Monday, August 23, 2010

The wrong vocabulary

Here's a quote from Rabbi Michael J. Broyde's Hurhurim/Torah Musing guest post concerning Women Leading Kabbalat Shabbat:

[ ¶ ]

“Why then do we let children lead services like Kabbalat Shabbat and Pesukai Dezimra? I suspect that the answer to that question is as follows (and it is complex): exactly because we are now a more egalitarian community than we ever were, we must be careful not to treat women like children as a matter of halacha. . . . we permit six year old children to lead Ein Kelokeino, because no one will confuse a six year old with an adult, but we ought not to permit Ein Kelokeino to be led by an adult woman, exactly because we will confuse her with an adult man, because she is an adult obligated in Jewish law. Since she cannot lead Mussaf as a matter of Jewish law, even as she looks like a fully obligated adult in our modern egalitarian eyes, we must draw greater lines distinguishing women from men than children from adults. We fear this confusion less when a women leads kiddush in the social hall or makes hamotzi over Shabbat lunch, exactly because neither of these are situations where we consider the person leading services to be functioning as a chazan.”

[ ¶ ]

I can’t protest that this approach gives an 11-year-old boy more rights than a woman old enough to be his grandmother because, based on some of my recent reading, Judaism is a religion of responsibilities, not rights.

[ ¶ ]

I can’t protest that this approach fails to respect the dignity of women because, if I understand some of my recent reading correctly, Kavod HaTzibbur/the honor of the congregation almost always trumps Kavod HaBriyot/respect for HaShem’s creatures.

[ ¶ ]

So how do I explain my own personal reaction to Rabbi Michael J. Broyde’s guest post, namely, that, by refusing to allow women to lead even halachically-permissible parts of the service, traditionalists are treating us like (perpetual) children?

[ ¶ ]

Even assuming that women are guests at Orthodox public worship, which is the opinion of some traditionalists on the grounds that the requirement to say specific prayers at specific times is incumbent on men only, doesn’t the host at a Sabbath or Festival meal usually offer a guest an opportunity to lead either Kiddush or Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals)? Even if we’re guests, shouldn’t we be made to feel welcome?


Blogger rivkayael said...

To me, the other more glaring issue is that a little girl/teenager who davens twice a day (as she should, by halacha) is going to stop doing it because people are going to jeer at her for being a "feminist" (and why feminist is a bad word, I Don't Know). Or when a generic young woman is pressured to stop learning how to do the correct thing for various stupid societal reasons. Bad for shidduchim, don't you know. Better that you make mistakes in your kitchen and treif up stuff, or don't daven.

Mon Aug 23, 06:02:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Been there, blogged that, as you may recall. It seems to me that pressure to conform to the local norms can create problems for a Jewish female who takes her Judaism "too" seriously. And being forbidden by custom to do what halachah permits would certain seem to me to encourage a "let's not do too much" attitude.

Mon Aug 23, 06:55:00 PM 2010  

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