Menachem Mendel

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He Must Be Doing Something Right-More Rabbah

Sometimes you can tell the correctness of someone’s actions by their critic’s statements. Here is a good one. (hat tip)

Their principal objection is based on tznius, modesty, in the understanding of Rabbi Avi Shafran, Agudah’s director of public policy.

“Tznius isn’t a mode of dress. It includes the idea that women are demeaned and not honored when they’re put in the public eye and put on a pedestal. The position he [Weiss] has created violated the concept,” Shafran said. Whether the ordination violates a specific halacha (Torah law), is unimportant, he explained.

“Putting a woman in front of a group of men and women on a regular or ad-hoc basis is violative of tznius. Halacha accomplishes much more than the letter of the law. There is nothing in the Shulchan Aruch about keeping a cat in the aron kodesh. It’s technically permitted but it’s wrong to do.”

Is Rabbi Shafran saying that technically woman can be rabbis, “but it’s wrong to do”? Also, can someone tell this guy that he should try out his analogies on someone before he uses them in an interview. It’s always convenient to throw around the tznius (modesty), argument. This argument was also used by some in the Conservative movement who opposed the ordination of women rabbis. See the following statement by Rabbi David Feldman in Seymour Siegel ed., Conservative Judaism and Jewish Law, p. 301-302.

The most forbidable problem, from a strict halakhic point of view, is that of sex segregation and the attitudes and practices associated with it. This is illustrated by the incongruous suggestion of Professor Meir Friedmann, written as a Responsum to the President of the Jewish Community of Vienna in 1893. If you want to institute, or re-institute, aliyot for women, he wrote, “it goes without saying” that a special, covered stairway should be set up, leading the women, unseen, from and to the women’s gallery!

I learned the following Gemara today, and I can’t help but thinking about how for some men, things really haven’t changed all too much when it comes to how they think of women.

תלמוד בבלי מסכת כתובות דף סה עמוד א

תנא: כוס אחד יפה לאשה, שנים – ניוול הוא, שלשה – תובעת בפה,
ארבעה – אפילו חמור תובעת בשוק ואינה מקפדת.


A Tanna taught: One cup [of wine] is becoming to a woman; two are degrading, [and if she has] three she solicits [sex] publicly. [But if she has] four she solicits even an ass in the street and cares not.

Ketubot 65a

It very well may be that I am being overly critical of some people, and I know that there are even people within Rabbi Weiss’s own congregation who were very opposed to “Rabbah” and are very upset at what has happened, as I imagine that there are also those who are very supportive. Additionally, this source is talking as much about wine and alcohol as it is about women. I am not saying that all people who oppose women’s ordination hold such opinions, but I do think that for some of them, deep down inside, things might not be so different.

Next Sunday, May 14, is the JOFA Conference, and it promises to be an interesting one.

8 Responses to “He Must Be Doing Something Right-More Rabbah”

  1. 1
    Harry Perkal:

    Could not agree more. A scary thought- perhaps Rabbi Shafran did try out his anology on someone he knew and they thought that the comparison between a cat and women was right on. Harry

  2. 2

    Nitpick: I think that a better translation of תובעת בפה would be “solicits verbally” – I don’t see any implication of “publicly”.

  3. 3
    Menachem Mendel:

    I’ll admit that I just cut-and-pasted from Soncino.

  4. 4
    Joe in Australia:

    You can find similar criticisms of drunken men.

  5. 5
    Menachem Mendel:


    Where are JEWISH men, drunk or otherwise, described as being more than willing to have sex with animals? As far as I remember, outside of the suspicion found in Kiddushin 82a, such descriptions are usually reserved for women and Gentiles.

  6. 6
    Menachem Mendel:

    There is the story of Adam mating with all of the animals, see here, but I wouldn’t see that as a statement about contemporary behavior.

  7. 7
    John Hobbins:

    Next Sunday would be March 14th, of course.

    In the Talmud, disparaging references to women and Gentiles are first and foremost literary foils, a way of speaking about what a talmid ought to be by means of a rhetorical caricature of a presumed opposite. One might even say (though the term is loaded): women and Gentiles are the names rabbis give to their alter-ego.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to imagine a rabbi quoted in the Talmud as making such disparaging references in a perfectly circumscribed manner. That is, it’s the kind of thing one might say with ease in an all-male yeshiva. Locker-room talk, almost. But as soon as a rabbi so quoted walked out the door in mixed company, he would adjust his speech and expectations accordingly, even if, on grounds of general prudence, he might normally limit himself and his wife to a single glass of wine at table.

    Of course, if this is the case, Rabbi Shafran is without excuse.

  8. 8
    Menachem Mendel:


    That is an interesting question, how do statements by rabbis compare depending on the context.




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