New issue of Tradition (49:1 Spring 2016) with a special section of Perspectives on Women’s Leadership in Orthodoxy:
- The Sons of Korah, Who Did Not Die by R. Shalom Carmy – An expansion of Rav Soloveitchik’s interpretation of the Korach rebellion with an application to the current “crisis of authority.”
- A Litvak in Montreal: The Thought of Rabbi Aryeh Leib Baron by Dr. Raphael Shuchat – An intellectual biography of this Alter Mirrer, portraying him as an open-minded Litvak, a seemingly rare breed nowadays, or at least one in hiding.
Perspectives on Women’s Leadership in Orthodoxy (available online)
- Women in Leadership by R. Aharon Lichtenstein – Our female role models are the biblical matriarchs, not Lady Macbeth or Joan of Arc, but this message does not fully satisfy Orthodox women today, even those traditionally oriented. Each community is different. “Informal and unlegislated leadership” through Torah contributions will enable women to participate without criticism from the right. Regarding this informal leadership, halakhah must determine our standards, as decided by “serious and responsible posekim, impeccably committed and with catholicity of Torah knowledge,” who give appropriate weight to women’s nachas ru’ach. Regarding “conferred or legislated leadership,” halakhic issues with serving as a shul officer can be resolved but issues of halakhah and long-time tradition about the spiritual status of a holder of semikhah (ordination) cannot. Therefore, we may “hold the traditional line” on women’s rabbinic ordination.
- Entitled or Untitled? by R. Yitzchok Adlerstein – Discussions of titles miss the point. “We should be talking about destinations, not designations.” Offering new titles is a way of appeasing women, trying to compromise with less than full leadership but a significant title. It will not work. The recent RCA resolution against women’s ordination, which “attracted the largest percentage of eligible voters in RCA voting history,” demonstrated the feeling that, for a variety of reasons, women’s ordination is a “discontinuity in the continuing journey of the Jewish people towards its historic goals.” Any new title for women must demonstrate that it comes from traditional Torah values and does not break from the past and does not emerge from secular egalitarian values. There are two kinds of titles–those that license behavior and those that attests to professional achievements. Women who serve the community as effective social workers, teachers or administrators should have appropriate titles that reflect those professional roles. Alternatively, women can study and obtain degrees in ministry (M.Div).
- Feminism, Egalitarianisn, Judaism: Where Are We Headed? by R. Kenneth Auman – Explains in detail why women learning and teaching Talmud, and Yoatzot serving communities, are fundamentally different from the ordination of women and other egalitarian innovations like Partnership Minyanim. The former stemmed from a need to protect traditional values from outside influence while the latter emerges from secular values.
- A View from the Other Side by Dr. Rachel Levmore – Gives her own example of serving as a rabbinic court pleader (to’enet) and other examples of women serving in quasi-rabbinic roles, such as Yoatzot, teachers, researchers and administrators. Notes that little controversy entails in Israel over these developments and offers suggestions why Israel is different.
- Learned Individuals by Dr. Joel Wolowelsky – Semikha has a colloquial meaning so anyone whom the public sees as a rabbi should be called one. He doesn’t actually say that women should be called rabbis but that seems to me to be the article’s point. Unfairly calls comparisons to Conservative ordination “disingenuous,” which it absolutely is not. Prof. Saul Lieberman’s responsum was explicitly on the history of the rabbinic title, not on the sociological context in which he was writing, which anyway has many similarities to the current context. I would say that disingenuous fairly characterizes the argument that since secular American courts consider rebbetzins to be clergy, therefore women should “pursue advanced study of the laws of shabbat, kashrut and nidda [and] receive certification when they successfully complete their study.” One could easily argue the exact opposite, that women do not need certification in order to be considered clergy. Or more importantly, that secular American courts are irrelevant and merely a red herring in this discussion. I guess different people will find different articles in this section disappointing. This is the one I found illogical and insulting. (See this correction)
- R. Kook’s Public Position on Women Voting by R. Yoel Bin-Nun – In the 1920 elections to Knesset, Charedim opposed women’s voting while the secular public and most Religious Zionists accepted it. Rav Kook successfully arranged a compromise, whereby Charedim would have their own polling a stations at which each vote counted for two. But in response, Rav Kook lost influence over the secular public and Religious Zionism, while most Charedim boycotted the election anyway. Eventually, Charedim accepted women voting. The middle position satisfied nobody and those who advocated it lost influence. R. Shalom Carmy translates this article because there is a message here for our times.
- Posthumous Paternity by R. J. David Bleich – A married man with cancer and no children freezes his sperm (in case treatment permanently sterilizes him) and dies from the disease. His wife is inseminated and gives birth. Does this child exempt her from yibum? According to the Noda Bi-Yehudah, yes. According to the Keren Orah. Later authorities debate this further.A couple bequeath in their will their home to a yeshiva. The yeshiva lets students take whatever they want from inside the home. One student found cash and valuables inside a couch. To whom do they belong? R. Yitzchak Zilberstein says it revolves around a debate of mistaken yi’ush. R. Bleich disagrees and concludes that it belongs to the finder because the burden of proof lies on the couple’s heirs.
- Book Review: Changing the Immutable by Dr. Yoel Finkelman – Great at showing examples of censorship and manipulation but fails to provide context, to chart the development of intellectual history and to discuss what readers want and expect from their literature.