Volume 31 Number 78
                 Produced: Mon Mar 27  5:47:56 US/Eastern 2000

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

         [Avi Feldblum]
Feeling Invisible
         [Steve White]
Invisibility and Funeral Customs
         [Freda B Birnbaum]
Invisibility behind the Mechitza (2)
         [Idelle Rudman, Stuart Wise]
         [Rachel Furman]
Rabbi Millers Excellent Family Purity Book
         [Gershon Dubin]
Women at Services - Unseen or Not Seeing?
         [Simcha Streltsov]
Women in Synagogue
         [Menashe Elyashiv]
Women Pray with Minyan vs without Minyan
         [Catherine S. Perel]


From: Avi Feldblum <mljewish@...>
Date: Sun, 26 Mar 2000 10:12:25 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Administrivia

Hello All,

I am back in New Jersey, now, and have just finished at least a first
reading of much of my mail. mail-jewish should be starting back up today,
and I expect that you will see a good number of issues in the next
several days. So for those of you who may have been only about 3-5 weeks
behind in your reading, welcome back for at least a day or so of being
caught up.

I'd like to thank Carl for the melava malka he held for me just over a
week ago in Yerushalaim, and thanks to all who came and I got a chance to
put a face along with a name.

Avi Feldblum
mail-jewish Moderator


From: Steve White <StevenJ81@...>
Date: Thu, 2 Mar 2000 00:03:26 EST
Subject: Feeling Invisible

I have to admit I'm getting a little weary of some of the subthreads on
this topic.  People are saying that women "don't" or "shouldn't" feel
invisible, or that if they do it is because they lack understanding of
how a woman "should" feel behind a mechitza, and the like.  Bah, I say!

Several women have posted that they **do** feel invisible, and that's
enough testimony for me.  And while there are certainly a range of
halachic opinions on the issues that this thread has brough forward --
synagogue architecture, say, or the ideal locus of prayer for a woman --
there are also a few things that I personally believe all of us should
do that are unquestionably within the halacha that can reduce some of
this feeling of "invisibility."

For example, the place where this thread began (I think) was a poster's
relating a story in which a gabbai said there were "nine people" present
for a minyan when in fact there were nine men and one woman.  Now, there
are a lot of ways that this gabbai might have made that comment that
would have either (a) acknowledged the woman's presence (e.g., "we have
nine men -- nothing personal, Plonit") or (b) at least been neutral
(e.g., "we're one short for a minyan").  This gabbai chose language that
really made her feel invisible. I'm sure it wasn't meant maliciously (or
at least I sure hope not), but would a little sensitivity here hurt?

Similarly: When there is a woman in the shul, do you make sure the
tzedaka pushke gets over to her?

Similarly: Do you daven in the ezrat hanashim (women's section) during
the week because there aren't usually women there?  My personal view on
this (not as a matter of halacha, just as a matter of courtesy) is that
you shouldn't do it, so as not to cause embarrassment or "tzuris" in
case a woman walks in.  But even if you do sit there, do you cheerfully
abandon the space when a woman walks in, or do you act resentful?  Do
you act as if the woman has no business being there?

There are unquestionably issues that will be much harder to resolve in
terms of "invisibility."  But in my view, if we don't do everything that
is within our power (and unquestionably mutar) to minimize such
feelings, then we have much to answer to the Ribono Shel Olam for.


Steven J. White
Highland Park, NJ


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 08:04:26 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Invisibility and Funeral Customs

In v31n69, Carl Singer writes

> Of grave concern is the intolerance or imposition of one's minhagim
> (that are within halacha) upon others, especially at a stressful time
> such as a leviah. Who's in charge?

Amen to that.  This past summer, I was at the funeral of a dear friend,
and at the graveside was standing next to an elderly lady who had been
very close to the deceased.  As I was balancing the need to hold on to
her so she wouldn't trip and the need to be close up front so I could
see and hear, she said to me, "Maybe they don't want the women up
front?"  I said, "You know, sometimes WE get to be THEY."  (Fortunately,
none of this was an issue as the person facilitating the proceedings is
a very sensible person.)

(I said "facilitating the proceedings" -- THAT is the job of the person
in charge, not enforcing some idea of what women, or anyone else,
shouldn't do.)

IMHO, people (especially women) need to reclaim their rights and not let
well-meaning or even not-so-well-meaning people tell them what they
"can't" do at a funeral.  If that involves picking up the shovel
yourself and just doing it, so be it.

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>


From: Idelle Rudman <rudmani@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 10:20:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Invisibility behind the Mechitza

I am astounded by the amount of heat but of no light expended on the
issue of women and tefillah.  Of course a woman is invisible, and so is
a man.

The whole intent of prayer is deveikus (cleavage to Ribbon Olam.)  True
prayer is an inward directed activity.  The image of prayer in my mind,
and as traditionally represented visually (in art and illustration,
separate mediums), is that of a man wrapped in a tallis, or with a
siddur covering the face.  The pasuk inscribed above the aron ha-kodesh:
Shiviti ha-Shem le-negdi tamid, is the end-all and be-all of true

My husband was in Poland many yars ago, before the collapse of the Iron
Curtain.  In shul, he was approached by an elderly man, obviously a
Holocaust survivor.  He quizzed my husband on gemorrah, and when
satisfied that he was cognizant of Torah learning, asked how many people
one needs in order to say Kaddish.  When my husband started with a
discussion of a minyan, he launched into a halakhic explanation allowing
one person to say it with Ribbon Olam in mind.

I would recommend, for anyone seriously interested in the true
spirituality of prayer, reading the sichot of Rav Nebendzahl for this
week's parsha, Va-Yak'hel.  In it he addresses the inyan of the kiyor
made from the mirrors of women, citing Onkeles and Ibn Ezra.  He then
discusses tefillah and teshuvah.  It is very illuminating and
meaningful, and will, perhaps lead us back to the true intent of

I realize that I have not addressed the issue of communal participation,
but I strongly feel that that is a social issue.  And that allows for
many different variations.  It is NOT an issue of tefillah.

Idelle Rudman, MLS, MA, Librarian		    tel: 212-213-2230 x119 
Touro College, Women's Division                     fax: 212-689-3515
Graduate School of Jewish Studies	            <rudmani@...>
160 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY  10016

From: Stuart Wise <swise@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 11:08:54 -0800
Subject: Re: Invisibility behind the Mechitza

There MAY be other reasons why women don't come to shul at all, especially
on Friday night.

1) Women are not obligated to daven with a minyan
2) Preparing for Shabbos can be tiring and they may not feel up to dressing
properly for shul.
3) Women with children have no recourse to be home with the children (I hope
no one will suggest that men and women should take turns going to shul!)
Friday night and Shabbos morning.

None of these reasons suggest that they do not attend Shul because they
feel invisible. My wife tries to come to shul every Shabbos morning
because she enjoys hearing the singing and the reading of the Torah.
Sometimes she is tired and doesn't, but when I asked her if she feels
invisible, she said no and given the number who attend every week -- and
even more on the Shabbos went we bless the new moon (bentch Rosh
Chodesh) it's pretty full.

There are shuls in my neighborhood where women can sit on an equal level
with the men, and not in the balcony, but shuls with serious mechitzos
are still pretty full and the ones with equal-level mechitzos are not
bursting at the seams (according to people I've asked who daven at such
places).  There must be a reason for that.


From: Rachel Furman <rsusselj@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 06:40:26 -0500
Subject: RE:  Mechitzah


Shalom all!  Another rare posting from me:  

I have not been following the discussion of women and the mechitzah
fully but I would like to air my POV.  As a disabled woman, I have my
own difficulties with the mechitzah.  I wear hearing aids.  In order for
me to follow the service I must rely on VISUAL cues to know what is
going on.  I can hear what is happening, but mostly because it is
familiar and I have a siddur/Chumash to follow what I hear and therefore
make sense of the sounds.  If I am behind a mechitzah that does not
allow me to see those cues, I am made to feel outside the service, as if
I am unimportant, and should not be there.  I then feel resentment and
anger at being treated like a second class citizen.

Now, lets exacerbate this: when the Rabbi or a guest gets up to give a
drash and I am behind a mechitzah that does not allow me to see his face
easily, I cannot hear a word of what he is saying.  This I hate the
most.  I do not have the benefit of a print version of what is being
said so I can follow along.  I cannot anticipate what is going to be
said so I cannot make sense of the sounds that I can hear.  In some
shuls, they have curtains that are drawn open during the sermons.  But
this does not alleviate the problem of visual cues for women when
davening.  And, in many cases the womens' sections are so far to the
back, side, or so high up, that even though the curtains are drawn, and
ostensibly I can see the speaker, I still can't hear: voices do not
carry that well.  If the speaker is the kind of man who NEVER looks at
the womens' section then my problem is further exacerbated.

I suppose that I COULD seek out a womens' [prayer group], where I would
not only be able to hear, but also to participate.  However, I have
chosen not to do so for several reasons:

1)  It feels disrespectful both to the men and to tradition
2)  I prefer the opportunity after service to socialize with both men and women
3)  I prefer to daven where my husband davens
4)  I want to be part of the  "mainstream" of my community

All of the above are valid reasons.  I truly feel that in many shuls the
womens sections are "afterthoughts".  I wish more consideration were
given to women.  I cannot tell you the number of shuls I have been in
where the seating for men is much more comfortable than the seating for
women: men have armrests, and shtenders--women sit on benches without
shtenders. When the yomim tovim came around the women would be packed
like sardines on the benches, but the men, because of the armrests, were
more comfortable.

Anyway, these are my thoughts, for whatever they are worth.  I am no
longer the type of person to fight --maybe someone younger will do

Rachel Furman


From: Gershon Dubin <gershon.dubin@...>
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2000 22:24:57 -0500
Subject: Rabbi Millers Excellent Family Purity Book

> From: Russell Hendel <rhendel@...>
<<I actually have his book. He advocated building mikvahs on roofs(not in
> bathtubs where they are not kosher mikvahs because the water is drawn).
I never heard of anyone disapproving of what he did.>>

	Then perhaps you can fill me in.  In the part of the book I
have, he explains how to fill the mikva.  I don't follow how that is
done in order to make a kosher mikva.  Also, in the part I don't have
there is an explanation how to make the mikva kosher according to all
opinions.  Can you summarize that for me?

Gershon Dubin


From: Simcha Streltsov <simon1@...>
Date: Tue, 29 Feb 2000 14:18:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Women at Services - Unseen or Not Seeing?

several posters commented in the "invisible women" thread that they can
not see or/and hear what is going on.

I'd like to point out the difference between an issue of "being
invisible" from "not being able to see".

Solving the latter does not require no new scientific discoveries. We
can simply go to the old architectural solutions: balconies. The
balconies provide all possible options for women: full view of services,
family members and potential marriage prospects; ability to talk if they
want and go in and out unobstructed.

Simcha Streltsov
<simon1@...>  phone/fax 617-562-1426


From: Menashe Elyashiv <elyashm@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Mar 2000 09:55:37 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Women in Synagogue

Just to note, the old Yerushalmi syn. did not have an ezrat nashim.
Maybe because as talmide haGRA who wrote to his wife & daughters not to go
to syn(see his famous letter).
BTW, my wife & daughters do not go to hear Zachor (women are exempt) &
hear Meggilah at home (very quiet) 


From: Catherine S. Perel <perel@...>
Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2000 02:22:27 -0600
Subject: Women Pray with Minyan vs without Minyan

On 15 February 2000, Chaim Mateh <chaimm@...> wrote:

> Women are also required to daven (at least once
> a day, short tfilla if they are busy with the kids, or
> longer if not).

I have often wondered what the case would be if, for some reason, a
man's wife died, G-d forbid, and he becomes responsible for taking care
of his children.  Is he exempt as women are for this reason, or will he
need to insure his attendence at all services and tend to his children.
What of hiring a baby sitter on Yom Tov?  This is not permissable.  So,
what of his obligation?  Would it be the same which exempts women the
daily services, from time bound mitzvoth?

He also said:

> The question arises as to whether the "better to
> daven with a minyan" applies to women, too.  IOW,
> if a woman has a choice of
>         (1) davening by herself;
>         (2) davening with 50 other women, or
>         (3) davening with a minyan (of 10 men).
> Which is the Hallachically and hashkafatilly
> preferable thing to do?

I thought a group of women could have a Torah service amongst themselves
as long as no men were present?  Am I mistaken?  I realize you cannot
have a mixed minyan, but can you not have an all women "minyan"?

[Quick note, there are no women "minyan" where "minyan" means that it
has that halachick status that you do/say those things that require 10
men. As such there are women prayer groups or tefilla groups, where
women pray together and arrange their individual prayers in a manner
that gives some more communal activity, but for instance, Kaddish,
kedusha, borochu etc are not said. I know we have a number of active
members of such groups on the list, is there a web site with a FAQ on
women's tefilla groups I can reference here? Mod.]

One more query: If Hashem listens/hears the prayers of a minyan, better
than those of an individual, why pray?  How can you have the proper
kavannah knowing that?  If you're a shut-in, or the shul is not
wheelchair accessible, or you are too ill to walk to shul but not to
pray, would your prayers be heard as well as or not as well as those, of
and in the presence of a minyan.

Shavuah tov,
    Catherine S. Perel


End of Volume 31 Issue 78