Volume 8 Number 42

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Assorted Topics
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Wigs and Rabbis
         [Yosef Bechhofer]
         [Lawrence J. Teitelman ]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 93 12:49:48 -0400
Subject: Assorted Topics

The source for a ger saying kaddish for a parent is Rav Ovadia Yosef,
Yechavah daat, #60.

Leah Reingold makes a compelling argument for women's learning and full
participation in Judaism.  She seems to be arguing with me, but we are in
fact in agreement.  However, I think it is not helpful to speculate whether
various Orthodox women scholars would have given up observance if they were
not permitted to learn in they way in which they did learn.  She offered
Nechama Leibovitz as an example, but let's remember that she grew up in a
time when there was no Drisha and women's yeshivot and women's learning
Torah she b'al peh was not very accepted if at all, which makes her
accomplishments all the more remarkable, but also disputes Leah's claim
that under such circumstances she might "have left Orthodoxy in search of a
movement that would not deny [her] the quest for Jewish knowledge."

> Who can estimate how many formerly Orthodox women in past generations
> have left the movement in search of the freedom to learn more about their
> own heritage...?

Indeed, who can estimate such things?  Neither me nor you.  I think such
speculations do not contribute to the issues at hand.

> There are other examples; many young Orthodox women today take
> for granted their halakhic rights to say kiddush, bench in a 'mizumenet'
> when three of them have eaten bread together, celebrate a bat-mitzvah,
> or even have a prenuptial agreement ensuring that they will not be left
> stranded without a 'get.'  A few years ago, such ideas would have been
> considered blasphemous in the Orthodox community; in some branches of
> this community, they still are.  Yet these newly rediscovered halakhic
> rights--which according to some opinions are 'stretching the halakha,'
> but which in fact are directly allowed from the highest sources of
> Jewish law--are the reasons that hundreds of Orthodox women do not give
> up on their tradition today.

I find it hard to believe that women uniting to form a mezuman, which is a
din in the shulchan aruch, or women saying kiddush for themselves, which
is clearly permissable, would have been considered "blasphemous," but then
again, I wasn't there.  I do not know of anyone who would consider either
of these cases a "halachic stretch."

On the prenup issue, I think this is a perfect example of what I am
talking about.  Major authorities (Rabbis Bleich, Tendler, and Willig for
instance) have devoted considerable time and effort to finding a solution
which does not unecessarily "stretch" the halachah, while clearly rejecting
the suggestions of those more inclined to pound the halacha into shape;
for instance, the proposed solution of reinstating the retroactive
annulment of the kiddushin.  This is what I have been saying all along --
we must trust the talmudei chachamim to judge these issues and take the
steps that they see appropriate, and we must abide by the steps they take,
and not simply discard them when we don't agree with them.  I am aware of
all the examples of innovations which have become accepted components of
Jewish law and custom.  The presence of such innovations does not in any
way alter my three-part thesis: 1. that in general, psak must be pursued
without the goal of forwarding a particular agenda; 2. that the claims of
modernity do not possess a priori validity and must be carefully evaluated
no matter how painful the circumstances; 3. that the only people capable of
making such evaluations or implementing innovations are the gedolei hador. 
The addendum is that as participants in the system, we adhere to the system
even when it produces results with which we may disagree.

> I do not believe that Stern College is a viable alternative; among other
> reasons, it has far less educational status than YU because it cannot
> grant the same academic degrees.

I'm not sure I understand this; Stern College is part of YU.  As to the
relative quality of the limudei kodesh options available at Stern versus
Yeshiva College, I am unable to comment due to lack of experience.  And
certainly, Revel is open to women as well who wish to pursue higher

> All committed Jews should be thankful that women exist
> who are eager to work within halakhic bounds to maintain their faith in
> tandem with their moral code that dictates full equality.

The key phrases within this statement are "within halachic bounds" and
"full equality."  Halachic bounds are not arbitrarily defined by the
feeling of the moment, but by the poskim; and full equality does not
entail identical sets of roles and responsibilities between men and women.

> The source for women to be allowed to say kiddush for both
> men and women (and thereby exempt men from their obligation to do so),
> for instance, comes directly from traditional halakhic sources.  In
> fact, it is precisely the sort of outside influence to which Mr. Fiorino
> objects (i.e. sexism, in this case, or the idea that a woman should have
> no public role) that made the kiddush ruling all but forgotten in most
> Orthodox circles.

This is treading into dangerous grounds.  It is not the case that a
kiddush "ruling" was forgotten; rather, there is a general principle that
a person may fulfill another's obligation in a bracha if they have an
equal chiuv, which is the case for kiddush.  However, the mishna brura
clearly states that it is preferable for a man to make kiddush for a woman,
than vice versa.  To suggest that this ruling was arrived at because the
Chafetz Chaim was sexist is a very hard statement to defend.  To say that the
Chafetz Chaim issued a ruling which was influenced by his understanding of
the issues of modesty and kavod is something else.  I may feel that these
issues are not identical today, or I may simply have a different
understanding of these issues, but I would certainly not dismiss his
ruling out of hand as sexist.

> From: <schwartz@...> (Steven Schwartz)
> I visited the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Library of Congress last
> week in Washington, DC.

This entire exhibit is available via anonymous ftp to seq1.loc.gov, in the
directory deadsea.scrolls.exhibit (or something like that), including gif
files of many if not all of the items on display.  Amazing -- you can go to
a museum without ever leaving your computer!

Eitan Fiorino


From: <YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer)
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 93 21:43:11 -0400
Subject: Wigs and Rabbis

Concerning wigs:

     The shaitel is an expression of proper halachic behavior.  Halacha
requires that certain standards be met. Although we are encouraged to
explore Ta'amei HaMitzvos, the reasons for mitzvos, ultimately, in
deciding their parameters we follow the legal definitions the Torah and
Chazal have laid down. We are promised that these mitzvos will then
impart kedusha to the individual and to society - THEIR PRIMARY PURPOSE.
     Regardless of what some person's sentiments might be as to the
logic of covering one's hair, halacha does not take that into account.
For instance, even though Chazal themselves have stated that the Ta'am
[reason - Mod.]  for shechita is the humane slaughter of animals,
nonetheless, if someone shechts an animal all day with a blunt knife,
causing the animal excruciating pain, he may have transgressed the ban
of cruelty to animals, but the animal is still kosher l'mehadrin.  If a
person kills Amalekites, he infuses the World with kedusha - because
this is ratzon Hashem [the Will of G-d - Mod.]. As Eitan recently
responded to me, hair covering is a halacha stated in the Gemara without
explicit rationale (although if the rationale for that halacha was
stated, as above, it would not necessarily make a difference). As such,
since a shaitel normally covers more hair than a tichel, it is,
according to some sources (notably the Lubavitcher Rebbe), preferable
from the viewpoint of fulfilling the parameters of the law, and thus it
adds more kedusha to self and society. Very fancy or unduly appealing
shaitels might be unadvisable for the same reasons as flashy or unduly
appealing clothing (even properly modest, and even for men) but that is
an entirely different topic...

In light of recent discussions of the malleability of Halacha (which, I
am afraid, may originate in a certain misguided individual's statement:
"where there's a Jewish will there's a Halachic way" - a statement that
borders IMHO on Apikorsus):

     We in Orthodox Jewry know that there is no magic in the title of
"Rabbi." A halacha is a halacha not because stated by this or that
Rabbinic authority, but because it is based on sound sources and proper
halachic reasoning. Ailu v'Ailu Divrei Elokim Chaim [These and These are
the words of the Living G-d - Mod.] is not carte blanche to be claimed
by any recipient of Semicha, but rather applies only to views emanating
from the above criteria (which is why we do not apply Ailu v'Ailu, for
instance, to, l'havdil, Conservative "Psak Halacha").
     Let's put things in perspective: a) Rabbi So and So's psak is not
the same as a psak of Reb Shlomo Zalman Auerbach shlita or Rav Elyashiv
shlita.  These (and some others, but very few, and practically,
unfortunately, no one in this continent) are the Gedolei Halacha of our
generation, and they or those of their stature must be consulted for ANY
Halachic innovation. Has anyone asked Reb Shlomo Zalman about women's
prayer groups?
     b) Halacha bends where Chazal tell us it bends.  Chazal were
lenient in the case of Agunos (but not even there always - as in one who
is lost at sea). Again, only the Reb Shlomo Zalmans and Rav Elyashivs
can determine where halacha bends. These people have learnt Shas and
Shulchan Aruch HUNDREDS of times. Our average Orthodox Rabbi (myself
included) perhaps has almost finished Shas one time with Daf Yomi, if he
is diligent, and almost certainly has never learnt Shulchan Aruch cover
to cover.
     Let's get real, start concentrating on Yiras Shomayim [Fear of G-d.
- Mod], Ahavas Hashem v'Ha'Briyos [Love of G-d and fellow man - Mod.] ,
Kiddush Shem Shamayim [Sactification of the Name of G-d - Mod.], and
bring the Geula [Redemption - Mod.].


From: Lawrence J. Teitelman  <csljt@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 93 19:56:01 EDT
Subject: YU

Leah Reingold writes ...

> But women are not admitted to YU, for example, which is surely one of the
> most respected Jewish learning institutions in the U.S. I do not believe
> that Stern College is a viable alternative; among other reasons, it has
> far less educational status than YU because it cannot grant the same
> academic degrees.

Having been associated with Yeshiva University for the past seven years
and enrolled in seven YU schools during that time, I would like to
clarify some facts:

	Yeshiva University is an umbrella institution. A student wishing
to study at Yeshiva University does not apply to Yeshiva University per
se but rather to one of its various schools. Most of these schools are
-- for better or for worse -- coeducational, and thus by definition,
admit women as they do men. Among the schools for men only are Yeshiva
College and the associated Jewish studies divisions (JSS,IBC,MYP). The
degrees offered are AA, BA, and BS; all three of these degrees are
offered as well by Stern College. There is also MTA -- the boys' high
school, but there is a parallel girls division in Queens. The graduate
schools are all coed -- including the Bernard Revel Graduate School of
Judaic Studies and the Azrieli Graduate Institute for Jewish Education.
There are two advanced schools which admit only men --- the Belz School
of Jewish Music and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. As
Orthodox synagogues do not hire hazzanot (do women's tefilla groups hire
hazzanot?), there is not much point in training them to serve in this
capacity. Also, halakhic concerns such as kol isha only further
complicate matters.

	This leaves one school -- RIETS -- which offers no "academic
degrees" except semikha. There are two primary reasons why RIETS admits
only men: (1) Independent of the question of *what* to teach women is
the question of whether to teach them in the same classrooms as men.
Yeshivot prefer that women avoid their premises even if they don't
participate in classes. This concept may not seem modern, but it is
rooted nonetheless in halakha. [See Even ha-Ezer 21; Orah Hayyim 529.
Cf. the quote attributed to Rav Solo- veitchik in Rabbi Rakeffet's
lecture #2 (MJ 8/38)] My sister's school in Israel did not welcome boys
on its campus; that fact does not indicate a desire to withhold
educational opportunities from them. The Roshei Yeshiva at YU threatened
to leave when it was rumored that one of the coed professional schools
would be moving to the same campus that hosts RIETS.  This had nothing
to do with the curriculum.  (2) The focus of RIETS is its semikha
program and Orthodoxy does not (to the best of my knowledge) grant
semikha to women -- at least at this moment in time. There are several
shiurim in both Talmud and Halakha on a variety of levels offered for
the so-inclined woman at Stern College. I imagine that there are a
handful of women who are not challenged by any of the opportunities
available to them, but that happens at any institution.  As the number
of such exceptions has grown, additional classes have been added. There
are several dozen men at RIETS who have reached a point where they have
"outgrown" the regular shiurim, and instead get only an occasional
habura. In sum, the phenomenon which you bemoan occurs in men's schools
too, and that is why people take to either independent study or

Larry (<Teitelman@...>)


End of Volume 8 Issue 42