noted “The Women of the Wall” decision, underscores the significance of this motivational element:
A well-established principle in the world of Halakha—when enacting legislation, establishing custom, or introducing changes in them—is that the observance of a ritual must be performed with the intent and purpose of fulfilling the mitsvah and not out of a motivation to disregard a halakhic rule (din) because of “extraneous considerations.” [Such “extraneous considerations”] include the fundamental objection to, and offense taken from, women’s essential exemption [from certain commandments and rituals]. . . . This requirement is counted among the value-based precepts of the halakhic system, which serves as a major factor in determining the judicial policy of the Halakha in general, and in sensitive and unique issues, such as the one before us, in particular.225
R. Rabinovitch suggests an additional proviso for the institution of women’s tefilla groups. One must acknowledge that these prayer groups are novel, emanating from the fundamental societal change that has occurred in the role of contemporary women. However, circumstances and needs may vary from community to community. As such, women’s tefillot and hakafot should be held only if and when the women of a particular community themselves express a need for them and initiate the matter. The community rabbi, in this regard, should be responsive—not innovative.225*
For R. Avraham Shapiro, the above-mentioned proper motivation is a necessary, though insufficient, precondition; the mara de-atra (community rabbinical authority) must also be certain that the innovation poses no danger to the integrity of halakha and mesoret Yisrael (Jewish tradition). Should there exist any real concern that such a change might perhaps serve as a springboard for greater, non-halakhic reform, then even inherently permissible modifications are prohibited.225** Like R. Feinstein, R. Shapiro maintains that these determinations, by their very nature, should be made only by those rabbinic authorities to whom one entrusts serious halakhic issues, such as nidda and igun. All relevant factors need to be considered, including, inter alia: the reasons for and circumstances of the request; the petitioners; the character and constitution of the particular community; and the atmosphere of the times. Only one who knows all of the pertinent facts and is sensitive to all the impacting elements can issue the necessary pesak.
R. Shapiro’s remarks raise a number of critical topics which will be explored more fully in the remaining chapters of this paper. At this juncture, however, we can simply summarize