R Michael Broyde / Modern Orthodox synagogues, like others, actively seek the participation of both men and women in synagogue life. A “women’s only Torah reading” on Simchat Torah is an issue that has surfaced within this context; I write to address this issue and express my view. I should also note that the Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta, Georgia, where I was the founding rabbi for 14 years (retired in 2008), and where I am currently a member had such a “women’s only Torah reading” (without any brachot), for the first time this Simchat Torah 5773.[1] I was not involved in the decision to have such a Torah reading, and do not favor such Torah readings. I write not to engage in a polemic or dispute regarding this particular synagogue’s decision – only the current rabbi decides matters of halacha for any synagogue and individuals with questions about this Torah reading should discuss any issues they have with him – but I write to clarify my view, lest anyone be confused about what is my opinion.

Women’s Only Torah Reading

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A Brief Note about “Women’s Only Torah Reading” on Simchat Torah

Guest post by R. Michael J. Broyde

Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University, was the founding rabbi of the Young Israel in Atlanta and is a dayan in the Beth Din of America.

Modern Orthodox synagogues, like others, actively seek the participation of both men and women in synagogue life. A “women’s only Torah reading” on Simchat Torah is an issue that has surfaced within this context; I write to address this issue and express my view.

I should also note that the Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta, Georgia, where I was the founding rabbi for 14 years (retired in 2008), and where I am currently a member had such a “women’s only Torah reading” (without any brachot), for the first time this Simchat Torah 5773.[1] I was not involved in the decision to have such a Torah reading, and do not favor such Torah readings. I write not to engage in a polemic or dispute regarding this particular synagogue’s decision – only the current rabbi decides matters of halacha for any synagogue and individuals with questions about this Torah reading should discuss any issues they have with him – but I write to clarify my view, lest anyone be confused about what is my opinion.

My own view is that a women’s Torah reading on Simchat Torah (without brachot), like women’s tefillah groups generally, are unwise and halachically improper, although not a technical violation of halacha. I have two reasons for this position – the first is a halachic approach and the second a sociological one grounded in halachic values.
As an initial matter, let me note that I do very much understand the desire to promote women’s active participation in Orthodox synagogue life within the bounds of halacha, and I support that broad goal, but for the reasons outlined below I do not see the “women’s only Torah reading” on Simchat Torah as a way to achieve this.

As to the substance of my view: I favor increasing women’s participation in Orthodox life and in the synagogue through increased participation in Torah study and other mitzvah-centered activity. As a general rule, I believe that women should be supported and encouraged to do genuine mitzvot, and not directed to activity that only has the superficial appearance of a mitzvah. The halachic defense of women’s torah reading (without brachot) is exactly that it is not a proper Torah reading at all (because no minyan is present, women are reading, etc.), and thus I think it an unwise idea because it focuses women away from the central purpose of religious conduct – the performance of mitzvot. Although I do not feel such conduct is assur in the technical sense of the word, I think it is imprudent and unwise, since it is conducted in a way that is designed to mimic the mitzvah of Torah reading in the synagogue, without fulfilling that obligation at all.[2] Women are better served as a matter of halacha attending a regular Torah reading and not merely mimicking a mitzvah. This is in contrast with a women’s megillah reading where a woman who attends such a reading fulfills her obligation to hear megillah.

Based on this analysis, when I was the rabbi at YITH, I instituted a women’s megillah reading because this is a mitzvah in which women are obligated and which they can fulfill for themselves. There are many such examples where the conduct is a mitzvah, and we ought to encourage women (and men) to do mitzvot. Indeed, I think that our job is to encourage people to do mitzvot in which they are obligated and mitzvot that they get reward for doing. I do not believe it is wise or prudent to encourage untraditional ritualistic performance of what appears to be a Torah reading, but actually is without any halachic quality.

My second reason to oppose this practice is more sociological, but grounded in halachic ideas of community, and no less important. Women’s halachic matters can be very divisive even within Modern Orthodoxy, and all of us favor less divisiveness. That does not mean, however, that good ideas should be dismissed simply because they might make some people uncomfortable. And so we are faced with the question of where to draw the line; when should we be comfortable with diversity, even when we know it might become divisive? My answer to that question is also mitzvah focused, because I believe that halacha provides such a line. Simply put, we need to encourage men and women to do mitzvot and if others find this divisive, that is sad, but a price we ought to be willing to pay for more mitzvah fulfillment, because we vitally need to encourage people to fulfill mitzvot, even if others object to this conduct. However, absent a mitzvah component, I am more leery of implementing ritual conduct that might be divisive and is untraditional.

Simply put, new rituals, especially those that are closely connected to halachic issues, can be difficult and divisive. It is particularly important for an inclusive and broadly-based halachic institution to recognize the diversity of thinking and feelings on such new departures; hewing closely to the traditional halachic norms while weighing new approaches has always been a good approach. This is not to say that we should never consider new approaches that are not technically prohibited, but we should weigh them carefully, and certainly within any synagogue consider carefully the impact of such decisions as creating diversity. My own viewpoint as noted above is to focus new departures on the performance of mitzvot. If we are going to divide our community, I want to do so over matters of halacha, and generally oppose engaging in divisiveness absent a genuine heightened mitzvah component. Since all concede that a women’s Torah reading does not fulfill the mitzvah of Torah reading (that is why brachot are not recited) I favor heightened unity over increased diversity with respect to this matter.

I do understand that many women find these Torah reading groups to be a meaningful experience and it is not my intent to cast aspersions on anyone’s motivations or to distance women or men from Judaism, but I think that it is very unwise to craft any Torah reading rituals from a Torah scroll that are not a mitzvah.[3]

Others are entitled to disagree with my view, of course, but I end by repeating that which I hold proper. I think women’s Torah readings (without brachot) are unwise and improper, although not assur as a matter of technical halacha, because they inappropriately mimic a mitzvah, while not fulfilling any Torah reading mitzvah, and they might create communal divisiveness without any increased mitzvah performance.

I welcome conversation and dialogue with others concerning my views and the best path for the Orthodox community.


[1] See here for a widely shared report on this and a recent column by a YITH member here.
[2] Let me give you an incomplete analogy. A bar mitzvah boy is scheduled to read Torah for his bar mitzvah celebration on a specific Shabbat, and like many such young men, that is the only parsha he knows. It snows terribly on that Shabbat, and he cannot walk to shul due to the extremely dangerous snow. His bar mitzvah party is scheduled for the next day — should we let him take out the Torah and read it on Sunday (without brachot)? I do not think such is assur in the technical sense of the word “prohibited” (as on some technical level, anyone can read from a torah whenever they wish) but I think such conduct is extremely unwise and halachically imprudent and should not be done in an Orthodox synagogue. Women’s torah reading without a bracha is like such a case.
[3] I will shortly be publishing an article on women wearing a tallit that will flesh out some of these ideas more.

About Michael Broyde

290 comments

  1. would the same apply to the question which in my opinion has been raised far more often then reading the torah on simchat torah, namely, women dancing with the torah?

  2. Shalom Rosenfeld

    שפתים יושק. Bravo once again Rabbi Broyde.

    “we vitally need to encourage people to fulfill mitzvot, even if others object to this conduct”

    Any particular examples?

    In parts of Eastern Europe the practice had developed that married woman just didn’t do mishloach manos; at the risk of being called a crazy feminist or a crazy machmir, I will announce that the Chayei Adam rules that practice is incorrect; each spouse is their own adult human being, and responsible for their own mishloach manos.

  3. I followed RMB’s link in note 1.
    Is this girl a daughter of a rabbi that RMB taught?
    Also, in the JOFA story there is no mention of Rabbi Starr consulting with others about this for guidance.
    Did he?

  4. The transparent posturing of this defensive piece does not show R. Broyde at his best.

  5. No mention is made of a niddah not being allowed to look at a sefer torah. Since this would be very divisive it is best that no women have aliyot either.

  6. I wonder if Rabbi Broyde’s post here is his rebuttle of the talk given by the current rabbi on this same matter this past Shabbat.

    See here (to the left a few inches down):
    http://images.shulcloud.com/137/attachments/3958_WeeklyAnnouncements.pdf

  7. I think this is completely consistent with Rabbi Broydes excellent peice halacha first http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2009/11/halacha-first.html which I thought was completely correct. The idea that as Orthodox Jews, halacha comes first in our processing of change seems so correct.
    I also want to note that Rabbi Broyde is a very brave posek — I live in another neighborhood in Atlanta and when serious questions of halacha come up, my own rabbi turns to him to help. When I asked why, he told me that “Rabbi Broyde just is more learned than anyone I know. But normal.”

  8. RMB- ” I think that our job is to encourage people to do mitzvot in which they are obligated and mitzvot that they get reward for doing.”
    ” I believe that women should be supported and encouraged to do genuine mitzvot…”

    Can women not be obligated but get a reward? your analysis – as i understand it – would also in the 1970s would prohibit women from learning gemera as well – please correct me if i misunderstand – but i assume you are in favor of that: is that not a kiyum of a mitzvah eventhough not obligated?

    do we not encourage women – or they insist on doing – to listen to shofar, shake a lulav and sit in a sukkah even though not obligated?

    what are genuine mitzvot as oppose to others? in the end, is it not simply a societal issue depending the members on each individual shul as oppose to any specific city or state? i was under the impression that if women said birchot hatorah in the morning prayers then reading from the torah may fulfill that beracha (although i assume – maybe incorrectly- that most WTG do say some type of beracha when reading from torah)?

  9. footnote #2 is excelent!

  10. In Teaneck, the Women’s Tefillah Group has been weakening progressively with 2 exceptions: an eicha reading on Tisha B’Av and a Simchat Torah service which contains a women’s only Torah reading which continues to draw a large crowd including those who would never think of participating any other time. After ST, I was speaking to a young woman who wasn’t even among those who would go to a WTG on ST (only) and she said that she doesn’t understand why women go to shul at all on ST; “it’s a holiday for men, really,” she said; “for women shul is completely boring.”

    My opinion of women’s only Torah reading is, of course, different from that of R. Broyde. And since we’re not talking about technical violations of halacha, as R. Broyde is careful to note, I feel comfortable disagreeing on this issue with someone whose halachic expertise I greatly admire and whose thoughtful analyses of issues confronting MO I deeply respect (though sometimes, as here, that respect is respectful disagreement).

    All this leads to a question(s) I’d like to ask R. Broyde: is your experience of women’s attitudes towards ST different from the attitude I discuss above (and which I have heard many many times from many many women over the years) and which is the main reason why the number of those participating in Teaneck’s ST WTG is so large and why the participants are not limited to the more LWMO members of our community? And if your experience is similar, what do you think shuls should do — or MO leadership should do — to try and make ST meaningful for women?

  11. interestingly that a post appeared today on women and ritual by Rabbi Farber with a different take and attitude:

    http://morethodoxy.org/2012/10/15/womens-participation-in-ritual-time-for-a-paradigm-shift-by-rabbi-zev-farber/

    most thought provoking line as well most controversial:

    “Instead of saying that since women have never historically participated in public ritual, so each shul and each rabbi will—upon request—think about creative ways to allow women to participate ritually in things that are permitted, we should be saying that all Jews, men and women, can do or participate in any meaningful ritual unless it is clear that halakha expressly forbids this. How to define what halakha forbids will be a question every shul and rabbi will need to answer, but the inertia factor and the women-don’t-do-these-kinds-of-things factor will have to be taken off the table.”

  12. I would like to suggest another halachic problem: It is forbidden to give more than five aliyot to men on a Yom Tov.

    I’ve always hated the assembly line aliyot. I half-heartedly tried to decline an aliyah on Simchat Torah as I had received two aliyot in the preceding week (and I’ve received two since ST, turning down a third!). I have often left the shul on ST during the ALA to visit a retirement home nearby to return an hour and a half later. At one shul where the rabbi had a women-only shiur during the ALA, I only half-jokingly asked if I could attend.

    We violate so many norms of synagogue conduct on ST, I don’t think another will matter much.

  13. Ruvie:

    (Asking forgiveness for speaking in R, Broyde’s place)

    I believe that R. Broyde is saying that he supports our encouraging women to perform mitzvos – even those that they are not obligated to perform – as long as their performing the mitzva has halachic significance. What he is against is encouraging women to perfom “mitzvos” in cases hwere their performance amounts to a halachic naullity, an empty ritual with only the outward appearance of a mitzva. Since a group of women reading a Torah without making brachos has no mitzvah significance – i.e., it does not constitute “kriyas haTorah” (no minyan, no birchas haTorah, ect.), there is no reason to do it, and doing so should be discouraged because of the divisiveness is causes.

  14. Can R Broyde speak to the Halachic permissibility of skipping Simchat Torah tout court? Why can’t those of us who are bored attend a minyan with either a pro forma or no hakafot ceremony and have YT sheini without any extra rituals (like last day of shavuout)?

  15. Shlomo Pill – thank you. my assumption – which may be incorrect – is that most WTG do say a beracha plus if they prayed that morning birchot hatorah then they may be fulfilling something. otherwise, i would agree with your assessment that it may not be analogous.

  16. Well, why did we institute a non-mitzva activity like Simchat Torah dancing and rituals in the first place? I think it would be hard to argue that there is any specific mitzva being performed other than some general concept like kavod hatorah – which could be equally applied to WTG Torah readings.

  17. chakira: I used to daven at a minyan like that. Each hakafah was once around the bimah- as long as it took to say “Ana Hashem” etc.- and they read through the parsha once, five aliyot plus the two chatanim and maftir. Davening was probably well under two hours. I wish I could find one like that in Israel. (I’m sure there is.)

  18. So the author has some kind of backward opinion about what he thinks women should or shouldn’t do… to which I say, mostly, who cares what the author thinks? He’s just mad that people in shul are guided by their own conscious and now by what broyde tells them what to do. it’s so obvious. this is all about his ego. again, i say, who cares what he thinks?

  19. My one question is that you say there is no mitzva here but, at the least, would there not be the mitzva of learning Torah? I assume that there is a concern that some subset of women would be motivated to attend an all-women service and not the minyan.

    BTW, R’ Broyde I want to thank you for not using harsh rhetoric such as challenging the good-faith of the motivation of those attending such services.

  20. BTW to those who don’t like long hakafot I recommend the wonderful service of the Spanish-Portugese synagogue in NYC. Start to finish in about 30 minutes or less and that’s with a professional choir and associated pomp.

  21. I agree with Charlie Hall above. We violate the 5 alyot rule(at least outside of Israel. In Israel they occasionally have ST on Shabbat)
    And isn’t leining on ST evening a bit odd?
    Besides, woman should get alyot in Ashkenazi shuls anyway.A mandatory Torah reader precludes embarrassing the Olah, which seems to be the peg the SA hangs its hat on.

  22. Women reading the Torah are fulfilling the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. So there is halachic benefit to the practice. The question that has not been addressed here is: do those who oppose this practice really have a halachic leg to stand on? While this has been discussed ad nauseum in the past, it is clear that the opposition begins with the thought that it just isn’t right on a meta halachic basis, and then decides the halachic issues to align with that thought. So, if those who oppose are not doing so on a strictly halachic basis, the issue of diviseness needs to be examined in that light. Women want to learn Torah in a certain way that heightens their attachment to Torah and mitzvah, as well as increases their kavannah during the accompanying davening. On the other side are those who are opposed to the practice on meta halachic grounds. If we truly are going to oppose non mandated practices that are contraversial, we could start with upshearin, shlissel challah and many other superstition that have been adopted from surrounding cultures and leave the women who want to learn in their own way alone.

  23. I echo Joseph’s sentiment above. To add: I would question what, besides for increased Torah study and Megillah reading Rabbi Broyde would suggest falls under the category of “mitzvot.” Maybe lulav and etrog? I struggle to find more examples of rituals that are strictly “mitzvot” that women can take on.

    While I am no scholar or rabbi, my sense is that there aren’t too many options for women to get involved in the ritual component of Jewish life if you restrict them to only mitzvot. This is precisely the reason why simchat torah readings and womens prayer groups developed in the first place- it was the “next best thing” aside from only performing what one is required to perform.

    Far be it from be to disagree with Rabbi Broyde, but as someone who is sensitive to women who may want to have more involvement with Jewish life I find it hard to tell them it is inappropriate just because it’s not a mitzvah. That severely limits the options of enthusiastic modern Orthodox women, and in some cases has potential to turn eager women off from Orthodox Judaism- or at least stifle their Jewish excitement- something we clearly don’t aspire toward.

  24. I don’t know what this says about women’s torah reading without a bracha, but… would any shul forbid that bar mitzvah boy from reading his parshah on Sunday without a bracha?

  25. With all the talk about sincere Orthodox women feeling neglected and left out of active participation in Tefillah B’Tzibbur, Torah reading, Megillah reading, dancing with Sifrei Torah on Simchas Torah, etc., how come I have never heard of any effort on the part of these same women to participate in the Penitential Prayers of Slichot beginning, (according to Ashkenazi minhag) at 1:00 A.M. of the Sunday morning prior to Rosh Hashana and continuing very early every morning (except Shabbat) until Yom Kippur?
    A somewhat related question:
    At the home where a shiva is being observed r”l, when the time for davening arrives why are the women ushered away into the kitchen or other side room where they continue to schmooze?
    Why don’t the women participate in the davening behind some suitable mechitzah rather than completely ignore involvement in tefillah B’Tzibbur?
    One wonders what is the true motivation of the advocates of women’s prayer groups?

  26. mb: In Israel, many places don’t layn the night of Simchat Torah. On the other hand, when it falls on Shabbat, there’s a problem in that there need to be seven aliyot. There is a procedure- you either split the first aliyah and/or make “Meonah” into shishi or shivi’i (if you only do one, Chatan Torah is shivi’i)- but it’s widely neglected in all the confusion.

    Elana, I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but this is how Orthodox Judaism *works*. If a halakhic authority has a problem with people’s “consciences” (note the spelling), then he has more than a voice- something you would deny him- but a veto.

    Mair Zvi- true that. It’s a response I give to those who have that “10 men/ 10 women” minyan idea. Do that, you’ll never have a minyan during the week. Of course, it’s well-known that none of the “cutting edge” places meet anytime other than Friday night and Shabbat morning.

  27. And so we slip into the old tropes…
    We’re just missing male flight. aiwac?

  28. IH on October 15, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    The transparent posturing of this defensive piece does not show R. Broyde at his best.

    = he’s right and so I can’t offer a substantive response

    So the author has some kind of backward opinion about what he thinks women should or shouldn’t do… to which I say, mostly, who cares what the author thinks? He’s just mad that people in shul are guided by their own conscious and now by what broyde tells them what to do. it’s so obvious. this is all about his ego. again, i say, who cares what he thinks?

    = if this is new face of Modern Orthodoxy…YIKES!

    “Women reading the Torah are fulfilling the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. So there is halachic benefit to the practice?”

    Oh, come on. How many people today open a Sefer Torah and learn out of it today? And how many learn from Sefer Torah in public, in front of many other people, with a tallis, etc. The tzurah gives no indication of the fulfillment of Talmud Torah and is contrary to Noam’s contention.

    This is justification after the fact that is basically an appeasement of feminism using a baseless and meaningless halachic act. If that’s where the left is going today….oy vey iz mir!

  29. Rafael – Sorry, but Modern Orthodoxy is not supposed to be about kowtowing to the Charedi world to which you affiliate. It is supposed to be about how to engage modernity within halacha.

    As far as I can see, this piece adds nothing to that goal beyond personal political posturing. A disappointment given the quality of R. Broyde’s oeuvre.

  30. Those in the NY area, may be interested in this lecture at the JC on Thursday evening: https://www.afbiu.org/Sperber (which coincidentally came to my attention today).

  31. When a women hears shofar or bentches the arbaah minim, she is in the category of an “ainah metzuvoh v’osheh” So the act has halachic signficance. The woman has performed mitzvos asheh m’deoraisah.

    Whereas the Simchas Torah layning has no halachic significance and is being justified here by some tortured logic ie. talmud torah.

  32. IH – so MO is supposed to be a knee-jerk reaction to Chareidi norms? I see.

    Is Rabbi Broyde chareidi. Because I can assure he’s not.

    Look, if parts of MO are creating meaningless, and halachicly insignificant rituals so its women won’t go running to Conservative and Reform, that actually might be a laudable goal.

  33. “So the author has some kind of backward opinion about what he thinks women should or shouldn’t do… to which I say, mostly, who cares what the author thinks? He’s just mad that people in shul are guided by their own conscious and now by what broyde tells them what to do. it’s so obvious. this is all about his ego. again, i say, who cares what he thinks?

    = if this is new face of Modern Orthodoxy…YIKES!”

    It’s not, as many of the comments, even by those who disagree with RB (as I do) make clear; and as a reader and commentor on this blog, Rafael, you’re well aware of that. Cheap shot (I’ll leave the all caps to you).

  34. I was actually trying to be humerous but couldn’t really convey it in my comment.

    It could be that Elena is a troll. However, if she identifies as MO and truly believes in everything she wrote, that is truly sad (for her).

  35. Two thoughts:

    1) Would this have ever have happened if years ago RMB had said “No” to a womens Megilah reading? This case will end up scoring an I told you so” for all those who have been claiming for years not to budge an inch to feminist demands because it will only lead to more.

    2) Until now, RMB was the favorite Posek of many in the LWMO and JOFA crowd. Will they turn on him now?

  36. “If we truly are going to oppose non mandated practices that are contraversial, we could start with upshearin, shlissel challah and many other superstition that have been adopted from surrounding cultures and leave the women who want to learn in their own way alone.”

    Well, one could argue these new-fangled practices, while not borrowing what you call superstitions from surrounding cultures, are really not much different in terms of intent, but not form. These practices are a reaction to our surrounding culture and are developed due to the issues that our culture has created for Judaism in the 21st century. Not a really big difference.

  37. Alan – with respec to 1) I don’t think it would have made a difference. Rabbi Broyde and others in MO are fighting a rising tide that would have come along anyway. Also, he did say that these changes came about after he retired from that pulpit in 2008, so even permitting krias megillah might have happened anyway.

  38. Mair Zvi – belittling is unworthy of this discussion. If you come to the UWS you will see hundreds of women going to selichot in many shuls – except shteibels. Your complaint is an old canard that has no legs anymore.

    Rafael – it doesn’t matter how many people learn from a Sefer Torah today- the fact is doing so is Limud Torah. So there is a kiyum which RMB either neglected to mention or dismisses. One cam add that if this make some women feel more connected through WTG and Torah reading unless totally assur – why not ( plus we can add – maybe- nachat ruach l’nashim)

  39. it is clear that the opposition begins with the thought that it just isn’t right on a meta halachic basis, and then decides the halachic issues to align with that thought
    =======================================
    Ein hachi nami, so the question is who gets to decide on meta issues.

    As to r’mz above, I always assumed that’s why gadol hametzuveh voseh, I don’t know though if that issue by itself would be sufficient to pasul or is it a data point in determining motivations?

    KT

  40. R’ Ruvie,
    Again, not taking a position on this issue, are there similar issues which one might say each shul (or whatever unit of measurement) should not be free to decide because while it might be good for them it’s bad for the total organism as a whole?
    KT

  41. Women reading the Torah are fulfilling the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. So there is halachic benefit to the practice?

    Noam:

    From a halachic standpoint there is no halakhic fulfilment (kiyum) for women reading from the Torah beyond that of a standard public Torah learning. The benefit is no better than if a group of women got together in a study group. That is in stark contrast to the kiyum of a legitimate Kriyat haTorah.

  42. Rabbi Broyde and others in MO are fighting a rising tide that would have come along anyway.

    I agree with you, Rafael, on this. The MO amcha is pushing ahead with or without the American Rabbinate sacrificing women’s issues to curry favor with the Yeshivish & Charedi world. It is no accident that Partnership Minyanim are lay lead.

    The future of MO is not in finding the most common denominator with the Yeshivish & Charedi world, rather it is in permitting that which can be permitted — as R. Sperber has eloquently phrased it — to those in the amcha who are yearning to participate more.

  43. Reb Joel- why would it be bad for the total organism as a whole? Actually, it’s a public policy issue and would depend on the make up of the community or individual shul. What RMB is adding is a new wrinkle here –

    “inappropriately mimic a mitzvah, while not fulfilling any Torah reading mitzvah, and they might create communal divisiveness without any increased mitzvah performance.” [no nachat ruach l’nashim]

    The question is he correct on his assessment. Are there other instances which are similar that we allow or disallow? I think this is similar to women learning Gemara.
    Btw – what does RMB imply with- “generally oppose engaging in divisiveness absent a genuine heightened mitzvah component” – so beside Megillah reading what else applies?

  44. Ruvie:
    Kol Hakovod to all the Upper West Side women who attend Slichot prayers. My question,however, was whether these are specifically Women’s prayer groups devoted to slichot prayers,apart from men, or do these women attend regular (men’s) Slichot prayers as individuals? The difference I think, is significant.
    My question is aimed at whether women’s prayer groups are primarily devoted to serving the G-d of Israel or the avodah zorah of Feminism.

  45. Re Joel- actually I think your reason is incorrect. In a discussion – conversation- with RAL he felt that aside from some minor halachik technicalities (which he felt can be worked out) this a public policy issue depending on the community. Since he doesn’t live in America he has no opinion because he is not directly connected to the community and doesn’t really know the matzav ( and its not an issue in alon shevut). But he can understand why one community it would be appropriate and another it would be totally out of question ( like boro park). This was all hypothetical of course. Again, this was around 2000-2.

  46. R’ Ruvie,
    I asked a general question-not about this case in particular
    KT

  47. First reaction: yawn
    Second reaction: is there really a point in beating the already dying horse of wtgs? And for something nonassur to boot.
    Third reaction: a la joseph kaplan, perhaps simchas torah is the one time wtgs aren’t dying.

    I happen to have heard r broyde speak abt another simchas torah issue and he made clear he doesn’t see real value in the male made-up rituals (hakafot) but they are now “traditions.l. But why add to them with more made up rituals for women. (Similar to r moshe on bat mitzvah I guess.) If you are mnale and would not like to do away w dancing on simchas torah, then, consider whether the premise of this post is accurate.

  48. There are selichot for women at Migdal Oz – hundreds of women from all over Israel attend. There is a minyan of men there too – so that 13 midot can be said etc., but the atmosphere and intensity is created by the women. This is all a side point…I know.

  49. Controversial posts are so predictable.

  50. “come I have never heard of any effort on the part of these same women to participate in the Penitential Prayers of Slichot beginning, (according to Ashkenazi minhag) at 1:00 A.M. of the Sunday morning prior to Rosh Hashana and continuing very early every morning (except Shabbat) until Yom Kippur?”

    one of my in-laws tells me that when she was a child in eastern europe, the rav in the town, a member of the moetzet gedolei hatorah, insisted that the women attend all selichot as they too are in need of kapparah. maybe we ought to revive that local minhag.

  51. “This is in contrast with a women’s megillah reading where a woman who attends such a reading fulfills her obligation to hear megillah.

    Based on this analysis, when I was the rabbi at YITH, I instituted a women’s megillah reading because this is a mitzvah in which women are obligated and which they can fulfill for themselves”

    what about berov am hadrat melech? Shouldn’t the goal be to encourage fulfillment of mitzvot in the optimum fashion? (Or is the women’s megilah reading only during the day for those who would in any case miss the communal reading?)

  52. Isn’t the question raised of how Sifrei Torah can be removed from the Aron- Hoshanot, night Hakafot (in Jerusalem), etc.- if they’re not read? Doesn’t that imply that there is, indeed, an issue in doing so if there’s no mitzvah of kriat haTorah?

    As to “learning,” even in the Gemara’s time they had “chumashim” to learn from, not Sifrei Torah.

  53. I’ve always hated the assembly line aliyot.

    I always avoid them. It is rare that 9 men are listening to and answering your bracha. I generally switch stations halfway through the reading and nobody at either station pushes me to take an aliyah.

    I wish I could find one like that in Israel. (I’m sure there is.)

    Very many dati leumi shuls have hakafot after mussaf (they don’t read the Torah, just take it out and put it back). While perhaps questionable what the purpose of these hakafot is, they are also easily skippable for all who desire.

    Elana on October 15, 2012 at 4:41 pm
    So the author has some kind of backward opinion about what he thinks women should or shouldn’t do… to which I say, mostly, who cares what the author thinks? He’s just mad that people in shul are guided by their own conscious and now by what broyde tells them what to do. it’s so obvious. this is all about his ego. again, i say, who cares what he thinks?

    [edited], please stop making assumptions.

    . It is no accident that Partnership Minyanim are lay lead.

    Of course they are – every single Orthodox rabbi opposes them. What you don’t mention is that most of the laity opposes them too.

    There are selichot for women at Migdal Oz – hundreds of women from all over Israel attend. There is a minyan of men there too – so that 13 midot can be said etc., but the atmosphere and intensity is created by the women.

    Some men also go, because the atmosphere is so nice – I have heard of Gush talmidim going, though their rabbis oppose it – whether due to issues of kol isha, bittul torah, or other considerations I don’t know.

    By the way, these women are a different crowd from the women who want to read the Torah.

  54. I found the post by Rabbi Broyde to be a blast of fresh air, because he addresses the real and hard issue confronting our shuls and society: when should our minhagim change? This is the burning issue. It is not about halacha at all, but minhag. Rabbi Broyde honestly conceeds that. Unlike some (see the post by Zev Farber in Morethodoxy) who argues that ALL NEEDS TO CHANGE because we are a bad community, or the many charedi posters who argue that nothing can change, Rabbi Broyde argues that change can and does happen and actually proposes a workable principle — Mitzvah driven — for when we ought to embrace change and when we ought not. His article is important.

    When I was at YU as a student, someone called him a posek in front of my Rosh Yeshiva and he said “I am not much into these kinds of titles, but if I had to give him a title, it is Gadol, not posek”. I see why.

  55. Excellent post, with which I pretty much agree.

    One complaint, though: I know Rabbi Broyde is extremely busy, but I really don’t like what someone else once called this kind of “drive-by posting.” For better or worse, this blog is built on loyal readers and commenters and it would be nice if guest-posters (not just Rabbi Broyde) took time to address the concerns raised in the comments section. I’m not saying guest-posters should respond to every single comment, or even most of the comments. But a general reply might be nice (and, I think, extremely helpful). This is especially true of a post that “welcome[s] conversation and dialogue.”

    Anyhow, I know Rabbi Broyde is phenomenally busy, so I don’t mean any of this to be insensitive. But I really do think it would be constructive (and even educationally productive!) to have some engagement from the guest-posters.

    But no matter what, thank you to Rabbi Broyde for an interesting post on an important topic.

  56. Yet another bunch of men talking about what they think of women… There are only two women commenters here, both of whom are completely unimpressed…Emma said it best — “yawn”. Exactly.

    Keep talking, guys. Your paternalism and arrogance makes you increasingly irrelevant in the lives of Orthodox women

  57. Michael Broyde

    Jerry on October 16, 2012 at 9:04 am, I have just sat down today to look at the comments now, and I will do my best, before I go to bed tonight to read and reply to the substantive comments that are polite in tone. I recognize that your comment — “drive by posting” is not really proper — to be correct, and I am sorry. I really am just busy. I have started to give daily Even Haezer shiur again to a small dayanut kollel, and the Kollel members are so smart and learned that if I do not faithfully prepare every day, they learn nothing from shiur and maybe even I waste their time. Besides that I have a day job at Emory University (a wonderful place to work) as a law professor, some Beth Din work in front of men (an important place to help), and shaylos that I am supposed to write answers to, some of which are pressing.

    All of this is in the category of lame excuse to your proper request. I will try my hardest to read all the posts today and write back comments. I hope you forgive me for this failing. It is not my worst, I can assure you.

    MJB

  58. Rabbi Broyde,

    Thank you for the reply. I apologize for the improper term, you’re absolutely right of course. Anyway, I’m sure all of us here can agree that your learning (and kollel/law school teaching) takes precedence over this. Looking forward to your responses.

    – Jerry

  59. Keep talking, guys. Your paternalism and arrogance makes you increasingly irrelevant in the lives of Orthodox women
    ==========================================
    IMHO the basic unit of concern should be neither men nor women but the community.
    KT

  60. the objective should be to educate our communities to an understanding that ritual participation is not the sin qua none of Divine Service (from r’jm)

    “First, they should be granted access to ritual possibilities because it is their right.”(r’sf)

    me-interesting juxtaposition inho

    KT

  61. Why is Rabbi Broyde only concerned about whether something is a “mitzvah” or not when it comes to evaluating the permissibility of women’s activities as they relate to Jewish involvement and meaning. There are inumerable actions and activities that Jewish men consistently perform in the public sphere that are not in fulfillment of a mitzvah, yet no one kindly (or not so kindly as the comments here indicate) attack these men for trying to create additional Jewish meaning. This is another example of paternalistic and infantalizing scrutiny of women’s motives and meanings in ways that serve to reinforce male power and privilege. What are you men so afraid will happen if women learn to layn?

  62. modern orthodoxy, in my experience, has a lot of “shul problems.” for example: children approaching bar-mitzvah age regularly running around in the basement on shabbos rather than davening. men and women missing half (or all) of torah reading while they have a pre-davening breakfast and/or nap at home. people talking through the entire service, or sitting silently in the pews without actually davening. men who have substituted listening to the haftarah with a new “mitzvah” of drinking alcohol.

    perhaps “women who feel disconnected from the “real” mitzvot of shabbat and holidays and are erroneously pursuing fabricated rituals” is also a problem, but at worst it is a symptom of the same underlying lack of engagement. (and unlike the other problems, it’s an attempt to fix lack of engagement with engagement, as opposed to fixing the fact that people don’t like shul by offering them more cholent at the end…)

    so what i meant by “yawn,” which i admit was impolite, is this: the divisiveness of women’s issues makes them seem important and attracts a lot of attention. but there is a quieter, underlying issue that needs the attention. I would love it if instead communal leaders such as rabbi broyde began to expend more of their leadership capital not on fighting these ancillary battles but on trying to fix rampant apathy and disengagement. On this very topic, for example, as Joseph Kaplan asks, what does rabbi broyde think can be done to help women engage in existing synagogue activities on simchas torah, or else to replace the focus on synagogue with jewishly meaningful home activities?

  63. I don’t understand Rabbi Broyde’s second view as applied to women’s megilla reading. Women can hear the megilla as read by men.
    I can understand it is the shul insists in building a sukkah large enough to accomodate men and women in the sukka. I can understand the shul encouraging women to come to shul to hear tekiat shofar. I can even understand this as apllied to a woman who wants to wear tzitzit or tefillin. But how can this reasoning be applied to something that someone else can do for the women – megilla reading is one of those.

  64. Noteworthy that noone noted the argument that Women’s Aliyot are permitted on ST altogether, since Kevod hatzibbur doesn’t apply; see BB4:2 note, Understanding Tzniyut p.104.

  65. I think women should learn how to layn because they should learn Tanach and layning helps to understand and remember it. I don’t think women should layn in synagogue, because synagogue is a place of strongly established customs and women’s Torah reading in synagogue goes against them. That has nothing to do with anyone’s motives, male or female. And please show a little respect for the people you are talking to and not accuse them of being “afraid” whenever they disagree with you.

  66. Several people have wondered why R. Broyde applies his mitzvah/pseudo-mitzvah analysis specifically to women and not to men. Specifically, why is it not okay for women to perform rituals that take the form of a mitzva but which are in actuality halachic non-entities, but men (and the Jewish community as a whole) often perform a host of ritualistic practices that appear religiously motivated but have no mitzva-significance (i.e., hakafos on Simchas Torah, upsherin, bar mitzvah ceremonies, ect.).

    If I may, I think some people are failing to distinguish between changes in minhag or the establishment of new (public) minhagim on the one hand, and the continuation of popularly practiced minhagim on the other. Make no mistake, “women’s Torah readings” of this sort are a change in minhag, and like it or not, minhag is a significant source of law in the halachic system. A change in minhag can be justified, but it mustbe justified. R. Broyde’s point is, I think, that while the halachikly significant performance of a mitzva may be a good reason to change an existing minhag with respect to women’s participation in public ritual (megillah reading by women), there is no good halachic reason to alter the existing practice of women not reading from a Torah in the guise of kriyas haTorah b’tzibbur because there doing so would not in any way constitue the performance of the mitzvah of krias haTorah.

    With respect to the halachikly insignificant performances by men, it may be fair to say that R. Broyde’s reasoning here would have provided a good basis for objecting to people’s trying to initiate these practices at the time they were innovated. However, once such practices become firmly established among the populace, they become minhag, a source of law (minhag koveah halacha), and should not be tampered with without good reason.

    This is consistent with much of what R. Broyde has written with respect to women’s issues in the past (see his article on women rabbis). Change can and does come, but it must come organically from the bottom up, through popular practice. When it does so, those changes become halachicly significant changes in minhag and become halachicly recognized practices. Perhaps in 100 years, women’s Torah readings will be commonplace, and if so – if such a shift in practice develops despite the protestations of halachic authorities – then halachic authorities will begin to recognize that practice as halachikly legitimate. But we must keep in mind that there is a degree of siyata d’shmaya in that process, God, in effect, speaks to us through our history; it would therefore be unwise, overly self-assured, and imprudent to take matters into one’s own hands to establish such kinds of changes in traditional practice.

  67. Rav Pill makes a very good point. How do changes occur? We allow mistakes(zecher zaicher) and outside cultural practices(shlissel challah, upshearin) to creep in and then codify them as minhag. However we then object vociferously to any changes that are actually based on reason and halachic values. I am not sure this is a reflection of Am Chacham v’navon.

  68. Several people have wondered why R. Broyde applies his mitzvah/pseudo-mitzvah analysis specifically to women and not to men. Specifically, why is it not okay for women to perform rituals that take the form of a mitzva but which are in actuality halachic non-entities, but men (and the Jewish community as a whole) often perform a host of ritualistic practices that appear religiously motivated but have no mitzva-significance (i.e., hakafos on Simchas Torah, upsherin, bar mitzvah ceremonies, ect.).

    WADR, none of your examples are examples of “pseudo-halakha.”

    Hakafos are an expression of the simcha of the tsibbur in completing the Torah — no different than a siyum, for which there is ample precedent in the Gemara and Rishonim. Simchas Torah goes back to the gaonim. It is brought down in the Maaseh Rav that the Vilna Gaon danced intensely and expressed himself with profound Simcha on Simchas Torah. And trust me, if there is one thing that the Gaon did not do was engage in pseudo-halakhah.

    Upsherin is based on a Zohar. It is connected to the child entering chinuch — which is why traditionally (and still in many places, including my children’s school in Passaic), it is combined with beginning of learning the Alef-Beis (complete with licking the honey off the page), and with wearing tsitsis.

    Bar Mitzvah is discussed by the Maharshal. I actually celebrated my son’s Bar-Mitzvah a few weeks ago, and in my derasha I noted that an even stronger source is the Ramban at the end of Parshas Mishpatim, who says, verbatim, “Chova Lismoach Be Kabbalas ha Torah,” and gives several examples, including making a siyum.

    IMO, R. Broyde did not go far enough. The problem here is ziuf ha Torah. A group of women leining from a sefer Torah has no more halakhic significance than one or two (or twenty) women learning the parsha from a Chumash. If someone wanted to hold a women’s shiur on the parsha (let’s say weekly) and then give the last shiur on Parshas Ve Zos ha Beracha on Simchas Torah, that would be unremarkable, even in most Charedi circles.

    So why do these women insist on doing something which has the appearance of kerias ha Torah, when it isn’t? Because they are creating a pseudo-kerias-ha-Torah out of conflicted feelings of disenfranchisement, and loyalty to the Torah.

    Besides being a serious halakhic and hashkafic problem, IMO it is ultimately self-defeating. Why should women settle for a second-rate pseudo-mitzvah? Is the Torah inherently unfair?

    As I posted here before, this reminds me of a practice some shuls have of allowing minors to “lead the service” at the end of davening — basically from Ein Kelokenu till the end, although some only allow Adon Olam or Yigdal. My sons did it at my in-law’s shul when their uncles had their aufruf. Basically it is cute, let’s the parents shep some nachas. Halakhically it is meaningless — you don’t have to say Adon Olam at all, certainly not tefillah be tsibbur, and the minor leading just confirms that it means no more than individuals saying a few things in the siddur on their own.

    The “women’s leining” is just like letting an 8-year old lead the congregation in Adon Olam. Makes people feel good, but means nothing. Very insulting to women, IMO, whom I would think should be treated with more respect than an 8-year old.

  69. I have a more basic question — what is the purpose of Q’riat Torah B’tzibbur today? Do I get anything out of hearing someone read from the Sefer Torah that I can’t get from reading out of a Chumash? Wouldn’t it be better if the shul heard a good d’rasha for 45 minutes? Or learn gemara (which is what many people do anyway)? And if this is just a form of Talmud Torah, then how is this different that the alternative readings under discussion?

    I’m only being a little facetious here, but I think that whole institution of Torah reading needs to be re-evaluated (and strengthened) in this generation.

  70. “conflicted feelings of disenfranchisement, and loyalty to the Torah. ”

    what is your prefered response to these conflicted feelings? especially given that the feeling of disenfranchisement is not likely to go away where women are, in fact, treated with less respect than 8 year olds in most shuls.

  71. ” Change can and does come, but it must come organically from the bottom up, through popular practice. When it does so, those changes become halachicly significant changes in minhag and become halachicly recognized practices. Perhaps in 100 years, women’s Torah readings will be commonplace, and if so – if such a shift in practice develops despite the protestations of halachic authorities – then halachic authorities will begin to recognize that practice as halachikly legitimate.”

    Shlomo, it has to start somewhere. You can’t get a commonplace practice in 100 years without a first step now. And these first steps over the past 30 years or so have come about in exactly the way you propose change should come: “organically from the bottom up, through popular practice.”

    Now I understand that those who are not sympathetic to changes in women’s relationship with Torah and halacha will be against the first steps. And that’s okay; what you’re saying, I think, is that history will decide (as it has, for example, for hakafot and bar mitzva and, I guess, kabbalat Shabbat). But I would have hoped that someone like R. Broyde, who I do not believe falls into that category, if not being supportive of such changes, would not have joined the opponents (even in his typically thoughtful and sensitive manner), thus letting the process begin which might result in a widely accepted minhag in 100 years. IOW, if you don’t believe it’s harmful as some do (e.g., the ziyuf haTorah argument), be neutral and let history decide.

  72. Perhaps in 100 years, women’s Torah readings will be commonplace, and if so – if such a shift in practice develops despite the protestations of halachic authorities – then halachic authorities will begin to recognize that practice as halachikly legitimate
    ============================================
    Funny you should mention that – if you look back at many of the writings concerning minhagim that go against what seems to be the halacha, the general answer is (my summary) people were all religious back in the day and they had great rabbis, so the fact that the minhag exists is testimony that there was a good reason for it being ok (that we are missing). IMHO this was to short circuit the “Catholic Israel” reason (people did it, tough luck rabbis). Now that we won’t have this figleaf of “lost in the sands of time”, how will it be justified or won’t it happen?
    KT

  73. What I find troubling here is background conversation on the feminist side; the re-characterization of halacha as a system of rights as opposed to what it is and always was, a system of duties and obligations, or at the next level a fulfillment of God’s expressed will in a given situation. If there is no duty to read the Torah, and no obligation, and it fulfills no mitzvah of God’s, then who are you reading it for? If people feel extra-spiritual singing slow shira songs or kumbaya does that then make it something we should Jewishly support? Such a self-serving form of worship just does not seem like religion at all. Isn’t it about doing what God asks, whether it feels good or not, not doing what we want to do? And no,I did not grow up in a Bais Yaakov household, I am as modern orthodox and as well read on the Rav as everyone else.

  74. ” If there is no duty to read the Torah, and no obligation, and it fulfills no mitzvah of God’s, then who are you reading it for? ”

    As others have noted, can’t that same question be asked of hakafot, upsherin, bar mitzvah, kabbalat Shabbat and other minhagim that are not mitzvot?

  75. Unfortunately, Rav Broyde doesn’t understand why some women want Women’s Tefillah Groups. Granted, how could he know? And in his defense, there are women who want to do it as a “mimicry of men”, as he describes. As someone who participates regularly in a Woman’s Tefillah Group, I do my best to argue against those who come with that mindset.

    But women who were raised Conservative or Reform, or who have converted, may have strong emotional attachments to things like leyning or leading davening. Emotional attachments that aren’t something you can simply say, “Okay, now I’m a BT, so I won’t feel that way any more.” I think it’s entirely legitimate for women who feel this way to be able to participate in non-assur ways. I love leyning. It’s a skill I have. Frankly, it makes me want to gouge my ears out sometimes, listening to the way some men leyn and knowing that I could do it so much better.

    So long as Women’s Tefillah Groups are recognized as a separate thing, and are *not* called “Women’s Minyanim” or anything like that, I don’t see the problem. It isn’t like most of them continue to a second generation in the same family unless the family is hardcore JOFA-type feminist. And if they are, well, they aren’t going to listen to you anyway.

  76. PS: Is there any way to get email notifications when someone posts on this article?

  77. Lawrence Kaplan

    Tal Benschar: Re upsherin, you are simply wrong. As many rabbanim and scholars, among them Rav Binyamin Hamburger in Shorshei Minhagei Ashkenzaz, have pointed out upsherin has NO source in the rishonim. There is NO source for it in the Zohar, period. Many distinguished rabbanim have opposed its practice as being based on “outside” sources. The connection with education is after the fact. It’s one thing of Hasidim to maintain this minhag, despite its more than dubious origns. For Ashkenazim, however, to adopt it is a disgrace and shows lack of basic self-respect. Believe me, if you would subject the validity of upsherin to the same stringent criteria you subjected women’s laining on Simhat Torah, instead of your engaging in tortured apologetics, it would not pass muster.

  78. Upsherin is based on a Zohar. It is connected to the child entering chinuch — which is why traditionally (and still in many places, including my children’s school in Passaic), it is combined with beginning of learning the Alef-Beis (complete with licking the honey off the page), and with wearing tsitsis.

    Tal,
    Upshirin does not go back to the Zohar, the earliest sources go back to the students of the ARI. Chalak as a wide spread practice among sephardim is much later. it only become widespread among chasidim in the late (i believe) 19th Century. Misnagdim only picked it up post world war II. Upshirin was conflated with the very old minhagim surrounding a boys starting to learn torah. The sources are all in Hamburgers Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz. I would note that there is a serious concern of Chukas Akum. It seems to me very problematic to adopt this minhag with out a mesorah.

  79. Tal – “The problem here is ziuf ha Torah.” – do you think you will also convince folks that this is in the category of yeiharag ve’al ya’avor (via ziuf – which only has to do with biblical laws and is not applicable here)? this dog doesn’t hunt here.

  80. Maybe if the slippery slope argument on gender issues hadn’t proven to be so remarkably true in such a short amount of time, people would grudgingly allow changes that were somewhat within halakhah. But some people, given an inch, took a mile.

  81. Sorry, I see Prof. Kaplan beat me to it. Baruch shekivanti.

  82. NAchum,
    Maybe if Rabbonim had responded in more sympathetic way to womens concerns (see my presentation of R. Amital’s approach which appeared in these “pages”) they might have had more influence preventing things from sliding down the slope. Instead, women got the idea that the rabbis dont care, dont understand and dont really have good reasons for opposing. Slippery Slope is a way of avoiding engaging the real issues.

  83. Maybe if the slippery slope argument on gender issues hadn’t proven to be so remarkably true in such a short amount of time…

    And what calamity to Am Yisrael, pray tell, was proven true?

  84. Moshe — to be fair, some Rabbanim did respond sympathetically. I recall a private conversation my wife and I had with Rabbi Dr. JJ Shachter back around 1990, for example. The sympathy was there, but the action to support it was effectively “mañana”.

  85. Throughout Jewish history, there were always exceptional women, such as one who gave shiur from behind a mechitza. If a woman wants to privately learn gemara or any other ‘non-traditional’ activity, because of sincere desire for growth, nobody is going to have a problem. But the need for a public role might seem to indicate that ‘feminism’ is the motive more than sincerity.

    Rabbi Broyde, I wonder if you feel there may be any connection between allowing a women’s megillah reading and the pseudo-Torah reading? Slippery slope?

    (And BTW I could have lained VeZos haBracha better than the fellow I heard laining it, although I can’t carry a tune & make no pretense of knowing how to lain almost any other parsha. That’s life, sometimes!)

  86. Tal – “Hakafos are an expression of the simcha of the tsibbur in completing the Torah — no different than a siyum, for which there is ample precedent in the Gemara and Rishonim. Simchas Torah goes back to the gaonim.”

    there is no mention of hakafot by the rishonim nor by the tur and beit yosef – either evening or morning but you can see it in the rama and minhagim of rav aizik tirna.
    btw, comparing it to a siyum to show a long standing custom is dubious at best.

    “simchat torah” appears mentioned first in the rishonim. the geonim just mention celebration or rejoicing on that day – basically eating big meals or feasts.

  87. “If a woman wants to privately learn gemara or any other ‘non-traditional’ activity, because of sincere desire for growth, nobody is going to have a problem. But the need for a public role might seem to indicate that ‘feminism’ is the motive more than sincerity.”

    I contest both aspects of this statement. (1) there are a great many people who take “issue,” in the sense of mockery and/or namecalling, with women who do things like learn gemara privately. (2) the insistence that if you don’t keep it 100% hidden you have impure motives is (a) false and (b) besides the point. By (a), I mean that a completely “purely” motivated woman could easily be sincerely motivated to look beyond her own persona “growth” toward being part of a community – or to look for ways to further her growth via community. By (b), i mean, why all the scrutiny of motives? and so waht if “Feminism” is the motive? what if it turns out that people are eating kidush at shul but “hunger” is the motive, not doing a mitzvah. gasp!

  88. LK and MS: I personally do not practice upsherin and am well aware that some have strongly opposed it, including notably the Brisker Rov and the Steipler. That being said, it has a sold pedigree going back several centuries. As for many kabbalistic customs, some communities (notably Chassidim and Sephardim) adhere to it more than others.

    But even assuming it is an empty ritual, that has nothing to do with the point here — that what we have is an attempt to create an imitation of another halakhic construct without fulfilling it — a pseudo-mitzvah. I can think of no situation where someone wants to but cannot do a mitzvah, and instead does an imitation act which makes him or her feel good but is really meaningless. Whatever you think of upsherin, it is not that.

  89. Tal – “The problem here is ziuf ha Torah.” – do you think you will also convince folks that this is in the category of yeiharag ve’al ya’avor (via ziuf – which only has to do with biblical laws and is not applicable here)? this dog doesn’t hunt here

    I don’t know about dogs and hunting. See Teshuvas Noda be Yehudah on that, which is apropos to this discussion.

    Whether it is yehareig v’al yaavor is, BH, only a theoretical question. The question is whether it is appropriate to create a “ceremony” which imitates a halakha but isn’t that — IOW a pseudo-mitzvah. My view on that I set out in the prior posts — one which I think the vast majority of talmidei chachamim, including those in the MO camp, agree with.

  90. But some people, given an inch, took a mile.

    This reminds me of an observation by the distinguished Harvard sociologsit Talcott Parsons: “Gentiles usually resent the arrogance of the claim that a group who are in a sense ‘guests’ in their country claim a higher status than the ‘host’ people.”

  91. “I can think of no situation where someone wants to but cannot do a mitzvah, and instead does an imitation act which makes him or her feel good but is really meaningless. ”

    nashim somchos reshus?

  92. nashim somchos reshus

    How is that an example? That is a woman doing a mitzvah that she is not obligated to do. She is still mekayem the mitzvah.

    Same thing today with women hearing shofar or taking a lulav. Two things which are also commonly done by many women with no controversy, even in the Charedi world. (Indeed, shofar is almost universal, AFAIK, although I cannot speak for all the Chassidish communities.)

  93. In fact, following up on my last post, it is even widespread that shuls will have a second shofar blowing in the afternoon, mainly for women who could not make it in the morning. (Personal note, I once had to attend one, because I was very unhappy with the blowing that took place at the morning minyan I had attended. I think that other than the baal tokeyah, I was the only man there.)

  94. Tal – “The question is whether it is appropriate to create a “ceremony” which imitates a halakha but isn’t that — IOW a pseudo-mitzvah.”

    Cannot the same can be said for girls having a bat mitzvah? simchat bat? the intent is to become closer to hashem via davening and the rituals present in our community when permitted.

  95. R Broyde, who most assuredly, walks to his own tune, neither writes from a POV in which he seeks recognition or legitimacy either from the LW of MO or the Charedi world. I second R S Pill’s comments and see no reason to add any further comment on an issue that we have discussed ad nauseum here except to add the following comment-A clear and objective of both Chumash and the Talmudic passages and commentaries thereto with respect to Mitzvos Aseh Shehazman Grama that are incumbent on men only prove that men were obligated in the same because of their deficient level of faith as manifested with remembering the Exodus, their participation in the episodes of the Golden Calf , spies, Korach’s rebellion, and reluctance to conquer the Land of Israel. One wonders why women who are viewed as being spiritually superior to men in all of these episodes, needed to create rituals based on the above Mitzvos, for which women can and do thank HaShem on a daily basis that they were created in His Will ( see R Schwalb ZL on Tefilah).

    I should note that while ST is clearly a spectator sport for women in most MO and all Charedi activities,KGH has had for many years a Siyum on Chumash for women only whereby women select a Parsha and deliver Divrei Torah based on the parsha to a women only audience. I know of many women who would never attend a WTG on any day of the year who enthusiastically participate in the the aforementioned Siyum. Like it or not, such a Siyum has a Kiyum Talmud Torah, women’s hakafos and WTGs clearly are in imitation of Mitzvos and Minhagim that men are obligated in.

  96. tal,
    according to what seems to be the maskanah of the gemara, smicha requires chol kocho but women were told “akfu yadaychu” i.e., women were specifically encouraged to do something other than the mitzvah (“leita le-smicha klal”). See also tos. chulin 85a.

    (apologies if i’ve transliterated incorrectly.)

  97. “I can think of no situation where someone wants to but cannot do a mitzvah, and instead does an imitation act which makes him or her feel good but is really meaningless.”

    also, have you never seen a mentally incompetent old man being wheeled to shul faithfully to “daven” betsibbur?

  98. further, it seems to me that the thrust of the many versions of the chassidic story about the boy who played the flute on yom kippur is that the “meaningless” act done in lieu of a mitzvah is not necessarily meaningless at all. (see eg http://books.google.com/books?id=i2uAIfP-o1UC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=boy+who+played+flute+on+yom+kippur&source=bl&ots=ItjrHfRz8P&sig=CF9qT2ocsDhTTdQtKWLuAhTqzMY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=1d19UMOuNsXp0gHSxIHYCA&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=boy%20who%20played%20flute%20on%20yom%20kippur&f=false)

  99. Tal mentioned both Shofar and Lulav as examples of Mitzvos Aseh that women try to fullfil. R Asher Weiss in his sefer of shiurim on the Moadim points out in the name of the CS, that Lulav is a means of Ritzui, and is Tefilah related , and thus women strove to fulfil Mitzvas Letilas Lulav. One has to be able to distinguish and recognize where there is a kiyum hamitzvah, whether on a Torah or Rabbinic level, in any action, as opposed to where a fake mitzvah is created to justify contemporary societal and cultural demands. I don’t see Upsherin as an issue-as long as one has a Mesorah for the same. Likewise, Bas Mitzvah has become accepted in many different formats in different communities. Kabalas Shabbos has also been accepted as a prelude to Maariv. Simchas Torah is very akin to celebrating a Siyum, which itself can be easily analogized to Hakhel as a mass celebration by Am Yisrael over the importance of Talmud Torah-even if one has not studied Torah himself.

  100. In all the discussion on the halachic answer, no one seems to have commented on:

    Rabbi Henkin on October 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Noteworthy that noone noted the argument that Women’s Aliyot are permitted on ST altogether, since Kevod hatzibbur doesn’t apply; see BB4:2 note, Understanding Tzniyut p.104.

    Views?

  101. “Likewise, Bas Mitzvah has become accepted in many different formats in different communities.”

    As stated above I pretty much concur with RMB’s position in the original post.

    But as far as this particular point is concerned, I’d just like to note that logically this just supports the case for WTG and WTR, meaning that, much like the Bas Mitzvah, this too will be accepted in many different formats in many different communities.

  102. Getting back to what I believe is Rabbi Broyde’s basic thesis namely in his own words:

    “My answer to that question is also mitzvah focused, because I believe that halacha provides such a line. Simply put, we need to encourage men and women to do mitzvot and if others find this divisive, that is sad, but a price we ought to be willing to pay for more mitzvah fulfillment, because we vitally need to encourage people to fulfill mitzvot, even if others object to this conduct. However, absent a mitzvah component, I am more leery of implementing ritual conduct that might be divisive and is untraditional.”

    I think I would agree with this.

    But he then applies this to women’s readings from the Torah on Simchas Torah on the grounds that “all concede that a women’s Torah reading does not fulfill the mitzvah of Torah reading (that is why brachot are not recited)”.

    Now leaving aside Rav Henkins’ view in Bene Banim that in fact women reading from the Torah is permitted specifically on Simchas Torah (since I assume that Rav Henkin means this to be in the presence of a minyan of men which I believe is not what is being discussed here), I think this is where Rav Broyde is simply wrong.

    Because the women reading from the Torah on Simchas Torah are to my mind clearly fulfilling a mitzvah – just *not* the mitzvah of Torah reading … the mitzvah of v’samachta b’chagecha.

    Now it is a machlokus in the gemora (Rosh HaShana 6b) as to whether the mitzvah of v’samachta b’chagecha is an obligation on women themselves, or upon the community (husband in the first instance, but also the more general community as can be demonstrated by the specific mention of an almana in the pasuk). The majority opinion (Rambam, Shagas Aryeh, Mishna Brura) is that simcha on a festival is an d’orisa mitzvah obligatory on women, despite it being a mitzva aseh shehazman grama, but even if one holds to the contrary (and Rabbi Akiva Eiger was mesupik, but appeared to lean the other way), then it is clearly a mitzvah on men to enable the women to be happy.

    And yet, I can witness to something that Rav Broyde presumably does not know and does not and will not see (SA Choshen Mishpat siman 35 si’if 14), which is that women, all over the world (and having lived in many places, I have seen and been told it on four continents) cry on Simchas Torah. Many, many women stay at home, or go home and cry on Simchas Torah. This issue has come up over and over and over again. There is no day in the year, and certainly no chag, in which many women (not all of course, but significant numbers) feel so left out, so neglected and so miserable. In Israel of course, this means that there is (at least) an nullification of a mitzva aseh d’orisa – while in Chutz L’aretz, given that Simchas Torah is celebrated only on second day Shmini Atzeres, I guess that means there is only a nullification of a d’rabbanan.

    But that is what is going on here, in our communities, whether we like it or not. But amongst these women in the Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta, Georgia – even without being there I am sure that there was no bittel aseh amongst them, but rather genuine simcha. Yes, some people want a new dress, and some people want meat and wine, but some people want to read from the Torah, and that is what gives them simcha.

    And it is important to get to the heart of what some of the comments on this list have been adverting to, without really explicating it. Which is that what we do, or should I say the men do, on Simchas Torah, would prima facie seem to be a violation of various issurim.

    First of all there is the rabbinic issur, as set out in the Mishna in Beitza and gemora there (Beitza 36b) to dance on Yom Tov. This is dealt with in the poskim eg the Beis Yosef in the name of the Maharik and Rav Hai Gaon (Beit Yosef Orech Chaim siman 339:3) as nahagu bo heter specifically on Simchas Torah, it only being a rabbinic decree (whereas simcha is a d’orisa, at least in eretz yisroel and it is for the kovod of the Torah);
    Second of all there is the issur of taking a sefer torah out of a shul (as per the Yerushalmi Yoma Perek 7 and the Shulchan Aruch Orech Chaim 135) – but for Simchas Torah it is permitted (see eg Yabiat Omer chelek 7 Orech Chaim siman 56).

    If one were to take the narrow view, and look only at the issur of dancing, or only at the issur of taking a sefer torah out of shul, then both of these would be forbidden on Simchas Torah. But the halacha has very specifically taken a wider view, and looked at the overall mitzvah of simcha, and simcha shel Torah on this day, and therefore permitted, not just things that might not be particularly mitzvos, but things that are specifically stated as issurim.

    And that is where I believe Rav Broyde is going wrong in his focus on whether or not there is a mitvah of reading from the Torah by women on Simchas Torah, and ignoring the wider and overarching mitzvah of the day, namely simcha. Because if you are able to see the overarching picture, then you cannot but conclude that what these women are doing is indeed fulfilling a mitzvah – and that by forbidding it, if indeed such forbidding leads to women going home and crying on Simchas Torah, the Rav in question may in fact bear on his head the responsibility of either having nullified his own obligation of ensuring simcha among his community’s women or alternatively having prevented the fulfilling of the multiple obligations of simcha of the women themselves.

    Regards

    Chana

  103. Lawrence Kaplan

    Chana: Bravo!

  104. – In all the discussion on the halachic answer, no one seems to have commented on:

    Rabbi Henkin on October 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Noteworthy that noone noted the argument that Women’s Aliyot are permitted on ST altogether, since Kevod hatzibbur doesn’t apply; see BB4:2 note, Understanding Tzniyut p.104.

    – Just because something is permitted does not mean that it is a good idea. Whether something is Halachicly permitted or forbidden is not the only criteria for whether something should be done. There are many areas of Halachah were something is permitted, but Chazal encourage us not to do it anyway because “And you shall do what is proper and good in the eyes of the Lord…”

  105. Michael Broyde

    I write replies now to fulfill my promise to Jerry (Oct 16, at 9:04) of earlier today. I will try to reply in the order of the comments. I will not respond to mean spirited comments but for one final note, and I will not respond to comments about Atlanta, either.
    1. I agree with Shalom Rosenfeld, and have said this many times. I wish I had used that example, also.
    2. Harold W’s comment is nice but his final two sentence are both certainly false.
    3. Ruvie’s comment is not correct as a matter of halacha. Women can get reward for positive time bound commandments that they are not obligated in according to almost all rishonim.
    4. I can not answer Joseph Kaplans sociological questions as I do not know the answers.
    5. Shlomo Pill’s post is correct.
    6. I did not understand Chakira’s question.
    7. I think Noam Stadlan’s comments are not correct both is methodology and scope. It is obvious to me that we all would oppose any use of a torah as a form of kriah when no minyan is present, and when 7 men want to take a torah out to read torah after the half kaddish on Tuesday morning (no minyan came) and read without a bracha. His other examples to not involve things that are otherwise problematic, although truth be told, I do none of them.
    8. There are many other examples of mitzvah activity for women, from arba minim to hoshanot to meshloach manot to kiddish levanah to kiddish to kadish to tallit katan (more on this in a future article) to dozens more. I claim that this one is very bad because of the mimicry issues and lack any mitzvah component.
    9. 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.
    10. I think Ruvie is wrong at Oct 15 at 7:06, and we would stop a man or woman from taking out a torah on any given Tuesday to read from it, even if he said he was fulfilling the mitzvah of Talmud torah.
    11. David Gold of October 16 at 7:10 has the right issue in his first paragraph, but he lost any credibility in my mind with his second paragraph.
    12. AJ asks about berov am. Although that is a factor, a person who says I want to fulfill a mitzvah in a way that is not berov am, but important to himself, is within his rights. I, for example, almost never do kiddish levanah with a minyan, but instead do it alone when I see the moon the first time, ala the Gra. I do, I realize sacrifice berov am, but think my conduct is correct nonetheless.
    13. Ruth asks a good question, but I think that the answer to her question is also clear in my view. I would not breach minhag yisrael absent a mitzvah enhancement.
    14. Emma’s initial comment was impolite in tone, but her comment of 12:29 was correct. I think about this issue all the time, and try to deal with it throughout my writings.
    15. Shachar is reasonable, but not my view. I am comfortable with the idea that if a woman wants to fulfill a mitzvah herself and she can, that is to be supported, even if a man can also fulfil her obligation – like kiddish.
    16. Rabbi Henkin, שליט”א is a well known posek and my oldest daughter is now a student in his wife’s institution. Truly a gadol; I would consider it an efficient use of my time to stop learning torah to go polish his shoes and drive him from lecture to lectures as his chauffer. He is of the view – almost unique among poskim – that women can receive aliyot on simchat torah when there is a minyan of men present. I did not address that issue as I find such is rarely factually the case, and was not in the case at hand. I have elsewhere expressed my view that I actually do not agree with him on this matter, either, but I only have the temerity to say this as so many others do not agree with him either. I hope he forgives me for saying such in public.
    17. I am in agreement with Alyssa’s comment, for those who so want to.
    18. Shlomo Pill is correct again.
    19. Some of Tal’s comments I agree with and some I do not.
    20. Lisa Liel’s comments about emotional attachments’ and being a BT are too complex to consider here, but in my view do not form a basis for violating this minhag.
    21. Chana Luntz’s comments are interesting but totally not persuasive to me; indeed, I think they are wrong as a matter of halacha. The invocation of simchat Yom Tov as a basis for overturning long running minhagim or even issurim derabanan strikes me as wrong. Consider many other examples which this could be applied to. Would we let a man – who is overjoyed with wearing tefillin – do so on Yom Tov (with no intent to do a mitzvah)? What about a shul without a minyan layning without brachot? Indeed, I could rattle off dozens of matters where a person can say “my simchat yom tov is enhanced by doing X, and if X is generally prohibited – even as a minhag – simchat yom tov is not enough to permit it. So, I think this analysis is not correct.

    That is the last comment I read.

    [edited]

    Jerry, I have done as I promised you and my wonderful and smart daughter is now finished playing piano. So I have to go learn chumash with her.

    I have not proofread this tightly and it is possible that I have made a mistake of formulation or in some other way. I simply do not have the time to edit this work. I have hardly proofread it. I can be reached by email at [email protected] and I am sorry that I do not have time to do this more regularly.
    MJB

  106. Chana: I am having a hard time understanding your argument:

    “but some people want to read from the Torah, and that is what gives them simcha.”

    It seems a major stretch to say that because someone wants to do something and it brings them Simcha that it is suddenly elevated to the Mitzvah of Simchas Yom Tov. The slippery slope of that style argument has brought the conservative movement from removing the mechitzah (because its not in Shulchan Aruch and its just a Minhag…) to the recent approval of gay marriage (and everything in between like a Kohen marrying a Gerushah etc…)

    Why do women have to stay home and cry on Simchas Torah? What is preventing women from going to Shul and dancing themselves on their side of the Mechitzah.

  107. according to what seems to be the maskanah of the gemara, smicha requires chol kocho but women were told “akfu yadaychu” i.e., women were specifically encouraged to do something other than the mitzvah (“leita le-smicha klal”). See also tos. chulin 85a.

    That is not so simple. Acc. to Rashi, R. Yossi holds they did full semichah, notwithstanding the problem of avodah be kodshim. The story about Abba Elazar is not what R. Yossi holds acc. to Rashi.

    Furthermore, both the Rambam and the Raavad hold that we paskin NOT like R. Yossi and women should not do semicha.

    And even Tosafos requires further elucidation, while Tos. seems to hold that the mere laying of the hands is not the full mitzvah, OTOH Tos. in Chagigah and Eruvin (the latter quoting R. Tam) use the gemara as a proof that women can do voluntary mitzvos, and in fact R. Tam is quoted as using this gemara as a proof that women can make berachos! So it seems that Tosafos understood that there was some kind of kiyum mitzvah. (I don’t think you can make a beracha on a meaningless act merely made to make one feel good.)


    “I can think of no situation where someone wants to but cannot do a mitzvah, and instead does an imitation act which makes him or her feel good but is really meaningless.”

    also, have you never seen a mentally incompetent old man being wheeled to shul faithfully to “daven” betsibbur?

    This seems an odd example. All you are doing there is bringing someone to a shul to make him feel like he is part of things — not inventing a new ceremony. Whatever he is doing, he is doing, but the tsibbur is doing the same tefillah be tsibbur they always do.

    You really don’t want to compare women to “a mentally incompetent old man,” do you? R. Herschel Shachter was criticized for using the term “maaseh kof” about a woman reading a ketubah. Do we want to call women’s leining the equivalent of the mutterings of a senile old fool?

  108. If one were to take the narrow view, and look only at the issur of dancing, or only at the issur of taking a sefer torah out of shul, then both of these would be forbidden on Simchas Torah. But the halacha has very specifically taken a wider view, and looked at the overall mitzvah of simcha, and simcha shel Torah on this day, and therefore permitted, not just things that might not be particularly mitzvos, but things that are specifically stated as issurim.
    ===================================================

    R’CL,
    Who is “halacha”? Please see my comment at 2:09PM -I’m not sure the halachic process is the same now as it was then due to our greater self awareness.
    KT

  109. If you’re still reading comments, R. Broyde, thanks for responding to them as you did. As Jerry said, it greatly enhances the reading experience.

  110. Whether one agrees with him or not, the comment by Cheski on October 16, 2012 at 8:04 pm illustrates the crux of the problem faced by Orthodox women who feel the need for more involvement.

    I commend him for his candor.

  111. Tal,
    I am aware the sugya is more complicated. I believe, though, that it suports the limitedd claim that it is not outrageous to allow a ritual with no halachic meaning in order to make people (women) feel good.
    My point w the old man, the flute boy, and one might add the girl who had to eat pig but wanted it shechted, is: there is some egree of compassion that is missing from the women/ritual discissions. A rush to say no without offering other answers to legitimate – or at least real – feelings of exclusion, and a rush to attribute negative motives. (R broyde offers some alternatives, though not to the issue of simchas torah in articular.) This was not always the way rabbis and other men with authority dealt with the spiritual strivings of those lower on the totem pole.
    I personally find the whole nachas ruach discourse problematic for the reasons you state re: comparing to feebleminded men, but that is the discourse, or part of it. What is most disheartening is when the patronizing or bellitling affect remains without the compassion that would be showwn to other disenfranchised groups or people.

  112. Did anyone notice Rabbi Broyde’s fascinatingly self deprecating style?    
    RMB wrote “Harold W’s comment is nice but his final two sentences are both certainly false.” And Harold’s last two sentences were “I also want to note that Rabbi Broyde is a very brave posek — I live in another neighborhood in Atlanta and when serious questions of halacha come up, my own rabbi turns to him to help. When I asked why, he told me that “Rabbi Broyde just is more learned than anyone I know. But normal.” 
    About Rabbi Sperber, he wrote “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 wrote in my second paragraph “When I was at YU as a student, someone called him a posek in front of my Rosh Yeshiva and he said “I am not much into these kinds of titles, but if I had to give him a title, it is Gadol, not posek”. I see why” and he stated “David Gold of October 16 at 7:10 has the right issue in his first paragraph, but he lost any credibility in my mind with his second paragraph.
    About Rabbi Henkin, RMB wrote “I would consider it an efficient use of my time to stop learning torah to go polish his shoes and drive him from lecture to lectures as his chauffer.”

    Is this generally his style?

  113. And so this post comes to close… Whew.

    I agree David. I was impressed with R’ Broyde’s humility.

  114. Do women have (as men do) a halachic obligation to hear parshat zachor every year? If so, would you approve of a woman reading it to the congregation (or to a group of only women, if her obligation is not on the same level as men’s), as you do for megilla reading?

  115. Rabbi Broyde

    Thanks for attempting to respond to the comments. I was asking about the permissibility of either curtailing or ignoring the specific observances of Simchat Torah which occur on the Second Day of Shemini Atzeret in the diaspora. Obviously you would still need to pray and treat the day as a holiday. But the extra aliyot, hakafot, dancing, are draining and not at all fun or interesting to me and many others.
    The extra aliyot are not halachically endorsed. The best that the Rama can say (תרסט) is that אין אסור בדבר. The Mishnah Brurah brings the Elya Rabba as a לימוד זכות as well. Theres an additional practical issue of ensuring that 10 people are actually listening to the aliyah at a given time which is also noted in the poseikim. So can one make a minyan with no extra aliyot?
    How about “Kol Hanaarim” which the גינת ורדים and others saw as problematic. Why not be “strict” in these matters and save an hour right there?
    As for the dancing, the best we can say is לכבוד התורה מותר. I personally dislike dancing. Why should it be part of the liturgy? It doesn’t increase my reverence for Torah. Learning Torah or enjoying the holiday would be more reverential for someone like me who dislikes this dancing business. Can I get 9 other people together and form a minyan which doesn’t dance on ST? One problem might be the Ari, who says one reaches high spiritual levels by daning on ST. The Vilna Gaon also had the practice to dance fervently.
    The main problem I see with my overarching idea is the Maharik who says we cannot abolish any Minhag of Simchat Torah and how terrible is it that some people aren’t happy on ST and party the rest of the year והתורה מנחת בקרן זוית ואין מבקש. Thats strong language, quoted by many others. But is it a halachic objection? What if we learned or had a shiur instead, isn’t that sufficient for Kavod Hatorah? Perhaps it sounds nitpicky and silly but after many holidays, this day is just no fun for many people. It’d be great to open up options for people who don’t like Simchat Torah rather than just close down options for some women who love it too much.
    thanks for your input.

  116. In Israel (and many yeshivot outside it), Shacharit begins at Rabbi Yishmael or Mizmor Shir (or Hodu). (In some yeshivot, Yishtabach.) This nicely elides any supposed “issues” with Shelo Asani Isha.

    Maybe because of my style, but a nice solution- to more problems than this- would be to eliminate the multiple readings. Give five aliyot, everyone’s happy. (Forgive my being a kohen, but do people literally not get an aliyah during the year? Counting Shabbat alone, there are well over 300 non-kohen aliyot a year.)

  117. “It’d be great to open up options for people who don’t like Simchat Torah rather than just close down options for some women who love it too much.”

    How about opening up options for people who don’t like Shabbos? or Kashrus?

    Just kidding. I hear ya.

  118. Moshe Shoshan: Maybe. (But there are people with an agenda who would have done anything anyway.) But we deal with what we have.

    IH: Come on. There are Orthodox people and rabbis calling for all sorts of unhalakhic mishegas and talking in all sorts of crazy language- not to mention what’s become of the non-Orthodox movements.

  119. R. Broyde’s stance on the YITH controversy reminds me of a story I often heard as a kid growing up in Satmer. Once, the Kapisnitzer Rebbe got sick and was hospitalized. When he came home to recuperate, all the Hassidic Rebbes in the community visited him. At some point one of the Litvisher Roshei Yeshivah who was living in the community decided to visit him as well. When he knocked on the door, the Rebbe asked him why he was there. The Rosh Yeshivah responded: I came to be mekayaim the mitzvah of bikkur cholim. With a glint in his eye the Rebbe said to him: ah ha, you just came to fulfill the mitzvah of bikkur cholim and as the choleh that would make me the “cheftza” of the mitzvah. Well, I am not in the mood right now to play the role of “cheftza” for your mitzvah. Good bye and good day! Although I can’t vouch for the veracity of this tale, it conveys an important message; Brisker Lomdus can easily slip into rather painful reductionism.

    The mitzvah of kriat/shemiat Torah is “A” factor in why I am so moved every time I am called up to the Torah, but it is not the only one. An Aliya to the Torah is a momentary encounter with a physical object that halacha, tradition and society has successfully infused with an unparalleled level of kedusha and intimacy with the Divine. Even after thirty years of receiving aliyot has this brief encounter not lost its power; I still feel each time the thrill of knowing that during those few minutes I am experiencing a miniature Kabbalat Ha-Torah. Each time I go up to the Torah I reflect on the prohibition of touching the klaff and how it infuses the experience with a sweet and tense-filled moment of intimacy for me no different from the beginnings of a relationship; we want to get close but not too close. The fact that what I am doing is also a mitzvah is only one of the many reasons this encounter is so powerful. The historical, religious and sociological significance of the Torah scroll play an equal if not greater role in infusing the Aliyah experience with its marvelous significance. I find it frustratingly reductionist to argue that its meaning is exclusively derived from the fact that it is a mitzvah.

    As a male I am privileged to have these encounters as often as I please. It pains me to think that my wife, two daughters, and the hundreds of female students I have taught over the years do not have similar access to this powerful religious opportunity. While not taking an actual stand on this debate, it is crucial that we appreciate how much these conversations go way beyond the narrow confines of chiyuv or patur.

    Moshe rabbinu begged God to let him enter Eretz Yisroel. I can see R. Broyde telling him: why are you so adamant, Moshe, you are not chayav. And from a pure halachic perspective, he would be right. The “chalos chiyuv” to keep mitzvot hateliyot be’aretz only comes once one has entered Eretz Yisroel. However, R. Broyde would be missing the point. Moshe’s desire to do more mitzvot was to have more opportunities to serve Hashem, regardless of whether he is chayav or not. That is what many of us also want: to explore options that would allow us to offer our wives, daughters and female students the same opportunities we men have, to occasionally take a break from our daily routines and encounter Ha’kadosh Baruch Hu intimately and up-close.

  120. “However, R. Broyde would be missing the point. Moshe’s desire to do more mitzvot was to have more opportunities to serve Hashem, regardless of whether he is chayav or not.”

    I don’t think R’ Broyde is missing the point. Moshe wanted to enter E”Y and thus be chayav in the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz. He was seeking the chiyuv. Moshe did not say: since I am cannot enter E”Y, let me do trumos u’maseros here in chutz la’aretz. He loved mitzvos, as gemara makkos 10a says, and was pleading for the chiyuv – not a mimicry of it.

    I like how you capture the emotion of an aliyah.

  121. Tal
    I grant your point about Upshirin.

  122. R. Broyde (if you’re still responding), what do you think about women dancing with a Sefer Torah?

    Steve B., can you give more details about the women’s siyum in your community? If you don’t think it will interest everyone here, please contact me at [email protected].

  123. shachar haamim

    Very appreciative of Rabbi Broyde’s responses. Both in substance and tone.

    Regarding hus response to my comment – “15. Shachar is reasonable, but not my view. I am comfortable with the idea that if a woman wants to fulfill a mitzvah herself and she can, that is to be supported, even if a man can also fulfil her obligation – like kiddish.” –

    To my mind it still seems that one can distinguish between what is done as a “tzibbur” and what is done “privately”. I.e. There is a difference between organizing a women’s reading for women in the beit knesset versus some people doing this privately in their home. There is a difference between women making kiddush in their home as opposed to having a woman get up and say kiddush in front of the congregation in the beit knesset.
    I think my point here is in alignment with Rav Henkin;s observations regarding partnership minyanim – that there is a slippery slope here.

    One can’t easily suggest that having awomen read for women megilla reading in shul is because of a desire ti fulfill a mitzvah hereself. Even leaving out the issue of b’rov am hadrat melech and having separatism, there are still pasive audience members listening and not reading.

    Should I encourage my daughter – who will be bat mitzvah right before Purim – to (a) go to shul and hear megilla reading along with everyone else thus fulfilling the mitzvah; (b) learn to read the megilla on her own so that she can read for other women; (c) learn to read on her own so that she can read it alone privately. Perhaps I should teach all my children – sons as well – to read megilla so that they can all recite their own brachot and read privately on their own so that they can fulfill the mitzva? maybe the shul should enourage everyone to learn to read megilla so that everyone can read at home on their own and fulfill the mitzva?

  124. My earliest comments were of course not replied to by anyone including R Broyde.
    That a nidda is not allowed to look at a sefer torah when ‘hagbe’ is done.
    This would preclude her from having an aliya.
    Do I gather that for some modern reason this doesnt apply today.

  125. “Yet another bunch of men talking about what they think of women… There are only two women commenters here, both of whom are completely unimpresse”

    i’m a woman. i wrote earlier. Please explain how you concluded that only two women wrote in – was it by taking it as a given that a woman would be in favor of mock hakafot?

  126. About dancing on simchas torah. The women claim here they are left out.
    The simple answer is that our idea of dancing is wrong.
    The gemoro says only chasidim and anshei maase danced.
    In Satmar only the satmar rebbe himself danced all the time while the people stayed around watching. Men and women.
    Not everybody has the ‘right’ to dance on simchas torah.
    I also cant see why the women find it so interesting to watch a few old men shuffling around or some young mens immature antics.

  127. “Do I gather that for some modern reason this doesnt apply today.”

    it’s not a modern reason. It was never binding, and many if not most are not noheg this way and do look at sifrei torah at all times. There is no reason to promote this practice associated as it is with minhagei taut.

  128. I cannot argue with Rabbi Broyde’s logic, which is as usual impeccable. I also cannot disagree with the point in general since it is clearly true that people should focus on the day to day mitzvot and avoid expending energy on non-mitzvot. That said, I think that there is another way of looking at this problem, which is to consider the attitude of Sephardi Rabbis, starting with Maimonides, towards converts. Those Rabbis always had an eye towards pulling someone closer to observance by making it possible for them to feel like full members of the community in spite of their ignorance of certain aspects of the law. They recognized (as we seem not to) that people are imperfect and can be led astray by negative emotions. As such, they bent over backwards (within halacha) to figure out ways to draw them closer to Judaism. The same thing applies here, we should be bending over backwards to inspire a love of Judaism, even if the path begins through the love of public ritual. In the end, by loving that feeling, one will be inspired to perform more personal mitzvot. That is the reason for expanding opportunities for women to participate where Halachically possible.

  129. “AJ asks about berov am. Although that is a factor, a person who says I want to fulfill a mitzvah in a way that is not berov am, but important to himself, is within his rights. I, for example, almost never do kiddish levanah with a minyan, but instead do it alone when I see the moon the first time, ala the Gra. I do, I realize sacrifice berov am, but think my conduct is correct nonetheless.”

    How is the analogy relevant and an example of something important to oneself? Is there a halachic source that would say that it’s preferable for women to separate themselves from the community for megilla reading (“ala the gra”?) Women deliberately separating themselves from the community for megila reading from men when they could as easily hear the megila with the whole community seems an odd way to go about pirsumei nisa. Why promote an inferior way to perform the mitzva?

  130. “First of all there is the rabbinic issur, as set out in the Mishna in Beitza and gemora there (Beitza 36b) to dance on Yom Tov. This is dealt with in the poskim eg the Beis Yosef in the name of the Maharik and Rav Hai Gaon (Beit Yosef Orech Chaim siman 339:3) as nahagu bo heter specifically on Simchas Torah, it only being a rabbinic decree (whereas simcha is a d’orisa, at least in eretz yisroel and it is for the kovod of the Torah)”

    Re women – I have a long-standing issue/question about women dancing on simchat torah (independent of whether they read from the sefer torah or not). For those who are makpid not to dance on shabbat and yomtov a whole year, what license is there to dance on simchat torah? There doesn’t seem to be any long-standing minhag of women dancing on simhat torah so that one can say for them “nahagu bo heter” and override the usual practice.
    I would think that those women who don’t normally dance on yomtov shouldn’t dance on simchat torah either…?

  131. shachar haamim

    “How is the analogy relevant and an example of something important to oneself? Is there a halachic source that would say that it’s preferable for women to separate themselves from the community for megilla reading (“ala the gra”?) Women deliberately separating themselves from the community for megila reading from men when they could as easily hear the megila with the whole community seems an odd way to go about pirsumei nisa. Why promote an inferior way to perform the mitzva?”

    That was precisely part of the point of my question to Rabbi Broyde. If he advocates women’s reading the megilla as a way of advocating greater performance of mitzvot, the logical and inescapable conclusion – as I pointed out in my earlier comment above – is that everyone should learn how to read megilla and do it themselves in order to enhance the performance of the mitzvah. everyone should learn how to blow shofar and blow shofar on their own at home during a private recitation of musaf with malchuytot, zichronot and shofrot, as this is an enhanced performance of the mitzvah (or maybe we should go back to the ancient minhag alluded to in chazal whereby everyone in shul blew their own shofar simultaneously and shofar will then become like arba minim – this won’t help for the question re: megilla reading though). everyone should be encouraged to do milah on their own children. everyone should be encouraged to raise and shecht their own chickens so that they can do mitzvat cisui hadam. maybe everyone (except kohanim) should be encouraged to divorce their spouses so they can perform the mitzvah of machzir g’rushato. (OK, the last one was a but cynical…). You get the point.

  132. shachar haamim

    I want to add that I am not charedi. I fully intend to try and have my daughter learn to read megilla and have her involved in the preparation of a megilla for her bat mitzvah (in lieu of the activities one would do with boys and tefillin – though frankly if she genuinely wanted a set of tefillin I would do tefillin with her).
    But I will teach her that if she wants to read the megilla she can read at home for the family and maybe some friends. If she wants to hear megilla in beit knesset then she – like me – will go to the beit knesset and hear the man reading the megilla for EVERYONE – men and women.

  133. “It’d be great to open up options for people who don’t like Simchat Torah”

    some people complain about the festivities of ST and i understand it. some complain about the tirchas of yom kippur and i understand it. i don’t understand people who complain about ST and yom kippur.

  134. Perhaps they really do want to dance the rest of the year, but sociologically can only get away with it on Simchat Torah?

  135. R. Katz:

    ” I am so moved every time I am called up to the Torah . . .”

    very nice

  136. re: berov am, this reason rings hollow in shuls that already have multiple readings for space and time reasons (which is most of the shuls i have ever attended). e.g., if there is a “late reading” at night which is mostly attended by, and intended for, mothers, why should it not be a women’s reading?

    to “really?”, i assume elana was going off of people’s handles, with only two identifiably female. although this discussion has been something of an exception (perhaps elana’s assumption drew out some lurkers) the denizens of this forum are overwhelmingly male.

    re: there is no “nahagu bo heter” for women to dance, is this really how it works? why can’t we say, “there is a minhag for those who want to dance. in the past those who wanted were men, but now there are women too.”?

  137. A propos of Rabbi Katz’ comment (though less eloquent), all morning I have had Morah Music running through my head singing “I’ll do a mitzvah, you’ll do a mitzvah, let’s all to mitzvos with our feet! . . . dance with the torah on simchas torah, everyone do mitzvos with our feet!”
    Now, morah music is no posek, but she reflects the basic jewish intuition many of us are raised with and continue with. I suspect rabbi broyde, and certainly others, do not think dancing with the torah is a “mitzvah,” technically, but the technical sense is not the only determination of Jewish meaning. There is a visceral spiritual intuition, particularly pronounced among those who have not yet been inducted into the halachic lense for viewing everything (ie, kids and most women), that is real and should be respected.

  138. Baruch Alster-different women undertake to learn a Parsha, and present a Dvar Torah in front of a female only audience. Again, many women who have a high degree of secular and Jewish education and who would never even think of attending a WTG or women’s Hakafos attend the Siyum on a yearly basis. I think that such a Siyum can be easily organized and arranged.

  139. Jerry wrote:

    “Likewise, Bas Mitzvah has become accepted in many different formats in different communities.”

    As stated above I pretty much concur with RMB’s position in the original post.

    But as far as this particular point is concerned, I’d just like to note that logically this just supports the case for WTG and WTR, meaning that, much like the Bas Mitzvah, this too will be accepted in many different formats in many different communities

    Look at it this way. One need not write a sociology thesis to see that Bas Mitzvah is celebrated in a vastly different range of styles within both the Charedi and MO communities. Some are just a birthday party for family and friends of the Bas mitzvah, others have a kiddush or a seudah for friends and family with Divrei Torah by family members and/or the Bas Mitzvah herself. I would not equate the same with a WTG which still largely, if not completely, remains the precinct of the sector within LW MO that views it necessary to justify Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim as posing no threat to radical egalitarian feminists, their well documented critique of the traditional family, and their supporters.

  140. Steve,
    Thanks. Just one thing: They sit through 50+ Divre Torah at one sitting, or did I misunderstand something?

  141. “e.g., if there is a “late reading” at night which is mostly attended by, and intended for, mothers, why should it not be a women’s reading?”

    is that what R Broyde was describing? A late reading for women, in which a woman leins rather than a man? No different than if a mother and daughter misse megillah reading and decide one of them will leyn at home, only done in shul? I had the distinct impression he was speaking of setting up an alternate reading specifically to have a woman rather than a man read for women, and that he was not discussing having a woman take over the late reading in the a.m.

  142. berov asked:

    ” Women deliberately separating themselves from the community for megila reading from men when they could as easily hear the megila with the whole community seems an odd way to go about pirsumei nisa. Why promote an inferior way to perform the mitzva”

    The Baalei HaTosfos in Megilah quote the BeHaG who posits that women have an obligation to hear, but not read the Megilah. One can posit that according to the BeHag, it is evident that the definition of Pirsumei Nisa is by no means the same for both genders.

  143. Baruch Alster asked:

    “Steve,
    Thanks. Just one thing: They sit through 50+ Divre Torah at one sitting”

    I am not sure if there are 50+ Divrei Torah at one sitting, but all who are present have the opportunity to speak, if so desired.

  144. Shachar Haamim wrote in part:

    “I want to add that I am not charedi. I fully intend to try and have my daughter learn to read megilla and have her involved in the preparation of a megilla for her bat mitzvah (in lieu of the activities one would do with boys and tefillin – though frankly if she genuinely wanted a set of tefillin I would do tefillin with her)”

    What about the Mitzvos that involve no imitation of a man’s mitzvah and which a woman is obligated in already?

  145. I found Rabbi Katz of YCT’s post to be most interesting, but in the end it did not pass Rabbi Broyde’s reply to Chana Luntz’ post. Most poskim adopt the view that wearing tefillin on Yom Tov or Shabbat, not for the sake of a mitzvah is actually mutar, and not assur; see Biur halacha 31:* and 308 in many different places. How would we reply to a person who says that “he really loves wearing tefillin during davening as it brings him closer to God” and gives him a sense of the Amighty, so he wants to wear them on Yom Tov, shelo leshem mitzvah, which is technically mutar. Rabbi Katz would appear to be saying “okay” as teffilin wearing is not assur then, and it brings you closer to God, so why not? Rabbi Broyde’s answer makes much more sense. We would say that while such conduct is not technically assur, it is very violative of minhag yisrael, and it is not a mitzvah at all, and thus is unwise and improper and should not be done. (I recognize that one could argue that tefillin wearing is really assur on YT — but most do not agree with that view, so let’s assume it is not the right reply.) I do not see how Rabbi Katz can reply to Rabbi Broyde’s analogy well — but maybe I am not familiar with all the data. Rabbi Katz, can you reply?

  146. Sharon asked:

    “Do women have (as men do) a halachic obligation to hear parshat zachor every year”

    See the Minchas Chinuch on the Mitzvah in Sefer HaChinuch in question.

  147. “I had the distinct impression he was speaking of setting up an alternate reading specifically to have a woman rather than a man read for women”

    Yes, he is. My point is that many many shuls have several readings, including several concurrent readings. The shul I grew up in and the shul I’ve spent the most time in after that both have “overflow” quiet/fast minyanim at essentially the same time as the main, evening reading, for example. They both also do not have a women’s reading, but there are private women’s readings elsewhere in the community. Once a shul is having multiple readings I find the “berov am” excuse somewhat disingenuous, is all.
    (In one of the shuls, I believe the rabbi in principle would prefer to stop the fast minyan, but not enough to engage in the fight it would require. this brings up a different, but interesting issue, which is that when it comes to women doing things “officially” in a shul they often wait around for rabbis to “let” them, but men at least sometimes just do it – the gabbai puts a minyan on the calendar or whatever and then it’s there, whatever the rabbi thinks…)

  148. Chana wrote in part:

    “Yes, some people want a new dress, and some people want meat and wine, but some people want to read from the Torah, and that is what gives them simcha”

    Do you have any classical mainstream sources that would prove or tend to prove that reading from the Torah has anywhere near a component of a kiyum of Simcha as new clothing, and partaking of meat and wine?

  149. More than a few commenters have posted on ST, and the apparent halachic problems therein. R Zevin ZL in HaMoadim BHalacha and the author of a fine sefer on the development of ST that was publihed by Mossad HaRav Kook years ago, both explore the issues. ST obviously is post Talmudic, and the Poskim have allowed great leniencies because of the Simcha associated with the day with respect to many Halachos that would otherwise be problematic. ( I should note that I have also been to a Seudah or two for an Aufruf where there has been dancing.) Yet, that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    One has to look at the nature of Simchas Torah as a Siyum which is rooted in the Mitzvah Min HaTorah of Hakhel in the sense of Kol Tikun Drabanan Kein DOraissa to realize the meaning of ST for all present, and the overarching importance of Talmud Torah as a mitzvah, whether one is a great Talmid Chacham, a Baal HaBayis sheKovea Itim LaTorah, a Pashute Baale Bayis, Am HaAretz , or someone on either side of the Mechitzah who is utterly bored. The Simcha as RYBS quoted from RMS in Harreri Kedem is not what one has finished in learning, but in realizing that we have so much more to learn Torah to learn.

  150. HAGTBG wrote:

    “BTW to those who don’t like long hakafot I recommend the wonderful service of the Spanish-Portugese synagogue in NYC. Start to finish in about 30 minutes or less and that’s with a professional choir and associated pomp.”

    KGH has always had one shul where one can find leibedike hakafos that last no more than 5 minutes per hakafa.

  151. Ruvie wrote:

    “Tal – “Hakafos are an expression of the simcha of the tsibbur in completing the Torah — no different than a siyum, for which there is ample precedent in the Gemara and Rishonim. Simchas Torah goes back to the gaonim.”

    there is no mention of hakafot by the rishonim nor by the tur and beit yosef – either evening or morning but you can see it in the rama and minhagim of rav aizik tirna.
    btw, comparing it to a siyum to show a long standing custom is dubious at best”

    One can argue to the contrary that comparing Mitzvos , Takanos and Minhagim of a Rabbinic and even post talmudic nature to a Mitzvah Min HaTorah is exactly what is called investigating and discerning how Kol Tikun Drabanan Kei Doraissa Tikun.

  152. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “In Teaneck, the Women’s Tefillah Group has been weakening progressively with 2 exceptions: an eicha reading on Tisha B’Av and a Simchat Torah service which contains a women’s only Torah reading which continues to draw a large crowd including those who would never think of participating any other time. After ST, I was speaking to a young woman who wasn’t even among those who would go to a WTG on ST (only) and she said that she doesn’t understand why women go to shul at all on ST; “it’s a holiday for men, really,” she said; “for women shul is completely boring”

    Perhaps, the reason for the above noted decline is that many young women simply don’t need and want to have their Avodas HaShem defined by participating in what is an imitation of a minhag limited to men.

  153. R Y Katz wrote in part:

    “An Aliya to the Torah is a momentary encounter with a physical object that halacha, tradition and society has successfully infused with an unparalleled level of kedusha and intimacy with the Divine. Even after thirty years of receiving aliyot has this brief encounter not lost its power; I still feel each time the thrill of knowing that during those few minutes I am experiencing a miniature Kabbalat Ha-Torah. Each time I go up to the Torah I reflect on the prohibition of touching the klaff and how it infuses the experience with a sweet and tense-filled moment of intimacy for me no different from the beginnings of a relationship; we want to get close but not too close. The fact that what I am doing is also a mitzvah is only one of the many reasons this encounter is so powerful. The historical, religious and sociological significance of the Torah scroll play an equal if not greater role in infusing the Aliyah experience with its marvelous significance. I find it frustratingly reductionist to argue that its meaning is exclusively derived from the fact that it is a mitzvah.”

    Without minimizing the experiential views of the experience that entails from one’s encounter with a Sefer Torah, I think that by be called up for an aliyah you have a great Zechus to be Mlamed Torah LAm Yisrael Brabim. When the Tzibur hears Krias HaTorah in an attentive manner ( or even stands as argued by Rambam),then one can seriously consider Krias HaTorah as a reenactment of Kabalas HaTorah. OTOH, merely taking out a Sefer Torah on any day where there is no Mitzvah of Krias HaTorah or reading the same when one is exempt from doing so, neither is a mitzvah nor capable of producing the experiences so described. Such an approach seemingly ignores the fact that performance and adherence to Mitzvos as the Ratzon HaBoreh are the true measuring device of the .””historical, religious and sociological significance of the Torah

  154. “Perhaps, the reason for the above noted decline is that many young women simply don’t need and want to have their Avodas HaShem defined by participating in what is an imitation of a minhag limited to men.”

    i think that’s probably true for some of the younger women. For others who have been exposed to partnership minyanim, however, many feel more comfortable in minyanim (as opposed to groups) which contain divarim shebikdusha and in which women actively participate to the extent they are allowed to. Having seen WTGs (in which my daughters celebrated their bat mitzvahs) and having davened in partnership minyanim, I understand this.

  155. Steve Brizel
    Why does “One has to look at the nature of Simchas Torah as a Siyum which is rooted in the Mitzvah Min HaTorah of Hakhel in the sense of Kol Tikun Drabanan Kein DOraissa to realize the meaning of ST for all present?”

    That seems a bit of a logical stretch. Who connects it to Hakhel or says its Hakhel derabbanan? Why didn’t the Mechaber, MB, etc bring this interesting idea? Does it have any halachic ramification? Please provide refs.

  156. There are both men and women, young and old, who are simply not into davening or at least davening b’tzibur. They do the minimum needed to be yotzeh.

    The issue is thus limited to the subset of women (of all ages) who are into davening b’tzibur and want to be involved to the limit that can be accomodated within halacha; or, when lifecycle events drive them to choose an alternative.

    Shutting down the alternatives tacitly sanctioned by the establishment (i.e. WTGs) is no longer a feasible response given lay-led alternatives (i.e. Partnership Minyanim). The genie is out of the bottle.

  157. Steve: That’s still 35 minutes. 🙁

  158. steve b. – “One can argue to the contrary ..”

    one can argue only with the inaccuracy of Tal’s historical suggestions which are incorrect on any basis except vortlacht for shalah sheudous. i simply quoted from moadim b’simcha by rav zevin to show that his assertions are simply incorrect on the dating of hakafot and simchat torah. others dealt with upsherin as well.

  159. Chakirah wrote;

    “That seems a bit of a logical stretch. Who connects it to Hakhel or says its Hakhel derabbanan? Why didn’t the Mechaber, MB, etc bring this interesting idea? Does it have any halachic ramification? Please provide refs”

    Ain Beis HaMedrash Bli Chiddush. I haven’t seen anyone either discuss it or reject the same, in whole or in part. Understanding rabbinic ordinances and their being rooted in some way of Mitzvos Min HaTorah under the idea of Kol Tikun DRabanan Kein DOraissa is a long and noble enterprise within TSBP and should not be dismissed as mere vortlach for Seudah Shlishis.

  160. Steve: “Look at it this way. One need not write a sociology thesis to see that Bas Mitzvah is celebrated in a vastly different range of styles within both the Charedi and MO communities. Some are just a birthday party for family and friends of the Bas mitzvah, others have a kiddush or a seudah for friends and family with Divrei Torah by family members and/or the Bas Mitzvah herself. I would not equate the same with a WTG which still largely, if not completely, remains the precinct of the sector within LW MO that views it necessary to justify Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim as posing no threat to radical egalitarian feminists, their well documented critique of the traditional family, and their supporters.”

    I’ve tried to figure out the argument in here and I just can’t. No idea what you’re saying.

    Anyway, to repeat: Just as Bas Mitzvahs were initially krum (the sole province of left wing types, or worse!) and are now fine (and are no longer the sole province of left wing types), so too WTGs, etc. are initially krum (currently the sole province of left wing types or worse), but will eventually be fine (and no longer be the sole province of left wing types). According to your logic at least.

    But again, I’d just like to reiterate my agreement with Rabbi Broyde (and Shlomo Pill, and so on).

  161. I recall that a friend of mine who lives in Israel asked RHS years ago about Upsherin and was advised that there were many other Minhagim that he and his wife could practice without having an Upsherin. I also recall a shiur from RHS about Chukos HaAkum in which he mentioned that “Galachim” were so called because of their complete shaving the Paas HaZaken and Rosh, and that perhaps the Upsherin, as understood by the Mkubalim, was that at age 3, a child was akin to the initial eating of Peros of Orlah, and therefore, ready to go to school, and observe some mitzvos based on chinuch.

  162. The main problem I have with articles like this is that they are even written in the first place. The argument comes down to two things. 1) That women’s non-mitzvah mandated spirituality should be replaced by a focus on real mitzvot. 2) That it is divisive.

    I would maintain that there are far more dire issues that are never written about by anybody except in passing. That those issues are NOT divisive is troubling to me. An example, is the widespread and rampant gossiping and general talking that goes on during the Shmoneh Esrai at many orthodox synagogues. Here is a true chait becuase not only is one not fulfilling ones Halachic obligation in prayer, but one might also destroy the Kavanah of another harming or negating their mitzvah.

    Why am I making this connection? It is just to say that a voluntary choice of a women to do something that enhances her personal spiritual journey gets more negative ink that a true aveira that is widespread.

  163. Jerry – doesn’t the bat mitzvah fulfill all the same requirements of RMB reasons not to allow torah reading for women on ST: son on what basis does he allow it (i assume he does allow bat mitzvahs in some form)?

    see RMB comments- as well as the post:
    ” I claim that this one is very bad because of the mimicry issues and lack any mitzvah component.” comment 8
    “I would not breach minhag yisrael absent a mitzvah enhancement.” comment 13

  164. Jerry wrote in response:

    “Steve: “Look at it this way. One need not write a sociology thesis to see that Bas Mitzvah is celebrated in a vastly different range of styles within both the Charedi and MO communities. Some are just a birthday party for family and friends of the Bas mitzvah, others have a kiddush or a seudah for friends and family with Divrei Torah by family members and/or the Bas Mitzvah herself. I would not equate the same with a WTG which still largely, if not completely, remains the precinct of the sector within LW MO that views it necessary to justify Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim as posing no threat to radical egalitarian feminists, their well documented critique of the traditional family, and their supporters.”

    I’ve tried to figure out the argument in here and I just can’t. No idea what you’re saying.

    Anyway, to repeat: Just as Bas Mitzvahs were initially krum (the sole province of left wing types, or worse!) and are now fine (and are no longer the sole province of left wing types), so too WTGs, etc. are initially krum (currently the sole province of left wing types or worse), but will eventually be fine (and no longer be the sole province of left wing types). According to your logic at least

    Actually, my point was rooted in the sociological reality of what constitutes a Bas Mitzvah, which can be proven anywhwere by anyone with anecdotal evidence.

    Your point is rooted in history. Yet, I think that it is obvious regardless of the de facto legitimacy of a Bas Mitzvah, however it is celebrated outside of a shul sanctuary’s setting,Poskim such as ROY and other great American Poskim, including one who I consulted for our daughters as to the halachic perameters of a Bas Mitzvah, obviously saw a Bas Mitzvah as far less problematic halachically and hashkafically than a WTG.

    One cannot deny that many of the early feminist pioneers were Communists, radicals and severe critics of the family structure as oppressive to women-a factor that IMO should raise a question as to why we should develope or tolerate minhagim that legitimize their critique of Halacha and gender roles. Like it or not, motivation is a huge factor that warrants consideration in issues of gender .

  165. In response to chana steve writes, “Do you have any classical mainstream sources that would prove or tend to prove that reading from the Torah has anywhere near a component of a kiyum of Simcha as new clothing, and partaking of meat and wine?”

    then he states that “One has to look at the nature of Simchas Torah as a Siyum which is rooted in the Mitzvah Min HaTorah of Hakhel in the sense of Kol Tikun Drabanan Kein DOraissa to realize the meaning of ST for all present…” which he later clarifies is based on “Ain Beis HaMedrash Bli Chiddush. I haven’t seen anyone either discuss it or reject the same, in whole or in part.”

    So apparently one can be “mechadesh” what is “the meaning of simchas torah for all present” without any reference to their actual personal experiences of meaning, but discussing what is “simchah” by observing what makes people happy requires sources?

  166. IH wrote:

    “Shutting down the alternatives tacitly sanctioned by the establishment (i.e. WTGs) is no longer a feasible response given lay-led alternatives (i.e. Partnership Minyanim). The genie is out of the bottle”

    Whoever said that a WTG was one of “alternatives tacitly sanctioned by the establishment (i.e. WTGs)”?

  167. Emma wrote:

    “So apparently one can be “mechadesh” what is “the meaning of simchas torah for all present” without any reference to their actual personal experiences of meaning, but discussing what is “simchah” by observing what makes people happy requires sources”

    Actually, it is hardly a great logical leap to compare ST to a Siyum or Hakhel inasmuch the common denominator of all is the appreciation of the importance of Talmud Torah, regardless of one’s age, knowledge or gender. OTOH, devising a new definition of Simcha solely on a subjective basis is a far greater logical stretch.

  168. 2) That it is divisive.

    Of course I agree with you, David S. But perspective is important. What engenders divisiveness among the amcha, may engender achdus within parts of the Rabbinate.

    R. Broyde unambigiously writes in this piece:

    I was not involved in the decision to have such a Torah reading, and do not favor such Torah readings. I write not to engage in a polemic or dispute regarding this particular synagogue’s decision – only the current rabbi decides matters of halacha for any synagogue and individuals with questions about this Torah reading should discuss any issues they have with him – but I write to clarify my view, lest anyone be confused about what is my opinion.

    This piece isn’t primarily aimed at the amcha, as far as I can tell.

  169. Cheski pointed out the following, with which I fully concur:

    ” Just because something is permitted does not mean that it is a good idea. Whether something is Halachicly permitted or forbidden is not the only criteria for whether something should be done. There are many areas of Halachah were something is permitted, but Chazal encourage us not to do it anyway because “And you shall do what is proper and good in the eyes of the Lord.”

    The real issue is what is the Ratzon HaTorah or how a Posek as R Broyde understands the issue in terms of its metahalachic consequences.

  170. steve b. – “The real issue is what is the Ratzon HaTorah…”

    is it- i assume you me hashem? who divines the divine? have we forgotten the aggadita of the bat kol – lo b’shamayim hee?

  171. Dancing and singing with Sifrei Torah on Simchas Torah is supposed to symbolize the “love affair” between Klal Yisroel and HaShem “personified” by the Sifrei Torah.
    Unfortunately, for many Yidden, this love affair turns out to be an annual “one night stand”, and very often, a drunken one night stand at that.
    While many women feel they are missing out on a highly spiritual experience, take it from me,(an old geezer) you ain’t missing nothin’ spiritual and are lucky to be able to just witness the noisy, sweaty, chaos at a distance.

  172. In other words, Steve, “the game is rigged” (to use a common expression and not to be taken literally) because even if it can be shown that it is halachally permissible for a woman to do X, it will be forbidden on a meta-halachic basis.

    It is no wonder that people stopped waiting for permission, once a defensible halachic path finally opened at the beginning of the 21st century. As a woman who calls herself Chani from Israel commented on Harry Maryles’ blog:

    I am a 45 year old woman, raised in a yeshivish environment, who is not seeking greater shul participation, despite struggling to accept my utter insignificance to communal worship. However, I have spent two decades teaching “yeshivish to modern” young ladies in high school and college. They concern me. Mark my words, the watershed issue that will plague Orthodoxy in the decades to come will be the role of women. I know this younger generation. They are not flirting with Conservatism. But they are strong, ambitious young women who are not afraid to reach above them. My generation has given up. The next generation is murmuring. But my granddaughters to be will not be satisfied.
    That you R’Harry for bringing up this topic. It MUST be addressed seriously. The coming generations will require leaders of great learning, stature, and courage to acknowledge this burgeoning problem and prevent it from becoming a crisis. Wishing it away won’t make it so.

    I am hopeful that R. Broyde is part of the solution, not a perpetuator of the problem.

  173. R’ Ruvie,
    But on the other hand we also need to worry about orthodox sheilaism :
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheilaism

    As usual, History will pasken b’olam hazeh, HKB”H in olam haba.
    KT

  174. steve b. – “hardly a great logical leap to compare ST to a Siyum or Hakhel ..”
    if its hakhel – women i believe are obligated in this time bound mitzvah(kiddushin 34a). does that mean you would agree that they equal standing in celebrating like men? also rejoicing on festivals is a positive commandment applicable to women (also kiddushin 34a) – so nu – let them celebrate per your statement.

  175. In other words, Steve, “the game is rigged” (to use a common expression and not to be taken literally) because even if it can be shown that it is halachally permissible for a woman to do X, it will be forbidden on a meta-halachic basis.
    ==================================
    R’IH,
    I suppose the question is (which is nicely finessed by your use of the passive voice) is who gets to decide on the meta-halachic acceptability. My take is historically it’s been a somewhat subconcious dance between Rabbis and the people but given our increased communication, documentation and self awareness, it will be much harder to paper over practice inconsistent with what would have been expected simply based on reading sources.
    KT

  176. R’ Joel- “As usual, History will pasken b’olam hazeh, HKB”H in olam haba.”

    of course but also many chachamin believe hashem is the hand of history (not rabbis – my addition). for history our gedolim have a worse batting average than the bronx bombers of late in the last 400 or so years at major transformation points of jewish history – i believe 0-4. that does not mean they were not great gedolim – just they were on the wrong side of it.

  177. Ruvie asked:

    “is it- i assume you me hashem? who divines the divine? have we forgotten the aggadita of the bat kol – lo b’shamayim hee”

    See Bava Basra 133b and Rashbam’s description of how HaShem aides the Chachamim in rendering a proper decision.

  178. Ruvie asked:

    “steve b. – “hardly a great logical leap to compare ST to a Siyum or Hakhel ..”
    if its hakhel – women i believe are obligated in this time bound mitzvah(kiddushin 34a). does that mean you would agree that they equal standing in celebrating like men? also rejoicing on festivals is a positive commandment applicable to women (also kiddushin 34a) – so nu – let them celebrate per your statement”

    I merely observed that one could easily locate a basis for celebrating ST in the same fashion as commemorating a Siyum or celebrating Hakhel. I am not sure that is relevant or even related to whether a woman is obligated in Mitzvas Simcha on YT, but one cannot claim that a woman has a greater obligation to study Torah than men,which is clearly the key element of a celebration either at a Siyum or ST.As far as Hakhel is concerned, the Talmud tells us that women and children celebrated, but out of a different sense of observance and commemoration than men.

  179. R’ Ruvie,
    Yes, R’YBS was famously quoted on that being the reason he left agudah for mizrachi. However, I’m not sure that one can easily say which events HKB”H intervenes on and which he just shakes his head at 🙂
    KT

  180. IH wrote:

    “In other words, Steve, “the game is rigged” (to use a common expression and not to be taken literally) because even if it can be shown that it is halachally permissible for a woman to do X, it will be forbidden on a meta-halachic basis”

    One cannot deny that metahalachic considerations either permit or prohibit a practice that halacha may either permit or deny. As RHS always points out, what was Mutar years ago may be Assur today, and vice versa.

  181. IH wrote:

    “In other words, Steve, “the game is rigged” (to use a common expression and not to be taken literally) because even if it can be shown that it is halachally permissible for a woman to do X, it will be forbidden on a meta-halachic basis”

    Actually, there is an additional flaw to the “game is rigged” analogy. There are many Mitzvos , Issurim,and Minhagim which men and women observe, on a Rabbinic level, even though they may be exempt from doing so on a Torah level, and many Mitzvos on a Torah level, whose observance is defined throughout Jewish history by Rabbinic interpretation in each age.

  182. I suppose the question is (which is nicely finessed by your use of the passive voice) is who gets to decide on the meta-halachic acceptability. My take is historically it’s been a somewhat subconcious dance between Rabbis and the people but given our increased communication, documentation and self awareness, it will be much harder to paper over practice inconsistent with what would have been expected simply based on reading sources.

    R’ Joel — 25 years ago, I was more worried than I am now. It is working itself out in the same way as previous major challenges to the status quo such as Chassidism and Zionism.

    To add a layer of thinking: 25 years ago even the most open-minded of MO Rabbis were unable to offer anything more than sympathy and calls for patience. But, with no tachlis there was a real danger that people would just pick up and leave (and some did). WTG’s broke some of the tension by offering something, at least tacitly. But, it is really the chiddush of Partnership Minyanim that people for whom this is a defining issue have found a path that works without needing to go outside.

    We now have 3 paths open to people, two within Modern Orthodoxy (as the amcha defines it): WTGs and Partnership Minyanim; and the third being the non-denominational egalitarianism of Mechon Hadar. And as I have observed before, ten years in the Partnership Minyan model has broken through the sociological barrier – despite the Rabbinate, the neighborhood amcha consider it to be (LW) Modern Orthodox and not Conservadox. And, btw, the establishment shuls feel the competition.

  183. despite the Rabbinate, the neighborhood amcha consider it to be (LW) Modern Orthodox and not Conservadox. And, btw, the establishment shuls feel the competition.
    =====================================
    and to quote a gadol:
    On the other hand, how can I turn my back on my faith, my people? If I try and bend that far, I’ll break. On the other hand… No. There is no other hand.

    We shall see where the breaking point is.

    KT

  184. R’ Joel – “However, I’m not sure that one can easily say which events HKB”H intervenes …”

    Yes, but we do know which side of history the rov gedolim sided with – on shabattism, modernity, zionism, holocaust ….not that good of a record. Is Hashem shaking his head or telling them they were wrong?

  185. If I knew that,…..
    KT

  186. Michael Broyde

    I continue my promise to Jerry to read and comment on the various replies to my post. I hope to do so once a day, if I can.

    1.David Gold’s (Oct 16 at 10:46) observation is worthy of comment, but I am unworthy of commenting!

    2. TI, whose comment follows, is mistaken.

    3. Sharon addresses the question of parshat zachor. The following is fairly clear: those who maintain women are obligated maintain that no torah scroll is needed. See the formulation of Rama on this topic.

    4. Chakira’s question is a good one, but unrelated to the question at hand, and whose answer is complex.

    5. Rabbi Katz’s posting is worthwhile, and I endorse much of Harold W reply posted a few posts later. But, in fact, my view is even simpler, and it reflects some confusion in Rabbi Katz’s post. He confuses WHY people want to do mitzvot, and how to do them, with WHY people do non-mitzvot and how to do them. These to questions are totally different. I have no idea why Moshe begged to be allowed into the land of Israel, but I know for certain that entry is a mitzvah – and I know as well that comforting the sick is a mitzvah to be done effectively. Why one does mitzvot varies from person to person, and Chazal were comfortable with many different motives, including selfish one. But, Rabbi Katz then jumps to the heart of our matter by confusing why and how one does a mitzvah with why and how one does a non-mitzvah. Having conceded that when he gets an aliyah, he feels many spiritual feelings, he wonders why women cannot have those good feelings too. But, that exactly misses the point – it puts the feelings over the mitzvah and that is exactly what I oppose. Why one does a mitzvah is between the doer and God. When it comes to non-mitzvot – and even more sharply, when there is a clear custom that this person should not to do this act – one cannot respond merely by claiming some spiritual value as a reason to breach the custom. The example I used with Channah Luntz is one of many here. Why can’t a man put on Tefillin on Yom Tov shelo leshem mitzvah if it gives him a spiritual high? It seems very comparable to the matter of women layning from a torah without brachot. Let me give you another. The Rama seems to indicate that a non-Kohein who duchens with a kohein does no avera (OC 128:1) and let us assume that is the normative halacha. How should we as a community respond to the claims of a person that he gets spiritual joy out of duchaning? Well, I think it depends if he is a Kohein or not. Even if the Rama is correct, and even if one showed me that there was vast simchat yom tov in allowing this non-kohein to duchen, and even if you were to tell me that it is a kiyum of the mitzvah of Talmud torah (as torah verses are read) and even if you were to tell me that this non-kohein would not recite the bracha, I would still tell you that such conduct is unwise and improper and should not be done in any Orthodox shul. Rabbi Katz, would you agree that you would never lechatchela allow a zar to duchen, even if it brought all these spiritual and religious values? Why?

    6.Baruch Alster. Women dancing with a sefer torah is much less of an issue, but still an issue, exactly because we have no custom or practice that women do not touch a sefer torah and thus it is only a line drawing problem. Much different from layning.

    7.Shachar. I think against the rule of berov am is the rule of mitzvah bo yoter meshelucho and I would encourage your daughter to learn to read a megillah for herself. Men too.

    8. Meir. Your final sentence is not correct. For some ancient reason, this does not apply. See the many rishonim on this topic.

    9. I am not going to address the general questions of dancing on Yom Tov. It is an old issue with many heterim.

    10. The problem of Orthodox “Sheilaism” referred to by a few of the posts does concern me very much. That is reflected in the concern I have about divisiveness and diversity. The antidote to this is mitzvah.

    Many other posts were of value, but I lack the time to fully respond.

    The same caveats apply to this post as to my last and I lack the time to repeat them.

  187. Mair Zvi – I found your comment as to the fact that women never go to selichot and are “ushered” into the kitchen during Mincha at a shiva house offensive and unsettling. Even your own language exposes the issue – “ushered” in the passive – as in it is not an active choice to go to the kitchen. As a woman who always stays to daven in the shiva minyan (unless i have previously davened mincha as i often do it on my own given that pop up minyans do not provide a space for me) i have to stand in a separate room – you probably would never have noticed me and still believe your assumptions. You could argue that i could be proactive and ask for a mechitza, i could even make one myself on the spot, or I could join the men without one as it is not a permanent place of prayer anyways, but at the end of the day i am the minority – I’m not in the club.
    The problem with much of this conversation is that it is not acknowledging that in our orthodox world as it stands right now we still need to make an effort to “invite” women, as they have not been officially welcome for a while. We cannot just wait for them to show up.
    You all have been discussing the Holiday of Sukkot. Until recently, where I have been able to have a more active role in what my Shul does, I have approached each Sukkot with a building sense of depression and trepidation for my position on the sidelines. How am i supposed to convince my daughter that communal Jewish life is important if she never sees her Mommy do anything different in Shul than what she does at home.

  188. “The example I used with Channah Luntz is one of many here. Why can’t a man put on Tefillin on Yom Tov shelo leshem mitzvah if it gives him a spiritual high? It seems very comparable to the matter of women layning from a torah without brachot.”

    I see an important difference. No one puts on tefillin on yom tov; that not how its celebrated. But hakafot, reading the Torah, having an aliyah, dancing with the Torah is exactly how Simchat Torah is celebrated ask any 7-year old (or 37-year old) what happens on ST and they’ll tell you: hakafot, aliyot, Torah reading, dancing. So this desire is not some strange idea — it;s not let’s do something that no one does or ever did. It a desire to do what is actually done; it’s be part of the community; it’s a desire to join in what happens in shul. The comparison to tefillin on YT misses this important distinction.

  189. As I have been mentioned twice by Rabbi Broyde in his responses, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank heartily Rabbi Broyde for generously donating his time to engaging with the readers of Hirhurim. We all really benefit from Rabbi Broyde’s Torah teaching! And again, yasher koach to Rabbi Broyde for tackling this issue on behalf of all of us.

  190. Jerry has become a quasi-celebrity. And he knows it.

    (I’m kidding around.)

  191. Didn’t this post used to contain a list of mitzvah things rabbi broyde does support for women? And wasn’t one of them, evidenced now only by the dangling note 3, wearing tsitsis? I wondered why no one cmmented on that, but it seems now it’s not there. Am I making this up?

  192. Is obsequious Jerry the same person as “yawn!” Jerry?

  193. I don’t believe so. He is appreciative, not obsequious.

  194. ‘8. Meir. Your final sentence is not correct. For some ancient reason, this does not apply. See the many rishonim on this topic.’

    I made two statements. That a niddah must not look inside a sefer torah. And that not everyone has the right to dance.

    Does that mean my earlier statement is correct.

  195. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir : Rabbi Broyde replied to your Oct 17, 7:44 am statement. Very politely but clearly he told you that NONE of it is correct.

  196. I rarely write on blogs and when I do I limit myself to one posting. I don’t see much value in the endless back and forth that seems to be the norm in the blogosphere. Nevertheless, I want to make several clarifying points:

    1) R. Broyde, I’m even more confused now. Are you opposed to women reading the Torah because it is not a mitzvah or because they are breaching a minhag? In my response I was assuming that it was the former, in your most recent post, however, you are conflating them. As for the second argument, that is an old debate, whether passive inaction can be called a minhag. כבר דשו ביה רבים ואין לי מה להוסיף עליהם

    2) I don’t see how nesiat kapaim is at all comparable to our case. Kehunah is an integral component of NK, it says דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו. Therefore, if a zar were to do it, it would, of course, have absolutely no significance. Masculinity, however, plays no role in the significance of the krias hatorah experience, therefore, there is no reason why women should not partake in it as well.

    3) As for your claim for why Moshe Rabeinu was so adamant that God should let him enter Israel, chazal disagree. According to the Gemara in Sotah 14A, the reason was because he wanted to fulfill the mitzvot ha’teliyot be’Aretz, not the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.

    That’s as far as the secondary aspects of our debate are concerned. As for our main disagreement: I think we’ve both stated our positions, for you the paradigm for women’s involvement is mitzva, for me it is avodat Hashem. ירא הקהל וישפוט

  197. Your wording
    Meir : Rabbi Broyde replied to your Oct 17, 7:44 am statement. Very politely but clearly he told you that NONE of it is correct.

    His wording
    8. Meir. Your final sentence is not correct. For some ancient reason, this does not apply. See the many rishonim on this topic.

    He used the word final. You use the word NONE in capitals.

  198. I’ve always found Moshe’s request to be interesting inasmuch as he did, at times, step over the line into Israel. (Kadesh Barnea, for example, is within halakhic Israel.) I guess you have to answer that either it was only sanctified by Yehoshua and/or there were no mitzvot without actual farming, which I suppose supports R’ Katz’s view.

    rebeccah: Actually, if it’s not a shul, there’s no need for a mechitzah. Men daven in rooms with women present all the time. Standing to the side or back (to be polite) is more than enough.

    “How am i supposed to convince my daughter that communal Jewish life is important if she never sees her Mommy do anything different in Shul than what she does at home.”

    Most men don’t either, you know. And where is it written that the synagogue is the central part of Judaism? This smacks of a Christian import. Maybe the values of people calling for more inclusion in shul are off somewhat.

    Joseph: Yes, indeed- but you can say that the proper answer is: “Men doing hakafot and getting aliyot.” Until recently, no one dreamed that the answer would be anything but that. If you ask what duchaning is, the answer is not “People saying brachot” but “Kohanim saying brachot.”

    As I’ve said before, kehunah is where all claims of “halakhic egalitarianism” start to fall apart. And as a kohen, I’m going to stand foursquare against attempts to the alternative- ending kehunah, God forbid.

    emma: I definitely saw that too. Odd.

  199. r’emma,
    I suppose we will have to wait for the article, but based on this post I would expect a similar analysis. As I’ve mentioned before, it will be a lot harder now to argue that such change is organic (i.e. not externally driven), it’s a lot easier to “purely halachically justify” age old differences (why it’s ok for some time bound mitzvot but not others)
    KT

  200. My main question was whether the post changed. But a “similar analysis” would support women doing that mitzvah, no? I guess wait and see, yes. As for organic change, I think it is still very easy to rewrite history andjust ignore evidence to the contrary, esp since many ppl seem to think “psak” appplies to empirical facts (eg steves post on what is simcha). If something takes off the rabbis will still be able to justify it with explanations counterindicated by the historical recoird – if they want to.

  201. Nachum, I bet if you asked that question to 50 people of all ages (with whom you have not previously discussed this issue), very few would say “men.”

  202. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: You really do not know how to read. You wrote: “A niddah is not allowed to look at a sefer torah when hagba is done. This would prohibit her from having an aliya. Do I gather that for some MODERN [caps mine] reason this does not apply today.” Rabbi Broyde replied: “Your last senwence is incorect. For some ANCIENT reason THIS does not apply. See the many rishonim on this topic.” The “THIS” in his sentence refers to your claim that a Niddah is not allowed to look at a Sefer Torah. R. Broyde is saying that contrary to your notion that such a prohibition’s not being in force is some modern notion, already the rishonim rejected the idea that there was such a prohibition. That is, your ENTIRE comment has no basis, is incorrect, and displays a total lack of awareness of the extensive literature of the rishonim on the subject. Since you seem to need to have things spelled out, R. Broyde was politely and indirectly, but very clearly telling you, to repeat, that your ENTIRE comment is based on sheer ignorance.

  203. Lawrence Kaplan

    Nachum: Come on. In support of my brother, I am sure you remember, as I remember and many others remember, how in the “old days” (and perhaps now as well, despite our greater gender sensitivity) the gabai would ask “Has EVERYONE had an aliyah?”

  204. Nachum — not to worry, at DN your only competition for the first (or 2nd) aliyah would be from other men 🙂 On the 1st day of Succot we had 9 or 10 (male) Cohanim duchaning.

    Your claim that “kehunah is where all claims of “halakhic egalitarianism” start to fall apart” is simply risible.

  205. “emma: I definitely saw that too. Odd”

    nachum, i don’t think it’s “odd,” but rather just one more indication of how much the powers that be in israel care about women. i am usually reminded of a tupac song with unprintable lyrics about just how much “they” care about “us.”

  206. IH wrote:

    “To add a layer of thinking: 25 years ago even the most open-minded of MO Rabbis were unable to offer anything more than sympathy and calls for patience. But, with no tachlis there was a real danger that people would just pick up and leave (and some did). WTG’s broke some of the tension by offering something, at least tacitly. But, it is really the chiddush of Partnership Minyanim that people for whom this is a defining issue have found a path that works without needing to go outside.

    We now have 3 paths open to people, two within Modern Orthodoxy (as the amcha defines it): WTGs and Partnership Minyanim; and the third being the non-denominational egalitarianism of Mechon Hadar. And as I have observed before, ten years in the Partnership Minyan model has broken through the sociological barrier – despite the Rabbinate, the neighborhood amcha consider it to be (LW) Modern Orthodox and not Conservadox. And, btw, the establishment shuls feel the competition.”

    Once again, we see the inability of an intelligent person to differentiate between a Chidush and a Shinui. Assuming that either WTGs and Partnership services are recognized as such outside of certain sectors of LW MO or pose a threat to anyone other than some LW MO shuls cannot be taken seriously when an advocate of WTGs tells us that in his prominent MO community that young women are not interested in the same.

  207. Steve — As R. Katz put it so well: “Brisker Lomdus can easily slip into rather painful reductionism.”

  208. R Y Katz wrote in part:

    “Masculinity, however, plays no role in the significance of the krias hatorah experience, therefore, there is no reason why women should not partake in it as well.”

    Krias HaTorah is defined as Talmud Torah LRabim. We assume that the level of obligation for Talmud Torah is far different and more extensive for a man than a woman. That would IMO seem a very compelling reason not to allow women to partake in Krias HaTorah on any day when Krias HaTorah is part and parcel of the Tefilah.

  209. Kaplans: OK, so people were insensitive or ignorant. It doesn’t change what the facts are.

    Emma: What does Israel have to do with it?

    IH: Just wait until women start agitating to duchan. The usual suspects will crumble. At some point, someone is going to have to say “no.” And if so, why not sooner rather than later?

  210. I reject R Katz’s “reductionist” critique in its entirety. Anyone who is participating in this discussion, as in its many prior forms, either accepts or rejects the following:

    1) men and women have fundamentally different obligations in the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah.

    2) Krias HaTorah is a means of Talmud Torah LRabim, not a karaoke exercise. Assuming that a woman has the same role as a man in Talmud Torah, and especially Talmud Torah LRabim cannot be justified by any fair and objective reading of the relevant sources.

    3) Our adherence to Mitzvos and Halacha as interpreted by the Poskei Zmaneinu define and dictate what is considered one of the primary means means of Avodas HaShem.

    Like it or not, IMO, these are non-negotiable issues which much of MO, except for its noisy LW , has accepted increasingly over the years while maintaining a hashkafic identity independent from the Charedi world.

    It is reductionist when in the name of accomodating feminism, apologetics and attacks on Brisker Lomdus are used as a means for establishing a DIY Jewish identity that has no small amount of Sheilaism and feminism as the tail wagging the horse of one’s committment to MO.

  211. steve b. – “Assuming that either WTGs and Partnership services are recognized as such outside of certain sectors of LW MO or pose a threat to anyone other than some LW MO shuls cannot be taken seriously when an advocate of WTGs tells us that in his prominent MO community that young women are not interested in the same.”

    not sure what your is point here – my english comprehension i assume is at fault. where i live there are no LWMO shuls and the partnership minyan draws from mostly centrist mo shuls as well as unaffiliated. WTG will fade (not completely) if IM are available since the younger women prefer that route (as shown by their attendance). some people who attend partnership minyans happen to be also leaders- as well as baalei tefilah on occassion in their perspective MO shuls. the point is that those who attend these minyanim are considered by those in their mo circles as mo and not outside it – as well as their rabbis (even though they do not approve of it).this is just anecdotal.

  212. Nachum — If one goes down your alleged slippery slope, one eliminates liturgical roles for Kohanim, period as the concept of herditary kehuna is non-egalitarian, ipso facto, irrespective of male/female.

  213. Rabbi Katz’s comment on Oct 18 at 12:56 seems to misread Rabbi Broyde’s post.  Rabbi Broyde is fairly clear that he opposes women’s torah reading because it is not a mitzvah and is a breach of minhag yisrael and when Rabbi Katz says “are you opposed to women reading the Torah because it is not a mitzvah or because they are breaching a minhag?” that seems to be a non-sequitor.  Rabbi Broyde’s view is that minhagim not to do mitzvot are weaker than minhagim not to mimic mitzvot.  I actually thought that Rabbi Broyde’s analogy to duchaning was excellent and Rabbi Katz was wrong when he said “Masculinity, however, plays no role in the significance of the krias hatorah experience, therefore, there is no reason why women should not partake in it as well.”  Rambam in Tefillah 8:4, Shulchan Aruch 143:1 based on the gemera Megillah 23b all seem to define torah reading as a male minyan activity, no different than duchanim is a kohein activity.  Even if Rabbi Broyde is correct that as a matter of technical halacha it is not assur to violate this rule (and a zar can duchen, and a non-minyan can read), Rabbi Broyde’s central point is that his mimicry is to be frowned on.  A zar who wants to duchan as a form of avodat hashem – sincere and honest avodat hashem, let us assume – need to be told that he cannot, even if it not a technical issue.  Rabbi Katz, why?  I think Rabbi Katz has not well answered the question, assuming a zar does not violate halacha by duchaning with a kohein, why we should not let him sincerely duchen when he wants to as a form of God worship.
     

  214. I was always told that as one gets older, one moves to the “right”

    strangely, i find myself doing the opposite, but rabbi broyde seems to be makpid on keeping this minhag to the letter of the law.

    next stop on rabbi broyde’s bus, black hat city.

    cant wait to read his next p’sak

  215. correction: as well as by their rabbis

  216. nachum, i am sorry. i got confused between threads and thought you were saying the shrinking women’s section was “odd.”
    i am glad i am not imagining things re: this post. (Does R. Gil or R. Broyde have something to say about why the sentence disappeared? and isn’t it usually good internet form to say that you have edited something?)

  217. as for moshe, i never assumed that he wanted to do mitzvot hateluyot baaretz. he just wanted to go into israel to realize the promise to avraham and benei yisrael. realizing that promise actualizes a relationship with God whether or not any mitzvot are actually performed. (ie, he could have corssed in and died two seconds later and would have been happier than dying outside.)

  218. Emma — I have previously raised this issue of silent edits when I have noticed them. I agree with you, but Gil’s blog and Gil’s rules. [FTR: I did not notice it in this case so can’t corroborate this instance]

  219. Emma — R. Katz offered a Mareh Makom to justify his example, though: Sotah 14a.

  220. Ruvie wrote in part:

    “Assuming that either WTGs and Partnership services are recognized as such outside of certain sectors of LW MO or pose a threat to anyone other than some LW MO shuls cannot be taken seriously when an advocate of WTGs tells us that in his prominent MO community that young women are not interested in the same.”

    not sure what your is point here

    See my comment on Joseph Kaplan’s post on why WTGs in his community, a MO bastion, are not attracting young women, and part of Joseph Kaplan’s response.

  221. I agree with Nachum’s contention that the shul is not the center of Jewish communal life. Jewish life is dependent on committed Jewish fathers and mothers raising and inculcating Torah observance and values in their children on a daily basis, on Shabbos and the Yamim Noraim and Shalosh Regalim coupled with an intense K-12 Jewish education, coupled with the amount of secular education that a family deems appropriate in the context of their community.

    The shul is a platform for the communal performance of Tefilah and Talmud Torah, as well as the enhancement of the community’s adherence to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim by a capable LOR. A community that is shul centered without a committment to Torah, Avodah and Gmilus Chasadim is at best a superficial committment. I seem to recall that none less than RSRH advocated emphasizing the centrality of a Torah education, even if it meant closing shuls in the process.

    Obsessing unduly on the public communal function of who does what in shul at the expense of a proper education of ourselves and our children not just in a Torah education, but in proper Torah values, strikes me as one of the issues of our time in which one need not blindly become a Charedi, but simply realize that no matter where we define our hashkafic POV, we all need to draw lines in the sand and declare proudly that our autonomy and identity in no small part depends on our living in a religious, intellectual and cultural ghetto from which we have the right to question whether the latest cultural trends, are consistent with our values. Stated otherwise, perhaps we need more discussions on Mitzvos that have been part and parcel of a Jewish woman’s identity as opposed to suggesting that a woman can only serve HaShem by imitating a man.

  222. steve,

    “we all need to draw lines in the sand”

    why? who says? rabbis and leaders of the past moved lines all the time.

    “we have the right to question….we need more discussion….”

    great steve, go on, keep on questioning and pondering and discussing – if that makes you feel better, all the while your daughters sit at home

    “Suggesting that a woman can only serve HaShem by imitating a man”

    this makes me think you completely miss the point of this debate – and is quite condescending too. shame.

  223. Ksil- As a matter of personal privacy, I never comment on the choices and lives of our children. Yet, it cannot be denied that we all make choices as to what we permit and prohibit, and view as priorities and luxuries in our homes and lives. That is what is called the ability to make Havdalah, which is as important as endowing an object or day with Kedusha.

    Obviously, you view anyone who is a full time parent or who works but close to home as inferior to someone who works but rarely sees her kids and family. That represents a profoundly feminist, and decidedly problematic POV, from any conception of a traditional Jewish family.

    The entire point of the debate , as framed by R Broyde, is that it is wrong to emphasize a ritual for women that is obviously imitative of a man’s obligation, as opposed to enhancing the many opportunities for Avodas HaShem that women have. I don’t the Torah is condescending at all when Mitzvos Ase SheHazman Grama are male obligations-rather the Torah is telling us in no uncertain terms that men are obligated in the same because of their inferior spiritual nature and deficiencies as depicted in many parshiyos of the Torah.

  224. “you view anyone who is a full time parent or who works but close to home as inferior to someone who works but rarely sees her kids and family”

    not sure which part of my comment gave that impression, but that is not the case.

    “…problematic POV…. of a traditional Jewish family”

    ahhhh…..here we are. the “traditional jewish family” you speak of is not what it was 25 years ago, 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 500 years ago. yuo are defining traditional. girls in bais yaakov?!?!? NEVER! women work outside the home??!?!? LOL!! the list is a mile long (and not only women issues on that list)

    you can choose to cement your feet in the (madeup) traditonal family, but you will be left in the dust of history, as time will show.

    “inferior spiritual nature ”

    further condescending. this is apolegetics and gross. its a shame people actually BELIEVE it.

    you can follow rabbi broyde to lakewood. have fun with them.

  225. I have not been able to keep up with comments but someone asked me about the changes to this post. Nothing has changed and no one has edited it.

  226. “Krias HaTorah is a means of Talmud Torah LRabim, not a karaoke exercise. Assuming that a woman has the same role as a man in Talmud Torah, and especially Talmud Torah LRabim cannot be justified by any fair and objective reading of the relevant sources.”

    I notice that you speak about “same” role thus implying, that women have some role, albeit less than a man’s role, in TT and TTLR. If that is so, what is wrong with two separate services,each one led by those with similar obligations? Or do you believe that women have NO role with respect to these matters?

  227. “See my comment on Joseph Kaplan’s post on why WTGs in his community, a MO bastion, are not attracting young women, and part of Joseph Kaplan’s response.”

    Of course, if you look at all, and not just a part, of my response you’ll see, I think that Ruvie and I agree that with respect to some younger women, the reason for their lack of participation in WTGs is that they have become involved withand support partnership minyanim.

  228. JK – i would add that in the last 10 years partnership minyans have become more acceptable now than inception in the mo community – for extent and purposes those that attend are the same that send their kids to mo schools, camps and have participated – and still do – in regular mo shuls. religious young women have no problem joining as well as graduates from yu. how big it grows only time will tell.
    in the old days WTG has much more controversial for some reason in the mo community – probably because they needed to be housed in an orthodox shul in many cases.

  229. as well as graduates from yu.
    ==================================
    Funny you should mention that – Pres. Joel’s state of the university talk iirc mentioned something about people feeling comfortable there and I wondered if there were any lines to the left and or right that were unbreakable (e.g. I seem to recall you used to need to have a real BA to go for smicha and have been told that this is no longer the case-anyone know?)
    KT

  230. Joseph Kaplan-you did offer two reasons why women are not attracted to WTGs-either because they aren’t interested in all or because of partnership minyanim. I should have noted that the former comment was one of the reasons that you mentioned.

    You also raised the following query-which I will clarify for you and all interested:

    “I notice that you speak about “same” role thus implying, that women have some role, albeit less than a man’s role, in TT and TTLR. If that is so, what is wrong with two separate services,each one led by those with similar obligations? Or do you believe that women have NO role with respect to these matters?”

    I wrote that men and women have vastly different obligations in Talmud Torah, and that women have no obligation whatsoever in Talmud Torah LRabim. I think that R Broyde ( and many other Poskim such as RHS ) would agree that a women’s only service ( aka a WTG) would be problematic for at least the reason as being imitative of the classical Krias HaTorah and would deprive women of the benefit of hearing a real Krias HaTorah with the accompanying status and kiyum of an Eino Mtzuveh Voseh.

  231. Joseph Kaplan-It should be noted that while in some MO schools as well as SCW women study Talmud , such a develpment obviously has no relevance on the fact that the Talmud, Rishonim and Poskim all assume as a given that the obligation to study Torah is vastly different between men and women. Men, not women, are obligated to study not just Halacha Psukah, but rather the ins and the the outs, the Have Ameninah and the Maskanah, and have a special obligation of Talmud Torah LRabim in Krias HaTorah. Women can learn all of Shas and SA inside out if they want after learning the Halachos relevant to their lives, but are by no means on the same level of obligation as men with respect to the Mitzvah of TT.

  232. “I don’t the Torah is condescending at all when Mitzvos Ase SheHazman Grama are male obligations – rather the Torah is telling us in no uncertain terms that men are obligated in the same because of their inferior spiritual nature and deficiencies as depicted in many parshiyos of the Torah.”

    RSB – Let me get this straight. The torah is telling us in NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that men are spiritually inferior to women. REALLY?

  233. Gil, there was definitely something about how R. Broyde with, inter alia, tzitzit in the future.

    IH: Re: Kehunah: Exactly.

  234. BTW RSB, do you know what is the source in chazal for the claim that women are exempt from mitzvot asey shehazman grama because they are spiritually superior? A midrash in yalkut shmuel whose meaning is disputed. The magen avraham in his pirush on yalkut zeys ra’anon reads this midrash as explaining that women are exempt from mitzvot asey shehazman grama because they are spirtually inferior. Apparently, not having access to blogs, the magan avraham was unaware of what the torah teaches “in no uncertain terms”

  235. On Steve’s recent set of comments, I am reminded of something I found very moving and informative. Watch 00:57 to 03:53 of

    (Tali Kahane on Rav Shagar’s shiur).

  236. yes, there was a list of all sorts of halachically significant things women can/should be encouraged to do first, including megillah, lulav, sukkah, shofar, kiddush, kaddish, and i believe tsitsit.

  237. emma – they are not all equal in importance.

  238. ruvie, i am just talking about a ghost sentence that i believe was once here. not evaluating the substance. (and that would be hard since the sentence itself is not here.)

  239. aj-I have seen that Magen Avraham, but one can argue just as convincingly that many of the Mitzvos Aseh Shehazman Grama were given to address the lack of faith of men at episodes in the Torah where the women displayed greater faith than men. One need not resort to a Midrash to see that women are considered of an inherently greater spiritual nature than men, but rather look at the Parshiyos of the Avos and Imahos, and see how the roles and actions of the Imahos displayed a greater spiritual level than the Avos. One cannot deny who the Torah describes as having spiritual shortcomings and the need for special mitzvos given in the aftermath to address that fact,and concomitantly, who were steadfast in their faith in the episodes of the Golden Calf, the spies, Korach, and their desire for a portion of EY.

  240. AJ-look at R Schwalb ZL on Tefilah re Sheani Kirtzono as well where R Schwalb ZL clearly posits that Kirtzono means a woman is thanking HaShem for creating her on a higher spiritual level than a man.

  241. The MB 88:7 who brings the chayai odom is unaware of all these anonymous rishonim and states very clearly that they shouldnt be looking at a sefer torah during hagbe without any dissenting opinion.
    Before one argues with such great achronim one has to be on their level. So Mr Kaplan unless you are, and can prove your point, the whole idea of a woman having an aliya while she is a nidda is preposterous.

  242. Nachum: You mean footnote 3???

  243. There was a different sentence to which footnote 3 originally belonged.

  244. “I wrote that men and women have vastly different obligations in Talmud Torah, and that women have no obligation whatsoever in Talmud Torah LRabim.”

    As a matter of fact, that’s NOT what you wrote. What you ACTUALLY wrote was: “Assuming that a woman has the same role as a man in Talmud Torah, and especially Talmud Torah LRabim cannot be justified by any fair and objective reading of the relevant sources.” There was nothing in this about “vastly different roles” — just that they’re not the same — and w/ respect to TTLR, you said nothing about “no obligation whatsoever,” just that they were “especially” not the same. But that’s par for the course. In any event, thanks for clarifying that you think women have no role in TTLR.

  245. see my comment of 10:08 pm yesterday and 4:01 today describing.

  246. RSB: You wrote “the Torah is telling us in no uncertain terms.” Now you argue that in your opinion, “one can argue just as convincingly” and cite R Schwab. In other words, the torah does not take your position in no uncertain terms….Indeed, even if you had a quote from RYBS supporting your position, this would not necessarily imply that the torah was telling us anything in no uncertain terms. As a relevant example, one of the baalei hatosfos interprets breishit 1:27 in the opposite manner RYBS’ does, even though RYBS is often cited (including by you if i recall correctly) to support the claim that the torah views women as spiritually equal (not superior) to men.

    Meir: Are you not going to note the source for the c”a and the source for saying they shouldn’t go to cemeteries before using terms like preposterous?

  247. “Joseph Kaplan-you did offer two reasons why women are not attracted to WTGs-either because they aren’t interested in all or because of partnership minyanim. I should have noted that the former comment was one of the reasons that you mentioned.”

    I did offer two reasons, as you say. They are based on many conversations with many younger women I have had over the past few years. You take me at my word with respect to the reason that some women give which firs into your philosophy, but you seem to reject my empirical experience with respect to the other reason which does not. You don’t have to, of course, agree that what these women are doing is right or that their reasoning is right. But you should, at least, accept the fact that there are plenty of younger women — women who take learning and davening and shmirat mitzvit seriously — who have given up WTG because they believe that partnership minyanim is the way to go. I make no predictions what will be the case in 10 or 20 or 30 years.

  248. emma – i was commenting to your line on – “…encouraged to do first, including megillah, lulav, sukkah, shofar, kiddush, kaddish, and i believe tsitsit.”

    z’man grama issues that women are not obligated but if done there is a kiyum are: shema, tefilin,tzizit, lulav, shofar,sukkah and omer. is there any reason to exclude tzizit or tefilin? (this is not a recommendation that women should do them)

    megillah – rabbinic – is an obligation and kiddush is a biblical obligation (even though they a z’man grama issues women are obligated in both like men). also women are obligated in biblical z’man grama mitzvot like fasting on yom kippur, matza, rejoicing on festivals, hakehal, and korban pesach. rabbinic z’man grama obligations for women: haalel pesach night, 4 cups, chanukah lighting, reading megilat esther.

    if you included tzizit – why not include tefilin?

  249. emma – I should add the rambam in sefer hamitzvot show 14 positive mitzvot that women are exempt – i left out 6 which are quasi related to time:
    study of torah, king to write a torah, kohanim to bless the people, p’ru u’revu, chatan to xelebrate with his wife for a year, and circumcision of sons.

  250. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: I just spelled out what R. Broyde said in his reply to you. Your quarrel is with him and not with me.

    As to the substance of your point: Let me quote the Rema which the MB you cited is appended.

    Note: There are those who wrote that a woman should not during the days of her period enter a synagogue or pray … or touch a Sefer Torah. And there are those who say that she is permitted to do ALL these activities. AND THIS IS THE PRIMARY VIEW(VE-KHEN IKKAR). But the custom in our communities is to follow the first view.

    So here we have it black on white that the main view (ve-khen ikkar) is that a woman is permitted to touch a Sefer Torah, but the custom developed in some communities that she should not do so. Your ignoring this clear statement does not reflect very well on you. Anonymous rishonim, indeed!

  251. That line was a paraphrase of a sentence nachum and I recall from reading the post originally but now can’t find.

  252. based on RMB’s model or criteria communities should not bring new rituals for women when:

    “absent a mitzvah component, I am more leery of implementing ritual conduct that might be divisive and is untraditional.” we also need to add the mimic of men (without fulfilling a mitzvah).

    4 prong criteria – no mitzvah, mimics men, untraditional and divisive equals unwise.

    the question is what else is possible? tzizit or tefilin? megilah for women by women is ok but ST torah reading is problematic. the list of positive commandments above- where women are not obligated – offers possibilities.

    question: if a new ritual is introduce that is untraditional but does not mimic men but fails to meet the mitzvah requirement – what do we do?- would Amen groups fall into this category? does women davening together also meet this category (no torah reading)? can other rituals be added in this category – the post does not deal with this issue. i would guess that this category may be greater than the previous category over time. would trusttes and officers (president may have it own issue for serrarah for some but not all) also fall into this category (not a ritual but synagogue life)?

    is RMB’s criteria limited to rituals and/or rituals in the synagogue? i assume he has no problems with women mimicking men with no mitzvot in the public sphere in general: like yoatzot, public office – including or not prime minister or president, voting… all of these had been historically problematic in the religious community. the post is silent on this as well (this is not a complaint just an observation that this was not the topic but could be addressed in a brief matter).

  253. ””Note: There are those who wrote that a woman should not during the days of her period enter a synagogue or pray … or touch a Sefer Torah. And there are those who say that she is permitted to do ALL these activities. AND THIS IS THE PRIMARY VIEW(VE-KHEN IKKAR). But the custom in our communities is to follow the first view.

    So here we have it black on white that the main view (ve-khen ikkar) is that a woman is permitted to touch a Sefer Torah, but the custom developed in some communities that she should not do so. Your ignoring this clear statement does not reflect very well on you. Anonymous rishonim, indeed!””’

    I think there may be a difference between touching a closed sefer torah which even the MB would allow than looking at an open one, which would include having an aliya.
    Anyway if you are right that that is the opinion of the r’mo. What ‘right’ have you got to go against the MB and chayai odom unless you find some other achron who disagrees with them.

  254. Emma: I repeat: the post was not changed

  255. and yes i forgot, the bat mitzvah which fails the test of the 4 criteria (is it a ritual in shul or next door matter in this case?). how does that work (not withstanding ROY claim of a seudat mitzvah)? silence in the comment section on this matter.

  256. correction: last line should read- would RMB be so kind to explain this.

  257. Since I cant edit comments. After having thought about it since the r’mo mentions touching. If the MB would not allow it he would mention it. Therefore he only does not allow looking into one which precludes a nidda having an aliya.
    BTW the r’mo happens to be an achron albeit an early one.

  258. RMB’s meta-halakhic principles in deciding issues that are permitted technically, but perhaps innovative, seem (in short) to be the promotion of actual mitzvot & the avoidance of divisive activity unless the result is a mitzvah. I don’t find that an especially compelling rubric for halakhic decision making (for some of the broader principals articulated by R. Katz in the comments); however, even if one takes his principles are correct, I would suggest the following:

    1. This blog post is a lot more divisive – in the context of a modern orthodox shul – than a WTG on simchat torah (i.e., interested people go, a very few object and many don’t care either way). Having a founding Rabbi of a shul make public pronouncements (i.e., this post) against the current Rabbi’s decision seems a lot more divisive than allowing a group of women to have a parallel torah reading.

    2. Promoting actual mitzvot – even if one is in agreement with the “no fake mitzvot” idea, I’d think that a posek like R. Broyde would be broad enough in his thinking to appreciate that allowing women to participate in these groups makes it more likely that they will continue to actively participate in the Orthodox community & continue to actively do mitzvot (rather than either leaving Orthodoxy completely or passively opting out – i.e., women who have resigned themselves to coming to shul for kiddush and that’s it.)

  259. Gil, fair enough. My recent comments have not been intended to doubt you but to clarify what I had been saying for those who took. It to mean something else. but I am now thoroughly confused abt my memory, apparently not unique to me. One of lifes mysteries i guess.

  260. Emma and Gil,
    I also remember the line Emma is referring to. Could Rabbi Broyde have edited the post without mentioning it to you?

    Jesse A.

  261. hannah, excellent points!

    I find it unbelievable, that rabbi broyde would not permit or ENCOURAGE this type of behavior from his female congregants. were they lighting matches on saturday, that would be one thing, but for gods sakes, they want to READ FROM THE TORAH! they want to participate in religious life! imagine the impact that has on their children! and their black hat neighbors children!

    we can participate! yes, we were not born with male parts, but we can get close to hashem too, without breaknig the laws.

    as i said earlier, broyde is moving to the right, but will leave many behind him – which is a shame, becasue he had a big following

  262. No. The only people with the passwords are me and R. Enkin. Additionally, WordPress maintains version history and I can see that it was not revised. Also, R. Broyde sent it to me in a Word document which I still have. Maybe you guys are thinking of some comment or a different post.

  263. ksil: “as i said earlier, broyde is moving to the right”

    Hah! By not permitting specific new practices he’s moving to the right. Talk about a shifting field. That’s how R. Aryeh Frimer and R. Yehudah Henkin also got pushed aside as “moving to the right”. Anyone who isn’t on board with every new innovation is shoved aside as a right-winger.

    It’s even more laughable than when people call me Charedi even though RWMO people think I’m too far to the left.

  264. hirhurim, you can call yourself whatever you want, my friend.

    pray tell, what is “modern” about you?

    in my opinion, “modern” does not mean where you are in a point in time hashkafically, but what DIRECTION one is moving. are you digging your heals in? or are you becoming more open, more modern, adapting to the (ever changing) world?

    becasue that is the key – the world changes, are we moving with the world? or fighting it at every turn?

    oh, you went to college? you say celebrate yom haatzmaut? shkoyach! but you seem to be moving to the right. of course you cant see it, you are nogeya bedavar…but many of us out here can

  265. I don’t think R. Broyde is moving to the right. In the subset of his previous articles/posts I have read, he is skilled at capturing and presenting non-mainstream views, but he ultimately plays it safe in his conclusion.

    This piece — which as I said at the very beginning — does not meet the excellent standard that he has previously established in my view.

    But, this is not because his position is any more right-wing than in the past. It is because this piece only mouths the right-wing establishment view without his usual skilled balancing act.

    Perhaps those who know him personally have reason to believe he is, or was, more Modern than the establishment position, but I have never gotten that impression.

    The shame of it is that R. Bryode has the skills and now the experience to become the halachic leader than American Modern Orthodoxy needs. I remain hopeful he will rise to that challenge.

  266. look, does rabbi broyde know the mishna berurah by heart? yes. is he smart? yes.

    but a leader needs to do more than just “pasken”. he needs to have vision, and sometimes that vision and guidance is not comfortable – but a strong leader will do the right thing, in the face of potential critisism. he tried to do that with his women hair covering thing, but as mentioned above, he weaves in and out of his logical arguments, you end up at the same place you started, and he doesnt say what people wanted him to say. he just said women have to cover their hair, perios. end of story. but becasue it was on 65 pages – one got the impression he was looking for a reason to be meikel. he didnt, of course.

    so at the end of the day, he is smart. he knows halacha. a gorisah shkoyach.

    meanwhile, my daughters still sit at home with nothing to do saturday morning

  267. “Maybe you guys are thinking of some comment or a different post.”

    this is entirely possible, but was hoping by posting someone would recall what that was…

  268. R. Broyde does not need me to defend him. It is shameful that those who do not agree with him impugn his character and/or motives. I personally do not agree with his conclusions and analysis in this case( to paraphrase R. Broyde, I can state this because the alternate opinion also has support in Halacha). However, he has stated his case and addressed the objections. His writings reflect his willingness to address serious issues in a rational non-dogmatic fashion as well as his tremendous erudition. We don’t have to agree, but he is someone who deserves to be heard, strongly considered and above all respected.

  269. Your comment about moving Rabbi Broyde moving to the right is based on an underlying premise that the left-wing practices being innovated are the coming from some kind of normal consensus and the opposition is new. To the contrary, with these practices, they are challenging established traditional and “discriminatory” practices of Judaism.

  270. ksil – maybe leadership is defending current practice and not embracing every innovation known to humankind.

  271. rafael, “every innovation known….”

    LOL

    do me a favor, do a poll in your office, ask all of them (non religious jews, christians, seculars, whatever) what they think about a religious service that effectively excludes their moms, daughters, wives and sisters….now ask them what they think if the “Rabbis” did not “let” them do their OWN service, not in the presence of men.

    let me know what they think

  272. Who cares what they think? Judaism should not be subject to opinion polls. On the basis of what you just wrote, we should permit homosexual relationships since for the general public, that ship has sailed already. Give me a break.

  273. first, we do change things as morality changes, slavery, multiple wives, statutory rape, etc

    question: do we permit someone that is homosexual to participate in the services on saturday? how about someone that cheats in business? or cheats on his wife? how about women? no?!?!? LOL

    are you “modern orthodox”? because your inability to see and grasp that women and men are equal is striking. morality has changed. when the talmud was written that wasnt the case. we better change, or we are dead.

  274. The topic of Bat Mitzva has come up a number of times in this thread. In shul today, 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.

  275. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: Again, your quarrel is with R. Broyde. The Rema may be an early aharon but he quotes the views of rishonim who maintain that there is no prohobition for a women to touch a Sefer Torah and says that it is the primary view. Thus, contrary to your initial assertion which you appear to have very quietly dropped, the idea that there is no such prohibition is, as R. Broyde noted, NOT a modern idea but an ancient one.

  276. Why change the subject.
    Is a niddah allowed to have an aliya or not.
    If you have an answer say yes or no.
    If its yes prove it.
    Unlike others if I think others are right I admit it. I dont cling to my views for the ‘sake’ of it.
    I now say she may touch a sefer torah like the r’mo. No one argues with that. The title of this post is Torah reading not holding or touching.
    So unless every women is going to announce whether she is a nidda or not it just isnt practical.

  277. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: The issue at hand was your initial claim that the view that a women’s being a niddah does not bar her from access to a Sefer Torah is a only a contemporary one. Your view having been thoroughly disproved, it is you who are changing the issue. You also have, not surprisingly, never addressed my reiterated point that your argument is with R. Broyde and not with me,

    As for your current question: I, unlike R. Broyde, am not a posek. What I can say is that the poskim of Modern Orthodoxy follow the view that the Rema himself describes as “ve-khen ikkar,” despite the fact that the Rema says that the practice “Bi-medinoteinu” is not that way. If these poskim rule that a woman cannot have an aliyah, it is not because she is a niddah, which in their view is a non-issue, but because of other considerations, like kevod ha-tzibbur. There is an entire literature out there about this, of which you are evidently unaware.

  278. Again evading the issue. The MB also says the minhag is like the ‘vchain ikkor’ and not like the r’mo’s minhag.
    But even so the nidda is not allowed to look at the sefer torah which would preclude her from having an aliya.
    In whose view is her being a nidda a non issue. Not the MB or chayai odom. There may be other issues why a woman cannot have an aliya, I dont dispute that, and I dont know why you bring that up.
    I keep to the subject at hand. And that is can a nidda look at a sefer torah. The rmo only mentions touch. The MB doesnt say he disagrees with that but does not allow ‘looking’.
    It is quite simple, and no reason to make it sound complicated which usually happens when ones strays from the point at hand.

  279. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: You got it exactly backwards. Reread the Rema.

    You further missed my point. It was that that those MO poskim, like Rabbis Lichtenstein, Henkin, and Broyde, who oppose giving women aliyot, oppose it on such grounds as kevod ha-tzibbur, but they never bring up the issue of niddah. For them it is non-issue. Believe it or not, the MB is not the last word on this issue.

  280. Please dont talk in riddles or half statements or we will never get finished. If I have got something backwards explain exactly what you mean. How you understand me and what I have got wrong and what you consider correct. I dont know where I have gone wrong or what you term backwards.
    Dont you want to get to the bottom of it. Or do you want to just drag it out.
    If the MB is not the last word then tell us who is and why.

    I have already said I will be ‘mode al hoemes’ but youre not telling us what it is.

  281. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: My pleasure. The Rema states with reference to the view that a wona is permitted to perform all these activities “ve-khen ikkar.”

    As for who has the final word on these issues in the contemporary MO community, I provided a few names. Since the MB is speaking about a minhag that is not mandated by ikkar ha-din, these poskim feel free to disregard it in light of changed circumstances. Again, why ask me? I am not a posek. Why not ask R. Broyde? Oh yes, I forgot. You have studiously refrained from mentioning his name.

  282. First of all you dont seem to have read my posts. Or at least you dont answer directly. The only way to get straight answers it seems is to make them point by point.
    1 The R’mo only mentions touching. correct.
    2 The R’mo does not mention looking. correct.
    3 The MB also paskens like the r’mo that v’chain ikar.
    4 The MB doesnt mention touching that means its allowed correct.
    5 The MB says looking is not allowed. correct.
    6 The MB infers that the r’mo agrees with this since he doesnt mention looking. And the MB and chayai odom would hardly argue with a rmo. And the r’mo also says that his own minhag is even more lchumra.
    7 these poskim feel free to disregard it in light of changed circumstances WHAT CHANGED CIRCUMSTANCES.

  283. Lawrence Kaplan

    Meir: Why in the world are you addressing these questions to me? All I did was to explicate R. Broyde’s reply to you. Speaking about being evasive! Tol korah mi-beyn eynekha.

    As for your points: Again you have it exactly backward. If looking at a ST is forbidden, how much more so is touching. Do you really think there is a SINGLE person in the entire world who would say that a Niddah is not allowed to look at a Sefer Torah, but is allowed to touch it?

    “What changed circumstances?”–in caps yet. If you really do not understand what has changed in the circumstances of Orthodox women between the Eastern Europe of the MB and 21 century America, you are living on different planet than I dare say all the other contributors to this blog.

  284. Joseph Kaplan wrote in part:

    “I did offer two reasons, as you say. They are based on many conversations with many younger women I have had over the past few years. You take me at my word with respect to the reason that some women give which firs into your philosophy, but you seem to reject my empirical experience with respect to the other reason which does not”

    Time will tell. I suspect that beyond the self defined limits and hashkafic world of LW MO, WTGS and partnership Minyanimn are just not the main priority of most seminary and college educated MO women.

  285. We finally agree: time will tell.

  286. .””’ Do you really think there is a SINGLE person in the entire world who would say that a Niddah is not allowed to look at a Sefer Torah, but is allowed to touch it?”’
    That is exactly what I have been saying all along.
    I dont understand what you are saying that because circumstances have changed so has the torah.

    Well it took a long time and many posts. I dont think I have anything further to add.

  287. Rabbi Broyde recently published a scholarly and expanded version of this post which I read with great interest. Interestingly, the only academic scholarship on this issue in keeping with a view that embraces the opposite conclusion (with respect to women laining and receiving aliyyot) comes from Orthodox Israeli scholars such as Daniel Sperber, Professor Emerita at Bar Ilan University. Sperber’s work (and that of other scholars) demonstrates that the primary sources, the medieval commentators and even the Shulhan Arukh contain a basis for a different practice. These scholars also reach different conclusions on the sociology which are as applicable in the United States as in Israel. In fact, it is also interesting that scholars who hold the same position as Rabbi Broyde are also beginning to provide a culturally nuanced rationale in articulating their positions. Although not all Orthodox shules will be receptive to this line of thought, perhaps the future will bring an attempt by some Modern Orthodox synagogues to incorporate a partnership minyan as an option. Cardozo Law Review will be publishing a scholarly article on this very issue in the forthcoming December issue which examines the halakhah and the sociological implications.

  288. What about “nashim somchot reshut”? If I remember correctly, the reason a woman was allowed to do “smicha” on her korban, though it did not fulfill a mitzvah, rather mimics one, was for the purpose of giving her “nachat ruach.” I think women’s torah readings are similar to women doing smicha on a korban. A women’s torah reading mimics a mitzvah – and it brings so much nachat ruach, as I can attest from personal experience. Rabbi Broyde, I read your article with interest and would be grateful to hear your response to my comment.

  289. Sorry for coming back into the conversation so late, but I did want to respond to R’ Broyde’s comment (although I don’t know if anybody is still reading this):

    >21. Chana Luntz’s comments are interesting but totally not >persuasive to me; indeed, I think they are wrong as a matter of >halacha. The invocation of simchat Yom Tov as a basis for >overturning long running minhagim or even issurim derabanan >strikes me as wrong.

    First of all, I was not necessarily suggesting that a woman’s Torah reading was necessarily over on an issur d’rabbanan – I was assuming your viewpoint that it was not. What I was pointing out was that with regarding to Simchas Torah (and indeed Simchas Torah only, not other yom tovim, on which there is also an obligation of Simchas Yom Tov) – there is a fascinating aspect of the day which results in halachic authority which allows for the overturning of even issurei d’rabbanan on the basis of simcha.

    Now indeed, that permissibility has never been universally granted. At various points in our history they were doing things with fires on Simchas Torah, and the poskim came down hard, and indeed the very sources that say one can dance and clap, say that one cannot use musical instruments, even though that is also only an issur d’rabbanan.

    So nobody was suggesting (and certainly not I) that simchas yom tov (even specific to Simchas Torah) should be used to push aside all issurei d’rabbanan.

    What I was pointing out was that in a context in which the poskim are willing to push aside even certain issurei d’rabbanan due to the mitzvah of simcha, one would (and should) be more inclined to allow, for the sake of simcha, something that was not even technically assur, if indeed it brought simcha.

    > Consider many other examples which this could be applied to. >Would we let a man – who is overjoyed with wearing tefillin – do >so on Yom Tov (with no intent to do a mitzvah)?

    Are you assuming here there is no issur of muktza?

    Even assuming there were no issurei d’rabbanan involved – this case is not really comparable, because you are citing an individual who nobody particularly recognises (do you know anybody who genuinely feels that way?) – ie they have such simcha from wearing tephillin each day that on yom tov they would feel so deprived and miserable that they would be depressed without them? If you do know such an individual, then most people would consider such a person to be an individual nutcase. Where as here you are talking about significant numbers of women – that makes this a real case rather than a straw man hypothetical.

    I really struggle to find this case believable. The closest I can think of are the rabbonim who find ceasing from learning on Tisha B’Av so impossible to do that they learn anyway, in violation of the rabbinic ban – but do you know any man who doesn’t put on tephillin on Tisha B’Av at any point in the day, because they get too much simcha from it? Somebody who felt as you describe above would have to fall into that category.

    > What about a shul without a minyan layning without brachot?

    Well shuls that feel that strongly about this usually deal with it in a different way – under bar mitzvah boys holding sifrei torah – counting the aron, counting the shabbas etc etc. This is a much more real example that the tephillin case, people do get upset about not having layning, particularly on shabbas and yom tov, and this is about groups, not just individuals – and indeed while many poskim are horrified at the leniencies employed, many of course tolerate it in such circumstances precisely because they understand the underlying yearning involved. But the case is usually only partially real, because the leniencies generally used enable both the reading and the brochos. But yes, I can see that, given the strength of feeling on this one, if you did find a community with only six or (even) four people on simchas torah, and lots of sifrei torah and somebody who could layn, it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that indeed that is what they did. I suspect that most men would respond that simchas torah without layning would be pretty awful, and if they really could not round up a minyan, even with all the kulos available, might well at least read without brachos. Would you indeed condemn that? Indeed, it might well be worth finding out what they do in communities (like Alexandria, Egypt,- where there are 44 sifrei torah, one obstinate Egyptian government who claims they are national treasures and won’t let them go elsewhere, and no minyan. No doubts parts of Eastern Europe are like this too), where not having a minyan for simchas torah probably does happen and where it is pretty upsetting for the participants, who can remember how it was when the shul was full. According to you it would seem they probably should not take the sifrei torah out at all, and you would condemn them for doing so on the same basis you condemn women. Would you really? If you happened to find yourself in Alexandria, Egypt on Simchas Torah, and they pressed you to at least layn without the brochos, would you indeed say no and leave those poor sifrei torah desolate in their aron?

    >Indeed, I could rattle off dozens of matters where a person can >say “my simchat yom tov is enhanced by doing X, and if X is >generally prohibited – even as a minhag – simchat yom tov is not >enough to permit it.

    Now that we have refocussed it – can you really think of so many examples? Not examples merely of individuals who are a bit unusual, but example of groups who all the feel the same way. And not only that, not only that they say that “my simchas yom tov is enhanced by doing X”, and where it is only not customary, not prohibited, but when stopping them doing it will leave a huge miserable gap in their yom tov. And where you have offered no other solution to plug the gap.

    ie what is also missing from your piece is how exactly you propose to plug the misery gap. These women have found a way for themselves to plug the simchas torah misery gap. You would be taking that away from them (assuming you were the Rav in the community, and were prohibiting), but you have not offered any other solution. Others have suggested a siyum, or back to back shiurim. A local shul here in England has taken to flying women out from YU to conduct shiurim and has made simchas torah into a women’s yom iyun. If they keep going this way we might have a situation where the men have shavuos night, and the women have simchas torah day.

    On one level it is very nice – and at least attempts to deal with the misery problem. On the other hand, it is a new ritual that is completely antithetical to the whole feel of simchas torah (with all its accompanying loudness) throughout the generations. That personally bothers me far more than a ritual that may have limited halachic content, but feels genuinely related to the way that Jews have traditionally celebrated simchas torah and the clasic way of deriving simcha on that day. So if I had to choose between the two, I would prefer the pseudo layning to turning simchas torah into a new yom iyun. But at least both of these are genuine attempts to deal with a real problem – the fact that for most of half the Jewish population, there is no simchas yom tov on Simchas Torah – it is “mens holiday” with nothing to say to women at all. And for a significant minority (if not more than that) of that half, it is even more than that, it is a day to be dreaded and one of genuine unhappiness.

    If you are, as you claim, genuinely concerned about boosting the mitzvah observance of klal yisroel, then this ought to be of serious concern to you, and an acknowledgement of the problem ought to have come up in your post at least in some fashion (especially as it might actually be your mitzvah, as Rav of a community, to ensure the simcha of the women within it, even if the majority position is not that way). But it doesn’t. It is all a technical discussion about reading from the Torah, and ignores the wider context which is the reality of Simchas Torah b’zman hazeh and the gaping hole where simcha is mandated to be.

    Regards

    Chana

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