Volume 58 Number 71 
      Produced: Sun, 15 Aug 2010 12:27:29 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

    [Mail-jewish team]
Facing the Congregation (2)
    [Akiva Miller]
    [Meir Shinnar]
Interesting article on women's issues  
    [Mordechai Horowitz]
Not a sin to be an agunah? (2)
    [Ben Katz  Meir Shinnar]
Ordination of women 
    [Perry Dane]
Rahav's undeserved bad reputation 
    [Naomi Graetz]
Services on Sunday 
    [Martin Stern]
Study: Mental health needs of Orthodox Jews not being met 
    [Frank Silbermann]
    [ David I. Cohen]


From: Mail-jewish team
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 05:01 AM
Subject: Administravia

> From: Mail-Jewish team

Some people have been making submissions quoting others but not giving their
names or the digest from which they are being quoted. This often makes it
difficult for others to understand or follow up. It is the duty of those
making submissions to make them clear, and most people do so, but there have
been a few exceptions. I have been editing those ones to include the relevant
citations but this is time consuming and I have decided that, in future, I
shall not do so but simply reject any submission which quotes anonymously.

I suggest the following format for citations, as Carl wrote (MJ58#59):

Plony wrote (MJ 58#52):

> In reply to Almony who wrote (MJ 58#50):
>> (quote within quote, all lines beginning >>)
> (quote, all lines beginning >)

This helps to make it clear to readers precisely what is a quote and what
quoted in each quote. However anything equivalent that is equally clear will
be acceptable. Remember that what may be clear to you may be obscure to
someone else who does not have the quoted material in its original context.


From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Facing the congregation

Wendy Baker <wbaker@...> wrote (MJ 58#70):

> I think that one of the main reasons for having the chzzan face the
> congregation in Conservative and Reform shuls is also that more of the
> congregation have difficulty saying and even following the service. 
> Having the chazzan facing them makes it easier for them to follow.

I would question this reasoning.  In the early days of the Reform and
Conservative movements, the laity were far better educated Jewishly than today -
I would be very hesitant to "read back" the current level of Jewish education
onto the early days of either movement.  Far more likely that this was a move to
"modernize" the synagogue service by making it look more like contemporary
Christian services.  Particularly since that was a stated goal of early Reform.

This assumes the direction in which the chazan faces was indeed an early
innovation of Reform, a fact which I cannot personally confirm.


From: Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Facing the Congregation

In the great majority of the shuls where I daven, the Torah is read from a table
in the center of the room, although the services are led from a podium a the
front, near the Ark. Thus, when the Torah is read, the reader is facing
approximately half the shul (namely the front half), many of whom are standing
and facing the back, in honor of the Torah and to hear the reading better.

Akiva Miller


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 14,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Innovations

David Tzohar (MJ 58#60) wrote:
> 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.
Others have commented about RHS as leader of (Modern) Orthodoxy.  Trying to
avoid the personal, and recognizing the multiplicity of opinions, accepting an
individual as posek (and rosh yeshiva) requires more than acceptance of their
level of learning, and many members of the MO community have a discomfort with
RHS as their posek on many levels - emblematic of which is the episode in which
he, during a shiur, joked about shooting the prime minister.  Others may disagree.

WRT to the recent RCA - this actually embodies the discomfort.  Without
discussing the merits of the issue - whether or not a woman can become a rav
(and what being a rav means in 2010, as distinct as from the past) - formulating
the issue not in terms of specific halachic issues that are raised - and there
is no question that Judaism is not egalitarian - but as a broader, meta-halachic
issue - that because the Reform and Conservative movements have embraced
egalitarianism, any movement in that direction is yehareg ve'al ya'avor [a
matter for which one should be prepared to be martyred rather than accept it
even passively - MOD] - is, IMHO, rather than courageous, problematic.  This
attitude would logically imply that, because Reform formulated social justice as
the cornerstone of their ideology, commitment to social justice now becomes
yehareg ve'al ya'avor - something that I find problematic (although, from some
of the aguna discussions, I am not sure everyone here would).  The issue there
should be that commitment to social justice does not override halacha - just as
in the current case, commitment to the rights of women does not overrride
halacha - and the question is what are the limits...  

Meir Shinnar


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 11,2010 at 11:01 AM
Subject: Interesting article on women's issues 

Been doing some more research on these issues and found an interesting
citation from Rabbi Yoel Ben Nun

Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, former /Rosh Yeshiva/ of Yeshivat Hakibbutz Hadati
in Israel, ruled, regarding women who voluntarily take upon themselves
certain mitzvot, to which they are not formally obligated. 

Regarding this phenomenon, Bin-Nun begins with the assumption that, in
principle, women's obligation to perform all mitzvot is equal to that of men.
Following the line of reasoning established by Maimonides and Abudraham and,
more directly, the teachings of his personal spiritual mentor, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda
Kook, Bin-Nun concludes that women's past exemption from time-bound obligations
was due simply to their dependent status, whereby their time was not under their
control. Basing his conclusion on the fact that a goodly number of contemporary
women no longer regard themselves as subject to the authority of their fathers
or husbands, Bin-Nun maintains that they constitute a totally distinct halakhic
category of /b'not horin/ (independent women),[42] to whom in most instances the
traditional concept of "woman" simply does not apply.[43]

Relying further upon the seventeenth century halakhic authority, Rabbi
Abraham Gombiner (known as the /Magen Avraham/), who holds that a woman
who voluntarily undertakes the performance of a particular mitzvah
transforms its status for her to that of a binding obligation,[44]
Bin-Nun concludes that if a group of modern /b'not horin/ consistently
undertake the obligation of regular prayer, they may form a proper
minyan for themselves and recite all those blessings that generally
require a male quorum (/devarim she-bikedusha/).[45] This ruling could
obviously be extended to other time-bound /mitzvoth/.[46]


I have not done any review beyond this but know he's more mainstream
politically than Sperber and being a active Rav vs a college professor
like Rabbi Sperber gives him some more importance within the debate.

The article also discusses Rab Goren

Bin-Nun's line of argument bears a certain similarity to that of the
late Rabbi Shlomo Goren, formerly Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of the State of
Israel. In one of his responsa, Rabbi Goren defended the right of women
to conduct the full order of prayer, including those rituals and
ceremonies requiring a minyan of men (davar shebikedushah), by virtue of
the special dispensation given women by Rabbenu Tam in the 12th century
to recite the blessing "Blessed are You, O lord, our God... who
sanctified us through His mitzvoth and commanded us [... asher kideshanu
bemitvotav vetzivanu] to perform x" if and when performing mitzvoth

Rabbi Joel Roth uses a similar argument in the Conservative debate conducted in
the late 1980's regarding women's ordination in order to overcome the
traditional obstacle to her leading services as rabbi. See Joel Roth, "On the
Ordination of Women as Rabbis," in The Ordination of Women as Rabbis: Studies
and Responsa, ed. Simon Greenberg (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of
America, 1988) where he develops this thesis at length. 

It should be noted that Rabbi Goren's position (upon which he himself reneged,
after it was raised in the context of the political struggle of Women of the
Wall) has thus far been rejected by a decisive majority of Orthodox halakhic
authorities. See Aryeh and Dov Frimer, "Women's Prayer Services: Theory and
Practice," Tradition 32:2 (1998), 7-14.


From: Ben Katz <BKatz@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 13,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Not a sin to be an agunah?

David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...> wrote (MJ 58#68):

> It is not a sin to be an agunah, but it is a very grievous sin to
> denigrate Torat Hashem. The one who made agunot "victims" is no other
> than Hashem yitbarach shemo la'ad (Gd may his name be forever praised)
> who revealed the written and oral Torah to Moshe on Sinai. 

I take strong exception to Mr. Tzohar's claim, above.  God didn't make anybody
an agunah.  Our inability to correctly apply God's laws are what make agunot.

From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 14,2010 at 10:01 PM
Subject: Not a sin to be an agunah?

David Tzohar wrote (MJ 58#68):

> It is not a sin to be an agunah, but it is a very grievous sin to denigrate
> Torat Hashem. The one who made agunot "victims" is no other than Hashem
> yitbarach shemo la'ad (Gd may his name be forever praised) who revealed the
> written and oral Torah to Moshe on Sinai. 

This post is a reflection of what I call Orthopraxy - adherence to halacha
without understanding any of the values of halacha, or being influenced by them
 Yes, Hashem made many people "victims'" - victims of medical illness, victims
of natural disaster, victims of people exercising the free will that Hashem gave
us to murder and rob - and we consider it a grievous sin to blame the people,
and not do what is in our power to comfort and relieve their distress.

Agunot today are victims of people exercising their free will to leave them
chained. While halacha may permit many instances of it - and while many rabbanim
may not be willing, or think they are unable to help, to correct other instances
- it is a grievous sin to blame Hashem for the sins of the people - and a bigger
sin to not do all one can to relieve the suffering of the agunot

> Women who call themselves Orthodox must make a difficult choice between a
> western, feminist agenda and the word of Torah as it has been applied in 
> Halacha which is in no way compatible with feminism.
People who are Orthodox need to make a difficult choice between commitment to
Torah and to the pressures of their social group - and in this case the Torah's
sympathy  is with the feminists..
> It is never too late for teshuva.


Meir Shinnar


From: Perry Dane <dane@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 06:01 AM
Subject: Ordination of women

Harry Weiss wrote (Vol.58 #67):

> This list is supposed to be for Orthodox views.

> I'm genuinely confused here. 

The official description of the list only specifies that it's purpose is to
discuss 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

There are many non-Orthodox Jews who accept the validity of Halakha and the
Halakhic process even if their exact views of halakhot and the
dynamics of the halakhic process are different from those of many
Orthodox Jews. I had always assumed that the wording of the
official description of the list was carefully designed to allow such
folks to participate fully and that the list was therefore not limited
either to Orthodox members or to Orthodox views.
If that assumption is wrong, one of the moderators should explicitly clarify the

I've always thought it one of the strengths of this list that it defined
itself subtly enough to reach out beyond capital-O Orthodox
Jews, not only as readers but as full-fledged participants. If it
doesn't, so be it. But someone in charge should clarify the matter
one way or the other.



From: Naomi Graetz <graetz@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 12:01 PM
Subject: Rahav's undeserved bad reputation

I think that N. Yaakov Ziskind and Frank Silbermann are too quick to write off
Rahav when they write: 

> I seem to remember that there was a woman named Rachav who - merely by
> mentioning her name! - could inspire a man to become impure. 
> Is that "very very sad"? (NYZ, MJ 58#67)
> Having a daughter like that is something I would consider to be "goyishe 
> nachas"(i.e. a traditional Jew wouldn't consider it a source of pride,
> though some people might). (FS, MJ 58#69)

Actually our sages liked Rachav, for she is compared to the verse from Prov. 31:21:
"She is not worried for her household because of snow, for her whole household
is dressed in crimson" (Midrash Eshet Hayil 31:21).

Also, she is on the list of the righteous proper converts from the nations
including: Asnat, Tzipporah, Shifrah and Puah, Pharoahs daughter, Rachav, Ruth
and Yael in Ozar ha-Midrashim [Eisenstein, p. 474: mid of 21). 

According to Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Masekhta de-Amalek, Yitro, Rahab 
converted at the age of fifty after having been a prostitiute for 40 years.  And
since unlike today, conversion may have been looked upon more favorably, in BT
Megillah 14b, the midrash writes that Rahab married Joshua following her
conversion and among her illustrious descendants was Jeremiah the prophet.

Naomi Graetz 
Ben Gurion University of the Negev 


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 15,2010 at 08:01 AM
Subject: Services on Sunday

Wendy Baker <wbaker@...> wrote (MJ 58#70):

> Remember that Reform introduced ... for a while in some congregations,
> services on Sunday.

This is a very odd statement. All the Orthodox shuls which I have attended
have services on Sunday, both in the mornings and evenings, and, for that
matter, every other day of the week.

What Wendy presumably means is that they abolished services on Shabbat and
transferred them to Sunday. It is the abolishment of the former that is the
real objection.

Martin Stern


From: Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 14,2010 at 11:01 PM
Subject: Study: Mental health needs of Orthodox Jews not being met

Jeanette  Friedman (MJ 58#69) wrote:

> The mental health needs of the Orthodox community  are not being sufficiently
> addressed, according to a new study from Yeshiva University.  Eliezer Schnall,
> a YU psychology professor who led the research team,... called the results
> a wake-up call, and said there is still a stigma in the Orthodox community
> attached to mental illness that prevents people from  seeking help. 

I think the biggest obstacle to the treatment of mental illness is the way
marriages are brokered in the Haredi community.  The parents first vet the
family background of the candidate before the children even meet.  So it is very
easy to devalue candidates because of mental illness in the family, when parents
can easily ask the shadchen, "Who else do you have?"

The "modern" approach (where young people meet, fall in love, and decide to marry)
has its own disadvantages, but one benefit is that having a sibling with mental
illness is not such an obstacle.

As for the stigma of mental illness, I am reminded of what Tevye in "Fiddler on
the Roof" said about being poor:  "It's no shame, but it's no great honor, either."

Frank Silbermann ............Memphis, Tennessee


From:  David I. Cohen <bdcohen613@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 13,2010 at 04:01 PM
Subject: Superminyan

IN MJ 58#66 Leah Gordon wrote:

> There was a large contingent of people who felt that it undermines any idea
> of "waiting" at all, if you go ahead with just the count of men; others felt
> that this was absolutely clear according to the Orthodox halakha, and must
> be decided so.  Yet others felt that we could avoid the problem by taking
> different interpretations (e.g. chabad) for making zmanim late enough to
> avoid the question.  One group believed that it is a social problem, and
> that any shul worth its salt should get the 10/10 by zman with no issue.
> In fact, this last group has a point; the wait-not-wait issue has not come
> up in practice yet.

I am confused. If the Rav who was the posek for this minyan ruled, how is it
that different contingents could differ? After all, wasn't the rav who gave his
imprimatur to allow this service in the first place? Without that, what gave
your group the halachic sanction to proceed?

Second point of confusion: Some felt you could avoid the time issue by
adopting Chabad's practice as to times of prayer. Are you saying that Chabad
approves Partnership services?  If not, isn't this choosing various halachik
positions to drive an agenda? That would, IMHO, not be the halachic method.

David I. Cohen


End of Volume 58 Issue 71