Monday, March 27, 2006

Woman reading from the Torah

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.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

To Love Your Fellow Jew ....

V'Ohavta L'Rayecha Kamocha

One of the first songs I remember learning in Day Camp had to be the "V'ohavta" song. Do any of you know it? It goes like this:

To love a fellow Jew, just the same as you, is the basis of our holy Torah. He may be far from me, across the widened sea. Still I'll always love him just same. For 70, 80 years. Our Neshama wears and tears, just to do a favor for another. Love him with all your heart ...

[UPDATE: I remembered the ending. ...the heavens spread apart, cause every Jew is really our brother.]

I can't remember the rest. Sorry, it's been a long time since camp. Treating people with dignity and respect is harder than it sounds. It's probably one of the hardest things to do. We were all created with such different personalities that so many times do we clash with each other. We all know someone who we can't stand. We all know someone who makes so irritated that we want to go off on them.

When I was in Yeshiva I remember learning that any bad that you see in someone else usually means you have a level of the same bad thing within you. I was never really sure that I agreed with that. There are many discussions that can be had on that statement. But there is a certain level of truth to it. We see things in other people that bother us, and in some way, it bothers us because we know we can be the same way sometimes.

It doesn't matter what we do in our lives with regards to our different approaches to Judaism. The most important thing is to learn to respect the other person. We may think we know everything, we may think we are the right one. We may wonder how someone else could be so blind. Still, the first step to loving your fellow Jews, is to respect them.

Without respect, there is no platform for debate.

There is another "Vohavta" song. I think it goes like this:

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend, and together we will walk in the way of Hashem.

Monday, March 06, 2006

March Madness has Begun

And I ain't talking basketball!

It's Adar fun at The Muqata. The Purim blog parodies are "spot on" and, in an interesting twist, also demonstrative of the sense of community that has evolved in the J-Blogosphere.

So if you want to see the "real" RenReb, OrthoMom, Ezzie, Mirty, etc., check out the Purim Blogs!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Chabad Stamp

I know Chabad can be controversial, especially lately, but I credit them with showing me that Judaism could be really joyous and fun. The wedding of a friend of mine in Crown Heights was an event I'll never forget. And when I was just a kid in the suburbs, the annual Chabad Chanukah parties were where I learned about "ru'ach."

I think there is a balance in Judaism and it's OK to have people on either side of that balance. I come from a very, very "Misnagid" family. So I always treasured my glimpses into the Chasidic way of life. There is, most likely, a happy medium there somewhere.

So, all in all, I like Chabad. I like what they do. So "good for them" -- they have their own Israeli stamp now! Read all about it here.

As for the image, if they had asked me (though why they would I sure don't know), I would have said to put people on it, not 770 Eastern Parkway, which is, after all, just a building. ("What? Just a building? Is the White House just a house?") But I do like it overall. Yasher Ko'ach.