[Avodah] partnership minyanim

Kenneth Miller kennethgmiller at juno.com
Tue Feb 26 05:07:31 PST 2013

R' Meir Shinnar wrote:

> 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. ... 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 ...

I agree that there is no deliberate and conscious rejection of gender roles, but this is only because it is a fait accompli. Our society has (almost) completely rejected gender roles. It is my opinion that when a person asks, "Why can't I do that?" it is not meant as a *deliberate* rebellion, but the question reveals the inner emotions: The starting point was a declarative "I ought to be able to do that", rather than an inquisitive "Should I want to do that?"

Culture is insidious. It hijacks our attitudes and colors our emotions, and we don't even realize it. I have previously remarked that the modern age has so thoroughly demonized slavery that it is difficult for us to imagine what the authentic Torah views on it were.

Gender is not the only area where Bnei Yisrael has been divided, and given specific roles. I have often read and heard that it is the role of the Leviim (and their elite, the Kohanim) to be the teachers. When did this change?

That may sound like a Purim question, but I mean it quite seriously. The gemara allows all the shevatim to learn Torah, and even to achieve great heights in Torah, to the point where a mamzer talmid chacham gets more kavod than a Kohen Gadol am haaretz. But that only concerns personal achievement (not unlike a woman who can learn as much as she wants.) When did it become acceptable for non-Leviim to be the *teachers*? Was there any discussion about it at the time?

Another data point: Yehuda is supposed to be the leadership, and I recall some cases where others took leadership and were sharply criticized for it. (Chanukah comes to mind, but I must apologize for lack of details. History is my weak point, and I hope others can fill in the blanks.)

I would add here that anyone can be a navi. But the role of a navi is quite distinct from politics. I would concede that his role is similar to teaching, but I'd suggest that if the Levi's world is what we would call book-learning, then that frees up real-world learning for the Navi to teach.

I'd like to see some discussion from those many listmembers whose grasp of history is stronger than mine, about these other role divisions.

When I see a non-Levi teaching Torah, has he usurped the Levi's role?
If he has NOT usurped the Levi's role, then what is the distinction?
If he HAS usurped the Levi, what is the justification for doing so?
If there is a justification, is it something that might be relevant for women vis-a-vis men's roles?

Akiva Miller
Woman is 53 But Looks 25
Mom reveals 1 simple wrinkle trick that has angered doctors...

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