Volume 19 Number 38
                       Produced: Sun Apr 30  8:36:50 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Just Imagine (Part 2)
         [Yisroel Rotman]
Just Imagine...
         [Akiva Miller]
Pants and Moddesty
         [Eli Turkel]
Think Jewish
         [Ralph Zwier]
Women and Positive Timebound Commands
         [Jonathan Baker]
Women... again
         [Zvi Weiss  ]


From: Yisroel Rotman <SROTMAN@...>
Date: Tue,  11 Apr 95 13:06 0200
Subject: Just Imagine (Part 2)

In a previous message Yaakov Menken writes:

>Yisroel Rotman asks us to...
>>Just imagine if one day all the Rabonim got together and realized that
>>they had made a mistake - men were exempt from "time - related mitzvot"
>>and the like; women had to do all the mitzvot.
>Why is this relevant?  Our entire Torah, written and oral, was given by G-d
>Himself to Moshe on Mount Sinai.  That's one of the obvious fundamentals of
>our faith.  It is G-d who did not obligate women in Talmud Torah and
>positive, time-bound mitzvos.  No modification can be made in Torah Law.
>[I'm tempted to ask us to imagine the Rabonim getting together and realizing
>Shabbos is actually on Sunday...]

I am glad someone asked!  It is relevant for the following reason: I
wanted to point out that religious observance by even the most dedicated
people can be effected by their EXPECTATIONS.  If we have been brought
up to expect to be the center, it is hard to be moved to the fringe.
And if we were used to being on the fringe, it is hard to be on the

Now, in past centuries, the secular and religious roles of women were
not in direct conflict.  Women were expected by both the secular and
religious worlds to be in the background of the public "man's world".

In some circles, this is no longer true.  Women can run for president,
but not for president of the shul.  Women are commonly doctors and
lawyers, but they mustn't learn Talmud.

At this point, the readership of this note can split into two groups.
Those who believe that the social surroundings of the secular can never
and have never entered the considerations of the Rabbinic ordinances
through the ages, can at least sympathize with the contradictory message
which women hear (and perhaps hope that the secular world will realign
itself with their halachic view).

Those who believe that the secular setting has influenced Rabbinical
statements can contemplate how to take into consideration the new social
outlook and possibilities which women face.

Yisroel Rotman 				<SROTMAN@...>

From: <Keeves@...> (Akiva Miller)
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 1995 19:55:50 -0400
Subject: Re: Just Imagine...

In a previous issue, Yisroel Rotman asked us to...
>Just imagine if one day all the Rabonim got together and realized that
>they had made a mistake - men were exempt from "time - related mitzvot"
>and the like; women had to do all the mitzvot.

And in MJ 19:25, Rabbi Yaakov Menken responded:
>No modification can be made in Torah Law.
>[I'm tempted to ask us to imagine the Rabonim getting together and realizing
>Shabbos is actually on Sunday...]

But Mr. Rotman was not imagining a *modification*, merely
correction. This can be compared to the erroneous halacha prohibiting
marriage to any convert from Ammon or Moav, which Boaz clarified as
applying only to male converts, not women. I quote from Artscroll Ruth,
page 46:

"This law was known to Moses and his disciples. During the three
centuries between Israel's entry into the Land and the time of Ruth and
Boaz, the law gradually became forgotten, probably because it fell into
disuse... The average Jew, even most scholars, would have assumed that
the prohibition upon them was as sexless as those upon Egyptians and
mamzerim. Of course, had the question come before the Great Sanhedrin or
any of the other distinguished courts of the Land, it is virtually
certain that a decision would have been rendered in favor of Ammonite
and Moabite women. Indeed, it *did* arise in the court of Boaz at that
pivotal time in Jewish history and it *was* so decided..."

Needless to say (but I had better say it anyway!) that cases such as
this are exceedingly rare. And that until such time as due process of
law actually reverses the accepted view, the accepted view *must* be
followed. My point is only that one *may* consider the possibility of
future reversals, either as an intellectual exersize, or as a
science-fiction story.

We must distinguish, I think, between "details" such as these, and
"essentials" such as those listed in the Ani Maamin. To accept even the
possibility of Torah NOT being G-d-given renders one an apikorus, a
nonbeliever, with all the applicable stigmas attached. To accept the
possiblity that at some point in the past 3000 years an error was made
and that Shabbos is properly on the day we call Sunday -- that is far
fetched, but does it render one a nonbeliever?

Akiva Miller


From: Eli Turkel <turkel@...>
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 1995 13:54:48 +0300
Subject: Pants and Moddesty

     Ari Shapiro brings down the reason against women wearing pants as
> The reason given is that pants outline the lower half of the womans body.

     This brings up the fundamental question: what are the guidelines of
modest clothing and how much do they change with local behavior. I have
generally heard that clothing should reach the knees and elbows, what is
the basis of this? Why is in more of a problem to have pants that outline
the lower half of the body than a blouse that outlines the upper half
Must a woman wear a sack cloth that reveals nothing? In particular is there
any problem with a woman going bra-less (bra are relatively recent invention)?
What is the reason for these restrictions and how much apply to men as
well as women?

     We frequently assume that using local custom leads to leniencies.
However, if a woman (for some strange reason) were going to Saudia Arabia or
Iran would she be required, according to halacha, to wear long dresses and
a veil? Is the reason for modest clothing because it arouses thoughts in
a man or something more intrinsic? There are many customs of undressing
under sheets, etc. is this binding? what about showers, baths, mikvah etc.?
I once read a book about the charedi community. In it the author notes that
in interviewing one couple the wife had her dress slighlty pulled up. The
author notes that he personally found this more suggestive than seeing
woman in his normal work that were much more exposed. Seeing this woman
completely covered with just a tiny bit exposed was more suggestive (in
his mind) that seeing a woman with many parts exposed but ina society where
this is common.

    There is the famous "psak" of the Arukh haShulchan that as a last resort
(bidieved) uncovered hair is no longer "ervah" (immodest? ) since it is
common in our society. Thus, according to this the stndards of modesty are
at least partialy affected by local customs. I was just in Bnei Brak
(shopping for Pesach) and looked at the dresses. For the most part one
could still see the outline of the lower half of the body.

     Again, bottom line what defines modest dress?



From: Ralph Zwier <zwierr@...>
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 1995 22:17:13 
Subject: Think Jewish

One of the problems with the recent postings where feminists have put
forward positions on alterations to accepted practice (I deliberately
avoid the word Halacha) is that they do not "Think Jewish".

The concept of "Think Jewish" means among many other things that we
never want to draw the conclusion that what we do today is superior to
what our forbears did in their era. This idea would undermine the
concept of Torah MiSinai.

Indeed there are other non-Orthodox streams within Judaism which suggest
that somewhere in the tradition there has been a break, and the plot was
lost, requiring re-interpretation, going BACK to the original concepts,
and abandoning some area of the tradition-chain between Sinai and
us. This is not the Orthodox stream. We are bound to accept the chain of
tradition as handed to us.

Therefore we cannot argue that women's rights are important for their
own sake -- unless we can find it in our tradition. We dare not imply
that our traditions are lacking in some principle of major importance
which somehow the non-jewish world has discovered.

The only accepted way that alterations in practice come about is where
we say "people have changed". This is cited as the reason that we don't
follow Rambam's medical advice today. We are reluctant to say explicitly
that "Rambam was wrong" on anything. Rather the Orthodox preferable
thing to say is: "People today respond to today's drugs and treatments
in verifiable ways." And we leave it at that. You can call it avoidance
of the issue, but that is the orthodox way of dealing with it.

The feminists on mj cover a wide spectrum of theories, but they seem to
come at the issue from the view that we are more enlightened today than
our forbears. If they were saying (I deliberately exaggerate here): "Woe
unto us. We live in a society which has plumbed new depths of iniquity,
and due to our many sins we are forced to live amongst non-jewish ideas
and we are unable to act in the same way as our righteous matriarchs of
old...."  thus coming at the issue from a point of view of humility and
respect for the tradition, that would be more in line with my Think
Jewish subject line.

The case of a debate between a feminist and a Rabbi on the
Agunah-law-reform issue serves to exactly illustrate my point:

The Rabbi and the feminist both admitted that a problem exists within
the Jewish world in regard to the Aguna. But they came from such very
different perspectives. She said that reform was necessary because the
law as it stands is degrading to women and empowers men over women,
denying women's rights.

The Rabbi was adamant that there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING inherently wrong
with Jewish Law, because in each case of a man fleeing his wife there is
a Bet Din ordering the man to give her a Get. Thus Jewish Law DOES
provide protection for the woman, he said. The problem is that the
husband is not acting in accordance with Jewish Law. And this was,
according to the Rabbi, much less prevalent in previous generations than
it is today. Therefore reform is necessary because men have descended to
new depths in mistreating their wives.

So the Rabbi was thinking Jewish. He put the blame for the problem where
it belongs: with the husband himself; not with the Jewish tradition like
the feminist said. Nevertheless, at the end of the day both agreed that
some reform is required.

It is my hope and wish that the debate continues, but with a more
Orthodox foundation. Why is a women's megillah reading so important to
your spiritual development? Why mezuman ?

Ralph S Zwier
Double Z Computer, Prahran, VIC Australia       Voice +61-3-521-2188
<zwierr@...>                        Fax   +61-3-521-3945


From: <baker@...> (Jonathan Baker)
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 95 22:30:03 EDT
Subject: Re: Women and Positive Timebound Commands

In v19n30, Hayim Hendeles writes:

> 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".

It seems that I don't understand "mitzvot aseh she-hazman grama" as you 
do.  It also seems that I don't understand either "Divine decrees" or "13 
principles" either.  As I see it, things derived via the 13 principles 
are not necessarily Divine decrees, but are rather the logical and 
exegetical results of Rabbinic efforts to understand the text of the 
Torah.  I would only call the 37 "halachot le-Moshe mi-Sinai" (laws of 
Moses from Sinai; enumerated in Rambam's Intro to the Mishnah Commen-
tary) "Divine decrees", on top of the 613 mitzvot, of course.  I don't 
remember seeing this rule in there.

The Gemara in Kiddushin 33b-34a (on a brief skim) tries to deal with 
this rule.  Can it be logically derived, either by logic from tefillin, 
which are taken almost for granted as not applying to women, or by 
exegesis on verses from tefillin to other commands?  The rule itself 
does not seem to be taken as a decree.  Since they need verses to 
justify exempting women from each of the other commands (sukkah, 
re'iyah (Temple pilgrimage), etc.), this rule seems not so much 
"prescriptive" as "descriptive".  The rule does not tell us from which 
mitzvot women are exempted, rather, it describes the class of already 
known mitzvot from which women are exempt.

Furthermore, there are many positive timebound commands in which women
are obligated, such as matzah, rejoicing on the festival, and gathering
at the Temple in the year after shmittah, while there are other non-
timebound commands from which women are exempted, such as procreation.

This is discussed in the Gemara in Kiddushin 33b- 34a.  The conclusion 
is reached that we do not rely on such rules to determine halacha. If this
was indeed a Divine rule, it would be hard to say we couldn't rely on it.

Looking at it this way, it's hard to describe the rule "nashim paturot
mimitzvot aseh she-hazman grama" as a Divine decree, period, end-of-story.
Rather, it seems to be a description of certain mitzvot from which women
are exempt.


From: Zvi Weiss		 <weissz@...>
Date: Tue, 4 Apr 1995 12:46:11 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Women... again

1. The Halacha has a pretty interesting discussion in terms of the 
"priorities" dus a Kohen.  I do not know if that includes giving the 
Kohen first crack at a Job but it is probably a very good Shaila.  There 
*are* specific problems with "using" a Kohen because of his status.

2. The statement quoted that a woman wanted to do x,y,z, because those are
the "holy thing" is more revealing than one may think.  To state that 
Jewish practice is DEFINED by the male-oriented ceremonies seems -- to me 
-- to be EXACTLY what R. Moshe was writing AGAINST in his Responsa that 
has been quoted here before.  Note: this woman did NOT say that she felt 
a special "closeness" to G-d and therefore wanted to do something that 
she is not obligated in -- rather, these are the "holy things" -- from 
which (I am guessing) *women* are excluded!  When formulated that way, it 
is truly a terrible condemnation of the faith that women are excluded 
from the "holy things".  The problem is that the answer is flawed.  I 
think that THIS is what was menat in terms of looking at the "motive 
behind the motive".  Those are not the "holy things" of Judaism... These 
male-dominated ceremonies are simply some of the commandments that men 
have been commanded to perform.  No more and no less.  If we stop looking 
at how we can imitate other people (in this case, women imitaitng the 
obligations that the Torah has placed upon men) and -- instead -- look at 
what G-d *wants from us ( point that appeared to be conspicuously absent 
from this posting), we cn get on with the "real business"  -- 
contributing to a Kiddush Hashem in this world and the fulfillment of 
G-d's Will as we live as a Mamlechet Kohanim and a Goy Kadosh.



End of Volume 19 Issue 38