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WOMEN-----learning torah IV

MODERATOR Posted - 16 July 2004 13:42


I posted both your posts since they’re a little different and I didn’t know which one you wanted up.

What you are quoting is the typical and common Modern Orthodox material on this topic. It doesn’t work in the slightest. Most of it I have already dealt with. Now, point by point:

1) When there are 2 opinions in the Mishna or Gemora, and the Poskim, especially the Shulchan Aruch and Rama all rule like one of them, then the other opinion is rendered irrelevant in actual practice. It is no longer an opinion that we are able to use l'maseh. it is nidcheh - rejected - l'halachah. So when you are talking Halachah L'maaseh, there are not 2 opinions. Not after the Rishonim and Poskim rejected one of them.

2) Your question about Rabi Eliezer is not your own - it is already asked in the Poskim, and answered. there's nothing hard to understand. The easiest and simplest answer I know of is, that the reason Ben Azai holds that you should teach your daughter Torah is, as he states, in order for her to be aware of certain details of the Sotah process, so that if it ever came down to it, she would know Zechus toleh.

That being the case, Ben Azai would agree that nowadays that there is no Sotah process in practice, there is no longer any reason to teach your daughter Torah. So even though in the olden days there could have been 2 opinions, nowadays there is only one. There are other answers as well.

But for the record, even if we would be unable to find a single answer, or explain a single reason why the Rishonim chose R. Eliezer over Ben Azai, we would not be allowed to reverse their ruling, but rather attribute the problem to our own understanding. Because we have a problem with the Rishonim we do not overturn their psak.

3) You misunderstood the Prisha. He says that if a woman learns Torah on her own, that is the proof that she is properly motivated. He adds that of course, if in the course of her learning she distorts things, then it proves nothing. But the proof that a girl is an "exception" is due to her choice to learn.

This, as I said previously, does not work nowadays. Today, a woman who chooses to learn Torah does not prove that she is exceptional in any way whatsoever. And the proof of that is that learning Gemora is so commonplace today among women - including the non-religious, the semi-religious, the curious, and so many others, that just as a social observation in the days of the Prisha showed that women who chooses to learn proves she is indeed an exception, today the facts on the ground show that it proves nothing. Once this proof is neutralized, neither the Prisha nor any other posek offers another way for a woman to show she is not part of the majority. And since the burden of proof is surely on her, she may not learn.

The Prisha does not mean, when he says that "her father does not know what is in her heart" that the father is subjective but someone else can know. He says no such thing, that a stranger can know what is in anybody's heart. In fact, nobody knows what is in anybody's heart. The point of the Prisha is that unless we have a proof that this girl is an exception, you have no way of knowing that she is, even if in you opinion she is an exception - for you know not what is in her heart.

4) Even though the Halachah is phrased that you may not teach girls Torah, the Halachah applies to her learning as well (unless her learning would prove her an exception, as in the olden day).

Rashi and all the Meforshim explain the reason why we do not allow women to learn Torah is because if they know certain Torah information, they will misuse it and abuse it. That being the case, the problem is them knowing the Torah, not the particular way it entered their mind. On the contrary - if a woman has a good Rebbi to teach her Torah the likelihood of her misusing it is arguably a lot less, since even men are advised to always learn from a Rebbi, lest they misunderstand something.

The Rishonim use the phrase Nashim Daatan Kalos to explain why we believe that women will distort their Torah knowledge. This rule (which, as Rav Soloveichik said, is existential, not social, and is used in other Halachos such as Yichud for instance). It is nonsensical to say that a woman will distort something she hears explained properly by her father or a Rebbi, but if she learns it on her own she will not. Learning without a Rebbi does not make the learning better.

But it is the woman herself - her own daas kalah - that is the weakness here. And so it makes no sense to distinguish based on how the woman knows the torah.

To give you an example of how serious this prohibition is, see the Chazal quoted in the Meforshim in the Shulchan Aruch: "Burn Divrei Torah rather than give them to women!"

The reason the Halachah is phrased as "you may not teach" even though the idea is that she may know "know", may be because of the Prisha's idea that a woman who learns on her own proves she is an exception - which clearly is not the case today when all kinds of girls are learning Gemora - or it may be that in those days the only way anybody could learn from someone else (they didn’t have seforim) and since there were no Bais Yaakovs, basically the only way a girl could know Torah is if her father taught her. So the Halachah is worded according to the normal circumstances, but not meant to be absolute (this happens a lot in halachic literature). But in any case, if you understand the reason behind the Halachah - that most women will distort Torah - this is clear.

5) What you wrote about a women learning not being able to maintain a facade is baseless. It says such a thing nowhere. In addition, even if it were true, you would still not be allowed to teach her Torah since until you would have no heter to wait for her long-term success - since the majority of women will not be able to succeed, what is your heter to wait and see if this girl will? You need a proof from the get-go.

In addition, how long is "long term"? A day? A week? A month? A year? Five years? There was a Kohen Godol who turned into a tzaduki after 80 years of righteousness. How long do you give for this trial period? Of course, since such a thing does not exist, you will not find an answer to this question anywhere.

6) What you are quoting in the name of Rabbi Henkin is absurd. not only is it baseless - made up out of thin air, for it says nowhere that "women accepted things that they could see in black and white, but things that were oral were abstract and reduced to stories and parables."

He just concocted this out of his head. No proof, no source, nothing. And the truth is the opposite - when the Torah was given orally, the Mesorah was stronger, clearer, and better understood. This reduction to stories and parables is silly - Torah was not stories or parables - it was a tradition of Halachah and Torah just as we have today, but stronger, better, and clearer. Even the girls understood Torah better in those days Chazal say that in the days of Chezkiyah there was not even a little girl who was not an expert in the complex laws of Tumah and Taharah (Note: In those days those laws were Halachah L’maaseh).

But never mind all that - what makes his idea something that no reasonable person can accept is that the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch and all the poskim still rule like Rabbi Eliezer even though when they did so Torah was already written! They were paskening for their own times. Not telling us what used to be.

(For the record, the Rabbi Henkin you quote is NOT the great Godol Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin. He is not reliable at all. (He is a grandson) and not accepted.

As someone with a SN like proud2befrum, you don’t want to quote this embarrassment of a rabbi) If you would like, check out his seforim, including his Teshuva on mixed dancing, see what he says and decide if this is a person you want to quote, or the funniest Teshuva he has is about - and I promise I am not making this up - whether you are permitted (yes, permitted!) to say "Zatzal" on the Satmar Rebbe, or is it prohibited to say Zatzal on him, since Zatzal would imply that he was a Tzadik. I am not kidding. He really has a lengthy discussion about this. Sigh.)

MODERATOR Posted - 16 July 2004 14:18


As an example of why today’s female Gemora learners do not prove to be exceptional in piety or Daas, but rather may be normal, regular women, it is because of statements such as these, courtesy of Rabbi Moshe Kahn, who is on the faculties of the James Striar School of Jewish Studies and Stern College for Women, both of Yeshiva University and the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, New York:

Why should women, who are acquiring an expertise in the secular fields, be forced to remain relatively ignorant in their knowledge of Torah? Yeshivot are producing G-d fearing young women who are dedicated to Torah values and who truly want to learn and understand Torah. They certainly have the necessary skills and should be encouraged. They will gain immensely from it. Not only will it enrich their comprehension of Torah but it will add a new dimension to their religious observance and commitment.

As I have noted, even today women and men have been scientifically shown to possess different intellectual capabilities - completely different strengths and weaknesses, a list of which is posted on the site. This idea that because women can get good grades at physics means they are not included in Daatan Kalos is a failure. One has nothing to do with the other. First of all, Torah - and Daas - is "soul-knowledge", and learning it includes a totally different part of us that physics does not include. And that is beside the fact that even in secular knowledge, men and women have widely different talents and capabilities.

According to him, where are the "rov nashim" that distort Torah? Certainly rov noshim are capable of a secular education. The idea that because women can learn secular knowledge they therefore can or should learn Torah makes no sense.

And for the record, the same rabbi misquoted the Chofetz Chaim. here's what the rabbi says:

The stricture of teaching Tanach in depth is no longer in effect for the ruling of the Chofetz Chaim provided an unqualified license for in-depth textual study.

Wrong. The Chofetz Chaim does not mention in his list if things to teach women, any Meforshim at all. Not even Rashi. He says Chumash, Nach, and Musar of Chazal. And although it can be argued that Rashi is peshuto shel mikrah and therefore necessary for understanding Chumash (though the opposing side can be argued as well), not in the wildest imagination could anyone say that this Chofetz Chaim "provided an unqualified license for in-depth textual study".

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