Volume 8 Number 37

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Girls Hair Coverings
         [Steven Edell]
Married women covering their hair
         [Rick Turkel]
Response to modernity
         [Joel Goldberg]
Taking Needs into Account
         [David Novak]
Women"s hair covering
         [Rachamim Pauli]
Women's Prayer Groups and Halakha
         [Aliza Berger]


From: Steven Edell <edell@...>
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 93 14:35:55 -0400
Subject: Girls Hair Coverings

With all the correspondance about girls & women covering their hair, has
anyone checked the possiblity that _all_ females - Jew & non-Jew - covered
their hair at those places & times?  For instance, in Iran even to this
day, it is forbidden for females of nearly any age to walk on the street
without a head covering.

Steven Edell, Computer Manager   Internet:<edell@...>
United Israel Appeal, Inc
(United Israel Office)            Voice:  972-2-255513
Jerusalem, Israel                 Fax  :  972-2-247261


From: <rmt51@...> (Rick Turkel)
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 93 20:41:50 EDT
Subject: Re: Married women covering their hair

This issue was covered (no pun intended) at length a little over two
years ago, with many of the same arguments, including the issue of `erva
[lewdness], being raised.  I contend (as I believe I did two years ago),
that `erva has nothing to do with this question.  If it did, then
unmarried women would also have to cover their hair; to my knowledge, no
one holds that position.

[Actually Rick, we have had statements here that that position was
maintained in some Sephardi communities until relatively recently. Mod.]

Rick Turkel         (___  ____  _  _  _  _  _     _  ___   _   _ _  ___
(<rmt51@...>)         )    |   |  \  )  |/ \     |    |   |   \_)    |
Rich or poor,          /     |  _| __)/   | __)    | ___|_  |  _( \    |
it's good to have money.            Ko rano rani,  |  u jamu pada.


From: <goldberg@...> (Joel Goldberg)
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 93 03:55:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Response to modernity

> From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
> Subject: The Halachic Response to Modernity
   I am sorry to have left in so much, but I want the context:
> The second issue here is more subtle.  The very statement "anything we
> can do to make the modern woman feel comfortable . . ." is based on the
> assumption that any needs and/or desires of the modern woman, or man,
> (truly, modernity in general) have an a priori halachic viability.  This
> is not the case at all, and a point which seems to get lost very easily
> is that it doesn't matter how sincere the need, or how much anguish
> results from that need going unfulfilled -- the depth of sincerity or
> anguish or pain does not necessarily correlate with the halachic
> viability of the need, or more correctly, the halachic viability of any
> proposed solutions of that need.  The intense pain a person engaged to
> be married might feel upon discovering that he or she is actually a
> mamzer and may not now get married does not, can not, influence the
> halachic evaluation of the situation.  And this is true no matter how
> much it might offend our "modern" sensibilities.  Very often, in fact,
> the needs and demands of secular modernity are in striking conflict with
> the expectations and obligations of halacha.  It is the attempt to
> satisfy the needs and demands of modernity which led to the the
> establishment of non-halachic varients of Judaism.

   First of all, Hillel's prozbul was a searching through the Halacha
to allow something that modernity (in this case economic, not social)

Second, if the idea you expressed were to be put into practice, my
wife and I would not be able to enjoy a normal, private, home life.
As my wife is severely disabled, we would not be able to live alone for
half of each month. When the relevant halachot (rabbinic decrees) were
made, the severely disabled didn't marry. So what if with our modern
ideas of equality the disabled/women want to participate in the community,

Rav. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, however, doesn't agree with this idea
either. He, in a psak delivered personally to my wife and myself,
said "Hakol mutar l'ba'al," everything is permitted to the husband,
meaning that it would be permitted to us to violate any of the
rabbinic decrees on a case-by-case basis if otherwise we could not
live alone.


From: David Novak <novak@...>
Date: Mon, 12 Jul 93 15:06:16 -0400
Subject: Taking Needs into Account

In a number of recent, long posts to mail-jewish Eitan Fiorino has been
taking the position that halacha must not, and does not, strive to reach
a certain result because of people's needs.  Rather, halacha simply
reaches its own answer in an intellectually honest way.  The problem
with this argument is not that it lacks theoretical cogency.  The
problem is that it is simply not the truth.  To see this, we need look
no farther than one of Eitan's examples, and a related second example.

Eitan raises the case of a person, engaged to be maried, who realizes
that he or she is a mamzer and cannot marry.  What actually happens is
that a rav, and especially a great posek, will bend over backwards to
show that the person is not really a mamzer and so can marry.  In other
words, the truth is that in such a case a great posek does what Eitan
denies: puts the needs of the people first and finds, if possible (not
if easy, not if intellectually honest, but if possible) a halachic
solution.  The difference between some sort of cold, academic approach
that one might find in the classroom or in a shiur and the real, human
approach of a posek is this: the posek does what Eitan denies.

So too, when a woman is an aguna (halachically "chained" to a missing
husband) a great posek finds ways to meet the needs of this woman, if it
is possible (not if it is easy, not if it is intellectually honest, but
if it is possible).  A tremendous example of this way of using the
halacha to meet people's needs was given by the great posek R. Moshe
Feinstein zt"l who bent over backwards to free women whose husbands had
disappeared in the Holocaust.  I have heard that R. Moshe's reputation
as a great posek was, in part, made by his t'shuvot (responsa) on this
subject.  This makes sense, since what distinguishes a great posek from
a cold academic is that the posek does take people's needs into account.

I find it frightening to imagine how the halachic world would look if
p'sak (halachic decision making) was carried out in a cold,
intellectually honest way that failed to address the needs of people. 

                                 - David Novak


From: <eisenbrg@...> (Rachamim Pauli)
Date: Tue, 13 Jul 93 17:47:49 -0400
Subject: Women"s hair covering

The E-Mail has been going back and forth on this subject but so far
nobody has mentioned the Gemara in Yoma (towards the end of the
Tractate) describing a woman who had 7 sons who were Kohanim Gedolim
(because of TUMA on the part of the brother). The Rabbis asked her to
what she attributed the merit of having somany Kohanim Gedolim come from
her and she answered: "The beams (rafters) of my house never saw my head
uncovered." Also the Chofetz Chaim ZZ"L writes in Geder HaOlam the
parable that a person whose wife walks around in front of him with her
head uncovered and makes a brocha is creating a brass crown instead of a
gold crown for the next world. The Sefardic members of the Israel
Aircraft Kollel cover their mouths when they make blessings in the lunch
room so as their lips will not be blessing in front of non-tzinut women.
- Rachamim Pauli


From: <A_BERGER@...> (Aliza Berger)
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 93 18:14:56 -0400
Subject: Women's Prayer Groups and Halakha

In recent postings about women's prayer groups, a larger issue has been
addressed: the permissibility of "external" influences, such as
feminism, on halakhic decisions. The message that seemed to come through
was that ANY "outside" influences on halakhic decision- making are
prohibited.  However, the history of halakha may show that "external"
influences ARE to be considered.  It may be more correct to say that the
idea that "external" influences are NOT to be considered is in itself a
new and perhaps dangerous idea.

One of the laws of mourning originally was that mourners should cover
their heads ('ituf ha-rosh) (Moed Katan 24a), leaving only a small part
of their face uncovered.  This was apparently just as stringent law as
other mourning laws such as tearing one's garment.  This law is found in
the Rambam (Avel 5:19) and Shulkhan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 396).  Beginning
with Tosafot (ibid, 21a), however, various sources say that covering of
the head is no longer customary because non-Jews (e.g. servants in the
house) would laugh at it.  Now, this would not seem to be a very
positive influence for the halakha to be taking into consideration.  Why
should Jews care if their servants laugh at them? Yet today, we do not
follow the custom of mourners covering the head.  (Following the Ramah
on the Shulkahn Aruch ibid., who says that we should not reject our
forefathers' custom NOT to cover the head.)

Some external influences ARE dangerous and should be rejected in
halakhic decision-making.  However, one cannot claim that he/she is
rejecting all external influence on principle when he/she is in fact
making value judgments as to which external influences should be
considered and which ought not to be (e.g. feminism).  The stand of a
posek on an issue will often be determined by their view on "external"
factors.  For example, Rabbi Hershel Schachter was the author of an
article condemning women's prayer groups on halakhic grounds.  Yet when
the question was posed to him (orally) about whether it would be
preferable for a ba'alat teshuva to attend a women's prayer group or a
Conservative synagogue, he answered that the women's prayer group would
be preferable. I doubt that he would have given a similar answer if he
had been asked whether it would be preferable for someone to drive to an
Orthodox synagogue or attend a Conservative synagogue; I think his
answer would have been that the person should stay home.  Thus, when
considering an "external" factor (one of the same external factors that
was considered by the poskim who ruled in favor of women's prayer groups
in the first place), his answer was different than it was when he was
asked about women's prayer groups in an open-ended format, without
speaking to any of the women involved.

Aliza Berger


End of Volume 8 Issue 37