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Mama Deb
mamadeb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
Yesterday

Lots o'stuff


Yes, it was Mother's Day, and I duly called my mother and chatted for a few minutes, but that wasn't the major thing.

It was also Lag B'omer, the 33rd day of Sefira, the counting of days from Pesach to Shavuot. For many of us - customs differ, of course - this the day the semi-mourning lifts permanently. This, for me, means I can listen to live music and, if I so desire, cut my hair. For others, it means weddings and first haircuts for their three-year-old sons, and it also means parades and parties and bonfires.

But what we did was attend a dinner for <a href="http://www.drisha.org>Drisha Institute's</a> 25th Anniversary. Drisha is amazing - an independent yeshiva for women (as opposed to places like Bruria in Israel,which is attached to a men's yeshiva.) Not a seminary, the one or two year institutions that teach Orthodox girls Bible and how to teach, but a true yeshiva, with stipends for full time scholars and a certificate at the end of the course of study. It has several levels of programs, from the full-time scholar's circle to individual classes on very basic level. It even offers classes for men and women. Until three years ago, I went there. In the summer, I went to the full-time summer programs, where I learned Talmud, Law, Bible and Philosophy, and from some of the brightest men and women around. I got to see high school girls in the high school program be introduced to these texts for the first time - lovely thing. During the rest of year, I took Hebrew or Bible or Talmud classes as I felt the need or desire. My mother-in-law always paid for one class a year as my birthday present. Any skills I have in regards to learning, I learned there. But then I took this job and it doesn't make sense to travel an hour each way for an hour class. But if I felt I could take the year off, I would take their Beis Medrash program, which is on any level and the idea is just amazing. If my brain hasn't calcified. They <i>are</i> doing things I feel less comfortable about - my feminism in terms of Orthodox Judaism goes solely to things such as learning - such as minyanim where women lead and lein from the women's side. I'm not saying there's a halachic problem with these, just that I'm uncomfortable with it. So, last night they celebrated 25 years, and because it was on Lag B'omer and Mother's Day, they were short a few warm bodies. Therefore, they offered last minute discounts for the dinner, and Jonathan and I went. Usually, it's $300 and we don't go. I wore one of my new suits - the more casual one. I'd worn it on Shabbos first, because it's a good thing to wear new things on Shabbos. And I'd gotten nothing but compliments. Instead of wearing the big brimmed Shabbos hat, though, I wore my purple leather cap. That took it down a notch or two, and when I walked into the dinner I had the very comfortable feeling of being dressed exactly right - some were more dressed than I was, some were less. I know it sounds superficial, but sometimes one *is*. We went to the opening cocktail party, where I noticed one man sitting off to the side reading a book. My own thoughts at that point were a mixture of surprise - who reads a book at a formal party like this? - and jealousy because he was reading. Then I saw he was reading a John Varley book. This changed things, because it meant he was an sf fan. It's not just that he was reading a science fiction book or that he was reading it at a party. It was the author - he's popular but only among sf fans and readers. In the outside world, reading at parties is rude and the message is, "please don't disturb me." Which means that talking to the person is rude back. In SF fannish circles, it's not considered rude or antisocial to take out a book. In fact,it's a conversational gambit - people will come over and ask what you're reading and you can discuss the book and the author and then other authors and their books and go on to other things. And if no one does, well, you're reading, right? So you're set. Turns out he goes to Dragoncon every year and wishes that Varley wrote more often and we've probably run into each other at Philcons and the like. And he's a filker. :) Since they're celebrating an educational institute, the program includes a choice of several classes before the dinner itself. Since it was Mother's Day,the classes all revolved around motherhood in way or another. Three of the five were about being mothers or parents and that, coupled with Mother's Day, would have been difficult. However, there was one honoring one's parents, and there was another on Serach bas Asher, a prophetess and matriarch most of us know very little about. That's the one I went to, and it was fascinating as only the story of a woman who entered Egypt with Jacob and the brothers and left with Moses and affected the war between David and Saul and is currently *living* (that is, like only a few others, she never died) in the Garden of Eden (all midrashic, but all wonderful) can be. And then we had the dinner and the woman being honored (in the best way - a program named for her recently deceased mother) spoke very well. I suspect she does this sort of thing a lot - instead of a stilted "I am reading" cadence, she had a warm, natural delivery, with appropriate and funny jokes. Nice to hear that. And we got home in time to see QAF (and who won Survivor this time around.)

Comments

minyanim where women lead and lein from the women's side. I'm not saying there's a halachic problem with these

I've never seen this done (except Reform). Are you saying this is halachic? If so, I waaaannnaaaa doooo iiit *whines*

*sweatdrops*

No, seriously. This strikes me as odd. But if it's theoretically permissible... well, that'd be cool. Yet another thing to ask my rabbi... but he's out of town (see http://www.livejournal.com/users/prezzey/40929.html ). Hmmm, which rabbi to annoy? *thinks*

It's halakhically permissible except for the issue of kavod hatzibbur, which is the same reason that minors aren't supposed to lein. This has been interpretted several ways, one of the most common of which is that it implies that if women or children and layning, then it must mean that the men can't do it, or are too lazy to do so, and so that the women or kids have to do so instead. I think that layning either falls into the category of zmirot, prayer and lullabies that are considered outside the realm of what might be for sexual purposes, and therefore isn't subject to kol isha- although that isn't a position accepted by everyone, clearly.

ANd well, it's most certianly done outside of reform. First off, a large portion of hte Conservative community is egalitarian. Secondly, reconstructionism is egalitarian. Thirdly, there are both modern orthodox and post-denomonational shuls that have women layn, althouhg not many of the former.

There are a couple of places in Israel and in the US that do this.

It makes me deeply uncomfortable. There are issues of modesty and of kol isha that I'm not sure are addressed, and I do have a feeling about a slippery slope.

There are issues of modesty and of kol isha that I'm not sure are addressed

Yup, that's why it surprised me. And even setting kol isha aside, isn't this specifically forbidden somewhere? I think "general" kol isha doesn't prohibit this as long as it's done properly (guys don't see girl etc), but I have a feeling about a specific prohibition on leining by women. I don't know if there *is* one, but I sort of feel like there might be.

Well, not that I would have anyplace to do it, so it's purely theoretical to me :] (Pilpul, oh yeah.)

*covers face in hands*

I think "general" kol isha doesn't prohibit this as long as it's done properly (guys don't see girl etc), but I have a feeling about a specific prohibition on leining by women

Well, if this were an exception on kol isha, it couldn't get stricter, only [what's the opposite of stricter?] as per Rabbi Yishmael's brayta (no. 9). So this doesn't stand. However, it might be prohibited under something else entirely, or under simple kol isha. (My bets are on the former.)

I'm very sleepy and I probably make no sense. But I had to clarify myself (though I guess I had done the opposite) Oh dang. I guess it shows I am no Talmudic scholar -_-;

I've heard of Orthodox groups having women-only services that include leining, but that's a case where men aren't in a position to hear (unless they're eavesdropping, and if so shame on them). I don't know the details, though, or what halachic authorities they follow.

Umm, leining without a minyan? My Kitzur Shulchan Aruch tells me that's not allowed (I just checked to make sure).

Ooh, good point. I thought I'd heard that Women at the Wall did this, but perhaps I'm confusing them with someone else.

I seem to have these strange nested replies. :)

The Women of the Wall have tried this. It's all very confusing and political.

But there are women's daavening groups all over the world.

Why not? When my husband picks up a Chumash, he leins to himself. It helps in Torah study.

I don't know what the kitzer says, but what the women in these groups claim they are doing is "Torah study". Many do not say the Torah brachot when they call up individual women. Instead, they say Bible verses. It still has the shape of a normal service, but there are enough differences that it's clear it's one.

That is, they are not claiming it is a public reading, anymore than they have a real repitition of the Amida. Instead, the chazzanit sits out the silent reading and says her *own* out loud (and yes, there are problems with this) at the bimah, without saying kedusha or anything else that requires a minyan. Nor do they say kaddish - so that women who have taken kaddish upon themselves must go to a real minyan.

My own opinions of these are decidedly mixed. I personally do not enjoy them and I do think there are problems involved, but I know of women who find them inspiring and comfortable.

any do not say the Torah brachot when they call up individual women. Instead, they say Bible verses.

Aah, I get it now. (I guess the Kitzur refers to a public reading.) This is really interesting - I'd love to try this sometime. (The problem is I don't think I could persuade too many girls *sigh*) Ooh there are so many things I'd love to try sometime. (Including tefilin - well, if I ever manage to get married, my poor husband-to-be will have to lend his to me :P Yes, I have asked my rabbi, and he permits.)

Well duh, I should practice women's stuff properly before I venture out, but the prospects for both of the above are pretty slim for reasons stated above, so this is still pretty theoretical for me...

(and yes, there are problems with this)

I don't even see how the Amidah issue could be solved, but they must've found a way... isn't the whole point of saying it silently not to get others to hear it? (AFAIK if one's alone one can say it loud... but it's late and I'm lazy to check)

I guess the Kitzur refers to a public reading.

That would be my guess too (and I also didn't initially pick up that they were doing it as study without the brachot).

This is really interesting - I'd love to try this sometime.

I sometimes lein Torah in my (non-Orthodox!) congregation, and I really enjoy it. I hope that if this is something that speaks to you, you'll be able to eventually find a group of women to do it with in a community that will permit it (i.e. will let you use the sefer torah). Women's services per se don't do much for me, but if I weren't egalitarian they might well.

I'm not trying to lead you away from your path, of course; I assume you would consult your rabbi, as you did for t'fillin.

Sorry to jump in here but: I have occasionally coveted my (currently estranged) husband's tefillin. Never asked a rabbi, always had the impression I'd have to be way accomplished in all areas before I tried something like that. (At this point I'm not really Orthodox anymore, but that's another story). I think, however, that my husband would be quite nervous if I asked to borrow them. I doubt he would totally forbid me from trying to put on tefillin, but he would probably prefer I got my own if I wanted to do that.

Oh, yes. My mother-in-law is part of one such "Women's Tefillah Group" and my *husband* is active on their mailing list.

I had an aufruf at one. An aufruf occurs, usually, the Shabbat before a wedding. The groom is called to the Torah with a special blessing and people throw candy at him. I had mine about three weeks before (because that's when the monthly women's daavening service was held), and had candy thrown at me.

My husband calls it my "bat mitzvah" since I never celebrated mine at the proper time, but I don't like that. I want to divorce bar/bat mitzvah from the very modern customs that have accreted around them. Not I have any objections to celebrating either bar or bat mitzvah, but there's too much emphasis on the celebration and not enough on what is actually happening. Party or no party, leining or daavening or giving a speech or doing none of the above, bat mitzvah happens at twelve and one day, bar mitzvah at thirteen and one day just like voting age or drinking age. It's worthy of celebration but it isn't the celebration.

Rant over. :)

And women's daavening services do permit up to nine men, behind a mechitza. Over nine men, you get a minyan.

"bat mitzvah" [sic]

My husband calls it my "bat mitzvah" since I never celebrated mine at the proper time, but I don't like that.

Ooh, yeah. I do that rant myself. There is a popular trend in some synagogues of the "adult bar/bat mitzvah", for people who didn't have the ceremony as kids. (For example, older women from traditional backgrounds, people who grew up in the heyday of "classical reform", converts, etc.) Nope, sorry -- you were bar or bat mitzvah at a particular age, or the instant you stepped out of the mikveh in the case of a convert, and you can have all the fancy shul-based stuff you want later in life, but don't call it your bar/bat mitzvah.

This is the point where many people dismiss me as anal-retentive, alas.

I'm glad that you had a good time and figured out a solution to the clothes issue - it sounds like you picked just the right outfit ;)

Serach bat Asher

That's the one I went to, and it was fascinating as only the story of a woman who entered Egypt with Jacob and the brothers and left with Moses and affected the war between David and Saul and is currently *living* (that is, like only a few others, she never died) in the Garden of Eden (all midrashic, but all wonderful) can be.
I thought Serach went into the Assyrian exile with the tribe of Asher, and died there, just a few decades shy of 1000 (if she was about 5 when they came to Egypt in 2235, then she was ~215 when they left Egypt, ~255 when they entered the Land, and ~973 when the 10 tribes were exiled in 3208).

Another comment, if you don't mind: I do wish I'd had more exposure to women doing more advanced learning. It might have helped estrange me less from Orthodoxy. But I listened more to those who disapproved of women learning Talmud, and less to my own heart, until it was too late.

And John Varley is a genius. Love all his work, especially The Persistence of Vision. Again, if more stuff like that happened to me at Orthodox events I might be less estranged.

Just my opinion.

Don't let age slow you down. I started from zero at age 28, and my mother-in-law in her 50's.

Get the Artscroll translations and have at it. :)