Say hello to the class of 2005!

Through a program at the women’s yeshiva Nishmat, 12 women in the fourth graduating class were ordained yesterday to help other women with issues pertaining to taharat hamishpocha (family purity laws).

Traditionally, if circumstances arose which were not covered in Kallah classes, a woman would have to go to a rabbi and discuss the details of her menstrual cycle etc. Clearly, this could be embarrassing, causing some women to take an unnecessarily strict approach, remaining separated from their husbands in order to avoid having to speak with a male Rav.

Enter Nishmat and the new women “halachic advisers”.

Rabbi Yehuda Henkin explains,

“We purposely call them halachic ‘advisers’ to emphasize their role in citing known, undisputed Jewish law. But none of the women are poskei halacha (halachic authorities). None of them make decisions on new, unprecedented issues in halacha.”

He added that “very few men have enough halachic knowledge to make groundbreaking halachic decisions let alone women…But the time will come when women will have the appropriate background necessary to make innovative halachic decisions.”

Now that brings a smile to my cynical little face. Is this the beginning of a time that we can start accepting the idea, at least in theory, of women poskim?

In any case, the Nishmat “halachic advisors” might even have a leg up on the men in the taharat hamishpocha area. In addition to studying halachot, they are also “required to study physiology, anatomy and certain medical issues such as the effect of birth control on the body and fertility problems” as well as basic psychology, sexology and counseling

Nishmat already has a halacha hotline and website, and is also in the planning stages for similarly intensive training in the area of kashrut.

About the author

Laya Millman

15 Comments

  • Look who’s frontin’ like they all progressive! Everyone knows the Orthodox are mired in institutionamal paralysis. We needs to get all post-denominational fo’ the fastesest growing mass of post-denominational anarchistic young Jews, yo! Keepin it real fo’ klal yisrael!

    Whatever. Mazal Tov to Rabbi Henkin, Nishmat and the growing mass of ordained, Jewish, female, religious leadership.

  • ah, g-d bless all of the yoatzot and protect them…
    we’ve got one here in riverdale, and i just feel *so* much better that it’s *her* looking at my wife’s panties and not some skeevy male rabbi…
    i mean, ANY rabbi is skeevy when you *know* he’s thinkin’ about, and you’re *providing him with silky evidence from* your own wife’s holy of holies!!!
    to think… generations of orthodox jewish women… showing their (requisitely stained) undies, and sometimes even (cough, ahem) bedika cloths to their neighborhood rabbis… no wonder mechitza has been so strictly guarded!
    seriously… yashar koach to rebbetzin henken. and to her growing army that are committed to protecting *true* tzniyus.

  • As I recall, kosher pork fish preceded female rabbinic advisers (at least on this site…). The yoetzet is a great step for halakhic communities. Not to apply the lessons of a Renee Zellweger movie, but ‘A Price Above Rubies’ really illustrated the need for women in halakhic advisor roles. Not that Boro Park’s signing on to this model so quickly, but still.

    And an UWS minyan just hired (or is about to hire, I think there are some quirks in the agreement that need to be worked out) a woman as its spiritual leader (I believe she is from Riverdale, as well). Should be interesting.

  • chazar, it is his wife Chanah Henkin, who is the dean of Nishmat, as far as I know it’s her show, but he and another rabbi oversee it.

    esther – esther, its the 4th graduating class, so it does proceed kosher pork fish, but not on this blog, it is true.

  • This program is potentially a great step in helping more couples to follow the laws of the Torah. I hope and pray that this brings more Jews into observance. Also this take s a great burden off of Rabbis that are not paid to spend hours and hours each week helping couples. The Rabbis can focus on other things and homefully shalom al yisrael.

    BTW— Rebbitzins have for many years served as unofficial advisors in this area. If it makes these women more empowered to helpp others, and women more comfortable goign to them, great.

  • I can understand that this is an issue for which women might want “halachic advisors”…. but it looks like it could be out of control already.

    The article says the next thing they will advise on is Kashrut…… which is a huge part of getting Smicha. If a Rav isn’t consulted on Kashrut, is there anything to consult him on?

    Their agenda appears to be creating female Rabbis, which will be followed by the community. They don’t call them that…. yet…. but it looks fishy.

  • Their agenda appears to be creating female Rabbis, which will be followed by the community. They don’t call them that…. yet…. but it looks fishy.

    Oh noes! Women rabbis? Why, that could lead to dancing! Heaven forbid the Orthodox should try to live in the twenty-first century. All these Nishmat women should just go back to the kitchen, bake their challos, and read their techinos. Never mind that there are women lawyers, physicists and neurosurgeons today; it’s obvious women’s minds are too fluffy to grasp and advise on halakhah.

  • Adam, you seem to be a bit…threatened, by the notion of women who like, know stuff.

    What are we afraid of? that men will be obsolete if women are equally as educated? Let’s be secure in the fact that we both bring unique aspects to the same table and that there is much more to being a rav than simple kashrut questions.

  • Please Don’t Respond to this Link Here, the last thing I want to do is change the focus of conversation on this thread, I think what Nishmat is doing is fantastic!

    That said, this blog entry even drew a news story from ArutzSheva, and it would be an interesting talking point if one of you Jewlicious commentators would want to take it up. (I’m only doing this because non of the suggestions I send to CK ever seem to make the blog.)

  • Laya, there is a serious issue that you raise. What would men do iow, there is a lack of interesting jobs on a global scale. You have hit the nail on the head, it is really about turf and jobs, you wash my back, etc… but you can’t do this w/ a woman if you know what i mean (old boys network). This is really at the core of the whole issue. I am not taking sides btw, I am just shedding light. I don’t care all that much per se, whoever is brightest and most knowledgable, I will talk, confide in, etc… anyone who can help, is welcome to my stuff. It’s just that there really is a larger issue.

  • Yes but there is a limited # of spots. It depends on how old fashioned one is. Many men consider that a woman should stay home and raise their children not take a job and hire a foreign nanny. You have that in Israel and North America. Personally, I agree w/ this sentiment for my own life, but I understand where a woman wants to go back to work right away. I wouldn’t have traded it in terms of my beautiful and well behaved children, for having them been brought up by someone else.
    This is the underlying issue.
    The problem w/ this is that you cannot track really how fair something is. For example, my wife wanted to be a teacher in the worst way. But no one would give her a chance. SO I happen to know in one school many of the women teachers thre, are not that good to begin w/ AND their husbands are highly successful in various fields, law, Economics, what have you. Is it inherently fair, that whilst I had a drop of income of over 300 %, AND my wife also could not find something, is it right to let these unqualified women have these jobs and not my wife, no I don’t think so, but the problem is that you cannot regulate this, w.out being called a Communist.
    So you have touched upon the problem, but there is not really a solution, it is a feature of living in the rat race unfortunately, Peace, Jobber

Leave a Comment