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Women who say shema should put on talis and tefillin

Looking for an open door by Shira Salamone

A few days ago, I took some flack for the following comment of mine to Heshys I dont understand feminists

Shira Salamone June 24, 2010 at 6:19 PM

110 comments, and not one of them mentioned the obvious:

Whats a *woman* supposed to do when the Shma says, in no uncertain terms, to bind HaShems words on your hand and between your eyes? And when the Shma says that you will see the fringe and remember all HaShems mitzot, whats a *woman* supposed to look at? (See here..)

I wear a tallit and tefillin because the Torah says so, and I see absolutely no *good* reason why a woman without children or whose children are grown shouldnt be as obligated to fulfil the time-bound mitzvot as a man is.

Reply

114 John June 25, 2010 at 9:57 AM

nobody said it becasue it ahs got to be the dumbest comment in the history of dumb comments.
What do you on yoiur hand and between your eyes? are they literally on your hand and between your eyes? what color are they? waht shape? what verses are writtin within? None of these answers are found in the torah, but rather you rely on chazals drashas (and halacha lemoshe misinai) to tell you. Well guess what chazal tell us about women and time-bound mitzvos?

Reply

. . .

117 Shira Salamone June 27, 2010 at 1:24 AM

John, I will grant you that Im inconsistent in terms of which rabbinical rulings I accept. Yes, Im using traditional tefillin, of which the details of the design are not found in the Written Torah. That said, I do find it most interesting that the rabbis of old who established the fundamentals of the Jewish prayer services chose, as one of the central texts of the siddur/prayer book, Biblical quotations (the Shma) that specifically mention items that are supposed to be worn to remind us of G-d, and, at the same time, exempted half the Jewish people from wearing them.

Reply

118 John June 27, 2010 at 10:44 AM

Its actually not that interesting at all. The Rabbis included shma in the prayer service becasue it is a mitzva for men to recite it twice daily. Women are exemted from wearingthe tefilin AND reciting shema, not be tthe rabbis though, exempted by god.
. . .

Johns response reminded me of an exchange that I had with West Bank Mama here [http://onthefringe_jewishblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/women-judaismtaxation-without.html]:

[WBM] “Oral tradition is the way that our sages interpreted it.” [Me] Yes, and the sages, to the best of my knowledge, were all male. This is what I meant when I said, “almost the entire corpus of halachah/Jewish religious law has been determined by men.”

According to John, G-ds the One who made it a mitzvah for men to recite Shma twice daily, and exempted women from recited Shma, wearing tzitzit, and wearing tefillin. And how do we know this? Because the rabbis said so. And which gender were (are) the rabbis?

You get the picture.

There are those who see feminists as wanting out of Judaism. But I would say that we want in.

Poskot (female halachic decisors), anyone?

See also:

Out of sight, out of mind

[http://onthefringe_jewishblog.blogspot.com/2007/03/out-of-sight-out-of-mind.html

{ 101 comments… add one }
  • chosid July 7, 2010, 8:12 PM

    What you want IN to is unfortunately a different religion, not Torah Judaism. A lack of a proper jewish education, which inculcates in it its students an appreciation for the tremendously important role of the woman as the akeres habayis, is the only possible explanation for women to foolishly want to lower themselves to the level of the men by fulfilling their obligations. Not to mention a callousness towards the ruach hakodesh with which every word of chazal through the shulchan oruch is written with.

  • Puzzled July 7, 2010, 8:28 PM

    You’ll get some funny responses, at least. Many cannot distinguish between a challenge to the halacha and a question about the halacha, and answer the first as if it were the second.

  • Trina July 7, 2010, 9:27 PM

    I’m still a teenager and I live in my mother’s house and she won’t let me wear tefillin or tzitzis, but as soon as I go to college I plan on wearing tefillin and tzitzis. Just because rabbis exempted women from wearing them doesn’t mean that women can’t take it upon themselves. I also feel like I can’t say a proper Shema without wearing tzitzit or tefillin. My mom thinks I’m not serious, but I totally am – I figure it’ll freak out all the guys at the Hillel of whatever college I go to (preferably Harvard) and totally screw shidduchs over for me. 🙂

  • Jack July 7, 2010, 9:36 PM

    It is hard to get an answer when so few people are being taught to think for themselves.

  • guyinla July 8, 2010, 12:07 AM

    why would you want any part in a religion where the law changes fundamentally based on who the rabbis are. personally, i follow judaism because it is divine; if it were determined based on the whim of man then i want no part in it; christianity would be much easier to follow in that case.

    • Heshy Fried July 8, 2010, 12:20 AM

      Wanting no part of Judaism because the rabbis get to change stuff around is paradoxical – the torah says to listen to the rabbis, which rabbis – now that’s a chalenge

      • Drew Mazanec July 8, 2010, 12:55 AM

        The Torah says listen to the courts, which were set up to solve legal disputes. It’s a leap in logic to say that the Rabbis are the official continuation of those courts. It’s more like the United States getting smashed to pieces by a foreign power, and a remnant of one political party decides to set up a new society, claiming full endorsement from the First Continental Congress.

        • Janet July 8, 2010, 9:23 AM

          Not just that, but we lack real smicha, so rabbis are not really Rabbis. We also have a hobbled legal system because we not only lack a Sanhedrin who can make final rulings, we lack the courage, cohesiveness, and will to cooperate that would be necessary to appoint a Sanhedrin. As the Sridei Eish said, and this was decades ago, this generation lacks courage to make the rulings necessary to reconcile halacha with present reality. Talking about a specific case of an aguna after giving many examples, he wrote:
          “I have clear proofs that the marriage can be annulled, but I am also one of the fearful and will not under any circumstances rule leniently against the opinion of the gaon R. Isaac Elhanan [Spektor] of blessed memory, for I am worthless compared to him. There are indeed many difficult problems which have not found a solution simply because we do not have the strength to rule against the authorities who have been accepted by the nation.”
          http://www.edah.org/backend/JournalArticle/shapiro2_2.pdf

          Incidentally, our generation rules against R Spektor all the time, such as in deciding against heter mechira.

  • guyinla July 8, 2010, 1:26 AM

    so you’re saying that the talmud, which was accepted by virtually every religious jew throughout the ages , is possibly not how G-d wants everything to be? if so then there are two options: we make a new interpretation or we throw it all out and declare free for all. if you want to make a new ‘talmud’, i can’t think of a single reason why it should be accepted more than the original and plenty of reasons why it shouldn’t.

    essentially it boils down to this: if you believe that they know better because of ruach hakodesh and that they are closer to Moshe in the mesorah etc, then who are you to say that you know better. if you don’t believe that, then you are working on your own. and might i add that it’s quite presumptuous(and frankly quite crazy too) to claim you know G-d’s will when it isn’t written in the Torah and you can’t look to earlier sages either because ‘they don’t know what they are talking about’ and you know better.

    so my point is i’m one of the former. and if i believed like the latter then i would not make up my own stuff. that’s how christianity and islam and other religions work.

    • Janet July 8, 2010, 9:03 AM

      Eruvin 96a says Michal wore tefillin, on which basis the Rashba allowed women to wear tefillin.

    • JT July 8, 2010, 11:49 AM

      Which Talmud–Bavli or Yerushalmi? There are always Rabbis we don’t hold by, and Rabbis that some of us hold by and some of us don’t (see: kitniyot, e.g.). Yes, elu v’elu, but can’t you see a role for the God-given human intellect in propagating the halakhic system over the years? An intellect that has been known to err?

    • ghottistyx July 8, 2010, 6:37 PM

      Actually, quite the contrary, that is NOT how Islam works. Although Islam does have its version of an Oral Tradition (Haditha, Sunna, et al), the Shariya (their Halakha) never strays from the words of the Qur’an. In fact, I’ve perused a few Islamic treatises on the Tawrat (what they call the Torah), and they accuse our Rabbinic Judaism from straying too far from the words of our Torah. In fact, point taken, following the words of the Torah literally sometimes does go against halakha (and this concept is defended by Sa’adya Ga’on, RaMBaM, et al, in their attacks on the Kara’im). So if anything, Muslims are much more radically against free-interpretation of their tradition than any Jew will ever be. Any attempt to subject their holy works to secular interpretations (i.e. Salman Rushdie) result in a Fatwa (which is like Cherem, Karet, and a Death Sentence all mixed into one: Salman Rushdie is very lucky he’s still alive).

      One example: Capital Punishment in Halakha. Now correct me if I’m wrong (it’s been a while), but I remember hearing that a Beis Din that used it even once in 100 years was considered bloody. Even though the Torah does prescribe punishments for various sins, the Oral Law made it very hard to prove that a person really deserved it at all. If we interpreted the Torah in the same way that a Muslim interprets the Qur’an, we’d ask “then why prescribe such punishment in the first place?” To them, the Torah says a person gets said punishment for said sin, that’s the law, this is the word of God, do not stray from it left or right. And yes, their interpretation of “An Eye for an Eye” would probably be a lot closer to poking out eyes than our interpretation.

      Sof Davar: In their eyes, it is our Rabbis who are more likely “making up their own stuff” than their Muftis.

      • Catholic Mom July 9, 2010, 10:23 AM

        It’s not how Christianity works either. Basically you have one of two models: 1) the Catholic/Orthodox model and 2) the Protestant model.

        In the Catholic/Orthodox model you have a bunch of people (the bishops) who are considered to be the direct descendents of the apostles who make decisions via discussion and voting. The apostles were appointed by Jesus and they appointed their own successors, and these successiors appointed THEIR successors, and so on down to the present day. This is called the “apostolic succession” and means that bishops in the Catholic or Orthodox churches derive their authority directly in unbroken line from Jesus. Hence, what they say has as much authority as if Jesus said it. On the down side of this model, throughout the middle ages the Church actively discouraged people from reading the Bible (such as by refusing to let it be translated into a popular language) pretty much on the basis of “don’t worry your pretty little heads about what it says in here — we’ll tell you everything you need to know.”

        The Protestant model is kind of all over the place, just like Protestantism, but basically it says that God would not have written the Bible in such a way that it couldn’t be clearly understood on major points of morality and salvation. And anything that deviates from the clear word of the Bible or is not included in it is not true. Hence, since a huge amount of what the Catholics and Orthodox teach is not actually in the Bible itself, they reject it. Just about everything said and taught about Mary for example (or the sacraments, for that matter) they reject. All the Bible says a Christian has to do is believe in Jesus, be baptized, and be part of a Christian community. Other than that — everything else was made up post-Biblically so the Protestants reject it.

        Some kind of Protestants are kind of half way in between the two models and they’re generally the ones most screwed up because they kind of have the worst of both worlds. They accept all kinds of post-Biblical things, but when a serious dispute comes up (like what the status of gay people should be) they have no authority mechanism in place to deal with it so they end up fighting between themselves and splintering into yet smaller groups.

        I have always wondered what model, if any, orthodox Judaism used to define doctrine and settle disputes.

        • Anonymous July 9, 2010, 6:58 PM

          You know that many Evangelicals resent being called “protestant” as it tends to imply anti-Catholic sentiment. Although I hear James White does not mind being called a Protestant with a big capital P.

          • Catholic Mom July 9, 2010, 8:22 PM

            Umm…many evangelicals are (or used to be before they decided they needed the Catholics to be their allies in the culture wars) extremely anti-Catholic. To them, the Catholic Church is the “Whore of Babylon” pre-figured in Revelations and the pope is the anti-Christ. There are plenty of evangelicals right now who will tell you that a Catholic will not go to heaven because they have not been born again and because they worship Mary (when they’re not worshipping actual idols of Mary and the saints.)

            • Catholic Mom July 9, 2010, 8:48 PM

              PS Notice how I called it “Revelations” instead of “Revelation?” See..it’s true. Catholics don’t actually read the Bible. 🙂 I loved it when John Kerry was asked, when running for president, what his favorite gospel was and he said “Job.” [Although he was pretty much a fake Catholic and an exceptional idiot to boot.]

            • Cattie November 15, 2010, 4:59 AM

              Oh, that’s so sad. I’m a non-Catholic believer, but I have a lot of heroes in the faith who are Catholic, and enjoy a lot of spiritual literature written by Catholics. 🙂 Not all non-Catholic believers (“Protestants”) are hostile toward the Catholic sect of the Body.

  • guyinla July 8, 2010, 1:32 AM

    drew: what makes you think that they are the remnants of one ‘political party’ ?. in fact the transition from tanach to mishnah to gemarah is extraordinarily fluid.

    • Janet July 8, 2010, 9:08 AM

      The Pharisees were literally a political movement. The Sadducees, Essenes, etc. did not survive the destruction of the Temple. The Pharisees did survive, and they wrote the Gemara.

      • Dovybear July 8, 2010, 12:36 PM

        “The Pharisees were literally a political movement”. Evidence? Josephus defines the Pharisees as being a group of Rabbis, adding that they “help the support and reverence of the majority”, whilst noting that the Sadducees were comprised of the minority upper class. The Essenes were by no means a political movement, they did not campaign nor attract followers, nor in fact have any real ‘manifesto’. They were a breakaway sect from the Pharisees who believed that the country was irredeemably corrupt and all that could be done was to separate from the masses, and live and ascetic lifestyle in order to atone for sin in the hope that G-d would intervene. They would probably be defined as a cult by most anthropologists. By the way, the Sadducees also survived after the destruction of the Temple for a while (the Karaite/Baitusite groups that emerged in Late Talmudic/Early Savoraic times (approx 300C.E.) could well have been an offshoot of them, and there are very small, very scattered Karaite communities still around) , the Gemara records several dialogues between the Pharisee sages and the Sadducees. If you believe that the Pharisees were a political group, then you can’t say that they wrote the Gemara, reason being that the group that you refer to lived in Eretz Yisrael, and the Gemara was written in Bavel. The Amoroim who wrote the Gemara rarely refer to the Perushim (as they would have been called in Hebrew) at all…

        • Drew Mazanec July 8, 2010, 4:34 PM

          The Pharisees couldn’t have written the Gemara??

          Let’s not forget which document is the core of both Yerushalmi and Bavli, and who wrote it! The reason the Gemara rarely mentions the Perushim is that they stopped using that title after the destruction of the Second Temple.

          • Dovybear July 8, 2010, 6:00 PM

            That was my point entirely…

          • Drew July 9, 2010, 3:30 PM

            Let me be more specific. Judah HaNasi, the author of the Mishnah, was a Pharisee. The Babylonian Talmud is based on the Mishnah, which means its origins and its very core are Pharisaic. Just because the Pharisees are not mentioned by that name does not diminish their role in the authorship of the Talmud. Its origins are in one political party who did not exist before the rise of Alexander the Great, yet rose to power after the destruction of the Temple and the government. The courts mentioned in the Torah are long gone.

            • Dovybear July 10, 2010, 11:37 PM

              You speak with great authority, but unfortunately little actual knowledge. Your assertation that the Pharisees were a political party because they, and I quote, “did not exist before the rise of Alexander the Great” betrays two very basic misunderstandings; firstly that a title creates an ideology, and secondly that an ideology creates a political party. The fact that people did not call themselves Pharisees before Alexander the Great (actually the name came into being during the Mid-Chashmonaic period according to Josephus, but anyway…) does not mean that the ideologies espoused by the people who later called themselves Pharisees were not previously held by virtually all Jews (as Josephus writes “there was not a single one of us who would not act as if Moses himself was here and watching”), they had no need to call themselves Pharisees as there was no competing ideology, they were simply Jews. The name Pharisee came into being only when the Sadducees did, as a means of determining the old , accepted way from the new one. Furthermore, if you say that the Sages of the Mishna were Pharisees to a man then you cannot support your assumption that Pharisees did not exist before Alexander – the first Tannaim were the Anshei Knesses Hagedola who predated Alexander, the last surviving member was Shimon Hatzaddik who was already an old man by the time Alexander arrived on the scene. Second your belief that an ideology creates a political party; are Buddhists then a political party? Or Conservative Jews? What then is your basis for saying that the Pharisees were a political party? And whilst it is true that the courts mentioned in the Torah are indeed sadly long gone, that does not mean that the Halachas and Hashkafas that they espoused are redundant, after all the Founding Fathers are long dead too. The Torah courts laid down the guidelines and if you ascribe authority to them (which it would seem that you do from your earlier posts) then you must follow the rules, both in what has already been decided and for how to decide when new cases arise, much like the Senate must follow the Constitution. You cannot create new rules simply in the name of expedience.

  • Sam July 8, 2010, 4:31 AM

    I dont understand why a woman would feel strange reading a part of the Torah that isn’t applicable to her. What happens when she hears the kriat hatorah that prohibits shaving off one’s beard? Does she feel left out? You might say that the shema is different because its daily. But then men also read it every night when the mitzvot of tzitzit and tefillin do not apply and I doubt they feel funny about it. And that is not because they get to fulfil it at a different time. Does a male yisrael feel it is unfair that they can never say bircat cohanim? I don’t think so.

    • Janet July 8, 2010, 9:12 AM

      Rabbi Soloveitchik said that one of the greatest mysteries of the Torah is why it addresses itself to men, that whenever the second person pronoun is used, it is speaking only to men. Sometimes “you” is directed to the people there at the time, but sometimes it is directed to all future generations. When women are mentioned, they are often mentioned in relation to “you”: that is, women are the daughters and wives of the “you”, but not spoken to directly. Do you lack rachamim that you cannot see how someone might find that alienating?

      • Hannah July 8, 2010, 9:18 AM

        well put.

      • Yosh July 8, 2010, 9:51 AM

        That was very eloquent and I understand your point, but consider the following metaphor.

        Imagine your sibling got C’s all year while you were working hard and pulling A’s. If your parents sat your sibling down, got them a tutor over the summer and spent a lot of extra time helping them get up to speed, would you resent the extra attention and think you were being excluded?

        Women come out of the box at a higher spiritual level than men. That’s not a “pat on the head,” made up answer, it’s pshat in the Zohar and the real answer.

        • Anonymous July 12, 2010, 10:23 PM

          “its pshat in the Zohar”
          Which means it’s drash. And aggadah. We do not correct Torah Scrolls according to the Zohar, and we do not derive Halachah from it. It is aggadic midrash.

          I want to know how we have made the leap from “not obligated” to “prohibited.”

          As for WotW, I have heard claims that they are acting for equality rather than l’shem shamayim. There’s know way that can be known, but if we accept “male and female created He them” then it follows that equality is a given. If male and female are in the image of G-d, then a claim of equality IS l’shem shamayim.

          But you know, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it is precisely because women are on a higher rung that they view mitzvot in which they are not obligated as privileges rather than burdens.

          Oh, and the many women I know who lay tefillin would demand nothing less of their sons.

        • Lindsay October 19, 2010, 2:36 PM

          “Women come out of the box at a higher spiritual level than men. Thats not a pat on the head, made up answer, its pshat in the Zohar and the real answer.”

          IF that were what was really believed and practiced, WOMEN and not men would be making the halachic decisions, leading the prayers and reading from the Torah during Orthodox services. It would be nonsense to trust those holy and critical things to “lesser beings” or “lower beings.”

          The proof that that sentiment is just like a pat on the head is in the actions. When men step down from their positions of religious power in the Orthodox community, and hand over the reins to the women, the alleged higher beings, I will believe it’s more than just lip service.

      • Dovybear July 8, 2010, 12:43 PM

        If you want to start quoting Rabbi Soleveitchik, then I refer you to the fact that he was quite against women wearing tzitzis and tefillin. There is a famous story of a woman who once came to him and asked to put on tzitzis. He replied “Look, don’t just jump in, why don’t you start small, just wear the begged without the tzitzis on and come back in a few days”. She did so. When he asked her how it felt, she answered “Wonderful, it was so spiritual!”, to which he retorted “Funny that, not only is wearing the begged without tzitzis pointless, it’s also a bittul mitzvas assei…”. Get the point?

        • Observer July 9, 2010, 10:33 AM

          Pardon my ignorance, but I do not get the point. I don’t even understand the comment. How is it bittul mitzvas assei? There is no command, perhaps particularly for a woman, to wear a four-cornered garment. Wearing one without tzitzis might be a transgression of a miztvas assei, if you believe that a mitzvah in loshon zochor applies to both sexes.

          Could you explain the reasoning behind the statement itself, and, if still necessary, tell us the point?

          Thank you

  • Levy Bernstein July 8, 2010, 9:10 AM

    This morning I was thinking about this article. During krias ha-Torah I was thinking, why can’t I just get called up for Cohen or Levi sometime — instead of always getting either nothing, hagabah, galila, pesicha, and occassionally shlishi?

    About a minute and a half later I got called up for shlishi. Guess that’s just the role I have.

  • Mahla July 8, 2010, 9:22 AM

    I have recently heard that a Jewish man is supposed to thank God daily for not having been born a woman. :^O Does anyone know about that?!

    • Phil July 8, 2010, 9:52 AM

      That’s because we can write our name in the snow while peeing 🙂

    • Julia July 8, 2010, 10:22 AM

      It’s true. Right along with “thanks for not making me non-Jewish or poor.”

      • Dovybear July 8, 2010, 12:44 PM

        Poor?!?!!? which siddur do you use?!

    • JT July 8, 2010, 11:50 AM

      unless you’re a Conservative Jew–our poskim switched the berachot out for those found in the Tosefta that are worded in the affirmative (i.e. thank you for making me a jew, a free person, and in the Divine image)

      • haha July 8, 2010, 1:23 PM

        our poskim…hahahahahaha

        • JT July 8, 2010, 2:40 PM

          Challenge their piskei halacha if you will (or even the smicha of the newer generation), but the fact is that for better or for worse they are acting as halachik decisors–poskim. A painter doesn’t stop being a painter because you don’t like his aesthetic.

          • Mahla July 8, 2010, 8:48 PM

            Guys, I am really confused. :^O Anyway, do Jewish men thank God every day for not being female or no?!

            I’m not judging in any way, I just REALLY want to know if what I heard is true or not!

            I will not be mad no matter what anyone answers.

            • Anonymous July 9, 2010, 12:48 AM

              they do because men have more duties than women, they thank god for the extra duties he burdens them with.

              i’m happy to let men have all their extra duties, men invented religion as a substitute for childbirth. so let them have it, good for them. 🙂

            • Anonymous July 9, 2010, 12:52 AM

              Orthodox Jews do. Liberal Jews don’t, in theory (as most don’t pray every day).

            • Dovybear July 10, 2010, 11:40 PM

              Whilst it is true that they do, women have another blessing thanking G-d for making them “according to His Will”, the point being that women are more true to the original idea of mankind that G-d so to speak had in mind when He created us, so it owrks both ways.

              • JT July 12, 2010, 1:19 PM

                then why, in the second creation story, are women secondary? Did God need Adam as a practice run? And if “male and female he created them”, would not man and woman, created with the same breath, be equal?

  • Janet July 8, 2010, 9:33 AM

    Feminist issues are certainly one issue. Before our current era, no one could even imagine that the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world would have women on the highest courts of the land, or be led by women. The changed situation has already required some reevaluation, and more will be necessary.

    But feminist issues are the tip of the iceberg. Many areas of halacha in the current era need a great deal of attention, as the Sridei Eish himself said, and halacha becomes less and less courageous in how it addresses problems, and it alienates more and more people. Halacha is the law for all the Jewish people, not just those willing to wear winter clothing in the summer and save their vegetable peelings until they rot every 7 years (due to people no longer holding by heter mechira).

    The Moroccans started to deal with this situation in the 1950s, and they made some progress, but then the Moroccan community was dismantled. To this day, though, Mizrachi rabbis are the most realistic about the fact that they are paskening for the entire Jewish people, not just the chinyukt.

  • Yosh July 8, 2010, 9:43 AM

    The only way to grow it to accept that you don’t already have all the answers as you are right now.

    If you look at something in Torah and say “I don’t understand this and it seems unfair” that means you have room to grow. The right response is to either get a better understanding and/or adjust what you think is fair. That’s acquiring daas Torah. It’s shaping your world view to the Torah and living by it.

    Chazal and just about every Orthodox rabbi out there are pretty clear on women and talis/tefillin and that men and women are different in general. Pashat in the Zohar on the subject is that women are on a higher level than men. Questioning is critical to the growth process, but if you won’t try to understand the answers to your questions then you are closing yourself off from growth. If you ever have a question that there IS no answer, then find a bigger rabbi or try a different sefer.

    • Puzzled July 8, 2010, 9:51 AM

      And there you have it. You think the law is unfair and you’re being pushed around. You just don’t u-n-d-e-r-s-t-a-n-d yet. Once you understand, you’ll see that of course you can’t be a shul president, own property, or do much other than push out babies – it’s because you’re so holy.

    • Frumsatire Fan July 8, 2010, 10:53 AM

      If we believe that G-d inspired people to find different interpretations of the Torah, argue with one another, etc., why can’t we believe that we, now, can be part of the same process? That is, engaging in halakhic arguments and sometimes disagree with what some people said in the past. If mattan Torah is an unfolding process, not doing that would mean a big loss for us. If the contrary is the case, maybe we should all be Karaites? Or at the very least, we should be pretty skeptical about the Zohar (in medieval Spain, when the Zohar “appeared”, many communities rejected it or questioned its supposed origins).

      That patronizing attitude of “you don’t understand” is one of the reasons why I couldn’t be a Christian. Questioning is important and finding answers is also important, but I see no point in willing yourself to think that your question is answered when it’s not. I think that’s putting reason aside, and it’s dangerous (because it puts people in the hands of their rabbis/leaders).

      Yes, I know about Yored dorot, but I’m not convinced.

    • Yosh July 8, 2010, 12:02 PM

      Why did both of my friends parents get cancer while he was still in college? Why is anyone born a mamzer? Why did I lose my job even though I worked harder than my coworker who kept his? Why does being a Kohen mean I cant I marry my now-frum BT girlfriend? Why did I graduate from college in the middle of a recession? Why is anyone gay? Why did the Torah command us to wipe out a whole people? Why are babies born addicted to crack? Why did the Holocaust happen? Why did so many of its perpetrators escape punishment? Why are some people born into crushing poverty with no hope of escape?

      Is “why can’t I wear tefillin?” really the best kasha you can come up?

      We are not capable of comprehending Creation. We are supposed to understand as much as we are personally able to, but we can’t know the big picture. If you accept that the Torah is from Hashem, and you run into a situation where you idea of fairness contradicts with it, then it’s time to adjust your idea of fairness or admit that there’s something you don’t understand. If you don’t understand something, you ask someone who knows more about it than you do. There is nothing dangerous about that. It’s by far the most reliable way to learn something.

      Relying on rabbis and the rabbi’s of previous generations is what separates us from an Evangelical who opens up his Bible and tries to figure it all out himself.

      • Puzzled July 8, 2010, 1:45 PM

        >Why did both of my friends parents get cancer while he was still in >college? Why is anyone born a mamzer?

        Because those two are somehow alike…

        >Why did I lose my job even though I worked harder than my >coworker who kept his?

        Either poor decision making, or because what’s valuable is what is produced, not how hard you work.

        >Why does being a Kohen mean I cant I marry my now-frum BT >girlfriend?

        It doesn’t. It means orthodox rabbis won’t marry you, and claim that God forbids it.

        >Why did I graduate from college in the middle of a recession?

        Monetary inflation since the closing of the gold window led to a boom-bust cycle.

        >Why is anyone gay?

        Different strokes for different folks.

        >Why did the Torah command us to wipe out a whole people?

        The genocide was carried out first, and written into the text later to justify it.

        >Why are babies born addicted to crack?

        Their mothers used crack.

        > Why did the Holocaust happen?

        Evil governments.

        >Why did so many of its perpetrators escape punishment?

        Gangs hesitate to attack other gang leaders.

        >Why are some people born into crushing poverty with no hope of escape?

        Government policy.

        >If you accept that the Torah is from Hashem, and you run into a >situation where you idea of fairness contradicts with it, then its >time to adjust your idea of fairness or admit that theres >something you dont understand. If you dont understand >something, you ask someone who knows more about it than you >do. There is nothing dangerous about that. Its by far the most >reliable way to learn something.

        Wow, there’s a lot here. Even making the odd assumption (hear hoofbeats think horses) that this book, unlike all other books, came from a mountain, your conclusion doesn’t follow. God is capable of being unfair. The God in the Torah, unlike modern versions, makes mistakes, regrets them, learns, and moves on. On asking questions – uncritical acceptance of authority sure as hell is dangerous when it significantly influences life events and when authority is granted only internally. Smicha is given only my smicha holders, and only to those who toe the line.

        • Yosh July 8, 2010, 2:24 PM

          If you don’t accept the Torah as being from God, then I don’t really see why you’d care about any of this. Let us foolish believers remain deluded, you’re free to ignore us.

          • Puzzled July 9, 2010, 8:17 AM

            I care about any of this because you believers create an image that those who do not accept that story are not Jewish and not practicing Judaism. Further, we care because you use your story to undermine our Jewish brethren in various ways. Finally, as I said above, we care because your claims don’t follow even if you accept the story.

            • Yosh July 9, 2010, 10:23 AM

              (in 2 posts…)
              This website isn’t a good forum for “is the Torah from God or not” discussions. If you buy the premise, great. If not, it’s difficult to have a discussion based on a premise you disagree with.

              To briefly address your point that my argument is internally inconsistent and other points:

              “God is capable of being unfair.”
              An adult, not “man with white beard in the sky,” definition of God (aka, incomprehensible, infinite source of all existence) means that God IS the benchmark for what fairness is. By definition, God cannot be unfair. God defines and IS the rules. Individual, non-God based, definitions of morality are subjective and therefore only apply if you decide to agree with them. I’m sure you’re familiar with all this. If not, go read some Nietzsche.

              “The God in the Torah, unlike modern versions, makes mistakes, regrets them, learns, and moves on.”
              -This is flat out false and again, relying on a childish conception of God or a gan reading of chumash.

              “On asking questions uncritical acceptance of authority sure as hell is dangerous when it significantly influences life events and when authority is granted only internally.”
              -I’m not advocating “uncritical” acceptance of authority. I’m advocating picking a Rav whose derech resonates with you and whose judgment you trust, but who knows more than you. There are plenty of huge rabbis I wouldn’t follow because they see life differently.

              “Smicha is given only my smicha holders, and only to those who toe the line.”
              -Just like MD’s are only given to people who accept modern medical practice (or at least pretend to in med school), judge are appointed only if they accept the legitimacy of the legal system, etc. You can’t be an arbiter of a system you don’t accept as legitimate.

              • Mahla July 9, 2010, 1:07 PM

                Yosh, doesn’t God feel bad for thing sometimes in the Bible though? I thought he regretted what he did with the flood.

                • Yosh July 9, 2010, 3:50 PM

                  Human categories and emotions like feeling bad and regret don’t apply to God. How can an infinite entity that is above time want to re-do a past action (regret)? That would imply being bound by time. God knows the outcome before an action happens.

                  Chumash is full of all sorts of metaphors that seem to anthropomorphize God. Reached out a finger, hand of God, God got angry… etc. All of those are metaphors. Thinking that God gets angry is just as prohibited a thinking that God actually has a physical hand or finger.

                  The truth is that WE are metaphors for larger concepts. We have a right hand to represent and teach us about higher concepts, and chumash uses that same sort of metaphoric language.

                  God didn’t regret the flood, God just promised us that it wouldn’t happen again.

                  We can’t define much at all about God, only what God is NOT since God is infinite and infinity is an impossible concept for the human mind to grasp.

                  This is a good shiur on the topic by a rosh yeshiva with an extremely advanced secular scientific education: http://torahlectures.com/view-6650.aspx

              • Puzzled July 10, 2010, 9:47 PM

                I agree entirely that it’s not the forum for that, which is why I don’t want to argue whether or not it happened. What I want to take issue with is the idea that those of us who don’t think it happened are less authentic or are not practicing Judaism. I won’t go so far as to say that orthodoxy is not authentically Jewish, but I will say that this claim can be made just as easily as the ever-so-popular opposite. On your bullet points:
                * I’ve read Nietzsche, but I didn’t just read the early works. I’ve also, though, read the Bible and encountered a very different God, at least in Genesis. It is interesting that the God of the Torah is so readily recognizable as a childish type of belief to you… I think, for the record, that there are a variety of perfectly adult understandings of God, but not all are consistent with TMS. If you accept TMS, then some conceptions (pantheism, for instance) don’t work. I do think, though, that there are plenty of conceptions (both of God and of morality) which are consistent with TMS and in which morality is separate from God.
                *Define a Rav. The critique I’d offer in general is that there is more to Judaism than halacha, and that halacha is actually a rather late development which took authentic notions in Judaism and inappropriately concretized them.
                *Correct, you can’t be an arbiter of a system you don’t accept. The point is that giving the ‘halachic’ answer, the answer from inside that system, doesn’t complete the discussion of the issue.

            • Yosh July 9, 2010, 10:41 AM

              (2nd post, on your other point) Again, this site probably isn’t the best forum for this discussion (it’s a site about the internals of the frum world, not to fight about it’s basic premises), but I can’t help but answer:

              “I care about any of this because you believers create an image that those who do not accept that story are not Jewish and not practicing Judaism.”
              -A person who grew up secular, but doesn’t steal may very well be living their lives more in accordance with the Torah than an FFB who keeps Shabbos/kashrut/tefillin but cheats on his taxes. Life is complicated and only Hashem sees the big picture.

              Is a non-frum Jew Jewish? Of course. However, is a Jew “practicing Judaism” when they drive on Shabbat, or steal, or eat a cheeseburger, or cheat on their wife? Absolutely not.

              “Further, we care because you use your story to undermine our Jewish brethren in various ways.”
              -How exactly? Do we take away n0n-frum people’s jobs? Do we make it harder for you to live your life in the way you see fit? Does the very fact that someone out there says that a Jew who does not keep Shabbat is not acting according to Torah values bother you so much that it literally “undermines” you? The only example I can even come up with is the subsidies for kollel learners in Israel; but Israel is a quasi-socialist state that subsidies a ton of things individual citizens may not want to be paying for.

              • Puzzled July 11, 2010, 8:17 PM

                As I think you know, the rabbinate in Israel controls many aspects of private life, including marriage. In their infinite wisdom, they do not accept conservative converts, or couples who may marry in conservative Judaism but not in orthodox Judaism, but do accept converts from gedolim who have a minor flaw in that they extort sex from their converts.

                Anyway, the stealing comparison is nowhere near the point, and your other response is simply a reiteration of the problem. It is your belief that the halacha uniquely defines what it means to act Jewish. All you’ve done here is restate that belief, not defend it.

        • JT July 8, 2010, 2:42 PM

          A Kohen can’t mary a convert…why would he not be able to marry a born-Jewish BT? Is she a grusha also?

          • Yosh July 8, 2010, 2:56 PM

            Most people don’t know about this, but if you sleep with a non-Jew (some poskim say this only applies if you LIVE with a non-Jew, not sleep with one, but a lot say sleep with) you’re considered a zonah, which means a Kohen can’t marry you. It’s not a very well known halacha.

            That makes it MUCH harder for BT Kohenim to get married, especially if they’re over 30. It also really sucks for the occasional couple who did nothing wrong in the context of their non-religious lives.

            • Anonymous July 9, 2010, 12:59 AM

              but nobody can prove she is not a virgin, they would need several witnesses to testify. you can claim she is and nobody will know otherwise, your kids will be accepted.

              btw, this isn’t ‘on topic’, is it true a cohen can have kids with a non-jewish prostitute and as long as he doesn’t live with their mother his kids will be accepted?

              • Waldo July 9, 2010, 1:52 AM

                1. The kids would be Goyim.

                2. Kannoim pog’im bo- while sleeping with a gentile is not an act punishable by beis din, someone who does basically deserves for someone to pull a pinchas on him.

                3. hiring a prostitute to have kids doesn’t exactly seem like the ticket to acceptance.

                4. The kohen may make himself a challal by sleeping with a gentile(I think, though it may be only actualy living with her) – he basically forgoes his kohen status for himself as well as for any future jewish sons he may have.

                So in summation… it is not true.

                • Puzzled July 9, 2010, 8:22 AM

                  There ya go. How often do we hear talk about only believers having reason to believe in morality and so on, only to see the claim that if you sleep with a non-Jew, you deserve to die.

                  I don’t think 4 is quite right. First, my understanding is that the rights of a Kohen are only lost for doing things that are specifically forbidden to a Kohen. Any Jewish man is forbidden from sleeping with a gentile, so it shouldn’t cost him the rights. Also, halachically a forbidden marriage never takes effect.

                  • Yosh July 9, 2010, 9:43 AM

                    Agreed. #4 is not correct. You only lose Kohen status for doing something specifically forbidden to a Kohen, and I’m pretty sure you get it back when you stop. So if a Kohen marries a widow/convert etc, his kids are not and never will be Kohenim, but if he divorces her, he’s still a Kohen. Also, I’ve heard that every Jew is required to force him to divorce his non-acceptable wife.

                    Side note, you can’t serve in the temple with certain noticeable physical disfigurements although you and your kids are still Kohanim.

              • Puzzled July 9, 2010, 8:19 AM

                Generally a BT is seeking the truth and wants to behave in an upright manner, not go around lying. There is a story of Reb Moshe that he was MK for a Kohen and a baales teshuvah. Before the wedding, the woman’s mother said “I have to tell you something…” and he cut her off, saying that since she is not an acceptable witness, all she’d be doing is telling gossip.

              • Yosh July 9, 2010, 10:02 AM

                Unlike ger/divorce, the “zonah” category is very fuzzy. I’ve been told personally by a pretty big rosh yeshiva that it’s bedieved ok once you’re married. Say, if your father is non-frum, you don’t have to ask your mother who she slept with in college. You’re considered a Kohen. However, once you’re frum, you should obey the rules about it. A lot of poskim at BT yeshivas are maykel about it, but not all. The one at my yeshiva told the guys there that unless your father duchened (and his father, etc) you shouldn’t consider yourself as having the mesorah that you’re Kohanim – which disqualifies a number of BTs. He also was pretty strict on the definition of a zonah, where others we more lax about it and said it was ok as long as the girl didn’t LIVE with her non-Jewish boyfriend or wouldn’t ask about it. However, BT seminaries do tell their girls to tell their shadchunim if they’re eligible to marry a Kohen or not before they start dating.

                • Puzzled July 10, 2010, 9:49 PM

                  A thought on this – I thought that when a person does teshuva, the sin becomes a merit? So, when a person does teshuva for past sexual exploits, why isn’t she allowed to marry a Kohen?

          • Debbie Far Rockaway July 8, 2010, 9:10 PM

            A kohen can’t marry a girl who had sex with someone she would not have been allowed to marry, such as a goy. It is my understanding that it is assumed (however it may be wrongfully so) that after a certain age a non-frum woman has slept with men and, if not frum, may have slept with a goy.

            Personally, I think that if the BT is truly now frum, she should just be asked if this is the case, and if she says it’s not, she should be believed as well as any FFB girl would be believed.

      • Frumsatire Fan July 8, 2010, 3:47 PM

        Of course I’m not saying I can understand everything, and I agree with you that women not being able to put on tefillin isn’t such a grave thing after all. I don’t think anyone gets insomnia about it. But I wouldn’t see all the things you mention as comparable – people losing jobs or getting cancer isn’t related to a halachic problem. I’m not saying I can figure things out by myself, either; my point is that the tradition contains different voices, and some rabbis could disagree with others. It’s not up to me, but “someone who knows better” than me could make room for women to wear tefillin if they want to, from within Torah judaism. I’m just saying that’s a possibility.

  • Batya from Shiloh July 8, 2010, 11:14 AM

    And men should get pregnant.

    • Heshy Fried July 11, 2010, 5:47 PM

      If it feels anything like my stomach after a 3 day yuntiff I want no part in it.

  • Anonymous July 8, 2010, 12:04 PM

    The reason why women don’t wear tefillin is due to “Guf Naki”, i.e. the fear of an emission of some type.

    Men who have similar issues are also not allowed to wear tefillin.

    • Mahla July 8, 2010, 12:46 PM

      “Fear of an emission of some type”?

      • Dovybear July 8, 2010, 1:01 PM

        Basically, to show respect for the mitzvah, there are several laws about, well, hygiene really, so for example, you can’t urinate, fart, etc. whilst wearing tefillin. Because a woman can’t be sure that she won’t start menstruating whilst wearing (nothing to do with nidda… just the fact that the blood renders the body unclean [in the normal, not religious sense]), the accepted practice was that women don’t wear tefillin. A guy with diarrhoea or incontinence won’t put on tefillin either.

        • Question July 8, 2010, 1:05 PM

          So does this mean that a women who has gone through menopause, and there is no question about when she will menstruate, can where tefillin? What about a woman on the pill (whether she should be using birth control is a completely different discussion) who knows the exact dates of her menstruation?

        • Puzzled July 8, 2010, 1:46 PM

          Is it not more likely that a man will fart at a given moment than that a woman will start to menstruate? By your logic, then, kal vochemer a man cannot wear tefillin either.

          • Dovybear July 8, 2010, 6:03 PM

            A man can stop himself farting, a woman can’t stop herself menstruating… And do you know what a kal vachomer is? Coz your argument isn’t one…

            • Puzzled July 9, 2010, 8:25 AM

              A man is more likely to fart than a woman is to begin menstruating at a given moment. The claim is that a woman is forbidden from wearing them (which Rashi’s daughters apparently hadn’t heard) because of the probability that she might menstruate. Therefore, anything with a higher probability should also count as a disqualification, so the man also shouldn’t be allowed to fart. This is certainly the form of a kal vachomer. You might challenge the content, as you did, by the distinction of the ability to control, although I personally question this ability to control farts.

              • Dovybear July 10, 2010, 11:54 PM

                A kal vachomer is a very precisely defined logical process. For example, to say that if Andy is shorter than Bob, and Bob is shorter than Charlie thenwe would say kal vachomer Andy is shorter than Charlie. We would not say that kal vachomer Andy is a midget, as we do not have the neccessary information to deduce that. We can also not make any qualitative halachik statements, for example that someting should be more or less ossur, as that does not fall within our boundaries. So to say that since a man is more likely to fart at any given moment thatn a woman is to menstruate (by the way this is also untrue, it is a common logical fallacy know as the gambler’s fallacy, the odds for both are equal, 50%…) should make it ossur (not the word I used by the way) for a man to wear tefillin falls outside the definition of kal vachomer. About Rashi’s daughter’s, no-one said it was forbidden for women to wear tefillin, just that it was accepted practice for them not to. Note how Rashi’s daughter’s did NOT wear tzitzis… R’ Yehuda’s wife wore tzitzis, but not tefillin. I have not found a documented case of a woman wearing both before the feminist movement.

                • Puzzled July 12, 2010, 10:35 AM

                  First, I have to question your math here. The probability of a woman menstruating at a particular moment is certainly not .5. I’m guessing your reasoning for that is desired outcome/possible outcomes=1/2, but that only holds if the outcomes are for the individual events are all equally likely, which is not the case here. A better model would be a Poisson distribution, but certainly the probability also varies by time of the month or, to universalize it, time into menstrual cycle. This has nothing to do with the gambler’s fallacy, which is the claim that if something has not happened for a long time, say getting heads, where probability suggests it should, then it becomes more likely. If you got heads every 30 days on average, the reasoning would change.

                  Now, on the kal vachomer, thank you for the explanation, although it seems a bit unnecessary since I went to yeshiva and know what you’re saying. I don’t think I committed either of the two logical fallacies you mention, though. It would follow that Andy is a midget if we also knew that Charlie is a midget, and if your opening case was that the lower probability event is actually ossur, it follows perfectly well that the higher probability event is too. I haven’t made any claims about more or less ossur either, just the reasons for something being ossur. Either we worry about a low probability event, or we don’t. If we do, then we should worry about anything more likely than the event we’re worrying about.

        • Yosh July 8, 2010, 2:25 PM

          That’s not the source I learned for women not wearing tallis/tefilin.

  • Question July 8, 2010, 12:59 PM

    There has been a lot of talk about women being exempt from the mitzvot of tallis and tefillin, and some discussion that according to the Orthodox community women are not supposed to wear tallis and tefillin. However, I have not seen a halakhic source that says women are forbidden to wear tallis and/or tefillin.

  • Jew July 8, 2010, 10:55 PM

    I learned it a while ago so I can’t quote the exact seif but in hilchos tefillin it definitel says women are chayuv in tefillin and in hilchos tzitzis it says the same thing. Various reasons are given, among them that they are mitzvos asei shehazman grama, that women can’t maintain the guf naki that halocha requires, and even (and these are the words of the holy shulchan oruch harav) that it would be (loosely translated) a tremendous chutzpa for women (that want to behave like men) to put on tzitzis. Because they have to go out of their way to get a beged that requires it and even further go out of their way to put it on to be mkayem a mitzvah they are not obligated in to begin with.

    So yes while there might be discussions in theory about it in chazal, once it was codified in shuchan oruch and accepted by the people, there’s really no more argument anymore about the halocha.

    • Puzzled July 9, 2010, 8:26 AM

      Nobody here but us careful critical thinkers…

  • Jew July 8, 2010, 10:56 PM

    I apologize I missed the important word “not” in my first sentence up there. Women are definitely NOT michuyiv in mitzvas tefillin or tzitzis.

  • Shira Salamone July 9, 2010, 2:27 PM

    Wow, I get busy at the office, and, by the time I see that my guest post has been published (I apologize for the formatting errors), there are already 64 comments !

    JT July 8, 2010 at 11:49 AM
    . . . There are always Rabbis we dont hold by, and Rabbis that some of us hold by and some of us dont (see: kitniyot, e.g.). Yes, elu velu, but cant you see a role for the God-given human intellect in propagating the halakhic system over the years? An intellect that has been known to err?

    That’s pretty much my point, JT. We say “chonen ha-daat,” thanking HaShem for given me knowledge every day. If we don’t use our brains, it’s a b’rachah l’vatala (a “wasted” blessing that takes G-d’s name in vain). I look to the rabbis for guidance, but I don’t think they’re infallible, and I won’t stop thinking for myself.

    “Frumsatire Fan July 8, 2010 at 10:53 AM
    If we believe that G-d inspired people to find different interpretations of the Torah, argue with one another, etc., why cant we believe that we, now, can be part of the same process? That is, engaging in halakhic arguments and sometimes disagree with what some people said in the past. If mattan Torah is an unfolding process, not doing that would mean a big loss for us. . . . ”

    Amen!

    “Sam July 8, 2010 at 4:31 AM
    I dont understand why a woman would feel strange reading a part of the Torah that isnt applicable to her. What happens when she hears the kriat hatorah that prohibits shaving off ones beard? . . .”

    I don’t have a beard, so it’s irrelevant. On the other hand, when the rabbis were writing Birkat HaMazon/Grace after Meals, did they think that praising G-d for food was also “not applicable” to women? How else can you explain their inclusion of the line “al britcha sheh-chatamta bi-v’sareinu,” for the covenant that is sealed in our flesh.” Excuse me?! How’s a woman supposed to say *that* one?!

    My point is that the rabbis of old don’t seem to have given much thought to the idea that women might actually wish to pray. From my perspective, the same goes for tallit and tefillin–the rabbis nonchalantly excluded half the Jewish people from wearing them, as if prayer garments were of no interest to half the Jewish people. That’s what’s wrong with the Soloveitchik story of the woman and the tzitzit-less tallit: He totally missed the fact that she found that it enhanced her kavvanah (focus on prayer) to wear a special garment while praying. Wearing a special beged for prayer most certainly is *not* pointless!

    • Observer July 9, 2010, 5:01 PM

      Prayer garment? “Al kanfei bigdaihem l’dorotam.” I see “corners,” I see “your garments.” Where did this prayer garment business come from?

      • Puzzled July 9, 2010, 5:35 PM

        Even in rabbinic Judaism customary understandings have validity. Certainly it is clear that the tallis gadol has been treated as a prayer garment since, well, a long time.

    • Dovybear July 11, 2010, 12:07 AM

      Sorry, but you missed the point of the story entirely, a begged without tzitzis to pray has nothing to do with the mitzva of tzitzis; you can say ba ba black sheep before praying if you think you’ll get more kavannah, I don’t care, and if you call being mevatel a mitzvas assei a spritually uplifting experience then you do need to rethink your position vis-a-vis Judaism and the practice thereof. What Rabbi Soleveitchik was saying was that this woman was not really interested in the mitzva per se (which is why she professed to being spritually uplifting by something which was nothing to do with what she calined to want) but rather in the anything you can do I can do better mentality that is the basis of post-modern feminism.
      About your comments on bris mila in birkas hamozon; a blind man says pokeach ivrim in the morning, a ger says shelo asani nachri… The halacha that bris should be said in birkas hamazon is learnt from a passuk, it was not the rabbis invention (it’s so easy to blame them for almost anything…). Oh, by the way that bracha in birkas hamazon was written by Yehoshua, not the rabbis.
      You know, when the Torah gives miztvos that can only be perfomed by women I don’t hear many men crying that they feel left out of a spiritual experience.

  • Shira Salamone July 11, 2010, 1:36 AM

    Observer, I think Puzzled answered the tallit gadol question. I also think that a legitimate case could be made that tefillin are prayer garments, since it’s the accepted practice that few folks wear them except at Shacharit (the minimum requirement being that they be worn for Sh’ma and the Amidah prayer).

    “What Rabbi Soleveitchik was saying was that this woman was not really interested in the mitzva per se (which is why she professed to being spritually uplifting by something which was nothing to do with what she calined to want)”

    I may not care for that explanation, but at least I understand the logic now.

    “a blind man says pokeach ivrim in the morning, a ger says shelo asani nachri”

    Blind people and converts are relative minorities in the Jewish community as a whole, and the rabbis may not have wanted them to feel singled out. Brit milah, on the other hand, applies to only half the community, so I don’t think these prayer quotes are comparable.

    “The halacha that bris should be said in birkas hamazon is learnt from a passuk, it was not the rabbis invention (its so easy to blame them for almost anything). ”

    Guilty as charged re blaming the rabbis. On the other hand, since I was not blessed with a yeshiva education, I’d appreciate it if you would kindly tell me where to find that pasuk.

  • Anonymous July 11, 2010, 2:07 AM

    On the other hand, DovyBear, let’s go back to an earlier comment of yours:

    Dovybear July 8, 2010 at 12:43 PM
    If you want to start quoting Rabbi Soleveitchik, then I refer you to the fact that he was quite against women wearing tzitzis and tefillin. There is a famous story of a woman who once came to him and asked to put on tzitzis. He replied Look, dont just jump in, why dont you start small, just wear the begged without the tzitzis on and come back in a few days. She did so. When he asked her how it felt, she answered Wonderful, it was so spiritual!, to which he retorted Funny that, not only is wearing the begged without tzitzis pointless, its also a bittul mitzvas assei. Get the point?”

    I’ve heard it said that that whole situation was a set-up. Whatever the woman had said or done would have met with Soloveichik’s disapproval. If she’d refused to wear the pasul tallit, the Rav might have said that she was defying his rabbinic authority.

    • Puzzled July 11, 2010, 8:19 PM

      What is the point of the story? To lower people’s perceptions of the Rav as a kind man? (Full disclosure – my rabbi was a talmid of the Rav. R’Aaron was rosh yeshiva of my high school. I love the Rav. I don’t see what value repeating this story has.)

      • Puzzled July 12, 2010, 10:37 AM

        By the way, the story seems to reflect more on the Rav’s general philosophy than anything in particular about this discussion. The Rav was suspicious of spiritual feelings. That’s a big part of the point of distinguishing between halachic man and religious man, and to say that halachic man is closer to cognitive man than to religious man. The foil here is generally chassidut outside of Chabad, but we can easily see how he applied it here, and to women’s minyanim and the like.

  • Sarah July 11, 2010, 5:23 AM

    Hmmm. I just think about being part of klal yisrael as a whole, which means some of us do those mitzvos and I envision the kavana they have as they perform them.

    Never bothered me.

    But hey like people say, there are Rabbis who approve of putting on talis and tefilin – why does it have to become a crusade? I’m not convincing you, why do you have to convince me? That’s when the whole feminist thing becomes a question.

  • Shira Salamone July 11, 2010, 2:18 PM

    “Im not convincing you, why do you have to convince me? Thats when the whole feminist thing becomes a question.”

    Sarah, the title that *I* gave to this guest post was “Looking for an open door.” It was not my intention to seek “converts,” merely to give Heshy’s readers something to think about. Heshy’s own e-mail was my inspiration–he said that he’d never thought about what women are supposed to look at and wrap themselves in while saying Sh’ma, and I assume that he’s not the only one. I just wanted to present a different perspective. Obviously, many, if not most, women–even among egalitarians, for the record–are, and will continue to be, more comfortable with the tradition of women not wearing tallit and/or tefillin (some egalitarian women wear tallit but not tefillin), and that’s fine with me.

  • FrumGer July 11, 2010, 2:42 PM

    Just thinking of it, and even men dont wear tefillin and hold our tzitis everytime we recite the Shma. During Maariv, we do none of that stuff so the logic she uses is flawed. We recite Shma during Maariv and dont have anything on our hand, nothing our fore head and no Tzitis in our hand. Yet the words in the Shma are the same. Just shows you the prerequisite is not absolute. So if we as men only do it half the time its not a stretch to think that women dont have to do it any of the time her logic is very flawed indeed.

  • Michal August 3, 2010, 6:31 AM

    The hebrew grammar does say ‘B’ney Yisra’el’ the children of Israel (masculine plural) but it does not anywhere in the entire Tanakh condemn the binding of Hashems words on a womans arm or head.

    If an unmarried woman wishes to feel closer to HaShem by literally ‘binding’ his words to her arm and having the words as ‘an emblem between the eyes’ I have no issues with it. It has been said that, until the Talmud era, both men and women carried outALL the mitzvot as well as being a mother and a wife or a husband and a father.

    The same with Tallit katan; it is worn to remind its wearer of all HaShems mitzvot and keep them from straying. Women are as guilty as men when it comes to going after their own heart, although men are more prone to it. So what is wrong with a woman wearing a tallit katan so she does not stray from HaShem’s mitzvot?

    As an unmarried woman, I wear both Tefillin during morning prayers and a tallit katan during sunlight and I am happy and at peace when I know there is a reminder of the almighty and the Mitzvot layed down in the Torah for everyone. I also wear them as a reminder of the deliverance from Matzrayim; the amazing thing Adonnai did for us and it also reminds me of Shoah. Although our people have suffered, the Almighty has always heard our prayers and answered us. Michal, Sauls daughter was said to have donned Tefillin, and the sages said nothing.

    Chavah was made from Adams rib, not his spine. Surely this is a clear signal that men and women are to stand together in life.

    If anyone can show me a passage from the Tanakh, where women are told not to do these things, I will eat my Kippah.
    As for the replies of men and women should not wear each others clothes, a tallit katan, tallit gadol, tefillin and even kippot can be made especially for women by being smaller and of feminine colours and shapes.

  • Garet Benson September 12, 2010, 5:59 AM

    Shira,
    You are clearly a cherished Jew seeking Hashem with your heart and soul. We all have questions, even the frumest of the frummies, but the wise wo/man realizes the answers are elusive.
    I’ve often asked myself a different version of your question: what is a man supposed to think when he says those words while reciting Krias Shema at night or on Shabbos? There are logical answers to both of our questions, but they’re not the kind of facile issues that can be resolved online.
    But to get started grappling with your question, you might want to take a glance at the answer at the bottom of this page: http://www.jdoorpost.com/questions/tefillin-faq/

  • Sarah January 14, 2014, 1:44 AM

    My Hassidic Rabbi teacher, on the topic of men and women throwing bottles at women for wearing tallits:
    “I don’t know what they’re getting worked up about. Women can wear them if they want to.”
    Making a thing forbidden, even when it is not, only serves to advertise the practice and entice people to want to do it more and galvanizes them to fight for it.
    Case in point: So few Conservative women are wearing them that the liberal wing has spent the last 6 years trying to drum up support for forcing women to be equally obligated, whether they want to be or not. Seems that it is not just the Orthodox who wish to distort the plain sense of the texts to enforce a gender agenda.
    I can see that 18% falling to a much lower number the day they do that.
    Next thing the liberal wing will demand is that I grow something they can circumcise.

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