Volume 19 Number 30
                       Produced: Tue Apr 11  6:48:28 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Women and Halacha
         [Hayim Hendeles]
Women's Participation in Halakhic Process
         [Yaakov Menken]
Women, etc.
         [Zvi Weiss]
Women, Men and Motives
         [Moishe Kimelman]


From: <hayim@...> (Hayim Hendeles)
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 1995 11:31:29 -0700
Subject: Re: Women and Halacha

A recent poster commented:

	>I predict that we will soon see, with the growth of Jewish
	>women, enagged in creating the means of sustenance for their
	>families that "mitzvot aseh she-hazman grama" framework will
	>apply to all those who care for children whether they be male
	>or female.

It seems that you misunderstood the concept of "mitzvot aseh she-hazman
grama". The reason women are exempt from such commandments has *nothing
whatsoever* to do with their caring for children. The reason for their
exemption is a Divine decree (learned via the 13
principles). Period. End of discussion.

G-d does not give us any reasons for His decree, and the ultimate answer
why is "G-d's wisdom".

Now it so happens that *we (more properly, the Rishonim) can speculate*
that *one* of the reaons (in the words of the Sefer Hachinuch
"MIshrashei hamitzvot") for the Divine decree may be their obligation to
care for their families.

If that reason makes it easier for you to understand, fine. If not, not.
But it is a terrible error to assume this to be sole reason, and that
the halacha would change if this reason did not apply.

	>This would be the natural way for halacha to expand
	>its authority. It would also open up the space for
	>"professional" women of all sorts being a different category
	>than the traditional "isha" and thus encourage women rabbis,
	>poskim, and officers in the larger Jewish commnunity.

If you were to continue your statement by saying, that it would be in
the natural way for nature to expand itself, and open up the space for
men to become pregnant, and have babies, which they would nurse with
their own breasts, then I might be prepared to hear your comments.

But, obviously, this is ludicrous. Clearly, G-d created Men and Women
different physically, for different roles. If we can accept this, then
why can we not accept the notion that G-d created Men and Women for
different spiritual roles as well?

Clearly we will serve our Creator best if each sex fulfills the role
they were created for.

Hayim Hendeles


From: <menken@...> (Yaakov Menken)
Date: Fri, 07 Apr 1995 14:59:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Women's Participation in Halakhic Process

Aleeza Esther Berger wrote:
>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)... maybe the woman was screaming because
>no one was listening to her when she talked in a normal tone of voice... 
>Surely reporting the case in this manner ... contributes to a perception of
>the reader that women are shrill and emotional. 

The wording "Tzavach" - meaning to shout or cry out - is used countless
times in many tractates of the Talmud in cases of either gender, and it
means nothing more than to protest.  If a person does _not_ protest, he or
she is about to lose property.  Shtika Kehoda'ah Damya - Silence equals
acquiescence, whereas in the case that he or she is "Omed V'Tzavach" -
standing and shouting - we see that he or she does not concede.  This
provides not the _slightest_ hint of women being "shrill and emotional".

Ms. Berger admits she wasn't certain:
>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

I also read in Talmud that one who denigrates a Talmudic scholar has no
share in the World to Come.  I can only wonder what the Talmud _would_ say
to referring to entire courts of Tannaim v'Amoraim, the authors of Mishna
and Talmud, as an "old boy's network."  But as already pointed out, the
entire assertion about the nature of the Talmud was erroneous.

>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 ... 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).

I don't know where Ms. Berger learned this, but the Talmud and Shulchan
Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) accords a woman _every_ right to control her own
earnings if she so desires.  A woman has two models to choose from:
A) The "Housewife" - accepts support from her husband.  If she happens to
earn money, she gives it to him in return for his support.
B) The "Independent Working Woman" - does not accept support.  Earns her own
money, and KEEPS IT.  No obligation EVER to support her husband.

The man, thanks to the blatant sexism of the Rabbis, Talmud, and great G-d
herself, is obligated by the marriage contract to support his wife WHENEVER
SHE CHOOSES.  Acknowledging "women's prerogative" to change their mind, the
Kesubah permits them to choose FROM DAY TO DAY which of the two models above
she prefers.

If she's having a bad season, she says to her husband, "support me!"
And if she's doing well, she says "you keep yours, I'll keep mine."
And if he's starving, she has no more obligation to support him than any
other poor Jew.

Yes, this does give obvious preference to women, but I'll live with it.  It
is, after all, the holy, immutable and unchanging Torah, and I for one
assume that G-d knew what he was designing when he gave Torah to the Jews
and allowed (nay, required) the Torah Sages to enact further legislation.
Even if they did show an obvious bias towards women in this area.

Yaakov Menken                                            <menken@...>
http://www.torah.org/genesis/staff/menken.html             (914) 356-3040
Just Remember:  "LEARN TORAH!"           Project Genesis: <learn@...>


From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>
Date: Mon, 3 Apr 1995 12:41:44 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Women, etc.

Some time ago, there was a post that cited a Gadol who stated that the 
maxim of Torah Tavlin applies to MEN and that for women, the "Tavlin" is 
While I strongly disagreed with the tone and tenor of the criticism of 
the Gadol, I do think that there are legitimate questions that can be raised.

1. What is the source of such a statement (note: I recall that this was 
cited in the name of the Gra -- to me that just begs the question:
  where did the Gra get it from)?
2. As men are (presumably) ALSO obligated to be tznu'im, why should this 
matter be focused upon women?
3. The gemara explicitly states that "Barati Yetzer HaRah -- Barati Torah 
Tavlin" -- G-d states that He created the Yetzer HaRah and created the 
Torah as an antidote.  The difficulty is that gemara statement -- as I 
understand it does NOT appear to refer to the SPECIFIC mitzva of Talmud 
Torah rather it appears to refer to the Torah "lifestyle" -- this appears 
to be reinforced by the example provided -- that of a person with a wound 
(or sore) who is given a bandage (or "plaster") and is told that as long 
as the bandage is kept in place, the person may eat or drink as s/he 
pleases but if the bandage is removed, then a deterioration (with grave 
consequences) will occur.  As this appears to refer to an overall 
lifestyle, rather than a specific mitzva, I do not understand why women 
would not be included under this category, as well.

4. The other source that comes to mind is in B'rachot where it states 
that if this "disgusting one" (the Yetzer Harah) has met up with one, 
drag him (the "disgusting one") to the Beit Hamidrash.  The difficulty 
that I have in that case is (a) the term "Tavlin" is not used in that 
context and (b) that is NOT the only antidote cited there (for example, 
reminding one's self of one's mortality is ALSO considered a very 
effective tactic).  And, at least some of the other tactics mentioned 
could easily apply to women, as well.

In light of the above, is anyone more familiar with the speech actually 
given and has anyone else any thoughts on these ideas?



From: <kimel@...> (Moishe Kimelman)
Date: Wed, 5 Apr 1995 17:17:51 +1000
Subject: Women, Men and Motives

In a reply to a post of mine questioning the deeper and "inner" motive 
behind frum feminists Freda Birnbaum writes (v19 # 14):

>May I suggest that it is a serious question and not a flame, to ask, what is
>the motive behind the motive when men get SO upset and SO critical of women
>doing things which are clearly permissible, such as mezuman or dancing with a
>sefer Torah?  (Public aliyot in a regular shul are a separate issue, much more
>fraught with emotion and with the weight of custom.)  What is it about women
>doing these activities which sends so many men rushing off to the seforim to
>find a reason to prohibit it?

I agree that the "inner" motive behind many men (present company not 
necessarily excluded) "rushing off to the seforim to find a reason to 
prohibit" women trying to bring about change may be far from alruistic.  (We 
men have our hang-ups too, you know.)  However, what those men are doing is 
what has always been traditionally mandated - searching sources for even the 
slightest clue as to what is to be lauded and what is frowned upon.  Even 
"outer" motive is not of great importance when one is continuing along the 
paths that our antecedents trod.  On the other hand, even "inner" motive IS 
important when change is to be introduced.

I may have mentioned this in my original post - it was written a long time 
ago - or someone else may have brought it up, and I'm sorry if I repeat, but 
how many of the innovations of the German Reform movement were contrary to 
the letter of the law?  Is moving the bimah to the front of the shule 
outlawed in Shulchan Aruch?  Is there anything wrong with praying in German? 
 But these proposed changes set the alarm bells ringing in the minds of the 
Chatam Sofer and others, and rallied many hundreds and thousands to the 
battle on the side of Orthodoxy.  Why did the Chatam Sofer vehemently oppose 
these and other innovations that would supposedly have fulfilled the (then) 
modern German Jews' need for self-expression, in a way that was meaningful 
to them?  Surely it was because the Chatam Sofer saw what he regarded a 
non-Torah "inner" motive, and he foresaw - a prediction that was in time 
proven to be correct  - that this was just the first stage in the decay of 
Torah Judaism.

So although men may have their own agenda in arguing against Jewish 
feminism, the feminism itself needs closer scrutiny than the men's reasons 
for fighting.  And I think that many - maybe even many of mj's male 
supporters of feminism - would agree with me that a lot of the feminist 
arguments presented lately in mj have shown that there is what to be 
concerned about.

There are many laws that I find inconvenient, and many that I find difficult 
and unpleasant to keep.  In some - too many - I fail dismally in my 
purported attempt to be an oved Hashem (servant of G-d), but I don't rail 
against Chazal for not taking my human weaknesses into account.  I don't 
claim that their attitude is medieval, nor do I even consider saying that 
being the great sages that they were they could not fully understand the 
common man in the street.  What I do say, in fact, is that I know that the 
fault is all mine.  If I don't fit in with Chazal, then I have to improve.

But over the period of mj discussion of women's roles we have heard how 
Chazal would have ruled otherwise had they first consulted their wives, how 
their views were based on the society around them, how they were just plain 
misogynists etc. etc..  Do we all - feminists, anti-feminists and all shades 
in between - agree that we (at least men) should put on tefillin?  Now who 
said that tefillin have to be made from leather?  Chazal of course.  But 
didn't they live before the discovery of plastics, and before the animal 
liberation movement.  Perhaps if they would have consulted cattle farmers 
first they would have decided on wooden tefillin.  Maybe they just simply 
hated oxen.  That would explain why tractate Bava Kamma is replete with 
violent stories of oxen killing and maiming other living creatures, and why 
the same ox often meets its bitter end in a pit carelessly dug by "Reuven" a 
figment of Chazal's imagination!  There is no limit to this tripe (excuse 
the strong word - flame me if you dare :-) ).

Hashem has decided to test me daily in a myriad ways.  Some of those tests I 
find easier than others, but I certainly have the ability to pass all of 
them, and to live up to the standards set for me by Chazal.  As the gemara 
says, "Hashem does not deal despotically with his creations".  If he sets us 
a task then we know that we can fulfill it.  The meforshim explain that the 
word "nisayon" - test - is related to the word "l'hitnoses" - to be 
uplifted.  Any test that Hashem gives us - and he is the One behind the 
scenes whenever we are faced with a choice - is there to allow us the 
opportunity for spiritual growth.  Perhaps the perceived need for change 
felt by the well-meaning feminists is just such a test.  Yes, I know, maybe 
it isn't... but maybe it is, and before anybody tries to change age-old 
traditions they would be well-advised to spend some time in deep 
introspection and consider what they may be tampering with.

As a related thought, a student said to me some time ago that he knows what 
the big "nisayon" of the male half of the human race is - seeing what is on 
TV and in magazines, the lack of "tzniut" (modesty) in dress etc. has 
brought that point home to him.  But he wants to know what the female half 
has as its big "nisayon".  After reading mj over the last few weeks I may 
finally have an answer...


End of Volume 19 Issue 30