Volume 18 Number 77
                       Produced: Sat Mar 11 23:27:08 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Putting the Cart before the Horse
         [Hayim Hendeles]
Where should we focus?
         [Zvi Weiss]
Wine, Women and Song
         [Jeff Korbman]
Women & Judaism
         [Aryeh Blaut]
Women and Megillah
         [Joel Kurtz]
Women's Zimmun
         [Shlomo H. Pick]


From: <hayim@...> (Hayim Hendeles)
Date: Thu, 2 Mar 1995 10:15:49 -0800
Subject: Putting the Cart before the Horse

A previous poster commented:

>However, these explanations, it seems to me, beg the question...
>Is it an absolute and eternal religious desideratum that the
>religious roles of women be private, and private only? If so,
>one cannot argue with the reasoning above. However, if one
>believes, as I do, that the place of women in religious society
>is subject to modification based on the cultural nuances of
>different times and places, ...

This statement underscores what is, IMHO, a significant problem with the
so called "Modern Orthodox" - viz.  approaching halacha with
preconceived biases and opinions.

There is a major difference between approaching the Torah from an
unbiased standpoint, vs. approaching it to find support for your beliefs.

This latter approach, so prevalent in our modern society, undermines
the entire relationship between the Jewish people and G-d; for we
are supposed to be "avdei hashem" [servants of G-d] and not vice-versa.

Unfortunately, the Torah is not interested in your opinions nor is the
Torah interested in my opinions. G-d did not consult us before he wrote
the Torah. The question we must ask is "What does G-d want?" --- and
NOT "where can I find a basis in G-d's Torah to support my opinion".

Hayim Hendeles


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Sun, 26 Feb 1995 21:36:48 -0500
Subject: Where should we focus?

I have a question for Ms. Gordon (and anyone else...).  Why the focus on 
 halachic areas that seem pretty well-established (such as Zimun...).  I 
 beleive that a far more critical issue is that we are unable to avail our-
 selves of the KNOWLEDGE and expertise of women (this list is an important
Unless one holds like those schools of thought that women are to be kept 
 deliberately ignorant (and I do not know if anyone on this list DOES hold
 like that...), we should, perhaps, be thinking whether all this knowledge
 that women finally do get a chance to learn goes to waste...
I am aware that there are always Tzniut issues of women (or A woman) speaking
 before men (although I am not at all clear why men do not have the reverse
 problem....).  Even so, I think that there are proper and acceptable ways
 of allowing women to interact with men as BOTH gain greater knowledge.
Even if the woman is not a "formal rabbi", there is much that can be gained
 in this sort of discussion.  The archtype, of course, is B'ruriah -- who
 certainly appeared to "hold her own" (and -- yes -- I know what RASHI is
 quoted as saying happened to her; I also recall that RASHI gave no source
 AND I have serious problems with R. Meir's role in RASHI's story...).

On another note, there was an article in (oh oh) Yated Ne'eman [I know, I
 know...] which made an interesting point.  The author cited the current
 research that possibly implies that men and women "think differently" and
 related it in a direct manner to the statements of CHAZAL that -- on the
 one hand, "Bina Yetera Nitna Bahen" -- women have extra "Bina" while on the
 other hand, "Nashim -- Da'atan Kalot" -- women have less (or a lighter form)
 of Da'at as opposed to men (Note that according to this approach, NAshim --
 Da'atan Kalot is NOT a derogatory or pejorative statement --- rather it is
 simply a statement of fact -- women "excell" in one area of "cognition" (?)
 and are "weak" in a different area).
Any comments?



From: <jekorbman@...> (Jeff Korbman)
Date: Tue, 28 Feb 1995 11:52:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Wine, Women and Song

When I first read Rudyard Kipling's remark, "A woman is just a woman,
but a good cigar is a smoke", I thought it to be funny and clever.
Today, I'm not so sure.

Perhaps more than any other issue on mail-jewish this past year, I find
the issue of Woman's Role in Judaism to be the most interesting.  I find
many of the entries to be especially passionate, honest and even a bit
personal.  As a man who was married to a very spiritiual and religious
person, I would like to share some thoughts about what I have seen,
heard and learned over the years.

My wife (may she rest in peace) and I used to talk about Shul on Shabbat
morning all the time.  Type of Mechitzah; how high, women benching
gomel, passing women the Torah, women giving d'var torahs from the bima
etc...  She pointed out to me that she believed there was a misplaced
sense of importance on Shabbat morning.  She was obligated to daven
every day, to say brochot every day; she made it a point to learn each
day as well as do acts of Chessed etc...  Shabbat moring didn't have the
same spotlight that it often does for some of us because she felt close
to God during the week which is 6X longer.  As a result, she was a bit
more traditional or "right wing" in her approach.  I respect that, and
support the more traditional approach if a given women is content with
the historical role that she has had over the years.

But what if she's not.

I have been reading these posting and I can't keep from laughing.  Here
we have all these rules.  Tons and tons of rules.  The less
sophisticated call them "Torah", the more sophisticated will identify
where a law is from (Biblical, Talmud, Responsa) or whether it be
Minhag, and whose (Ashkenazik, Sefardic etc..) But what they all have in
common is that they have been analyzed, interpreted and taught by the
same gender: men.

Do you think for a moment that if women had a say in the composition of 
the siddur you'd find a "shelo asani isha" juxtaposed to a "Sheasini 
Kirsono" bracha?  My wife was very traditional, and I know many Agudah 
affiliated traditional women.  Sure, some would say that's the way it 
should be.  But do you really believe that if women had a say, the result 
would be the same.  And that's just one example.

Instead, we engage in religious gymnastics.  We have all these rules
that men have written, they are our tradition and have ensured our
continuity.  Good.  However, they're the work of one gender, and now we
have these debates because another gender has a voice and is now able to
articulate their thoughts.  Do we simply squash them and wave the banner
of "torah" and "tradition".  We can, and many do.  But I have news for
them: Unless we strip women of the right to go to college, to study, to
compete in the marke place and relegate their minds to making challah,
raising children and studying Novi - this issue is not going to fade
away like a mail-jewish topic of the month.  (BTW, I in no way diminish
the role of a parent at home, as a single father I am fully aware of its
importance - there's just a lot more to life for me in addition to being
a parent or spouse)

My wife covered her hair.  She felt that to be important, both in her
relationship with God and in the message it sent in her home.  I agreed
and backed her up all the way.  But what happens when the very thought
completely turns a women off to yiddishkeit?  Do we give her the old
cliche': Sorry, but dems the rules?  And what gender decided that one.

Usually when I mention the "hair covering" one, the "right" responds by 
saying: Sure, and next if Shabbos turns someone off maybe they should 
forgo that as well.  Nice but irrelevant point.  One is a gender based 
mitzvah, one is not; one is Rabbinical (with the exception of the 
Trumas HaDeshen who's says haircovering is Biblical) and Shabbat is 

It fascinated me, when discussing the passing around the Torah to the
women's section, that someone was concerned about negiah.  Negiah,
touching, prohibited because it might lead to "mixed dancing" - so to
speak.  That Negiah?  Does this person truley belive that NEGIAH - and
more importantly, what it is intended to prevent - is an issue between
the Chazzan holding a sefer Torah and a woman, Shabbos moring, in Shul,
with 11 - hundreds of people standing around in the same sanctuary while
singing Romemu?.  That Negiah?  Is it simply the principle? And is the
principle - determined by men - more important then the people for whom
it is intended?  Weren't the WOMEN the ones at Sinai not the ones to
participate in the Golden Calf!  Perhaps THEY ARE THE ONES better fit to
receive the Torah, and maybe we should be coming to them to pass it
around the men's section!  (I know I'm exaggerating, but you get the
point - it's just that the Negiah comment is - i belive - an
exaggeration in the other direction).

I applaud the women who have written, and post their opinions.  I
especially loved the point made by one that she beautifully chanted the
Torah/Haftorah which made the entire shul quite and attentive,
mentionioning that afterall, Hashem gave her a voice to use to serve
Him. (or maybe I'm just tired of men getting maftir who have lousy
voices, poor articulation but give money attempt to sing the Haftorah).

I am saddened by the fact that many still feel the need to offer
apologetic reponses to their side in the name of tradition, while wonder
what Judaism would be like if they had the same presence years ago as
they are establishing today.


This morning, I was reading about the cognitive differences in the way
men and women use their brains.  It was a fascinating article.  The nice
thing about the research is that the motive is to explore the
difference; not for one gender to determine how the other should use
theirs'.  Perhaps we would see more seforim from women like Nechama
Leibowitz's work on the Torah, appreciate the perspective of thousands
and thousands of additional minds on Jewish issues, and thereby come
closer to G-d if we made avenues for women to learn, write, teach and
participate in Judaism to the extent that they deemed necessary.  (After
all, whose Judaism is it anyway?) And for those who think this is way
too radical, and tradition / status quo must be maintained: how many of
you rode your horses to work this morning?



From: <AryehBlaut@...> (Aryeh Blaut)
Date: Mon, 27 Feb 1995 09:13:03 -0500
Subject: Women & Judaism

It seems that there isn't a volume of mail-jewish being posted that
something about "Women & Judaism" hasn't been a feature.

In last week's issue of Yated Neeman (Week ending 17 Adar I (Feb 17),
there is an article by Rabbi Abraham Hoffenberg titled: "The Wiles of

He starts by quoting VaYikra 26:42 (Numbers) and the Sifra.  The verse
speaks of Hashem stating that He will remember His covenant with Yaakov,
Yitzchok & Avraham.  The Sifra asks about the Imaos (foremothers).  He
(the Sifra) states that we know from the extra words "es".  The author
of the article asks the question: "If the Torah looks at the z'chus of
our mothers as equal to that of our fathers, why does it not mention
their names specifically?
 Why does it cloak them with an "es"?"

The answer that Rabbi Hoffenberg offers is that it is a remez (hint) to
tznius ("modisty").  He devolpes this idea (much better than I could
summarize).  He calls attention to how different things would be if it
weren't for Sara, Rivka, Rachel & Leah as well as the women of Egypt,
all of whom "worked behind the scenes".

He shows, in the article, that tznius is not something negative, rather
it is kedusha (holiness).  He ends the piece with the following

"No wonder, then, that the Vilna Gaon said--as cited by Rav Elya Svei,
Philadelphia Rosh Yeshiva, in his keynote message at the Agudah national
convention two years ago--that for women, the equivalent of Torah tavlin
(the antidote to the Yetzer hora given to men encapsulated in the study
of Torah) is devotion to the middah of tznius."

I think that the question of women in Judaism is no different than any
other question one has about Yiddishkite.  Unless one totally
understands all of the sources, one will have unanswered questions.  But
as one of my teachers in Yeshiva said, "you don't die from an unanswered

Aryeh Blaut


From: Joel Kurtz <kurtzj@...>
Date: Mon, 6 Mar 1995 14:29:59 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Women and Megillah

Eli Passow's note on this subject puzzles me.  Although I am in favour of 
women reading megillah for women or men, his note appears to minimize the 
problem.  Am I incorrect in believing that the halachic difficulty is 
much greater with regard to a woman reading megillah than for a woman 
reading a haftara, for example?

Joel Kurtz 


From: Shlomo H. Pick <F12013@...>
Date: Sun, 05 Mar 95 09:00 O
Subject: Women's Zimmun

This is a copy of a note I sent to Prof. A. Frimer and upon his
suggestion I am sending it in to mail-jewish:

Way back when - about two + years ago, the issue came up of men present
at woman zimun. To me it was pashut that i could stay and i did not
leave and i even answered.  When my daughter got engaged, he raised the
issue and asked R. Shlomo Zalman personally upon taking him to
shacharitit one morning and R. Shlomo Zalman praised the custom and told
me to him stay and answer.  I also asked R. Elyashiv who verbally
allowed me to stay and answer.  Since there is a lot of disagreement
according to prevalent custom and at first my daughters resisted (my
wife to this day only answers but refuses to lead as she doesn't like
"fremde zachim" = strange things).  As they only do it from the start
because I insisted upon it, and if I were to change my mind or be
convinced that it was wrong and stop them, then they would simply stop
the practice. Hence, it was natural without their asking me, to start
the zimun "Birshut Avi Mori" as without my o.k. the whole practice is
chucked out.



End of Volume 18 Issue 77