Volume 18 Number 57
                       Produced: Wed Feb 22 17:59:37 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Changes within Halakhic Framework
         [Eli Passow]
Feminists' intentions...
         [Zvi Weiss]
Judging others' motives
         [Ben Yudkin]
Women's Halakhic Roles - Theory and Practice (v18n50)
         [Eliezer Diamond]
Women's Motivation
         [Smadar Kedar]
Women, Mezuman and Feminism
         [Moishe Kimelman]


From: Eli Passow <passow@...>
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 14:11:06 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Changes within Halakhic Framework

The sincerity and pain expressed by Aliza Berger in her articulate 
statement (mj 18#53) is palpable. The response of any sensitive male
reading it will be to press for the most extensive changes  
possible within a halachik framework, and to stop questioning the 
motivation of dedicated and educated Jewish women, who feel 
unfulfilled and frustrated with unnecessary limitations imposed 
upon them. Accommodations of the type mentioned by Steve Bailey 
and Feigie Zilberstein (same issue) are good first steps in this 
direction.  We're too poor a people in numbers to waste 50% of our 

Eli Passow


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Feb 1995 14:55:34 -0500
Subject: Feminists' intentions...

Seth Weissman raises a very valid set of issues inthis matter .. The
crucial point -- as I understand it -- is that the "good and the bad"
may be intermixed.  In such a case, I feel that we must question whether
such a mixture is acceptable at all.  After all, R. Moshe has labeled
the motivation of demonstraitng "equality" as one of "heresy".  That is
a serious sin.  I do not see how a person seeking closeness with G-d
could -- at the same time also be doing something with heretical motives
-- unless that person was unaware that the heretical motivaiton was,
indeed, heretical.  In that case, I would treat that person as "Kulo
LAshamayin" -- i.e., "all good" as I would give such a person the
"benefit of the doubt" that upon finding out that something is
heretical, that person owuld cease to do it.  Of that person would NOT
cease to do it, then I would have to say that there is NOTHING good.
After all.  how could a person cliam to be seeking closeness to G-d when
told that the motivaiton is sinful.

Please note that *I* am not trying to judge the person's motives on my
own.  Rather, I used a rough guideline.  If a woman wishes to take an
"unusual step" claiming "Closeness to G-d", she should make sure that
she is doing what G-d REQUIRES of her first. Else, her motives are
suspect.  Similarly, if a woman DOES appear to be shomeret mitzvot, and
ALSO wishes to take the "unusual step".  I would NOT question the
motivation -- using the logic as explained above...

The story of Shmuel seems irrelevant here.  I am not talking about
judging someone simply based upon APPEARANCE (as Shmuel did).  I am
talking about a rough guideline as to the acceptability of their

I do not find such matters "intractable or unanswerable".  Rather, I
feel that it is perfectly proper to demand intellectual honesty and
rigor from the women (or men) who wish to vary from the "traditional".
It may indeed be permitted but, as a Rov in YU told me many years ago
when *I* wanted to do something a "little different" -- Al Tihyu min ha
masmihim -- do not be counted among those who do things that cause



From: <oujac@...> (Ben Yudkin)
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 14:13:16 +0000
Subject: Judging others' motives

The question of people's motive in performing various actions has been
raised a lot recently in connection with the extended discussion on
women's roles.  Many posters have pointed out that it is only Hashem who
can adequately judge a person's motives.  Those contending that we
should assess people's motives when deciding whether to permit certain
actions have also not, IMH recollection, suggested a way that we in our
inferiority can do this adequately.  It seems, then, that we are pretty
much united in admitting that it is at least difficult and perhaps
dangerous to try to impute motives to others.  This fact seems to me to
have important repercussions for the conduct of this list.  Recently, we
have had the following statements in postings:

> As I assume that [Plonit] is NOT a heretic,...

> ... to intentionally use a wrong title just because one disagrees with the
content of a posting...

What these quotations appear to have in common is some assignation of
presumed belief or motive to another person.  IMHO, it would not lower
the rigour of discussion on this list if we tried to avoid this practice
completely.  On the contrary, IMHO, statements of presumed motive
detract from postings because they constitute deviations from the issue
under discussion and may sometimes offend.  These are merely two recent
examples; and I have deliberately quoted out of context to suggest that
my point is not affected by context.  Whatever the background to
individual cases, may I respectfully suggest that we should try to limit
ourselves to discussing the _content_ of postings rather than
speculating beyond it?

[Just in case it is not perfectly clear from many other statements I
have made in the past, both publically on the list and privately in
email, PLEASE take the above to heart when writing. I would greatly
appreciate it and I strongly agree that it will only enhance the quality
of the list. Mod]


From: <ELDIAMOND@...> (Eliezer Diamond)
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 14:44:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Women's Halakhic Roles - Theory and Practice (v18n50)

	Though I often read Mail Jewish, I have been reluctant to put my
two cents in until now. However, a combination of a remark by Zvi Weiss
and a response by Leah Gordon have led me, somewhat reluctantly, to
speak my piece.
	First and foremost, the problem with Zvi Weiss's rasing the
spectre of heresy is not that Leah Gordon might actually be a heretic
but that the question was raised at all. there's no better
conversation-stopper than raising the question of heresy. At that point,
the other party is in a no-win situation, having either to prove his/her
doctrinal purity or fail doing so. The original point of discussion is
left in the dust. Perosnally, I think the category of heresy is totally
useless except as a blunt insrument with which to beat up someone with
whom you disagree. Anyone familiar with the medieval doctrinal disputes
of Rambam, Ra'avad, Ralbag, Ramban, Crescas and others (not to mention
the literalist views of R. Moshe Taku) knows that the boundaries of
correct and incorrect doctrine regarding several central matters of
Jewish faith (e.g. God's corporeality and forknowledge, the nature of
the world to come) were hotly disputed. i am not saying that what a Jew
believes is insignificant; I am saying that it is usually an act of
effrontery for someone else to pass on the religious acceptibility of
another's beliefs. Of couse, I know whar's in store for me for having
said all of the above; someone will discover that I'm a heretic. Whoever
it turns out to be, you should live and be well.
	All of the above having been said, while I am in essential
agreement with at least part of Leah Gordon's thesis, I am very
disappointed by the slipshod manner in which she marshalled her
evidence. Two examples will have to suffice. She says that women may
recite Kiddush in behalf of men and cites as her source "Mishnah
Berura", which is a bit like citing a verse and giving as your source
"the Bible". In any case, she does not cite the Mishnah Berurah's
comment in Orah Haim 271:4 where he cites approvingly earlier authorities
who discourage women from reciting Kiddush for those others than members
of their household because it is felt to be improper. I am not one who
believes that any statement of Mishnah Berurah must be followed
unquestioningly, but if you're going to cite a source, cite it fully and
	Second, Leah Gordon speaks of three women being obligated to
from a mezuman; again her source is Mishnah Berurah. In fact, Mishnah
Berurah on Orah Haim 199:11 cites the view of Tosafot that women may
make a mezuman but are not obligated to do so.
	As I said, I am in sympathy with Leah Gordon's concerns; in my
opinion, she needs to pay more attention to her methods. After all, if
we're not going to study Torah carefully, what's all the fuss about what
Torah has to say?

Eliezer Diamond (<eldiamond@...>)


From: <kedar@...> (Smadar Kedar)
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 17:09:43 -0600
Subject: Women's Motivation

(I am coming to this exchange a little late, so forgive me for repeating
any issues that were already discussed.)

Aliza Berger presents an eloquent argument on her motivation for greater
participation in jewish communal life, and argues that some of that
motivation comes from having greater participation in secular public
life.  I am trying to put myself in her shoes (which are pretty
similar): I am a woman who is a professional in a male-dominated field
(a Ph.D. in computer science), and I've enjoyed greater participation in
secular life.

However, unlike Aliza, neither I, nor many other professional women in
my orthodox community, believe effort should be placed on finding
halachic permission for having greater participation in jewish communal
life.  This motivation carries over mistaken notions from secular public
life (that your self-esteem and importance is measured by your public

Simply put, we as women do not want to have the same role as men.  We
have our own satisfying role as private and family people.  We are not
looking enviously over the Mechitza at how men get aliyot, leyn, and we
don't.  We see it as a male need for public recognition that we don't
need, and that is freeing.  Our energy and effort is therefore directed
towards charity, hospitality, teaching and learning, and so on.

My question to the women is: why put your effort to this, when there are
so many other important things you can do as an orthodox woman?  Why do
you measure your religious importance by the level of public influence?

Smadar Kedar


From: <kimel@...> (Moishe Kimelman)
Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 22:52:17 +1100
Subject: Women, Mezuman and Feminism

In # 50 Leah Gordon writes:

>Case 2:  Mezuman
>Halakha: Women are obligated in mezuman if three of them eat bread
>together and there are fewer than three men present.  Furthermore, they
>have the option of separating themselves and making their own mezuman
>even if there are three men present.  
>(source-Mishna Brurah)

As far as I can see, the Mishna Brurah's only mention of obligation of
women forming a mezuman is a case where women eat with three or more men
who were required to form a mezuman regardless of the presence of the
women.  Where there are only one or two men present, then the women MAY
NOT include the men in their mezuman, but are still permitted to form a
mezuman (mezumenet?) on their own.  Am I mistaken in my reading of the
Mishna Brurah?

I've been holding back on this topic all along, but now that I've been
"coerced" into commenting....  The point of "motive" has been dissected
and discussed at length, but what about the "motive" behind the
"motive"?  When someone wrongs us and we retaliate, our "outer" motive
is clearly revenge.  But the reason we feel the need to take revenge -
the "inner" motive behind the "outer" motive - may be pride, a sense of
justice, or some other hidden emotion.

So too in today's Jewish women's fight for religious equality.  While
the "outer" motive may be a sense of justice and fair play, is it merely
co-incidental that this sense came to the forefront during the same
period that the secular world started their search for equality?  Why is
it that the wives of all our Gedolim of earlier generations didn't feel
discriminated against?  Why didn't the Chafets Chaim's Rebbetzin
complain that she was denied scholarly recognition?  Why don't we hear
of the Vilna Gaon's Rebbetzin fighting for the right to dance with the
sefer Torah in her husband's shul?  Are there more than a handful of
readers who know the names of these two aforementioned great women?  Yet
are there even a handful who doubt that the Chafets Chaim and Vilna Gaon
- and all the other Gedolim over thousands of years - have considered
their wives equal partners in their achievements?  Could it be that the
"inner" motive behind the struggle for equality of the sexes is the non-
(or even anti-) Jewish outlook that if I am not as visible as a man and
able to do as he does I am considered worthless in secular society, and
therefore probably from a Torah perspective as well?

Furthermore, is not the concept of secular-style equality anathema to
Torah Judaism?  Kohanim are to be honored over Levi'im, and Levi'im over
the rest of us, yet there is nothing we can do about it.  If someone
were today to refuse me a job on the grounds that a Kohen had also
applied he would no doubt contravene some equality law, yet that is
possibly precisely what the Torah mandates.  What about discrimination
against mamzerim (children of certain illegal unions), female-converts,
and divorcees, amongst others, who are not always allowed to marry the
partner of their choice?  For that matter what about non-Jews?  We can
be friendly with them and respect them, but if we invite them over for a
meal we cannot under any circumstances count them in a mezuman.  Must
they too be permitted to dance with sifrei Torah?  What about the
blessings "shelo asani goy" and "shelo asani ishah" (blessing Hashem for
not making me a non-Jew or a woman)?

I am in no position to criticize Ms. Gordon's "outer" motive in her
fight for a discrimination-free society, but is her "inner" motive based
on Torah substance, or is it merely a case of "vi es krisselt zich, azoi
yiddelt zich" (the way the Xians act, is the way the Jew wants to act)?

I, for one, will continue to recite the blessing "shelo asani ishah"
daily, because that is what our sages have dictated, and my "akeret
habayit" (foundation of the house = wife) will answer "amen" if she
happens to be in earshot regardless of whether a secular feminist would
considered it degrading.  And when I am motzi (sorry Avi, I can't think
of a succinct translation) my wife and daughters during kiddush and
hamotzi - I am happy in my role as a traditional Jewish husband and
father, and they are happy in their roles as "bnot melech pnimah"
(princesses hidden from public view in their chambers).



End of Volume 18 Issue 57