Volume 54 Number 74
                    Produced: Tue May 22  6:11:14 EDT 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Hair Covering of Lithuanian Jewish Women
Married Women and Hair Covering (2)
         [Orrin Tilevitz, Samuel Groner]
mJ member Freda Birnbaum
         [Saul Mashbaum]
Nusach of Al HaNissim for Yom Yerushalayim
         [Shoshana L. Boublil]
Psychotherapy and Jewish law
         [Joseph Ginzberg]
Unmarried women and kippot?
         [W. Baker]
Women and Kippa
         [Andrew Sacks]


From: <chips@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 22:12:44 -0700
Subject: Hair Covering of Lithuanian Jewish Women

To state flatly that they did not cover their hair when they were
married is simply wrong. The frum married women who did not cover their
hair were a minority, the question for the time seems to have been were
they a significant enough minority to have to come out and address the
issue or not.

One theory I've heard about the permission to use very good looking wigs
was to entice those women who were not covering to do so.



From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 04:50:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Married Women and Hair Covering

In response to my citation of a citation on ML Jewish of a discussion
between Rabbi Mayer Schiller and Rabbi Michael Broyde in The Journal of
Halacha and Contemporary Society noting that in post-WWI Lithuania many
married women, including those in rabbinical families, uncovered their
hair, Rabbi Wise

<found his slur on the Lithuanian Jews quite shocking and unacceptable.
My grandmothers and great-grandmothers came from Lithuania and all
covered their hair. I have photos of one wearing a sheitel and her
husband was not a rabbi. When one libels a whole kehilla - it is not
easy to repent (see Maimonides).>

What I asserted in the posting to which Rabbi Wise responded is not that
there is no basis for married women to cover their hair and not even
that it is not preferable for them to do so.  It is merely that there
appears to be a valid halachic position, supported by some rabbinical
authority and the acts of an entire community, that they need not do so.
The article apparently quoted three Orthodox sources as permitting
married women to uncover their hair.  I should also point that the wife
of one figure who is widely believed to be the greatest rabbi of the
20th century reputedly did not cover her hair and, when asked about it,
the rabbi is reported to have said "I wouldn't divorce her for it",
which response essentially negates the conclusion that the wife was
"overet al dat yehudit."

What Rabbi Wise's relatives did or didn't do does not contradict the
article's conclusion.  In any event, calling a "slur" an assertion that
a group of kosher Jews did a particular act that more than one Orthodox
authority permitted, even if it is a minority position, is itself a slur
and a libel.

From: Samuel Groner <samgroner@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 14:34:50 -0400
Subject: RE: Married Women and Hair Covering

Rabbi Wise views as a "slur" Orrin Tilevitz's assertion (based on a
previous discussion on mail-jewish years ago) "that the practice among
Lithuanian Orthodox Jews seems to have been for married women not to
cover their hair."

Perhaps it would be worthwhile, then, for someone (I'll do it -- see
below) to quote the relevant post from 1999, which indicates that this
is not a slur, but just a honest recounting of history.

Also, now some of the articles on this topic are available on the web;
see the relevant section of R. Henkin's "Tradition" article
"Contemporary Tseni'ut" at
http://www.jofa.org/pdf/contemporarytseniut.pdf and see R. Schiller's
article at http://www.jofa.org/pdf/Batch%201/0101.pdf

Sammy Groner

"From: Shmuel Himelstein <shmuelh@...>
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 08:06:01 +0200
Subject: Women's Hair Covering

For those who can access the two volumes (XXX and XXXI) of the Journal
of Halachah and Contemporary Society, one will find an excellent article
by Rabbi Mayer Schiller and an equally excellent response by Rabbi
Michael J. Broyde (and Rabbi Schiller's response to that) on women's
hair covering.

I have gleaned the following from the two (all direct quotes):

(from Rabbi Schiller): It is fairly well known that among Lithuanian
Jews after World War I many married women uncovered their hair. This was
common even among rabbinic families. Indeed, when large numbers of
Lithuanian Jews and their leaders came to America in the twenties and
thirties they largely ceased to observe this law" ...

"As far as I have been able to uncover there are only three rabbinic
works (all of twentieth century origin) written by Orthodox authors that
permit married women to completely uncover their hair in public."

To this, Rabbi Schiller adds the following footnote: "Rabbi Isaac S.
Hurewitz, Yad ha-Levi, pp. 143a-b; Rabbi Yosef Masas, Mayim Chaim
(2:110) and Otzar Michtavim (1884); Rabbi Ephraim Zalman Slutzki, Etz
Ephraim, Orach Chaim (12)."

(Rabbi Broyde): "It is quite clear from both the halachic and historical
literature that this uncovering was the practice of the community in
Lithuania 100 years before World War I, when Orthodox observance and
culture was at its strongest. For proof of this, one need only examine
the fact that many poskim noted this uncovering in the 1870s as already
being well-established; see e.g., Rabbi Yosef Chaim (Ben Ish Chai)
Parshat Bo (writing about 1870). Rabbi Yechiel Epstein's remarks on the
commonness of this practice (Aruch HaShulchan OC 75:7) were published in
1903, and Mishnah Berurah OC 75:2 in 1881; both of them are clearly
referring to what was then already a well-established practice" ...

"One must also note the well-known school of thought which rules that
the Torah obligation for women's hair is limited to disheveled, not
uncovered hair (see Shevut Yaakov 1:103)" ...

"The custom of Lithuanian Orthodoxy is not unique either. At least one
other devout Orthodox community also accepted that halacha does not
require married women to cover their hair when modest Gentile women do
not; this was the practice of the Algerian (and Moroccan) Orthodox
community from well before 1900 also. The poskim of this community
explicitly defended its custom in this matter, and one can find a number
of teshuvot on this topic from leaders of their community sanctioning
this practice. Indeed, to this day, the halachic leadership of this
North African community in Israel maintains that hair covering is not
required; see Rabbi Moshe Malka, VaHashiv Moshe 1:34 and 35 and Rabbi
Yosef Massas, Mayim Chaim 2:110."

Shmuel Himelstein


From: Saul Mashbaum <smash52@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 20:04:51 +0300
Subject: mJ member Freda Birnbaum

Dear mail-Jewish member,

It has come to my attention that Jacob Birnbaum, husband of veteran
list-member Freda Birnbaum, was honored a few days ago by Yeshiva
University at the commencement ceremonies for Yeshiva and Stern
Colleges.  He was granted an honorary doctorate in recognition of his
tremendous efforts over many years on behalf of Soviet Jewry (SSSJ).

See http://www.yu.edu/commencement/hdrs.asp

I think that it would be very appropriate to send the Birnbaums a brief
email message congratulating them on this well-deserved honor.

Saul Mashbaum


From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 14:34:44 +0300
Subject: Re: Nusach of Al HaNissim for Yom Yerushalayim

> From: SBA <sba@...>
> Not quite sure how the Hungarians ('Hagrim', according to the Tishbi)
> got in there right between the the Yishmaelim and the Amalekim...

"Bnei Moav VeHagrim" - according to Metzudot and Ibn Ezra, these are the
sons of Hagar.  It is a machloket whether their father was Avraham or
someone else.

Shoshana L. Boublil


From: Joseph Ginzberg <jgbiz120@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 20:31:30 -0400
Subject: Psychotherapy and Jewish law

Re my comments on some of the issues facing a religious therapist, Frank 
Silbermann writes:

>Perhaps the husband would not wish to rely on the kashrut of someone who 
>does not keep kosher, but as long as the food the wife serves him _is_
>kosher that preference need not be the therapist's concern.

I think that this is erroneous, both in halacha and ethically.

The kashrus of one's kitchen is dependant on the reliability of the
kitchen manager, in most domestic situations the wife. We rely on her
tacit testimony that her kitchen is kosher based on the fact that she is
believed, even as a single witness, because of the fact that she is
kosher. Were she known not to be kosher, I believe her kitchen and what
came from it would also not be kosher.

Thus, a religious man married to be non-observant Jewish woman would
also have a kosher issue at home. (I am aware of the responsa of RMF re
the reliability of a trusted and well-known non-observer who has
demonstrated reliability and trustworthiness).  The result in our
scenario is, that if the wife is no longer religious and the husband is
unaware of this, his food may lack in kashruth in halacha even if not in
fact.  He deserves to be aware of this, and to make his own decisions if
he in fact will rely on her anyway.

To make this decision for him, forcing him to eat what may not be up to
his standards, is (to me) unethical.

He also wrote:
>If the husband is too sick to have sex and is not going to get any better, 
>perhaps a rabbi could make an exception to this rabbinical ordinance based 
>on competing issues -- and the fact that nothing is going to happen anyway.

If we can only find some Rabbi somewhere to buy into the concept that we
can make exceptions to hilchos arayos, because nothings going to happen
anyway!  Any suggestions?

And also:
>But there is also the issue that (for capital crimes at least) a Bet Din 
>does not accept a person's testimony against himself.
>If that holds for a Bet Din, might it not also apply to the actions a 
>therapist would be halachicly obligated to take?

This is true, that a person cannot testify against himself. However,
confessions are not the same thing as self-incrimination. (Hodaas baal
din kmea adim versus ain adam masim atzmo rasha).

In either case, though, my question remains: We are not contemplating
action against the patient, we are protecting the unwitting victim from
sinning, so how can we reconcile therapeutically correct behavior with
halachically correct behavior?  Unlike the principle that protects the
church confessional's sanctity even in cases of danger to others,
Judaism would require one becoming aware of physical danger to another
to protect or notify him, even at the cost of violating the Rabbinical
confidentiality.  Should the danger of eating treif (or niddah, or any
one of a thousand other possibilities) be treated less strictly?

I make the point not to discourage anyone from becoming a therapist or
from seeking therapy: I believe in the profession and in the process. I
am simply pointing out the complications inherent in the interface
between these two systems.

Yossi Ginzberg


From: W. Baker <wbaker@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 10:06:04 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: Unmarried women and kippot?

> From: <Meirhwise@...> (Rabbi Wise)
> Further to Susan Kane's posting. The Rambam who was accepted as the
> authority in Yemen did not make any difference between married or
> unmarried women as note by Rav Ovadiyah. My father-in-law who is
> Yemenite tells me that girls from the age of three covered their hair.

What I find interesting here, is that the Yeminite custom for young
jewihs girls to cover their hair is very much the custom of the muslims
among whom they lived.  This, probably also applied to Rambam's world
and could well account for the differing traditions in Europe, where in
medieval times many women (non-Jews) covered or partially covered their

Wendy Baker


From: Andrew Sacks <raisrael@...>
Date: Mon, 21 May 2007 13:28:45 +0200
Subject: Re: Women and Kippa

[Note: the following represents a Conservative responsa to the topic at
hand. Mod.]

>From Responsafortoday.com (English summary of the much more detailed
Hebrew Tshuva which appears on the site).

Andy Sacks

  The Wearing of a Kippah by Men and Women

(OH 91:3-5)

Are men obligated to wear a kippah all the time or only while praying?
Are women permitted to wear a kippah?


There is no Talmudic basis for forbidding a man to walk around
bareheaded. In the period of the Mishnah and the Talmud, wearing a head
covering was only a custom of piety observed by some of the Sages in
Babylon, particularly after marriage. After the Talmudic period,
authorities differed greatly in their decisions about wearing a head
covering and were influenced by the customs of their country and by the
conditions of their time. In our day, wearing a kippah is primarily a
symbol of Jewish identity. As such, it is undoubtedly good and advisable
for a man or a boy to wear a kippah even when he is not praying. On the
other hand, it is clear that whoever does not adopt this custom does not
commit any transgression.

There is also no Talmudic requirement for men to cover their heads when
praying or reciting God's name. The obligation to cover the head during
prayer began in Babylon in the Geonic period and was restricted to the
leader in prayer, to the reader of the Torah and to the Cohanim blessing
the community. It seems that this custom was particular to Babylon,
while in Israel men were still praying bareheaded. Later on, many
authorities did not consider this a halakhic obligation. On the other
hand, there is no doubt that covering one's head, and in particular at
prayer time, became deeply rooted in the consciousness of the Jewish
people as an expression of piety and respect. This is why, even if one
cannot say that the head covering for men in the synagogue at prayer
time is a halakhic obligation, it should be required.

Following the ruling of Rabbi Issac Klein, men should cover their heads
in the synagogue: when praying, when reading or studying Torah, when
participating in a religious ceremony, and while eating (or at least
during the blessings over food). It is also preferable not to be
satisfied with any kind of head covering, but to wear a kippah.

The tradition of women covering the head for reasons of modesty is
beyond the scope of this responsum. We want to address the new custom in
some communities to oblige women to wear a kippah in the synagogue, or
at least when they are called up to the Torah or when they lead the
prayer service. There is no doubt that a woman is permitted to wear a
kippah if she so wishes, but, as of today, the kippah is a symbol for
men.  Therefore, it should not be required of women. Furthermore, many
women, and especially bat mitzvah girls, hesitate to adopt this custom,
which they view as a distinctly masculine symbol. Therefore, for women
and girls the kippah is a permissible option but not a requirement.

Rabbi David Frankel

  A Reaction to the Responsum on the Wearing of a Kippah by Men and Women

(OH 91:3-5)

I agree with Rabbi Frankel's responsum, aside from the last section
regarding women and girls. Inasmuch as wearing a kippah is a symbol of
Fear of Heaven, of modesty, and of respect for tradition, which became a
binding custom in times of sanctity, we have to require the wearing of
the kippah not only of men and boys but also of women and girls. By so
doing, we give women and girls the same opportunity to enrich their
religious experience and to give the sacred moments in their lives the
additional dimension that wearing a kippah adds.

Rabbi Gilah Dror
Rabbi Michael Graetz


End of Volume 54 Issue 74