Monday, March 31, 2008

This just makes me sad

Thanks to Rafi G of Life in Israel, who included this link in the current edition of Haveil Havalim.

I find this post by Lion of Zion downright depressing:

“While in college I was once talking with a friend and she mentioned that she gets upset when the baal kore makes a mistake during leining. “How difficult,” she asked, “is it for someone who went to yeshivah for twelve years to read Hebrew correctly.”

As I soon understood, my friend had never seen a Torah inside and was thus unaware that the text is purely consonantal and lacks vowels, punctuation and trop. For that matter, she didn’t even know that the trop is very specific to each and every word. She thought that leining was as simple as reading from a printed humash to some generic tune and she never realized how much work and preparation is involved in a decent reading. I wondered how many girls likewise were unaware of what leining entails.”

Did I really want to be reminded that a woman who observes every last law of the Torah that she can possibly observe can go to her grave without ever having seen an open Torah scroll from sufficiently close up that she could actually read the words? Did I really want to be reminded that the more strict a woman is in her observance, the less likely it is that she’ll ever in her entire life see the inside of a Torah scroll from sufficiently close up that she could actually read the words, and that some of the strictest Chareidi sects won’t even let a girl study Chumash from an actual book, but will teach her from photocopies? Why do some in the Orthodox community act as if the Torah was given to only half the Jewish people?


Blogger rivkayael said...

On a somewhat tangent, I (Orthodox identifying) decided to begin davening with tallit and had to convince people that I am still dati. So ironic that "apathy" = "perception of religious observance" in our neck of the woods.

Mon Mar 31, 06:23:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over the past few years, I have met the following very nice people:

1. A Charedi woman, senior teacher at a girls' school, who was sure the words "Rosh Hashanah" and a description of the 2 day holiday appeared in the Torah.
2. An Orthodox rebbetzin who didn't open a mishna till she was in her 20s and, having done so, still had no idea that Pesachim could be found in Moed.
3. Assorted "rabbis", including the Reform one who told me nonchalantly that "Talmud is not my thing," and the Orthodox one who was lost outside of the Mishna Berura.

Some days I think that ignorance is the most non-denominational thing of all.

Mon Mar 31, 08:30:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Rivka, that's a pretty tough gig for an Orthodox gal. The young lady who wrote the post I quoted here found herself in a similar boat. As a woman who's almost always the only female wearing a tallit when I'm in my local synagogue, I empathize and wish you luck.

Mon Mar 31, 08:42:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Oops, I meant RivkaYael.

My original reason for wearing a tallit was that, as a then-member of an egalitarian synagogue, I figured that, since I had equal rights, I should have equal responsibilities. I stuck with it after we moved and joined a non-egalitarian Conservative synagogue because it just felt wrong to stop wearing a tallit after having worn one for roughly a decade. It wasn't until years later that I heard that, once one accepts an obligation upon myself, one is obligated for life.

In your case, I would imagine that there might be some research into halachah involved. It must be difficult, constantly having to quote chapter and verse to prove that it's halachically permissible for a woman to wear a tallit.

Mon Mar 31, 08:51:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Mich, what can I say?

1. You may be amused--and/or appalled--to know that, until I went back to attending Shabbat morning services on a regular basis when I was in my mid-twenties and actually started following the reading in the Chumach, I had absolutely no idea that the story of Avraham Avinu breaking his father's idols was not in the Torah. Midrash??! Who knew?

2. Given my lack of a yeshiva education, you shouldn't be too surprised that I, too, would have no idea where Pesachim could be found if you hadn't told me. I'm embarrassed to say that I'm not sure I could even identify a book as being part of the Mishna, even assuming that I could manage to read the title on the cover.

3. Truth to tell, Talmud is not my thing, either, though I'm a bit taken aback that a person not interested in Talmud would go into the rabbinate. The one time that a former rabbi tried to get a bunch of us to study Talmud, I was, I'm sorry to say, bored. Between having a mild case of Attention Deficit Disorder and being a pragmatic sort of person, my basic reaction was, "Enough with the three pages of discussion, already--can't you just tell me when to davven the Sh'ma?"

"Some days I think that ignorance is the most non-denominational thing of all." More learned bloggers than I am have pointed out that my rabbi has some rather surprising gaps in his knowledge of practical halachah (such as the laws of Sabbath observance) for a man with Orthodox ordination.

Mon Mar 31, 09:12:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Bleepin' non-function links! Let me try that again:

The young lady who wrote the post I quoted here found herself in a similar boat.

Mon Mar 31, 10:11:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shira - In my kids' elementary school they have a sofer stam (someone who writes Torah scrolls and tefillin and mezuzot)come in every year to show the kids how it is done. Both the girls and the boys participate in this - so they both see that there is no vowelization in the Torah scroll.

Wed Apr 02, 12:00:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Wow, that is way cool!

Wed Apr 02, 01:10:00 PM 2008  
Blogger rivkayael said...

Thanks, Shira!

Actually, I was not told "assur" or "mutar" when I asked the rabbi at my local Orthodox shul (who consistently ignores women who daven weekday shacharit), who then said "we need to talk about this". So I decided to wake up at 5 am and schlep to another Orthodox shul 1/2 hr away where I already have a good relationship with the people there. I was explicitly told that my tallit, future tefillin and I were welcome (even if I happened to be wearing said items).

I read your post and completely empathized. The halacha says that women and men are both obligated in kedushat Hashem and in davening at least shacharit and mincha (at least according to Rambam and Shulchan Arukh). Which is why I still go to weekday minyan. But like you, I won't barge into the uncomfortable consciousness of certain other shuls and chose to go to a shul much further away.

Wed Apr 02, 03:20:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

RivkaYael, in that other post to which I finally managed to link on the second attempt, I said "If I were davvening/praying in an Orthodox synagogue, I would put in my tallit (and tefillin, if it were a weekday) and say Sh'ma at home, then take them off and go to shul." I should probably emphasize the fact that I specified "in an *Orthodox* synagogue." I have no problem making a scene in a Conservative synagogue, including my own. (You should have seen the looks I got the first time we walked in over 20 years ago and I put on my tallit.) I figure that any synagogue that still belongs to a movement that's ordaining women is just going to have to deal with it. Besides, if my experience in my local Conservative shul is any indication, many of the protesters object because they're not used to it, rather than because they think it's against halachah/Jewish religious law. An Orthodox synagogue is a different ball game.

Wed Apr 02, 08:32:00 PM 2008  

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