Volume 58 Number 93 
      Produced: Sun, 22 Aug 2010 05:33:39 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

the holocaust 
    [David Tzohar]
To the males of this list - A woman's status as a Jew (2)
    [Shoshana L. Boublil  Shoshana L. Boublil]


From: David Tzohar <davidtzohar@...>
Date: Sat, Aug 21,2010 at 05:01 PM
Subject: the holocaust

Carl is absolutely right that faith in an omniscient , omnipotent and just
Gd is the relevant way to deal with theological questions regarding the
Holocaust. However, it is not the only way. Unless we accept the view
of *hester panim* that Gd "hid His countenance from the world and therefore didn't
intervene to save his people, we must try to understand why this was part of
His plan, the same way that we try to understand why it was necessary for
the Hebrews to undergo hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt.

There is a book called Em habanim Smeicha by R'Y. Teichtel, an important
Chassidic Rabbi in pre-war Hungary. He explained that the fate of the Jews
of Europe was sealed when they refused to take part in the return to Zion
that had begun in the end of the 19th century c.e. Their sin was similar to
that of the spies who did not believe that Hashem would fulfill his promise
to His people to give them the land of Israel. Of course there are many
questions within questions. For instance how is it that the Nazis also
killed ardent Zionists like the fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto? Even R'
Teichtel didn't have all the answers  and of course neither do I for I am
less than dust under the feet of a saintly martyr like R'Teichtel. However
this is another way of understanding the holocaust, one that I believe in.
David Tzohar


From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 22,2010 at 05:01 AM
Subject: To the males of this list - A woman's status as a Jew

Jeanette  Friedman <FriedmanJ@...> wrote (MJ 58 #91):
> And it's not just about the women, it's about certain attitudes in
> general toward things like agunot, and disabled people, and people who are
> not precisely, exactly like you, and toward the whole shadchan system.
> For a decent Jewish world, things need to change in order to be fair
> and compassionate. And you should excuse me, Ira, but you are not my posek,
> and like  I said, if you don't love yourself, how you gonna love anyone
> else?
> Judaism is about charity, kindness and compassion. Read what the Rambam
> says about Moshiach. He resides in us. There will not be miracles and
> thunderstorms. Peace and prosperity will come when we treat each other
> with respect. This translates into our behavior in the outside world. And
> trust me, we are being watched and judged, not just by Hashem, but by our
> neighbors in this world.

Jeanette's post touched me deeply, and I would like to respond this time, not
just as a fellow female on the MJ list, but from my viewpoint as a Rabbi's wife.
As the issues are extremely complex, I will only touch on some of the basics,
IMHO in this post.

There is much truth in what she posts.  Too many in the general public feel
threatened by Orthodox female leadership.  It sometimes looks like the
rabbis are as well. The truth IMHO is that this is not so, it's just a
question of the worldview, the paradigms from within which each group is
operating and a case where the other side does not comprehend the

First of all there is the issue of numbers: not every man is a community
leader. No matter how knowledgeable, leadership roles in any community are
usually few and limited in number and therefore no matter how many
knowledgeable and respectable women there are - the number who can be
leaders is indeed limited by this factor alone. In reality I doubt this
issue can be resolved, and it should be taken into consideration, b/c
sometimes the issue is really this factor and no other.

To get back to the difference in paradigms. To illustrate, I will share a
story I read, one I knew about in general, but only found proof for several
years ago.  My family is a rabbinical family, and the women for the most
part (except for those who couldn't learn b/c of historical situations) were
extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of Judaism - Halacha [Jewish law]
Machshava [Jewish Philosophy] etc. What I was told was that it was customary
for many rabbis to study with their wives. When researching the family tree,
I came across the name Rav Zelmele - the brother of Rav Chaim of Vohlozhin.
His son in law wrote a book about him and included an interesting tidbit.
This Rav Zelmele, who was famous for his being an extraordinary Ilui of vast
knowledge, used to regularly learn with his wife and daughter [the author's
wife] - they were his chavruta [study buddy]. From his comments it was clear
that this was common practice among many Lithuanian rabbis. 

The conclusion is that at least senior rabbis were not threatened at all by
knowledgeable women, and actually from looking through the G'mara and
realizing that hundreds of years of history are summarized in limited space,
it was recognized that there were women who were extremely knowledgeable as
well [I'm not getting into individual cases here].  The relevant issue here
is that these knowledgeable women knew what was going on and discussed it
with their husbands, so that the husbands always heard a female point of
view. This is one side of the g'mara stating "Eishet Chaver Ke'Chaver". BTW,
the g'mara requires judges to spend time at the local markets so that they
can become familiar with the general public's viewpoint on different

The main difference IMHO between the two paradigms is the issue of public
vs. private. We live now in a world where everything is public.  Just look
at what people post on facebook. Nothing is secret, nothing is hidden,
nothing is covered out of respect. Now while certain things do need to be
revealed to the light of day [agunot, how to deal with physical impairment
and psychological disorders etc.] not everything gains from such
revelations. One of the problems is the tension existing between the modern
view of everything is everyone's business, and the Torah view that this is
not so.  One of the questions is what are the limits, and what is gained vs.
what is lost in the process.

Several years ago, at a Kolech conference, Rabbi Malkior spoke about trying
to get leaders of the various religions (all of whom are men) in Israel to
speak to one another. One of the problems as he saw it was that when
organizing the discussions, he considered the lack of women in the room to
be a problem but having women as discussion leaders didn't work.  Now, the
fact of the matter is that in the past, sometimes, when possible, while male
leadership spoke in one room - the wives of these leaders spoke in another,
and their views and ideas were shared with their men, and though privately
done, without limelight, the female views of the issue were actually
present.  Under this new paradigm of everything public, it didn't dawn on
Rav Malkior to have parallel female get together, which is something I
suggested to him, though I never found out if they tried it. In actuality, I
realize that to many modern women, such a suggestion is demeaning, b/c
"women are equal" so they should be in the same room and share the
discussions". While this may seem true, real life doesn't always truly work
like that, and in demanding public equality, the ability to influence such
matters in other ways was lost.

One of the problems IMHO is that both sides are going for an either/or modus
operandi.  The more vocal Orthodox female leadership is demanding that
everything be public - and publicly equally shared . Many of the rabbis are
demanding the traditional stand of the female part of leadership being less
public. As the modern world considers anything not public to be suspect and
believe it automatically leads to problems, the two sides of the equation
are kind of stuck, and the result is many of the harsher pronouncements made
by both sides. The secondary result is that non-leadership members of the
groups do not comprehend the sources of these pronouncements - and things go
downhill from there.

I don't know how to resolve this except by getting the leaders to start
talking and listening to one another.

But on the practical side, Jeanette is right that somehow too much of being
Orthodox has been pinned on the questions of keeping Shabbat, Kashrut and
Family Purity laws, and not enough on laws of commerce, social justice and
general Bein Adam LeChaveiro issues and behavior. Several years ago, at a
book sale, I overheard a young Orthodox man (in his early 20s) make some
ugly disdainful remarks about a secular woman who bought a book on Jewish
thought [written by my daughter]. I asked him if he realized he had to go
apologize to her for insulting this woman in public - and he didn't know
what I was talking about. I asked him if he realized that when Yom Kippur
came around, he wouldn't be getting forgiveness from Hashem until this lady
forgave him - and he looked at me. He stated: No one in Yeshiva every taught
him to think like this! Yes, he said, he was taught Shiviti Hashem LeNegdi
Tamid [I imagine myself in Hashem's presence at all times] - but they never
connected it to the issue of how to behave with other people!!!

My response is that to bring about change all we need to do is change
ourselves. If each and every one of us monitors our own behavior to improve
it, the impact on our surroundings will multiply the effort and bring about
a change for the better.

Shanna Tova,

Shoshana L. Boublil

From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Sun, Aug 22,2010 at 05:01 AM
Subject: To the males of this list - A woman's status as a Jew

Akiva Miller <kennethgmiller@...> wrote (MJ 58#90):
> I wrote (MJ 58:82):
>> I concede that in shul, there is precious little for the women
>> other than to watch and listen and pray -- and that in too many
>> shuls the watching and listening is difficult or impossible.
> ...

> On the other hand, I do not understand the emphasis which is placed on
> participation in the shul services. There any many Jewish things I do
> outside of services, some of which the women of my community do more
> prominently than the men...

> When women voice their feelings about being banned from full
> participation in shul, that should be balanced by voicing their feelings 
> about being *not* *required* to fully participate in shul.
> In other words, I do believe that these women have sincerely negative
> feelings about not being able to lead the service, or get an aliyah,
> etc etc etc. But I would like to hear how those same women feel about not
> having to wake up early every single morning to go to shul for morning
> services. Or about not having to interrupt one's afternoon or evening to
> go to shul. Or about not having to say the full service at all, minyan or
> not...
> Believe it or not, I agree with you. I just don't get it at all.  (Neither
> do my wife or daughter, by the way.) But I am willing and eager to learn.

My father, Prof. Rabbi Aaron Skaist tells me that in the past it was publicly
acknowledged that there was the men's way of worshipping Hashem - and there was
the women's way. There were 2 parallel paths to Hashem.  Somewhere along the
way, the women's path was lost. IMHO probably b/c it wasn't fully documented, it
was usually passed down from mother to daughter, and we now have only remnants
of it in the existing documentation of Judaica. Let me be clear - it is not a
different Torah - it is a question of emphasis and practice, as I'll explain below.

When you add this to the shift in women's Jewish education in the last
century, it is astonishing that the demands made by Orthodox women weren't
made earlier, louder and more extensively.  What am I referring to?

Women are being taught far more official halacha then they have in
centuries. The source of this knowledge are male rabbis who have little
experience with the ancient female way of worshipping Hashem. The result is
that in high school, for example, the rabbi spent 3 months teaching us the
laws of Tzitzit including the laws regarding sewing the garment (b/c we have
to make them for our husband, yes this was when everyone was already buying
them ready-made) and only 3 minutes on the halachot of lighting candles on

Women are being taught that to worship Hashem you have to pray in a minyan
(every school spends the month of Elul discussing the structure of Mussaf of
Rosh HaShanna, and 5 minutes on the family get together and Simanim [signs]
of the holiday); that the best way is to "study Torah" [oh we mean to send
your husbands to yeshiva....]; you should have children [oh, it's your
husbands who are obligated to have children...]; to educate your children
[oh, it's your husbands who are obligated to teach their children] and I
could continue from here.

It takes a very short time from being taught the above and then being told
that you get more reward when you do something you are obligated in doing
than when you do something that you are not obligated to do - to want to
scream to high heaven - what is going on here???!!!!

To clarify matters and focus on what women's worship is all about, for
example, I was married for many years before I first heard a Torah Thought
which discussed how most of the melachot [labor] forbidden on Shabbat are
connected to running a household, how the Cohen is the person who is in
charge of running Hashem's household (the Beit HaMikdash) and women are the
Cohen Gadol of their homes...

Rav Chaim David HaLevy in his books Mekor Chaim, gives a 3 pages long
introduction to lighting candles [remember the 3 minutes in school...] where
he discusses how women bring Shalom Bayit [peace into the home] the issue of
increasing light in our lives and other issues symbolized by lighting
candles that bring  us closer to Hashem.

Approx. 10 years ago I heard from Prof. Rakover about Mitzvat Noy and how
cleaning the house is actually an aspect of this mitvah. Rav Kook wrote how
concentrating on cleaning dishes with purpose and intent to bring
cleanliness into the house is a way of becoming closer to Hashem.

>From another source I heard (if someone knows the source I would love to
have it) that a woman's immersion in the Mikva is actually her equivalent of
the brit milah [circumcision] of the men, and when a woman immerses before
the wedding she is joining the long line of Jewish women who have built the

There is much more out there, I've been researching this issue for years,
and still discover new information all the time. But this information is not
part of the standard curriculum that women are taught. Actually, this is not
totally true. In the past several years in Israel, Bat Mitzvah programs have
been focusing on these issues so there is a beginning of a change in this

A secondary aspect of this whole issue is connected to a topic I just wrote
on earlier this morning (I don't know the order in which these posts will
appear) on the question of public vs. private. To summarize, the modern
world only values that which is public.  The vast majority of the issues
connected to female worship are private, they are conducted in the home and
not in public. There is no public participation or public recognition.

So, when you combine the two issues, it becomes obvious that there are many
women who will find active participation in a public minyan to be a
necessary part of how they express their worship of Hashem.  In a world
where only public behavior is acknowledged, and where women are taught that
it is best to daven in a minyan, that prayer is more acceptable in this
manner, then it is a short path to requesting to have a more active role in
public prayer in the synagogue.

Shoshana L. Boublil


End of Volume 58 Issue 93