Volume 8 Number 44

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Children in the Service
         [Merril Weiner]
Halakhic Analysis and the Desire for Change
         [Lawrence J. Teitelman ]
Modern Intelligent Orthodox Women
         [Esther R Posen ]
Torah and Chossan's Tisch
         [Lawrence J. Teitelman ]
Why always look for reasons not to?
         [Isaac Balbin]


From: <weiner@...> (Merril Weiner)
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 93 10:42:58 -0400
Subject: Children in the Service

Recently, someone posted a source for women and children being valid for
being called up to the Torah except for Kavod HaTzibur.  Most of the
readers' concerns have been over issues with women.  Our minyan is
currently concerned with the role of children (boys under 13) in the
service.  Many shuls let kids lead Adon Olam, open the ark, etc.  Where
else can a child lead services or partake in services?

-Merril Weiner


From: Lawrence J. Teitelman  <csljt@...>
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 93 01:06:09 EDT
Subject: Halakhic Analysis and the Desire for Change

Regarding several of the responses to Eitan Fiorino's remarks about
which comes first -- the halakhic analysis or the desire for change -- I
think that the following distinction is in order:

Sometimes halakha *does* respond to an existing situation.  One need not
look any further than Tractate Berakhot 2a (the first page in the
Babylonian Talmud) to witness the Rishonim attempting to justify a
practice which was motivated by convenience. It seems rather clear that
the optimal time for saying the evening Shema is after dark, and that it
should be said with its berakhot and followed by Tefilla. Yet to
accommodate the masses who desired not to congregate so late at night,
it was prevalent for people to daven much earlier. Tosafot manage to
justify this practice as lechatchila, but most Rishonim had to just bear
with it and recommend ways of maximizing its halakhic validity.  Many of
the examples identified by MJ writers are of this variety (e.g.
mamzerut, agunot, prozbol, pre-nups, etc.) wherein a problem exists and
now halakha steps in and sees what it can do. Leah Reingold and Aliza
Berger (among others) are correct in their assessment that if Orthodox
Judaism cannot accommodate certain women -- whether motivated by
internal or external factors -- then they will abandon ship, and in that
sense there is a "problem" that the halakha must address. (In the end,
however, it *is* halakha that must decide, and unfortunately, not every
mamzerut case can be resolved so that the parties involved can live
happily ever after.)

But there is a second scenario .... What about people who are already
committed to Orthodox Judaism and are not in the "at risk" category.
Here there is no existing "problem" that the halakha must address. The
question then becomes what are the appropriate avenues of "change" which
should be pursued and not simply reacted to. Here I believe that Eitan
is correct: if one is looking for change then it should be halakha --
that is, a desire to increase one's fulfillment of the halakha -- which
determines the direction.  Some of the examples quoted are not just
acceptable according to halakha but perhaps even preferred. According to
the Rosh, three women eating together are obligated in zimun; according
to Rashi and Tosafot, this practice is optional but not required. Women
are obligated to study the laws that pertain to them, and thus one can
argue that such study necessitates a broad religious education and it
must be verified that these new parameters are consistent with halakha.
In the case of Women's Tefilla groups, the issue is whether the
religious need to become active in tefillot is more meaningful than
turning the seder ha-tefilla upside down; that is for others to decide.

In any case, even if we don't deny the reality that sometimes halakha
gets stuck addressing an undesirable situation, I think that the goal is
to have halakha motivate our needs. Accordingly, it is rather disturbing
when proponents of a spiritually-motivated institution -- whatever it
may be -- are not equipped to deal with the related halakhic issues. Not
only is there a potential lack of adherence to halakha, but also a clear
indication that genuine religious motivation is absent. [Religion -- for
this mailing list at least -- is defined by the Law.] In a letter from
our moderator, Avi Feldblum relegates the responsibility of having the
answers to halakhic questions to the Posek. While no individual can be
expected to have answers to every possible question, the halakhic issues
should be part of the equation for those who are indeed religiously
motivated. The poskim who permit some of these controversial practices
are generally not the Gedolei ha-Dor, nor do they just coincidentally
happen to be the shul rabbis of the partcipants.  These rabbis are
sought after by people who wish to identify with them. I am not
challenging the practice of finding a personal rabbi (even if it's not
the Gadol ha-Dor) nor challenging the halakhic reasoning of these
rabbis, but it is rather disappointing that people who seek them out
don't make these rabbis' halakhic reasoning part of their business. Of
course there are those who take the matters seriously and do conduct
serious investigations, but all too often we find men and women arguing
halakhic matters without the halakhic sources. I think that we can
expect more.

Larry (<Teitelman@...>) 


From: <eposen@...> (Esther R Posen )
Date: 21 Jul 93 19:42:57 GMT
Subject: Re: Modern Intelligent Orthodox Women

I fail to see the logical grounds to Leah Reingold's argument that
>if we do not make Orthodoxy comfortable for modern, intelligent women, then 
>soon there will be no such women in Orthodoxy

First off, are there any statistics that show that in the last 50 or so
odd year since the start of the Bais Yaakov movement intelligent women
have left orthodoxy at a greater rate that intelligent men.  (One would
I imagine have to establish some arbitrary criteria to define

Secondly, has anyone ever asked Nechama Leibowitz if she would have left 
orthodoxy if she could not have pursued her religous education.  I find that 
it diminishes the women mentioned to insinuate that Orthodoxy would have lost 
them if they could not have pursued their religous education the way they did. 
The men I know who are full time torah scholars would not drop the religon if 
circumstances stopped them from studying torah.

Thirdly, I am confused by the statement 
>or even have a prenuptial agreement

This is not a newly rediscovered halachic right.  This is an attempt to
use a well known halachic instrument - the ketubah - to serve a function
that is no longer being well served by communities and batei dinim.  It
also addresses a much more heart rending issue.  I do feel sorry for the
little girl who is jealous of her brother's bar mitzvah but a sensitive
mother can easily deal with that.  The only comfort an Agunah has is
that she is fulfilling g-ds will.

Fourthly, celebrating a bat-mitzvah always was and always is any women's
perogative.  Traditionally, women have either not celebrated it or
celebrated in more of a low-key manner than a Bar Mitzvah.  This is
because of the "Kol Kevudah Bat Melech Pnima" concept of our religion.
This is difficult for us modern women to deal with especially because we
receive public recognition in our Bais Yaakovs, seminaries, colleges,
jobs etc. that are similar to the recognition received by men, but we
can't just ignore the fact that we are meant to receive our primary
recognition and satisfaction within the confines of our homes and

Fifthly, this is precisely why women aren't trained and don't practice
as Rabbis.  A Rabbi serves a public, community, religous function to men
and women.  Aside for the one or two exceptions in ALL of jewish history
(Devorah, Bruria) this is just NOT a woman's role in Orthodoxy and there
just is no complaint department.

A couple of other points:

How many women (or men) out there have plumbed the entire depths of all
of TANACH and have exhausted all its material so that if they did not
study Gemarrah or Talmud their Jewish education would be over.  Those
women should approach their rabbinical authorities PRIVATELY to discuss
what they should do to fill their needs for intellectual stimulation
from their religion.  I imagine there are some such women, but if there
were SCORES of them threatening to leave the religion than perhaps we
would need someone of the Chafetz Chaim's stature to alter the
curriculum of Yeshiva High Schools for Girls.  Something tells me that
day is not yet upon us.

The fact that jewish people no longer live in ghettos or shtetls may be
positive because the jewish people by and large have not suffered in
recent years the way they have suffered in those ghettos.  However, from
a purely religous perspective this is not something that it is clear to
me we should celebrate.

Believe me, the way this world is changing, any orthodox religous jew
will be hopelessly old-fashioned in many more ways than his or her
attitude toward feminism.  We are bound for the old-people home before
we are born....



From: Lawrence J. Teitelman  <csljt@...>
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 93 23:00:43 EDT
Subject: Torah and Chossan's Tisch

Danny Nir writes that the reason we interrupt the Chossan during his
devar Torahis to help him avoid having to complete it since he may be
shy or ignorant.

There is a story about a Chossan's Tisch where the Olam interrupted as
usual and the Mesader Kiddushin said , "Sssshhh, I want to hear what he
has to say."  Needless to say, the Chossan was unprepared to finish.

(Note that elsewhere in the marriage ceremony a similar concept arises.
In theory, the Chossan should recite the Birkat Erusin just like any
person about to engage -- no pun intended -- in a mitzva recites the
birkat ha- mitzva him/herself. Even if the berakha is a birkat
ha-shevach the person most involved -- i.e. the Chossan or Kallah --
should say it, not some designated person. However, the Rabbis were
concerned that people might not know the berakha and would be
embarrassed to struggle through the words in front of the large
audience. Hence they instituted that the Rabbi should say it.  There is
a question among the authorities if a Rabbi can say the birkat erusin at
hi own wedding.

Cf. mikra bikurim and keriat ha-torah, other places where the Rabbis
instituted a designated reader.)

I heard a more lomdishe explanation for this practice, however. The
gemara says that if a Talmid Chakham gets married then the meal is a
seudat mitzva.  The Chatan is not confident that he is a Talmid Chakham,
so he compensates by reciting a devar Torah which is an alternative
means a making a meal into a seudat mitzva. The guests interrupt him as
if to say, "Don't worry; you're a Talmid Chakham, so the devar Torah is
unnecessary." (This explan- ation was offered by the Munkatcher Rebbe.)

My friend gave another, almost opposite explanation. In Hilkhot Chanuka,
the Shulchan Arukh says that on Chanuka eating is not a seudat mitzva
unless one sings zemirot u-tishbachot to HKBH. The Chatan is quite
confident that he is a Talmid Chakham making his wedding meal into a
seudat mitzva, and he tries to impress this fact upon everyone else by
"showing off" his Torah. The guests (jokingly) are saying -- you're no
Talmid Chakham, we need all the zemirot u-tishbachot we can get!

Larry (<Teitelman@...>)


From: <isaac@...> (Isaac Balbin)
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 93 23:11:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Why always look for reasons not to?

  | From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
  | I wonder whether the right wing reaction against the initial (halachicly
  | permissible) reforms did more harm than good.  

I think you would enjoy reading an excellent article relating the
history of this time and the Orthodox response. You will find that there
was not a homogeneous `right' response and that those who reacted were
innovators and weighed their decisions very very carefully. They were
prophetically cognisant of all the concerns that we have. On reflection,
I am proud of what they did and how they did it. The article is by
Judith Bleich and it is in `the Orthodox Jewish Forum', edited by Rabbi
Schachter (from memory) and is published by Aronson (again from memory).


End of Volume 8 Issue 44