[Avodah] partnership minyanim

Lisa Liel lisa at starways.net
Tue Feb 26 07:59:39 PST 2013

On 2/26/2013 7:07 AM, Kenneth Miller wrote:
> 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?"

Yes and no.  It's kind of like driving under the influence.  If you do 
and you hit something, you may have hit it without volition, but you got 
drunk voluntarily.  In this case, a person who accepts outside cultural 
norms as being more important than Jewish ones will naturally, without 
deliberation, think, "I ought to be able to do that."  But choosing 
those norms over Jewish ones is a choice.  Certainly for those who have 
any sort of Torah upbringing.  I'm not speaking of tinokot she'nishb'u, 
if that's what Conservative and Reform Jews are, but of people who are 
raised Orthodox and opt for so-called partnership minyanim anyway.

> 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?

I would assume that since Moshe Rabbenu's first talmid, who received the 
Torah directly from him, was from Shevet Ephrayim, that this was never a 
question at all.

> 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.)

Yehuda is the king.  There are different forms of leadership, and 
kingship is only one of those.  Yosef had a form of leadership as well.

> 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?

I can't see how it would be, since no justification was ever required 
for non-Levi'im teaching Torah.  And ultimately, there's nothing wrong 
with women teaching Torah either.  That's not even at issue here.  The 
issues are serara (which I don't think is an insuperable problem) and 
eidut (which is a bit more of one) and being poretz geder in the 
acceptance of external norms, particularly at a time when they are 
aggressively trying to replace ours.


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