Saturday, April 15, 2017

The original DYI Judaism

This post was inspired by an incident described in my previous post.

Being 68, when I think of do-it-yourself Judaism, I think of the Jewish Catalogs and the Chavurah Movement of the 1960-1970's, not to mention the more recent Independent Minyan trend.  But it might be argued that the original DYI Jews were/are Orthodox women.

Think about it.  Since women are not counted in Orthodox minyanim, many Orthodox women don't go to synagogue on a regular basis, but, rather, davven bi-y'chidut (pray alone).  Depending on the interpretation of Jewish religious law/halachah that's accepted in their communities and/or depending on their family's tradition, they may even choose what they pray.  My understanding--and please correct me if I'm wrong--is that some opinions hold that a woman is obligated to pray three times a day (as men must), other opinions hold that a woman is obligated to pray only twice a day, and yet other opinions hold that a women is obligated to pray only once a day.  What gets even more interesting is the question of what prayers a woman is obligated to pray.  There are Orthodox women at my office who pray only the first paragraph of the Sh'ma plus the Amidah, and others whose only daily prayers are Tehillim/Psalms.  Others, if I'm not mistaken, recite only the Birkot HaShachar/Morning Blessings.  And women who recite prayers and/or perform rituals that they're not obligated by halachah to say/perform, such as counting the Omer, saying the b'rachot/blessings over a lulav and etrog, and/or reciting the blessing for, and sitting in, a sukkah, are on their own--they may or may not get any support from their communities and/or families.

Regarding other aspects of traditional Jewish practice, women who bake their own bread are trusted to separate the "challah" portion without supervision, and women are also trusted to go to the mikveh when required.  In addition, the kashrut (kosher status) of a couple's or family's kitchen is often entrusted to the woman of the house--you assume that the food is kosher when you eat in an Orthodox home because an Orthodox woman is considered "neemanah" (trustworthy) in keeping her home kosher without outside supervision.

Contrast that with Orthodox men.  While it's permissible for a man to davven bi-y'chidut, it's considered strongly preferable for a man to pray with a minyan.  Much of a man's observance is public.

The bottom line is that we should give credit where it's due, and acknowledge Orthodox women's practice when we talk about DYI Judaism.


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