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Kol Hamevaser

Volume 2, Issue 4

Staff Gilah Kletenik

February 12, 2009
18 Shevat 5769

3 Over-Sexualized

Managing Editors Alex Ozar 3 One Modern Halakhist’s Manifesto

Ben Kandel Julian Horowitz 4 Letter to the Editor

Gilah Kletenik Shai Secunda 4-5 In or Out? Menstrual Segregation and Identity
Alex Ozar A Conceptual Approach to the Laws of Family
Rabbi Aryeh Klapper 5-6
Shaul Seidler-Feller Purity

Anonymous 6-7 A Burning Fire and a River of Tears: One Day in

Layout Editor My Shoes
Jason Ast 7-8 “Wife for a Day:” Jewish Polygamy in the Tal-
Rena Wiesen
mudic Era
Staff Writers
Ayol Samuels 9 Engaged to be Married: An Anthropological Per-
Ruthie Just Braffman spective
Marlon Danilewitz The Word of Your Body
Shira Schwartz 9-10
Ben Greenfield
Noah Greenfield Emmanuel Sanders 11-12 Ethics and Exegesis: Rabbinic Exegesis and the
Simcha Gross Supremacy of Ethics in Interpersonal Relation-
Emmanuel Sanders
Jake Friedman 12-14 Genesis of Conscience
Rena Wiesen
Meira Zack 14-15 How Halakhah Approaches the Issue of Wife-
Ari Lamm Marlon Danilewitz 16-17 The Reverberations of Elitism

Rabbi Steven Greenberg 17-18 Opening Doors

Typesetter Ben Greenfield 19 Devarim she-Yesh la-Hem Shiur, or a Case of
Sheer Opportunity
Yossi Steinberger
Ariella Schwartz 20 GPATS’ Response to “A Man’s Perspective”
Art Editor
Avi Feld
Upcoming Issue
Distribution Hear ye! Hear ye! Men and women, young and old! We
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Hamevaser! That's right! You can write Purim Torah,
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ing the discussion of Jewish issues on the Yeshiva University campus. Article size: 500 -1,500 words
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2 Volume 2,
Jewish Education
Editorials One Modern Halakhist’s Manifesto
A Note About This Edition BY: Alex Ozar

The Halakhic experience is a multifaceted

alter Halakhah in the name of kevod ha-
beriyot, derakheha darkhei no’am, or et la-asot
and variegated one, spanning the gamut from Again, Halakhah has often been affected
Many of the issues discussed in these pages are sensitive ones. Opinions on them are deeply di-
mundane, rote regulation to the most sublime by extra-halakhic axiology, but never, to my
vided and strongly held. More fundamentally, many may feel that any open, public discussion of
levels of deveikut (clinging to God). Halakhah mind, was this ever done deliberately. Nothing
these topics is simply inappropriate. We acknowledge these concerns. Nonetheless, we feel that
often defines, codifies, and expresses our ideas, could be further from the minds and hearts of
the value of thoughtful, responsible dialogue, guided by intellectual integrity, openness, and yirat
values and beliefs. Halakhah can be a vibrant our sages than purposefully altering the word
Shamayim, outweighs these concerns. As always, opinions expressed by individual authors are
their own and are not necessarily endorsed by Kol Hamevaser. spiritual experience and an engaging, exciting of God. We may judge, for example, certain
intellectual adventure. But one aspect which of the Tosafists’ rulings to be compromises to

BY: Gilah Kletenik self-awareness. It is internal and applies both
remains constant, and which lies at the root of
the whole enterprise, is that the halakhic expe-
rience is one of obedience. We stand com-
circumstance, but there can be no question that
the Tosafists did not experience it that way.
They felt the need to justify their rulings, and
manded by God to obey His word as given in valiantly succeeded in doing so, whether or not
equally to women and men. All of this is true, the Halakhah, and we must dutifully submit to their answers satisfy us. They were impelled
How many of us have never watched TV, but, at the same time, by demanding that our his will. Obedience is not the end or whole of by circumstance to strain Halakhah to its lim-
listened to a pop song, or read a magazine? I’m daughters not sport skinny jeans or require that
the halakhic experience, but it is certainly its its, but never would they dare violate it. We
guessing most of us have; I, certainly, am our married women wear shmatas on their
beginning and foundation. shouldn’t either.
guilty of all of the above, on multiple counts. It heads, are we telling them to be ashamed of
It is the case that Halakhah can, has, and I do not understand the mechanics of rab-
goes without saying that these fixtures of pop- their bodies, of themselves? Is it hypocritical
should be affected by our own axiology and binic exegesis. I cannot imagine two serious
ular culture contain elements that some might that we interact daily with women who wear
real life circumstance. Kevod ha-beriyot intellectuals engaged in vigorous debate, and
describe, at best, as suggestive and inappropri- pants and their hair loose and yet demand that
ate and, at the worst, krum and pritsusdik. And our own women cover-up – are we sexualizing (human dignity), ha-Torah hasah al mamonan one convincing the other by pointing to the fact
yet, in many ways, as a community, we con- that which is no longer sexual? Are we turning shel Yisrael (the Torah had mercy on Jewish that the word “ein” is spelled plene, thus mak-
tinue to be party to and to even enjoy these ac- our daughters into sexual objects? At what property), tikkun ha-olam (fixing the world), ing it resemble the morphologically similar but
coutrements of the entertainment industry. At point does upholding our tradition spurn the ha-galut mitgabber aleinu (the Exile is over- entirely unrelated word “ayein.” I do not un-
the same time, though, we encourage our chil- very values upon which it is founded? coming us), et la-asot la-Hashem heferu derstand it, but seems to me that Hazal did, if
dren to reject these very lifestyles spewed by In light of all of this, the easiest solution Toratekha (at a time of action for God’s sake, only because they take it seriously. Hazal’s
Hollywood. We expect, even demand, that they would be to jettison Halakhah entirely, to sur- they nullified Your Torah), derakheha darkhei readings were often guided by their values, and
successfully sift through popular culture, render to modernity, or to simply climb back no’am (its ways are ways of peace), and yesh I do not know how they justified many of their
spurning the sexual and embracing the accept- into the shtetl of yesteryear. But there must be ko’ah be-yad Hakhamim la-akor davar min readings. I am, though, quite certain that they
able – that they be experts at this cultural gym- another way, and if there is none, we have ha-Torah (the Rabbis have the right to uproot would never deliberately misinterpret God’s
nastic. Is this fair, even possible? failed. It is high time that we reevaluate how a Torah precept) are all genuine, legitimate ha- word. We shouldn’t either.
If we choose not to live Satmar-style we teach our youth about sexuality, about self- lakhic principles. God forbid that Halakhah The rabbis of our generation are often
lives, we must be ready for the consequences confidence and self-knowing, and rethink the should ever cease to take into account human criticized for lacking the courage to allow the
of these choices – but are we? How can we de- dignity, suffering, and moral concern, and so Halakhah its full freedom, and utilize all the
mand that our teeny-boppers not hang up internal to the halakhic system are mechanisms flexibility available to it to face the challenges
posters of scantily-clad men and women and for integrating these factors. There are though of our day. “If only we had the Rabbis of yes-
command our teenagers to not be intimate? In- significant limitations. It is not the case that teryear,” they sigh, “then the Halakhah would
deed, by insisting that our young maintain such “where there is a halakhic will, there is a way.” be as it should.” In many cases, I agree with
high standards of propriety are we setting them After all the arguments have been rebutted, and this criticism. In my cases, I do not. But in all
up for failure and if so, what message are we all appeals frustrated, sometimes the Halakhah cases, and though it often frustrates me deeply,
sending them? just says “no.” This will at times result in I recognize the necessity of maintaining the
We all know that despite the admonish- tragedy and straining moral tension, but the Halakhah’s integrity. The Halakhic system of
ments of our parents, teachers, and peers, our committed halakhist has no choice but to faith- Rav Moshe or Rav Schachter is not the same as
high-schoolers are far from innocent. Of fully bow his head in submission to an Au- that of Rabban Gamliel or Hillel, and what
course, this all transpires behind closed doors thority higher than his own. could work for Hillel may not work in our day.
and with guilt. But it happens and we know it I do not accept the dogmatic assertion that Certainly, we cannot take greater license than
does, yet we deny this reality and continue ex- Source:
our halakhic system is entirely identical to that Hillel would have allowed.
pecting them to adhere to what might seem to of Moses. The Halakhah has in fact developed If we alter Halakhah in the name of our
be outdated modes of modesty. In so doing, we feasibility of the expectations we place on our
steadily since Sinai. As mentioned, Halakhah values, we may have a more moral, rational,
not only fail to teach them about safe habits vulnerable young people. It is also necessary
has often bent and displayed remarkable flex- and acceptable system, but we will not have
and healthy relationships, but we also teach for us to examine the message that long skirts
ibility in accommodating changing realities, Halakhah. Halakhah is fundamentally obedi-
them to be ashamed of their bodies, of them- and sheitlech send to both our women and
moral concerns and socio-economic circum- ence to God’s will. Without obedience, we vi-
selves. Until we reinstitute early marriage, is it men. How does this train our women to view
stance. This historical fact often needs to be olate God’s will, forfeit Halakhah, and lose its
even possible to be shomer negi’ah, let alone themselves? What does it communicate to men
celibate, until the age of 25? Is such a system about women? At the very least, we must admit deduced from the content and circumstances of spiritual gratification and intellectual excite-
sustainable? Moreover, by prohibiting this kind that there is a problem and summon the secu- halakhic decisions, but often the guiding hand ment too, by the way. And a deliberate com-
of behavior, are we making it more than it ac- rity to address this issue head-on: to recognize of extra-halakhic factors is rather transparent. promise on any detail is per force a
tually might be – are we over-sexualizing sex the discord between the culture we expose our It is also not the case that any layer of the Ha- compromise of the whole. The Halakhah must
itself? children to and the musar they hear in the lakhah represents a completed, fully ideal sys- always be a dynamic, living organism, respon-
The discord between our values and cul- classroom; to humbly, but confidently, ask our- tem. The existence of any rabbinic innovation sive to circumstance and morality, but it cannot
ture, the consequences of our demands and the selves, have we cheated on our values or have at all would clearly refute this claim, and we be allowed to change with the wind.
message we send, are no more evident than in our values cheated on us? have no shortage of them. “If so,” argues the
the realm subsumed by the ubiquitous, nox- devil’s advocate, “why can we not do as they? Alex Ozar is a senior at YC majoring in
ious, and nauseating word “tsenius.” We know Gilah Kletenik is a senior at SCW major- If Hazal could abrogate Torah laws, or read Philosophy and is a Managing Editor for Kol
that modesty is more than just the plunge of a ing in Political Science and is a Managing Ed- their own values into the Torah, why cannot Hamevaser.
neckline and snugness of a skirt – it is about itor for Kol Hamevaser. we, when our values and Halakhah conflict,

Volume 2, 3
Kol Hamevaser
Letter to the Editor In or Out? Menstrual Segregation and Identity
Dear Kol Hamevaser, BY: Dr. Shai Secunda a menstruant woman is permitted to seclude trians, or more likely, members of their own
Ruthie Brafman’s mistitled-but-learned herself with [her] husband. Is it possible for community who had absorbed Zoroastrian
article [“Co-education: le-Khathilah or be-di- For some time now, anthropologists have fire to be near flax without singeing it?” [Rav mores.
Avad,” Kol Hamevaser 2,3 (2008-2009): 7-8]i interpreted rituals governing menstrual purity Kahana] responded, “the Torah testifies of us, Still, there appears to me more at work.
provides some interesting food for thought, but as an attempt to control the blurring of bound- “Hedged with lilies (Song of Songs 7:3)” – that Despite the clear stringency of the Videvdad,
suffers from a serious methodological flaw: aries inherent in the physiology of menstrua- even like hedges of lilies they will not make other Zoroastrian texts from roughly the same
Her thesis that “research demonstrates that all- tion.i Accordingly, cultures that practice the breaches among us.iv period indicate that the unconditional require-
female academic environments encourage in- segregation of menstruants might be seen as at- Scholars have argued persuasively that ment for menstruant women to remain clois-
tellectual pursuits, and foster academic tempting to control the chaotic, leaking bodies the anonymous min here could not possibly be tered in a menstrual “hut” remained far from
achievement, and healthy self-esteem among themselves and to keep them away from soci- a Christian. Instead, he is a Zoroastrian – or at unchallenged. For example, the third chapter
young women” ignores half the students under ety. On the other hand, recent ethnographies of least someone that espouses Zoroastrian views. of the Hērbedestān, a Middle Persian work de-
discussion. The research cited describes the the actual experiences of segregated menstru- At root of the debate is daštānistān. By em- voted to issues of religious education, ques-
positive gains females accrue under a single- ants describe impressively vibrant, female- ploying the second person pronoun (“you say tions whether a menstruating woman must
sex education, while not examining the delete- dominated traditions.ii This is not merely a that a menstruant woman is permitted to se- remain sequestered when other important pre-
rious effects that such a separation could have matter of the “inmates” making the best of clude herself with her husband”), Rav Ka- cepts like pursuing religious study or agricul-
on what Ms. Brafman (quite accurately) de- their “jail-time,” but the formation of new cul- hana’s interlocutor means to draw a clear tural work (an important task in
scribes as “wild boys.” tures. In other words, it appears that menstrual distinction between Zoroastrian and rabbinic Zoroastrianism) require her to leave seclusion.
As someone who has experienced both purity practices represent an important site of law. While Zoroastrians banish their wives to Although not entirely uncommon, this chap-
mixed and non-mixed classrooms, I can report, identity construction. menstrual huts, rabbinic Jews do not. The min ter’s complicated structure is somewhat rare in
at least anecdotally, that co-ed settings were, Although the Mishnah in Niddah 7:3 the surviving Middle Persian literature. The
on the whole, more “serious” – academically might hint at the segregation of Jewish women formal characteristics of the text may indicate
and socially. Our most rowdy bouts of rabbi- in menstrual “huts,” it does not seem that this that the issue was one that demanded urgent at-
beard-pulling and in-class snowball fights in- practice became widespread within Judaism. tention. In addition, the very fact that the first
variably occurred away from the calming Nevertheless, there were some Jewish com- opinion cited there so boldly maintains that the
presence of females. I also feel – while admit- munities that came into contact with groups menstrual laws may simply be ignored when a
ting I have no scientific evidence to rely upon that practiced some form of menstrual segre- woman wishes to perform other important pre-
– that co-ed high schools consistently produce gation. One such encounter occurred in Tal- cepts suggests that some kind of “outside”
a more emotionally refined product than their mudic Babylonia, which was governed by the pressure was dictating, or at least encouraging,
single-sex counterparts. [See the same issue for Sasanians – an Iranian dynasty that practiced a rethinking of the Zoroastrian segregation of
an interview with Rabbi Jeremy Wieder (20- the ancient dualistic religion of Zoroastrianism. menstruants.
22), where he laments the possibility that “the Dr. Yaakov Elman and other scholars re- On the most basic level, the Rav Kahana
rigid separation that is enforced during the searching the Iranian context of the Babylonian story seems to reflect a clash with Jews who
prior educational stages does not allow young Talmud have made it increasingly clear that the may have absorbed Zoroastrian sensibilities
men and women to relate to each other as Bavli was not composed in splendid isolation and thought that the institution of the Zoroas-
human beings.”] Though these social side ef- from Sasanian society, but rather in conversa- trian menstrual “hut” was worth considering.
fects may be nothing more than a myth or a tion with Christians, Manichaeans, and Zoroas- In this sense, the story connects to a certain
product of my imagination, they certainly de- trians.iii Zoroastrians, like Babylonian Jews, rabbinic appreciation of Zoroastrian menstrual
serve consideration before we condemn our inherited an ancient system of menstrual purity laws, and also contains a carefully calibrated
boys to a potentially androcentric, woman-ob- laws from their scriptures – the Avesta. The response that recognizes the usefulness of the
jectifying, and awkwardness-ensuring educa- basic contours of the menstrual laws appear in daštānistān, but renders it unnecessary in light
tion. the sixteenth chapter of the Videvdad, an Aves- of the Bible’s assurances that all Jews are
Finally, any Jewish movement, Modern tan book composed orally in the earlier half of uniquely equipped to withstand temptation.
Orthodoxy included, has some heavy histori- the first millennium BCE. According to the Yet, further examination of Zoroastrian texts
cal inertia to overcome in producing separate- Avesta and its Middle Persian translation and shows us that Jews were not the only people in
but-equal treatment of females. We would be commentary, the Zand, menstruating women challenges the rabbinic menstrual laws by the region rethinking the place of menstruant
lying to ourselves if we said that today’s all-fe- were to remain in a daštānistān, or “place of claiming that without segregating menstruants, women and the role of the daštānistān. The in-
male Jewish institutions match up in rigor and menstruation,” for at least four days per month, husbands and wives will not be able to avoid volved dialectical passage in the Hērbedestān
breadth to parallel mixed institutions, even if, and do little more than “sit, eat, and sleep.” The intimacy. Rav Kahana responds by claiming preserves a debate between those who contin-
as Ms. Brafman claims, such can be the case menstruant was not to leave the structure, and that the Torah testifies of the Jews that they are ued to require menstruant women to remain
in the larger world. Before we decide to keep the person who brought her food was to stay at compared to hedges of lilies. All Jews, even cloistered in the daštānistān regardless of var-
girls out, let’s try letting them in. a distance of at least three paces from her. Al- those as (spiritually) frail as lilies, can be ious competing values, and those who gave
Sincerely, though there is some debate, most authorities trusted not to have sex while secluded with them freedom of movement. Thus, the Rav Ka-
Julian Horowitz maintain that food should be kept to a mini- their menstruant wives.v hana tale can now also be read as an articula-
YC/BRGS ‘10 mum and brought in special metal utensils. Re- Rabbinic sources from the Land of Israelvi tion of a wider-ranging Sasanian debate
gardless of whether or not women enjoyed the are already concerned with what might happen regarding the institution of the daštānistān.
time spent in the daštānistān away from the when men are secluded with their wives during This is not simply the story of some Jews clam-
pressures of home-life and with the opportu- menstrual impurity. Yet, the Rav Kahana anec- oring for the segregation of menstruant
The article is mistitled for two reasons: 1) It nity to create unique social bonds with other dote introduces two new elements; (a) the women. Rather, it is part of a broad rethinking
implies a halakhic discussion, while the article women, as again some anthropologists have re- “Zoroastrianization” of the concern by placing of the proper place of menstruant women that
merely begins within the halakhic framework cently argued, the daštānistān undoubtedly it in the mouth of a min who espouses Zoroas- was taking place within both communities.
and quickly leaves it. 2) It implies that Jewish acted as a sort of prison – even if a welcome trian views, and (b) the extreme confidence Another text which emanates from a later
schools would be co-ed due to some exigency one – that protected the rest of the world from that Rav Kahana has in the supposed Jewish time period further illuminates the (re)consid-
of the time. While this may have been true of the damaging effects of menstruation. capacity to withstand temptation. It would ap- eration of the institution of the daštānistān in
1920s Boston, both options are equally viable A Talmudic anecdote describes a min pear that Babylonian Amoraim were forced to this region. The tenth century Islamic legal
in the present era. A more appropriate title (heretic) engaged in conversation with an reexamine older questions in light of their en- scholar, Hamza al-Sahmi, writes:vii “Aisha [one
might have been: “Co-ed and Separate – Sep- Amora concerning menstrual segregation. A counter with Zoroastrianism, and in turn they of Mohammed’s wives – S.S.] said, ‘I asked
arate Adif.” certain min said to Rav Kahana, “You say that formulated new responses to counter Zoroas- the Prophet, God’s prayers and peace be upon

4 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
him, for permission to build a hut to stay in
during my menstrual period, but he did not per-
other words, they highlight the benefits for an
individual, or at least a single couple, without A Conceptual Approach to the Laws
mit it.’” During the centuries following the readily acknowledging the way the observation
Arab conquest, Islam was engaged in a strug-
gle to persuade Zoroastrians living in newly
of Hilkhot Niddah in a sense represents the
joining of one human body with an entire com-
of Family Purity
conquered lands to abandon their old practices, munity of bodies. It would seem that the pres- BY: Rabbi Aryeh Klapper quote Mishlei, (and see Sanhedrin 75a, inter
including their particular system of menstrual sure exerted on Jews to abandon Hilkhot alia) “Mayim genuvim yimtaku” – things for-
purity. This is true even of Zoroastrians who Niddahix in our history actually achieved a cer- Editor’s Note: The following article is a bidden because of supposed erotic content gen-
had already begun to adopt a Muslim way of tain amount of communal cohesion. Pressure transcription and expansion by Jonathan Zir- erally acquire that content. Some of the later
life. According to Richard Bulliet’s interpreta- to adopt foreign menstrual practices might very ing of a shiur given by R. Aryeh Klapper and posekim suggest that a spouse can pass the salt-
tion, the above-cited hadith, an oral tradition well have done the same. has been reviewed by him. The original record- shaker with a shinnui (change from the normal
about Muhammad, was crafted with this spe- ing of the shiur is available online at: mode of an action), which requires him/her to
cific goal in mind. Significantly, instead of Dr. Shai Secunda is the 2007-2009 Jacob be fully conscious of the potential eroticism of
completely denying the validity of the and Hilda Blaustein Postdoctoral Associate at the act of passing. The Kereti u-Peleti even
daštānistān, this hadith attributes approval of Yale University. He and his wife Daphna are No discussion about Hilkhot Niddah can suggests that the husband should throw it up in
the practice to Mohammed’s favorite wife, the campus couple at SCW. begin without pointing out that this topic is, by the air, look away, and let his wife run in and
Aisha. Subsequently, Aisha’s desire to con- definition, gendered. Halakhah expects men catch it. Imagine the absurdity of the scene –
struct a menstrual hut is denied only by Mo- and women to experience sexuality differently. if it did not arouse sexual thoughts before, it
hammed’s lack of permission, but not outright This is especially highlighted by a discussion definitely will now!
prohibition. Like the Rav Kahana anecdote, the i
See, for example, Mary Douglas, Purity and of bedikot (the checking of emissions from the If so, what does shinnui accomplish? It
hadith is careful first to acknowledge and only Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollu- reproductive organs) for zavi or zavah (man or reminds the couple that the woman is a niddah,
then deny the institution of the daštānistān. tion and Taboo (London and New York: ARK woman experiencing unusual emissions) and which in turn means the couple knows there is
Although we do not have the opportunity Paperbacks, 1966); Encyclopedia of Religion, niddah (woman in menstruation). The Mish- a boundary they cannot cross. The upshot is
to do so fully here, the hadith may also benefit ed. Mercia Eliade, vol. 12 (New York: Macmil- nahii rules that, “Every hand that increases that rather than distancing a couple from any
from a comparison with the Didascalia Apos- lan, 1987), s.v. “purification.” checking – of women it is praised, but of men hint of sexuality, harhakot are meant to create
tolorum– a third century Christian Syriac text it should be chopped off.” While both men and a restrained erotic atmosphere. The discipline
addressed to recent Jewish converts to Christi- ii
See Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Men- women in Mishnaic times had reason to check, of Hilkhot Niddah forces the husband and wife
anity who were unwilling to abandon some of struation, ed. Thomas Buckley and Alma Got- the Gemara warns men to refrain from check- not to eliminate but rather to re-channel sexual
their Jewish menstrual purity practices.viii Both tlieb (Berkley and LA: University of California ing, presumably because it will lead to hash- energy into other aspects of their relationship,
the Didascalia and the hadith refer to converts Press, 1988). hatat zera le-vatalah (emission of sperm for to see each other as generally desirable. It thus
who had a hard time parting with their native naught). The result that the Mishnah seems to trains them to relate to each other as full human
menstrual practices even after some form of After a break of over half a century, recent
want is that women should be comfortable beings in the face of erotic attraction, and
conversion had begun, or in the case of the Di- years have seen a surge in publications on this with their sexuality, while men should be afraid therefore hopefully enables their erotic rela-
dascalia, had even been formalized through topic. For a representative article, see Yaakov of theirs. tionship to have meaning beyond the physical,
baptism. Both texts testify to the great impor- Elman, “Middle Persian Culture and Babylon- and to prevent their nonphysical relationship
tance and deep roots of Zoroastrian and Jewish ian Sages: Accommodation and Resistance in from being overwhelmed during the period of
menstrual purity practices in the lives of con- the Shaping of Rabbinic Legal Tradition,” in taharah (purity from menstruation). Of
verts or soon-to-be-converts despite the radi- The Cambridge Companion to the Talmud and course, living in such a state for two weeks also
cal life-changes that they had presumably Rabbinic Literature, ed. Charlotte Elisheva heightens the longing for the leil ha-tevilah
already made. Although obviously not a “con- Fonrobert and Martin S. Jaffee (Cambridge: (the night of the niddah’s immersion in a
version story” of any sort, the Rav Kahana an- Cambridge UP, 2007), 165-197. mikveh, or ritual bath), when the wife returns
ecdote is concerned with one rabbi’s encounter as a kallah (bride), on a monthly basis, to her
Sanhedrin 37a. husband. But I want to emphasize the ways in
with, and even acknowledgement of, the men-
strual practices of another religion, and it which it affects the entirety of the relationship.
It should be noted that this translation and in-
seems to allude to the existence of Jews who It is arguable that, in this vision, harhakot
terpretation follows the Yemenite manuscript
indeed flirted with some of these practices. are primarily intended to enhance the role of
(MS Herzog), and is at some variance with
Thus, we can also bring the Rav Kahana source wives in the marital relationship. In support of
Rashi’s interpretation. Aside from being the
into conversation with these texts. that thesis, we note that the niddah period does
most reliable manuscript of Tractate San-
The hadith and Didascalia demonstrate not end as the result of a natural phenomenon,
hedrin, only the Yemenite version can account
the important role of ethno-religious identifi- but rather because the wife says “tavalti u-
for the connection between this passage and
cation that the menstrual laws played. Beyond tehorah ani” (I have immersed and I am pure).
the ones that follow it. Source:
the larger societal questions that were being In other words, it is the wife who has the au-
raised concerning the proper place of menstru- vi
See Shir ha-Shirim Rabbah 7:3; Pesikta Rab- Let us keep this in mind as we begin with thority to shift or not shift the relationship from
ant women in society, and aside from the rab- bati, Parashat Ki Tissa §10; Avot de-Rabbi a discussion of harhakot, the restrictions be- restrained to openly erotic. That this is an in-
bis’ need to justify the permission granted to a Natan A 2, and Avot de-Rabbi Natan B 3. yond the ma’aseh bi’ah (sexual act) that are tended, rather than accidental, consequence of
husband and his menstruating wife to seclude placed on a husband and wife when the woman this halakhah can be demonstrated as follows.
themselves, the strong association of the Richard W. Bulliet, Islam: The View from the
vii is a niddah. Harhakot literally means “dis- The Gemara in Ketubbot 72a rules that a
daštānistān with Zoroastrian practice may Edge (New York: Columbia University Press, tancings,” and it is commonly assumed that woman is believed to say she is teme’ah (im-
have weighed heavily on the minds of even 1994), p. 34. these prohibitions are intended to distance the pure)iv or tehorah because the pasuk says “ve-
those Jews who considered adopting stricter couple from any hint of – and thereby prevent saferah lah,” which Hazal expound to mean:
For a full discussion of this text and its cul-
any risk of – a sinful ma’aseh bi’ah during this “‘She shall count for her seven days’ – ‘for
segregation of menstruants. It would seem that
tural context, see Charlotte Fonrobert, Men- time.iii However, many harhakot in practice do her,’ meaning ‘for herself.’” Since, in general,
menstrual purity practices, including segrega-
strual Purity (Stanford: Stanford University not fit this purpose, and in fact may enhance, ed ehad ne’eman be-issurin – single witnesses
tion, were deeply inscribed with communal
Press, 2000). rather than diminish, eroticism. are believed with regard to issurin (prohibi-
identity. It could be that this is one of the rea-
sons that ultimately, the practice of menstrual Let us take a simple example to test the tions) – why do we need a special limmud
See Me’ilah 17a.
segregation never gained traction in Talmudic point. One prohibition under harhakot is for a (teaching) for ne’emanut (believability) by a
and medieval Jewish society – it was simply husband to pass a saltshaker to his wife. Is niddah? Many answers are provided by the
too Zoroastrian. passing a saltshaker an intrinsically erotic act? commentaries. Some suggest that this verse is
Modern discussions of the merits of Would anyone not familiar with Hilkhot Nid- the very source for the general rule.v The Shul-
Hilkhot Niddah often focus on the sexual dah consider it? Probably not. But it is cer- han Arukhvi suggests that we need a special
and/or emotional benefits of these practices. In tainly culturally erotic for Orthodox Jews. To verse to tell us she is believed to say tavalti be-

Volume 2, Issue 4 5

Kol Hamevaser
cause we previously knew her to be temei’ah
and removing something from a definite status A Burning Fire and a River of Tears:
of issur is, in general, viewed as more difficult
than removing it from a doubtful state. Ramavii One Day in My Shoes
answers that she, unlike other single witnesses, Editor’s note: This article was submitted to homosexuality in the Torah and Talmud, al- or to a woman, is not always something that
is believed even when there is good reason not anonymously to protect the student’s identity though at the end of Masekhet Kiddushin, on one can control. The fact that I have certain de-
to believe her. For example, when her garment and allow him to discuss the topic openly. If daf 82a, we are told that two men are prohib- sires – which I would purge from my life in a
is full of blood, we believe her claim to be you would like to contact him privately, he can ited from sleeping under the same blanket for second if I had the ability – is something that I
tehorah so long as there is some limmud be reached at fear of possible homosexual relations taking cannot change. They leave me with feelings of
zekhut, or justifying argument, for the blood’s place. The Gemara there, however, states that solitude, despair, depression, and, alas, excite-
presence – for example, that she passed I wake up to a buzzing alarm clock sig- this ruling no longer applies, as such acts were ment.
through a meat market. In sum, Halakhah goes naling the arrival of another day and head out practically unheard-of during that era. Little Am I an abomination? Does Hashem look
very far to ensure that wives have control over to daven. I concentrate as hard as I can and ask other halakhic information is available from at me with disgust and loathing, as I feel so
the end of the niddah period. Hashem for help to face another day. I am the these early sources on this topic, although many people would if my struggle should be-
When one adds the fact that the husband typical YU student. I go to morning seder, some stories are related in the Gemara and sev- come known and as so many people do, in fact,
is obligated to fulfill the mitsvat onah (re- lunch, shiur, and then my secular classes. I am eral biblical Midrashim. look at “open” religious Jewish homosexuals
quirement of marital relations) on the night of still the typical YU student. I sit down for sup- Before homosexuality started to become today? When one looks closely, the verse in
tevilah, the result is that the issur niddah com- per, go to night seder, and then to Ma’ariv. Am an acceptable alternative lifestyle in modern Va-Yikra labels the homosexual act as an
bines with ve-saferah lah to give a wife the I really the typical YU student? I spend my society, as is so visibly flaunted today, the idea abomination – but only the act. The perpetra-
ability to control the timing of sexual intimacy. nights studying for the next day of classes; I of permitting homosexuality within Judaism tors are people, people who are challenged and
This fits well with onah in general being a non- work hard for my grades, but still find some was unheard of. Despite the fact that homo- who do not know how to control their desires
reciprocal hiyyuv of the husband toward the time to spend with my friends. But as I get sexuality is clearly labeled by the Torah as an – desires that so many of them pray they never
wife. I suggest that the prohibition against ready to put my head down for the night, ex- abomination, some people have, within the last had. British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks
wives being tove’ot be-peh – actively request- hausted from a trying day, I know that I am not several years, started making arguments to try explains clearly that the Torah “does not con-
ing intimate relations – is intended to prevent the typical YU student; Hashem has given me to find loopholes for its permissibility. Homo- demn homosexual disposition, because the
them from abusing their power in this regard. the challenge of challenges, a challenge that sexuality is labeled by the Torah as an abomi- Torah does not speak about what we are, but
The overall halakhic vision presented here leaves me muffling my cries on a tear-stained nation and there are no infallible arguments what we do.”iii
is of a world in which wives are deliberately pillow as I slowly fall asleep. against it. “How can Hashem expect us to live However, within the Orthodox Jewish
given legal control over the intimate aspects of context, few people recognize this. While
marriage. This legal control may be necessary many today have corrupted general society,
to balance the common reality that husbands leaving it with the notion that once someone is
are physically stronger than wives, and is con- gay, he/she will eventually “come out” and live
sistent with the general principle that the bein an “alternative lifestyle,” this is impossible for
adam la-haveiro (interpersonal) obligations of an Orthodox Jew to accept. As such, I have
marriage are imposed on the husband alone. I hidden throughout my lifetime – today I do and
suggest that the other issues we have raised fit in high school I did. I hid in fear that I would
into this theme as well. The practical burden of be ostracized and excommunicated from the
Hilkhot Niddah may be given to women to en- Jewish community. I stood alone as a fright-
able them to maintain their control, and train- ened fifteen-year-old boy, avoiding acting on
ing husbands to develop erotic self-control is my desires, yet also unable to call out and ask
critical to enabling the regulation of the inti- for help to rid myself of them. I stood fright-
mate aspects of marriage by legal authority ened and did not know where to turn. I always
rather than by physical power. wanted to find a wife and raise a family as an
Orthodox man. I did not know how I would
R. Aryeh Klapper is Dean of the Center ever be able to do that, but I knew, and still
for Modern Torah Leadership (CMTL) and know, that that is the life I am destined to live.
Rosh Beit Midrash of its Summer Beit Midrash I knew that one day I would need to tell some-
Program (online at, one about my feelings, step out from my hid-
Instructor of Rabbinics and Medical Ethics at Source:
den world of shadows, and ask for help.
Gann Academy, and a member of the Boston Each of us has a challenge in the world, a our lives as celibates? As two consenting It took me five years to gain the courage
Beit Din. He was also the Editor-in-Chief of roadblock on the highway of life that chal- adults, we should be allowed to live our lives to reach that petrifying moment. After many
our beloved literary predecessor, Hamevaser, lenges us to become the best we can be. We are the way we want in order to find true happi- months of praying and introspecting, I eventu-
from 1988-1989. given these tests to help shape our character ness,” is often an argument put forth to the ally reached the point not where I wanted to
and to become masters of our desires, whatever Jewish community. “‘Love,’ ‘fulfillment,’ ‘ex- tell someone, but where I was prepared to do
Jonathan Ziring is a junior in YC major- they are. Whether the test is keeping Shabbat ploitative,’ ‘meaningful’ – the list itself sounds so. That moment had been the most horrifying
ing in Philosophy. or learning afternoon seder between classes, like a lexicon of emotionally charged terms and dreaded thought in my mind for so many
we are all given a test in life. My own chal- drawn at random from the disparate sources of years. I had prepared for the worst possible
lenge keeps me up at night, preoccupies my both Christian and psychologically-oriented outcome, no doubt because of Hollywood’s
In the times of the Mishnah, the laws of zav thoughts during the day, and leaves me feeling agnostic circles,”ii wrote YU’s Chancellor and portrayal of the heroic homosexual being
were still relevant practically, and thus both like I am walking down a somber road in a Rosh Ha-Yeshivah, Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm shunned by a once-loving family. I readied my-
men and women had reason to check. This is lonely world: I am a religious Jew, living in the in the 1970s. He went in depth to prove that self to be thrown away by a towering figure
not true, however, today. observant Jewish world, faced with the chal- these sorts of arguments would permit any sex- pointing out in the distance with anger and fury
Niddah 2:1. All translations follow those R. lenge of being a homosexual. ual relationships in today’s society, removing on his face – to watch my life disintegrate be-
Klapper used in his mekorot. The Torah in two placesi tells us that the from it all sexual morality. fore my eyes, collapsing like a building whose
See Va-Yikra 18:19 for the prohibition against act of homosexuality is an abomination, and As a religious Jew, I have always put structure finally gave out after years of pres-
sexual relations with a niddah. under no circumstance is one to perform this Torah values at the center of my beliefs. Never sure or like a house of cards falling from the
She’eilot u-Teshuvot Ranah, 45. act, even when faced with death as the only al- would I dream of trying to say that homosexu- force of a gust of wind. But through all this I
See, for example, Tosafot to Gittin 2a, s.v. ternative. This is because the act of homosex- ality is permissible; I know that there is some- never faltered in my determination to live a life
“ed.” uality is likened to that of bestiality and thing intrinsically wrong with such an act. That committed to Judaism. I told myself that it did
Yoreh De’ah 185:1. adultery and is looked upon in the most severe is certainly not to say, however, that it is not a not matter what happened in my life and how
Ibid. of manners. There is little reference otherwise challenge for me. Attraction, whether to a man anyone reacted; I was raised a frum Jew, which

6 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
is my true life and real identity, and no matter
what anyone said or did to me, nothing could
to date and to marry and question what my fu-
ture holds. Will I find someone to share my life
“Wife for a Day:”
weaken who I was.
I was not sure how my rebbe from
with? Will I ever really be completely happy
with my decision? Am I destined to live a life
Jewish Polygamy in the Talmudic Era
yeshivah in Israel would react. I just expected alone? I want to tell my friends, to cry out to BY: Rena Wiesen the Rabbis, with no thoughts of actual practical
to be sent home from the yeshivah in shame, them, but I know I cannot. I know that the path application. This position is reinforced by the
looked upon like I was some sexual deviant. I that has been laid before me is one of solitude. The concept of polygamy is unnatural, fact that the Babylonian and Palestinian Tal-
told myself in my heart, however, that no mat- Rabbi Dr. Lamm once wrote that “Ju- even offensive, to our minds. The only people muds have divergent opinions and traditions
ter how anyone reacted – even if I was told to daism allows for no compromise in its abhor- we know who practice this odd custom in the on the matter, and the whole manner of dis-
leave my yeshivah and thrown out of my house rence of sodomy, but encourages both United Sates are the Mormons in Utah. Yet, cussion is relayed in a completely theoretical
– I was never going to act upon my desires, nor compassion and efforts at rehabilitation.”iv I the Bible is filled with stories of people who style.iv
was I ever going to turn away from God. I have told you my story and have given you a had many wives. Abraham, David, Solomon – Midrashic literature, these same oppo-
thank Hashem every day for the strengths He glimpse at my challenge. I do not ask you to some of our greatest biblical heroes – had no nents say, also supports monogamy. Be-Reishit
has given me. I thank Him for the rebbe He cry with me or accept me; I only ask you to re- qualms about marrying more than one woman. Rabbahv describes a king clandestinely visit-
sent me, who, instead of rejecting me, stood by alize that I am out there. Realize that not every- Surprisingly, even the Babylonian Tal- ing his concubines, as if he was ashamed and
my side, helping me though the most awful one who is challenged with homosexuality is mud, late as it is, is replete with stories of embarrassed to be doing so, despite the fact
time of my life. I thank Him for the stamina He parading or protesting for equal rights. I beg polygamy.i Lest we think that it was just a rare that he was supposed to uphold this practice.
gave me to fight a depression that nearly led you to realize this – that I, too, am a frum Jew, occurrence among some minority sect, the Tal- Job is similarly praised as following Adam’s
me to commit suicide. trying to live a frum life like everyone else. I mud tells a shocking story, which has been the example, held desirable by God, of leading a
My path is unclear and even though I still stand with you in the elevators of Belfer, Furst, subject of much controversy. By its account, monogamous Elkanah is not extolled as
stand alone, I stand armed with the will to live Muss, Morg, and Rubin. I eat lunch at your two of the most famous Amoraic sages, Rav highly, because he had two wives;vii neither
another day and fight to keep my beliefs alive. table and sit with you in class; you call me a and R. Nahman, used to travel to the cities of was Lemekh, whose taking of two wives was
No matter the support I get, I stand on trial friend. And I am not one person; I am the Dardeshir and Shekhannetsiv, respectively, and seen as the “carnal degeneration” of the gener-
every day of my life. I do not know where my courageous voice that has spoken for a group advertise: “Who will be (my wife) for a day?”ii ation of the flood.viii While it may have been
future will lead, nor how I can change my feel- that lives isolated and in hiding.
ings. I live with a sense of frustration, knowing The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot 2:5 tells us to
the goal I want to reach but lacking the tools never judge someone before one has walked in
to arrive there. What must I do to be able to his shoes. I have let you see a peek of the trial
marry a woman? What must I share with my I will face for the rest of my life, and ask that
future partner? How can I even bring myself to you do not judge me; I ask you to understand
tell her this hidden secret? I do not know if it is me. I stand next to you, even if you will never
fair to ask someone to live with me under these know my identity and my challenge. There is a
conditions, or whether I will truly be able to be fire within me, which will always burn, urging
happy in such a relationship. All I know is that me to fight and complete my destiny, which I
I want to one day make marriage to a woman must hide from the world. I stand next to you,
work – to love her and have her love me back. even if you will never know my identity and
I want to watch her walk down to the huppah my challenge. Many tears have flown from my
in the most beautiful wedding dress, with tears heavy eyes and there will be many more. One
of happiness and joy in her eyes, as I know day in my shoes, a trial that will last a lifetime.
there will be in mine. I know that I want to
stand with her, supporting her through the hard
times that we will go through, and be there for
her always. I see this vision in my future, but I i
Va-Yikra 18:22 and 20:13.
have so many questions that have no answers. Source:
I know that I have a goal that I hold onto Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, “Judaism and the
Sages and scholars alike have struggled technically permissible, polygamy was clearly
every day, but I live trying to cope with an Modern Attitude to Homosexuality,” in Jewish with this tale. Can it be that these great men, frowned upon by these Rabbinic authorities.
everlasting sense of guilt, even though I un- Bioethics, ed. Fred Rosner and J. David Bleich whom we know to be pious and learned lead- In the same vein, the stories in the Talmud
derstand that these feelings are not my fault (New York: Sanhedrin Press, 1979), 209. ers of their generation, actually practiced of polygamous marriages are the exceptions
and that this is the way my life was divinely polygamy so ostentatiously, seemingly in con- that prove the rule. Because most people were
ordained to progress. I have read through so Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks’ foreward to
tradiction to all of our Jewish values? monogamous, the stories of those who were
many different experimental ideas about the Rabbi Chaim Rapoport, Judaism and Homo- The explanations regarding this behavior not are glaringly and obviously troubling to the
root of homosexual attractions. But to me, that sexuality: An Authentic Orthodox View (Lon- vary in the extreme. The two main positions Rabbis of those centuries. Moreover, it was
is all they are – ideas, possibilities that I do not don; Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2004), on this matter acknowledge the presence of only certain members of society that were
think can really help in ridding me of my chal- ix. polygamy. One position asserts that the Jewish practicing polygamy - the upper and the ruling
lenge. In fact, I do not think that I will ever be community in Babylonia was actually monog- classes. One of Agrippa II’s governors, whose
able to fully rid myself of these feelings, even iv
Lamm, 217. amous and that polygamy was an aberration, observance of Halakhah is apparent from the
when I marry and raise a family. Such knowl- practiced by a certain few, which was widely questions he asks R. Eli’ezer, was married to
edge is endlessly frustrating. I know where my disapproved of by the Rabbis. The second po- two women at the same time, one in Tsippori
path will lead, but I do not know how to get sition maintains that polygamy was completely and one in Tiberias.ix Tosafotx say that this was
there. I see hope at the end of the road, but the acceptable in Jewish society. This second one of the cases in which the Rabbis tolerated
path to it is covered by a screen of smoke and group asserts that polygamy is merely one il- polygamy because of tradition, but it was not a
fog. lustration of the pervasive influence of the Per- practice of which they approved.
And I still live in fear. I have told a hand- sian culture in Babylonia on the Jewish How, then, do they explain our troubling
ful of people about my challenge. The results practices at that time. story of Rav and R. Nahman traveling from
have sometimes been incredibly painful. I have The disagreement begins with Tannaitic town to town soliciting wives? To understand
had to pull away from people I had once called sources discussing marital legislation which this passage, we must look at their family
friends because of pain and embarrassment. I contain conversations based on the assumption livesxi and the opinions they espoused on mar-
have been forced to sever relationships with that the relationships debated in the Mishnah riage in general.
close friends because of their lack of under- are polygamous.iii While this can be cited as a Rav’s wife was an unusual woman who
standing and because of the hurt and confusion proof for polygamy, opponents protest that aggressively antagonized him. The Talmud re-
I have caused them. I watch my friends begin these cases are merely taught academically by latesxii that she would ask him which type of

Volume 2, Issue 4 7

Kol Hamevaser
soup he desired and then give him the other another woman. Based on this, scholars, such cial mores of the time, and the fact that promi- ars today over the possibility of polygamy
kind. According to Beit Hillel, a much lesser as Lowy, believe that the two rabbis truly be- nent rabbis were open to this culture, it is no should teach us to be a little more discriminat-
offense than this is reason enough to divorce a lieved in monogamous marriages; they simply wonder that temporary marriages and ing in the practices we pick up from our Gen-
womanxiii and yet Rav chose not to divorce his used the possibility of polygamy as leverage in polygamy were the norm in Jewish society. tile neighbors.
wife. In fact, Rav, in many places, expresses their unhappy marriages. Therefore, it was not considered unusual be-
his unhappiness in his marriage and resentment While the theory recounted above, dis- havior for Rav and R. Nahman to travel to dif- Rena Wiesen is a fifth year student at
of his wife, with such exclamations as “Any cussed by Professor S. Lowy, is certainly an in- ferent towns to marry an assortment of wives. SCW majoring in Communications and Nutri-
evil – but not a mean wife!”xiv He advised his teresting and plausible interpretation of the This is why their actions did not elicit any crit- tion and is a Staff Writer for Kol Hamevaser.
son: “When you marry, descend a step (in the texts, it seems to be rather forced. To deny the icism or moral condemnation.xxviii Further-
social scale) for your wife.”xv His translation prevalence of a practice that is mentioned more, as polygamy is permitted by the Torah,
of the verse “I will provoke them with a vile many times throughout the Talmud does not having numerous wives was certainly accept-
nation (goy naval)”xvi in Deuteronomy as a strike me as reasonable. The argument also able halakhically and viewed more positively i
We will only discuss the Babylonian commu-
“bad wife who has a great ketubbah,”xvii per- largely ignores the surrounding cultural and so- when compared to the outright adultery per- nity here. Many say that the Palestinian sages
haps indicates the reason that he and his wife cial environment in Babylonia and how they mitted by the Zoroastrians. were much less tolerant of polygamy.
did not divorce. The daughter of an aristocratic affected Jewish thought and customs. Proponents of the acculturation theory ii
Yevamot 37b; see also Yoma 18b.
family, his wife brought social connections Scholars who have studied the era and the view R. Nahman’s statement about women’s iii
Yevamot, ch. 1, and also in the following
which would be impossible to sever, as well as surrounding Persian culture during Talmudic slynessxxix very differently than those who de- chapters on the subject of tsarot (co-wives):
a huge dowry that would be impossible for Rav times in Babylonia note the influences of nied the practice of polygamy in Jewish soci- Ketubbot, ch. 10, as well as Kiddushin 2:6, 3:9,
to repay as mandated by her ketubbah. His Zoroastrianism, the official religion of the Per- ety of the time, as will be explained. They etc.
marriage was clearly an unhappy one from sian Empire during this period.xxiv Its doctrines supplemented their position by explaining that iv
S. Lowy, “The Extent of Jewish Polygamy in
which he could not escape, and he could only – which are predicated on creation by a benev- verse by using another statement, one that Rav Talmudic Times,” Journal of Jewish Studies 9
advise others to avoid similar snares. olent and omniscient god named Ohrmazd and made in Pesahim: “Rav [said] to Rav Asi: (1958): 115-38, at p. 116, quoting Yerushalmi
R. Nahman’s situation was not much dif- include the fight against evil, Heaven and Hell, ‘And don’t marry two [wives, but] if you Ketubbot 4:8; Bavli Sanhedrin 21a.
ferent. His wife, Yalta, had a quick and fiery reward and punishment, and judgment – were marry two, marry three.’”xxx According to v
Be-Reshit Rabbah 52:5. See also Leviticus
temper that was triggered by even minor in- similar and familiar to practitioners of the Jew- them – and it seems from Rashi’s commentary Rabbah 1:13; Yalkut Shim’oni to Job, 497; etc.
sults, and could result in the breaking of many ish faith. Zoroastrianism’s ethical and ritual on Rav’s words that he understands this way vi
Avot de-Rabbi Natan, 2nd version, ch. 2 (ed.
barrels of wine.xviii The Talmud records that systems, like those of Judaism, placed an enor- as well – this advice is meant to reflect on the Schechter, p. 9).
she was proficient in halakhic matters. Ambi- mous emphasis on oral transmission of sacred compatibility of multiple wives and their rela- vii
Pesikta Rabbati 43 (ed. Friedmann, p. 181b).
tious and proud, with a quick and sharp tongue, texts and respect for the authority of scholars. tionship with each other and is not meant as a See I Shemuel 1:1-2.
she often embarrassed her husband and inter- These similarities made for a comfortable ex- halakhic statement about how many wives one viii
Be-Reshit Rabbah 23:2. See Be-Reshit 4:19.
fered in his academic studies.xix From R. Nah- change between the two religions. Indeed, it should have. Two wives will plot together ix
Sukkot 27a.
man, too, we can find expressions of bitterness seems from the Babylonian Talmud that Jewish against their husband. However, with three x
Yerushalmi Yevamot 1:10; Bavli Yevamot 15b.
towards women, generated from his personal acculturation to Persian culture, lifestyle, and wives, he says, one will surely inform on the xi
Lowy, p. 127.
suffering: “When a woman speaks, she ideology was high. other two. It is expected that women will plot xii
Yevamot 63a.
weaves/spins.”xx Spoken in the context of the With such close proximity and such great against their husbands, in other words. They xiii
Lowy, p. 126.
story of Abigail and David, this phrase “de- interaction between religious communities, the are sly and untrustworthy by nature and are xiv
Shabbat 11a.
notes falseness and disloyal wit”xxi of women, Rabbis needed to take a stand. Would they be therefore kept in a permanently subordinate xv
Yerushalmi Kiddushin 4:4.
who may say one thing but are constantly plot- “accommodators,” who were relatively open and insecure position via polygamous mar- xvi
Deuteronomy 32:21.
ting and planning schemes. This sentiment to Persian culture,xxv or “resisters,” who were riage, wherein they can always be replaced. In xvii
Yevamot 63b.
seems to be attributed to his wife, particularly virulently opposed to it? Not coincidentally, fact, R. Akiva, long before this, had permitted xviii
Berakhot 51a.
since he also complains: “Pride (a quality his two of the leading “accommodators” were our divorce for the simple reason that the husband xix
Kiddushin 70a-b, Hullin 109b, Niddah 20b,
wife was noted for) does not become a woman very own Rav and R. Nahman of the “wife-for- found a more beautiful woman to marry.xxxi etc.
well.” xxii This harassed husband was, unfortu- a-day story.” After 850 years of peaceful co- Even the non-elite of Babylonia were in- xx
Megillah 14b.
nately, trapped in a “marriage of convenience” existence, relations between the Jews and their fluenced by Zoroastrian thought and ritual. R. xxi
Gittin 90a.
to the daughter of the Exilarch. He could only neighbors were good, and Babylonian rabbinic Zeira states that the “daughters of Israel de- xxii
Megillah 14b.
make subdued and repressed complaints in a legislation against intermingling was, for the cided to be very strict with themselves to wait xxiii
Lowy, p.129.
vague, almost passive-aggressive fashion. most part, less restrictive than in Palestinian seven clean days after seeing a drop of blood xxiv
See Yaakov Elman, “Middle Persian Cul-
The marital trials and tribulations of these law.xxvi Much of this acculturation was attrib- the size of a mustard seed [although according ture and Babylonian Sages: Accommodation
rabbis are most likely the source for the afore- utable to the location and character of the cities to biblical law they are only required to sepa- and Resistance in the Shaping of Rabbinic
mentioned tale. When the abuse from their they inhabited. The story about Rav taking a rate for seven days from the onset of regular Legal Tradition,” in The Cambridge Compan-
wives became intolerable, they threatened to temporary wife occurred near Mehoza, the menstruation].”xxxii While medieval Talmudic ion to the Talmud and Rabbinic Literature, ed.
utilize their legitimate rights and take another capital city and a crossroads of trade, religions, commentaries assume this to be a stringency Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert and Martin S.
wife.xxiii However, for this threat to have any and cultures that accommodated all sorts of un- set by the Rabbis, Rava’s response to R. Pa- Jaffee (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge
credibility, they would have to “choose a wife” savory characters, as described previously. It paxxxiii makes it clear that he considers this University Press, 2007), 165-197, at p. 165.
from a city that was not as strictly monoga- is no wonder that, living in this type of envi- severity to be a customary, and not an outright, xxv
Ibid, p.168.
mous as the rest of the Jewish communities in ronment, acculturation was more likely to prohibition. It seems likely that the Jewish xxvi
Ibid, pp.168-169.
Babylonia. Dardeshir and Shekhannetsiv were occur. R. Nahman’s place of residence boasted women’s decision to accept this stringency was xxvii
Ibid, p. 171, quoting Firoze M. Kotwal and
the perfect candidates. Dardeshir was only similar qualities. due to the influence of the Zoroastrian culture Philip Kreyenbroek, The Herbedestdn and the
three or so miles away from Mehoza, the cap- Relationships, and sexuality in particular, which isolated menstruating women in a win- Nerangestdn, § 6.7, pp. 44-45.
ital city known for its gluttony, sensuality, ex- seem to have been strongly influenced by dowless hut with only a small amount of food xxviii
Yevamot 37b, Yoma 18b.
travagance, wealth, and other such Zoroastrianism, though a line was drawn when for nine days. Reacting to their neighbor’s crit- xxix
See note xix above.
characteristics. Hence, it was ideal for Rav to its practices ran contrary to the Bible. Accord- icism that the Rabbinic Jewish law is “easygo- xxx
Pesahim 113a.
go there to make his announcement. R. Nah- ing to Zoroastrian law, adultery is not a capital ing” in regards to menstrual impurity, the xxxi
Mishnah Gittin 9:10, quoted in Elman,
man, though, who was the head of the acad- crime for women; they were merely fined. Ad- Jewish women took it upon themselves to be p.172.
emy at Mehoza for a while, had to choose a ditionally, if a man seduced a married woman extra stringent in this area.xxxiv xxxii
Berakhot 31a, Megillah 28b, and Niddah
different city. He selected Shekhannetsiv, a as he escorted her to a Zoroastrian school to Polygamy certainly existed in Talmudic 66a.
place unknown to his wife, but which was no- study religious texts, particularly in a city times. It may or may not have been wide- xxxiii
Niddah 66a.
torious for breeding people of poor moral char- where her husband had influence, it was con- spread; the rabbis may have just used language xxxiv
Elman, p.180-181.
acter. Hence, the city was the perfect setting sidered as though the man had the husband’s about polygamy to control or intimidate their
for polygamous scenarios and would therefore permission and that he had even done this by wives or to express their frustrations with
make sense as a suitable location for finding the husband’s orders.xxvii Considering the so- them. Either way, perhaps the outcry of schol-

8 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
Engaged To Be Married: An Anthropological Perspective The Word of Your Body
BY: Shira Schwartz
BY: Ayol Samuels any potential courter now knows the woman expressing their dissatisfaction with that
and man are not available and, more signifi- choice. As Halakhah progresses through the ex-
It is customary in American culture for a cantly, all three parties know that society is The desire to maintain this institution panse of time and history, it encounters vari-
man and woman intending to wed to first get aware of this new status. Society has an inter- takes on even greater meaning when one looks ous periods, places, and cultures. With every
“engaged.” In this event, which usually occurs est in happy marriages with healthy and well- at the Orthodox Jewish community. As early one of these new encounters, a dialogue sparks
anywhere from one month to a year before the raised children as well as an interest in as the Tannaitic period, there was a distinct between the Halakhah and its new circum-
wedding, the male “proposes” to the female, decreasing violence and ill-will between mem- stage in the process of marriage which pre- stances, one that allows the two to comment on
asking her if she will marry him, and offering bers of the society. ceded the actual wedding by as much time as a each other. From the perspective of the Ha-
her a ring. Traditionally, the male asks and An alternative way of looking at this em- year. During this stage, referred to inter- lakhah, this dialogue serves as its opportunity
presents the ring while kneeling on one knee. phasis on engagement is through the lens of changeably as kiddushin or eirusin, the woman to share and spread an eternal message that
This action is often done after the couple has Mary Douglas’s theory of structuralism. Ac- receives a completely new status and is for- transcends time and circumstance, to teach and
already discussed marriage and sometimes cording to Douglas, a 20th century British an- bidden to all other men. Later in history, kid- to guide each generation according to an es-
even after it has started to plan the wedding. thropologist, humans have a strong drive to dushin as a separate stage disappeared and sential divine code that ostensibly has some-
Thus, an answer of “yes” is usually expected. categorize and insert order into the world.ii instead became the preamble for the actual thing meaningful to say at every point of
Nonetheless, this question is still accompanied This categorization also applies to relation- huppah at the wedding ceremony itself. While history. But time is, by definition, about the
by suspense for the bride, groom, friends, and ships between men and women. Rather than this halakhic stage disappeared, the sociologi- exact opposite – time is dynamic and about the
family as the male attempts to “surprise” the seeing these relationships as gradual develop- cal need for it did not. Thus, our community constancy of change that comprises the human
female in a romantic and creative fashion that ments in a continuum, humans want to split has unconsciously adopted the “engagement” experience. As Halakhah encounters new cul-
generally requires a significant amount of plan- them up into stages. They do not suffice with model with gusto. This new model serves tural vistas, it rarely remains its authentic self.
ning. The way in which he asks this question knowing that a couple is very close and will many of the functions of the earlier Rabbinic Time brings out new experiences with which
will be the subject of conversations for decades probably get married. People need a point at stage, preventing infidelity and allowing for Halakhah interacts, teaching us not only new
to come. which the status changes from “boyfriend/girl- the much-needed Straussian categorization.iv things about humanity, but about the Halakhah.
Following this event comes a celebration friend” to “engaged” and, finally, to “married.” A halakhic position in one era, in one set of cir-
of the engagement with family and friends, in Ayol Samuels graduated from YC in cumstances, means something very different
what is referred to as an “engagement party.” Spring 2008. He is currently a student at the from that same ruling 500 years later in a dif-
People will congratulate the male and female Ben Gurion University Medical School for In- ferent place with different people. Time
on their engagement and shower them with ternational Health, class of 2012. morphs the same halakhah into something new,
gifts. The status of the bride-and-groom-to-be causing it to mean something different in a new
is no longer simply that of a couple but rather situation from what it meant at its original in-
“engaged,” the woman now sporting a ring as i
A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Structure and Func- ception. Time redefines Halakhah.
evidence of this new status. In reference to tion in Primitive Society (London: Cohen and If there is indeed an important value em-
each other, they are no longer referred to as West, 1952). bedded within the Halakhah, how are we to
boyfriend and girlfriend, but rather as fiancés. know when it gets lost, as circumstances
The couple is now free and even encouraged
Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analy- change and new situations arise? So often we
to talk about its upcoming wedding. sis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (Lon- bury our heads in the ancient soil of halakhic
This custom of “engagement,” consisting don: Barrie and Rockliff, 1966). ruling instead of pulling together our resources
mainly of the proposal of marriage and pres- to look honestly and pointedly at life and to
entation of the ring, is taken very seriously by
Interestingly, one of Douglas’s favorite ex- find the right ways to redeem it. A fundamen-
American society. My wife and I, for exam- amples is the attitude towards the “abominable tal part of the process of pesak is the under-
ple, had decided to skip this seemingly unnec- pig” in the Bible. According to Douglas, the standing of current and specific circumstances
essary step in the process. We reasoned that fact that the pig does not fit in well to the cat- so that Halakhah and life can co-exist in a way
we had already decided to marry so there was egories that are created to distinguish kosher that is both “na’eh la-Makom ve-na’eh la-
no point to this formality. Instead, we simply from non-kosher animals explains the special beriyot” (pleasant for G-d and pleasant for
started planning our wedding. Whenever title, “to’evah” (abomination), attributed to it human beings). So often, the fear of “na’eh la-
someone learned of this, his or her reaction Source: as well as the subsequent attitudes of Jews to Makom” paralyzes our ability to fulfill our re-
was almost invariably confusion, anger, disap- pig. sponsibilities as “beriyot,” to understand what
pointment, embarrassment, or even ridicule. Douglas calls items that do not fit into the God wants of us as the godly human beings He
Many people, young and old, insisted that what neat categories that people make “anomalous.”
See Claude Levi-Strauss, “The Structural created us to be.
we were doing was “wrong,” but could not ar- She explains that people have very strong, Study of Myth,” The Journal of American If I asked you to tell me why you are
ticulate why. often negative, reactions to these items and feel Folklore 68 (October – December 1955): pp. shomer negi’ah (lit. guarding touch), you prob-
Thus, this cultural stronghold is ripe for uncomfortable dealing with them. For exam- 68, 428-444. ably would answer me in one of two ways. If
anthropological explanation. One of the main ple, slime is neither liquid nor solid and there- you are a successful product of “value-based
anthropological theories is Radcliffe-Brown’s fore, Douglas would say, evokes disgust.iii hinnukh (education),” you might go on a philo-
theory of structural functionalism. This theory Thus, when people knew that my wife and I sophical exposition – co-authored by Gila
understands cultural phenomena as a means to- were getting married but were not officially en- Manolson and Rabbi Orlofsky – on the “Jew-
wards maintaining the stability of the societal gaged, there was very often awkwardness ish Approach to Marriage and Relationships,”
structure.i Applying this perspective to the when they introduced us to others. It was un- that in truth is not actually sourced in anything
case at hand, we can understand why engage- clear what to call us because we were between Jewish, but is aimed at proving that Halakhah
ments might have taken such a central role in boyfriend/girlfriend and married, but they imbues our lives with only the best values of
our society. Engagements make known to so- needed a label. Many friends would try to deal the culture around us – romance, family, and
ciety that the now engaged woman and man with this problem by applying a humorous stability, all in one package. Alternatively, if
are off-limits. This is accomplished by the title, saying, “These are Ayol and Shoshana. you are a Litvak at heart (or intellect), you
woman wearing a very visible ring and by the They are not engaged,” or, “They are ‘getting might tell me, because it is the Halakhah – the
public engagement party. The bigger and married,’” always emphasizing that those were action-oriented halakhic system that cares
shinier the ring is, the better, and the bigger and our words, not theirs. This allowed them to about what you do – completely ignoring that
more ostentatious the party is, the better. This compensate for the inability to categorize the these halakhot are laws about relationships, re-
publicizing prevents any sort of infidelity since stage in our relationship while at the same time lationships that involve action, thought, and

Volume 2, Issue 4 9

Kol Hamevaser
feeling and were ostensibly created to bring out a pure origin in marriage. The more we train Toratekha” (at a time of action for God’s sake, The Tony Award-winning Broadway mu-
the best of what relationships can offer to a ourselves to think that extremely about our de- they nullified Your Torah)? Throughout his- sical, Spring Awakening, tells the all-familiar
God-serving person. Either way, I believe the sires, the more we make them that. tory, there have always been times when what story of adolescence, centered around a group
answer falls short. And that is only an example. But ask was once “Halakhah” has been changed to of young teenagers, growing up and discover-
We need to ask ourselves: why is touch yourself – how many times and in what cir- save something far more important. At what ing their identity and sexuality within a world
wrong? The answer “because it is the Ha- cumstances do you excuse the Halakhah in the point have we cut ourselves off from the carefully constructed and constricted by the
lakhah” is not the answer. If it is a Halakhah name of values? Or values in the name of Ha- essence of our humanity –from seeing the rigidity of adult uniformity. The world of
about a relationship, it is meant to guide that lakhah? Where do those values come from? I image of God clearly? How much of what is Spring Awakening – set in Germany and built
relationship; hence, there is an actual reason am not saying that the values we adopt as important do we ignore in the name of “Ha- carefully on order, appearance, sterility, and
we must understand that it is sourced in, some- Godly (at times from secular culture), are not; lakhah?” When does the Halakhah turn into an obedience – takes us on a vivid and compelling
thing it is aimed at accomplishing. The answer I am only saying that we must recognize them avodah zarah (idol)? journey back to the age of puberty, a journey
“because touch is so special you should only for the ascribed values that they are. Only then We walk around with an arrogant sense of whose emotive capacity is only outshined by
experience it with one person in your entire can a meaningful conversation about Halakhah us vs. them: that is how the world does rela- its intelligence: one that makes you not only
life” is not the answer because as people we and values begin. Only then can we under- tionships and sex, and we just do it better, the feel about sexuality, but think about sexuality.
have many different relationships and touch is stand what we are defending and when we right way – God’s way. And it is understand- The childrens’ lives are so absent of feel-
an important component of seeing those out should be defending it. able – how else could a never-been-kissed 27- ing and human touch that they aim for pain as
and living them; people do not typically marry year-old feel self-validated in a world where a way of simply “feeling something.” They are
the first person they date, nor should they, and an eighteen-year-old virgin is queer? But do trained to view sexuality, their most natural de-
part of relating to a person, giving to a person, we really “do it better?” The answer is not sire for the other, as “guilty” and thus come to
and knowing a person is actually feeling a per- “check the divorce rates.” Are we happy this view it that way. But the mantra of the show,
son. The answer “because it is inappropriate way? In a world where people date for years “haven’t you heard The Word of your body,”
and immoral –impure if you will – unless you and years, are those years satisfying – are they forces the children, and us, to really look at the
are married” is not the answer because it is “tov” (good)? Are they making us the people essence of their story – of our story, of where
simply untrue. Can you honestly say that that God wants us to be? Are the values we in- sexuality and the desire for the other truly
every desire you have ever had to touch some- herit today through shemirat negi’ah truly in- comes from. The play’s victory emerges
one you were not married to was impure? Why tended? In a world where marriage is not through young Vendla, the quintessential inno-
do we tell ourselves that? We talk so much predominantly economic and practical, where cent, who refuses to let the story of her rela-
about not touching so that we do not form a it is not even necessary in order to live, why is tionship with her lover be told as anything but
narrowed, skewed concept of the other person, it still our only answer to puberty? Why must what it truly was, making love. The children’s
in order to focus on the real person. But I ask: we assign such narrow quarters to a most fun- disbelief in themselves, “and who can say what
is that not the real person? Is excluding one’s Source: damental and yet complicated aspect of the dreams are?...And who can say what we are?”
physical being from a relationship not also nar- human personality – touch? How can we ex- and their defeated chant, “and now our bodies
rowed and skewed? Excluding touch from a I, for one, am tired of the word “change” pect from ourselves and from each other to fig- are the guilty ones, who touch,” is answered
relationship limits and distorts our interaction being synonymous with heresy, of serious ap- ure that all out with one person, and only after and rectified through Vendla’s conviction:
with the other. People are not just souls –we proaches to pressing issues being cast as “Con- we have married them? As a married friend of “And he touched me, and I let him love me, so
are very, concretely, bodies. We express who servative” or “Reform” – as “anti-Torah” and mine once voiced, out of all of her friends who let that be my story.”
we are sometimes more honestly through touch “anti-God” and therefore not worth anyone’s claimed to have been shomer negi’ah while What would happen if we taught our chil-
than through a host of seven-hour “hashkafah time. We need to stop thinking and acting in dating, there is only one couple she actually be- dren, from a young age, that the desire for
dates.” Yedi’ah, in the biblical sense, is know- those kinds of terms, because they, in and of lieves – and she worries about them. touch is beautiful? What if we taught them that
ing someone physically. themselves, are historical constructions. Sometimes I fear that we have strayed so it is Godly? What if kids grew up respecting
If we are going to talk honestly about Ha- Things are not wrong automatically because far from the Living God that we have learned themselves and their desires? Would it not
lakhah and negi’ah, then let us. We have come they involve the word “change.” Throughout to silence Him before He even speaks inside teach them to respect each other and to think
to adopt the perspective, frequently in our con- our history, things have changed, time and time us. That we have learned from too young an about their actions even more carefully? Is that
temporary period, that Halakhah is solely again. The question is never “if,” but rather age, too consistently, that natural urges are not the ultimate goal? Would it not force us to
about adherence to command and “obeying” as “what, when and how.” meant to be risen above – that they are the yet- distill and understand where our desires come
a way of combating the wanton worship of the If a system or set of rules is truly divine zer ha-ra (evil inclination), not God. That we from, and, with a permissible outlet, take ac-
self that we see around us. But the bottom line and kerygmatic, it must redeem and uplift the have learned as Orthodox Jews to distrust our- tion on the “good” ones? What if we learned
is that Halakhah is not just about “obeying.” lives it touches and guide them towards “ha- selves from too young an age, to be able to do to see them for what they are and listened to
And pesak Halakhah (halakhic decision) yashar ve-ha-tov” (the just and the good). The what is required of us in order to actually hear the “Word of our Bodies?” Would we not pro-
should be about values, about meaning, about halakhot of negi’ah were written in a time Him in the most natural quarters of our exis- duce people who are even more resilient?
connection with a Higher Being and with the when the sexual urge could be quickly satis- tence. That, crippled, we lack the courage nec- What, just what, if we touched?
people and elements in our lives. But so often, fied by marriage, as marriage followed closely essary to become bold servants of God.
the two – Halakhah and values – do not come after puberty. But that is not our world. There There are tough choices to be made, posi- Shira Schwartz graduated from SCW in
together. We are comfortable saying that bib- is a delay of six years to a lifetime between the tions to be taken. What are the values that we Spring 2008, majoring in English, History,
lical polygamy was not the ideal way of life, time a person desires to touch the other, until are holding onto so dearly and calling them ha- Jewish Studies, and Philosophy. She is cur-
but not comfortable saying the same about a the Halakhah permits him or her to. That is not lakhic values? Are we actually saving the sys- rently president of the Human Initiative Foun-
set of rabbinic rules that teaches us that physi- a rectification of instant gratification – as mod- tem, or destroying its aim? We have come to dation and research fellow at the Inamori
cal contact is only appropriate with a member ern-day Jewish Ethicists might propose; that is ascribe values that more often than not emerge International Center for Ethics and Excellence
of the opposite sex who you have stood before just insane. We are so used to saying to our- from our encounter with the society and cir- at Case Western Reserve University.
the community and committed the rest of your selves and each other that this is the way it is cumstances within which we exist, when the
life to. How is that not a contradiction? De- supposed to be – so used to making excuses for Halakhah itself was determined to fit a very
spite the assumed difference between “aseh” Halakhah until we ourselves have betrayed its different set of social circumstances. This is
(positive commandments) and “lo ta’aseh” very own definition by ascribing non-authen- nothing new. We are familiar with the answer
(negative commandments), calling any part of tic, foreign meanings to it that stem from the of “minhag avoteinu be-yadenu.” If we indeed
Halakhah into question admits an awareness of society around us. But when do we stop believe that Halakhah is meant to institute val-
imperfection in the system, which should in rewriting, and when do we stop apologizing? ues, what values, in comparison to the social
turn cause us to reflect on the assumption we When have we sacrificed too much on the altar norms of its times of construction, did it come
hold about the relationship between Halakhah, of “minhag avoteinu be-yadenu” (the custom to comment on and alter? What, indeed, was it
values, and God. The Torah permits polygamy. of our ancestors is our own)? When does the trying to teach? And is worship of “minhag
Accordingly, there should be something Godly time come for a different sort of korban (sacri- avoteinu be-yadenu” actually accomplishing
in it. And it is simply untrue that touch only has fice), of “et la’asot la-Hahem, heferu that?

10 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
Ethics and Exegesis: Rabbinic Exegesis and the
Supremacy of Ethics in Interpersonal Relationships
BY: Emmanuel Sanders That this is not the only way this verse is woman who was raped be punished for being ing of the Sages. According to them, the words
to be understood, however, is made quite clear raped? It seems that non-consent would not be “she has been defiled” are not to be understood
It is understandable that the laws pertain- when one looks at the account of Reuben’s sin reason enough to save Bilhah form death, in within the context of the verse at hand. Rather
ing to sacrifices within Jewish law may, at with Bilhah,iv his father’s wife, in the Book of the eyes of the author of Jubilees. Apparently, than referring to the general instance of a wife
times, be beyond the understanding of the Jubilees, a pseudepigraphic work which claims he understood Leviticus 20:11, and the death remarrying her first husband after having been
human mind, for sacrificial law is, by defini- falsely to be authored by Moses, fragments of penalty therein, as pertaining even to cases married to a second man, the verse, in their
tion, a category of legislation that involves the which have been found in the caves of Qum- where there is no consent on the part of the view, refers only to the specific instance in
relationship between Man, on the one hand, ran. The account of Reuben’s sin in that book wife to sleep with her stepson. It is this real which the wife is suspected of having cheated
and God, a Being who is Himself beyond the can be split into two parts: the first is an ex- possibility of interpretation, I would suggest, on her husband – the “defilement” of which the
human threshold of comprehension, on the pansion of the biblical version and the second that the Rabbis implicitly reject when they in- verse speaks. In attempting to explain this
other. However, it would seem more com- is an explanation as to why Reuben and Bilhah terpret this verse as referring to two consent- seemingly strange interpretation of the simple
pelling that interpersonal relationships, as they were not punished with death despite the bib- ing individuals. text, the Tosafistsviii suggest that it was neces-
are defined and delineated within the Jewish lical legal passages forbidding a son from hav- sary, in this instance, to counter-read, since it
Legal system, should be governed by morals ing sexual relations with his father’s wife. In The Ethics of Counter-Reading would not be ethical to refer to a woman who
and ethics that are clear and acceptable to the the first part, it is clear from the expansions got married in full accord with Halakhah to a
human mind. For example, it would not seem that Bilhah did not consent to have intercourse Not only do the Rabbis interpret ambigu- second husband as having been “defiled” by
altogether strange if the Torah decreed that with Reuben. The book describes how, one ous verses so that morality and ethics have pri- doing so. That is, rather than understanding a
every tenth calf born to a cow was to be set day, while Bilhah was bathing, Reuben looked macy in interpersonal relationships, but they verse in the simplest fashion, but risking that
aside for sacrificial use. However, that every on and became aroused. However, she clearly reread verses as well – even skewing the sim- such an understanding would promote ritual
tenth child born to its human mother be sacri- never intended for him to watch, for she made ple sense of the verse completely at times. At stigma at the cost of ethics, the Sages chose to
ficed would seem unethical and unjust – what sure to bathe in “a private place.”v Further- the beginning of Chapter 24 of Deuteronomy, counter-read the verse, thus ensuring the su-
did the child do to deserve such treatment? premacy of ethics in interpersonal relation-
Nevertheless, there are a number of instances ships.ix
in which ritual law, as presented in the text of
the Torah, does seem to override or contradict Stuck with the Mamzer
what we would normally consider to be ethi-
cal and moral treatment in interpersonal rela- There are times, however, when counter-
tionships. In the following discussion, I wish reading becomes difficult or even impossible,
to explore a few of these instances and point for a text can only be stretched so far and re-
out how, in each case, Rabbinic legislation and main true to its original message. How, then,
interpretation seeks to maintain the primacy of are the Rabbis to react when biblical verses
ethics and morality in interpersonal relation- speak about the mamzer?
ships, even, at times, at the cost of losing the To review, a mamzer is an individual born
simple meaning of the text. of a biblically-prohibited union such as incest
or adultery. Though the mamzer himself com-
Reading Verses Ethically mits no wrong, the Torah, in no unclear terms,
prohibits him from entering into marriage with
In my first example, I will deal with the Source: a regular Israelite: “No one misbegotten (a
prohibition of a son having sexual intercourse mamzer) shall be admitted into the congrega-
with the wife of his father. Although this law more, according to Jubilees, Bilhah was asleep the central biblical verses pertaining to divorce tion of the Lord; none of his descendants, even
appears in four places in the Torah,i we will during the act of intercourse and only awoke appear, the Torah, in verse 4, presents a situa- in the tenth generation, shall be admitted to the
refer only to Leviticus 20:11, which is the only afterward, at which point she grabbed tion in which a man divorces his wife, who congregation of the Lord.”x It seems quite im-
place in which the punishment for this act is Reuben’s garment and screamed out. Obvi- then goes on to remarry a second husband who possible for the Rabbis to limit this verse’s ap-
mentioned in addition to the prohibition: “If a ously, Bilhah was not a consensual partner in divorces her as well. In such a case, the Torah plicability. But in what situation is it right for
man lies with his father’s wife, it is the naked- this illicit prohibits her first husband from remarrying an unborn child to be held accountable for the
ness of his father that he has uncovered; the However, despite the fact that Bilhah did her, using the following language: “Then, the sins of his parents?
two shall be put to death – their bloodguilt is not consent to this unholy union, it seems that first husband who divorced her shall not take Unable to limit this law through exegeti-
upon them.”ii This verse clearly pertains to a this was not enough to exonerate her for viola- her to wife again, since she has been defiled – cal means, the Rabbis struggle greatly with this
case in which a son has intercourse with the tion of the law found in Leviticus. The legal for that would be abhorrent to the Lord.” statute. In fact, the Rabbis interpret a particu-
wife of his father. What remains unclear is portion of Jubilees continues: The Talmud, in Tractate Yevamot 11b, lar passage in Ecclesiastes in light of the diffi-
whether or not this intercourse is consensual. They are not to say: “Reuben was allowed records a Tannaitic dispute concerning the in- culty the Rabbinic conscience has with this
From merely reading the plain words of the to live and (have) forgiveness after he had lain terpretation of the above verse. The first opin- law, revealing to us their inner turmoil: “So I
verse, one cannot determine whether or not the with the concubine-wife of his father, and she ion recorded is that of R. Yosei ben Kippai. He returned and considered all the oppressions
wife consented to this illicit relationship. also, while she had a husband, and while her understands the verse as teaching that while a that are done under the sun. And behold the
However, the Rabbinic viewiii is that this verse husband – his father Jacob – was alive.” For woman may remarry her first husband if her tears of the oppressed, and they had no com-
refers only to such a case in which the woman the statute, the punishment, and the law had not betrothal to the second husband is dissolved, forter. And on the side of their oppressors there
consents. been completely revealed to all but (only) in she may not do so if the marriage to her second was power, but they had no comforter.”xi
One might justifiably observe that al- your time as a law of its particular time and as husband is consummated. In other words, R. Leviticus Rabba, in attempting to uncover the
though no explicit mention of consent is made an eternal law for the history of eternity. (Ju- Yosei understands the words “she has been de- identity of “the oppressed” mentioned above,
in the text, it is clear that this is what the Torah bilees 33:15-16)vii filed” as referring to the “defilement” which puts forth a number of interpretations, ending
means in prohibiting this act: why should In other words, Reuben and Bilhah were occurs with the consummation of her marriage with that of Daniel the Tailor:
someone be held accountable for that which he not punished for this union simply because the to the second husband. Such an interpretation “Behold the tears of the oppressed.” Their
or she did not willingly commit? Clearly, one Torah and its laws had not yet been given. But would seem to fit very well into the simple fathers sinned, but what has it to do with these
might conclude, the Rabbinic understanding of why does the narrative even need to justify meaning of the text. insulted ones? The father of this one went to a
this verse is the only viable one. why Bilhah was not punished? Should a Such, however, was not the understand- woman who was forbidden to him, but how did

Volume 2, Issue 4 11

Kol Hamevaser
the child sin, and how does it concern him? Emmanuel Sanders is a junior at YC ma-
They “had no comforter,” but “on the side of
the oppressors there was power.” Those are the
joring in Jewish Studies and Philosophy and is
a Staff Writer for Kol Hamevaser.
Genesis of Conscienc
hands of the Great Sanhedrin, which move BY: Jake Friedman bidden him: “And God said: ‘Behold, I have
against them with the authority of the Torah i
The four places are: Leviticus 18:8, 20:11, given you every herb… and every tree… to
and remove them form the community because Deuteronomy 23:1, and 27:20. Freud’s theory of psychosexual develop- you it shall be for food.’”ii Just like the new-
it is written: “A mamzer shall not enter into the ii
All biblical translations in this article are from ment associates the characteristics of the adult born child, the earliest stage of humankind’s
congregation of the Lord.” “And they had no JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh: The Traditional psyche with a childhood progression through development is permeated with uninhibited
comforter.” Therefore says the Holy One: “It Hebrew Text and the New JPS Translation stages of sexual development. These land- oral pleasure.
is upon me to comfort them.” In this world (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, marks of the growing-up process represent crit- The Bible describes Adam in his early, un-
there are those among them who are unworthy; 1999). ical points in the maturation of the individual restricted state: “Male and female He created
but regarding the messianic era, Zechariah iii
Otherwise, if she does not consent, she has and give expression to the elemental compo- him.”iii The Talmud in Berakhot records a pair
prophesied: “Behold I see them all like pure the status of an “anusah” (forced, unwilling nents of the fully-grown psyche – id, ego, and of dissenting opinions regarding the anatomi-
gold”; for this is symbolized by his vision: “I partner). See Nedarim 27a for the general rule superego. While Freud is credited as a pioneer cal configuration of this non-gendered
saw and behold, it was an oil lamp of pure of “anus, Rahamana patreih” (Hashem acquits in this field, he was not actually the first to human.iv Rising beyond the gross anatomy, just
gold.” (Leviticus Rabba 32:8)xii the forced). trace human behavior back to its roots in early as we have done with Freud’s theory, the dis-
Here, the internal struggle of the rabbis is iv
See Be-Reshit 35:22 for the biblical account development. cussion in the Talmud takes on a different char-
clear. On the one hand, they are the codifiers of this story. A much earlier author was concerned with acter. At that primitive point in anthropological
of God’s law, and, as such, see what they do as v
Jubilees 33:2. exposing the underlying truths of human be- infancy, there were no two identities among
God’s work. On the other hand, they see them- vi
Michael Segal, The Book of Jubilees: Rewrit- havior. In his book, he writes a history of the humankind; the human identity was in some
selves as the oppressors of the mamzer, an in- ten Bible, Redaction, Ideology and Theology, beginnings of human existence and civiliza- state antecedent to the gender-distinct identi-
dividual punished for sins he did not commit. (Leiden; Boston: Koninklijke Brill, 2007), p. tion. This history surrounds the social and psy- ties we know so well. Man existed in total un-
Furthermore, God is both the giver of the 74. chic problems of early humanity and awareness of individuality. Only later in the
statute of the mamzer, as well as a figure who vii
Ibid, pp. 78-79. The translation and empha-
comforts him. It seems that the whole concept sis are his.
of the mamzer brings to light this struggle viii
Tosafot ad loc, s.v. “le-rabbot sotah she-nis-
within the Rabbinic conscience and within terah.”
Torah itself – between the supremacy of ethics ix
Eliezer Berkovitz, “The Nature and Function
on the one hand, and the simple meaning of the of Jewish Law,” in Berkovitz, Essential Essays
text on the other.xiii on Judaism, ed. David Hazony (Tel Aviv: Top
Despite being unable to exegetically limit Print Ltd., 2002), pp. 43-44.
the law of the mamzer, the Rabbis in the Tal- x
Deuteronomy 23:3.
mud attempt to do so in the legal application xi
Ecclesiastes 4:1.
of this law. A number of rabbis are of the opin- xii
The translation is that of Berkovitz, pp. 69-
ion that once a family’s lineage becomes hid- 70.
den (i.e. it becomes forgotten by the general xiii
Ibid, pp. 69-70.
public that they have “impure” elements in xiv
Kiddushin 71a.
their lineage), it should remain so.xiv And, in xv
See Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim 12:3,
fact, this is the position which is codified in the as well as Rama to Shulhan Arukh Even ha-
halakhic works.xv Thus, although unable to Ezer 1:5.
limit the biblical verses through exegesis, the xvi
Berkovitz, pp. 70-71. Source:
law of the mamzer is circumscribed through foreshadows many of the problems humanity chapter, in the context of the prohibition
the Rabbinic enterprise.xvi will face as it grows to cover the earth and against eating from the Tree, the first restric-
build cultures and nations. The Book of Gene- tion ever emplaced on man, is separateness in-
Conclusion sis is written with a message of the primordial troduced. The eventual arrival of individual
essential principles that underlie the complex identity is part of the progression of the oral
It should be clear that it was of vast im- dynamic state of the individual and collective stage; although id is predominant during the
portance for the rabbis of the Talmud to ensure human mind. oral stage, the ego also begins to develop.
the victory of ethics over ritual stigma in inter- Permitting a departure from the strictly After declaring the Tree of Knowledge
personal affairs. They read, counter-read, and anatomical nature of Freudian theory, replac- off-limits, God reflects, “It is not good that
circumvented verses in the Torah in order to ing the literal meanings of Freud’s sexual anx- Man should be alone.”v Here, God makes that
achieve this end. However, at the same time, it ieties with the concepts they symbolize, the statement that the undifferentiated state in
should be noted that this in no way indicates Bible had much to say that coincides with which Man exists cannot persist. Man is
some sinister attempt on the part of the Rabbis Freudian psychoanalysis. Genesis contains a “alone”, or “only”, as long as “other” does not
to pervert the original intent of the laws. The record of the psychosexual development of the exist, but when the Tree was forbidden, when
Rabbis believed that this triumph of ethics was, human race. Adam’s world split from a single, unlimited
in origin, a value of the Torah. This is evi- The earliest stage of psychosexual devel- realm into distinct realms of permitted and un-
denced in the piece from Leviticus Rabbah ref- opment, lasting from birth through infancy, is permitted, “other” entered the scene. Freud
erenced above. There we see that God is both the oral stage. During these early months of a writes the same of the baby and the eventual,
the commander of the law as well as the com- child’s life, his primary pleasure is that of nurs- inevitable absence of his mother’s breast;
forter of the mamzer affected by it. In other ing, and he gains this pleasure through his along with the experience of separation from
words, God is both the writer of the verses and mouth.i This stage is characterized by the un- his source of nourishment comes the baby’s
the plain meaning they convey, as well as the defined quality of the child’s ego. The ego is a first inkling of himself as a discrete entity
one providing the impetus for the Rabbis to in- framework that provides the structure of iden- among Awareness of the external de-
tentionally read and counter-read these verses. tity its stability; the neonatal ego is so unde- mands a mediator between the internal im-
How such an internal struggle on God’s part is veloped it allows for almost no perception of pulses and external reality – the ego emerges
to be resolved is beyond the scope of this dis- difference between internal self and external to play this role.
cussion, but it is important to keep in mind the world. In the Bible’s first description of In light of the differentiation of “self”
divine origin of the struggle and to embrace Adam’s Edenic condition, the infamous Tree from “other,” the second chapter of Genesis
this struggle on the road to truth. of Knowledge of Good and Evil was not for- continues with Adam naming the animals,vii an

12 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
act symbolic of his separateness from the ani- Because he is an embodiment of the violence. Cain’s murder of Abel, the end of hu- The phallic stage is the last stage of psy-
mal kingdom and a further darkening of the process of anal inhibition, a process in which manity’s anal stage, exposes the aggressive chosexual development before the child enters
lines that define the unique human identity. the child-parent conflict is inherent, it comes forces lying at the heart of civilization. a period of developmental latency. Develop-
The chapter ends with a new account of the as no surprise that Cain grapples with the first These unattractive beginnings to civiliza- ment in the phallic stage begins with the awak-
creation of woman,viii this time, significantly, moral dilemma recorded in the Bible. Cain was tion clearly illustrate the volatile nature of the ening of pleasurable sensations in the sex
as a separate person. This new perspective, aware of the conflict between his will and that anal stage. The ability to repress urges, to dis- organs. A young boy quickly learns that these
woman as an other, different human being, is a of God. Unlike his mother who “saw that the sociate oneself from the id’s messages, lies in sensations can be procured manually at will,
result of man’s evolving ego. The awakening Tree was good for food” and “took of the fruit the dissociative power of Thanatos. This power and seizes this opportunity. The boy’s mother,
of the latent ego indicates that the oral stage is thereof and did eat, and she gave also to her enabled Cain to step away from the world of deeming this behavior inappropriate, will chas-
well underway, and from this point on, Man is husband, and he did eat,”xiii all in one hasty, unstructured prehistory and into his role as the tise him and threaten punishment, even to the
no longer “alone.” run-on sentence of single-minded transgres- patriarch of civilization. The name of Cain’s extent that she would threaten confiscation of
The developments of the oral stage cul- sion, Cain dwelled on his decision. Over the eldest son and the city he built, Enoch, is a the object of his offense. Usually the mother
minate with the baby’s weaning, seeking food course of several verses, he experienced the form of the Hebrew for “training,” which is ex- will name the father as the agent through which
from external sources. By seeking sustenance emotions of both shame and anger,xiv and re- actly the concept Cain stood for: the guided her threats will be carried out. The mounting
beyond the isolated realm of his mother’s ceived an admonition from the Divinexv before cultivation of human potential, instead of the threat against the child’s emergent infatuation
bosom, the child begins a relationship with the acting on his urges to kill his brother.xvi undirected approach of his brother, Abel. Cain with masturbatory pleasure manifests as a
external. Genesis’ third chapter resolves the “castration complex” – an actual fear of being
Biblical oral stage with man’s exit from the deprived of his new favorite organ.xxiii
Garden into his new home, the outside world. Following the tragic fratricide of chapter
Adam and Eve’s stay in Eden ended when 4, chapter 5 of Genesis fast-forwards through
they took food from that which was forbidden, two-millennia with a simple series of “begets”
apart, external. In response to their action, before arriving at the first two verses of chap-
God, besides issuing their eviction notice, in- ter 6, “And it came to pass, when men began to
formed Eden’s ex-residents that eating from multiply on the face of the earth… the sons of
the Tree had some very serious consequences. God saw the daughters of men that they were
As warned,ix one consequence of eating was fair; and they took them wives, whomsoever
the advent of mortality; man’s own body be- they chose.” Like the baby boy and his imma-
came his adversary. God also said, you may try ture, indiscreet masturbation, early man was
to take it easy, but nature will not be hospitable, captivated by the intoxicatingly pleasurable
“In toil shalt thou eat of [the ground]; thorns use of his penis and became indiscriminate in
and thistles it shall bring forth to thee.”x Fi- gratifying his sexual desires. Before the first
nally, the aftermath of the Tree incident meant section of Genesis draws to a close, the Bible
the beginning of competition between man and makes a final comment about the sexual ca-
woman, “[A]nd [Woman’s] desire will be to- vorting of the benei elohim with the benot ha-
ward him, but he will rule [her].”xi adamxxiv and concludes with God’s dismay: “I
“We are threatened with suffering from will blot out mankind… it repenteth me that I
three directions: from our own body… doomed have made them.”xxv God would not tolerate
to decay… from the external world… with this kind of behavior from man, and reproof is
overwhelming and merciless forces of de- issued in the form of the Deluge. Like the
struction; and finally from our relationships to mother’s recourse against her son’s immodesty,
other men.”xii Freud’s three sources of external God brought a flood in response to mankind’s
opposition directly parallel the Bible’s three inappropriate sexual behavior..
plights: bodily frailty, antipathetic nature, and The suggestion that humanity underwent
social conflict. serious post-flood castration anxiety is a near-
Humanity’s oral stage is divided among certainty, and it is supported by Noah’s neces-
the first three chapters of Genesis. Chapter one sity for reassurance from God that the world is
portrayed the utter simplicity of the neonate, a safe place and by the reluctance of mankind
chapter two the infant schism of self from to fulfill God’s charge to, “Spread out in the
other, and chapter three the post-oral formation Source: earth and populate it.”xxvi Noah is shown the
of an internal-external relationship and of fac- rainbow as a sign from God that he will not
tors acting in conflict with the agenda of the bring another apocalyptic storm,xxvii and, even
instinct. Freud outlines the three external Freud interprets the long-term conse- personally built the world’s first city,xix and his then, the human community insists on staying
sources of opposition; so does the Bible. quences of inhibiting man’s anal instincts: progeny followed his lead in laying the local. Instead of covering the earth as they had
The Bible shifts its focus from Adam and “Other instincts besides anal erotism are groundwork for future civilization and culture. in antediluvian chapter 6, “They found a plain
Eve to Cain and Abel as the psychosexual de- induced to displace the conditions for their sat- The great-great-grandsons of Cain revolution- in the land of Shin’ar, and they dwelt
velopment of mankind shifts from the oral isfaction…this process coincides with that of ized economics, art, science: Yaval was the there.”xxviii
phase to the anal phase. Freud claims that two sublimation…it is what makes it possible for first to pen animals for ranching, Yuval origi- The settlement in Shin’ar, composed of
potential extremes of personality lie in the bal- higher physical activities, scientific, artistic or nated the music of the harp and pipe, and the world’s entire population, united to build
ance during the resolution of the anal stage: the ideological, to play such an important role in Tuval-Cain invented brass and iron tools.xx Un- the Tower of Babel. The story surrounding the
anal-retentive and the anal-expressive. civilized life.”xvii fortunately, the sublimations of Thanatos also construction of this towering phallic symbol is
Cain and Abel personify these opposing It is no wonder, then, that Cain, the inhib- generate violence and murder as they did for the main event of the Biblical phallic stage.
personality types. Cain, by choosing the agri- ited, is the inventor of religious sacrifice. As Cain and for his great-grandson, Lemekh, who The object of sexual interest to the boy in
cultural profession with its numerous obliga- Freud predicted, the inhibition of instinct de- “killed a man for a wound and a child for a the phallic stage of psychosexual development
tions, bound himself to the system and mands sublimation of that instinct in other pur- bruise.”xxi is his mother. Her breast being the first object
confines of a schedule and homestead. Abel suits. For Cain, that energy was redirected in The Bible’s ambivalent account of hu- of his sexual desire, the connection he has to
avoided any such anchors; as a shepherd, Abel the form of religious service, “And it was after manity’s “sadistic-anal stage,”xxii mirrors his mother starts from birth and is compounded
found himself with a near-total lack of struc- a time, that Cain brought of the fruit of the Freud’s evaluation of its double nature. Sadis- over the years as she continues to take care of
ture, spending his days and nights following ground an offering to God.”xviii However, tic because it is rooted in violence, but essen- him.xxix The child’s love affair comes into di-
his flock, living an unfettered life. The story of Cain’s sacrifice was ultimately not accepted, tial to development because becoming rect conflict with the relationship of the par-
their conflict is the story of the progression of and his sublimation was stymied; his frustrated civilized requires a sustained aggression ents to each other and pits the son against his
humanity through its anal stage. energies were channeled in another direction – against uncivilized human urges. father in competition for the attention of the

Volume 2, Issue 4 13

Kol Hamevaser
mother. The son-father rivalry coupled with the
son’s natural admiration for the superior
strength and respect commanded by the father
As presented in the Bible, the complexes and
internal conflicts that human beings face are an
elemental part of our composition; they pos-
How Halakhah Approaches the
causes the son to both imitate the father and try
to replace
“And God formed man of soil from the
sess a transcendental significance, shedding
light on mankind’s true ethos. Issue of Wife-Beatingi
earth and blew into his nostrils the soul of Jake Friedman is a sophomore at YC and
life.”xxxi The imagery in that verse, God as im- is, as yet, Undecided. BY: Meira Zack (flour), baking (bread), laundering, cooking,
pregnator of the fertile soil, suggests Heavenly nursing her child, preparing his bed for him,
Father and Mother Earth as the parents of From the beginning of time, woman was and working with wool (making clothes).”iv
mankind. Adam’s food in Eden was not the ce- cursed. This is not a feminist statement; it is a Some would say that a wife’s failure to fulfill
lestial manna of Exodus, produced directly i
Sigmund Freud, An Outline of Psychoanaly- historical fact seen clearly in the Torah: “And such tasks constitutes grounds for beating.
from God; instead, Adam ate from the fruits of sis, transl. by James Strachey (New York: W. to the woman He said: ‘I will greatly multiply Three Geonic responses to this Mishnah lay
the earth, his symbolic mother. Following the W. Norton & Company, 1963), p. 10. your pain and your travail; in pain you shall out the three different modes of dealing with
Freudian line of reasoning, Man’s first sexual ii
Genesis 1:29. bring forth children; and your desire shall be wife beating. R. Yehudai Gaon of Pumbedita
object was Earth, his provider. God serves, iii
Ibid. 1:27. to your husband, and he shall rule over you.’”ii clearly takes a violently supportive stance, as
counter to Earth, as a father figure, he metes iv
Berakhot 61b. Rashiiii and others explain the phrase “and he he states in a comment on Ketubbot: “A
out punishment and impairs Man’s ability to v
Genesis 2:18. shall rule over you,” in connection with the woman must respect her husband, nurse her
live harmoniously with Earth by banishing him vi
Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discon- phrase “and your desire shall be to your hus- children, feed her husband – even from her
from her bosom, the Garden. The Tower of tents, transl. by James Strachey (New York: W. band,” to mean that man will rule over woman hand to his mouth – launder and cook. As the
Babel was mankind’s attempt to take Mother W. Norton & Company, 1989), p. 14. with regard to sexual desires and that woman sages said: a woman grinds and bakes. When
Earth for themselves, driving away God by vii
Genesis 2:19. will not have the courage to pursue her own in- her husband enters, a woman must stand up,
creating an earthbound stronghold where they viii
Ibid. 2:21-2:24. clinations but will be subject to those of her and she is forbidden to be seated until her hus-
could be perpetually secure from divine inter- ix
Ibid. 2:17. husband. While this approach is understand- band sits down. She has no right to raise her
ference. x
Ibid. 1:16-1:17. able, I am perplexed that many did not look at voice at him, and even if he beats her, she
Construction starts, and, in true Freudian xi
Ibid. 1:18. the phrase in a more peshat-oriented way and should remain silent, as is the way of modest
form, the tower-builders make sure to imitate xii
Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, p. 26. explain literally that “man will rule over women.”v
the creative method of the father while trying xiii
Genesis 3:6. woman.” A different, anonymous, Babylonian
to usurp him, “Come, let us make bricks… xiv
Ibid. 4:5. The key to retaining a stable government Gaon writes in response to a halakhic question:
Come, let us build a city and a tower with its xv
Ibid. 4:6-4:7. is a strong standing army. This has been clear “Regarding your questions about a man
top in heaven.”xxxii Compare this to Genesis xvi
Ibid. 4:8. since the beginning of organized rule, and is no who beat his wife and caused her injury, the
1:26, “Let us make man…” and Genesis 1:11, xvii
Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, surprise to us in this day and age where there law is as follows: He is fined according to his
“Let the earth sprout grass.” Man’s creative p.51. are a good number of militant countries, and ability and his assets and he shall give the
plan is worded with marked similarity to God’s xviii
Genesis 4:3. others that are constantly in civil war because money to his wife, who may use it as she
creation. Even the use of bricks mirrors God’s xix
Ibid. 4:17. there is no one collective entity with the ma- pleases, as long as she does not give it as a gift
creative actions, “Imitating God’s creation of xx
Ibid. 4:20-4:22. jority of power and loyalty. To rule another to someone else without his consent; and they
man out of the dust of the ground, the human xxi
Ibid. 4:23. means to have physical power over him or her. shall come to a compromise, but he shall not
race begins its own creation by firing and xxii
Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis, p. 11. I believe Ibn Ezra (ad loc) follows this thought be compelled to grant a divorce.”vi
transforming portions of the earth.”xxxiii xxiii
Ibid, pp. 46-47. process and succeeds in explaining the peshat This Gaon clearly differs from Rav Yehu-
The Babel Project was ultimately sup- xxiv
Genesis 6:4. of our phrase by interpreting “he shall rule over dai in that he does not encourage wife-beating
pressed by an act of divine preemption in xxv
Ibid. 6:7. you” to mean that woman must listen to man and even rules that engaging in such behaviors
which God diffracted the single dialect of hu- xxvi
Ibid. 9:7. and do all that he commands and fulfill his de- incurs punitive consequences.vii However, it is
manity into many languages resulting in a xxvii
Ibid. 9:13-9:17. sires because she is in his “domain.” This con- hard to argue that he completely disagrees with
world full of diverse and competing cultures. xxviii
Ibid. 11:2. notes rule over woman through physical force, it. For one, he specifies that these measures
After the failure at Babel, humankind finally xxix
Freud, An Outline of Psychoanalysis, p. 45. which seems to be a precursor for domestic vi- are only taken if the husband “beat his wife
spread out across the earth, as God intended xxx
Ibid, p. 46. olence, particularly wife-beating. and caused her injury.” What if he abused her
from the onset. This time, however, they were xxxi
Ibid. 2:7. A primary concern of the Torah, and the- but did not cause injury? Is that acceptable be-
steeped in the complex awareness of self and xxxii
Ibid. 11:3-11:4. ological codes in general, is to help mankind havior? Furthermore, while he agrees that the
other, of constructive destruction, and of the xxxiii
Leon R. Kass, The Beginning of Wisdom: conquer its behemiyut, its animalistic instincts, husband is obliged to pay his hurt wife for the
potency of the sex drive. This time, they set out Reading Genesis (Chicago: University of in order to become benei adam, human indi- injury, he specifically states that said injury
with a mature psyche, fully aware of the po- Chicago Press, 2003), p. 223. viduals. The question then arises: How does does not hold as grounds for the wife to de-
tential of their powers. From here, the Bible Halakhah deal with this natural instinct of man mand a divorce.
stops its discussion of mankind as a whole and to victimize woman and physically beat her? Rav Paltoi Gaon, also of Pumbedita, rules
focuses very specifically on a line of Abra- Factors considered in the halakhic discourses that wife beating can be grounds for divorce,
hamic ancestry. This marks the end of the include the reasons for beating, warning from but only if the violence is frequent. He writes:
Bible’s psychosexual discussion. the beit din, and beating as grounds for di- “In places where disputes took place continu-
Freud presented the phenomena of psy- vorce. Interestingly enough, it seems that there ously…if he started, she receives all the money
chosexual development as prehistoric, but ac- are extreme differences in hashkafic outlook under it [the marriage contract].” From the
cidental, conditions. His stories of early and halakhic ruling based on where each posek opinions of these three Geonim, we can see
humanity were not metaphors for universal who discusses these matters lived. We shall that pesak on wife-beating in that era ranged
truths but actual events to which he ascribed start with the common ground of the Mishnah, from encouraging the practice to declaring it
the historical origins of modern human behav- move on to the extremely “conservative” grounds for divorce, but only in specific cir-
ior. While he saw these events as representa- views of the Hakhmei Sefarad, and the more cumstances. Regardless of what stance the
tive of significant epochs in the evolution of “leftist” views of the Hakhmei Ashkenaz, and majority of Geonim took on this continuum,
the human psyche, to him they were merely finish with the particularly revolutionary meas- wife beating was, apparently, a common oc-
circumstances that influenced that evolution ures taken by German posekim. currence at this time in Jewish history.
from without. The lessons of the Bible differ The halakhic controversy over whether or It is important to note that the Jews of Se-
significantly. By identifying God’s involve- not a man may beat his wife emerges from a farad lived under Muslim rule which was bla-
ment in the development of the human psyche, Mishnah in Ketubbot: “These are the tasks a tantly violent towards women. This could very
the Bible is claiming that the human condition woman must do for her husband: grinding well have affected the way posekim viewed
it describes is not just prehistoric, but ahistoric.

14 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
and determined rulings on such issues. The real purpose, she is granted a divorce. It could attributed to the stark difference between the raises those children?
first opinion we have on such matters comes even be said from the way Rashba words his Sefardic and Ashkenazic stances on wife beat- “When R. Meir of Rothenburg expressed
from the book Ben Mishlei, by Spaniard She- rulings that he tends towards the side of non- ing. As mentioned above, it might have to do his disgust at wife-beating in Jewish society he
muel ha-Naggid (995-1056). He writes: “Hit violence. A responsum of Rashba reads as fol- with influence of the surrounding non-Jewish described it as ‘the way of the gentiles’ and ‘the
your wife if she dominates you as a man and lows: “A husband who beats his wife every day neighbors. It could also be based on the socio- custom of the world’s nations.’”xv This extra
raises her head.”viii Avraham Grossman com- until she needs to leave his home and go to her economic situations of these different areas. I step taken by Ashkenazic authorities exempli-
ments that “this may simply be poetic license father’s home, tell me what is the law. Re- would like to suggest, however, that it is based fies the Torah’s purpose (as stated in the intro-
[to beat one’s wife], but since the motif appears sponse: The husband may not beat his on neither, but instead on the way women were duction) in raising man up from the minimal
a number of times in the same work [Ben wife…on the contrary he must honor her more valued. state of keeping his animalistic tendencies in
Mishlei] it probably reflects an established that his own body. And the court asks and in- Women were not complete equals in ei- check, to the level where he behaves with hu-
point of view.”ix quires who is responsible.”xiii ther society, but degree of equality could have manistic empathy in the most just and appro-
The next major Sefaradic authority to It is also important to note that there were a large impact on the way with which wife priate manner. In this way, he truly fulfills the
comment on the topic was R. Yosef ibn Avitur Sefaradic posekim opposed to wife beating beating was dealt. How so? Halakhah sets verse: “Kedoshim tihyu, ki kadosh Ani,
(turn of the 11th century). He writes: even in cases where the wife did not perform down laws that prohibit one man from harming Hashem Elokeichem – You shall be holy, be-
“Let it be known that if there are wit- the tasks required of her by the Mishnah. another. Hence, the more a woman was per- cause I, the Lord your God, am holy.”xvi
nesses that he beat her once or twice, the Bet Among such posekim was R. Yosef bar Meir ceived as equal, the more those laws extended
Din must warn him about it and tell him: mi-Gash. to protect her, and the less she was perceived as
‘Know that you are not allowed to hit her, and Interestingly, the best-case scenarios for inferior. This goes vice versa as well: the less Meira Zack is a sophomore at SCW ma-
if you repeat this evil act of yours, the woman beaten wives in Sefarad were the worst-case a woman was perceived as equal, the less those joring in Political Science.
will get a divorce with the rights of her mar- scenarios for ones in Ashkenaz. There were laws extended to protect her. This discrepancy
riage contract.’…And even if it is found to be posekim like R. Yisrael Isserlein of Austria in perception could explain why posekim such
true that he beat her once and again, as you (1390-1460) who allowed husbands to beat as Rambam required husbands to pay their i
In writing this article, I relied heavily on the
have explained, we do not compel the husband their wives if the wives had cursed their hus- beaten wives only if they were harmed, and following: Avraham Grossman, “Medieval
to give her a bill of divorce with her rights bands’ parents and treated them with con- would not permit divorce on those grounds. To Rabbinic Views on Wife-Beating, 800-1300,”
under the marriage contract until he has been Jewish History 5, 1 (March 1991): 53-62; and
warned by the Bet Din and the community’s idem, Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in
elders who tell him...and he receives the warn- Medieval Europe, transl. Jonathan Chipman,
ing and is left at home with a trustworthy per- (Waltham: Brandeis University Press, 2004).
son; if the latter testifies that he repeated his ii
Genesis 3:16. The translation is from JPS He-
evil deed, she is paid the money due to her by brew-English Tanakh: The Traditional Hebrew
the marriage contract.”x Text and the New JPS Translation (Philadel-
This opinion evidently condemns wife phia: Jewish Publication Society, 1999),
beating since it agrees that such an act is slightly modified by me.
grounds for divorce. However, the parameters iii
Rashi ad loc, s.v. “ve-el ishekh teshukatekh;”
are very strict. The only way to receive a di- “hu yimshol bakh.”
vorce is to find witnesses, trudge through the iv
Ketubbot 5:5.
court system to get an official warning, and v
Halakhot Ketsuvot, published by Y. Miller in
then experience the violent act once more Achter Bericht (Hochschule, Berlin, 1890).
which, again, must be witnessed. If a man Emphasis mine.
knows this to be the ruling, will he not be care- Source: vi
She’eilot u-Teshuvot ha-Ge’onim (Koronil
ful to beat his wife when there are no witnesses edition, Vienna, 1871), siman 44.
around? tempt. However, starting with Rabad of those of the Sefaradic tradition, women were vii
This idea is taken from a Tosefta that deems
The opinion of Rambam (1135-1204), Posquieres (1120-1198), who vehemently op- not seen as equal to men; they were under the domestic violence as a criminal act: “A person
who lived in Spain and then Egypt, is even posed Rambam on this issue, most Ashkenazi rule of men, so only the bare minimum of Ha- who harms his wife, whether he himself or oth-
more perplexing. On the one hand, he sympa- posekim had little tolerance for wife beaters. lakhah extended to them. The halakhot of ers did so, will be deprived of property, which
thizes with the plight of the beaten woman, Rabad made a number of statements, such as: damage from one man to another have to do will be used to buy land and he will have the
stating that “a husband who harmed his wife “I have never heard of chastising women with with causing actual damage, and therefore the usufruct thereof.”
must immediately pay her all the injury, shame, rods” and “I have never heard of whipping halakhot that pertain to instances of a violent viii
Shemuel ha-Naggid, Ben Mishlei, ed. S.
and sorrow. Everything belongs to her, and the wives.” This idea is followed up by Meiri of husband and a beaten wife only apply when Abramson (Tel Aviv: Mahbarot le-Sifrut,
husband derives no benefit, and if she wants, Provence (1249-1315) who was asked there are physical consequences to the abuse. 1948), p. 117, siman 419.
she may give the money to another person; “whether a husband was permitted to beat his From this point of view, Halakhah is being fol- ix
Grossman, “Medieval Rabbinic Views,” p.
thus instructed the Geonim.”xi Yet, with regard wife with a stick during her menstrual period,” lowed, since man may not physically strike 56.
to compelling a woman to do the housework since, according to Jewish law, he is forbidden woman, but there is still room for man to sub- x
Sha’arei Tsedek, vol. 4, 4:42.
she is supposed to do as stated in the Mishnah to touch her in that state. His answer was that due woman verbally. xi
Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Hovel u-Mazzik
in Ketubbot, he not only condones violence, although the rules regarding menstruation do The Ashkenazic standpoint differs in how 4:16.
but even encourages it: “Any woman who re- not forbid it, since the husband does not actu- it views the relationship between a man and his xii
Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Ishut 21:10.
frains from doing work of the kind that she is ally touch her, in principle he is forbidden to neighbor, versus the relationship between hus- xiii
She’eilot u-Teshuvot ha-Rashba, 7:477.
obliged to do is forced to do it, even by means beat his wife for any reason whatsoever. band and wife. Maharam of Rothenburg ex- xiv
Grossman, “Medieval Rabbinic Views,” p.
of whipping.”xii Furthermore, Rambam does This Ashkenazi position was not only em- presses this in his Responsa: “As for a man 58. Meiri’s position is found in Beit ha-Behi-
not even mention the concept of divorce re- bedded in halakhic texts but also put into ac- who hits his wife, I have received (by tradition) rah to Niddah, edition of A. Sofer (New York,
sulting from beating, and this is most likely be- tion as punishment for wife-beaters. This was that he must be dealt with more severely than 1949), p. 279, and in Beit ha-Behirah to Ke-
cause he did not recognize it. particularly so in Germany (as opposed to a person who hits someone else, since he does tubbot, edition of A. Sofer (New York, 1947),
The views of R. Yosef ibn Avitur and France). Maharam of Rothenburg (1215-1295) not have to respect others, whereas he must re- p. 24.
Rambam seem to represent the general stance states in his Responsa: “The beater must be spect his wife.”xiv Here, Halakhah apparently xv
She’eilot u-Teshuvot Maharam (Prague edi-
of Sefaradi rabbis on the issue of wife beating. boycotted and excommunicated, beaten and goes beyond the strict letter of the law, asking tion), siman 81.
It is carried through the generations and seen punished with all sorts of beatings, and his fundamental questions about the nature of xvi
Ibid, siman 291.
very clearly in the rulings of Rashba who lived hand should be cut off if it is used to beat her.” man: Does not a person by nature love his xvii
Grossman, “Medieval Rabbinic Views,” p.
in Christian Spain (1235-1310). In cases Furthermore, not a single Ashkenazi posek de- children, his own flesh and blood, more than 58.
where the woman was beaten for not doing her nies the right of a beaten woman to demand a random people he meets on the street? How xviii
Leviticus 19:2.
work, the husband is not condemned. How- divorce. much more so should a person love and respect
ever, if her husband continually beat her for no There are a number of reasons that can be the person with whom he builds his life and

Volume 2, Issue 4 15

Kol Hamevaser

The Reverberations of Elitism

BY: Marlon Danilewitz have the kindness and moral virtue to also pour who would provide for the couple, as well as a grave blemish to a family, and in fact often
water for his flock of sheep. It is evident from the capacity for the wife to work and subse- inhibits these individuals from seeking proper
Finding a partner that one intends to this story that the values and morality of quently provide for the family and her hus- mental health. Greenberg and Witztum, two
spend the rest of one’s life with is a profound Rivkah’s character proved to Eliezer that she band’s Torah study). psychiatrists studying ultra-Orthodox mental
and monumental decision. Moreover, the deci- deserved to marry Isaac. As the times changed, the practice of health, note that “a history of mental illness is
sion of a child to marry a particular individual Jewish matchmaking in 18th century Eu- choosing a spouse also changed. “From the a major blot on a family pedigree. One family
is also an intense ordeal for the associated fam- rope, however, had a decidedly different char- mid-nineteenth century, however, other factors member with a psychiatric record affects the
ilies. The sociological history of marriage in acter. ChaeRan Freeze, a prominent historian gradually began to have an impact, a reflection marriage prospects of everyone else in the fam-
modern Jewish history is characterized by elit- of Eastern European Judaism, notes in her of the growing influence of the bride and ily. For this reason, a family will try to hide a
ist tendencies, where potential partners are work, Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Impe- groom but also medical science, secular edu- psychiatric problem… Everything is done to
evaluated under a set of specific parameters to rial Russia, that “arranging marriage was one cation (especially for women), new cultural avoid making the existence of mental disorder
bolster the economic and social standing of the of the most critical decisions that a Jewish fam- trends, and changing social and economic re- public knowledge.”viii
families. While the contemporary phenomenon ily faced: the outcome often affected not only alities.”vi In other words, in light of the dis-
of dating and shiddukhim is starkly different the couple but also their families, especially coveries of science, in particular the
from its counterparts in the previous centuries, parents.”ii Traditionally, the critical factors for knowledge of diseases and the biological com- Integration of Individuals with Intellectual
certain vestiges of the elitist mentality continue choosing a spouse weighed heavily on “family plications associated with interbreeding, the Disabilities in Jewish Schools
to afflict the practice of meeting one’s soul lineage, family wealth, male’s learning and the criteria for choosing a spouse shifted. More-
mate, or bashert. female’s commercial talents.”iii Furthermore, over, because of the forces of assimilation, the As public school classrooms around the
Because of the profundity and centrality what emerges from a comprehensive study of personal morality of the potential wife became country seek to implement normalization and
of marriage as a Jewish institution, it may be Jewry in 18th century Eastern Europe is that a critical criterion. Freeze notes that as a result integration based curricula and programs, their
possible to infer that the effects and reverber- “marriage was understood as an (economic) al- “unmarried girls who accidentally lose their Jewish counterparts lag behind. Yeshiva Uni-
ations of the ideals used to determine a poten- liance between families and was under strict virginity were to report the incident to the beit versity’s Dr. Jeffrey Glanz, Raine and Stanley
tial spouse impact contemporary traditional parental control.”iv Unlike the aforementioned din so as to avoid any questions about their Silverstein Chair of Professional Ethics and
Jewish society’s mentality in areas such as the Values at Azrieli, argues: “Too many Jewish
Orthodox Jewish interaction with cognitive schools, in particular, exclude the ‘non tradi-
disability. There is a tremendous amount of tional’ student possessing different learning
hesitancy and remonstration amidst many Jew- needs and requiring special educational serv-
ish schools and individuals at the prospects of ices. Many Jewish day schools and yeshivot
integrating individuals with intellectual dis- are not philosophically committed to inclusive
abilities into day schools and yeshivot. This re- pedagogy, nor have they been able to commit
sponse is particularly alarming in light of the sufficient resources, financial and otherwise,
attitude of much of general society to swiftly to support such initiatives organizationally.”ix
adopt integrative programs in the spirit of the In the mid-1980’s, the Regular Education
very Jewish ideals of social justice and equal- Initiative (REI) recommended “fundamental
ity. This negative attitude is rooted in the un- changes in the way in which educate students
founded belief that individuals with intellectual with disabilities, including those categorized
disabilities will somehow negatively affect the as mentally retarded”x which helped pave the
other “normal” students, despite the fact that way for the rise in mainstreaming and inclu-
studies have illustrated that positive effects are sion based educational approaches. Generally
associated with normal students who are part speaking, the term mainstreaming refers to the
of normalizing educational programs. May it physical integration of an individual with in-
be possible to suggest that generations of elit- tellectual disabilities, by placing them in gen-
ist-based tendencies associated with marriage eral education classrooms. However, inclusion
have grossly affected Orthodox Jewish atti- connotes more than basic integration. The no-
tudes towards cognitive disability? Source:
tion of inclusion is “predicated on the idea that
It is the intention of the first part of this biblical description, where the central criterion virtue later.”
students with disabilities are welcomed and
essay to primarily explore trends in traditional for ascertaining a potential spouse concerned Although the values and criteria currently embraced as participating and contributing
Jewish society in finding a potential spouse character, the practice in Ashkenaz was eco- ascribed to the choosing of a potential spouse members of the general education class-
and the possible ramifications of these tenden- nomically driven with distinct elitist tenden- are starkly different from that of previous gen- room.”xi
cies. The latter portion of this essay is dedi- cies. erations, certain tendencies continue to per- Notwithstanding the hesitancy towards in-
cated to an analysis of inclusive education The combination of Jewish society’s ap- vade. The advent of genetics, in particular clusion, the case for inclusive education is
within the Jewish community, and an evalua- praisal of talmud Torah as an attribute of great genetic testing and screening, has culminated rooted in both secular philosophy and Jewish
tion of noted hesitancy among Jewish schools importance and the intense commitment re- in a consciousness in the Orthodox Jewish thought. The philosopher John Rawls in his po-
and the community at large to invoke greater quired by prospective talmidei hakhamim community, a society in which hereditary dis- litical philosophy work Theory of Justice, out-
social justice and equality by facilitating inte- helped to cultivate an elitist marriage market eases like Tay-Sachs are at a higher prevalence lines the framework for educational inclusion.
grative educational facilities for individuals where a man of great Talmudic potential was than in the general population. Awareness of Rawls understands justice as being grounded
with intellectual disabilities. coupled with a wealthy wife, whose family genetics has resulted in profound consequences in human respect, and includes the develop-
could actualize the husband’s endowed poten- to the nature in finding a spouse. The genetic ment of different relationships grounded in
Trends in Jewish Marriage tial. The Jewish historian Immanuel Etkes makeup of the potential spouse and of the fam- mutual respect and treating each other justly.
posits that “the institution of arranged mar- ily, as a result, has arguably become a promi- Moreover, justice is founded on the notion of
The practice of shiddukhim is an age-old riages was mobilized to subsidize the studies nent factor in selecting a spouse. A rise in the equity, in the Aristotelian sense. In education,
Jewish practice dating back to biblical history. of young men.”v Etkes notes the manner in stigma associated with carriers of particular in- equity and justice are established by ensuring
In fact, the Torah describes the episode of which the husband’s financial obligation to his heritable disorders and/or families with cases that every student has the educational help and
Abraham sending his servant Eliezer to find a family were obviated in order to allow him to of particular diseases has accompanied this assistance he needs to succeed. To treat people
suitable wife for his son Isaac.i It is significant achieve his potential as a great sage through new wave of technology. More generally, in- equally means to treat people with equity,
to note that Eliezer constructs a test to see who, the dowry, the kest (period in which the wife formation like mental illness in a family within evenhandedly ensuring what each person
when prompted to pour him some water, would and husband would live with the wife’s parents the Orthodox community has been shown to be needs is allotted to him. In Jewish thought, the

16 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
notion of tsedakah parallels the aforemen-
tioned idea of justice and equity. The obliga- Marlon Danilewitz is a junior at YC ma-
Opening Doors
tion for tsedakah is to provide in accordance joring in Biology and Psychology and is a Staff
BY: Rabbi Steven Greenberg ness itself became a strange frustration, and the
with the person’s needs. This idea is exempli- Writer for Kol Hamevaser.
consciousness of desire bubbling up from in-
fied by the story in which Hillel ha-Zaken
When Kol Hamevaser asked me to write a side me became undeniable.
bought a horse and slave for a previously
piece about my journey, I was pleasantly sur- On one desperate occasion, beset with an
wealthy person who had become destitute. i
See Genesis, chapter 24.
prised. I was asked by one of the editors to re- increased awareness of my attraction to a fel-
Inclusive education is a process that helps ii
ChaeRan Freeze, Jewish Marriage and Di-
flect upon my experience at Yeshiva and my low yeshivah student at Gush, I visited the
achieve social justice for individuals with dis- vorce in Imperial Russia (Hanover: Brandeis
struggles to continue to find a home in the Or- sage, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. I told him
abilities.xii Alternate methods of education University Press, 2002), p. 12.
thodox community. Perhaps contrary to what what I felt, at the time, was the truth. “Master,
which separate those individuals with intellec- iii
Ibid, p. 25.
might be expected, my initial experience at YU I am attracted to both men and women. What
tual disabilities from the remainder of the class iv
Ibid. See also The YIVO encyclopedia of
was, for the most part, wonderful. This was for shall I do?” He responded, “My dear one, my
are purported to be not as effective as inclusive Jews in Eastern Europe, ed. Gershon David
two reasons. The first was that I loved the friend, you have twice the power of love. Use
settings, which has been shown to increase ac- Hundert (New Haven: Yale University Press,
learning, the city, and my teachers at JSS. The it carefully.” I was stunned. I sat in silence for
ademic achievement of both the able and dis- 2008).
second was that I was deep in denial. a moment, waiting for more. “Is that all?” I
abled.xiii v
Immanuel Etkes, “Marriage and Torah Study
I had come to Yeshiva as a naïve ba’al asked. He smiled and said, “That is all. There
At the heart of the resistance to inclusive among the Lomdim in Lithuania in the Nine-
teshuvah from Columbus, Ohio with not a whit is nothing more to say.”
education rest a number of stigma and false be- teenth Century” in The Jewish Family,
of gay self-awareness. This is not say that there Rav Elyashiv’s words calmed me, permit-
liefs fuelled in part by hints of elitist tenden- Metaphor and Memory, ed. David Kraemer
were not inklings. At the age of ten, I remem- ting me to temporarily forget the awful ten-
cies. Glanz cites a typical discussion (New York, Oxford, 1989), 153-178.
ber having a nagging sense that there was sions that would eventually overtake me. His
concerning a principal looking to facilitate a vi
Freeze, p. 25.
something dangerous about my feelings. How- trust and support buoyed me above my fears.
more inclusive educational program at his vii
Ibid, p. 36.
ever, there were no words for this. “Faggot” Of course, I was not asking for permission to
school and a parent. In response to principal’s viii
David Greenberg and Eliezer Witztum, San-
and “homo” were words were words reserved act upon my feelings, nor was he offering any.
desire to integrate individuals with intellectual ity and Sanctity: Mental Health Work Among
for the boys hounded for being passive and I needed to understand what my sexual desire
disabilities, the parent retorted, “I don’t want the ultra-Orthodox in Jerusalem (New Haven:
unathletic. Neither one said anything about for men meant. From his words, I understood
that kind of child in the same class with my Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 228-9.
sexual attraction. When I was twelve, I re- that strong desire was not to be feared – that it
child.” Another parent declared, “My child is ix
Jeffrey Glanz, The Ethics of Exclusion: Ped-
member being mesmerized by the handsome was evidence of a great potential for loving. In
normal. These other kids have problems. agogical, Curricular, Leadership and Moral
teenage son of distant cousins at family an amazing turnaround, I began to feel that this
They’ll slow down the learning of my child.” Imperatives for Inclusive Practice in Jewish
sedarim. Later in my early teens, I vaguely re- piece of my soul might actually make me a bet-
Many Jewish schools themselves remain Schools (New York: Yeshiva University, 2008).
call my head once turning sharply in the high ter rabbi. As a bisexual, I could have a wider
uncommitted to integration and/or conse- x
Mental Retardation: An Introduction to Intel-
school locker room toward a boy two grades and richer emotional life – and, perhaps, a
quently fail to dedicate serious resources and lectual Disabilities, eds. Mary Beirne-Smith,
older than me. At the time, I noticed my body’s deeper spiritual life than is common – and still
efforts to implementing these programs. Glanz James M. Patton, and Shannon H. Kim (Mer-
involuntary movement, but I could not name marry and have a family.
similarly conveys another telling scenario that ril, 2006), p. 362.
it. There were no categories for this experience, I came back to New York City in 1978 to
represent this reality. The scenario concerns a xi
no way to explain the jerking around of my finish college, start RIETS, and get married. At
girl named Sarah who experienced problems xii
Artiles, Harris-Murri, & Rostenberg, “Inclu-
head, the warm sensation on my face, or the the age of twenty-two, half of my friends were
with retention of information and had trouble sion as social justice: Critical notes on dis-
flutter in my chest. engaged or married, and I was eager to join
learning as many pesukim as her fellow class- courses, assumptions, and the road ahead,”
A few years later, the arrival of the hor- their ranks. I dated women regularly during
mates. As the situation deteriorated, Sarah 2006, p. 261.
monal hurricane left me completely dumb- this period, but I had no clue what specifically
began to grow frustrated. She said that, “I hate xiii
Artiles, Kozleski, Dorn & Christensen,
founded. Just when my body should have I was supposed to feel. In one of my hopeless
my school; the kids tease me and they call me “Learning in Inclusive Education Research:
fulfilled social expectations, it went completely attempts at inducing passion, I brought a
dummy.” Despite a special tutor at home the Re-mediating Theory and Methods with a
mute. I still had no conscious response to boys, woman to the most romantic spot on Roosevelt
problems persisted. In the course of meeting Transformative Agenda,” in Inclusion and Di-
but despite the great expectations, I also had Island, where in 1984 I was a congregational
with the principal, he stated, “It’s unfortunate, versity in Education, vol. 2, ed. Peter P. Hick
no physical response to girls. By this time al- rabbi. The lighthouse on the northern end of
but we simply can’t accommodate your child’s and Gary Thomas (Sage Publication Ltd,
ready religiously observant, my saving grace the Island was quiet and secluded. The sound
peculiar learning style.” Shocked by the prin- 2008).
was negi’ah, the religious prohibition to em- and smell of the river’s swirling at its tip was
cipal’s reaction, the parents decided to move
brace, kiss, or even touch girls until marriage. the perfect setting for what I had planned to be
Sarah to a local public school which provided
The premarital sexual restraint of the tradition the violation of the tradition with my first kiss.
inclusion class options.
was a perfect mask, not only to the world, but That kiss never happened.
to myself. While it gave me religious cover for The next week, I was a wreck. The hu-
my active self-exclusion from the world of miliating failure to feel any desire for a woman
teenage romance and sexual exploration, it I cared so much for left me confused and de-
It is not possible nor is it the intention of even more importantly allowed me to not pressed. At one moment that week, on my way
this article to definitively argue that there is know what I knew. I would hang out with back to the Island on the tramway, I saw a very
single cause for the seeming hesitancy of the friends on Friday nights, attend parties without handsome young man looking at me. At that
many Jewish schools and communities to fos- breaking Sabbath rules, and drink beer and moment, I let myself fully feel the electric
ter inclusive educational practices, whether it laugh at the sexual exploits of my peers. I did power of his gaze and was overwhelmed by
be elitist marriage tendencies or not. This is not not share with my buddies the mix of jealousy, my repressed desire. I turned away to catch my
to say that the issues are by any means sepa- fear and moral superiority that the topic of breath.
rate from one another. Rather, the “I don’t want “fooling around” with girls raised in me. For the next decade, my life was a ticking
that student in the same class as mine” or more It was a relief, therefore, to find myself in time bomb. I was thrilled to be working as an
extreme comments of that nature speak to a yeshivah, first at YU and then at Yeshivat Har Orthodox rabbi and educator by day and torn
deep-rooted predisposition in the traditional Etzion. I was welcomed into a monastic world apart by the realities of my heart and body by
Jewish community. It is a virtue to praise ex- of sorts, where hundreds of twenty-something night. On Yom Kippur, every year, I would lis-
cellence in Talmudic wisdom and secular men studied and debated in pairs for twelve ten to the verse read in the Minhah keri’ah, and
knowledge, but not at the loss of social justice hours a day. The emotional and intellectual in- sob with my tallis over my head. One Yom
and equality. Failure to do so ignores the innate tensity of yeshivah, the male camaraderie, Kippur, I decided that I could not cower any
humane dignity that binds all of human kind physical affection, and mental sparring was more. I wanted to have the aliyah for the read-
together as equals. wonderful. But, over time, as my sexual re- ing of those very verses. I arranged with the
pression wore thinner every year, male close- shamash that I would have the proper aliyah,

Volume 2, Issue 4 17

Kol Hamevaser
and, when it was time, I went up to the bimah In the book, I offer two arguments. The ally the heart of the matter. Our honesty is
in the center of the shul. My heart was pound- first one is for gay people who hunger for an surely the most unsettling demand, but com-
ing as I climbed the steps to the shulhan. I felt interpretation of Scripture that doesn’t mark munities must understand that, above all else,
as if I was standing on the top of a mountain in them as rightly hated by God because of the or- we cannot tolerate the lies that were required of
a thunderstorm. I said the blessing and heard dinary desire for love and companionship. The us in order to pass. Our self-hatred and shame
the verse, “Thou shalt not lie with a male as second argument is for Orthodox congrega- were products of those lies. In some Orthodox
one lies with a woman – it is an abomination.” tions to open their doors. It is a halakhic argu- shuls, gay people are tolerated if they are dis-
To my surprise, hearing the words this time, I ment that justifies a community’s desire to creet and single. Couples, and surely couples
no longer felt fear, pain, or even accusation. I make room for its gay members. with kids, are visible in their difference and so
was strangely empowered. I felt that in my While most Orthodox synagogues are not pose a more difficult challenge. A “Welcoming
willingness to be vulnerable to the text, it be- up to the challenge, a few Orthodox rabbis Synagogue” will be one that slowly learns to
came vulnerable to me and everyone like me. over the past few years have begun to welcome be at ease with its gay members who have
The full ramifications of these verses cannot gay people into their shuls. Based loosely on found partners and created families. As diffi-
be fully appreciated until those who interpret the few synagogues which have in practice in- cult as it is to find love in the world, when we
the verses hear our stories. Until the people tegrated gay and lesbian congregants, I have do, we ought not to be exiled from the very
who bear the weight of these texts – whose discerned three principles which I think de- communities that can help us grow as families.
hearts, spirits, and bodies have been broken by scribe a “welcoming” Orthodox congregation: Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, at the recent Lim-
them – are asked to give their testimonies, how No humiliation. Rabbis will agree not to mud Conference in England, argued that he fa-
can rabbis claim to have done their work? humiliate or demean gay and lesbian people vors greater acceptance of gay and lesbian
I began to write in the summer of 1992, from the pulpit and will work to prevent such people in Orthodox synagogues. As someone
while still in the closet. “Gayness and God” humiliation in their congregations. who has gotten to know Orthodox gay and les-
was published in 1993 in Tikkun Magazine No public advocacy. Gay and lesbian bian people, he says, “I don’t object to gay-les-
under a pseudonym, Rabbi Yaakov Levado. members will acknowledge the limits of the bian parents bringing a child into this world, as
The article began with a bold statement: “I am halakhic process and not presume the Ortho- long as they do so responsibly.” “The syna-
an Orthodox rabbi and I am gay.” It was a con- dox synagogue will adopt the social agenda of gogue is meant to accept any Jew. I must love
fession and a plea for understanding and dig- the gay and lesbian community. the foreigner, as well as those who are differ-
nity. During the few months following the No lying. Gay and lesbian members will ent. Our role as parents is to love our children,
publication of the article, I received a number be able to tell the truth about their relationships and the rabbis’ role is to love the members of
of letters forwarded to me through the maga- and their families. their congregation.”
zine. I heard from gay and lesbian Jews, most The first stipulation is a given. A rabbi It is my fervent hope that, in time, con-
of whom had left Orthodoxy years before. The who feels that he must deliver polemical jere- gregations will find ways to navigate their
letters were my first taste of support and en- miads in regard to homosexuality will not pro- principles and set aside their fears, and that gay
couragement as I ventured, under cloak, out- vide a welcoming home for gay people. Such and lesbian people will find the courage to risk
side the closet. diatribes help no one and do a good deal of their hearts for the sake of coming home. Many
During the next six years, I slowly shared harm. In every Orthodox community, there are of us are ready to be woven back into the life
my secret with friends and family, and finally, closeted gay Jews, parents of lesbian daugh- of the community, to share its joys and sor-
in 1999, after finishing a fellowship in Israel, I ters, sisters of gay brothers, and young people rows, its burdens and delights, if only a door is
decided the time had come. But how does an terrified of a nameless secret. left open and a light is left on.
Orthodox rabbi come out of the closet? I had The second stipulation is challenging for
become involved during my two years in many gay people. Orthodox synagogues can- Rabbi Steven Greenberg is the Director of
Jerusalem with a group of activists trying to not be a platform for gay liberation. However, the CLAL Diversity Project and the author of
build a GLBT (gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgen- we can expect that our rabbis be willing to Wrestling with God and Men: Homosexuality
der) community center. By the time I was leav- offer a degree of humility and compassion. in the Jewish Tradition, (University of Wiscon-
ing, we had secured a space that was being A well-known YU rabbi and scholar, who sin Press). He is scholar-in-residence for
renovated. Friends were pressing me to come prefers not be named, once publicly said that Hazon, a Jewish Environmental organization,
out just before the grand opening of the when he was first was asked about Judaism and Keshet, an organization dedicated to
Jerusalem Open House. I did nothing. As Prov- and homosexuality, he knew what to say: he GLBT inclusion in the larger Jewish commu-
idence would have it, on the flight home, sit- easily recited chapter and verse of the standard nity.
ting next to me was the Weekend Feature ruling. Over time, as he met the people at his Editor’s Note: If you would like to contact
Editor of Ma’ariv. In March of 1999, I came shul who were gay or lesbian or whose chil- the author, please email him at: rabbisteveg-
out publicly in an article entitled, “Le-Shem dren had come out to him, he became more
Zugiyut” (In the Name of Partnership). The conflicted. He tells gay people now that he is
next week, The Forward picked up the news humbled by their stories and cannot imagine
and published an article describing me as the what it is like to walk in their shoes. While he
first openly gay Orthodox rabbi. I had expected cannot permit, he also no longer feels in a po-
a barrage of verbal and written attacks. To my sition to condemn. He simply encourages gay
surprise, nothing of the sort happened. Yes, folks to come to his shul and be a part of his
there were a few harsh voices, but nearly all congregation. For those gay and lesbian peo-
my friends were wonderfully supportive. A ple who want to feel fully supported by their
number of my rabbinic colleagues called up to synagogue community, this sort of partial wel-
offer their support, calling my move “gutsy,” come may not be comfortable. Nonetheless,
but asking not to be quoted. many people who want the unique vibrancy
During the next five years, I kept writing and intensity of traditional Jewish communi-
and, by 2004, I had finished a book entitled ties are respectful of halakhic limitations and
Wrestling with God and Men, which, I am know that whatever change in attitude is pos-
proud to say, won the Koret Jewish Book sible will come about because we have not
Award in 2005 for Philosophy and Thought. walked away.
However, I am even happier to say that it has The last stipulation is the most important
served to help families reconcile and it has of- for gay Jews and the most difficult for rabbis
fered a way for many gay people to hold on to and congregations. “Welcoming Synagogues”
their trust of Torah and their faith in God. can not require us to lie. This stipulation is re-

18 Volume 2, Issue 4

Jewish Education
Continuing the Conversation
Devarim she-Yesh la-Hem Shiur, or a Case of Sheer Opportunity
BY: Ben Greenfield gled over the plain meaning of the text, a noble be clear and engaging. Announce and summa- able to peer back at weeks passed, recalling the
assignment we now take for granted. The rize each new step, repeat key sentences, slow development of a truly impressive, truly
Editor’s Note: The following article is the Tosafists identified and addressed talmudic in- clearly name all citations,v encourage clarify- cohesive acquisition of Torah. Clarity on three
second installment of a piece entitled “Shiur consistencies – so successfully, in fact, that if ing questions. To aid in preparation, include counts – pedagogical lucidity, cogent outlines,
Hadash, or a Case of Shiur Innovation” which a modern student “discovers” a new contradic- in the daf mekorot (source sheet) the exact and a syllabus – galvanizes shiur’s latent pow-
was published in the last edition of Kol tion, he can presume it is addressed in the aged questions to be addressed. In former times, ers and enables it to fuel the next revolution in
Hamevaser (December 2008) on Jewish Edu- literature or, alternatively, begin questioning when shiur served a less central role, students talmud Torah.
cation. his assumptions. Various Rishonim tendered might suffer filtering and decoding the words These are monumental times. We are wit-
competing readings of the Gemara, until a new of their master. If anything, they could rely on nessing a break from previous modes of Torah
So: good or bad? Until this point, I at- duty emerged – selecting one approach as ha- at least understanding the texts studied in study, a metamorphosis in method and empha-
temptedto maintain some semblance of neu- lakhically authoritative. The popularity of the hakhanah. However, with shiur playing the sis. This nontraditional approach belies a more
trality, refraining from normative statements. Shulhan Arukh satisfied that need, but pro- principal part in today’s Torah study, proper radical and philosophical transformation,
True, I claim the centrality of shiur is innova- duced a demand to critique or modify contro- pedagogy is paramount. A barely intelligible where the construct we call Torah is reassem-
tive, but that betrays neither commendation nor versial rulings. The sheer effectiveness of our shiur means a sugya lost forever. It means an bled and redefined. We are uniquely suited to
condemnation — the question of merit re- predecessors, combined with a conservativeii hour of talmud Torah sublimating into near bit- nurture this revolution, ready to accept a new
mains. The answer, I believe, hinges on two esteem for precedent, means no one today con- tul Torah. On a personal note, I rarely confront mission in the chain of Torah development.
broader questions: why shiur and why now? In siders rewriting Rashi or challenging an ac- an iyyun idea utterly beyond my comprehen- Hundreds, if not thousands, of paid profes-
other words, what motivates the radically cen- cepted article of Shulhan Arukh. sion or a secular class so complex as to stymie sionals devote their hours to organizing and
tral position of shiur and what vaulted it into We face a new challenge – an immense a significant percent of its audience. Unfortu- elucidating the enormous corpus we call Torah
our particular time period? I imagine that even nately, I have experienced shiurim that do just she-be-Al Peh. If we fail in our duty, they and
the slightest exposure to shiur answers the first that, wrapping already difficult ideas in a de- their students will still produce the greatest
query: we like it. livery that begs improvement. quantity of talmud Torah ever to grace this
More specifically, shiur provides for a Apart from clear conveyance of specific planet. But if we embrace our awesome re-
learning experience easier and more enriching. points, shiur must also be organized. In other sponsibility, if we accept our role as the Torah’s
It supplies a guided structure for one’s learn- words, even an excellent and explicit speaker organizers and approach her as such, we do
ing, converts discussion from Aramaic to the should order his items in a smooth, logical pro- ourselves and succeeding generations an im-
vernacular, organizes the covered material, gression. All too often, shiurim include fasci- measurable kindness. The Torah, too, delights
supplements it with brilliant and erudite in- nating but tangential discourses, inspired by a in our triumph, rewarding our service with the
sights, and fosters an “on the same page” in- brief reference or partial similarity. If reduced only gift she knows. For if we succeed, we
tellectual community providing ideas and and expanding corpus of texts in dire need of to an outline, the bullet points would resemble enter that pantheon so mythic and most high,
support. Talmud Torah without shiur shifts the sorting. Ours is to organize. Ours is the age of a conversation instead of an essay. This past placing our lot with those sweet scholars of Is-
burdens of planning a course of study and or- the Entsiklopedyah Talmudit, the Kovets summer, I transmuted the contents of three shi- rael, melting ourselves into the very text of her
ganizing the fruit of a day’s learning from Hakirot, and the shiur. Just as Rambam cata- urim into Wikipedia pages. (They have since being, and achieving an immortality as ancient
teacher onto student. Why accept that yoke logued Shas in his Mishneh Torah, we are em- been removed.) Despite the clarity of their and mysterious as He who created her.
when a seasoned veteran volunteers to help? barking on a mission to organize Shas and its original presentation, I was surprised by the
Furthermore, few students would con- commentators. From a Gemara, a Ramban, a quantity of material that only indirectly related Ben Greenfield was last semester a junior
sciously eschew the insights of a maestro or the Rif, and a Shakh emerges – in the hands of a to the lecture’s topic. New stages in the argu- at YC majoring in Jewish Studies and Mathe-
creative dialogue of peers: Shiur as the princi- skilled lecturer – one concise but thorough ment were introduced with loosely related dis- matics and a Staff Writer for Kol
ple form of talmud Torah makes good sense. shiur.iii Curious once again about the topic at cussions; foundational notions were reserved Hamevaser. He is studying this semester at Ox-
Yet, shiur’s allure only intensifies the hand, a student can dispense with the search for the shiur’s end; independent themes were ford University in England.
next question: why only now? First and fore- for relevant sources, with the struggle to un- homogenized under one heading – in sum, it
most, we can afford it. A modern economy and derstand each opinion, and with the question took hours to untangle the knotty web of in- i
Once established – and with yeshivot built
the establishment of the State of Israel grant of if and how each document relates to the formation and convert it into a Wikipedia around them - even elite students would have
Jewish communities unprecedented wealth. other: He simply “learns” his shiur notes. Nu- page. But it should only take minutes; they little reason to not attend shiur.
Besides financing myriads of Torah learners – merous and unorganized texts have finally be- should have the focus and organization neces- ii
Definitely lower-case.
more perhaps than all previous generations come one complete whole. The current sary to pass this “Wikipedia test.” iii
One might even define the Brisker program
combined – we can even equip them with mag- mission of talmud Torah lends itself to the Lastly, on the broadest plane, individual as just that – no more production of Rishon-
gidei shiur. Fashioning a shiur requires time shiur format, where we rather proudly intend shiur sessions should link together in a semes- like opinions, no more critical evaluation of
and effort, which our generation is uniquely to create a new primary source. ter-long chain. Many shiurim – even those par- them, no more clarifying their depths through
situated to sponsor. Second, changes in the The question of good or bad is really one ticularly clear and well-organized – arrange the use of pilpul: Come, let us organize. Let
student population make shiur more necessary. of how successfully we accomplish this epic their topics in accordance with their sequence us use the tool of hakirah-abstraction to con-
Expanding the palace of Torah study – surging task.iv Writing a new Torah text is an ambitious in the Gemara. Within the span of a few nect disparate sources into a single line of
from yeshivot of three hundred to three thou- project with powerful repercussions. Future weeks, the lectures cover a range of unrelated thought or summarize multiple arguments into
sand - engenders a lower standard of student. generations depend on us: We bequeath to the and randomly ordered topics. However, an one grand debate.
The elite corps of yore may have enjoyed less tinokot shel beit rabban (schoolchildren) an ideal shiur “text” erects an elegant semester- iv
For an increasingly desperate appeal to
of a need for shiur or, as tomorrow’s knights of exciting new text and, for the glory of the long structure, with daily shiurim forming greater digitalization and group cooperation in
Torah were expected to struggle through with- Torah and sanity of its lovers, let it be a Mish- weeklong sub-units that all connect with a this process, see the author’s article entitled
out it. In contrast, the contemporary yeshivah neh Torah 2.0 and not a re-invention of the larger whole. It might commence with a broad “WikiTorah” in Kol Hamevaser 1,5 (February
scene embraces a class of talmidim fully capa- Mordekhai. If inadequately organized or introduction to the semester’s grand topic and 2008), p. 4.
ble of high-level learning, yet still relatively poorly written, then anticipate disregard for our proceed to explore pivotal aspects of the sub- v
Personally, my notes are riddled with cita-
dependent upon the succors of shiur.i Lastly, creations, or, more tragically, much energy ject, before finally engaging detailed cases in a tions like “Bava Kamma 20a (or was it 120a?)”
and on a different note, the task of Talmud wasted on a wave of “Shiurei Rav X al Shiurei pre-arranged In other words, vi
For convenience’s sake, Mishneh Torah sup-
study has changed over the years, finally land- Rav Y.” We must recognize our mission and shiur should include a syllabus, guiding the plies ample organizational inspiration. On yet
ing upon a mission that encourages the promi- appreciate our opportunity: We must “write” student towards an ever more detailed knowl- another personal note, I have begun studying
nence of shiur. Today’s assignment differs shiur well. On the most micro of levels, a edge base and contextualizing each day’s sugyot based on their order in the Yad ha-Haz-
from our ancestors: Rashi’s generation strug- Ram’s presentation of a particular sugya must learning into a complete picture. He should be akah; it is refreshing, to say the least.

Volume 2, Issue 4 19

Kol Hamevaser
Continuing the Conversation
GPATS’ Response to “A Man’s Perspective”
BY: Ariella Schwartz Both must perform mitsvot bein adam le- few years full-time after college, they will re- women follow blindly. We question, we think,
haveiro (interpersonal commandments) and in- veal that their motivations are not for a degree, we want to learn and discover. We want to
As I walked to my makom in the Stern volve themselves in hesed, tsedek, u-mishpat an honor, or an obligation, but that their hearts know God; not grope blind-folded through this
Beit Midrash one Tuesday morning, I could not (kindness, righteousness, and justice). Both are in these pages – that their love is for God. complex world. If you keep women blind-
help but overhear my fellow “GPATS-ers” dis- must contribute to this world and allow God’s Do we women need another reason to learn be- folded, if you are too afraid to teach them
cussing the article written by Michael Kurin in Shekhinah (Immanent Presence) to dwell sides seeing it as an expression of our love for Torah because there is always the lurking dan-
Kol Hamevaser’s December edition.i Indeed, amongst us. Both must contribute to the up- God? It is an indisputable fact that Torah is a ger that they will “overstep their bounds,” then
his articulate and resolute words sparked deep bringing of their children and the guidance of fundamental part of our religion, of our service you will lose the brightest minds and most ded-
and meaningful conversations amongst our their family be-derekh Hashem (in the way of of God. Do we need any other excuse to “sac- icated hearts amongst us. Talmud Torah will
group, as I am sure it has in many other circles God). These are roles of women as well as rifice” this time for something not visibly not lead to careless regard for Halakhah. It will
of readers. Subsequently, we, the women of men. And our ultimate goal in this life is to “practical?” not lead to Conservative Judaism. Le-hefekh
GPATS, felt it was appropriate to share our serve God; to know Him and become close to Toward the end of his article, Mr. Kurin (just the opposite) – it creates a love for our
view of the very pertinent and personal issues Him. This is our goal as a nation and as indi- argues that women’s “post-college” study of masorah, a passion for deveikut ba-Hashem
presented in the article. Before I offer a rebut- viduals – both men and women. Some men feel Talmud is a slippery slope potentially leading (clinging to God), and a desire to follow in His
tal of Mr. Kurin’s claims, I must acknowledge closest to their Creator when they are reading to “greater involvement of women Jewish ways.
his thought-out views, and thank him for open- Tehillim, and some women feel closest to God leaders” and ultimately a “community-wide In conclusion, Am Yisrael needs men and
ing the door for this discussion. when they are uncovering the complexities of crisis.” Firstly, as Shoshana Samuels estab- women who can spread the word of God. The
Mr. Kurin begins his article by question- distinction between pre-college Torah and
ing whether advanced Talmud study for post-college Torah is arbitrary. We must always
women is indeed reflective of “ideal avodat be growing in our relationship with God. And
Hashem,” and “if such a pursuit is the best op- if, for me, God is in the Gemara, then it is my
tion for young women.” Instead, he recom- prerogative and my obligation to seek Him
mends that post-college Orthodox women there. With these years of limmud forever a part
ought to dedicate their time to pursuits such as of me, I will serve as an or la-goyim (a light
hesed, parnasah, child rearing, and “tikkun unto the nations). I will build a world of hesed
olam.” and ahavat Hashem, I will fulfill all of my ob-
While one cannot deny the significance of ligations. But I will do it with knowledge, skill,
these values in Judaism, I believe that talmud and with my sefarim to guide me.
Torah for women does not preclude the fulfill-
ment of any of these ideals. A woman learning
(any Torah subject) for a few years before be- Ariella Schwartz is a student both in The
ginning her profession, her graduate study, or Graduate Program for Women in Advanced
before and while raising children, can and will Talmudic Studies (GPATS) at YU and in YU’s
contribute to the Jewish community in ways Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
that extend beyond classroom teaching. Yes, a a masekheta. To each, his or her own. As long lished, and Mr. Kurin confirmed, one cannot
number of girls who choose to learn indeed as our actions fall within the realm of Halakhah presume to know another’s intentions. All of
want to pursue a career in hinnukh, but even and fulfill the retson Hashem (Will of God), the women that have passed through the gates i
Michael Kurin, “Women’s Talmud Torah: A
those who will not be full-time teachers will then we may allow God in, in whatever way of GPATS are of purest motivation and com- Man’s Perspective,” Kol Hamevaser 2,3
grow to become deliverers of Torah in their we can. mitment to Halakhah. That, I can assure you. (2008-2009): 14-15.
own ways. Years from now, it is the women On a personal note, I attended a secular Additionally, might I suggest that it is an
who spent the time immersed in Torah study college. Some of my friends retained their Or- even more slippery slope to deny women with
who will give shiurim to others in their com- thodox identities by becoming Hillel leaders or a thirst for Torah the opportunity to form a true
munity, who will be capable of studying all by organizing Israel-awareness programs or and thoughtful relationship with their religion?
realms of Torah with their children, who will hesed projects. For me, that was not the way. In a world where women can achieve heights
advise their less-educated peers in Hilkhot For me, my connection to God was found in in all realms of secular study, dare we prevent
Shabbat, Kashrut, and Taharat ha-Mishpahah. the beit midrash, in the pages of the Gemara, them from seeking answers to why they are ob-
It is these women who will present philosoph- the Mishnah Berurah, the Tanakh. Yes, I will servant Jews? Standing in the way of the pur-
ical and Torah-based arguments to keep those see God in my child-rearing, in my hesed, and suit of Torah for women would itself cause the
around them on the correct derekh in spite of in my Shabbat preparations, but I also see greatest crisis our religion can know.
whatever doubts the world presents. Through Hashem in His Torah. In college, my Christian and Muslim
our Torah study, we are metakken olam. By It is true that learning practical halakhah is classmates who were not well versed in their
giving Orthodox women the leeway and com- useful, and, of course, a purpose of talmud religious texts were most likely to fall for the
fort to uncover their heritage, to understand Torah is to learn to perform mitsvot. But one of atheistic pursuits of university life. But the Or-
Hashem Elokeinu, to stand up and demand an the most beautiful things about talmud Torah is thodox men and women who conducted daily
answer to the question, “Why do I believe in that it is an end as well as a means. Torah havrutot emerged as strong Torah leaders.
God?” we are strengthening our people and lishmah (Torah for its own sake) is a unique Torah is what binds us to Judaism. It does not
will ultimately contribute to our “mamlekhet value that stands independent of an obligation tear us away from the mitsvot and ordinances
kohanim ve-goy kadosh” (kingdom of priests to “become a talmid hakham” or to “complete of Hashem. Our world, the world of New York
and holy nation). YU semikhah.” I am sure that if you ask many Jewry, of YU, of shanah ba-Arets (the year in
Am Yisrael is composed of two genders. of the young men who choose to learn for a Israel), is not a world where Jewish men and

20 Volume 2, Issue 4