Profile of Daniel Sperber
Undoubtedly, says Sperber, the rise of feminism and the growing numbers of Orthodox women engaging in Jewish study have been catalysts for the movement. “It’s almost a natural progression from learning Torah to a greater role in the synagogue,” as he notes. And the trend has picked up momentum in recent years, he says, largely because now there is a model to work from.
One of the first Orthodox rabbis to express support for women assuming a more prominent role in the synagogue, Sperber says his views are derived from three key principles of halakha, or Jewish law. “The first is that in the same way it is forbidden to permit that which is forbidden, it’s also forbidden to forbid that which is permitted. The second is that it is not forbidden to permit that which is permitted, even if it wasn’t practiced in the past, because halakha is dynamic and when cultural circumstances change, one has to face up to these changes and accommodate them. The third principle is that if you can find a position of leniency, you should do so. So when things are permitted, they should be encouraged.“