Avodah Mailing List

Volume 04 : Number 063

Monday, October 25 1999

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Subjects Discussed In This Issue:
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 10:43:47 -0400
Re: Yoatzos Neeman or Female Rabbis

----- Original Message -----
From: Yosef Gavriel and Shoshanah M. Bechhofer
To: <avodah@aishdas.org>
Sent: Sunday, October 24, 1999 9:23 PM
Subject: Re: Yoatzos Neeman or Female Rabbis

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: harry maryles <hmaryles@yahoo.com>
> To: <avodah@aishdas.org>
> Sent: Sunday, October 24, 1999 8:06 PM
> Subject: RE: Yoatzos Neeman or Female Rabbis
> > This does not give any details. All it does is to
> > "slam" Dr. Lamm. and all who Align themselves with
> > him.
> >
> I am sure we all are curious why R' Lamm has not instituted this program
> at SCW.

    I can think of a number of reasons why.  Perhaps the students at SCW are
not interested in this program.  There may be issues concerning SCW's
charter (SCW as a YU school is non-sectarian, and a program leading to
matriculation in a specifically religious area may be problamatic).  There
may be a lack of qualified sintructors in New York willing to teach in a
such  a program.  And most probably, because, such a program in the US would
only create more distorted anti YU bias among the American Chareidim.

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 11:50:52 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Yoatzot administrivia redux

May I please remind the chevra not to post mere rephrases of points already
made? We're going in numerous circles here.


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 25-Oct-99: Levi, Vayera
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 58b
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 11:52:20 -0400
From: "Lawrence M. Reisman" <LMReisman@email.msn.com>
Bias in publications and other matters

Harry Maryles characterized the Jewish Observer as  publishing only
"articles and letters favorable to their point of view."  While I can't
exactly argue as to articles (and that is their right) when it comes to
letters, they often publish letters challenging the point of view expressed
in specific articles.  Thus, when Yaakov Amitai wrote attacking women's
tefillah groups, the Jo published a letter from Susan Alter, a founding
memeber of the Flatbush Women's Davening Group.  When Chaim Dovid Zwiebel
wrote a piece criticising the RCA paper on brain death, the JO printed a
lengthy letter from R. Moshe Tendler defending its point of view.  When Ben
Zion Kokis wrote about west bank settlers, a letter in response was printed.
When the JO published R. Joseph Elias's article concerning R. Adin
Steinzaltz, the JO published a lengthy defense by R. Mattis Greenblatt.
Others whose letters have been printed include Rabbis Norman Lamm and Irving
Greenberg.  And don't forget, when I criticized R. Yehuda Henkin's speech at
the feminist conference, his letter in reponse was printed.

As to another matter, I was asked some time ago about Lucy Dawidowicz's take
on the Joel Brand affair.  Her discussion can be found in Essay No. 18 of
her book "The Jewish Presence."  Entitled, "Blaming the Jews: The Charge of
Perfidy"  She notes that Eichmann did not stop the deportations during the
time Brand was trying to bring his offer to the Zionist leadership in
Palestine.  Further, Eichmann had a history of breaking promises made, thus
there was no guarantee that he would either stop the deportations or limit
use of the trucks to the Eastern Front.  Finally, where was the Yishuv going
to get 10,000 trucks and how would they get them to Hungary?  It is highly
unlikely that the Allies would have given the Germans the trucks under any
circumstances, since they would have only served to prolong the war.  Agree
or not, it makes for provocative reading.

Levi Reisman

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 12:05:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: micha@aishdas.org (Micha Berger)
Bias in Publications

With all due respect, I wouldn't expect the JO to give equal time to
multiple viewpoints. I similarly think it's unfair to expect it from
Jewish Action.

We're discussing the organs of particularly movements: Agudah and the (U),
respectively. Isn't the function of an organization's publication to promote
the views of that organization? Yes, we need a forum for contrasting multiple
viewpoints. However, why should we demand this of every periodical. Doesn't
Agudah (or the (U)) have the right to spend money promoting and teaching their
own range of views?

What bothers me about the Yated article/editorial (for such it is, despite
its location in the news section) isn't the position taken, but the use of
sarcasm and disdain to make their point. Frankly, it got me wondering if
the dirth of substansive complaints is because the author didn't have that
many to present.

I'm also wondering what any of this has to do with Avodas Hashem, the purported
topic of this discussion group. Are we discussing whether such a tactic is
the proper expression of an Oveid? Or that particular dirachim lead one
dangerously close to such tactics?

I'd be happier if we spent our time figuring out how to unify, rather than
focussing on that which divides. What ever happened to the discussion of a
RW-MO Rabbinic forum?


Micha Berger (973) 916-0287          MMG"H for 25-Oct-99: Levi, Vayera
micha@aishdas.org                                         A"H 
http://www.aishdas.org                                    Pisachim 58b
For a mitzvah is a lamp, and the Torah its light.         

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 18:02:56 +0200
From: "Carl M. Sherer" <csherer@netvision.net.il>
Re: Women and Privacy Issues

On 18 Oct 99, at 11:08, Sammy Ominsky wrote:

> Akiva Miller wrote:
> > I think men have no idea how sensitive women are to these sort of issues.
> > We are not talking just about questions like, "Can we do such-and-such
> > while nidah?", or "Does such-and-such constitute a Veses Kavua". We mean
> > things like, "I'm bleeding, and here look at this, I wiped up my insides,
> > tell me if I'm tamay." Few women are willing to go directly to the rav
> > with such a cloth, and even sending it to the rav via her husband is very
> > embarrassing. How can she let herself be seen now that he has seen that
> > cloth?
> > 
> Here in Baltimore, we have a Rav whom everyone knows is an expert in
> these things, and my wife, at least (I haven't really asked around) feels
> no embarrasment about calling him. They've never met in person. If need
> be, she puts her cloth in an envelope with her name and phone number on it
> in the *other* mailslot in his front door.
> Why is that embarrasing in any way?

Ask your wife:

a. How she would feel if she did meet him.
b. How she would feel if it wasn't a bedika cloth but a pair of her 

-- Carl

Carl M. Sherer, Adv.
Silber, Schottenfels, Gerber & Sherer
Telephone 972-2-625-7751
Fax 972-2-625-0461

Please daven and learn for a Refuah Shleima for my son,
Baruch Yosef ben Adina Batya among the sick of Israel.
Thank you very much.

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 12:05:09 -0400
From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV>
Re: Chasam Sofer

Shlomo Abeles wrote:

>>>>.. I am not so sure that the Chasam
Sofer was issuing a dogmatic
pronouncement when he said "chadash
assur min haTorah." ... His bon mot
certainly had ideological resonance, but
I question whether when he made that
remark he meant to be taken literally...
Can any of scholarly types out there
provide any textual or
historical information about the Ch. S's
intent in this little pun?<<<<

'Bon mot',  'little pun'!? A bit flippant,
I think, when discussing the words of the
Rabbon shel kol Bnei Hagolah
- - the Chasam Sofer ztl.

I have in front of me the sefer "Rabenu
HaChasam Sofer - Mipi K'sovoi"  in
which a whole chapter is dedicated
to the topic of "Chodosh Ossur min
Hatorah"  It seems to have been
quoted by the CS almost a dozen
times - mainly in his Tshuvos.
No doubt that he was
serious and meant it quite literally.

Well, perhaps you are right, but I did not believe that it was a 
pegiah in the kavod of the Light of all the Children of the Diaspora
(not to mention my great, great, great, great-grandfather) to 
suggest as a possibility that a particular saying of his might have
been a milsa d'bedichusa.  And the fact is that however literally 
the CS meant it, the phrase "hadash asur min ha-Torah" in any 
context outside the halakhic discussion of the status of newly 
harvested grain before Passover is a pun, and if it were not for 
the play on words the mere enunciation of that idea would never
have resonated, because it is also obviously false as an 
unqualified statement.  Or did the CS also mean to halakhically 
disqualify chasidus as well as reform?

At any rate, I would very much appreciate your sending me any 
references to the CS's use of the phrase in his t'shuvos.

Kind regards,

David Glasner

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 12:23:19 -0400
From: "Noah Witty" <nwitty@ix.netcom.com>
Tzur mishelo

1) Hard to believe all those Jews (not to mention the composer) actually
intend to forgo saying the bracha bematbaya she-tav'u chachamim.
2) What if you sing it early in the meal (watch out for dover she-karim!)
and then following the zemer eat another kezayis?

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 12:35:48 -0400
From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@FTC.GOV>
Re: Chasam Sofer on Chodosh

David Herskovic wrote:

I once heard that at some deliberation in the presence of rav Kook
someone intervened with chodosh osur... to which rav Kook responded that
as far as he was concerned the meaning is that new crop is prohibited
prior to the sacrifice of the Omer.

Barukh she-kivanti l'daat kodsho

David Glasner

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 12:28:07 -0400
From: "Noah Witty" <nwitty@ix.netcom.com>
RYBZ's bracha (was "Creating Distinctions")

Contrary to RRH, the distinction twixt asseh and sin is very much in the
story. Doesn't RYBZ say in response to "Is that all?" that "Tayda, when a
person sins sins he hopes no one will see him." . . . .

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 13:02:51 -0400
From: meir_shinnar@smtplink.mssm.edu

I was hoping that the thread would die down, and have mostly responded off line. 
However, as it refuses to die down, and there has been new posting which contain
specific (false) claims about nishmat, some comments: 

1)  Rabbanit Henkin has written a letter to the Jewish Week, where she says that
she deliberately avoids the term poskot not out of political motivations, but
because the graduates of her program are not at the high level expected of being
a posek (the same concerns raised by some in the group).  The issue of what
issues the yoatzot may decide is of course a different issue - most communal
rabbanim are probably not poskim in the strict sense of the word, as several
posters have pointed out.  I suspect that the yoatzot may have had more shimush
in hilchot nidda than many communal rabbanim.

2)  The issue of whether there may eventually be female poskot is, of course, a
different issue. (There is an interesting article in the Tchumin 19 by Rav
Yisrael Rosen (while clearly mafdal, not known as a "sworn feminist" which
partially deals with the issue)  We can discuss the halachic issues without
calling opponents Reform.  If the graduates will achieve the requisite level,
perhaps then we can discuss the issue.

3)  The yated ne'eman was guilty not just of bias ( somewhat accepted in a
partisan paper) and distortion (shouldn't be acceptable), but of specific
accusations without a basis (motzi la'az)
To quote:
> 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.'"
> 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
> controversy."

They claim that Rabbanit Henkin has used "an entirely different terminology" -
that she is a hypocrite and liar.  This is far more than distortion - it is a
specific accusation , without any evidence presented. Indeed, their own evidence
conradicts it (she " deliberately avoids using the title 'poseks'").  If they
had evidence, I assume that they would have published it, and can only conclude
that the accusation of lying and hypocrisy against Rabbanit Henkin is not based
on evidence.  It  has to be considered a lie - far different than merely being
slanted or not objective. This is motzi la'az.

4)  Avoda, unfortunately,  has now become the primary distributor of a new post
which is motzi la'az.  From the response of the yated ne'eman author to the
criticisms, it continues his lashon hara.
> "More importantly, however, unlike Nishmat, neither
> of these two kosher programs has ever made the outrageous claim that
> their graduates are, the new poseks of Orthodox women. And consequently,
> unlike the Nishmat graduates, ]

Would the poster, who has contact with the author, ask for  documentation that
Nishmat " has ever made  the outrageous claim that their graduates are, the new
poseks of Orthodox women. "  Otherwise, this is another outrageous slander.

R Feldman has suggested that republishing the article is not lashon hara because
of yesh lo kol, unless perhaps there was a lie in it.  I think that these
statements are not just distortions and interpretations, but are clear lies, and
that therefore there is an issur of redistributing it.

Perhaps instead of worrying about the slippery slope and the future, we should
worry about averot such as lashon hara in the present.  It would seem far more
halachically problematic to read the yated ne'eman than to support Nishmat.

We can argue (even passionately) the issues of slippery slopes and the good of
the Jewish people.  However, while we argue about the value of the program,
lying and false claims should not be permitted.

5)  The Jewish Observer has been cited as a model of slanted but fair reporting. 
Not to rehash, but we had about a year ago a discussion about the JO's articles
about Orthodox feminism, where significant distortions (?lies) where published
(e. g., the statement that they advocated using the Conservative siddur, when
all they did was xerox the nekeva form of the mi sheberach..).  I remember that
Rav Bechhofer back then admitted that he was misled by the article.

6)  The defense of moral equivalence has been raised - while the Yated is bad,
so is the left wing.   While the Jewish Press is nationalistic, I would hardly
characterize it as left wing (I always thought of it a a right wing tabloid...)
Furthermore, it is not the official organ of an organization claiming to
represent Torah values.  While MO has its problems, and its publications are not
perfect,  no moral equivalent to the distortions of the yated ne'eman and the JO
has been presented.  (Furthermore, it is strange for the RW to defend itself by
"they all do it"...)

Meir Shinnar

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Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 19:13:47 +0200
From: "Akiva Atwood" <atwood@netvision.net.il>
Yoatzot article

The Jewish Week - Current

October 8, 1999 / 28 Tishrei 5760

      The New ‘Poseks’: Orthodox Women
      By: Michele Chabin , Israel Correspondent
      In historic step, halachic rulings won’t be sole reserve of

       Jerusalem — “Chaya” is a religiously observant woman who after
nine months of marriage failed to become pregnant. Concerned, she
sought the advice of a gynecologist, who told her that her “window of
opportunity” to conceive was between the 13th and 14th day after the
start of her menstrual period.

      The problem was, Chaya — who, like many of the women interviewed
for this article, spoke on condition of anonymity — still found traces
of blood eight or nine days following the start of her cycle.
According to Jewish ritual purity laws, women must wait an additional
seven “clean” days after the end of their cycles before having
relations with their husbands.

      By the time Chaya was halachically permitted to immerse herself
in a mikveh and resume sexual relations, she no longer was ovulating.

      Although the Orthodox community has long held that women
experiencing “female” problems must consult a rabbi, Chaya was
extremely reluctant to do so.

      “My husband told me to go the rav,” she said in a phone
interview, “but frankly I procrastinated. As much as I respect the
rav, he is a man, and discussing such intimate issues with a man is
terribly, terribly difficult.”

      Realizing that many Jewish women — perhaps most of them — would
prefer to consult a woman on halachic matters related to menstruation,
fertility and menopause, the Jerusalem-based Nishmat Center for
Women’s Studies quietly launched a program in 1997 to train Orthodox
women as halachic consultants.

      Two years later, eight graduate scholars are about to begin
poskening, or ruling, on certain questions once reserved for rabbis.

      The move, according to Orthodox authorities, is nothing short of
revolutionary. While Reform and Conservative women rabbis have made
halachic rulings for many years, “this is the first time in history
that [Orthodox] women have been authorized [by Orthodox rabbis] to
answer questions in Jewish law,” according to Rabbanit Emunah Henkin,
the director of Nishmat and the driving force behind the initiative.
“This is quite remarkable.”

      Having undergone two years of intensive medical study related to
women’s health care and halachic study with Orthodox rabbis, Henkin
believes that her graduates are at least as well versed in the
intricacies of Jewish ritual purity laws, or taharat hamishpacha, as
many rabbinic poseks.

      Picked from a group of 60 applicants, the Israel- and
American-born graduates came to the program with a high level of
Jewish education. Many teach Jewish subjects at Israeli seminaries and

      While it remains to be seen whether the Orthodox establishment
will recognize the consultant’s authority, and there have been
detractors, several prominent Orthodox rabbis in the yeshiva world
already have given their stamp of “kashrut.” The latter group includes
Rabbi Tzvi Warhaftig and Rabbi Michael Rosen of the popular Modern
Orthodox Yakar synagogue in Jerusalem.

      The Barak government also has shown its support. Speaking at the
Sept. 26 graduation in Jerusalem, Michael Melchior, the newly
appointed minister of diaspora affairs, said: “I think this is in many
ways an historical breakthrough. This is done well inside the reach of

      Among the program’s biggest proponents is Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm,
president of Yeshiva University, who also addressed the graduating

      “It’s a revolutionary change for the good,” Lamm told the
graduates and a roomful of supporters. “It adds kedusha [holiness] 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

      Exactly what this “movement” is, and how far it will go, is open
for debate. Some Modern Orthodox feminists hope the new halachic
empowerment ultimately could lead to the ordination of women Orthodox

      Others, like program graduate Deena Zimmerman, believe the
consultant’s role in and of itself is daunting and important.

      “Could this lead to women being rabbis? That brings up the
question of what is a full-fledged rabbi, and that question isn’t
totally answered,” she said.

      “Could women be trained as rabbis in 20 years, starting from
this model? Maybe, but that’s not the point of this program,”
Zimmerman stressed.

      Nishmat’s goal, she says, “is to help women in the halachic
process — to have women involved in the halachic process. That’s far
more important than the title given to it.”

      Zimmerman, a New York-born pediatrician who moved to Israel a
few years ago, says her new role is both exciting and unnerving.

      “There is a feeling of awe, something like finishing medical
school, when you realize how much responsibility you’ve been given.
You have a lot of authority and hope you’ll use it wisely,” she said.

      Since graduating, Zimmerman says, women have consulted her on a
wide range of issues. “I’ve had older women asking about hormone
replacement therapy and menopause.” Younger women, she adds, “have
questions concerning ovulation and fertility, as well as miscarriage.”

      Asked how she has been received in Orthodox circles, Zimmerman
says, “Interestingly, I’ve had some questioning feedback from women,
not men. A few women have said that this isn’t a role for women.”

      Henkin, whose husband, Yehuda, is an Orthodox rabbi, views the
women consultants as complements to, not replacements for, rabbinic

      While many women don’t think twice about consulting a rabbi, or
asking their husband to consult one, there are others, she says, “who
want a womanly address, a learned woman with whom they can have a
halachic consultation.”

      “This is part of the changing sensitivities of women,” Henkin
says. “These are highly personal matters. I know of women who if they
go to a rabbi at all, don’t tell him all the details due to
embarrassment. There is a crying need, both in Israel and the United

      Henkin, who deliberately avoids using the title poseks to
describe her scholars in an effort to avoid needless controversy,
stresses that the graduates will not be operating in a vacuum.

      “If there is a question they can’t answer, they will consult a
rabbi on your behalf. They are able to do so because they speak the
same technical language as rabbis and are familiar with all the
responsa and halachic fine points,” she says. “They bring suggestions
before the rabbis, and the rabbis have even begun referring women to

      Rabbi Henkin, who has supported his wife’s endeavor from its
inception, says the need for women consultants is well established.

      “Any rabbi who’s been in the field is astonished and troubled by
the minuscule number of questions addressed to him in the area of
taharat hamishpacha. And this is in a community of tens, hundreds,
even thousands of women,” he says.

      “If only a few questions are being asked, you have to wonder
what’s going on. The answer is that the questions aren’t being asked.”

      Consequently, he says, many women do not seek outside advice and
wrongly interpret “benign” staining or discharges as menstrual
bleeding and needlessly refrain from relations with their husbands.

      “The net result” of authorizing women consultants “will be a
quantum jump in observance in this area,” the rabbi predicts. “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 Aaron Feldman, who heads the haredi Beer Hatorah yeshiva
in Jerusalem, agrees with this statement but challenges Nishmat’s
definition of “learned.”

      Historically, the rabbi says, “there have never been halachic
consultants in particular areas of Torah. This is because all the
areas of Torah are intertwined with each other. For example, the laws
of nidda [ritual impurity] require expertise in very many areas, and
to become an expert would take eight to 10 years.

      “If a woman would like to devote 10 to 15 years to become an
expert in halacha,” he says, “of course we would rely on her.”

      As for women being embarrassed to consult a rabbi, Rabbi Feldman
says, “this whole rationale is unnecessary.”

      Detractors notwithstanding, Henkin’s graduates report that they
are already being bombarded with inquiries. “One husband considered
changing the family’s phone number but realized that would defeat the
purpose,” she says.

      Now that word is filtering out, Henkin has an even more
ambitious agenda: to have local religious councils pay for the
graduates services in the community.

      “I’ve had some positive feedback,” she says with a smile.

Go to top.

Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 13:19:42 -0400 (EDT)
From: j e rosenbaum <jerosenb@hcs.harvard.edu>
Re: Avodah V4 #58

Subject: Re: objections to women yoatzot
Chana/Heather Luntz <Chana/Heather@luntz.demon.co.uk> writes:
> This
> would seem to suggest that men withdrawing from going to church is not
> linked to women taking leading roles, but that men have been withdrawing
> from going to church anyway, leaving more woman believers. (To be
> honest, my best guess, looking around at the women I work with, is that
> those congregations are probably increasingly elderly women - neither
> sex showing much interest in church going, with all the other pressures
> that a high flying career produces)

This parallels my experience in Budapest where a synagogue I attended had 
a huge problem getting a minyan.  In the men's section, there might be three 
men (plus hopefully seven on the bimah) and in the women's section, thirty.

Budapest is naturally a very different case than here, but it does show
what can happen to Judaism under pressure:  for whatever reason, it was
these middle-aged to elderly women who were the core of this particular 

> But there are other areas of the non Jewish and no religious world that
> can be examined for similar phenomena.  For example, men have, to a
> large extent, withdrawn from certain professions as women have entered
> them in large numbers.  

You seem to be implying that it's a case of preference.  Only very limited
professions have historically been open to women.  As these professions 
were transformed into "pink collar" jobs, men sought other employment.  

Right now, I'm working on a history of labour economics in the past
century, reading the entertaining prose of the past century, and I ran
across an article from 1901 in the British _Economic Journal_ on the 
employment of women as telegraphists.  The article makes the point that 
even in the field of telegraphy, women were placed in the parts of
it they were best suited for.  The author concludes, "One result seems
quite certain:  were it not for the docility of women, there is no
sufficient reason apparent to justify the favour with which they are
viewed by administrative officers and others responsible for their
employment."  In other words, the author thinks that employers placed
women in parts of telegraphy where obedience was most important, and
their inferiour education and experience and tendency to "become
indisposed" (pregnant) don't matter as much.

> Now I had a lot of difficulty understanding this, because i loved maths
> and science, found it deeply satisfying and interesting. But part of
> being in touch with reality is understanding that most of my friends did
> not feel likewise.  They didn't.  they kept complaining they couldn't do
> it and didn't want to do it and happily went off and did something else.

My undergraduate degree was in math and physics, and I noticed the same 
pattern as you, but I think it is more a question of learning style, rather 
than straight preference.  Math and physics are very much a male homosocial 
environment, and while I somehow developed the ability to work in this
type of atmosphere (even if I got sick of it and left), most women 
aren't socialised this way.  

In my experience, math and physics are very cooperative fields:  unless
you're brilliant enough to work alone, you do your problem sets with 
others, and you have to have enough confidence in your ideas to put them 
forward in the group and present them, even if you are uncertain of them.  
Usually, this would involve standing around in clumps, gesticulating and 
interrupting eachother.  No one is ever right the first time, and it's 
just by revision of the ideas that you get to the point of maybe having 
an answer.  At the same time, no one ever speaks in terms of "I'm not
sure if this is right, but...", which is very much a typically female
way of presenting her guess (and given how much certainty it might take
for her even to think it's worth mentioning to the group, her guess has
a higher probability of being right or very close to right than the
more confidently-stated guess of the guys around her.)  

There are a lot of similar factors.  Women tend to take failure much
more to heart, whereas men tend to blame external factors.  Since nearly
everyone initially fails at something, men's perserverence serves them

Also, studies by psychologist Claude Steele show that people concerned with 
stereotypes will be nervous and tend to do less well on tests than if they do 
not believe that their performance on the test will reinforce negative 
stereotypes about them.  (Blacks given tests which they are told will measure 
their aptitude will score less well on them than if they are just told the
tests don't test anything in particular.)

Next, there is the question of modeling:  women see lots of women
dropping out of the hard sciences, while the women who succeed seem to
be aberrant (as they had to be to overcome the three above factors.)  
While I'm not sure that women are still trying to seem dumb in order 
to attract men, I think they are still pretty averse to entering a field 
where few women seem to be "normal."  Not that they want to see female math 
professors wearing frilly skirts and lots of make-up, but that they might find 
it off-putting that many female professors they know are not more
understanding than the male professors (and in some cases, they are less.
Some call this the Clarence Thomas phenomenon.)  Eventually, the problem
dissipates as women become more common in these fields, since they have
to adapt their modes of behaviour to a lesser degree.  We can see this
if we look at older vs. younger female biology professors:  the older
ones faced real battles in order to enter the field, while the younger
ones had no such struggle and so didn't have to affect a gruff manner, etc.

> That is why, when I see the same pattern in learning, I recognise it.
> Because it happens here also.  Just the other day Rabbi Brovender was
> complaining that the problem was that there are just too few women who
> are interested in talmud.  It is almost impossible to get together a
> decent class because the numbers are so low.
> And you see this in the seminaries that teach gemorra.  The drop out
> rate is high as girl after girl decides that she would much rather learn
> tanach. She is very glad for the exposure, and a bit of background (just
> as my contempories were for the maths and science they then left). But
> that is that.

I think that some of the above factors apply to gemara.  In an all-female 
environment, the personality issues are no longer a question of women
being intimidated by men, but a female shiur will have a different
experience with the text than a male shiur.
Further, there is the modeling:  women see other women deciding not to
learn gemara, and so it is a reasonable choice.  Even in liberal communities, 
women are rarely involved in abstract halachic discussions, so women get
a sense that it's just not what one does.

Even further, there is a unique factor here, compared with math/physics:
women have a sense that they are overstepping someone's bounds by learning
gemara.  Even if it's perfectly acceptable in one's own community for
women to learn gemara, every women is aware that not everyone holds that
way, and if she reveals to certain women or men that she is learning 
gemara, her statement will have very real social effects for her.  At
the very least, she has to be certain she is learning for a purpose other
than feminism, and to watch what she says and who she says it to, hiding
her knowledge.

Although the same discrepancy exists in many other areas, such as skirt
length or kashrus stringency, none of these other areas are as rife with
doubts as intellectual areas.  Thus, even if a woman feels no problem in
eating lettuce because it's what her community does, she may allow her
insecurities about her intellectual abilities to overcome her and decide
that since she's not so good at it anyway, she sees no reason to take
this social risk.  

To some degree, this is a parallel problem to that of women of generations
where it was considered appropriate to hide one's knowledge, lest one
seem unladylike.  While men would be rewarded socially for making intelligent
contributions to a discussion of a male topic, women would suffer socially:  
her male peers would not ask her out on dates, her peers' parents would
think she was arrogant, and her female peers would think she was too

Just like women of previous generations in secular society would
seek to minimise the conflict between their desire to be intellectual
and for social acceptance, and thus entered programs of higher learning
in areas which were relatively accepted, it's not surprising that frum
women seek greater knowledge of those areas they can find positive social 
reinforcement for.  (One shouldn't learn for social reinforcement, of
course, but if the choice is between two things, one with positive
social reinforcement and one with neutral to negative reinforcement,
people will often choose the former.)

> And
> despite all the feminist agenda out there, it stays that way.
It's very early in the game to say this about women's learning.  
It's only within the century that Bais Yaakov started.  

Given that there have been university-trained female scientists and 
mathematicians at high levels for over a century  (though they had to
find a backdoor in, in many cases), women's learning is behind women's
scientific role.  That there are additional social constraints on women
wishing to learn seriously means that the progress will likely be slower
than in the secular world, so any such statement about women's intrinsic
interest or lack of interest in the next century is probably premature.  


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