Singing Soldiers

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In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing. This restriction has recently been tested, with the Israeli army insisting all soldiers attend non-entertainment ceremonies in which women sing, although leaving individual exemptions up to commanding officers. The reaction among Israeli rabbis varied.

Like in many areas of Jewish law, authorities have historically debated the parameters of this prohibition and minority views have allowed for exceptions. My impression based on media reports is that the majority of rabbis who consider army service a great mitzvah allow for leniency if necessary. When soldiers have no other option, they may attend events with women singers rather than face military disciplinary measures, especially if it contributes to unit cohesion. See here for reports of permissive rulings, albeit somewhat different, by R. Yuval Cherlow and R. Shlomo Aviner: link. And here for the IDF Chief Rabbi’s: link. According to this report, R. Mosheh Lichtenstein seems to allow for leniency in other situations as well: link (Hebrew).

This is not a new question. Religious soldiers have been serving in the Israeli Defense Forces since its inception. I believe it is worthwhile to examine how halakhic authorities have addressed this issue in the past. I did not find anything relevant in the IDF Rabbinate’s guides available online: link. However, two guides for soldiers written by instructors at mainstream Hesder yeshivas offer explicit instruction.

R. Yosef Tzvi Rimon, of Yeshivat Har Etzion, in his guidebook for religious soldiers, Tzava Ka-Halakhah, 2007 edition p. 324, 2010 edition p. 261:

שירת חיילות: יש מקום לדון בעניין זה באריכות ואכמ״ל, אבל נציין שלכתחילה צריך להקפיד שלא תהיה שירה של חיילות, וצריך לבקש להיעדר מהופעות של להקות צבאיות שיש בהן בנות. כאשר אנו נאלצים להיות במקום כזה, צריך להקפיד שלא להסתכל בפניה של החיילת השרה, ורצוי לשיר ביחד איתה (כי כששרים, לא פנויים כל כך לשמוע).

The singing of female soldiers: There is room to discuss this matter at length but this is not the place. However, we will note that we should preferably ensure that there will not be any singing of female soldiers. You must ask to be excused from performances of military bands that include women. When you are forced to be in such a situation, you have to be careful not to look at the face of the female soldier who is singing and you should preferably sing along with her (because when we sing, we are not as able to listen).

R. Zechariah Ben Shlomo, formerly of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, in his Hilkhos Tzava (1986, 2001), pp. 28-29:

כאמור לעיל סעיף א, אסור לשמוע קול שיר של אשה, ועל אחת כמה וכמה שירי עגבים וכיו״ב. לכן, אסור לשמוע מקהלות של נשים, וצריך לדאוג מראש שלא להשתתף באירועים הכוללים שירה של זמרת או זמרות או תערובת זמרים וזמרות, וכ״כ הצגות וכיו״ב השייכים למושג המורחב היום של ״תרבות״.

As we said in paragraph A, it is forbidden to listen to a woman’s singing voice and even moreso love songs and the like. Therefore, it is forbidden to listen to women’s choirs. And you have to take care in advance to avoid participating in events that include singing of a woman or women or a mixture of men and women. And similarly plays and the like that are part of the broad contemporary concept of “culture”.

The added implications of the recent controversy may cause these rabbis to change their rulings. However, absent the press and the pressure, this is how they ruled on this delicate matter of law and sensitivity.

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.

222 comments

  1. In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing.

    Whoa. Here’s an example from SAR High School: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJheCgxJmeQ. Are they not “mainstream Orthodox” anymore?

  2. There are similar YouTube videos from Frisch, Ramaz and Yeshiva of FLatbush, as well.

  3. I spent four years in Frisch and never heard a girl sing, although I recall that the school’s policy was no solos for girls but I could be wrong.

  4. ” Here’s an example from SAR High School”

    compare their modest skirts and poses to the female soldiers in the tight pants and flashy poses depicted in the picture above.

  5. Regarding “Kol Isha”, the concern that listening to a woman sing is arousing and thus forbidden, — there are a number of approaches. Some authorities forbid hearing a woman’s singing voice at all times, some forbid it only during prayer. Some authorities permit it when on the radio and one does not know what the singer looks like, and some forbid it even then. As you can see, there are a number of approaches to this specific issue – all of which are legitimate and have backing in eminent sources.

    R. Ari Enkin in http://judaism.about.com/od/orthodoxfaqenkin/f/kolisha.htm

  6. Kiruv context

  7. Shoshana Razel

    I too have to take issue with the statement: “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing.” I grew up in a learned Orthodox home, and never had the impression that such attitudes towards women’s voices was mainstream anywhere but in the Haredi world, with which we were most certainly not aligned. Context, content, and dress of the singer and the song–male or female–were the determining factors of music that was deemed “appropriate” or “inappropriate”. Tzniut and its measures–both in men and in women–have always been relative, and will always require us to evaluate each situation in accordance with its context. No chumradike short cuts allowed.

  8. nobody in particular

    i hope you will see fit to include rav david bigman from yeshivat maale gilboa who has a very interesting and worth reading (without pre-conceptions) approach.

    there is also the attitude of one writer from Yediot Achronot who pointed out (very accurately, in my opinion), that there are many simple practical solutions to this problem, but everyone seems much more interested in fighting. he pointed out that the tzahal Ramatkal is being insensitive and the rabbis are being extreme in their responses. he suggests one simple solution. women can sing where-ever and when-ever they want for the army. any soldiers who don’t want to listen are welcome to go and do guard duty at the entrance to the base. great, eh?

  9. So R.Enkin is lying?

  10. abba's rantings

    yeshiva of flatbush most certainly has girls singing, including solos.

  11. It’s pikuach nefesh to give all the extracurricular opportunities so kids don’t go to non-Jewish prep schools. These MO schools are doing the right thing in order to keep kids within the fold. That doesn’t make it normative.

    R. Enkin was teaching the right thing to specific people. It isn’t lying. It’s using the right tone to make people feel comfortable.

  12. Gil — please step back from making this an unnecessary boundary issue and edit the piece to read “In some Orthodox Jewish practice”.

  13. IH, calling it “mainstream” doesn’t make it “right”. Why do you care if he writes “mainstream” or not?

    It’s a statistical question that can’t be settled by some youtube clips. An official survey has to be taken.

  14. Lawrence Kaplan

    The SAR trio, consisting of two girls and one boy, with female solos, was singing the Shirat ha-Asavim, the Song of Grasses, of R. Nahman of Bratzlav. Perhaps that could be considered a religious song, and, thus, according to some poskim, Kol Ishah would not apply.

  15. abba's rantings

    GIL:

    “It’s pikuach nefesh to give all the extracurricular opportunities so kids don’t go to non-Jewish prep schools. These MO schools are doing the right thing in order to keep kids within the fold.”

    no way.
    1) the extracurricular activities that involve girls singing represent a tiny, tiny component of overall extracurricular activities. eliminating activities involving singing, if a school chose to do so, would really not affect the overall extracurricular offerings and i can’t imagine doing so would scare away less frum families as you imagine.
    2) some of these MO schools have in recent years demanded increased frumkeit in ways that are much more pervasive and far reaching(and potententially threatening to less frum families) that would be eliminating girls singing
    3) i can’t speak about frisch or ramaz, but i don’t think YoF was ever competing with private prep schools. public school was a different story. but today in 2012 few Yof families consider public school an option and eliminating girls singing is certainly not going to spark an exodus from day school to public school

  16. abba's rantings

    GIL:

    rereading i see you were talking about keeping kids within the fold, but in my response i wrote about families not being scared away from the day schools. it’s not the same thing, but it really doesn’t matter as far as my larger points.

  17. abba's rantings

    GIL:

    pikuach nefesh, seriously?

  18. “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing.”

    As many have pointed out SAR, ramaz, flatbush and Frisch have coed singing as well as solos ( I know ramaz and sar do). Also, in the years I was on staff at morasha the staff play had female solos -morasha is/ was a yu affiliate with camp rabbis including r’ rabinowitz, blech and lamm.

    In mo practice it seems to be the norm. At least it was until recently.

  19. abba's rantings

    when i went to camp back in the day (raleigh) girls certainly sang and had solos in plays, etc. more recently when i was in moshava girls certainly sang at shabbos zmiros, kumzitzes, mifkad, etc.

    i also remember in younger grades in music class in school singing songs with the girls.

  20. gil -“These MO schools are doing the right thing in order to keep kids within the fold. That doesn’t make it normative.”

    no such thing. according to one principal at a mo high school girls singing is based on a teshuva of the ritva or rashba (i never went into the details). its lechatchilah according to him and not to keep the kids in the fold at all or shaat dechak.

  21. Gil, when you have guests over for Shabbat, does your wife join in singing zemirot? Just curious.

  22. I can confirm that R. Moshe Lichtenstein has ruled leniently, as this was also reported in a newsletter I recently received from the Yeshiva.

  23. Didn’t Rabbis Hutner and Soloveitchik attend the opera? This is what Rabbi Rakeffet states at 72:45.

    http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/709758/Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff/2002-01-28_R._Emanuel_Rackman___28-Jan-02

  24. I went to YOF. It was well-known amongst the students that there was some kind of hypocrisy inherent in the all-female choirs and solos.
    (I remember, for example, one person asking why we were allowed to use the microphone for davening. The answer was that some Rabbis say it’s like the chazan’s voice. Then the same person asked why we were allowed to listen to girls singing solo. The answer was that she was singing into a microphone so it wasn’t her voice…)
    I think the most accurate perspective on the MO school issue is that when it comes to certain things, the parents are in charge, and not the rebbeim. If it was up to the rebbeim, there would be no kol isha. But, ultimately, they have to pick their battles.

    I’m a proud alumnus of YOF, but I really can’t believe that anyone would bring a proof from “Yeshiva De” for normative halachic practice.

  25. Moshe Shoshan

    Gil,
    I was about to defend your use of the term “mainstream Orthodox practice,” but then you started talking about “kiruv contexts” and “pikuach nefesh”. I must assume that this is an attempt at “snark”.
    Unfortunately however, there are to many people out there (both MO and Chareidi) who believe that all sorts of issurim are permitted for kiruv, a concept which until the late 20th century was known to the halakhic literature only in the context of “bassar”. The idea that there is some aspect of pikuach nefesh in kiruv is deeply anti-halakhic. please clarify your position.

    btw, at Ramaz, female solo Kol Isha was certainly not seen as a bedieved, due to special circumstances. Not endorsing, just reporting. (of course most of the rabbis there, including the Jewish studies principle, if asked, would tell you straight out that its assur to go to the school play)

    R. Enkin, would care to clarify you position in this matter, now that Gil has already spoken for you?

  26. one must understand that aRav in a Yeshivah is not neccessarily aposek .
    It is wrong for those teachers who are not invokved in Paskening Sheilot to offer their opinions as Halachic decisions on matters that affect Kelal Yisrael
    R. Yuval Cherlow the IDF Chief and R. Mosheh Lichtenstein are not Poskim generally
    Ido not intend showing any direspect to them but the qualities recquired by a Rav and Rosh Yeshiva are different and the RY must refer to Rabbonim for a Pesak

  27. הרב משה ליכטנשטיין: איסור על שירת נשים יפלג את החברה הישראלית
    R. Mosheh Lichtenstein apologetics will cause a schism in the Israeli Torah committed Society

  28. I think it is clear that:

    a) there is a general uncontested issur against kol isha (all the more lenient opinions notwithstanding, the stance of most contemporary shu”t literature is not to rely on the leniancies except in she’at ha-dechak)

    b) in large swaths of both the MO world in the USA and the RZ world here in Israel, people de-facto ignore this issur. To say that they are relying on some minority opinion is like saying that the average yekke family in pre war Germany was “relying” on the sridei eish whenever their girls would sing at the shabbat table in front of guests or as part of a youth group.

    c) these large waths of moderns are probably not going to “frum out” and see the light. If pressed, they usually admit they don’t understand the whole issue of kol isha and, probably, that they find it somewhat offensive. It goes against the meta-principles they have been taught about kavod haAdam and the way modern society SHOULD function. (We have to be makir tov to the USA, the malchut shel chesed, for being so tollerant of us a minority. This tollerance is Devine! but of course, tollerance as a core value can only be good for the goyim, not influencing our community’s attitude towards Jewish women)

    d) The most probable thing that will eventually happen, is that a new Seridei Eish will eventually come along and be melamed zechut on the fact that a giant percentage of observant Jewry is ignoring this halacha. His teshuva will probably be broader than the SE’s and this will become the knee-jerk response to any women who chooses to sing. Kol isha? look at the teshuva of so an so? Everyone else disagrees? So what? who are you to tell me who to follow?

    Many times, halachic development happens from the ground up. I think that this is going to be one of those cases.

  29. “one must understand that aRav in a Yeshivah is not neccessarily aposek .
    It is wrong for those teachers who are not invokved in Paskening Sheilot to offer their opinions as Halachic decisions on matters that affect Kelal Yisrael
    R. Yuval Cherlow the IDF Chief and R. Mosheh Lichtenstein are not Poskim generally
    Ido not intend showing any direspect to them but the qualities recquired by a Rav and Rosh Yeshiva are different and the RY must refer to Rabbonim for a Pesak”

    es, who do you think is doing all the banning? Rashei yeshivot, of course! You’re contradicting yourself. The best person to issue a p’sak here is the Chief Rabbi of the IDF, no one else. That’s the way psak *works.*

    “R. Mosheh Lichtenstein apologetics will cause a schism in the Israeli Torah committed Society”

    You’ve mistranslated one word 180 degrees. “Issur” is “ban.”

    Well, if Gil is going to appeal to such a vague word as “mainstream” (a word with zero halakhic validity), let’s talk “mainstream”: As a participant, I’m a huge nogei’a b’davar, but over half the members of the theater group I belong to in Jerusalem are religious (Modern Orthodox or even more right wing, in American terms) to the extent that I would be completely comfortable eating in their homes, davening with them, etc. (I’d better be comfortable with davening with them, because we daven Maariv at every rehearsal and Mincha and Maariv at shows.) We do musicals and operettas exclusively. Women (religious women) sing, solos and choruses. There are about a half-dozen similar groups in Yerushalayim alone, with similar rates of religious participation. In all cases, the audiences are probably more than half religious as well. These are not soldiers following orders; these are people who are completely observant (again, Modern Orthodox or more) who pay good money to hear women sing. That’s “mainstream.”

    Halakhic validity? (Many of my rebbeim would not have a problem with this- I’ve encountered them in audiences!) Maybe, maybe not, but I report facts. Is this everyone? Of course not. It’s not most Charedim or Chardalim; it’s not Gil’s world of Flatbush and OU rabbinic employees. But get out of those bubbles, and you’ll find “mainstream” Orthodox opinion doesn’t really worry about these things.

  30. Moshe Shoshan

    R. Yuval Cherlow *is* a posek who answers shailos from people all over Israel. He is known to be quite machmir on some issues. Also, Rashei Yeshivot Hesder almost by definition paskin issues for thier students in the army all the time, their constat interaction with soldiers and the army make them more qualified than others to issue such pesakim. btw in a recent Mekor Rishon editorial R. Medan said that has a long standing policy of being makil on Kol Ishah in official army circumstances since he was involved in an incident similar to the recent brouhaha. R. Medan is pretty machmir on tznius issues.

    As for “mainstream” the fact that something is not mainstream does not make it assur. If Frisch and Maimonides don’t allow something, I thing it is quite legitimate to call that practice “not mainstream”

  31. Gil Wrote:

    “R. Enkin was teaching the right thing to specific people. It isn’t lying. It’s using the right tone to make people feel comfortable.”

    Lying is saying something that you know to be untrue.

    Does R. Enkin stand by his statement that:

    “Regarding “Kol Isha”, the concern that listening to a woman sing is arousing and thus forbidden, — there are a number of approaches. Some authorities forbid hearing a woman’s singing voice at all times, some forbid it only during prayer. Some authorities permit it when on the radio and one does not know what the singer looks like, and some forbid it even then. As you can see, there are a number of approaches to this specific issue – all of which are legitimate and have backing in eminent sources.”

    If so we may have out new Seridei Esh for he is saying that some halakhic authorities only forbid kol ishah during prayer and that such a position is “legitimate and ha[s] backing in eminent sources.”

  32. I am apparently late to the party but your opening sentence REALLY needs to be clarified.

    “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing. ”

    As written, this is 100% false. There are 1001 heters for men to listen to female singers from outside their family. I can not imagine a single male alive today who does not on a regular basis hear the singing voice of a female not related to them. Be this in a shopping mall, on the radio, or any other situation. Whatever excuses are used, to prevent men from walking around with ear-plugs or noise cancellation headphones, doesn’t negate the fact that your opening sentence is completely misleading.

  33. To put my cards on the table– this is not meant to be an attack on R. Enkin.

    My point is that I know many BT who resent having being told things in a kiruv context only to find out later that they are pas nisht after they have become frum.

  34. For the record, the lack of nuance in the understanding of Kol Isha bothers me a bit.

    In the past, and in some places today, “Kol Isha” really does have the affect of Erva.

    I’m thinking of Jessica Rabbit style lounge singers, and Marlyn Monroe’s “Happy birthday mr Presidant” as re-imagined by various movies and entertainers.

    At one point, “lounge singers” were the socially acceptable strip joints.

    But with ubiqutous “music” (some would say noise) today, most people never hear or are even aware of that style of womanly singing. I feel their lack of knowledge of what “woman’s singing” used to be, really hamper’s ones understanding of the statement that Kol Isha is erva. I imagine that for many centuries this was an obvious statement to both men and women, when the nature of music and singing in society was a completely different thing.

  35. Let me be clear, I believe it is assur to listen to women singing live and that the overwhelming majority of Orthodox rabbis would agree. Whether Orthodox laypeople observe it is a different issue.

    There are leniencies but only for extreme situations.

    You can disagree with me about whether that constitutes mainstream. I intentionally used a vague word that I think accurately describes the current situation.

  36. Your opening sentence says nothing about “live” and should be corrected I think. You might also want to add the word “performance” in there.

  37. Except it’s completely inaccurate.

    Avi: Add “Joseph” to your list. 🙂

  38. Nachum, which list? And what do you mean by “Joseph”? As in Technicolor dream coat?

  39. ” I can not imagine a single male alive today who does not on a regular basis hear the singing voice of a female not related to them.”

    I take back this statement. I forgot about that tiny family tribe in Peru someone recently took pictures of which has no contact with the outside world. I’m sure they only hear family members sing.

  40. Tם Anonymous on February 9, 2012 at 5:33 am

    the Chief Rabbi of the IDF IA A CHAPLAIN NOT POSEK AND HAS NEVER BEEN CONSIDERED SUCH

  41. Avi, you are welcome to visit Williamsburg, Boro Park or Mea Shearim.

  42. Avi: One of the rishonim, perhaps the Mordechai, discusses what to do if men in a beis medrash can hear gentile women singing. He says that you just ignore it, because it is against your will. This is widely quoted by poskim and is irrelevant to choosing to listen to the singing.

  43. These MO schools are doing the right thing in order to keep kids within the fold. That doesn’t make it normative.

    If the majority is doing it of course it makes it normative. Your first sentence about “mainstream Orthodox practice” is true, at best, in only a very narrow sense. Generally, I think it is not true.

    I remember being in choir in grade school with girls though I don’t remember any solos. I remember my sleep away camp, known as a stricter MO camp, having the boys versus the girls singing (including girls past puberty) … and there was no where go that night outside camp and most of us hated the competition anyway. [Since you have a picture of a group of female soldiers singing I assume that too you view as troublesome.] Those were official programs at mainstream MO institutions. Not kiruv. Of course sometimes we heard the girls sing individually too when we socialized. And, also of course, most everyone I know has -then and now – no problem listening to women sing on the radio, TV etc.

  44. “This is widely quoted by poskim and is irrelevant to choosing to listen to the singing.”

    I agree… but again, that is not what the first sentence of your post says or implies.

  45. Gil: “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing”
    Gil: “Whether Orthodox laypeople observe it is a different issue.”

    Well, which is it? Are we talking about practice (what people actually observe) or are we talking about the law on the books?

  46. “eliminating activities involving singing, if a school chose to do so, would really not affect the overall extracurricular offerings and i can’t imagine doing so would scare away less frum families as you imagine.”

    You could say the same thing about eliminating activities involving singing from the army, and look how that ended.

  47. “You could say the same thing about eliminating activities involving singing from the army, and look how that ended.”

    Nobody has proposed or enacted eliminating singing activities from the Army.

  48. In the context of a halachic discussion, “normative” practice should probably be defined as the general practice of people who have consulted with their competent halachic authority about an issue and unconditionally follow his ruling, whether they like it or not. The halachic authority must also be confident in advance that he has a free hand to rule however he sees appropriate, lechatchila.

    Do most of the parents in the Modern Orthodox schools under discussion have that attitude toward psak halacha, especially about an issue such as kol isha of their daughters in a school choir? Based on my limited knowledge, I doubt it. If there is only one answer someone (e.g., a parent) is interested in hearing, then I don’t think their actions — or those of their children — should carry weight in a halachic discussion.

  49. Avi: Yes, indeed. I was once driving up to an NCSY Shabbaton with…well, let’s not mention names, and listening to the Broadway revival album of Joseph. Of the narrator, the person I was with said, “Definition of Kol Isha, right there.”

    ES: It’s like having a Rav of your shul (or, if you wish, yeshiva): You’re under his authority, you listen to his decisions. In the IDF, the chief chaplain is your “rav,” and you do what he says. He’s frum and he’s not an ignoramus.

    Gil, you haven’t answered my question about Zemirot.

  50. “In the context of a halachic discussion, “normative” practice should probably be defined as the general practice of people who have consulted with their competent halachic authority about an issue and unconditionally follow his ruling, whether they like it or not. The halachic authority must also be confident in advance that he has a free hand to rule however he sees appropriate, lechatchila.”

    This is a very bizarre argument. And what happens if there is a topic in which very few people ask a question, does that mean there is no “normative” practice?

  51. In the context of a halachic discussion, “normative” practice should probably be defined as the general practice of people who have consulted with their competent halachic authority about an issue and unconditionally follow his ruling, whether they like it or not. The halachic authority must also be confident in advance that he has a free hand to rule however he sees appropriate, lechatchila.

    This of course could never be the actual standard as it is both untestable and unverifiable. Further, that is not the historical definition of “normative” communal practice of a halachic community. If that were the case, rabbis would not have had to learn “back” traditions from practice, they could have simply asked a person what rabbi they asked.

  52. SAR does have solo women singers. I was told it was because they are not married and the administration believes the issur to be only listening to married women sing.

  53. If you want to take a poll of Orthodox rabbis or Orthodox laypeople, be my guest. I described it based on what I believe to be the case.

  54. HAGTBG said it better than me.

  55. What I wrote is just common sense, though perhaps my formulation can be improved upon. It is absurd to suppose that laymen who don’t care about proper halachic conduct in a certain context — or who will only accept a certain rabbinic verdict about it — should be able to define “normative” practice for the purpose of a halachic discussion.

    HAGTBG — Centuries-old practices are often presumed to have legitimate pedigree because the assumption is that the practice would not have evolved among God-fearing Jews unless it had been religiously countenanced. In certain Modern Orthodox contexts, I frankly don’t think that argument applies.

  56. “I described it based on what I believe to be the case.”

    No you did not.

    In the comments you have provided many qualifications to your statement which do not exist in the original sentence, which express what you DO believe to be the case.
    You have therefore NOT described it in your post, based on what you believe to be the case.

  57. ” or who will only accept a certain rabbinic verdict about it — should be able to define “normative” practice for the purpose of a halachic discussion.”

    So, if I know that for the past 400 years my community has been doing a certain practice, then my view of what is normative halachic practice would be disqualified because I will not accept the ruling from a Rabbi today who says that this 400 year old practice is forbidden? What type of nonsense is that!?

  58. Nachum: Gil, you haven’t answered my question about Zemirot.

    It’s laden with false assumptions and, regardless, irrelevant. We aren’t a musical family and we almost never sing any zemiros. Certainly when we have guests over, we don’t torture them with our ridiculous attempts to sing.

  59. Avi: I have no idea what you are talking about

  60. Avi at 9:09: If your rabbi, whom you have chosen to consult on halachic matters, tells you not to follow the 400-year-old practice of your community, then yes indeed, you should accept his ruling. Otherwise, why did you ask him?

  61. I described it based on what I believe to be the case.

    As Skeptic on February 9, 2012 at 8:17 am pointed out, that was not your position. You based your statement on book smarts and didn’t actually look at halacha l’maaseh.

    I frankly don’t think that argument applies.

    That is quite an insulting statement actually. You are saying the masses of the MO are outside of the halachic community.

  62. HAGTBG at 9:11: I knew my statement would be called insulting. You did not, however, contradict it. I am arguing that, insulting or no, it is true.

  63. HAGTBG: You based your statement on book smarts and didn’t actually look at halacha l’maaseh.

    No, that isn’t true.

  64. P.S. What I said does not imply that anybody is “outside of the halachic community,” whatever that means. All I’m saying is that certain practices of certain people should not be assumed to be religiously sanctioned or appropriate. I would apply the same argument to Haredi hooligans who spit on girls or throw rocks at cars (hopefully without rabbinic approval…).

  65. And no, I am not equating spitting on girls with listening to a female solo, except insofar as each is relevant to this halachic discussion. (Just in case anyone was going to get riled up over that.)

  66. “Avi: I have no idea what you are talking about”

    You have stated that the practice is different when “kiruv” is invovled.

    You have stated that the practice is different if the “listening” is not intentional but is forced.

    You have stated that the practice only applies to “live” singing.

    None of that information can be found in your posting. You have therefore NOT described the situation as you understand it to be today.

  67. No, that isn’t true.

    Gil I was raised RW MO and had a conventional MO education. I went to what was considered one of the stricter MO camps. All those institutions had rabbinic guidance. Your statement was not true about the practices of these schools. Many people here are saying similar things here about different MO institutions then I went to. Again, places with rabbinic guidance. If rabbis are complaining about this, like they complain that really all frum Jews should not go to ball games in stadiums or should be very strict about kemach yashan, then so be it. It doesn’t make it the norms I have seen of the kehillas I’ve lived in.

    I knew my statement would be called insulting. You did not, however, contradict it. I am arguing that, insulting or no, it is true.

    And I am saying, even were it not insulting, it is false. Certainly on this point. Impasse?

  68. “Centuries-old practices are often presumed to have legitimate pedigree because the assumption is that the practice would not have evolved among God-fearing Jews unless it had been religiously countenanced. In certain Modern Orthodox contexts, I frankly don’t think that argument applies.”

    Why? Because Jews in, say, Poland in 1700 were so much frummer and better educated than Jews of today?

    Gil: So, “no”, huh? 🙂 You know why I was asking.

  69. “Avi at 9:09: If your rabbi, whom you have chosen to consult on halachic matters, tells you not to follow the 400-year-old practice of your community, then yes indeed, you should accept his ruling. Otherwise, why did you ask him?”

    Huh, what does “your” rabbi have to do with the question of seeing if a practice is normative or not. And what if “your” rabbi is a new person who just moved into town, and happens to be the only rabbi around because the previous one died? There are countless examples of Rabbis making a ruling and then being overturned by the community.

  70. HAGTBG — If your belief is that most Jews in all Modern Orthodox communities today would freely accept their rabbi’s verdict that their daughters should not participate in any public singing, AND that their rabbis would feel free to get up in shul Shabbos morning and state unequivocally that said singing is forbidden and will be stopped immediately, without fear of personal or political or institutional consequences, then yes, we are at an impasse. I just don’t think that’s true.

    (I think, for example, that there are a lot of rabbis in Modern Orthodox institutions who would immediately fear for their jobs if they let something like that slip out.)

  71. 1. There are times when a chumrah is mevi ldei kulah – zmirot is imho a good example – having an entire table singing zmirot can be a highly spiritual experience (think of R’ Schach for the counter example). Having half the table at best sitting looking bored and at worst schmoozing doesn’t yield kavod shabbat.

    2.The process described earlier is, I am told by someone who has titles that imply knowledge, acculturation. Much like the Rambam discussing how often a women can leave her husbands home, it reflects how halacha reacts/informs/applies to changing society (non halachic societies do this as well). We try to view it as organic change and debate who has the authority to know when to fight and when to run. In actuality it is a very nuanced dance between the people and rabbinic leadership.

    3. imho the discussion (as many others) is a related subset of a broader vision of the destiny of the Jewish nation – does or lagoyim mean we do our thing and everyone admires form afar (we might look at the amish to see how that works) or we engage in society to impact it.

    Not claiming what anyone should do, I’m just observing what I see.

    KT

  72. Avi: You need to find a rabbi with whom you are really comfortable, and then abide by his decisions. If the only rabbi in town is not someone you’re comfortable with, call someone out of town. Modern communications makes these issues much easier to handle.

  73. This argument is annoying. Disagree with the comment if you want. I have no desire to debate what is or is not mainstream. There is more to the world than MO schools and summer camps, many of which cater to non-observant Jews as well.

    Nachum: No, neither my wife nor I sing zemiros in front of guests. I guess we’re egalitarian.

  74. Why? Because Jews in, say, Poland in 1700 were so much frummer and better educated than Jews of today?

    Yes, I think so.

  75. Frummer. Not better educated.

  76. Joel Rich: There are times when a chumrah is mevi ldei kulah – zmirot is imho a good example – having an entire table singing zmirot can be a highly spiritual experience (think of R’ Schach for the counter example).

    Not a chumra. I think you mean that you should choose a kula to avoid negative consequences of failing to do so.

  77. Like its more theoretical twin discussion, Did Miriam Sing? ), this discussion demonstrates that Orthodox Judaism’s grappling with the role of women is a much deeper issue than the emotive blog-pleasing topics of Rabba/Maharat/Women’s Minyanim, Partnership Minyanim, etc.).

    Before the advent of the “Centrist Orthodoxy” label, this broader was a key differentiator between Modern Orthodoxy and Yeshivish Orthodoxy. One can play with segmentation labels, but the underlying issue remains. There is no “mainstream” because it is a bimodal distribution and not a normal distribution.

    ——

    For those interested in further halachic source materials on Kol Isha, see: http://www.jofa.org/social.php/ritual/dailypractic/kolishah.

  78. Joseph Kaplan

    “If you want to take a poll of Orthodox rabbis or Orthodox laypeople, be my guest. I described it based on what I believe to be the case.”

    That’s probably true based on Gil’s recent experience. He once posted (I’m paraphrasing) that he hasn’t eaten a Shabbat meal at a house in the past 10 years where women participated in singing zemirot. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a home where women did not participate, including the homes of rabbis and serious talmidei chachamim. So we’re talking about two completely different Orthodox communities on this issue. It certainly is mainstream in Gil’s Brooklyn community; it certainly is not mainstream in my Teaneck community (and was not mainstream in the Far Rockaway community in which I grew up).

  79. DES: These institutions were all run by rabbis or had rabbinic input. We are not talking about what the MO parents do or do not do in their homes. You are saying the community that went to these institutions are not Torah Jews.

    Gil: It is indeed annoying that you deny the normative practice of which many here on this blog was raised. Your constant put downs of MO as kula indicate that, like the charedi, you see MO minhag as a bdeeved, to be explained away as a kula for the small minority attending who were there for some kiruv component.

  80. “HAGTBG — If your belief is that most Jews in all Modern Orthodox communities today would freely accept their rabbi’s verdict that their daughters should not participate in any public singing, AND that their rabbis would feel free to get up in shul Shabbos morning and state unequivocally that said singing is forbidden and will be stopped immediately, without fear of personal or political or institutional consequences, then yes, we are at an impasse. I just don’t think that’s true.”

    Wow I’m impressed. You have just destroyed the entire Jewish community. And I’m not talking about MO shuls, but rather Charedi shtible,s and Gedolim which have admitted freely that they can’t pasken against what the community will allow them to pasken.

    “Avi: You need to find a rabbi with whom you are really comfortable, and then abide by his decisions. If the only rabbi in town is not someone you’re comfortable with, call someone out of town. Modern communications makes these issues much easier to handle.”

    Stop switching this from the community to the person. The point is, no community will allow a Rabbi to rule differently from what the community already accepts as Halacha. It doesn’t matter if they are comfortable with that rabbi on every single other issue, and follow them for every issue in the world. If the Rabbi paskens wrongly, the community will override them.

    I’m reminded here of the “Gedolim” who say that they would wear techelet publicly, but then there would be too much burden on the community.

  81. In Rabbi Holtzer’s “The Rav – Thinking Aloud” book, there is an exchange where R. Holtzer asks him about singing Zemirot together with the girls in his seminary.
    RJBS says something to the effect of, “I’m familiar with all of the Heterim that are used, and I am not comfortable with any of them”.
    I think this should be added intot he mix.

  82. “Like its more theoretical twin discussion, Did Miriam Sing? ), this discussion demonstrates that Orthodox Judaism’s grappling with the role of women is a much deeper issue than the ”

    IH,
    I think you are completely wrong on this point. This has nothing to do with women, and everything to do with how you define “normaitve” practice, or how you describe certain halachot.

    If the post had been about wearing a hat and jacket, and the first line was “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men wear hats and jackets every where they go.”, I think you would see the exact same argument happening.

  83. David G: Impossible. The Rav had season tickets to the opera (and the Red Sox)!

  84. IH often confuses Conservative theology and Orthodox-lite (non-)observance with traditional Judaism.

  85. HAGTBG: These institutions were all run by rabbis or had rabbinic input.

    Again, did the rabbis involved in these institutions feel free to publicize and implement whatever they thought was halachically right? Might there plausibly have been negative consequences for them, for their institutions or for their constitutents had they adopted a different, “unpopular,” halachic stance? If so, the practices in these institutions are irrelevant.

  86. avi — we’ve had the hat and jacket discussion in the last year and the comments did not look like this. We have not had the discussion about co-ed education, but I bet the comments would look like this.

    HAGTBG — Seems to me that Gil’s apologetics are a variant of the modern use of Tinnok Shenishba.

  87. Gil,
    It’s in the book.
    I just don’t have it with me at work.
    I don’t know how to reconcile it with the Rav’s opera tickets, ,but then again, he was a very complex and nuanced individual.

  88. And I’m not talking about MO shuls, but rather Charedi shtible,s and Gedolim which have admitted freely that they can’t pasken against what the community will allow them to pasken.

    Yup, that’s a problem.

  89. IH often confuses Conservative theology and Orthodox-lite (non-)observance with traditional Judaism.

    Gil — So, are SAR/Ramaz/YoF/etc Conservative or Orthodox-lite (non-)observance with traditional Judaism) in your view?

  90. David G: I was being sarcastic. I take Rav Soloveitchik at his word but others choose not to.

  91. “Again, did the rabbis involved in these institutions feel free to publicize and implement whatever they thought was halachically right?”

    “These rabbis” went to the Broadway theater and sang zemirot with their wives and daughters in other people’s homes and in their homes with guests. They simply did not have a problem with this type of behavior.

  92. “IH,
    I think you are completely wrong on this point. This has nothing to do with women, and everything to do with how you define “normaitve” practice, or how you describe certain halachot.”

    I think there’s truth to IH’s comment. In an Orthodox world where there are groups who are actively limiting the public role of women, adding yet another limitation isn’t simply a discussion of normative halachic practice.

  93. Avi — with a “community vs. rabbi” issue, one must ask whether the community’s original adoption of their practice was done in accordance with rabbinic guidance, which would lend it legitimacy. In the case of a 400-year-old practice, I think we generally assume that it was legit (it’s often hard to prove one way or the other). In the case of a 20th-century American Modern Orthodox high school practice, I’m not at all convinced it is legitimate to make the same assumption. It could well be that from the very beginning, the laymen pressured the rabbi to allow certain halachically undesirable practices.

  94. IH: So, are SAR/Ramaz/YoF/etc Conservative or Orthodox-lite (non-)observance with traditional Judaism) in your view?

    Co-ed schools are certainly not mainstream, but that is beside the point. Their allowance of female singing is certainly a bedieved for reasons already explained. They need to cater to the Orthodox-lite who would otherwise go to prep or public schools.

  95. “avi — we’ve had the hat and jacket discussion in the last year and the comments did not look like this.”

    I doubt anybody said that a hat and jacket was “mainstream orthodox practice” without any qualifiers of the when and how of it.

  96. It could well be that from the very beginning, the laymen pressured the rabbi to allow certain halachically undesirable practices.

    Or, as Gil just said, that there were extenuating circumstances that justified allowing certain (ceteris paribus) halachically undesirable practices.

  97. Gil — I don’t deny there is a Orthodox mainstream that holds by “Kol Isha” in the way you do; but, there is another Orthodox that doesn’t. Likewise with co-ed education.

  98. “And I’m not talking about MO shuls, but rather Charedi shtible,s and Gedolim which have admitted freely that they can’t pasken against what the community will allow them to pasken.

    Yup, that’s a problem.”

    Ok, show me proof that there exists a place where this “problem” does not exist?

  99. typo: there is another Orthodox mainstream that doesn’t.

    i.e. it’s bimodal — there are 2 mainstreams, both of legitimately Orthodox.

  100. “I think there’s truth to IH’s comment. In an Orthodox world where there are groups who are actively limiting the public role of women, adding yet another limitation isn’t simply a discussion of normative halachic practice.”

    I’m not sure if you noticed or not, but nobody is talking about anything past the first line of the article 🙂

  101. IH: You are turning bedieveds into lechatchilahs because that’s what you saw when you were growing up.

  102. Avi — We need to go issue-by-issue. I will happily invalidate as “non-normative” any specific practice of any subset of the Orthodox community whose rabbis are not free to express their objection to that practice (though we have reason to suspect that they might, in truth, object). In Modern Orthodox communities, that may mean female singing performances. In Haredi communities, that may mean some sort of national service.

  103. You are turning bedieveds into lechatchilahs

    I think this sums up the crux problem with your methodology. You can go all the way back the cave using it, since most halachic progress can be undone in this manner.

  104. >Frummer. Not better educated.

    Unhistorical narishkeit.

    Just a quick perusal of rabbinic shu”t literature from this period will show that in many ways, we are more careful regarding many many things than earlier generations.

    Here is an example I cut and pasted from S. comment to a thread on CC:

    To add to Mr. Cohen, see Or La-yesharim (Prague 1785) the collected derashos of R. Zerach Eidliz. #14, given in 1769, says

    “Behold, this year about ten babies were circumcised in the synagogue, born to unwed mothers, and these are known to us; the females are [obviously] not known. Woe to us that this has happened in our time, this great licentiousness in our generation.”

    There are many many other examples. But hey, at least they didn’t listen to women singing!

  105. Not a chumra. I think you mean that you should choose a kula to avoid negative consequences of failing to do so.
    ==============================
    I guess I would call it choosing amongst halachically acceptable options in light of a Meta-halachic Weltanschauung 🙂
    KT

  106. Chardal — What percentage of Jews today — Jews, mark you, not “Orthodox” Jews — have children out of wedlock (or have “marital” relations that do not, thanks to modern biotechnology, result in children? I’d say we’re doing a lot worse than they were. Hands down. Game, set, match.

  107. IH — What does it mean, “halachic progress?”

  108. DES – “halachic changes” will suffice for my point.

  109. DES — Do you think that Modern Orthodox co-ed schools such as SAR, Ramaz, Yeshiva of Flatbush, Frisch, Maimonides (etc.) are Orthodox?

  110. >Chardal — What percentage of Jews today — Jews, mark you, not “Orthodox” Jews — have children out of wedlock (or have “marital” relations that do not, thanks to modern biotechnology, result in children? I’d say we’re doing a lot worse than they were. Hands down. Game, set, match.

    What are you talking about? There was no such thing back then as “orthodox Jews” or non orthodox Jews. There were just traditional Jews – you know, the ones some orthodox people like to pretend were exactly the same (or even greater) than the current frum community.

    Point is, you are trying to establish past generations as a source of practice, and as soon as it is pointed out to you that they were not always so frum, you make an argument that “true, the contemporary orthodox community may be so frum, but we are not when you look at the entire jewish people.” Disengenuous to say the least.

  111. IH — Why do we want to change halacha? Do you mean, “apply the same body of halacha to a new situation, resulting in a different practical halachic outcome?”

  112. Gil:

    I would be very interested in seeing a post on the halakhic permissibility of lying for the sake of kiruv.

    One consideration: If Rabbis think that its ok to lie about halakha for various reasons how can one ever be sure that one is doing retzon hashem?

  113. DES – sorry, but 10:52 is non sequitur. You asked for clarification of a word in my comment of 10:35 which I provided.

  114. Chardal — After writing my post I realized that it wasn’t really a germane point. The real question is whether the typical 18th-century Jew was “frummer” than the typical “Modern Orthodox” Jew. Did he have more yiras shamayim and yiras chet? My guess would be yes. That’s the point. The relevant point from my post above is that the fact that there were extreme examples of religious failings back then doesn’t mean that on average they were less frum. It just means that Jews back then who were religious failures remained part of the (by default) Orthodox community. Nowadays those people would probably end up outside the Orthodox fold. That’s not a comment on relative average “frumkeit.” It’s a comment on what happens to outliers.

  115. IH — I thought you had implied in your 10:35 post (with the revised reading of “halachic changes” rather than “halachic progress”) that “halachic changes” were desirable. Did I misunderstand?

  116. Do you think that Modern Orthodox co-ed schools such as SAR, Ramaz, Yeshiva of Flatbush, Frisch, Maimonides (etc.) are Orthodox?

    Yes.

  117. “Just a quick perusal of rabbinic shu”t literature from this period will show that in many ways, we are more careful regarding many many things than earlier generations.”

    or take tola’im for an example.

  118. gil – “There is more to the world than MO schools and summer camps, many of which cater to non-observant Jews as well.”

    you are better than this type of “coloring” comment. non- observant is no reason to side step halacha and they didn’t – you just do not want to admit it – especially a yu affiliate like morasha.

  119. Ruvie: As I’ve written multiple times on this comment thread, they are allowing a bedieved to provide for the non-observant and barely observant within a frum atmosphere. Nothing wrong with that.

  120. >Did he have more yiras shamayim and yiras chet? My guess would be yes.

    Based on what? It is not only unsubstantiated but unsubstantiatable. The closest thing we have is records of people’s behavior. The example I gave was just one of many. Basic halachot were commonly and widely ignored in various times and places, from yashan to yain nesech, to hair coverings, etc, etc etc. sometimes, the rabbis fought back and won. other times, rabbis found fost facto halachic justification for the practice (like the chadash of goyim in chu”l being suddenly muttar). In any case, you can not make an artificial distinction that a minhag that is old is more valid because the people back then were more frum, they may very well not have been.

  121. gil – the point is nobody agrees that is what is happening except you. its also delegitimizing the mo as well (not saying on purpose) and no different than what hareidim like avi sharfan do al the time (see his piece on r’linzer op-ed article)

  122. Lawrence Kaplan

    The relevant issue re the Rav isn’t whether the Rav went to the opera, OTOH, or the snippet of conversation excerpted by David Holzer, OTOH. The relevant issue here is what was the practie at Maiminodes School during the years the Rav was at the helm and was setting policy. I once discussed this with some Maimnides graduates, and, IIRC, they said that girls sang in mixed choirs but not solo. But I may be wrong. Are there any Maiminides School graduates from the 60s and 70s who want to comment?

  123. Ruvie: I believe that is the case and the fact that a few commenters here disagree does not change my mind.

  124. Chardal — Ultimately you are right that it is very difficult to know. Doubtless religious commitment also varied tremendously by time and place. To make any one simple assumption about all Jewish communities throughout the ages is even dumber than saying something like “Chazal were concerned about X,” as if all Talmudic sages had the same mindset and life experiences. The bottom line is that when we just don’t know, we make the assumption that overall, Jewish communities did the religiously right thing.

    My point is that we can’t necessarily make that assumption about certain more modern phenomena about which we do have more information. Certain practices common in Modern Orthodox institutions and communities may be examples.

  125. For the record, I agree with Gil.

  126. [Not that anybody is going to care — or should care — what I think.]

  127. There is no question that Jews of previous generations were more frum than us today. And we know this clearly because many Jews had 3 sets of dishes during the year. Chalev, Basar, and Chazir , today we only have Chalev and Basar. 🙂 http://books.google.co.il/books?id=yWyxwAdgHWMC&pg=PA299&lpg=PA299&dq=the+chazer+pot&source=bl&ots=xI_CwHu-tG&sig=g8gZwrMRCttzJYRSRcVUD9ETSIQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CvgzT4XlLJKS8gOipd24Ag&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=the%20chazer%20pot&f=false

  128. “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing.”

    I think the sentence would be much truer by making it “…listen to live singing from females outside of their immediate family.”

  129. Rafael Araujo

    I have nothing to add. 🙂

  130. Shoshana Razel

    Lichatchila, of course, copping out of functioning in society and engaging in God’s world in a productive manner is an issur verging on utter Chillul Hashem.

    Lichatchila, of course, the laws of tzniut are to be applied as a paradigm into which the norms of day and age are to be inserted, as Torah intended.

    Bedieved, there are those who have some internal need to chase chumra, and in their discomfort with this tendency in themselves, they seek to belittle those who fully engage God’s world, as those who are merely operating out of sha’at hadhak. I think that HaKadosh Baruch Hu understands.

    Let us not make the bedieved of chumra a lechatchila, though, lest we fall so far from any semblance of living and breathing Torah that we wind up culpable of full-blown irreversible Chillul Hashem.

  131. Shoshana Razel — Just want to clarify: If it becomes the norm for women in Los Angeles to wear bikinis all day, does that mean that it becomes acceptable for Orthodox Jewish women in Los Angeles to walk around in bikinis also, since “the laws of tzniut are to be applied as a paradigm into which the norms of day and age are to be inserted?”

    (I picked L.A. because it has a warm climate. No other reason.)

  132. Shoshana Razel

    In a day and age when it becomes the norm to walk around in bikinis all day, Rachmana Litzlan, some might argue that Sikrikic Burka-like dress will become the most alluring attire in town. In such an age, Lo Aleinu, I might say, for arguments sake, that a tasteful one-piece bathing suit, replete with mini-skirt, might be the halakhic alternative.

  133. Why not a bikini, like all the other girls are wearing?

  134. Shoshana: This isn’t a chumra. It’s the standard ruling. See the examples in this post from mainstream Hesder yeshivas.

  135. HG: I accept your modification.

  136. Shoshana Razel

    You are arguing fairly, based on, “Davar SheRagil Lihiyot Mechuseh BiIsha.” However, I imagine that what you are describing is the minimalist attire of the day, one which comes dangerously close to exposing the actual makom erva, which is the real ultimate red line, before which the “Davar SheRagil” system halts. The attire I described, no doubt, will be worn by the proper women of the age that you describe, with the Sikriki women seeming, again, incredibly alluring and immodest in their blatant call for attention, as per their lack of sensitivity to that milieu.

  137. What if the women went bare-chested? (Sorry for being graphic.)

  138. Shoshana Razel

    You say “standard” ruling. That is very interesting phraseology. I have read the posts, and I have seen nothing new. The question is how does one determine “standard” ruling? Do we do a statistical count of how many people wrote psak of a certain opinion? And how many wrote psak of another opinion? Or do we use our solid halakhic thinking caps to observe the world and see how people go out in the world and act as per ViAsita HaYashar ViHaTov?

  139. Shoshana and DES: You are both being prudish, acting based on outdated standards to which you have been culturally biased. If modest women of a time and place wear bikinis or go about barechested then certainly a modest Modern Orthodox woman will conform to that standard. (sarcasm intended)

  140. I am sure that many Modern Orthodox women in that day and age would agree.

    However, I am genuinely interested in knowing whether Shoshana Razel would permit an Orthodox Jewish woman to walk bare-chested in public if this was common practice in the locale.

  141. Shoshana Razel

    DES: No worries. The Talmud does not apologize for being graphic. A woman’s breasts are not, in fact, “objective” erva. They are, along with arms, legs, voice, hair, what we call “subjective” erva, which is critical as per the implementation of “Davar SheRagil.” These are important legal distinctions. We do not, however, live in an age or a place where toplessness could even remotely be called modest dress. Although, in Africa, among remote tribes, women breastfeed their babies and walk around with only a loin cloth, and the society is not driven berserk by the site of this mode of dress. Everyone is perfectly able to go about their business doing meaningful toil and discussing their ideas of religion too, no doubt. I think that we could stand to learn a lesson of modesty from such tribes.

  142. I am curious whether DES and Gil believe that G-d fearing Orthodox rabbis in this future LA would have first permitted Orthodox girls and young women to walk around bare-chested for two generations.

  143. Shoshana: Actually, I believe the Rambam considers the entire torso to be “ervah,” which is why low cut blouses are halakhically worse than short sleeves or skirts.

  144. HAGTBG: I am curious whether DES and Gil believe that G-d fearing Orthodox rabbis in this future LA would have first permitted Orthodox girls and young women to walk around bare-chested for two generations

    It would presumably be standard at synagogue and school dinners, right along with the mixed dancing

  145. I once raised quite a tumult by suggesting on this blog that Sara Immenu (and most other women in Tanach) went about bare-chested, very casually and with no one thinking twice about it. I shall not raise such a tumult again.

    Whoops.

  146. This discussion reminds me of a teshuvah or R. Ovadiah Yosef from the 1960s. Someone asked him whether it was better for a woman to wear pants or a mini-skirt. In response, he said, first, you are asking the wrong question. The question is not which is better, but which is worse. (Meaning he was negative about both.) (He then ruled that pants are less bad.)

  147. Nachum, your comment about Sara Imeinu’s attire (or lack therof) remidnds me of this OtML post from 2005.

    http://onthemainline.blogspot.com/2005/06/adornment-for-life.html

  148. On the quantification of “mainstream Orthodox” it occurred to me to check the recently released Day School Census. In 2011:

    Modern Orthodox Schools: 83, Students: 29,766
    Centrist Orthodox Schools: 65, Students: 18,776

    Modern Orthodox schools strive for what has been referred to as a synthesis between Torah education and modernity, as for example in the inclusion of girls in Talmudic study. These schools are coeducational, with a strong emphasis on the academic program, as well as Judaics, which includes subjects that are not emphasized in typical yeshivas.

    Centrist Orthodox schools are not coeducational, except perhaps in the younger grades. Often there are separate boys and girls divisions in the same facility. As their designation suggests, Centrist Orthodox schools are located on the Orthodox spectrum between the Modern Orthodox and yeshiva-world, as they emphasize secular studies and Israel to a greater extent than the yeshiva-world and, generally, to a lesser extent than the Modern Orthodox.

  149. Rafael Araujo

    This is slightly off-topic.On issue of women walking around bare-chested, the Province of Ontario, where I live, it is legal for women to walk around bare-chested. See the 1996 Ontario Court of Appeal decision in R. v. Jacobs at this link: http://canlii.ca/t/6j5g.

    Of course, I am not suggesting that is how women generally dress. However, now they have right, and frankly, the way some women dress today, they might as well be bare-chested, which is very sad.

  150. Rafael Araujo

    “Everyone is perfectly able to go about their business doing meaningful toil and discussing their ideas of religion too, no doubt. I think that we could stand to learn a lesson of modesty from such tribes.”

    Don’t try stand-up comedy at home, folks.

  151. Rafael, Wendy Shalit made that point very well in her first book: The fact is that there are classical statues (and imitators from the 19th Century) that exude modesty even though the subjects have not a stitch of clothing on. You should check out the book.

    I think it’s legal in New York, too.

    IH, I think that distinction is all the making of Marvin Schick. RWMO might be a better term to use here.

  152. Nachum — it may be, but I am not convinced the Rabbis in charge of these co-ed schools view themselves as LWMO. So, perhaps RWMO vs. LWMO overlaps but is different from Dr. Schick’s segmentation.

  153. Rafael — on the issue of tzniyut vs. covering-up, there is no lack of empirical evidence that the part of Orthodox society that “sweats the details” about covering-up is any more tzniyusdik in its broader meaning; or any less susceptible to arayot.

  154. YOF, Ramaz, Frisch, and the rest of the co-ed schools are Orthodox. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything they do is kehalacha (and there is an objective halacha). Why is that not plain to everyone?

  155. Dani — would you also say that MTA or Central is Orthodox, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything they do is kehalacha?

  156. Shoshana Razel

    Back online. As to the Rambam and breasts being what he might refer to as “objective” erva. This is no surprise. That is h-i-s perspective–whether or not this is a product of his milieu, is a separate question, but again, that is one opinion, not “the” opinion. And yes, I stand by my observation, not meant in jest, that we could learn a lesson in modesty from such tribes, who lack the chumra chasers’ obsession with sexuality.

  157. Similarly, the texting teens who keep half-Shabbos, and every frum home that speaks lashon hara at the table, and the men who come from shacharis every morning and watch scantily clad women on TV – all orthodox. But they violate halacha in some manner. Just like most of us. Are people in the modern age so defensive and sensitive that they can’t just accept that they do certain things that are simply WRONG? You can’t just take every thing you do and find a justification in halacha just because you want to retain your claim to “orthodoxy” and still be able to do things that are assur according to a reasonable interpretation of mainstream halacha.

  158. IH – of course I would! I would even suggest you come up with some examples, if that wasn’t a serious question of lashon hara…

  159. IH – I might even say the same about Torah ve-Da’as, if I knew more about it. Just because an “Orthodox” institution does something, doesn’t mean it’s halachically sanctioned.
    The only institutions I would give that power to would be something like the RCA, the OU, or the Agudah – because their whole reson de etre is to be halachic arbiters. But a school is not so.

  160. Are people in the modern age so defensive and sensitive that they can’t just accept that they do certain things that are simply WRONG?

    We are talking about activities sanctioned by rabbis; not what some people are doing on their own. Further, this was not a discussion of what was right but what was “normative.”

  161. IH: Overlaps, yes. But the terms he uses are already existing, and he’s redefining them for his purposes. (Harry Maryles does the same.) The simply fact is that they meant the same thing in their original sense. I think Norman Lamm got the feeling that “MO” was derogatory and inaccurate, and so invented “Centrism.” (In his essay doing so, he states that he’s not excluding LWMO. I also think he’s given up.) The charedim did the same, changing “ultra” to “fervent.” Me, I don’t have a problem with either. I think “ultra” is more accurate than “fervent”, and terms in any event are not always accurate- not even “Orthodox” is. You live with what you have.

    Yeedle: Actually, nose rings are a bit au courant among the radical settler girls, the types who occupy hilltops. More tznuah women you won’t find, and their noses are pierced. I know a few myself. Nu nu.

  162. HAGTBG: Maybe you didn’t read my post carefully. The rabbis at these institutions do not agree with the permissive ways the schools deal with kol isha. But they choose to pick their battles. Where are the rabbis that say that it’s permissible lechatechila to listen to girls singing by themselves in those kinds of contexts (live, non-zemiros, non-blended with men)?

    Not a discussion of what is right, but what is normative? Okay, sure.

  163. Everytime I see the image attached to this post, I hear people singing “Doo op” with funny Israeli accents 🙂 Just had to share.

  164. Nachum — I’ve previously suggested that Gil dedicate a post to the issue of segmentation, so that at least here we can work out some terminology that is used in a like manner by regular participants.

    FWIW, I think we need different terms for the sociological groupings vs. the ideological groupings; they overlap, but are not identical.

    Just saying that “Centrist Orthodoxy” = “Modern Orthodoxy” (as Gil does) is meaningless, particularly when he then asserts things like “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing.”

  165. Nachum — you seem to buttress my point with your comment in News & Links:

    “I do think that LWMO will fare better here than Conservatism or Reform did, because the membership is a self-selecting group of people serious about Judaism. On the other hand, it will probably never grow to be more than a fringe for the same or similar reasons.”

    Surely, then, LWMO does not equal the Day School Census “Modern Orthodox” given that it has more seats filled than what you think is a re-labeled RWMO. Or is there another segment that makes up the gap?

  166. the rabbis at these institutions do not agree with the permissive ways the schools deal with kol isha. But they choose to pick their battles.

    You and Gil say that without evidence. You can make that up about any communal practice.

  167. And the more I think about it… people are saying that “ideally” the rabbis did not want kol isha but they permitted it. You know something, maybe a rabbi “ideally” wants a married woman to stay at home nearly every day, maybe they “ideally” want a man to marry his sister’s daughter. But you know, “modern” mores come and the interaction with the modern (for the period) and the theoretical is what makes actual halacha and minhag. Do you hear anyone clammoring for the days when it was desirable for a man to marry his niece? The simple facts are we had (i)a general communal practice, (ii) sanctioned by rabbis with (iii) a defensible halachic position. Say the halacha l’maase was “inferior” to your theoretical halacha all you want but it doesn’t make so or anything less then permissible.

  168. Further, when the Rabbi’s daughter sings a solo in the choir it’s less plausible to claim he really doesn’t agree with the policy 🙂

  169. More seriously, HAGTBG, the apologetics are needed by those who make them so that they can include these people/institutions in Orthodoxy. This is similar to the equally fictitious use of tinok shebishba to consider non-Orthodox Jews as Jewish. That the facts don’t support the apologetics is irrelevant to those who depend on the apologetics.

  170. Rabbi Marc Angel just published an article in Conversations which specifically and explicitly states that there is no problem with hearing the usual singing of the opposite sex(excluding singing that is deliberately erotic). He is the past president of the RCA. There are a number of papers with the same opinion by other rabbonim, to say nothing of the actual practice of a large number of people who identify as modern orthodox. (and the Rav did go to the opera). Unless all these people and the Rav are now being written out of Orthodoxy, the first statement is clearly incorrect. Unfortunately, the right wing is engaged in an ongoing effort to convince the rest of us that their way and approach to Halacha is the only legitimate option, and that the left is a small insignificant and misguided movement. Of course no group can be expected to tolerate such an attitude, and therefore there is a growing schism in Modern Orthodoxy. It is a sad situation

  171. cut through the smokescreen
    To all commenters
    Is a man listening to a female sing prohibited or permitted?

  172. The answer is obvious; as with so many other such question, “it depends.”

  173. c-l,c: Read the quotes from halakhah manuals in this post

  174. “Lawrence Kaplan on February 9, 2012 at 11:29 am
    The relevant issue re the Rav isn’t whether the Rav went to the opera, OTOH, or the snippet of conversation excerpted by David Holzer, OTOH. The relevant issue here is what was the practie at Maiminodes School during the years the Rav was at the helm and was setting policy ”

    Generally agree-the way to tell what the Rav believed Halacha lemaaseh is to see what was done in places and times that he was certainly in control-in general what was done in Maimonides until about 1980 or the RCA would certainly reflect what the Rav believed much more accurately than chakiras he could have discussed at Yeshiva.

  175. moral orthodox

    I think that the discussion, IMHO, misses the boat. On one side, is the issue about whether one should deliberately go to concerts with women singing – the fact that the rav went to the opera means that the issue is by no means as simple (and Rav Hutner also listened to opera). (In the 1950s, my father met his rav from Europe (who was in America in chinuch (at a RW insitution)), who came here in the late 1930s – the rav complained that ever since the Hungarians came after the war, all normal pleasures of civilized men were now becoming forbidden, such as going to the opera or to the beach…)
    However, even WRT the other side – those who assur it, the issue is not at all simple. The issue is not whether one would choose to go to such a concert – but even if one wouldn’t go, how far does one have to go to avoid it Eg, following scenarios
    1) Apartment upstairs has a tenant who is a singer, and practices daily
    2) When walking to work, you pass by a concert – or (in NY), on the subway is a singer. Avoiding it would cost 20 minutes and be late to work
    3) woman starts singing on a bus ( a great protest strategy in Israel….)
    (etc)
    How far does one have to go to avoid it ? would you have to move? be late?
    This is the practical issue facing the soldiers – not would their community and rabbanim forbid going to concerts, but what their community would require when one is in a place of music….(and today, being in the public sphere anywhere means the potential of being exposed to such music….)

    I would add another point. The halachic issues of kol isha is one thing. However, what is missing is an understanding that for the general public, the issue of egalitarianism in roles is an important moral and social issue – it isn’t an attempt to be inconsiderate, but is now an intrinsic part of being in general society and the army. To hide women away in military roles is the exact equivalent, for most, of arguing in America in the 60s and 70s, that blacks couldn’t be in command of whites because it offends the sensitivities (and some of these sensitivities were nominally religious). (This is different from women’s religious roles – the issue here is women’s military roles).
    How this shapes the halachic argument may be argued, but it should be understood that there are core principles involved on the other side as well…

  176. “and Rav Hutner also listened to opera”

    Didn’t just listen. Went, with the Rav.

  177. Hirhurim on February 9, 2012 at 7:35 am
    Let me be clear, I believe it is assur to listen to women singing live and that the overwhelming majority of Orthodox rabbis would agree. Whether Orthodox laypeople observe it is a different issue.

    I am coming late to this discussion. Whether it is assur or not depends on one’s posek, and whether Gil is describing a statistical reality I would leave to others (unfortunately for the Orthodox community, it may be right). What I would point out it that, IMHO, a large reason why so much of the MO rabbinate (as distinct from the haredi) does oppose it is, to be blunt, amaratzut – ignorance. The education they currently receive (especially in current YU) leads them to believe that it is assur – and that every major posek agrees with that position – and they are unaware of the existence of the other side (as Gil demonstrates..)

    What is truly striking is that THE major posek for that community – RYBS – clearly endorsed some forms of listening to women sing – as he went to the opera – this was not forced upon him, nor was it kiruv. (whether he endorsed all I don’t know – listening to a woman singing whom you know socially has different halachic issues than opera))This was quite standard in the German community ( some evidence that RSR Hirsch went, clearly normal in Berlin and Hildesheimer communities (my relative was a talmid muvhak of the SE) , as well as in parts of Austrian communities) where the rav was exposed to this

    (He was not alone i this – it was clearly as well the practice of Rav Hutner(who wasn’t doing it for kiruv….). Rav Shlomo Wolbe (whose origins are in Berlin) also personally engaged in mixed singing (my father was in the group) , and as late as the 1980s endorsed it as a lecatchilla derech

    The question therefore is is why the rav’s community does not do that – and indeed, views his actions as assur – and I would argue that it is amaratzut. (The fact that Gil, with knowledge of the rav’s actions, can argue that the only heter is kiruv remains astounding to me ( he can follow his posek for what he does, but the rav proves that there are other derachim)…

    That the rabbinical MO position is based on ignorance not merely conjecture. EG, in my father’s (HK”M) community, the dayschool had a yearly school trip to Broadway for the 8th grade. They got a new principal – who objected strongly. The local rabbanim also objected, but did not want to interfere (there is a truth of a dissonance between some of the Orthodox rabbinate and their communities – as some of the rabbinate would wish to forbid some practices – but, as here, this reflects more on the ignorance of the rabbis than on the community – who follow the practice of the rav…). This led to a dispute. All of the local rabbanim were convinced that this was completely assur – and that no halachically serious Jew had ever gone to Broadway or the opera. It took the intervention of a senior outside rav- recognized as a talmid chacham and talmid of the rav, who went over both the halachic heterim and who accepted them, for them to accept that this was permissible (even if they wouldn’t do it…)

    Now, Gil can follow whichever psak he wants. However, if a rav decides this is assur, that is his right. However, if he decides that those who disagree have no heter except kiruv- for those of us who know reality and the experience of direct contact with gdolim, such a rav is an am haarets- whose every position can be ignored.

  178. There’s definitely amaratzus in this discussion. I’m just not sure whether its rabbanim relying on the vast majority of poskim or people quoting irrelevant precedents because they are unable or unwilling to distinguish between mixed singing and female solos. Or those relying on unverified rumors of opera attendance rather than the Rav’s own words, recorded and available in transcript.

  179. The Rav, on tape about listening to women sing: “I’m familiar with all of the heterim that are used, and I am not comfortable with any of them.” Maybe he changed his mind from when he was in Berlin. Or maybe he sat up in high seats where he only heard echoes. I know someone whose fiancé very much wanted to go to a Broadway show with him. He asked R. Ahron Soloveichik who reluctantly allowed him to go but only if he sat very high up so he would only hear echoes.

  180. Or maybe he sat up in high seats where he only heard echoes.

    I gather you’ve never been to the Opera.

  181. The Rav, on tape about listening to women sing: “I’m familiar with all of the heterim that are used, and I am not comfortable with any of them

    As I pointed out, there are differences – and some of the prevalent helterim apply only when there is no social contact . The rav on tape is for zmirot – different issue than opera or Broadway ( and rav Ahron z”l had a different derech than the rav on many issues). What is not deniable (not an unverified rumor – and at least one Talmid of his in the 70s told me he heard it from him in shut – and rav rakeffet is an ed ne’eman, not some unverified rumor. This was the standard of many Rabbanim as well – rav Leo Jung, rav Hillel Weiss ( from Austria, but principal of Rjj – all of them went to the opera with pleasure, and now being treated as porke ol by those who should know better.

    Again,if Gil and his poskim want to assur, that is their right. However, to argue that the only heter is Kiruv, rather than lecatchilla, betrays a startling ignorance of the reality – some of it clearly deliberate ( desire not to know) – and is being motzi la’az on the rav, rav hutner, and many others gdolim vetovim mimenu..

  182. Meir — not to worry, someone will be melamed z’chut on the Rav and his generation for going to the Opera, just as for the Rav’s wife and her generation for not covering their hair 🙂

  183. Ah, I see the misunderstanding. I meant that the only heter I would give is for kiruv. Rav Ahron gave a slightly more expansive heter for a broadway show in a case of need. Maybe Rav Ahron was just one of the amaratzim about whom you express such disdain.

  184. Well, anyone who talks about “sitting up high” and “hearing only echoes” is clearly an am ha’aretz when it comes to hearing singing in the theater. But this line takes the cake in that department:

    “unable or unwilling to distinguish between mixed singing and female solos.”

    Gil, do you really not know that opera is chock full of female solos?

  185. Hirhurim,

    Your statements about the Operah and the Rav’s attendance of them, are pure ignorance. It’s really shocking that you would admit to the ignorance so willfully, and without caveat.

    Meir Shinnar’s comment seems the most true to me, as I have no connection with NY style Judaism, but everything he has written which is not about NY directly, reflects what I know on the issues as well.

  186. http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/709758/Rabbi_Aaron_Rakeffet-Rothkoff/2002-01-28_R._Emanuel_Rackman___28-Jan-02

    At 1:12 minutes he talks about Kol Isha and the Rav. And says directly that Kol Isha only applies to sultry singing and “Hollywood siren songs”, and talks about the FACT That Rav Hunter and Solevetchik went to the Operah.

  187. 1 hour 12 minutes. It’s on a recording, not a rumor 🙂

  188. At 1 hour and 18 minutes, the Rav promised another person a trip to the Opera as well.

  189. Hirhurim on February 12, 2012 at 11:38 pm
    Ah, I see the misunderstanding. I meant that the only heter I would give is for kiruv. Rav Ahron gave a slightly more expansive heter for a broadway show in a case of need. Maybe Rav Ahron was just one of the amaratzim about whom you express such disdain.

    1) As I noted, Rabbanim (including Gil , but for sure rav Ahron z”l)have a right to assur it based on their understanding. It is claiming that the only heter out there is for – which rav Ahron never did ( he had a different approach on many issues than his brother) which is problematic, as is the tone…
    There is a concept of Halacha kebatrai – except when the batrau did not know About an earlier shitta – and it is clear that many (not all) of those who asser opera are unaware of the earlier shitta of the rav and rav hutner..

  190. Anonymous ben Anonymous

    I’ll only comment from personal experience, not rumor. In the 1960s, my 8th Grade rebbe, a RW musmach of RMF, took our class to see Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway — which of course includes female solos.

  191. Of course I don’t know anything about opera. Shouldn’t that be obvious from the conversation? But I can only speculate why people are focusing on the side issue rather than the ikar, that the Rav said explcitly — on tape — that listening to women sing zemiros is assur. Who are you going to believe about the Rav’s view, R. Rakeffet or the Rav? Or is this just right wing revisionism, by the Rav himself! I was just tossing out possible reconciliations but if we have to choose between the two reports, I know which I’m choosing. No one here has addressed that, choosing to ignore the Rav’s own words. Instead, Meir Shinnar has disgracefully insulted rabbis rather than face the fact that he might be the one ignorant of the Rav’s position.

  192. Is there any testimony that Rav Hutner, Rav Shlomo Wolbe, the Rav or RMF told an individual that he may listen (and watch)a female sing and under what circumstances?

  193. As I said long ago in this thread, there is no one “mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice” in regard to Kol Isha. It is a bimodal distribution with 2 “mainstreams” (each of which has its own distribution). The issue is that Gil consistently refuses to accept eilu v’eilu on this. Nu nu.

  194. Lawrence Kaplan

    Again, It’s hard to know the context of the snippet from Holzer’s tape. I’d like to ask you Gil: Why aren’t you interested in the Rav’s policy re Kol Ishah and girl’s singing for Maimonides School? I am almost certain that I remember hearing from students at the time that the girls sang in mixed choirs. Can anyone confirm?

  195. ” on tape — that listening to women sing zemiros is assur.”

    A. You have not provided the tape for any of us to comment on.
    B. You have not provided any context that for tape. We have no idea what specific case is being talked about there.

    A situation with women whom a person might date, singing zemirot around men who might be interested in them, is not at all the same as a blanket statement that mainstream Orthodox opinion is that men NEVER EVER in any circumstances, listen to females sing… Which is what you wrote, and is what people are objecting to.

    Nobody denies that in a situation where a woman’s singing might cause sexual arousal and sexual tension, that a man is not allowed to listen to it. The situation with the Zemirot might be just that sort of situation. An Opera is not.

  196. No, IH. The issue is that you think being outside of the mainstream means non-Orthodox. I don’t think anyone can reasonably make that claim.

    Dr. Kaplan: The context is actually quite clear in Holzer’s book. Mixed choirs are, of course, different from female solos.

  197. Gil — The comments from a wide spectrum of readers attest to my point. As a general comment, other than protracting quantity of responses, it seems to me you defeat your pedagogic purpose through hyperbole such as your opening sentence “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing.”

    The controversy in this thread is mostly about your trying to shove something down the throat of all Orthodoxy. What have you gained for your side here?

  198. IH: The comments from a wide spectrum of readers attest to my point

    Don’t be ridiculous. It was a tiny spectrum. This is ultimately a judgment call and nothing any commenters have said have changed my view. You can feel free to disagree, as we do on many things.

    Avi: A. You have not provided the tape for any of us to comment on.
    B. You have not provided any context that for tape. We have no idea what specific case is being talked about there.

    Someone earlier in the comments did. It’s from R. David Holzer’s first volume of The Rav Thinking Aloud.

    A situation with women whom a person might date, singing zemirot around men who might be interested in them

    To my knowledge, most halakhic discussions go in the exact opposite direction — zemiros are holy songs so there is less of a problem.

  199. Hirhurim on February 13, 2012 at 7:59 am
    Of course I don’t know anything about opera. Shouldn’t that be obvious from the conversation? But I can only speculate why people are focusing on the side issue rather than the ikar, that the Rav said explcitly — on tape — that listening to women sing zemiros is assur. Who are you going to believe about the Rav’s view, R. Rakeffet or the Rav? Or is this just right wing revisionism, by the Rav himself! I was just tossing out possible reconciliations but if we have to choose between the two reports, I know which I’m choosing. No one here has addressed that, choosing to ignore the Rav’s own words. Instead, Meir Shinnar has disgracefully insulted rabbis rather than face the fact that he might be the one ignorant of the Rav’s position.

    We have good evidence that he personally went to the opera. We also have good evidence that he wasn’t happy with women singing zmirot ( context of a girl’s seminary is different than average home – but qbuote suggests broader applicability). Reconciliation of the two isn’t difficult (some opinions about opera do relate to the lack of social contact), although precise reasoning may be argued. What can’t be argued is that the rav personally went to opera – with women solos – so that becomes a ma’aseh rav

    Clearly, this ma’aseh rav is against the broad statement that listening to women sing outside of a fa mily context is beyond the pale of mainstream Orthodoxy – unless one is ,willing to put the rav and rav hutner out of the mainstream. This is clearly not something members of the broader YU community are willing to do- but rather than therefore changing the statement , the veracity of rav rakeffet is now attacked. This is, in my experience fairly typical Amongst many nominally MORabbanim – they were taught not merely to assur it, but that there is no heter outside for kiruv, or that it is symptomatic of MO-lite, and are truly unaware of the other side – and when confronted with facts, don’t have an intellectually honest way out…

  200. Thank you for finally admitting that the Rav’s position is more nuanced than you initially indicated. It could very well be that the Rav changed his mind on this issue.

    Regardless, last I checked both Rav Hutner and the Rav have been out of functioning society for over 25 years. Using their behavior as a definition for what is currently mainstream is, I believe, implausible. Unless you want to redefine mainstream as “what was mainstream in the 1960s”. That was not the definition with which I am working.

    The implication that I attacked R. Rakeffet, with whom I am certain I have a warmer relationship than you, is simply ludicrous. If presented with a recording of the Rav, he would also qualify his position and perhaps ask himself some tough questions.

  201. Hirhurim on February 13, 2012 at 12:24 pm
    Thank you for finally admitting that the Rav’s position is more nuanced than you initially indicated. It could very well be that the Rav changed his mind on this issue.

    Regardless, last I checked both Rav Hutner and the Rav have been out of functioning society for over 25 years. Using their behavior as a definition for what is currently mainstream is, I believe, implausible. Unless you want to redefine mainstream as “what was mainstream in the 1960s”. That was not the definition with which I am working.

    The implication that I attacked R. Rakeffet, with whom I am certain I have a warmer relationship than you, is simply ludicrous. If presented with a recording of the Rav, he would also qualify his position and perhaps ask himself some tough questions.

    1) the rav’s position is always nuanced – and I never argued otherwise.
    2) there is no intrinsic conflict between the two statements – dealing with different situations, and only ideological commitments force a conflict
    3) your statements clearly imply that facec with the tape of r holder, you would disbelieve rav rakeffet – in plain english, say he was lying, or, at the minimum, not careful.btw, fairly standard mode of disposing of inconvenient positions of the rav). I will Let readers decide

    4) however, your dismissal of the rav and rav hutner as yesterday’s Orthodoxy is not only puzzling for a yu guy, but also highly problematic. First, for some of us, Halacha represents eternal truths, rather than conformity and changing to social norms – although you may be right about the current social norms of Orthodoxy.
    However, this was represented not merely as social norm, but a halachic norm. my point is that for a large group, something the rav believed was lecatchilla remains lecatchilla – and I would suspect much of the yu crowd would agree with that – even if sometimes they don’t themselves do it. The question is why a position practiced by the rav has become not only one not followed – but viewed as huts lamachane – and I would argue the reason is ignorance, sometimes willful.

  202. Meir Shinnar: 1) the rav’s position is always nuanced – and I never argued otherwise.

    By entering a discussion of multiple dissimilar situations with an attack on anyone who disagrees with you, you de facto argued otherwise.

    2) there is no intrinsic conflict between the two statements – dealing with different situations, and only ideological commitments force a conflict

    Others, who think in terms of Talmudic concepts rather than your ideological battles, might disagree.

    3) your statements clearly imply that facec with the tape of r holder, you would disbelieve rav rakeffet – in plain english, say he was lying, or, at the minimum, not careful.btw, fairly standard mode of disposing of inconvenient positions of the rav). I will Let readers decide

    I *began* by supplying possible reconciliations which you ignored, feeling no need to deal with inconvenient data. I too will let readers decide who here is attempting to revise history by ignoring the Rav’s explicit statements.

    4) however, your dismissal of the rav and rav hutner as yesterday’s Orthodoxy is not only puzzling for a yu guy, but also highly problematic.

    It is only problematic if, against all logic, you choose to view it as dismissal rather than description. I would also say that the Rav’s view on brushing teeth on Shabbos is not mainstream, even though I follow it! Surely you recognize that there is a difference between description and prescription.

    First, for some of us, Halacha represents eternal truths, rather than conformity and changing to social norms

    Wow! A complete denial of the concept of Eilu Ve-Eilu. Very unexpected from such a distinguished thinker as you. What about the many texts regarding different views on halakhic practice? What about the many debates in the Talmud and beyond? All rendered null and void by you because you believe that “Halacha represents eternal truths”!

    although you may be right about the current social norms of Orthodoxy.

    Oh, you do understand. Then why the puzzlement over a YU guy’s highly problematic description with which you agree?

    However, this was represented not merely as social norm, but a halachic norm.

    No, there is an overlap. This is about a social norm over which halakhic view is commonly followed.

    The question is why a position practiced by the rav has become not only one not followed – but viewed as huts lamachane – and I would argue the reason is ignorance, sometimes willful.

    I disagree with your assessment and suggest that perhaps the Rav *changed* his view. I also note that many of the Rav’s talmidim followed other poskim as well and frequently consulted with R. Moshe Feinstein and others. That, in itself, is sufficient to answer your question. Personally, I wonder, in turn, whether those who accept this view on opera yet reject the Rav’s view on women singing zemiros do so out of ignorance or apathy. The Rav is very popular when it’s convenient.

  203. I have a methodology question (which I emphasize is not rhetorical): If (a) in the Rav’s house his wife and daughters regularly sang zemirot (and I have no idea if they did or didn’t, but let’s assume, for purposes of my question, they did) and (b) the Rav once said in a conversation — not a major shiur or written work but a one-time conversation that was taped — that there is no heter for women singing zemirot, which is more probative of the Rav’s views on this issue?

  204. I would think his statement is more conclusive. He could have been lenient at home for reasons we don’t know, such as a concern his daughters would go off the derekh or some other unique situation (since we’re being hypothetical — from what I’ve been told, the Rav didn’t sing zemiros).

  205. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: We have exactly ONE sentence of the Rav about this issue in Thinking Aloud. Moreover, Rabbi Holzer does not indicate exactly what his question was. Nor does he indicate what practical conclusions the Rav drew from his comment. And this is supposed to be conclusive???

    Again, the key issue, which you have not addressed is Maimonides School. Here we should have lots of evidence. Again, I remember being told that girls sang at School performances as part of a mixed gender choir, but not solos. Maimonides graduates anyone? Of course, you will no doubt give your all-purpose reply that the Rav was afraid that otherwise students would go OTD. After all, now that you made such a ridiculous (albeit hypothetical) suggestion about the Rav and his daughters, Maimonides School should be a piece of cake.

  206. me
    First, for some of us, Halacha represents eternal truths, rather than conformity and changing to social norms

    Hirhurim
    Wow! A complete denial of the concept of Eilu Ve-Eilu. Very unexpected from such a distinguished thinker as you. What about the many texts regarding different views on halakhic practice? What about the many debates in the Talmud and beyond? All rendered null and void by you because you believe that “Halacha represents eternal truths”!

    I think much of the discussion is getting repetitive – primarily because Gil is unable to incorporate the fact of the rav’s going to opera into his understanding of kol isha, and there is no need to tread over the same ground. I will let the readers decide

    However, the above post shows a certain desperateness, as it completely confounds two separate issues.
    My point is that as halacha is eternal – the rav’s endorsing of going to the opera as a lecathcilla option is not changed by the winds of fashion and social mores – and therefore that the rav is no longer active is not relevant (the gra is also not active…..). That is completely separate from the issue of elu ve’elu – and I fully admit the presence and validity of other halachic opinions. Elu ve’elu does have limits, however – it refers to the variety of halachic opinions. However, while Gil and his poskim are entitled to their opinions (elu ve’elu), they are not entitled to their facts – and the fact is that the rav went to and enjoyed opera……

  207. Lawrence Kaplan

    For the record, the Rav as cited by R. Holzer, said, “I know all the heteirim, and none may be relied upon.” 11 words. Relied upon for what? Is the question posed by R. Holzer, as found in the book, the exact wording of the question he posed to the Rav? What was the practical issue on the table? Was there any follow up in the conversation to the Rav’s comment? Was any more of this exchange recorded? Can it be made available? Etc. etc.

  208. Dr. Kaplan: I don’t see Maimonides as a relevant precedent because Rav Soloveitchik may have instituted a bedieved out of necessity. But if it is relevant, then it supports my position. The Rav insisted the Maimonides choir avoid female solos, which are standard in operas and broadway shows!

    The question in Holzer’s book is clear. He was starting a seminary and asked whether he could be in the room when the young ladies sang zemiros. The Rav said that he knew all the heteirim and would still not permit.

    Dr. Shinnar: Nothing you have written is remotely relevant so I will ignore it.

  209. “To my knowledge, most halakhic discussions go in the exact opposite direction — zemiros are holy songs so there is less of a problem.”

    Yes, and that would not be a valid heter for Rav Solevetchik, since holy songs can also be enticing. He therefore was looking at other issues. But since we don’t actually know the context, or the conversation other than a single out of context quote, it really tells us nothing, other than the very specific situation for a very specific person. A situation and person, which does not prove a rule, or negate the fact that the Rav would listen to professional women singing solos!

  210. Hirhurim on February 13, 2012 at 6:32 pm
    I would think his statement is more conclusive. He could have been lenient at home for reasons we don’t know, such as a concern his daughters would go off the derekh

    One of the clear subtexts of the discussion is our view of the past – where Gil is willing to view the past through the prism of what he thinks halacha now is – even if this means denigrating others (being motzi la’az on the rishonim). This is his insistence that all heterim must have been based on kiruv or concerns for off the derech – no matter how insulting this is, while others of us argue that this was viewed as lecathchila, and those rabbanim were also aware of the sources..
    The notion,however, that to preserve his viewpoint, he is willing to suggest, even if hypothetically, that the rav was concerned his daughters were going off the derech and therefore compromise his own halachic viewpoint is sufficiently obnoxious as to require a mecha’a – and hopefully an apology

  211. Please don’t be dishonest for rhetorical purposes. The simple fact, to which I have eye-witness testimony, is that the Rav didn’t sing zemiros at home. I was willing to entertain the hypothetical situation and add to it. Given the climate in the 40s and 50s, it is not unreasonable to assume the Rav was legitimately lenient out of fear that his children might go off the derech, as did many from the finest rabbinical homes. Your inference that lenience in a specific circumstance is insulting is itself insulting. But that is all irrelevant, merely hypothetical what-if scenarios. Using that as a basis to launch into a broader attack is a dishonest distractionary tactic to avoid discussing the real issues.

  212. Lawrence Kaplan

    Gil: You are are probably right about the background of R. Holzer’s question, though more context would be welcome. But even granting your point, the Rav’s ruling proves considerably less than your original claim. For the question of R. Holzer was referring to him 1) being in the same room and in close proximity with 2) a group of young women (no men) singing in 3) a non-family situation. This restrictive ruling, then, would certainly not apply to mixed gender choirs (Maimonides School). It might also not apply to family situations. One could even argue, though this is a stretch, that it would not apply to opera where one is not in close proximity to the singers.

  213. Dr. Kaplan: I agree that the ruling has nothing to do with the Maimonides choir. You are the one who keeps bringing it up, not me.

    The real question is whether it would apply to an army situation, where a single female soldier, whom many in the audience know personally, sings a solo.

  214. The real question is whether it would apply to an army situation, where a single female soldier, whom many in the audience know personally, sings a solo.

    Even assuming the female soldier is known personally, this is halachically the same situation in which a female high school senior at SAR, Ramaz, YofF, etc. sings a solo to her classmates during a (mandatory) school performance.

  215. and it is not difficult to apply the same apologetics you use to excuse MO co-ed schools to the Israeli army situation, as some DL leaders already have.

  216. Lawrence Kaplan

    Rabbi Student: You were the one who said that “In mainstream Orthodox Jewish practice, men do not listen to females outside their immediate family sing.” My point is that the Rav’s ruling in the Holzer book does not support such a broad generalization. I am intrigued, however, by your last comment about the army. May one infer that you would have less difficulty were there no solos in the army by female soldiers, but the women sang as part of a mixed gender choir? This would differ from the view, say, of R. Zecharya ben Shlomo who opposes listening to even “a mixture of men and women” singing. Your original article did not differentiate between female solos and mixed gender choirs.

  217. IH: Even assuming the female soldier is known personally, this is halachically the same situation in which a female high school senior at SAR, Ramaz, YofF, etc. sings a solo to her classmates during a (mandatory) school performance

    I agree. That is what we have been discussing. Rav Soloveitchik never permitted that at Maimonides. At least in my day, Frisch didn’t allow it either.

    and it is not difficult to apply the same apologetics you use to excuse MO co-ed schools to the Israeli army situation, as some DL leaders already have

    I agree with this also, but only as a bedieved when there are no other options.

    Dr. Kaplan: My point is that the Rav’s ruling in the Holzer book does not support such a broad generalization

    I agree and did not have the Rav’s ruling from the 1970s in mind when I wrote the sentence. I was describing the norm in the Orthodox community of 2012.

    May one infer that you would have less difficulty were there no solos in the army by female soldiers, but the women sang as part of a mixed gender choir?

    I believe “less difficulty” is precisely correct. It is bedieved, but less so than other circumstances. I believe that is part of what R. Rimon had in mind when he ruled that a soldier forced into such a circumstance should sing along.

  218. I love how in a couple hundred years from now there will be young scholars poring over and arguing about Hirhurim comments on their (newest technology) ipads and deciphering the two sides and making implications based on the facts and reasonings, for their modern halachic conclusions, whether aliba d’ Lawrence Kaplan or Aliba d’ Hirhurim or maybe IH.

    All comments (especially factual comments) should be made considering this.

  219. Lawrence Kaplan

    I sincerely hope that anything I write will never be used as a source for halakhic determinations. Now a “peshat ” in the Guide or the meaning of makhish maggideha in the MT, that’s something else.

  220. re: Maimonides girls singing, a friend of mine had a lead role in the (elementary) school play in which she sang solos. She was under bat mitzvah at the time, and I believe that was a condition on any female soloist. I also believe that the elementary musical play did not exist when the Rav was active, so this particular precedent is of little value re: the Rav’s position (though was probably cleared w Rabbi Twersky? -this was in the early 90s). It is, perhaps, relevant to the “mainstream modern orthodox” discussion…

  221. Emma: The solo you describe fits perfectly within R. Moshe Feinstein’s criteria.

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