Wednesday, July 28, 2010

R. Student & commenters miss the obvious

In the process of writing my recent "Challenge" post, I noticed Rabbi Gil Student's June 23, 2010 "Praying on the Subway." (You can also read it on his new blog here, but the original comes complete with the name of the author [Gil Student] and the correct comment count [71]).

I often see women praying from a siddur on the subway, during the commute to work in the morning. There are many reasons why I think this is a bad practice but we also have to keep in mind that some women are juggling so many responsibilities that this is the only opportunity they have to pray. Let's just address one halakhic aspect of this issue.

The Torah says "ולא יראה בך ערות דבר - He may see no naked thing among you" (Deut. 23:15). The Gemara (Shabbos 150a) learns from the word davar that no dibur (word) of holiness can be recited in front of nakedness. That means no prayer, Shema or words of Torah can be recited in front of someone improperly dressed.

This should effectively prohibit praying on the NYC subway during the summer, when the trains are full of immodestly dressed women. . . .

There is, however, room for leniency. The Rema (Orach Chaim 75:1) follows the Rosh, who holds that this rule applies to women in front of immodestly dressed women just like it applies to men in front of women. The Rashba, though, is lenient and only prohibits women from praying in front of uncovered genitalia. Many later authorities rule according to the Rashba (e.g. Mishnah Berurah 75:8; Kitzur Shulchan Arukh 5:16).”

Seventy-one comments follow concerning the permissibility of women praying in the present of immodestly-dressed women and the question of whether reading prayers and/or Torah silently are the halachic equivalents of praying and/or studying aloud.

And not one commenter thinks to suggest that the real problem with women davvening/praying on the subway might be that women might be distracted from their prayers by men!

Let me get this straight: A (straight) woman would be distracted by another woman's exposed cleavage, but would not notice the guy in skin-tight jeans, or the guy sitting directly across the aisle with his knees spread wide open?!

The rabbis quoted by Rabbi Student were all men. They thought like men, they wrote like men, and many of their rulings regard issues that are only of relevance to men. To them (judging by what they wrote), men were quivering bundles of desire with low resistance thresholds, whereas, apparently, women were made of stone. Did they, and do these modern writers and commenters, truly think that the only thing radical enough to distract a woman is naked genitalia?!

News flash: A hat with a brim is very handy for davvening and/or studying on public transit, whether you're male or female--just pull the brim down far enough that you can't see anything worth looking at.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Female Torah scholars need a title. Suggestions?

You might want to start with the comments to my previous post.

Here are some titles currently in use (or suggested titles that I've seen elsewhere) for Orthodox female Torah scholars: Rabbah, Maharat, Tannait (I don't remember where I originally saw that one), Rosh Kehillah (Head of the Community), Rosh Bet Midrash (Head of the Study House), Maggedet Shiur (one who "tells" a "lesson/class"?--I hope my grammar's correct), Community Scholar.*
The short version: If a man gets s'micha (rabbinical ordination), he takes the title "Rabbi" with him for the rest of his life, no matter what he does for a living (Rosh Yeshiva, pulpit rabbi, lawyer, computer programmer, etc.). Rosh Kehillah, Rosh Bet Midrash, and Community Scholar are all titles tied to a specific job--if you leave that congregation and choose to become a lawyer or a Jewish day school principle or teacher, you're no longer entitled to use the title.
Bottom line: Orthodox female Torah scholars need a permanent title that would be accepted by most, if not all, of the Orthodox community. It would be preferable for that title to be in Hebrew (or Aramaic), so that the title would be taken seriously and would be seen as a manifestation of respect for Jewish tradition and the community.
The floor is open.
*(Yoetzet Halacha is a wonderful program and title, but is too specialized for an overall scholar. Toanot [trained here, I believe] are, sadly, specialized and necessary, but I don't think the program operates outside of Medinat Yisrael/the State of Israel.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

A challenge to Rabbi Gil Student, of Hirhurim blog

Here's the evidence, in terms of laypersons quoted:

[ ¶ ]

Parsha round-up: Chukas

  • 0 women, 1 layman (David Sacks)

Parashah round-up: Balak

  • 0 women, 0 laymen

Parashah round-up: Pinchas

  • 1 woman (Rebbitzen Smadar Rosensweig), 0 laymen

Parashah round-up: Matos-Masei

  • 0 women, 0 laymen

Parashah round-up: Devarim/Chazon

  • 0 women, 0 laymen

Parashah round-up: Vaeschanan/Nachamu

  • 0 women, 0 laymen

In six weeks of Parashah round-ups, you've quoted a grand total of two laypeople, one of them a female. If you're so convinced that a woman doesn't need a title to be recognized as a Torah scholar, prove it!

[ ¶ ]

I e-mailed a link to this post to Rabbi Student at 7:09 PM.

News, bad and sad

See the comments.

Good questions

"If girls back then [Tu B'Av in Temple times] were allowed to dance in front of men - not with them of course - why can't they do that now? She is confused as to why young unmarried people are segregated by gender at weddings and other social gatherings - eating at separate tables - yet when they go on a date, they sit together in the car and wherever it is they go.

[ ¶ ]

After all, at a wedding full of people who know them, there would be hundreds of eyes on them as they eat together - and no opportunity for inappropriate behavior - yet they can go off on a date, one on one - usually going to an out of the way place where no one from the community will see them. "How is it that you can't trust individuals sitting at a table with a dozen of their peers in the middle of a huge crowd, but somehow it's OK for them to be in a lounge or hotel lobby at night, alone? It doesn't make sense to me!?"

See the rest of Cheryl Kupfer's "Is Beit Shammai in Ascendancy?" on the "Jewish Press" website here.

Happy Tu B'Av.

See also:
Separation Anxiety: A tale of two eras

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A typical (?) Shabbat at our local shul

The rabbi wasn't there. This will become standard operating procedure after next Sabbath, which will be his last week at our synagogue. (Yes, the congregation will be sponsoring a nice farewell kiddush in his honor.)

When I walked in at about 9:40 AM, having already davvened through the P'sukei D'Zimrah section at home (since I prefer to pray at my own snail's pace), I was upset, but not particularly surprised, to find my husband up on the bimah (prayer platform) "entertaining" the chazzan (cantor) with his rendition of P'sukei D'Zimrah, which is to say that I was the first congregant to arrive. (That's not typical!) The chazzan shrugged his shoulders before beginning with "Shochen Ad," saying that he was going to take it slow, in the hope that we would have a minyan by the time we got to the Amidah prayer. Sure enough, without the rabbi forcing him to davven at a faster pace, he davvened slowly enough that we did have a minyan for the Amidah.

By the end of the Torah reading, we had six Leviyim. We cheated, and used three of them for aliyot (and a fourth for hagba). What else is new?

My husband gave the D'var Torah/"sermon." (And a golly good job he did, too, if I do say so myself.) This will probably also become standard operating procedure, more or less, after next Shabbat, unless he can persuade some other fine folks to share the honor.

Since the rabbi/cantor who'd lead Shacharit (Morning Service) last year on the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) had magically appeared about a minute after I walked in, it was graciously suggested that he lead Musaf (Additional Service for Sabbaths and major holidays). I take it for granted that his attendance here was a loss leader--who in his/her right mind would walk for 30 minutes in 90-degree-Fahrenheit (32.22 Celsius) weather unless he/she were looking for a job?

And there you have it, a perhaps-not-so-typical Sabbath at our home synagogue.

My husband explains the Rotem conversion bill . . .

. . . more or less.

Me: "I don't understand why the bill insists on the use of municipal rabbis. Why aren't Tzohar rabbis included? Why can't would-be converts go to congregational rabbis, as frequently happens in the US?

My husband: "It's like me doing an audit for a company seeking a loan. If the bank doesn't know me, the chances of the bank accepting my report are greatly reduced."

"Why? Isn't your CPA license a good enough credential?

"Is every doctor qualified to perform surgery? It's the same with CPAs. The banks are looking for a CPA whose firm prepares plenty of audits, or someone in private practice who's had a lot of auditing experience. CPAs need to specialize, just as doctors do."

"So you're saying that conversions need to be performed by rabbis with special expertise in the laws of conversion? You think that that's what Rotem may have had in mind?"


A kavvanah-killer

A rough translation of "kavvanah" is "focus" or "intent." It's preferable to davven (pray) with kavvanah, rather than davvening on auto-pilot.

But that was quite impossible for me this past Friday night.

I was almost at the end of the "Amar Rabbi El'azar, amar Rabbi Chanina" quote when we heard a thunderclap so loud that even the hum of the air conditioner didn't keep me from jumping 10 feet. Since I'm petrified of sudden loud noises, I had no choice--I parked my siddur (prayer book) on the livingroom/diningroom table, stuck my fingers in my ears, and davvened Maariv/Arvit (Evening Service) at, you should pardon the expression, lightning speed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Catching up on music links

Here are two links that I spotted too late to post them before the Three Weeks:

Mark Skier's/Psychotoddler's Moshe Skier band plays a new Ayleh Varechev. I haven't quite caught all of the lyrics yet, but most (all?) of them seem to be from Psalm 20 (beginning at verse 8).

Courtesy of West Bank Mama, here's Idan Raichel and his band playing Mimaamakim. I searched the 'Net, but found only the lyrics, not the identity of the psalm from which they're taken. Could someone kindly enlighten me?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

For the sin of self-righteousness . . .

I found some of the comments to this post unpleasant, mostly because the commenters were right. One reason why I've posted a lot about problems in my Conservative community recently was to balance my posts about problems in the Orthodox community, for which I've been criticized. Maybe I'm just too critical in general. But nu, isn't one of the purposes of having a blog to give the blogger a place to kvetch?

Trouble with Update: No

In the past two weeks or so, I've had my mouse and/or Internet window frozen when clicking on four different blogs on my blogroll. All of those blogs worked fine when accessed via an Internet search. Is anyone else having this problem?

Thursday, July 22, 2010 update:

I have yet to crash my home computer by clicking on any link in my blogroll. So I think it's reasonable to assume that my good old--and I do mean old--office computer, which no longer multitasks without giving me a royal song and dance, is causing the problem. Why am I not surprised?

On third thought, I think what's causing the problem is the interface between my blogroll and the office Internet connection. I can open the blogrolled blogs with no problem on my office computer if I open them via an Internet search instead of by clicking on my blogroll links.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My last (slighty-post) Tisha B'Av post

Thanks to DovBear, here's a link to the great Italian Renaissance Jewish composer Salamone Rossi's "Al Naharot Bavel" (plus a pile of links to DB's TB posts).

It's nice to have food and water in my tummy and to be back in my comfortable shoes, though the cloud cover prevented us from doing Kiddush Levanah.

Learning on Tisha B'Av

The rabbis established limits to what Biblical and/or Rabbinic texts we're allowed to study on Tisha B'Av, lest we derive too much pleasure from our studies. (You can read about those limits, and other information about Tisha B'Av, here.) Me, I spent some time cracking my teeth trying to learn Psalm 137, Al Naharot Bavel--By the Waters of Babylon, which seemed an appropriately mournful thing to study. You can find it here, though, in the Hebrew, most of the punctuation is in the wrong place.

An easy fast

I was able to take the day off, so that I wouldn't have to deal with commuting while fasting. Aside from going to synagogue last night and this morning, I haven't left my air-conditioned apartment. My Tisha B'Av is so much easier than my ancestors' Tisha B'Av was.

I hasten to add that we're also fortunate that Tisha B'Av took place in mid-July this year, rather than two-three weeks later. The brick building in which we live is like a pizza oven in that it takes a long time to heat up, but once it's heated, even our air conditioners aren't completely effective.

It also turns out that I cheated through ignorance--according to the Rosenfeld Tisha B'Av Tefillot and Kinnot book, one is supposed to eat dinner before Minchah (Afternoon Service). I'd already said Minchah at my usual time, during my lunch hour at the office, so I took my time finishing dinner and going to synagogue, figuring that it was okay to show up for Maariv/Arvit (Evening Service). Oh, well, I'll know for next year.

Pick 1, insufficient bandwidth or insufficient English :(

My husband has given up trying to get the OU Tisha B'Av webcast to work--it keeps stopping.

The Yeshiva University Tisha B'Av webcast is for the learned only: Rabbi Schachter(?) is not translating a thing.

Correction: Okay, maybe he's translating a little.

4:28 PM update: Leave it to the OU in California to get the bandwidth right--we've been watching the California webcast for a couple of hours.

Keli Tzion, demystified (oops--Eli Tzion*)

I've long wondered why on earth a dirge like Keli Tzion, traditionally sung on Tisha B'Av, is sung in a major key. Here's the answer, from Cantor Bernard Beer, of Belz School of Jewish Music, Yeshiva University: It's based on a German Jewish tune. My understanding is that traditional German Jewish melodies are often written in the major mode. Why, I don't know. Some Sefardi songs are also written in the major mode, while others are written in the minor mode. My impression is that most Eastern European Ashkenazi melodies were written in the minor mode until the late twentieth century.

*Oops--I wish I'd remembered this DovBear post before I named this post.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Too new for the OU

I signed up for the Orthodox Union's Tisha B'Av webcast, but it turns out that my new computer uses a newer version of Windows Media than the OU is using. So I'll have to watch the webcast over my husband's shoulder, because we can only see the test page on his laptop.

I have watched the OU's Tisha B'Av webcast every year that I could access it for the past several years, and recommend it. Yeshiva University is also offering a Tisha B'Av webcast and reading material, so maybe I'll try accessing that one.

Conversion bill: A completely different perspective

Advice for synagogues in a similar situation

Start at "'Evicted' again" here.

Synagogues facing financial challenges should be aware that, while there's money to be made from renting parts of their premises, there may also be a price to be paid.

Our previous rabbi adamantly insisted that our Saturday-night renters remain outside of the synagogue building until after Havdalah, the closer ceremony of Maariv/Arvit (Evening Service) on Sabbaths and major holidays. During his tenure, we never once conducted the closing Maariv at the end of a Shabbat or Yom Tov in the then-chapel/classroom (now a rented-out office) in the basement. Unfortunately, our current rabbi didn't understand that, once the renters were in the building, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to stop them from starting their party preparations before Maariv was over. In the beginning, he didn't think it mattered whether non-worshippers entered the building early. But nowadays, even he's fed up with the result, namely, that the congregation is held to be interfering with party preparations, so we get banished to the basement. He's now getting into shouting matches with the party staff over their insistence on beginning to convert the sanctuary to a party room before Maariv has even begun.

Me, I just look at the lay of the land--if the party staff comes in before the end of Seudah Shlishit, I'm out o' there. I refuse to get caught in the middle, and just go home and davven/pray Maariv there.

Our congregation has learned from sad experience that, if you give your renters an inch, they'll take over the whole building. Make it absolutely clear that it's your building, and that the renters take orders from you, not the other way around. And make sure that you have an executive board and synagogue staff who enforce the rule that the congregation's needs take priority. Be insistence and consistent from the very beginning, because once you lose control of your building, you'll never get it back.

See also A guest in my own shul.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

It shouldn't be this way :(

Sitting out a study session
I don't remember when or why our rabbi stopped teaching the study session between Minchah and Maariv/Arvit (Afternoon and Evening Services) on Shabbat (Sabbath), but the task was taken up by the cantor and a congregant. Unfortunately, that particular congregant is far more interested in study than in prayer, and almost invariably shows up after Minchah (sometime during Seudah Shlishit). In protest, the rabbi has stopped attending the study session.

Yesterday, though, that congregant was not present at all on Shabbat, so the chazan (cantor) led the study session by himself. The rabbi boycotted the study session anyway. I was quite unhappy that the rabbi couldn't show a little common courtesy/derech eretz to the chazan.

"Evicted" again :(
Erev Tisha B'Av, the evening of the fast of the Ninth of Av, will be the third time in six months that some thoughtless individual in the office has rented out our sanctuary on a holiday. Previous slip-ups took place on Erev Purim and Erev Yom Rishon Shavuot (the evening of the first night of Shavuot). I'm not sure whether we'll be sitting on the floor in the office with carpeting or the office without carpeting, so I'll be wearing my jeans skirt, just in case. (We don't have a chapel/minyan room anymore--the all-purpose room that was original dedicated as a chapel and classroom has been rented out as office space.) Some of us congregants are pretty upset about the fact that the office staff seems to give a higher priority to rentals than to religious observances. It's a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. :(

Between a rock and a hard place
. . . or between a desk and a photocopier, to be precise--that's the literal position in which we find ourselves when "evicted" from our sanctuary and forced to pray in our former chapel. We can barely fit 10 chairs in there, and it's a most unpleasant place to pray, as you can imagine. I refuse to davven there anymore unless I have no choice, so my current practice, in the event of a Saturday-night rental, is to join the congregation for Minchah (held in the sanctuary) and Seudah Shlishit (held in the lobby), then leave and say Maariv at home. Unfortunately, I'll have no choice tonight, since I also refuse to walk any farther than necessary on a fast day.

May you have an easy and meaningful fast.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chazarat HaShaTz in Women's Tefillah Groups

My understanding is that the original reason for the Chazarat HaShaTz, the repetition of the Amidah prayer by the Shaliach Tzibbur (ShaTz = Messenger of the Community, that is, the person leading the service), was that, prior to the invention of the printing press, when books were rare, people had to pray from memory. Those who couldn't recite the prayers by themselves due to poor memories and/or insufficient education could fulfil their obligation to recite the required b'rachot/blessings by saying "Amen" at the end of every b'rachah/blessing, and therefore, the ShaTz repeated the Amidah aloud for the benefit of those who couldn't say it by heart.

[ ¶ ]

The custom of Chazarat HaShaTz has been maintained to this day despite the almost-universal availability of printed prayer books. Saying the Amidah silently, then aloud, was not originally done in order to enable people to recite the Kedushah section, which some communities recite as part of a single Amidah reading recited aloud.

[ ¶ ]

So what's the problem with a Chazarat HaShaTz in a Women's Tefillah Group? Does not the original purpose--to enable those who can't pray the Amidah from memory to fulfil their obligation by saying "Amen" after hearing each b'rachah--apply equally to women as to men?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"She *is* being a role model."

That was my old friend's response when I told her about the complaint I expressed in, and the comments I got to, my Khaki pants and kashrut post. Modestly-dressed Orthodox women who don't cover every last strand of hair, whose sleeves don't reach their wrists, and whose collars don't cover their collar bones, are role models for a more open perspective on what constitutes tzniut/modesty in dress. You don't have to dress like a Satmar Chassid to be tzanua/modest.

Business expenses

My husband expects to earn a significant amount of money preparing some complicated tax returns, but our joint account won't see a dime of it: Every penny is going toward the Continuing Professional Education courses that the State of New York requires him to take in order to maintain his license as a Certified Public Accountant. Lawyers and many members of the health-care professions must also take CPE courses. The cost of being a member of certain professions goes well beyond college tuition. Too bad for our budget. :(

No economic recovery for the regular folks :(

I have only about three and a half cents in my 401K retirement account (to which my cheapskate employer no longer contributes), and I still managed to lose money. :(

Monday, July 12, 2010

Checking out the neighborhood

Now that the friends about whom I spoke in this post have unpacked a bit, we paid a visit to see them, their new apartment, and their new neighborhood yesterday. Aside from the fact that their neighborhood is not within walking distance of a subway, it’s a good place to live.

[ ¶ ]

One of our friends' chief criteria in choosing a new home was that they need to have food stores that are within walking distance, and they’ve chosen pretty well, in that regard. There’s a supermarket, a kosher butcher/take-out place, and a kosher fish store within a few blocks. There’s also a Judaica store, a kosher Chinese restaurant, a kosher delicatessen restaurant, and at least one kosher dairy restaurant within walking distance.

[ ¶ ]

The synagogue situation is considerably more complicated. My girlfriend made one thing clear: Though there are quite a number of synagogues of various stripes in the neighborhood as a whole, the neighborhood is pretty spread out, with the result that where one chooses to live must really be based on where one wishes to pray. In plain English, if we choose to live near our friends, we’ll be choosing to attend their Modern Orthodox synagogue, because the egalitarian Conservative one will not be within easy walking distance.

[ ¶ ]

We got a quick tour of their synagogue yesterday evening. To our pleasant surprise, the main sanctuary was open and some lights were on. So, of course, I had to check out the women’s section. The mechitzah, while not glass-topped, is lower than some that I’ve seen and divides the room into side-by-side sections (rather than men-in-front and women-in-back sections or sections with the men in the middle and the women on both sides). In addition, the amud (lectern), Torah-reading desk, and Aron Kodesh (where the Torah scrolls are kept between readings) are all on a bimah/platform that's high enough to make everything on it easily visible from the women’s section.

[ ¶ ]

I did pick up an interesting trick when we went to the daily Minyan room to say Minchah and Maariv (Afternoon and Evening Services)—it turns out that, if you sit right next to the mechitzah, your view of the amud/Torah-reading desk, which in this room is in front of the mechitzah (though on the men's side), is limited, but the farther you get from the mechitzah, the less the mechitzah obstructs the view. While this didn’t make too much difference during the praying, since I was too buried in my siddur/prayer book trying to keep up with the congregation anyway, it made the short study session between Minchah and Maariv feel more inclusive, because I could see the rabbi who was speaking.

[ ¶ ]

My girlfriend tells me that she’s seen some women wearing tallitot/prayer shawls there, so she’ll probably go back to wearing hers. I’ll have to ask her to find out whether any women who show up for weekday Shacharit/Morning Service wear tefillin, as well. I’m happy to say that this synagogue holds a monthly Women’s Tefillah Group.

[ ¶ ]

I’ve known this particular girlfriend for longer than I’ve known my husband, so I wasn’t surprised that she knows me well enough that she said I’d never be completely satisfied in my choose of synagogue. She's right: Orthodox synagogues are, by definition, not egalitarian, while Conservative ones tend to fall somewhat short in creating a sense of community and in maintaining religious standards. I might be able to live with her synagogue, if I won’t get the fish-eyed stare for wearing tefillin.

[ ¶ ]

Eventually, when my husband's ready to retire from his tax and accounting practice, we'll have to decide where we're going to live. (We can't leave our current neighborhood until he gives up his practice, since the majority of his clients are within walking distance.) Let's hope that we can afford to move to our friends' neighborhood.

A sign of ignorance, I hope

Remember this?

It gets better, folks. :(

Last Shabbat/Sabbath, not only did one of our members order a cake from a local non-kosher bakery, she also mentioned that she'd ordered it on Shabbat morning itself! I can only hope that she doesn't realize that one is not supposed to use, or even carry, money on Shabbat, barring a major medical emergency.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My first guest post, courtesy of Heshy's invitation

I was pleasantly surprised when Heshy asked me to write a guest post for his blog. We're having a lively discussion over there in response to my "Looking for an open door."

Friday, July 09, 2010

You're kidding, right? :(

Apparently, the spineless United Nations has condemned North Korea's sinking of a South Korean warship, which resulted in the deaths of 46 sailors, without naming North Korea in the condemnation. Why isn't North Korea's crime worthy of a Goldstone-Commission-type inquiry? Sigh. I suppose I should be used to the UN's hypocrisy by now.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Pop-ups making me popping mad

It's a plague of pop-ups: Everywhere I go on the Internet, be it a blog or a link to the headlines of the New York Times, these . . . things pop up and get in the way of what I'm trying to read. Today, I had to close the window of a blog because I couldn't get the the stupid pop-up to close no matter how many times I clicked.

There's such a thing as too much content on a page. Now, every other site has a bar across the bottom with a list of such options as RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Personally, I find it a distracting (not to mention that the fancier your blog is, the longer it takes to open). Call me old-fashioned, but I'd rather just read, thank you.

IRF’s positive attitude toward female Jewish clergy

Rabbi Gil Student links to another good article, Orthodox Rabbinical Group Outlines Women’s Roles as “Clergy” and More, by Steven I. Weiss:

“In a noticeable contrast to the resolution of the mainstream Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America’s resolution forbidding Orthodox women rabbis, this resolution from the International Rabbinic Fellowship — a more-liberal group about 1/3 the size of the RCA — does just about everything but use the word “rabbi” to describe women’s roles in Orthodox life, calling for them to be “clergy,” “spiritual guides and mentors,” “preachers,” “teachers of Torah” and “persons who can… answer questions…in all areas of Jewish law in which they are well-versed.”

Here's a further quote from the resolution:

"In an effort to outline some practical guidelines that we believe our communities should consider – recognizing that each community and its rabbinic leadership retain the authority to determine what is appropriate for their communal context – we affirm that:

Observant and committed Orthodox women who are learned, trained and competent should have every opportunity to fully serve the Jewish community:

. . .

5. As spiritual guides and mentors, helping arrange and managing life-cycle events such as weddings, bar- and bat-mitzvah celebrations and funerals, while refraining from engaging in those aspects of these events that Halakha does not allow for women to take part in.

6. As presidents and full members of the boards of synagogues and other Torah institutions.”

Number 6 is in marked contrast to the policy of the leadership of Young Israel currently being protested by some of its member synagogues.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A woman who prays

Thanks to Rabbi Gil Student for linking to “Communing while Commuting, a Jerusalem Post article by Viva Hammer. Here's an excerpt:

[ ¶ ]

“The sages set up an impossible ideal for prayer: that we utter the words with kavana – purpose, mindfulness. . . .“

[ ¶ ]

The Talmud concedes that daveners who cannot achieve kavana should still mouth the words. Such prayer is second-best; but second is my best. Every day I gallop through the familiar tropes the way I tussle with the other routines in my life, reassured by their steadfastness. I have done so hanging on to metal poles or pinioned by the throng of passengers in subways, in telephone booths as the sun sets and cowering in the library of my Jewish school, afraid of being discovered as a girl who prayed."

[ ¶ ]

Boy, does that ever sound familiar, quoth one of the world’s slowest and most easily distracted davveners/pray-ers—it’s a struggle for me to keep up with the cantor and congregation, and to davven in the subway.

[ ¶ ]

But this was the part that stuck:

[ ¶ ]

“ . . . cowering in the library of my Jewish school, afraid of being discovered as a girl who prayed.”

[ ¶ ]

As I mentioned in Positive & negative, etc: Jewish women's observance, “I am reminded of a discussion I had with yet another Orthodox co-worker a few years ago. I mentioned to her, with some pride, that I'd finally learned to say the short (not the longer Monday and Thursday) Tachanun. Instead of congratulating me on my learning, she sniffed, "Women don't say Tachanun."

[ ¶ ]

Is it just me, or is/was there a stigma attached to Orthodox women who pray(ed) a standard service (as opposed to saying personal prayers and/or Tehillim/Psalms)? I haven’t encountered this as a problem specific to women in the Conservative Movement, though it could be argued that, in general, not enough Conservative Jews pray the daily services on a regular basis.

[ ¶ ]

[ ¶ ]

See also:

Different perspectives, different priorities

[ ¶ ]

[ ¶ ]

P.S. I think she's got, by George: When copying from Word, I must (a) make sure that the entire post is formatted in Georgia 12 font, and (b) use those functioning paragraph marks whenever necessary.

Adjusting garb: Halachic minimum in maximal heat

This morning, I did something that I've never done before--I delayed putting on tallit and tefillin until right before the Matbeiach shel Tefillah (required part of the service), putting them on just before the b'rachah (blessing) Yotzer Or ( [Praised is the One] who creates light), and took them off after the Amidah. (According to the notes in the Koren Sacks Siddur [prayer book], the minimum requirement for tefillin, per Jewish religious law/Halachah, is that they must be worn during the Sh'ma biblical quotations and the Amidah prayer.) This enabled me to give Consolidated Edison, our local electric company, a break, as they've been requesting since the heat wave began on Sunday, by delaying turning on the air conditioner and turning it off after less than half an hour. It also kept me from passing out--our living room air conditioner is no match for a wool tallit. The temperature was already 84 degrees Fahrenheit (28.89 Celsius) when I began davvening/praying, and is expected to go up to 90-something (32.22-something Celsius).

The air conditioner won't stay off for long. :(

Monday, July 05, 2010

Cleanliness over thrift

Since our son is working part-time for "bubkes" (almost nothing) as a lab assistant while studying full-time for his PhD in physics, he's been looking for a cheaper place to live. But when we spoke with him on the phone the other day, he made it clear that there are limits to what kind of accommodations he deems acceptable. As he ever so delicately put it, "If the toilet is white on the outside and black on the inside, I'm not going to live there."

Apparently, we raised him right. :)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Getting smart in our old age

For once, the problem wasn't that we'd bought so much at the not-so-local kosher supermarket that we couldn't carry it home without killing ourselves. The problem was that it was 94 degrees Fahrenheit (34.4 Celsius). If we had waited for a bus, then for a subway--especially with the leftovers from ye friendly kosher Chinese restaurant--the Salamone-Punster Palace would probably have become Salmonella City. Thank goodness for "car services"/taxicabs.

And now, we're off to an Israeli folk dance marathon. So much for watching the Independence Day fireworks. Ah, the sacrifices we make for art, er, exercise, er, whatever. :)

The Punster and Shira Show

It wasn't planned that way.

Sure, I was already booked in to chant Haftarat Matot yesterday. But my husband and I didn't know that he would be drafted, too, as leiner/baal koreh/Torah reader, covering for the cantor while he was on vacation.

So he chanted the Torah reading, then chanted the b'rachot before and after I chanted the haftarah--our synagogue does not yet allow women to chant our own b'rachot--and then, for good measure, led the Musaf Service.

Methinks we made spectacles of ourselves. :)

To my American readers, enjoy Independence Day.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

From Brian Blum: Will our children be Jewish?

As if it's not bad enough that we have to worry about whether our only child, a male, will give us halachically-Jewish grandchildren (by marrying a Jewish woman), now we have to worry about whether anything that he, his (future) wife, or we do (or did) will matter. Read it and weep--again.

"The new regulations announced in the last month require city rabbis and marriage registrars to send every convert and (this is new) every person whose parents were married abroad to the court for a determination of whether or not she or he’s a Jew.

While the main targets of the ruling are converts, the implications for Anglo immigrants are nevertheless astounding. Even though my wife Jody and I were both born Jewish, we were married in the U.S. And not by a rabbi who is on the official list of Diaspora rabbis recognized by the Chief Rabbinate. Accordingly, our children – if they decide to get married in Israel – will have to prove their own Jewishness in a court of law. And, astonishingly, they will have to pay for their own hearing."

As you can see from my related post Conversion: Is my nightmare--and worse--coming true?, this is an old story--if you follow the links, you'll see that I have posts on the "conversion crisis" going back to March 4, 2008--but it just keeps getting worse. :(

Brian said, "When I shared this article with my teenage daughter, she couldn’t understand what the Rabbinate was trying to achieve." It seems to me that the Israeli Chareidi rabbinate (Chareidi meaning fervently Orthodox, that is, extremely right-wing in religious practice) is trying to establish a reverse Inquisition, with the goal of proving, at any emotional and/or financial cost, that non-Chareidi Jews aren't Jews. To put it in blunt English, they're trying to rid Israel and the Jewish People of anyone who's not Chareidi, both because they oppose Zionism and because they don't believe that non-Chareidi Orthodox rabbis and/or laypeople, either in Israel or in the Galut/Diaspora, are truly Orthodox. As for us non-Orthodox Jews, they wrote us off years ago.

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