Volume 9 Number 22
                       Produced: Tue Sep 14 18:32:09 1993

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Agendas and Women (3)
         [Hayim Hendeles, Frank Silbermann, Anthony Fiorino]
History of halakha
         [Aliza Berger]
Kehilos Yaakov
         [Larry Israel]
Lubavitch and Yeridas HaDoros
         [David Charlap]
Telephone Rates: U.S. to Israel
         [Bonne R. London]
Women and Hamotzi
         [Freda Birnbaum]


From: Hayim Hendeles <hayim@...>
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 93 16:12:17 -0700
Subject: Re:  Agendas and Women

	>>From: David Novak <novak@...>
	>Why is the agenda of helping women who are looking for certain
	>forms of expression through prayer subject to such energetic
	>scrutiny?  Are women's prayer groups really so bad compared to
	>other things that go on, even _possibly_ things that have some
	>Rabbi's sanction?  (OK, I might as ...

Besides the Halachik concerns that need to be addressed, there
are some overall general issues.

There is a rule, "Minhag shel yisroel Torah hi" - Jewish customs are
to be viewed as Torah itself. Anytime, anyone attempts to change
a minhag (custom), albeit with sincere intentions, there is always
the risk that this will ultimately lead to violations of the Torah

For the past 2000 years, despite all the great women in our history,
we have never heard of a case of any of them attempting to start
women's prayers groups. And noone would argue that today's women
are at a higher spiritual level then these spiritual giants. 

Thus, this issue must be approached with extreme caution. First of all,
this is contrary to the 2000 year-old minhag Yisroel. Second of all,
IMHO, no matter how sincere these women may be, there is also the
possibility that there is a (possibly infinitesimal) amount of a "shlo
Lishma" involved, which may ultimately lead to disaster. (A la
Yerovam Ben Nevat, who did a corageous action for which he was even
congratulated by G-d -- and yet, because of a minute amount of
a "shlo lishma" it ultimately caused the 10 tribes to be lost from
the Jewish people forever.)

Therefore, before making any changes to the accepted practice, we
must consult our Gedolim. And it is only with their approval that
we can proceed. 

Hayim Hendeles

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 93 13:57:36 -0400
Subject:  Agendas and Women

In MJL Vol. 9 #17, David Novak asks
> Why is the agenda of helping women who are looking for certain forms
> of expression through prayer subject to such energetic scrutiny?
> It seems to me that there must be something extremely special
> about this issue that brings up such energetic opposition.

Because these perceived needs arose _outside_ the Haredi community.
The agenda of helping Agunot, in contrast, arose from a need _within_
the Haredi community.

The Haredi Gedolim do not recognize needs outside the Haredi communities
because they don't believe any Jews ought to be there in the first place.

I do not favor women's prayer groups either, but for other reasons.
Judaism already has so much in the way of ceremony and ritual,
with prayerbooks growing thicker century by century, to the point
that one almost needs the lightening lips of an auctioneer to fulfil
one's daily obligation.  Therefore, I would be quite reluctant to add
any more, especially considering that future generations
that might not wish to continue with these new customs might feel
bound by them, unwilling to overturn the decisions of our generation.

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA

From: Anthony Fiorino <fiorino@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 93 00:34:13 -0400
Subject: Agendas and Women

David Novak asked:

> Why is the agenda of helping women who are looking for certain forms of
> expression through prayer subject to such energetic scrutiny?  Are
> women's prayer groups really so bad compared to other things that go on,
> even _possibly_ things that have some Rabbi's sanction? . . . It seems to
> me that there must be something extremely special about this issue that
> brings up such energetic opposition.  (Lest you suspect otherwise, I
> really want to know the answer to this question and I do not have some
> preconceived answer that I am hoping to hear.)

I don't personally feel that women's tefila has been subject to any
"extra" halachic scrutiny at all; it has been subject to the same process
which occurs with any innovation of this magnitude.  To create a new
prayer service is no small matter, and one would expect that such an
attempt would be met by a scrupulous examination of the halachic details. 
I think what has caused so much controversy has been the apparent glaring
halachic weaknesses which have not been addressed (I say glaring because
they seem clear to me, a person of limited background and skills).  I have
yet to hear a satisfactory answer to any of my questions regarding women's
tefila (which I have submitted to R. Weiss).  I haven't even heard an
admission that there may be "halachic compromise" going on, but that
another counter-balancing principle is being brought into play.  Women's
tefila is touted by some as the l'chatchila (first-choice) option for a
woman interested in prayer.  But this neglects the fact that prayer with
the congregation seems to be viewed as preferable for women (not required,
as it is for men).  This may come as a surprise, but I don't think that I
would personally be opposed to a women's tefila service which had no kriat
hatorah [Torah reading] and pseudo-chazarat hashatz [repetition of
shemoneh esrei] (though I would also want approval of a posek).  And
certainly, I would feel much more comfortable (meaning, I might not agree
but at least I could say "eilu v'eilu") with *any* form of women's tefila
of which a Rav Shlomo Zalman, or the roshei yeshiva of YU, approved.  For
me, and I suspect for many others, legitimacy for an innovation of this
magnitude can be conferred only by a halachic authority, not by merely a
nice sevara [reasoning].

A final point which no doubt adds to the controversy is the similarity, in
outward appearance, of women's tefila to women's and egalitarian
"minyanim," and the existence of various forms of feminist women's prayer
services in "liberal" Judaism.  A major trend in halacha vis-a-vis reform
(with a small "r") has been entrenchment.  While we can argue -- agenda,
no agenda, is this the correct approach, or not -- the fact remains that
we must do as the poskim instruct us.  We know, from the Rav's zt"l
prohibition of entering a Conservative shul, that Orthodoxy has taken a
somewhat hard line regarding reform.  Would an issur against women's
tefila been issued had there never been any reform?  It is pointless to
speculate about that question.  But, I think it *is* worthwhile to at
least consider this as a factor in attempting to understand the response to
women's tefila.

I certainly do not think that there is any kind of conspiracy of misogynist
rabbis who are terrified of women having any status in Judaism.  Women's
learning is certainly proof of that.  While some might complain about the
lack of opportunities, this seems to reflect a lack of demand more than
anything else -- as more women have become interested in learning, more
opportunities have opened (in spite of a poor economy and the consequent
decrease in contributions to charitable causes like men's and women's
learning), and this trend shows no sign of ending.  Without a doubt, how
much one has learned is a much greater determinate of one's Jewish "status"
than how many times one has davened for the amud or how many aliyot one has
received.  If rabbis were invested in "keeping women down," they would have
permitted women's tefila and forbidden women's learning. 

Eitan Fiorino


From: <A_BERGER@...> (Aliza Berger)
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1993 17:49:28 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: History of halakha

>On the contrary we usualy "posken"
>like the latter authorities because they knew of the arguments of the
>earlier generations. Rambam in his introduction says that we cannot
>disagree with the Talmud because all the Torah leaders in the
>following generations got together and took this on themselves.

>    A similar argument was used by some for the next step and they
>claimed that 200 rabbis got together to accept the Shulchan Arukh
>and that is why we don't disagree with Rishonim. Note that there is
>no such distinction between Rishonim and geonim and that Rambam and others
>frequently disagree with geonim.                                 


The technical term for paskening like later authorities is, I believe,
"hilkheta ke-batrai" [the halakha is like the latest ones].  Does anyone
have more information about the extent to which this concept is used?
For example, what happens when latest authorities disagree with each
other?  Is this concept extended later than the Shulchan Arukh?  What is
the rationale for disagreeing with geonim, while not with the gemara or
rishonim?  After all, during the time of the geonim, they were the
"batrai".  Who first put forth this concept?  When they did so, were
they thinking of themselves as the "batrai" (which would mean that they
were always right), or were they thinking of "everyone up to but not
including me"?  Or is "hilkheta ke-batrai" only invoked for the two
cases provided above, the gemara and the Shulkhan Aruch?

Aliza Berger


From: Larry Israel <VSLARRY@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 93 08:41:13 -0400
Subject: Kehilos Yaakov

My nephew in New York can not find a place to buy the set of books,
Kehilos Yaakov, by the Steipler Rav, Z"L. I don't know exactly where he
looked, but he asked me to find out where they are available. If not in
New York, perhaps here in the Holy Land. Does anyone know?


From: <dic5340@...> (David Charlap)
Date: Thu, 9 Sep 93 13:04:54 -0400
Subject: Lubavitch and Yeridas HaDoros

<YOSEF_BECHHOFER@...> (Yosef Bechhofer) writes:
>They claim that this distinction began with the Ba'al  Shem  Tov, 
>who picked it up from a line that had previously  been  interrupted 
>since the time of the Nesi'im, continued through his student, the
>Mezritcher Maggid,  then  to  the  Ba'al  HaTanya,  and   subsequently
>to   his descendants, the following Rebbes.

Just to clarify:

The Ba'al Shem Tov was _NOT_ the founder of Chabad/Lubavitch
chassidism.  He is the founder of ALL chassidism.  The Lubavitch
founder is Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the "Alter Rebbe", a disciple of the
Ba'al Shem Tov.


From: Bonne R. London <brlondon@...>
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 93 13:25:43 -0400
Subject: Telephone Rates: U.S. to Israel

We recently signed-up for MCI "Around the World" which is an
international extension of their "Friends and Family" plan.  The cost is
$3 per month and lets us call two selected phone numbers in Israel at a
cost of 58 cents per minute, M-F 5pm - 8am and all day Sat, Sun and
holidays.  For any other phone numbers in Israel, the flat rate is 73
cents per minute.  We can change our two selected phone numbers as often
as we wish.


From: Freda Birnbaum <FBBIRNBA@...>
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 93 16:39 EDT
Subject: Women and Hamotzi

Mike Gerver asks, in V9N6, re women and hamotzi:

>Michael Kramer asks in v8n65 for information on the origin of the minhag
>he has seen of the husband making kiddush and the wife making ha-motzi.
>This is of interest to me because my wife and I have this minhag, which
>we picked up from friends in Berkeley, California, at the time we were
>married in 1974. We were told by a LOR that it was fine halachically
>because women and men are equally obligated to make ha-motzi. We have
>continued this minhag, although outside of Berkeley and places like
>Berkeley, it sometimes elicits odd looks from guests, and I get the
>impression that our kids think it's a little weird, although they would
>not say so to our faces.
>The fact that Michael Kramer, who is at UC Davis, not far from Berkeley,
>knows people who have this minhag, makes me wonder whether it didn't
>originate in Berkeley in the early 1970s.

I am very well acquainted with a frum couple where the husband is very
definitely NOT of the "Berkeley sensibility", and the custom in that
household is that he makes kiddush and she makes hamotzi.  I believe it
is one of his ways of showing his appreciation (in both senses of the
word) of her strenuous efforts to earn the "bread" so that he is more
free to pursue worthwhile but not particularly remunerative Jewish

(BTW, she also happens to be handier with tools and does most of
the sukkah-building.)

Freda Birnbaum


End of Volume 9 Issue 22