Volume 15 Number 75
                       Produced: Sun Oct 16 10:50:46 1994

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Shaatnez & Women
         [Binyomin Segal]
Shaatnez and Women
         [Yisrael Sundick]
Women / Sifre Torah (2)
         [David Charlap, Zvi Weiss]
Women and Sefer Torah, Tefillin
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]
Women and the Workplace
         [David Charlap]
Women Carrying a Sefer Torah
         [Rani Averick]
Women Working Outside Home
         [David Steinberg]
         [Zvi Weiss]


From: <bsegal@...> (Binyomin Segal)
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 1994 12:51:34 -0600
Subject: re: Shaatnez & Women

Dave Curwin writes:

> First, I noticed during Aishet Chayil. Have
>you ever noticed that this woman of valor is wearing Shaatnez?

>Once again, there
>is a woman wearing shaatnez. Perhaps women are considered like
>kohanim (in some respect)? Any other ideas?

An intresting observation. And indeed the general relationship between
cohanim & women is noted in sources. For example, Reb Shloime Twerski
once spoke about the similarity between the cohen's duty in the Temple
and the traditional role of a woman in the house.

However, off the cuff I would say that there is a more simplistic
answer.  In early times linen and wool were it. Cotton was not popular,
and synthetics were VERY expensive :) . To say linen and wool is to say
"all types of clothing". Also remember that shatnez requires that they
(at least) be sewn together. Two seperate articles - one linen and one
wool - is NOT shaatnez.



From: Yisrael Sundick <sas34@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 1994 20:48:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Shaatnez and Women
Acording to the Ralbag, linen and purple wool are mentioned because they
are a chefetz chamud, a precious article.  There is no reason to assume
they (the linen and wool) are mixed.  The prohibition of shaatnez is
against mixing linen and wool in one article of clothing.  There is no
reason she couldn't be wearing a woolen sweater and linen skirt. 

[similar response from "Neil Parks" <aa640@...> and
Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>. Mod]


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 94 11:23:04 EDT
Subject: Women / Sifre Torah

Zvi Weiss <weissz@...> writes:
>2. Re Tum'ah and a Sefer Torah,  While I do not think that it is
>   directly germane to the issue, it should be noted that there IS a
>   difference between "tum'ah ha'yotzet migufo" -- Tum'ah that comes
>   out of one's body (e.g., Nidda or Zav) vs. Tum'at Maga -- tum'ah
>   that is based upon contact (e.g., touching a dead body).  The
>   former is almost always regarded as "worse" than the latter.

However, the former is easier to get rid of.  Nidda and Zav can be
"cured" by going to mikva.  Touching a dead body can only be
completely "cured" via Para 'Aduma, which requires Kohanim, the
Temple, special rituals, and (of course) a red heifer.

From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 1994 11:22:04 -0400
Subject: Women / Sifre Torah

Re Anthony Fiorino's comments...
Rabbi Avi Weiss' book was reviewed in TRADITION by the Av Beit Din of
Chicago (Rab G. Schwartz) who pointed out some serious problems with
R. Avi Weiss' presentation.  As a result, I would not consider that book to
be definitive halachically.



From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Fri, 14 Oct 1994 01:21:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Women and Sefer Torah, Tefillin

(I have the feeling I once submitted this topic to mj before, but anyway, 
it came up again, so here goes....)

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wrote in an unpublished responsum (penned by a
relative, actually, I beilieve after Rabbi feinstein was ill, but on
Rabbi Feinstein's stationery) that there is no problem with a woman
touching a sefer torah.  In the context it is apparent that this
includes carrying.

Similarly there is no problem of "tumah" for tefillin; there is only the
same problem as men have, namely, that one must have a clean body when
wearing them.  (Targum Jonathan's statement that a woman not wearing
men's garments includes tefillin is not picked up by the halakhic
sources.)  The gemara defines clean body as two things: not falling
asleep and not having problems such as flatulation.  Both of these are
unisex and hence would not impinge on a woman's permission to wear

The development of the halacha about women wearing tefillin is more
complicated than simply "the Rama says one should discourage it." Among
rishonim I believe it is only the Maharam of Rothenburg (and perhaps one
other) who mentions discouraging women from wearing tefillin.  IN fact
rabbenu Tam (I believe that's who, this is from memory) casually
includes tefillin on a list of time-bound commandments which women
should perform a blessing on if they perform.  I heard Professor Daniel
Sperber comment when this question came up that the Maharam may have had
a different view on this topic based on a more general viewpoint he had
which was very strict on impurity(?), and which was not the generally
accepted view.  The rama bases his discouragement on the Kol bo, which
in turn is based on the Maharam - so that is all coming from the same

One may argue that lack of "clean body" with reference to women could
refer to either something to do with menstrual period (physical
uncleanliness, not tumah [impurity]) or with being unable to keep
totally clean while taking care of children.  In fact one source says
that Michal was able to wear tefillin because she was a king's daughter
and also didn't have children.  However with today's standards of
hygiene this would not be a problem.

I am aware of several observant women who wear tefillin. Unfortunately
(in my opinion) it often comes down to wearing the tefillin at home, or
praying in synagogue without them, since it is so little accepted by
most rabbis.  However Rabbi Saul Berman gave a convincing lecture last
year at an Orthodox Roundtable meeting on the side of permissibility. He
noted that while some (from the gemara through contemporary times ) have
discouraged women from wearing tefillin, none have ever said it is
prohibited outright (except the Vilna Gaon, and Rabbi Berman did not
think that emanated from the preceding discussion in that source.  I
have not seen that, so I don't know.)

Re the idea that men wear tefillin as little as possible, therefore
women should do likewise (i.e. not wear tefillin at all): Men do *not*
wear tefillin as little as possible.  Men wear tefillin during all of
shacharit - more than the minimum.  Presumably this is based on the
assumption that during prayer one's state of mind/body will be
appropriate.  This is no less true of women.

About the relationship between these questions and feminism: Rabbi Moshe
Feinstein wrote in a responsum about women wearing tallitot that
permission would depend on whether the woman was doing it for feminist
or pious religious reasons.  I believe the same reasoning would apply to
the sefer torah and the tefillin.

Aliza Berger


From: <david@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 94 11:29:03 EDT
Subject: Women and the Workplace

Heather Luntz <luntz@...> writes:
>I note in this passage that in order to avoid professional
>interaction, Shaul is suggesting that women should be the one's that
>quit their job, or work from home. ...

[example of a major law firm which is 60% women and rising]

>... Maybe in the light of modern patterns, in order to minimise
>mingling of the sexes, it would be more appropriate for men to stay
>home than to go into professional careers like law and medicine
>(where I imagine similar ratios would apply - increasing female
>doctors, mostly female nurses and more female patients given numbers,
>life expectency and the greater willingness of women to consult
>doctors) or avail themselves of modern technology. 

I suspect that this is either a regional or occupational phenomena.
It is not the case that women are the majority of employees in most
fields.  For instance, where I work, there are not many female
engineers (although there are more in the administration and support
staff).  The reasons for this are completely off-topic, but I will
state that it's probably because there aren't many women pursuing
science and engineering degrees in college.


From: <rya@...> (Rani Averick)
Date: 13 Oct 1994  16:28 EDT
Subject: Women Carrying a Sefer Torah

Would someone explain to me what the fuss is about re a Torah being
"mekabel tumah" or not when women carry it or dance with it?  (i.e.,
women transferring ritual "uncleanliness" to the Torah scroll)

NO ONE, including the men, actually touches the scroll once the scribe
is done writing it, do they?

It is rolled and unrolled using handles; during the Torah-reading a long
pointer is used to keep the place, so that no one's hands actually touch
the scroll; and afterwards the Torah is covered up with a cloth cover
(or inside a case, if it's a Sefardi style Torah) so that no part of the
scroll is even visible!  What could possibly be the problem of women
dancing with a Torah covered by a cloth so that the scroll is never
touched?  How can something that is not touched be mekabel tumah?

(Please correct me if my understanding of this is wrong, and please
acknowledge if my understanding is correct!  Thanks!)



From: David Steinberg <dave@...>
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 1994 14:21:47 +0100
Subject: Women Working Outside Home

I am somewhat confused about Shaul's position regarding women working 
outside the home.  In mj 15#65 he tells us that the norm in haredi 
circles is for women to work to support their kollel families as long as 
practical -- I assume from Shaul's posts that he considers haredi 
behavior as an ideal which we should attempt to emulate.  Elsewhere 
(oops, no citation) he tells us kol kvoda bas melech pnima - that a 
woman's honor is enhanced by staying home.  And that women should not 
behave like Dina who was notorios for wandering outside of her home.

Shaul, would you care to conform the two views?

Dave Steinberg


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Thu, 13 Oct 1994 11:46:18 -0400
Subject: Women/Workplace

Re Chana Luntz's comments.

What I believe has happened is that she has focused upon a very
important issue.  Tzniut is not just for women!!!  I mentioned this in
an earlier posting in reaction to Shaul Wallach.  But I do not believe
that it can be overemphasized.  To make Tzniut a "women only" issue
(That it is the WOMEN who must do EVERYTHING to prevent problems --
ideally disappear into the house and stay there -- except when let out
for "good behaviour") is a corruption of the entire concept of Tzniut.

Tzniut -- as far as I know -- applies to both men and women.  HOW we
apply those halachot -- will differ depending upon the gender but it
applies to both and requires sensitivity and good sense from everyone.
The fact is that the Gemara DOES mention that men should be careful
about not "inciting" their "Yetzer" (Cf. the discussion in Avoda Zara as
to whether it is "better" to pass by a House of Prostitution or a House
of Idol worship...).  Shaul may still be in a society where it is mostly
male "out there" BUT it is quite correct to note thart there are LOTS
and LOTS of women (many of whom are not even remotely dressed in a
"modest" fashion) and I do not recall seeing anyone urging men to quit
the workplace.

What is worse is that if a frum woman wants to work professionally in a
RELIGIOUS environment, she will be discouraged such that she ends up
having to find a position in a non-frum/non-Jewish environment!
Virtually every frum organization that I know of has female secretaries
and other underlings... Go to a school such as Machon Lev -- there will
be LOTS of secretaries and the like who are women... how many TEACHERS
are there who are female?  Why is it OK to have female secretaries and
nobody says "boo" but it is suddenly a "problem" if/when a female
teacher would apply?  How many FRUM law offices have female secretaries?
How many have female law partners?  The lingering suspicion is that
Tzniut is being used as an "excuse" to "control" or "subjegate" (a word
that I hate to use) women....

If , indeed, the workplace is becoming so strongly feminized then
perhaps Chana is correct... To me, though, if we look at Tzniut
properly, the question never comes up....  Instead, we look at what
Hashem wants from us -- how will WE nurture our Tzelem Elokim while
fulfilling Hashem's will in this worls -- using the particular strengths
and abilities thatHe gave each of us.  When proceeding from there, the
analysis is very different.  We look at the capabilities, we look at the
opportunities, we look at the challenges -- and then ASK what does the
halacha tell ME (based upon the consultation with a Posek) how to live.
If we would each apply this to OURSELVES instead of telling other people
what to do , we would be a lot better off...

It is in this context that I strongly urged people to read Isaac
Breuer's Essay upon the matter of JEwish Society in regards to
Male/Female issues.  In brief, he feels that all the Takkanot that
Chazal enacted to "protect" women were not signs of Chazal's great
sensitivity but rather indications of how much the society -- and
esp. the MEN had deteriorated such that it was necessary for CHAZAL to
enact such protections!  I think that it is time for the MEN (including
this writer) to look at what the halacha demands from US instead of
trying to hide be hind "tzniut" by telling the women to stay home.



End of Volume 15 Issue 75