Monday, January 05, 2009

a woman,a"tallit,"&Rav Soloveitchik's alleged trap

from the comments to my recent post "different perspectives re holidays"


Blogger
Shira Salamone said...

. . . don't b so quick 2 write us off. isn't there a saying in rabbinic literature that a person who begins observing a mitzvah 4 what some may consider the wrong reason may eventually come 2 observe it 4 the right 1?

Tue Dec 30, 09:36:00 AM 2008
Anonymous jdub the curmudgeon said...

You are thinking of b'tokh she'lo lishma, ba lishma. I call that wishful thinking.

. . .

There's a story told about Rav Soloveitchik that a woman kept asking him if she could wear a tallit. he said, "try wearing it for a month without tzitzit." She came back after a month and said "Rabbi, this was wonderful, I felt so spiritual." I don't recall his precise rebuttal, but it was something along the lines of "since the four-cornered garment you wore wasn't really a tallit since it didn't have tzitzit, clearly, this was something going on in your own head totally unconnected to the mitzvah."

The mitzvot aren't given for us to find what we perceive, usually erroneously, as our spiritual needs. they are to cultivate a mindset of servitude to God. Of recognizing that He's the boss, (or Boss) not Tony Danza. Or us. (pardon the '80s pop culture reference). We don't wear tallitot to feel spiritual. We do it because He commanded us to do so, in order to remember the mitzvot.

. . .

Tue Dec 30, 11:29:00 AM 2008

i've read this story about Rav (Rabbi Joseph) Soloveitchik b4 on other blogs ( & also in a comment on my own blog--see link below), & i'm inclined 2 agree with those who've theorized that just about anything that that would-be tallit-wearer might have said could have been used against her. if she had insisted on wearing a real tallit--that is, a tallit (prayer shawl) with tzitzit (ritual fringes) on the 4 corners, as required by the torah/bible--Rav Soleveitchik could just as easily have chastised her for challenging his rabbinic authority. (the end of the story, as i've read it, is that Rav Soleveitchik forbade the woman 2 wear a tallit on the grounds that her motive was something other than to fulfill the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit.)

"The mitzvot aren't given for us to find what we perceive, usually erroneously, as our spiritual needs. they are to cultivate a mindset of servitude to God."

What good did the proper motivation do 4 this young lady, who simply wished 2 use "G-d-given prayer aids?"

"b'tokh she'lo lishma, ba lishma. I call that wishful thinking."

i don't, & 4 good reason. i began wearing a tallit because i was a member of an egalitarian synagogue, & figured that equal rights came with equal responsibilities. i continued 2 wear a tallit after we moved & joined a non-egalitarian synagogue because it didn't seem right 2 stop wearing 1 after having worn 1 for over 10 yrs. now, i wear a tallit because the torah tells the children of israel 2 see the fringe & remember all HaShem's commandments. if i hadn't started wearing a tallit 4 the "wrong" reason, i would not now b wearing a tallit 4 the only reason that u consider right.

maybe we should all take a hint from the folks doing kiruv (attempting 2 persuade non-orthodox jews 2 become orthodox)--stop asking why a person performs a mitzvah (fulfills the requirement[s] of a commandment), & just b happy that they do.

Don't b so quick 2 write us off. "B'tokh she'lo lishma, ba lishma."

pls pardon poor typing--2 broken wrists

3 Comments:

Blogger BBJ said...

Tzitzit are not magical devices--however I am willing to believe that this woman did feel a heightened sense of sanctity because she was doing something additional in her davening that gave her a sense of purpose.

Why is it that the daughters of Israel who stacked up extra restrictions around niddah that all women are now expected to adhere to are considered righteous, but a woman who wants to adopt a mitzvah that women are permitted to perform is considered uppity?

Tue Jan 06, 02:04:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

bbj, i agree that tzitzit are most certainly not magical devices, &, 2 the best of my limited knowledge, the woman in the story did not claim that they were. "I am willing to believe that this woman did feel a heightened sense of sanctity because she was doing something additional in her davening that gave her a sense of purpose." this goes back 2 an old complaint of mine that, in traditional forms of jewish practice, “experiential Judaism” is reserved 4 the men, with the women relegated 2 being spectators in our own synagogues, & deprived of the privilege of wearing prayer garments even when praying in the privacy of our own homes

Tue Jan 06, 10:34:00 AM 2009  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

re ur statement, "Why is it that the daughters of Israel who stacked up extra restrictions around niddah that all women are now expected to adhere to are considered righteous, but a woman who wants to adopt a mitzvah that women are permitted to perform is considered uppity?," i strongly recommend that you read the Out of Step Jew’s post concerning women’s tefillah (prayer) groups, in which he says, “when a woman recites chapters of Psalms with a group of women when she could be praying mincha or ma'ariv in a proper minyan, that is praiseworthy, but when they actually say the mandatory prayers, read from a Torah, and listen to a dvar Torah, that is blameworthy?”

Tue Jan 06, 11:09:00 AM 2009  

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