Avodah Mailing List

Volume 04 : Number 051

Thursday, October 21 1999

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 16:10:28 EDT
From: Yzkd@aol.com
Re: Yoatzot and Tzinus

In a message dated 10/20/99 11:27:58 AM EST, richard_wolpoe@ibi.com writes:

>  And the modern trend of having female 
>  gynecologists (or should that be GIRLnecolists <smile>) should be embraced 
>  the RW as giving women an alternative to disrobing for the sake of a 
>  exam.   

It is, when professionalism is not compromised.
>  IOW, the more capable women become in handling their own intimate, 
>  issues w/o needing to escalate to a male poseik or physician, etc. the 
> greater  the degree of tznius.

IMHO (WRT to Psak) Lav Davkoh, as the saying goes don't be Frummer then the 
Shulchan Oruch, (while OTOH the Halacha Bpoel of Tznius Ldavoneinunu needs 
improvement). Dovid Hamelech said Yodee Mluchlochois Bdam Bshfir Ubshilyoh.

>  The time for men to be alarmed about women becoming rabbis might be 
>  if/when they start confirming women to "advise" on issues of Shabbos, etc. 

L'mai Nafkoh Mina? 

Kol Tuv

Yitzchok Zirkind

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 16:29:18 EDT
From: Yzkd@aol.com
Re: boggle

In a message dated 10/20/99 2:20:40 PM EST, driceman@WORLDNET.ATT.NET writes:

> For R.
>  Bechhofer's see the common Talmudic expression "halacha v'ain morin
>  kain"...
>    What puzzles me is how one is to fulfill the mitzvah of Talmud Torah
>  under these conditions...
>  How is one to know that Chazal
>  may not have had a censored, orally transmitted, tradition that a
>  certain passage is to be understood allegorically, and that time has now
>  lifted the need for censorship?

Aren't the Halachas that Ein Morin Kein transmitted in Shaas?

Kol Tuv

Yitzchok Zirkind

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 15:27:52 -0500
From: david.nadoff@bfkpn.com
Unsolicited p'sak

In v4#49, Eli Clark outlines the dispute between the Urim V'tumim and the Netziv
as to whether the principle of "chacham she'asar ayn chavayro rasho'i l'hatir"
when the first chacham acted on his own initiative, without being asked,
to the rishonim holding that the rationale for that principle is "shavya
chaticha d'isura."

I am not familiar with the discussion of this in Shu"t B'nay Banim to which R'
refers, but S'day Chemed (ma'areches ches) mentions this dispute in his
discussion of chacham she'asar and, if I remember correctly, favors the view of
Netziv that chacham sheasar applies even when no sh'ayla is asked (which must
be correct in any case according to the rishonim holding that chacham she'asar
is based on kavod chachamim, rather than shavya chaticha d'isura). 

Before I recieved Micha's (private) darchay no'am alert to cease and desist from
discussion of Chicago eiruv issues, for which I thank him, I wanted to get into
question of how rabanim who permit eiruvim previously forbidden by others deal
with the
problem of chacham she'asar ayn chavayro rasho'i l'hatir. Now that the Chicago
thread is behind us and the subject has come up independantly, I'd like to
pursue that
question simply as a Torah topic, without polemical intent.

As R' Eli's post makes clear, according to the Netziv (and the rishonim who base
priciple of chacham she'asar on kavod chachamim, rather than shavya chaticha
namely, Rashi and the Ran), the problem of permitting a previously forbidden
eiruv exists
whether or not a sha'ayla was ever asked of the chacham who prohibitted the
eiruv. The
problem is compounded if the chacham she'asar happens to be muflog b'chachma and
m'fursam as one of the g'dolay hador (such a chacham being considered as ones
muvhak for certain halachic purposes even if one never studied with him - see YD
Consider in this regard Jonathon Baker's post in V4#46 about those who permit
in respectful disagreement with R' Moshe Feinstein.

On the other hand, chacham she'asar is a peculiar principle.  Rambam, Tur and
M'chaber do not even mention it as halacha, even though it comes up several
in Shas. I don't recall whether it is mentioned by Rif or Rosh (if it is, why
are Rambam
and Tur silent?), but it is mentioned l'halacha by Rama (also in YD 242).
According to
the major poskim other than Rama, is this principle even binding halacha?

Oruch Hashulchan, I believe a da'as yachid in this regard, says Rambam and Tur
hold that chacham she'asar no longer applies because of the widespread
of s'forim. It might also be that they read "ayno rasho'i" to imply a matter of
only, and not a prohibition, so that the entire principle is relegated to
hilchos derech eretz.

I believe that the nos'ay kelim in YD also mention shitos that the principle
does not apply
if the second authority is greater, qualitatively, or outnumbers the authority
that pronounced
the initial prohibition, although each of these views is also a da'as yachid. Do
those who
allow previously forbidden eiruvim rely on one of these shitos, or on Rambam/Tur
d'Oruch Hashulchan, or on Urim V'tumim if the first chacham acted without being
Are they comfotable disregarding the Rama's unqualified prohibition. I'd
appreciate any
knowledge or m'koros on these questions that anyone may have to share. 

Kol tuv,

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 16:49:35 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Re: Mikvah Ladies

In v4n50 Chana Luntz accidentally replied to my private email on the list.
Since she brought my thoughts to the attention of the list, I'm replying here
as well.

: My apologies, I really didn't think you were seriously proposing this as
: an alternative.

I'm not proposing it. It's an alternative already in place in one New Jersey

: To explain why I don't think a mikvah lady is appropriate, you need
: first to look at the process of TM, which begins from the onset of nida
: (or when it is expected) and culminates in mikvah.

You are picturing a particular process that is not what is used. It's not
that a woman brings her sh'eilos with her to the mikvah. As you said, for
the overwhelming majority of questions, that's far too late. Rather, they call
the mikvah with questions. Similarly, your comments about operating under a
policy of anonymity. This is different than saying which night one is going
to the mikvah.

: The other thing that I confess worries me about your discription about
: what your wife did, is the limited amount of time of training.  *Four
: evenings* is not a lot.

You also appear to misunderstand the role. I called it more of a "liason
to the rav". Perhaps more useful is to compare it to the difference between
mashgiach and rav hamachshir. A mashgiach can be pretty much anyone, as long
as they know when to bring a question to a rav hamachshir. For that matter,
I know of several professional women machshirim -- aside from the same role
being played by every housewife. The system would be to set mikvah ladies
up to be mashgichim. Yoatzot, OTOH, are being trained to assume the role of
"rav hamachshir".

One poster replied to me privately that he believes (based on conversations
with his wife and others) that women would be concerned about going to a
mikvah lady because she knows that the issue will quite likely be discussed
with a man. I find this suprising. The rav will never know whose anatomy is
being discussed. Why would anyone be embarrassed.

In addition, and more unnerving to me, what about questions that yoetzet can't
field herself? When I ask my Rav a she'eilah, he may turn to his poseik,
or even his poseik's poseik, etc... Do we have to set up a similar hierarchy
entirely of women so as to make sure every she'eilah gets asked?

To answer your other concern about being able to serve the primary mikvah-lady
role with that little training, those four weeks are in addition to, not
instead of, apprenticeship. However, nothing as long-spanned as you're


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 20-Oct-99: Revi'i, Lech-Lecha
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 56a
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         Melachim-I 22

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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 19:56:46 EDT
From: TROMBAEDU@aol.com
Re: Yoatzot - Cause for Trepidation

In a message dated 10/17/99 10:49:57 AM Eastern Daylight Time, 
sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu writes:

<< This is kind of what I am looking for is kind of the following declaration:
 "We, the MO leadership, have undertaken this new venture well aware of the
 following risks and pitfalls:
 1. Further rift and rupture between our community and the RW.
 2. Diminshed involvement of men as the cost of increased involvement of
 3. Possible Shalom Bayis problems when the wife consults a yo'etzes and the
 husband a Rav.
 4. Harmful effects on the delicate fabric of society in Am Yisroel in
 changes to expectations within sociological and educational systems.
 5. A potentially dangerous sled ride down the slippery slope to de facto
 women rabbis.
 We may, indeed, five or more years hence, regret this move. Nevertheless,
 our concerns for THM non-observance and problems within our community have
 impelled us to take this step, which we consider and hope will be a step
 towards enhanced Avodas Hashem. So, with trepidation and concern, we
 nonetheless have concluded that this will be a positive step forward for our
 community and pray that our decision prove correct.
 Signed: >>

Ya know, I am a little angry at this list. I posted a deliberately 
provocative mesage to this list the first time RYGB posted his objection to 
Yoatzot, based on an assessment of changes in the Protestant denominations, 
as interpreted by a Conservative Rabbi. I said that his whole line of 
reasoning is weak, and his method a " cheap rhetorical device." 
I didnt receive one response to my post. I guess you guys deleted it, or felt 
it was too unworthy of your time. 
One thing I have noticed on this list, is that the same people line up the 
same way for all these different socio/halachick issues.
Its not enough for the RW on this list to say that something is not right 
because it might be bad down the road, based on no evidence that such things 
will result. 
And yet, time and again, many on this list just sit by, and allow RYGB to do 
just that.
I think, quite frankly, that the Yoatzot issue is not such a big deal-its 
neither a big victory for the left, nor a tragedy for the right. But God 
forbid women are given any slight opportunity not sanctioned by the Moetzes 
G'dolei Hatorah, and those on the right on this list are compelled to find 
fault, however poorly reasoned. And far too many on the left on this list 
seem to feel the need to take their arguments seriously.

A declaration?!? 
Hmmm.. how about the RW declaring that every time the Left does something 
they don't agree with, they will merely say Eilu v'Eilu....
Men's learning shouldn't crowd women entirely off the page.....
Husbands can allow  their wives some measure, however small,  of Halachick 
autonomy, even though they don't have to 
The education system is skewed, and could use a little shaking up......
Maybe Women Rabbis are not the end of the world......even if we agree, that 
its wrong for women to be Rabbis


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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 20:03:49 EDT
From: TROMBAEDU@aol.com

In a message dated 10/17/99 5:00:24 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
hmaryles@yahoo.com writes:

<< I would, therefore, like to encourage anyone with
 connections to NCSY National leadership to redirect
 ALL resources to Kiruv, following the very successful
 model created by A. Y. Weinberg.

A very interesting point. I have my own NCSY credentials, which I will not 
wave around here. 
Kiruv takes a lot of forms. Those in Yeshiva H.S. are not necessarily exempt 
from  requiring additional Chizuk. And often, coming into contact with those 
discovering their Yiddishkeit for the first time is just the thing to shake 
them out of their complacency.


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Date: Wed, 20 Oct 1999 17:56:20 -0700 (PDT)
From: harry maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>

--- TROMBAEDU@aol.com wrote:
> In a message dated 10/17/99 5:00:24 PM Eastern
> Daylight Time, 
> hmaryles@yahoo.com writes:
> << I would, therefore, like to encourage anyone with
>  connections to NCSY National leadership to redirect
>  ALL resources to Kiruv, following the very
> successful
>  model created by A. Y. Weinberg.
>   >>
> A very interesting point. I have my own NCSY
> credentials, which I will not 
> wave around here. 
> Kiruv takes a lot of forms. Those in Yeshiva H.S.
> are not necessarily exempt 
> from  requiring additional Chizuk. And often, coming
> into contact with those 
> discovering their Yiddishkeit for the first time is
> just the thing to shake 
> them out of their complacency.
> Jordan 

Chizuk is of the utmost importance.  I certainly
believe that very often in all kinds of Yeshiva high
schools there are individuals who need chizuk in one
form or another.  But, to my mind, there is very
little room for an NCSY type Chizuk program.  NCSY
should be geared to Kiruv.  The reason Yeshivos should
not get involved at the high school level is that at
the extremely hormonal level that teenagers operate
(especially in the girl free environment of a
Yeshiva), I think that Chizuk is  not what is going on
in Taruvos situatuions.  It's more like...socializing
with girls. I don't think that throwing a bunch of
teenage boys into this situation is a good idea. I
know because once upon a time, during the Mesozoic
era, I was a teenager and I remember!  There are much
better forms of Chizuk that yeshiva students can avail
themselves of. Such as sympathetic Rebbeim,
Mashgichim, parents, or other family members.  It
should be a rare exception when a high school student
is allowed to go on an NCSY event.  Of course my son
in law went when he he was in high school but he was
national president then and had come from a small town
where he had already been active, so, he was one of
those rare exceptions. I obviously agree that there
should be RARE exceptions, with emphasis on the word
RARE and on a case by case basis. 



Do You Yahoo!?
Bid and sell for free at http://auctions.yahoo.com

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Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 05:25:44 +0200 (IST)
From: millerr@mail.biu.ac.il
Avodah 24 Megilah 025b: Ktiv u'Kri

I wrote to avodah asking if kri v'ktiv could be from the Rabbanan.
I received an answer in Avodah 24 from a list member that it is not
possible for Chazal could not make such a change.

I forward below reply that I now received from the Dafyomi discussion list
(which I highly reccomend)




      brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Yerushalayim
          Rosh Kollel: Rabbi Mordecai Kornfeld

Megilah 025b: Ktiv u'Kri

Reuven Miller <millerr@mail.biu.ac.il> asked:

From the mahalach of the Gemara, from the lashon of the Rach and of the 
Maharsha, it would seem that the changing of the ktiv to the kri in the tora 
is of Rabbinic origin.

Is my understanding correct?


The Kollel replies:

(a) The Gemara in Nedarim (37b) says that the words that are read but not 
written, or written but not read, are from Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai, 
implying that they are mid'Oraisa. Even though the Gemara there mentions 
other examples and not the one in our Sugya, it appears that they are all 
 from a Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai. The Gemara there mentions only the cases 
where an entire word is left out or added.

However, all of the examples mentioned in the Gemara there are from Nevi'im 
and Kesuvim, and if so, how is it appropriate to say that they are a Halachah 
l'Moshe mi'Sinai, if those Sefarim were written only later, by Shmuel and 
David with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh (as in Bava Basra 15b)?

This question is addressed by RAV REUVEN MARGOLIUS (in YESOD HA'MISHNAH 
V'ARICHASAH, Birurim #3). He concludes, based on the words of the KIN'AS 
SOFRIM (in Shoresh Sheni of the Rambam's Sefer ha'Mitzvos, DH Acharei), that 
a Kabalah that was received from the Beis Din ha'Gadol is also included in 
the category of Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai, for the verse states, "Al Pi 
ha'Torah Asher Yorucha" (Devarim 17:11), even if it is only a Takanah 
d'Rabanan. (This is also expressed by the BARTENURA in Terumos 2:1, who says 
that the phrase "Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai" can refer also to a rabbinical 
enactment; see TIFERES YISRAEL, Yoma 2:19. See also RAMBAM's introduction to 
Mishnayos, who says that the Halachah that the Shamash may use the light of a 
flame on Shabbos to show the children where to read is called a Halachah 
l'Moshe mi'Sinai; see our Insights to Eruvin 5b, and see also MAHARITZ CHAYOS 
to Chagigah 3b.)

Hence, when the way to read or write the Sefarim was handed down from Shmuel 
or David and received by the Beis Din ha'Gadol and then handed down from them 
to the ensuing generations, it was called a Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai. 
Likewise, the way to read all of the verses mentioned there in Nedarim and in 
our Gemara are Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai, even though they are rabbinical 

Even the reading of the word "Yishkavenah," which appears in the Torah, seems 
to be a rabbinical enactment, enacted by the Nevi'im with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh. 
Alternatively, in that case it is indeed mid'Oraisa, and Moshe received the 
tradition how to read it at Sinai.

RAV DAVID METZGER, in his footnotes to RABEINU CHANANEL, asks how could the 
Rabanan institute a different way to read a word than the way it appears, 
when Rabeinu Chananel himself says earlier (25a) that it is Asur to read the 
verse "Ervas Avicha" as "Ervas Aviv" in order to be polite, because "you have 
no right to be more particular [in the use of words] than was Moshe." If so, 
how could the Rabanan change the reading of the words?

If the readings of these words is a Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai, then the 
answer is clear: the Rabanan did not make any changes -- it is a Halachah 
l'Moshe mi'Sinai to read the words in that particular way! If it is not an 
actual Halachah l'Moshe mi'Sinai, though, then it must be that there is a 
difference between the changes in our Gemara and the change of reading "Ervas 
Avicha" as "Ervas Aviv." When changing "Ervas Avicha" to "Ervas Aviv," one is 
not reading it in a more pure and refined language. In the cases in our 
Gemara, though, the reading of each word adds to the purity of one's speech 
(as the Gemara in Pesachim (3a) instructs us to do).

M. Kornfeld


Mordecai Kornfeld        |  kornfeld@dafyomi.co.il |Tel(IL):02-652-2633
P.O.B. 43087             |kornfeld@netvision.net.il|Off(IL):02-651-5004
Har Nof, Jerusalem,ISRAEL|   kornfeld@jencom.com   |Fax(US):603-7375728

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Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 08:36:21 -0500
From: "Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer" <sbechhof@casbah.acns.nwu.edu>
Elizabeth Dole and the Gender Gap

I was saddened to read in my NYT this morning that Elizabeth Dole (or, as
some of the Charedi press refer to her: "E. Dole") dropped out of the
presendential race today. I had wanted to vote for her (despite her
husband). Her dropping out, of course, had to do with lack of funds, which
reminds us of the unfortunate gender gap that still exists in the monetary
sphere in modern America.

To my mind, the existence of such a gap is inexcusable. I find it
particularly inexcusable in the world of Chinuch. It is an ill-kept secret
that women in the Chinuch field get paid less than men for comparable
teaching loads - in schools from the most MO to the most RW "ish lo

I find this particularly galling in the RW schools, as a few leaders of the
RW world such as R' Elya Svei, are adamant that women go into no other field
than Chinuch - almost with the same degree of fervor as they express on the
subject vis a vis men. Yet, if men are to learn in Kollel and their wives
support them, then it is davka in these situations that women should be paid
at least on a par, if not more, than men. Otherwise, we run into a Dole-like
situation where only the Forbes-like rich can afford Kollel.

Some of us on the list, on the other hand, may find it more galling that
many (I assume not all) MO schools have this policy, in light of the
expectation that they should be more "forward-thinking". I cannot disagree
:-). Some schools justify this by claiming that semicha (often in these
cases a "Rav u'Manhig certificate, not even "Yoreh Yoreh", v'dai l'chacima
b'remiza) is the equivalent of an advance degree. I find this position

I do not expect the policy to change, as board members of local elementary
schools have explained to me that this is part of the stategy to keep
tuition "low". But, nevertheless, it is chagrining.

Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer
Cong. Bais Tefila, 3555 W. Peterson Ave., Chicago, IL 60659
http://www.aishdas.org/baistefila    ygb@aishdas.org

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Date: Thu, 21 Oct 1999 15:58:09 +0200
From: "Shlomo Godick" <shlomog@mehish.co.il>
Yoatzot as covered in Yated

The English Yated has the following take on this subject  (note that the
position of Rav Aharon Feldman, as quoted in the article, is similar in
respects to that of Rav Lichtenstein):

Orthodox Institute Holds Graduation Ceremony for Female Rabbis
by Moshe Schapiro

The event was billed as a high-profile graduation ceremony for eight
female halachic "consultants," but as the evening wore on it slowly dawned
on everyone in attendance that the real purpose of the occasion was to mark
the ordination of eight female rabbis. Orthodox ones, that is.
The large number of reporters who covered the graduation ceremony held
last week at the Jerusalem Sheraton Plaza applauded the event in the
following morning's columns with wild abandon. According to one, the
ceremony was nothing short of "incredible, historic and monumental."
What was the cause for such ecstatic celebration? Barbara Sofer of the
Jerusalem Post explained it to her readers as follows: "These women have
been certified as the first Orthodox halachic arbiters on our planet.
Although they're officially called 'advisers' (yo'etzot), these women can
say 'yes you may' or 'no, you may not' with the identical halachic
authority of a rabbi."
What is disturbing here is that an Orthodox institution appears to be
attempting to introduce into our community a set of foreign values
previously embraced only by the leaders of the Reform and Conservative
movements. And what is particularly pathetic is that this institution
appears to be employing underhand tactics to reach its objective, hiding
behind the veil of halacha instead of stating its aims clearly.
It all began two years ago, when Emunah Henkin, director of the
Jerusalem-based Nishmat Center for Women's Studies, initiated a program to
train Orthodox women as halachic consultants.
According to Henkin the Nishmat program is nothing short of revolutionary.
For while Reform and Conservative women rabbis have made "halachic" rulings
for many years, "this is the first time in history that [Orthodox] women
are authorized [by Orthodox rabbis] to answer questions in Jewish law. This
is quite remarkable," says Henkin.
In an interview with Jewish Week correspondent Michele Chabin, Henkin
expressed her humble belief that the graduates of the two-year Nishmat
program "are at least as well versed in the intricacies of ritual purity
laws as many rabbinic poseks."
Deena Zimmerman, one of the graduates lauded at the Sheraton Plaza
ceremony, was asked whether the Nishmat program "could lead to women being
Her response was extremely surprising, coming as it does from an Orthodox
person: "Well," said Zimmerman, "that brings up the question of what is a
full-fledged rabbi, and that question isn't totally answered."
What makes Zimmerman's response even stranger is that she is a graduate of
a course that supposedly makes her an expert in halacha. Surely a competent
Nishmat-certified halachic consultant such as herself, who underwent two
entire years of halachic study, should have emerged with a clearer
understanding of where the job of consultant ends and that of "full-fledged
rabbi" begins. Such confusion on her part could lead to some very serious
problems. Imagine what would happen if ambulance drivers thought they were
paramedics, or paramedics, physicians, or physicians, surgeons. Ours would
be a topsy-turvy world.
Yet in an interview with a different reporter Mrs. Zimmerman sounds not in
the least bit confused. "There is a feeling of awe here," she says with
real feeling, "something like finishing medical school, when you realize
how much responsibility you have been given. All of a sudden you have a lot
of authority, and you hope you'll use it wisely."
A lot of authority? How much authority does Mrs. Zimmerman think that a
halachic "consultant" has?
The problem here is that Nishmat's leaders and graduates are speaking two
different languages, depending upon the identity of their listeners. When
they come within earshot of members of the religious establishment, Henkin
makes a point of referring to her graduates as "consultants," and
diplomatically explains that "although halacha leaves no room for women
'rabbis,' it does provide for 'full partners in interpreting the law.'"
Spoken like a true politician.
Yet when surrounded by friendly press members-especially sworn
feminists-she uses an entirely different terminology. Even her feminist
friends attest to this:
"Henkin," writes the Jewish Week's Chabin, "deliberately avoids using the
title 'poseks' to describe her scholars in an effort to avoid needless
Barbara Sofer of the Jerusalem Post agrees: "The dean of Nishmat," she
writes, "has done everything possible to prevent a backlash from those who
are determined there will be no changes for women in the Orthodox religious
world. First, Henkin chose the non-confrontational title 'advisers' for
potential graduates. Then, she garnered the endorsement of halachic big
guns, among them Rabbi Yaakov Warhaftig, dean of the rabbinical school of
the prestigious Harry Fischel Institute in Jerusalem. Also her eight
graduates are dazzlingly beyond reproach. Scholars and teachers of Judaism,
they are all head-covering married women and mothers."
One has to hand it to Henkin-she certainly did her homework.
More evidence of Nishmat's double-talk is evident in a bizarre statement
made by Henkin's husband, Yehuda:
"The net result of authorizing women consultants [that word again] will be
a quantum jump in mitzvah observance. Halacha has no objection to women
making decisions, if they are competent. This is well grounded. A learned
woman has as much of a right to issue a ruling as a learned man."
Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, president of Yeshiva University and the program's
biggest proponent, had this to say to the audience on graduation night:
"It's a revolutionary change for the good, and it adds kedusha to Am
Yisrael. We're awakening from our sleep. We're still at the beginning of
the movement, a movement that I hope will take root and flower."
Those are mighty strong words for an address at the innocuous graduation
ceremony of a few female halachic consultants. What is all this
revolutionary talk about? Lamm seems to know something he thinks we don't.
And yet despite its well-orchestrated public relations campaign, Nishmat
has not been successful in pulling the wool over everyone's eyes. When
asked how she has been received in Orthodox circles, Zimmerman became
"Interestingly," she said, "I've had some questioning feedback from women,
not men. A few women have said to me that this isn't a role for women."
This is indeed interesting. G-d-fearing Jewish women have saved our people
several times in our history, and as is clearly evident from Zimmerman's
statement, they still retain that heightened sense of spiritual sensitivity
with which they are able to discern so skillfully between the pure and the
The Maharal touches on this theme in his explanation of why there were
three patriarchs and four matriarchs:
The number three, says the Maharal, always represents the establishment of
something. A table needs at least three legs to stand, and the Mishnah
teaches that "the world stands on three things-on Torah study, on the
service of Hashem, and on acts of kindness." For this reason the Jewish
Nation was established through three Patriarchs.
Why then were there four Matriarchs?
The Maharal explains that foundations sometimes need to be reinforced.
Using the analogy of the table, a three-legged table can certainly stand,
but only in optimum conditions. Only if a fourth leg is attached to the
table will it remain standing under unfavorable circumstances. The number
three therefore represents the conceptual foundation of an entity, while
the number four represents the practical endurance of this foundation. In
simpler terms, we can say that the number four brings the number three down
to the sphere of practical reality.
This concept applies as well to the foundations of the Jewish Nation. We
consistently find that the Patriarchs represent the true ideals of Israel.
However, whenever those ideals had to be implemented in the physical world,
the Patriarchs followed the advice of the Matriarchs.
If the people at Nishmat are sincere in their wishes to help Orthodox
women, maybe they should start listening more closely to what Orthodox
women have to say about their activities.
Some reporters were so thrilled by Henkin's efforts that they tried to
garner support for the Nishmat program from the most unlikely quarters.
Jewish Week's Chabin decided to interview Rabbi Aaron Feldman, the eminent
Rosh Yeshiva of Yehivas Beer HaTorah, and to make him sound partially
supportive of the Nishmat program at all costs. Unfortunately, in her
enthusiasm she misquoted him and grossly misconstrued his words.
Chabin cited Rabbi Feldman as having said: "There have never been halachic
consultants in particular areas of Torah because all the areas of Torah are
intertwined with one another. For example, the laws of ritual impurity
require expertise in many areas, and to become an expert would require
eight to ten years. If a woman would like to devote ten to fifteen years to
become an expert in halachah, of course we would rely on her."
In an interview with Yated Rabbi Feldman expressed his dismay at having
his words twisted so out of context. He then reiterated his position on
this issue:
"The desire to make changes in our long-standing tradition stems from the
same flaw in hashkafa that lies at the very roots of the Reform
Movement-the urge to introduce goyish values in Torah-true Judaism. Some
people may try to couch such attempts by citing halachic proofs and
legalistic justifications, but as long as they are driven by the desire to
keep up with contemporary values, their actions are possul.
"People think that with computers nowadays they can have the entire Torah
at their fingertips, and that they no longer need to turn to qualified
rabbis. Well, it does not work that way. There is only one way to attain
Torah knowledge-years and years of study."
"As I see it, this is the problem with producing legal
counselors-regardless of their gender. Halachah is an interrelated field.
Someone who is an expert in only one area of the law is not qualified to
issue a ruling even regarding a set of laws with which he is intimately
familiar, because he is unable to see the bigger picture of how all the
laws of the Torah fit together.
"A shochet, for example, is required to review the laws governing his
profession at least once a year, and even so, he does not have authority to
issue a halachic ruling even in this field. Instead, he must seek the
counsel of someone who has mastered halachah in its entirety-a qualified
"To attain the level of mastery of a posek so as to issue a halachic
ruling, one must devote at least 15-20 years of one's life to uninterrupted
Torah study. Most women, regardless of their intelligence, cannot achieve
this because if they were to do so, it would prevent them from devoting
sufficient attention to mitzvos that only they can fulfill, such as raising
"What's interesting is that these progressive religious women are always
fighting to observe mitzvos traditionally associated with men. For example,
we don't see them attempting to increase the level of observance of mitzvos
associated with women, such as dressing modestly, or engaging in neutral
mitzvos, such as davening. They always zero in specifically on mitzvos
traditionally performed by men.
"This proves beyond doubt that most of them are driven not by an urge to
perform more mitzvos and thus become better Jews, but by feminism and the
desire to prove that they are equal to men."

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