Volume 8 Number 19

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Birkat Hatorah
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Brachot on the Haftorah
         [Arthur Roth]
Mipnay Ha-kavod
         [Mike Gerver]
Misheberech for David Gelernter
         [Sean Engelson]
Women's Tefila Groups (2)
         [Shoshanah Bechhofer, Avi Weinstein]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 93 14:50:27 -0400
Subject: Birkat Hatorah

I have begun looking into the birkat hatorah (b"ht) issue, and this is what
I've found so far.

The text of the brachot are discussed in brachot 11b.

The shulchan aruch (O.C. 47) says it is forbidden to study without saying
b"ht, and goes on to specify what is included.  The mishna brura writes
that the Ramban, the Chinuch, and the Rashba all hold that b"ht are
d'oraita, and he adds "the punishment for someone who doesn't say b"ht is
very severe."  He brings down a gemara from nedarim (81a) (this may also
be in bava kama) which comments on a pasuk in Yirmiyahu that the Jewish
people were exiled and the land destroyed because they neglected b"ht.

The Rambam (hilchot t'filah  7:10) seems to hold that b"ht is d'rabanan
(the beit yosef feels the rambam holds this way), in spite of the explicit
statement in the gemara (brachot 21b) that the requirement of b"ht is
derived from d'varim 32:3 "when I proclaim the name of the Lord, ascribe
greatness to my G-d."

The shulchan aruch states clearly that women are chayavot (47:14) in b"ht.
The biur halacha there says that the beit yosef hold that women have an
equal chiuv as men and thus may be motzee a man [fulfill his obligation],
while the Gra feels that b"ht is the same as a birkat hamitzva -- even
though women have no chiuv in mitzvot shehazman grama, ashkenazim hold
like tosofot in permitting women to make a birkat hamitzvah over such
mitzvot; thus, according to the Gra, a woman could not be motzee a man in

In halichot bat yisrael, R. Fuchs brings down the Brisker Rav, in the name
of Rav Chaim, that b"ht is not a normal birkat hamitzvah, because the act
of talmud torah calls forth an obligation of shevach which is independent
of the obligation to learn Torah.

In short, there is a machelochet rishonim about the origin of b"ht,
although we poskin against the Rambam and thus repeat b"ht (actually, only
"asher bachar banu") if we don't remember saying it, in most circumstances. 
Furthermore, there is a machelochet as to the precise nature of a woman's
chiuv; she may have a chiuv equal to a man, or less than a man.

None of this really answers any questions, though.

Eitan Fiorino


From: <rotha@...> (Arthur Roth)
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 93 15:49:08 -0500
Subject: Brachot on the Haftorah

    On shabbat parashat Chukkat, there was an error in the luach sent to
our shul by a leading yeshiva.  As a result, the wrong haftorah (the one
that belongs to parashat Balak) was said, and we realized that this was
the case during the repetition of the Mussaf Amidah.  There was no
question in anyone's mind that we should do the correct haftorah at the
end of the davening, but there was confusion as to whether we should
repeat the brachot as well.  With no time to research this matter, we
did NOT repeat the brachot, on the grounds of safek brachot l'kula
(being lenient when there is a doubt in the matter of brachot).  Given
our sketchy state of knowledge, there was indeed a strong "doubt" at the
time, so the decision was almost surely correct under the circumstances.
    By now (over a week later), however, I would have expected us to
have established what the correct decision would have been if we'd been
equipped with full knowledge of all the relevant sources.
Unfortunately, though, a disagreement still remains.  The issue boils
down to whether the brachot on the haftorah are aimed at the specific
haftorah designated for that day or just at the general concept of
learning from the prophets.  The latter view assumes that the particular
reading is not me'akev (important enough to invalidate things).  Can
anyone comment on this?

Arthur Roth


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1993 3:00:38 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Mipnay Ha-kavod

Bob Werman, in v8n3, asks whether the tzibbur can voluntarily give up
its kavod and allow women to get aliyot, and Rick Dinitz in v8n8 asks a
similar question. This reminds me of an incident that I witnessed at a
Hillel shabbaton over 20 years ago in California. There were, I think,
three minyanim Shabbat morning, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox. The
Orthodox minyan was organized by two Orthodox Hillel rabbis, who were
very charismatic inspiring people, who had had a positive impact on a
large number of students who hadn't been exposed to Orthodoxy before.
They also had a fairly liberal, though serious, approach to halacha.
They were very interested in the question of whether a tsibbur could
decide that their kavod was not threatened by giving women aliyot, and
concluded, after studying the issue for some time, that, if the tsibbur
did not object to giving women aliyot, they could do so. Having come to
this conclusion, they called up a woman to the Torah at the Orthodox
minyan. Afterwards, one of the woman who had been at the minyan (not the
one who was called up) complained to one of the rabbis about this. This
woman was herself a baalat teshuvah, in part due to the inspiration of
this rabbi, and she couldn't understand how he could do such a thing. He
explained how calling a woman up to the Torah was only prohibited
because of kavod ha-tsibbur, and it should be OK if the tsibbur is asked
beforehand and doesn't object. "That's fine," she pointed out, "but you
never did ask the tsibbur if they object, and I do object!" He had to
admit she was right.

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: <engelson-sean@...> (Sean Engelson)
Date: Wed, 7 Jul 93 19:25:47 -0400
Subject: Misheberech for David Gelernter

As a previous poster mentioned, it would be nice if people would have
misheberachs made for David Gelernter, the Yale professor recently
severely injured by a letter bomb.  He is still in the hospital, but he
is, thank G-d, doing progressively better.  His Hebrew name is David
Hillel ben Ruth.  Your best wishes are certainly appreciated.



From: <sbechhof@...> (Shoshanah Bechhofer)
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 93 02:28:58 -0400
Subject: Women's Tefila Groups

In response to recent postings about women's tephila groups:
1. One cannot compare differing shitos [opinions] about tefilin or duchening
to an innovation in which brachos, tephilos, and mitzvos are "cut and
pasted" from their traditional contexts into the new context of Women's
Tephila Groups.  The difference is especially potent since this innovation
is embedded in 1) claims that it is necessary for women's spiritual
sustenance, and 2) emerging "women's minyanim" and adoption of egalitarian
tephila participation and leadership in the liberal movements.
2. Nobody has an inalienable right to have his/her actions or halachic
positions "taken seriously," although certainly everyone has a right to have
his/her feelings taken seriously.  Evading the halachic issues with rhetoric
about "feelings" "sensitivities" "needs" and "rights" does nothing to
enhance the position of advocates of women's tephila groups and merely
reinforces negative stereotypes about us women.
3. The assertions of many women that they do not find spiritual satisfaction
in Judaism as they now experience it (i.e. before tephila groups) must be
taken very very seriously.  (And I don't think it is mostly baalos-teshuva
who are voicing this, but women who have Jewish background.)  My own feeling
is that tephila groups in the form they are presently taking are not the
long-term answer.  And certainly if they do not adhere meticulously to
halacha they will prove to be "broken cisterns that cannot contain the
water."  Anyone, man or woman, for whom Krias HaTorah is the pinnacle of
Jewish experience, or even of daavening, seems to me to be missing
4. Of course, none of the above has anything to do with the halachic
questions raised by women's tephila groups which want to include reading
from a Torah scroll with brachos in their experiences.  I for one am greatly
enjoying the give and take on halacha and hope that it continues.

Shani Bechhofer

From: Avi Weinstein <0003396650@...>
Date: Tue, 6 Jul 93 14:10:11 -0400
Subject: Re: Women's Tefila Groups

In the "Sridei Aish" the famous response which allows boys and girls
(halchically men and women)n to sing zmiros together in a youth group
setting. Rabbi Weinberg defeats most of the halachic justifications for
this practice and then endorses it for a "greater good" i.e. that this
halachic concession would encourage shabbat observance among an
assimilated group.  He invokes the famous verse "Ayt La'asot Hashem
Hayfayru Toratecha" (The time to do God's will, nullify the Torah).
Similarly, unlike Rav Moshe, he endorsed the practice of Bat Mitzvah,
because "in this age of so called 'emancipation' how can we not do
something for girls who come of age."

Feeling comfortable and included in a shomer mitzvot context should be
something we break down walls in order to make available.  Here is a
case where women are looking to do more than is required and wish to do
it in a fashion that by its nature embraces the mida of tzniyut
[attribute of modesty] and which they maintain enhances their
concentration and senstiitvity to prayer.  I do not mean to minimze the
halachic difficulties but let us not demean the desire for closeness to
one's Creator in the most aesthetically optimal fashion.

One may be pushing halachic parameters, but if people feel less
resentful and are more at peace with their role as Torah observant Jews
and as a result more mitzvahs are performed, more prayers are heard,
more Torah is learned, more joy for the Torah and its observance is
expressed and more people feel at home within the realm of Shabbos,
Kashrus, and Mikveh, shouldn't we at least wonder where this male
resistance comes from?  Why do we always look for the reasons not to?

I know that in the meticulous realm of halachic observance there is real
difficulty in making a case for a women's laining with brachos.  I also
know that there is a perceived need among many women which was not
expressed ten to twenty years before.  Certainly, one of the issues is
that women and men marry later and there is a large population of women
and men who do not have the nurturing context of family.  Beyond that,
educated women married or single, have needs that are borne out of
superior educations and they are reared with radically different
expectations than their grandmothers were.  I don't see how we can
legitimate women going to college and having careers on the one hand and
not expect it to have some kind of impact on ritual life.  We all
compartmentalize ourselves to a degree, but most of us prefer not to
live two lives and where accomodation is possible, we wish for an
integrated existence that makes sense, to be one with who we are and
what we do.  I've watched people on this network twist and squirm to
make the case for a 5753 year old world for that very reason; to
integrate their religious obligations with their professional choices.
Should we deny a valiant halachic attempt to do the same for women's
tefilla groups?



End of Volume 8 Issue 19