During a recent radio interview in Israel, Rav Shlomo Aviner – rosh yeshiva of Ateret Yerushalayim and a prominent Religious Zionist posek – was asked if a woman could head the dati–leumi camp. His reply became headline news: “The complex and public environment surrounding politics is not a suitable place for a woman.”
Numerous politicians and media outlets immediately characterized his reply as an attack on feminism and democracy, but Rav Aviner told The Jewish Press he was merely voicing the Torah’s views relating to modesty.
The Jewish Press: How do you respond to Ayalet Shaked of the New Right party, who responded sharply to your statement, insisting that women are capable of serving as politicians?
Rav Aviner: I wasn’t referring to the capabilities of women, which of course we value with esteem and honor. Halacha indicates that situations which force men and women to mingle together – as politics does – are to be avoided for reasons of modesty.
I have stated and written the exact same thing for the last 50 years. This was also the opinion of Israel’s first chief rabbi, HaRav Avraham Yitzhak HaKohen Kook. See his book, Ma’amrei HaRe’eiyah, pages 189-194.
One could argue that Rav Kook lived in a different era – that times have changed.
We need to change reality and passing societal norms to meet halacha – not the other way around.
Should Golda Meir not have been prime minister?
When Golda Meir was elected, a student asked Rav Yosef Soloveitchik: Is it permissible to appoint a woman to such a position? After all, the Rambam cites the Sifri, which states, based on Devarim 17:15, that [we a woman may not be appointed to lead the Jewish people]. Rav Soloveitchik immediately answered:
“And was Ben Gurion’s appointment not problematic? Although he was not a woman, he was not religious, and it was also forbidden to appoint him [see Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah, 2:45]. The answer is that they did not ask us, and the responsibility for these appointments is therefore not ours” [Nefesh HaRav, pp. 90-91].
Didn’t Devora the Prophetess lead the Jewish people?
That was a case of pekuach nefesh since her husband refused to assume the leadership.
The head of the New Right party, Naftali Bennett, said your remark constituted a chillul Hashem.
Is it proper to accuse the Rambam of making a chillul Hashem when he writes in the Laws of Kings that the nation of Israel is to be ruled by a king and not a queen?
You must have known that your statement would cause a stir. Haven’t our Sages taught that Torah scholars should refrain from saying things the public won’t accept?
This was the dilemma of our forefather Avraham who was on one side of the world while and everyone else on the other. Nonetheless, everything worked out all right. A Torah scholar’s opinions do not have to follow the herd’s.