web analytics
July 6, 2015 / 19 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Orthodox Women Clergy?


Even those who paint a slightly less radical story of this change and maintain that the statement of halacha was a case of innovation (chiddush), as women were always technically allowed to study oral law (the Rambam’s formulation of “tzevo chachamin,” used to prohibit women’s Torah study, does not create a formal issur), agree that for centuries the practice was not to allow women to study Torah and so the change was still quite radical.

Problem With the Status Quo

We all agree that a dramatic change has taken place in the last fifty years. By and large we live in a society where many women are studying Torah intensively and participating extensively in a plethora of professional capacities, including many different roles in Jewish communal life: Women teach our children, found and run our schools, counsel troubled adults, run social service agencies, lecture on Torah topics and texts and serve as outreach professionals.

Women also study a large variety of Torah subjects and texts – far beyond what was studied a generation ago – at sister institutions of numerous great yeshivot and at many independent Torah institutions. Reflecting these changes, Rav Soloveitchik wrote simply and directly nearly fifty years ago (Community, Covenant and Commitment, page 83) that “not only is the teaching of Torah she’b’al peh to girls permissible, but nowadays an absolute imperative… Boys and girls alike should be introduced into the inner halls of Torah she’b’al peh.

Just as, in order to save Torah from total destruction 2,000 years ago, the oral law had to be put into writing in direct violation of Jewish law, the oral law now needs to be studied by men and women alike if Torah is to be preserved. If that seems like a radical position, consider that today one would be hard pressed to find an Orthodox high school that does not, in fact, teach portions of the oral law to girls.

The above-mentioned changes have created something of a dilemma: What should those women who have studied Torah for several years after high school or college do for a living? I confess to having counseled many such women to “go to law school,” assuring them that if they can master a halachic tome by Rav Moshe Feinstein or Rabbi Y.M. Epstein, they can master a legal work by Benjamin Cardozo or Louis Brandeis. I had given that advice because there were few, if any, good careers in Torah for women, despite the personal realization that this represented a significant loss for the Jewish people.

Training Women as Orthodox Clergy

We all see and sense that there are aspects of the clergy role in which women do better than men, and our community would be deficient if we did not, in fact, have women already serving in quasi-clerical roles. What the community needs is a training process – analogous to the one we have for men – to ensure that women are properly trained in halacha, theology, and pastoral matters and practice in order to best serve our community.

Training people for a job is more prudent that expecting them to do such a job untrained. If they are serving in these roles and servicing our community well, the Orthodox community will grow.

The opening of institutions to train women as members of the Orthodox clergy would be an excellent alternative to law school, and would serve as a logical progression in the development of women’s Torah education in the Orthodox community.

Some will insist that whatever role women clergy play, they may not answer questions of Jewish law. This does not, however, seem to be mandated by halacha. As the Chinuch (mitzvah 152) noted many centuries ago, as a matter of Jewish law there is no issue with a woman answering questions of halacha if she is qualified to do so. Women involved in kiruv regularly answer questions of halacha and hashkafa. Should we not want to see to it that women in this field have adequate training to handle the issues that frequently present themselves?

Indeed, in Israel women are being trained to assist other women in taharat hamishpacha matters as yoatzot halacha and the rabbinical courts of Israel have welcomed women as advocates in the area of divorce as toanot rabbaniyot. Both of these formal programs and the many informal programs in Israel recognize that training is important to those who are in the field.

About the Author: Rabbi Michael Broyde is a law professor at Emory University and project director at Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Orthodox Women Clergy?”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.
Obama Trying to Make US Leftist Jews “Mainstream’
Latest Indepth Stories
Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.

  A recent meeting between National Security Council officials and the left-wing Breaking the Silence group barely made headlines but was a significant move in President Barack Obama’s agenda to justify his view that Israel is an “occupier.” It was President Obama who succeeded in removing AIPAC as the default representative of what is called […]

peace in our time iran

Those who suggest further capitulation to Iran are wrongly harming the interests of the West.

Haneen Zoabi (L) and Basel Ghattas (R), Arab members of Israel's parliament, both participated in flotillas attempting to break Israel's legal naval blockade of the Gaza strip.

Few Arab Israelis found anything positive in the decision of its MKS to join any Gaza flotilla.

Obama was all smiles for Israel's Ambassador Oren when they met in the White House.

US Jews prefer to be like their non-Jewish liberal friends complaining about “settlements” and Bibi

New Israel Fund & its supporters must be countered; Israel’s in the midst of an unprecedented storm

PM Netanyahu this week identified ISIS and Iran as Israel’s primary threat. It is a planetary threat that carries the promise of peace.

Haym Solomon, overlooked hero of the Revolutionary War, was America’s “Funding Father.”

Latvia, July 4, 1941 they forced many Jews in the shul putting it on fire; everyone was burned alive

There’s blood on the reporters’ hands AND New Israel Fund for funding groups feeding lies to the UN

Respect & appreciation for our country is not only a civic value but an essential Jewish one as well

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

Israel, like the non-radical Islamic world. will be happy see the ISIS beheaded for once.

Kids shouldn’t have “uninstructed” Internet access, better to train them how to use it responsibly

What if years from now, IS were to control substantial territory? What world havoc would that wreak?

Rambam writes the verse’s double term refers to 2 messiahs: first King David; 2nd the final Mashiach

The Gaza flotilla has been rightfully and legally blocked by Israel’s Navy, with greetings from Bibi

More Articles from Rabbi Michael J. Broyde
Rabbi Michael J. Broyde

The Orthodox community should support laws that prohibit commercial discrimination in activity

Circumcision

The higher the standard of review, the less likely it is the law will be constitutional.

Israel – the land and the nation – lost a giant earlier this month with the passing of Justice Menachem Elon, a monumental talmid chacham who served on the Israeli Supreme Court from 1977-1993, and as its deputy president from 1988-93, bringing a deep Torah viewpoint to the highest tiers of the Israeli judiciary.

We know that genuine halachically viable solutions to the agunah problem are hard to come by and might not even be within our grasp. But we also know the agunah problem can be functionally solved in practice, even if not in theory, and the solution is clear and obvious.

This short essay will develop five critical points for responding to the voices within the broader community that seek to accept and legitimize homosexual conduct, an activity that directly contradicts the dictates of halacha.

You may applaud the idea of ordaining women rabbis, or you may recoil in horror at the prospect, but the simple fact remains that women already serve the Orthodox world in clergy-like positions.

Our natural inclinations would have us believe that individual actions, whether errors in judgment or extravagant demonstrations of bravery, generally do not affect the course of human history.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/orthodox-women-clergy/2009/07/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: