Volume 15 Number 58
                       Produced: Sun Oct  9  0:52:38 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Approaching Puberty
         [Jerry B. Altzman]
Frum Dating
Jewish Marriage
         [Binyomin Segal]
         [Shaul Wallach]


From: Jerry B. Altzman <jbaltz@...>
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 94 9:45:42 EDT
Subject: Re: Approaching Puberty

I am indeed surprised, given the number of children our children (our
collective children) see coming (i.e. pregnant women) that they (the
existing children) do not start asking *earlier* about "where babies
come from" etc.

My mother tells me the story of when she was pregnant with my younger
sister (I was 3 at the time) and I asked "how is that [her being born,
getting there in the first place] going to happen?"

Now, Mom isn't typical in that she had around her anatomy and physiology
books from her undergraduate days and she sat me (a wee lad) down and
showed me penis, vagina, uterus, &c., (in full techincolor) and
described everything from the top down, er, from the inside out. (No, I
didn't understand it all.)

Why are we waiting until 10 to start this? Is there a compelling Torah
reason of which I am not aware (I am serious here)? Do none of our
children see our wives pregnant?


jerry b. altzman   Entropy just isn't what it used to be      +1 212 650 5617
<jbaltz@...>  jbaltz@columbia.edu  KE3ML   (HEPNET) NEVIS::jbaltz


Date: Thu, 6 Oct 94 9:48:32 EDT
Subject: Frum Dating

I have read the many postings about the frum dating scene, and I feel
now that I need to add my two cents.
I, too, know many couples who married after only a few meetings.  Some
of them are happy, absolutely, but many are not.  Some of our writers
have pointed to the low divorce rate in the frum community and surmised
from this fact that those who don't divorce are happy.  This is often
not the case.  I know, personally, several women who are dreadfully
unhappy (to the point of considering suicide, has ve-shalom) but feel
that they have no alternative--a woman with a high school education and
maybe a year in seminary has no way of supporting 4,5, 6 or more
children on her own--and no support from the community.  When I was in
the midst of my own divorce (after consultation with several prominent
rabbonim) I was informed that all divorces were the woman's fault, by
definition.  This defies reason, especially with an abusive husband.
One other issue in the shidduch scene has not been addressed--people
lie!  (I'm sorry, but there is no other word for it sometimes).  Anyone
who has been through the sidduch mill knows this--age, physical
appearance, plans for the future, ability in learning, finances.  I
attribute a lot of the problems in my marriage to the dishonesty of
people who felt that the main thing was simply to get us married off.
This is the reality, and all of the rhapsodizing about kedusha and
bitachon and beshert-ness don't make up for it.


From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 1994 16:04:29 -0600
Subject: Jewish Marriage

I find much of what Shaul Wallach represents as the Torah perspective on
marriage at least slightly off. Perhaps most of my disagreement is one
of tone, but there are statements I think are misleading, and I find the
choice of sources slightly biased as well. In this post I deal directly
with his post and in part 2 I take my shot at "the Torah true

>It might be presumed that since the Talmud assumes a primary role
>for the man and only a secondary, supporting role for his wife - to
>perfect his creation - that the main prerogatives and privileges accrue
>to the man.

In this statement I think we see the key to my complaints. I find the
concept that different roles must be unequal to be a Western
concept. The idea that to have a winner there must be a loser is true
only in the finite world. In the infinite world in which we really live
however, 2 roles can be different without one being "primary" and the
other "secondary".

We see this bias throughout Shaul's words, so for example:

>So far we have defined the Torah view of man and woman in the
>Divine plan of creation, their respective roles and the esteem and
>gratitude each man should hold for his wife, even when their match
>is far from perfect. It is already very clear that their roles are
>_ NOT _ EQUAL _ (emphasis mine - bsegal) but complementary, 
>with the man taking the primary role
>(learning the Torah), but this does not deprive the woman of a greater
>than equal promise in return for fulfilling her supportive role.

This should be _ not the same _ but equal _ and complementary _. Indeed
even Shaul must here admit that their reward is _not_ adversly affected
by being in a "secondary" role.

I will say more on the primacy of her role in a moment (2nd post)

>This "honor" clearly means doing his will, as the Midrash
>says (Tana De-Vei Eliyahu 10:5), "There is no fit one among women but
>she who does the will of her husband."

I'm not sure that quoting a medrash that gives advice - or perhaps an
ultimate goal - is a good way to prove the halachik context of a gemara.

The next bias is a bit less obvious, but throughout the essay I found
reference to only 2 requirements of a husband to his wife:

1.the purely financial obligation
2. the obligation to be nice to her - as we are obligated to be nice to
every JEW.

The financial obligation is quoted in a few contexts and is fine as far
as it goes (though it should perhaps be mentioned that the _wife_ can
absolve the husband of this responsibility and choose to keep her own
earnings.  This fact makes the ownership of communal property by him a
_voluntary_ arrangement much like a corporation that is especially
helpful in dealing with the secular chauvinist society - perhaps more on
this later)

All the sources quoted in regard to being nice to a wife apply equally
to all jews (though it is probably true that these character traits need
be developed at home first, and are thus stressed in that regard) for

>Again we turn to Yevamot (62b, also in Sanhedrin 76b):
>     Our Rabbis taught: He who loves his wife as himself

I think we can all find the relative verse that applies this to all
Jews.  The following also apply to any Jew as well:

>(Bava Mesi`a 59a):
>     A man should always be careful not to insult his wife, for
>     since her tears are close, her insult is close.
>(Sota 47a), "The left hand should push away and the
>right hand should bring close."

Is there then _no_ obligation on the husband within this relationship
besides a purely financial arrangement? I think that an honest look at
Torah would find that not to be the case.



From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Oct 94 14:35:31 IST
Subject: Marriage

     Unfortunately I am finding it hard to keep up with all the
responses on the topic of marriage and women, in part because some of
my more recent postings which have not yet appeared already address
points that have been brought up in today's digests. I will therefore
rely on what I have already written and try to avoid repetition.

     First of all, some additional general comments are needed. In
this series I have tried to keep in mind the dichotomy between theory
and practice, between the letter of Talmudic law and present-day
application of this law to real-life situations. In view of the
feelings that have been aroused, I think this distinction needs to be
reemphasized. When I cite the Talmud or a halacha, I am doing so not
as a rabbi or even as a Ben Torah - for I am neither - but simply as
a student trying to learn what our Rabbis Z"L taught us about marriage
and all that surrounds it. Even when I seem to be applying these
teachings to real life, I am only raising possibilities, and no one
should infer that I am telling him or her what to do in practice.
For that each person has his or her halachic authority on whom to
rely in practical situations in order to take his individual needs
into account.

     Nevertheless, in choosing to be the protagonist in this
discussion, I do think that there is a genuine need to reawaken
ourselves and do some honest soul-searching about the direction of
our lives as Jews in general in our time. I see the damage to Shalom
Bayit in our generation as just one symptom of the progressive
degeneration of Torah values among us in all spheres of life. If we
want to stop the plague of assimilation and intermarriage, which has
long since passed the 50% rate in the Disapora, then we must first
ensure that we are not injured ourselves by the surrounding secular
culture. To do this requires constant, close supervision and control
in order to weed out all those foreign elements that do not suit the
spirit of the Torah and the letter of Halacha.

     In this quest, it is entirely possible that I have been a bit too
zealous at times, and apologize again to those whose sensibilities have
been offended. At the same time I wish to thank those, especially the
women, who have helped bring me down to earth when need be. In the
future I hope that we can keep Heaven and Earth - the principles of the
Torah and the practice of the real world - in closer balance for our
mutual benefit.

     With all this in mind, let us try again to address briefly some of
the points that have been raised in the last rounds of the discussion.

     Dr. Chana Stillinger has twice expressed her discontent with what
she sees as my denial of the right of women to learn Torah. This is
simply not true. Women are exempt from learning Torah, not barred from
it, Heaven forbid. The halacha of the Rambam that I cited says clearly
that a woman who learns Torah has a reward, albeit less than a man
because she is exempt. What our Rabbis did not permit was to teach one's
daughter Torah, as the Rambam mentions, for the reason that most women
are considered to be "Da`atan Qalot"; i.e. because they are more
emotional than men, they are less adapted to concentrate their powers of
cold reason on the fine points. This is not to be viewed as a liability,
for our Rabbis also said that women have greater intuition (bina) than
men and that their faith is stronger, by virtue of their better
developed emotions.

     Be that as it may - and this would really require a separate
discussion - there is nothing wrong with a woman taking the initiative
and studying Torah, as long as it does not come at the expense of her
duties as a woman. And there is no reason why men should not consider
her opinions just because she is a woman. Thus, for example, we have
Beruria, Rabbi Meir's wife, who learned 300 halachot a day and whose
opinion was accepted in the Tosefta of Keilim ("Yafa amara Beruria").
And Rashi's daughters learned Torah by themselves until they became
great scholars in their own right. In any case, if I didn't think it
was proper to discuss Torah matters with women, especially those that
concern them, I wouldn't be here in the first place :-).

     Returning to the issue of the `eruv, Chana is obviously right that
is hard to be a Shomer Shabbat mother. From the experience I have had
baby-sitting at home, I'm sure that I could not cope the way my own
wife does. (It's also hard to be a Shomer Shabbat father too, and
Lefum Za`ra Agra - according to the pain, so is the reward - but that's
not the point here.) But recall again the distinction we made. In
theory, a woman is exempt from attending the synagogue and her needs
should not influence the kashrut of the `eruv per se. But in practice,
when there is an `eruv, it is completely acceptable for a woman to
rely on it when she needs to, especially when the doubt involved is

     Susan Slusky, following Eli Turkel, has trouble with the place of
a women's intelligence in the ideal Torah picture of marriage that I
tried to paint in Part 3. I have already commented on Eli's posting,
to the effect that "more important" need not mean "more intelligent."
However, let me add here that, theoretically at least, a woman's
intelligence should be an asset in marriage, not a liability. Does
not the Book of Proverbs say (14:1) "A wise woman builds her house,
and a foolish one with her hands ruins it", and (19:14) "... and from
the Lord an intelligent woman"? Thus instead of belittling a woman's
intelligence, we should respect it as being a Divine gift.

     On the other hand, though, to be realistic, we have to remember
that intelligence is a double-edged sword and has the potential for
evil as well as for good. Thus we also have the verse (Jer. 4:22)
"... wise they are to do bad, and to do good they know not."
Intelligence is good when it is preceded by Fear of Heaven (cf. Avot
3:9); otherwise it is not. The example Aliza Berger cites of Ger
Hasidic women consulting with their husbands over what they learn
appears to be ideal, but it is not a universal practice. It follows
that if in some circles a woman's intelligence is not considered an
asset and does not help her in getting married, it is because the men
either wrongly fail to appreciate it, or fear that her intelligence is
not matched with the proper measure of Fear of Heaven.

     Finally, in the same posting, Aliza claims that most of the women's
roles that I quoted from the Talmud are not halacha. I would kindly ask
her to provide examples so that we can check this out.




End of Volume 15 Issue 58