Monday, August 31, 2015

Woman should pray with a minyan

Pay attention to Sarah Rudolph's "Just Between Us" piece in the new Jewish Action. Its worth your notice... indeed it was the sole thing I found interesting in a spectacularly bad issue of JA.*

Read: Just Between Us: A Woman in Search of a Wall, by Sara Rudolph

Rudolph says that women should daven with a minyan when the opportunity presents itself, and no competing child-care responsibilities are present. This is an argument I've made on this blog on countless occasions. When I tackled it best, I said this:
I don't understand why pious women don't participate in weekday minyanim - especially on days like Hoshana Raba. And, slow down: I'm not talking about women with child raising obligations. I know those women are exempt. I am talking about women who have no child raising obligations. Why don't women without child raising obligations go to shul on Hoshana Raba??
I also don't understand why women (generally) will ignore a shiva house minyan. If they happen to be there, visiting someone who has been bereaved, and a minyan starts, they rarely join. Instead they'll move to the kitchen and continue talking. Why? 
The same things happens at weddings. Next time you're at one, join one of the many maariv minyanim that pop up after the chuppah, but watch how the women behave. Most will walk right on by, not even stopping to answer kaddish or kedusha, if its summertime and the minyan is saying mincha. 
Again, I know women are exempt. But so what? Why wouldn't a pious woman who has no other competing obligations want to take advantage of the many benefits of praying with a minyan? 
Why wouldn't she want to answer Kaddish, and reap the so-called segulah that comes with a loud YEHAY SHMAY RABA. And if she's at a shiva house, already, why not just join the minyan? Exempt or not, she's there already 
The problem isn't the women, by the way. The problem is a culture that has so devalued women's shul attendance that many communities would find it acceptable to have a shul with no women's section. Meanwhile, the same culture that gives breaks to women, encourages me to do all sort of things I am not required to do (daily mikva, for example.) 
So why aren't women also encouraged to do more and more? Why does the culture give women a pass on voluntary mitzvos, when it doesn't give men a pass on voluntary mishigas and narishkeit customs?
Rudolph makes it clear that she doesn't want to be counted in the minyan or to lead the minyan. She merely wants men to recognize that a woman's desire to pray with a minyan is legitimate - at least as legitimate as a man's desire to run to Uman for Rosh Hashana or to take a daily dunk in the mikva - and to provide the appropriate space and the appropriate accommodations. What's wrong with that?

* Yup, they effed up the Rav Lichtenstein memorial edition. Instead of asking Rav Aaron's talmidim to provide a set of unevenly written remembrances, Jewish Action should have commissioned a first class journalist to write an obituary that fully and coherently captured the the great scholar's legacy. 

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