web analytics
July 7, 2015 / 20 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Women, Modern Orthodoxy And Communal Leadership


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.

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 “Women, Modern Orthodoxy And Communal Leadership”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
George Soros: No friend of Israel
Hillary: George Soros is NO Friend of Israel
Latest Indepth Stories
George Soros: No friend of Israel

George Soros: “European anti-Semitism is the result of the policies of Israel and the United States”

President Obama

Sources say seemingly irreconcilable differences between the 2 main parties, Washington and Tehran.

Seder at the White House. The one without the kippa is President Obama.

Instead of accepting reality, the President is trying to hold on to an illusion.

peace in our time iran

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

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

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?

More Articles from Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot
haredi dropouts

Many of the talented and motivated individuals who leave the Haredi world could choose Modern Orthodoxy, but they don’t.

The latest round in the broader canvas of debates about the approach of Modern Orthodoxy to the role of women in communal life has focused on the issue of learned Orthodox women receiving some form of rabbinic ordination and serving as rabbis or clergy.

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.

David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of the State of Israel, was often quoted in the early years of the state as remarking, “it is not so important what the Gentiles say as what the Jews do.”

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: