Woman reading from the Torah

I also posted this at The Jewish Connection.

A blog that calls itself Jewish Answers asks and answers the question:

Why don’t Orthodox women read from the Torah?

Rav Tendler takes time to provide a response that I have trouble buying into. Allow me to take some selections from his response.

“The Talmud, in Megillah 23a states that “even a woman may read from the Torah,”

Ok, so the initial response is that a woman can read from the Torah, so the question is why wouldn’t or shouldn’t she. Rav Tendler goes on to explain that the purpose of reading Torah is for the person reading to teach it to the congregation. He then offers the following:

“The Talmud is stating that although there is technically nothing wrong with a woman teaching Torah to men, since men have a Mitzvah to study Torah and not women, by calling up a woman you are essentially making a statement that there are no men present capable of teaching the Torah- despite the fact that it is their Mitzvah, and here is a woman who does not have this Mitzvah and she is more proficient in reading and teaching the Torah. This reflects badly on the congregation who is present and their level of Mitzvah observance and Torah proficiency. Therefore, our Rabbis said that this is inappropriate.”

I have a problem with this as IMO it takes a great leap to get to the position that they are at. To suggest that because a woman is reading Torah it might mean that all of the congregants, especially those who are male are not as well educated is just silly. To me this sounds more like a case of pride, of ego over practicality.

There are most definitely times in which a woman will know more than the men around her and in the interest of getting the best education possible the men should listen to her.

From a slightly different perspective I ask when do we recognize that there are minhagim that are not halacha and that there is legitimate reason to reconsider their role and need in our lives.

I do not believe in ignoring and or changing minhag strictly because it is minhag, but at the same time to refuse to change simply because it is minhag is somewhat provincial and quite limiting.

There are reasons to reconsider why we do what we do. This may be one of those occasions.

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  1. Anonymous March 29, 2006 at 4:42 am

    gotta chime in here
    sorry to say jerucop…but Rabbi Joel Rembaum of a synagogue in LA who sits on the Conservative law making committee, the CJLS, has declared it, as well as rice, okay in a Tshuva he wrote for his temple as mara d’atra.

  2. StepIma March 28, 2006 at 6:24 pm

    There’s a modern-orthodox kehilla in manhattan called Darkhei Noam that’s been holding services for a couple (?) of years now where men and women both read from the Torah and all other practices that women aren’t prohibited halachically from doing – but otherwise it’s all Orthodox practice (mechitza, only men count for minyan, etc).

    A friend took me there once on a visit. It was too odd for me to imagine going to on a regular basis if I had the opportunity – maybe, as you said, I don’t believe in changing minhag just because it is minhag — and I’m comfortable with the way things are. But it was really neat to see.

  3. rgmb March 28, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    My daughter will be reading from the Torah for the first time this weekend, and I’m happy that she will have that opportunity in our synagogue.

  4. Robbie March 28, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    I’m with you on this one. If the argument’s absurd…

  5. Jack's Shack March 28, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Kitnyiyot is a good example.

  6. Stacey March 28, 2006 at 1:38 pm

    Women not being able to receive aliyot or read from the Torah is one of the many reasons I will never be Orthodox.

  7. Jerusalemcop March 28, 2006 at 10:33 am

    the issue of kitniyot also should fall into that category. The reason ashkenazim dont eat kitniyot is solely because no one has the guts (balls) to declare that it’s ok.


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