Volume 9 Number 12
                       Produced: Mon Sep  6 20:58:25 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Bar Kamtza
         [Anthony Fiorino]
Women and Minyanim
         [Kibi Hofmann]


From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Sat, 4 Sep 93 21:23:07 -0400
Subject: Bar Kamtza

My reading of the bar kamtza gemara seems to have taken a beating.  I
certainly don't think that mine is the only reading, and clearly the
gemara (in general) views both chorban and galut negatively.

I did not bring down the R. Yochanan's "criticism" of R. Zecharia for a
couple of reasons.  First, because it is unclear to me exactly what it
means.  Rashi seems to understand it (as was explained to me) as
"because of R. Zecharia's patience, the Temple was destroyed, etc." In
fact, the gemara may not be *evaluating* R. Zecharia, but rather simply
stating the facts -- his position led to the destruction.  Second, even
if one interprets R. Yochanan's statement as a criticism, the fact still
remains that chachamim accepted R. Zecharia's sevara *despite* the very
clear consequences.  They knew beforehand that to not offer the karban
would be interpreted in Rome as meaning that the Jews were revolting.
They knew the consequences.  R. Yochanan may have disagreed afterwards,
but there is no way to get around the fact that chachamim accepted the
reasoning of R.  Zecharia.  Alternatively, one can explain it like the
Gra, which was posted to the network, which is a totally different way
of looking at the dynamics of what transpired between chachamim and R.

We can certainly debate whether this particular gemara is a good proof-
text for my point -- I think it is pretty good; others obviously
disagree.  The point I was trying to make has already been made by the
Maharshal, on a different gemara (bava kama 38b), in which chachamim did
not attempt to hide a din from the Romans which was interpreted
negatively and might have had severe consequences.  The Marashal learns
from this gemara that one must be prepared to suffer death rather than
to distort or falsify even a small part of the mesorah.  See R. J.D.
Bleich's article in _Orthodoxy Confronts Modernity_ (Hoboken, NJ: Ktav,

Eitan Fiorino


From: Kibi Hofmann <hofmanna@...>
Date: Tue, 24 Aug 93 10:08:14 -0400
Subject: Re: Women and Minyanim

Leah Reingold writes in #88:

> Furthermore, although a person's function while davening is primarily to
> pray to G-d, any PUBLIC prayer necessitates various other functions,
> including laining, leading davening, being gabbai, etc.  These added
> duties and associated additional prayers are precisely what
> differentiates public prayer from private.  Therefore, a person who
> attends a minyan, but who is not welcome to perform any function except
> to daven privately, cannot possibly be considered to be fully recognized
> in and by that minyan.

I think Avi is right in highlighting this as one of the main problems of
communication. The point of public prayer is to pray with a tzibbur
[congregation]. The prayers of an individual may not be worthy of notice
due to that persons faults, but if there are ten men davening together the
new entity a tzibbur has its prayers heard (that is, the prayers of all it
those who are in the tzibbur). The tzibbur includes women, but it must have
a minimum of ten men. Thus, in a situation where a woman goes to pray at
a shul where there is a minyan of men her prayer is more likely to be heard.

Being recognised "by the minyan" to be able to act in one of the public roles
has nothing to do with prayer, its acceptability or its spiritual content.
If Leah or any other woman feels unfulfilled by the actions of praying in
a normal shul then the problem is one of sexual politics in the communal
arena, a feeling of "missing out on the boys games", but it is NOT spiritual
since our guide for what is and isn't spiritually required is the halacha.

> It seems to me, therefore, to be a mockery of the advantages of 'tefilla
> be-tzibbur' to state that a woman ought to prefer to daven with such a
> minyan instead of to daven alone or with a women's tefilla group, since
> there is (and can be, in most cases) no religious difference between her
> davening with said minyan and davening alone.

But there IS a "religious difference". The tefilla in the tzibbur is better
accepted, as explained above. In any case, what does this do to prove that
women's tefilla groups should be able to "perform" all the same parts of the
prayer service as a minyan. If women praying in a prayer group is not BETTER
than a minyan why bother? Just saying that you are no worse off in a prayer
group is not a very strong argument.

> 					 In response to the
> argument, "but public prayer is always heard by G-d," this is
> insufficient reason.  While Rambam states that "public prayer is always
> heard," he does not say that private prayer is not heard.

Pure sophistry. If the Rambam doesn't state it openly (I don't have one
in front of me so I can't say) he certainly implies it, and the gemaras
which he is basing that statement on definitely say it.

> 								 Indeed,
> private prayer (invented by a woman, no less!) is required at some
> points even during public davening--during the amidah, for example.

The fact that each individual does not speak out loud does not stop this
being tefilla be'tzibbur. The silent amida is specifically what is called
public prayer (when ten men pray it at the same time).

> Sadly, it seems that the "religiously conscientious" to whom Mr.
> Teitelman refers are few and far between.  So much so, for instance,
> that I have yet to hear of a shul that has never had to make a phone
> call to get someone to make a minyan or lain or give a d'var Torah or
> whatever.  It is all well and good to talk of an ideal world in which
> people attend davening because it is the right thing to do.
> Realistically, however, peer pressure plays a major role in attracting
> people to shul.

This is a deliberate misunderstanding of what was said. Leah (and from what I
have read in mj every other advocate of womens tefilla groups) bases the
perceived "need" to redefine the halachos on tefilla to fulfil some spiritual
need which women have acquired in the last century. To state that we should
"allow" women to be like men in their laws on prayer (which really could only
happen if we were to obligate them like men), and thus make them able to
make up a minyan, just so that they should feel pressured into going to a
minyan, seems a circular argument to me.

It doen't matter whether "most men" go to shul because of peer pressure or
because of their deep spiritual yearnings. The point is, tefilla betzibbur
is highly encouraged by the rabbis for men, less so for women. If women want
to go to tefilla betzibbur that is just fine, but if they don't it is fine
if they pray on their own. Men are not obligated in tefilla betzibbur just
so that they should bother to pray at all. If some only pray because of the
others relying on them and don't bother on days when they know there is
a minyan without them, then they are doing something wrong.

> My point, however, was not that peer pressure is some wonderful
> attribute of public prayer.  I meant only to point out that the lack of
> such pressure on women in an Orthodox minyan is one factor that leads
> those women to attend other tefilla groups.

I wish it was clear what the argument here is about. If you are trying to
say that some women feel excluded from the community by their ineligibility
to participate in the men's roles in the shul then there is no-one who can
disagree, since many have made their feelings known.

If you wish to say that the existence of womens tefilla groups is due to this
feeling, that also cannot be denied.

If you want to say that the halacha on womens tefilla should be changed to make
more women go to these tefilla groups, I would say there is no need because
the women go to them anyway because of their "dissatisfaction" with the
ordinary minyan.

> Women are not insensitive to the silent message that they receive from
> many Orthodox minyanim that they are welcome as long as they keep the
> children quiet, don't sing too loudly, and do not try to participate in
> any public roles.  This message is precisely what gives many Orthodox
> girls the idea that they don't really need to daven at all (a depressing
> phenomenon noted earlier in this list), while their Conservative sisters
> are as interested the boys in mastering the week's laining, leading
> davening, etc. 

But if girls are not obligated in leining or leading davening what does it
matter that they don't feel a need to do it?

> 		Of course, ideally children would be interested in such
> things because they are important for Jews to do.  In the real world,
> however, children thrive on encouragement from others, and if they are
> pushed down in some medium, they will lose interest.  Young Orthodox
> girls can see from toddlerhood that their age-equivalent male
> acquaintances are given public synagogue roles (e.g. end of musaf,
> opening ark, etc.) and encouraged to take a public part in davening.
> Not only does it seem to me as if this must make an impression on them,
> but several readers have commented that these girls are discouraged from
> davening in general.

Girls are not encouraged to take part in the "public" acts of prayer because
they are not obligated in them. If they are not encouraged in the private acts
of tefilla then that is the fault of their parents and teachers. The vast
majority of the laws of judaism are individual actions (and refraining from
individual actions) not being out "performing" in front of a crowd. If it is
possible to teach children to keep kashrus and shabbos without having them
put on a show, it ought to be possible to make them keep whichever laws of
prayer apply to them without warping the halacha simply to give them a good
feeling when they go to shul.

Judaism is unlike some other religions in that it is not centered on the
house of prayer. Reform and conservative, in doing away with many of the
inconvenient laws have made their brand of religion much more like
christianity. If you are a reform Jew who doesn't go to synagogue/temple
then you really haven't much connection to the religion. However, real
Judaism gives you loadsof ways to show your commitment without leading a
prayer service.

Girls are not "pushed down" with regard to prayer, they are simply not asked
to fulfil the role assigned to others. I am not pushed down in shul if I
can't act as the cohen or levi, if I cannot sing the tunes as beautifully
as the chazan or if I simply don't have a good enough brain to act as a
rabbi. I am still attending and doing what MY obligation is - to pray.

> This is much like the discussion of teaching women Judaica without
> allowing them to receive semicha.  People can explain forever about how
> the real point of learning is to learn, and that any resulting respect
> or academic degree is simply an unimportant coincidence.  Realistically,
> however, the lack of respect, encouragement, or recognition makes one's
> endeavors far more difficult--in some cases, too difficult to continue.

Leah has said this before and it does not become more valid with repetition.
The vast majority of men who go to yeshivas (let alone the many who learn
without joining a yeshiva) are not there to get a semicha or any other degree.
There are many places where women's desire to learn torah is treated in a
very serious way, their learning is respected and they are given encouragement
to learn more. If these yeshivas and seminaries do not provide semicha, yet
nevertheless produce women who are thoroughly committed to the jewish way
of life that they espouse, then they are clearly doing a good job without
the semicha option.



End of Volume 9 Issue 12