Volume 19 Number 50
                       Produced: Wed May 10 23:19:29 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Chana Luntz and Women's Roles
         [M. Press]
         [Aleeza Esther Berger]
Nice how that works out :-{
         [Ellen Krischer]
Sniyut v.s. practicality? Pants and biking.
         [Sam S. Lightstone]
Women's role in Halacha
         [Heather Luntz]


From: M. Press <PRESS@...>
Date: Mon, 08 May 95 13:44:57 EST
Subject: Chana Luntz and Women's Roles

Ms. Luntz in her discussion of women's roles and their exemption from
mitzvot is troubled by her sense that either woman has no mandated role
or that her mandated role is to do some of the "optionals"; as a result
she offers some hypotheses which Rabbi Teitz took issue with.  However,
her puzzlement is based on a misunderstanding which she was unwittingly
forced into by much of the discussion, i.e. that women's role is to be
that of a wife and mother, period.  This position is clearly false and
cannot be maintained by any serious student of Torah.  The primary role
of all Jews, male and female without exception, is to be an oved Hashem.
Women are obligated in all negative commandments and in almost all
positive ones, with the exception of those few that have set times.  The
discussion that has been going on here is solely as to why woman, who is
also required to observe the overwhelming majority of the commandments,
should have been exempted from a few of them. In other words, there is
some secondary differnetiation between the sexes which may help us
understand this latter point; it has absolutely no bearing on the former
issue of the primary mission of all Jews.
 Lest someone think that I have suddenly become Modern Orthodox in
asserting this theologically radical point, I call your attention to the
Akedas Yitzchok who formulates it most cogently in his commentary on
B'reshis where he notes that woman is called both "isha" and "em kol
khai".  He sees this as indicating that woman is both religiously equal
to man as an oved and also has a reproductive role; he states explicitly
that the role as an oved equal to man is her primary one.  It is
certainly true that the specific modes in which each gender expresses
their avodah may be slightly different but their core obligation is the
same and thus their primary role.

Parenthetically, Chana's observation that woman is not commanded to have
children says nothing about her possible role in this area. A more
probable explanation for the lack of obligation is because of her more
passive role in the process.  Melech Press

M. Press, Ph.D.   Dept. of Psychiatry, SUNY Health Science Center
450 Clarkson Avenue, Box 32   Brooklyn, NY 11203   718-270-2409


From: Aleeza Esther Berger <aeb21@...>
Date: Mon, 8 May 1995 20:27:09 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Coeducation

> >From: Zvi Weiss <weissz@...>

> Aliza Berger stated that she was responding on a halachic level to Ari 
> Shapiro's objections to Co-ed.  As Ari attempted to cite actual sources 
> in support of his view, I would expect that the response would ALSO cite 
> sources to support a "counter" point of view.  I did not see that.  
> Instead, I saw unsubstantiated thoughts of her point of view -- i.e., an 
> attempt to state that the halacha did not apply without citing supporting 
> material but simply stating how she interpreted matters.

In light of the divergence of halakhic opinions as to the application of
such issues as "light-headedness" to coeducation, it might be more
proper to say that those who made such application were doing the
"interpreting", and that those (such as I) who hesitated to make such
application were being careful about overextending issues to areas in
which they are irrelevant.  Or, avoiding gratuitous accusations of
anyone of being unsubstantiated and unsupported, perhaps it's more
accurate to note that each side interprets to match a world view (see

I assume that by "the halacha" Zvi Weiss is referring to opinions in
responsa that have explicitly been against coeducation (e.g. Rabbi
Feinstein).However, such opinions do not constitute "the
halakha";rather,they constitute the halakhic opinion of individual
decisors.It would seem that a halakhic opinion is needed to forbid an
action (e.g. coeducation); in the absence of such prohibition, the
action is permitted. Hence the dearth of opinions permitting
coeducation: any rabbi who thinks it is permitted does not need to write
an opinion permitting it. There is need to prove that "the halakha does
not apply", when there is no "the halakha".

Perhaps what is confusing is the question of whether permission is
needed to perform an action that was never performed before
(namely,coeducation).  For example, rabbis were asked before women were
formally educated by Sarah Schnirer, since women had never been formally
educated and there were statements in the mishna and later sources which
fairly directly said that e.g., anyone who taught women was teaching
foolishness (altho the opposing opinion was also expressed).  But the
situation is different for coeduation, because no such direct source
exists that would lead one to to automatically question the practice.
The sources are such that depending on one's world view (see below), the
sources could lead you to question the practice or not.

> I will repeat my call: Will someone PLEASE cite authoritative material that
> atates that "Co-ed" is (a) desireable or (b) at least considered 
> "LeChatchilla".

Perhaps Zvi Weiss' call stems from the point of view that an opinion
other than Rabbi Feinstein's and permitting coeducation, would have to
respond to Rabbi Feinstein.  But since Rabbi Feinstein represents just a
portion of the halakhic community, perhaps other portions don't, and
need not, feel the need to respond to him.  They are coming from a
different world-view which does not include the sociological concerns
raised by those who oppose coeducation on "halakhic" grounds. As I
explained in my previous post, these concerns (e.g. men should not look
at women with sexual intent) as applied to coeducation are not strictly
halakhic but depend on sociology/world view. Thus the lack of need to

I am also curious as to how far those who prohibit coeducation go.  What
about medical school, for example? What is the rationale for permission
for this activity, if in fact it is permitted?

Aliza Berger


From: Ellen Krischer <elk@...>
Date: 10 May 1995  9:06 EDT
Subject: Nice how that works out :-{

>Hayim Hendeles writes:
>The point is that these Torah giants did not first develop their
>own philosophy, and then look into the Torah for support. On the
>contrary, they only developed their own philosophies AFTER
>learning the Torah. Their philosophies were based on their
>understanding of the Torah --- and not the other way around ch"v.

>Zvi Weiss writes:
>I would expect that the response would ALSO cite 
>sources to support a "counter" point of view.  I did not see that.  

Now, let me get this straight.  We tell people that they aren't allowed
to teach their daughters Torah, and then we chastise the daughters for
not developing philosophies and proofs based on Torah.

Hayim, Zvi, have I missed something?  (The boat maybe...)

Ellen Krischer


From: <light@...> (Sam S. Lightstone)
Date: Mon, 1 May 95 12:03:50 EDT
Subject: Sniyut v.s. practicality? Pants and biking.

Here's a practical question about Sniyut and biking.  Opinions and
comments welcome.

The problem is: What is a women to wear in a situation where the normal
level Snyiut would not be possible? Specifically my wife and I enjoy
cycling, but travelling distances over 30km a day in a skirt is not only
impractical, but dangerous.

I understand that there are two main issues with women wearing pants: 1)
Begged Ish, and 2) Sniyut.

Of these most Poskim hold that only the issue of Sniyut is relavent
today since pants can no longer be considered purely men's attire.

However, do we say today that just because it is optimal for woman to
wear skirt (or dress) in public that pants are assur in situations where
they are required?  Is this perhaps similar to the situation where one
may be ohver on Negiah (touching, e.g. such as shaking hands) in order
not to embarass someone? (Similar in that "the situation calls for it").

Comments and suggestions please...

Sam S. Lightstone


From: Heather Luntz <luntz@...>
Date: Sun, 2 Apr 1995 00:02:18 +1000 (EST)
Subject: Women's role in Halacha

In mail-jewish Vol. 19 #10 Yossi Halberstadt wrote responding to a post 
of mine: 

> >Approaching this from an unbiased standpoint, what might this teach us
> >about men and women? Well clearly that they are different and that there
> >are distinctions. But does this necessarily teach us that different roles
> >are mandated? Perhaps. But if that were the case, why doesn't the halacha
> >make it clearer that for women to do these mizvot would be assur
> >[forbidden] not patur. 
> For the same reason that it does not ban women from standing on their head,
> presumably.
> In legislative Halacha, actions may fall into three categories:
> 1) Spiritually beneficial - Mitzvos
> 2) Spiritually damaging - Aveiros
> 3) Spiritually irrelevant - Optional, for example, standing on one's head.
>  From the fact that the Torah does not mandate certain Mitzvos for
> women, one could possibly assume that
> a) They are not spiritually beneficial for women
> or
> b) They are spiritually beneficial, but the woman have other activities which
> are still better, so mandating the lesser activity would be spiritually
> restricitve.

Ok, so what other activities are there that are more spiritually 
beneficial for women than the optional ones? Remember that the optional 
activities for women include marrying and having children (while men 
are obligated in both). From what you are saying, marrying and having 
children are either not spiritually beneficial for women or there are 
other activities that are still better. I have to confess that I am 
having difficulty thinking of what these other activities might be. Acts 
of chessed like Bikur Cholim perhaps. Maybe we should be encouraging women
 not to get married but to engage in bikur cholim and other such 
acts of chessed instead. Perhaps they should all be encouraged to become 
doctors (after all pikuach nefesh is the greatest mitzvah there is, and 
surely would outweigh an merely optional mitzva such as getting married 
and having children).

Joking aside, its interesting that everybody who responded to my post
assumed that the only mitzvot in the equation are the type that if the
roles were to be defined might be expected to be assur. I can partially
understand that, since my post arose in this context.  But the real
matter that made me originally rethink my roles assumption was the fact
that women are exempt from the key mitzvot that one would have thought
would make up our 'role' if one had been defined. It is the fact that
women are exempt from an obligation to marry and having children that is
such a striking feature of the halacha. Now perhaps you will say that
women have such a strong desire to marry and have children that no
obligation was necessary. I don't have a problem with that except that
such an understanding means that women's desires and wants seem to be
assumed to be the correct basis for their actions (I'm assuming marrying
and having children are activities that are at least not to be
discouraged in women), and nobody seems to question motivation in this
case. How many women marry l'shem shamayim, after fulfilling all their
other obligations and seeking to elevate themselves to a higher level
(Ok, Ok the daughters of Tzlafchad, but we aren't supposed to follow
their example in this)- I mean, who says i am at a level that I should
be looking for a shidduch? And the bringing of a new life into the world
and moulding it is such a responsibility that without any chiyuv to do
so maybe I should let the men out there look for somebody who is a real
tzedakas? (look, things are bad enough already :-( ).

So maybe you are right and the mitzvot women are exempt from are as 
spiritually  irrelevant to us as standing on our heads, or maybe there 
are other things that are more beneficial. But I guess you can understand 
why i am having difficulty with this concept (and it certainly doesn't fit 
with the yiddishkeit I know). And I would still term this perspective "a 
belief", ie it is a hashkafic outlook (albeit an unusual one), that 
attempts to understand the/a meaning of the halacha.




End of Volume 19 Issue 50