Einei HaEdah

A collection of sources to help those who don't want to buy into myths about Modern Orthodoxy, religious anti-Zionism, and other matters. NOTE: This is more of a database than a blog. NOTE #2: I refer to HaRabbanim HaGaonim Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik, and Rav Ahron HaLevi Soloveichik, Zichronam L'V'rachah, as "Rav Moshe, "the Rav," and "Rav Ahron."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Feministic Innovations

The Rav, Zatzal: Shul Leadership

It's "Negged HaHalacha" for a woman to be a shul president and it's "Aino Nachon" for a woman to be on the Board of Trustees.
[see Kuntres B’Inyanei P’sak Halacha, by Rav Hershel Schachter, published in Beis Yitzchok #38 (5766)]

The Rav, Zatzal: Women's Tefillah Groups

Rav Moshe Meiselman, a student and nephew of the Rav, and Rav Mayer Twersky, a student and grandson of the Rav, state that the Rav viewed women’s Tefillah groups as impermissible.

Rav Meiselman writes:
“[T]he Rav opposed all non-halakhic forms of worship, and he considered women’s prayer groups as exactly that--a non-halakhic form of worship…There are many reasons that the Rav forbade them and at the same time eschewed the use of the word asur.”
from his article in Tradition 33:1

Rav Twersky writes:
“The foregoing analysis of the Rav’s axiological opposition to women’s tefilla groups illustrates his careful choice of words in expressing his unequivocal opposition. The Rav consistently ruled that these groups were wrong, but did not invoke the term assur. The reason for the Rav’s nuanced formulation is that Hazal in many instances highlighted the difference between technical and axiological infractions…”

from his article in Tradition 32:3 (posted with his subsequent letters at http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2003/rtwe_wtg.html)[cf. Jewish Action, Summer 1997, posted at http://www.torahweb.org/torah/special/2003/rtwe_JA_women.html, and his Letter to the Editor in Jewish Action, Winter 1997]

[Both Rav Meiselman and Rav Twersky explain that the Rav did not use the term “Ossur” (forbidden) in expressing his opposition to women’s Tefillah groups because the term “Ossur” is for impermissible departures from technical halacha and the women’s Tefillah groups are impermissible departures from Torah values. (See p.21 in Rav Meiselman’s article and p.13 in Rav Twersky’s article.)]

Feministic Ritual Innovations

In 5745, a teshuvah [responsum] was sent to Rabbi Eliezer (Louis) Bernstein (then-president of the Rabbinical Council of America) by five distinguished Roshei Yeshiva of RIETS (the Yeshiva University-affiliated rabbinical school). The teshuvah discussed the halachic status of feministic ritual innovations. It was published in HaDarom #54 in 5745. Rav Hershel Schachter, one of the signatories, includes the teshuvah in his work, B’Ikvei HaTzon, Siman 5. Here is a translation of selected excerpts:“

The following question [ ] has been asked: In some Orthodox synagogues, they have conducted Hakafos especially for women on Simchas Torah, and groupings especially for women for Tefillah, Krias HaTorah (Torah-readings) and Krias HaMegillah. Are these practices (‘Ha-im Davar Zeh‘) permissible or forbidden?""

Response: It would appear that these practices are, for many reasons, impermissible according to Torah law (‘MiTzad HaDin‘)…It is a known matter that the greatest Sages of our generation [ ], Rav Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveitchik and Rav Moshe Feinstein, are both very opposed (‘Mis’nagdim Me’od‘) to all of these practices (‘L’Khol HaInyanim‘).”


Rav J. David Bleich: Women's Tefillah Groups
excerpted from his article in Sh’ma 15/299 [10/18/85]

“[N]o rabbinic authority of any stature has been willing to endorse this innovation…”

“[T]here is no encouragement of women’s prayer groups on the part of knowledgeable rabbis! Such encouragement would be tantamount to lifnei iver—advising a less advantageous mode of action [viz., participating in a women’s prayer group (editor)] when a parallel and much more advantageous course of conduct [viz., prayer in the presence of a minyan (editor)] is readily available.”

“[T]he use of a Torah scroll by women who candidly acknowledge that they do not thereby fulfill the rabbinic requirement [of using a Torah scroll for the public reading] borders on the farcical.”

Torah readings in women’s prayer groups “come dangerously close” to “the category of forbidden ritual innovations proscribed by the Rambam…”

Women's Tefillah Groups: The Rabbanim Frimer Article

Rav Aryeh A. Frimer and Rav Dov I. Frimer report that they conducted numerous interviews with people who discussed the issue of women’s Tefillah groups with the Rav, Zatzal. This is what they found out about the Rav:
*He objected to women’s Tefillah groups
*He did not support women’s Tefillah groups
*He viewed women’s Tefillah groups as wrong
*He held women’s Tefillah groups should not be encouraged
*He recommended that women’s Tefillah groups not be instituted
*He saw women’s Tefillah groups as contra-hashkafic

from Women's Prayer Services - Theory And Practice, 1, by Rav Aryeh A. Frimer & Rav Dov I. Frimer, published in Tradition 32:2 and posted at the following:


P.S. The Rabbanim Frimer document that four rabbanim--Rav Shlomo Goren, Rav Immanuel Jakobovits, Rav Avrohom Shapiro, and Rav Nachum Rabinovich--had a more positive attitude to women’s Tefillah groups than did (e.g.) the Rav and Rav Ahron (see below).

Let us assume arguendo that one or more of those four rabbanim was a bona-fide Gadol B’Yisroel [Sage]. As a result, his disagreement with Maranan V’Rabbanan Soloveitchik would mean that there is a genuine dispute among the Gedolei HaDor. In that case, it seems to me that if, hypothetically, a rav would want to permit women’s Tefillah groups in his synagogue, he would need to be one of the following: (A) a talmid muvhak [very close disciple] of one of those four more-lenient rabbanim, fully entitled to adopt his mentor's leniency, or (B) a master of Halachah great enough to adjudicate between Gedolim and/or disagree with Gedolim

(In note 247, the Rabbanim Frimer add a fascinating historical tidbit: the Rav could not even consider signing the aforementioned Teshuvah to the RCA in 5745 because his declining health prevented him from reviewing it.) In notes 236 and 253, they describe two B’di’eved (ex post facto, less-than-optimal) situations (one at Brandeis) where the Rav issued guidelines for women’s Tefillah groups—despite not being in favor of them. (The Brandeis group openly refused to heed the Rav’s specifically-stated opposition and the other group simply could not be disbanded.) The Rabbanim Frimer describe the one women’s Tefillah group that the Rav ever supported—albeit for a limited time. It was established at the Rav’s own Maimonides school in Brookline, MA. The Rav’s support was short-lived and subsequently withdrawn.

[Another historical tidbit: A certain New York pulpit Rav was apparently unaware that the Rav’s support never extended past the school setting into the synagogue setting, and mistakenly established a women’s Tefillah group in his own synagogue. (See p.43 of Tradition 32:2 and note 249.)]

Rav David Feinstein: Women's Tefillah Groups

Rav David Feinstein objects to women's prayer services on the grounds that they are “a sharp departure from normative Jewish custom.”

from Women's Prayer Services - Theory And Practice, 1, by Rav Aryeh A.& Rav Dov I. Frimer, in Tradition 32:2 (Winter 1998)

Rav Ahron, Zatzal: Women's Tefillah Groups

Rav Ahron objected to women’s Tefillah groups.

see Women's Prayer Services - Theory And Practice, 1, by Rav Aryeh A.& Rav Dov I. Frimer, in Tradition 32:2 (Winter 1998)

Rav Hershel Schachter: Women, Tefillah, and Tzeni'us
excerpted from "On the Matter of Masorah"
Part of our obligation of v'holachto b'drachav, to imitate G-d, i.e. to preserve and maintain those divine attributes that were implanted within us, requires of us to lead private lives; not to be seeking the limelight; not to be loud in speech, in dress, or in action. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is described by the Navi Yehsaya as a "Kel Mistater". He hides from man (see Nefesh Harav pg. 281). This concept is what is called tsnius; to lead a life of tsin'a - as opposed to a life of farhesia (public). Even when we are required to compromise on our middas hatsnius (privacy) and enter the public eye, the halacha tells us that som tasim alecha melech - melech v'lo malka, that women should always try to maintain their privacy. Let the men serve as chazzan for the public prayer, and let the men read from the Torah in public. The motivation to allow women to get aliyot is not because we don't have enough men to do the job. Some women are looking for empowerment. Receiving an aliyah, which was traditionally viewed as an act of compromising on one's privacy, has been looked upon by the amei ha'aretz as an act of empowerment. Pushy individuals try to "grab the omud" and "grab maftir" whenever possible. This attitude is in outright violation of the entire principle of tsnius. Hakadosh Baruch Hu is a Kel Mistater, and always tries to be maalim Himself. Why should we even consider giving someone an aliyah for the sake of empowering that individual if this attitude is totally contradictory to our whole outlook on life? Humility is always very crucial with respect to determining psak halacha. How much more so, when one wants to be mechadeish to reverse an accepted position, we must be sure that the author of the original idea is not formulating his chidush shelo lishma - just to gain popularity or for some other ulterior motive. Rav Moshe in his essay on the topic of the kohanim attending medical school writes that the fact that some "scholar," not particularly known for his strength in psak, published a paper in which he was prepared to permit a centuries-honored prohibition universally-accepted by Klal Yisroel, would itself seem to indicate that the author of the paper probably belonged to that group of individuals who are gaas libam b'hora'ah (arrogantly enjoy deciding questions of Jewish law). To be mechadeish, one must have an extra degree of humility like Rebbe!

Rav Yisroel HaLevi Belsky: Women's Tefillah Groups

"The denial of the unique talents of each gender, and especially the corollary that men and women should share each other's roles, has unfortunately made inroads into the Torah world. Even in our circles, well-meaning groups of women [ ] have expressed interest in formal women's prayer groups. They have not given sufficient thought to their plans."

"Traditionally, the home is dominated by the woman's influence, while the shul is dominated by the man; each one is a specialist in his or her field. One cannot effect a change in the balance of these two institutions without changing both for the worse...Klal Yisroel has survived thousands of years of exile due to the two most precious institutions of the home and the shul. The traditional roles in the home and shul have served us well...[W]e too, should endeavor to preserve the traditional and reliable structure of the home and synagogue. To tamper with the workings of these holy institutions by reallocating the responsibilities of man and wife towards their respective spheres of influence can only be done at the risk of reducing their effectiveness in conveying the values we cherish, God forbid."
excerpted from Rav Belsky's Einei Yisroel: Bereishis, pp.342-343