Tuesday, August 17, 2004

No fan of “monkey” business, part 3: Lessons in the Modern Orthodox perspective, and how to disagree respectfully with a rabbi

Since I didn’t have the benefit of a Jewish-day-school education and am still playing catch-up, I’m obviously at a serious disadvantage in discussing matters of halachah/Jewish religious law. Apparently, in traditional Jewish thinking, it’s considered a privilege to maintain one’s tzniut/modesty. On the other hand, the Modern Orthodox writer and commenters on the blog whose URL is shown below don’t see how that’s relevant to reading a ketubah at a wedding ceremony, taking current societal circumstances into account. I strongly recommend that you check out the http://outofstepjew.blogspot.com/ post dated Thursday, August 12, 2004, “Women, Parrots and Shameful Men,” dealing with Rabbi Schachter’s controversial teshuva/response to a question concerning a woman’s right to read the ketubah/wedding contract aloud at a wedding, from which I quote below:

"Let us go back to the principle first enunciated by R. Lichtenstein, that we used in an earlier post (using his principle in no way insinuates that he would agree with our arguments) – that today's rabbis ought to look at the sociological changes in society as much if not more than the technological changes.

For good or for bad (we will be value neutral post-modernists here) women have given up their right of "tzniut" by taking on positions such as college lecturers, attorneys, doctors and businesswomen. This is true in the modern-Orthodox world as well as in the Haredi world. Haredi women are often more involved in the outside world than Haredi men – I know of a haredi female member of the faculty of Brooklyn College and I am sure she is not the only one. I know of Haredi women attorneys here in Israel. Women are allowed now to argue before a Rabbinic court in Israel – they have rabbinic approval to give up their right of tzniut.

Since this right has already been abrogated - where is the applicability of "kavod ha'tzibbur"? Will R. Shachter not go to a female medical specialist for his children because this act would embarrass the male doctors in the community? Is there anyone around today who would laugh at the community that allowed women to do what is not halachically objectionable and assume that there were no capable men in the community?

I understand when there are Halakhic objections to women participating in religious ceremonies – what I don't understand are the sociological objections. How is it that we can accept our women giving up their tzniut and appearing in classrooms full of men, in courtrooms, in corporate boardrooms, or at medical conferences – but we can't allow them to participate in the most inconsequential (as reading the Ketubah apparently is according to the article) religious activities?"

It’s nice to know that those of us Jewish feminists who take our religion seriously have some friends in the Orthodox community on the men’s side of the mechitzah.


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