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A few people have wanted me to comment on the recent debate between Rabbis Barry Freundel and Zev Farber about the so-called Partnership Minyanim in which women lead Kabbalat Shabbat. The issue goes back to R.

I was planning to respond to this article when it first appeared, and even wrote some pages, but I never completed the piece.

Since the issue has once again surfaced, now is a good time to deal with it. Some of what I will say was also stated by an anonymous commenter on the Torah Musings blog, but both R. Zev Farber and Lazer Kaganovitch can testify that I sent them these points before the commenter posted anything, so I see no reason not to record my thoughts. I should also note that this anonymous commenter, while pointing out errors and misreadings by R. Freundel, did not show proper respect in recording his criticisms.

In his article, R. Freundel argues against the Partnership Minyanim with an original approach. Rather than summarize his viewpoint in my own words, this quotation sets forth his thesis, which the article attempts to prove: This is quite an argument and if it could be sustained, then it would be a significant contribution to the debate. However, in my opinion, and the opinion of everyone I know who has examined the issue, R.

Those who are in favor of Partnership Minyanim devote great efforts to show that there is no halakhic objection, and therefore these minyanim should be instituted, and R. Freundel is playing the same game, but from the other side. By the same token, I think we have reached the point whereby the typical Orthodox rabbi acknowledges privately, at least that there is no real halakhic objection to a woman rabbi, while at the same time continuing to oppose the concept much like many oppose yoatzot halakhah.

They oppose it because of how women rabbis will change the structure of traditional Judaism, change it in way they view as negative. This is especially so in the Modern Orthodox world where there are women principals of Jewish day school, women synagogue presidents, women teachers of Talmud, women learning advanced halakhah, and no one bats an eye when a woman speaks in front of men.

For those who oppose things like women leading Kabbalat Shabbat, a weak halakhic argument is worse than no argument at all. The best tactic for the opponents is simply to keep the issue focused on what direction is best for Judaism. In a future post I will give examples.

There is a misunderstanding here. The part about Anshei Keneset ha-Gedolah requiring the Amidah to be recited twice a day and that women are also obligated in this is not from Nahmanides. Contrary to what R. In the next paragraph, Freundel writes: It seems that R. Freundel makes the false assumption that at one time this book was attributed to Ramban because he thinks that R.

This means that R. Here is the text from R. He never could have concluded this if he used the Machon Yerushalayim edition, which is the text I just used.

In this edition there is a mistake in R. The passage I have underlined is incorrect. Ritva writes as follows[3]: Blau New York, , pp. Freundel has it all backwards. But what does this have to do with Kabbalat Shabbat which was never made mandatory by anyone? This description is incorrect as R. What this means is that he does not make a final decision. In any event, what does this have to do with someone such as a minor or a woman leading a prayer that is not obligatory?

The larger problem of R. For example, his argument leads to the conclusion that it should be forbidden not just inappropriate, but forbidden for someone under bar mitzvah age to lead any part of the service. Yet this is the practice in communities all over the world. That is possible, but it is just as likely permitted precisely because there is no prohibition, and it is a nice thing to do. In other words, there is no default position that it is prohibited, from which one then needs to then find a way to permit.

It seems to be entirely a matter of synagogue etiquette, i. Yitzhak Zilberstein even argues that in an extreme circumstance the particular case concerned a prison one need not protest if a non-Jew leads the maariv service! To see how far R. Let me just remind readers that R. Ovadiah Yosef, relying on numerous rishonim, has ruled that if necessary a woman can read the Purim megillah for men which might arise if no men know how to read it.

I realize that one can respond that reading the Megillah is not tefillah, but it would nevertheless be strange to permit a woman to read an entire book of the Bible before a group of men, and at the same time not allow her to read even a few verses from another book, i.

There is a good deal more to say about the phenomenon of Partnership Minyanim and the strange way they came about. And what about counting women in the minyan? Halakhic arguments can be advanced for this as well. If an Orthodox rabbi had advanced the same argument as them, would it then be OK to move to complete halakhic egalitarianism? Only recently did I see the following relevant statement of R. It is certain that the fathers of the Church and also the Jewish medieval scholars believed that the Bible preached this doctrine [the separateness of man from nature].

Medieval and even modern Jewish moralists have almost canonized this viewpoint and attributed to it apodictic validity. Yet the consensus of many, however great and distinguished, does not prove the truth or falseness of a particular belief. I argued that this understanding diverges from that of the rishonim. Meir Mazuz recounts that in Tunis they explained it: But he assumes that the real meaning is as I mentioned, i.

Here is one example, from p. Anyone who disputes concerning this family denies God and the words of His prophets. Cohen states that according to Maimonides even non-Jews are obligated to believe in the Thirteen Principles. Cohen, when Maimonides speaks of righteous non-Jews being required to believe in the revelation at Sinai, this has nothing to do with acceptance of the complete Thirteen Principles.

One more point about R. Finally, let me add more comment about the Thirteen Principles. Each issue is a great read as it includes material from both well-known scholars as well as talented newcomers who have a lot to contribute and whose writings have often been real eye-openers for me.

Among the established writers in the new issue is R. If there is any contemporary writer in the Orthodox world who reminds me of the early Hasidic masters, the Kotzker, or even R. Reading him one can sense how difficult it is for R. Lopes Cardozo to live in a world in which spiritual authenticity is in such short supply.

The questions he asks, and what keeps him up at night, are exactly what should be on the mind of all thinking Orthodox Jews, even if one may disagree with the answers he gives.

It became clear to me that Judaism is based on the need for absolute questioning. I discovered that there are no absolute dogmas in Judaism, at least not in the way they are found within the Catholic Church. It was the famous Professor Leon Roth who once remarked: Judaism, while surely consisting of certain beliefs, is open to self-critique, debate, and ongoing discussions that have almost never been resolved. This spoke to my imagination.

A religion with no dogmas, always open to new ideas! What could be better than that! The text is as follows: The passage is too bizarre to translate. However, we see that it was none other than R. Moses Galante, a great sixteenth-century Torah scholar of the land of Israel who was given real semikhah by R. But even if it never happened, the fact that people believed it happened tells us a great deal about their mindset.

Hayyim Vital and note the shocking passage I have underlined: Returning to the first story quoted from Benayahu, there is no doubt that people can believe all sorts of strange things. There is currently a situation in London where a leading rabbi is charged with inappropriate contact with women. This rabbi denies the charges. Ovadiah gives permission for a kabbalist to touch a woman as part of his kabbalistic healing.

According to news reports, the Breslov figure currently in the news for sexual impropriety operated in this way. I wrote to R. Avraham Yosef and here is his reply. I have yet to see this acted on in practice. Affirmation or rejection of a mimetic ideal can depend very much on whose ox is being gored. It first appeared in Mordechai Eliav and Yitzhak Rafael, eds. We are now sixty years after R. Weinberg wrote his letter, and not only have things not gotten better, but they have actually gotten much worse.

Moshe Feinstein responded as follows, after being told of a dentist who sexually assaulted female patients while they were sedated:


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