Thursday, March 05, 2009

A mind boggling post

Yaakov Feitman's pathetic attempt to discredit the Yoetzet Halacha is a mess of bad history, and bad logic, all tangled together in a self-contradictory heap. It appears on VIN, where the comments are running almost 100 percent against RYF's argument. And with good reason. My own notes follow:

Some of what I don't understand:
(1) How in the world can you use the tzurat hadaf as an argument against change? The format of a page of Talmud was created in the 16th century, by a non Jew. Did Daniel Bomberg really create something essential to Torah learning?

(2) How can a seemingly intelligent Rabbi argue that learning at a shtender, with a chavrusah, is the only right way to study Torah? Are those who study alone, at a table doomed to failure?

(3) In paragraph six we're told that its absolutely essential that questions are brought to a posek--
"The relationship between a rav and those who ask a she’eilah has remained a fundamental component of the “Torah from Sinai” continuum for over three millennia. Each person develops a bond with his or her poseik. Over the years, innumerable often subtle details contribute to the total picture presented to a poseik, especially in this most personal area of life. The interposition of a new “expert” into this equation undercuts the time-honored process developed by
the Torah"
--yet, by the time we get to paragraph nine. RYF is conceding that shy women can bring their questions to a rebbetzin. What happened to all the "innumerable often subtle details" that can only be acquired via direct contact with the posek?

(4) And why, for that matter, does every last question need to go to a posek? Some questions are simple. For instance, if my neighbors wants to know if Jews are allowed to eat pork, he doesn't need to bother a posek. He can ask me. Some questions about Nidah are equally simple.

Why shouldn't a woman be able to go to a well-trained woman who knows how to answer the easy questions, and also knows enough to refer anything complicated to a more qualified expert? If you want to bring Jewish tradition into it, Moshe Rabaynu understood (Parshas Yithro) that he couldn't answer every question himself, which is why he trained laymen to deal with the simple stuff. Why can't we do the same thing here? And why does RYF ignore that many women are already bringing question to a well trained expert, i.e., the woman who taught their kallah class. Does RYF wish to end that practice, too?

(5) RYF's theme, throughout the article, is that we can't possibly modify Torah law to accomodate modern ideas about women, yet he shoots himself right in the tush in paragraph seven when he admits that halacha was influence by PRE-MODERN ideas about women!
In ancient times, women were in fact very private people, rarely venturing forth into any kind of public venue. Many halachos, in areas such as tzedakah, inheritance, and business law took this fact into consideration.
So which is it? Do we ignore society or not? And why would it be ok to consider pre-modern ideas, but not modern ideas? Makes no sense at all.

Some of what I do understand

(1) Yaakov Feitman is attempting to discredit the Yoetzet Halacha because well-educated women make him nervous. He's not trying to protect tradition. He's trying to protect his prerogatives, both as a male and as a Rabbi. Though he pretends to be defending what he imagines to be a perfect and infallible process, what he's really doing is trying to to keep smart, young women from invading his professional turf. Cowardly and sad.

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