Volume 19 Number 21
                       Produced: Thu Apr  6 23:59:30 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Cart Before Horse, et al.
         [Zvi Weiss]
Co-ed schools
         [Ari Shapiro]
Leah Gordon's Comments (v18n50)
         [Simmy Fleischer]
Women's Participation in Halakhic Process
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Wed, 22 Mar 1995 18:06:42 -0500
Subject: Cart Before Horse, et al.

Heather (Chana) Luntz has raised an insightful matter in the question of
women's roles: If the roles are truly different, then why are women not
prohibited from the performance of Mitzvot.  she offers 2 possible
explanations which require much more discussion.  I will only raise one
question in regard to her explanations -- to say that "Some" women
(either in a given generation or all/most women in a specific
generation) would need the mitzvot (while men need to do mitzvot
throughout all generations) begs a different question: who is insightful
enough to determine when (or which) women now "need" to do mitzvot?

On the other hand, the notion that woman's role is "frozen forever" is
also (as she very cogently points out) not a particularly good way to
view the matter.

Perhaps, there is another approach.  I once heard a Rav at YU (this was
more years ago than I care to think about so I cannot remember who it
was)...  He said that the Torah meant to give a "spectrum" of choices to
men or women..  It is only at certian points of the spectrum that the
Torah -- for its own reasons -- blocked certain choices from men or

For example, in order to *allow" women a role of being in the home, the
Torah exempted them from ever being able to be formally summoned to
testify...  Men -- for whom the Torah felt such a role (i.e., staying in
the home in that fashion) was NOT an option -- are subject to the
halachot of being summoned to testify if the man knows testimony.  The
"down side" is that once the woman was "exempted" from the obligation to
testify, she "lost" the "right" of being a "formal witness" (or "Eid")
because the two are interlinked -- a "Formal witness" is a person who
could be compelled to testify...  Thus, in this case, the Torah
deliberately blocked a particular function for women to allow for the
capability of women "being in the home".  This does NOT mean that a
woman MUST be in the home, only that this is an option that the Torah
explicltly allows for a woman (and not for a man).

The speaker continued that -- in general -- we will find certian points
where men are excluded, certain ones where women are excluded, and then
a "band area" where there is overlap.

I think that if we begin by looking at the halacha and then working
"outward", we will be able to (a) define more precisedly what we *think*
G-d wants, (b) try to be more objective about the matter (and more
honest) and (c) truly find our placer in the world.



From: <m-as4153@...> (Ari Shapiro)
Date: Sun, 2 Apr 95 09:32:12 EDT
Subject: Co-ed schools

<With a bit of sarcasm, I thank Ari for settling these long-time issues
<that people like the Rav never managed to come to grips with. Co-ed
<schools are not un-halachik, neither is wearing pants (a very complex
<issue, connected to societal norms, dealt with on many levels by various
<Torah personalities)

I would like to go into more depth about the issur(prohibition) of co-ed
schools.  It is prohiited for men and women to mix.  The gemara in
Succah 42b says that even at a eulogy in the time of moshiach men and
women will be separated kol vachomer(certainly) at other times.  The
Rambam in Hilchos Yom Tov perek 6 halacha 21 writes that beis din(court)
is obligated to appoint shotrim(guards) during the holidays so that the
men and women should not get together and come to violate an aveira.
This is quoted in Shulchan Aruch in Siman 529 sif 4.  It is clear that
the halacha requires a seoaration of men and women.  Schok v'kalus
rosh(laughter and levity) is prohibited between men and women.  The
mekoros are the shulchan aruch Even Haezer Siman 21 (based on many
gemaras if someone wants I will post them), Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer
Siman 115.  A co-ed school also leads to the formation of friendships
between boys and girls.  This violates the following 4 issurim: 1)
histaclus (looking at a woman).  It is prohibited for a man to look at a
woman for pleasure 2) hirhur (thinking about women) 3) sicha yeseira
(excessive talk) with women 4) kalus rosh (levity with women).  These 4
issurim are documented very clearly and explicitly in the gemara and the
shulchan aruch.  They may also violate the following 3 issurim: 1)
Yichud (being alone with a woman) which may be a torah prohibtion if the
woman is a niddah 2) chibuk v'nishuk (hugging and kissing) 3) negia
(touching).  R' Moshe has clearly stated in more then one responsa that
co-ed school are prohibited based on the above.

The Rav clearly held that co-ed schools were problematic, I quote the
following story about the Rav from Nefesh Harav (p.237) by R. Shachter.
(the following is loosely translated) "When they opened a co-ed school
in a certain city and they told the Rav that the school was co-ed and
the model they used was Maimonides in Boston he was astounded and said
in that city they have always had separate schools what need was there
to open a co-ed school.  In Boston there were 2 bad choices either have
no Jewish school for girls or have a co-ed school and based on the
situation the lesser of 2 evils was picked to open a co-ed school.  But
in other places where there are separate schools and there is no need it
is definately not right to open a co-ed school."  We see clearly that
the Rav agreed with R' Moshe that co-ed schools are prohibited.
However, in some situations where the alternative is worse (no school at
all) we violate the issur.

R' Aviner in his sefer Gan Naul has the following questions: Are you
allowed to have a co-ed organization? Answer: it is definately
prohibited.  What abut joining a co-ed organization like Bnei Akiva? It
is prohibited to have a co-ed organization.  However if the organization
s the only way to educate kids to torah and mitzvos then we we look at
it as a whole, that even thought it violates these halachos of
separating boys and girls on the whole it does more good then bad.  I
think this is the same heter that NCSY uses.  It is clear however, that
this is not the ideal.  It is a compromise choosing the lesser of 2

To sum up, co-ed schools certainly violate the halacha.  From the
sources I have cited we see the halacha mandates the separation of boys
and girls.  Therefore co-ed schools are at best a temporary measure (the
lesser of 2 evils)so that the community will have a school.  If anyone
has any sources that contradict what I am saying I will be glad to

Ari Shapiro


From: Simmy Fleischer <sfleisch@...>
Date: Wed, 5 Apr 1995 08:56:28 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Leah Gordon's Comments (v18n50)

I'm  sorry that this is bringing up an old discussion but I have been 
recently catching up on old mj's that I haven't read from Feb and March. 
While I have found many of the issues that have been discussed regarding 
women and halacha interesting and enlightening I was disturbed by a 
comment that Leah Gordon made regarding summer camp policy, specifically 
Camp Moshava, in Wild Rose Wisconsin. She claims that women aren't 
allowed to learn in the kollel program, WRONG! The requirements for a 
person (male or female) are the same they must have studied in a 
yeshiva/michalala in israel for at least 2 years. In general most women 
do not spend 2 years  and therfore are not eligible but if there were to 
be a qualified female applicant I am sure the Vaad Moshava (Bnei Akiva's 
moshava staffing commitee) would consider her the same as any male 

Next point that she made was that girls were not allowed to 
play floor hockey (in the late 80's) wrong again. I remember seeing girls 
kvutzot (groups) playing hockey a number of times and in general they 
probably didn't play b/c in general the girls kvutzot weren't interested. 
If she is speaking regarding the hockey games on Motzei Shabbat I do 
recall some instances when women were allowed to play, but not everyone 
was hapy with the idea presumably due to the problem of negia (even 
though to the best of my knowledge it is questionable if there is 
halachic negia in a floor hockey game, I say this b/c I once asked my 
rebbe in high school if hitting a girl was negia to which he responded 
no, but you shouldn't hit people in general :-) )

Just so everyone understands where I am coming from in saying the above 
the following is my  abriged "moshava/Bnei AKiva resume" tzevet (staff) 
member 5748, 50-53, member Vaad Moshava (5750-53) (the years the when kollel 
first began) and Mazkir Galil Bnei AKiva of Chicago (5750-5753).



From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 1995 13:06:00 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Women's Participation in Halakhic Process

Jeff Korbman wrote:
> > What I belive we need to asess, at this point in time, is how to
> > accomdate a new voice the halachic process - a female voice - 
> > while still maintaining the integrity of the framework that got us to 
> > this point.

Eliyahu Teitz responded (in part):
> My point is that Chazal were sensitive people: sensitive to nuances in
> Biblical texts, sensitive to the halachic system, and sensitive to human
> emotions. Let us give them the credit they deserve for the system they
> have handed down to us.

True, but Chazal were also human. That only men were involved in the
halakhic process (e.g. in discussions in the study hall) means that
entire parts of human experience were in the study hall only second
hand.  For example, I once skimmed all of Tractate Nidah (laws of family
purity) (in English). I found that there was either one or no "maaseh
she-haya" (actual real-life) case mentioned (the one possibility was
where a woman's name was mentioned as coming before a rabbi; I don't
remember whether what she said was a nidah case, but it stood out
because it was an actual real life event), whereas other tractates (at
least ones I have learned) are full of these types of stories which are
brought from which to learn how one of the rabbis ruled.  Isn't it odd
that no rabbi in the entire tractate ever even says something like "a
woman came before me with x nidah question and I ruled such-and-such"?
I really don't understand it, since surely rabbis ruled on such cases.
Except that I suspect that if women were in the bet midrash there would
be more direct experience reported.  You might ask, why would we want
that? Answer: second-hand experience is more faulty. Follow-up questions
can be asked of a first-hand reporter.

The tractate nidah example is concrete. I have come across other
examples in the Talmud which grate on the modern (feminist) ear,but
which are more subtle.  In Ketubot, there is a case where a woman's
expressing her side is stated in one word "tsavkhah" -[she
cried/screamed] (it is clear from the context what her ta'anah [claim]
was).  I didn't check the number of times "tsavakh" is used to describe
a man stating his side, but hey - maybe the woman was screaming because
no one was listening to her when she talked in a normal tone of voice.
The case had to do with her rights to property after divorce or death of
her husband (something like that). Surely reporting the case in this
manner (if cases where men screamed are not reported as such, or men did
not need to scream because they knew the old boy's network in the bet
din) contributes to a perception of the reader that women are shrill and
emotional. Maybe someone who was not entitled to be in charge of her own
earnings during marriage got a little frustrated. Perhaps she was a
precurser of the way just about any woman feels and is entitled to in
today's world (but not 175 years ago),even under current (changed)
halakha:She would have preferred to have the choice of being in charge
of her own earnings rather than accepting the obligations her husband
had to her in exchange for handing over her pay envelope (sack).

The other question is, if women had participated in the halakhic process
in previous, pre-modern times, would it have been any different?  Maybe
it would have been the same. But maybe it *would* have been different.
It is only human nature to be less concerned about something that is
farther away from home - thus it is perfectly conceivable the rabbis in
previous times, and rabbis in today's male-only study hall, overlook
some things that are obvious to a woman of yesterday or today (different
things depending on the time and society).  There is precedent for this
- Moses was not sensitive to the claim of the daughters of Zelophad
until they brought it up to him!  How many similar cases were discussed
in the study halls of the Talmudic and later periods?  As law became
more complicated (the rule of inheritance that Zelophad's daughters
challenged was simple and straightforward), women, having been totally
left out of the process, could not challenge the laws, since they didn't
understand them.

It is a basic principle of both the feminist and the civil rights
movements that if a group is left out of the decision-making, power
process, that group will be discriminated against.  Hazal are likely
less guilty of this charge than other powerful groups, all to their
credit.  However, subconscious bias can creep in. Therefore, women
should be part of the decision-making process.  This begins with
(a)equal education for girls (so they are not behind to begin with, and
so they are encouraged to consider learning/teaching as a profession)
and equal opportunites for education for women so that all women who
wish to do so can learn enough to be part of the process, and (b) for
(more of) those who presently hold the power in their hands (rabbis) to
allow women who are learned to become a (widely-accepted) part of the
halakhic decision-making process. This last would also encourage women
to learn more, since it would be a viable career opportunity.

Aliza Berger


End of Volume 19 Issue 21