Volume 7 Number 92

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

On women in Judaism:
         [Michael Allen]
         [Michelle K. Gross]
Women & Prayer, Kaddish, & Hair
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Women and Kaddish (2)
         [Moshe Sherman, Aliza Berger]
Women saying Kaddish
         [Janice Gelb]


From: Michael Allen <allen@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 93 13:38:38 -0400
Subject: On women in Judaism:

There are many excellent, traditional texts on this complex subject,
and full discussion is probably inappropriate in this sort of forum.
However, I have found that there are a couple of points that help me
approach the discussion with a measure of objectivity.

1)  Many western values are completely at odds with Jewish values.
    Privacy in particular is greatly esteemed in Judaism, while
    western culture lauds public displays.  Most of the truly
    important events in Judaism -- the Akeida (binding of Isaac),
    Matan Torah (giving of the Torah in the dessert), and the Cohein
    Gadol's entrance into the K'dosh K'doshim on Yom Kippur to name
    just three -- took place in absolute privacy.

2)  In Judaism, we never say, "X does such-and-such, so why can't Y?"
    Rather, one might ask, "why does X do such-and-such, and does that
    reason apply to Y?".  For example, a Cohein doesn't say "a Yisrael
    can be a member of the Chevra Kedeisha, so why can't I?", rather
    we learn from the Torah that it is inappropriate and damaging for
    a Cohein to do certain things that are perfectly acceptable -- and
    even meritorious -- for a Yisrael to do.


From: <mgross@...> (Michelle K. Gross)
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 93 15:16:14 -0400
Subject: Thanks

Thanks to those that offered me condolences on my recent loss.

If you are critical of my saying kaddish either aloud or quietly, please
do take the time to let me know in private, as it is disturbing to me to
have to publically defend a practice that my Rav has given to me. I
think that a more appropriate question would be whether my Rav is basing
his decision on a tshuva by Rabbi Henkin or on a ruling by the Vilna

My intent on first posting was to indicate that the statement made--that
poor, orphaned women say kaddish--does not apply to me. I did not intend
to issue a psak for anyone else; please accept my apology if I did not
make that clear enough in my post.  It is only a matter of academic
interest to me whose ruling my rabbi is following--my sole intent on
asking him or the rabbis where I daaven--is to follow their established
synagogue practice and to make sure that what I do is within Jewish
custom and law.

Since I see how much this topic evokes emotions in me, I'm sure that it
does so in others as well, and I understand if you feel the need to post
your own experiences.  Please try to do so without refering to mine.



From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 93 15:44:58 -0400
Subject: Women & Prayer, Kaddish, & Hair

Several people have mentioned R. Avi Weiss' book _Women at Prayer_
(including myself), so it seems only fair to mention that a review of it
appeared in _Tradition_ 26:3, spring 1992, by R. Gedalia Schwartz.  His
main critiques are the following (consult the article for a more
complete treatment of these issues):
   1.  If women are not obligated to hear Torah reading as a davar she
b'kedusha (which is R. Weiss' position), then the removal of a sefer
Torah from the aron for a non-obligatory reading may constitute a
disrespect for the sefer.  (Thus, there is kriat hatorah on leyl simchat
torah, because the hakafot alone are not reason enough to remove the the
sifrei Torah from the aron.)
   2.  There are serious halachic problems with the recitation of the
bracha "asher natan lanu torat emet" after kriat hatorah in the setting
of a women's prayer group -- it seems this bracha is to be recited only
with a minyan.
   3.  R. Weiss has not fully considered the effects of bitter disputes
which may arise in congregations in which such groups may emerge, and
although R. Weiss mentions that the Rav never objected to women's prayer
groups on halachic grounds, the Rav was also seriously concerned with
issues of fragmentation in the Jewish community.
   4.  The establishment of women's prayer groups is counter to the
prohibition issued by five roshei yeshiva of Y.U.
   5.  Finally, R. Weiss has not adequately addressed the issue of the
possible erosion of synagogue minhagim due to the establishment of
women's prayer groups.

Regarding women saying kaddish, we had:

> Unfortunately, many people are under the impression that women can't say
> kaddish by themselves, and insist on someone male saying along with her.
> . . . As to women saying kadish "quietly," the whole POINT of saying it is
> for the minyan to answer "amen."

A quick look through R. Maurice Lamm's _The Jewish Way in Death and
Mourning_, R. Chaim Goldberg's _Mourning in Halachah_, and R. Yitzchak
Fuchs _Halichot Bat Yisrael_ did not reveal any opinions that a woman
may say kaddish by herself.  I do not feel that this was by any means an
exhaustive search, but R. Goldberg and R. Fuchs quoted numerous poskim
who hold that even if the sole avel [mourner] is a daughter, she should
not say kaddish.  Mention was made of a woman reciting kaddish in
private (in the presence of a minyan).

I have seen many times a woman saying kaddish quietly along with the
men; in terms of the response "amen," the woman saying kaddish need only
coordinate her kaddish with the men saying it.  The congregation does
not respond to each individual avel -- thus, if she is saying it
quietly, the congregation is responding to her as much as it is
responding to the other men in shul, none of whose voices can be
individually distinguished.  I also see a potential kol isha/kavod
hatzibbur problem with a woman reciting kaddish alone in a synagogue
setting.  If there are poskim who permit this, I would appreciate seeing
the sources.

Regarding men's reactions to women, we had:

> if a man cannot keep his mind on his prayers when a "pretty young woman"
> is going to the Torah, he should take responsibility for it and stay home,
> or wear blinders or do whatever it takes . . . Why should a married woman
> have to cover her hair whenever there is a man around?

There are multiple issues here.  In one sense, it doesn't matter what an
individual man feels in response to a women; the halacha reflects the
general state of being a man.  And the halachah is clear -- men are more
prone to sexual excitement than women.  As a man, this is problematic as
well -- before I was Jewish, I enjoyed going to musicals, and I did so
without any "sexual excitement" from the women's voices.  I no longer
can go to musicals, in spite of my personal conviction that for me, a
woman's voice is not an erva.  Furthermore, in general we men _do_ take
responsibility for our halachic status as "easily excited."  If there is
an erva [sexual stimulant] present, we do not pray there; we go
somewhere else, or in extreme circumstances turn away or close our eyes.

Most importantly, it is crucial to realize that the halachot regulating
women's appearance do not exist simply as testimony to men's
excitability -- there is a second concept involved, one of tzniut
[modesty].  Thus, a woman's hair is considered and erva, that is true --
but in entirely separate discussions, a woman is required to cover her
hair as a function of daat moshe and daat yehudit.  The m'chayiv [that
which obligates] of a woman covering her hair is not simply that men get
excited; the m'chayiv is also (perhaps even predominantly) this idea of
tzniut, that a bat yisrael should dress modestly.  See the discussion in
ketubot 72a, shulchan aruch (orach chaim) 75:2.  To bolster my argument
that the m'chayiv of women's hair covering is prediominantly a modesty
issue, not an erva issue, I point to the aruch hashulchan (orach chaim
75:3), who maintains that in our day, since so many women go about with
their hair uncovered, hair is no longer an erva and therefore it is
permitted to say devarim she b'kedusha in front of a woman's uncovered
hair.  (R. Moshe, iggerot moshe Orach Chaim 1#44 says that one can rely
on the aruch hashulchan in a pressing circumstance).  Yet the aruch
hashulchan _never_ says it is permitted for women to go about with their
hair uncovered.  If the m'chayiv of a woman covering her hair was only
the erva, then the aruch hashulchan would hold that since hair is no
longer an erva, then women should not have to cover their hair.  Since
he holds that women must still cover their hair, then another factor --
ie, tzniut -- must be why women must still cover their hair.  (I should
point out that many disagree with the aruch hashulchan on his ruling
that hair is no longer an erva.)  Thus we can see there is an idea that
Jewish women should be modest in dress, and that this concept of modesty
exists somewhat independently of the concept that men are easily aroused
sexually.  Both of the concepts contribute to the halachic requirements
of women's dress.

Eitan Fiorino


From: <MSHERMAN@...> (Moshe Sherman)
Date: Mon, 21 Jun 1993 13:50 EDT
Subject: Re: Women and Kaddish

Regarding the discussion of women reciting kaddish, see Rochelle
Millen's article in Modern Judaism, 10 (1990).
  Moshe Sherman,  Rutgers U.

From: <A_BERGER@...> (Aliza Berger)
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 93 22:57:46 -0400
Subject: Women and Kaddish

I observed on many occasions this past year a woman saying kaddish
alone, at the Orthodox minyan at Columbia University.

According to Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (HaPardes, March 1963), and I'm
sure there are many other sources for this, it was only in the last
century that it became customary for more than ONE person to recite the
mourner's kaddish.  Thus, before the custom changed, the question of a
woman reciting kaddish was probably hardly ever relevant, since a man
would probably be chosen to be the ONE saying kaddish in any case, the
reasoning being that a man's obligation is greater than a woman's.  Rav
Henkin's conclusion is that a woman may say kaddish quietly in the
women's section of the synagogue along with the men.

Re the suggestion that a woman should pay someone to say kaddish rather
than recite it herself: The suggestion that a woman should do this in
itself recognizes that she has some responsibility in the matter, if not
a technical obligation.  According to the Kol Bo on Avelut (by a R.
Greenwald; sorry, I only know this quote from a secondary source),
paying someone "who is saying kaddish after a dozen yahrzeits and a
dozen dead ... is not worth a penny, even if it is said in Jerusalem or
Hebron".  Certainly it can be psychologically healthy for a woman who
wishes to do so to recite the kaddish herself.

The issue of a woman reciting kaddish was raised in an article entitled
"Modern Orthodoxy and Women's Changing Self-Perception" by Dr. Joel
Wolowelsky (Tradition, Spring 1986) as an example of the difference
between a "right-wing" approach and an ideal "modern Orthodox" approach
to many other issues as well (sorry about the labels).  While a
"right-wing" approach would be to not allow a woman to say kaddish even
though it is halakhically permissible, out of fear of what it might lead
to (counting women to a minyan), Dr. Wolowelsky suggests that an
appropriate approach by a "modern Orthodox" rabbi would be to make sure
that a woman knows all the legitimate options open to her.

Aliza Berger


From: <Janice.Gelb@...> (Janice Gelb)
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 93 17:05:14 -0400
Subject: Re: Women saying Kaddish

In mail.jewish Vol. 7 #82 Digest, Allen Elias says:

>I was surprised to read that women quietly say kaddish behind the
>mechitsa.  The whole idea of saying Kaddish is to have a minyan of men
>answer Amen.  If one says it quietly little has been accomplished.
>It would be a bigger aliya for the neshama to contribute money to a
>shul, charity, or yeshiva to have someone say kaddish with a minyan
>answering Amen. That is what most women who need to say Kaddish do.

I was faced with this problem when a great-uncle of mine, who had helped
raise my mother, died and there was no one to say kaddish for him.
Although he was not religious, he was a regular synagogue attendee and
my mother felt badly that no one would remember him in that way. I asked
around and was told by many people that I should give tzedaka to a
yeshiva or synagogue to say Kaddish for him. While I can see this
solution for someone with no remaining relatives to say kaddish for
him/her, it bothered me to have a stranger say it for my great-uncle, to
whom I was very close, when I would be in synagogue every week and had
my parents permission to say Kaddish for him. The emotional issues
involved in the saying of Kaddish don't to me equate to a simple
monetary transaction.

Janice Gelb                  | (415) 336-7075     
<janiceg@...>   | "A silly message but mine own" (not Sun's!) 


End of Volume 7 Issue 92