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May 31, 2016 / 23 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘woman’

Can an Orthodox Jewish Woman Have it All?

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

As I began reading an article in the Forward by Aurora Mendelsohn about whether a Jewish woman can have it all (meaning a career and an observant family) I received a call from my daughter about an article in the Chicago Tribune* about one woman who does have it all.

Her name is Talia Mashiach. And indeed she does have it all. And I was glad to see that she didn’t Kvetch about how difficult it is for her to fulfill her role as a Jewish woman and have a successful career at the same time. She seemed to revel in her success at both. More about Talia later.

This is not to say that Ms. Mendelsohn doesn’t make some valid points. She does. But whenever I read one of these feminist based articles, it always seems like someone is Kvetching about how hard it is for a woman to be successful in a male dominated society in general and in Judaism in particular.

Ms. Mendelsohn mentioned the things she has to do in order to be more fulfilled as a Jew while raising children. Like taking turns with her husband going to Shul for Kol Nidre in alternate years. She talks about breaking barriers of stereotypical male-female roles in the workplace and in Judaism. To that end she advocates flextime for parents in the workplace to enable better parenting for both.

And then – as is common among some feminist types – she implies that Rishonim like the Avudraham and later the Shulchan Aruch that reflect his views were influenced by the misogyny of their time. Albeit praising them for recognizing that indeed no one can really have it all – which is why in Judaism women are exempt from most of the time bound positive Mitzvos.

However, in the current spirit of egalitarianism she says that women should be given greater roles in the synagogue while men should be encouraged to become more domestic. Kind of a role reversal.

Right. That is what Judaism is all about. Role reversal. I have heard this argument ad nauseum. Is this what is now demanded?! In order to achieve some sort of parity with men, women need to go to Shul while men stay home with their children?! I guess so if one follows the example of the Mendelsohn household. This seems to be the current trend in Orthodox feminism. Push the envelope so far that men take on the traditional roles of women so that women can take on the traditional roles of men… All within the parameters of Halacha of course.

I am not even going to attempt to argue the point here. Been there and done that. I just want to contrast that with a woman who probably has more of what Ms. Mendelsohn seeks than she ever will and does so without the need to change Orthodox Judaism as we know it.

Talia Mashiach is one of the most successful career women in the Orthodox world. I know her and her husband. They are day school and yeshiva educated Orthodox Jews who send their children to Arie Crown Hebrew Day School. She not only has a successful career in business, she has a successful career as a mother. An Orthodox mother that does not ignore her children or her Judaism.

At age 35, Talia Mashaich is a self-made millionaire. She has created many successful businesses and is about to corner the market on corporate event planning by digitalizing every aspect of it online. Her business acumen has attracted some big name venture capitalists and they have not been disappointed with the returns on their investments. She loves what she does and is highly respected in the corporate world. She does what’s necessary to succeed without sacrificing one iota of her Judaism. She has made sure of that.

As her husband Shmuel said in the Tribune article, she is as good a mom and wife as she is in business.

Talia organizes her schedule so that she can be home by the time her children come home for school. Fridays she generally works out of her house. Evenings are spent with her family. She hires household help to take care of cleaning and cooking allowing her to maximize her time with her family.

Weekends are hallowed time for the Mashiachs and on Shabbos they often host friends and family for Friday night and Shabbos morning meals. And of course she is unplugged from all technology. That – she says – rejuvenates her for the new work week.

She does it all without Kvetching about how Judaism has somehow failed women spiritually.

Before anyone accuses me of being insensitive to those women who feel they need “more” in order to express their spirituality than mainstream Orthodoxy gives them, please don’t bother. I get it. Some people (men as well as women) feel they need more to express their service to God than Judaism requires of them. My point here is that this is certainly not the case for all. Jewish women need not seek Shul participation in order to be fulfilled as a Jew or as a woman. Ask Talia.

That said Talia freely admits that what she does is not for everyone – certainly not everyone has her skill set. But she is living proof that an Orthodox Jewish woman can indeed have it all. Without the need to eat, live, and breathe the feminist clarion call of egalitarianism. There was not a hint of that in this very beautiful article in the Chicago Tribune.

At age 35 she has succeeded in business in ways that would make many even successful men envious. If things keep going her way, she could be the next Mark Zuckerberg. All while maintaining her role as the quintessential Jewish woman without sacrificing one iota of her Judaism. My hat is off to her.

*(Unfortunately one must be a subscriber to the digital version of Chicago Tribune to see the article online. But it is a front page story in the business section – print edition.)

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

An Open Letter to Religious Zionist Rabbis

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Dear Rabbi:

With elections approaching in Israel, I am searching for a religious political party for which to vote. When I think about voting for Shas, I remember their support for Oslo, the surrender of parts of Eretz Yisrael, giving rifles to our enemies, and the terrible sea of Jewish blood that was spilled after the Oslo Accords were signed. That is not the Torah I am searching to find.

When I think about voting for Degal HaTorah and Agudah, except for a few lone voices, I remember their silence leading up to, and during, the Disengagement from Gush Katif, when fellow Jews were thrown out of their homes and pieces of Eretz Yisrael were handed over to our enemies. That is not the Torah I am searching for.

When I think about voting for the Bayit HaYehudi-National Union merger, I see that their leading candidate in the polls has chosen a very pretty young woman as a running mate. Please understand that I have nothing against women, and I am sure this candidate is a very talented and idealistic person, but I wonder if in a public situation like politics, it is appropriate to include a young attractive woman in the leadership of the party, especially for a party that promises to defend Torah ideals.

Modesty has always been a pillar of Judaism. In this week’s Torah portion of “Lech Lecha,” we learn that Avraham Avinu never gazed at his wife until they were on their way to Egypt and its illicit culture, when he realized that the Egyptians would lust after her beauty. I remember that HaRav Shlomo Aviner has written that it is forbidden to attend a lecture given by a woman, since one will have to gaze at her at length and thus transgress the commandment not to stray after one’s heart and eyes. In fact, I once I asked HaRav Aviner if I could write a screenplay, based on a popular novel, about a Haredi youth who was attracted to a non-religious girl, and Rav Aviner answered, yes, if the girl was 90 years old and not attractive. HaRav Mordechai Eliahu, of blessed memory, stated that in attending a wedding where men and women ate together without a mechitza, there was a problem with “Lo tachmod eshet rayecha,” the prohibition of lusting after your neighbor’s wife, one of the Ten Commandments. So, it is difficult for me to think about voting for the Bayit HaYehudi. Some people may say that all this is an exaggeration, that they can look at an attractive woman and not think any improper thought, but I recall that even King David himself got into trouble over a pretty married woman. So I wonder: is this the Torah party that I am searching for?

Could this occur in Shas? In Agudat Yisrael? Will this bring these parties closer to identifying with the goals of the Dati Leumi? Would HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook have endorsed this party? Yes, the unity of the ranks is a praiseworthy project, and yes, it is important to unite all Am Yisrael, religious and non-religious alike, but why with a pretty, young secular woman? Is this a sign of Torah leadership? Couldn’t non-religious voters be attracted to the Bayit HaYehudi by including on their list a young, idealistic , non-religious soldier from some top commando unit? Why does it have to be a young women who looks like a model? While many people long to see a new idealism and a new Torah-spirit in Israeli politics, which fosters a love for the Land of Israel and for all Am Yisrael, religious and non-religious alike – what possible good could come from this lack of concern for the modesty of our national life in the Holy Land?

Tzvi Fishman

Is Half a Loaf Really Better than No Loaf?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I do not question Rabbi Zev Farber’s sincerity. I even applaud his resolve to right what he sees to be wrong in the way we practice Judaism today. But I do not agree with him at all on the way to do it.

In a recent article on Morethodoxy, Rabbi Farber suggests that we change the paradigm with respect to a woman’s role in Judaism. His contention is that women are (at best) inadvertently ignored and mistreated vis-à-vis their public religious personae. Their current place in the synagogue is where this is mostly felt.

Rabbi Farber mentions the fact that women are excluded from any and every part of synagogue service and are basically considered a non entity in the vast majority of Shuls – having absolutely no participatory presence. Even those Shuls that try and accommodate them with things like Women’s Teffilah Groups or putting a Mechtiza down the center aisle of the shul which crosses the Bimah is at best a piece-meal approach to the problem of giving women a greater role. That – says Rabbi Farber is insufficient and does not satisfy a woman’s desire for a greater spiritual experience in the Shul.

Indeed, men do everything. They are counted toward a Minyan; Daven for the Amud; get Aliyos; get to say Brachos over the Torah; get to do Pesicha (open the ark when the prayer service requires it); get Hagbeh or G’lilah (lifting the Torah after Kriyah and/or rolling it together)! All women get to do (aside from Davening) is observe men doing it.

Rabbi Farber would like to see all that change – a basic overhaul in the role of a woman in the Shul – to the extent that Halacha allows. He claims that the only thing preventing real change is an antiquitated paradigm based on a culture that no longer exists. That paradigm stems from a time where women in every civilized society stayed home. It was for those reasons that Chazal, Rishonim and Achronim as late as the Chafetz Chaim created and maintained the current non participatory role for women in the synagogue. Here is how he puts it:

Women were rarely public figures and were discouraged from receiving too much education, taking visible public roles, participating in the power structure, and generally from being around men. If any woman were to express superior learning or knowledge than a man in front of a group it would have been a serious breach in etiquette. This is why, according to Tosafot (b. Sukkah 38a, s.v. “be-emet”), women do not lead the Grace after Meals for men or read the Megillah for men, since it would be insulting to them (zila milta). For the same reason, R. Israel Meir Kagan, in his Mishna B’rurah (281:4) argues that women should not say Qiddush for men, at least in public. The Talmud offers a similar reason why women do not read from the Torah in synagogue (b. Megillah 23a), although they are apparently eligible to do so, as it would offend the honor of the congregation (kavod ha-tzibbur).

In today’s world there has been a radical shift in societal attitudes about a woman’s role. Today we find women in all sorts of public roles. Roles that were once the sole bastion of men. There are female doctors, lawyers, scientists, politicians, Supreme Court justices, generals, CEO’s of major companies and university professors, deans, and presidents. You name the field and women can easily be found there.

Women of every Hashkafic type participate in public positions once anathema to them. One need not look any further than the ultra Orthodox Hamodia to see a woman, Ruth Lichtenstein, as its publisher. Or to note that the daughter of Charedi Gadol Rav Yitzchok Hutner earned her PhD at Columbia University.

Certainly the role of the woman has changed in our day even among the right wing.

So – says Rabbi Farber – things like Kavod HaTzibur that were based on no longer existent sensibilities should be re-visited. And he suggests that the entire paradigm be changed so as to accommodate the sincere desire of many women to more fully participate in the Shul… and thereby enhance their spiritual experience.

Here’s the problem. Rabbi Farber is an Orthodox Rabbi and as such he realizes that no matter what we do, Halacha forbids an equal role for women. Acknowledging that at least tacitly he says that we ought to do whatever we can – where ever we can – to allow as full a participation in the synagogue experience as possible.

Harry Maryles

Woman Dies on El Al Flight

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

An American woman died on El Al’s Tel Aviv-New York flight on Tuesday.

Medical personnel that happened to be on the flight tried to save her, but weren’t able to. She died 6 hours into the flight.

The woman’s family in New York were informed by El Al, and were waiting at the airport.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Israeli Teen’s Organs Save the Lives of Six People

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Nine organs donated by the family of a 16 year old Israeli athlete have saved the lives of 6 people, providing some comfort to a family heartbroken by the loss of their son.

Gilad Veturi, a student at Ilan Ramon High School in Hod Hasharon collapsed Thursday during sprinting practice and died two days later.

According to Israel Transplant, Venturi’s heart was donated by his family to a 56 year old man, his lungs were transplanted into two men aged 63 and 67, his liver was given to a 64 year old woman, a kidney and his pancreas were given to a 36 year old woman, and his other kidney went to a 24 year old woman.  Veturi’s corneas will be transplanted later.

Malkah Fleisher

Bereshit: The Triple Birth of Woman

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

In this week’s Torah portion, within the majesty and mystery of creation, the woman emerges in three successive stages.

First she is an unknown entity taking shape from Adam’s rib. Then Adam gives her a name, “isha,” woman – and formulates the concept. But concurrently the name/concept “ish,” man, emerges. “L’zot yikare ISHA ki meISH lukaha zot – This shall be named woman because from man was this taken” (Bereshit 2:23). Nowhere before does the word ish appear in the Torah. Throughout creation the first human is referred to as “haAdam.” With the appearance of isha, woman, a new aspect is added to essence of the adam: he becomes ish, a man. No longer is he merely a living creature from the “adama,” earth, although he is endowed with superior intelligence allowing him to evaluate other living creatures and take dominion over them. Through the birth of woman he becomes a man.

The next verse, “Thereafter shall a man leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his woman, and they shall become one flesh” (Bereshit 2:24), adds a profound new dimension to both concepts.

The second stage is set in the woman’s encounter with the snake. Here woman is revealed as a complex creature: she is both the object and the cause of sin. Recognizing the complexity of her character, the snake chooses her as an instrument of his design. But the woman proves to be not only a passive tool: she is also an active wielder of influence. With considerably less effort than it took the snake to persuade her to take from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she induces her man to eat from the forbidden fruit. And with her act, indirectly woman has opened for mankind a new world of insight, the knowledge of good and evil, an awareness of ethics and morality which in essence has the potential to elevate humanity above the level of the animal kingdom.

Through her punishment woman reaches the third stage of her development: although it will be done in pain and anguish, she is to bear children. She is to become Mother. Because of this new and essentially central function, woman is given a new name/concept: “Chava,” eve, “the mother of all living” (Bereshit 3:20). In spite the pain of childbirth and the anguish of raising the young, motherhood prevails as woman’s most powerful drive.

In the process of giving birth, when isha-woman and chava/mother reaches the ultimate stage of her being, she becomes the first living creature to give eloquent testimony to that most supreme secret of creation, the mystery of birth. In exclaiming, “I have acquired a man with G-d,” (Bereshit 4:1), she exhibits that insight which Chazal have attributed to woman’s basic make-up. From the word “vayiven,” describing woman’s creation (Bereshit 2:22), the Chazal derive the concept of “binah,” insight as a “built-in” faculty of woman. The woman is given the gift to comprehend and appreciate the role of the Creator in the greatest and most wonderful enigma of our existence — the birth of a child.

Prof. Livia Bitton-Jackson

Bereishis: Appreciating The Good

Friday, October 12th, 2012

And Adom said, “The woman that you placed with me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.” Bereishis 3:12

Adom HaRishon was given one mitzvah: not to eat from the Eitz HaDas. When he transgressed it, Hashem gave him the opportunity to do teshuvah. Not only did Adom not repent, he played the blame game – “It was that woman that You gave to me. You gave her to me as a helpmate and she turned out to be my ruination.”

Rashi quotes the Gemara that calls Adom a kofi tov, one who denies the good. The Gemara explains that this is a trait that has plagued mankind from that moment. Instead of appreciating the good, man has continued to deny the very good that is given to him over and over again.

The difficulty with this Rashi is that it doesn’t seem that Adom was guilty of denying the good. Hashem appeared to him and he felt trapped, caught red-handed. The correct action on his part would have been to admit his guilt and beg for forgiveness. That isn’t what he did. Instead, he shifted the blame. There was, however, a logic to it. “Because she was given to me as a helpmate, I relied on her and trusted her.” After all, the Creator of the heavens and the earth gave him this woman. Surely he could trust Hashem’s choice.

Adom was guilty of not owning up to his responsibility for the act. Maybe he was guilty of being dishonest. He just wasn’t courageous enough to admit that he did wrong. But his sin wasn’t one of not appreciating the good.

Appreciating Our Great Wealth

The answer to this question lies in understanding a different perspective. The Chovos Ha’Levovos gives a parable. Imagine a man who becomes blind at age 35. For the next ten years he does his best to reconstruct his life, but now without sight. Being a fighter, he struggles to create a productive life for himself. One day his doctor informs him of an experimental procedure that, if successful, would enable him to see again. He is both frightened and exuberant. If it works he regains his sight; if it fails, he might die.

He gathers together his family to talk it over. After much debate he announces, “I am going ahead with it.” The operation is scheduled. The long-awaited day arrives. Paralyzed with dread, he is wheeled toward the operating room. Given sedatives, he sleeps through the 10-hour operation.

When he wakes up, the first thought on his mind is to open his eyes. He prepares himself for the moment. He will now find out how he will spend the rest of his life. With his family gathered around, with the doctors and nurses at his side, the surgeon begins removing the gauze. The first bandage is off, now the second. The surgeon says, “Open your eyes.” He does. And he sees!

For the first time in ten years, he looks out and experiences the sights of this world – and he is struck by it all. Struck by the brilliance of colors and shapes; moved by the beauty and magnificence of all that is now in front of him. He looks out the window and sees a meadow covered with beautiful green grass. He sees flowers in full bloom. He looks up and sees a clear blue sky. He sees the faces of loved ones that had only been images in his mind – the sight of his own children whom he hasn’t seen in years. Tears well in his eyes as he speaks: “Doctor, what can I say? What can I ever do to repay you for what you have given me? This magnificent gift of sight! Thank you!”

This emotion, this extreme joy and sense of appreciation, is something we should feel regularly. The feeling of elation that man felt when he regained his sight is something we can feel on a daily basis if we go through the process of training ourselves to feel it. We have this most precious gift called sight, and it is something we are supposed to stop and think about – not once in a lifetime, not even once a year, but every day. A part of our spiritual growth is learning to appreciate the gifts we have. Every morning we thank Hashem for this most wonderful gift of sight. The blessing is meant to be said with an outpouring of emotion.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/bereishis-appreciating-the-good/2012/10/12/

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