Volume 58 Number 60 
      Produced: Tue, 10 Aug 2010 07:00:04 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim (2)
    [Orrin Tilevitz  Stuart Pilichowski]
Conservative "Judaism" 
    [Ira L. Jacobson]
Davenning for women 
    [Martin Stern]
    [David Tzohar]
When a mechizah becomes obligatory (2)
    [Avraham Etzion  Martin Stern]
Who is a Posek. 
    [Aryeh Frimer]
Women saying Kaddish 
    [Sam Gamoran]


From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Meir Shinnar wrote (MJ 58#57):

> What is apparent to most of us is that the changes in women's status
> and public role have been revolutionary.The question is how to formulate
> halachic solutions that will lead to some correspondence between women's
> outside life and her halachic/Jewish life - something that was not previously
> a problem. . . . , this notion - that halacha had to respond to the social
> reality - was realized by the rabbanim, with some solutions (think women's
> learning, bat mitzvahs, just to start as something that have become quite
> the norm.) The question is how far those changes can or should go.
> ....
> However, a response that this is just " I don't like the status quo" or
> that it is as if I wanted to become a cohen is one that does not realize
> the seriousness of the issue. 
> ...
> What this does mean, however, that those who think that the appropriate
> response is some change rather than circling the wagons, will therefore
> support halachic innovations that are justifiable - because the need is
> quite clear. ...

All this sounds reasonable, but I mean sounds and no more. My apologies for an
overly long post, but some points:

1. Traditionalists may oppose change for irrational reasons, for example
complaining about using the vernacular in shul as opposed to Yiddish,
seemingly ignorant that Yiddish was used (and in earlier times, Aramaic also)
precisely because it was the vernacular. I"d bet plenty of charedim think Rashi
spoke Yiddish. So while using the vernacular in sermons may have seemed radical,
that may be because the people who opposed it were not thinking.

2. There are practices that attached themselves like barnacles to
observant Judaism (a term which I find preferable to Torah Judaism which, in
my neck of the woods, excludes people who, for example, believe in evolution)
in 17th-century Poland and later. As Dr. Chaim Soloveitchik pointed
out in his seminal article, the Gaon of Vilna attempted to strip away some of
these barnacles and return to what he thought was the correct practice based on
texts, a problematic process in itself. But, for all that his theories may have
been ignored at the time"and for years after, he was the Vilna Gaon. Does Prof.
Sperber have the stature of the Vilna Gaon?

3. There is ample precedent, ancient and medieval, for high-level women's
learning. Certainly it's happening on a systematic basis more than it has ever
happened before, but just how widespread is it, and how widespread will it ever
be? Just how many women are motivated enough to study daf hayomi? Certainly,
women's learning at a lower level was not widespread until recent times, but for
that matter neither was men's learning. How educated Jewishly were the vast
majority of male Jews in Eastern Europe? Not at all. Were Jewish women, who in
Europe knew halachot regarding the home and kashrut, any less educated Jewishly
overall? I dont think so. An old Eastern European woman in my shul, who would
have to be over 100 now if she were still alive, once objected to the nusach I
was using at Neilah, saying to me (correctly) that it was what she remembered as
the nusach for selichot. No man has ever said that to me. So I dont think
women's learning is nearly as radical as you're making it.

4. There is no ritual associated with bar mitzvah other than calling the kid to
the Torah and the fathers reciting a non-beracha. Girls get candlesticks. The
party part is an unnecessary add-on. I don't know when saying a dvar torah
became part of the thing. For all the furore that the bat mitzvah celebration
might engender among traditionalists (Rabbi Kret, OBM, at a bat mitzvah kiddush
in his shul, refused to use the term, instead calling it a party, while still
permitting the girl to say a dvar torah), it does nothing to tamper with
anything fundamental or any particular ritual.

5. Having women lead services or read the Torah is fundamentally different
because it tampers with an ancient ritual in a way for which there is no
precedent in practice, whatever the theoretical discussions one may find in
the books. When I asked my rabbi about me (a Levi) duchening (BTW, he is a
Kohen), he got all excited. "Yes", he said, "there's lots of discussion", and he
pointed out the Tosafot. What he laughed at was when I asked if anybody does it
that way. Women leading services may fill an emotional need and may be more
consonant with how women are treated in society. So would non-kohanim duchening.
When was the last time that Kohanim were treated as Judaism's religious leaders?
Not since long before the second Temple was destroyed. But halachic practice
needs a lot more than that for it to change.

6. One thing it requires, as others have said, is a posek. Let me add to R.
Aryeh Frimer's technical definition of a posek. I am not at all convinced that
the posek needs to be a rosh yeshiva. But a posek, for these purposes, is
someone who is widely respected as a decisor in the religious community, who is
capable not only of finding imaginative reasons to be metaher sheratzim [to
permit something that would appear to be forbidden - MOD] but to give
dispassionate analysis of whether something can and ought to be done even if it
works technically. R. Frimer, R. Yehuda Henkin, Prof. Sperber and others can
deal with technical aspects, and "eini machnis roshi bein heharim" [I cannot
involve myself in the discussion of such learned people - MOD], but, having been
introduced to the innovation of women's aliyot in a Conservative Hebrew day
school in the 1960s, I have no confidence, in the absence of a real posek, that
this type of thing is consonant with observant Judaism, no matter what the
technical justification, the womens motives or their other level of religious
observance. That Rabbi Avi Weiss let it be done gives me no comfort.

7. I am continually reminded in this discussion of U.N. debates in which
diplomats are prattling about the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
Unsaid is that the discussion assumes that there is a Palestinian people
(Menachem Begin, OBM, and George Habash, YS, among others, would disagree) and
that if its exists, they have any rights, legitimate or otherwise, to territory
west of the Jordan. At least in the absence of a posek, I question whether women
have any legitimate expectation, to officiate at public prayer, particularly
with men, no matter what their motives. Halacha does not always offer a way out
if it is emotionally dissatisfying. Es iz shver tzu zein a yid [being a Jew
entails difficulties - MOD].

From: Stuart Pilichowski <stupillow@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...> wrote (MJ 58#59):

>With respect to Rav Frimer's post (MJ 58#58):

>1) Several different issues
> ...
>b) What is a communal issue?  It is not clear that this is such a
>communal issue - how one runs one shul has minimal impact on the
>community at large.

It's clear to me that certain shuls may be viewed as trailblazers/innovators in
how they conduct themselves/services and are definitely in the limelight or
under the microscope. People look to see what they're doing in order to decide
how they themselves should act. Many are the ramifications.

In addition to HIR I would add Bnai Yeshurun / Rinat in Teaneck, Beth Jacob in
LA, there are a few minyanim in the 5 towns area just to name a few . . . 

Stuart Pilichowski
Mevaseret Zion


From: Ira L. Jacobson <laser@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Conservative "Judaism"

Janice Gelb stated the following in mail-Jewish Vol.58 #59 Digest:

> I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to avoid having to answer 
> questions about Conservative Judaism and I am happy to communicate 
> privately with anyone regarding my beliefs and opinions about the 
> value of the movement and why I have thrown in my lot with them :-> 
> However, I don't think that Mail-Jewish is the correct venue in 
> which to discuss this subject.

I have two comments.  First, I do not see what the discussion of the 
Conservative religion has to do with the fundamental principles of 
Mail-Jewish.  Viz, ". . . discussing Jewish topics in general within 
an environment where the validity of Halakha and the Halakhic process 
is accepted, as well as for the discussion of topics of Halakha. The 
mailing list is open to everybody, but topics such as the validity of 
Torah, halakha etc are not accepted."

Second, Ms. Gelb has refused to discuss with me off-list her "beliefs 
and opinions about the value of the movement and why [she has] thrown 
in [her] lot with them."  Rather, she states, "I'm really not 
interested in discussing this or trying to explain myself any 
further."  This is of course her right, but it seems out of step with 
her offer.



From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Davenning for women

David Tzohar (MJ 58#59) wrote:

> There are some later authorities who said that women should pray privately two
> or three times a day. This has to do with the dispute between the Rambam and
> the Ramban on the question of whether prayer is a Torah or rabbinical
> commandment.

The Rambam holds that women are obligated to engage in some short prayer to
fulfil their Torah obligation whereas other Rishonim hold that they should
preferably daven shemoneh esrei at shachrit and minchah; everyone agrees
that ma'ariv was originally voluntary and men, but not women, accepted it as
an obligation at a later date. Later authorities recognised that, for women
with heavy domestic duties, this may not be possible and was in fact not
their practice, and said that they could rely on the opinion of the Rambam
in such circumstances.

Martin Stern


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Innovations

Months ago the subject of halachic relativism was thoroughly discussed. I
will try to sum up what I posted then.

Innovations in halacha because of changes in societal conditions should not
be made unless they are based totally on how the Gemarra and former
generations of poskim related to the societal conditions of their times. I
started this discussion in response to a lecture by R'Broyde where he seemed
to be saying that the tzniyut (modesty) of today is not the same as the
tzniyut of former times. The examples in this discussion were mainly about
womans hair covering. I strongly disagreed with R' Broyde's premise as I
understood it. I feel that this premise is the major factor in the problem
of retaining the integrity of Halacha in the psak of many Modern Orthodox

R' Herschel Schter (IMHO, the real) Rosh Yeshiva of YU showed us the way in
his courageous stand against the ordination of women saying that this is a
life or death question. IMHO this view against innovations whose source is
change in societal conditions (in this case the impact of feminism on
Western society) is the correct one.

David Tzohar


From: Avraham Etzion <atzion@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: When a mechizah becomes obligatory

Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...> claimed (MJ 58#59):

> Nine men can pray in a room containg women, but if there is a minyan,
> a mechizah becomes obligatory.

If there is a temporary minyan in a beth avel [house where morners are observing
shiva - MOD] or where people get together at a function - there is no need for a
mechitza. All that is necessary is a physical separation. The Mechitza is
derabbonon - while mede'oraito all you need is a separation. This was minhag
Yisrael everywhere when we were in the States in the 60's. If I am not mistaken,
this was also the view of Rabbi Soloveitchick. It is a fact that according to
the Gemara the Mechita was a takkana instituted in Beth Hamikdash (Second Temple).

Avraham Etzion

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: When a mechizah becomes obligatory

Guido Elbogen <havlei.h@...> wrote MJ 58#59):

> Nine men can pray in a room containg women, but if there is a minyan, a
> mechizah becomes obligatory.

I think Guido is not correct in this. There are two quite distinct problems:

1. Ervah (sexual distraction)

The prohibition of davenning in the presence of women who are not
properly dressed (the precise details may be disputed but everyone would
agree that some uncovered parts of a female body constitute an 'ervah'),
even one's wife. This applies however many men are present and a mechitzah
that removes them from male sight is necessary.

2.  Davenning in a shul.

A shul requires a mechitzah even if all the women are properly attired - an
ad hoc minyan does not. This follows from the original institution of the
separation of the sexes in the Beit Hamikdash for the Simchat Beit
Hasho'eivah. The problem is only to avoid light-headed social interaction.
R. Moshe even permitted a shul to use a glass mechitzah for this purpose
though it would not obviate the problem of 'ervah'.

Martin Stern


From: Aryeh Frimer <frimea@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Who is a Posek.

In my post (MJ 58#58) I made it clear what the criteria are for 
determining who is a posek who should be turned to to rule on issues that 
have community wide implications or to overturn millennia of Halakhic 
practice.  A posek is someone who is a recognized Torah scholar bekhol 
hadrei haTorah [in all aspects of the Torah - MOD] to whom you would turn with a
Shailah on a serious issue in Hilkhot Nidda or Aguna. These are the criteria
stated by Rav Moshe and Rav Avraham Shapiro.

There are a lot of community Rabbis out there who pasken - they are 
certainly not poskim!  To claim otherwise shows a lack of understanding as 
to what a true posek is.  Real poskim are around and available. Everyone 
knows who they are. They are in all camps.  They have proven credentials. I 
repeat my claim that not one of them has ruled favorably on Partnership 

    In light of the waves, IMHO to argue that Partnership Minyanim is a 
local shul decision is simply unacceptable.

Dr. Aryeh A. Frimer
Chemistry Dept., Bar-Ilan University
Ramat Gan 52900, ISRAEL


From: Sam Gamoran <SGamoran@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 10,2010 at 03:01 AM
Subject: Women saying Kaddish

Martin Stern <md.stern@...> (MJ 58 #59) wrote: 

>> Joseph Kaplan <penkap@...> (MJ 58 #58) wrote:
>> When my wife was saying kaddish a number of years ago ... She
>> once wanted to go to another Teaneck shul for mincha. She called the rabbi to
>> find out its policy.  He told her: the first part of our policy is that a
>> woman can only say kaddish if a man is saying kaddish. The second part is 
>> that if a woman wants to say kaddish and there is no man saying it, it's the
>> gabbai's responsibility to have a man say kaddish so the woman can recite it.
> How would a shul that adheres to the original Ashkenazi custom (now very
> rarely met) of only one person saying kaddish deal with this problem?

As you have set up these conditions, no woman could say kaddish in that shul. 
However I don't think that the point of this thread is to object to an
individual (person or shul) setting its minhag (custom) for themselves.  Rather,
I think the issue is when someone sets a minhag for themselves or their group
and someone else comes along and says your minhag puts you outside the pale of
Jewish tradition.

In some cases that would be obviously true.  In others "yesh lahem al mi
l'smoch" (there is at least a minority precedent within the tradition).  The
questions are where do you draw the boundaries and how to react when someone
feels that the boundaries need to be changed to meet changing social conditions?

Sam Gamoran


End of Volume 58 Issue 60