Volume 8 Number 36

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Breaking Bread
         [Warren Burstein]
Some questions re women saying kaddish and related issues
         [Freda Birnbaum]


From: <warren@...> (Warren Burstein)
Date: Thu, 8 Jul 93 22:11:23 -0400
Subject: Re: Breaking Bread

This reminds me of something that once happened at Beit Ephraim, a
Jewish residence at Columbia University.  Following the advice of Rabbi
Charles Sheer, who happened to be present at this occasion, both men and
women were eligible to say Hamotzie (as well as kiddush on erev
Shabbat).  On one occasion, there were a large number of guests, so
challot had been placed on each table, and the plan was for everyone to
take from the challah closest to them after the bracha was said.

A woman said the bracha, and immediately afterwards a guest at another
table did likewise.  He later claimed that he thought that we wanted
someone at each table to say the bracha, although it was perceived that
he had done it in protest against our having had a woman make the

 From that time on we would place all the challot, no matter how many,
in one place.

 |warren@      But the ***
/ nysernet.org is not all that ***.


From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Sun, 11 Jul 93 17:46 EDT
Subject: Some questions re women saying kaddish and related issues

In m-j V7N82, several issues were raised regarding kaddish
and other "women's issues".
I would like to respond to some of them and then ask another question.
(Some of this may be a bit dated as it has been reworked from the

>From: <ljd@...> (Leon Dworsky)
>Subject: Permitted to say Kaddish

>If ones parents are living, one does not say a kaddish for someone
>without their permission.  Does the phrase "who is permitted to say
>kaddish" have any other application?  Would it refer to a sybling during
>the first 30 days?  Would one need "permission" from living parents to
>say kaddish for a sybling or spouse?

Have I confused the saying of kaddish for siblings etc. during the
shloshim with saying it for the 11 months?  Is it the case that you
have to say it for 30 days but need permission to say it for the 11
months?  I know, CYLOR.  ASAP. (Fortunately the question is only
theoretical for me at the present time.)


>From: <rena@...> (Rena Whiteson)
>Subject: Women & Orthodoxy

>> The problem as I understand it for women to be called up to the Torah is
>> not with the women, but with the weaker species, us men.  Our thoughts
>> during _dovening_ (prayer) should try to be as 'pure', as infocus, as
>> possible.  Most guys I know, esp. including me, won't be able to do that
>> with pretty & young women going to the Torah all the time.
>This is one of the aspects of Judiasm that has disturbed me for a long
>time.  And I really don't understand it because it seems so contrary to
>what I have always understood to be an important innovation of Judiasm:
>individual responsibility.
>I am referring to the concept that one group of people (men) are weak,
>and another group (women) have to bear the responsibilty or pay the
>price for that weakness.  In the example above, 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 the woman be penalized by being
>excluded from this important community activity?  The situation is
>similar in the rules for modest dress for women.  Why should a married
>woman have to cover her hair whenever there is a man around?

Rena, thanks for the breath of fresh air.

This is all the more argument for a separate women's davening.

One wonders why single women also shouldn't cover their hair.
Perhaps the idea is that they're going to have the thoughts, but it's
worse if they have them about married women.

I'm reminded of something in Sara Reguer's excellent article, "Kaddish
from the "Wrong" Side of the Mehitza", in Susannah Heschel's (yes,
daughter of AJH) book, On Being a Jewish Feminist or something like that,
sorry I don't have the exact reference, I accidentally deleted my notes and
am reconstructing this whole thing from memory, to the effect that, when a
man objected to her saying Kaddish on kol-isha grounds, she asked if he
had a problem listening to women speaking to somebody in public.  He said no.
She said, what's the problem, she was speaking to God in public.


>From: Jeff Woolf <JRWOOLF@...>
>Subject: Re: Women of the Wall
>Without trying to be overly provocative, I'd like to register my
>hesitation about the 'Women of the Wall.' I do not at all question the
>propriety of women having anhalakhic tefilla. However, the show of
>'unity' which was supposedly presented by this group was (in my humble
>opinion) bad for Orthodox women seeking a legitimate spiritual outlet,
>By allying themselves with non-Orthodox and anti-religious/anti-clerical
>groups they undermined their efforts and fed their opponents an easy
>ammunition with which to vilify and discredit them.

While I have friends among the Orthodox women of the wall, and support
their aims, I have to somewhat agree with Jeff here.  I'm afraid they
allowed themselves to be used by the non-Orthodox ones to lend some
legitimacy to the cause and of course it backfired.  So much for ecumenism.
Of course, if the decision is in their favor, then the Orthodox ones will
benefit as well.  But there are costs.


>From: Allen Elias <100274.346@...>
>Subject: Women saying Kaddish

>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.

This is really NOT the only option for women, although it may be
widespread in some quarters.  The whole point is for the mourner
herself/himself to publicly magnify and sanctify God's name.  Would
you have someone put on tefillin or daven mincha for you?  Saying
kaddish is an ongoing responsibility of the mourner.  Giving charity
is also worthwhile, of course, although I don't know that I'd go so
far as to say it's a "BIGGER aliya for the neshama".  As is setting
aside a specific time to learn every day, as some women do who simply
can't make it to shul, e.g. re care of small children.  So they learn
in honor of the deceased instead.  But it's not transferable.  You
gotta walk it by yourself.

This issue is not new.  In Henrietta Szold's _Life and Letters_, by
Marvin Lowenthal (Viking, 1942; as reprinted in _Response_, Summer
1973 (Number 18)), we find:   (any typos are MINE)

ON SAYING KADDISH:  A Letter to Haym Peretz

New York, September 16, 1916

     It is impossible for me to find words in which to tell you how
deeply I was touched by your offer to act as "Kaddish" for my dear
mother.  I cannot even thank you -- it is something that goes beyond
thanks.  It is beautiful, what you have offered to do -- I shall
never forget it.

     You will wonder, then, that I cannot accept your offer.  Perhaps
it would be best for me not to try to explain to you in writing,
but to wait until I see you to tell you why it is so.  I know well,
and appreciate what you say about, the Jewish custom; and Jewish custom
is very dear and sacred to me.  And yet I cannot ask you to say Kaddish
after my mother.  The Kaddish means to me that the suvivor publicly and
markedly manifests his wish and intention to assume the relation to the
Jewish community which his parent had, and that so the chain of tradition
remains unbroken from generation to generation, each adding its own link.
You can do that for the generations of your family, I must do that for
the generations of my family.

     I believe that the elimination of women from such duties was
never intended by our law and custom -- women were freed from positive
duties when they could not perform them, but not when they could.  It
was never intended that, if they could perform them, their performance
of them should not be considered as valuable and valid as when one of
the male sex peformed them.  And of the Kaddish I feel sure this is
particularly true.

     My mother had eight daughters and no son; and yet never did I
hear a word of regret pass the lips of either my mother or my
father that one of us was not a son.  When my father died, my mother
would not permit others to take her daughters' place in saying the
Kaddish, and so I am sure I am acting in her spirit when I am moved
to decline your offer.  But beautiful your offer remains nevertheless,
and, I repeat, I know full well that it is much more in consonance
with the generally accepted Jewish tradition than is my or my family's
tradition.  You understand me, don't you?

----------------- end Henrietta Szold letter ----------------------------


>From: <isaac@...> (Isaac Balbin)
>Subject: Re: Women's Prayer Groups
>Rabbi Bleich, in an article discussing this issue raises the pertinent
>point of `where should I be.' That is, is it preferable for a woman to
>be part of T'filla B'Tzibbur (public prayer in a minyan) as opposed to
>T'fillat Nashim (female prayer). He concludes that halachically, it
>would seem that it is preferable for a woman (and indeed a man) to be
>part of a Tzibbur.

It is a bit of a puzzle to me why anybody would prefer to hang around
a place where they weren't wanted or counted, but, on the other hand,
it is true that, when occasionally someone in my women's davening group
suggests that we should try to do it for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur,
people aren't interested.  They want to be part of the _am_, the people.
(At least I do, perhaps others do feel as above re being part of the
"tzibbur".  But they don't count for the tzibbur, they don't help make
it up!)

>[Does anyone have Rabbi Herschel Schachter's telephone number (via email
> please]

I checked in the Manhattan phone book, I assume you mean the
Herschel Schachter who was one of the "RIETS Five", not the Mosholu
Parkway (Bronx) Hershel Schacter, and there's no one listed under that name,
tho there is a person with an English name beginning with "H" in the
Washington Heights area.  They're both affiliated with Yeshiva U., perhaps
you could call there and they could help you out.


Now the question:

Does anyone have SOURCES on the issue of whether a convert ought to
say kaddish for a deceased parent?  I have checked a few English-language
books and discussed one friend's experiences, but I haven't come up with
any sources, one way or the other.  The friend who had the question
consulted with both the rabbi who had been most involved in her conversion
(many years ago) and with the rabbi whose shul she most frequently attends
at present.  The answer from one was "You can"; the answer from the other
was, "You should do as much as you can, even up to 3x a day."  (This was in
regard to the parent who was quite sympathetic to her interest in Judaism;
she doesn't intend to do it for the other parent -- after 120 years --
because the other parent is a staunch member of another religion and she
believes that it would have no meaning for the other parent.  Of course
that's only a thumbnail sketch but that's the general picture.)  She couldn't
remember them quoting any sources, but then _I_ was the one asking for them!

Another friend in that situation, unable to get to shul re care of
small children, committed herself to learn a certain amount each day
at a set time.

Can anybody tell me where to start researching this?

Freda Birnbaum, <fbbirnbaum@...>


End of Volume 8 Issue 36