the sages of Israel, as if they deprive the daughters of Israel and discriminate between sons and daughters.197
Those Orthodox women who participate in women’s prayer groups similarly maintain that their desire to join such groups has nothing to do with gentile practice; on the contrary, it stems from a wish to strengthen their active involvement in Judaism and its mitsvot. These women report that the experience of praying together in an all-women’s service truly enhances their Jewish pride; rather than sow dissatisfaction with Jewish tradition, it heightens their awareness that they are indeed members of an am gadol ve-kadosh.197* Assuming these claims are true—and we have no reason to doubt their veracity—the remarks of Rabbis Weinberg and Yosef regarding bat-mitsvah should be equally valid when applied to women’s services, mutatis mutandis. Here, too, women’s prayer groups would not constitute a violation of “U-be-hukoteihem,” for the intention of the participants is not to imitate or resemble comparable groups or practices among the gentiles, but rather to obtain an experience that is wholly Jewish.
6. Violation of “Kol kevuda bat Melekh penima”: The final issue raised by both Rabbis Schachter198 and Klein199 relates to the traditional role of the Jewish woman. As suggested by the verse,200 “Kol kevuda bat melekh penima”—“All glorious is the king’s daughter within [the palace],” and as widely reflected in Jewish law and lore,201 this role is private and home-oriented. For example, based upon kol kevuda, the Talmud and codes indicate that women should not make a habit of going frequently to the marketplace.202 They also record special dispensations made for women in instances where they had to be interviewed by a court.203 Rabbis Schachter and Klein argue that women’s prayer groups and hakafot, which build religious ritual around women and place them at the center of attention, run counter to the traditional private role of the Jewish woman.
This criticism, like the previous ones, is not unequivocal. Thus, R. Yehuda Henkin204 argues that kol kevuda, even according to the stringent formulation of Maimonides,205 bars only unnecessary exposure to public life. However, the fulfillment of mitsvot (e.g., visiting parents, aiding the sick and needy, comforting mourners, rejoicing with the bride, etc.) is a perfectly legitimate reason for venturing into the marketplace. If so, going out to pray, be it in shul or at a prayer service, should be no different than fulfilling any other mitsvah.206 Other posekim make it clear that kol kevuda does not apply to an activity which is carried out away