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groups which refrain from reciting devarim she-bi-kdusha. We will return to this point in Section C below.

B. THE STRINGENT SCHOOL

The next school of thought on women’s prayer groups maintains that the entire institution is “forbidden by law.” This position was adopted by a group of five Rashei Yeshiva from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (Yeshiva University)—Rabbis Nissan Lipa Alpert, Abba Bronspigel, Mordechai Willig, Yehuda Parnes, and Zvi (Hershel) Schachter—in a one-page 1985 responsum on the subject, addressed to the president of the Rabbinical Council of America (R.C.A.), R. Louis Bernstein.59 To this responsum was appended a two-page addendum by R. Bronspigel, fleshing out some of the points raised in the responsum and indicating that a fuller presentation would soon be forthcoming.60 Indeed, a few months later, there appeared a rather lengthy piece by R. Zvi (Hershel) Schachter, assiduously explaining and clarifying the halakhic thinking which underpins the opposition to women’s prayer groups as expressed by the above-mentioned RIETS Rashei Yeshiva.61 Shortly thereafter, within the context of an article on the synagogue and its sanctity,62 R. Schachter took the opportunity to once again condemn the practice of women’s services, but withdrew his personal criticism of the women, which had appeared in the earlier piece. It is this body of literature, in particular R. Schachter’s works, which constitutes the most detailed critique of the innovation to have been published to date. R. Moshe Meiselman63 and R. Aharon Feldman63* have also addressed this subject in a similar spirit.

R. Menashe Klein,64 R. David Cohen,65 R. David Feinstein,66 R. Joshua Katz,66*R. Shlomo Aviner,66** R. Haim David Halevi,66*** Rav Yisroel HaLevi Belsky, 66**** Jerusalem Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shalom Messas,67 R. Leib Baron,68 R. Samuel Tuvya Stern,68* and the Va’ad HaRabonim of Queens69 have also expressed their objection to women’s prayer services, and their responsa echo many of the same issues and arguments put forward by R. Schachter. R. Judah haLevi Amihai (responding at the request of Israeli Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau),70 R. Isaac Liebis,70* R. Efraim Greenblatt,71 and R. Elijah Schlessinger71* have challenged women’s hakafot. Former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu72 and R. Zalman Nehemiah Goldberg73 have penned related prohibitive opinions in reaction to “The Women of the Wall” (Neshot haKotel) controversy.74

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