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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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CHAG SAMEACH!

Rabbi Riskin Permits Women to Read Ruth for Men in Orthodox Shul

It appears that Rabbi Riskin's congregation is not easily offended.
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Tomorrow, on the holiday of Shavuot, in one of the synagogues of the town of Efrat in Judea and Samaria, two women will come up to read the Megillah of Ruth as both the men and women of the shul will be listening. This will not be taking place in a Reform or even Conservative synagogue, but in the Zemer Hazayit Orthodox synagogue of the town’s most prominent rabbi, who is one of its founders, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.

“The initiative for the Megillah reading by women began with a constraint,” Dina Mann, one of the two Shavuot readers, told Maariv. Last Purim, the shul was looking for a man to read the Esther Megillah, and when none was found, the women of the community, many of whom have been reading the Esther Megillah for women for years, posed an halachic query to Rabbi Riskin, asking if they could read Esther in the absence of a qualified man.

The Efrat Rabbi answered that while men cannot keep the mitzvah of hearing the Esther Megillah by listening to a woman’s reading, it would be allowable with other megillahs (Ecclesiastics, Song of Songs, Ruth and Lamentations).

“One of the principles of our synagogue is the integration of women within the framework of halacha,” Mann said, “under the guidance and decisions of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin.”

“This point is deeply ingrained in the core idea of our synagogue,” she added.

The women will be reading the Megillah from the women’s section.

Mann said she expected the men of the synagogue to be very accepting of the new custom.

Rabbi Riskin told Maariv that he sees no problem in women’s reading behind a mechitzah. He said that the only reason he had not allowed women’s reading of the Esther Megillah had to do with the fact that some Ashkenazi rabbis are explicitly against it – while the Sephardim support it.

The Shulchan Aruch follows the Gemara Megillah in stating that it is permitted for women to go up to the Torah—which included reading allowed one’s assigned portion—but at the same time discourages actually letting them fulfill the mitzvah because it might offend the congregation.

It appears that Rabbi Riskin’s congregation is not easily offended.

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About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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30 Responses to “Rabbi Riskin Permits Women to Read Ruth for Men in Orthodox Shul”

  1. David Conley says:

    So the Shulchan Aruch allows women to read all the megillahs and their Torah portion; men, get over your hangups.

  2. It will surely "hit the fan" now.

  3. David Lerner says:

    The times they are achangin'

  4. Harry Bloch says:

    WOMEN POWER !!!! YEA !!!

  5. Harry, its orthodox Jewish power. be careful who you're praising.

  6. Bruce Cohen says:

    All the men will be at the Kotel throwing rocks at the women there..

  7. I was once privileged to hear Megillas Rus read by a woman at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. It was the best laining by far that I've heard anytime, anywhere. The woman had a beautiful voice. But doesn't this raise the issue of kol isha?

  8. I was once privileged to hear Megillas Rus read by a woman at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. It was the best laining by far that I've heard anytime, anywhere. The woman had a beautiful voice. But doesn't this raise the issue of kol isha?

  9. Rabbi Riskin, who I was lucky to have as a Rabbi once, is a great leader.

    Many Orthodox people don't like siting in the back of the bus, even if it is a custom.

  10. Why such a gratuitous editorial comment at the end? Get over it.

  11. Dina Mann says:

    The reading was GREAT!
    Rabbi Riskin joined us for Tfilla as well, and gave a whole Dvar Torah mid-Tfilla about the Hallachic and Hashkafic reasoning behind his very positive support of this step.

  12. איזה יופי! יישר כוח

  13. Rachel Karlin says:

    Kol hakavod Dina!!

  14. Dina Mann says:

    Here is how Rabbi Riskin addressed the issue of Kol Isha in his sermon in Shul today on the occasion of this Megilla reading:
    From the Gmara that states that all may read Megillat Esther, even women (with the understanding that they are talking about FOR men), Poskim such as the Pri Chadash (I think) learn that "Kol B'Isha Erva" is not an issue in "Dvarim SheBikdusha".

  15. Next – Shir Hashirim?

  16. Dina Mann says:

    Nope. Next Eicha, then Kohelet, then Shir HaShirim (not all me. other women from the community)
    Although some of the women seem reluctant to do Shir HaShirim due to its content. I can see it being weird to stand in Shul and discuss parts of my body in first person. So we'll see when we get there.

  17. What does this say about the men of Efrat?

  18. Daniel Ebel says:

    Before you know it, women will be driving on the roads and voting.

  19. Daniel Ebel says:

    Before you know it, women will be driving on the roads and voting.

  20. Daniel Ebel says:

    And why is the editorial comment in the section labeled "News"?

  21. Yossi Pollak says:

    Why should they be offended? They have an halachic authority who approved it. End of story.

  22. Rabbi Josh Yuter says:

    תהלים כה:יא
    וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲוֹנִי כִּי רַב הוּא

  23. Rabbi Josh Yuter says:

    תהלים כה:יא
    וְסָלַחְתָּ לַעֲוֹנִי כִּי רַב הוּא

  24. Van Wallach says:

    Viva kol isha!

  25. Noah Benjamin Bickart says:

    "Kol Isha" doesn't exist. See the Rif to the sugyot in question in Berachot and Kiddushin.

  26. Charlie Hall says:

    And the problem with this is?

  27. The problem with this is that some people have gotten it into their heads that anything that allows women a greater role in Jewish practice–even if it's patently halachically permitted, in some cases even if it was done that way historically–is part of a plot to make mitzvot less special by letting just anyone do them.

  28. That they chose a good rabbi? That their egos are healthy? That their wives are learned?

  29. Charlotte Griffin: About the men. Not the Rabbi, not their wives.

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