Volume 26 Number 87
                      Produced: Tue Jul 29 22:55:21 1997

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

R. Rakeffet's Comments
         [Nahum Spirn]
Rabbi Rakefet on Mixed Seating
         [David Oratz]
Rabbi Rakeffet on mixed seating
         [Yisrael Herczeg]
Separate Seating, Hypocrisy, and Nostalgia
         [David Riceman]
Sources on Women's Learning
         [Eli Clark]
Women Learning
         [Isaac A. Zlochower]


From: Nahum Spirn <spirn@...>
Date: Sun, 27 Jul 1997 11:04:02 -0500
Subject: Re: R. Rakeffet's Comments

        Thanks to Jacob Levenstein for sharing R. Rakeffet's important
comments with us.
        I would just like to correct a possible misunderstanding: There
is an implication in the article that the chumrah of the gemara for a
couple to have relations while clothed is not relevant in our day
(because we live in a world where sex is everywhere, etc.) The Gemara,
in fact, is *against* such a chumra; one who insists on having relations
that way is "yotzee v'yitein kesuva", (must give his wife a divorce plus
kesuva [if she wants])) as the gemara there (Kesuvos 48a, E.H. 76:13)
says explicitly.
        Perhaps R. Rakeffet's words were intended regarding the
statement of the gemara (Nedarim 20b, cited in Shulchan Aruch O.C. 240)
about "uncovering a tefach and covering a tefach and engaging in
relations 'as if coerced'".  Indeed, Rav Michel Twerski told me before I
got married that we do not do like that gemara, for it was intended only
for chasidim of a different era.
        I am not sure how to resolve the apparent contradiction in
Shulchan Aruch.
        Thanks again to Jacob for his important service.


From: David Oratz <dovid@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Jul 1997 07:50:43 -500
Subject: Rabbi Rakefet on Mixed Seating

I found Rabbi Rakefet's true version of what he had to say fascinating,
even if I found many disturbing logical inconsistencies. I will leave it
to Shlomo Hamelech in Kohelet 7:10 to judge the wisdom of wanting "to go
back to the fifties ... and live in a normal world", but let us see some
of the specific points that he makes.

Yes there are problems in the charedi world and there are problems in
the modern Orthodox world but the real problem, as Rabbi Rakefet says is
vee zekristzelzach, azoy yiddelsach [as the Christian acts so does the
Jew]. There was a sexual revolution after the fifties and it had a major
effect on family life all over the world. The divorce rate approaches
fifty percent, and there is no way the easily available sexuality can be
hidden from any sector of the frum world. That is the problem` yes mixed
seating/ no mixed seating will have little impact either way on the
basic issue.

Rabbi Rakefet mentions the Gedolim of yesteryear and how they treated
their wives. Has he compared that to the the gedolim ( even if Yiftach
bedoro keshmuel bedoro) today? To the large bulk of solid "bnei Torah"
with a significant number of married years behind them?  The thrust of
Choson classes over the last couple of decades in "Charedi" yeshivahs is
how to interact with ones wife. Yes there are some crazies out there who
are machmir way beyond propriety in his/her relationship, I wonder if
today they are even a "miut hamotzui". Certainly, the aberrations, or
miut hamotzui that he talks about do not come from their ranks.

 There is a rather clear - but false - implication that the average
charedi family sits separately on Shabbos; Rubbish! Yes, the Chofetz
Chaim insisted on sitting with his wife at the Shabbos table, did he
insist on sitting with her at weddings as well? Did the Gedolim Rabbi
Rakefet refers to go out with their wives once a week? Did they voice
preference to sit mixed? When asked a Shailah did Rav Moishe pasken like
the Rama, to sit separate, or did he pasken like the Levush?

If I can refer to a post- fifties time period, I remember an early
sixties bar-mitzvah of a friend , some of whose relatives were
"chashuv", in which everybody sat mixed --except for what we called the
"table of beards". One of those beards was Rav Moishe and they were all

Do you know why everybody sat mixed in the great fifties and early
sixties?  Because Yiddishkeit was still only beginning to show its
face. Young Israel had a hand in the Renaissance of Frumkeit, as did YU,
but the real burst of frumkeit came with the Chassidic immigration and
with the results of Rav Aharon Kotler's cultivation of a Yeshivashe
world. Back in the fifties it was rare for a married woman to cover her
hair (even the wives of some highly revered Rabbis), though today it is
impossible to find a "modern orthodox" Rabbi who permits a married woman
to go outside with her hair uncovered, and nobody even thought then of
asking if mixed swimming was permisible.

Perhaps the jury is still out as to whether the Rav ZTL or Rav Aharon
ZTL had a greater influence on the face of the frum world of the
nineties, but it's funny that Rabbi Rakefet should have quoted Rabbi
Yeruchem Gorelik. His sentiments on the matter were quite well known. As
to the specific case of the Chazan in a Conservative Temple, there are
more than one or two musmachim of YU who are Rabbis in Conservative
Temples, did they all wear their Tzitzis out as well?

Back to the crux of the issue: the family bond does need to be
strengthened in all types of Judaism. There is no shred of proof that
the way to do that is to sit mixed at weddings or other social
affairs. I hope Rabbi Rakefet is not offended that Chazal felt that the
human being was such that "ein aputropos la'arayot" (there can be no
guardian over sexual matters). Their attitude, codified by Shulchan
Aruch (and the Rambam as well) was that one should distance himself from
Ervah "meod meod" (very very much). Those that sin in these matters
today -- almost as implied by rabbi Rakefet, do so as a corruption of
power, the power of being a minor Rebbe, the power of money or just
plain the power of Yetzer hara, not because they don"t go out enough
with their wives. The Pilegesh scandal is not unique to the charedi
world nor is it anywhere near a mainstream occurrence, but most
important, let's not oversimplify in our analysis of the
problem. Perhaps I was sharp in some of my implications, but I tried to
be as objective as possible. I hope that this can remain on a "machlokes
leshaim shamayim basis".

Dovid Oratz


From: Yisrael Herczeg <yherczeg@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 13:18:37 +0300 (IDT)
Subject: Rabbi Rakeffet on mixed seating

In his original remarks on the subject, Rabbi Rakefet called the
practice of maintaining separate seating at weddings but not at home
"craziness." In his current remarks he gives the impression that it is
"false religiosity." In both places he notes that the Chafetz Chaim had
mixed seating at the Shabbos meals at his home.

The Chafetz Chaim on p. 43 of Geder Olam condemns mixed seating at
weddings.  According to Rabbi Rakefet, then, we are left with the absurd
conclusion that the Chafetz Chaim is guilty, Heaven forbid, of either
craziness and false religiosity or of hypocrisy.

Rabbi Rakefet says:
>I end off again making 
>it very clear. If people have licentious thoughts, every word I said is 
>batail, mevutal, keafra de'ara.

The Chafetz Chaim (Geder Olam p. 43) cites the opinion of the Bet
Shmuel) that mixed seating leads to licentious thoughts ["ein levarech
shehasimchah bime'ono bizman sheyoshvin anashim venashim yachad ubai'n
liyedei hirhur"].  He is not merely noting that this opinion exists. He
is encouraging people to follow it. The Chafetz Chaim lived far closer
to our own time than did Maharam Yaffeh. He was well aware of Maharam
Yaffeh's opinion.

In a learned responsum in She'eilot uTeshuvot Bnai Vanim, the noted
religious Zionist halachic authority Rav Yehudah Herzl Henkin concludes
that mixed seating at weddings is permitted. He adds, however, that it
should *not* be encouraged. I asked Rav Henkin if his grandfather, the
Gaon Rav Yosef Eliahu Henkin zt"l, had separate seating at his
children's weddings.  He said that he did. I asked him if his
grandfather had separate seating at his Shabbat table. He answered, "Of
course not." I mentioned that an opinion had been expressed that this
practice is characterized by craziness and inconsistency. He responded,
"How can you compare the two?"


From: <dr@...> (David Riceman)
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 11:13:31 -0400
Subject: Separate Seating, Hypocrisy, and Nostalgia

It would be presumptious of me to disagree with Rabbi Rakeffet's opinion
that mixed seating is not only permitted, but is preferable at weddings
(it would also be foolish, since my own wedding had mixed seating).  I
would, however, like to disagree with two of his tangential points, that
American Jewish civilization was of a higher quality in the nineteen
fifties, and that hypocrisy (he used the expression "falshe frumkeit")
is necessarily to be condemned.
  Educated American Jews formed a tiny proportion of the Jewish
population in the nineteen fifties.  Today a much larger fraction of
American Jewish children are being educated Jewishly.  As a result there
is a general diminution of the quality of education, both morally and
intellectually.  I suspect that the high standards Rabbi Rakeffet
recalls so nostalgically were induced by, first, the few opportunities
for advanced Jewish education, which were reserved for only the finest
of students, and, second, the low prestige of the rabbinate, which
attracted only the most pious of students.  It is not at all obvious to
me that the cost of all of those Jews who abandoned normative Judaism is
worth the higher quality of the few Jews who remained observant.
  I suspect that modern Jewish hypocrisy is a reaction to these lowered
standards.  People are demonstrating, on special occasions, who they
wish to be rather than who they are.  It is undoubtedly useful for those
of us who are not as dedicated as Rabbi Rakeffet to be reminded on
occasion that there is more to life than the nine to five job, the
commute, and the occasional shiur.  If some people use separate seating
at weddings to do that I don't see how we can censure them.

David Riceman


From: Eli Clark <clarke@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 15:35:00 -0400
Subject: RE: Sources on Women's Learning

Jack Stroh <jackst@...> inquired regarding sources on the learning
of Torah by women.

I would highly recommend the sources collected and analyzed by the late
Elyakim Ellinson in his series Ha-Ishah ve-ha-Mitzvot ("The Woman and
Commandments").  One of the volumes, entitled Bein ha-Ishah le-Yotzerah
(Between the Woman and Her Creator) includes a chapter on this subject.
The book is available both in Hebrew and in English translation.


From: Isaac A. Zlochower <zlochoia@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 22:34:00 -0700
Subject: Re: Women Learning

	Jack asked for sources delineating what women are allowed to
study (Torah subjects).  Let's start with a bold statement.  There is no
basis in Halacha for preventing a woman from studying either the written
or oral Torah. This is the phrasing of the Rambam (Maimonides) in Mishne
Torah, Talmud Torah 1:13, "A woman who learns Torah has a reward which
is not as great as that of a man, since she is not commanded to study
Torah."  The later codifiers, the "Tur" (Yaakov ben Asher) and the
"Shulchan Aruch" (Yosef Karo) in Yoreh Deah 246:6 cite the entire
halacha of the Rambam essentially verbatim.  Clearly, then, a woman can
undertake to study any sefer she wishes.

	The real question, then, is what may a woman be taught.  This
issue is also addressed in the same halacha by the Rambam and his
successors.  They phrase the issue along the lines of the Mishne in
Talmud Sota:20a.  "The sages (Rabbe Eliezer) have commanded that a man
should not teach his daughter Torah, because most women are not prepared
for serious study.  This impoverished intellect will result in a
frivolous attitude to Torah learning."  Note the phrasing used by that
master wordsmith, the Rambam, "most women aren't prepared for serious
study".  He isn't giving a blanket prohibition against teaching any
daughter, but, rather, not to teach those who fall under the category of
frivolous and intellectually limited.  Those who are serious, religious,
and accomplished scholars in other fields simply do not fit into the
prohibited student category. Since the subsequent codifiers use the
Rambam's phrasing, one may assume that they agree with his, apparent,
reasoning.  In fact, the "Rema" (Moshe Isserles), the major Ashkenazi
commentator on the "Shulchan Aruch", adds, "women are required to study
those commandments that pertain to women."  The "Shulchan Aruch Harav"
(Shneur Zalman of Liadi) explains that this includes all Torah and
Rabbinic commandments that women, or all Jews, must observe.

	According to the Rambam and later codifiers there is a
distinction between women studying the written Torah and Talmud.  The
former is less of a problem.  However, in this century the practice of
teaching the written Torah to girls and women has become nearly
universal, despite the reservations expressed by the earlier
authorities. Our practice is based on the ruling of the "Chafetz Chaim"
(Israel Meir of Radin) and other luminaries that it is vital to teach
Torah to girls in order to avoid losing them to the secular world.
However, the religious education of girls is thwarted by their exclusion
from Talmud studies.  There is less of an intellectual challenge in the
subjects that they are taught, and a bright, motivated girl is likely to
be turned off Jewish studies, and/or resentful of the limitations placed
on her.

	I would strongly urge that this policy of opposition to teaching
Talmud to women be reconsidered, certainly in the case of a class which
has shown intellectual interests and serious studentship, or of serious
minded, adult women.  There is enough leeway in the halachic sources
cited to permit such instruction, and the need to keep our brightest
women interested in Torah and Judaism should be obvious.

Yitzchok Zlochower


End of Volume 26 Issue 87