Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Houskeeping Interlude

The post on women's prayer groups and Yiddish has been updated.

Scroll down for the update. Drop a note to baynonim at hotmail dot com if you have anything to add.

Also, I finally read Simcha on the subject of women's prayer groups. They aren't halachic, so I recant. If Rav Schachter says it's osur, it is osur.

Some musings:
I was happy to see that neither Simcha nor the Rabbis he cites made a meal of the "motivations" of the women who participate in these groups. Their "motivation" is irrelevant. It's none of our business, for starters, and they deserve the benefit of the doubt.

And even if their private motivations are wrong, doesn't "Mitoch lo lishma, bo lishma" matter? You should always continue to do good actions even if your reasons are bad.

Finally, it does seem to me that some of Rav Schacters objections to women's prayer groups, could be applied to other, fully sanctioned, Jewish practices. I'm not a posek. I'm not trying to make trouble. If Rav Schachter says it's osur, it is osur. But, in my heart of hearts, I am going hmmmm over some of the reasons Simcha cites. I would love to see the Lion of YU (Rav Schachter, not Simcha) apply some of those objections to certain other Jewish practices.

Perhaps I'll get into it one day. But today is not that day.

As for this question, which touches upon my own thread I have a one word answer. Feminism is about choices.


As to the Rabbi's answer to WPGs: people will either agree with it or not; follow it or not. But what I find striking is what is omitted from the Rabbi's comments. Clearly, there are reasons why women feel the need for WPGs; and while the Rabbi finds their reasons questionable, the emotions behind their reasoning must still be considered and acknowledged.

Personally, I don't think women are trying to be the "same as the men." I don't think most women see a need for the same set of rules to apply to both sexes; the exact opposite, they want to be recognized as the wonderful women that they are, with abilities and strengths much different from those of the men.

But more importantly, and more fundamentally, women want their presence to be acknowledged. They are tired of being pushed to the back of the shul behind a wall, of having their own events passed over...do you know how many shuls I have visited during holidays that did not even bother giving any space to the women to dance? Do women not deserve a place to dance during Simchas Torah, or any other community simcha?

The Rabbi's answer to WPG was just another "no" to the question of can women, somehow, make their presence known.  

R' Schachter did not exactly say that they were ossur. He did say that he and four other rebbeim from YU did not approve of them. There are a number of orthodox Rabbis who find them entirely unobjectionable, including some Roshei Yeshiva at YU. Neither R' Schachters article, nor Simcha's comments, are conclusive. R' Schachter because his is one opinion, not halachik at that, and you are not obligated to follow it if you have another opinion to rely on. And Simcha's, because besides his own disclaimer, he clearly has an agenda to discredit anyone who disagrees with R' Schachter, and also his quoting of the sources is one point removed. Furthermore, R' Schachters essay was written in the mid 80's, when the circumstances of WPG's were very different.  

All true, Jah.

I am sympathetic to WPGs but not qualified to rule on their permissibility. However, I do object to those who become absorbed with the supposed "motivations" of WPG participants. In an earlier entry I wrote about the middle-aged man who puts on a beckisha for the first time. He might be doing it for good reasons, he might be doing it for bad reasons but everyone gives him the benefit of the doubt. I don't understand why women in WPGs aren't deserving of the same simple courtesy. If it's osur, fine. If it's mutar, fine. We can discuss the halachic possibilities dispassionately. The motivations of the participants however, do not seem at all relevant, to me.  

Interesting. You mention that "feminism is about choices," but is Orthodox Judaism about feminisn? Is Orthodoxy about choices? I'm not Orthodox...my observance of Judaism is all choice. Is yours?  
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