Jan 26, 2014

Why I ignore the women in tefillin and minyan phenomenon

I am not quite sure how to describe it, but I think that in my Jewish practice and belief, I believe I can be described as fairly (though not completely) rational, while also being fairly traditional. I don't chase after rebbes for brachas, but I don't discount them, I am not a big grave hopper, but I do go on occasion to some, I am not very mystically oriented and I don't put much power in segulahs and the like, but I am aware of and respect their place in our tradition and practice and even find myself doing some as well... while at the same time in my politics I find myself more liberal than conservative..

So, many of these issues that we are witness to today leave me a bit confounded as to what the proper approach might be. I am thinking specifically of situations like Women of the Wall, and now the women who want to put on tefillin (such as in the SAR high school).

I am a firm believer in equal rights and opportunities for women, while recognizing that men and women are not the same. But I am confounded as to what is the right approach. I am traditional and admit that it grates on me to see the womens minyan at the Kotel, women wearing tefillin - even though there can be halachic justifications and allowances - the fact is it has not been traditionally done. Doing it now, with all the explanations and justifications in the world, is breaking with tradition.

On the other hand, it can be justified both socially and halachically. And, even more, I do not see how it can be stopped, which means it should probably be ignored.

And, just curious, but if Rashi's daughters wearing tefillin (whether they actually did or did not does not matter) is such a strong argument, why hasn't it been done [publicly] in the 900 or so years since then? Why do we have to go back 900 years to look for a good example of women wearing tefillin? Sorry, but that argument always bothers me. I don't think it helps their cause.

Anyways, is it really so significant and serious to the frum community if two women put on tefillin (there are probably some more who do it with less public fanfare anyway)? Does it cause so much damage to the Jewish community? We are 14 or 15 million strong, and an overwhelming majority of those are not religious, and many are not even affiliated at all - so does it matter if a few daven in a minyan or put on tefillin? I am more inclined to ignoring the phenomenon than to fighting it.

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  1. There really ain't a problem with women putting on tefillin, but the Women of the Wall have a stated objective to tear down the mechitza and make the entire wall egalitarian.

  2. Josh, of course there are problems, such as tzni'uth.

    But, the point I want to make to Rafi, is that by definition these women can not make up a "minyan." Please call them prayer groups. Words have power. If you want to ignore them, then ignore them fully, by not giving them any additional power through a misnomer.

  3. Esser is right.

    Rafi - you should make a separate post to make that point

  4. There are lots more women who lay tefillin and wear tzitzis inside their skirts than is readily apparent. These women are very sincere in their desire to connect with G-d at a more intense personal level. Many of these same women are full-time housewives, and not necessarily flaming feministas.

  5. rational belief is like being a little bit pregnant

    belief and rational are polar opposites

  6. I consider myself always flexible in these matters depending on the motives. If it is quite to break down walls, and make everything egaliterian, then I am not in favour. Women who say they want a part in the service, rather than having a sincere wish to do more of the mitzvot than men do, I don't agree. Do men have a part in the service usually. Usually it is the same chazanim in shul, the same gabayim, maybe an aliyah once every 3 months, most men in shul don't do anything except pray, which is what women do anyway as well. If they have a sincere desire to be closer to G-d, and to do that wish to do more of the mitzvot that men do, then by all means. it is a privilege for them, but also an obligation. Are women prepared to go to shul at 6:00am in the morning during the week, maybe even on Shabbat, and also come back to Mincha and Maariv as well, and come in at the beginning of the service not just at the Kriat Hatorah?
    It really depends on the motives

  7. Meir - check out rasi in parshat vayera? about abraham and the visitors. only good motives and actions (good or bad) count. Bad motives don't count.

    Jeez, do you guys learn any tannach or is it all gemara and shulchan orech?

  8. @The Way:
    What do you mean? That the action of donning Tefilling is "good" and counts more than the motive?

  9. if u do a mitzvah u get a point, regardless of motive

    if u think about doing a mitzvah and have a good motive but dont complete the mitzvah, you get a point

    if u think bad but dont do bad, you dont get a demerit

    such is my understanding of the rules of your game - per rashi

  10. @The Way
    Now I understand you.
    I will trust you on the Rashi, even if I couldn't find it.
    I will also assume that donning tefillin for a woman is a mitzvah, even if I have some doubts.
    Even so we are talking of social rules, not of mitzot. I do not like their values and I do not want my society to be influenced by them. So I will oppose them. Not judge, oppose. In the Kotel I do not want them to express their ideas.


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