Saturday, February 8, 2020

Yoatzot vs. Lamdanim

Rav Aharon Feldman declared recently that "Yoatzot halacha are not good for the Jews." He gave two reasons for this. First is that (wittingly or unwittingly) they strengthen the cause of feminism, which often includes anti-Torah elements. Second is that since they are not lamdanim, they are not equipped to deal with serious halachic questions.

Do yoatzot strengthen the cause of feminists? Probably. But lots of things have side effects. Classical male rabbinic authority, for example, strengthens people who abuse such authority. The concept of religious leaders strengthened Eliezer Berland. The Gedolim strengthened Leib Tropper. Many good causes have unfortunate side effects - such side-effects do not necessarily prohibit the cause itself.

In his second objection, Rav Feldman claims that only someone with many years experience in both broad Torah knowledge and in the art of being a lamdan can responsibly deal with questions. He further claims that even though the yoatzot defer complicated questions to senior rabbinic authorities, they lack the skills and knowledge to know which cases require such deferral.

It is surely indeed true that broad knowledge and analytical skills are a great asset. Having said that, specialized knowledge of the subject matter is also a great asset - and probably even more significant. There can be no doubt that there are countless instances in which yoatzot halachah are more likely to get things right than the average rabbi (who would be consulted if no yoatzot were available), simply because they are more knowledgeable and experienced with this particular topic. Likewise, a yoetzet halacha is just as likely as the average rabbi to know when a question needs to be referred to someone higher up - and perhaps even more likely, since men tend to resist admitting ignorance. There is no shortage of examples of lamdonim weighing in on issues which are beyond their realm of expertise.

Besides, the value of being a lamdan - or perhaps, the definition of who is a lamdan - is overstated. Consider Rav Feldman himself, who is on the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah, and surely is considered a lamdan. His infamous essay endorsing the ban on my books included arguments so weak and strained that many people were astonished that a Gadol B'Torah could write such things. This included his claim that a hashkafic viewpoint legitimately espoused by Rishonim and Acharonim, through to Rav Hirsch and Rav Dessler, subsequently became prohibited in 2004 to be held by anyone at all!

It gets even better/worse. Rav Feldman had claimed that the notion of Chazal being fallible in science was an aberrant minority view. Subsequently, I sent him a list of over forty sources espousing this view - most significantly, pointing out that it was the majority view among the Rishonim with regard to Chazal mistakenly believing that the sun goes behind the sky at night. Rav Feldman responded that since they were all saying the same thing, they count as one view, not as a larger number!

Perhaps one could argue that lomdus is indeed valuable and normally Rav Feldman is indeed a great lamdan, but he had his judgment clouded in that case by his desire to support charedi rabbinic authority in the face of it being undermined. Perhaps. But that would also cloud his judgment in evaluating the benefit of yoatzot halachah...


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90 comments:

  1. I have been trying to find info on this latest Dialogue issue, and so far have only come up with this. Does anyone know why after so many years, there is finally a response to Professor Marc Shapiro's Limits? http://somehowfrum.blogspot.com/2020/01/dialogue-debates-doctors-doctrines.html

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    1. The PDF is available here https://notorthodox.blogspot.com/p/in-recent-years-there-have-been-many.html

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    2. Thanks for the link to the Grossman article.
      An embarrassment.
      Why the sarcasm and mockery? (Yes, I know; it's elicits high-fives in Dialogue's peanut gallery and it's also in the air, with there being a heavily-promoted new book on machshava that also climbs on the bash Shapiro bandwagon, dragging down an otherwise commendable book on the parsha.)

      For some reason, entirely illogical, some writers think that by beating up Shapiro, whose strength is as a bibliographer and not as a philosopher or academic expert of Maimonidean scholarship (he never claims to be), they have thereby defeated the entire field of academic Jewish Study.

      In any event, if Rabbi Grossman doesn't think that Shapirio is a big enough lamdan or philosopher, then fair enough, let him next try his hand at shlugging up Moshe Halbertal.

      We'll see how that one goes.

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    3. And that's before you even get to the substance; the embarrassment only grows.

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    4. @Sholom,
      You are commenting on a blog that contains extreme sarcasm and mockery in almost every post. Can you point out the sarcasm and mockery to which you refer, and actually put some substance behind your comment?

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    5. Matis, did you read R. Grossman's article? It's hard to miss.

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    6. @Aryeh
      Yes I did read it. Again I ask you to show an example of sarcasm and mockery.

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    7. Matis, as Aryeh said, have you read Grossman's piece?

      I believe that were you to do so, you would not be asking me for examples.

      I would also ask you if you have first-hand familiarity with academic scholarship in Jewish Studies and academic scholarship on Rambam in particular. If you do, I highly doubt you would need my assistance in pointing out to you the flaws in the Grossman article.

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    8. Matis, no need for anyone here to guide you, as in the meantime Prof Shapiro has posted a response in the seforim blog.

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    9. @Sholom
      Again, I did read the article, show me an example of sarcasm and mockery.

      Delete
  2. In defending against the charge of promoting feminism, you focus on the general proposition that good things can have deleterious side-effects. An alternate approach would focus on Rav Feldman's continuation of that point, "which often includes anti-Torah elements." Do the anti-Torah elements taint feminism in toto? Is there any reason to believe that any anti-Torah elements would be strengthened by having yoatzot fulfill a role in the Orthodox community?

    A further issue would be why can't a yoetzet also be a lamdenet.

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    1. Indeed, it would appear that R. Feldman has opened the door for yoatzot who qualify for the "lamdanit" title, of whom there are no doubt more than a few at this point, while there are absolutely certainly many, many rabbis who who could not be seriously accused of lamdanut, but who he has no problem with paskening on the very same shaalot.
      Rabbi Feldman has already compromised his own authority more than once with questionable, if not absurd, pronouncements in the name of his predetermined ideological positions, and I no longer trouble myself much over additional ones. I'm sure I am not alone in this.

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  3. One issue worth considering (for males as well) is how broad a knowledge base must one have in order to render halachic opinions (e.g. can one have "smicha" in sukkah without a deeper (TBD) knowledge of hilchot shabbat etc.)
    KT
    Joel Rich

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    1. I think the answer is obviously yes one can. Not everyone with semicha can answer questions in hilchos kodshim or tahoros.

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  4. There is no way that a male Rav is not biased in this matter. Just as no one could expect such a person to wholeheartedly endorse Yoatzot, no one should give credence to a position backed by anything less than Halachic sources.

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    1. "No way"? Really?

      And lots of men endorse them wholeheartedly.

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    2. Have you found the mythical unbiased human? Are you claiming Rabbi Feldman is that human?

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    3. A meaningless point. By the same token a proponent is biased against seeing it from the opponents perspective. Which brings us right back to where we started.

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  5. "Rav Feldman responded that since they were all saying the same thing, they count as one view, not as a larger number!"

    ��

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  6. Perhaps the next step is to have yo'atzot with a broad Torah base.

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  7. Observant Jews make judgements all the times about when they need to refer a question to a posek. No one but a newly married or newly religious couple asks a Rav every question that arises in hilkhot niddah, or in any other area of halakha for that matter. We all make judgements as to when to decide for ourselves or when we are out of our depth and need to ask a posek. Why should a Yoetzet Halakha, who has actually studied the relevant material in depth, be worse at making this judgement that anyone else?

    Also, we shouldn't confuse a lamdan with a posek. The two are not synonymous. In his history lectures, R. Rakeffet-Rothkoff notes many occasions in which great lamdanim of the previous generation deferred to poskim in matters of practical halakha. We both know a certain Rosh Yeshiva who would use "dayan" as a term of derision. In rational terms, you wouldn't want a pure mathematician to design a bridge. My point is that a Yoetzet's practical knowledge of hilkhot niddah might eclipse that of some lamdanim.

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  8. Rav Feldman does not seem able to muster a serious argument against the yoatzot beyond ideological objection. I am surprised.
    The yoatzot state repeatedly that they are not and do not aspire to pasken halacha.

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  9. His first argument was that it is a trojan horse device. The larger purpose is to annoint people to the rabbinate who will reinterpret halacha. Of course torah jews will not accept yoatzot when it is obviously just a subversive plot against torah. Achashveirosh offered kosher food and drink to entice the jews to come to his seudah, and the jewish leaders advised people not to go because they saw where it was headed.

    His second point was that a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. If you haven't invested years of your life to the study of torah it is hard to fully appreciate the difference between a serious talmid chacham and a baal habais who learns for a couple of hours a night. But it all depends on the level of power that you want to give to yoatzot- if the point was to just give women a first point of contact for simple questions and no more, there would probably be little opposition at all.

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    1. I come not to argue with you, Joseph, since I do not know where you stand.

      But to respond to the point about "a little knowledge is dangerous" - this is a reasonable concern. But let's be clear: a woman who becomes a yoetzet is NOT akin to a frat boy who takes a correspondence course and becomes an online minister so he can officiate at his friends' weddings. These women go through an intense multi-year program. And they are women who ALREADY have several years of learning behind them in one or more forms (Nishmat, The Stern Graduate Program, etc).

      Source: my wife looked into joining and was even quasi-recruited. In the end, she did not do the program because of how intense it is, both in daily time requirement as well as time needed to be physically present in Israel and/or New York. Her potential chavrusa, also being a mother of young children, made the same decision. (Interestingly, the chavrusa would have done it earlier in her life, but was told that the program only accepts married women - so this adds an additional layer of expertise: life experience! Exercise for the reader on whether that requirement is too high...)

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  10. This train left the station over 20 years ago. Did he just wake up from a coma?

    He also actually makes the case for female rabbis. By suggesting that a woman would prefer a male gynecologist over a female nurse, the kal v'chomer is that, all other things being equal, she'd prefer a female gynecologist over a male!

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    1. What?! You expect lamdonus from a Rabbi?

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    2. Actually, that's not a bad point. I wonder if there is any way of tracking some data here: in 20 years, has there been a decline in halachic observance/awareness/understanding that we can attribute to the yoetzet program? I mean, if it was new, one could theoretically put forth the argument (the article's argument #2) that having these women be a buffer to the rabbis would create this sort of problem. But let's look! I imagine we would find MORE women willing to come forward and ask questions and MORE people aware of issues and not that many grievous errors perpetuated by the Yoatzot. But that's just me.

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    3. But all other things are NOT equal. That a woman would prefer a male gynecologist over a female nurse in no way implies that she'd prefer a female doctor over a male doctor. (I am speaking in RAF's viewpoint, and do not here agree, differ, or otherwise make an opinion.)

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    4. Ob/Gyn residents were 85% female as of 2014. Pretty compelling evidence of what women prefer.

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    5. Reb Ohsie: I'm not arguing the point either way, just playing with the statistics - do medical students know the market pressures for genders of doctors based on preferences of female patients? It might be amazing for future generations of docs if they did. As far as I recall from my med school days was just the "crisis" level stuff that made the headlines: how more ppl went into surgical subspecialties, leaving General Surgery suffering, and the usual stuff about underserved areas. Perhaps the fact OBGYN residences have larger percentages of women in them might more represent the lack of interest of male medical school graduates for this clearly female-related area.

      Or even stronger: it now might be be perceived as skeevy for men to be interested in this (see one of the later "Revenge of the Nerds" movies, where one of the grown up Nerds says in a wink-wink type of voice, "I'm a gynecologist!"), unless the particular newly minted doctor is clearly interested "lishma"...

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    6. The Supreme Court held airlines could not use only female stewardess, despite market research that this was what the public wanted. Today companies are under intense pressure from activist investors like Black Rock to hire females and blacks. In short, nothing you see in the work force results from "preference."

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    7. @Yosef R: I'm sure that there are many factors. Yes men might realize that it makes little sense to go into ob/gyn when women can do it. Yes students pay attention to their earning potential after school. It's pretty strong evidence.

      @DF: There are no regulations on the preference list for the residency match (which is then performed by an algorithm).

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  11. I think the most problematic part of his essay is footnote 6. "Unfortunately there are some persons and institutions which do this." I'd say that one of the most offending institutions is his own. Ner Yisrael's smicha program is fairly weak. There are plenty of graduates with smicha that know very little of extended sugyos or halacha. The truth of the matter is that 4 or 5 year rabbi programs are pretty bad. His demand for poskim to be lamdanim and true talidei chachamim is correct, but it needs to be done for males as well. Accusing yoatzot for only doing a 2 year course, is ignoring the many smicha kollelim that spend only 1 year on it. Prior lomdus not withstanding.
    The answer to this quandary is to higher the bar. If we demand that our local rabbis be lamdanim and talmidei chachamim, we can demand it from yoatzot as well.

    Footnote 7 is also missing nuance. He ignores that the teaching Torah Shebichtav is also forbidden, and also the Chafetz Chaim endorsed Sarah Shneirer's program. Bais Yaakov's have been teaching Torah Shebaal Peh for 100 years now, there is no reason that we can teach hilchos Shabbos but not Tahara.

    He is also fooling himself thinking that young brides don't ask their kallah teachers shaalos. Of course they do.

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    1. The type of smicha you are speaking of is not the same as the smicha programs for rabbonim. The short smicha is given for the honorific and not for use in public service.

      Ladies asking their kallah teachers has always been fine and proves that there is no need for a formally titled yoetzet (barring ulterior motives)

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    2. Of course. But is every single question a psak? Don't be riduculousm

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    3. Ladies asking their kallah teachers has always been fine and proves that there is no need for a formally titled yoetzet (barring ulterior motives)

      You must be a product of the Charedi educational system. Your own "logic" proves that there's no need for formally titled Rabbanim, either. Bet you didn't think of that.

      Of course, being a Charedi man, you obviously feel that women's feelings don't matter, and their comfort and peace of mind in talking to an understanding and knowledgeable woman about intimate issues is absolutely worthless.

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    4. @Joseph, 1. The 4 year Rabbi programs are filling most pulpit positions. 2. What is commonly called smicha today is actually inaccurate term. It's a היתר הוראה , permission to give horaah. If those creating these programs think that for honorific reasons they can tell an unqualified person they he can make horaos, then they are פושעים.

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    5. "Ner Yisrael's smicha program is fairly weak."

      Oh, Really? I'm a Musmach from NIRC myself, from before the turn of the century when R. Feldman became RY. The NIRC smicha is actually far stronger than most. Most Semichas require just the basic Melicha, BV"CH, and Tarubos. Very basic issur v'hetter. YU goes further in requiring Aveilus. I assume they also require Nidah, but do not know for a fact. NIRC went further than that and required a written test on all of OC with Mishna Berura (except Vol. 4, Eruvin) a separate test per volume. And you are expected to do shimush in town with local rabbonim for Nidah. That's the way it was in my generation, and I doubt anything has changed.

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  12. I am married to a yoetzet, and I have to say, the work she does is so obviously, tremendously valuable – phone call after phone call, solving urgent problems and educating women for the rest of their lives – this kind of ideological opposition just sounds totally irrelevant.

    By the way, she's as a serious as any lamdan in learning!

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    1. I suppose you read my posts. I would be very grateful if you can tell us what a yoetset learns. I dont mean this 'broadly'. I know they learn kesomim, vestos and harchoko. But I mean how well. If she only knows as well as any lamdan or rov that isnt good enough.
      For instance I provided an English booklet, which someone else has provided a link. How much of that would you say your wife knows, and how well would she be able to work out vestos. If she can do it as well as the booklet then I am all for them.
      The same with kesomim (see my post), I am sure she knows what hargosho is better than any rov, and can also tell if a woman usually has hargosho by asking her, better than any rov.
      As long as she knows the dinim, like how much a 'gris' is, 18mm or in the UK an old sixpenny bit, she should not need a rov. Except for 'maros' which is about the only thing some rabbonim who have experience know.
      I must add the poskim like AH seem to say that dam works the same as the bladder, in other words once it is 'open' it comes out. So much so that they cant understand why it all doesnt come out at once,and Pardes Rimonim linked to in artscroll calls it like niflo'os haborai. The truth is like my link shows, they dont work the same way but dam has to be kind of 'pumped' out causing cramps and spasms which is the real hargosho.
      There is something unique about niddah. Unlike all other mitvot we try to be as maikel as possible as long as only a 'drabonon' is involved. So much so that it is wrong in being machmir even in vestos, usually through lack of knowledge. If yoatsot can really help in this they would be doing a great mitsva.

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    2. I would like to go on about R Feldman's article.
      For a start I have spent many more than two years and dont consider myself qualified, but neither do I consider most rabbonim either.
      His point (A). He writes that one must know chazaka rov and s'fek sfaika. No one is a ktsos today and no one knows that and certainly not apply them to niddah. The same with shaas hadchak, which rov is qualified with that?
      (B). I dont know exactly how other halachos come in, and how monetary matters do. I would have thought that if yoatsos dont learn hilchos tevilo then they wouldnt pasken on it. One should really have a Jewish dentist because of that. Also because of kesomim a Jewish doctor.
      I would mention a story of many years ago. To my knowledge that is the only time a series of public lectures was ever given to women on this subject. It was given by a rebetsen who had been taught by her husband. My wife came home with a whole list of 'new' halachot. I asked other women who had written it all down to make sure. I phoned her husband the rov and asked him if we use the same SA. He phoned me back and told me these were answers of questions she had been asked not what he had taught her. In the next shiur she said she will stop answering questions only write them down to ask her husband.

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    3. Rafi: Wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. I think that women should be respected and given the same rights as men. Thus it is no surprise that I take no issue with women (Yoatzot) learning and teaching halacha. It follows that I disagree strongly with Rav Feldman. Unfortunately, too many women fall prey to the mistreatments by charedi men. They fail to realize the many achievements of women in the Bible: Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Tamar, Deborah, Bat Sheba, just to name a few. Indeed Rabbi Eleazar said women are "endowed with more understanding than men."

    My loving grandfather used to say that when religious communities, churches, and rabbis would reject women to become ministers or rabbis, they are losing half of the god brains of humanity. When Rabbi Kook disparaged women, one rabbi wisely said that half of the entire Jewish population are women. In fact, some women teach Torah better than rabbis. 

    It is ironic and very telling that the very same people who disparage women are the ones who think think they are doing G-d’s will when they abandon society for Talmud study while belittling G-d’s people.

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  14. yoatzot are primarily for RWMO women. those to the left may not ask a shayla lechatchila. this is also a population that is not looking to Aguda yeshiva heads to determine halachic propriety. so this must be a preemptive , to make sure middle of the road haredi men forbid their wives to be tempted by this slippery slope...

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  15. My wife goes to a yoetzet because I prefer to avoid thinking about gross stuff like that, I'm not worried about feminism in my personal life, and I place a high personal premium on convenience. In general, however, Feldman is completely correct except that he understates the point. Feminism doesn't just contain 'anti-Torah elements' it is contrary to hominid biology. That women must always be ruled by men happens to be taught explicitly in the Torah from page 2 onwards, but, more importantly, it's just a basic fact of nature that the Torah has to reckon with, like the laws of arithmetic. Pagan or atheist societies that decide women are or should be equal to men are just as doomed as a Jewish one.

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    1. I think that women should be respected and given the same rights as men.

      My grandfather, may his memory be blessed, used to say that when religious communities, such churches or rabbis dined women to the right become ministers or rabbis, they were losing half of the good brains of humanity.

      No culture, race, or country should treat women as second-class citizens. Look what happens to those that do. The liberals are contradicted when they support women's rights and yet support the Arab nations that toss a raped victim off a cliff. The modern state of Israel, however, gives many rights to women (but of course not all, for example, the get). Needless to say, Conservatives respect all women, as does the Torah. A careful reading of the Torah will show that G-d does not want us to practice all of the biblical laws. The Torah demands to be updated. So any arguments you could possibly say about the Torah's views of women are irrelevant as the Torah demands for change.

      And what is gross about biology, unless one thinks about it in a disgusting way/ Why do you view women as disgusting when the natural order takes place in which HaShem created them?

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    2. Your understanding of Torah is worse than my daughter's, and she's in 3rd grade. What's your excuse?

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    3. Yes, I agree that Gavriel needs to study more Torah.

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    4. @Avi

      Boom!

      On a serious note, though, by raising your daughter as you do, you are condemning her to a life of depression, neurosis, hysteria and, highly likely, loneliness. The data on what equal rights does to women is as clear as day.

      @Turk Hill

      I'm not entirely sure what you are on about, but if one thing is not up for dispute it's that menstruation is gross. Women also think it's gross; if you ever pluck up the courage to talk to one, you can check for yourself.

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    5. On a serious note, though, by raising your daughter as you do...

      Interesting that you think you know how I raise her, given that I've never written about it anywhere.

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    6. @Gavriel M I agree that menstruation is gross to men but not in a woman's perspective. Because it is natural for them.

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    7. Heh. Just because something is natural does not mean that it isn't gross. My wife is one such not-a-fan of various biological processes.

      I mean, we all use the bathroom and acknowledge how less than savory it is, right? Vomiting is natural, and so is sneezing, but I don't want you doing either on me. I don't even want ME doing either on me.

      TH, we may agree on much hashkafically, but on this tongue-in-cheek topic, what begins inside the cheek, should stay firmly inside the cheek.

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    8. @Yosef R You make many good points. I agree with you.

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  16. You make two good points:

    1. Lots of Orthodox places give "semikhot" that are obviously not. Chabad runs one-year programs to people with barely any background, for example. Chafetz Chaim's standards are so strict that the vast majority of those with "semikha" from there really don't have it. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel grants various levels of "semikha," some of which simply...aren't. I could go on and on.

    2. As to the other footnote, women *have* to learn these halakhot when they get married. If it's assur, it's assur. You can't draw a line and say, "Only enough for you to keep them for yourself but not to tell others what they are."

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  17. Not every shailah of a bedikah cloth needs to be shown to the Gedolei Hador. Most of us ask shailos of the local shul rabbi, many of whom are not great lamdanim. But if Rav Feldman's concern is that this will change religious society by getting people used to seeing women as religious authorities, he's right. But this is one of many things pushing in that direction even in strongly chareidi communities: darshaniot, mashgichot (who I see in the employ of chareidi hechsherim with regularity). And Rav Feldan cannot stop this, anymore than his predecessors of 120 years ago (including such luminaries as Ridba"z) could stop sermons in the vernacular. Or, for that matter, than the Gr"a could stop the spread of Chassidus. Certain movements are drawn by changes in society that are too large. I am not suggesting that we will ever see Chareidi female rabbis. But if we don't educate women (as Sara Scheier observed 100 years ago) we will lose them to assimilation, and if we do, and insist on long schooling hours for children, and live in a world with household appliances making much of what used to occupy women's time take less of it, educated bright women will find an outlet of one kind or another.

    The rabbis may be able to channel that in ways that are acceptable to both frum societies and to the women, but they will not be able to stop it. The Yoatzot fulfill a strong communal need for the askers as well as for the Yoatzot themselves. How many couples were suffering by being needlessly machmir because they were unwilling to bring shailos to the Rav? You know it is a lot--that is why the Yoatzot have women who come to them with shaiilot even in chareidi communities.

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  18. RAF is 100% correct in stating that since they all say essentially the same thing, they are counted as one. This is in essence the principle of אין הלכה כשיטה. That you are unaware of it is precisely the problem he sees with Yoatzot. They have superficial knowledge, the type of temporary fake knowledge you can get from google or a Shivtei brochure, but not sustained, broad knowledge.

    It's quite amazing, from a sociological perspective, to see how you've swung from one extreme to the other. By your own admission, you had previously drunk from the charedi Kool-Aid, only to be exposed to their problems. Now you've gone clear over to the other side, and are now arguing in favor of all their problems, notably in this case, feminism. All of this is Rupture and Reconstruction writ large. Everybody just making up their own religion as they go along.

    The proper compromise here is the obvious one. Women should have more of a role concerning the laws of Nidah. There is ample Talmudic precedent for it, and everyone knows - some quietly, some less quietly - that its vile to bring "shailahs" to a rabbi, no matter how proper and respectful most rabbis try to be about it. That's one thing. But the "Mharat" or "rabba" or "yoatzot" nonsense - all of which is a pitiful attempt, liberal-style, to paper over problems with nomenclature - is foolish. It's been tried, countless times, and always fails. If female clergy didn't work with the Catholics, you think it will work with the am kshei oref?? Please.

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    1. They have superficial knowledge, the type of temporary fake knowledge you can get from google or a Shivtei brochure, but not sustained, broad knowledge.

      Do you always spout lies about that which you obviously know nothing, or do you reserve it for the targets of your bigotry?

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    2. Big difference between Maharat/Rabba, which tries to be a rabbi, and a yoetzet (or a toenet, for that matter), who merely advises and then sends to a Rav. The auspices under which these were created are vastly different. The former was the brainchild of one person (mainly, to my knowledge, apologies if I am wrong), in a left-leaning MO shul, in order [at least in part] to make a statement. The latter was a group effort, of mostly right-leaning people not interested in a statement but interested in helping women honestly. Slippery slope? Eh. Some slopes are important to walk on, if the destination is right.

      In other words, the feminism inherent in the yoetzet program is only the acknowledgement that women can learn. The position itself is serving a purpose. The feminism in the Maharat is the position itself.

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    3. Yosef R - though slippery slopes are a real consideration, I agree that there are times the risk must be set aside. If the program is limited to Niddah, I'm all for it. Beyond that I'm against it. For what its worth, I know of many in the ballebattish/yeshivah graduate crowd who feel the same.

      From a marketing/outreach perspective, I wouldn't refer to this as "helping women", which would cause suspicion that it IS, in fact, just another feminist cause. Rather, it should be "marketed" (as it were) on grounds that it simply isn't appropriate for men to be looking at these things. The same sense of conservatism that rejects feminism also argues in favor of having women themselves handle taharas hamishpacha. And again, even in the Gemara women used to do this.

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    4. "RAF is 100% correct in stating that since they all say essentially the same thing, they are counted as one. This is in essence the principle of אין הלכה כשיטה."
      אין הלכה כשיטה - כשאמרו בתלמוד שפלוני ופלוני מהתנאים או מהאמוראים עומדים בשיטה אחת, הרי זה מוכיח שאין הלכה כמותם...טעם הדבר הוא לפי שאם מונים את החכמים העומדים בשיטה זו, הרי זו הוכחה שהחולקים עליהם הם הרבים, ולכן מנו את המיעוט בשביל הקיצור, ויחיד ורבים הלכה כרבים (הליכות עולם שער ה ג; וכעין זה בשו"ת הרשב"א א שיד). ויש אומרים טעם אחר: שאף על פי שכולם עומדים בשיטה אחת בכלל הדבר, אבל מכל מקום הם מחולקים בפרטי הדינים המסתעפים מהכלל, ובכל דין ודין נחלקו החכמים על היחיד, ולכן אין הלכה כמותו מפני שבטל במיעוטו (ר"ן סוכה ז ב).


      In other words, invoking אין הלכה כשיטה in this case is precisely the problem of superficial knowledge, but not sustained, broad knowledge. (Sometimes, Google is helpful too.)
      https://www.yeshiva.org.il/wiki/index.php?title=%D7%9E%D7%99%D7%A7%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A4%D7%93%D7%99%D7%94_%D7%AA%D7%9C%D7%9E%D7%95%D7%93%D7%99%D7%AA:%D7%90%D7%99%D7%9F_%D7%94%D7%9C%D7%9B%D7%94_%D7%9B%D7%A9%D7%99%D7%98%D7%94

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    5. @DF
      Excuse my ignorance, but can you explain how we could ever have a principle that the halacha follows the majority opinion if in every case where multiple rabbanim are saying the same thing, they only count as one?

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    6. Raymond, its a good question. I had hoped today to get an answer, but unfortunately was not able to.

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    7. @Raymond: Speaking of superficiality., the answer is that DF is simply incorrect about the principle he is quoting. @WFB gave the references above. The most common interpretation of this principle is that if the Gemara enumerates a number of Rabbis agreeing to a position, we assume that all others argue and so the listed Rabbis are in the minority. It has nothing to do with the example that R Slifkin describes.

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    8. David - i'm sorry to say this, really I am, because despite being misguided on almost everything I am sure you're well meaning - but you really should not comment on Talmudic matters.

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  19. Although I do not agree with Rabbi Feldman, mostly because I just don't care so much.
    I am always a contrarian so I will come to his defense.
    1. Rabbi Feldman has a certain idea of what gender roles should be, some disagree with the idea of gender roles, some hold they should be reformed fast, others have lines on the gender roles that should not be crossed. For Rabbi Feldman that is a Yoetzet. It might look arbitrary, it might be at this point in time, but that is his point, slippery slope argument.
    2. His second argument of knowing when to defer is a power argument. You only really have to defer on questions that you think might be controversial. Rabbi Feldman holds that Men should be the ones to decide what is controversial in Orthodox Jewish society, this way Men will continue being the leaders of the society. He believes this part of the Man's gender roles.
    3. " his claim that a hashkafic viewpoint legitimately espoused by Rishonim and Acharonim, through to Rav Hirsch and Rav Dessler, subsequently became prohibited in 2004 to be held by anyone at all!"
    Similar examples have happened in the past like that of corporeality. Once something becomes a hot button issue if you want your community to adopt it you can't allow for detractors. Though in Orthodox circles we would like not to admit such change, we only don't admit it to claim that we haven't changed. If it is the default religious position, we gladly say the newer changed position (in this case the newly popular position, and the default belief when following a text is to follow it even if there is evidence to the contrary, to know that scientific evidence wins is a sophisticated concept of the development of the scientific method) is prohibited since it is a hot button issue. Why is Chazel and Science a hot button issue you may ask, well now with the internet you can look up all the arguments for not believing or practicing most of Judaism. Just try giving a Reform Rabbi a rational reason to believe or practice Orthodox Judaism.
    4. "since they were all saying the same thing, they count as one view, not as a larger number"
    The Rambam does a similar thing in the More Nevuchim many times where he says a certain opinion that looks like a normative opinion is just a daas Yechid, I believe it is with demons and the like, it is similar to the fanciful explanation that some amoraim were trying to wean the masses away from superstition, but couldn't do it all at once so they were kashering it slowly. Well if such arguments are good enough for Rishonim to say, I think they are good enough for Rabbi Feldman to say.

    This doesn't mean that Rabbi Feldman is consistent, but does that matter? as long as he appears more consistent than other Rabbanim. And sticking to a position that many many brand name eastern european Rabannim held for a couple of centuries is pretty consistent, even if defending those opinions so strongly might not be so consistent.

    5. " The concept of religious leaders strengthened Eliezer Berland. The Gedolim strengthened Leib Tropper. "
    What do you mean by this?
    Aren't there always religious leaders, I don't think that is something that we can decide if it will exist or not. Religion is most likely part of our nature and a hierarchy will form when religious people compete And those leaders can abuse their power. It is not something that I think we can do away with, yes we can make those institutions less corrupt, but it is not a question if they exist. Whether it is men or women in those institutions is something that is possible to decide.
    I don't think Rabbi Feldman disagreed with " such side-effects do not necessarily prohibit the cause itself "
    I think he thinks this is a case which such side effects are big enough to prohibit the cause itself.

    Would love to see people poke holes in these argeuments, but unless you can steelman your opponents argument what's the fun. Preaching to the choir is boring.

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    Replies
    1. "Similar examples have happened in the past like that of corporeality"
      i presume that you are referring to the disagreement between the RMBM and the mekubalim regarding hagshama. i don't understand why you think that there was a sudden change in acceptable belief. the RMBM and those who followed in his way would maintain their position until today, and are considered acceptable by mainstream judaism. while the mekubalim stood by their beliefs and are also part of mainstream judaism. what has changed? which beliefs were rejected by mainstream judaism?

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  20. Was your point to agree with R' Feldman?

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    Replies
    1. Not at all. Just to show where he might be coming from. There is a battle of ideas that has to be expressed, it's good to see where other people are coming from. I personally believe like a comment or mentioned, since today girls have to be educated some will need some outlet to use their education that is fulfilling. Since bais yakovs copied yeshivas too much the use of their education will have to be something similar to a Rabbi. Yoatzot seem to by a good traditionalist compromise. If one doesn't like that then maybe bais yakovs should be changed to be more career or artistically oriented and not about book learning.

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  21. https://tinyurl.com/ubzlzjp
    That site says that all rishonim and achronim got the anatomy wrong.
    https://www.webmd.com/women/common-period-problems#1
    That site says what 'hargosho' really is, not what the poskim say.
    Other sites say that women can touch their cervix the poskim say they cant.
    I dont really know what to make of all this. Except that I dont know how you can trust men rabbis either.
    I should add that todays poskim say that you have to ask a woman over and over again if she usually really has hargosho. If not there is no heter for her. I think men rabbis find this too difficult apart from not knowing what hargosho really is.
    I suppose what I am also really saying is that the men rabbis are also not in order.

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  22. On another note, Rabbi Slifkin, being that it is Tu'beshvat, I wonder if you have any comments on the Tefilla for a good Esrog. Last week it was Parshas haMan, this week esrogs, It seems like we have a lot of new minhagim this time of year. Is it something with the long stretch between Chanukah and Purim that the void has to be filled?

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  23. http://tiny.cc/hottjz
    This one maybe better.

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  24. Thanks for posting my reply.
    I have much more to add.
    No rov knows vestos. There is an English book called luach tahara (also in Hebrew) by Feldheim ISBN 0 87306 322 8
    which is the only one (that I know of).
    He has examples of twice, two year 'dates' and goes month by month of when you must abstain. An excellent booklet, and has been gone through by Rav Bransdorfer ,Minchas Yitschok. and RMF Z"L.
    It may really be a very good idea that women have taken to it since men clearly havent.

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    Replies
    1. Here is the booklet in PDF:

      https://www.hebrewbooks.org/59460

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  25. https://www.gettextbooks.co.uk/isbn/9780873063227/
    There is a picture of the book I quoted.

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  26. Classical male rabbinic authority, for example, strengthens people who abuse such authority.
    This is an excellent argument! Similar to the 'Restructure the entire chain of command and authority structure in the IDF because there are soldiers who abuse their authority' argument which is now espoused in real academic circles.

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  27. I will add, to do vestos properly a woman should keep dates from when she starts. The booklet gives 34 rules which are not difficult. Really a computer program which is not difficult to make, is the correct thing for this. The yoatsot, since the rabbis dont do it or know how to, should step into the breech and have each womans dates on computer. The computer will work out when she has to expect the next one. Each woman should really be phoning her rov every month, so instead phone her yoatsos every month who will advise her. Of course without a computer program it takes a long time to work this out, I challenge any rov to do it. I am now giving the example of dates from the book, I challenge a rov to get it right when she can expect it next. Tishri 1 night, 29 night cheshvon 27 night, kislev, 20 day, (cheshvon kislev 29 days only) 13 teves day; 6 day 30 night shvat, 24 night adar1.
    That is eight dates.
    That is for half a year and he goes on for two years
    stating each time when prisha is required and why.
    After the eight dates he comes up with she has to do prisha on,
    16 night adar2,16 day adar2,17 day adar2,18 night adar2, 23 night adar2. 23 day adar2, 24 night adar2.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In one respect, being female was much easier 2000 years ago -- they didn't need a computer program to track their menstruations. Halacha is so complicated that it's safe to say that no one could follow it all, never mind does.

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    2. My favourite question is asking how they counted 72 minutes on a candle clock, and how they ever davened neitz at precisely 6:47:45 am.

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    3. This is a problem/question that should be considered from the point of view of Rationalist Judaism as well. While it's not a modern science vs mystical beliefs related issue, the question of whether law retreats too far into its own internal complex formalism to be considered part of the rational world is a subject that should pique the interest of rationalists. How complex should Halacha be? Many would believe that every aspect of daily life should be looked at as an eternal spiral of halachic thought, forever spinning out new issues and conjectures. That certainly sounds very 'religious' in some sense. Is it true? Is that how Judaism understands Halacha? There are many 'no end to the Torah' like statements that would seem to support it at first glance. Is that what Hashem intended, to make the world endlessly complex so that no issue is ever actually resolvable - there is always some safek or chashash or yet another level conceptualization that causes another issue to possibly be a problem? I don't know the answer, I am just asking.

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    4. They never counted 72 minutes but looked for 3 stars.
      From the gemoro it seems they hardly ever 'caught' the 'netz' and when one did he was happy all day.

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    5. "My favourite question is asking ... and how they ever davened neitz at precisely 6:47:45 am."

      Are you making fun of people who daven neitz at the exact time that the sun appears? Are you one of those people who thinks science rules, and then make fun of "unenlightened" people who take Torah seriously when they use scientific knowledge in their serious avodat HaShem. So what if they couldn't tell back then exactly when neitz was? Now that we can pin point neitz do you think those who can shouldn't try to pray at an optimal time?

      By the way, it's clear that they couldn't predict the exact time of neitz because Rav Bruna couldn't stop smiling when he succeeded in starting his tefilah right after saying "ga'al Yisrael" right at neitz - apparently it was a rare event that was difficult to achieve. See Brachot 9b:

      רב ברונא אחי במעמד כל החבורה דאדם גדול הוא ושמח במצות זימנא חדא סמך גאולה לתפלה ולא פסיק חוכא מפומיה כוליה יומא

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    6. It's not really making fun, it's an actual question about the nature of Halacha. It's sort of related to what it says in Koheles about the weariness of endlessly authoring sefarim. How complex is Halacha actually supposed to be? Is it considered a virtue to be excessively complex? A worthy religious goal? The simple answer would be "real life is complex, so it causes Halacha to be so." Perhaps. But it sometimes seems like sugyas just extend out into the endless haze of debate at some point, and not only do people not know if they are yotzeh the law, they aren't even sure what the right way to define it is.

      Now I once saw on Cross Currents a snippet from Rav Soloveitchik strongly disagreed with people who think that the nature of Halacha is that it should be easily understandable by lay people. He stated that Halacha is its own universe with its own abstractions and non-intuitive ideas. Fine, but is there a point where that becomes a problem? Where, as Avi says, it's impossible to keep it just because of complexity alone?

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    7. Waterman

      My point is that chazal clearly meant the mai'loh is to daven around the time of neitz, give or take a minute or two. There is no point giving a mailoh that could not be kept for thousands of years.

      And of course by trying to time it to the second, you may daven early.

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    8. ;)
      No. Chazal meant what they said - that neitz is the best time. And of course G-d is happy if you do the best you can and He knows that they usually won't be exactly at neitz. My point is that the some people are gung ho about science and all the conveniences it provides and then make fun of people who use it for improving their avodat HaShem - not a very Torahdig approach even for modernim.
      In any case, "neitz" is not necessarily a moment but a span of time. The GR"A says that it is from when the ball of the sun begins to appear until the entire ball of the sun is fully visible. That is approximately 2 to 3 minutes - probably depending on your latitude, altitude, and the time of year.

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    9. Waterman..
      The question is how you make use of science. In an intelligent way or to be a nudnik?

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  28. Fozziebear... why are you name calling. Everyone has the mitvah/mitvot at which s/he excels. What is being a nudnik about one who is mdakdek to daven at what pretty much everyone agrees is the optimal time to daven? You might call them a nudnil or worse if they tell you that you must daven at that time, but I doubt most neitz-daveners would. So why do you feel so strongly that such people are nudniks?

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    Replies
    1. Because they should understand what's really important to Judaism and not be medakdek on meaningless stuff.

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    2. And by being so medakdek they are closing to abusing science than using science.

      Delete
    3. Fozziebear, If you think being medakdek with mitzvot beyn adam laMakom is "meaningless stuff" (as you put it), then your relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu is very sad, or -more accurately- meaningless.

      Chazal said that neitz is the best time. Considering the little effort it takes to be medakdek for davening exactly at neitz, it's very petty for you to disparage people for minding their own business and being medakdek to do it.

      And calling that "close to abusing science" is ridiculous and you should be embarrassed by your use of such hyperbole.

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  29. Following R.Feldman's logic the next step should be to ban the reading of all Seforim on Halacha since untraines Males might probably get the idea that they can Pasken based on what is written rather than by asking a skilled Lamdan. In fact the logic can be extended to prohibit disseminatio of even Seforim sich as the Mishneh Torah or Shulchan Aruch to any but skilled Lamdanim peradventure people might be tempted to apply whatthey learned to real life situations rather than refer all questions to skilled Lamdanim. In fact such arguments were used inthe 15th and 16thCentury to protest using printing presses to disseminate knowledge of Jewish Law more widely to the masses.

    ReplyDelete

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