Thursday, December 30, 2004

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow! 

Well, I have a new toy ... I learned how to upload pictures to the blog.

Below is an example of Israeli know-how. The township of Kfar Saba, in order not to deprive its children of the wonders of winter, sends dump trucks to Mt. Hermon in the Golan when it snows and brings its bounty down south.

Hey, if you can have an indoor pool in NYC when its 25 degrees, we can have a snowball fight in the center of Israel when its a balmy 70. Posted by Hello

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A melting mound of snow - Kfar Saba town square Posted by Hello

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Tamar Ross and Pesaq 

There is an interesting exchange in the current Edah Journal between Yoel Finkelman and Tamar Ross regarding Ross's book "Expanding the Palace of Torah: Orthodoxy and Feminism". I would like to focus on Ross's response.

The general theme running through Ross's response is the desire to work as an "insider" in order to give a theological-philosophical basis to what essentially would be an Orthodox pesaq that is independent of the fundamentalist-haredi worldview that dominates most pesaqei-Halakhah.

Whereas today, we assume that the more machmir (stringent) point of view is the "more religious" one and is always "more pleasant in the eyes of God" this does not always mesh with our tradition. Was Hillel really less religious than Shammai? Were his lenient rulings a compromise with the Word of God? Would God have been happier had the tradition determined Halakhah according to Shammai?

Ross states this argument in terms of the revelation and the human (in this case Moshe Rabbenu's) role in transmitting and interpreting it. There is an argument as to therole Moshe played in transmitting hterevelation. Was he a scribe, or did he write? "The problem is", she writes, "… the selective reading of present day Orthodoxy, which prefers to ignore all those Midrashic sources that speak, for example or the role that Moshe Rabbenu's active input ,,, had in transmitting the word of God".

The fundamentalist critique of non-fundamentalist interpretations of Torah, events and Halakhah center on the "selective" reading of Torah by the non-fundamentalists. The claim against changes in the synagogue, the Torah curriculum for girls and the place of women generally are based on the claim that these run counter to the word of God as revealed to Moses at Sinai.

In other words, the fundamentalist view is that a "close reading of texts" by a select few carriers of the tradition can result in a pesaq that would be the same as that of Moshe Rabbenu's – which would have been based in his writing down the word of God.

But, as Ross argues, "…the decisions of poseqim regarding when to employ 'the open playfulness of midrash aggadah' … and when to limit themselves only to close readings of texts and their minutiae are themselves judgments that poseqim make daily".

In other words, the fundamentalist view of how pesaq ought to be done is not how they actually do it. And if we can push this one step further, the way the Yeshivot learn Torah (by the predominant Brisker method, at least) is even further from the fundamentalist view of how pesaq ought to be done (is this one of the reasons for the fierce opposition of the Chazon Ish to R. Haym of Brisk?).

Ross's claims to be on the "inside" of the Halakhic process and not a radical outsider, ring true.

The problem to me of the fundamentalist outlook is its attempt to remove Judaism from ITS OWN history – to act like radical environmentalist and to return the Halakhah to an imagined pristine, revealed state.

Ross would like to return pesaq to its historical place of serving communities. The problem with the fundamentalist poseqim is that in the haredi worldtheir communities (in Israel at least) are artificial: Having withdrawn from the world around them they don't face the problems and dilemmas that the rest of us face: And in the religious-Zionist world, they often live in a messianic wonderland. For this reason, modern-Orthodox poseqim must free themselves of the pressure of their fundamentalist colleagues.

As Ross writes: " … I do believe that those of us who are attuned to the role of history, sociology, politics, and all sorts of other extraneous factors in determining what the insiders see as objective meaning no longer have the option of turning back and retrieving innocence lost with regard to the Halakhists own self-understanding. For this reason I believe that Halakhic decision making in the twenty-first century among the modern Orthodox (in contrast to the haredi community) is destined to be much more self-aware and that the poseqim of this community will be called upon increasingly by their constituents to lay their cards on the table and to articulate clearly the reasoning and hierarchy of values that inform decisions that, from a formal point of view, could readily go in several directions. They will have to explain why sheitels are in and women's tefillah groups are out for the moment, despite the inadequacy of the motivation argument. They will have to persuade us why precedents for resolving the plight [of] women denied Halakhic divorce by their husbands should be ignored while more questionable justifications for relying upon unprecedented definitions of eruv can be applied to even populated an area as Manhattan and relied upon. But this does not mean that their decisions will be more 'subjective' than that of their compatriots. The only difference will be their awareness of the fact." (empahasis mine)

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

More on Religion and Tidal Waves 

Some interesting links on religious responses to the Indian Ocean tragedy, collected by Ann Althouse, a wonderful blogger from Madison, Wisconsin.

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Tidal Waves, Myths and One God 

The earthquake and subsequent tidal waves that struck the Indian Ocean and surrounding countries this week gives us a clue as to the origin of ancient myths and the pagan belief system. Without a scientific explanation as to the "what" and "how" it is difficult to imagine a rational response to the "why" and the "what for".

Monotheism gave us the origins of scientific thought by trying to explain natural events as something other than the whimsical happenings of the gods. Monotheistic concepts like objective measures of "reward and punishment" and the doing of good deeds may not comfort us in these modern and post-modern days, but long ago it provided a sense of order and personal responsibility to the pagan alternative described so well in the epics of Homer and others.

As we look to the East this week and pray for the survivors and the victims we can also thank God that we live in a world of science tempered by the humility of those who believe in one God.

NOTE: Read this post at Fourth Rabbi for a facinating account of survival.

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Job and the Rabbis 

For those like me, who have a longtime fascination with the Book of Job, Avigdor Shinan has a review (Hebrew version of review) of "Job and the Book of Job in Rabbinic Literature" by Hananel Mack, Bar-Ilan University Press (book written in Hebrew).

Job is probably the only major Biblical character upon which there is no consensus among the Rabbis as to his rightousness. There are those who thought him married to Dinah, those who put in at the time of Abraham and those who say he never existed.

As Shinan writes:

" 'Job and the Book of Job in Rabbinic Literature' contains a wealth of information, painstakingly gathered, and intricate details on different issues related to Job and his family: his nationality (was he an Israelite?), his origins (where is the Land of Uz, if such a territory in fact exists?), the era in which he lived (during the period of the Patriarchs or during the Return to Zion period, when the Second Temple was built?), his wife and sons and daughters, his friends, major events in his life, his spiritual image, etc.All of the above is presented by means of broad examples and in clear formulations. A brief survey such as this review article cannot possibly encompass the book's richness. I will thus make do with noting what seems to be Mack's most interesting and important innovation. I am referring to Chapter 7, 'Job in Rabbi Yohanan's Eyes.' In this chapter, Mack shows how Rabbi Yohanan, a third-century scholar in the Land of Israel, outdoes other rabbinic scholars in the amount of attention he devotes to Job and displays limitless empathy for this biblical hero - as opposed, for instance, to Rava, a Babylonian scholar who expresses explicit hostility toward Job. Rabbi Yohanan states that Job was one of those who returned to the Holy Land from the Diaspora and that 'his academy was in Tiberias' (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra Tractate, page 15a), the same city where Rabbi Yohanan headed an academy. Using a parable, Rabbi Yohanan states that Job's suffering was not due to any sin or error he had committed; Satan wanted to harm Job, and God gave him a free hand to prove how righteous Job really was (this is apparently a literal explication of the biblical text).'Job was the most righteous person in his era' is a statement attributed to Rabbi Yohanan (Deuteronomy Rava, section 2, subsection 4). Rabbi Yohanan even goes so far as to say: 'Job is praised more highly than Abraham. Regarding Abraham, we read `thou fearest God' [Genesis 22:12], whereas, regarding Job, we read `that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil' [Job 1:1]" (Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra Tractate, page 15b). "

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Snow Purity 

During a lull in the tephila this past Shabbat I was glancing at one of the gazillions of Parshat Hashavua (Weekly Portion) sheets that pretend to be words of Torah and are distributed to the synagogues throughout Israel. In this particular one was an advertisement for a "Kosher L'mehadrin" ski vacation in Switzerland.

In addition to a "special meat dinner", kosher bakery, two other kosher meals a day, ski lift tickets and ski lessons, your $999 will also get you seven nights and a private Mikva!

I am not sure if this is meant for Hasidic and other men who need a daily dip or if it is offered to assure couples that, irregardless of the time of the month, they won't have to go without ….

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Friday, December 24, 2004

Right Attitude, Wrong Passport 

It seems that the Egyptian International Arab Film Festival is not allowing films by Israeli-Arabs due to the fact that they are financed by the Israeli government. Of course, the whole Israeli film industry is subsidized by the government so we can imagine the outcry if Arab language film was not also on the dole.

But that is not the only reason, apparently. Ha'aretz reports that according to Egypitan publicist Ahmed Muataz: "In Egyptian eyes, the Arabs in Israel have become a target for suspicion, doubt, accusation and hatred …"

The defenders of the right of Israeli-Arabs to participate do not use arguments based on freedom of expression or brotherly love. Rather, the claim is that Israeli-Arabs (or at least Israeli-Arab filmmakers) are just as anti-Semitic as their non-Israeli brethren.

Ha'aretz again: "The decision puts the Israeli Arabs in the same boat with the Jews. It is a strange decision, considering the aspiration for Arab unity," wrote Muataz in response. "There are Israeli Arab towns that are a source of terror for Israel, such as Umm al-Fahm. Every time there is talk of peace arrangements, Israel proposes the transfer of that city to the Palestinian Authority," he added, offering proof that Arab Israelis are not exactly Israelis and should not be considered "suspicious elements," particularly when many Arab works "annoy Tel Aviv [the Israeli government]."

It really is wrong to discriminate against God-fearing, practicing anti-Semites just because they happen to live in a certain country – that could be deemed racist, and we wouldn't want racism in the Mideast, would we?

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Egos, Shame and Jewish Stars 

Those opposed to the Hitnatkut (unilateral withdrawal from Gaza) have crossed the line in using a Magen David patch (albeit an orange one and not a yellow one) to demonstrate their plight. We have discussed the plan in its moral dimensions a short while ago (The Hitnatkut and the End of Days: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and warned against messianic pretensions.

But, as is all too common in Israeli politics, whether of the left or right, religious or secular, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, the apocalypse has reared its ugly head once again. For the opponents to compare themselves even symbolically to the victims and survivors of the Nazi holocaust shows an egocentricity that does not serve their cause well.

We in Israel are used to tasteless displays of self-righteousness and the Shoah and its symbols have been used by others eager to shame their opponents into submission.

Needless to say it is ugly and it never works.

NOTE: The campaign to wear the Orange Magen David has been cancelled due to public pressure.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

On Assisted Suicide 

An interesting counterargument (via A&L Daily) to the "assisted suicide" bill making its way through the House of Lords in the UK: Kevin Yuill lists ten myths about this newfound right. Here is Myth #3:

" Those opposing assisted suicide are a 'small religious minority'.

It is true that many religious groups vehemently oppose the Joffe Bill, but they are not the only ones. They unite with medical representatives and disabled groups, who fear that doctors' judgements about 'quality of life' may imply that their own lives are not worth living.

This is no abstract fear voiced by philosophers such as Baroness Warnock, as Jane Campbell, writing recently in The Times (London), discovered. Campbell, who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a muscle-wasting illness that means she cannot lift her head from her pillow unaided, was hospitalised for a case of pneumonia. The consultant treating her said that he assumed she would not want to be resuscitated should she go into respiratory failure. When she protested that she would like to be resuscitated, she was visited by a more senior consultant who said that he assumed she would not want to be put on a ventilator. According to the Disability Rights Commission, this was not was not an isolated incident. As Campbell says, these incidents 'reflect society's view that people such as myself live flawed and unsustainable lives and that death is preferable to living with a severe impairment' (2).

In fact, it is those calling for legalisation of assisted suicide who tend to espouse New Age religious values. 'Self-deliverance' is the term favoured by Derek Humphry, former Sunday Times journalist and author of the best-selling suicide bible, Final Exit. Delivery to where, Mr. Humphry? Dr Timothy Quill, who admitted in an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that he had helped a patient die, has written a book called A Midwife through the Dying Process. To an atheist (like myself), death is not an 'experience' but the end of all experiences. Do assisted suicide advocates wish simply to replace rituals formerly carried out by priests?

Finally, you need not be Christian to agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury that 'the respect for human life in all its stages is the foundation of a civilised society'."

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Let it Be 

I have always agreed with the notion that we Jews (in the US and abroad) have more to fear from a post-Christian America than from a Christian America. Europe is currently in its post-Christian phase and it doesn’t seem to be much better than it was in its Christian days. It can even be argued that Nazi Germany was the first post-Christian European country.

For those of you in America you tend to remember that you live in a Christian country around Christmastime, when your cosmopolitan gentile neighbors try desperately to help you celebrate Chanukah by eliminating Christmas from the public square. As Charles Krautheimer wrote: “It is Christmastime, and what would Christmas be without the usual platoon of annoying pettifoggers rising annually to strip Christmas of any Christian content?”.

Admittedly, it took me awhile before I felt comfortable wishing my Christian colleagues a “merry Christmas” as opposed to a “Happy Holiday” – but once I did I treated it as an appreciation of the fact that other people might just take their religion as seriously as I did, mine.

If you still feel strange offering your colleague of the store clerk a merry Christmas, just think of how I feel when after buying Challah on Friday morning the salesperson wishes me “sof shavua tov” (nice weekend) instead of a “Shabbat Shalom”.

Let Christmas be Christmas.

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Advice and Descent 

There is nothing more worrisome than a non-elected group which claims to "represent" the views of some or other group. There is nothing scarier when this non-elected group will have a say in policy decisions without having to take any of the responsibilities to either carry them out or suffer the consequences if they fail. The Forward is reporting that the Sharon government and the Jewish Agency are contemplating creating an elitist monster with a big mouth and no teeth, or a "World Knesset".

As one who has advocated stronger ties between Diaspora and Israeli Jews I have no problem with the input of Jews outside of Israel in Israeli policy issues – especially those having to do with world Jewry. However, what is being proposed here is to allow certain Jews speak for others without ever having been chosen. There is no way for free and fair elections to be held in a global population that will have any meaning so we will continue to get the same bunch of loud mouth organization Jews combined with the Bronfman's, Steinhardt's and others who will now assume that they have some authority to speak for others. This absurdity will not add to the debates but will just entrench the powers that be.

How many Jewish organizations and "Consultative" bodies does one small religion need? We already have the budgetary octopus that is the Jewish Agency. We have high salaried "leaders" at the various Jewish Congresses, Committees, Defense Leagues, Funds, Organizations, Briths, Women's Organizations, Zionist Organizations. We have an overabundance of Americans and Jews who are for a Safe, New, Strong, Brave, Just and/or Other Israel.

Enough!! Whoever wants to put his or her two cents into the endless debates that go on in Israel and the world Jewish community can join some organization, write a blog, hold a sign, compose a letter or scream from their rooftop. Whoever wants to vote for a real and not a consultative Knesset can move to Israel, pay its (ridiculously high) taxes, send their sons and daughters to the army and drive its roads.

Our problems are many – a lack of advice is not one of them.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Hanukah Miscellany  

On the way to mincha this past Shabbat afternoon I spied a young guitarist loading his instrument and one of those Habad hanukiyot into his car – what is the order? Car, Havdallah, Guitar , Hanukah candles? …. This is the one year anniversary that the OOS wife and her very In Step friend had their singing debut at the local Publicity Pub, lighting Hanukah candles and leading the drunks in a daring rendition of HaNerot Halallu and Maoz Tzur … Happy hour in Publicity lasts until 11pm!! – 1/2 liter's of draft (about a pint) for only 12 shekel … Although my home team Kfar Saba Twins (10-12 year old league) lost their baseball game in the IAB annual Hanukah Tourney, the OOS Coach came out of retirement and led his son's team from nearby Moshav Tzofit (13-15 year old league) to two come from behind victories on Sunday and a place in the finals tomorrow: Wish us luck … The OOS family will be missing its toughest member as it travels to its annual Hanukah "poor man's ski vacation" for a day of ice skating in the Canada Center in Metulla, Schwarma in Kiryat Shmona and Sabich's in Afula (don't know what a sabich is? You have to taste it first, then ask what's in it – great stuff a Sabich) … This will also be the first year since we became three that the OOS family will lack a picture of all the kids in front of our numerous hanukiyot… In compensation, the OOS mother in-law has provided us with an overabundance of Polish-Californian-Israeli potato latkes, fried in butter … Two more nights left, Chag Sameach to all.

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Kfar Saba in the News 

Kfar Saba is undergoing one of those "happenings" that have some of the local rabbis all in a huff. The recently elected mayor Yeduda Ben-Chamo has done the unthinkable and appointed a woman to head a taxpayer supported public institution that controls millions of Shekels in budgetary powers and provides services to a good part of the town. This council is the wholly important but anachronistic Religious Council (Moetza Datit).

Among their responsibilities are such unwomanly activities as building and maintaining the local mikvahs, allocating money to various religious-educational projects, helping local synagogues and local kashrut. Throughout our history as a people it has been unthinkable that a woman should be involved in the education of children, the tending synagogues and the upkeep of mikvahs – I can't imagine what the mayor had in mind when he thought a woman could handle these responsibilities.

In one of the sadder moments, the former chairman of the Religious Council (RC) and member from Shas of the Local Town Council (LTC), Mr. Shimon Peretz called on the disestablishment of the RC since the rabbis are opposed to the mayor's appointment. This is the same man that refused to resign his (paid) position as head of the RC even though by law he was not allowed to hold that position as well as be a member of the LTC since to leave the RC without a head would destroy religion in the town: This is also the same man who at hakafot shniyot (a post Simchat Torah public celebration) during the recent election year got up and yelled at his political opponents, disrupting the celebration: This is also the same man whose corrupt practices and boorish behavior would have shamed the old Mayor Dailey and Tammany Hall.

This is also the same man who is the follower of the Sephardi chief rabbi of Kfar Saba, Rabbi Shlush, who currently holds his position in opposition to the law – yes, he is a resident of Jerusalem and the Chief Rabbi of Kfar Saba. This is also the same man who as head of the RC and therefore head of the Kashrut supervision in the town blackmailed local, and locally owned businesses in its demands to raise its supervision fees by thousands of percent.

But, of course, Mr. Peretz does have a point and the RC should be disbanded. This should be followed by a large tax cut leaving religious services left in the hands of those who desire them. But of course his solution is not to privatize religious services but to move it to a forum where …. shock of shocks, he, good MAN that he is, has budgetary control.

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Jewish Girls and our Expectations of Them 

In the world of professional stock trading there are arguments as to the efficiency of "circuit breakers" in the stock market. Circuit breakers are the price point at which trading is halted so as to prevent a free fall in stick prices – to prevent a stock market crash, so to speak. The main argument against the use of circuit breakers is that it in a strongly falling market it becomes a target, or an expectation – and as they say on the trading floor – "there is no target no matter how low, that a trader will miss". Essentially, that vast population of traders from New York to Minneapolis, to St. Louis to San Francisco loves the expectation of hitting a target. Therefore, the argument against circuit breakers in a freely falling stock market is that it gives the pros a target to hit- and hit it they will.

This is what we have done wit the girls in our modern-Orthodox/religious-Zionist community. It is (nearly) absolutely true here in Israel and I would say that it is so in even the most elite and progressive modern-Orthodox institutions in the US. We set our expectations for girls much lower than that for boys and they are sure to hit their low target, satisfying educators, rabbis and parents.

We have lowered the expectations as to what our daughters must study in order to be declared learned (for a girl) and have set dumbed-down active-mitzvah goals which with which to judge them as pious (as pious girls, that is).

Whereas the daughters of Rashi were held to be holy enough to have worn tefillin (interestingly, this is one of the only legends we were taught as children that today's rabbis have translated into myth) we now in Israel demand of our daughters that they only need to dress "properly" in order to attain the same status.

In an absurdity, the favorite sentence in the Tanach that the rabbis use to prove that girls ought to worry about nothing other than the lack of visible skin comes from Tehilim 45:14: (Hebrew ... English) "kol kvoda bat-melech penima", which speaks not of good Jewish girls and their honor being on the "inside" but of the entrance of the fancily dressed and ornamented non-Jewish bride of a Jewish king!

We have set expectations for our daughters to come to shul on Friday night and to (maybe) arrive an hour or so late on Shabbat morning; to say "techinot" and tehillim in the place of parts of the text of the siddur while we would slap our son's silly if they dare to deviate even one word from the authoritative siddur.

For limud Torah we have set a lowest common denominator as the expectation. Even the girls' schools that teach extra hours of Jewish studies add what is referred to as "emunah" (belief) - an amorphous, unstructured, incomprehensive and decidedly non-rigorous set of courses aimed to strengthen religious "identity", "feeling" and of course "modest practice" without infecting their minds with actual knowledge.

In short the curriculum for our girls' is designed to - as our rabbis of old accused us of being on a daily basis – create a population of "am-ha'ratzim" (amei -ha'aretz – or, the ignorant masses).

I would even go on to speculate that many (most?) or our literate girls are more ignorant of hilchot Shabbat and Kashrut than their semi-literate or illiterate great-grandmothers.

Its all about expectations. What do we expect out of our daughters?

For boys on their Bar-Mitzvah we expect them to read the entire parsha and hartorah in spite of the fact that this has no basis in the Halakhah. For girls, we have almost no expectations of them as they enter the age of mitzvot.

We expect our boys to gain the ability to learn gemara with rashi and tosafot whether it "speaks to them" or not. From our girls, we don't expect them to learn anything that will not be used by them on a daily (or monthly) basis since it will "turn them off".

We expect our boys to pray three times a day and set time in school for the entire tefilah. For our girls (in my daughters school in this upper middle-class Ashkenazi town and in so many others) we expect them to say only those parts of the tefilah (shacharit, that is) which are 100% mandatory. Mincha is not even contemplated.

Our daughters are capable of being and doing exactly what we expect of them. The question is, what do we expect of them?

Note: The OOSJ and the OOS wife would like to thank all the many readers who offered their 'mazel tov' and blessings to us on the Bat Mitzvah of our daughter.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

On Women, Participation and Learning 

For years I have always thought that the fight for women's equality in the Beit Midrash (Study Hall) was more important than the one in the Beit Knesset (Synagogue). I guess it is my mitnagdic-litvak tendencies that sees the study of Torah as more important than prayer. I still think this way but after my daughter's Bat Mitzvah this past Shabbat I have come to appreciate the importance of participation not only in prayer but in other public mitzvot as well.

My wife has been attending women's tefilah groups since our newlywed days in Baltimore back in the early 80's. I have occasionally joined her for the post-tefilah Kiddush but was never present for the tefilah itself. Having witnessed the tefilah this past Shabbat (I peeked in from the kitchen every once in a while and saw and heard the whole Torah reading) I realized that the participation - or even the opportunity to participate is in itself important.

There were some women who were reluctant to take an aliya or other honor (the two grandmothers for example) and that was understandable. For those who agreed, nearly every one agreed with the nervousness of the uninitiated and with the wonderment, joy and trepidation of doing something holy for the first time. And also with thanks for the opportunity to participate in what has always been for them a (literally) back of the room event.

Whereas educationally we are often taught to study something before we do it, in Judaism it is really the opposite. It appears to me that the doing of the mitzvot is a prime motivation for the learning of the Torah. The yeshivot teach "Halakhah l'ma'aseh" (practical Halakhah) in the hope of getting the students to "do" the Halakhic act properly. This though, is getting it backwards.

We first do and only then do we learn about it formally. The "mimetic tradition", as H. Soloveitchik has stated has always been the primary method of transmitting the practical Halakhah to the next generation. Only after we know what Shabbat is by "doing" it, can we properly learn about it. Only by actively keeping a kosher kitchen can we even begin to learn about kashrut.

With girls we deny their participation in the public Halakhah and by this, deny them the motivation to properly learn Torah. For those like me who see the main point in the fight for women's equality in Judaism as being that of the Beit Midrash, we shouldn't ignore the necessity of equality in the Beit Knesset and other public venues.

The cries of "tzniut" (modesty) that are used to deny women any public role - even the most informal one – in Judaism, is nothing other than an excuse since we don't (not in the modern-Orthodox/religious-Zionist world and not in much of the haredi world) deny them this opportunity in non-religious events.

This is not a call for egalitarian synagogues and a movement towards Conservative Judaism, but rather an end to prohibitions of women's participation in synagogues that are based on extra-Halakhic rationales. It is also a call for a full fledged effort to expand the presence of women's tefilla groups in communities where there are none (like Kfar Saba).

Only in this way will orthodox girls and women gain the familiarity, confidence and motivation to not only participate in practical Halakhah but also to learn Torah properly.

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Sunday, December 05, 2004

And on the Seventh Day ... 

…. the walls expanded.

The Out of Step family had the honor of hosting well over 80 women and girls in our modest apartment on a sunny and warm Shabbat for a women's tefilla. The OOS daughter read parshat VaYeshev flawlessly with the confidence of her two older brothers.

We are not sure how we fit everyone in, but we had 82 chairs inside and a bunch on the "mirpeset" (porch). Men filled the kitchen and the porch off of that room as we readied the herring, salads, crackers, pastires, cookies and cakes with the help of some fine Scotch as well as Shira and Rotem. (Men were also invited to partake of the kiddush, of course.) We took a break for kriyat hatorah and the traditional "throwing of the taffies" as the OOS father got teary eyed as our friend J, the gaba'it called the Bat Mitva girl up as the maftirah. The OOS wife/mother also shed a tear or two.

The OOS twin son was nervous for his sister, but gladly threw handfuls of taffies as the haftorah was finished. He was a bit disappointed that we didn't let him put "just ten or so" in the freezer first.

I would have to think that going through the minds' of some of the women (and maybe the BM girls' friends?) was "so, what's the big deal?" – why can't young girls also enter into the age of mitzvot with something other than or in addition to a trip or a party?

More thoughts on women, girls and religion over the next few days.

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