[Avodah] partnership minyanim

Meir Shinnar chidekel at gmail.com
Sun Feb 24 07:45:32 PST 2013

On Feb 24, 2013, at 7:38 AM, avodah-request at lists.aishdas.org wrote:

> <<purported legal critiques based on certain moral positions may in fact 
> require legal responses for the moral reason of protecting the forest.>>
> I'm not sure I disagree with you, but agreement is hardly productive 
> (and it's no fun), so I'll write as if I do.
> Long long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was in college, one 
> of the feminist critiques of orthodoxy ran as follows:
> A1. God does not advocate what is unjust.
> A2. It is unjust to deny a woman the opportunity to do what she is 
> capable of doing.
> A3. Orthodox Judaism advocates what is unjust.
> Hence many feminists abandoned orthodoxy.
> The advocates of partnership minyanim, I think, find themselves in an 
> emotional quandary, to wit, they accept axiom 2 but also accept axiom

It is here that I would disagree with rDR.  While some members of partnership minyanim may indeed hold of axiom 2, I don't think most of them have an intrinsic objection to some aspect of gender roles - they are not radically egalitarian.
It is different axiom that is of concern - one related more to the discussion of borer as the penultimate mitzva. To wit - 

1.  Halacha, reflecting the ratzon of the  habore as reflected in the real world , is not a mere set of meaningless rules- but should have spiriitual meaning and relationship to the individual in the world that he actually lives in.

One of the major changes that most of us live in is that women's roles are very much no longer confined to the private sphere - and have a very public role in every part of their lives except the religious one.  Furthermore, very few (and none in the MO world) view the changes as ones that need to be fought in any sphere, except the religious.

Given this reality, the consequence of this axiom is therefore a religious, moral  and halachic imperative to find appropriate public religious roles for women  (as changes in women's general education made it a religious and moral imperative to find the appropriate Jewish educaiton for women)

What those roles are is a different issue - but otherwise we become a religion for whom borer is the ultimate mitzva..

One could devise specific public roles for women as distinct from men, but the most natural (and conservative>>) one is to adopt those public roles for men for which there is no halachic impediment - and that is what Partnership minyanim aim to do. Whether or not there actually is a halachic impediment may be argued (the kriat hatora has legitimate  issues - whether they can be overcome can be debated)), but the need that drives it is not a rejection of gender roles per se - but a commitment to halacha as something more than meaningless rules ...

therefore, while halachic criticism and debate is always appropriate, one has to understand what the moral critique actually is.  Furthermore, shem sheassur lehatir et haissur, cach assur le'essor et hamuttar.  I think Rav Freundel's halachic arguments would not be taken seriously in any other context, as it creates an issur out of arguments that have nothing to do with his issue.
(I was planning a long response to his article, but don't have the time.  rCL did a great job (as usual) in pointing out some of the issues. One small additional example. 

One of his main arguments is that, to quote
 tefilla betzibbur is anything said by a tzibbur, rather than a specific prayer (tefilla).  This way, all the sources about the requriements for a shliach tzibbur carry over.  He cites a tshuva of rav Moshe Feinstein that if there are ten people of whom six haven't davened yet, one may say hazarat hashatz - but is not yotza tefilla betzibbur.  He argues that this shows that tefilla betzibbur is not defined by the text said - but that  a tzibbur is saying it.
I think, if said not int he context of trying to assur partnership minyanim, but in a serious discussion, this would not be taken seriously.  the gmara talks about the improtance of tefilla betzibbur.  Rav Moshe argues that tefilla betzibbur is not the same as hazarat hashatz- that if there isn't a tzibbur 910 men)  that is actually davening - requires both a minyan davenign and that it be tefilla. , hazarat hashatz doesn;t have the quality of tefilla betzibbur if 10 people aren;t davening - even if one can say davar shebikdusha - there is nothing to suggest that tehrefore anything said by 10 men becomes tefilla betzibbur.

Most of his other arguments are similarly flawed (eg, selihot - there is halachic discussion about how to fit it into tefilla betzibbur - rav soloveitchik puts it in the category of za'aka (a form of tefilla) - no one suggests that just because people say it betzibbur regularly it is tefila betzibur, magen avot - the problem is how one is permitted to say this extra bracha which is said (and said in the gmara) only by a minyan).

This is not to say that a case could not be made  - but making a flawed case in this setting is problematic..
Meir Shinnar

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