Volume 58 Number 87 
      Produced: Fri, 20 Aug 2010 02:04:42 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Agunot as victims 
    [Meir Shinnar]
For everyone's information 
    [Eitan Fiorino]
Honors in shul (2)
    [Joel Rich  Stephen Colman]
matir assurim 
    [Naomi Graetz]
To the males of this list - A woman's status as a Jew (2)
    [Meir Shinnar  Eitan Fiorino]
    [Sarah Beck]


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 19,2010 at 06:01 PM
Subject: Agunot as victims

Jack Gross in MJ 58 # 83 wrote:

> The crux of the issue is that the burden of proof (establishing objectively
> that conditions exist obligating the husband to grant a Get) is a very high
> bar.  It is rarely met, so B.D. is almost always precluded from applying
> coercion (whether physical or financial).

The issue of the standard of proof is really the crux of the issue -
but the problem is that the standard of proof is not as high as Jack
Gross suggests, and courts in the past (and very recent past) were
frequently willing to apply coercion.  How able is of course a
different issue, reflecting the fracturing of the Jewish community,
but in Israel they were also able to apply coercion - unfortunately
not malkot, but at least prison.  Of course, some people are willing
to sit in jail (the relative of one member of MJ apparently did this
for years), but there is force.

The problem is that many courts, both outside of Israel and inside the
courts have suddenly become strict - applying all sorts of
stringencies to the case that were unknown (or known as a minority
opinion that was rejected).  Part of this strictness is a general
notion of strictness (now played at the expense of someone else's
life, and part of it seems even less morally justifiable (eg,
punishing the woman because she doesn't comply with how the court
thinks she should act - such as also going to secular court).  As in a
previous posting, this is not merely my opinion - and I am not a rav -
but the opinion of Rav Daichovsky - recently of the Israeli Supreme
Rabbinic Court and recognized as a talmid chacham (scholar), and no LW
fanatic - who wrote about this in Techumin.

Also, Jack Gross misunderstands the Rambam. IIRC, the Rambam accepted
the takkanat  (enactment) hageonim - that a woman who declared that
she could not live with a man - she was not a prisoner - and in that
case, PURELY on the basis of her declaration, they could force a
divorce.  This position was rejected by Rabbenu Tam (12 century
France), who was concerned that this could be a ploy just to marry
someone else. However, there are still many grounds for compelling a
divorce....- and while a court may legitimately worry about Rabbenu
Tam, the reasoning behind the takkanat hageonim still resonates with
some of us.....

Meir Shinnar


From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 19,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: For everyone's information

Sammy Finkelman <sammy.finkelman@...> wrote in v 58 #81, with regard to
psychoactive medications:

> What's more, people taking these medications die more 
> frequently (of mostly non-psychiatric causes) - on average 
> 15 to 25 years earlier than normal.

This is a preposterous assertion.  It ought to have not been made without
references cited to support it (of which I assume there are none).

As for the overall content of the posting - that psychiatric conditions are
massively overdiagnosed and that psychoactive medications have lowered the
quality of care for patients suffering from these diseases - I would just point
out that simply citing the large increase in the numbers of these diagnoses
cannot be interpreted as evidence of over-diagnosis given that there are
literally dozens of potential reasons for such increases.  Just one example,
relating specifically to medications - drug treatments for schizophrenia and
depression, in particular, have improved dramatically over the past 3-4 decades;
mainly regarding adverse effects but to some extent with regard to efficacy as
well.  The availability of better drugs to treat a condition leads to increased
diagnosis because more people with the condition can be treated than before.

I am not writing as a reflexive defender of prescribing practices in psychiatry
- indeed I suspect that within certain populations and drug classes, there is
over-diagnosis and over-prescribing (for example, the use of psychoactive drugs
to manage unruly children) - however, for there to even be a conversation about
the topic (which is, incidentally, of highly marginal relevance to Mail-Jewish),
it ought to be an evidence-based one.



From: Joel Rich <JRich@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 19,2010 at 06:09 PM
Subject: Honors in shul

IN mail-jewish Vol.58 #85 Digest Batya Medad said:

> Rabbi Efraim Wolf took the job as rabbi in the middle 1950's when there wasn't
> a full minyan of Shomer Mitzvot families.  He welcomed every Jew into the shul,
> to be active members.  Even into the 1970's gabaiim and sisterhood presidents
> weren't shomrei (keepers of) mitzvot.  At some point, the tipping point, Great
> Neck became a magnet for young frum families.

> This never would have happened if Rabbi Wolf hadn't honored everyone willing to
> step into the Great Neck Synagogue.

> Batya Medad, who credits Rabbi Wolf's outreach and investment in youth
> activities and NCSY with introducing me to Torah life.

This is an important issue - was/is this viewed as a horaat shaah (an emergency
measure) due to the then current situation, but once a critical mass of shomer
shabbat folks is created, will they then decide that too many of these
non-shomer's will have a negative impact on the shomer's - or is it a way of
life to be continued.

Joel Rich

From: Stephen Colman <stephencolman2@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 19,2010 at 09:01 PM
Subject: Honors in shul

In my Shul -  the Golders Green Beth Hamedrash (aka 'Munks') - they will not
give an Aliyah LeTorah for the first 7 Aliyos to anybody who is Mechalel Shabbos
Befarhesya (desecrates Shabbos publicly) however close he may be to a baal
simchah - and they are quite strict on that definition. They will however allow
one extra Aliyah, where they are more lenient and will relax that rule.


From: Naomi Graetz <graetz@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 19,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: matir assurim

Elazar M. Teitz wrote (MJ 58 #75) a response to an earlier posting of mine
quoting  me  saying, "What is "sad" is that the great mitzvah of "matir
assurim"(freeing prisoners) which in the past lead to kulot (leniencies) are
today being replaced by a tendency to humrot (stringencies). " I still stand by

However, in his answer to me he wrote: "It should be pointed out that great as
the mitzva is, one cannot be "matir assurim" (freeing prisoners) by being "matir
issurim" (permitting that which is prohibited)."

To continue this latest discussion I would like to add the following (summarized
from a shiur my husband lead in shul last shabbat): 

In Vayikra Rabba Aharei Mot 22:10, in an interpretation of  the phrase "matir
assurim" from Ps. 146:7, the point is made that "matir assurim" means both
freeing prisoners and permitting the prohibited. "Assur" is a prisoner, but it
is also something forbidden. The midrash interprets the phrase by having God
saying "mah she-asarti lakhem hitarti lakhem" ["what I  forbade you, I [now]
allow you" [Margoliot edition]. This is followed by a list of cases of forbidden
things that are permitted (either in other places in the Torah or by rabbinic
literature). Devarim Rabba Re'eh 4:9 discusses the issur (prohibition) of eating
meat which is not from a sacrifice, allowing one to eat properly slaughtered
meat in any place, and the same asmakhta of the verse "matir asurim" is cited.
The concept of  "mattir assurim" [the permitting of prohibitions] is thus
clearly tied to "matir assurim", and the cases cited show that the process of
permitting formerly forbidden matters is both directly in the Torah, that is
Divine, and therefore used in the rabbinic decision making of halakhic issues.
Thus, these midrashim are very important for those who understand that part of
the halakha is a process which continues the Divine law by authorizing rabbinic
authority to use already revealed procedures. 

Naomi Graetz 
Ben Gurion University of the Negev 
Author of 
The Rabbi's Wife Plays at Murder (Shiluv Press, 2004) 
Orders: <graetz@...> 
Unlocking the Garden: A Feminist Jewish Look at the Bible, Midrash and God
(Gorgias Press, 2005) 
Online orders: www.gorgiaspress.com 
S/He Created Them: Feminist Retellings of Biblical Tales (Gorgias Press, 2003) 
Online orders: www.gorgiaspress.com 
Silence is Deadly:Judaism Confronts Wifebeating (Jason Aronson, 1998) 
Online Orders   http://www.rowmanlittlefield.com/


From: Meir Shinnar <chidekel@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 19,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: To the males of this list - A woman's status as a Jew

Akiva Milller (MJ 58 # 82) wrote about not being first rate either,
because there are some limitations - he can't get rishon or sheni, or
duchen, or....

I think that he misses the point of the issue - in  a way that is
highly problematic (others have also written in a similar vein) and
misses the crux of the issue.

While halacha clearly has different roles for many things, and is not
egalitarian - either in gender roles or in other roles (priests,
leviim), all males today have a chance to participate in the public
service - how much they participate may depend on issues such as
secondary status (eg priests, leviim), technical proficiency, and the
style of the shul.

However, they are all active participants.  Furthermore, this is
clearly very important part of their coming to shul - indeed,
participation is now far more crucial than in the past. Part of the
origin of, for example, Young Israel shuls was precisely this ideal of
participation, which is why Young israel does not allow a full time
cantor in its synagogues.

There are limits to this movement - not all who want to participate
may have appropriate proficiency (something every gabbai knows...),
but I think that it is ingrained.  Furthermore, even if one is not an
active participant in leading, his presence there is part of the

All this does not exist at all for women.  There is no active
participation (closest may come in some shuls being able to kiss the
sefer torah) - their presence in shul is not necessary for the prayer,
nor may they participate.  For prayers outside shabbat morning, many
shuls are not even set up for women to come.

This was fine when the main social role of women was domestic.
However, today, for most women, much of their lives are involved in a
very public sphere.  The question becomes what aspect of religious
life will correspond to this social reality - or do we say that there
is no equivalent.

That does not translate to a particular solution, nor does it mean
egalitarianism.  There are legitimate  halachic problems with some of
the solutions proposed. There is also a school that denies that
halacha should have any correspondence with our life - it is merely
avodat hashem.

However, for those who think that halacha is more than merely blind
obedience, and wish to imbue with kedusha all aspects of our lives -
some solution - which grants some public religious role to women - is
a religious and halachic imperative.  Those who view this as
comparable to wanting to duchen can charitably be said to lack
spiritual, religious and halachic insight (I won't talk about a
noncharitable view - although it is clear from some postings that
being charitable here may not represent the truth about some...)

Lastly, some talk about the fact that the women in their lives do not
seem to have this problem.  This may represent many different things -
 - from a higher level of religiosity and commitment to halacha to a
lack of spiritual fire and involvement - and even a Stockholm
syndrome.  Further, many women intuit that the response to expressed
desire for change may not be that welcoming (as evidenced here...),
and not express it.   Which one is true for a given individual I don't
know, and   have no desire to judge the individual - but find it
problematic that others have no such problem about judging those who
do feel a need for a change...

Meir Shinnar

From: Eitan Fiorino <afiorino@...>
Date: Thu, Aug 19,2010 at 06:09 PM
Subject: To the males of this list - A woman's status as a Jew

Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...> wrote in vol 58 #82:

> But my status is not totally first-rate either. I've never 
> gotten the first (or even the second!) aliyah of the Torah 
> reading, and I never felt cheated out of it, because I know 
> that it isn't mine. I'm not even in the running. I've never 
> won an Oscar(R) either.
> But I've never been able to go to the front of the shul and 
> bless the congregation, either. And there's no consolation 
> prize for that one. And lest anyone say something like 
> "That's only on Yom Tov! It's not day after day all year 
> long!", let me say that I had the privilege to live in Eretz 
> Yisrael for five years, where it IS done every day, all year long.
> But I never felt jealous of the kohanim. I'll confess to 
> being curious what it is like to give the blessings. But 
> that's very different than feeling second-class.

Not to pick on Akiva for his citation of the "kohein-yisrael" distinction in
response to women who feel unsatisfied by their place in the synagogue/Orthodoxy
- but as someone who once tossed out this comparison myself and who has seen it
used quite often in these gender conversations, I'm going to suggest we bury
this analogy for two reasons.

First, I think it completely trivializes the issue.  Let's face it - maybe when
kohanim were performing the avodah and had their (and their childrens')
financial security assured by terumot, one could claim that "konein envy" could
represent a parallel to what contemporary women feel.  But to me, today, this
just rings as absurd.  Yes, someone might really want to be a kohein.  But has
anyone on this list ever met a person who was truly pained and suffered anguish
over the fact that he was not a kohein?  I've not . . . in fact, I've never met
anyone who has indicated that they have any desire at all to be a kohein.  

Second, and more importantly - it completely dismissive and misses the point. 
When someone says "I am in this situation and it makes me feel bad and I desire
something else/more," it is utterly self-centered to reply "well, I myself was
in a similar pickle once and guess what - I didn't feel like that at all."  The
unsaid implication - "therefore your feelings are illegitimate; *you* should not
feel this way because *I* did not feel this way in a different circumstance."  

Thus, I propose the "konein envy" analogy should be banned because on the one
hand, it is a lousy analogy, and on the other, it is a dismissive response that
delegitimizes how women feel about their status.  

I suspect that no woman to whom the "kohein envy" analogy has been cited has
ever responded "thank you very much; I now feel comfortable and at ease as a
woman in the synagogue."  I would, however, venture to guess that many woman
have instead thought to themselves "well, another guy who doesn't get it; just
doesn't get it at all."   I'd be willing to put my assumption to a "show of
hands" among the female M-J readership (or any other sample for that matter) . . . 



From: Sarah Beck <beckse@...>
Date: Fri, Aug 20,2010 at 12:01 AM
Subject: WTGs?

Rose Landowne writes (MJ 58#83):

> [T]he series about Rashi's daughters, (which I assume must have been
> researched with historical sources) talks about the literate daughters
>  of Rashi going to the synagogue to lead the women's prayers for those
> who couldn't read. I wonder what the process was..."

Zalman Alpert, a librarian at Yeshiva University, heard from his father that
in prewar Kurenets, a large town in greater Vilna, many shuls had a
"chazante," a female prayer leader, as a matter of routine, especially on
the holidays when a lot of women were in shul. This excited no comment at
all. But they were Litvaks and, as such, probably didn't have much of a



End of Volume 58 Issue 87