Tuesday, May 31, 2005

My two cents

Miriam, the Hock and the new kid, have been beating on Toby Katz, for saying that the Gedolim understand women.

Of course, I agree with Miriam, et al, and you need only to look at the Gedolim to see the essential problem. A phalanx of identicals, the closest they come to daily contact with women is with those who keep house for them. Half the world is out of bounds.

For those who say this doesn't matter, I have nothing but contempt. They argue: “Do I really need to know what it's like to be a woman in order to make halachic rulings? Why is it necessary for a jurist, in the strictest sense, to see the world from other perspectives? A jurist needs to understand the law. Not people. The law and nothing else.”

This is an adolesecent argument, and could only be made by someone who's studied neither law nor people. The "law" isn't plain and it isn’t simple. It can't be studied, and law can't be imposed without our own perspectives creeping in, and influencing the decision. The Gedolim are human. They don't teach and study and rule from the confines of a vacuum. The life of a Godol is greatly removed from women and their concerns, and his view of the world can’t help being influenced -for better or for worse - by that reality.

The real question, then, is not "Do the gedolim understand women?" The real question is this: If the noble ideal of a jurist objectively committed to the law, and nothing but the law, is unsustainable and perhaps, a bit naive, how do we reconcile this reality with our system for making religious decisions?