As Purim approaches, thousands of Israeli children and families grapple with poverty
R. Lichtenstein stated that a member of parliament and certainly a government minister are often involved in coercive legislation or votes on budgets involving tens of millions of shekels or issues of war and peace. This position is clearly more of a serarah than any shul rabbi or president. He thus felt that, certainly in Israel, the Modern Orthodox community has taken the position that the expansive reading of the Rambam, limiting women’s roles, is not the normative ruling. (It should be noted that R. Lichtenstein’s own wife, Dr. Tovah Lichtenstein, ran for Knesset in 1988 as a candidate for the Meimad party headed then by Rav Yehuda Amital.)
In this context I would also add a question of halachic methodology and consistency that needs to be examined in this as in many other halachic issues. There are many communal voices that, despite the existence of opinions against the Rambam’s view or severely restricting its contemporary application, take the position that we should be stringent for the view of Rambam (in its expansive reading).
I’ve always wondered why, on this specific issue, the “Rambam’s position” is the only one that should be entertained communally.
There are many other opinions of the Rambam’s – some of them quite central to his worldview – that much of the Orthodox community seems to have no problem neutralizing or ignoring because other views exist.
Two examples of the myriad one can cite:
1. Many of the communal rabbis or activists who cite the Rambam on serarah do not hesitate to allow their communities to use standard communal eruvin, in their own neighborhoods and all over the world. According to Rambam’s view, almost all our eruvin are not kosher as they have more than a ten-amot gap between eruv posts.
2. Rambam maintains that receiving money for learning Torah is a chillul Hashem (the worst sin possible in his hierarchy of sin in Hilchot Teshuvah). Yet the haredi, Modern Orthodox, dati-leumi, and hardal worlds not only neutralize the binding nature of Rambam’s position on this matter, they trumpet the existence of various kollelim as the pinnacle of their educational infrastructure.
In all these instances, of course, there are other rishonim who take issue with Rambam, or there are acharonim who limit the Rambam and attempt to show that even he would agree in this or that situation (sometimes more convincingly, sometimes much less so). In many instances, acharonim attempt to show that because of pressing need or another countervailing Torah value, we need to be lenient and not only look to the Rambam’s view as dispositive.
In a word, through the give and take of halacha, the analysis of the social realities and religious needs of the community, and the weighing of other Jewish and ethical values, this or that position of the Rambam’s does not become the final word in the living, practicing reality of the committed community.
Thus, the simple statement that “we should be stringent for shitat ha-Rambam” is far from simple. The question has to be evaluated on a much broader canvas of potentially countervailing legitimate Torah needs, halachic values and spiritual directions that may point us to look to other views besides the restrictive reading of a particular Rambam.
About the Author: Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot is chair of the departments of Tanach and Jewish Thought at Yeshivat Chovevei Rabbinical School; is on the faculty of SAR High School; and is spiritual leader of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Teaneck, New Jersey.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Comments are closed.
The Holocaust was the latest attempt of Amalek to destroy the special bond that we enjoy with God.
UN inspectors were flabbergasted when Iran allowed them full unfettered access to All nuclear sites
Obama’s real problem is that he knows Netanyahu has more credibility on the Iran issue than he does.
“Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey after you left Egypt-how undeterred by fear of G-d”
Stalin’s plan for the Soviet’s “final solution of the Jewish question” was totally assimilating them
Many Jews oppose the speech fearing it will further erode relations between Israel & US. I disagree.
The University of Georgia Student Government Association called for more investment in Israel.
Without an alliance comparable to ISIS, Al Qaida & Iran, militant Islam will conquer the Middle East
Ultimately, Esther, Netanyahu, and we, the Jewish people, must and will rely on the true King, God, for our salvation from this genocidal threat.
Netanyahu addresses a clear, present & lethal threat to the US/Israel/WORLD; NOT political bickering
Buried in the tax-returns of the JCF is millions of dollars funneled to NIF in the last few years.
Bibi’s speech to Congress will bring respect and honor to the Jewish Nation from the US & the world
Obama & Putin have handwriting/signature clues indicating differences between public & private life
It’s time for a new Jewish policy regarding Ramallah, NOT just because of the yarmulke incident
Many of the talented and motivated individuals who leave the Haredi world could choose Modern Orthodoxy, but they don’t.
As Super Bowl weekend approaches the signs at the local takeout stores in Modern Orthodox neighborhoods (and even some haredi ones as well, but I limit my discussion here to the former as that is my community) abound with signs advertising gigantic food package options with catchy names such as the “Linebacker” or the “Halftimer.”
A few weeks ago I was completing the silent amidah at the morning minyan I attend in my local shul. Suddenly, a cold breeze shot through the room. I headed back to the door of the bet midrash where we pray and saw that a young observant woman I know had propped the door slightly ajar in order to hear the repetition of the Shemoneh Esrei and the reading of the Torah.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/women-modern-orthodoxy-and-communal-leadership/2010/03/24/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: