You may notice that I have been posting more and more semi-serious posts, and that is because I feel like it. I also used to post multiple times per day and for some reason I am in that mode once again. I have also been posting quite a bit on my outdoors blog as well.
I was talking to someone the other night on G-Talk and he asked if I could do some sort of review of this progressive orthodox shul in Baltimore. I asked what was so progressive about it, expecting an answer like they have Ben and Jerrys at their Kiddush clubs and coed naked simchat torah dancing. But instead he said that they let the women dance with torahs and give drashas (what every time a bat mitzvahd girl gets up in shul to speak its progressive?) as well. Wow was I shocked, not at the shocking nature of it, but that if that was progressive- my neighborhood shuls growing up must have been mighty progressive.
In fact after 9-11 when they stopped closing down west end avenue on the upper west side for simchat torah celebrations is when I first learned that a majority of communities do not let women dance with the torahs, or even dance at all. I never knew this, because the upper west was the place to be and as far as I knew everyone gave the women torahs to dance to with. For those who have heard of it I attended the West Side Institutional synagogue which was not that left wing- in fact the Kiddush clubs were centered around a bunch of boozed up liberal bashing older men.
I have heard since that women dancing with the torah on simchat torah or at all is assur because of Nida, tznius and a bunch of other generic “we just don’t do that” rhetoric of which is heard about anything which no one wants to cite any sources for. I wasn’t too interested in this topic because it just seems like one of those things that folks in the modern orthodox community disagree with the more Charedi factions of Judaism and this is fine because Judaism is not one size fits all in any sense.
But then I was sitting on a folding chair in the middle of some pot luck meal in Washington Heights over shavuos and someone announced that there would be a megillah reading for all those that missed Ruth that morning. I missed it and was happy to be able to fulfill the mitzvah. So this weird looking fellow with a straw hat like some old foggy out of a barbershop quartet gets up to make the brachos and all the sudden this girl clutching a megillah scroll is off reading Ruth.
Now I have been hearing about women’s megilla readings for years. In Rochester there was on and in many other places they have them. Ruth is about women’s empowerment after all and what a great way to bond and do whatever it is that women do- gossip, eat, share scrapbooks- and read the megilla. But I had never been in the situation of the megilla being read by a women. I couldn’t help but think if I would fulfill the mitzvah or not? I dared not ask, because the last thing you want to do around a bunch of feminists is ask if something’s kosher, because undoubtedly some Doctorate student from JTS will give you her thesis on how men control everything- and they do- not doubting that at all, although a simple sex strike can change that ladies.
So I figured while I searched through the net for sources which would say I fulfilled the mitzvah of megillah I decided to find out a few things. It wasn’t the first time, but over shavuos I also ate a meal where a girl made Kiddush, and I recently ate at a pizza store with 3 girls who made a mezumin- which I already knew was totally fine.
Like most folks I don’t really have an informed opinion on feminism (based on my yeshivas philosophy- its all assur- or we are too lazy to actually find out if its kosher). Is it good or bad for Judaism? I am sure you can argue both ways, many of the feminists I know are very orthodox ladies or girls who want to feel more needed or more involved. I am interested to hear both sides. I can say its bad because when you start messing with tradition, other things get messed with. It can also lead to a general relaxing of halacha, for instance I read in one essay on Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance’s website that you can pretty much peace together multiple sources to find loopholes for women laining and being called to the torah. Obviously if the women find a deeper connection to Judaism and want to practice things not traditionally practiced it could be good as well. Better to have a bunch of pious albeit orthodox feminists then a bunch of intermarried know nothings. Like I said I am only beginning to wonder around the sources.
Interesting halachic sources for the issues above, and I am shocked at how everything above is halachically permissible.