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Sunday, February 23, 2014

You Can Call Me a "Neanderthal," but I'm Not Looking to Adopt Tefillin, Torah Reading etc. to My Life

Oops!  The title of this post is much too long, but it does summarize how I feel.

OJC Section,
New Montefiore Cemetery
When I was a kid, up to the age of thirteen, studying in a Conservative Hebrew School, Oakland Jewish Center in Bayside, NY, I did enjoy taking my turn to lead the prayer when allowed.  I do have memories of it, so I presume that's what happened there even though this was long before women could be ordained as rabbis or qualified as cantors by the JTS Jewish Theological Seminary. The choir was mixed, and we were children.  The reason I volunteered is that I'm a performer by nature.  Spirituality wasn't on the curriculum.

Immediately after I graduated OJC's five year Hebrew School, we moved to Great Neck and that was the end of our Conservative Jewish affiliation.  My parents ended up joining the Orthodox Great Neck Synagogue which was in their budget and under the leadership of Rabbi Ephraim Wolf, ZaTZaL, very warm and welcoming.  Within a year I became an active member of their Teen Club, which was a founding chapter of NCSY National Conference of Synagogue Youth. In short, through those activities I became religious aka Orthodox.

It was complicated enough for a teenager living at home to observe kashrut and Shabbat.  I had no interest in adding any of the male mitzvot/requirements/customs, such as Tefillin, minyan, public Torah read or aliyot, then or now.  I do doven every day, both morning and afternoon prayers, Shacharit and Mincha, but I enjoy the fact that it's a personal time between me and G-d. I'm not needed in a minyan, required prayer quorum of ten. I don't need the addition of Tefillin to connect to G-d, since G-d chose to make me a woman who has a higher innate spirituality than your typical man.

I'm not a dabbler by nature.  When I take on something I go "all the way" in my commitment.  I don't at all relate to the women who show up at the Kotel one hour a month donned in Tefillin and Tallit surrounded by media crews demanding to be given the same rights and recognition as those women who pray their 24/7.

I consider HaRav Soloveitchik's comment about women's aliyot when "they write the checks" terribly cynical.
The Rav knew exactly what I was asking. He smiled and told me he would not give me a psak halakhah on the subject. However, he said I should go back and assure the students at Brown that, “When the women write the checks, they will get the aliyot to the Torah.” He repeated it three times.
Read more at: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/the-talmudic-blog/rav-soloveitchik-told-me-when-women-write-the-checks-theyll-get-aliyahs/2014/02/21/
As I see it, The Rav meant that some things aren't decided by principle/law/halacha but by money meaning financial power. Since I'm a believer in "principles" and not "might makes right," I don't support "egalitarian Judaism."

There are innate differences between men and women.  I'm the mother of five children; men and women aren't the same. To say that being counted in a minyan, wearing Tefillin are the same as allowing women into medical school or be bus drivers or President of the United States (which was once considered unacceptable/unthinkable) are the same is a distortion of the issues. If a Jewish woman feels an irresistible need to pray with Tefillin or doven with a minyan, that's her individual choice, but if she wants to upgrade it to principle for all, she's affecting the religious responsibilities of all women. And that I personally find objectionable. She shouldn't try to speak for all women.


Benjamin Griffel said...

You say that " If a Jewish woman feels an irresistible need to pray with Tefillin or doven with a minyan, that's her individual choice, but if she wants to upgrade it to principle for all, she's affecting the religious responsibilities of all women."

But who is suggesting that women be required to put on tefillin or get an aliyah to the Torah? Some women merely want the opportunity and the question of whether or not this is halachically permissible is really the heart of the matter.

Batya Medad said...

There are halachik differences between optional a required. The way halacha evolves can cause the choice of Tehillin for women this generation to become a requirement according to some a few more generations down the line. That would be the result of an Egalitarian Judaism which makes identical demands on both men and women.
As I wrote, I really don't dabble.

Anonymous said...

I feel women have enough day to day mitzvahs, without another inessential one to add to the list. It is not as though they would find the time to pray with tefillin every morning, especially if with a young family needing attention and nurture, and/or numerous domestic tasks to compete with their time. They might feel the enthusiasm to do so at first, but that would soon wane. I think those women who insist on it, as a right, are just protesting the patriarchal and, dare I say, myysogynistic, attitude of certain rabbis. Most Jewish women want to be regarded as people in their own right, and not as second/third class citizens.

in the vanguard said...

Bravo! Well said.

We can easily sense your no-compromise devotion to Yiddishkeit. It speaks well of all orthodox women and of all of orthodoxy, in fact, by a whole-hearted commitment to Hashem's prescription for behavior, which is the Torah way.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the first commenter, Mr. Griffel. These women nowadays making a stir about women wearing talis and tefilin are not orthodox and they are part of the feminist movement. This mishagas is really anti-halacha because it goes against the mesorah of our people for thousands of years, which counts just as much as the law itself. The stories which are sometimes spread that Rashi's daughters put on tefilin has been debunked. The NewAge feminists are very good at publicity and lies; and if told often enough will eventually be accepted as truth. There is a definite worldwide agenda being promoted to water down 'Judaism' in order to fit in to the new worldly thinking, i.e.: G-Dlessness, just as our Sages foretold.

Batya Medad said...

a1 and a2, amen, yes
van, thanks

There are so many, many mitzvot we have to learn on, improve and observe, B"H, no need to pretend we're men.

in the vanguard said...

By the way, you're as much the Neanderthal as was Moses and his generation. It's the very same tradition, which goes back, now, almost exactly 3326 years ago.

Batya Medad said...

van, glad to know I'm in good company

Benjamin Griffel said...

I'm not really sure that anonymous understood my point, but Batya, you do bring up some valid points that need to be considered.

Batya Medad said...

Benjamin, thanks