Volume 15 Number 62
                       Produced: Sun Oct  9 10:59:32 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Frum Dating
         [Jeremy Nussbaum]
Jewish Marriage
         [Binyomin Segal]
Women and the Workplace
         [Shaul Wallach]


From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 94 10:52:30 EDT
Subject: Frum Dating

> >From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>

>      Furthermore, Dr. Juni reads into the story a meaning which was
> not at all present in the original posting. The point of the story as
> posted was not to demean the individuality of the marriage partners.
> Rather, it was to show that marriage is not an end in itself meant for
> one's own self-gratification, but a part of one's serving Hashem, and
> that a person motivated by this desire will indeed have a happy
> marriage.

There is a middle ground here, and the straw man of "self gratification"
is being used to justify what seems to me to be a complete denial of
one's self.  One can serve God with all one's heart, but that does not
make all hearts who do so equal.  People are born with individual
traits, and develop other individual traits as they grow up and react to
the world and the people around them.  Some are more sensitive, some are
more intellectual, some are more caring, some are more pragmatic, some
are more serious, some are less serious etc.  No one trait is the right
or the wrong one.  Marriages between people whose individual
characteristics are enjoyed by the other partner rather than tolerated
can be much more dynamic and lead to each person serving God in a more
powerful way.  Marriages between people who at best tolerate the
individuality of the partner have a lot of energy devoted to maintaining
the tolerance, that could be used in other ways.  It is not
(necessarily) self-gratification to express oneself in the way that
comes most naturally and to serve God thereby.  It is considered one of
God's miracles that we are all descended from Adam and Eve, yet are all

>      Dr. Yuni also wholly ignored the setting of the story in Yemen
> and consequently - unfairly, in my opinion - passed judgment on this
> venerable Jewish community. Let us recall that in Yemen, in particular
> in the capital San`a, women were hardly seen and the bride and groom
> did not meet at all before marriage. The boy barely caught a glimpse

This happens to go against the directive in Kidushin that recommends
that the woman see the prospective husband and give her OK.

> of her while she was cleaning the courtyard or drawing water and gave
> his assent to his father, who arranged the match with the bride's
> family. For the father to change the bride because his needs - taking
> care of his children who were left without a mother - came first, would
> not have been seen by the son as an injustice at all, because the father
> was the one who arranged the match in the first place. The whole
> emotional attachment between husband and wife began to form only after
> marriage. For pious Jews who believe that their match is made in heaven
> 40 days before they are conceived, there would be no difficulty in
> accepting such a course of events and making the necessary adjustments.
> Thus in this story there was no love lost because none had even started
> to begin with. We need only read the story of Yizhaq's marriage with
> Rivqa in the Torah to see when love really starts (Genesis 24:67).

Excellent point.  In some parts of the world, the men and women live
totally separate lives.  It would be highly unusual for Jewish
practice to differ so much from general local custom, even in the face
of a (non-binding) directive explicitly in the Gemara.  On the other
hand, that is fine in a country where that is the norm all around, at
least on the surface everyone seems happy with the arrangement and
there are no alternatives presented.  IMHO, if such a community comes
in contact with communities in which relationships between men and
women are different, it will be harder to maintain and justify such a

A good deal of this discussion, though not all, revolves around the
way one views the relative roles of men, women, and men and women.
Traditionally, the husband ruled the wife, as we just read in
Bereishit (though it is considered a punishment for the woman, not
necessarily a desireable thing, much in the same way having to work
hard is viewed for the man).  Men had their own domain, women their
own domain and there was very little mixing, at least in proper
society.  One of the theories for why men and women did not count
together for the 3 for zimmun is that "ein chavuratan na'eh," that
their mixing together socially is just not proper.  What constitutes
proper and appropriate courtship depends to a great extent on what
constitues a proper and fulfilling marriage.  This is very different in
traditional Yemenite society and in contemporary American society,
and it seems quite reasonable that different courtship approaches
would be used.  

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)


From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Mon, 3 Oct 1994 16:12:55 -0600
Subject: Jewish Marriage

Ok so now its my turn to take a crack at the jewish marriage scene - I've
noticed so far 2 basic strands of thought:

1.the traditional marriage/community is chauvinist - now that we know
better of course there's divorce
2. the traditional marriage is chauvinist - if you want to be an observant
Jew you better learn to deal

I'd like to offer a third possibility, one that I believe is the true
Torah perspective:

3. the traditional Torah marriage is not chauvinist. It merely accepts
that there are two different roles needed in a marriage and each person
should carry out the role to which s/he is best suited. Neither role is
better or worse - they are different.

As much time has been spent already defining how a man is superior
(learn Torah, more mitzvos) allow me to fill in the missing blanks and
show how Torah sees that sometimes women are superior:

Consider: In creation the order is clearly in order of importance with
humanity at the top. Why then is woman clearly mentioned after man? (see
Rav Ahron Soloveichik)

Consider: Sarah was a greater prophet than Avraham & G-d tells Avraham
to listen to Sarah because of this (and records it for us to learn

Consider: Amram divorces his wife, and the Jewish people follow suit. No
children are born as Amram feels that being brought into Egyptian
slavery is a fate for no child. Miriam, Amram's daughter tells Amram,
"You are worse than Paro - for he kills only the boys & you kill both
the boys & the girls." Amram, the Torah leader, listens to his young
daughter and remarries. Immeadiatly Moshe is concieved. Chazal tell us
here (and in other ways/places) that the redemption of the Jews came
through the insight of a woman.

Consider: According to one opinion the jewish women who left Egypt
entered the Land of Israel. Why? They did not sin with the golden calf,
nor did they sin with the spies.

These sources - and many others - indicate that in some ways women are
superior to men. As a man it is my challenge to know this and to be sure
to follow my wife's lead in these cases. That is my understanding of
"ezer c'negdo". If I merit ie if Im ready to listen then she is my
helper. If I dont listen she will oppose me (and well she should!)

Stop for a moment and consider this (and I know it might sound like
rhetoric to a "sophisticated modern person" - none the less). Which is
of higher real value: a child or money? Clearly a child - a life - has
infinite value, money only temporary and finite value. So if the man has
the primary role, why do we entrust the child to the mother and tell the
father to go make a living? If learning Torah is so important to
development, why trust the "ignorant" woman to train the child when
there is (or should be) a Torah scholar in the house (ie the father).

The answer to these questions has to do with the advantages that a woman
has over a man. She has extra binah (lit perhaps intuition or
discernment, but it should be clear that in jewish thought this is an
intellectual ability, not a "superstition". we all have some, and we
thank Hashem for it every day in the Amidah). Binah was the one quality
Moshe wanted but could not find in judges for the sanhedrin (see Rashi
in Devarim 1). It is (according to Rashi there) the ability to
understand one thing from another. An ability to _KNOW_ the right answer
from the shape of the puzzle - even when most of the pieces seem to be

Why is this quality important? Well...

Imagine three children, each one wants your attention at the same moment
(of course). For each the need is real and immeadiate - to whom do you
give the attention?

Remember what I said before about children being important? Well then
can anyone tell me why there are less than 10 pages (as I recall from
last count) in the shulchan aruch that deal with child raising and 30 or
so about getting up and dressed in the morning?

The answer is simple: G-d trusts women to raise children, to understand
their needs and treat them well (in fact He gave them Binah so they
could do the job well). He knew that no written code could tell you how
to treat your children (can you just see it - 3 kids pulling on you -
"wait I have to look up which of you I should speak to") so He gave one
part of humanity the ability to discern a persons needs.

BTW this is not to say that the _only_ way a woman can fulfill her place
is by raising a family. History is full of exemplary women who used
these talents for the community as a whole not for her family
alone. This is merely the starting point.

Generally we seem to assume that a lack of mitzvos indicates a lack of
holiness - a second class status. That is not the case with man/woman.
Consider the possibility that women are given more choices, more
trust. Men are given mitzvos to constrict their ability to fall too
low. Women - with binah - can be trusted to "stay the course" without
the mitzvos. She can therefore decide for herself - should I go to shul
and act as a role model for my children, or should I stay home and let
them interact with me.  Should I learn Torah tonite, or should I go help
ploni with the charity drive. Generally speaking a man does not have the
freedom to make those choices - he is obligated to daven with a minyan &
obligated to set time to learn.

Well though my notes on this go on for a bit more, I think Ive made the
points I wanted to, so...



From: Shaul Wallach <F66204@...>
Date: Tue, 04 Oct 94 14:47:31 IST
Subject: Women and the Workplace

      In reply to Part 2 on marriage, Zvi Weiss has the following
comments on divorce and the workplace:

>There may be a "positive correlation" between rising divorce rates and
>men/ women working together -- BUT that could ALSO mean that WE (men and
>women) are not observing the relevant halachot for such situations --
>and not that the situation is, per se, "evil".  Again, when citing the
>Gemara, keep in mind that the gemara also points out that one must not
>even look "improperly" at the "little finger" of a woman... regardless
>of one's situation.  It is possible that the citation re "conversation"
>refers to "socializing" (which *is* frowned upon even to the extent of a
>man asking another man about the second man's wife) -- but may not apply
>to "needed conversation" i.e., professional interaction -- assuming all
>other halachot are kept.

     Of course, it is true that we are not observing properly the
halachot that apply to these situations, for otherwise we would not
expect to see more divorces when men and women work together. It was in
this very same posting that I mentioned R. Hayyim Wosner's book warning
men about this.

     With all due respect, however, I seem to detect a basic anomaly in
this whole line of thought. On the one hand, we make allowances for the
social changes that have occurred and are flexible in allowing women to
work in professions that were considered improper for them in the past.
Similarly we are flexible in giving men and women the choice to define
their marital roles as best suits their individual needs. Why? Because
we are only human and have human needs. So far, so good - we can be
lenient about working together since we are only human and can't be
expected to live up to the Torah ideal of modesty (Ps. 45:14), because
it is too much of a hardship for us in this day and age.

      But look now at the other side of the coin and the bill we pay
in return for this liberty. We expose ourselves to all kinds of ills
that R. Hayyim Wosner counts in his book. Our Shalom Bayit suffers
and our children suffer in turn. In order to combat these destructive
effects, we demand of ourselves to be angels and observe strictly all
the measures of restraint that our Rabbis gave us for these situations
that we ourselves brought ourselves into. In short, allowing ourselves
to be human forces us in the end to be angels. And to top it all off,
we say that there has been a "yeridat ha-dorot" ("decline of the
generations"); namely, we admit that our generation is less pious
than previous ones. Is the self-contradiction clear by now?

     In answer to this, I think our Rabbis had just this kind of thing
in mind when they said "The Torah was not given to the ministering
angels." They made restrictive measures for us to observe so that we
not bring ourselves into yihud - men being alone with women. Thus,
for example, a single man is not allowed to teach even boys, lest he
come into contact with the mothers who bring them to school (Qiddushin
82a, Rambam H. Issurei Bi'a 22:13). It is noteworthy how that Rambam
changes the language here to "mitgare" (be aroused), implying that the
problem exists even if he is not actually alone himself with women.
Similarly the Torah discourages a man from doing business with women,
unless his wife is with him (ibid., ibid. 22:8). According to Rashi on
this passage, such a man has to be stricter than others. Similarly, in
a list of guidelines of modesty for women, R. Shemuel Wosner cautions
the women who wants to go to work to check the place out diligently
(with "seven investigations") before taking the job, in order to make
sure it doesn't lead to problems.

     In the face of all this, I earnestly ask, "Is it all worth it?"
To be honest with ourselves, is it right for us to lead ourselves into
temptation and jeopardize our dignity for the sake of material gain?
Or because we feel discontent staying home and seek status in
professional careers? I think the message of the Torah is quite clear
- that even "professional interaction" between men and women is
something that should be avoided in the first place. Note again that
I'm not telling all the women to quit their jobs and run right home. I
I do think, though, that we should be more imaginative in exploiting
modern technology to allow a woman who must pursue a career to do so in
such a way as to minimize the risks involved. And last, but not least,
men should show their wives more affection and appreciation for their
home roles so that discontent should not become a motive for seeking
satisfaction outside the home at the expense of their modesty.




End of Volume 15 Issue 62