Volume 48 Number 12
                    Produced: Thu May 26  6:03:08 EDT 2005

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Gender Roles?
         [Martin Stern]
Gender Roles
         [Joel Rich ]
Kaddish and women
         [Alexis Rosoff Treeby]
Women and Kaddish
         [Meir Shinnar]
Women and Prayer
         [Eitan Fiorino]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 10:59:20 +0100
Subject: Re: Gender Roles?

on 25/5/05 10:22 am, W. Baker <wbaker@...> wrote:
>> From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
>> It is incorrect to assert that it is permitted for women to say kaddish;
>> this is a matter of dispute. In a synagogue following the original
>> Ashkenazi custom of only one person saying each kaddish for which they
>> go to stand next to the shats, it would be completely
>> unacceptable. Similarly, in any shul which does not accept its
>> permissibility, it would be inappropriate for a woman to do so and, if
>> she insists on her 'rights', would amount, at the very least, to
>> mechezeh keyuhara (appearance of arrogance) and certainly more an
>> example of assertiveness than piety.
> In the year I was sayig kaddish for my mother, I was taking a class at
> my shul with a Rabbi (not the shul Rabbi) teaching.  He told me that he
> would see that there was a minyan for Maariv after class every week for
> me to say Kaddish.  The first week, which was very early in my Kaddish
> year, When the minyan met I was the only mourner.  I recited the kaddish
> slone, ather badly and the Rabbi remained quiet except for the
> responses, letting everyone understand that a solo woman was OK and
> should be responded to.  In later weeks, having established this
> precedent, he did pop in to help me with the "hard parts" until I became
> more fluent.  No words said, but much said by action.  This is one of my
> favorite memories from a difficult year and I will always be grateful to
> that particular Rabbi.

I think Wendy may have misunderstood my point. In her case the rabbi
allowed a woman to say kaddish so there is no problem. On the other
hand, I was talking about places where the opposite opinion was
held. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

Martin Stern

From: Joel Rich  <JRich@...>
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 05:35:06 -0400
Subject: Gender Roles

Lot's of technical writing here on this topic. IMHO change for the
majority of the orthodox community will only occur when Rabbinic
Leadership can say (and will feel) the change came from internal
halachik considerations acting upon reality as it is (and to the extent
halachically necessary) rather than forced upon it by external
philosophic demands. A perhaps imperfect example would be the beis
yaakov schools founding.

Interesting question (to me at least) - has the bar been raised because
we are such a "self-aware" generation.

Joel Rich


From: Alexis Rosoff Treeby <alexis@...>
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 00:31:11 +0100
Subject: Re: Kaddish and women

Dov Teichman wrote:

> Have there been no pious women until our generation? In my opinion, the
> only reason their piety is expressing itself by taking on more
> traditionally male roles is Feminism. Period. (Granted there have been
> individual women in history that wore tefilin, tsitsis, etc. but they
> were one in a million, and I'm sure it was without all the hoopla that
> is created today by Jewish feminists.)

I completely disagree.

First, this ignores another cause: the spread of Jewish education to
women.  As women have better understood Jewish traditions and sources,
they have sought to improve their practice of halacha, and this includes
taking on practices which may have only been performed by men. I don't
think we can say that Sarah Schneirer was motivated by feminism (as we
understand it today) when she set up Bais Yaakov--but BY was a big
element in spreading Torah to women and creating the situation we have
today. I'm sure she didn't anticipate women studying Talmud and leading
prayer groups, but she would be pleased at a world where Orthodox women
are expected to know how to pray correctly.

It also ignores other communal and social pressures. Take Talmud. The
importance placed on studying Talmud today is immense, and girls may be
influenced by this. You can argue that this is a feminist thing to want
to do, because it is not something that girls do. But the girls (or
women) are not motivated in this way. They don't necessarily think,
"well, the boys can do it, why not me?" Instead, they are motivated by
the impression they get of the importance of the material. Again, yes, a
"feminist culture" leads them to disregard traditional roles, but I
believe it's important to understand the thinking. These women are not
studying Talmud just to prove they can do it; the desire is sincere,
even if it's feminism that's made them think they're capable. If we
place such stress on something, be it Talmud or anything else, can we
really expect 50% of our young people to understand "it's not for me",
especially when the reasons behind it are not immediately obvious? (Yes,
there are differences between the genders, but not all are innate, and
in any case you can't predict the behavior of individuals on the basis
of general trends.)

Some women may be motivated by purely feminist desires. I think,
however, that this can't sustain a true commitment to a practice,
particularly ones that involve real effort. You have to want to do it
for its own sake, not just to prove something.

I know that my own motivations are not purely feminist. They have
probably been shaped by feminism, as I am a product of my time and
upbringing. But I know that when my parents die (which I fervently hope
will not happen for many years!) I will be in shul saying Kaddish for
them. No, I do not go every day normally, but I will make the effort;
there are only daughters in my family, and my sisters are rarely seen
inside a synagogue. So I feel that I have an obligation.

Alexis Rosoff Treeby
London N12


From: Meir Shinnar <Meir.Shinnar@...>
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 12:39:45 -0400
Subject: Re: Women and Kaddish

> There is no shortage of avenues of expression for women trying to be
> "strong jews," within the framework of orthodox judaism, without
> having to resort to shaking up our customs the way they have been
> practiced for generations.

I won't belabor the apparent anti female bias of this poster.  However,
the above part of this post points to a fundamental problem, which has
not been adequately addressed.

The issue is that the role of women is fundamentally different today.
It is different in the MO community, but also in the haredi community
(think of kollel wives working outside the home - only fifty years ago,
the very idea of forcing women to work outside the home was considered
by some a yehareg ve'al ya'avor (something worth dying over), as in the
debate over national service for women in Israel (there were other
issues too, but this was a main motivating factor).

The question is the response.  To the extent that we view religious
practices as being more than a hok - blind religious commandment, but as
also intrumental in shaping our religious personae, it means that the
fundamental different social role may require a different religious
role.  In either way, the same "customs the way they have been practiced
for generations" have a fundamentally different meaning than they did in
the past - you can't go back again.  Doing exactly the same things today
means that you are doing something fundamentally different than in the

Of course, if a woman lives the life of the seventeenth century, then
those customs have the same meaning - but few of us live such a life.

This isn't the position that halacha changes - but halacha is the
application of eternal law to a particular situation, and therefore,
different situations have different responses. This is especially true
in matters of custom.

The question, of course, is how to change - and this is a matter of
fundamental dispute. One can reasonably argue either that the community
has not adequately responded to the drastic social changes, or that
there is a danger from a radical egalitarianism incompatible with

However, in some areas, major poskim have clearly decided that some
changes are acceptable, if not even desirable.  This is clearly the case
for women's kaddish. The major poskim for the vast majority of American
Orthodoxy were Rav Henkin, Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Soloveichik -
and all three endorsed women saying kaddish. Rav Henkin in a tshuva, Rav
Soloveichik has been previously cited, Rav Moshe in Igrot Moshe says it
was done in Vilna. In 1973, when at Columbia, I knew a student who had
a letter from Rav Moshe saying that she should be allowed to say kaddish
(women saying kaddish were a novelty then).  When going to a newshul,
she would first contact the rabbi and show him the letter.

Therefore, it is the position of those who oppose it that is
problematic.  If a rav paskens differently for his shul, that is his
right.  However, those who question those who follow the majority
opinion purely on the basis that it is new are on dangerous grounds, as
they show a karaite rather than halachic sensibility.  I would argue
that is they, rather than the women, whose fidelity to halacha should be
questioned, as they are machkish magideha - deny the authority of the
halachic decisors - and declare the halacha not to be a torat hayim
(living torah)

Meir Shinnar


From: Eitan Fiorino <Fiorino@...>
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 10:02:32 -0400
Subject: Women and Prayer

Re: Dov Teichman's controversial comments:

> In my opinion, the only reason their piety is expressing itself by
> taking on more traditionally male roles is Feminism.


> There is a third category of things that, while technically permitted,
> our rabbis are not happy with their practice.  Women's increased role
> in the synagogue, saying kaddish, and performing traditionally male
> mitzvos fall into that third category.
> There is no shortage of avenues of expression for women trying to be
> "strong jews," within the framework of orthodox judaism, without
> having to resort to shaking up our customs the way they have been
> practiced for generations.

Ironically, long ago on mail-jewish I was an advocate of a number of
positions regarding women and prayer that I now find to have run the
gamut from having been overstated, to having been wrong, to having been
reprehensible.  I'm not going to say in which category(ies) the
statements of Dov Teichman belong (I'll note the categories are not
mutually exclusive), but I will offer the following observations (these
may be simply echoing the thoughts of others who have commented;
apologies if there's nothing new here - I have not quite caught up with
the recent mail-jewish flood):

1.  Most arguments against innovation in prayer that rest not upon
specific and definable halachic inyanim but rather depend upon the claim
that the verdict of history has rendered the traditional way sacrosanct
are bankrupt.  The history of tefila is a story of massive change and
fluidity, and while it is true there has been stagnation since the
introduction of printing, nevertheless we still see enormous innovation
periodically, such as the influence of the kabbalists and the
grammarians on the siddur (eg, one must mention kabbalat shabbat,
introduced to the synagogue in the early modern period and eventually
adopted by virtually all communities).  Any argument that is constructed
"this shouldn't happen because it never happened before" is worthless
because that argument was, at some point in time, applicable to 90% of
what happens in the synagogue today. Conversely, some things that
happened for a very very long time in synagogues have gone by the
wayside (eg, recitation of certain piyutim). Thus, as a principle, "this
shouldn't happen because it never happened before" is neither necessary
nor sufficient for judging the acceptability of innovations in prayer or
prayer rituals.

2.  I find that almost without exception arguments based on presumptions
about the inner states of other people to which one has no access are
unpersuasive at best, ad hominem at worst. Fundamentally, the exercise
is inaccurate and unproductive, and is rarely used equitably by those
who employ it to attack their foes.  For example - has Dov questioned
the motives of those baalei tefila who in the guise of representing the
tzibbur before hakadosh baruch hu are in fact indulging their own
adolescent fantasies about being rock stars in the same way he has
questioned the motives of women who wish to recite kaddish?  Why is it
that I see none of the anti-women crowd pounding the table, demanding
purity of heart and motive from those who are leading the tefilot of
klal yisrael every day?  In this context, it is difficult to view Dov's
blanket dismissal of ALL of the motives of ALL of the women who seek
greater involvement in prayer as a serious attempt to engage in a
discussion, and easy to dismiss it as an attempt to incite.

I offer these comments not as an advocate for change - if anything I
continue to be more backward-looking than forward, and I irrationally
cling to a nusach that is near-extinct - but rather as an interested
observer.  Let's not kid ourselves - this is not just about semantics
and debate.  These kinds of demonstrably false and purposefully hurtful
arguments can utterly poison a person's views about klal yisrael and
gedolei yisrael.  It is my belief that when rabbonim defend
controversial positions through attack, insult and fiat and not with
carefully documented, well-reasoned halachic arguments, far more damage
is done to the fabric of Judaism than by those whose positions are being



End of Volume 48 Issue 12