Thursday, November 24, 2005

Can I be a Orthofem?

An orthowhatee? Not a new contraceptive drug, but an orthodox feminist. Let's temporarily ignore my beer-swilling, ball-scratching, football-watching tendencies (how will I cope when it's not football season? take up sewing?) I'd like to put forward the argument, ask the question, raise the issue and get it out in the open.

I believe that women should be as Halachically involved as they want to be. Not because men and women are equal (come on, we all know we're not - one of us is far superior and you know who it is) but because as aspiring inspired Jews we want to be able to use the full gamut of religious experience available to us. Because when I put myself in women's shoes (not just prancing around the bedroom in high heels and make-up pretending to be Madonna) I catch a glimpse of how frustrating the communal experience can be. Guys, imagine going regularly to shul knowing you weren't allowed to get an aliyah, pesichah, have hagbaah competitions, show off your davening abilities from the amud, and even in some places say kaddish for a loved one. Simchas Torah often becomes a dull spectacle, you can't always run for office on many shuls, you are dhimmi, a second-class citizen in Jewish communal life.

I dream of a time when women can be halachically as involved as they would want to be. We have made many great strides in this area and I believe we will continue to do so. My motive is not a strictly feminazi one, not because we've abolished gender boundaries and identity, rather because I want G-d seeking Jews to be able to experience as much as possible to bring them closer to the aibishter.

Lets get one thing absolutely clear before you take me down like The Fridge on a wet chicago evening with the score tied at 17-17, first and goal with overtime looming. I am an avid fan of Halachah, going to all the home and away games. I believe in it, it is The Derech, it guides my Path and forges my Way. I wouldn't advocate a policy that doesn't have what I consider sufficient halachic authority behind it.

Which is why I ask myself - can I be an Orthofem? I fully accept Orthodoxy and Halachic process, so is my version of feminism acceptable? Or is that existential dissonance between what I dream and hope for, and what is not yet HC (Halachically Correct) too much to handle?

Chag Sameach

TRK

32 Comments:

At 11/24/2005 5:18 PM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11/24/2005 5:20 PM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

I love the way you write! Now i just have to get the idea of you in heels channeling Madonna out of my head.

 
At 11/24/2005 7:48 PM, Anonymous Chai said...

Lol MH...

TRK, I'll give my opinion on the issue that you've raised another time - gotta get to bed b4 the sun rises, but just had to ask, is there a hoiday I missed out on? I mean, I presume that you're not refering to my being on half-term... (Hallelujah!)

 
At 11/25/2005 1:56 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

There's almost nothing Women are strictly forbidden to do according to Halacha that men are allowed to. The only thing that stands in their ways is the Tznius issues which is unlikely to be relaxed any time soon. Other than davening and singing in front of men they can(sometimes must) suffer just as much as the us men.

 
At 11/25/2005 3:18 AM, Blogger Hayim said...

pragmatician,

forgive me for being blunt - you seem to be living in another (halachik) world. The list of discriminations against women goes on and on, I wouldn't know where to start.

They can't be witness, nor judges. They do not inherit if these is a male heir, they have no commandment to procreate, nor an obligation to educate their kids (I know most women will consider these tasks religiously relevant, but the point is that they are not halachically mandated). Marriage laws are based on property laws, and women are still not equal to men when it comes to issues like agunos, etc.

Just a sample. Feminism is probably the most burning issue on the agenda for thinking orthodox Jews, imho.

Actually, I just finished reading Tamar Ross's "Expanding the Palace of TOrah - Feminism and Orthodoxy". It's not an easy read, but it's definitely worth the time. If I find the courage, and as part of my grappling with these issues, I'll try bli neder to discuss it on my blog in the future.

Anyway, TRK, good post.

 
At 11/25/2005 5:50 AM, Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

trk: sorry for the lowercase letters - i'm typing with one hand while holding my infant daughter.

was nechama leibowitz z'l an orthofem? i doubt it. she didn't need to be. why are you striving for halachik parity? men & women are different but equal. if you want to be a proponent of advancement, hpwabout on an academic level, and not the perfoming one?

when there are superior academic women, halacah will take care of itself. see orthomom's postings on jewish heroines here:

http://orthomom.blogspot.com/2005/07/heroine-of-day.html

my mom learns daf yomi daily (she's finished shas twice so far) yet she hates the ortho-feminist movement. (wish i knew as much gemara as her)

shabbat shalom.

 
At 11/25/2005 8:49 AM, Blogger ClooJew said...

Lulei demistafina, three points:

1. Your statement "I am an avid fan of Halachah, going to all the home and away games" is one of the best sentences I've ever read on any blog anywhere.

2. It is instructive to watch Chazal's wording that it is tiflus to teach women Torah, from which one can (and many commentators do)infer that women learning on their own is fine.

3. The key is intention. Women and men are not equal; we're different. Women who try to blur that line, whether or not they stick to the letter of the halachic law, are not promoting Torah values. Women who are motivated by spiritual yearnings, on the other hand, should do whatever they can halachically, which is fairly broad. The litmus test tends to be how vocal they are. My guess is that very few people know that Jameel's mom could be giving the daf yomi shiur because she's interested in learning not bragging about it.

 
At 11/25/2005 9:42 AM, Blogger Masmida said...

>They can't be witness, nor judges.
i.e. they can't be compelled to give evidence b/c of assumption of prior obljation, but you accept your wife's edut at least once a month and every time you put the food she's made into your mouth

>They do not inherit if these is a male heir,
yep, a widow, is considered a creditor, therefore she gets to take before everyone else, and only once all debts have been paid do her sons inherit.

>they have no commandment to procreate,
....and yet we do anyway.

>nor an obligation to educate their kids (I know most women will consider these tasks religiously relevant, but the point is that they are not halachically mandated).
We may not have an obligation to teach but dude who was it that made sure you said all your brachot and said shma with you every night

>Marriage laws are based on property laws,
....as opposed to the laws of prayer? A contract is a contract and the basis of interpersonal relationships is a very clear understanding of mine and yours.

....and women are still not equal to men when it comes to issues like agunos, etc.
That's right, because of an absolutely tragic yet tiny minority, we should throw out gitten and risk the security of every jewish marriage out there.


[long breathe] I really do not like orthofem. Every time the feminists pick a action, like m'zumin, or davening, or learning to make an issue out of, I see another form of self-expression that I can't use anymore because it's been politically charged.

Every women who wants to become different then the classic mold of foremothers, and does it for the pure love of torah and out of desire to close closer to G-d, will succeed and be recognized as such by everyone, but if is an agenda of modernization, I have no paitence or time for such people

[congrats, if you read through the entire thing]

 
At 11/25/2005 9:59 AM, Blogger FrumGirl said...

Great blog, TRK. Ok and now for my rambling: Excuse me, ClooJew but your comment is infuriating. According to the book 'Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women's Issues', by Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, it is clearly written that 'tiflut' no longer applies because now the talmud is in writing, whereas before it was torah shbaal peh and women take the written word seriously. I also believe the only way women and men are not equal is within the way Hashem created us. My take is, we are not equal in the way we are created but equal overall, sum of parts put together. We are in a generation where women are educated, many times surpassing our male counterparts. IF we are not equal, then we are definately superior lol. Rashi explains tiflut as meaning that women might use her learning to help her sin without being caught. This is not the case today as when anyone wants to become unobservant, they just do so. The Rambam states... "A woman who learned Torah is rewarded..." continues..."the sages commanded that a man not teach his daughter torah"... the keyword here is DAUGHTER.
Teaching his daughter meaning a child rather than teaching a grown woman. It is made clear as it states in Sotah 20a that teaching a child is considered tiflut.... A grown woman learning torah is NOT tiflut. Sheesh its amazing how far we have come, and yet have gotten nowhere.

 
At 11/26/2005 4:34 PM, Blogger Eshet Chayil said...

I might not agree with complete equality, but I do believe in the education of women. I just recently posted something similar. Gut voch Kid.

 
At 11/26/2005 4:44 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11/26/2005 4:46 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 11/26/2005 4:50 PM, Blogger Littleredridinghoodie said...

I believe that women should be as Halachically involved as they want to be

Tehilim 80 # 13

I dream of a time when women can be halachically as involved as they would want to be

Tehilim 81 #12

Because when I put myself in women's shoes (not just prancing around the bedroom in high heels and make-up pretending to be Madonna)

Tehilim 81 #13

Which is why I ask myself - can I be an Orthofem? I fully accept Orthodoxy and Halachic process, so is my version of feminism acceptable? Or is that existential dissonance between what I dream and hope for, and what is not yet HC (Halachically Correct) too much to handle?

Tehilim 81 #14 - #17

Shavouah Tov ;)

 
At 11/27/2005 3:05 AM, Blogger Hayim said...

Masmida,

Fascinating that I, as a male, find difficulties with what I perceive as halachic discriminations against women, whereas you, as a female, have no such problem... Just a thought.

Look, this issue needs a more decent treatment that you can give by commenting on a post. Maybe we should discuss this by e-mail?

Now. I just can't resist. :)

> i.e. they can't be compelled to give evidence b/c of assumption of prior obljation, but you accept your wife's edut at least once a month and every time you put the food she's made into your mouth.

Sure, their testimony is accepted in some instances. But the point is they cannot be valid witnesses when it comes to collecting a debt or criminal cases. Oh, and about "prior obligation", I am sure you noticed that the current social reality is quite from different from that of Talmudic times.

> yep, a widow, is considered a creditor, therefore she gets to take before everyone else, and only once all debts have been paid do her sons inherit.

No widow, 10 girls, one boy, who gets the money in Torah law ?

> ....and yet we do anyway.

I know women who would love to know that they are doing a mitsva themselves, and not just obtaining vicarious merit by helping their husbands fulfilling their duties.

> ....as opposed to the laws of prayer?
....as opposed to partnership laws.

> That's right, because of an absolutely tragic yet tiny minority, we should throw out gitten and risk the security of every jewish marriage out there.

no. we should improve the system from within. Solutions exist, but out of ideological considerations they are rejected.

> I really do not like orthofem.

I share your concern here. But let's face it : not ALL orthofems are troublemakers. Some are truly religiously challenged to make sense of our traditions when they encounter male chauvinism.

Last point Masmida : you would not be able to have this discussion with me if not for some orthofems in previous generations, who asked for the right to be educated girls.

Be well !

 
At 11/27/2005 6:57 AM, Blogger Masmida said...

LRH:
beautiful way of answering, but i think it needs a least a little more explaination. there is a legitamite grievance to be adressed, we have strayed in more than one way from the path of the torah.

Hayim
> Look, this issue needs a more decent treatment that you can give by commenting on a post. Maybe we should discuss this by e-mail?

No, thanks. I like everyone else to add their own opinions.

> Oh, and about "prior obligation", I am sure you noticed that the current social reality is quite from different from that of Talmudic times.

[sigh] you're right, housework is much lighter now. but babies still need to be nursed every two hours for at least the first six monthes and i invite you to consider the logistics of three children under age 6, a not unusaul condition in Orthodox families.

>....as opposed to partnership laws.
Parnetship as defined by Oxford's Dictionary:
# a person who takes part in an undertaking with another or others, especially in a business with shared risks and profits
How is partnership laws different than property and business laws?

>you would not be able to have this discussion with me if not for some orthofems in previous generations, who asked for the right to be educated girls.

Sarah Schner would be spinning in her grave to be called an orthofem

 
At 11/28/2005 1:04 AM, Blogger Hayim said...

> invite you to consider the logistics of three children under age 6, a not unusual condition in Orthodox families.

True enough. But even so, the perceived roles of men and women in the couple has changed enormously in the last decades. Or do you see yourself complying with the Rambam, who rules that the minimum duty a woman has toward her "ba'al" (see below) is iirc to wash his feet, to give him his cup of wine and to make his bed (of course, if she does not bring with her a few maidservants, she is mechuyevet to do more) ?

You don't need to be a radical orthofem to notice the discrepancy between the status modern women enjoy in today's society and the place given to them by halacha. Just think about it : women cannot have any kind of public position in very orthodox circles, not even be the principal of a school or a member of the board of a shul, because the Torah gives a mitsva to appoint a king and not a queen, and that is extended to all public positions whatsoever.

> How is partnership laws different than property and business laws?

Partnership is more egalitarian than property. After all is said and done, not everybody is convinced by the apologetics about the first mishnah in Kidushin. And what does the word "baal" mean if not "master" ? (come to think of it, the english "husband" is not much better). Some people would like to introduce "ben-zug" or something to that effect.

> Sarah Schner would be spinning in her grave to be called an orthofem

You are probably right, although it was revolutionary.

I heard that the head of a girls' seminary in Bnei Brak declared to them "We are giving you an education, so that your granddaughters will not need one". May God protect us from such people.

Again, I empathize with your basic point. We have a formula that has worked well for 2000 years - the Jewish family. We should be very cautious before changing anything. But we do live in a very different world.

 
At 11/28/2005 4:36 AM, Blogger Mata Hari said...

hayim - i like your comments and the arguments you've made. i have mixed feelings about this topic. to tell the truth, i have no desire to get an aliyah, be called upon to go to minyan 3x a day or put on tefilin. i also feel that some of the women who are so intent on carrying the torah and having their own minyanim (etc. etc.) are doing so bec. they want to be in competition with or equal to men, instead of concentrating on some of the mitzvos that we're given - i.e. are these same people so makpid in tznius and are they so devout in all other areas that it was a natural progression for them to want to go to the next level?

 
At 11/28/2005 8:15 AM, Blogger Elster said...

Truth be told, men and women are different. Period. Halacha treatws them differently. period. How you choose to interpret those differences are up to the individual. Are men better than women because they have different halachot? Are women better than men because they need not perform certain mitzvos yet there is no torah concern that this will somehow diminish them as jews (lie there would be for men)? Again, in the eye of the beholder.

It is not black and white and it is open for interpretation. Hey, kinda like evything else.

TRK - Great post. Any post which ties William, The Refridgerator Perry into a discussion of men vs women in halacha must get high marks.

 
At 11/28/2005 2:49 PM, Blogger Shopaholic said...

masmida-
"Every women who wants to become different then the classic mold of foremothers, and does it for the pure love of torah and out of desire to close closer to G-d, will succeed and be recognized as such by everyone, but if is an agenda of modernization, I have no paitence or time for such people"

You summed it up pretty well-
I could not have said it better.

 
At 11/28/2005 3:01 PM, Blogger Masmida said...

>But even so, the perceived roles of men and women in the couple has changed enormously in the last decades. Or do you see yourself complying with the Rambam, who rules that the minimum duty a woman has toward her "ba'al" (see below) is iirc to wash his feet, to give him his cup of wine and to make his bed (of course, if she does not bring with her a few maidservants, she is mechuyevet to do more) ?

is this in the same category as drinking a glass of liquid in two gulps [which is overulled by whatever is polite at the time and place] or in the category of kibud av v'em, which, theorectically includes, getting them food and drink, helping them get dressed and many things modern children would feel less than comfortable with?

the answer will be entirely different depending.

>women cannot have any kind of public position in very orthodox circles, not even be the principal of a school or a member of the board of a shul, because the Torah gives a mitsva to appoint a king and not a queen, and that is extended to all public positions whatsoever.

last time i checked a public servant was anything but an absolute ruler.

> more egaletarian
only if the property laws are being discussed with respect to people and not their mutaul property. though the halacha baseline assumption is that all property is at the disposal of the husband, as long as he provides the necessary items in the ketubah to his wife or it's been otherwise stipulated.

> what does the word "baal" mean if not "master" ? (come to think of it, the english "husband" is not much better). Some people would like to introduce "ben-zug" or something to that effect.

ahhh. now I see. what is a ba'al middot? a ba'al ga'aava or for that matter a ba'al teshuva?

>I heard that the head of a girls' seminary in Bnei Brak declared to them "We are giving you an education, so that your granddaughters will not need one". May God protect us from such people.

just because I hear things, doesn't mean I listen.

Thank you for acknoledging my point. In all truth, it seems to be most often the practice of women themselves who determine their level of participation. women davening Ma'ariv is common in meah sharim but not so in more modren circles.

Most of the time when I hear someone haring off about the right of women, it sounds more like a attempt at an idealogical point rather than a true attempt to understand what the halacha and prespective truely is.

 
At 11/28/2005 5:25 PM, Blogger ClooJew said...

"Excuse me, ClooJew but your comment is infuriating. According to the book 'Responsa on Contemporary Jewish Women's Issues', by Rabbi Yehuda Henkin, it is clearly written that 'tiflut' no longer applies"--frumgirl

Frumgirl,

Not everyone, lulei demistafina, agrees with Rabbi Henkin.

 
At 11/28/2005 7:47 PM, Blogger Masmida said...

tiflut to actually teach a woman but its okay for her to learn on her own

- doesn't that only increase the chances that she'll misunderstand something?

 
At 11/28/2005 8:44 PM, Blogger shira22 said...

Excellent Blog.. I could rant about this for thousand yrs for all the good it will do. The fact remains that Right Wing Orthodoxy still treats children the way were treated 200 yrs ago. Aparteid was abolished, Segregation in the South was ruled unconstitutional, but in BP Willy Lakewood etc.. women are still 2nd and 3rd class citizens.
They are good for making veiber $, cholent, and fun in the bedroom, and lil else.

At a Kiddush, new Shul, School, or any community decision they are a mere afterthought at best.

My complex had an important meeting Motz Shabbos to make major decisions and vote on imp matters. Women werent invited. When Eruv is being built we are the last to be taken into acct.

Most new Shuls in my neighborhood involve multimillion dollar expansions and still only have an ezras nashin for a half dozen women to sit cramped.

Most Simchas on Shabbos serve Cholent and Kugel and Coldcuts for the men and just cakes and pastries too fancy looking to eat and some salad to graze on for the ladies.

And dont even get me started on the abysmal level of learning for women. And whatever airheaded fluff there is you have to pay for..

 
At 11/29/2005 1:53 AM, Blogger Hayim said...

> the answer will be entirely different depending.

Sorry, I don't get your point here. But please let me know according to which of the two alternatives you're ready to wash my feet, I'm interested.

My point was to stress that the changes were not only technological, which you conceded in an earlier comment, but also sociological. This is so obvious to me that I do not see the need to argue this further. Yet the halacha reached its "final" state in an epoch that had vastly different values, and any attempt to make it reflect more modern sensibilities is met with strident cries of "you're undermining the integrity of the halachic system". Pretty lame if you ask me.

> last time i checked a public servant was anything but an absolute ruler.

I agree 100%. You're arguing with leading poskim here - they fail to notice the difference. should I look up sources for you ?

> ahhh. now I see. what is a ba'al middot? a ba'al ga'aava or for that matter a ba'al teshuva?

Funny ;). But I think my point still stands. and yes, the terms you quoted all imply a nuance of "mastery".

> Most of the time when I hear someone haring off about the right of women, it sounds more like a attempt at an idealogical point rather than a true attempt to understand what the halacha and prespective truely is.

Ever heard of the principle called "mitoch shelo lishmah, ba lishmah" ? In other words, we don't care much about the initial motivation. Or if we did, most men should not put on tefillin, at least until we know for sure that they do it out of ahavat hashem and not social pressure. Double standards, again.

 
At 11/29/2005 1:57 AM, Blogger Hayim said...

Here is a question for all women commenting here.

How do you feel about the talmudic principle of "Ten du...", according to which we can assume women to prefere being married even to a menuval or a muke shrin rather than staying single ?

It is given as an absolute sociological assessment of women's choices, and has very real applications.

Do you agree or disagree ?

 
At 11/29/2005 3:18 AM, Blogger Pragmatician said...

Hayim-Please allow me to disagree!

they do not inherit if these is a male heir
They can if a will is made.

they have no commandment to procreate, nor an obligation to educate their kids
Well I'd consider that a Bonus, we are obligated to procreate they actually have a choice!

Same goes with most Mitzvahs they have a CHOICE we have none, who is being discriminated now?

like agunos, etc.
Agunos are a very complicated story I have to admit that it’s definitely a minus. But it has to do with men being permitted to be married with several women, while women are not because of obvious reasons. Though I'm definitely of the opinion that women should be protected from ever becoming agunos.

 
At 11/29/2005 4:22 PM, Blogger dietgarage said...

well i am only just beg. to learn gemara - im hoping to pursue that soon ... i think its pretty unfair that i havent had that opportunity until now.....

 
At 11/29/2005 7:52 PM, Blogger Masmida said...

thank you, prag.

The difference is between those areas of halacha that are 'minhag ha'makom'/'reccomendations' and things that are halacha la'maseeh. if its not halacha l'maseeh, your arguement of changed socal expectations holds. if it doesn't your question still stands, and I might have to comtemplate eternal singlehood, which as prag mentioned, is not an issur for me.

i don't know this area of halacha well enough to competently discuss it without looking it up, so sources are more than welcome.

>Ever heard of the principle called "mitoch shelo lishmah, ba lishmah" ?
...and people build houses, work and develop the world only because of the desire for arayot. The catch of that statemtent is it applies to situations where the lo lishmah is deliberately created by the individual because the lishmah reason is proving insufficently motivating. If there no intention of ever reaching that level, they won't.

>How do you feel about the talmudic principle of "Ten du...", according to which we can assume women to prefere being married even to a menuval or a muke shrin rather than staying single ?

where is this? and why have I only heard about this past summer.
here

 
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