Tuesday, November 25, 2008

LaLaLaLaLaLa I'm Sticking My Hands In My Ears And I Don't Hear You!!

An interesting discussion has come up in the YWN Coffeeroom regarding women learning Gemara and other such subjects. In stating why women shouldn't learn Gemara, one poster quoted the Torah Temimah*:

Girls do not have the intellectual stability and are, therefore, unable to make profound inquries with a sharp mind and appreciate the depth of the Torah. It is possible thay by using their own minds, they will transgress the Torah.

Other, similar quotes were brought as well. One woman responded that the quotes:

were from a time when women did not go to Yeshivah, and basically knew nothing except possibly how to daven from a siddur. They learned the laws of Taharas Hamishpacha, how to kasher meat, bensch licht and take hafrasha when they would bake challah, but other than that, learning was done only by males.

To this, the response was:

The quoted meforshim are 100% Toras Emes. As true today, as the day it was written.

I sometimes find it completely amazing that otherwise intelligent human beings are unable to perceive the context in which a statement is made and assume that it applies at all times, in all places, in all cultures and in all circumstances. They think that rabbanim make statements in a vacuum, completely uninfluenced by their surroundings or their personal biases.** The very possibility that a rabbi suggested that a woman might be unable to make "profound inquiries" because in that place and time women were, by and large, uneducated, is not even a remote possibility.

Of course, like all people, these people may sometimes be confronted by reality. They may find it necessary one day (perhaps for the purpose of earning a livelihood, or for some other reason) to venture out of their own daled amos and they may run across a woman with a brain cell or two. They may even find that women have the ability to be every bit as smart as (and smarter than) men. They may find that there are women lawyers (for example) who can formulate a complicated question and who can follow a complex topic. They may find female doctors who can analyze data from multiple sources and come to a logical, reasoned conclusion. They may even find (assuming that they are willing to talk to a woman long enough to allow her to string a few sentences together) that the reality today is simply not as the Torah Temimah saw it in his day. So, what does he do then? How can he reconcile the apparent reality with the words of the Torah Temimah, which he sees as eternally true in all times and all places?

He (figuratively, of course) closes his eyes, sticks his fingers in his ears and yells "La La La La La La I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!) at the top of his lungs. In this way, the eternity and truthfulness of the Torah (as he sees it) is preserved.

How sad.

The Wolf

Related Posts:
Orthodox Jews And Ferengi: Two Of A Kind? (re: women being excluded from learning)
Parody Or Touch Of Reality (re: women being excluded from learning)
Admas Kodesh Hu (It Is Holy Land) (re: mothers excluded from a learning camp's campgrounds)





* NB: I haven't checked the source inside.
** Rabbis have personal biases??!! Perish the thought!

30 comments:

The Hedyot said...

> ....that otherwise intelligent human beings...

And on what are you basing this assumption?

Chaim B. said...

Pity their wives

ProfK said...

Sigh. What's that posuk about "they are a stiff necked people"? Re their venturing out into the world for parnosah reasons, would love to be there to see their faces when they discover that their boss/supervisor is a woman. Maybe Hatzolah should be on standby.

Holy Hyrax said...

Its interesting, because people were against woman learning any torah (outside of the halachot they needed). Yet Hirsh had his own school for girls and later the Bais Yaakov movement took off.

Larry Lennhoff said...

Actually, the timelessness of psak is a fundamental assumption of many Orthodox perspectives on Halacha. The Rav said that "women desire to be married" was not a sociological statement that could vary by time and place, but a fundamental truth of human nature that applies everywhere and everywhen.

triLcat said...

Larry: but the man's searching for his lost rib and isn't "tov" alone...

Anyway, I guess this is why I'm such an apikores. I studied gmara. Four different masechtot.

It clearly led me astray. Now I want crazy things, like to be allowed to think and reason.

BlackEyedP said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BlackEyedP said...

The fact that this is still even a discussion in 2008 amazes me. Women are so complex that it should astound every man. We are multi-taskers. We can do it all at once - unlike most men that have to think in linear terms. Not only that but doesnt Judaism teach that women have a more direct link to G_d? That men must be made to be righteous while women come by it naturally? Id say that would make us a superior group. Wouldn't you?

Chaim B. said...

Re: the Rav's (R' J.B. Soloveitchik's) position on the "timelessness of psak" -- yet ironically, it was the Rav himself who began the Talmud shiur at Stern. The issue of whether or not women may study Talmud is not so much a question of the timelessness of umdenot as a question of defining the scope of the original ban on their studying. The Mishna prohibits teaching "one's daugher" Torah, which perhaps allows for teaching other students, and perhaps was meant to restrict the average student (who in the days of Chazal would not have been educated) but not the exceptionally motivated.

Joe in Australia said...

OK, so the idea is that women study hilchos kashrus, including kashering meat, as well (I assume) as things like hilchos shabbos including hilchos muktza and eruvin, z'manim, hilchos niddah, an appreciation of when she is yotzei for the mitzvos asei that require hearing (megilla, shofar), knowledge of shiurim for matzo and other mandatory foods as well as challah. I guess I can tentatively support that, but won't it mean a massive increase in the amount of their torah study? And all this doesn't take into account the study of sifrei mussar or chassidus, knowledge of varying minhogim that are relevant to their lives, hilchos tefila both for themselves and for their young children ...

Anonymous said...

Larry Lennhoff said...
Actually, the timelessness of psak is a fundamental assumption of many Orthodox perspectives on Halacha. The Rav said that "women desire to be married" was not a sociological statement that could vary by time and place, but a fundamental truth of human nature that applies everywhere and everywhen.
-------------------
The Rav was very clear that he felt this way about this isue because the torah states it, thus you can't extrapolate to other statements (e.g. a borrower wouldn't have the gall to deny borrowing)
KT
Joel Rich

Anonymous said...

If this was, simply, a sociological problem then the halachah would be counter productive.

"Women are so complex that it should astound every man. We are multi-taskers. We can do it all at once - unlike most men that have to think in linear terms."

Isn't this/can't it bee seen as just a more charitable way of explaining how women's thinking patterns differ from men's and they therefore will be prone to misapplying the halachah.

DAG said...

Funny, the Kiruv folks never quote these sources about women, do they?

Commenter Abbi said...

Joe in Australia: And your point is...?

Also, that paragraph was quite a long list of halachot that women must learn. I would imagine if women didn't have the "intellectual stability" (what the heck is that?) to handle learning all that, the Jewish people would surely be up a creek. (unless you were being sarcastic).

I'm also amazed that this is still a discussion in 2008. If chas v'shalom, one of these people's children had to see a top specialist at Sloan Kettering, would they refuse to go if the specialist was a woman?

The Babysitter said...

At first when I saw on my syllabus that we were going to be learning Gemara in my Jewish classics class, I was a bit worried. But now were learning Gemara, in English though, and I don't feel guilty about it. The Reb of my shul actually said that her great grandfather used to teach his daughters gemara, and her great grandfather was chassidish. So apparently it's not an avairah like I thought it was. In High School, my halacha teacher had told us that woman don't learn gemara because they like to hear the final answer and don't like hearing all the arguing back and forth.

Ahavah Gayle said...

When that poster gets his MENSA card, he can let me know. Until then, I'll just continue to enjoy mine, along with my first degree "with distinction" in Architcture and my later Magna Cum Laude degree in Philosophy with not one but two minors - Judaic Studies and Linguistics. This guy is obviously a misogynist _________ (fill in the blank with appropriate expletive).

Anonymous said...

"When that poster gets his MENSA card, he can let me know"

If you are so smart, then perhaps you can defend Chazal for such a psak while explaining why things are different today...

Or you can cut to the chase and refute Chazal and spare us the name calling of someone who is, simply, citing a teaching in the work in question.

Joseph said...

Wolf,

Here is a post from that thread (made by a different poster, quoting a previous poster) that you neglected to quote here, and is relevant as it answers your question:

Prohibition for women learning gemora: Masechtes Sotah Daf 21b on top, and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah siman 246 sif 6.

Shulchan Orach:
"tzivu chaza"l shelo yilmad adam es bito torah mipnei sherov hanashim ein da'atan michuvanos l'hislamed u'motzios divrei torah l'divrei havai l'phi anius da'atan, amru chaza"l kol hamilamed es bito torah k'ilu milamda tiflus (now pay attention to this part, please) bameh divorim amurim torah she'bal peh, aval torah she'bicsav...".

And as attested to by the Gr"a (sham,os 24) and Chid"a in Birkei Yosef (sham,os 7) we pasken like R'Eliezer [and R'Yehoshua] as stated in the Rambam (hilchos talmud torah perek 1 halacha 13) and the Tur.

There is a dispute in the Mishna Sotah 20a whether one is even allowed to teach Torah to women at all. The argument against the teaching of Torah to women states that if one does so, it is like teaching them Tiflus. Rashi comments that Tiflus means lechery, meaning the study of Torah will lead women to immoral sexual acts. Rashi then cites the famous story of Bruriah, one of the greatest female scholars in Jewish history to prove his point. One day, Bruriah ridiculed the Gemara (in Kidushin 80b) which states that that women are lightheaded. Rabbi Meir, her husband, ordered his student to test Bruriah's strength and try to seduce his wife. Bruriah caved in and when she realized what she had done, she hung herself.

Thus Rashi's argument is that women's minds are not meant for serious Torah learning. The Rambam agrees with Rashi's take. Rambam also adds that when the chachamim had said, "He who teaches his daughter Torah, is as if he taught his daughter tiflus,"only applies to the oral law. The Rambam says that a man should not teach his daughters written law but if he does, it is not considered tiflus. The Shulchan Urach follows this approach of Rambam.

Women Learning Gemara - THE PROHIBITION:

The Mishnah (Sotah 20a) quotes R. Eliezer who states that one who teaches his daughter Torah is as if he had taught her tiflus. The Shulhan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 246:6) quotes this law and states that this applies only to the Oral Torah (Torah She'Baal Peh) but one should still not teach women the Written Torah (Torah She’b’Ksav) either. However, the Rema points out that women need to learn the basic laws that they must fulfill and the Taz (ad loc., 4) argues that women are also allowed to learn the simple meaning of the Written Torah.

The conclusion is that there are four areas within this law:
1. Women may not learn the Oral Torah
2. Women may learn the simple meaning of the Written Torah
3. Women may not learn the Written Torah in depth
4. Women must learn the laws that apply to them

The poskim assume that included within "the laws that apply to them" is mussar that keep women them within the bounds of halachah. Even the Satmar Raebbe who as we shall see was very strict on these rules, permits women to learn mussar (VaYoel Moshe, Maamar Loshon Hakodesh, ch. 33). He does not, however, permit women to study even Rashi on the Torah because it contains Oral Torah. (Much more can be found in the 3rd part of Vayoel Moshe - "Maamar Loshon Hakodesh" - which is actually based on a teshuva that the Satmar Rebbe ZT'L wrote to Rav Pinchos Hirshprung ZT'L of Montreal.)

Note that the suggestion that this prohibition emanates from some sort of misogynist rabbinic bias or historical circumstance is insulting and bordering on heresy.

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

You missed the entire point of the post. It had nothing to do with women learning Gemara or anything else. I *purposely* did not argue for or against the prohibition against teaching women Torah. In no way did I say that that ruling was based on "misogynist rabbinic bias" or "historical circumstance."

The question at hand was whether it's possible that rabbinical statements could be influenced by the environments in which the people who uttered them lived in, or are they delivered in a vacuum (so to speak) and are always valid at all times and under all circumstances. My point regarding the Torah Temimah's statement is that I believe it was influenced by his time. Were he alive today in the United States, I don't think he would have said that women lack "intellectual stability." And that, those people who do view the statement as applying at all times and in all circumstances are in for a rude awakening when they find out that women can be quite intelligent.

Please don't drag the argument into areas that I did not bring it.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

Wolf,

Do you also believe that the Mishna, Gemora, Shulchan Orach, Gr'a, Chid'a were also "influenced by his time"? As they all came to the same essential conclusion (for the same reason -- read those sources.)

BrooklynWolf said...

Joseph,

I think that *everyone* is influenced by their environment, and I cannot honestly see how you (or anyone) can say otherwise. People don't live in vacuums. They live in specific places and times that each have their own cultures and values -- and yes, that includes Avraham, Moshe, all the Nevi'im, the Tana'im, Amoraim, Rishonim and Acharonim. Every single one of those people had a childhood where their formative years were spent. Every one of them had experiences that shaped and altered their lives. It's entirely possible that every one of them had traumatic events that happened to them that may have altered their views on some important social topic of the day. To state that a person can ignore his entire upbringing, society and culture when making any statement is, IMHO, silly.

As to the sources you bring, allow me to ask you the point of the whole post -- what do you think when you come across an intelligent woman? Or do you simply think that such a thing does not exist?

The Wolf

Joseph2 said...

I did come across one once...

Joseph said...

Wolf,

So I must conclude you are under the belief that we must temper anything we see in the Torah, Neviim, Kesuvim, Mishna, Gemora, Shulchan Orach, Gr'a, Chid'a, etc. etc. etc. and "adjust" whatever it is for our times.

There are some religious denominations calling themselves "Jewish" that do subscribe to this philosophy.

Of course there are, AND ALWAYS WERE, intelligent women -- including the times these quoted Mishnas/Gemoras/Meforshim were made. That question is beating around the point. There is intelligence amongst the gentiles too, without doubt. And yet look at where their interpreting the Bible has led them. They used it throughout history as an excuse for murder and genocide. Different categories of people have different capabilities. This does not necessarily make one more or less "intelligent" than the other.

A man's strength is in Limud Torah. Women have many other strengths men lack.

BrooklynWolf said...

So I must conclude you are under the belief that we must temper anything we see in the Torah, Neviim, Kesuvim, Mishna, Gemora, Shulchan Orach, Gr'a, Chid'a, etc. etc. etc. and "adjust" whatever it is for our times.

That's NOT what I said and, again, I ask you to please not put words in my mouth.

What I said is that you have to recognize the context within which statements are made and recognize the fact that the context may no longer be valid. I specifically did not say that we should go out an open up women's gemara classes. I didn't say that we need to "adjust" anyone's words... merely take the context in which they were said into account.

This does not necessarily make one more or less "intelligent" than the other.

A man's strength is in Limud Torah. Women have many other strengths men lack.


If the TT has simply said that women cannot learn Torah because their minds are geared differently, I might not have too much of a problem with it. However, assuming the original quote/translation is correct, that is *not* what he said.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

That was your clear implication, there is nothing to put in your mouth.

What I said is that you have to recognize the context within which statements are made and recognize the fact that the context may no longer be valid.

And you said this principle should apply to the Torah, Neviim, Kesuvim, Mishna, Gemora, Shulchan Orach, Gr'a, Chid'a, etc. etc. etc. as well ("and yes, that includes Avraham, Moshe, all the Nevi'im, the Tana'im, Amoraim, Rishonim and Acharonim...") And I pointed out this point is a defining principal of the non-Orthodox denominations.

Joseph said...

The bottom line is you are trying to split hairs to justify what you are saying. We are discussing halacha and practical matters as described in the Torah, Neviim, Kesuvim, Shulchan Orach, etc. And you are saying that since the Mechaber of Shulchan Orach lived 800 years ago, in another time and in another context as it pertains to Halacha XXX written in Shulchan Orach, such and such halacha from Shulchan Orach no longer applies in our modern 21st century day and age.

The Babysitter said...

ok, I haven't read all the comments yet, and I know I already commented on this. But after seeing your question, I think I have an answer for you.

You asked: "The question at hand was whether it's possible that rabbinical statements could be influenced by the environments in which the people who uttered them lived in, or are they delivered in a vacuum (so to speak) and are always valid at all times and under all circumstances."

My answer: Does Halacha Change? (I posted it to answer your question)

R' Shiffinbauer actually taught it to me, so you can ask him for clarification.

BrooklynWolf said...

The bottom line is you are trying to split hairs to justify what you are saying. We are discussing halacha and practical matters as described in the Torah, Neviim, Kesuvim, Shulchan Orach, etc. And you are saying that since the Mechaber of Shulchan Orach lived 800 years ago, in another time and in another context as it pertains to Halacha XXX written in Shulchan Orach, such and such halacha from Shulchan Orach no longer applies in our modern 21st century day and age.

That's exactly what I am not saying. Did you read my earlier comment -- I *purposely* made no mention of the restriction on women learning Gemara. I *did not* say that the halacha needs to be or should not be changed. I merely commented on whether a non-halachic statement (which may be the basis for a halacha, but that's a separate issue) can be partially the result of the environment in which the speaker lived.

And, just to head off the argument - I'm not suggesting that halacha be changed, even if the reasoning behind it no longer applies or is in error. For example, we still keep the second day of Yom Tov even thought the reason no longer applies. The fact that animals *can* live with defects that would render them terifos does not actually change the halacha of terifos. So, please don't accuse me of trying to change halacha -- that wasn't my point and I purposely tried to stay away from that argument -- despite your attempts to drag me into it.

The Wolf

Joseph said...

You are again splitting hairs here. What is the purpose of this thread - other than an esoteric theoretical discussion?

You are saying the Mechaber lived 500 years ago in a far different society than ours and since "*everyone* is influenced by their environment" (and hey, the Mechaber may even have "had traumatic events that happened that may have altered his views") therefore to "state that a person can ignore his entire upbringing, society and culture when making any statement is, IMHO, silly" and therefore "you have to recognize the context within which statements are made and recognize the fact that the context may no longer be valid."

But now you say you are not necessarily saying we should disregard the psak of the Shulchan Aruch. So whats your point? Bottom line, do we disregard any psak or not?

Truthfully even what you are now standing by is absurd. Do you think (to continue using this example, but in reality any of the Rishonim, etc.) that the Mechaber was unaware of the preceding 5,000 years of societal, cultural, contextual changes in humanity? Do you suppose he ignored it? Do you suppose every holy word of his did not take all that into account? Do you suppose he did not recognize that society, culture and context of Jewish living would continue to change in the future? Do you suppose he did not take that all into account, in every word he wrote?

To write Shulchan Aruch, the Mechaber undeniably used Ruach Hakodesh. The dust under his fingernails were holier than you or I can comprehend possible.

And finally, do you actually believe that the wife of the Mechaber or the Torah Temimah (or for that matter the Jewish women from their day in general) were less intellectually stable, or less able to appreciate the depth of the Torah, than the women in our post-feminist messed-up society? If you do, you are sorely sorely unable to appreciate who our holy ancestors (male and female) were, and no amount of logic or proof will make you recognize it at this time.

Anonymous said...

It is not undeniable. If it were undeniable, I would find myself unable to deny it. Yet I can do so if I choose.