While we were hanging out last night, my friend Simone, known for her uncomfortable shoes, hospitality to a frequently homeless laya and hilarious appreciation for drama, realized that she and her fiance Yoni were supposed to go down to the rabbinate get their marriage licence the next morning.

Needing a second witness Yoni asked me if I would do it before realizing that as a girl, of course, I cannot. I joked that we should help the revolution; go down there and insist they find a way that I get to be a witness or threaten that the couple in question will have premarital sex. The fanciful thought of being able to play an active role in helping one of my favorite people in the world get married was a enticing one. While I accept it as a non reality, it still got me thinking — why not?

I ask that question with sincerity and an open mind. The prohibition against women serving as witnesses is an old one, dating back to Talmud Bavli. However, we have an even older precedent, in Tanakh, of Dvorah serving as Prophetess and Judge. From my admittedly limited knowledge of how Jewish Law really works, it seems to me that he talmudic origins against women witnesses were largely social in nature. While I respect that, we now live in a era where women regularly serve in public roles, which makes me wonder if the same injunction need still apply. If there are other, deeper reasons for the prohibition, please, somebody let me know.

The role of women is not simply a backwards orthodox issue however. In 1846 at a Reform movement conference in Breslau it was declared “It is our sacred duty to declare with all emphasis the complete religious equality of women with man” but the first Reform woman rabbi was not ordained for another hundred and thirty years. I bring this up to emphasize that change takes time, and with perspective it is easier not to get frustrated.

Nonetheless, there is plenty of precedent for the evolution in the status of women within Judaism. The Chofetz Chaim overruled the “prohibitions against advanced training of women on the basis that times have changed, and that in the modern world it is now important for women to have an advanced Jewish education.” With so many women expressing frustration with their limited role in Judaism, can someone not similarly rule that on the basis of a much changed world, that it is likewise important for women to feel they have a an active and important role to play in the Jewish community and not only in the Jewish home?

I understand the stated reason of why women are not counted in a minyan, for instance (because prayer is a matter of male obligation, but a female prerogative), but there is no such problem here. If there is no pressing reason why women in this day in age should not be allowed to serve as witnesses, then perhaps it is a change we start working towards.

About the author

Laya Millman

141 Comments

  • You can’t become a witness because the haredim have too much power – especially Neturei Karta, who won’t even let you be a cabdriver(Cabdriveress? Cabdriverette?).

    You can’t be a witness – and these people you like so much can’t get married without paying BLOOD MONEY JEW TAX to those ungrateful haredim who take failed socialists’ money without getting with the program – because THE MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM IN THE MIDDLE EAST RIGHT NOW IS THE HAREDIM and how they have poor secular Israelis by the balls.

    That also explains the current political situation in Israel.

    It’s all the fault of smelly Orthodox and “traditional” people taking things too seriously. It’s all because of their INTRANSIGENCE and unwillingness to modernize. They have TOO MUCH power – well, OK, they do win elections and they do have more constituents and Knesset seats than Shinui and Meretz combined – but it’s the PRINCIPLE of the thing.

    I’m SO glad you’ve uncovered the REAL corruption here in Israel – we all know that “the occupation corrupts” and so do these Haredi mafiosi. Oh, no no no, Sharon and all that, that’s not the REAL rot at Israel’s core. And the leftie media admitting that they are covering up Sharon’s corruption just to get their policy enforced even though they didn’t win the election – well, that’s just PRINCIPLE.

    And you know – the secular built this country, damn it! And they pay for ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING – so who they hell are the rest of those smelly Orthodox Jews to go around VOTING and, like stuff like that.

    And you should all know – NONE of this is Ortho bashing, because I AM ORTHODOX. How DARE you imply that I am self-hating, or narrow in focus. And please spare me any facts – so what if up to 1/4 of secular Israelis wriggle out of army service – that’s conscientious objection, it’s a matter of PRINCIPLE! Not like those grubby Rabbis always insisting on their dusty old Halacha!

    I just think that this stuff needs to be addressed – and, it’s not like anything else of import is going on here in Israel….

    ….OK, now do I get posting privileges here? Have I demonstrated enough conflicted-about-my-Judaism-and-want-to-be-hip confusion? Enough American Jewish ignorance of Israel and its social/political reality?

    Have your people call my people…

  • ok, so without going into the history of the development of jewish law and ritual, i think that a major paradigm shift needs to take place within the orthodox male psyche if women are to be accepted as eidim (witnesses) within the more right wing halachic (torah-law observant) communities.

    first of all, we are not talking about hareidi (ultra-orthodox) communities here because their social structure does not allow for a system of halacha that interacts with mainstream social movements such a feminism and egalitarianism- so really, we’re just talking about slightly more moderate Orthodox Jewish communities and individuals who are committed to the observance of tradtional rituals but also have a certain degree of autonomy in their personal lives (i.e., they may serve in the idf and go to university but spend serious amounts of their time in the beis medrash (house of study), etc.). so, with that said- this is what i think needs to happen:

    these serious orthodox Jewish men in yeshiva who yearn to be close to Hashem and serve their nation NEED to recognize the pressing issue of kavod habriyot (respecting God’s creations) and how this area of halacha extends to the treatment of women, in both behavior and thought, in the political, social, and religious spheres of Jewish life. i mean- in orthodox circles today, women are highly educated and have highly-respected professional careers- and while more moderate halachic opinions “allow” for this entering of women into the public sphere, they indeed reject the possibility of women assuming public roles in the Jewish sphere, such as being an ed (witness) for one of your closest friend’s wedding- which in my opinion is highly problematic and distances people from Torah. so, what needs to happen? attention orthodox jewish males: you need to have a problem with this situation, talk it up in you batei midrash, and lobby your local communities and rabbis for change. of course- the real problem is that many of you do not think that the fact that laya can’t be a witness for a dear friend is not a problem at all (“it’s just not her role. like, i can’t just become the cohen gadol just b/c i want to. so too, laya can’t just do whatever she wants.” damn cohen gadol analogy)– but i’m pretty sure that if a growing number of prominent orthodox rabbis (influenced by their bochrim and layleaders) had this issue at the top of their agendas, then maybe we would see some real changes taking place. i mean- if halacha is a means for us to confront God, confront each other, and become closer to Torah and God then why are we so afraid to make new takanot (rabbinic enactments), which may empower scores of Jewish men and women to take active participatory roles in Jewish life?

    wow. talk about a rant. but it’s just that whether one likes it or not, men have the halachic authority today- and accepted change will only come from their hands. i’m not saying that womens’ efforts to progress women’s education and their social and political status are not commendable and highly important- b/c they are. but i guess i just feel that there’s too much preaching to the choir going on- and not enough preaching to the people who really need to hear a message for change.

    oh- and by the way, mazel tov to simone!

  • I told you before, Judaism, is not cool, or perhaps Orthodoxy is not cool. There are some nice parts to it, but something like this, makes me feel nothing for the whole thing, sorry.

  • The witness issue is small potatoes in comparison to the Get/Agunah issue…better warn Simone what happens if Yoni ever decides to leave her but not give her a Get. Trust me, it’s not spiritual, meaningul or beautiful on any level.

  • I think since the origin of the Reform and Conservative movements, there’s been a natural reaction against major halachic changes from the Orthodox. Since the inclusion of women is such a key component of the philosophy of all non_Orthodox movements, I don’t see this ever becoming mainstream halacha for the Orthodox.

  • Female witnesses? Next thing you know, ck will have to start eating shrimp encrusted fish sticks…

  • laya i just wanted to tell u that this so called overrulling by chofetz chaim (and gerrer rebbe who also supported creation of bais yaakov in krakow, poland) was based on malachim 2 chp 4 frm where we learn that women had tradition of fixed learning with a rebbi.
    the rest i ll leave w/o a comment as i dont know is this now about how smelly are the evil orto’s ( u see michael – u r a devil, a smelly one) or is it how there are some religious jews that are worth to talk to but others are lost so dont bother. or is it again about the roles or seriously about halacha?
    and ben-david, u forgot to add somthing about disengagement.

  • Holy Cow Ben-David. Way to obfuscate and not address the issue. Do you think we unduly bash the Haredim? Do you think we’re really all as lame as you make us seem? I mean holy cow – your comment was less about the role of women in Judaism and more about a kinda scary and angry venting. I am seriously concerned about what it is we’ve done to you that would inspire such bile.

    For the record, Haredim are amongst my favorite kinds of Jews. For real. Just sayin’ … now you go have a shabbat shalom!

  • Wow, Ben David, that was totally insane. Just to note, both Laya, Michael and ck have been staunch defenders of the Orthodox on this site. Are you saying they can’t also question things or lobby for change or simply ask questions like how did an Orthodox group come to be so dominant in a secular state?

    You want it all to be vanilla and rosy?

  • BD, i guess your comment got caught in moderation, cause I didnt see it until now.

    ummm….did I even mention the word Heredi in my post? was there any sense of hatred towards the halachich system or orthodox jews in it? where exactly was I being “self-hating”?

    You’re being blinded and seeing what you want to see while ignoring what is actually said. Maybe you should step away, do some breathing exercizes, some yoga maybe, read some jewish lessons on anger rethink yourself and come back to us.

    Back on topic, I am actually interested if anyone can tell me why we can’t make this happen, or conversely, how we can. And if we can make it happen before the wedding on August 24, that would be great 😉

  • Before this descends, sadly, into yet another session for bashing observant Jews for their beliefs, allow me to interject something. Orthodox women serve as valid, trusted, and expert witnesses for the most important elements in Jewish law. They are: Shabbat observance, Kashrut, and Family purity. (In addition to civil disputes and material claims) Jewish women have been entrusted with safeguarding the spiritual and religious underpinnings of the entire Jewish civilization. If a women could not be “trusted,” if this is an issue of sexism, why in the world would the Torah leave these issues up to women?

    However, the main reason I am writing is that I feel Laya that you are interested in discussing several really important issues: general issues of women and Judaism, ketubot, the laws of witnesses, shifts in Jewish practice, having an observant lifestyle and religious life in general. Alas, erev Shabbos and there is so much to discuss, and so little time. So until next time, wishing you a wonderful shabbos full of light.

    PS If only we were as dedicated to a critique of blind adherence to Western society, its morals, values, principals, proponents, and progenitors, as we are to defamation of those who choose a religious lifestyle, we could really change the world for the better.

  • Laya, I wrote my comment earlier, and was not meant to follow your comment. Rather it was a comment in general, seeing how things can and have gone recently. Gut Shabbos and speak with you soon.

  • First off… Mazel Tov Simone, seems that close as I am to her brothers I’m always the last to know about her. (They didn’t tell me she existed, and I wouldn’t have known if she hadn’t appeared one day at my yeshiva looking incredably familier. Anyway, Mazel Tov.

    Anyway, the rules for Eidim are actually quite vast and complicated, needless to say that my BT education hasn’t even come close yet to preparing me to make ruleings on the issue, or even understand it in it’s completness. What I do know is that there is, for the first time that I’m aware, a movement within Orthodox Jewdaism that is making a concerted effort to address womens issues, and I’m honored to say that my Yesivah (Bat Ayin) is one of the leaders. The goal, to integrate women in all aspects of life as much as possible while still adhering to halacha. This idea, while mostly accademic at the yeshiva level has been put into practice by some of the yeshiva’s alumni, probably most notably, Gavriel Goldfetter at his Shul (Aish Kodesh – nothing to do with Aish HaTorah) in Bolder Colorado. While there is a mechitza and women don’t lead most prayers (for the reason which laya has already hinted towards) they do partisipate in Shul leadership, give classes and pulpit speachs, lead those prayers (like the one’s for the government) that don’t have issues of specific obligation. They are exploring the idea of women led kabalat shabbat, the Torah is carried on both sides of the machitzah, being carried by a women on the womens side, and what I thought was pretty cool, a women reads the torah in English as a simultainious traslation while the guy makes the bracha and reads in Hebrew in an undertone. (For those of you into History, that’s how it was traditionally done in the Market place, not by women, but rather that the Bal Koreh would read it and another person would simultainiously translate it out loud into the current dialect, in the time of the gemarra it was Aramaic so they’d basicly read the Onkoles for everyone to hear.)

    The reality is that there are all kinds of things women can do while still upholding the halacha, and unfortunatly we (in most cases) don’t let them do it, usually because we don’t bother to learn where the line is and “play it safe”. In the battle for equality we need to remember two things, first off and most important. Equal does not mean same. (This is my biggest pet peve about most feminist movements, a women shouldn’t have to evaluate her statis by how closly she resembles the traditional role of a man, who said the man’s traditional role was the pinnical form of existence, and why can’t I live my dream to be a stay at home dad. Rather she should evaluate her status by how close she is to achieving her own personal ideal of self as outlined by her heart, screw the external Bull Sh*t.) And secondly, where there is room within Halacha for womens involvment, then we have to make a real effort and strive to bring ourselves to a place where those who wish to participate can. Not b’davka, that were a women can participate she should, so we can’t let a man do that (I really like leading Kabalat Shabbat) but rather that in those places it not matter who leads.

    OK, that was disorganized a bit and full of my usual typos and spelling mistakes, but I hope it gets across the message. Hallacha is not the enemy, it is a beautiful gift that has defined our people and made us special for over 2000 years. It’s not something to fight against tooth and nail, but rather something to embrace. That being said, cultural machismo, bigotry, ect are our enemy. They are what needs to be fought. Our problem is not that Halacha sees men and women differently and has a different playbook for each, our problem is that we don’t recognize that over the thousads of years of our existense we’ve been influenced by the cultures and sociaties around us and have picked up some of there vices and bad traits, and now we’re in serious need of expelling them from our system. Don’t fight the Halacha, fight the mentality that exists that leads people to mis-use it.

  • Oh… you should have heard the drash Rav Natan (one of my Yeshiva’s Rosh Yeshiva) gave to the shul in Sharon. It raised a few eyebrows as he brought in Torah sources and argued for the involvment of women in Jewish leadership as a whole and in shul life. The whole power of Miriam thing. It was awsome, really shook some people but made a strong point.

  • Rabbi Yonah says:

    Before this descends, sadly, into yet another session for bashing observant Jews for their beliefs, allow me to interject something.

    This is a little misleading…the sessions have left nearly no sect of Judaism unbashed as far as Muffti can tell. ‘Destroyer of Judaism’ anyone? That appelation was not given to an orthodox member of the Jewlicious community.

    Only the atheists have gotten off easy coz y’all don’t care enough to bash us. Joe Schmo at one point even said that Muffti is less of a destroyer than TM. Sweet!

    Good Shabbos. Muffti hopes you guys have a nice weekend.

  • Whatever, dude. Shmo has spoken. Judaism seems to be doing fine, in any case, despite our best efforts.

  • It’s dogma. The reasons they had this rule back then were largely societal, that is how women were mistreated by everyone (no vote). That’s all it is. But Orthodoxy has this concept of no change, or as someone put it here, change as much as possible while still adhering to Halacha. Bull. It doesn’t work for the majority of people and they will look elsewhere for spiritualiy, or more simply, for connecting w/ people, to be lovable.

  • ck! If you read this can you tell tiff to check her email before shabbat starts tonight? Thanks 🙂

  • Jobber, I’m sorry you can’t find what your looking for spiritually and relationship wise within your own traditions. However, you also neeed to accept that there are those who do find comfort and liberation through Halacha, dispite it’s age.

    Unfortunatly most people treat Halacha as some sort of burden. It’s an impossition, something that limits us, and antiquitates us. The majority of these people lack the understanding that Halacha is not just law as in the common legal sense, but rather a reflection of a dynamic personal relationship between self and others, including G-d. The Halacha isn’t an end point, it’s a begining. It’s not there to set hard and fast arbitrary standards for G-d’s amusment, it’s there to provide an outline and guide for living in a full relationship with G-d and with all of his creations. It’s a tool, not a shackel. I feel sorry for those who can’t or won’t see the beauty of the underlying relationship because they are caught in the surfice details.

    If your going to scrap the rules, don’t scrap the relationship with it.

  • Laya, middle, ck – it is clear from some of the comments that I am not the only one who feels that this blog is top-heavy with critiques of Orthodoxy – specifically, critiques that (uncritically!) apply another society’s scale of values to Judaism, and impatiently imply that Halachic Judaism has to “catch up” with a Western society that is, itself, in deep moral disarray.

    I note in this connection what a flashpoint Conservative Judaism is on this blog – can this be because some folks here think they are somehow hipper and on more of an “inside track” vis-a-vis Judaism, yet are retreading the same nose-against-the-shop-window urge to nosejob Judaism so they can feel cool and with-it? And when this gets pointed out – as in discussions of Conservative Judaism that cut too close to the bone – all hell breaks loose.

    Quite a paradox – posters freely point out the failings of Conservative Judaism when TM defends it, yet don’t see that they have by no means sidestepped the pitfalls that C Judaism fell into – most obviously, the pitfall of accepting another culture’s values as the yardstick by which Judaism is judged. That’s an error that distorts the rest of the discussion, and leads inevitably to a compromised, assimilationist approach.

    Rabbi Y put it best in his comment:
    If only we were as dedicated to a critique of blind adherence to Western society, its morals, values, principals, proponents, and progenitors, as we are to defamation of those who choose a religious lifestyle, we could really change the world for the better.
    – – – – – – – – – –
    I do see an imbalance – more discussion of the “problems” of Orthodoxy, less discussion of where modern Jews must stand apart from amoral/immoral aspects of the general culture instead of just going along.

    Certainly here in Israel, the idea that what’s really hot here is a recycled rant about Haredi hechsher mafiosi is ridiculous – how about a discussion of where the Left has gone off the rails, the open debate going on about Israel’s democratic nature – and the far-from-positive roll played in that debate by the secular elite? Instead we get Bamba and a haredi-bashing article that I could have phoned in while half asleep after reading similar “those darn Orthos!” screeds in everything from Moment to Tikkun.

    Yes, it is most definitely looking one-sided. Yes, for all the hip-hop trappings and poses of cool Jewish knowledge, it does seem to be stuck in the “Judaism is not cool” syndrome of shame/blame that gave birth to C and R Judaism in the recent past.

  • Ben-David, are you capable of emotions other than anger? If you hate me and my posts so much, and think that Jewlicious is not covering enough of the issues that you, personally, think are important, then start your own blog. Seriously. It’s a big blogosphere out there, and nobody is beholden to express your viewpoint. So if you want it out there, do it yourself. It’s not the job of Jewlicious to be Ben-David’s mouthpiece. All Jewlicious is, and all it has ever claimed to be, is a group of Jews of different ages and viewpoints talking about Jewish issues that interest them.

    Calm down and go take your kids for a walk or something. Stop directing so much of your hatred and anger towards what is ultimately nothing more than a few Jewish guys and girls writing down their thoughts online. You’re not changing our minds and you’re probably driving up your blood pressure. Chill.

  • Actually, Ben David, what I see is that any time any form of Judaism other than Orthodox is mentioned, we get a bunch of people (including Jewlicious posters) telling the world that this is how Judaism has been and is being destroyed; that this form of practice is not even Jewish; and that we’re all Destroyers of Judaism ™ and our converts are really Christians playing dress-up.

    I’ll tell you what, you stop commenting about the PRACTICES of other Jews and start commenting about VALUES, and let’s see if we can have a dialogue.

    If I understand your comments here, you are responding to the fact that an Orthodox woman is seeking and opportunity to have a status no different than a man’s in a key Jewish ceremony and celebration. I understand what Rabbi Y was saying, but why don’t you tell me what precisely is wrong with this idea and how it undermines your practices and beliefs.

  • Another group who is doing a great amount to remove “excess” barriers while remaining true to Halacha is Nishmat. They have the Yoetzet Taharut Mishpecha which has been well accepted in many, if not all, sectors of the observant community). Why not check with them on this? I would not be at all surprised to find out that someone at Nishmat is studying davka this topic. Rabbanit Henkin completely rocks–she is my hero. Or heroine, as the case may be.

    And CK-who is Tiff? Is Reb Chaim’s blessing working its wonders amongst the Jewlicious tzevet? (Sorry, could not resist the question).

  • Ben David, it’s a little chutzpahdik for someone to tell us our blog is too anything. It’s our blog, we have fun with it, that’s all. We hope that you enjoy it, but we can’t please all the people all the time.

    My suggestion is in no way “nose-jobbing” Judaism, nor is it trying to make it more “hip”. It is however, requesting that it continues to evolve to meet the needs of each generation like it was always supposed to.

    Judaism has always been affected by the cultures around it. We can’t deny the age we live in is one where women feel capable enough to be a great mother AND occasionally go out of the house. Many Jewish women are feeling they want more of a role in the Jewish community and I firmly believe that it is possible, and necessary to find a proper way to do it.

    I don’t think this is even a “problem” within orthodoxy, but a place for potential evolution. It is people like you, who seem to think that Judaism should stay in the 18th century that give the rest of the orthodox world a bad rap.

  • Laya,

    Where is the evidence that Judaism was ‘always supposed to’ evolve to meet the needs of each generation? And how does one tell between (a) a proposal for benign evolution, (b) a proposal for a nose job and (c) a proposal made by someone who is a ‘destroyer of Judaism’?

    The Ben-David challenge (Muffti thinks, please BD correct if wrong), which Muffti should say NONE of you seem to be making an attempt to take seriously, is that there is no real distinction between these things. So perhaps y’all could get somewhere if someone was willing to tell the rest of us what the essential difference is between a change in degree and a change in kind amounts to. Perhaps then you would have some ground to start discussing what changes are acceptable and which ones lead you to destroying Judaism and eating shrimp encrusted fish sticks.

    Muffti isn’t saying this question can’t be answered. But never has he seen someone even attempt a solution. All he really hears are slogans like ‘Judaism was meant to evolve and change’ vs. ‘changes of this sort are attempts at hipster (?) mixing of old jewish values with modern culture.’

  • Muffti – I would love to beat the gums with you about your valid question, daddy-o, but me and these hepkitties are headin’ to the juice joint, going to go light up some tea and knock back some coffin varnish. I’m telling you, man, these dames hit on all sixes! But you’re hip to the jive, man, you’re on the trolley, you know all about this Jewish hipster thing. So I gotta get a wiggle on, but I’ll see you other Jewish hepcats on the flipside.

  • heheh…ok, so long as something in there meant ‘drink some Jaegermeister and eat some fried alligator.’

  • i’m pretty sure the main way halacha changes in this generation is just when communities start doing things differently. That’s how music and weddings in Jerusalem got legalized, people just did it, and the rabbis followed. I’d say, just do the wedding and be a witness, and watch as no one has a problem with it. maybe.

  • Ben-David wrote:
    this blog is top-heavy with critiques of Orthodoxy – specifically, critiques that (uncritically!) apply another society’s scale of values to Judaism, and impatiently imply that Halachic Judaism has to “catch up” with a Western society that is, itself, in deep moral disarray.

    Hmm. Ben-David, just so you know, most of us here are aligned with Orthodoxy. Laya’s tone in this post was respectful and inquisitive. Despite not being one herself, Laya has often come to the defense of Haredim.

    I think the issue here is that the way some elements within Religious Judaism (I really hate the term Orthodox) treat women is exactly what you hate – The application of another society’s scale of values to Judaism. Except it isn’t current society’s values, it’s the values of European society like 200 years ago.

    I mean seriously, does Judaism really teach us that Women are innately incapable of being witnesses? They can raise your children, they have been judges and teachers but they can’t be witnesses? I’m not looking for a knee jerk application of whacked out current Western values to Religious Judaism, I am looking at getting closer to what Religious Judaism was meant to be before it was contaminated by external galut influences.

    I revere and respect my ancestors, I revere and respect our halachic/rabbinic leaders. It just doesn’t make sense to me that the women in my family, who have always provided me with my spiritual guidance can’t witness a simple document. I too, like Laya, would appreciate an explanation.

    I won’t defy rabbinic requirements. But nothing says I can’t have more than 2 witneses, right? Just sayin’

  • Oh, no CK, Judaism always taught us to be respectful of women. Muffti is recalled of a choice piece of Pirkei Avot:

    “Yosi ben Yochanan of Jerusalem used to say: let your house be wide open, and let the poor be members of your household, engage not in too much conversation with women. They said this with regard to one’s own wife, how much more so with regard to another man’s wife. From this the Sages said: as long as a man engages in too much conversation with women he causes evil to himself because he diverts himself from the words of the Torah so that his end will be that he will inherit Gehinnom.”

    Muffti may be just a dumb, ignorant atheist but he’s pretty sure that Gehinnom is , like, bad.

    Yeah, Yeah. Muffti knows that there are nice ways to soften the blow. But, c’mon, the happy go lucky attempts to read feminism into a tradition that has at least had a mysogynistic bent to it for a long time rather anachronistic, no? Is Ben-David wrong? Does it matter if it doesn’t make sense to YOU that women aren’t witnesses?

  • by no means i dare not to contradict his mufftiness, but the above mentioned pirkey avos have more to it than just plain words.
    advice of not talking to own’s wife pertains to a times when she is nidah and limits to frivolous talk that may lead to serious averah.
    so to with other women, the rabbi speaking in the mishna trying to say – while u make yr home open to everybody and there is permanently one big party going on and u as a host are trying to accomodate everybody’s needs and entertain all make sure that u ll not end up trying to entertain yr neighbor’s attractive wife a little bit more than anybody else cuz that will lead to mixed dancing… so to speak. and for all this u can get all this scarry things.

    muffti is not mysogynist himself?

  • Daphna, it comes as no suprise to me that Nishmat is at the forfront. It’s a great institution in it’s own right. (It also happens to have Shared at least one Rav with Bat Ayin – Rav Chanan, but he’s left both places to take up a shlicut role in America)

  • Muffti dare not contradict his ybocherness, but why doesn’t that count as, what is in postmodern times called, a radical re-interpretation of the text?

    And, nah, Muffti loves women. A lot.

  • oh and michael pls stop telling people to leave yr blog if they dont like it. its against cyber hachnosas orchim and very cheap way to retort sbody. i know me and other people are only guests here on YOUR blog but somehow i have a feeling that u do care if people read what u write.
    and just short disclaimer: besides this small point i agree w/u so far on most of the things and i adore jewlicious.

  • loving-women-alot muffti shud know that the iinterpretation that i cited comes from 18th century poland.
    u see ck maybe this 18th century wanna-dress-like-goyishe-noblemen yids are not so closed minded and if one reads into them can find many answers for today. and pls tell me ck if it s all about european 18th century community that holds us back then why dont we have maroccan women being witness in our day and age?

  • Muffti wrote: Yeah, Yeah. Muffti knows that there are nice ways to soften the blow.

    Clever! Anticipating my argument and pre-emptively poo pooing it! Bravo! But you know as well as I do that what I am saying has little to do with modern feminism. Do a little more research and stop relying on this overused quote of yours. Please tell me in what ways hasJudaism always been radically feminist for it’s time? I’m serious and keep in mind that Judaism has been around for thousands of years and feminism is a historical blip.

    ybocher: Don’t be so literal minded! You know exactly the point I am trying to make.

  • Ok… the whole Judaism is ment to evolve thing. You want to see examples of it, cases of it in Practise? OK… Mishna, Gemmarah, Rambam, Shulchan Orech, ect all the way down past the mishna brurah and Aggaret Moshe. The problem is that we’ve lived on a double edged sorwed. Within Judaism there has allways been a continued discussion, a give and take on spirituality and especially halacha. The entire formation of the Gemarra was out of arguments occuring in the old Study Houses between the leaders of the generation trying to adapt and expand on Written and Oral Traditions, to be within the bounds of what was permitted yet apply it to the real world in which they lived. The problem? It was written down. It was never supposed to be and for good reason. It was ment to be an oral tradition that could evolve with the people, but because of persicution we were forced to compile and write things down so that we wouldn’t loose everything. The problem with things being written down is that they because firm, not prone to change. But in order to maintain Jewish Survival it was worth the price of loosing some of the dynamism.

    Ok, but what about today you ask? That was a long time ago in Babalon. Next up the Rambam, he undertook the massive project of codefing the laws, customs, and traditions and putting them into his times. If you look his work is filled with ideas from his secular counterparts Aristotle and Socraties. This was mostly in the relm of philosophy but covered halachic areas as well, especially halachas dealing with maintaining health. However, he still kept it within the framework of what existed.

    What about later generations? People sought to do the same thing, to apply the laws again to their era. However, they didn’t have everything at their disposal the way the Rambam did (Lots and Lots of Gemara was last between the Rambam and later generations) This was very restrictive. There was a desire to keep things evolving, but evolution has always respected the fact that it had guidlines and limits in place. Missing half of those guidlines, evolution became very limited in scope in order to play it safe smaller and smaller steps were taken each time until you get to modern day Poskim (Halachic experts who rule and define Jewish Law) who have virtually no leway for evolution because everything is written and firm, but the sorces that underly are largly unavailable. Just as you can’t undermine a doctural thesis without having the sources available to you to examine, we’re left in a possition where it’s very difficult to adapt Halacha to modern culture and sociaty because we lack to sources that governed it’s evolution.

    Now… This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to be as flexible as we can be, it just means that while being flexible we have to understand that there is an existing halachic framework that needs to be adhered to.

    So was Judaism ment to evolve and adapt and change? YES. Are we living in an Optimal time for change? NO. Does that mean we shouldn’t do everything we can within existing Halacha to address our current socio-political world? Of course not. It’s still our job to make Judaism ours, to leave our mark on it to last through the generations. The question is not whether or not Judaism should evolve, it’s a question of what the process of the evolution should be.

    We aren’t makeing animal sacrifices anymore.

  • Purim Hero, I find that this system doesn’t work for me, but yet I believe in G-d and I want and do have my own relationship and closedness w/ G-d. Maybe not exactly as you follow. But I have it.

    I for example, say the Grace after meals alot longer than the majority of people.

    But the life style is not for me. Shule is not for me. It has become a bore, a burden. I can’t sit. All week long I sit most of the day, tied to a phone that rings all the day w/ users who have forgotten their passwords or are missing a printout.
    On Sat. morning I have longed to just GO somewhere, not SHule, where I have to sit and listen to a read of the Torah that I don’t have the patience to follow or care anymore, to a Rabbi’s sermon that usually is not of interest to me, to waiting for the service to end,etc… So today I decided to walk to the train station near to me and use my monthly pass to not have to bring my wallet at all, and just took the train to the station I get off at all week, and walk around the nice building, up stairs, down etc… for an enjoyable jaunt and then back home and yo know what, I felt freedom, it was exhilliarating, it made my day, my week. When I was drinking from the water I had brought I instinctively made a Bracha. I asked myself, what you doing, you are being michallel Shabbos in public? I said no, this is me, i am feeling close to Hashem and will make the Bracha.
    You’ve got it all wrong my man. You are only following a pattern of behaviour and set roles. they make no sense anymore, alot of it. I support a normalization of Judaism. You can’t allow the marginalization of groups to continue to happen.
    Someone has got to stand up. Look at the late Gadol, Harav Moshe. He would take an Aguna’s case. He started to look at the Ketuba and would find mistakes of various kinds there. He would declare the marriage was not valid to being w/, she doesn’t need a Ketuba, finished. And no one questioned him, because of who he was. Well where is that Someone today?

  • Jobber, What your saying is something beautiful. I wish more people could feel as you do. I’m happy to say I also enjoy a close relationship with G-d. It’s not without its difficulties. Davening is a pain for me, I want to say my words. And Teffilan, I don’t get it, it’s such a hassel. However, I try my best to do them anyway, that’s what works for me in my understanding of the relationship.

    But you’ve got the key already, you see it as a relationship, and a personal one, as it should be, between you and G-d. However, every relationship has two parties, it’s not just you. It is my belief (and I can only speak for myself) That G-d gave us a great gift in the Torah and all the Halacha that follows. I see it as his instuction manual to being in a full and meaningful relationship with him. I only with my other relationships could have come with such a manual. I feel it would have saved me a lot of trouble and kept me from hurting a lot of people who have meaning in my life. But that’s not the way it works unfortunatly for other relationships, and we have ways of hurting people, not because we want to, but because we only can really understand things from our perspective and are limited in how much we can accomadate others and their own quirky selves.

    We have a desire to be respected, understood, to have the people we are in a relationship with honor our personal likes, dislikes, and opinions. And they expect the same. But despite our best efforts at communication things get lost and people get hurt. We understand when we are violated, but it’s incredibly difficult to understand why and how we violate others.

    Just to take a more concrete example, in the relationship between a husband and wife, 2 people have their lives deeply entangled with each other. There is an opportunity for the deepest and fullest relationship which can bring each partner to new levels of love and feelings of self worth. But there are even more opportunities for the two to cross bounderies and step over lines that can cause the deepest pain imaginable because it comes from someone who is so close and meaningful. The triggers are often unfortunatly cryptic to the other party and can come about from the simplest of things, and from the best intentions. You decide to get your wife a gift and buy flowers, but she’s into choclate, she’s tried to tell you before, but you really like the way flowers look in the house, or you simply don’t remember, and the flowers were convieniate on your way home. Maybe she likes flowers, but maybe she doesn’t, maybe she’s even allergic, that’s besides the point though, because now she feels that you havn’t listened, or that her thoughts don’t matter to you. Your good intentions have caused pain. It’s unfair, it hurts, but it’s the way relationships work, unfortunatly your spouse doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

    However, we are lucky when it comes to our relationship with G-d. (Which is frequently compared to that between husband and wife.) We have an instruction manual in the Torah and the halachot. We have to remember though that it’s just a guide, not the point, the point is still the relationship. There is just as much pain to be found in the distant spouse who just follows a checklist when it comes to relating to their partner (Toilet Seat Down, Check, Lawn Mowed, Check, Bed Made, Check, ect…) as there is in the spouse who’s intentions are good but ignores the input from their partner. Your spouses lines might not be crossed, but the distance is painful, what’s the point of being married without the closeness and the relationship? I might not be violated, but I’m sure not being loved in a way I feel apretiated.

    The answer to achieving a full relationship with G-d, for myself anyway, is to stike the balance. Not to expect perfection, but to expect that every effort will be made on both sides to achieve the goals and fullness of the relationship. In my case this means following Halacha, not as a checklist following every chumra and stringency to make sure I don’t cross a line, but rather to try my best to respect the often quirky non-understandable or rational desires of my partner. I may not ever understand my partner (in this case G-d) but it’s important to me that I try to the best of my ability to give it a shot. If I do this I’m sure that my spouse will see my good intensions and understand my shortfallings, and still be open and ready to make our relationship as full as possible.

  • ck i m sorry for being sooo literal minded but i m. lets blame it on my close-minded yeshiva expirience.
    anyway i thought that by shifting yr attention to maroccan community i ll help u see that thre is evolution just that it happens at a different rate than the changes in the world around us. but the truth is i dont no maroccansm maybe one. i know pretty well syrian community – both very traditional and main stream. they seem to me adapting well and not being stuck in the 18th but still faithful to the tradition its rulings.
    as purimhero wrote there is evolvement in judaism just that it happens at its own speed. one might complain that it s not fast enoughsince the world is changing much faster. but i think that we do not need to adhere to the current civilization at any price. judaism has survived many mighty civilizations by sticking to their thing. today’s culture is very attractive and fast. this speed is possible b/c we live in disposable era – if u dont like it just throw it out and get a newer, better more up-to-date one. unfortunately this doesnot pertain only to consumer goods but also to principle and relationships too.
    so go ahead and get yrself plastic-ware new and clean, i d rather stick to my granmothers silver-ware that is rusty and hard to wash (especially in a cold water on shabbes). i think i can still use it even to eat the newest osem products w/badatz hechsher. 🙂

  • Speaking of silverware… I was introduced to biodegradable, compostable utensils, plates, cups, bowls and napkins by the Oshman’s in Sharon Mass at the Bat Ayin Retreat that was there. They started the Dine Green organization. http://www.dinegreen.com/default.asp? and sell the biodegradable silverware as well as many other products at their online store http://www.dinegreenstore.com/ It’s a good compromise between disposable and environmental protection. Maybe a good lesson as a Maisa for us as well. (Disposable – sociaty today, Environment – tradition and halacha) Though as they themselves say, it’s always safe, if not better, to use the classic reusible dishes of old but to wash them in environmentaly safe cleaners.

  • If your looking for the bio-degradable silverware it’s under the Kitchen Drawer link in the Other category from their store. (Which I now relize links to a large store that they don’t run… oh well) Regardless they are still a great couple, even if spending 3 hours repackaging dishes into their original containers and cardboard was a pain, and I personally don’t find myself nearly on thier level when it comes to environmental protection. Maybe it’s the dirt poor broke student me, but keeping a kosher kitchen is hard enough without spending 35 dollars on compostable silverware, when I get the normal disposables for free… but that’s life. Guess I’ve still got plenty to work on.

  • ybocher: nothing in laya’s post advocated tossing out the old. Nothing in what i’ve said suggests we ought to dispense with tradition. i value our tradition – really it’s literally precious to me. i am concerned that some of our views on women are more a reflection of the prevailing norms that existed in non-jewish galut society. I’d appreciate a re-examination of older more authentic traditions to see if maybe this whole woman thing can be reconciled. I know one thing – that Judaism was a radical thing – not just because it introduced the world to monotheism, but for many reasons. Some of those reasons also involved the role and nature of women. Judaism was the first religion to give women many of the rights that are taken for granted today. In any case, do you get my point? I also defer to learned rabbis on this, but just like when I was studying gemarrah, I was encouraged to challenge my Rabbis and ask questions. That’s not disrespectful, it’s part of the halachic tradition (as long as certain boundaries are not crossed of course). Capish?

  • As long as I was posting links, this one caught my attention as deserving a post from one of the Jewlicious staff members. I’m interested to hear people’s takes. Could all of our answers really be just 40 days and a a bunch of dollars later?

  • purim hero if this was an analogy (i guess it didnt work out so well when i tried) then u ve lost me.

  • muffti, you ask a legitimate question, if i didn’t have to run to work shortly, or had more knowledge at my fingertips, i would try to give you the answer it deserves. But i think its clear from our history that Judaism has always evolved, and has always borrowed from and reacted to the cultures around it. It would be impossible not to. The advent of Hasidism was a radical shift when it started and now we more or less universally (mitnagdim not withstanding) accept it. It changed Theology, but not the tenets of the faith. It opened learning to every Jew (well, every male Jew) and changed the way in which we worship and the paradigm for an ideal spirituality, all while working within a system and tradition that defined who we are. Luckily, Judaism has much theology, but relatively little dogma.

    yes, Judaism has long had a misogynistic bent, but i don’t think it needs too.Tthe rabbis who wrote the talmud were themselves influenced by the culture and society around them where women were subjugated and treated more or less as property. If it was written today, it would probably read very differently.

    Yoseph “That’s how music and weddings in Jerusalem got legalized, people just did it”, i’m not sure what you mean, but the problem with this is that if i am NOT recognized as a witness, then neither is their marriage.
    Nonetheless, you are right, sometimes we have to just do things. Which is why I eat kitniot on pesach.

    Jobber, sounds like you had a nice shabbat. Was it in keeping with halacha, maybe not totally, was it what you needed? sounds like it. Where I’m at, i see Halacha and the religious way is a practice and a disciple designed to refine human nature and bring an individual closer to God. Does it always succeed? clearly not. Is it the only way to achieve those goals? Not from what I’ve seen in the world. Nonetheless, I still see it as a good thing and a system by which1) I the individual benefits because it has the ability to infuse my daily life with infinite meaning (whether i actualize it or not) and make me a more conscientious person and 2) Jewish society benefits because ultimately i believe Judaism has to be a way of life and not just a heritage.
    So awesome, keep on dong the spiritual thing and may your journey inspire others.

  • ok this discussion is fascinating but ck i do have life too so i m leaving. anyway laya doesnt talk to me.

  • PurimHero at the gmail dot com as well as on AIM is good to go… so for all those who don’t want to post publicly, but want to haras me privatly feel free. Just no spam.

  • yeah but when she doeasnt talk to u then it s personal and i do understand it. 🙂
    by the way i find it very cute that u r kinda jewlicious answering machine whenever any of members of yr posse is unvailable then u give them excuse. and i thought u r like father only to michael.

  • Yeah, ck’s an answering machine until he goes AWOL. Then it’s Jewlicious itself that acts as the dry-erase message board in the hall:

    “ck, check your email”-uppity shiksa
    “ck, if you’re reading this, email me your contact info”-the middle
    “ck, are you back from LA?”-esther
    “ck, call tiffy”-patty
    “ck, call patty”-tiffy

    And so it goes…

  • Work and preparations for this week’s protest march prevent my posting at length, but:

    Michael:
    If you hate me and my posts so much, and think that Jewlicious is not covering enough of the issues that you, personally, think are important, then start your own blog.
    – – – – – – – – –
    Nice combination of victimology and the Raise The Drawbridge syndrome – in which the most recent homebuyer is the most vocal about keeping out undesireables. Keep up the good work!

    Middle:
    If I understand your comments here, you are responding to the fact that an Orthodox woman is seeking and opportunity to have a status no different than a man’s in a key Jewish ceremony and celebration. I understand what Rabbi Y was saying, but why don’t you tell me what precisely is wrong with this idea and how it undermines your practices and beliefs.
    – – – – – – – – –
    It doesn’t undermine them, and that’s not the point of my post.

    Muffti’s description of the “Ben-David” challenge is accurate as far as it goes:

    Where is the evidence that Judaism was ‘always supposed to’ evolve to meet the needs of each generation? And how does one tell between (a) a proposal for benign evolution, (b) a proposal for a nose job and (c) a proposal made by someone who is a ‘destroyer of Judaism’?

    The Ben-David challenge (Muffti thinks, please BD correct if wrong), which Muffti should say NONE of you seem to be making an attempt to take seriously, is that there is no real distinction between these things. So perhaps y’all could get somewhere if someone was willing to tell the rest of us what the essential difference is between a change in degree and a change in kind amounts to. Perhaps then you would have some ground to start discussing what changes are acceptable and which ones lead you to destroying Judaism and eating shrimp encrusted fish sticks.
    – – – – – – – –
    Indeed.

    The central leitmotif of this blog is a Jewish attitude that is simultaeously more “authentic” – unlike those ignorant, assimilation-bound Jews of yesteryear, *we* know and do Judaism, and think it’s groovy (sarcastic use of anachronism intentional) – and “hip” – see, even though I’m serious about Torah Judaism I can still partake of pop culture and strike popular secular intellectual poses (about singlehood, premarital sex, homosexuality, etc).

    As I have pointed out before, the Jewlicious generation is trying to bridge these cultural poles at a time when (after centuries of basically shared Judeo-Christian values) the West and Judaism are moving rapidly apart.

    So I expect the discourse to include at least as much incisive critique of Western mores as of Judaism’s strictures – that is, if y’all REALLY are qualitatively different from previous generations in the depth of your committment to Judaism, if it’s really not a big-Jewish-nose-against-the-cultural-shopwindow scenario – then there should be an equal balance between posts that strain youthfully at the bonds of Jewish practice (and I did my share of that straining too) and posts that look critically at the West’s moral slide and affirm alleigance with Jewish values and practice.

    I don’t see that second part: the discussion of those times when a modern Jew has to say “yeeecchhh” instead of “yes” to modern society.

    Which leads me to believe that – despite all the really cool Kabbalah and Shabbos meals – this blog spends most of its time wallowing in good old fashioned, if-I-was-a-hip-dude, shame-guilt-anger reaction to being marginalized in the general society. Indistinguishable from the impulses of the 50’s-era Jews we are all condescending to now that the BT movement has made Judaism “cool”.

    Status of women? Judaism has made enormous changes at a pace that is probably as fast as Halacha has ever changed. The concepts of women’s prayer groups and high-level study of Talmud are non-issues in those sectors of the Jewish community that will accept these changes in this generation. Jewish women have entered the Bet Din system as to’anot and have even been given authority to rule on certain halachic matters (family purity).

    Homosexuality? The debate is by no means closed in the general society – in fact, large numbers of non-Jews are still embracing the Jewish view in the context of a larger attempt to shore up society’s sexual mores.

    Yet not one of the seekers of funky cultural fusion on this blog asked what the role of a “connected” Jew should be at this juncture – what constitutes being a “light to the nations” in this situation?

    Instead, you all mouthed the hip, cool opinion almost unquestioningly – even though it cuts across some of Judaism’s core values. The clear subtext in this and other issues is that it is Judaism that has to “catch up”, Judaism that is such a drag.

    In what way is this attitude any more “serious” about Judaism – or informed by Judaism – than the cultural assimilation of previous generations?

    At some point a committed Jew has to shift out of “cultural checklist” mode (does Judaism live up to an external culture’s checklist – is it capitalist/socialist enough, feminist enough, etc.). At some point those who assert that THEIR cultural cocktail is more “authentic” or “connected” must actually start judging the secular world by Judaism, instead of the other way around. At some point there must be discussion of exactly where I cannot finesse a funky fusion, and choose Judaism.

    And those points where compromise is not possible are INCREASING as the two cultures move apart – Judaism (through the Israeli experience) becoming far less beholded to outside constructs, while the West (having cast off Christian morality) slides back into pagan amorality.

    So: where are the articles that counterbalance and complement all the “those darn Rabbi” rants?

  • “Work and preparations for this week’s protest march prevent my posting at length…”

    Indeed

  • Michael:
    If you hate me and my posts so much, and think that Jewlicious is not covering enough of the issues that you, personally, think are important, then start your own blog.
    – – – – – – – – –
    Nice combination of victimology and the Raise The Drawbridge syndrome – in which the most recent homebuyer is the most vocal about keeping out undesireables. Keep up the good work!

    well, Ben david , I started this blog with ck, and I tend to agree with michael. You seem to think this blog is something we never set out for it to be. I don’t want to stifle your voice, but you seem to have a lot to say, and don’t like the way we say it. Only you can represent you the way you really want to. Getting your own blog might be a good release for you.

  • here’s a question for you Ben David, respond if you like — where exactly in time does Judaism STOP evolving for you? At Sinai? at Yavne? 18th century poland? When we got to america? once you came to israel? with Aish Hatorah? Was the Hasidic movement just trying to make Judaism “hip” and “cool” to the masses? did it tamper with the very structure or our religion? or is that allowed? where do you draw the line? at what point do all evolutions become heresy for you?

  • laya:
    You are misconstruing me at least as much as I may be misconstruing you.

    I have no problem with Judaism evolving. That is, growing naturally out of its own values in response to new times and situations. And that growth uses the tools for growth already extant in Judaism – the Halachic process and the Kehillah dynamic being the main engines of change.

    I DO have a problem with “externally motivated” nose-jobbing of Judaism by Jews caught between two cultures. With modern Western Jews-with-a-plan who use the “Judaism must evolve” trope to urge The Rest of Us to get with a program that is largely about obescience to another culture, rather than dedication to Judaism.

    The current constellation of feminist issues is a case in point. My observation is that for every woman who sincerely is pushing for change from within Judaism – that is, women who have accepted upon themselves the obligations of the covenant, participate in women’s prayer and study groups, and are sincerely pushing not for status, or for “rights”, but for their own spiritual fulfillment as a Jew before G-d and the Jewish community – for each one of these there are dozens who are using the issue as a lash with which to beat Judaism/let themselves of the covenantal hook/reinforce their status as holders of hip opinion.

    This is change from without, rather than organically from within – based on the idea that Judaism must be nosejobbed, improved, must “catch up” to some other culture.

    Opposing this is NOT the same as opposing all change in Judaism.

    The lasting changes in the status of women will result from the pressure brought to bear by women who have already made their homes (literally and spiritually) within the Torah community. There is a world of difference between this growth from within and criticisms of those who still are applying another culture’s yardstick to Judaism – taking Judaism’s measure from “outside” the covenantal community.

    That is just one example.

    My impression – and I may be wrong – is that the Jewlicious blog intends to celebrate Judaism more openly than previous generations did. To project a feeling of pride, that Judaism can be hip, cool, Jewlicious. This is the unique feature separates this generation’s searching, its attempts to live in two cultures simultaneously.

    But when most of the posts are critical of Judaism, and very few address the real problems with Western morality… it starts to sound like “external, nose-job” type criticism rather than “internal” constructive criticism. It starts to sound like the complaints of previous geneations that chafed against the restrictions of Judaism, rather than self-confidently celebrating Judaism as relevant and rewarding.

  • Oh please, Ben David, you are saying that change can happen, but slowly and without external influences. How interesting. Do you think you would be saying the same thing if you were a woman? Be honest now.

  • OK.. in Ben-David’s defense. He has a few good things to say, I just think that the way he’s said them have hit a few nerves. To sum up his main points upon which I agree.

    1. Judaism can and should evolve, but it should do so as a result of a drive from the inside not the outside. In other words, at least within the traditional “orthodox” (I hate lables) community it should happen within the framework of existing halacha. I understand that many of you might not agree with that boundery, but it is important that you respect the right of those Jews who wish to keep that boundery to do so just as you wish for them to respect the fact that you choose not to for whatever reasons.

    Our relationship with G-d and our people is inatly personal, and barring a Sanhedrin of old, it’s not in the power of any other individual to compel or coerce others into following Halacha. It’s wrong and it’s not effective. Rather we have to learn how to embrace each and every jew for who they are, possibly dislikeing or disagreeing with their actions, but loving them and respecting them all the same.

    2. It is important that we all examine our motives for seeking change, to understand what it is that drives us. Is it some external standared being applied from somewhere or someone else? Or is it an internal emotional drive? If it’s the former, then it’s important that we’re just as willing to question the validity of the source as we are to question the validity or what it is that we desire to change. If it’s the later, then that motivation is coming from a real deep place and you should do what you can to reconsile your underlying beliefes with those you espouse on the surfice, otherwise your internally hypicritical and are going to suffer from an internal controversy. At this point, you have to be involved in personal reflection to determine what the current system has of value to you, and how you can make your internal emotional values align with the communal values that you also espouse.

    There is nothing wrong with seeking change, but it’s just as important to question our motivation for change as it is to question the validity of that which we seek to change.

  • Purim, externally motivated is how people live in today’s world. The role that women play in society has changed completely since the time that these Halachot were established. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t value on any of it. Certain standards do make sense, if you think that it is wrong for men and women to congregate alot for example, in mixed seating, if you think that this will lead to adultery. Is that not what is meant btg Kavod Hatzibur? That the snius standards will be lowered, they will wear inappropriate apparel to shule?
    The Charedi/Yeshivish approach is that you don’t change anything, even though we are seeing a much different type of behavior in frum people today, and I will not detail the many incidents that are embarrassing. So it makes sense to me, that
    what the Gaonim wrote down in their times, were influenced by their experience of society, where obviously the woman was oppressed, in the home, w/ no rights in general, so too in Judaic life, even though, there were a lot of innovation and correctness, based perhaps on Kavod Habrios, for example the Ketuba itself was revolutionary in that time.
    But now we find ourselves w/women who have thousands of I.T. people reporting to her in a compny, or many managers reporting to her, and so on, it simply seems wrong to perpetuate the idea of a woman not being an Aide, a witness, as is stated in the Mishne, along w/ a katan, a fool, an idiot, a gambler, and so on.
    The Mishna itself is a kind of an insult. How else can you say it. that it is a good and nice thing? It is not demeaning?
    And this is just one example that happens to have been the topic of this thread.
    So the callibration of many of the hypocracies that we have in Judasim causes some people to be turned off.
    What is needed in Judaism, imho, is a movement to improve a persons mental well being. Such as using meditation and other embracing techniques.
    this would give people something other than the usual course of learning Halachos, or the Parsha.
    THere are a few groups who try to do this in Judaism, perhaps this in Israel can be reported on Laya?

  • Ben-David: What the hell are you talking about when you say that most of our posts are critical of Judaism? We’ve written posts extolling the virtues of tznius, we’ve had scorching arguments about the validity of Conservative and reform conversions, we’ve made fun of well meaning but secular Jewish philanthropists, we’ve bemoaned secular Judaism’s morbid obsession with the holocaust at the expense of real Jewish values, we’ve run a totally kosher, shomer shabbat conference, we took our birthright israel trip partticipants to the old city to have shabbat lunch with orthodox Jews, I’ve been called a bigot and a reactionary for my defense of traditional Jewish values and now you’re saying we’re mostly critical of religious Judaism? Are you kidding? Read a bit more perhaps before jumping to conclusions please.

  • Ben David, you say I have no problem with Judaism evolving. That is, growing naturally out of its own values in response to new times and situations.
    well that is precisely what i am talking about in this post. Within the orthodox world, women who want to live a halachic lifestyle are more and more expressing a desire and a willingness to play a more active role in their community. this is change from within, no matter what you want to call it. It seems to me that in the case of witnesses change may be possible that will allow these religious, orthodox, halachic, insider women to feel more fulfilment. I wrote a post asking the community to consider it and tell me if it might be feasible within the realm of halacha and you went off on a rampage in comment no 1 having nothing to do with the post i wrote.

    In so doing, you have created a comment thread that sheds virtually no light on the topic at hand which was a respectful examination of the Jewish system. I have to be honest when I say I was really looking forward to hearing some opinions to the questions i raised and I resent that that was not allowed to happen here because you are offended about another matter entirely and decided to rant about it here.

  • laya:
    OK – my comment #1 was really a reaction to several recent posts, especially the Badatz one. It just seemed like in aggregate we were getting into a “those darn Rabbis” rut.

    I think that, willy-nilly, you have gotten at least pieces of what you were after: there is clear precedent for accepting women’s testimony in several areas of halacha, and women are being trained by the Israeli Bet Din system to act as attorneys and/or arbitrators.

    This follows a history in which women were allowed all the civil rights of any property holder, including suing others (despite the tendency of some to ignorantly lump Judaism together with other benighted chauvinistic cultures, Judaism never “treated women as chattel.” One fascinating find from the Bar-Kochba era is a set of real estate documents and trial records of a woman named Babitha. She owned her own (rather extensive) property and haggled with her stepsons over her husband’s estate. Not exactly second-class citizenship as the feminists paint it.)

    So unlike prayer – where men are obligated in a way that women are not – there is already room for the assertion that civil and tort laws are as applicable to women as to men. Add that to the notion that women are trusted in matters that pertain to them, and you have the basis for change.

    Eventually.

    And a person who is truly seeking these things “from within the community” will be satisfied – not passive or inactive, but on some level satisfied with their role in the chain of Judaism, even if things are not complete or perfect to their way of thinking. Accepting the yoke of Heaven means pulling together with – rather than away from – the Jewish community. It is the exact opposite of the “check-list” approach to cultural compromise, in which Judaism must jump through hoops to prove it is “worthy” or “progressive” enough.

    ck:
    OK – but I still think we have to ask ourselves where we get off the carousel of coolness. Inevitably there will be issues and points at which we must choose between the Western cultural definition of hip progressiveness and Judaism’s moral path. If the Jewlicious generation doesn’t ever find the guts to step away from the cultural dictates of the West and stand independently for Judaism, then it’s claim to be more connected and sincere about Judaism is severely weakened.

    I think this is still an open issue – perhaps THE unspoken question threading through all the posts here.

  • Ben David said So unlike prayer – where men are obligated in a way that women are not – there is already room for the assertion that civil and tort laws are as applicable to women as to men. Add that to the notion that women are trusted in matters that pertain to them, and you have the basis for change.

    EXACTLY!!! So what the F are you arguing with me for???

    If that was your first comment, it would have initialized an actual discussion, which is what i had HOPED would take place, seeing as how this is an issue I am actually concerned about. In the future, please, don’t displace your anger where it doesn’t belong, deal?

    If you want to contribute to the discussion, do so with a calm head try actually reading the post and addressing what it actually says before you jump down someone’s throat, ok?

  • Ben-David – I’m not saying that I wished Judaism was cooler, I’m saying Judaism is already cool. And it is cool because it is very different and far more substantial than what passes as cool in Western society. Are we all clear now?

  • Jobber, there are deffenetly many people using meditation and “other than the usual course of learning Halachos, or the Parsha” tecniques in their appraoch do Judaism. In fact there is a large precedent as far back as biblical times and for sure in the times of the gemara of people doing so. In more recent times Chasidut has really provided a renual of many of these methods to approaching a relationship with G-d. It’s great that you should wish to use these methods, and I encourage you to pursue what works for you in your personal relationship with G-d. I’d even recomend a few books that have been published in English like Rabby Aryeh Kaplan’s Jewish Meditation, or any of the Breslov books from Rebbi Nachman which espouse Hitbodedut (meditation) such as Outpouring of the Soul or Restore my Soul.

    What I will say is that this path is only one of the many paths available to reaching a possitive relationship with G-d. It is important for everyone to first start with the method that touches them, allowing them to initiate a relationship with the Creater in the first place. Whether it’s meditation or advanced halachic study, you should find the method that touchs your heart.

    However, once your established a real relationship, it is then valuble to try to further and deepen the relationship by exploring other avenues of connection. The fullness of a complete relationship can only take place when all avenues are explored and used. (This whole thing agian must be understood to be my opinion, I speak for no one else)

    When entering a marriage initially you have to be overwellmed by all the immediatly possitive aspects of your partner, those parts where your on the same page and connect virtuatly effortlessly. However, in building upon that initial attraction and connection you have to learn to accept your partner even for those parts of them that are difficult or uncomfortable to you if you really wish the relationship to be full and complete. That’s why relationships take work, if everyone was purly likable with no difficult unlikable attributes we’d all be in long happy relationships and never have any strife. But it’s not, it’s an on going process with the greatest of rewards. It’s the same thing with our relationship with our creater. First we must be enamored by some aspect of G-d, that thing that feels right, that we instantly connect to. But afterwards we have to continue to grow the relationship and start accepting the responsabilities and sacrafices that relationship entails.

  • Sorry, BD, Muffti totally misunderstood what you were saying based on what you are now saying. Appologies.

  • I don’t know if anyone is still following this thing, but for what its worth, heres a couple of points that might be relevant to the discussion:

    1. “why are the rabbis so afraid to make new takanots/ overturn old ones”: For a detailed discussion of rabbinic enactments, who can make them, what their force is, and how they can be overturned, it would be helpful to see Rambam Hilchot Mamarim Chapter 2.

    2. In any event, the exclusion of women from witnessing is not considered by halakha to be a rabbinic enactment, but is a gzeirat hakatuv (see the Gemaras in Shevuot 30A, Babba Kamma 15A, and Rambam hilchot edut 9:2). That’s why there isn’t the same kind of halakhic wiggle room here as there might be in some other issues. No one who accepts the halakhic system is going to attempt to overturn a clear and unambiguous verse, mishnah, and Rambam. Nearly all of the movement towards feminist-style innovation is directed at areas that are rabbinic in nature and are ambiguous in their formulation and scope (i.e., women’s torah learning), or at areas which the halakha doesn’t address specifically (i.e. women’s tfillah groups or certain innovations in wedding/synagogue customs). On the level of the halakhic sources, the issue of testimony has a different status than some other sensitive women’s issues.

  • Thank you Mas, not so much for the specifics of whay you said, but for making your comment on topic with the intension of the thread. It actually tries to address laya’s initial post.

  • 3. So does this exclusion present an insult to women? In halakha, many people at different times are partially or completely excluded from giving testimony. Some of them appear to be based on a perceived lack of competence- slaves, children, the blind, and gamblers are all excluded from testimony. Others are based on a specific interest the witness may have in the case- close relatives of litigants and those who stand to benefit from the case going one way or the other are barred. However, other cases of exclusion from testimony can not be construed as demeaning- kings of Israel, rabbis who are greater than the officiating judges, and the kohein gadol are all also barred from testifying at different points in time. The latter cases seem to illustrate a view of testimony as demeaning in and of itself- the witness has to subject himself to the authority of the court, and the court has certain powers and control over the witness that can rob him of independence, freedom of movement and dignity.

    The fact that, as other commentators mentioned, halakha does in fact accept women’s testimony in many cases where reliability is a necessity should illustrate that women’s competence is not being question. Its also difficult to imagine that the halakha is claiming that women always have a vested interest in any possible case that they could witness for. So it seems, IMHO, that the exclusion of women is either of the third kind (relieving them from the demeaning processes that witnessing in halakha entail), or comes from some reason that is different than the other examples that I brought up.

    In any case, the diversity of types of exclusions should illustrate that an exemption from testimony is not necessarily reflective of a negative attitude towards the one being excluded.

  • Which brings me to my final point:

    It seems to me that the discussion here would benefit if there was some more care taken to try and make sure that the debate continues with correct information. The discussion of how and when and in reaction to what halakha should change is an important discussion- but whether we are attacking or defending the traditional stance, it can’t be done intelligently without actually looking to see what the primary sources are saying!! Laya asked what seems like a perfectly valid basic question about halakha, and it quickly descended into personal bashings, and clichéd discussions about meta-issues, when the basic facts weren’t even out there on the table.

    I don’t mean to be preachy, but this is our heritage. If we care enough to have a debate on the issue with 80+ comments, we should care enough to take some time to make sure we are being accurate.

    (That being said, everything I wrote above is based on about 20 minutes of research I did after maariv at my local beis medrash. I’m sure some of the sources are misinterpreted, and that there are other sources that would change things. Ask someone competent.)

  • Jobber – check out books by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan about Jewish meditation. The Chasidic masters developed an entire body of meditative practices. Some have parallels in other systems, some are unique to Judaism.

  • mas, thank you so much for joining the discussion and presenting some information relative to the topic at hand. I appreciate the research you did for it.

    Now, I don’t believe that the prohibition against a woman serving as a witness is singularly misogynistic or reflective of a negative attitude, but even one who loves our tradition must admit that makers of halacha were certainly influenced by an overall negative view of women that pervaded the world at the time.

    So do these things present an insult to women? with a little perspective and understanding, not always. However, failure to seriously address the concerns of women in this generation might just be.

    Now, I am no talmudic scholar and have relied on the knowledge of the Rabbi’s I’ve talked to about this, who all seemed to think that there WAS indeed, wiggle room. There is a precedent for changing halachot about women, like how the actual halacha is that women don’t recline at the seder, but now a days we all do. In the legal realm we have a biblical precedent in Tanakh of Dvorah who served as judge.

    while bringing up the comparison of royalty and great rabbi’s is generous, i highly doubt the reason was because women were seen to be on their level.

    Remember also, in this specific case, I’m talking about being a witness at a wedding, not a criminal case that might entail a “demeaning processes”.

    Again, thanks for the info.

  • Laya-

    “Even one who loves our tradition must admit that makers of halacha were certainly influenced by an overall negative view of women that pervaded the world at the time…”
    I’m not sure that a blanket generalization like this one does justice to either the traditional view of the development of the halakha, or to the understanding of modern academics. A traditionalist, who affirms a belief in the divinity of the oral law (on some level) would most likely find the suggestion that this gezeirat hakatuv was nothing more than a legal fiction used to further misogyny to be highly problematic.
    Even in the academic world, the topic of gender in rabbinic literature is complex, with scholars debating the various influences that they think may have affected chazal’s decision making (they do not all agree that rabbinic law reflected a misogynistic viewpoint).

    In any case, even if your point about outside influences were not controversial, it doesn’t follow that we can change any particular point of law based on those considerations. The precedents you bring up are, IMO, nonstarters. Reclining at the seder is derabbanan, and the language there may allow room for innovation, or it may be an exemption rather than a prohibition (I’ll try to look it up if I get a chance, bli neder). As for Deborah, there are scenarios in halakha where women, indeed, may be able to judge certain types of cases if the litigants agree (There is a long tosafos about this somewhere). This does not mean that women’s testimony can be accepted in a capital/civil case over the objections of the mishnah and gemarrah, and the accepted halakha of thousands of years.

  • Also, I realize you were talking about a wedding. However, the exclusion of women’s testimony in civil cases comes from the same source as the exclusion in criminal law. So concerns about the demeaning processes (the interrogation of witnesses before and during the trial) may still be in effect.

    The point about great rabbis and kings was not to say that chazal regarded all women as being on that “level” (although sources could be brought to support that interpretation). I was merely trying to illustrate that an exemption from testimony is not always a reflection of perceived incompetence.
    I would be interested to hear more specifically what “wiggle room” your rabbis were speaking of. Thanks for the warm reception (i dont normally do the whole comment thing).

  • Mas, I don’t see the connection between witnessing civil matters, such as a joyous wedding, and a criminal matter that might be demeaning to the witness. In fact, in the case of Israel, Canada and the US today, the “court” that grants the power of witnessing the joyous event is a rabbinic “court.” If so, doesn’t it make sense that unlike a criminal matter where the court is either an arm of the state or a rabbinic panel with authority to determine the relevance of the crime to god’s laws, a matter of joy should be treated differently?

    Are you saying that somehow people or god are not wise enough to differentiate between a criminal proceeding and a wedding or an aliyah to the Torah? How is that possible?

  • King David, King Solomon, etc also can’t be a witnesses.

    Gee, I guess Judaism is anti-Kings?
    Gee, I guess Judaism thinks King David would LIE?!!
    Gee, I guess Judaism thinks Kings aren’t trustworthy or are second-class citizens.

    There is something deeper here. But why are you asking here – just inviting a whole bunch of ignorant self-hating anti-Orthodox bloggers take so much space.

    Ask the Rabbi at Aish or ohr.edu or askmoses or something. Or better yet, CYLOR (consult your local Orthdox Rabbi) and get real answers. Heck go to Neve and start asking questions…

  • Because of course Aish and Ohr are the be-all and end-all of Orthodox Judaism.

    Sarah, are you married to Ben-David? I think you might make a good couple. Your knees jerk in perfect unison.

    I am neither self-hating or anti-Orthodox, but then again, if all Jews and all Orthodox were like you, I might be.

  • PH, I read some of Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan books, they are OK, but seem like more of the same. Why we do this, why we do that. Anyway, it is not experiential. Just reading is all in the mind. it doesn’t help people who can’t have a relationship w/ the right person. My issue is w/ the structure of the Shabbos, FOR ME. Not for my kids or anyone else. One, I am not getting anywhere davening, going to Shule. I am feeling worse than if I don’t go. This is for my pesonal experience at the moment, for the past 3 years. Other people such as Singles have expressed similar feelings.
    This is the problem, that it doesn’t work for everyone. So the choice is what. To continue like a moron to go to SHule all the time, and feel worse, or to find some peace in some other way.

  • Ya’sher Koach to Mas; it is rather amazing that in amongst a very long list of comments, no one actuallly bothered to identify what the relevant sources were.

  • Jobber, I wish I could give you direction for a more experiential Judaism. I don’t know where your located though, and every person I know of who does the experiential thing is in Israel. It’s not that no one does it outside of Israel, it’s just that Israel is where I happened to be exposed to it. If it’s something your really interested in pursuing, it might very well be worth the effort that it would take to find someone near you who has managed to integrate Experiential Judaism with “Traditional” Judaim. Of course, if your content where you are currently, then I suppose there is no reason to waste your time looking for anything more.

  • Also, Jobber, It seems that this comment thread is just begining to get on track and starting to focus on the initial topic. I feel that in order to be respectful it may be better for us to continue our discussion in another forum if you would like to do so. Either somewhere else ( a dead thread, or a new thread perhaps… ck?) or over email, I don’t want to cut our dialogue, Chas v’Shalom, but rather I want to provide every opportunity for the Posts dialogue to progress and mature in a directed fashion.

  • Middle-
    Its not an issue of being “wise” enough to tell the differenc between a time of joy and a criminal case. Marriage in halakha is a relationship that is attained through a contract. It is subject to the same rules as other contracts, including who can be witnesses. If you want a specific source to attest that testimony for monetary contracts is the same as in criminal law, I can try to find it for you, but this is clearly whats going on. This is a legal requirement to create a binding legal contract. The distinction you try to make doesn’t exist in halakhic sources as far as i know. Aliyot are an entirely different topic- im not sure why you thought i was talking about them here.

  • Wait, I’m confused here, Mas.

    You were talking about testimony in criminal law, not contractual matters. You brought a source that suggests that kings and priests may not testify in a criminal matter because of their standing vis a vis the court. You then ascribed the same parameters to women not testifying.

    That is very different than participating in the witnessing of a contract. How would that demean a king or a priest? How would that demean a woman?

    What is the reasoning behind not allowing women to act as witnesses at a contract signing? Yes, I’d like a source explaining the logic comparing testimony in a criminal matter to witnessing a monetary contract.

    By the way, when you call the nuptials a monetary contract, you’re removing the romantic notion that may be driving Laya to want to participate in this ceremony.

  • In any event, the exclusion of women from witnessing is not considered by halakha to be a rabbinic enactment, but is a gzeirat hakatuv (see the Gemaras in Shevuot 30A, Babba Kamma 15A, and Rambam hilchot edut 9:2). That’s why there isn’t the same kind of halakhic wiggle room here as there might be in some other issues. No one who accepts the halakhic system is going to attempt to overturn a clear and unambiguous verse, mishnah, and Rambam.

    One quick question for anyone that agrees with this position: do you eat salted fish? The salted fish mentioned in the same place as “kosher” wine – in a section of enactments to discourage intermarriage. Answer the question, and then we’ll discuss the numerous examples of early legal declarations that were abandoned by the people over time, sometimes with the help of the (then) current generation of the rabbinate. Hint: anyone that eats lox not prepared with the same level of totally Jewish oversight as “kosher” wine is busting the halakha as written.

    Purim Hero has it correct: just study the history of the development of halakha and you’ll see without doubt that “change happens”. It’s the only reason we’re still around, folks. It’s not a question of “if” change happens, merely “when” and by what means. Motivated rabbis find miraculous ways (barukh haShem!) to work around previous legal rulings – when they want, or are forced by the people. The idea that Mishna didn’t change and was a solid line of Oral Law from Sinai is disabused within the text itself, which refers to differences in rulings of the lost “first Mishna”.

    Speaking of marriage and halakha, rather than focusing on the (very serious) problem of agunoth, how about pointing out that the ketuba was an incredible legal instrument for effecting social change as desired by the rabbinate of that time? The ketuba deals with both the business of protecting women’s monetary rights in the partnership as well as her rights to a romantic and sexual relationship with her husband. This was (and still is) radical feminist stuff in some parts of the world! The Mishna lays out this plan in all of its social engineering glory, alluding to the influence of Greek ideals of Eros mixed with the solid Jewish legal foundation of business laws. If either party misrepresents themselves before the deal, the deal’s off; if the wife, even a rich wife with servants, doesn’t do some simple housework, the deal’s off; if the husband or wife doesn’t offer/accept sex on the agreed schedule, they are effectively “fined” with respect to the trust money.

    Now that’s some Jewlicious halakhic development, baby.

    -Nathan

  • Neo, wait a minute! Are you saying that halacha was affected by a contemporary non-Jewish culture. Uh oh, that undermines Ben David’s rejection of Laya’s gentle query.

  • The middle- I’ll try to get back to you re the sources, i havent had a chance to look stuff up yet. In any case, my other statements didnt hinge on the prohibition being a means to avoid demeaning treatment- it was conjecture that I threw out as a possible motivating factor. If you don’t buy it, you dont have to- not everything I say is torah misinai (although some of the sources i try to quote are :).

    Neo- again, the example of fish is a rabbinic enactment. For the laws of how these work, when they take effect and when they dont, see the Rambam in hilchot mamarim chapter 2 that I quoted above. To prove your point that halakha can change in this matter, you would have to bring an example of a case where post-Sanhedrin authorities explicitly rejected or overturned an unambiguous issur deoraita (for what its worth, Prof. Joel Roth in his responsum on women’s ordination says that it never happened. He’s Conservative…). I would sincerely be interested in seeing a source or precedent to that effect.

    In any case, i still maintain that before we discuss halakhic development or the rabbis ulterior motives it is entirely necessary to establish what the law is exactly, and what its explicit legal reasoning is. Despite my attempt, that hasn’t been done completely yet, so the rest of the conversation likely rests on false premises.

  • Ben David’s original remarks touch on the problem here maybe: a gezeirat hakatuv cannot be over turned, at least not through logic, apparently.

    “As soon as it is claimed that a certain law is a “Gezeirat HaKatuv” (lit. the decree of the Biblical text), discussion is closed down, and the question becomes one of accepting or rejecting the tradition that claims that this particular textual derivation is legitimate.” http://www.kmsynagogue.org/Toldot1.html

    The only exceptions are, well, what I think Ben-David’s referring to, if not conciously, as internal as opposed to external changes. Let’s say Simone and Yoni got married, and had you be one the two witnesses— anyone who loved and trusted your/their judgement in doing that would accept the marriage as valid, and for them, that would be it. anyone who insisted that it was not valid could then do whatever they would, and we could either pay attention to them or not.

    What I was referring to above, technically, according to the books, and i’ve met Yerushalmiyim who were machmir about this, it’s illegal to embrace a friend by the Kotel, and to play music or have a wedding in the old city of Jerusalem. Disrespectful to the tragedy that the Kotel represents, apparently. I had an older friend tell me how touched he was to see this rule rot away in his lifetime, just through popular sentiment. not from logical reasoning, or the command of a big Rav… just no one stressed it, and now you have weddings by king davids tomb every day, canaynahuruh.

    if it’s important enough, just start doing it, and marvel at who backs you up.

  • Muffti wants to know, why does everyone always rush to bring up how innovative Judaism was with respect to women’s rights? Why does that matter at all? The greeks had relatively humane laws about slaves – we don’t take that as a justification for their short comings (even if we take it as an excuse) or for their maintaining such a system.

  • so here is my opinion. you’re right. my question is why in orthodoxy do we need a rav with a big name to confirm it. there is so much politics to block the truth what can we do.
    no questions just rhetorical answers
    jotes

  • PH, I have interest in the topic being discussed which in a broad sense includes similar areas of Halacha that many people find nonsensical. For myself, I am more interested in less of a committment but have to blend this in w/ frum, very frum children, a teenage daughter who will not go mixed swimming for example. I am still overcoming the shock of unemployment and underemployment, and am not finding the shule setting any help at all. You’re right I would be better off in Israel, but I am married to a non-Zionist type, not anti- Zionist.
    Shalom,
    Jobber

  • Jobber I really wish you much Hatzlacha, I can’t even begin to comprehend the difficulty of the issues you are dealing with. (I’m young, single, and completely independant, at this point I have significant freedom for self exploration) I truely believe that we aren’t confronted by challenges that we can’t meet or exceed. (That doesn’t allways mean resolve or defeat, but rather that the challenges don’t serve as a stoping block, but rather provide opportunity for growth and development.) They can however be exceedingly difficult, and we all go through our own individual challenges that are so great to us, yet would be insignificant for someone else. This is part of what makes us unique, and the reason why no one has the right or ability to judge another. I can hope for your sake and for the sake of your family that times take a better turn for you, and that you can find inner peace. I certainly didn’t mean to end discussion, just to move the forum to allow for the posts to stay on topic.

    In a few hours I’ll be boarding a train off to the middle of no where Wisconson to start my summer job working with children with special needs and phisical and mental disabilities. It will be my 6th summer working for the program, and over that time I have seen some of those kids facing insurmountable difficulties, struggling with the reason for their existance and suffering. It’s been increadably difficult for them and for those of us who’ve gotten to know and love them. But while some of the greatest sadness and anguish I’ve ever experianced has come about through my relationship with these amaizing individuals, some of my greatest Joys and most fullfilling times have come from the same source. Struggle is just as much a part of life’s journey as Ease, Suffering as Joy. It creates the fullness of human experiance in our grand relationship, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

    As I leave Jewlicious for a temporary but prolonged hiatus (There is no internet at camp…) The one message of mine that I can hope will stay is that We’re all in this together, and have to give each other the respect and unconditional possitive regard we all deserve if we’re ever going to make this relationship work. It won’t be easy, we’ll have our times of great struggle and pain, but if we keep at it and allways approach from a relm of Ahava (Love) then the rewards will far outway the costs.

    Kol Tuv,

    I wish you all Shalom.

  • After some further research…

    The relationship between monetary and criminal law is complex. However, a look at Vayikra 24:2 and commentaries there, Sanhedrin 28A, Rambam Hilchot Edut Chapter 3 and commentaries ad loc. and Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 523 should be enough to illustrate the fact that they are equivalent in most areas, including testimony (Sanhedrin 32A lists the few areas where there are differences between criminal and monetary law.) All of tractates Kidushin, Ketuvot and Gittin are dedicated to discussing the particulars of contract law- and all of them regularly assume that two witnesses (in the most stringent sense) are needed for monetary law and contracts, especially those involving marriage and divorce. The same gezeirat hakatuv applies.

    We are discussing the witnessing of a particular kind of contract- a special, beautiful, joyous one, but a contract nonetheless. I don’t think anyone disagrees that marriage in Judaism includes, at least in part, a monetary contract even if themiddle doesn’t think its romantic.

  • Mas, you’ve convinced me.

    Laya, tough cookies for you, you can never be a witness at a wedding.

    You may wish to join us lesser Jews where you can worthlessly and meaninglessly witness a friend’s unkosher wedding governed by a Conservative or Reform rabbi.

  • Did I say anyone was a lesser jew? Did I say that reform and conservative weddings were worthless? I don’t remember saying anything even implying something like that.

    We were discussing where the halakha came from, and what avenues exist within the system to change them. I tried to provide information on the issue. I didn’t say that anyone had to accept the status quo, or that people who decide to operate outside of the traditional halakha were lesser- I specifically said that the discussion of how to respond can be done best by seeing what the starting point actually is. I tried to speak respectfully, and I think the middles latest response was uncalled for (it also failed to address anything that I said).

  • Mas, I apologize that you took it personally (this is the second time today this has happened to me here) but that remark was not directed at you at all. It was directed at the Conservative and Reform bashers.

    I actually have to commend you for your thoroughness and sticking to the topic in a serious and intense manner. You certainly avoided the “We know it’s bad” intellectually lazy approach and actually came to us with evidence and proof. If anything, I also apologize that I don’t have the tools to research an appropriate rebuttal. Since none of the others here are up to it, I guess that means you’ve actually proven your point and have shown us why those who observe in an Orthodox fashion will not relent on this issue.

    Also, kudos to you for raising the level of discourse up a notch or two.

  • Sorry for jumping on you- I’m new to this stuff and didn’t realize you werent referring to me. I appreciate the commendations, but realize that what I quoted is the tip of the iceberg, and whatever analysis i gave is pitifully incomplete. In the words of the minchat chinuch on this topic:

    “and what can I write here? On the laws of this mitzvah I would need an entire work, it is in all of the shas, rishonim and achronim, and here there is no room”

    Just to give you an idea of the complexity of hilchot edut… (I would love to stand corrected on any of these issues)

  • #

    Rabbi Yonah says:

    Before this descends, sadly, into yet another session for bashing observant Jews for their beliefs, allow me to interject something.

    This is a little misleading…the sessions have left nearly no sect of Judaism unbashed as far as Muffti can tell. ‘Destroyer of Judaism’ anyone? That appelation was not given to an orthodox member of the Jewlicious community.

    Muffti makes a good case. And, I might add, why are “observant Jews” synonymous with Orthodoxy when I’m clearly seeing that that is not the case on this site, that this is a choice. Just wondering. Oh wait, I am not wondering. It’s clear that not all O Jews are observant so why the epithet?

  • Having skimmed most of this discussion, now, I would like to say:

    1. Go, muffti!

    2. As I recall, but could be wrong, so don’t quote me on it, Conservative halacha still has not dealt with this issue in a satisfactory manner either, which means found a way to change it. I’m assuming that’s what laya wanted as well.

  • What is complex about the laws of Edut. There is a category of person who cannot be a witness. It says this in the first Mishna. These include, the fool, the small child, the gambler, and the woman.

    What is complex about this?

    The reason for the woman being included in this list is what, The zman gramma, or Kavod Hatzibur.

    Can one of the Yeshiva guys answer this please.

  • Ok, I’ve had to start banning myself from Jewlicious for periods of time in order to get other work done, a couple of things to address;

    Ben David,
    I do not feel that i am “ignorantly lumping Judaism together with other benighted chauvinistic cultures” But we would be ignorant to deny that Judaism has always been affected by the social mores of societies around it. I don’t feel that that statement is a “blanket generalization” or invalid to the argument.

    While still revolutionary for the time, having the right to own property does not in and of it self negate all “feminist claims” of second class citizenship. By no means do I think that all rabbinic law was misogynistic in nature, nor that it was all designed to further misogyny. I think women were historically treated comparatively very well under Judaism, but that does not mean that there is not room for growth. My post wasn’t about how badly women had it, nor how feminism needs to be the Jewish standard. It was simply asking a question about a place where we might find it possible to allow observant Jewish women to play a more active role in her community. I have no intention of destroying Judaism as we know it, just so we know we’re on teh same page, ok?

    btw, It was a rabbi I know who comes from a long line of rabbi’s who himself told me the reclining at the seder table precedent as it might be applicable to this. Also, It is my understanding that in tanakh, Devorah was a Judge. Not a Judge only for “certain types of cases if the litigants agree”.

    Mas, the rabbi i usually ask about this stuff is currently flying, and i apologize i am not learned enough to go more in depth into said “wiggle room” at the moment, But I’ll try to follow up later.

    Muffti saying “Ya’sher Koach” makes me giggle almost as much as someone in the sex trade industry recently saying “baruch hashem” to my inquiry about their well being.

    Neoconservaguy, thank you for your comment.(ps Phew! It’s a good thing i dont eat fish at all.)

    Joti — is that THE joti? hi honey!

    The Middle. Sigh. While I completely appreciate Mas’s contribution to the discussion, my query does not end with one anonymous persons ruling on a blog. The Talmud is full of debate and argument for a reason, It’s part of who we are. and as ck is fond of saying “Judaism is not a monolith”. From my incomplete off-the-blog research about it, it seems this is a clearly complicated issue, but one worthy of a good healthy debate, and not nearly so clear cut. But you know, 2 jews, 3 opinions. When I have more information on hand, I will try to post my findings.

    Ok, closing Jewlicious window again now.

  • Thanks Barefoot Jewess! Nice points.

    Muffti saying “Ya’sher Koach” makes me giggle almost as much as someone in the sex trade industry recently saying “baruch hashem” to my inquiry about their well being.

    Ummn…OK…whatever…

  • I didnt mean anything bad by it muff, its just things I’m not used to hearing such things from anyone but frummie types. But then, I don’t know any other athiests who can lain either.

  • Laya, you compared an atheist saying “Yasher Koach” to a pimp saying “Baruch Hashem.” No wonder the pimp got offended. Oh no, wait a minte. Muffti got offended. Muffti’s an atheist of sorts, or something. Oy. Never mind.

  • Yeah, Muffti noticed that too. No offense taken, Laya. Muffti will try to conform more to the grad student atheist manner of speech so long as you concur to not veer away from the existential-angsty-religious-girl-(though-with-some-concerns-about-it) role Muffti’s come to know and love. We don’t wanna shock each other too much, after all.

  • Purim Hero: many of us spend far too much time talking, writing, and arguing about the best way to be Really Jewish; your summer job working with children with special needs shows that being Really Jewish has little to do with blogging and much to do with being a Light unto the nations out in the Real World. You’ve been studying Torah in school; now, you’ll be doing Torah. As I’ve said to the local Chabad rabbis: you’ll get moshiach when you’re standing side by side with me and Goyim swinging a hammer to build a house for Habitat for Humanity, and not a moment before.

    May you go in peace, and return safely in peace.

    “You are not required to complete the work, but you are not allowed to desist from it either ”

    (Ethics of Our Fathers 2:16)

  • Rabbi Roth’s position (JTS) on the ordination of women, as it’s been told to me, is that he believed that to “qualify” they were required to fully, completely, and forever accept the burden of all time-bound mitsvoth. JTS went with a more lenient ruling from another member of the Talmudic department that was so liberal that Rabbi David Weiss Halivni, one of the great scholars of our generation, left JTS to found the Union of Traditional Judaism.

  • hi,
    sorry, since u guys are back to yr own chit chat i m not sure if this post is finished or not.
    i ll take my chances.
    after so much has been written above i still dont understand how do u imagine to navigate the torah. if u start suspecting every gezeyras hakasuv and halacha l’moshe misinai of being just rabbis’ way to get out of problem and not being true mesora then how do u maintain the law and not let it be a chefker?
    where one draws the line? i understand for some people otros’ playing on the safe side is notg liberating enough but isnt experimenting sometimes very dangerous?
    i m not trying to attack everybody just asking a question. i do agree w/ck frm the other post that people can believe what they want and get to G-d the way they want as long as they stay decent (whatever that means) and really going towards “moral life”. in the same time if one feels moreliberal than the others that doesnt give him right to enforce this liberal views onto others. as one great rabbi frm new york says live and let live.

    laya said – 2 jews, 3 opinions…
    but it shud say – 2 jews, 3 opinions, 1 blog!
    sorry just liked the sound of it.

  • ybocher, you again avoid the issue. So you ask, where do you draw the line. Then that is the heart of the matter, the fear of change. Since in this example, we do not live the way they lived when this law was created, it simply makes no sense to not change the law. Your only response is where do you draw the line.

  • nop, jobber i meant also something else but unfortunately i m not so good in writting in this language.
    anyway, i was wondering how people can just come and say – oh this is not a gezeyrah hakasuv, this is just rabbis trying to make sure nobody ever changes that particular law. it knda implies that rabbis were… not so honest. or in the best case scenario that they had much worse ability for sociological observations or for anticipating sociological changes than us today. it is very brave to say that theur greatness is limited to their torah in their times.
    i was always amazed to see while reading commentaries of the “old” how little we jews (and non-jews alike) have changed. yes there are lots of new names for problems but the patterns are so familiar.
    yes, there are new areas that we didnt have to deal w/ before like the issue of infertility but again most of things are just not new.

  • I’m sorry I didn’t understand your point in your last post YB.
    We are talking about changing a practice if the reason for this practice is no longer a valid one. This is a conceptual argument. We can continue to respect those who wish to cling to this practice even though they cannot argue its merits. But there are many people who do want to rectify those areas that make no sense to them.
    W/out being accused of trying to ruin Jewish life.

  • i understand what u saying. but i still do not understand how one can come and say that this or that is not a gezeyras hakasuv while it does say it is?

  • muffti, I will do my best. I’ll even write you a big long email about all my “existential” dilemmas, and you can make fun of me for them…for old times sake 😉

    yb, By no means am I saying here at Jewlicious we officially deem this Kosher. My post was an inquiry, not a statement of what should be. The Torah-keeping world has an issue on their hands of women wanting a more active role. If we simply say “its gezeyras hakasuv”, or worry that any changes made after 18th century Poland will lead to dancing and therefore not even address the issue then we, as a torah community have failed. I’m no Talmudic scholar, but I know that very few issues in Judaism are not worthy of a good healthy debate, and that where there is a need and a will, there is almost ALWAYS a halachic way.

  • This is correct in many areas, people’s actions as a group change the reality of the Halacha. The issue is human dignity vs. a tradition. Even a Gezeraas Hakasuv is based on societal practices.

  • Muffti just noticed this from way up, so maybehe should just let it die. ck said:

    lever! Anticipating my argument and pre-emptively poo pooing it! Bravo! But you know as well as I do that what I am saying has little to do with modern feminism. Do a little more research and stop relying on this overused quote of yours.

    Muffti didn’t mean to say that Judaism had much to do with radical feminism; he meant to say that for all the progressive nature that people are quick to point out regarding judaism and women, there are fairly clear cases of mysogyny. Except, of course, since everything is malleable and in context, there are ways to make it look less bad (some rabbis apparently take the bit in pirkei avot as a sign of respect for women: if you gossip too much with them, you distract them from holy stuff and for that you get gehinom. Sounds like a fairly stretched interpretation of the text, but whatever).

  • jobber, you are touching on the very point of the matter. you are saying that gezeyras hakosuv is based on societal practices! and i ask how can it be? gezeyras hakosuv comes from G-d. So you are saying that G-d made some mistakes in writting Torah (ch”v)? That He forgot about human dignity? What is human dignity that you are refffering to? Are you sure that you mean an universal value or maybe only a very subjective point of view given thae fact that we all are very influenced by non-Jewish value system?
    Laya, I m very sorry I m not expressing myself very clear but I ve never meant to accuse you of trying to popularize non-kosher ideas. I am sure you are true bas Israel and the pride of the nation. It is great that all the dilemas are discussed here and I do find it both healthy and inspiring. This is why I am here. Or maybe it is because of ck… I dont remember.
    Anyways, I think there are two issues. One is “to simply say gezeyras hakosuv”. Meaning accusing rabbis of not being honest and making their own takanos under the cover of G-d’s words. Two is “worry that any changes made after 18th century Poland will lead to dancing”. (can we start saying just “18th century”? otherwise I feel we leaving out whole sefardim out of the debate) Meaning that now our rabbis will make adjustments to halacha that we ll be better because our rabbis can look more to the futuer than the rabbis of the 18th century!?
    I am not trying to attack anybody. Just like you Laya, I am not a Talmudic scholar and I m looking to understand. I might be even more disadvantaged in this discussion as I m not in touch with my feminine side as you are (but I m trying to be). I dont know how does it feel trying to assume more active role in community being a woman. But I hope you will help me understand. Please tell me, how much of this is a need of women’s abilities to get involved and how much it is and outside pressure from the cultures that are not inherently Jewish. Can we be truly objective.
    I cant I grew up watching Princess L… Leia leading rebellion and serving as a Galactic Senator. So I am bias but if so we are all how can we easily say the 18th century rabbis who were more immersed in Torah were wrong.

    muffti, I hope that what you wrote in #131 is not supposed to be the same interpretation of pirkey avos that i gave you.

  • What is the Gazera anyway? We have the Mishna here. Where do you get this Gezera anyway. We live differently now anyway. So many of the minhagim were formulated out of how societies functioned then, that influenced their discussions. How goyim were viewed for example. I don’t view goyim in that way. Women for example were not educated in the Torah the way that they are today. I do not have to hold on to traditions that are nonsensical to me. that is all. If it were up to me, I would have Laya be the Eid at her friends wedding. I don’t accept that she just, can’t. I mean, I accept that this is the way it is done, but I feel horrified by it.

  • So you simply do not belive that there is such a thing as halacha l’Moshe m’Sinay, right? Because that’s what gezeras ha kosuv is! It is mentioned in gemarah in few places and if it is not true then I guess it means that the rabbis in gemrah “mislead” us (ch”v) by saying that these words come from G-d while they are not!!!???
    If it was up to me , I would Laya be an Eiyd but you know what?THANKS G-D IT IS NOT UP TO ME – IT IS UP TO G-D!!!

  • What is the source for this – who or where does it say that a woman cannot be an aide. The Mishna say it. It is convenient to say that everything in the Gemara was given to Moshe at Sinai, but this doesn’t make much sense. So if you want to base your religious beliefs there then there can be no discussion. But if you look at the Gemara itself, these are discussions by people. So the same person could have said, you know what let’s have the woman be an aide. Let’s have the gambler be an aide. But they did not do this. Why, because their life experience was based on how they perceived women, which was as inferior, something we do not do today. Today there is a woman as the number 1 person in the largest companies of the world, when the typical frum family hires a non Jewish nanny to bring up their children so the mommy can have a career.

  • I do not say that everything in gemarah is a direct G-d’s commandment. I just say that gemarah mentions fact of some laws having source directly from sinai that are either not explicitly mentioned in a verse or not mentioned in the chumash at all.
    Yes the rest are disscussions but these are not debates “lets do the judaism rational” (or “lets oppress our women”) but how to understand the practical applications of the law presented in the mishna. I do see myself how women’s envolvement in the world has changed but woman’s testemony in court in a case when you need to eyidim has nothing to do with the success of Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, Golda Meir, Judge Judy or even our very own esther.
    Are you able to face a fact that maybe this law is not “mean men made law” but it acctually was given by G-d and it has nothing to do with woman discrimination – maybe there is some reason that we are just not quite ready to understand but hopefully soon we will!?

  • Um, so just for the record, we never even got as far as wittness. We first need letters from our American rabbis(in Hebrew) proving we are Jewish. But there were toffees in the office.

  • Hey Simone, Rabbi ck of the Temple of the Ephemeral Jews will be glad to sign a document attesting to your Jewishness! That Yoni guy however, I’m not so sure about, but you? No problem. Thanks for that bottle of J&B by the way, now please remind Laya to bring it to Kanot! What a crackhead, eh?

  • The Gemara in many places has information that is outdated, therefore I personally do not follow everything in the Gemara, nor does the vast overwhelming majority, in all cases, at all times. and even in the Gemara they do not always reach a decision, in what they call a Teiku. In answer JB, I do not see where there is anything Divine about this particular law, but see it as a product to how women were viewed then.

  • Hey Simone! I didn’t think you read Jewlicious. I’m flattered, and I hope you don’t mind that I used your life as the basis for a post. I’ll get you toffee too, if it helps.

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