Volume 18 Number 01
                       Produced: Thu Jan 19 19:41:33 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Halachic adulthood & obligations
         [Yaakov Menken]
Innovation within halachah
         [Micha Berger]
         [Mark Bells]
Kohain and Divorcee
         [Elisheva Schwartz]
Mikvah use by unmarried women? 17 #95
         [Jeremy Nussbaum]
Mikveh - Unmarried Women
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]
Mikveh and unmarried women
         [Alan Zaitchik]
Motivation of Women in Judaism
         [Jonathan Katz]
Women Tfillah Groups/Women's Lib
         [Avi Teitz]


From: <menken@...> (Yaakov Menken)
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 95 23:52:52 EST
Subject: Halachic adulthood & obligations

>Yakov Menken's story about Hattarat Nedarim in Gateshead Yeshiva, while
>interesting , is unfortunately untrue.  

Correct - I realized afterwards that this story (heard from an English
bochur in Lakewood Jerusalem) most likely referred to the _Manchester_ Rosh
Yeshiva, Rav Segal, rather than Gateshead - considering that most of the
British students in Lakewood came from Manchester.  I stand by the accuracy
of the story as referring to _an_ English Rosh Yeshiva.

However, Michael Broyde wrote:
>most authorities [...] rule that even a 
>13 year old with no simanim can sit as a dayan; see CM 7:3.

So it's quite possible that the R"Y in question was merely being Machmir
Al Atzmo (stringent beyond what's required), while the R"Y of Gateshead
went with the commonly accepted Halacha.

Yaakov Menken                      <menken@...>
Director, Project Genesis                      (914) 356-3040
P.O.B. 1230, Spring Valley, NY  10977      Fax (914) 356-6722


From: Micha Berger <berger@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 95 12:39:35 -0500
Subject: Innovation within halachah

V17n98 carries some replies to my post about changing conventional
practice to include women.

Leah S. Gordon takes the affront as personal:
> Mr. Berger writes that he questions the motive of women who wish
> to dance with the Torah, celebrate bat-mitzvahs, etc.  I, for one,
> question the motive of people like him--how much of their objection
> to women participating in Jewish ritual is based on chauvinism,
> and how much on genuine halakhic concern?  This wondering of mine
> is directly precipitated by his direct statement, "all questions
> about permissability aside."  Since when does an Orthodox Jew throw
> aside "all questions about permissability" in addressing a halakhic
> issue?

I don't question the motive. I question the practice in cases where the
motive is questionable. :-)

If it were clear that the primary motive were religious, I would have no
problem. However, if the primary motive, or even a significant but
secondary motive, is to assert equality as defined by 20th cent. western
mores, I start to wonder.

Clearly, this divides the innovators into two groups. I'm not trying to
place any individual into either group, especially without meeting
her. However, I would hazard to guess that neither group is empty.

I was talking about the prohibition of "bekhoseihem lo seileichu" -- not
going in there ways. The permissability of dancing with the Torah is a
side issue. The issue I wanted to raise was the permissability of
dancing with the Torah because you consider feminism a priority, and you
subjugate religious practice to that external priority.

I'm sorry if the 5 words Leah quotes misled anyone. (I also wonder about
her opinion about holding a wedding in shul, which I consider to be a
similar problem, but has nothing to do with feminism.)

Jeremy Nussbaum asks if there is a basis in previous psak for the idea
that "bechukoseihem" is related to motive.

I'm not sure. However there is a need to define why the Chazon Ish had
problems with holding a wedding in shul, but no problem with introducing
a sermon into Shabbos morning services. It seems some innovations are
okay, but others aren't.

The idea of motive, following the gentile's practice BECAUSE it was his
practice, creates two categories. I personally liked the idea. (Which is
why my first words are "to me it would seem".)

The other examples Jeremy gives (prozbol, selling chameitz, selling land
for shmittah) have nothing to do with trying to imitate gentile
practice, or fit halachah to gentile values. Pruzbul was invented to
support the Jewish value of tzeddakah, and selling chameitz or land were
to minimize the number of people who would need tzeddakah.

The bit about leaving fires lit, since this is a literal reading of the
Torah, is a red herring. The halachah that it is only lighting a fire
that is prohibited here isn't even an innovation, it's the currect
reading of the Divine Word (d'Oraisa).

Jeremy's complaint:
> According to this line of reasoning, there should never be innovation or
> accomodation of changed circumstances.

is exactly what I'm trying to avoid. I'm looking for those very criteria
that would define when accomodation is permissable, and when the issue
doesn't merit accomodation.

Micha Berger                     Help free Ron Arad, held by Syria 3014 days!
<berger@...>  212 224-4937             (16-Oct-86 - 17-Jan-95)
<aishdas@...>  201 916-0287
<a href=http://www.iia.org/~aishdas>AishDas Society's Home Page</a>


From: idela!<markb@...> (Mark Bells)
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 95 10:55:52 PST
Subject: Re: Kobe

> >From: Finley Shapiro <Finley_Shapiro@...>
> Readers may not yet have heard that a major earthquake hit Japan the
> morning of 1/17 (Japanese time).  The port city of Kobe was particularly
> hard hit, with injuries, damage, and earthquake caused fires.  The
> Jewish community in Kobe has been mentioned previously on this list.
> I'm sure we are all concerned how the community has fared, and would
> like information from anyone on the list who can get it.

I would like to know about any Jewish groups affected, especially a
temple.  The reason is that I live in Northridge and our temple received
donations from people and groups we had never heard of.  Once I learn of
those in Kobe who could use our help, I'd like to see what we could do.

Mark Bell   <markb@...>


From: Elisheva Schwartz <es63@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 95 9:36:21 EST
Subject: Kohain and Divorcee

Joshua Barton states:
"Since there is not a single Conservative _or_ normative Orthodox rabbi
on this planet who would willingly officiate at such a ceremony [the
wedding of a divorcee and a kohain]..."

I beg to differ.  Take a look at the Klein book on conservative
halakhah (I'll get the exact citation if anyone needs it).  As I
remember, he says that this isn't a problem today, since no one really
knows anymore if he's a kohain or not.  As a former Conservative
rabbinical student I know of many rabbis who would officiate without
second thoughts at the wedding of a kohain and a divorcee or convert. 
In fact, as far as I know, the only place the the kehuna is
acknowledged any more in the Conservative movement is at the separate
seating minyan at the Seminary--hardly a normative Conservative place.

Elisheva Schwartz


From: <jeremy@...> (Jeremy Nussbaum)
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 95 11:29:27 EST
Subject: Mikvah use by unmarried women? 17 #95

> >From: Neil Parks <nparks@...>
>         Freda B. Birnbaum said
> >I occasionally hear of people who are either living together or sleeping
> >together without being married, and the woman goes to the mikvah, but I
> >am not at all aware of any rabbinical approval or recommendation of this
> >practice.
> I have heard a Conservative rabbi suggest this, but I doubt that any
> Orthodox authorities would agree.
> Seems to me that an unmarried woman going to mikvah before engaging in
> intimacy would in effect be preparing to do something improper--which
> would not make the activity any less improper.

Let's get some halakhic grounding here.  Sex with a nidah is plainly
prohibited in the Torah, and is punished with kareit, being cut off
from the congregation.  This is a severe punishment, only one level
removed from a human court death sentence.  On the other hand, the
exact nature of a prohibition of an (unmarried) man and unmarried
woman sleeping together in the absence of any other prohibition is not
as clear, and certainly does not involve such a severe punishment.  My
recollection is that up to a certain point it was either common or at
least not unheard of for unmarried women to go to mikvah, but at some
point in the early medieval period, at least in ashkenazic countries,
this practice was proscribed.  At that time, the severe consequence of
sleeping with a nidah was considered to have sufficient deterrent
value that simply prohibiting mikvah would effectively prevent
premarital sex.  While I'm not advocating changing the practice, it is
not obvious to me that the proscribing mikvah for unmarried women has
the same deterrent effect these days.

As a side issue, I am curious as to the extent of niddah observance
and advocacy of observance in the conservative movement.

Jeremy Nussbaum (<jeremy@...>)


From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 1995 11:46:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Mikveh - Unmarried Women

Gitelle Rapoport has written a chapter on the subject of unmarried women
going to mikveh on the eve of Yom Kippur.  The chapter will appear in
Blu Greenberg's forthcoming book on mikveh, and will include halakhic
sources and information about contemporary practice.  For example, some
Lubavitch unmarried women go.  Interestingly, she found that some
Orthodox rabbis were completely unaware that any women actually do this.

Aliza Berger


From: Alan Zaitchik <ZAITCHIK@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 1995 09:15:29 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Mikveh and unmarried women

Back in the late 60's Rabbi Yitzhak Greenberg of YU raised the idea of
single women who were anyway sexually active going to the mikveh so at
least they would not be guilty of a Torah sin whose punishment is karet
(excision). (Even full premarital sexual relations, not to mention
less-than-full sexual activities, are of a far less severity.)  As I
recall Rabbi Greenberg was nearly run out of town for suggesting this,
although some of us bochrim thought it was rather a good idea... :-)

-A Zaitchik


From: Jonathan Katz <frisch1@...>
Date: Wed, 18 Jan 1995 02:53:35 EST
Subject: Motivation of Women in Judaism

Leah Gordon recently defended the "right" of women to participate in
rituals (the examples she used were dancing with the Torah and the
celebrating of Bat-Mitzvahs) *regardless of their intentions*. According
to her post, if I read it correctly, as long as something is
*permissible* it doesn't matter what the underlying motivation is.

I cannot disagree more with this idea. Surely you don't mean to suggest
that just because something is *permitted* implies that it is desirable,
much less that it should be condoned and supported?! As far as the case
at hand (the intentions of the women), I think that it makes all the
difference in the world whether or not the women are religiously
motivated or politically motivated (i.e., I want to do x just because
men can do x) before deciding whether or not a given act should be
condoned. For instance, what message are these women (those whose
motivations are political) giving to others? That Judaism is Judaism is
not sacred, but merely a bunch of rituals with the idea being to
participate in as many as possible?!

I speak partly from experience. Having gone to a conservative shul for a
while, I saw women going up for aliya's (I am putting aside the question
of whether or not this is halachically permissible) whose couldn't read
Hebrew and didn't keep Shobbos or a kosher house! My point here is not
to denigrate those who do not keep Shobbos or a kosher home (I have my
ample share of faults), but my point is: why bother with getting an
aliyah, which is relatively meaningless in the grand picture, when you
don't even follow the basics?

Jonathan Katz
410 Memorial Drive, Room 241C
Cambridge, MA 02139


From: <TEITZ.AVRAHAM@...> (Avi Teitz)
Date: Thu, 19 Jan 1995 11:17:31 -0500
Subject: Women Tfillah Groups/Women's Lib

If any man/woman wants to do a mitzvah, who are we to stop them? If
the activity is halachacly permitted, we should be happy that there
are people motivated to do mitzvot, and we should be glad that we
reside in a community where such people exist.  With respect to
motivation for performing these mitzvot, haven't we been taught
"Metoch lo lishma ba lishma"? [From doing an action not for the purpose
of a mitzvah, the person will come to do it for the purpose of the
mitzvah. Mod]


End of Volume 18 Issue 1