Monday, July 11, 2011

The Rav and the Immutability of Halachah

The current issue of Jewish Action recounts a famous address by Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik in 1975 in which he vehemently opposed a position suggested by Rabbi Emanuel Rackman. The latter had proposed that the Gemara's chazakah that a women would prefer any kind of marriage to being single was based on the socio-economic status of women in antiquity, which had since changed. Rabbi Soloveitchik insisted that the chazakos of Chazal are instead “permanent ontological principles rooted in the very depth of the human personality, in the metaphysical human personality, which is as changeless as the heavens above.”

A problem with this is that there are several examples of chazakos in the Gemara that Poskim rule to no longer be true. For example, there is a chazakah that a woman would not be so bold as to declare in the presence of her husband that he had divorced her unless it was in fact true. But the Rema (Even HaEzer 17:2, citing others) states that nowadays, when chutzpah and pritzus are prevalent, that chazakah is no longer fully valid. Apparently, they did not consider this chazakah to be a permanent ontological principle rooted in the very depths of the human personality which is as changeless as the heavens above.

It may be possible to draw a distinction between these cases. Rav Soloveitchik explicitly stated that the reason why the chazakah regarding a woman wanting any kind of marriage is a "permanent ontological principle rooted in the very depth of the human personality" is that the Gemara bases it on a verse in the Torah - the curse of Eve in which it is stated that her desire shall be for her husband. Thus, perhaps only where a chazakah is based on a Scriptural exegesis is it timeless and sacrosanct.

The problem with this resolution is that the rest of Rav Soloveitchik's speech doesn't mention anything about such a qualification. It certainly gives the implication that all of Chazal's chazakos, and indeed all their statements, are timeless and sacrosanct. The Rav writes about how historicizing any of the rulings of any of the baalei mesorah over the ages is unacceptable. So how are we to reconcile this with the fact that historically, Poskim did not view Chazal's chazakos in that way? Furthermore, many people (and especially historians) find it very difficult to accept that Chazal were not in any way ever influenced by the world in which they lived - yet the Rav described this view as heresy!

Even more strangely, the Rav seems to describe such as an attitude as falling under the Rambam's rubric of makchish maggideha - denying the authority of the bearers of Torah. Yet Rambam surely used this term in a very limited sense - to those such as Tzaddok and Baytus who denied the very fundamental nature of the Oral Torah. As Dr. Marc Shapiro has documented at length, Rambam himself modified numerous concepts in the Gemara that were originally superstitious in nature. And authorities from Ramban to Vilna Gaon to Rav Hirsch felt no compunction in pointing out in turn that Rambam was influenced by the Greco-Muslim philosophical world in which he lived!

Perhaps the answer is as follows. Rav Soloveitchik's main concern was that, as he explicitly stated in that speech, once one starts to tamper with Talmudic halachah, this will end up destroying Judaism:
"Entertaining the possibility of revising Talmudic halachah at a rabbinical conference is as nonsensical as discussing the adoption of communism at the Republican National Convention. It is a conversation about suicide for the Orthodox community, the self-destruction of halachic Judaism."

This statement is, of course, entirely correct, and it perhaps provides a better reason for understanding the difference between the chazakah discussed by Rav Soloveitchik and that discussed by Rema. In Rema's day, there was no concern about the wholesale reform of halachah. But in the twentieth century, this was a very legitimate concern.

One way to counter the problem of reform is along the lines of Rav Moshe Shmuel Glasner - to note that the Gemara has been canonized, either formally or de facto. As for the counter-argument that Rema's ruling shows that it was not canonized so firmly, one could respond that since that time, and in light of wholesale reform, it has been canonized more absolutely. But Rav Soloveitchik instead took a different approach, claiming that chazakos were always timeless ontological principles. Did he really believe this to be the case about all chazakos, even that described by Rema? I don't know.

(Over a decade ago, an extremely charedi Rosh Yeshivah mentioned to me, as an example of nishtaneh hateva, that in his view, the chazakah that a women would prefer any kind of marriage to being single was no longer true, in light of the increased financial and social independence of women. He was masiach lefi tumo; he had absolutely no idea that this was something that Rav Soloveitchik had described as heretical. Had he been aware of this, or of the situation with Rabbi Rackman that caused it, he would certainly have said the same as Rav Soloveitchik. It's all about context. The view that Chazal were mistaken about science can be tolerated in a footnote in the Artscroll Shas, or in a restrained, apologetic manner in Yehudah Levi's books - but not overtly, as in my books.)

I once discussed this with a rabbi and historian who was a disciple of Rav Soloveitchik. He told me that Rav Soloveitchik's vehement opposition to the idea that some of Chazal's views and rulings were the result of their historical circumstances was a result of Rav Soloveitchik's historical circumstances!

59 comments:

  1. Are you sure that Rav Solevetchik agreed with the Rema (citing others)?

    Perhaps he felt that they were mistaken.

    I only ask this, because I was taught very strongly, the view that these statements, though they do express historical realities, are not stated because of their historical reality. I.e., there were many historical realities of the day which are not expressed or condoned as a chazakah. Sometimes chazakahs might even appear to some to not be the reality of the day. (and the argument must be made that it was true even then)

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  2. I don't know if he agreed with them. But it would be strange if he considered them to be heretics!

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  3. "I don't know if he agreed with them. But it would be strange if he considered them to be heretics!"

    Huh? Your leap between what you quote the Remah as writing, and what you quote the Rav as declaring heresy, is too large for me.

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  4. Great post! I came across an interesting article which demonstrates that the poskim did not always regard 'tav lemeitav' as absolute. It can be found here:
    http://www.edah.org/backend/JournalArticle/4_1_kaddari.pdf

    R. Moshe Feinstein in particular, seems to have abrogated this principle on several occasions. R. Michael Broyde in his "Marriage, Divorce and the Abandoned Wife in Jewish Law: A Conceptual Approach to the Agunah Problems in America" (I think it is in one of the addenda), brings lots of other poskim who did the same.

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  5. I really like your point about the danger to Judaism in the case you mentioned being only after the Reform movement.

    How are we to understand exactly what the Talmud meant? It makes a very strong statement about women's nature, yet Judaism has always permitted divorce and examples are given in the Talmud and later. So there have always been women who prefer to divorce rather than stay unhappily married, yet the Talmud makes that statement anyway.

    Furthermore, there is a lot of truth to that statement. While the RY was right that economics are probably the biggest factor behind the rise in divorce (that, and the fact that Jews are no longer second-class citizens in most countries), a big thing holding women back from divorce even today is, "Who will marry me with X-number kids?" Meaning, that they dread being alone after divorce. The ones who actually do divorce overcome that hurdle in their thinking, but it IS a hurdle to be overcome; it's definitely there.

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  6. Someone just wrote to me to recommend an interesting book on this topic:

    David Myers, "Resisting History:
    Historicism and its discontents in German-Jewish thought"

    http://books.google.com/books/about/Resisting_history.html?id=LW1JtBb2BUAC

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  7. > "Entertaining the possibility of revising Talmudic halachah at a rabbinical conference is as nonsensical as discussing the adoption of communism at the Republican National Convention

    How odd. Was the Rav suggesting that the Democrats would not be adverse to such a discussion?

    Perhaps one can differentiate between different types of chazakos. For example, there are chazakos based on current economic or social realities. There are others based on the deep rooted psychological nature of the individual.

    For example in your post, there is mention of both a woman desiring marriage above all else and a woman never daring to say that she's divorced in front of her husband. The former has actually been substantiated in some modern psychology studies which demonstrate how men and women react to "the single life" and one night stand relationships. Men, cads that we are, seem to do fine with them (I'm not endorsing it!) but women can often be psychologically damaged by such a lifestyle.
    On the other hand, a woman not speaking before her husband would not have been socially acceptable at some points in history but expected at others.
    Perhaps we need to investigate which chazakos are based on which factors.

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  8. “permanent ontological principles rooted in the very depth of the human personality, in the metaphysical human personality, which is as changeless as the heavens above.”

    What is a "metaphysical human personality" and how does the Rav know that it is "as changeless as the heavens above"?

    If not for the fact that this comes from the Rav, I would ask if this statement even means anything at all.

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  9. "On the other hand, a woman not speaking before her husband would not have been socially acceptable at some points in history but expected at others."

    My impression of the quote, was not that a woman can't speak in front of her husband, but that she wouldn't be willing to make a bold faced lie in front of her husband. But as any probate Judge will tell you, today, people have no problem doing such things.

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  10. "Someone just wrote to me to recommend an interesting book on this topic:
    "

    The summary of that book allowed me to clarify my thinking of why I didn't understand why you thought the Rav would consider the Rema a heretic.

    You wrote: "The Rav writes about how historicizing any of the rulings of any of the baalei mesorah over the ages is unacceptable." The word historicizing has a very specific meaning. It's something that can only be done in modern times by modern people.

    What the Rema wrote, is that he felt the chazakah is not true in his time. Which the Rav may or may not have agreed with. But the Rema did not say that since the Gemorah was speaking about a specific historical context, the chazacha must be re-evaluated using today's society as the judging criteria. It may or may not turn out to be that we apply the Chazaka today. (which would be heresy) Instead the Rema is just arguing (using solevetchik langauge), that the statement of the Talmud is not in fact a halachic chazaka, but just a rule of thumb.

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  11. Sometimes I think the Rav gets a free pass because of his credentials and his ability to use technical philisophical language that makes the rest of us feel as if we are not "worthy" to truly understand him. Maybe it's time to start de-constructing the Rav

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  12. I just caught this line:

    " that all of Chazal's chazakos, and indeed all their statements, are timeless and sacrosanct"

    Why do you include "all their statements", the brisker method is very legalese, and not all statements are chazakas, and not all statements are halacha.

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  13. "and his ability to use technical philisophical language that makes the rest of us feel as if we are not "worthy" to truly understand him."

    That is unfortunate, I find he uses precise language which makes it much easier to understand him. Less guessing is required, and its also much harder to abuse his ideas outside of their context.


    Q. "What is a "metaphysical human personality"
    A. An archetype of human psychology which exists no matter the culture or time one was raised in, as defined by Halacha.

    Q. how does the Rav know that it is "as changeless as the heavens above"?

    A. Because it's an archetype, and that is what Archetypes mean.

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  14. So, if everyone is a victim or held captive to their historitcal circumstances, where does it end? It's like saying we are on the back of a turtle, on the back of a turtle, etc., ad infinitum.

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  15. Q. "What is a "metaphysical human personality"
    A. An archetype of human psychology which exists no matter the culture or time one was raised in, as defined by Halacha.

    {How can there be such a thing as a free-floating "achetype" existing apart from specific human beings who would embody the "achetype"?

    Q. how does the Rav know that it is "as changeless as the heavens above"?

    A. Because it's an archetype, and that is what Archetypes mean.

    [So, the Rav postulates a metaphysical entity, "archtype", and is free from having to demonstrate how he knows it's properties because it is whatever he happens to say it is, totally divorced from reality]

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  16. "Q. "What is a "metaphysical human personality"
    A. An archetype of human psychology which exists no matter the culture or time one was raised in, as defined by Halacha.

    Q. how does the Rav know that it is "as changeless as the heavens above"?

    A. Because it's an archetype, and that is what Archetypes mean."

    How nice of the Rav to leave all those real life women in their real life suffering because of the Rav's Platonic "archetype" metaphysical human personality. These foolish, uneducated, non-philosophical women should just shut up and take whatever their husbands dish out because somewhere out there in the "ether" there are these archetypes who have Chazals Chazakos stamped on them.

    Talk about sacrificing real people to philosophical abstractions. Lenin couldn't have done it any better.

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  17. Rav Aharon Rakeffet has dealt with this concept (albeit incidentally) quite a few times in his shiurim on responsa literature. A classic example of a chazakah that is no longer viewed as halachically applicable is “ein adam oseh b’eilato b’eilat z’nut,” which, if taken literally, would imply that every sexual liaison between two Jews results in kiddushin. This viewpoint is explicitly rejected by the overwhelming majority of poskim, and fortunately so! The Rav himself certainly believed in historical update of established practice: see, for example, his promotion of women learning gemara.

    If memory serves, R’ Rakeffet discussed the particular issue of the Rav’s critique of R’ Rackman with Rav Lichtenstein, and they concluded that were a number of unique circumstances which caused the Rav to be so uncharacteristically caustic and dismissive, including: R’ Rackman’s proposal of hafka’at kiddushin, which the Rav felt was a halachic non-starter; the political/social climate of the time; and, finally, the Rav’s belief that THIS chazaka was ontologically rooted.

    As I believe is often the case with trying to resolve R’ Soloveitchik’s viewpoints, it is essential to place this particular speech in context. The Rav was, to my limited understanding, extremely sensitive to time and place, and would often give significantly different answers to similar questions depending on who was asking and when. His critique of Rabbi Rackman is of crucial historical import, but I’m not sure that it can, by itself, serve as a touchstone of the Rav’s halachic/historic worldview.

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  18. "How can there be such a thing as a free-floating "achetype" existing apart from specific human beings who would embody the "achetype"?"

    Sorry, my apologies, I thought I was talking to a rational human being, not an internet troll.

    But just incase http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archetype

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  19. To Ameteur:

    I am not a "troll". I am a simple person who has had some experience with women who have been mis-treated by the system. My reaction to the Rav might be a bit overstated, but so far I don't see how you have answered my objections.

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  20. One of the things I'm trying to say is that if the Rav wants to sacrifice himself and his own personal interests in the name of "accepting the yoke of heaven", that's fine. But it appears to me that he does not seem to have had too much trouble sacrificing others along with himself. THAT is typical of the type of thinking that deals with abtractions instead of real situations. And that might be the result of the Rav's personal "history" of having been reared in Beis Brisk, with the Brisk emphasis on THEORETICAL learning.

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  21. Garnel, the only problem with your snarky little bit about "the singles life" is that it's not true. Women are pickier than they used to be. When marriage was the only option any marriage was better than nothing. With increased financial independence and the removal of the stigma large numbers would rather be single than have a marriage they don't like.

    That's why marriage is on the decline everywhere the status of women has increased.

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  22. The problem with inerrancy is that it falls hard. So much of the edifice of Jewish philosophy and theology is built on the infallibility of various authorities. It might be Chazal. It might be today's "Gedolim".

    If one took a respectful but reality-based view of these men they could be wrong from time to time. It wouldn't be the end of the world. But that isn't enough. They have to be incapable of error, perfect, Godlike. The moment a single error is detected or a thinking person says "No matter how you slice it that's baloney" the entire basis of Jewish thought is shattered.

    Good can survive mistakes.
    Perfection cannot.

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  23. Ironically, the proper way to understand R. Soloveitchik's position is in the context of his time. It could be summarized in two words: Conservative Judaism.

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  24. I have been uneasy about this statement by R'YBS for many years - if you listen to the recording (and I'm only making an observation, not saying that this changes anything), there was clearly a great deal of emotion throghout the talk (especially iirc when R'YBS said one might as well tear up all of the laws of gittin if this were accepted).

    OTOH I do not know how one would make a determination about the existential permanence of tan du - what populations/cultures would you look at/subdivide? (this applies to all chazakot)


    Also what historical circumstances of R'YBS was the rabbi/historian referring to?
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  25. can someone please post a link to the recording of the talk?

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  26. For those interested, the most recent dissection of this fateful speech is in R. David Hartman's new book "The God that Hates Lies" (pp. 131-157).

    A good chunk can be previewed on Google Books.

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  27. Looking at the Bigger PictureJuly 11, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    I think it does not say much for the Rationalists when even the most widely respected one (The Rav) is on record as arguing for infallibility. The Catholics get away with it because they still have an infallible authority who obligingly reforms things when they get ridiculous. And look how well it served them. Deciding to have an infallible Talmud without a Sanhedrin to pass reforms (like the original system had) is asking for it.

    Think about the argument the Rav puts forwards.

    A: Let's change an obviously false presumption in the Talmud. All moral causes agitate for it.

    B: No!

    A: Why not?

    B: That presumption is infallible.

    A: Says who?

    B: My only objection to change is infallibility. Infallibility cannot be asserted selectively. Ergo, I object to all change, ever, under any circumstances.


    Is B's objection rational? I submit it is very practical if the objective is maintaining status quo. The Rav considered this pious and therefore advanced it.

    But does it make logical sense? In a vacuum (leaving aside the need of an objection to Reform and Conservative), I submit it does not. It is unprovable and very probably an invention of the opposition to Reform and Conservative. It appears to be, in short, the last refuge of desperate intellectuals.


    To my mind, Orthodoxy needs a better argument for survival than "We're infallible". Claiming infallibility is recipe for intellectual shipwreck. It leaves a strong impression that we haven't got an argument against Reform and Conservative Judaism, except being stubborn and having a higher birth rate.

    If someone could point out an alternative to claiming Infallibility to me, I'd be obliged.

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  28. I'm not sure that it's accurate to describe the Rav as a rationalist. And certainly not with regard to this speech!

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  29. The dialogue between A and B in the previous comment might be revised as follows:

    A: Let's change an obviously false presumption in the Talmud. All moral causes agitate for it.

    B: No!

    A: Why not?

    B: That presumption is not just a legal presumption but, in fact, is part of the ontological reality of the universe AND, is not subject to change, unlike the rest of the universe which does change.

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  30. I strongly agree that the Rav cannot be described as a rationalist, much less the preeminent one. Because he was long associated with some of the more modern wings of Orthodoxy, that association is often made, incorrectly, in light of his views.

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  31. "I'm not sure that it's accurate to describe the Rav as a rationalist"

    Your definition seems to be getting more and more narrow. Have you never read Halachik Mind?

    To mention rav Solvetchik, and infallible in the same conversation is to completely distort what he says.

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  32. R' Berry
    My pleasure-see the first link here:
    http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2009/05/audio-roundup-xl.html

    KT
    Joel Rich

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  33. I would like to suggest a distinction. Before doing so I would like to note my agreement with some of the other comments which have pointed out that Rav Soloveitchik reacted differently in different circumstances. In fact his writings and speeches are full of contradictory concepts and I do not believe that he tried to maintain an approach which was always consistent and always in agreement with everything he had written.

    Having said that, there is, in my opinion, a significant difference between the chazakah that a woman does not want to be alone and the chazakah that a woman will not risk lying in front of her husband (besides the fact that one is based on exegesis and the other is not). I think that the former principle points clearly to an underlying philosophical understanding of the female personality whilst the latter principle does not.

    Allow me to explain. As Rav Soloveitchik explains in The Halakhic Mind, our philosophy should be derived from the Halakhic sources. These Halakhic principles were the result of the religious experience of their creators and that by analysing the sources we can re-construct that experience. Although the religious experience could have been expressed in a different fashion, could have resulted in a different Halakhic system, the reconstruction of the underlying philosophy from the resulting system is nevertheless possible (A does not necessarily result in B, but once it has done, A can be reconstructed from B).

    The upshot, of relevance to the present discussion, is that we can and should analyse the Halakha in order to extract Chazal's philosophy of religion, man and nature. Now, I am aware that the following can be disputed but I believe that it can explain Rav Soloveitchik's position. If we look at the chazakah that a woman prefers to be married than to be alone, we can clearly detect an implicit ontological principle. When we read the statement we are aware that the writer considered women to be ontologically different to men. On the other hand, with the principle that a woman will not dare lie in front of her husband, the underlying ontology is less clear. That a woman is always afraid of her husband? Perhaps the principle is that a person will not dare to lie in the presence of someone of whom they are afraid.

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  34. I am always amazed and bothered at the tendency of even the more modern types - especially those connected with YU/RIETS, to regard Rav YB Soloveitchik as if he were a rebbe whose every pronouncement is sacred. A more sensible attitude, it seems to me, is to assume that some extemporaneous statements of his were exaggerations and indicative of an emotional reaction. Citing more of the relevant verse about Eve's fate actually undermines his argument. That verse states, "..and your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you". In modern times the latter is clearly not universally true, why assume that the former is necessarily so? Furthermore, the following verse referring to Adam's fate states, "You shall eat bread through the sweat of your brow..". I note that relatively few Orthodox men of whatever persuasion earn their livlihood through heavy physical labor, and many rely on their wive's labor to help support them. In other words, those verses don't dictate the constant fate of men and women - other than death.

    When other conflicts between talmudic statements and current reality occur, one option used is to disregard the talmudic statement because "nature has changed". Well, that line of reasoning could be used as well for some issues regarding women. Of course, such an innovation would normally require the initiative or assent of a posek of considerable stature to be acceptable to, at least, a significant part of the observant Orthodox spectrum.

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  35. Ariel encapsulates the entire problem with RJBS' approach.

    Through a subtle distinction Ariel argues that we can only derive Chazal's "ontological view" of women from "tav le meitav tan do," but not regarding the case of the presumption a woman would lie in front of her husband

    Let us grant Ariel is correct-- so what? The problem is that RJBS is asking women to accept accounts of their nature that their own experience rejects and worse of all which deprives them of a means to avoid being trapped as an Agunah.

    This is a perfect of example of the inhumane consequences of abstract reasoning that does not take subjective human experience into account.

    MO

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  36. Rav Soloveitchik's inclination to indulge in hyperbole is discussed at length in Rav Nosson Kaminetzky's "The Making of a Godol."

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  37. In the broader thrust of your post that not all chazakos remain true, you are, of course, correct. However, it is open to debate just how far women have strayed - if, in fact, they have strayed - from the chazaka of tan du. It means that as a general principle, a woman prefers marriage more than a man prefers marriage, and is willing to tolerate less. It NEVER meant that in ALL circusmstances a woman would prefer marriage, because we see numerous examples (mukas shchin, etc.) of cases already in the Gemara where women sued for divorce. The meaning is sometimes stretched in shu"t, but that's the basic meaning of it.

    And I dont think that's changed. Just as the internet has taught us that the media's opinion is not necessarily representative of the masses, and just as we know the Moetzes is not necessarily representative of the masses, so too the press releases of professional feminist lobbyists are not necessarily representative of women generally. That some things have changed - for sure. But quite a lot is still the same.

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  38. "his writings and speeches are full of contradictory concepts and I do not believe that he tried to maintain an approach which was always consistent and always in agreement with everything he had written."

    As a New Englander he certainly was correct in following Emerson's admonition regarding foolish consistency.

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  39. Don't Be So HastyJuly 12, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    Has anyone who has commented (including R' Slifkin) was actually "miayen" in the sugya of "tov limeishav tandu" vs. other such chazakos. Perhaps if done, a noticeable difference would be seen in how each was developed and treated by chazal.

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  40. "Let us grant Ariel is correct-- so what? The problem is that RJBS is asking women to accept accounts of their nature that their own experience rejects and worse of all which deprives them of a means to avoid being trapped as an Agunah."

    How is this any different than the rest of halacha?

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  41. Why not just ask women? Or do we think that women themselves don't know what they think and prefer? Try asking around. The idea of somehow canonizing peoples' feelings sounds strange to me. I would like to suggest reading 'The Choice Before Her' - a history of women in pre-modern Europe.

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  42. "Why not just ask women? Or do we think that women themselves don't know what they think and prefer? Try asking around. The idea of somehow canonizing peoples' feelings sounds strange to me. I would like to suggest reading 'The Choice Before Her' - a history of women in pre-modern Europe."

    Not only women's feelings are canonized. The same is done for men, and oath swearers, and merchants, and witnesses.

    Also, its been proven to quite a great degree, that people do not know what they want before an event takes place. You can look up the studies on Remorse.

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  43. 'Also, its been proven to quite a great degree, that people do not know what they want before an event takes place.'

    So who knows what people want? The 'experts'?

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  44. “Soloveitchik makes it incumbent upon all halakhic Jews to view contemporary women in much the same light as the women of the Talmudic era. He insists that the halakhic implications of this identification remain steadfast, claiming that this trans-historical stability is based upon an ontological fact. If the reality you encounter throughout the course of your life seems to fly in the face of this “fact,” it is your perception of reality that is to be sacrificed.

    In other words, according to Soloveitchik, if you think you are meeting a modern, independent, self-sufficient single woman, dignified about her capacity to cope with reality, you are mistaken: it is an illusion. You are not seeing the real woman, the desperately lonely and abject Talmudic woman that lies at the ontological heart of even the most seemingly capable or contented single modern female. In reality, every powerful, yet unmarried CERO would prefer a man who has the stature of an ant to the howling pain of singlehood; the professor of history would just as soon live with a cabbage-head or a degenerate. Within this halakhic theology, simply allowing ourselves to acknowledge the reality of what we see is to undermine the foundations of Torah itself. The Torah can only survive if it is based upon what we know not to be true.

    [...]

    As Soloveitchik’s student, pondering this pivotal episode in American Orthodoxy, I must confess both puzzlement and grave disappointment. I live with the fond memory of a teacher unintimidated by any ideas or any authority – in stark contrast to the other Lithuanian Torah scholars I had studied with.”

    RDH in “The God Who Hates Lies” pp. 151-2

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  45. In other words, according to Soloveitchik, if you think you are meeting a modern, independent, self-sufficient single woman, dignified about her capacity to cope with reality, you are mistaken: it is an illusion.
    ==================
    R'IH,
    I think that's an overreach -I don't think R'YBS would deny exceptions to the rule. The question is can the world change so that the exception becomes the rule.
    KT
    Joel Rich

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  46. "In other words, according to Soloveitchik, if you think you are meeting a modern, independent, self-sufficient single woman, dignified about her capacity to cope with reality, you are mistaken: it is an illusion. You are not seeing the real woman, the desperately lonely and abject Talmudic woman that lies at the ontological heart of even the most seemingly capable or contented single modern female. In reality, every powerful, yet unmarried CERO would prefer a man who has the stature of an ant to the howling pain of singlehood; the professor of history would just as soon live with a cabbage-head or a degenerate."

    I can't believe an intelligent man such as DH could write such garbage. Does he know what chazaka means? Chazaka does not exclude exceptions. So why is DH creating one? Is he so insulated that he's unaware of women who for no rational reason remain in abusive marriages? I know several such women who didn't attempt to leave their sick husbands for years- and in some cases kids weren't an issue. And yes, I've seen women of PhD caliber who have married cabbage-heads. What sort of cabbage is DH smoking?

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  47. What I always find ironic about any discussion of tov limeishav tandu is that there is never any discussion about the sugya, just the simple statement lifted out of context. The gemora mentions it four times, and while two of them are, I agree, just mentions, twice it goes on to explain what is meant by it. Both time the gemora concludes that a woman in a tov limeishav tandu marriage *will* go on to commit adultery. Whether that adultery is also a form of chazaka is open to question, but you can therefore read the concept completely the opposite way it is generally used.

    That is, generally people use the concept to say "oh women prefer to be married than single, therefore it is OK or better to leave a woman in an unhappy marriage".

    However, if you read the entire sugya, one could easily come to the opposite conclusion, namely, women are liable to let themselves in for inappropriate marriages that are not worthy of them (in contrast say, to the bnos Zlafchad, who were praised for not ding this). But the consequence is going to be, somewhere along the line, adultery, and if we want to prevent mamzerim, we need to prevent/try to effectuate the end of such marriages.

    RYBS may make the leap from tov limeishav tandu to Chava, the pasuk in Breishis and all women but the gemora does not, and even in trying to understand what chazaka the gemora may be talking about, one does not necessarily need to adopt RYBS's understanding.

    Chana

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  48. R’ Joel --

    I intentionally left the 2nd paragraph in to stimulate discussion, which I have to assume was his intention in pushing the rhetorical point. Where he takes this, follows on p. 153:

    “...I have developed my own preferred method of halakhic analysis, focusing on the key value distinctions being argued for in legal debates. I do not claim that the medieval commentators have to bow before my autonomous intellect or that I am smarter than they were – just that the problems they faced are not mine. I don’t consider myself superior, just different: living in a different culture in which different issues surface and values emerge that were no present in the context of the Rashbo. A historicist orientation to the Talmud was alien to him, whereas I want to use Greek and Roman sources to understand the Talmud’s treatment of women. This need not be synonymous with a rejection of traditional forms of learning, or the scholars of the past. It certainly seems strange for a man who opened the whole Western tradition to his students to have suggested otherwise.”

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  49. Thank you, Chana, for your enlightening, spot-on comments. They were exactly what this discussion needed.

    Also, some of the comments here seem denigrating of women in Talmudic times. They were not pathetic needy wimps. It has been mentioned already that economic ability has been the most influential factor in today's higher divorce rate. Furthermore, until America came along, Jews were generally second-class citizens and Jewish women even lower. Jewish women living on their own were at risk for kidnapping and other crimes. The kidnapping of unmarried Jewish girls (and sometimes boys) happened repeatedly (mostly in Muslim countries) with absolutely no legal recourse.

    Any Jewish woman living on her own faced the possibility of life-threatening poverty and was considered by the surrounding non-Jewish society as a being with absolutely no rights.

    And the reality is that many women do hate to be single and will put up with quite a lot of garbage from her man, though it is certainly not true for every woman.

    And, like others have stated here already, that Talmudic statement should never be used to manipulate a woman into staying in a situation she should leave.

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  50. "
    So who knows what people want? The 'experts'?

    July 12, 2011 3:16 PM
    "

    Only Gd. I believe there is a pasuk to that effect.

    People are making the erroneous leap between an insistence on halacha and believing that a single halachic principle covers every single case perfectly.

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  51. Off Topic: The book referenced in the comments above "The God Who Hates Lies" by Rabbi David Hartman was given only 3 stars by a review left on Amazon. I'm wondering if anyone here who read it thought it was a worthwhile read. Thanks.

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  52. Michapeset -- The only review I have seen thus far is: http://tinyurl.com/3mvxkfj.

    Some more comments can be found on the Kavvanah blog: http://tinyurl.com/5t6d983

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  53. Thanks IH. What did you think of the book?

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  54. It’s an easy and straightforward read, not deep theology like his 20-year old “A Living Covenant”.

    That it is accessible and intensely personal is both the book's strength and its weakness.

    I recommend it to anyone grappling with reconciling halacha and morality in the modern world; and open to being challenged. Large chunks of it seem to be available via Google Books for preview.

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  55. Please read my friends response at Yeshivaman.blogspot.com

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  56. I recently read a statement from a woman on a yeshivaworld blog which was discussing the current so-called "Shidduch" crisis. She said she would rather share a husband (i.e. be part of a polygamous family) than remain single. I was shocked at that. Maybe because as a "modern man" I have been taught that polygamy is weird, perverted and anti-woman despite what our tradition says about it.

    It would seem to me that any discussion on how to solve the agunah problem (other than beating the living daylights out of the husband) needs to be within a broader context of other Halachic and cultural problems concerning the relationship between men and women that we are currently facing.

    A shidduch crisis? I wonder what RYBS would have said on this issue.

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  57. Rabbi Bleich in contemporary Halachik problems vol. 5 in the chapter on Lomdus and pesak
    p. xxxv discusses this issue.
    Rabbi Bleich calls it Am Haaratzus rather than heretical and he goes on to explain why.

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