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Thursday, August 04, 2005

Taliban Judaism Strikes Again

It makes me crazy that people are trying to make a sweet, spiritual, and creative girl like Fudge feel bad for having interests outside of Tora! Tora! Tora!

Why we need Modern Orthodoxy

33 comments:

parcequilfaut said...

For the record, it made me mad too. And I'm a shiksa.

PsychoToddler said...

Not that there's anything wrong with that!

;-)

Ralphie said...

This is slightly off-topic, but lemme run this by you. Apparently, creeping up in the Modern Orthodox world is something called the "Shira Chadasha" phenomenon, named after the kahal in Jerusalem that started it all.

The idea is that these minyanim - one in Israel and a handful in the U.S. - throw out the male-only restrictions on parts of davening that have previously barred women because of "kavod hatzibur" - honor of the community. I forget the precise details, but for the sake of argument, let's say aliyot and Torah reading, but not shaliach tzibbur.

Apparently it can be shown that these restrictions are indeed only because of the community honor issue, and that halachically a particular community - specifically, a particular congregation - can waive its "honor" requirements when it wants to. The upshot is that it is completely halachic, and reasons against it have been limited to "slippery slope" arguments, not purely halachic ones (e.g., kol ishah is apparently not mentioned anywhere regarding this issue).

Here's my point: This rubs me the wrong way, but I can't quite articulate why. The slippery-slope argument does resonate with me, and it's one of the problems that serious leaders of the Conservative movement have had to deal with after the Roth tshuvah. But I'm sure the same argument was made when women were allowed to learn Torah to a greater degree (note the bet midrash that so irked Fudge's pal), and I think women's learning is great, awesome, wonderful, etc. (as I'm sure they're relieved to hear).

Anyway, are there any valid arguments against implementing this Shira Chadasha thing across the board (not that this will happen any time soon), or am I just a sexist pig?

PsychoToddler said...

I'm no expert in Halacha, Ralphie. But I think we all draw our own "line in the sand," and maybe that line is arbitrary in some way.

The slippery slope issue has some merit, but that implies that there isn't some tangible rule that either is or isn't being broken by the action involved. Does that make any sense?

ball-and-chain said...

I just want your daughter to know that her friend's level of orthodoxy is almost as bizarre as the one my brother attained before he chucked the whole thing and became completely secular. Before he became religious, he enjoyed Penn and Teller. When he was ultra-frum, I tried to give him a book of theirs that he refused for similar reasons to your daughter's friend. Your daughter's friend may end up like so many of my brother's former friends, trapped in a bad marriage with more children than she can handle and an ever more restrictive way of life. It saddens me to see this happen to beautiful, intelligent and good girls. With G-d's (and your) help, it won't happen to your daughter. If she needs to come out to the crazy left-coast to get away from it all, she can always stay here. Also, she is a fabulous writer and obviously very bright.

Doctor Bean said...

I find that a useful way to avoid such extremism is to have a very strong prejudice against soft tafs. If you always always pronounce the tafs hard, and use the Hebrew rather than Yiddish words for things, you magically become a moderate.

For example: there's no one who would ban Barney who celebrates Shabbat. They're all shomer shabbos. Similarly, these Talibanese would never invite you to their house for seuda shlieheet, only for shaloshudas. See?

PsychoToddler said...

Of course! It was right in front of me all this time! Why didn't I think of that!

Mrs. Balabusta said...

I want to respond to Ralphie:

This discussion is based on my experience with my teachers in the Ida Crown Academy in Chicago, which for the record, was and is a mixed gender school.

Women can have their own minyan, and they can have a shaliach tsiboor too, if there are no men in the room, so that kol isha isn't a problem.

The problem is that women cannot, according to the gemara, ever, be an eyd (witness), therefore they cannot get an aliya, therefore you can't lain, therefore your service is incomplete, and you have to go somewhere else to hear laining. (the issue of who can do the laining is a catch 22).

It really depends what floats your boat. I heard of such a women's minyan in Boston when my sister was living there. My question is [1] why would you want to? and [b] don't you have anything better to do? There are plenty of things that are broken and need fixing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Ralphie said...

Ah, women's "minyan" - another topic, actually. Our shul already has one of those, but they don't call it a minyan, cause, well, it ain't by definition.

Back to the actual minyan with "enhanced women's roles" - I agree with you about having plenty other things to do. Those who are pushing for this, however, sincerely want to do these things in order to enhance their own conenction to Hashem (of course there are those with a covertly or overtly political agenda here, but for the sake of argument let's isolate this to those who are sincere).

I am perfectly willing to believe that the only thing standing in the way, on the halachic page, that is, is the issue of "kavod hatzibbur." It's just that I think that sometimes there is more than what is on the page. (Isn't this what leftish Orthodox Jews get upset about, when rightish Orthodox Jews ignore tradition and fish out a chumra from a page somewhere? I think that's what most sticks in my craw about this issue.)

Anyway, I find it a difficult position to be in. I feel that despite the sincere religious yearnings of some people, that this sort of practice would be a stick in the eye to Orthodox Jewish practice historically and presently, and that indeed it would lead to a slippery slope. It's uncomfortable for me because on the other side there's the precedent issue (women's learning - not traditionally done and had - and still has - naysayers along these same lines) and the kavod issue - I don't feel personally that a woman doing something a man has traditionally done, in any sphere, affects my honor directly. And I can't seem to defend my opposition to the practice without sounding like a neanderthal. Or a cro-magnon, take your pick.

(By the way, I did not mean to bring up a halachic discussion - I meant to look at this issue from the theoretical point that kavod hatzibbur is the principle at stake. But for the record I know nothing about the issue of witnesses having anything to do with laining or having an aliyah. In a women's prayer group, that other topic mentioned above, there are not true aliyot since there is no minyan. In this other topic it's different because there is a minyan.)

I think I'm babbling at this point.

ball-and-chain said...

Oh, PT, don't encourage him!

ball-and-chain said...

Oops, waited too long to comment.

Jack's Shack said...

Ida Crown- I knew people there, but that is a long time ago. Many many years. Oy, I feel old.

Irina Tsukerman said...

Doctor Bean, your comment about pronunciation strikes a familiar chord! These days, I sometimes get into arguments about how to pronounce certain things. "Some people" (who will remain nameless) say that soft taf is the way it's pronounced in the U.S. and that's how it's done, etc, but I figure that there's no need for it anymore. I bet eventually the Hebrew pronunciation will come to dominate.

Irina Tsukerman said...

Then again, the people with political agenda can just throw the old Talmud out the window, arguing that they weren't there to consent to it, and women were kept from participate, and write new and improved feminist politically correct version, lol!

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

First of all (putting on the linguist hat), i've encountered too many people who are just as prejudiced and obsessed with "hard tav" being The Right Way to do things and Those Obsolete Saf-Sayers Are Worthless and similar nonsense.

So adopting an Israeli accent doesn't cure bigotry and illogic.

About Shirá Hhadashá...

I was lucky enough, one of my few times in Israel i had access to a TV (it was on a tiyul, in the hotel), to see an interview show where the interviewer was talking about religion and feminism with a female Reform rabbi from Tel Aviv, and one of the leaders of Shirá Hhadashá. The Sh.Hh.er who was interviewed made a good point (by means of an anecdote whose details i've forgotten) — the idea of Sh.Hh. is to let women have a place and a role in the service. They're not taking it over from the men, or just sitting off by themselves listening to everything happening "on the other side". They have their own important role in forming the prayer community. The "action" of davening takes place on both sides.

What they do is they have mixed Torah readings, and women lead Qabalat Shabat and Pesuqey Dezimra, since those parts of davening don't need a minyan or a shaliahh tzibur.

Doctor Bean said...

Steg: Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. I'm one of those prejudiced people! I admit it's totally irrational and bigoted. Other than a few precious untranslatable words (like shmegege) I hate Yiddish. Ditto Ashkenazic pronounciation of Hebrew. I'm not proud of this. I'm just admitting to it. I feel at it's root that after 1947 anything but Sephardic Hebrew is anti-Zionist, though of course I know that's nonsense.

queeniesmom said...

i wish pronunciation would cure the ayatollahs but we seem to be our own worst enemy. the larger our communities grow the more we have to nit-pic. we seem to have created a society where my hat is blacker than yours and my way is the only right way. this is producing some very warped ways of thinking - when did it become bad to earn a living, get an education? i hope someone will start screaming that the emperor has no clothes, until then i live in hope that rational individuals will prevail. and our daughters won't be braiwashed into accepting less than they should.

parcequilfaut said...

PT: I know.
But it pretty much throws me out of discussions like these before they ever get good and started.

;)

JC said...

She will be fine, she sounds like a bright and wonderful girl.

PsychoToddler said...

All you people who insiss on pronouncing your "t"s as "t"s instead of "s"s are sadly missaken.

I happen soo have iss on good authorisy that Moses came down from Mouns Sinai speaking this way.

Soo bad for you!

PsychoToddler said...

Fahuqwgads, I don't know how you can stand hanging around with all these Jews!

Bean: Du bist a yaalt! I don't know what that means, but I was once being driven around by a guy who kept yelling it at other drivers.

queenies mom: I agree with you wholeheartedly. I've blogged about this numerous times but I'm tired of repeating myself. I've very concerned that we are creating a generation of kids with no work ethic who will not be able to support the growing infrastructure they need. Not everybody needs to be a kollelnick or marry one.

I'm not sure how we got onto the topic of Shira Chadasha (Ralphie). My daughter's friend seemed to be offended with the idea of girls learning torah (instead of Navi or Halacha).

Ralphie said...

Sorry - I'm a topic schnorrer (take that, Bean!) When I first started attending orthodox shuls I was a little taken aback by the "sahfs" too - but I got over it.

Related story: I once went to a taping a Seinfeld, and the warm-up guy for some reason accidentally pronounced a word starting with a "T" with an "S" instead. I called out, "What was that, the Ashkenazic version?" and actually got a few laughs. Go figure.

PsychoToddler said...

I prefer "Sorah Tziva Lanu, Moshe" to "Shma YiTroel"

parcequilfaut said...

This is why I like hanging out with all the Jews, PT. Y'all's arguments are fascinating, even.

Irina Tsukerman said...

I admit to my bias with respect to pronunciation. Yiddish pronunciation in my mind associates with shtetl culture, and when I think of shtetls, I cannot help but think of humiliation Jews have been subjected to in the Pale for years, until most of them met their sad end in the Holocaust. To me, Yiddish is associated with debility, weakness, and degradation. The hard tafs I connect with Israel and youth, with strength, courage, and ability to stand up for yourself, with being proud of your culture, and taking on the world. I just realized it now...

parcequilfaut said...

In future years, PsychoToddler (the blog) will end up in the footnotes of some earnest linguistic researchers' senior thesis on phenome shift and cultural identity, all thanks to y'all...now do you get why, PT? ;)

PsychoToddler said...

Irina: I'm not sure if I ever thought of it really in those terms, but I understand the sentiment.

For the record: I was taught hebrew exclusively by Israeli teachers, and so I only learned the hard Tafs. Halfway through elementary school they began giving us teachers who used the soft tafs. By eighth grade i was thoroughly confused, and I was using them interchangeably (listen carefully to some of my songs on psycho.radio). My barmitzvah teacher finally told me: Pick one pronunciation and STICK WITH IT. Stop the Sfardskenaz!

I enjoy Yiddish, like Bean, primarily for the humor.

Parce: No. I'm not even sure why I hang around!

fudge said...

and he wonders why i don't write jewish fiction.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Feel free to switch back and forth with the taf/saf, as long as it's in different contexts. And as long as you know what you're doing. Very few things annoy me more than people trying to sound Ashkenazic but fail horribly because they don't even know that the little dot in some letters means something.

PsychoToddler said...

My teacher thought that for the purposes of layning (reading the torah), it was desirable to be consistent.

Mrs. Balabusta said...

Jack: I was in the class of '85 - who are you really?

Linda et al: Although I am not an expert I will explain this far. When a man gets an aliya to the torah and makes the bracha, what he is doing is testifying or bearing witness that the Torah is true etc. etc. (see a better translation than I will do here). 13 is the age of bearing witness, that is why a boy has to be 13 to get an aliya, etc. etc. Women, under Jewish Law, can never be called to court as a witness. I don't want to get into the whys, because you probably won't like them, but that's how it is.

As for my two points that I made earlier, I concede that I was needlessly cavalier. My point in saying "why would you want to?" is just to re-examine your motivation and ask a sincere, "why", "what would it mean to me?" and don't you have anything better to do - I think if we took all the time all the men spend in shul and add it up, we could fix up this world pretty nice. We all have better things to do. Davening is our little reminder shopping list for the day. The PT won't go to the store without a list, and that's why he has to put on tfilin everyday and I don't. That's just my perspective.

Lastly, this is a religion that we don't like all the time. It's not a feel-good religion where I get everything out of every little nuance of the service. I personally HATE fast days, they suck and I hate them. But I still do it. So there might be parts of the service that you don't like or that you think should be done differently, but here is the main point of orthodoxy, "It's Not Up To You". We don't even get to vote on it. But we keep the whole Torah, even the parts we don't like, and that, believe it or not, is our testimony.

BTW, if we did start putting things up for editting, I have list here....

Kiki said...

carrying on the Taf discussion...

I use the Ivrit pronunciation - TAF. My boys' school use the Saf pronunciation. Let me tell you that they refuse to let me help them with homework because I confuse them......

I am right, they are not. They will figure it out.

I left a message on Fudge's blog - PT, your daughter seems to be a bright and intelligent individual, and she will for sure do well at Stern, even if one of her classmates wears a too tight tee shirt..........

Ralphie said...

Mrs. B - can you give me a source or two for the aliyah-as-bearing-witness angle (I mean this a sincere request, not a challenge). It is my understanding that there is a mitzvah to read the Torah publicly on certain days, and that originally the aliyah-getters actually read their portions, but now there's usually a designated reader and the aliyah-getter just reads the bracha to exempt himself. And it turns out the mitzcah is not gender-specific, but that the gemara says that women don't have aliyot because of "honor of the congregation."