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276*.R. Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Letter to R. J. Simcha Cohen – dated 16 November 1996 and published in The Australian Jewish News, Sydney Edition – Friday Dec. 25, 1998; conversation with Dov I. Frimer, March 8. 2000. R. Schwartz is aware that his conclusion is very much dependant on the issue of “lo ra’inu ra’aya;” nonetheless, he believes his conclusion re hakafot is correct.

277.Among all of those with whom we discussed this point, only R. Moshe Meiselman, who indicated that the Rav, in conversation with him regarding hakafot, utilized the term assur. See: R. Moshe Meiselman, “The Rav, Feminism and Public Policy: An Insiders View,” Tradition 33:1 (Fall 1998), pp. 5-30. All others emphasized that the Rav clearly refrained from the use of this term, invoking instead the phrase “not recommended” or the like. It is noteworthy that even those authors who suggest that the Rav considered women’s prayer groups “halakhically forbidden,” acknowledge that R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik eschewed the use of the word “assur” in this regard – nor did he ever use the term “forbidden.” Obviously this dichotomy - i.e., that the Rav would consider women’s services “halakhically forbidden,” yet refuse to declare them so - is puzzling. This is especially so if – as R. Meiselman reports - the Rav did not hesitate to use the word “assur” when referring to women’s hakafot. Recent efforts at providing a justification for this phenomenon seem speculative at best and, at times, openly contradict one another.

More importantly, these attempts ignore the historical fact that, as early as 1972, the Rav actually supported the formation of a women’s tefilla group at the Maimonides School in Brookline Massachusetts – provided that devarim she-bi-kedusha were omitted [supra, text at note 249; R. Mayer Twersky, “Letters,” Jewish Action 58:2 (Winter 5758/1997), p. 6.]. This was no be-di-avad situation; it was eminently clear that the teachers and students would not proceed should the Rav object. Yet R. Soloveitchik did not object. On the contrary, he offered many creative suggestions as to how the service could be better structured. The Rav felt that within an educational framework, a women’s tefilla was indeed meritorious. As further explained above (text at note 249), the Rav later withdrew his support for this service; however, his change of mind did not stem from any halakhic misgivings. Rather, he was concerned that his educational ruling would be misapplied to the communal setting, as well, where the public policy considerations mitigated against such services. The various “axiological” or “thematic” explanations of the Rav’s position offered by some recent authors simply fail to square with these historical facts.

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