Women and Judaism: Refocusing the Discussion

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Guest post by R. Raphael Davidovich

R. Raphael Davidovich is the rabbi of Heights Jewish Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Rabbi Michael Broyde’s recent article, in which he expresses mild disapproval of Simchas Torah women’s Torah reading, troubles me. I do not dispute the sources but believe that analysis misses the point. But I do not want this article to be about Rabbi Broyde’s particular piece because it is but one example, albeit impressive, of a larger phenomenon I have noticed over the past few years. Articles about the particulars fall into the category of missing the forest for the trees and ignoring a very significant and halachically dangerous movement.

Many articles, impeccably researched, can be written on the following questions:
May women receive synagogue honors, such as pesicha or gelila?
Should women be discouraged from wearing taleisim?
Is there is a way we can permit a double-ring wedding ceremony?

Articles on any of these topics, while interesting on their merit as is any Torah article, are beside the point; they conceal the real issue. Simply put, the real issue is female equality in Halacha and Minhag.

In Western society today, women have virtually achieved full legal and constitutional equality. There is no job, career or personal path that is not theoretically as available to women as it is to men. This equality of opportunity is seen as an ethical imperative, not merely a societal preference. Denying women full equality is considered immoral.

This is the issue at hand. It is bigger than gelila, Simchas Torah or hair covering because it flows into all these areas and far more. It would be a terrible mistake to classify this issue as one of public policy. Such a classification would only serve to minimize or even deny entirely its significance to the world of halacha.

Without getting bogged down in the details of the analogy, I like to use a phrase that became famous in the Supreme Court debates of the 1960s and 70s: I believe it is clear as day that the halachic system has penumbras that emanate from the lawsfound in both the Written and Oral Torahs.

Jews in America can invent or reform any practice they wish to. They have and halacha disapproves. But as the cliche goes, “It’s a free country!” Our discussion is not about freedom. It is about defining the parameters of halachic discussion and the spectrum of valid halacha. Any conversation that claims to be a valid halachic discussion must have as its premise the acceptance of the moral framework of Tanach as understood by Chazal.

According to the Written Torah and the Talmudic tradition, there are repeated and pronounced differences between men and women in regard to the sphere of ritual and relating to God.

According to the Written Torah and the Talmudic tradition, women relate to each other, to men and to God differently than men.

One would be hardpressed to find any area of halacha where the Torah doesn’t make dozens of legal distinctions between men and women. To name just a few:

  • The creation of woman in Bereishis Ch 2.
  • Marriage consists of a Man taking (being “lokeiach”) the woman.
  • The laws of Nedarim place the father and then the husband in charge of the vows and commitments of daughter then wife.
  • The laws of adultery and Sotah only apply if the woman is married.
  • The laws of inheritance have only the sons inherit, with daughters only inheriting when there are no sons at all.
  • Cohanim are only male descendants of Aharon.

Chazal make hundreds of distinctions in Halacha between men and women:

  • The laws of bentching state that 3 people men and women, do not make a zimun.
  • The entire seder Nashim in the Talmud is built on the significant differences between men and women that are to be found in the Written Torah and declarations of Chazal.

Were these distinctions between the sexes merely a sign of the times? I consider that approach antithetical to the halachic process. Until 30 years ago, so did the rest of the halachic instructors of the Torah observant community. (And no, the No-true-Scotsman fallacy is not being employed here.) The core difference between men and women is not open to a “The Times (or nature) have Changed – Nishtaneh Hateva” loophole. The erasure of the glass ceiling in modern western culture and law has no bearing on the Jewish system which is built on a foundation that in this area is impervious to nishtaneh hateva. Unlike Prozbul, there is no competing premise in Tanach or Rabbinic law or lore that supports this wholesale abandonment of this foundation of halacha.

A vocal core of leaders, men and women, have been working very hard to uproot this most fundamental axiom of the halachic system.

At times, I thought that I may have been making a mountain out of a molehill. Perhaps it’s just a matter of wanting to make people feel more included in ways that halacha, upon deeper analysis, may permit. Why not just let it go?

Two recent quotes by advocates of the new order are demonstrative of what I call the ethical grounding of the new trend.

In a post on a well known scholarly blog, a reviewer of the new Koren-Steinsaltz Talmud noted with pleasure that women were actively involved in some elements of its production.

However this approach demonstrates a commitment to a refreshing worldview in Jewish publications in which outstanding scholars are no longer barred from contributing simply because they do not carry a Y chromosome.

The attitude, which I will address shortly, was expressed with less panache in the following piece, excerpted from an article written by an Orthodox rabbi objecting to numerous halachic injustices against women:

Simply for lack of male reproductive organs, otherwise qualified women are still barred from the rabbinate, and from many positions of communal leadership. She can be a judge, but not a dayan. A brain surgeon, but not a posek. And often she must content herself with davening in a cage in shul, from where her desire to say kaddish for a parent may or may not be tolerated. This is no way to run a religion that claims wisdom as its inheritance. But every morning in the daily blessings, we unthinkingly mouth the philosophical justification for these demeaning, arbitrary, discriminatory practices.

While the author subsequently apologized for the stridency of his tone, it is not the stridency that disturbs me. What should alarm the halachic instinct of any observant Jew is the message that the distinctions between men and women made in the Written and Oral Torah are lacking in wisdom, the result of women lacking “male reproductive organs”. One must get past the crudeness to see the real problem: Reductionism. Men and women are not the same. What makes them so is many little things; chemical, biological, physiological. What makes a lulav a lulav and not a date? The placement of some carbon molecules in a different pattern. But the Torah considers that difference meaningful and relevant. Invoking reduced and petty-sounding distinctions like chromosomes and reproductive organs betrays the point of view that these differences shouldn’t really matter, and that those who say they do matter are guilty of committing an injustice. This is a point of view shared by millions of people who have rejected the Torah’s ethic. It should not be the point of view of Torah-observant Jews, let alone leaders.

The real question we need to ask of our fellow Jews and Jewish leadership is: When you think of the structure of Jewish life, as individuals and as communities, do you accept the underlying premise of the Torah and Chazal or the premise of Betty Friedan & Co?

The western canon of the past century has reached its own conclusions on all these matters. Its conclusions are very different from the conclusions of the Torah-Chazal canon. These differences between Classical biblio-rabbinic thought and the modern western view should be celebrated and understood, not undermined. Any discussion of particulars misses the point in its entirety. Such articles encourage the view that our community’s exclusion of women from public roles is “public policy” and unrelated to our Halachic principles.

Yes, it’s difficult to go against the grain but we have done it before and maintained our stances on many issues that were considered unethical to the world at large.

  • The Sexual Morality advocated in Acharei Mos-Kedoshim went against the mores of both Egypt and Canaan, and later Greece and Rome.
  • Our adherence to the covenant of circumcision has had to fight the hard fight in numerous countries and era, down to this very day and very country.
  • Our monotheistic stubbornness has caused us considerable persecution at all times.

The current struggle against the total rewriting of gender-based ethics is also quite difficult. Being in the middle of it makes it seem even harder. But it should be the job of the halachic community’s leaders to find a way to defend and promote those halachic ideals, not to embarrassingly circumvent them with “shtick” and legal tricks.

None of my thoughts here are intended to negate women’s desire to connect to their Creator. The “Closed Orthodox” community, both the Centrist and Chareidi varieties, have dealt with recent societal developments through numerous proposals and programs that have been formed and expanded over the years. This is all an attempt to accommodate this modern phenomenon–which is an outcome of the additional time for self-actualization, itself the result of mechanization and full-day education–and the competing draw of secular forms of ethical pursuit. However, any grassroots attempt to fill the time with added meaning can only be halachically encouraged or tolerated by the Observant community if it is formed in accordance with the ideals of Halacha and Minhag Yisrael.

About Raphael Davidovich


  1. Here we go. Another 250 comments to follow.

  2. This post only confirms for me – and I’m sure for many readers of this blog as well – how important Rabbi Broyde is to our community. Because the alternative is this.

    Obviously this post isn’t remotely convincing to anyone not already convinced. The beauty of Rabbi Broyde’s analysis (on this issue and many others) is that it is potentially convincing to those who might initially hold the opposite position.

  3. I guess when the Rov said that the feminist agenda “goes against our entire mesorah” that also wasn’t remotely convincing.

  4. I suggest that the author read R. Eliezer Berkovits “Jewish Women in Time and Torah” for a compelling alternative view. There are a number of fundamental issues that are side stepped here: Is the desire to do more inherently anti-Halachic? the author suggests that the answer is yes. Many commentors repeated try to tar these women with the dreaded feminist label and the desire for total equality, regardless of Halacha. This is a straw person argument. The orthodox women that I know that participate in wtg and other similar activities are motivated by a desire for a deeper connection with God and these are modes that provide it. Wouldn’t any Jew who holds the Torah to be our sacred text want to read from a Torah scroll as opposed to a chumash? How often do we dance holding Chumashim? We can argue about how much kiyyum mitzvah is involved, but the underlying issue is- is this a legitimate desire or not? Those who know the women the least assume that it is not a religious impulse but an extra-religious desire for equality. But even this is wrong. It is not a desire for equality, but a desire to do as much as halachically possible. If it winds up being equal, that is ok, but there is an acceptance of halachic limits. There is a big difference between wanting to be equal, and wanting to do as much as possible within the limits of Halacha. In other words, not wanting to accept non-Halachic limits on activity

    That leads to the second issue- exactly what are the halachic limits on the activities of women and how did they come about? R. Berkovits makes a compelling argument that much of the attitudes towards women are a manifestation of the society and are not Torah mandated. One only has to look at the many examples he provides, and follow how psak halacha has changed as society has changed. One well known example is the Rambam’s mandate that women not leave the house more than once a month. We routinely violate mandates that women and single men not be teachers. The examples are numerous. Therefore, it is very reasonable to look at a particular restriction and ask the question- did they say this because that was the societal norm and the psak reflects that societal norm, or is this an eternal Torah mandate?

    Consistency in approach is one hallmark of Halacha. If one is going to insist on a particular approach to wtg or simchat Torah laynings, then they have to accept the results of that approach when applied to other instances as well. For example, if one is going to oppose women’s megilla reading based on b’rov am, it is hard to endorse having many readings in time and space by men.

    The piskei Halacha over time on these topics have to be seen and read in the context of the societal norms in which they were promulgated. Some may indeed reflect eternal Torah mandates. Others however, are clearly societal norms imported into Halacha. R. Berkovits provides an excellent background for this and suggestions as to the results of this type of analysis. We ignore his approach at our own peril.

  5. Just to clarify, Rav Berkovits identifies approaches that are ‘Torah True’ and eternal, and ‘Torah tolerated’ approaches that are tolerated for a given time and place. The three examples that Rav Davidovitch gives are Torah True. The issue under discussion are those approaches that fall under the category of Torah Tolerated. It is misleading to conflate the two and make it appear that taking the cultural milieu into account is an attack on basic Torah principles.

  6. Eskimo: your attempt to make an argument from authority out of an anecdote is just so enormously helpful to the conversation. Please, tell me all the other things R. Soloveitchik is alleged to have said that supports a given agenda.

    In any case, R. Davidovich is really leaning on the absolute timelessness of the Torah *and its understanding by Chazal* to do a lot of work for his analysis. I think it’s pretty easy to pick up a bunch of stuff in that material, i.e. Chazal’s understanding of the Torah, specifically the Gemara, to undermine it.

  7. Unfortunately, R. Berkovits’ “Jewish Women in Time and Torah” is out of print and Ktav seems to have no interest in making it available via Google Books. Used copies are available on Amazon.

    On the other hand, R. Sperber’s talk this evening (https://www.afbiu.org/sperber) was videotaped and he was plainspoken on these issues, particularly in the Q&A.

  8. 1) Some mitzvot are binding on all adult Jews. Others differentiate based on gender. How do you know which mitzvot to look at to derive your “penumbras?”

    2) What’s the nafka mina from your argument? If someone makes a strong halachic argument that a particular mitzvah or ritual doesn’t need to be restricted to one gender, are you seriously suggesting an otherwise excellent Halachic argument based on the teachings of Chazal, Rishonim, and Achronim should be invalid because it conflicts with your penumbras? If so, and your penumbras derived from Chazal actively contradict conclusions from other teachings of Chazal, isn’t that a sign you have the penumbras wrong? If your penumbras always defer to good Halachic arguments, what is the nafka mina?

  9. Jerry – dont kid yourself. Rabbi Broyde and Rabbi Davidovich are both equally convincing or unconvincing. You remind me of a Democrat claiming Romney preached to the choir, but Obama was persausive. [Or the reverse.]

    Rabbi D is right that we cannot separate the meta cultural issues from the discrete halachic issues, as though one had nothing to do with each other. They most certainly do, as he astutely points out. But he should have observed aslo how fleeting and ephemeral these modern notions are. It is not only just 30 years ago, as he writes, that all orthodox instructors recognized the differences in the sexes. [And nearly all still do; the outliers make up a tiny fraction of observant Jews, almost non-existent statistically.] No, it is that until 50 years ago, all GOYIM recognized this. Many still do, but fear to say so publicly because of liability fears placed upon them by Title VII and the various discrimination laws. I would not be so quick to displace thousands of years of jurisprudence because of the whims of one generation, of one segement, of western society.

    Just the other day there was an article in the British Daily Telepgraph entitled “what do women want? To be married, of course.”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9594203/What-do-women-want-To-be-married-of-course.html —- and yet the types of instructors referenced above would have you believe that the concept of “tan du” is dead and buried. Such examples can be multiplied many times over.

  10. So what _is_ the diFference between men and women? You have stated that it is not merely incidental, and listed various halachot that reflect it, but what do you think it is?

  11. DF — did we read the same Torygraph column? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/9594203/What-do-women-want-To-be-married-of-course.html

    “Of the girls and women aged from seven to 21 who were questioned, just 46 per cent see marriage as the gold standard; and just one in five perceives marriage as a “mark of success” in life.


    This is an entirely unscientific view based only on my circle of friends, acquaintances and Kirstie Allsopp, of course, who is given to sighing, in public, about how much she longs to walk down the aisle with her property-developer partner and the father of her children, if only he would ask her.


    With the exception of your first paragraph, the English response to your comment is “Bollocks”.

  12. in accordance with the ideals of Halacha and Minhag Yisrael.

    R. Davidovich — Since you’ve spent time researching this, could you summarize for us the views of the major poskim in the period of the suffragette movement regarding the halachic view of whether women should be allowed to vote?

  13. I feel that the author of this piece is not being clear enough.
    If his conclussion is that the torah’s values show us that men and women should be different in practice, does he oppose women doctors as well? or is the torah’s oppisition only confined to the walls of the shul?
    What about changing diapers? should men not agree to change their children’s diapers, since that has been considered a woman’s job for centuries? After answering that question, I would be interested in the answer to the question: does the author see any problem in an halachic discussion about whether women should recite the kidush at the shabbat table (taking turns with her husband, or the likes)?

    I think R.Broyde’s article did in fact grasp the bull by its horns. He is aware of what was in the history and sets out a clear vision of how to procede to the future.

  14. It is undeniably true that the halacha makes certain unalterable distinctions between men and women. It is also undeniably true that Chazal and leading Rabbonim made rulings, at some times made enactments to minimize those distinctions (e.g. smicha on korbanot) and at other times to increase them (e.g. the Rema forbidding women to do shichta, despite explicit mishnayot permitting). Let us do away the the straw men on both sides of the argument. Some of the practices that differ by gender are God’s revealed will, some are from society. Sensible discussion in an Orthodox framework will be about which are which.

  15. “The mechitza is not only a law in Shulchan Aruch, it is a major principle of the Torah”. – Rav Avraham Yiztchok Kook z”l

  16. nooneinparticular

    the assumption in the blogpost is that there is an actual forest that should delineate where the trees should be allowed to grow.

    but what if the forest is shaped by the places where the trees grow (or are planted)?

    if we change a bunch of minor points ,then the forest will look different. but who says that is wrong?

    the writer of the post fails to include a serious, complete, argument for the position he claims with regards to gender definition in judaism.

    just because something has been a certain way for a few hundred years, doesn’t mean it should continue to be that way. (actually, I think Bernard Woolley said i better once…)

  17. I think that Rabbi DAvidovitch’s piece is one of the most cogent and civily argued formulations of the center-right/right wing position on these issues. A few critiques

    1)When you make and argument from a penumbra, no matter how reasonable, it is very difficult to make a decisive argument, penumbra are difficult to see and still harder to measure.

    2)It is undeniably true that the halakha envisions different roles for men and women and that there are some on the left who seek true halakhic egalitarianism, which is an oxymoron. However
    A)The halakha does not define the eveact nature or contours of this gender distinction. Women’s place in Jewish life and practice has varied greatly Most people who seek changes in women’s practice in halakha do not seek to destroy the halakhic line between men and women but to move it, as it has changed in part in response to social changes through out history.The parade example of this is the hafetz chayim’s decision to allow the teaching of women torah due to social factors.

    B)motivations are a difficult thing to assess. There can be no doubt that egalitarian consideration are factor in pushing this agenda, but so is the genuine desire of women to fulfill mitzvos that women were not able to do before. These women have these desires, unknown to righteous women of generations past because the exist in different social circumstances. As Rav Amital z”l and yibadel lchayyim R. Lichtenstein have emphasized it is import to valadate legitimate spiritual strives even when what the women desrie is no halakhicly possible.

    Every community needs to respond to changing social cicumstances and mores in a way that is appropriate to them. the can be no single answer to the challenge raised by feminism.

  18. I believe this article is faulty because, as usual for these types of things, it doesn’t have an accurate understanding of the “conclusion of western canon”.

    The fact is, Western society makes many differences between men and women. They are not treated equal in all matters of life. Women get paid less than men, even when legally this is not supposed to be the case, it still ends up being true for some reason.
    Women are treated differently in family court, and adoption agencies. Women are given different health insurance prices, and are given different forms of medical care. Psychologists treat women patients differently.

    The only place where men and women are given completely equal treatment is in the public sphere. And that seems as well to be the places that people are looking today to change minhag.

  19. ““The mechitza is not only a law in Shulchan Aruch, it is a major principle of the Torah”. – Rav Avraham Yiztchok Kook z”l”

    Context please? That sounds very unlike R. Kook in the context of this conversation.

  20. Consistency in approach is one hallmark of Halacha.
    For the sake of consistency – the consistency imho is that within somewhat given parameters (e.g. no one will allow idol worship) decisions will be made on what is acceptable and/or mandated practice. The mechanism and participants involved are also somewhat fluid.

    r’df imho is 100% on target that many minds are already made up, I wonder how many have really thought through the sources of their conviction.

  21. If the author is right, then the Chofetz Chaim should never have endorsed the Bais Yaakov movement (and the Rav and Lubavitcher Rebbe should never have approved of women’s Gemara study). After all, in the words of the Rambam, “Ha-melamed et bitah Torah k’ilu melam’dah tiflut.” The author needs to explain the mechanism of halakhic change with respect to the gender distinctions — a mechanism that must surely exist, else the aforementioned gedolim could not have made the pronouncements they made — for his view to be compelling.

  22. Raphael Davidovich

    I woke up this morning to a lot of comments. I would like to respond to many of them. This will take some time. But here’s my attempt to start, Al rishon rishon:

    Noam Stadlan,

    I hope I was clear, especially in my last paragraph, that I think the desire to do more is not anti-halachic. But it is also clear to me that the perception that “more” means “should be (or appear) equal” and that the distinctions are fundamentally unjust or undesirable, is fundamentally anti-halachic.

    I don’t believe I set up a straw-man here. In the past five years or so, the proponents of these changes within the Orthodox community have begun to express very clearly and unapologetically what leaders of the Heterodox movements have made clear for 30-40 years: that they are overtly pursuing a paradigm shift. I thought this myself more than five years ago, but I felt uncomfortable making public claims to understand their motivations. But I no longer have to claim to read their minds. I don’t doubt that motivations for some activities are done to fulfill a desire for greater connection. In order for that desire for greater connection to be fulfilled in a halachically acceptable manner, I believe that the ones who formulate and pasken on the programs need to accept Torah/Chazal’s premises.

    I have not read R Berkovits’s book on the subject. I will endeavor to locate a copy. But if I tried to make any point here, it is that the core idea (that men and women are in totally distinct categories for private- and certainly community-based ritual relationship with Hashem) is in fact Torah-mandated and not societal.

    [email protected]

  23. so according to R. Davidovich, R. Soloveitchik and Lubavitcher Rebbe also were people who wanted to “uproot this most fundamental axiom of the halachic system” since they supported the idea of women studying gemarah, even though chazal call it “tiflos”

  24. How then do you explain the fact that mitzvos like tzitzis and tefillin are prohibited by fairly technical issues and according to some positions (which, to be sure we do not poskin like) are entirely permissibly to women? Based on what you say I would think that the gemara explicitly states that women cannot do these mitzvos. it does not. I think that this sort of essentliaizing thinking becomes problematic once you start looking at the sugyot and their development over the generations.

  25. R’ Joel — it is clear that the middle “silent majority” has not made up its mind, based on the shifts we continue to see. I would agree with you and DF that those actively commenting are likely to have made up their minds based on whatever criteria or heuristics they employ to make such decisions generally.

    While these discussions are time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, they also help clarify everyone’s thinking — even those who are partisans — which is goodness.

  26. Incidentally, this medium allows for women to be heard without being concerned. I, for one, would be much more interested in hearing their voices to have a more thorough understanding of: “what does good look like”.

  27. Most definitely a strawman argument, though a relatively convincing one. This may have been unintentional though. Read R’ Berkovits’ “Jewish Women in Time and Torah”, and you’ll get a more nuanced position that cannot as easily be pushed aside.

    p.s. loved the part where you refer to the creation of woman in Bereishis Ch 2. as an area of halacha.

  28. Nathaniel Helfgot

    R. Davidovitch writes:

    “Unlike Prozbul, there is no competing premise in Tanach or Rabbinic law or lore that supports this wholesale abandonment of this foundation of halacha.” Two small points:

    1. As a number of the postings have noted the formulation “wholesale abandonment of this foundation” is a straw man as that is not what those who are of a more liberal bent in these areas in the Orthodox community are advocating or exploring nort is it what they believe.

    2. The statement that there is “no competing premise in Tanach or Jewish law” is exactly part of the debate. Thinkers such as Berkovits and others have pointed to very internal meta-values in the Jewish and halakhic system such as tzelem elokim, kevod habriyot, derakecha darchei noam, laasot nahat ruah, play out that are exactly part of the question of how to navigate in the here and now how we will balance fidelity to long established custom with the challenges and issues that we face. As an example, R. Davidovitch’s metnion of Genesis 2 without the competing/complimetary narrative of Genesis 1 in which “zachar unekivah barah otam” (as the Rav in a number of his writings has noted presents a differing model of the man-woman interaction ect) is too ignore the inherent complexity of the issue as presented in biblical theology and beyond. (And all of this is simply relating to the internal Jewish values before we even address and speak about the role of moral intuitions and ethical perspective as having an impact in how one resolves some of these tensions ala the comments of the Yad Ramah in Sanhedrin on the Rambam’s psak about killing children of ir hanidachat, Rav Kook’s writings on hamussar hativii-natural morality and some of Rav Lichtenstein’s comments in his essay “oshiyut hamuusar” in ” the book “Arachim Bemivkhan Milchama” on the role of moral intuitions in liming the parameters of understanding halakhic and haskafic desitrata.

  29. This article long-windedly echoes great rabbis of the past generation: these women and their bad motivations. Had this article about a supposed ill-defined meta-halachic concept come out a century ago, we’d be discussing it in the context of women voting. Half a century later, on bat mitzvot. And in the 1970’s women learning gemarah.

    I don’t know Rabbi Davidovich and perhaps this view of his is a shift and therefore revelatory to himself. While lengthy, I’m not sure what it adds for the rest of us.

  30. I should also add that I found the over-simplification of societal forces today problematic as well. We have a group or groups now that want to increase the role of women, perhaps (some) legitimately or perhaps (some) not. They seek to change things for those that follow themselves. Others debate this. We have a marketplace of ideas and, hopefully, over time truth comes out. This is a true background concept of our society.

    Another group now seeks to delegitmate a subgroup of the above (Group A) and does so with a scorched earth argument that also delegitimates groups B and C and D. Meanwhile critiquing those rabbis who try to argue with A and distinguish B and C and D (i.e. R’ Broyde). [I should add critiquing those rabbis as missing or ignoring long discussed and well-known societal shifts]

    How many people with acceptable aspirations is this new group willing to drive away so they can deal with the heretical “radical feminists” in our midsts?

  31. I liked how RJM framed the issue in the wider context of Torah and Science. The nature of women is a sort of scientific question answered incorrectly in the past in cultures that did not allow women judges, for a telling example.

    But I think the practical effects need to be considered as well. Does the gender imbalance in religious roles lead to gender imbalance in the Orthodox community? I think it does, but not in a direction that is going to force any significant changes in the near future.

  32. How many people with acceptable aspirations is this new group willing to drive away so they can deal with the heretical “radical feminists” in our midsts?
    The wording of the statement imho foreshadows the answer the poster prefers, but the issue is a real one in many cases – for example one could argue for Lubavitch/meshichists. Societal decisions often have a negative impact on some subgroup – which goes back to my point on the decision making mechanism, who makes the decisions and who decides the overarching objectives (if equality is it, then case closed, if minimizing disruption to mesora, case closed…..)

  33. Societal decisions often have a negative impact on some subgroup – which goes back to my point on the decision making mechanism, who makes the decisions and who decides the overarching objectives (if equality is it, then case closed,

    joel rich, I do not have a specific answer I intend, but I do believe people rarely think of the “innocent bystanders” as they argue against their “enemy,” particularly as the affects of this argument might echo for generations.

    Future generations benefit from precise on-point arguments and not from general claims that all feminist inspired concepts = bad which is what the author argued (but I doubt he believes).

  34. R’ Joel — equally, the harping on “equality” and “egalitarian” foreshadows the answer the poster prefers. The Partnership Minyan concept is not about either — it is about permitting that which can be permitted to provide opportunities for women to participate in t’fillah b’tzibur for self-selected kehilot who do not have a k’vod ha’tzibur issue that overrides.

  35. Let’s face it, as I commented in the other post by Rabbi Broyde, in the MO world this is becoming a tidal wave. Alan, in his comment there, argued that maybe this change at YI of Toco Hills started as a result of Rabbi Broyde permitting women to read Megillas Esther for other women. I pointed out that even if he hadn’t, certainly with the pressure coming from the Left and the push for full equality in the MO world, if Rabbi Broyde hadn’t permitted it, his successor surely would have and more. My point is the move the Left will continue and it is my belief that LWMO will eventually break away from mainstream Orthodoxy and either joint right-wing Conservatives or form its own “denomination”.

  36. I will make this statement, which many here will disagree with: when Orthodoxy accepts the societal values and pressures around it to the point that it will not be counterculture or conservative enough to be out of the mainstream of our society, then it will cease being Orthodox. When women who couldn’t care less about maintaining halachic conservatism will feel at home in LWMO, the O of LWMO will cease to be O.

  37. MiMedinat HaYam

    josh — regarding the chofetz chaim and bais yaakov.

    YU pres belkin used to say a story that one day, the chofetz chaim called a fast day (“taanit”) for his yeshiva students (r belkin learned in radin). the next day, the CC went to krakow, and returning, was asked about the taanit, (which was out of character for him) and said he was going to krakow to talk to the gerrer rebbe against these newfangled bais yaakov schools. the gerrer rebbe told him, in krakow we need a bais yakov, otherwise the girls will go to inappropriate places (gymnasium, college, SCW, who knows?), but in radin, we are not afraid of that, so no BY in radin.

    of course, we now have BY everywhere, girls still go to college, etc. and i guess want aliyot and dancing with the sefer torah. and the british ones do or do not want to get married. (side point; i believe england has a very high %age of unmarried mothers.)

  38. I disagree with both. We need to focus. Is it a Halacha or rhetoric?

    I live here with my social norms and they live there with theirs. It is only destructive if we start questioning other people’s motives. What will happen to my society if their ideas start infiltrating my society? I’ll get over it and stick to halacha.

    If its permissible Halachically, then enjoy the Yom Tov. If its rhetoric, let them enjoy theirs and you enjoy yours.

  39. Rafael — The fact is the Charedi hashkafa you champion is a thoroughly modern invention. Let’s stick with the issue please.

  40. The fundamental flaw in this argument is that it assumes that there is some permanent view to human relations emanating from Chazal that is not subject to any change. We know this to be untrue and the example is slavery. Slavery is acceptable in the Talmud, but unacceptable to Maimonides and later commentators and certainly to be pro-slavery cannot be justified as a Jewish position now. Just imagine this line being written in the post, but referring to slavery.

    “According to the Written Torah and the Talmudic tradition, there are repeated and pronounced” discussions regarding the logic and permissibility of slavery.

    “But it should be the job of the halachic community’s leaders to find a way to defend and promote those halachic ideals, not to embarrassingly circumvent them with “shtick” and legal tricks.”

    The point is that the framework that Chazal laid down is not challenged by change, the framework exists, but we must be judges in our own time. This too is a halachic requirement.

  41. Who said anything about Chareidi? Please tell me that Orthodox Jews have ingratiated themselves with their surrounding culture values as much as many are today. The fact is that feminism is affecting Orthodoxy on a grand scale and in a way that historically might be unprecedented.

  42. I also want to take issue with the deus ex machina answer of Kavod Tzibur which underlies many prohibitions. In an era in which women serve in the Israeli armed forces defending able bodied men who do not serve for “reasons of Torah”, it seems to me that there is no Kavod Tzibur to guard.

  43. “Chazal make hundreds of distinctions in Halacha between men and women”

    Can anyone explain “datan kalos” as it applies today to fearing God(see Rambam and Ramchal below)?

    Mesilas Yesharim:

    ואין יראה זו ראויה אלא לעמי הארץ, ולנשים אשר דעתן קלה, איך אינה יראת החכמים ואנשי הדעת

    Rambam in Hilchos Teshuvah:

    עובד את ה’ על דרך זו, אלא עמי הארץ והנשים והקטנים, שמחנכין אותן לעבוד מיראה, עד שתרבה דעתן ויעבדו מאהבה.

    (By the giving of the Torah, the softer language was used for “Beis Yaakov” seeming to imply the opposite, ie, less fear of punishment for women, than men)

  44. David S. — There are some communities in which there is a Kavod Tzibur to guard and they should be respected, based on legitimate halachic tradition. No one I have met within the American MO community is fomenting revolution, despite the scare tactics of those opposed to change. This is about the move from the sympathetic words to the subset of women who are in need, to action that provides that subset with a path forward.


    R. Davidovich – perhaps over Shabbat you can think about the following question I have about your argument. In Bavli B’rachot 15a-b there is a discussion about the Mishna in Megilla that groups deaf-mutes, an imbecile and a minor together. The halacha codifying this grouping is MT Megilla 1:2; and SA OC 689:2.

    The new Koren explains: “Members of these three categories are frequently grouped together because of their limited intellectual capacity and/or their inability to act responsibly. They are not obligated to perform mitzvot, nor are they held responsible for any damage they may cause. They also lack the legal capacity to act as agents. Though all three are often mentioned together, there are many differences between the laws governing each of them.”

    Leaving alone the complexities of definitions and the halacha we now follow, the very fact of this grouping (which, of course, sometimes also includes women) seems to me pertinent to your argument about Chazal’s intention and their meaning today given what we know about deafness and muteness Thoughts?

  45. Rafael- the people who want to leave Orthodoxy have had ample opportunity and have left. Those that are in the discussion are committed to Torah and Mitzvot. The discussion is not about commitment, but the specifics of the Mitzvot. I do not think that your argument, on this Shabbat Noach, holds water. Shabbat Shalom

  46. Rafael- the people who want to leave Orthodoxy have had ample opportunity and have left.

    There are always people approaching adulthood or simply approaching issues for the first time or from a new perspective. The above statement will therefore never be completely true.

  47. The most basic fundamental distinction in the Written and Oral Torah between men and women is that men have a duty to work for, and women a duty to tend to, their family. The chareidi hashkafa turns this upside down and tells young women that their best service to God is getting a higher education and working so that their husbands can learn Torah.

    Is this not more anti-Torah than women reading from a Sefer Torah? Why no protest against the Reforms of Kollel?

  48. can we take s atep back for a second? this article, like so many, argues for fundamental distinctions between men and women as the reaason why women should not do previously-male-activities XYZ, or why we shouldn’t consider women’s exclusion problematic, or the like. What these articles never seem to do is say “men and women are fundamentally different, that’s why men should not be doing XYZ female roles, or why women who seek to grow religiously should do PQR traditionally feminine religious things.”

    This gives rise to the feeling -which is just that, not an argument -that the special fundamental differences/roles give lots of interesting things that women might want, but can’t have to men, and nothing that men might want, but can’t have, to women. If that is not so, could rabbi davidovich please provide examples of activities that men should not do because they are not suited to the male fundamental nature?

  49. James – most chareidim in the US don’t lead this life or do so for a few years. If you think otherwise, you don’t know the US Chareidi world very well.

    Also, many Chareidi women work outside the home even if the husband is working. They share this set-up with MO. Why no reference by you to that arrangement as being anti-woman?

  50. R Davidovich deserves much kudos for his contribution to this subject . However, the comments here ,as well as to the prior piece by R Broyde, show why unfortunately issues revolving power rooted in radical feminism are an obsession among many within the LW of MO. The real test of the impact of feminist inspired ritual change is where it has and conversely , not attracted devotees,within the committed MO world and whether the next generation of young Torah educated women are remotely indicated in such issues, as opposed to issues revolving around relationships and issues focusing on marriage and childrearing.

  51. Rafael-I know that it is Erev Shabbos Parshas Noach-but I think that your assessment of MO is incorrect. The MO world, has a noisy LW and strong RW, and a very silent MO. I would not bet on either WTGs or Partnership minyanim having a tidal wave impact on the vast majority of MO .

  52. IH addressed this question to R Davidovich:

    “Leaving alone the complexities of definitions and the halacha we now follow, the very fact of this grouping (which, of course, sometimes also includes women) seems to me pertinent to your argument about Chazal’s intention and their meaning today given what we know about deafness and muteness Thoughts?”

    Take a look at the Minchas Chinuch which has discussions of these issues throughout the sefer. I would add that a Mishna in Kelim sets forth various levels of Kedusha ranging from a Kohen to a Mamzer to women. What is your point?

  53. Just to be clear, R Davidovich hasn’t tarred anyone with the term Feminist. The F in joFa stands for it.

    And some it’s proponents have been quite open about changing Halacha. People should read R Kobre’s article on ‘Keeping the Conversation Honest’. Even if you don’t like him, the quotes in his article rather speak for themselves.

    I kind of made this point in this thread.

  54. Steve — if they will not have a “tidal wave impact” (your words) then why is the Rabbinate spending so much time fighting it, at a time when there are important problems for them to solve?

    As to my question for R. Davidovich, thanks, but I’ll wait for his response.

  55. I don’t understand how this quote “However this approach demonstrates a commitment to a refreshing worldview in Jewish publications in which outstanding scholars are no longer barred from contributing simply because they do not carry a Y chromosome.” is lumped together with the second quote or fits with the theme of this article. I don’t particularly care for the way the sentiment is framed, but substantively, what in our mesora tells us that women’s torah thoughts ought not to be part of communal torah learning? Bruria wasn’t a dayan, but she is quoted. Women’s learning is a different issue than ritual innovations for women, and that is why for more than thirty years, the “halachic instructors of the observant community” have treated that issue differently. Apart from technical halachic reasons, the main reason this is so is because it’s also part of our mesora that advanced torah study is a fundamental, perhaps the primary, way to fulfill the “desire to connect to the Creator”

  56. Shaul shapira- I should have been more precise in specifying feminism in the pejorative sense as Steve Brizel has again stated in his most recent comment. He is an outstanding example of misrepresenting what most current Orthodox feminists are in favor of, and them constructing arguments against his misconceptions.

  57. IH-Responding to what are perceived as inappropiate halachic stances and practices, regardless of the origin, strikes me as an important rabbinic function, regardless of the views of the silent majority,

  58. “Responding to what are perceived as inappropiate halachic stances and practices, regardless of the origin, strikes me as an important rabbinic function, regardless of the views of the silent majority.”

    So why is it that you cant go a week without reading some rabbi’s position on the issue of women’s participation while inappropriate halachic stances and practices on things that are even more fundamental go unwritten about. A perfect example is talking during the Shmoneh Esrai or the Kriyat Torah. These are TRUE Halachic issues that happen in almost every shul on a repeated basis and yet nobody sees fit to write about them. The point is this subject is cherry picked specifically because it involves women.

  59. Raphael Davidovich

    Jon_Brooklyn writes that “it’s pretty easy to pick up a bunch of stuff in that material, i.e. Chazal’s understanding of the Torah, specifically the Gemara, to undermine” my thesis. I don’t think there is. Please show me what you have in mind. I am serious. I do not recall having seen statements by Chazal that challenge my point. Please point me in that direction.

    JW asks how to determine which practices qualify for my “penumbra” and which don’t: I admit to not having done any complex analysis beyond the basic “Does it quack like a duck” metaphor.

    Penumbras would defer to Halachic arguments that recognize the existence of those penumbras and acknowledge the mounting evidence of real (and not straw) men who are open about their aims to eliminate those penumbras and “shift” those “paradigms.”

    Emma – What is the difference? Honestly, I don’t know how to name it concisely. That is why I avoided naming it: I wanted to show that regardless of how you name it, it is there.

    [email protected]

  60. whats kind of funny about this entire discussion to an orthoprax black hat guy like me with a yeshivish upbringing is that the modern orthodox COMMUNITY by and large, are “known” for its kulas in halacha, for finding the minority opinion, to be somech on yenem to be meikel, to eat out milchigs, to go mixed swimming, to send to coed schools….and now, all of a sudden, with an issue that frankly is NOT EVEN HALACHIC, everyone is freaking out saying “how can we let women do this stuff?!?!”

    if you are truly modern orthoodox, you will see the forest for the trees here – but (again, to me) it seems like the rabbis (broyde, etc) who are saying not to do this stuff are being swayed by someone or something on the right. its not entirely clear to me, but i wish i knew why/who/what – because none of it makes any sense

  61. Ksil — B’kitzur. The establishment MO Rabbinate has been subservient to the Yeshivish wing that established itself in YU. They were able to cajole the Modern wing for many years. The amcha got tired of waiting for the establishment Rabbinate to show some innovative leadership and, about 10 years ago, found openings. An alternate establishment is now maturing (e.g. YCT) and the establishment Rabbinate woke up and are trying to figure out what to do. Hence all this self-defeating spinning…

  62. IH: B’kitzur…

    Your narrative might make sense if we weren’t having pretty much the same discussions now we were having 25 years ago.

  63. R’ Gil – i think its much different now than then. the laity is much educated and going on their in own (not completely) – which really didn’t happened before and its led by both men and women who are more knowledgeable than those folks in the past. also, i think there is less than an agenda. just one outsider viewpoint who was not part of the past discussion 25-30 years ago because of various reasons.

  64. Gil, perhaps you should consider whether you’d run a post called “Men and Judaism: Refocusing the Discussion” before having any more of these “the essential nature of women is X” posts….

  65. R’ Gil – i would also add the decline in any real leadership that everyone would agree to today is also a major factor (e.g. that i would considered RHS not mo today but maybe 25 years i would have out of ignorance).

  66. hannah, i love it!

    keep it up!

    shabbat shalom

    and shabbat shalom to all you men out there who love talking about what role women should play in the orthodox synagogue. its cute. its really cute when the most liberal of the rabbis say that women cannot and should not participate in the services, becasue,,…well, i cant really say why – but its just is, cuz i say so…LOL.

  67. Your narrative might make sense if we weren’t having pretty much the same discussions now we were having 25 years ago.

    This is is exactly right. Why did you want to post this?

  68. HAGTBG: Just because a position isn’t new doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a voice in the discussion.

    Ruvie: I think you are incorrect on all counts. The laity 25 years ago who were involved were well educated and there were some radical rabbis then who semi-led, just as now there are radical rabbis who are semi-lead. And the laity today is not really as well educated as they claim.

  69. Gil — I was recently married 25 years ago and options for women within MO was non-existent (even on the allegedly LW Upper West Side).

    The situation today is drastically different, in terms of the laity (as Ruvie points out) as well as in the development and implementation of ideas that are firmly within the halachic process. People can and do disagree with R. Sperber, but no one has dared place him outside of the pale of Orthodoxy (as was threatened to previous innovators).

    This does not need to be divisive issue. Stop making it one.

  70. Just because a position isn’t new doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a voice in the discussion.

    Agreed, but it says its new from someone who appears to have been in a position to have seen the last few rounds of this fight.

  71. Shades of Gray

    “An alternate establishment is now maturing (e.g. YCT) and the establishment Rabbinate woke up and are trying to figure out what to do”

    Perhaps if YCT moves to the right, Orthodox feminism will do the same.

    From the JTA:

    “Without abandoning that approach, Lopatin says he wants to ground the students more firmly in Orthodoxy by exposing them to the “full Orthodox spectrum.” That includes, he said, exposure to and instruction from haredi Orthodox yeshiva leaders”

    From Matzav:

    “Let us hope that he can set the institution on a path that is consistent with Torah hashkofa and halacha. We wish him boundless success.”

  72. IH: Gil — I was recently married 25 years ago and options for women within MO was non-existent (even on the allegedly LW Upper West Side)

    Lincoln Square Synagogue

    The situation today is drastically different, in terms of the laity (as Ruvie points out) as well as in the development and implementation of ideas that are firmly within the halachic process

    I do not believe the situation of the laity is that different, as I responded to Ruvie. Just like then, people don’t realize how little they know. And the development of new ideas is not too different than back then. Someone of questionable credentials writes a single article, people try it out and then a bunch of articles follow debating it.

    People can and do disagree with R. Sperber, but no one has dared place him outside of the pale of Orthodoxy…

    Of course they did. I was given a pesak forbidding me to speak at a conference in which he appeared. His lending his name to a Conservative yeshiva also doesn’t help. RWMO has written him out of Orthodoxy. I think we just travel in such different circles that you don’t realize it.

  73. R’ Gil – my point is that 25-30 years ago this was considered left wing etc fringe small group of women only. where people in most mo circles would really have nothing to do with it. today, many in the mo community think its not so radical and some participate who would never considered it 25-30years ago. that is a monumental change in acceptance by the amcha. and now you have more rabbis here and in israel as well guiding them in general. who would have though that graduate of yu and those that spend a year in israel (men) would participate in such minyans? we are talking about weekly activities not once in a blue moon WTG

  74. Gil — you were 15 (and not even a Bar Mitzva when I was married a few years prior), so it is unlikely you have first hand knowledge. I am fully aware of what LSS was doing (and not doing). On R. Sperber, you then travel in different circles than R. Broyde and R. Frimer whom you have hosted for discussion on these issues. Are you willing to state publicly who gave you this psak?

  75. people don’t realize how little they know – what the heck does this mean?

    “His lending his name to a Conservative yeshiva ” – chas veshalom!!

    “RWMO has written him out of Orthodoxy.” please provide something to back this up and also WHAT IT MEANS

    thank you

  76. By the way, even if we could agree my summary was true 25 years ago, then why is the discussion ongoing with more and more momentum from the amcha. Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that the RW tactics exacerbate that which they are trying to “solve”.

  77. IH, I know rabbis who no longer believe R’ Sperber is Orthodox and those challenging his current bona fides appear to go deeper then you think. Supposedly due to his methodology as opposed to his conclusions, which they also disagree with.

    In general their view is that the current innovations are coming from people cherry picking here and there with the only goal being to make their psak look right, ala a lawyers brief and not “honestly” confronting the issues.

    In fact, the old-guard LW MO who were pro the last generation of changes but oppose the new innovations would do well to state what exactly it is they expect from the rabbis backing what is going on now in terms of methodology. If only so they can promote the best practices they appear to advocate.

  78. HAGTBG — let’s talk specifics. I have specifically asked both R. Frimer and R. Broyde in their guest posts specifically to understand this question.

    Here is R, Broyde this past Tuesday: “I agree with IH and encourage everyone to go to Rabbi Dr. Sperber’s lecture. He is a huge talmid chacham, whose writings and legacy has and will outshine anything I ever will do. I do not agree with him on a few matters, but I wish I lived in New York so I could hear him lecture.”

    I could dig out R. Frimer’s view if needed; and, I’m happy to hear R. Davidovich’ view.

    In any case, the question then becomes if these Rabbis have any backing to do something about it. He was lecturing at the JC last night (they hosted American Friends of Bar Ilan’s sponsored lecture), and I find it hard to believe that he would be banned at YU.

  79. Please dig out R’ Frimer’s view.

  80. IH on October 29, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Prof. Frimer — Sorry, is it Rabbi Sperber or Prof. Sperber?

    Aryeh Frimer on October 30, 2011 at 9:38 am

    It is Rabbi Prof. Sperber. He has smicha from Yeshivat Kol Torah in Israel, earned a doctorate from University College, London in the departments of Ancient History and Hebrew Studies. And is a Prof. Emeritus in Talmud at Bar Ilan University. In 1992, Sperber won the Israel Prize, for Jewish studies. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Sperber We have served together on a variety of Committees. He is a wonderful scholar and a genuine ba’al middot. Despite our sparring on women’s issues, we get along personally very well .

    IH on October 30, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    As you are aware, the title “Prof.” has been used in Jewish Cultural Wars by Orthodox Rabbis to avoid calling Rabbis of other denominations (even those with Orthodox smicha) their due.

    I trust from your response that you categorically consider Rabbi Prof. Sperber wholly Orthodox, even though you spar with him on halachic issues related to women.

    Aryeh Frimer on October 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm


    In: https://www.torahmusings.com/2011/10/wrong-changes-in-jewish-liturgy/

  81. “old-guard LW MO who were pro the last generation of changes but oppose the new innovations”

    thats becasue as one gets older, one shifts to the right – its just science – you cant help it

    and all the new MO rabbis wear black hats

    go figure

  82. DR Stadlan-

    I understand. All I’m saying is that there are self described orhthodox feminists who by their own pronouncements have placed themselves outside of any meaningful term of orthodoxy. If they just came clean and admitted to being Conservative, O would simply yawn. Been there, done that- we’ve seen the former wave of the future and where it crashes.


    “In some areas, Modern Orthodoxy’s left wing appears to align with more traditional elements of Conservative Judaism, and in fact some on the left of Modern Orthodoxy have allied with the formerly Conservative Union for Traditional Judaism. Nonetheless, the two movements are completely distinct. Rabbi Avi Weiss – from the left of Modern Orthodoxy – stresses that Orthodox and Conservative Judaism are “so very different in… three fundamental areas: Torah mi-Sinai, rabbinic interpretation, and rabbinic legislation”.[28] Weiss argues as follows:
    Torah mi-Sinai (“Torah From Sinai”): Modern Orthodoxy, in line with the rest of Orthodoxy, holds that Jewish law is Divine in origin, and as such, no underlying principle may be compromised in accounting for changing political, social or economic conditions,[29] whereas Conservative Judaism holds that Poskim should make use of literary and historical analysis in deciding Jewish law, and may reverse decisions of the Acharonim that are held to be inapplicable today.[28][30]
    Rabbinic interpretation: (Modern) Orthodoxy contends that legal authority is cumulative, and that a contemporary posek (decisor) can only issue judgments based on a full history of Jewish legal precedent,[29] whereas the implicit argument of the Conservative movement is that precedent provides illustrations of possible positions rather than binding law. Conservatism, therefore, remains free to select whichever position within the prior history appeals to it.[28][31]
    Rabbinic legislation: Since the (Modern) Orthodox community is ritually observant, Rabbinic law legislated by (today’s) Orthodox rabbis can meaningfully become binding if accepted by the community (see minhag).[29] Conservative Judaism, on the other hand, has a largely non-observant laity.[28][32] Thus, although Conservatism similarly holds that “no law has authority unless it becomes part of the concern and practice of the community” [30] communal acceptance of a “permissive custom” is not “meaningful”, and, as a result, related Rabbinic legislation cannot assume the status of law.”

    If someone’s going to call themself O, they ought to acknowledge the limits of what they can do in the name of morality, equality, etc.

    http://www.hakirah.org/Vol%2011%20Broyde.pdf (Footnote 39)

    “Do I think having women rabbis is a good thing? I do not know. I am,however, concerned that, before long, we will find ourselves overly feminized, and I would not want to see that happen. Women will begin complaining about why they cannot be Kohanot and dukhen. I can name 100 different halakhot that just do not work with women—for instance, a woman cannot be an ed kiddushin (a witness for betrothal)… When it comes down to it, I am a believer that there are differences between men and women that
    should be reflected in halakhic practice.”

  83. Rafael,

    I know the chareidi world very well. I attended chareidi institutions (for a while). I daven at a fairly chareidi shul.

    The vast majority of chareidi Beis Yaakov’s teach their students that IDEALLY they would (1) work for a living to support a man in kollel; (2) have mesirus nefesh for Torah; (3) have emuna that the RBSO will provide for them. The numbers of women who embrace this worldview far surpasses those who wish to read from a Torah.

    Like it or not, that is the chareidi hashkafa. I think it is no less radical than Reform.

    The difference between the MO and the chareidi approaches is one of choice. The MO want to provide women with choices. The MO women who work do so because they want to (or have to in order to supplement their working husband’s income). The chareidi woman is told that God wants her to work INSTEAD of her husband. Big difference.

  84. I am not sure I would trust Wikipedia. Of course there is a spectrum of BELIEF and you can draw a line somewhere and call one side Orthodox and the other something else. The hallmark of Orthdoxy(despite the name) is a commitment to a Divine Torah and acceptance of the obligation of the Mitzvot. While it is true that the Union for Traditional Judaism started with Conservative, they broke away a long time ago and deliberately dropped the ‘C’. In practice and belief they are indistinguishable from what the vast majority would consider orthodox and in some situations are more conservative (small c) than some orthodox groups. There has been a sea change in the Conservative movement over time. The similarities between YCT and UTJ are certainly not proof that liberal MO is going to wind up Conservative. This represents a complete misunderstanding amd misrepresentation of the UTJ and the history of Conservative Judaism. For full disclosure: Rabbi/Dr. David Novak is my father in law

  85. Bottom line, what chance does Modern Orthodoxy have of writing its left wing out? Does it have a Rav Soloveitchik, whom even in 40 years from now people will feel bound by his word? Do the Modern Orthodox masses respond to issurim and cherems?

    As for persuasion, does anyone really think the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy can be persuaded not to go forward, let alone to go backward?

  86. Interesting thread, too bad I have to work sometimes 🙂

    Am I correct in summarizing that amcha wants to go to X so it needed to grow authorities who will allow it.

    What I find interesting is the lack of discussion of the tradeoffs involved in changing traditional roles (btw same thing for kollel) and how to minimize disruption.

  87. I learn Gemara every week with a doctor who believes very strongly in the theology of Conservative Judaism. We often discuss the different approaches of Orthodox and Conservative Judaism regarding women’s issues. This week he brought up the issue of women wearing Tzitzis. He argues that if women want to wear Tzitzis LShem Shamayaim i.e. non-feminist agenda they should be allowed. I asked him to explain what the meaning of LShem Shamayim is. He responded that it means that the person is sincere and wants to do it for spiritual reasons. I responded that I do not think that that is what Lshem Shamayim means. It means that you are doing something because that is what G-d wants from you, not because it is something that you want.

    (I asked him if a man would be allowed to put on Tefillin on Shabbos if his desire was “Lshem Shamayim” and he desired the spiritual feeling…”)

    The same thing applies to “feeling of spirituality” that many crave. Spirituality is not a feeling it is a reality. Spirituality is doing something that G-d wants. Hopefully this will produce a spiritual feeling, but even without it it is a spiritual act. The desire for a spiritual feeling is like the desire for any other emotionally satisfying feeling. People have all kinds of cravings and desires. It happens to be that that there are some women who find it emotionally satisfying to put on Tefillin or Tzitzis or read from the Torah. That feeling does not mean that it is spiritual. The feeling means that you enjoy it.

    There is a great story with the Rav that demonstrates this idea. There was a woman who asked the Rav if she could wear Tzitzis and the Rav said that she should start with wearing just the beged for a month and if it goes well she could add the Tzitzis. After a month she said she felt great! It was so spiritual! The Rav responded that wearing a beged without Tzitzis is nothing and if she felt spiritual with that she should continue to wear a beged without Tzitzis.

    This is one of the major elements that have been missing from the discussion of male/female roles in Judaism. We need to honestly look through Tanach and Chazal to determine what does G-d want from us? Is there Divinely ordained roles and activities for men and women? In order to properly address this question the totality of Torah’s message regarding feminine and masculine spirituality must be understood. If you do not look at the Kabbalistic and Chassidic understanding then you have not fully explored the issue.

    A good place to start would a Chassidic Discourse by the 4th Rebbe of Chabad titled Feminine Faith which has an English commentary and translation. It can be purchased here:

    There are a number of lectures and articles on http://www.Chabad.org which address these issues. Here are a few:

    Women Crown of Creation:

    A Woman’s Role in Judaism

    Men and Women in Prayer

    20 minute shorter video version of the same lecture:

    The Role of the Women

    The Kabbalah of Female Superiority

  88. R’ Joel — I think as you described a couple of days ago: “My take is historically it’s been a somewhat subconscious dance between Rabbis and the people” to which I’ll add: between balancing the needs of a subset of modern Orthodox women (and men) and the halachic constraints that bind them.

    R. Shapiro’s article in 1999 about aliyot for women was the disruptive innovation that has evolved into Partnership Minyanim over the past 10 years.

    As stated by one of my shul-mates recently:

    At Darkhei Noam, we are committed to maximizing the role of women within the path of Halakha, and to creating a vibrant lay led community. As part of that path, we — like many other congregations across the world, and on the constant advice of our Halakhic advisor, Rabbi Daniel Sperber — have reset the Shabbat prayers as a place where both men and women’s voices are heard, and where the entire community has the ability to participate in the mainstay of serving Hashem through communal prayer. Indeed, our Torah service, which is the center (and perhaps the origin) of communal prayer on Shabbat, is ordinarily led by a woman and both men and women read from the Torah for the kahal.

    Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorach

  89. IH, thanks for the excerpt. Shabbat Shalom.

  90. Just to clarify, so we don’t go in circles again:

    women lead pseukei d’zimra and hotza’at vehaknasat sefer Torah (the Torah service) and men lead shacharit and musaf. Men and women fully participate in keriyat ha-Torah (Torah reading) in the context of a traditional minyan of ten men.

    Darkhei Noam’s mechitza is designed to create 3 separate domains: a davening space for men, a davening space for women, and a public ritual space, which houses the Torah reading and provides a space for the ba’alai tefillah (the women and men who lead tefillah) to stand while leading davening.

  91. “the gerrer rebbe told him, in krakow we need a bais yakov, otherwise the girls will go to inappropriate places (gymnasium, college, SCW, who knows?), but in radin, we are not afraid of that, so no BY in radin.”

    If the standard for deciding on whether to shift the gender roles line with respect to a given activity is that, due to modern circumstances, women will be distanced from Judaism, then we would have carte blanche to obliterate almost all gender distinctions. Indeed, that is the very argument put forward by JOFA: that women nowadays are educated and enjoy full legal equality, and will not tolerate a Judaism in which they cannot participate ritually. Reduced to its most absurd but valid conclusion, this standard would justify Reform and Conservative Judaism le-chatchila! Let’s reconsider. Shabbat Shalom!

  92. I was recently married 25 years ago and options for women within MO was non-existent (even on the allegedly LW Upper West Side). The situation today is drastically different

    25 years ago, the Conservative movement was a respectable alternative for someone who professed alleigance to halacha. It no longer is.

  93. Shlomo — I’m not sure of your point. When I was first married, JTS was no different than LSS in regard to women participating in liturgy. And one can argue about which had the more effective mechitza 🙂

    As for what happened thereafter, as in the business world, being first to market doesn’t always mark success: e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_search_engine

    To stretch the example, perhaps R. Shapiro’s paper was the Yahoo for a halachic MO formulation and we’re now on Google at Darkhei Noam, Shira Chadasha, et al.

  94. “25 years ago, the Conservative movement was a respectable alternative for someone who professed alleigance to halacha”

    25 years ago was way after the Conservative movement required allegiance to Halacha as we know it-it is 6 decades since they allowed drivng to schul on Shabbos.

  95. Lawrence Kaplan

    Lets’ forget about women and ritual for a moment. What about woman and inheritance? R. Davidovich notes that according to Torah Law daughters do not inherit. But much more than 30 years ago there developed devices for getting around the law, shetar hatzi zakhar being the most famous. No one spoke of penumbras. Rav Heezog even suggested instituting a formal takkanah equalizing the inheritance rights of sons and daughters though the suggestion met with the fierce opposition of the Hazon Ish, and for a variety of reasons the takkanah was never enacted. In any event, nowadays even in the most Haredi circles a variety of ad hoc halakhic devices are used to ensure that daughters receive an(almost) equal share in the inheritance alongside the sons.

    Dr. Stadlan: I remember your fatther-in-law once telling me in a what struck me as a rather bitter joke that one of the happiest days of his life was when the “Union for Traditional Conservative Judaism” dropped the adjective “Conservative.”

  96. Prof. Kaplan,
    the Shtar hatzi zachar is hundreds of years old. It is mentioned in the Rema.

  97. Lawrence Kaplan

    James: I said “much more than 30 years.”

  98. It’s quite clear what Rabbis Broyde and Davidovich don’t want for women on Simchat Torah. I’m interested in what they do want. Unfortunately, R. Broyde sloughed off my question about that. (i had expected more from RMB; I was sadly disappointed by his non-response.)

    So let me ask R. Davidovich. As a congregational rabbi, have you not come across women, committed to halacha and Torah learning, who find ST celebration in shul boring, not for them, with the shul having no place for them? Women who come to shul regularly but who either don’t come on ST or come only yo take their children? If your answer is “no,” then while I would be very surprised (I have come across many many such women, including many who would not go to a WTG on ST) but I guess that would end my question. But if you have, then I wonder what you, as a congregational rabbi, think your shul or your community or our MO community should do, if anything, for such women on ST?

  99. “since they allowed drivng to schul on Shabbos.”

    Since driving is not a specific melacha that is assur enumerated in the shulchan orach, the orthodox came along and assured it….you cant put the entire onus on the conservative by having (potentially) a different view on whether it is a melacha or not

  100. If we’re going to get bogged down in a discussion about non-Orthodox movements, lets at least make it relevant to the discussion about Orthodox women and Judaism.

    Today in shul, I was pleasantly surprised to notice in the Koren Talpiot Chumash there is a specific Mi She’beirach for a Bat Mitzva just under the one for a Bar Mitzva. And sure enough, it is in the OU Sacks Koren Siddur as well (p. 511)!

    My trusty old Rinat Yisrael only has the Bar; as is the case for the Artscroll RCA Siddur. So, it seems in 2009 we reached the point where liturgical acknowledgement of a girl becoming a Bat Mitzva is not only de rigueur, but canonical.

    I imagine R. Mordecai Kaplan would be pleased this canonization by Modern Orthodoxy took fewer than 90 years.

  101. The OU Sacks Koren also has a ceremony for Zeved Habat. By so canonizing it, this has made it easier for rabbis who might not have been so inclined to allow zeved habat/simchat bat ceremonies in their shuls and participate in such ceremonies, and to encourage young couples to utilize it.

  102. IH wrote:

    “Gil — I was recently married 25 years ago and options for women within MO was non-existent (even on the allegedly LW Upper West Side).”
    I was married 34 years ago, and the options for women ( which Joseph Kaplan recalls quite well) were well in place at LSS.

  103. And these options for women participation in Shabbat prayers were what, Steve?

  104. IH wrote in part:

    “The establishment MO Rabbinate has been subservient to the Yeshivish wing that established itself in YU. They were able to cajole the Modern wing for many years.”

    This is pure fantasy. The RIETS RY are great Talmidei Chachamim, but as we have discussed on many an occasion, one should not blindly equate RIETS RY with the Charedi counterparts on numerous halachic and hashkafic issues.

  105. IIRC, there were Simchas Torah Hakafos for women as far back as the mid 1970s. Other options and priorities for women on the UWS included many excellent shiurim and meeting a spouse.

  106. IH wrote:

    “And these options for women participation in Shabbat prayers were what, Steve?”

    Noone in the early to mid 1970s ever had a vision that Partnership Minyanim were an option.

  107. Noam Stadlan-I stand by my assessmment of feminism, the politicak orientation of many of its founders, and their well known statements against the traditional family.

  108. Larry Kaplan wrote in part:

    “What about woman and inheritance?”

    How about learning the last 90 blatt of BB and then see how Chazal dealt with the issue?

  109. there were Simchas Torah Hakafos for women as far back as the mid 1970s

    There were, at both LSS and Carlebach. It was a huge innovation in the 1970s that women were allowed to dance with a sefer and it drew us teenagers and the young adults from miles around.

    And the Elena Kagan Bat Mitzva story is well documented: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/13/nyregion/13synagogue.html

    Noone in the early to mid 1970s ever had a vision that Partnership Minyanim were an option

    Precisely my point. A sea-change for MO women was enabled by R. Shapiro’s 1999 article that has evolved into the Partnership Minyan success story of today.

  110. R Gil wrote in response:

    “People can and do disagree with R. Sperber, but no one has dared place him outside of the pale of Orthodoxy…

    Of course they did. I was given a pesak forbidding me to speak at a conference in which he appeared. His lending his name to a Conservative yeshiva also doesn’t help. RWMO has written him out of Orthodoxy. I think we just travel in such different circles that you don’t realize it.”

    Like it or not, R Sperber issued highly critical comments of RIETS, its RY , viewed women’s ordination as permissible, wrote a book that was highly criticized for its logic,and conclusions as well as the views of Chazal, Rishonim and Poskim and then lent his name to an institution affiliated with CJ. I think that I would not be alone in stating that R Sperber’s expertise is in tracing the origins of Minhagei Yisrael, as opposed to Psak Halacha.

  111. IH wrote:

    “Precisely my point. A sea-change for MO women was enabled by R. Shapiro’s 1999 article that has evolved into the Partnership Minyan success story of today”

    Your point would be well taken if there was evidence of a sea change beyond the precincts of LW MO.

  112. The market will decide, as happened with Bat Mitzva. 90 years is a remarkably short period of time for liturgical canonization by Orthodoxy.

    Posts such as this one will only accelerate the process, so keep ’em coming.

  113. “( which Joseph Kaplan recalls quite well) were well in place at LSS.”

    Well, since you bring me into the conversation, here’s my take of the 70s at LSS. R. Riskin allowed women to dance with the sefer torah on ST with virtually no opposition and to great acclaim and success. He establishment of a WTG, however, was done against serious opposition. And because of that opposition, the group was not allowed to meet in the shul (with a single exception) and was limited to ST and the very occasional bat mitzvah. There were no women officers of the shul (there were some on the board) and even getting one elected (finally) took great effort. Women were welcome at all shiurim. My wife and I (and then children) loved being there at that time — it was a breath of fresh air. But much of that was where LSS was relative to the rest of the Orthodox community. Life has changed — in many ways for the better.

  114. Steve- we can and will disagree regarding the founders, but that doesn’t mean that current women hold the same views. You are certainly entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts. Read Prof Tamar Ross’s excellent description of the changes in feminism for example.

  115. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve B.: I am not sure what your point is in your response to me, aside from letting everyone know how much you know and how little I do. I raised the issue of women inheriting only because R. Davidovich did. You ought to have addressed you comment to him. Oh, I forgot, he is on your side. In any event, coming to substance: Are you saying that Shetar hatzi- Zakhar with its creation of fictional indebtedeness is in the Talmud and not a post-Talmudic device?

  116. R. Raphael Davidovich places himself somewhere in the middle of the debate on gender role changes in our society in a post that could have been written anytime in the last 100 years when changes did occur under protest by most rabbis arguing against those changes. the post is timeless – could have been written in the middle ages as well – and therefore meaningless and adds little to the current day conversation.

    he asks us to “..to defend and promote those halachic ideals, not to embarrassingly circumvent them with “shtick” and legal tricks.” without details of the particulars except that there are gender based ethics in our holy torah. no one that is religious would disagree that the torah and halacha have different rules for men and women so that argument is moot without specifics.

    what distinguishes this post as chareidi/yeshivish and not centrist is the statement:
    ” Such articles encourage the view that our community’s exclusion of women from public roles is “public policy” and unrelated to our Halachic principles.” his statement shows a desire to negate any public role for women – officers or trustees of synagogues, schools, and community/public office under the rubric of non specific details of vague halachic principles. this is certainly not centrist but radical ideology. i have no interest in labeling people but i object to intentional mislabeling.

    Inferred from the post is an undesirable accommodation:
    “This is all an attempt to accommodate this modern phenomenon–which is an outcome of the additional time for self-actualization…” perhaps he prefers a self negation of self and duty as a healthier mental alternative? i also wonder why he mentions proposals and programs from centrist and chareidi rabbis – of course no details- if he believes in these halachic gender based principles – does it not negate the entire basis of his approach and post since they are eternal? which is it?

  117. Before adding further personal opinions to this discussion, may I humbly suggest that we take to time to listen to a Shiur given by Rabbi Mordechai Willig, Rabbi,Doctor Sol Roth Professor of Talmud and Contemporary Halacha, at YU, entitled “Evolution and Change in Halacha, given November 12, 2011.
    Yeshiva University Web Site is: YUTorah.org

  118. Mair Zvi — also the shorter clip of Rabbi Hershel Schachter from 79:45 to 81:08 on http://matzav.com/video-ou-webcast-with-rav-belsky-and-rav-schachter-on-myriad-halacha-issues

    “to have the women sit [in] a separate section of the bus [is] not such a bad idea”.

  119. R’ih and jk,
    The fact that change has occured doesn’t necessary mean it’s for the best. That is an individual judgement. Once again, it depends on what measuring stick you use.

  120. The fact that change has occured doesn’t necessary mean it’s for the best. That is an individual judgement. Once again, it depends on what measuring stick you use.

    This is true and works both ways. 25 years ago there was no concept of separate gender buses and now we have – as IH points out- the ostensible rabbinic leader of RW MO, supporting it as the preferred option! its not just the left moving left (which it is, at least in practice) but the right is still moving right.

  121. HAGTBG:
    I assume you are referring to the RHS video that IH referred to at 12:02PM.

    I don’t think RHS actually came out in support of separate seating on buses (not “separate gender buses” which is another concept entirely). I understood him to be non-committal or pareve on the subject. Didn’t he say, or rather ask,”MAYBE it’s not such a bad idea?”
    Isn’t it remarkable how different people can listen to the same words and come away with totally different understanding!

  122. Raphael Davidovich

    There are many intelligent comments here, that enhance the article considerably. I do not have the time to respond to each one individually, but I would like to address some of the broader issues brought up here in the last two days. In doing so, I am effectively editing (rewriting) some parts of the essay, as I actually concede some of the points made, and think that I need to be more specific on other points. On comments with which I take issue, I think the article needs to be clarified to reflect that. There are also comments on which I have nothing to respond, as I don’t know enough about those issues yet to comment intelligently.

    I realize that this delay seems interminably long in internet years, but I would rather write an article of moderate quality that shoot from the hip.

    (I apologize for the typos. Despite numerous rereads and edits, somehow typos managed to creep into the final copy.)

    More to come…

    [email protected]

  123. “The fact that change has occured doesn’t necessary mean it’s for the best.”

    Joel, I don’t disagree, of course. Just giving my opinion on changes relating to women in MO. Feel free to disagree. But I wonder if you do. (I KNOW that others do disagree.)

  124. Lawrence Kaplan

    Mair Zvi: I listened very carefully to the video of RHS. He said three times re separate sections that “it’s not such a bad idea.” There was no “maybe” attached. He did say that there was no reason why women should sit in the back. Maybe the men should sit in the back. His discussion of this was framed by his opposition to the current Haredi pracice not to print pictures of women in newspapers. He said there is certainly no problem with pictures of women’s heads and implied that there is similarly no problem with fuller pictures if the woman is dressed tzeniously. He felt that here the Haredim were going too far.

  125. I think Rav Davidovitch identifies a major issue – but unfortunately, IMHO does not understand the full implications of that issue – and therefore frames only one side of the issue.
    Yes, the underlying issue is the fundamental changes in the roles of women over the last hundred years to an extent unimaginable, to the extent that egalitarianism is the norm (and viewed as a moral imperative) in the general social sphere.

    Furthermore, as he points out, full egalitarianism is not compatible with much of halacha.

    However, what is missing in his analysis is the understanding that the religious significance and implications of any nonegalitarian halacha has dramatically changed – because it is applied in drastically different situations. Doing the same thing means, in actuality, doing something completely different – you can’t go home again unless you are willing to (and there are few out there who truly want to) go back to a 19th century social structure (even RW – think kollel and kollel wives…)

    That does not mean that the halacha is invalid and has to be made egalitarian. However, if one is not trying to revise current social norms (eg, as a minimum, having women with jobs in the public sphere) = one has to find some mode of giving expression to that changed role in the religious domain – or run the risk that in spite of commitment to halacha, it becomes spiritually barren and disconnected from the real lives of the community. What those modes are can and should be debated – and not every proposal is good, nor is every criticism valid, but the wholesale opposition is a view of halacha as mitzvat anashim melumada – obedience without rationale,


    The classic example is talmud torah to nashim – while individual women learnt in the past, the notion of this being a general phenomena is a radical innovation – but reflected the needs of the times. Rav Soloveichik’s quoted rationale – that if a woman has a college level secular education, she needs more than a kindergarten Jewish education – is applicable far more broadly.

    To point out one example of possible change – inheritance laws are brought out as an example – the rabbis of Morocco in their 1947 conference had a takkana giving unmarried daughters equal rights with sons…- were they also feminist protoConservatives?)

    Of course, this does not mean that any particular change is legitimate – nor that there are forces who are trying for full egalitarianism. But it should be understood that those, fearing egalitarianism, reject all change – rather than preserving the status quo, are actually radically altering the signifcance and meaning of torah and halacha in the society and world that we actually live in. In a real sense, they are the true radicals, rejecting the notion of torat hayim, denigrating the viability of torah, and deserving condemnation from all true bne torah

  126. Lawrence Kaplan:
    Touche! My adding the word “maybe” endorses my final point.
    Even omitting the word “maybe” however, are you taking RHS’s words as a Psak Halacha regarding separate seating on buses?
    I think that’s quite a stretch.

  127. Mair Zvi — RHS was responding to a shaila from an OU mashgiach submitted during the OU webcast on halachia issues. There is no indication then, or thereafter, that this was not meant as any less of a psak than the answers to the other questions asked in the webcast.

  128. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: “It’s not such a bad idea” is not my idea of a pesak. A rather pareve endorsement at best.

  129. IH:
    That is not my understanding at all.
    At most, I take RHS’s response to mean that if the individual feels uncomfortable sitting on a bus next to a stranger of the opposite gender, then it’s acceptable, as a personal chumrah, to sit wherever they feel most comfortable. I also take it to refer to females as well as males. I think the comment has absolutely nothing to do with Issur or Heter, or egalitarianism and should not be construed as a formal psak halacha.

  130. I did not say it was a psak. I worded my response to Mair Zvi carefully, albeit a typo.

  131. The point, in any case, is that the halachist held in the highest esteem by RW MO, who is affiliated with YU, holds an opinion that is more “to the right” on this important issue than either RMF or RSZA did. Perhaps we should borrow the language of some here and call it an innovation of the Radical Anti-Feminist Agenda.

    RMF’s famous 1960 Psak is: http://hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=918&st=&pgnum=326

    And the stories regarding RSZA getting off buses to avoid embarrassing women who were not tzanua enough for him to be near are undisputed AFAIK.

  132. IH: I think with your latest comment you have now reached the level of Spin Grandmaster. Congratulations.

  133. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: Gil may have expressed himself a bit sharply, but his point is valid. It is one thing for RMF to say that if one is travelling to work and does not have any alternative, it is not assur to sit or stand next to a woman on the bus or train, even if she is not dressed tzeniusly. That does not mean that RMF would not have thought that the idea of separate sections on a bus might not be a bad idea. The same goes for your extrapolation re RSZA.

  134. Prof. Kaplan — Even for RSZA in Israel where Jews are the majority and the Charedim have political clout, the notion of gender segregation on public buses was beyond the pale. Further, he correctly saw it as his (the male’s) issue and not the females. All this talk of sex segregation in the public sphere is an innovation of the past (less than) 25 years.

  135. The occurrence of “gender” at 7:22 is a mistake — it should be “sex” as in the second occurrence.

  136. So, Prof. Kaplan, rather than “correcting” everyone else, perhaps you could share your thoughts on this important topic: where do you stand?

  137. Lawrence Kaplan

    Sure. I’m strongly against sex segregated public buses and equally strongly against the increasing sex segregation in the public sphere. I would have thought that was obvious. However, I am not sure why you have the right to claim that RHS is to the right of RMF on this issue, but then rather snarkily take umbrage when I disagree with you.

  138. I meant the broader topic of this post and R. Broyde’s?

  139. Prof. Kaplan — You have every right to disagree with me (and correct meir as per the last 9 messages in the other thread) as I have the right to disagree with you.

    But, to the best of my recollection, you have not stated your own position regarding the substance of R. Broyde or R. Davidovich points. I am keen to know what your position is. Where do you stand and why?

  140. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: Thanks for the clarification. I already criticized R. Davidovich on a specific point, for which I was already taken to task, ke-darko ba-kodesh, by Stve Brizel. I disagree with R. Davidovich’s broader approach, but am reluctant to make a general pronoucement without very careful thought and study. I feel more secure in sticking to specific points. As for R. Broyde’s essay, I think that the combination of points raised by my brother and Charlie Hall serves to undermine R. Broyde’s thesis.

  141. I took RHS’s statement to be that ideally the buses would be segregated and that it was preferable one sit separately. He did not say that was required and, obviously, has not made any real effort to advance this view. It also needs to be taken in the context of tzniut, which RHS was more broadly addressing immediately before the issue of bus segregation, and which he made clear broad public actions were not tzniut, including to the right.

    The issue here was not gender inequality – RHS clearly didn’t care who was in the front or the back – but whether separate buy equal here is either desirable or possible.

    One thing it is not though, is past practice. Of either MO or haredi. It is new and an innovation of the right. And it is a practice that I believe the vast majority of MO men and women in America oppose and would find highly offensive if attempted to seriously be advanced.

    It shows that, to at least some degree, the desired communal ends of RHS and those of (I believe) most of the lay, do not agree on this issue. Its either one deviation between the laity and RHS or one more stone in the pond.

    The issue isn’t RHS but whether RW MO is going down this path as well.

  142. Larry Kaplan-My point was that if one learns the last 90 blatt of BB , even on a superficial DY level, there is much discussion about how women can inherit, and their financial rights and obligations. One at least should be have some familiarity with the same before raising inheritance in the Torah Shebicsav as yet another example of sexism at work.

  143. Noam Stadlan-see R Frimer’s review of Dr T Ross’s book on feminism and TSBP. It is obvious from R Frimer’s review that Dr Ross views feminism as an ideological consideration that trumps all other values.

  144. Shades of Gray

    “to have the women sit [in] a separate section of the bus [is] not such a bad idea”.

    RHS spoke similarly(“not such a bad idea”) regarding separate lines for voting in Israel, in “Gender Separation in Halacha”(26:00), see link:

    The background was that one of the members of the board of YU sent RHS a photograph from the NYT where Arabs had women and men standing on different lines, and the person wrote that ” he hopes that that is not what we are heading for!”

    RHS said, “what would be so bad if in Eretz Yisroel they would have separate lines for the men to vote and the women to vote…we should learn from the good practices that the umos haolam have… ”

    On 24:00, RHS discusses, based on the Rambam in Hilchos Deios, about going to the extreme to balance out. Because of the pritzus of today’s generation in the secular world, one should go “a little bit to the extreme; too much to the extreme would look like meshugayim[as quoted from R. Chaim Berlin]…to be a little more medakdeik than the din requires iz nisht geferlach ”

    Besides Chilul Hashem, another concern about going too much to the extreme is that the gedarim can backfire. Dr. Nachum Klafter writes(see link):

    “I have spoken to therapists who work in the Hassidic communities of Monsey, Williamsburg, and Boro Park, and I have been surprised to hear these therapists express the same distinct impression about the consequences of the extreme measures which have been implemented in their communities to enforce gender separation: These severe standards for tzniyut and gender separation have lowered the threshold for sexual stimulation, which has led to an increase in sexual problems…What, exactly, are we accomplishing by implementing these extreme measures for gender separation?”

    Whether one agrees with Dr. Klafter’s assessment or not, what the above shows is that creating communal gedarim needs to be looked out at from more than one angle, as RHS mentions.



  145. Larry Kaplan and IH-when RHS views something as out and out Assur or Mutar, he says so. In many other instances, RHS would always use use phrases such as the above as a way of saying “maybe.” Anyone who has ever asked RHS a halachic query would be able to tell you that.

  146. Shades of Gray-all the quoted passages from RHS amount to one idea-in certain instances, chumros based on gender segregation are necessary, but have to be implemented in a proper manner. RHS clearly stated that we can all move “a little bit to the extreme ” but that “too much to the extreme would look like meshugayim[as quoted from R. Chaim Berlin]…to be a little more medakdeik than the din requires iz nisht geferlach”

  147. Steve — Listen to the OU Webcast segment and ask yourself what the OU msshgiach who asked the question (and the audience) walked away thinking was RHS’ position. There were no mitigating words in his response. Also note the stated purpose of that OU Webcast was to obtain practical guidance on issues spanning the breadth and depth of Yahadut.

    HAGTBG correctly summarized the situation as it relates to the broader issue we’re discussing in R. Davidovich’s post.


    BTW, on your response to Dr. Stadlan, I think you do a disservice to both Profs. Frimer and Ross. The review is available at http://bermanshul.org/frimer/1206-DQLN0171.pdf

  148. shachar haamim

    Rabbi Broyde’s response to me on the earlier post – that doing the mitzvah oneself outweighs ‘brov am’ issues, is to my mind more significant than just a women’s issue or having a separate women’s reading. Frankly it actually undermines the women for women reading which is often scheduled in some communities. what’s the point of having one more reading by a women for women? his approach seems to dictate that every single individual in the community who knows how to read a megilla should have a separate reading and invite anyone who doesn’t know how to read to come over and listen.
    While there are people who do this (I have a relative who has a well known and attended morning megilla reading and brunch in his home in Jerusalem) this doesn’t seem to be the normative practice and would indicate a paradihm shift for how communities should approach the megilla reading. Rather than the big central shul reading with all the families and kids in tow, communities should educate to have families have their own private readings at home.

  149. I notice many fewer identifiably female commenters on this thread thatn rabbi broyde’s. Perhaps because it is so obvious r davidovich is talking about, but not to, us.

  150. And if he talked you, you would listen? Its just as patronizing and (right-wing) formulaic for you either way.

  151. huh? what would i have to do to show i am “listening”? you mean, “obey”?

    you are right that basically any argument that “women are x” where “x” is something that i can’t say “emma is x” will ring hollow with me. but doesn’t that make sense? and isn’t that a problem with the argument, not with me? unless the argument is really, “women may think Y about themselves, but they are wrong.” how can a woman respond to that?

    *of course, rabbi davidovich has not made a “women are X” argument, just implied a shadowy outline of a nonpublic, dependent (as in, not independent) role for women in jewish life. the lack of affirmative statements is also waht makes this so hard to engage.

    as for whether i will accept any form of essentialism, i think nearly everyone does on some level or another. if anything that makes it _more_ important to include actual women in the debate about what “the nature of women in the torah” is.

    and i will note that many of the women commenting on the other article were more or less with rabbi broyde in opposing “nonhalachic” innovations.

    most of those women probably also want to inherit, though, and would not appreciate a cheating husband even if he did it in a “muttar” way.

  152. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve B: I do not know why you alway seek to pick a quarrel with me even when we agree. I specifically said RHS’s comment was a not a pesak but a pareve endorsement at best.

    Re Women and inheritance: Again, I was responding to R. Daividovich’s description. Your quarrel is with him.

  153. RHS’s comment was a not a pesak but a pareve endorsement at best.

    Breezily dismissing RHS’ outrageous statement as a “pareve endorsement” is almost as disrespectful as the statement itself. Where is your self-respect for Modern Orthodoxy, Prof. Kaplan?

    Can you conceive of the Rav making such a statement in responding to a shaila from an OU mashgiach on a webcast whose purpose was stated as providing “practical guidance on issues spanning the breadth and depth of Yahadut”?

    Sometimes sitting on the fence is indefensible.

  154. setting aside the fact that separate seating on buses is a significant political issue that is determined much more by power politics than halacha, i don’t see the statement that it’s not “a bad idea” for men and women to sit separately in a crowded public situation as all that offensive. the problem is that it’s impossible to set aside the context. RHS, kedarko bakodesh, seems often to speak to individual halachic issues without realizing (caring?) what role his words may or will play in larger political fights. That’s the problem, not the position itself.

  155. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: First Steve Brizel, then you! I did not “breezily dismiss” RHS’s statement. I simply described it. I already said I strongly oppose segregated seating on public buses. When you first linked to the statement did you refer to it as “outrageous,” as you are doing now? More generally, I have been accused of many things, but I believe this is the first time I have been accused of lacking self-respect for MO! Nonsense.

  156. Listen to his comments not just about segregation on buses, but also regarding photographs of women.

    I have excepted the shaila and RHS’ outrageous answer for ease of reference at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyjtD-if5Js

  157. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: I already took note of RHS’s comment re photographs of women. He cricticized the Haredi policy.

  158. Listen more carefully.

  159. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: I did. I am not quite sure what you are referring to. RHS concluded “Blotting out the photograph, I think that’s a little too much.”

  160. Compare his words in 0:42 to 0:55 to, say, the upper right most photo here: http://jc2010dinner.shutterfly.com/

  161. Lawrence Kaplan

    Nu, nu. FTR, RHS said “sleeveless,” not “short sleeves.” In any event, halevai Haredi publications would blot out pictures of women only if they were wearing short sleeves or sleeveless.

  162. can’t listen at work, but the usual solution to such problems, at least among people who have pictures of themselves wearing things they no longer consider appropriate, is strategically deployed permanent marker. No need to “blot out” whole photo in the age of photoshopped sleeves…

  163. (not to say that i don’t think the best solution for not-actually-erotic-but-technically-erva photographs is not just to leave them alone…)

  164. too many negatives. i think that is the best solution…

  165. In both his comments on buses and photographs, RHS is ratcheting up the standard for “proper” from MO standards to Charedi standards. That he stops short of Charedi extremes is hardly comforting.

    The complacency within MO that accepts this kind of “boiling frog” situation is, in my view, a lack of self-respect and is indicative of the struggle over the role of women.

  166. Sounds more like you’re committed to be angry at RHS but desperately looking for a reason.

  167. Give me a break, Gil.

  168. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: I see your point. But let me reiterate, I do not agree with RHS’s views on these issues. At the same time, I wonder, along with Emma, if you are not making too big a deal out of off-the cuff comments. Certainly in the MO community I see no trend to women becoming less visible. Do you?

  169. IH: That’s what I’m saying

  170. Among RWMO, I do. And there have been enough cases documented here by others. I also disagree this is just an off-the-cuff comment. This was within the format of an OU Kosher Webcast about halachic matters in which his role was to offer expert halachic advice and the shaila was asked by an OU mashgiach in the field.

    What was the takeaway for the masgiach who asked the question? And how do you think that impacts the decisions he makes in the field?

  171. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: What examples do you have in mind?

  172. IH: You repeatedly point out that R. Schachter’s role was to offer “practical guidance”, which is true, yet entirely disingenuous. The fact that he was offering it to an “OU mashgiach in the field” indicates strongly that it was not practical advice.

  173. Prof. Kaplan – Two examples: 1) the decline in photographs of women speakers as discussed e.g. in https://www.torahmusings.com/2011/11/announcement-riets-yarchei-kallah/ and, 2) the very fact that RSH’s support for sex-segregation in the public domain did not provoke any controversy. These are my perceptions of reality; others can choose their own.

    Now, will you answer my questions to you: What was the takeaway for the masgiach who asked the question? And how do you think that impacts the decisions he makes in the field? [obviously, in both the real question is the entire audience and not just the questioner].


    Machshovos – I don’t really understand your point. What do you think the purpose was for RHS to answer it in this way? I find it a bit odd that I seem to be one who respects that he said what he meant and meant what he said. What kind of respect is it to a Rosh Yeshiva to doubt his seriousness or his purpose in responding as he did?

    He said it, the OU published it; and ten months have elapsed during which time a correction or addendum could have been provided.

  174. IH:

    “I find it a bit odd that I seem to be one who respects that he said what he meant and meant what he said.”

    What he said was “it’s not such a bad idea.” What you interpreted was “support for sex-segregation in the public domain.” That no-one respects your interpretation may be a result of the interpretation not being what he said.

    My point is that by discussing newspaper editing and city transit with kashrus mashgichim he was clearly not giving practical guidance. So I don’t know why you brought up the purpose of the webcast.

    Based on this discussion, I assume that you disagree with R. Schachter, i.e. you feel that “it IS such a a bad idea.” For academic purposes, may I ask why?

  175. Based on this discussion, I assume that you disagree with R. Schachter, i.e. you feel that “it IS such a a bad idea.” For academic purposes, may I ask why?

    Wow! Just wow. But, I’ll let Prof. Kaplan explain since he seemed to think RHS’ remarks were no big deal.

  176. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: Is that the best you can do?! I’m relieved. We already went over this once before. I just checked the Listing for YU’s Kollel Yom Rishon. There are pictures of over a dozen women speakers. None with short sleeves though. This is a non-issue. You are really hunting for bad news.

    Machashavos : Do I really need to explain why I think sex segregation of public buses is a bad idea? Think Rosa Parks, for a start. Think the unhealthy trend to more and more sex segregation on the part of Haredim in the public sphere, marginilization of women, etc. This has been discussed to death.

    More generally, IH, I find it amusing– better, ridiculous– that I, who authored the well-known articles on Daas Torah and Revisionism and the Rav, who took on both Rabbis Schachter and Meiselman, etc, etc. am accused by you of lacking self-respect for MO simply because I am not as alarmed by R. Schachter’s pronuncement as you are. I assure you I have not gone soft on Haredism in my dotage.

  177. Ih-I think that R Gil and Larry Kaplan are correct in your non stop sniping about RHS, and pictures of women speakers for Midreshet Yom Rishon.

  178. IH-I read and reread R Frimer’s review of Dr Ross’s book. If you think that the review was favorable as a whole, perhaps you should reread the same. Here is the bottom line for your edification:

    “As we have seen above, however, Prof. Ross posits that what feminists perceive
    as a male bias in the biblical text undermines a belief in its divinity. Unfortunately,
    as Yoel Finkelman20 has noted, this and many other conclusions in this volume are
    a derivative of Ross’s total acceptance of feministic values as the axiomatic given;
    she then judges halakhic Judaism by them.”

  179. Prof. Kaplan — you vastly underestimate the influence RHS has on the contemporary generation of his talmidim. And Rosa Parks is ancient history for misguided Liberals.

    I strongly disagree with RHS on this matter, but I respect him enough to realize that he was not speaking “off the cuff” and the response I highlighted was not a gaffe.

    As Machashavos illustrates, the contemporary generation of RWMO do not share your values on matters such as sex segregation in the public sphere. Keep resting on your laurels and RHS will have the last laugh.

  180. IH asked:

    “What was the takeaway for the masgiach who asked the question? And how do you think that impacts the decisions he makes in the field”

    Why not ask the Mashgaich if the same has any effect on such decisions , as opposed to speculating as to the same?

  181. “Do I really need to explain why I think sex segregation of public buses is a bad idea?”

    No. I didn’t even ask you to. I figured it was fair game to ask IH, who was disappointed in the alleged views of R. Schachter, to spell out precisely why he differs. I thought it could be constructive.

    Also, why I’m certainly not advocating sex segregation on buses, I can certainly understand how one could distinguish between sex and race.

  182. Lawrence Kaplan

    Steve B: I appreciate your support, though I am afraid that IH wil just use it as further “proof” that I have gone deplorably “soft,” if not on Haredism, then on RWMO.

  183. Machshavos-Look at IH’s past posts. IH has a long track record of posts that show not just dissapointment in RHS’s views from his POV, but in his prominence as a RY, Talmid Chacham and Posek, who is greatly respected and highly regarded not just in the committed MO world. but also in the Charedi world.

    Obviously, IH is dissapointed in the fact that none of the RY in RIETS share his LW MO POV. FWIW, when RYBs refused to call on the RCA and OU to pull out of the SCA, that was a classical example of sitting on the fence of a positive nature. In many ways, unless RHS sees something as either absolutely Mutar or Assur, he will advise the person posing the halachic query, depending on his level of Torah knowledge, what their halachic options by saying “I think that the…” as opposed to a 100% Assur or Mutar psak.

  184. Also, why I’m certainly not advocating sex segregation on buses, I can certainly understand how one could distinguish between sex and race.

    Please do explain how one could distinguish between sex and race in the public sphere? The whole discussion in these 2 guest posts is specifically about the role of women after all

  185. Lawrence Kaplan

    Machashavos: My apologies for giving the impression that you asked me to explain in why I disagree with RHS’s comment when it was IH who asked me to do so.

    IH: Last year I wrote “Revisionism and the Rav Revisited,” where I raked R. Meiselman over the coals. I have consistently and often criticized the Rav for his interprsatrion of the Rambam on Makhish Magidehah in his 1975 talk attacking R. Rackman. These are areas in which I have some expertise. And perhaps matters are worse than I think, but I see no evidence nor have you brought any that indicates that women are becoming less visible in the pubic sphere in MO, even RWMO, circles.

  186. Ih, we have separate but equal bathrooms by sex. Nearly everyone is ok w that. Same w sports teams. We as a society allow occasio single sex schools. Not so race.
    So there are obviously some ways that sex distinction in the public sphere is ok. This is purely descriptive but indicates some underlying consensus on how race and sex are in fact different vis a vis the public sphere.

  187. Prof. Kaplan — perhaps I made a mistake in responding to your strawman, but I note you still haven’t addressed the substantive issues I raised in raising the topic of RHS’s statement.

    Further, you willfully ignore the connection between RHS’ statement and these two guest posts.

    Do you really have so little respect for RHS’ impact? Or, is it just easier to rake those who don’t claim to represent MO over the coals?

  188. Emma — fair point. But buses?

  189. Lawrence Kaplan: Certainly accepted.

    IH: I was going to bring up restrooms, but emma beat me to it.

  190. Let’s reframe the question back in the context of these two guest posts: why is MO so unconcerned about one of its key Rabbincal authorities publicly stating that sex segregation on buses isn’t a bad idea due to the way women dress; but, to make it less of an issue we should let the women sit in the front and the men sit in the back?

  191. And what about other public venues in which the attire of women isn’t predictive?

  192. IH-let’s face it. Your past posts on Tznius and all gender related issues are quite out there on the extreme LW of MO, if not part of and representativethe views of RYG and RDH, whose own writings have placed them well beyond any reasonable definition of MO . It is no small wonder that you would be uncomfortable with the following post, http://torahweb.org/torah/2010/parsha/rsch_naso.html, but I suspect that the average committed MO person would view it as quite mainstream even when compared with some of the drashos from the Internet Asifa.

  193. IH wrote:

    “And what about other public venues in which the attire of women isn’t predictive?”

    Please explain and define in easily comprehensible English.

  194. Steve — don’t tell me what I think, tell me what you think. Do you support RHS’ assertion that sex segregation on buses isn’t a bad idea due to the way women dress?

  195. R’IH,
    If I had to guess, I’d say R’HS might feel that the negative impact on a halachic lifestyle of what might be considered “indiscriminate” mixing of the sexes in modern society could stand to be offset somewhat by some restraint on our part.

  196. IH-Don’t play the LW suffering and misunderstood martyr game whose vision of MO is being destroyed by Charedim and their allies, the RW MO. RAL offered a particularly sharp critique of that POV in his own response to RYG. That is quite close IMO to wrapping oneself in the clothing of patriotism.Your posts here are easily accessible , available and discernible by anyone with a reasonable degree of intelligence. I wait for your response to my request at 10:05 PM.

  197. IH-I refuse to answer your spin on RHS’s POV . You are looking for an angle to attack RHS.

  198. I don’t need an angle to attack RHS. I respect him enough to take him at his word. And R. Broyde’s post demonstrates his power.

  199. Lawrence Kaplan

    IH: Could you explain how RMB’s post reflects the influence of RHS?

  200. “Do you support RHS’ assertion that sex segregation on buses isn’t a bad idea due to the way women dress?”

    I find this to be a terrible twist of language. Sex segregation on buses implies a rule imposed by some third party which tells people how they must sit on buses. RHS responded to a personal chumrah for an individual as being not a bad idea. Just like if someone said that they want to stop eating at fast food resturants, somebody might say its not a bad idea. That does not mean they support making a fat tax, or banning fast food resturants from opening up.

  201. Avi — how exactly does segregating the women in the front and the men in the back, as he advocates, translate into a personal chumrah (as opposed to public policy)?

    I find all this rationalization of what RHS said bizarre. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Give the man the respect he is due; he said what he meant and meant what he said.

  202. Any word on when R. Davidovich will have his revised post ready?

  203. R’IH,
    We do, he said it might not be a bad idea in an informal comment- that’s the cigar imho. If and when he chooses to make a more formal tshuva/public policy he will.

  204. I guess that’s the nub. The context was not an informal comment, having watched most of that webcast. Or should all the answers on that OU Webcast be considered informal comments? And, if not, where is the cue that this one was?

  205. R’IH
    “It depends on what the meaning of the words ‘is’ is.” –Bill Clinton 🙂

  206. Raphael Davidovich

    I’m in the middle of writing a general reply now. then I plan on using that and any crowd-sourced replies to revise the article. I’m sorry for the delay. I know that I am not replaying at the speed of blog.

    [email protected]

  207. The need for a group who has had absolute power over another to try to maintain it is pathetic and fails to recognize the time in which we live. Ultimately, the attempts to fight modernity will end in failure. Be assured as we have now had a taste of fresh air, an unblocked view of the the Ark, and a place at the the Kotel, it will never be business as usual and Miriams everywhere will sing, or chant or debate the fine points of Torah in spite of the wishes of her former oppressors. Be afraid or welcome the change.

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