Volume 21 Number 77
                       Produced: Wed Nov  1 23:35:26 1995

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Feminism/Torah Commentary/New Book
         [David Ferleger]
Israeli Census
         [Warren Burstein]
Man, woman, and Rabbi Hirsch
         [Yaacov Dovid Shulman]
Reflections on the March
         [Jeff Stier]
The Rating Game
         [Shmuel Himelstein]


From: <DFERLEGER@...> (David Ferleger)
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 1995 22:08:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Feminism/Torah Commentary/New Book

There is new book out - JUDITH S. ANTONELLI, IN THE IMAGE OF GOD: A
FEMINIST COMMENTARY ON THE TORAH. Published 1995 by Jason Aronson,
Inc. (Northvale NJ, and also Israel and England.  558
pages. Ms. Antonelli, the book says, lives in Boston, was co-editor of
Neshama, a quarterly on women's spirituality in Judaism, and was assoc
editor of The Jewish Advocate. Several degrees, etc.

Dust jacket calls it "unique blend of traditional Judaism and radical
feminism," using both classical Jewish sources and history,
anthropology, feminist theory, ancient religion, etc. Examines EVERY
woman and EVERY issue pertaining to women in the Torah, parshah by

Dust jacket's says that she shows that Torah is not "the root of
misogyny, sexism of male supremacy. Rather, by looking at the Torah in
the context in which it was given - the pagan world of the ancient Near
East - it becomes clear that far from oppressing women, the Torah
actually improved the status of women as it existed in the surrounding
societies. Not only does this book refute the common feminist stereotype
that Judaism is a 'patriarchal religion' but it also refutes the sexism
found in Judaism by exposing it as sociological rather than 'divine

It looks to be a scholarly book, as well as one with grounding in
Halachah and references to Talmud and also modern sources/ commentary.

I havent read it yet. Since the thesis appeals to my desire to see such
a document (showing what the dust jacket says it shows), I am interested
in reading it. Also I wanted to let you all know that it is there, in
case you havent seen it.

For the feminist scholars and readers here, and anyone else!  if you've
seen/read the book (or any reviews), I'd be interested in knowing
reactions too.

David Ferleger                            
Philadelphia PA


From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Wed, 1 Nov 1995 13:22:50 GMT
Subject: Re: Israeli Census

Shmuel Himelstein writes:

>The Yesha Council has called for people to boycott the census, as a way
>to show civil disobedience.

A journalist friend of mine suggested that the real motivation for the
boycott is fear that the number of Jewish residents of Yesha might turn
out to be less than claimed, and the leadership would not want this to
be known.  I realize that the above is politics (but so was mentioning
it in the first place, I think this legitimates this response).

>Rav Mordechai Eliyahu today called for people to boycott the census (I'm
>not sure whether this was a p'sak - rabbinic ruling) or just an
>expression of sentiment. His objection (and a very easily understood
>one) is that when the census calls for listing one's spouse (or whatever
>terminology is used), people will be able to put down the name of
>someone of the same sex - i.e., homosexual or lesbian partners.

An article in The Jerusalem Post of Oct 27, page 1b, by Haim Shapiro
says that R. Eliyahu "objects to the fact that the birth date is
recorded according to the Gregorian calendar, and to the fact that it is
possible for persons of the same gender to identify each other as a

I have seen wall-posters in Jerusalem saying that R. Eliyahu forbids
participation in the census.  According to David Neumann, spokesman for
the Central Bureau of Statistics, R. Eliyahu endorsed in writing the
previous census, which also requested Gregorian dates.

I should disclose that I have a small connection to the census - I wrote
the program that printed the bar codes that appear on the census forms.

 |warren@         an Anglo-Saxon." -- Stuart Schoffman
/ nysernet.org


From: <YacovDovid@...> (Yaacov Dovid Shulman)
Date: Mon, 23 Oct 1995 22:41:27 -0400
Subject: Man, woman, and Rabbi Hirsch

     I have come across some commentaries on Parshat Bereishit regarding
the nature of woman in relation to man that have puzzled me.  Maybe
someone can explicate this matter.
     On the verse, "I will make him a helper corresponding to him"
(Bereishit 2:18), various commentators discuss the relationship of man
and woman.
     The Radak says, "'Corresponding to him'--that she should be before
him, helping him constantly, serving him....
     "This difference between other creatures [and mankind]-- i.e., that
they were created male and female whereas man was created alone--was for
the good and honor of man, just as he is differentiated from other
creatures in his shape and form. =

[Firstly,] amongst other creatures, the male is not superior to the
female.  However, man does have a superiority over the female.  He rules
over her and commands her as he desires, for she is one of his limbs.
Just as a man's limb is under his control to move when he desires, so is
a woman in relationship to him.  Also, since man, the essence of
creation, was created first, whereas woman is secondary to him and was
made from him, man has power in all things more than does woman, and the
power of intellect is greater in him than it is in woman."
     (Vis-a-vis the idea of woman as man's limb or tool, Sefer
Hachinnuch explains: "A woman is created to help man.  She is like one
of his beloved tools.  As our sages say (San. 22b), 'A woman only makes
a covenant with a person who has made her into a vessel.'  And
therefore, it was the will of G-d that if a person is disgusted with
this tool, he cast it out of his house.")
     Seforno comments, "'A helper corresponding to him'--a helper that
will be as though equal to him in image and form, for he needs such [a
being] who will know his needs and fulfill them at their proper
time....It wasn't fit that this helper should be completely equal to
him, for if that were the case, it wouldn't be right that one of them
should serve and attend the other."
     Ketav Hasofer comments, "She helps him so that he can acquire his
soul, and she deals in things of this world...He should live a
comfortable life and she should help him and do his will in every way."
     As I understand the aggregate of the above, woman is seen as a tool
and extension of man, taking care of his physical needs so that he can
fulfill the spiritual obligations of his life.  She is inferior in body
and intellect.  She does not, apparently, share with him the connection
to G-d and service of G-d that he was created for, because the human
male alone is the essence of creation, whereas the female is a sort of
unattached appendage.
     However, R. Hirsch interprets this verse very differently. =

"'Ezer K'negdo' certainly expresses no idea of subordination, but rather
complete equality, and on a footing of equal independence" (Levy's
     This raises important questions.  What is the source of the
concepts of the Radak, Seforno, et al.?  Are they eternal "daat Torah,"
or a more idiosyncratic point of view?  What is the source of
R. Hirsch's interpretation, in lone opposition to the other viewpoints?
What is the mechanism of knowing when one must accept statements made by
previous authorities and when one may, or should, disagree with them?
Do we consider R. Hirsch's statement "daat Torah," or is that statement
also merely a private point of view?  Were all these points of view
written to speak to--or, for that matter, as a result of--surrounding
cultural beliefs?  Is R. Hirsch giving a true interpretation of the
text, or is he simply serving up apologetics?  And do we have the right
to pick and choose those interpretations that suit us (the new Artscroll
Stone Chumash, for example, only quotes R.  Hirsch)?  Is there, in fact,
a "Torah viewpoint" on whether or not woman is inferior or equal to man,
or can every Torah scholar draw his (her?) own conclusions?
     Yaacov Dovid Shulman


From: Jeff Stier <jstier@...>
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 1995 17:34:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Reflections on the March


	I had the occasion to be in Washington, D.C. for the Jewish
holidays of Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah.  The holiday coincided
with what was hyped as the "Million Man March."  After a beautiful
morning of prayers at Kesher Israel, the Georgetown Synagogue, I walked
out of the neighborhood with a George Washington University student with
whom I was staying.  We had lunch with a young couple near the Watergate
Hotel and found ourselves only a few blocks from the Mall, the location
of the Farrakhan event.

	My friend suggested we take a walk to the Mall to "see if
anything was going on there."  I found no reason to object.  One who is
intrigued with sociology, I thought I might have something to learn; at
the very least, I would witness a historic event.  The scene was
amazing; the mass of people orderly participating in their right to
assemble was quite impressive, regardless of their political agenda.

	While my presence gave me no unique perspective on Farrakhan's
bazaar and rambling speech, I did benefit from experiencing the event
without any real or perceived misinterpretation of the day's events from
the mass media. 

	Though, as an observer of the march, wearing my yarmulke, I did
have some interesting experiences.  Some black men walked up to my
friend and me, shook our hands, smiled, and without uttering a syllable,
merely walked away.  Because we did not carry on a conversation, I don't
know if they were thanking us for being there or jus t wishing for a
peaceful co-existence.  I did not find it necessary to tell them that we
were observing the event and not participating or showing our support. I
was not there to provoke, I was there to watch, to be a fly on the mall.

	One black journalist asked if he could take our picture for a
piece he was doing.  Apparently, he thought that a picture of two white
Orthodox Jewish men in their 20's standing quietly amongst hundreds of
thousands of black men would add to his story.  W e declined to
participate, explaining that since it was a religious holiday for us, we
did not feel comfortable posing for pictures.  Appreciatively, he said
he understood and respected us.  He thanked us anyway.  With a handshake
and a smile, he was gon e.

	Approaching us moments later was a reporter from a the Baltimore
Jewish Times who asked if we were protesting the speech.  We were not
holding any signs or chanting anything.  I do not know what led her to
ask such a question.  Instead of answering her, we told her, as we told
the black journalist, that since it was a Jewish holiday, we would not
feel comfortable participating in her article..  She looked at us with
disgust and disrespect as she silently turned away, trying to find a

	As Farrakhan continued into the second hour of his lecture, an
older black man approached us with a gentle smile, extending his hand.
As we shook it, he wished us well and "shalom" before he merged back
into the crowd of men.  His warmth was comforting in what was admittedly
an uncomfortable setting.

	Unfortunately, the friendly encounters with a minority of those
present reflected the views of only some of the march participants. 

	Disappointingly, we were harassed by many.  They told us in no
uncertain terms to go home. "Jew, you ain't leaving yet?  Hurry up and
get out of here!"  a rowdy group of black youths told us as many more
looked on.  Many of those rallying for Farrakhan, included his "Fruit of
Islam" security guards.  They stared us down. It was not necessary for
them to articulate their thoughts.

	Most disturbingly though, was our encounter with a well dressed
and sophisticated looking young black man.  As the sun began to set, it
was nearing the time for us to head back to Georgetown for afternoon
services.  The Farrakhan dissertation continued despite the considerable
thinning of the crowd.  The man, who looked like a "yuppie" asked us if
after hearing the speech, we "Jews still hate the Minister" after
hearing him speak.  I did not want to get involved in the discussion-
but my friend responded that the hateful language used by "the
messenger" still speaks loudly.  The articulate man in his late 20's
blamed the media for "Minister Farrakhan being viewed as an
anti-Semite."  He also offered his opinion on which religious group it
is that "co ntrols the media."  He was only just beginning. He proceeded
to ask and tell us if we knew that the Secretary of the Treasury "is one
of you."
	 "Rubin is a Jew," he proclaimed with glee. "And what about
Greenspan- another one of you!"  He blamed these two men in particular
for not loaning money to black men to buy homes and start businesses. I
urged my friend that it was time to move on.  We did.

	Regarding the "separate the message from the messenger" debate,
when Farrakhan's warm up speakers proclaimed the event could not take
away the march from their leader, we heard overwhelming applause from
the men on the mall. Did everyone agree? Probably not.  But the abundant
cheers for the self proclaimed profit of Islam were certainly enough to
tell me that the relationship between black and Jews in this country are
in a very dangerous state.


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 1995 16:33:39 GMT
Subject: The Rating Game

"Jacob's Ladder" - "Sulam Yaakov"

In modern Israeli Hebrew, the word "sulam" ("ladder") is also used in
terms of a rating system, so that "7 on the sulam" would mean a rating
of 7 (out of a maximum 10).  This brings us to "sulam Yaakov" - a
regular column in the (non-religious) Jerusalem local paper, Kol Ha'Ir,
by the reporter Yaakov Levi.  Sulam Yaakov is indeed a rating system,
but with a difference - each week it rates a different Shul!  The
reporter visits a different Shul each week and then writes a review of
the Shul.  I suppose it's the response to restaurant reviews.

This week's review, for example, was of a Sefardi Shul in Giva't Ze'ev,
outside Jerusalem.  Without going into details of the review, we may
note that the reviewer found a satellite dish on the Shul's roof -
evidence, as he tells us, of the Shul's association with Rav Ovadyah
Yosef, who often beams broadcasts of his Shiurim, etc.

Incidentally, the Shul's rating was a 9 - high praise indeed!

           Shmuel Himelstein
22 Shear Yashuv Street, Jerusalem 97280, Israel
    Phone: 972-2-864712: Fax: 972-2-862041
   EMail address: <himelstein@...>


End of Volume 21 Issue 77