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.