Dignity and Human Dignity” in Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives, p. 117 n. 105a:

Let me give just one example of a reply I gave to someone who wrote to me questioning my argumentation in several comments. One of his comments was that a women who reads the Torah caunot through her reading satisfy the obligation of the male listener. This was a point that a number of critics made (such as Rabbi Shlomo Riskin in his article in Tehumin 28, 2008 (the English translation of this article that was published in Meorot 2008 is included in this book) and a point already made by Israel Francus in “The Ordination of Women as Rabbis,” ed. S. Greenberg (New York, 1988) pp. 40-43. My reply is that the Beit Yosef in Orah hayyim 74 cites the Agur in the name of the Maharil (Teshuvot Hadashot sect 45, subsection 2) who states that women may say the blessings over the Torah (birkat ha-Torah). For, argues the Maharil, though women are not obligated to study Oral Law (basing himself on b. Sotah 20a), if they studied Oral Law of their own initiative, they do receive reward. Hence, they are obligated in this degree by Rabbinic obligation (mi-de-rabbanan) and may satisfy the male listeners’ obligation. See also Tosafot on b. Rosh Hashanah 33a, the view of R”i, who states that women make blessings over all time-related mitsvot, since we learn that “all may be called up for the seven aliyyot, even women.” See further, the view of Rabbenu Tam, ibid. And see, too, Pri Megadim on the Taz, Orah hayyim 47:1, that even if birkat ha-Torah is of Biblical authority (mi-de-oraita), women may say it for men, since they too are Torah obligated (contrary to the views of the Birkei Yosef, ibid, sect. 8). And see the remarkable statement of R. Yair Hayyim Bachrach, Mekor Hayyim vol. I (Jerusalem 1982), sect. 17, 96, that women are included in [the concept of] having received all the Torah, and [the rule of] mutual obligation (‘arvut) …. and consequently they can say [with regard to time-related mitsvot] she-tsivanu “who has commanded us” …. having taken upon themselves these mitsvot, they are obligated (hayyavim). Accordingly, they can also satisfy the obligation of a male listener, on the principle of mutual obligation (‘arvut hadadit). See in further detail, Y. Shilat, Rosh Devarekha (Maale Aduminm, 1996), p. 262. We see, then, that there is ample halakhic evidence that a woman’s birkat ha-Torah will satisfy a male listener’s requirements.

I’m not quite sure that the quote from the Maharil is accurate — it doesn’t seem to say that to me — but I defer to R. Sperber’s expertise. Note, in particular, the quote from R. Bachrach, which I cannot verify because the book is very rare. This is the view of Prof. Joel Roth, that a woman who accepts on herself an obligation can fulfill it on behalf of a man who is biblically obligated. That is beyond the Tosafos and Magen Avraham. I suspect that just like we’ve seen partnership and Shirah Chadashah minyanim, we will eventually see Mekor Chaim minyanim as well, with or without rabbinic approval.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of TorahMusings.com, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student serves on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and as Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He also serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

3 comments

  1. Yair 04/25/2010 09:03 PM
    1 person liked this.
    Megilla 23a says that women do not read from the Torah. R’ Sperber’s entire comment was about birkat HaTorah, and not about reading from the Torah. His paragraph began:
    “One of his comments was that a women who reads the Torah caunot through her READING satisfy the obligation of the male listener.”
    His paragraph ended with: “We see, then, that there is ample halakhic evidence that a woman’s BIRKAT HA-TORAH will satisfy a male listener’s requirements.” (EMPHASIS ADDED).
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/25/2010 09:19 PM
    1 person liked this.
    We have seen lots of “innovations” without rabbinic approval. Why should anyone be surprised at what can only be described as a wholesale dispensation with Mesorah and traditional gender based roles in LW MO?Whatever the label, one cannot assume that the overwhelming majority of Orthodox men and women would daven in such a house of worship, which represents a definite break with Mesorah.
    ———-
    RJM 04/25/2010 10:03 PM
    I am not arguing in favor of egalitarianism by any means. However, some of the content of this post is a bit spurious, since it is clear that the Torah reader is NEVER being “motzi” anyone from an individual obligation (except for Parashat Zakhor). After all, a qatan is permitted to read Torah me-iqqar ha-din (this is widely done among Sephardim) and a woman is technically permitted to do so as well according to the Talmud, if not for the problem of kevod hatsibbur. In fact, I believe that R’ Ovadiah Yosef writes that if there is no competent male reader available in the synagogue then a woman can read the Torah for the tsibbur in accordance with the iqqar ha-din. My point, again, is not to advocate egalitarianism but to draw your attention to the fact that Torah reading may be a bad example of the problem you are raising here.
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/25/2010 10:11 PM in reply to RJM
    RJM: The Magen Avraham clearly considers Torah reading an issue of being motzi others. The fact that R. Ovadiah Yosef doesn’t is irrelevant.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
    ———-
    Shimon 04/25/2010 11:41 PM
    “The Magen Avraham clearly considers Torah reading an issue of being motzi others. The fact that R. Ovadiah Yosef doesn’t is irrelevant.”

    This needs a serious explanation!
    ———-
    RJM 04/25/2010 11:57 PM
    R’ Gil,

    I quote a gemara meforeshet and you respond with a Magen Avraham? Surely you must be joking, or I don’t understand what you are talking about, or both.
    ———-
    RJM 04/25/2010 11:58 PM in reply to Shimon
    What do you mean?
    ———-
    RJM 04/25/2010 11:58 PM in reply to hirhurim
    Please see my comment below – I should have posted it as a reply
    ———-
    Shimon 04/26/2010 12:05 AM in reply to RJM
    I mean that statement about M”A making everything else irrelevant.
    ———-
    guest 04/26/2010 12:30 AM
    First of all, Rabbi Sperber grossly misunderstands the Beis Yosef (the correct citation, by the way, is Orach Chaim 47, not 74). This is a direct translation of the Beis Yosef:

    The Agur also writes in the name of the Mahari Mollen [i.e., the Maharil] that women recite Birchos Hatorah [in the morning] even though they are not obligated – and not only that, but whoever teaches his daughter Torah is as if he has taught her folly. [The reason for this is that] this is regarding the Oral Torah, but not the Written Torah. Now, even though the language of the blessing “Laasok Bedivrei Torah” implies the Oral Torah, still one should not change from the text of blessings [even though a woman recites the blessing only for the Written Torah]. And furthermore, they must recite the blessing over reading the korbanos, as prayer – in which women are obligated – was instituted in place of the korbanos; if so, they are also obligated in reading the [portion of] the olah and [the other] korbanos. Certainly, according to the words of the Semag – who writes that women are obligated to learn te leaws that are applicable to them – [women should recite a blessing over Torah study].

    It is evident that the Beis Yosef/Agur/Maharil is expressing exactly the same opinion as “a number of critics” – that women cannot recite a blessing on behalf of men for a mitzvah in which they themselves are exempt.

    The citation of the Pri Megadim is truly amusing, because he explicitly differentiates between the morning Birchos HaTorah – which are Biblical in origin, applying to men and women but not children – and the Birchos HaTorah over the Torah reading – which are Rabbinical in origin, applying to men and children; but, by implication, inclusion in this obligation is not extended to women. [This is, by the way, the reason that children’s ability to receive aliyos is not a question: they were included in the (Rabbinical) commandment of Torah reading while women were not. See Taz 685:2, which also (by the way) has the clear implication that there is the same amount of “motzi” regarding Parshas Zachor and any other Torah reading.]

    As for whoever stated above that Rav Ovadia Yosef allows women to read the Torah, this is an astonishing statement as it directly contradicts the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch [and all the commentaries], which Rav Ovadia Yosef is notably loath to do. We will need a black and white source for this “ruling”.

    While there is a discussion about the inclusion of women in arvus, the general consensus of poskim is that women are not included in arvus for those mitzvos in which they are not obligated (see, for example, Sdei Chemed Vol. IV, Ayin 20-22).

    To conclude on the basis of this “argument” that women can read the Torah on behalf of men is by no means a halachic position.
    ———-
    Nachum 04/26/2010 01:18 AM
    Jumping forward a bit, egalitarianism has to stop somewhere, or else, within, say, a dozen generations, the distinction between kohanim, leviim, and yisraelim will disappear. (That is, if every daughter of a kohen is a kohen, and her kids are kohanim, etc., pretty soon everyone will be.) I wonder if Conservatism, which has been rubbing the distinction away, has ever considered this ultimate situation.

    (For that matter, Judaism itself would be effected. After all, isn’t the whole patrilineal/matrilineal descent distinction supremely unegalitarian?)
    ———-
    Jon_Brooklyn 04/26/2010 02:23 AM in reply to guest
    Wow, you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, huh? I guess that’s easy to do when you’re an anonymous “guest,” lashing out at (most likely) their betters. No, really, if you’re gonna bash R. Sperber and his argument, (when you claim “To conclude on the basis of this “argument” that women can read the Torah on behalf of men is by no means a halachic position.” then you’re bashing the person, believe it or not) own it, don’t be a coward.
    ———-
    Jennifer 04/26/2010 03:03 AM
    Gil-

    I don’t understand why you classify this as the “next” frontier. Aren’t there already orthodox groups allowing women’s aliyot and women’s reading? It seems like this is a phenomenon that already exists, and it doesn’t seem to have caught on.
    ———-
    steve mcqueen 04/26/2010 03:21 AM
    R Gil – you have missed the big argument that is used to support this! The post reads like a discussion of women’s aliyos, which is old hat, when you say you are going to deal with the next wave of innovations. One argument to support women fulfilling obligations on behalf of another is taken from nedarim – if a women has taken a mitva upon herself by way of a neder, she is biblically obligated to perform it; therefore she can perform it on behalf of a man who was biblically obligated to perform it in the first place. I thought you were going to discuss this.

    That said, I have not seen anyone pushing for this in O circles; the egalitarian families seem ok with Daddy making kiddush and Mummy making motzie – do you have any problems with this BTW?
    ———-
    cyberdov 04/26/2010 05:57 AM
    As usual, what is largely missing from this discussion is an attempt to grapple with the value of egalitarianism. If this is accepted, the halachic details will fall into place, based on existing sources. This is normal in the development of halacha.
    Regarding the status of kohanim and leviim – what terrible thing would happen if this were allowed to recede? We have learned to live without semicha, without the status of other nations e.g. amalek,…
    The best question was asked by the person who linked egalitarianism to the chosenness of the Jewish people. This is a question worth grappling with. Of course it is addressed in different ways by many thoughtful commentators over the centuries.
    ———-
    Nachum 04/26/2010 06:44 AM
    Cyberdov, why not just shut down Judaism altogether? I mean, come on. Nothing less egalitarian than all this stuff.
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 07:01 AM in reply to RJM
    I don’t understand your difficulty. The Magen Avraham had an understanding of the Gemara and was trying to incorporate it into his general understanding of halacha. You might be OK saying the Magen Avraham was wrong (you can’t say he doesn’t know the Gemara because he quotes it) but those who are interested in following the rulings of poskim might feel comfortable following the Magen Avraham’s approach.
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 07:02 AM in reply to Jennifer
    My point was that these sources have wider applicability in terms of women being motzi men. Did you read the quote from the Mekor Chaim?
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 07:04 AM in reply to steve mcqueen
    Steve McQueen: Read the last paragraph of the post. By the way, there is a trend in the left wing of women saying kiddush and/or making ha-motzi — even in shul. That’s not my thing.
    ———-
    Mike S. 04/26/2010 07:17 AM
    1 person liked this.
    It may be worth remembering that when Sara Schnier founded the first Beis Yaakov school the motive was seeing large numbers of Jewishly uneducated girls leaving the path of Torah when the went to gymnasium in response to mandatory schooling laws. Similarly, the Rav required girls in Maimonides to study gemara, and introduced it in Stern because he felt that women who were educated at a high level in secular subjects must have a comparable education in Torah if they are not to fall off the derech (to use an anachronistic phrase.)

    It would be nice if those who want to argue against increasing the involvement of women in communal life, whether as rabbis, shul presidents or in the synagogue would address the issue of how to avoid alienating girls in a society where it is normal for women to run government departments and whole countries, (in Israel this has at least the tacit acceptance of the religious parties) if we insist that their principal religious fulfillment must come from supporting their husbands’ and sons’ activities. How about some positive suggestion instead of just saying no to others ideas?

    If you will suggest we should isolate ourselves more, I will respond by pointing out that that seems to result in pushing the boundaries of d’oraitas (say, v’avta l’rayacha camocha, lo tichalilu at shem Kodshi and so on) at least as far as the left is pushing the envelope regarding the d’rabbanans you discuss in this post.
    ———-
    steve mcqueen 04/26/2010 07:33 AM
    Sorry to ask upon what is not your shitta in case you dont know, but I am interested – When you describe “women making kiddush in shul”, is this allowed because the person who makes kiddush in shul is not motzi anyone save the children who drink, but they would not make it at home for the husbands because of halachik concerns?

    And on your last para, it didnt see this as more than a passing reference to the neder concept- I only mentioned it because I would be interested in your spelling it out and your views on its efficacy
    ———-
    Skeptic 04/26/2010 08:37 AM in reply to hirhurim
    1 person liked this.
    “Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik recounted, in a response to a halacha
    l’ma’aseh question, in a public lecture at Yeshiva University on
    November 6, 1984, that a woman can — without any hesitation — recite
    kiddush even for a large group of people (men and women) in any
    circumstance, and that this was completely permissible (mutar
    le’chatchila), since no minyan is required for kiddush and therefore
    the group is not considered a tzibbur that need be concerned with its
    honor.” as reported by R. Michael Broyde.
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 08:48 AM in reply to Skeptic
    If there wasn’t an element of egalitarianism, I wouldn’t have a problem with it either. Depends on the situation. I suspect that in most cases there is an element of egalitarianism.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/26/2010 09:04 AM
    Skeptic-that is hardly a Chiddush. Both men and women are equally obligated in both Zachor and Shamor.
    ———-
    JLan 04/26/2010 09:44 AM in reply to Steve Brizel
    Steve- Skeptic was referring to Gil’s post, above, where he was complaining about women saying kiddush and/or motzi for the shul. Of course it’s no great chiddush, but it was eminently applicable to the conversation.

    More broadly, this conversation seems (especially with Gil’s response in reply to Skeptic) to be heading back towards a question of intent, which has often been a debate on these comment threads. Skeptic pointed out that there’s absolutely no halachic objection to the practice, while Gil argues that the reasoning behind it makes it unacceptable.

    I’m not entirely sure, though, where the distinction with egalitarianism comes in. Women might not want to do something because of egalitarianism, but might consider doing it because the society they have come from is generally more egalitarian. How we distinguish, though, between egalitarianism for egalitarianism’s sake and egalitarianism that is halachically acceptable and is based on a sincere desire is something that has not been answered here and that may not be possible to answer.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/26/2010 09:51 AM in reply to JLan
    Jlan-Thanks for the clarification. I think that if one reads the posts on all of the related issues , it can be seriously argued that the arguments have moved from what is merely halachically acceptable to egalitarianism for the sake of egalitarianism based on the trends in the secular world.
    ———-
    Skeptic 04/26/2010 10:41 AM in reply to Steve Brizel
    In which case, I think what Gil needs to write is a post explaining the mechanism by which “egalitarian motives” (or other motives) invalidate otherwise halachically acceptable practice. Such a post would really enhance the discussion, particularly the direction in which everyone seems to agree that the discussion is heading. And if the post were written that way, assuming the practice was indeed halachically acceptable, it would be quite powerful, especially for those who don’t even make that concession. Perhaps you will consider it Gil?
    ———-
    Skeptic 04/26/2010 11:01 AM
    By the way, I see this as major progress. After all the controversial posts on this topic over a few months, I think we are finally clarifying the issues and getting down to the core which seems to be: how bad motives invalidate otherwise halachically acceptable deeds. So all the arguing was worth it if we can now sit discuss that precise issue more carefully. This is an important angle which seems to be the undercurrent of much of the other discussion but has not been treated thoroughly and carefully with sources.
    ———-
    RJM 04/26/2010 11:13 AM in reply to Shimon
    Agreed.
    ———-
    RJM 04/26/2010 11:15 AM in reply to guest
    You are missing the point that although women are disqualified from reading because of kevod hatsibbur they are not intrinsically disqualified from reading because of issues of arevut. That was my point, and yes R Ovadiah says that in Hazon Ovadiah on Hilkhot Purim.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/26/2010 11:16 AM in reply to Skeptic
    Skeptic-have you seen RHS’s teshuvah on ETGs? I think that at least one section is devoted to the issue of proper or improper motives .
    ———-
    RJM 04/26/2010 11:18 AM in reply to hirhurim
    I am not trying to dismiss the importance of the MA but his view is not held by most Rishonim or the SA and is extremely difficult to reconcile with the gemara, which explicitly states that women are disqualified from reading Torah ONLY because of kevod hatsibbur and NOT because of arevut.
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 11:20 AM in reply to RJM
    I don’t think you are trying to understand the Magen Avraham on his own terms.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
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    hirhurim 04/26/2010 11:22 AM in reply to Skeptic
    R. Hershel Schachter wrote extensively about the issue of intent in his essay on Women’s Prayer Groups. See my posts on that subject (revised in my book based on discussions with him).

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
    ———-
    Pierre 04/26/2010 11:23 AM
    I remember on the UTJ list a year or so ago a discussion about women rabbis in Cons. vs. Orth settings – and it was pointed out by one member the obvious factor that rabbis serve different functions in each community, and that for this reason it could be arguably easier to have an Orthodox woman rabbi than a Conservative one – since in Orthodox communities since more functions can be performed by the observant laity – lacking in Conservative settings.
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 11:24 AM in reply to RJM
    There are some commentators who do not read kevod ha-tzibbur as being the exclusive reason. You may not like this approach but it exists.

    However, the point is the concept that the MA accepts, which is independent of his application of it to kerias ha-Torah.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
    ———-
    joel rich 04/26/2010 12:36 PM
    My comment on the issue elsewhere:

    From Alice in Wonderland:
    “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
    “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
    “I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
    “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat

    The question for R’YA, R’AW and anyone else is what model/model(s) [for those who believe there can be more than one derech to serve HKB”H] will be acceptable for orthodoxy. Will there be expanded roles for women or will they be asked to maintain their traditional roles? how will that work where secular society has changed? where orthodox society has changed?…. and as Dr. Bill points out, who really answers this question (other than HKB”H through history)

    IMHO there is some hoisting on/by their own petard of folks who argue “what can I do my hands are tied by (micro) halacha” on certain issues but then say “well, there is no clear (micro) halacha prohibition but we shouldn’t do it anyway” on others.

    Separate question: let’s say we can determine motivations – what % of “wrong” motivations makes it treif ? (rov, shishim, 1/1000…)
    KT
    ———-
    emma 04/26/2010 12:42 PM
    how does the “bad” motivations issue interact with the idea of nachas ruach lenashim?
    ———-
    HAGTBG 04/26/2010 12:42 PM in reply to hirhurim
    Did he specifically mention why egalitarianism for women is bad or did he just assume it was because it was modern and then discuss intent?
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    Michael_Rogovin 04/26/2010 12:49 PM
    2 people liked this.
    I think there is a problem with the intent argument. If something is permitted (as quoted by R Broyde in the name of RYBS), then how does one distinguish those who do it sincerely and those who do not.l Unless someone publicly declares their motives, the rest is speculation. I did BTW read the various WTG tshuvot which were analysed in a great article in Tradition, and on this subject, they were imho very weak. The motivation issue was based on presumptions which were absent from the participants and organizers that I knew personally.

    Many men do things with improper motivations all the time. We decry their improper motives, but we don’t attempt to prohibit or discourage their halachicly permitted activity.

    In one shul I attend the person who presents the dvar Torah makes kiddush (congregants give the sermon in the absence of the Rabbi). Why should a woman who gives the dvar Torah not make kiddush since it is ruled permissible?
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 12:56 PM in reply to HAGTBG
    He asserted that it is, although not necessarily because it is modern.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
    ———-
    DF 04/26/2010 01:03 PM
    “While everyone is still debating the current issue of women in rabbinic positions,”

    Sure. In the sense that everyone is still debating whether the world is still flat, whether the moon landing was a hoax, whether there’s a sea monster in Loch Ness.
    ———-
    RJM 04/26/2010 01:13 PM in reply to hirhurim
    It doesn’t have anything to do with my liking or not liking the view of MA. But when dealing with such a thorny subject it would seem wiser to stay within the most established, mainstream views of Rishonim and Acharonim rather than foraying into positions of the M”A that are dachuq to begin with. That was my point. Still not sure why this is not obvious except perhaps for the fact that YOU don’t like it.
    ———-
    HAGTBG 04/26/2010 01:28 PM in reply to hirhurim
    If he just asserted it, then that doesn’t address the issue here raised by Skeptic.
    ———-
    david 04/26/2010 02:52 PM in reply to hirhurim
    Odd – I never knew (until recently, listening to a podcast from R’ Rakeffet/Rothkopf) that women saying hamotzi had any feminist implications. I always assumed the opposite – that women were associated with making challah so that’s why they say hamotzi at the shabbos table.
    ———-
    Joseph Kaplan 04/26/2010 03:29 PM in reply to david
    Or, because, as we’ve been told so often, men have the public role and women the home role, and what can be “homey” than making hamotzi. All of which goes to show that determining “motivation,” by anyone other than God is a difficult chore, indeed. I would argue, therefore, that basing halachic decisions on broad assertions of “motivation” is fraught with danger.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/26/2010 03:51 PM
    i think motivation or intent is a most difficult endeavor. i also would be interested to see a post that examines the issue with some historical context. i cannot remember an instance where intent/motivation has been used in a positive sense to allow anything. it is usually used to disallow someone or an act (from the perspective an chadask tachet hashemesh) e.g. bat mitzvah,women’s tefilah groups.

    another issue i would be interested in gearing about would be the idea that how is it possible that the moment in time when you live does not effect your sensibility which in effects influence halacha. how does living in a democracy with equality for all, where women are intellectual equal to men – not effect us?

    was all our women important – a concept to allow women to recline at the seder not influenced by time that the rabbi who decreed this live (13-14th century)? was he influence by the society at large?

    i think this is the issue that needs to be investigated in detail. i also think that how you approach torah min hashamayim will effect the outcome of the thought process.
    ———-
    Moshe Y 04/26/2010 04:28 PM
    R. Gil I don’t think the issue of fulfilling someone else’s obligations is actually relevant to why women are disqualified from leading the different parts of the prayer service, in most cases. As others have pointed out, women are disqualified from Torah reading not b/c of direct obligation issues but b/c of kvod hatzibur (though in my opinion kvod hatzibur itself is b/c women are not obligated in Torah reading, but this is an indirect reason). As for chazarat hashatz, women are obligated in the amida, and as far as I can tell are precluded from being chazzan only b/c they don’t count in the minyan. This also has nothing to do with obligation. (Though it has become popular to say women don’t count in a minyan b/c they are not obligated in communal prayer, this is not the universally accepted reason; many poskim don’t count women for minyanim in things in which they are obligated, like gomel, and many poskim don’t consider minyan an obligation at all). Maybe the only area where fulfilling someone else’s obligation in the prayer service is a relevant disqualifying factor for women is the Shema service. Also, blowing shofar on rosh hashana
    ———-
    gilamminadav 04/26/2010 05:29 PM
    LQ”Y

    I do not understand the mindset of those who affirm the right of a community to “deviate” from the Ge’onic and Talmudic tradition (mesora) in response to the needs and circumstances of the members of the community, yet deny the right of other communities to do the same. If you want to follow the Tosafists, or R. Asher b. Yehiel, or the author of the Magen Avraham, or the “posqim,” or whomever, with the explanation of “This is how halakha is a living system and this is how God’s instructions are applied to life,” then fine, but by the same token, any other community can do the same, and need not follow your own “deviations” in particular.

    If you want to add to the Torah’s prohibition and say it is prohibited to eat corn on Pesach, okay…if someone else wants to add to the Torah’s prohibition and say it is prohibited to eat meat of any animal during the week, then by the same thought process – okay. If you want to disregard the “honor” due to the congregation and pile “tircha” upon “tircha” with long speeches, extraneous and esoteric liturgical poems, other non-mandatory additions and recitations, etc – okay…and if someone else wants to disregard the “honor” due to the congregation and seeks to fulfill his or her obligation by listening to a woman read from the Torah, then by the same thought process – also okay.

    I don’t personally agree with all the hypothetical perspectives I’ve mentioned above, and I don’t understand why the word “egalitarian” seems to be so odious to a lot of people (it’s just a word, and means different things to different people), but I think some folks could better realize how far their own Jewish lives, as individuals and as participants in greater communities, “deviate” from the Talmudic and Ge’onic tradition before dismissing the halakhic choices of other individuals and other communities as necessarily problematic because they “deviate” (differently).
    ———-
    emma 04/26/2010 05:30 PM in reply to ruvie
    1 person liked this.
    honest question: can someone give an example – unrelated to gender – of something being forbidden due to (potential, presumed, or actual) motive?
    ———-
    ej 04/26/2010 05:33 PM
    Feminism has had different waves beginning with the campaign to secure an equal vote for women The most radical version of feminism was the second wave against which there was a backlash during the Reagan- Thatcher area. Second wave feminism crashed and burnt because it was a general revolt against patriarchy and male dominance which the world was not ready to endorse. Lesbians arose to positions of leadership and drove even the feminists up a wall with their challenges to hetero-normativity and the family. We now have, since around 1990 the third wave, with its emphasis on the abuse of minorities; women, but also the minority flavor of the month, the latest being transsexuals. A fourth wave is coming any decade now.

    Critics of Orthodox feminism assume that the future will be a regression to second wave feminism, things like women’s separatism into their own tefila groups, radical egalitarianism of the type outlined here. It need not be this way. I can’t speak for JOFA or Orthodox women, but the following seems to me a reasonable compromise. Alleviate in a significant way the terrible abuses of women, and men can strut about the synagogue any way they please. Here are just a few of the abuses…There are thousands and probably tens of thousands cases of spousal abuse each year, guys beating their wives, with virtually nothing being done to prevent this. The shiduchim process is totally corrupt, with the bocherim selling themselves for money and the girls being pushed into a position of dependency they cannot fight. We end up with a shiduch crisis, the brunt of which is born by girls from poor families. Women should be allowed an equal voice in how many children a couple should have, and how they are spaced, without being branded a moredes. And of course the agunah thing which if left up to men will never be resolved.

    What Orthodox conservatives should recognize is that the economic position of women has turned significantly in favor of women. Most families need two breadwinners. It is understandable that now more than ever, men would want to maintain their symbolic positions of dominance…shliach tzibur, baal korehs, kidush makers, rabbis, and on and on. But they are much weaker now than they were in the 1950s and it is outrageous that so little progress has been made on the substantive issues affecting women . ej.
    ———-
    Michael_Rogovin 04/26/2010 05:48 PM
    I do not agree with the movement toward partnership minyanim and full egalitarianism. It just seems to deviate from the mesora so much that it needs more of a basis than a couple of articles in a journal. Having said that, it does appear to me in listening to arguments against these innovations that some of the same arguments could be made against other practices (this was also noted above in someone else’s post. But for whatever reason, when it comes to women’s roles, that is where the line is drawn. There is always a way around the objection, except here. This is what I and (I think) others find so troubling. I’ve seen it in the arguments against WTG, mixed kriya, women reciting kiddush, women rabbis, etc.

    I suppose the other unanswered point is if we are to trust in the Torah giants, who are they? If the MO community does not follow the moetzes, do they count in forming a consensus opinion? How about the Edah Haredis? Clearly the Agudah does not look to the RCA leadership on halachic issues — should we look to them? This is very tricky and ultimately defines what is and is not acceptable to the MO community.

    However, on parthership minyanim, it may not matter. Just about every MO rabbi who historically appeared at Edah and JOFA conferences and gave support to women taking on greater roles have rejected these minyanim outright, either in theory or practice or both. So there is really very little rabbinical support for growth of these minyanim.
    ———-
    emma 04/26/2010 06:04 PM in reply to ej
    To push the second/thir wave comparison a bit, just as second-wave white middleclass feminists are often accused by later generations of not caring about the problems of poor women of color, one might submit that the suburban middle class modern orthodox feminists are not really interested in any of the problems faced by women in more “right wing” circles. The exception is agunah, because it crosses community lines and can affect MO women too.
    Most of the women in circles where ritual egalitarianism is on the table take for granted that they will have input into their family size and are generally not in shiduch world you describe. Intimate violence is a wider societal phenomenon that also crosses lines, but you don’t generally have rabbis saying it is ok, at least in the usa, so it is seen as more of a social problem akin to drugs or gambling. (In Israel the cavalier attitude of batei din to violence against women is, in fact, a live issue for orthodox feminists, again because they are all potentially subject to bet din rule.)
    Perhaps modern orthodox women will, in the future, identify with yeshivish and chasidish women and be inspired to work on the issues you discuss, but i am not holding my breath. Whether some sort of women’s movement will come out of the right-wing world itself is a more interesting question. I’m curious on the paths from which you think such a thing might emerge.
    ———-
    hirhurim 04/26/2010 06:16 PM
    The general argument I have been hearing is that women have achieved equal rights and opportunities with men in all areas of their lives and must be given similarly equal rights and opportunities in religion. It’s been posted to the comments section of this blog time and again. How is that not a motivation based on egalitarianism?

    Of course, every person is general. But this is not an issue that can be decided on a case by case basis. You have to look at our community as a whole.
    ———-
    Joseph Kaplan 04/26/2010 06:41 PM in reply to hirhurim
    That’s not the argument Gil, as I see it. It’s that halacha treats women differently in some ways and Jewish society (and not halacha) ,treated women differently in other ways similar to the way secular society treated women. So without changing what halacha demands (i.e., there are red lines and this is NOT egalitarianism which, as you see in other denominations, cares less, if at all, about such lines), people are raising the question what societal treatments, as opposed to halachic requirements, can be changed because Jewish treatment has been changing (e.g., high level talmud torah) and general society has changed. You might not agree with that argument either (might not is a euphemism, I guess), but it’s not is egalitarianism. As for your prediction that it will turn out to be egalitarianism, well, you may be right, but you know what the Talmud says about prophecy in our time. 🙂
    ———-
    HAGTBG 04/26/2010 06:48 PM in reply to hirhurim
    Gil the fact that a person assumes that are equal does not make it a motivation. Maybe the first generation must affirmatively decide to confront the matter. But you said it yourself: “women have achieved equal rights and opportunities with men in all areas of their lives.”

    Whatever motivates an individual woman (or man), who knows? I do not and I don’t care how learned a rabbi is, without having met a person or knowing them in the least, they can’t do it either. That many women presume they are equal and argue against your arguments they are not, does not make it a motivation of theirs.

    It’s like making an argument against someone giving a speech about fish because they assume they have a right to speak. Maybe they just enjoy fishing and are not bothered by the presumption they should be blocked from it. Its so deeply ingrained its just an assumption.

    And that’s putting aside your (and so many others) utter failure to explain why feminism is per se bad. You use it as a canard and an assumption. Yet “women have achieved equal rights and opportunities with men in all areas of their ” and society still stands. “Women have achieved equal rights and opportunities with men in all areas of their.” and there are Orthodox women still; Orthodoxy and much of feminism is not incompatible as far as I can tell and after 50 years of this issue (and multiple times being raised in this forum) one would hope someone as smart as yourself would be able to construct an argument actually backing their view as to why its always (or even normally) bad.
    ———-
    HAGTBG 04/26/2010 06:55 PM in reply to Joseph Kaplan
    Joseph Kaplan, why do you join Gil in his assumption that the words ‘egalitarian’ and ‘feminist’ are per se bad words to be avoided? What are there about this words that make Orthodox feminist an impossibility? (Note: I truly don’t consider myself a feminist; I just have not understood this opposition to it for a long while)
    ———-
    Mike S. 04/26/2010 07:09 PM
    2 people liked this.
    I would like to rephrase my question or challenge from this morning. Given that women grow up in a world of equality in the secular sphere, where they can choose a range of roles, both public and private, how do you either:

    1) Find a sufficiently rich choice of religious roles without pushing the envelope in ways you find unacceptable

    or

    2) Educate girls and women so that the contrast between the range of secular roles available to them and the narrow religious role does not alienate them.
    ———-
    Joseph Kaplan 04/26/2010 08:47 PM in reply to HAGTBG
    I certainly don’t think, and have never said or implied, that “feminist” is a bad word; if I thought that, I wouldn’t have described myself more than once (in part) an Orthodox feminist. As for egalitarian, I don’t think it’s bad either; I just think that pure egalitarianism (i.e., no differences at all in the way men and women are treated in Judaism, which is what I think we’re talking about) is incompatible with Orthodoxy. Even you say it: “MUCH of feminism” is not incompatible with Orthodoxy which means that “some” is. Maybe I wish that weren’t the case, but the reality, as I see it, is that complete egalitarianism cannot exist within Orthodoxy. So I’d rather not use it because it raises red flags for some who are not, as Gil is, opposed to many of the things that Orthodox feminists support.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/26/2010 08:57 PM
    Joseph Kaplan wrote:

    “It’s that halacha treats women differently in some ways and Jewish society (and not halacha) ,treated women differently in other ways similar to the way secular society treated women. So without changing what halacha demands (i.e., there are red lines and this is NOT egalitarianism which, as you see in other denominations, cares less, if at all, about such lines), people are raising the question what societal treatments, as opposed to halachic requirements, can be changed because Jewish treatment has been changing (e.g., high level talmud torah) and general society has changed. You might not agree with that argument either (might not is a euphemism, I guess), but it’s not is egalitarianism. As for your prediction that it will turn out to be egalitarianism, well, you may be right, but you know what the Talmud says about prophecy in our time.”

    One need not be a prophet to understand that secular egalitarianism is one of the driving forces behind “Orthodox feminism.”
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/26/2010 09:11 PM
    Here is a simple challenge to the advocates of egalitarianism-The Torah grants the husband the exclusive power to grant a Get. I can see the advocates of egalitarianism going well beyond a PNA and simply arguing that “justice”, “fairness”, ” yesh koach Byad Chachamim LaAkor Davar Min HaTorah” , “kavod habriyos” or some similarly vague rationale that one can drive a truck through and simply abolishing this unequivocal obligation that is rooted solely with a man. That logic and similar logic, as attractive as it is, cannot be reconciled in any manner with the Mesorah. I think that someone who cannot recognize that Mesorah is the white space between the black lines of Halacha and TSBP is missing a huge Ikar in his or her Ikarei Emunah. Like it or not, Halacha is not a DIY system that we adjust on the fly to meet a Zeitgeist , take a hit and move on as if nothing happened. I think that this issue has brought to the fore the fact that MO needs as much as possible a sense of the CS’s courage in saying no and an ability to say Havdalah as much as it likes to say Kiddush over the phenomena of contemporary society.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/26/2010 09:35 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    steve – please define mesorah. you use it so often i wonder how you define it.

    with regards to “the torah grants the husband the exclusive power to grant a get” – whats so horrible in letting women have a fighting chance in divorce. what would be so terrible if a woman could go to a bet din and demand a divorce which it could enforce against the husband (to equal the playing field? didn’t our sages institute the ketubah to protect women’s rights(wrong word but you should understand what i mean) in a marriage? why is that ok? and not interfering with mesorah at that time? isn’t mesorah changing through time?
    ———-
    HAGTBG 04/26/2010 09:58 PM in reply to Joseph Kaplan
    “pure egalitarianism … is incompatible with Orthodoxy.” So? Is there any value that, taken to its extreme, is? Jewish law is not completely democratic either but are you going to have a problem saying you are a democrat, in the traditional sense. (After I wrote that I realized that democracy is an egalitarian concept as well.) Yes, feminism or egalitarianism, unconstrained by other values and taken to its logical conclusion, is contrary to halacha. We are not talking about that. As you know we live in a world of competing values and we balance those values. Feminism today is not (for the most part) bra-burning or anti-family. Egalitarianism doesn’t mean throwing down every social institution so we can all leave equally in squalor. Letting Gil (or Steve) narrow the term to describe what only a minority advance, and that minority barely connected to the halachic world at that, gets one nothing since they’ll mean it always to be against women doing whatever they don’t like, regardless of actual motivation (look at Gil assuming most women want acknowledgment of their learning for primarily feminist reasons).
    ———-
    Joseph Kaplan 04/26/2010 10:07 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    I am not a prophet and I do not know that. And, quite frankly, you don’t know that either Steve, though you like to say it.
    ———-
    Joseph Kaplan 04/26/2010 10:09 PM in reply to HAGTBG
    I don’t think we’re really disagreeing; indeed, I think we’re really on almost the exact same wavelength though, for some reason, that’s not coming through.
    ———-
    Joseph Kaplan 04/26/2010 10:17 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    1 person liked this.
    Great example. to show how we differ. The halacha says a man must give his wife a get. Unfortunately, we know that some men, too many men, take advantage of this to oppress their unfortunately not-ex wives. And yes, I know all about the PNA which is useful but by no means a completely satisfactory solution to this blight on halacha. So what an Orthodox feminist says is: use every bit of halachic talent and ingenuity to solve this problem; look not for chumrot but kulot; stretch the halacha without breaking it; show courage in the face of those who will call you non-orthodox. Yes, we argue “justice” and “fairness” — was not “justice” Abraham’s challenge to God — but we bow to the absolute requirements of halacha. Fairness and justice might not be able to trump absolute halachic requirements, but they should serve as an impetus to true halachic leaders to search for a real solution without violating those requirements. I understand you disagree; just wanted to pout it out there picking up on your example.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/26/2010 10:37 PM in reply to Joseph Kaplan
    Joseph Kaplan-Avraham Avinu spread Malchus HaShem, was the paradigm of Chesed and entered into an eternal covenant with HaShem Yisborach before he prayed for the inhabitants of Sdom. We emulate the Midos of the Avos, but we are by no means on their spiritual level.

    We live in an imperfect world. Thinking that we can solve all problems with utopiam solutions or dismissing real world solutions because they are not “compleletely satisfactory solutions” is utopian LW arrogance when we really have to Mvatel Rtzonecha Lifnei Rtzono a lot more than we do. In the meantime, I await the day when the advocates of complete solutions applaud the author of the PNA and demonstrate outside the home or office of someone who refuses to give a get.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/26/2010 10:44 PM in reply to ruvie
    Ruvie-Mesorah is understanding that the white space between the letters of a Sefer Torah or any Torah work is the Neshama of the Torah amd that the deciphering of the same in any generation is reserved for the Chachmei HaMesorah.

    The right to give a Get is placed exclusively with the husband. However, Chazal, Rishonim and Acharonim have already relaxed requirements for evidence and testimony in cases of Agunos and the PNA, which is already in great use within the YU/RIETS world has helped tremendously. without interfering with the Gzeras HaKasuv that the husband initiate the process.
    ———-
    JLan 04/26/2010 11:14 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    “amd that the deciphering of the same in any generation is reserved for the Chachmei HaMesorah.”

    While halacha should certainly be deciphered by those with familiarity with halacha and with history, the above quotation seems about one stepping stone away from giving “da’as torah” as an answer to everything. It’s a little disturbing to me, particularly as so many who are frequently called “chachamim” and “gedolim” have little to do with any sort of an actual congregation and with the actual man (or woman) on the street. For that matter, few of them are involved in other positions of broad communal interaction, as was R’ Soloveitchik at Maimonides.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/26/2010 11:45 PM
    steve – your definition of mesorah sounds more like a hashkafic or mussar shmooze rather than a definition with any clear examples of what it is and isn’t. i would ask if mesorah is fixed or changes through time? is mesorah defined anywhere and at any given point? your definition sounds (as noted by jlan) like daat torah commercial.

    the question remains about the enactment of the ketubah. wasn’t this done to correct the imbalance of power that men had over women at the time? if so, is that a slap against the mesorah at that point in time?
    isn’t it possible that in each generation we try help the balance of abuse of power of the strong over the weak ? what so un-jewish or un- mesorah about that?

    another plane – the pejorative use of feminism/egalitarianism as undue outside (jewish) influence that equates to agendas (and therefore treif) is very selective here. i wold ask gil and steve – is not the development of zionism a direct outgrowth of pan nationalism of the 19th century and therefore should be treif because of intent and non jewish values?
    ———-
    Charlie Hall 04/26/2010 11:47 PM in reply to Jennifer
    The group in my neighborhood that has women’s aliyot and women’s torah reading does not publicly advertise itself as orthodox. (I don’t know what they call themselves with each other; I’ve never attended.)
    ———-
    HAGTBG 04/26/2010 11:49 PM in reply to Joseph Kaplan
    Then I apologize. I find I agree with much of what you write.
    ———-
    Charlie Hall 04/26/2010 11:49 PM in reply to hirhurim
    1 person liked this.
    This is ridiculous. A woman can make kiddush for me. A woman can not blow shofar for me. That isn’t egalitarianism, that is halachah! If you don’t like it; try another religion.
    ———-
    Charlie Hall 04/26/2010 11:57 PM in reply to joel rich
    Rabbi Avi Weiss has made it quite clear over and over again in numerous public statements and writings that he does not believe in egalitarian Judaism.

    Regarding “traditional roles”; one should remember that the 1950s model of male breadwiner and female homemaker is pretty much dead in most modern Orthodox communities. My wife has a higher income than me and that is not uncommon in my community. The Agudath Israel approach will generate no support here; saying that women serving in public roles is a problem in tzniut is laughed at by the families with female professors, physicians, lawyers, accountants, businesswomen….
    ———-
    madamimadamii 04/27/2010 12:00 AM
    Hamotzi? Does anyone seriously question whether nashim are chayavot in birchot hanehenin? Is their chiyyuv gezel only miderabbanan?

    But why is anyone making hamotzi in shul when they shouldn’t eat there?
    ———-
    Richard Kahn 04/27/2010 12:08 AM
    Also, the Charedi model in which the women is the primary moneymaker while the husband learns is arguably more anti-traditional gender roles than the MO model. What a lack of respect for mesorah. . .
    ———-
    Richard Kahn 04/27/2010 12:09 AM
    Also, just fyi Charlie, of the people who daven at that minyan, some call themselves (and that minyan) Orthodox, while some claim that labels don’t matter.
    ———-
    Charlie Hall 04/27/2010 01:09 AM in reply to HAGTBG
    Every one of these philophies is partially consistent with Torah, and partially inconsistent. I see no justification for trashing feminism when we don’t trash free market capitalism which from a halachic perspective is just as problematic if not more so.

    (On second thought, maybe we *should* trash all the isms. I am stunned when I encounter supposedly frum Jews who are admirers of Ayn Rand.)
    ———-
    gilamminadav 04/27/2010 01:11 AM in reply to Charlie Hall
    LQ”Y

    I agree with you. I think, though, that in order for that perspective to be tenable, the corpus of settled law has to be set and defined – and agreed upon. I would wager that the casuistic approach to law precludes the possibility of settled law in theory, and the philosophical/theological/cosmological approaches preclude the possibility of settled law in actuality.

    [The latter is more relevant to the points raised above, in others’ posts, in connection to what is basically a recourse to essentialist ideologies of law, in the near-automatic dismissal of words like “egalitarian” from “acceptable” descriptions of Jewish law itself. As far as I understand, law (especially Jewish law) is a process originating in the active evaluation of multiple values and following a trajectory in development and application. To say that Jewish law is inherently not egalitarian because of its expression within certain circumstances which did not allow for a particular societal remedy, for which present circumstances do allow, seems to me to be like saying that Jewish law is inherently not humanitarian because it was once expressed within circumstances that did not allow for the abolition of the institution of human slavery. There is a legal process for introducing change to the law, and the fact that it is not followed today does not mean that it doesn’t exist.]

    For example, according to Jewish settled law, an Israelite woman may put on a tallith and tefillin. On Shabbath she may make the Qiddush for herself, her husband, and her children, and after Shabbath has departed she may make the Havdala for them as well. Yet there are some people who do not believe in “settled law,” due to whatever personal ideologies they hold, and would identify such a woman as one who is “deviating” from what is “accepted/acceptable” legal practice.

    When presented with a choice between ideology and law, what is the Rabbinic legal term for someone who chooses ideology over law?
    (Edited by author 3 months ago)
    ———-
    Charlie Hall 04/27/2010 01:12 AM in reply to Steve Brizel
    I know an agunah activist. Not once has she ever suggested to me that halachah should be changed — and I have a good enough relationship with her that I suspect that she would tell me if she thought that it should be changed. She does criticize the rabbinate for not using all the halachic tools that do exist to solve agunah issues.
    ———-
    Moshe Y 04/27/2010 01:38 AM in reply to gilamminadav
    1 person liked this.
    “For example, according to Jewish settled law, an Israelite woman may put on a tallith and tefillin”

    That’s factually incorrect; according to settled halacha, women may NOT put on tefillin, as per the psak of bet yosef, rema, reiterated by R. Moshe Feinstein and others. Also, Rema prohibits women from wearing tallit which would seem to mean ashkenazi women can not do so.
    ———-
    gilamminadav 04/27/2010 02:22 AM in reply to Moshe Y
    LQ”Y

    (Case in point, regarding those who don’t believe in settled law…)

    Moshe, how can the legal opinions of individual authors (which you suggest should be thought of as “pisqei halakha”) be considered settled law? Settled law requires a supreme court’s decision, not an individual author’s fiat.

    It seems to me that the “authoritative opinions” model you claim in your statements of Jewish legal “fact” is at odds with the “settled law” model employed by the rabbis. Remember, who counts as a member of the auspicious body of “authoritative opinions” is all a matter of…opinion.

    You can pick the author of the Beith Yosef, R. Moshe Isserless, R. Moshe Feinstein, etc. Someone else can pick R. Moshe Mendelsson or R. Shabthai Tsvi. That is the “danger” of the path of “authoritative opinions.”
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:30 AM in reply to hirhurim
    I don’t understand what you mean, so maybe you can be more specific. First, the gemara is clear that women read from the torah meikar hadin and the problem is only kavod hatzibur. If so, clearly the bracha is not the problem, the problem is kavod hatzibur! The dominant approach to krias hatorah is that the obligation is on the tzibur not the individual. Even if the individual is obligated, the bracha is probably what the olah is saying and is not “motzi” anyone. Even if they are motzi others, the woman is obligated in teh bracha is she does read just like men. The whole discussion seems spurious. It’s not a birkas hamtizva -but if it is one, shes obligated. Now what sources say what to the contrary?
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:33 AM in reply to hirhurim
    What is your argument? Are you saying that in fact one CAN justify women being motzi men when the man’s obligation is drabbanon, and its a terrible idea. OR that one CAN’t, the sources are really against it, but ppl. will dredge up sources and claim it’s technically permissible when it’s not. IOW Do you think the argument that it’s technically permissible is correct and one must not permit it for various reasons or do you think it’s incorrect.
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:36 AM in reply to hirhurim
    source please and possibly a quote
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:41 AM in reply to hirhurim
    R Mendel Shapiro in his article quotes Rav Henkin zecher tzaddik levracha as having said that the only problem with aliyas is machzik ydei ovrei aveira (reform movements, and whether this is the same issue today is a separat question). He says R Henkin zt”l said that we have a baal koreh today and this practice is not in line with the bavli where women read themselves and the issue is kovod hatzibbur, but mirrors the tosefta, and therefore meikar hadin it’s mutar for women to get aliyas (again, he assered for extraneous reasons). So – did R Henkin zt”l’s approach contradict the MA? And if so, must we take the MA into account? Anyway, I’d appreciate it if you clarify the MA or at least give a source
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:50 AM in reply to Moshe Y
    The only reason that women aren’t counted in a minyan is that the drasha this is learned from. Everything else is just speculation.

    As a point of interest, it seems striking to me that both schar halicha and the schar of arichas yamim for regular attendance at minyan is taught by chazal through the examples of women. If as you point out for many , communal prayer is a desideratum but not an obligation, it would seem equally desirable for women and all the maalot of tefila betzibur apply to women equally as to men. Perhaps the issue of schachen ra doesnt apply to women so we don’t demand they come. But clearly, even communal prayer is an obligation for men and not merely desirable, women aren’t obligated b/c they are not part of the community that forms the minyan, and not the other way around, that they are not part of the minyan b/c of not being obligated in communal prayer. Communal prayer flows from obligation in minyan, and not the reverse.
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:55 AM in reply to ej
    I don’t think the egalitarian movement in orthodoxy is about any of the issues you raise. The movement is motivated by women who want to learn and have equality in torah and mitzvos. The rest of your issues are laregely issues of those who are not interested in egalitarianism (not that I am endorsing your formulation of the issues or stipulating to their existence). I do agree that the egalitarian-minded should look to what happened in the conservative movement when women got equal rights and men stopped showing up in shul (your final paragraph touches on this)
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/27/2010 09:59 AM
    Ruvie wrote:

    “steve – your definition of mesorah sounds more like a hashkafic or mussar shmooze rather than a definition with any clear examples of what it is and isn’t. i would ask if mesorah is fixed or changes through time? is mesorah defined anywhere and at any given point? your definition sounds (as noted by jlan) like daat torah commercial”

    Ruvie-see R Asher Weiss’s discussion of Ratzon HaTorah in Minchas Asher ( IIRC, it is in the volume of shiurim on Sefer Devarim) as well as RYBS’s shiur on Parshas Korach and the comments of the Rishonim on the phrases “Emunas Chachamim” and “Shimesh Chachamim” in the Braissa that forms the “sixth perek” of Pirkei Avos. Emunas Chachamim and Shimush Chachamim are very important aspects of how one learns Torah. RYBS stated that even if someone had learned thru all of Shas by himself, that was a worthless accomplishment ( “gornisht vert” as quoted by RHS) because he did not have a rebbe to show him the ins and outs and between the lines. Many of us think that Daas Torah is a 20th Century doctrine , which it is as refined by R E Wasserman, ZL, HaShem Yimkam Damo, but Chazal were keenly aware of the need for both Emunas Chachamim and Shimush Chachamim, which are issues that surface throughout Shas and Rishonim.
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 10:06 AM in reply to hirhurim
    The issue is that women have achieved equality in secular education and must have equal opportuntiy in learning torah…is that an issue based on egalitiarianism? Or rather, based on realities. To wit, that secularly educated women need to understand torah in a manner compatible with their appreciation of other matters or they will be turned away at worst, or come to think of torah as lesser than their secular pursuits, or simply not actualize themsleves as jews as they are capable of doing. similarly, women who achieve equality in other areas of their lives apart from education start having questions about why they are not participating in mitzvos equally. You can call the desire to participate more fully egalitarianism, but the question is why is wrong to desire to perform mitzvos and more than to learn torah? I agree the issues are different and learning torah is more basic. But not all men see torah learning as their main area of avodas hashem either
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 10:12 AM in reply to Charlie Hall
    there are lots of charedi women who earn more than their husbands kollel check 🙂 Seriously, charedim do not oppose women working in the professions. Some professions are more popular than others, but surely you have heard of charedi businesswomen, accountants, even the occasional charedi professor (go look at the staff in brooklyn college)
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/27/2010 10:37 AM in reply to Charlie Hall
    Why is it that the so called “aguna activists” were the greatest supporters of R Rackman ZL’s Beth Din, which R Broyde, argued quite persasively, failed to comply with halachic norms and are remarkably silent in terms of even expressing a POV on the RCA PNA or are nowhere to be seen with respect to picketing the homes and offices of men who refuse to give a get/
    ———-
    Correction 04/27/2010 11:11 AM in reply to Steve Brizel
    See the Shulchan Aruch 271 (and specifically the Magen Avraham) and see the Bach in the Tur there and also see the Baal HaTanya’s Shulchan Aruch 271:6 and you’ll realize that it is, indeed, quite a chiddush.
    ———-
    Michael_Rogovin 04/27/2010 11:54 AM in reply to Steve Brizel
    I think that is just false. PNA are the norm and strongly encouraged in the activist circles I travel in, though there are problems with them that are discussed. I have not seen many calls for picketing recalcitrant husbands lately but the few I have seen had broad support. PNAs do not help those who are agunot and unfortunately are not widely used in Israel from what I understand. They should be a requirement of any marriage there or here.
    ———-
    Joseph Kaplan 04/27/2010 12:50 PM
    How many YU RY have picketed? 10% ? 50%? All of them? I wonder. And what percentage of RCA rabbis have picketed? I also wonder? My experience in speaking what you call “agunah activists” is similar to Michael’s; they strongly support the use of the PNA although they understand it’s serious limitations. And, I don’t think its enforceability has been tested in court yet. The PNA and picketing are fine and should be encouraged but they are not sufficient. I remember erading baout an ongoing picket against one man who refused to give a get which was led by a rabbi who is the son of a friend of mine. I was proud of the stand he took, but last I heard, there was still no get.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/27/2010 02:04 PM
    steve – i was interested in a definition of mesorah and whether its fixed or changes as time goes on. emunat chachamin to daat torah is a different subject (imho) and although interesting not my interest here. or do you believe mesorah is only what our current rabbis tell us it is regardless of history.

    ratzon hatorah – i have no idea what is or what represents. but wil look up rybhs comments on korach. do not have r weiss’s book – maybe you can give a 2 line definition.

    to my reference to the development of the ketubah please answer. also, didn’t our sages institute changes to correct perceived weakness in torah law during their time? due outside influences not effect our mesorah — e.g. did christian europe law(or custom) in marrying only one wife not lead to the enactment of rebeinu gershon?
    ———-
    ConservativeJ 04/27/2010 02:50 PM
    1 person liked this.
    It’s Rabbi Roth. Would you say Professor Soloveitchik ?
    ———-
    MiMedinat HaYam 04/27/2010 03:04 PM in reply to Michael_Rogovin
    the aguda does NOT follow their moetzet — the moetzet follows the aguda.

    anyway, there should be a disclaimer “moetzet of their gedolim”, not necessarily our gedolim.
    ———-
    ej 04/27/2010 03:06 PM in reply to emma
    I feel the way Orthodox feminists can move forward is to change the conversation away from the increase in ritual opportunities. If the question is giving women an aliyah, conservative Orthodox will fight forever, and will quote a small army of dead rabbis that agree with them. Talk about the right of a woman to have greater, not necessarily equal, opportunities to develop their careers and pursue their interests, and the misogyny becomes open and visible. I want to argue about the idea that women should be barefoot and pregnant, or how much sharing of burdens between men and women inside a marriage is reasonable. And I would like to see a day when a young women who wants to become an oncologist doesn’t have to worry that she has a good chance of remaining an old maid. These issues are real and more pressing than legitimating the Shira Chadasha model throughout the Orthodox world.

    The core problem facing all Orthodox women in a modern world is how to balance their work with their obligations to their children and husband. Feminists should try to bring about changes that help women find better solutions relative to their situation. Charedi women suffer more than college educated MO professional women, but the structural problem is pretty much the same across the spectrum, especially when we adjust for class differences. If a woman knew that the inequalities in opportunity were a subject for discussion, where she had an equal voice, the demand for a more egalitarian distribution of religious roles would be less significant. I am not arguing against change in religious opportunities. What I am saying is there should be some lexical ordering…real problems are of far greater importance than ritual/ symbolic issues
    ———-
    MiMedinat HaYam 04/27/2010 03:09 PM in reply to ruvie
    but halacha clearly does not permit one to just say : i want a divorce — no reason. (if the other party does not agree).

    yet, the RCA bet din (and ruvie, and other posters here) clearly advocates one can.
    ———-
    MiMedinat HaYam 04/27/2010 03:13 PM in reply to Joseph Kaplan
    “the halacha” does NOT say “a man must give his wife a get”, unless they are agreeable (just like a woman must agree to accept a get).

    some women (just like some, not many, men) take advantage …

    the PNA does not address this issue.

    and orthodox feminists do NOT address this issue. its NOT an issue for them.
    ———-
    MiMedinat HaYam 04/27/2010 03:26 PM
    “the egalitarian families seem ok with Daddy making kiddush and Mummy making motzie – do you have any problems with this BTW?”

    its an explicit gemara in kezad mevarchim: “baal habayit botzeia”

    2. the ketuba was also enacted in response to (pre) muslim practice of ketuba — a muslim husband can divorce his wife for no / any reason, but he must repay her her dowry / “ketuba”. its really relevant in the casee of multiple wives. so you are now advocting multiple wives. (i’m not. dont go there).

    3. they only picket those cases whre $ is involved.

    wait — thats a reason for rabbonim to picket!

    4. “nd are remarkably silent in terms of even expressing a POV on the RCA PNA or are nowhere to be seen with respect to picketing the homes and offices of men wh

  2. MiMedinat HaYam 04/27/2010 03:26 PM
    “the egalitarian families seem ok with Daddy making kiddush and Mummy making motzie – do you have any problems with this BTW?”

    its an explicit gemara in kezad mevarchim: “baal habayit botzeia”

    2. the ketuba was also enacted in response to (pre) muslim practice of ketuba — a muslim husband can divorce his wife for no / any reason, but he must repay her her dowry / “ketuba”. its really relevant in the casee of multiple wives. so you are now advocting multiple wives. (i’m not. dont go there).

    3. they only picket those cases whre $ is involved.

    wait — thats a reason for rabbonim to picket!

    4. “nd are remarkably silent in terms of even expressing a POV on the RCA PNA or are nowhere to be seen with respect to picketing the homes and offices of men who refuse to give a get/”

    because the president of one of our major ortho orgs is a lawyer advocating such steps (actually, his office advocates for women not to accept a get. the orthodox orgs , and the feminists, etc ignore it. he’s too powerful.). he’s the onewwho should be picketed. but his $ is too good.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/27/2010 03:51 PM in reply to MiMedinat HaYam
    mimedinat – would you agree that the ketubah was instituted to help – protect – women where biblical law was not sufficient?

    could rabbis institute other ways – via halacha – to help agunot – if a beit din works ok but any other halachic solutions cold be viable – should they?
    ———-
    emma 04/27/2010 03:54 PM in reply to ej
    I completely agree that the issues you raise are more important. I just don’t see how that conversation is suposed to get started. And I am also afraid of it. The mysoginy that now bubbles below the surface will, as you note, be outed, but after that it may be codified, rather than eradicated. The last thing I want is to prod rabbis into making shabbos drashas about how autonomous decisionmaking for women is destroying the mesorah, and disobedient wives are outside the pale of otrhodoxy.
    Perhaps it is precisely because the social issues are the real ones that feminists fear to tread there.
    ———-
    emma 04/27/2010 04:17 PM in reply to emma
    Actually, I take that back a bit – maybe in the long run public retrenchment would lead to revo/evolution. But it would certainly make my life, and likely my daughters’, less pleasant (or possibly less orthodox, or both), for uncertain future payout.
    ———-
    Charlie Hall 04/27/2010 05:20 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    The one activist I know has not expressed support for the Rackman beit din; rather, she wants solutions that are widely accepted.
    ———-
    Charlie Hall 04/27/2010 05:22 PM in reply to ej
    Great points.
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:17 PM
    “e.g. did christian europe law(or custom) in marrying only one wife not lead to the enactment of rebeinu gershon?”

    acc to the historian a. grossman the takana was in response to men traveling and leaving behind families or having two families and there are parallel takanas in sefard
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/27/2010 09:30 PM in reply to Joseph Kaplan
    RHS is the chairman of ORA and has picketed quite often himself.I don’t known what % of RCA members picket, but I have never seen or read of a single “aguna activist” applaud or recommend the PNA. I would ask the BDA about its effectiveness in the community, as opposed to fretting about its “serious limitations” or its “enforceability”, when one can seriously argue that one can only go so far without eradicating a Torah obligation that the husband initiate the process. Those strike me as excuses not to acknowledge the hard work of ORA or the authors of the PNA.

    Michael Rogovin-in the RIETS/OU sector of the MO world, the PNA has become de jure. Obviously, it can’t help someone who is an Agunah, but it can have a serious dent on future cases arising.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/27/2010 09:31 PM in reply to Correction
    What is a Chiddush?
    ———-
    guest 04/27/2010 09:31 PM
    EJ – I wish I knew what you are talking about! OK, I agree that only a tiny fraction is interested in increased ritual opportunites and I think it gets in the way of progress, but the area of progress it gets in teh way of is IMO talmud torah for women, which is either a good or bad idea, but an area where progress can happen if that’s what’s wanted by women. Now what’s the rest

    ” Talk about the right of a woman to have greater, not necessarily equal, opportunities to develop their careers and pursue their interests, and the misogyny becomes open and visible.”
    huh?? I dont think there is any less or more of this than in the secular world.

    ” I want to argue about the idea that women should be barefoot and pregnant, or how much sharing of burdens between men and women inside a marriage is reasonable.”:

    and if the women want to be barefoot and pregnant? I dont think MO women are barefoot and pregannt unless they want to be. BTW why is family size only a woman’s issue. And sharing of burdens?? I know charedi families where the husband cooks and cleans. If MO can’t do that, then please.

    :And I would like to see a day when a young women who wants to become an oncologist doesn’t have to worry that she has a good chance of remaining an old maid.”

    Huh. MO women can’t become oncologists? Come now. They have the same problem everyone else does. If you want to be an oncologist and also want to marry and start a family young, there are tradeoffs. MO women seem to be making them successfully or do you not know frum female MDs?? Would you like the orthodox to decide on the liberal strategy of having below replacement birth rate… orthodoxy places a premium on family. MO men (or does it not affect them to have to support a family at a young age?) and women do make the tradeoffs and are able to do so freely. You sound like you just don’t like the way they choose to make them.

    “The core problem facing all Orthodox women in a modern world is how to balance their work with their obligations to their children and husband. Feminists should try to bring about changes that help women find better solutions relative to their situation.”

    huh. what can orthodox feminists do differently than other feminists. What changes are needed specific to orthodoxy. Orthodox women balance these issues like everyone else does. No one can dispense with biology for you and if you’re talking about govt provided day-care and whatnot (IMO a terrible idea), what does that have to do with orthodoxy?

    ” Charedi women suffer more than college educated MO professional women, but the structural problem is pretty much the same across the spectrum, especially when we adjust for class differences.If a woman knew that the inequalities in opportunity were a subject for discussion, where she had an equal voice, the demand for a more egalitarian distribution of religious roles would be less significant. I am not arguing against change in religious opportunities. What I am saying is there should be some lexical ordering…real problems are of far greater importance than ritual/ symbolic issues”

    What in heaven’s name makes you think orthodox women have a lesser voice in the matters you are discussing. Orthodox women are no less free in their marriages and running their lives than anyone else. perhaps you don’t like that they so often choose to be the one more involved in home. They don’t have to choose that, they want to. What’s with condescending to liberate women who didn’t aks to be liberated? Why do you think they need liberation? They live a conservative lifestyle b/c they want to. It’s bizarre to say that MO women are not free to have careers, get their husbands equally involved in the home and all that. I don’t get it.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/27/2010 09:43 PM in reply to ruvie
    R Asher Weiss, based on the RaN to Sanhedrin 79 understands that Ratzon HaTorah means that we follow the Chachmei HaTorah even on matters of Halacha and Hasshkafa where there is no explicit Torah commandment and based on the Mitzvah of Lo Sasur HaShem Yisborach transmitted His World to the Gdolei Torah to preserve it and that they are the messengers of HaShem and we are commanded to follow them and accept their teachings. See also R Y Sacks superb sefer on Pirkei Avos, Pages 21-24.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/27/2010 09:48 PM in reply to guest
    it has been awhile since i read his book – pious and rebellious – a real scholarly work. you are correct (my error) that he offers the possibility that tradesman often took more than one wife because of traveling and the other wife didn’t know he was married but: see page 73-75 he offers 5 reasons by scholars including ze’ev falk who maintained “the influence of the reality of the christian environs, in which it was forbidden by law to marry more than one woman.” grossman continues: it is difficult not to agree with the opinion of falk and others… for the edict against bigamy.

    you correct in pointing out that there may have been other legitimate reasons besides the one above. but it could also be true that the jewish society at large stopped marrying more than one women was influence by christian society that surrounded it and the edict was put in place afterwards because of the traveling merchants. thank you for your observation. we never really know THE reason for many historical realities ..do we?
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/27/2010 10:23 PM in reply to ruvie
    The Talmud tells us that the purpose of the Ksubah was to prevent men from walking out of marriages. RYBS once commented that one can suggest that the absence of trees was one reason behind the Halacha LMoshe MiSinai of Lavud, but not the single defining reason for the same. As far as momogamy is concerned, I once heard R Riskin suggest ( IIRC, he quoted RAYHK) that none less than the Avos served as the greatest argument in favor of monogamy in view of the many issues that arose based on polygamy in Sefer Breishis.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/27/2010 10:29 PM in reply to Charlie Hall
    I think that that is a red herring style argument simply because the PBA and communal approbrium may be the best solutions in the US. I don’t pretend to have an answer for the problems involving Batei dinin and Gittin in Israel. Thinking about a perfect solution for an imperfect world strikes me as utopian at best and a lack of Hakaras Hatov for the best possible solution for the US.
    ———-
    ej 04/27/2010 11:03 PM
    We seem for the most part to have a disagreement on the underlying reality in Orthodoxy. The fact that Orthodox Jewish feminists face the same or similar issues as secular feminists is irrelevant to a feminist, provided it can be alleviated. Your claim that whatever limitations of opportunity exist in Orthodox life are self chosen, is complex. I doubt that you would maintain that view about charedi women. They live in a society that so erases women, even the thoughts become dangerous, and certainly expressing the thoughts is a sure way to find oneself divorced. So what they say may not be the final word. As these women mature from idealistic Bais Yaakov girls to women caught in unhappy situations, with husbands who cannot earn decent livings, many children, and poverty as far as the eye can see, we must assume many have second thoughts. If you say pretty much all are happy campers, common sense tells me you are wrong. But let the anthropologists, social workers and the many volunteers on the abused women hotlines weigh in. For example, I’ve been told that on just one hotline inside the US, 12000 distinct calls were received in a year. Imagine Israel where the repression of women is far worse.

    Let’s say you grant the point on charedim, but claim as you do that this is inapplicable to MO. Slowly…what about RWMO or what Heilman called Strict Orthodoxy. They work downtown but otherwise hang with yeshivaleit etc. Is there some magic place in the spectrum where we are in a world with no unfair expectations and no pressure. The average age of those marriages reported in the NYT is over 30. That means there are class A guys available in their thirties. Does our hypothetical oncologist face the same reality. I would submit the shiduch crisis is even more poignant in MO than Charedim, with at least as many if not more old maids. Why? Partially because MO guys marry down in age, have the same fear as many men in marrying smart women, and unlike the secular world, the demographic is fairly small.

    But look…I have not gone from house to house or conducted surveys of the UWS. If you tell me I am wrong in point of fact, I stand corrected. My core interests are threefold. The first is that there are real feminist issues in Orthodoxy as a whole. Even if certain stripes are immune, there is no reason not to prioritize Orthodox abuse, and rampant inequality in opportunity, for the sake of women getting maftir Yonah. Second, issues of distributions of burdens inside a marriage should be decided by mutual agreement, so that whatever inequalities that exist are voluntarily accepted by both parties as the best arrangement in their particular circumstances. And finally a women who seeks a more idiosyncratic arrangement should not be forced out of Orthodox life because otherwise she will never marry.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/27/2010 11:03 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    steve – i believe that the written ketubah was enacted to prevent frivolous divorces. the the penalty was great for a heat of the moment divorce. see aurbach – the halacha. previously, the money (ketubah) was left in the father’s house but that amount of money delayed men from marrying early so a written ketubah was instituted later with no deposit. innovative?

    derashot by r. riskin are nice but has nothing to do with the history of the jews, halacha, or the halachic process. how many years did it take for monogamy to be enacted – 2,000 plus from the time of the avot?
    and if that was so important then why wasn’t it given at sinai?
    ———-
    ruvie 04/27/2010 11:37 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    steve – please explain transmitted his world to the gedolei hatorah ..messengers of hashem …

    this is the charedei view of daat torah. does the torah really have a ratzon. or os this yeshivas speak code words to control non educated religious jews. this a new view -50 -100 years old – how our gedolim now communicate directly with hashem. if they are messengers then they must be getting direct orders from somewhere …are you saying they are now neveiim and have nevuah directly from hashem – now that’s revelation in our time.
    ———-
    Nachum 04/28/2010 02:05 AM
    I’ll tell you one problem: When you have a minyan that is set up davka to be “partnership” or whatever, that becomes its defining feature. “Look how progressive we are- in women’s issues!” And you know what? Lots of men feel uncomfortable by that. Not because they’re necessarily anti-feminist or whatever, but because it makes them feel like they’re an afterthought. (Yeah, I know, davening has always been man-centered, blah blah. I’m not saying what’s fair, I’m saying facts.) And so they don’t come. When the whole Conservative and Reform movements get carried away by their feminism, men stop showing up.
    ———-
    M. 04/28/2010 05:28 AM
    ej – the issue is that in Charedi circles – it is not that women ‘choose’ to start families at a young age – they are not allowed not to. How many Beis Yaakov graduates can put off children whilst they develop their careers? None.
    ———-
    MiMedinat HaYam 04/28/2010 01:14 PM in reply to M.
    actually, i know of two bais yaakov (seminary, where they do not allow college) grads (twins) who went to med school.

    2. in most sephardi countries the first wife must give permission to take a second wife (in the “old” days), so the claim of (ashkenazi) travellers taking a second wife is a non sequitor.

    3. i was once at a wedding (in between MO and charedi) where the chattan waited for the kallah’s father to wire the $dowry$ into his bank account. so the claim of leaving the ketuba $ in the kallah’s father’s house is still in existence today. (of course, the ketuba $ promise is considered worthless, today, in america at least.)

    4. to ruvie Yesterday 03:51 PM: of course i say like you do. the ketuibah was implemented to help (helpless) women. but today, the ketuba promise is never enforced, and women arent necessarily helpless. on the other hand, if the groom has no (or minimal) assets (such as the young gentlemen today) there is no real alternative. (promise of future assets = “asmachta” ( = derivative, in today’s news) is not enforceable in halacha.)

    your proposal of bet din helping is excellent, in my opunion. but the batei din of today are reviled by their own members, let alone the general ortho public!
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 04/28/2010 02:45 PM in reply to ruvie
    Wrong-The Talmud says in more than one place “Mitzvah Lshmoah Divrei Chachamim.” I saw a Dvar Torah from RHS in once he pointed out that Klal Yisrael at Har Sinai questionned the need for their acceptance of Divrei Sofrim. The RaN on Sanhedrin is a Rishon. Look at it this way-Tzaar Baalei Chaim is not an explicit mitzvah-but is considered a Torah prohibition solely on the understanding of Chazal. Chazal , Rishonim and Acharonim have the power to dictate how to observe any mitzvah in a proper form, which can change from generation to generation,, especially with respect to a Torah obligation.
    ———-
    Nachum 04/28/2010 03:54 PM
    “questionned the need for their acceptance of Divrei Sofrim”

    That’s a neat trick, considering that there would be no soferim for centuries after that.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/28/2010 08:26 PM in reply to Steve Brizel
    steve – i can make the case that every derabanan is really a deoreita because of lo tassur and leshmoa divrei chachamin. but it doesn’t work that way imho. do you notice that i try to qte scholars that now halachic history and you answer with derashot?

    in the end i believe the issue revolves around what is and how do you define halacha, mesorah and torah min hashamayim, and i believe there is little difference in what your saying and the charedi view of daat torah.
    ———-
    ruvie 04/28/2010 08:29 PM in reply to ruvie
    sorry for the typos: i try to quote scholars that know the history of halacha and you answer with derashot
    ———-
    guest 04/28/2010 11:18 PM
    “I doubt that you would maintain that view about charedi women.”

    I do maintain it What you say is true in the sense that partaking in any society limits choices – how many guys in secular society will get married if they say that they want their wives to support them and they’ll stay home with the kids? It happens, and they have the choice to look for that, but it’s not a typical role and they will have a hard time finding a spouse if that’s their criterion – it’s much easier for charedi women to choose how much and what type work they do than it is for most secular men, in fact. Particularly in the US, charedi women have the choice to work and support their husbands or to be fully supported and every choice inbetween. In Israel, there’ s probably less choice, but not no choice at all. IMO you’re robbing women of their individuality and it’s not respectful of them to assume that they’re just forced into lives that they choose to lead. Divvying up household duties is a matter for individual couples., as I mentioned. Expressing thoughts particularly on the topics you mention makes it likely to divorce? Come on, now. Sure, there are always examples, but that’s quite atypical and I’ve never heard of anyone who got divorced b/c his wife is too opinionated, though I’m sure you can come up with a case….
    In fact no one is forced to be charedi. Like the kids in Williamsburg learn to say by the time they’re three years old “it’s a free country.” There’s pressure – there’s always pressure. Sure people marry young in UO society and sometimes change their minds about what they want in life – but that’s not a cause for feminism unless you insist these societies should promote marrying in the thirties – a casualty of marrying young that people will change their minds about basic issues. The men can and do change their minds just as often if not more often than the women do. There’s no more pressure on charedi women to conform than charedi men – maybe less outside of dress code and they are as free to become oys/charedi as the men. Mostly they are choosing to be charedi and this should be respected IMO.
    ———-
    guest 04/28/2010 11:38 PM
    “Second, issues of distributions of burdens inside a marriage should be decided by mutual agreement, so that whatever inequalities that exist are voluntarily accepted by both parties as the best arrangement in their particular circumstances”

    People have free will. What do you think prevents a charedi woman from telling her husband that she wants to go to work, he’s in kollel and he should do most of the housework? I think – nothing. Up to individual personalities and choices. I am not interested in most feminist causes, in or outside orthodoxy, because they are no longer about external barriers and what women are legally or practically not allowed to do, but rather about what they choose to do and not to do and how that’s “society’s” fault. Women choose not to work the hours men work and the lesser income and power that results is a feminist cause? They choose to do more household work and it’s a feminist cause? And to me, it sounds like you are treating most orthodox women’s choices as something they need to be liberated from. Orthodox and haredi society is often closed-minded and orthodoxy limits choices, but for example, no one is forcing people to have large families, because is something that no one can force. It’s happening because people are choosing it. I think the one point you make that IMO has validity is that people are born into subcultures and marry and make life decisions at a young age and so may never have properly chosen their lifestyle by the time they are unhappy with it. But as stated, this is not a feminist issue, it’s a human issue,, and the only solution is to encourage marrying at an older age, which is not a great solution for people who are orthodox.
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    guest 04/28/2010 11:58 PM
    “see page 73-75 he offers 5 reasons by scholars including ze’ev falk who maintained “the influence of the reality of the christian environs, in which it was forbidden by law to marry more than one woman.” grossman continues: it is difficult not to agree with the opinion of falk and others… for the edict against bigamy. ”

    i understand him to be saying that it’s difficult to dismiss that entirely, but not that he considers it the main influence. Two sentences later he writes “However, in my opinion, the main motivation for the edict was connected with the economic activity of German Jewry during that period.” I think his understanding of the background of the edict is very interesting and that’s the reason I mentioned it.
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    guest 04/29/2010 12:10 AM
    “2. in most sephardi countries the first wife must give permission to take a second wife (in the “old” days), so the claim of (ashkenazi) travellers taking a second wife is a non sequitor.”

    There were parallel takanas to prevent the situation of a man having two families one in sefard and one in ashkenaz. For example, Grossman cites the Rambam’s takana in Egypt. He instituted that any foreigner marrying must prove or swear that he doesn’t have a family in ashkenaz before marrying, and that he be prevented from traveling if he doesn’t divorce his wife first (even if she agrees to his traveling).
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    emma 04/29/2010 12:28 AM
    “What do you think prevents a charedi woman from telling her husband that she wants to go to work, he’s in kollel and he should do most of the housework? I think – nothing.”
    Does it change your analysis at all if her only sources for understanding God’s will tell her that God wants her to make her husband dinner even if she’s had a hard day at work and he’s been sitting on the couch for two hours? What if as far as she knows God requires her to obey her husband and does not allow her to tell him anything about what he “should” do?
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    guest 04/29/2010 02:20 AM
    Does it change your analysis whether such charedi women exist?! For goodness sake, you will have a hard time finding a single US charedi woman who believes such things. And they tell their husbands what to do all the time,
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    Shlomo 04/29/2010 02:46 AM
    “how many years did it take for monogamy to be enacted – 2,000 plus from the time of the avot?”

    Adam, Noach, Yitzchak, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon – each apparently had only one wife.
    Avraham, Yaakov – each intended to take just one wife, and were pressured/tricked into taking others.
    David, Shlomo – really the only serious figures in Jewish history to choose to take multiple wives. And in each case (Batsheva, idolatry), it was their downfall.

    In short, Tanach going all the way back to the beginning is hardly encouraging towards polygamy.

    My feeling is that polygamy is moral in a society in which women cannot economically support themselves. For those who would otherwise starve, at least they can join a family and share in its security. That is hardly a recommendation for widespread polygamy. As soon as society changed so that women could support themselves, the justification for polygamy disappeared and the rabbis abolished it.
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    ruvie 04/29/2010 06:53 AM in reply to Shlomo
    shlomo – i agree with you that this was a support system in those times and in fact yibum may be look at through this lens as the only way a yavamet would not starve to death – her father would not want her back as extra burden and mouth to feed.
    but can you really tell how society reacted(in favor or just an economic reality and mesorah) to the institution by a couple of stories in the tanach? do we really know that others didn’t have multiple wives because they were unimportant to the story? what about concubines – avot seem to have a few too.

    did many women support themselves in 1000-1100 ce? did the pressure from the society where they lived had no major influence in the outcome? it seems from grossman’s book that the edict followed a cessation of polygamy not that it created monogamy. but i agree that women gain more power as they began to help their husbands in business – they demanded their husband’s inheritance. and it probably was a factor leading to the changing reality.
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    emma 04/29/2010 08:04 AM in reply to guest
    You are, likely, right (in general. I’m sure I could find a single woman with the views I described). However, the “offical” version is very much taught. That women don’t accept it is itself telling.
    I chose the extreme caricature because I find it very difficult to talk about the actual structural restrictions women face on their autonomy in this forum. Take childbearing, though. How many women who “choose” to have 4 children in 5 years, and then another 4 after that, did so with (1) full information as to the halachic options available to them (i.e., that a “heter” for contraception is not an admission of failure as a woman) and (2) no fear of pity, judgment, or gossip that they are failures as women if they are not back in maternity clothes by the time their baby turns one?
    Sure, there is some autonomy, but there is also a lot of social control. The idea that anyone (male or female) is an autonomous island is really silly.
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    guest 04/29/2010 01:06 PM
    First of all, that is NOT the official version in the US. In israel, yes, there is talk of sparing your husband the burden of housework and not causing bitul torah . In the US, you will not hear pretty much a word of this. The talk of “obeying” your husband – come on. They are not Xians! Indeed, especially for young couples at younger ages, it’s very common – and striking – that the women are stronger personalities than the men in charedi-land. I know the US better than Israel, and that’s what I see.
    But to return to the first point briefly – you know I once read a story from RSZAuerbach. A fellow came to him and said he has troubling learning and concentrating because of his young kids, who need attention. And RSZA said that he doesn’t remember his young kids being a distraction. At which point Rebbetzin Auerbach chimed in and said that RSZA doesn’t remember this because she made it her business to keep them from bothering him and taking care of them and their disputes so he could learn. My point being that it’s a perfectly respectable choice for a woman to decide to take on the tasks that will allow her husband to learn, if he is indeed learning. So what this discussion is ostensibly about is whteher they have this choice.
    I think they do. One can opt out of the whole learning thing in fact, let alone opt out of the need for the woman to do it all alone. You write about childbirth – the women has just as much choice as the men! What do you mean fear of pity, etc. Every society has social pressure, and there is no human right to be “approved of” all the time. People are free anyway.. There are women who don’t choose to stay home w/ their kids in the secular world b/c they are pressured to have a career. No one is an autonmous island anywhere. But the women are as free, and I think actually a little more free, in UO society as the men are. Is there a lot of attempt at social control in UO society. Sure. But this was supposed to be about how the women uniquely require liberating. And anyone can leave UO society – sometimes it’s hard, but they can. Mostly people are CHOOSING. And the idea that women choose less than the men do – it’s offensive. The women are not children, or morons, and they are not muzzled in their houses. Actually they are more or less running their houses and tend to make more of the choices there than the men, one reason that UO women stay put is that they have this control, in fact, and they like it.
    ———-
    ej 04/29/2010 01:43 PM in reply to guest
    Jack Benny had a well known skit where a robber comes up to him and says “Your money or your life.”Benny, whose screen personality was that of a miser, pauses, goes limp wrist and eventually says “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.” And then there is the Henny Youngman joke: Patient:”It hurts when I do this”, (bend a wrist.)Doctor:”Don’t do it.” Wittgenstein asks us to think of a leaf blown off a tree saying to itself “ Now I go this, now I go that way.” We observers know the leaf has no choice irrespective of what the imaginary leaf thinks and says.

    There is indeed a prima facie presumption that what a person says is all that counts. But it can be overridden. Sometimes paternalism is justified even if the subject doesn’t ask for assistance. Sometimes the consequences are so skewed in one obvious direction we don’t call it a free choice. Sometimes the failure to be aware of choices is relevant, what leftists call consciousness raising. This is not my subject so I can’t give a general account, but I do know there is an endless literature ranging from why everyone is so docile about income inequalities to how and why women wear makeup to cigarette litigation to euthanasia. Gerry Dworkin on paternalism and autonomy is a good example of contemporary thinking.

    The following is an article about Tzivia Greenfield, a Meretz MK that touches on some of these issues.
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1163329.html
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    guest 04/29/2010 03:24 PM in reply to ej
    how many charedi women do you personally know?
    ———-
    ej 04/29/2010 06:25 PM
    They say an opera isn’t over until the fat lady sings. These discussions never seem to end until one side gives up. At this point I see the issue no longer hanging on facts but on when is a decision voluntary, which is a philosophical issue. As in all these lengthy discussions I recognize that I might very well be totally off base. Please have the last word, I’ve had my say, and I do appreciate the civility of the discussion. .

    As to your question, feel free to read my old posts on kolel wives and sheitlach and decide for yourself.

    .
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    guest 04/29/2010 06:58 PM
    if you have a date for the posts, I will read. It’s charitable and kind of you to describe my end of the discussion as civil 🙂
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    MiMedinat HaYam 04/29/2010 08:02 PM in reply to guest
    ” if he doesn’t divorce his wife first (even if she agrees to his traveling).”

    but ashkenazim are forbidden to divorce a wife against her will!
    ———-
    guest 04/29/2010 08:33 PM
    “but ashkenazim are forbidden to divorce a wife against her will!”

    the same edict forbids ashkenazim to marry two wives, which is what they were trying to prevent locally -but if cheremDRG isn’t beside the point, then in that case, I suppose the ashkenazi just couldn’t travel if his wife didn’t agree to divorce.
    ———-
    Steve Brizel 05/03/2010 06:26 PM in reply to ruvie
    Ruvie-have you seen the Ramban in his comments on the Sefer HaMitzvos on the second Shoresh of the Sefer HaMitzvos of the Rambam?

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