lived in Brookline—on the matter. The Rav explained that in light of the novelty of the action, it needed to be adopted gradually. Accordingly, he suggested that she first try wearing a tallit without tsitsit (which is, of course, allowed for women.) The Rav asked the woman to return to him after three months, at which time they would discuss the matter further. When the two met once again, she described to R. Soloveitchik the magnificent nature of her religious experience in wearing the tallit. The Rav pointed out to the woman that wearing a tallit without tsitsit lacked any halakhically authentic element of mitsvah. It was obvious, therefore, that what generated her sense of “religious high” was not an enhanced kiyyum ha-mitsvah, but something else.241* Under such circumstances, the Rav maintained, wearing a tallit was an inappropriate use of the mitsvah. Consequently, the Rav forbade the woman from wearing a tallit with tsitsit.
The Rav’s motivational concern extended to the entire phenomenon of women’s prayer groups. After all, the women engaged in a women’s service were missing out on tefilla be-tsibbur, the recitation of various devarim she-bi-kdusha, and a proper, halakhic Torah reading—available to them only if they attended a regular minyan. Granted, women are exempt from the obligations of public prayer, but the Rav was deeply disturbed that women who had consciously chosen not to stay and pray at home, but rather to participate in a women’s tefilla group, were actively and deliberately opting for the inauthentic in place of the authentic.242 Under such circumstances, the Rav found it difficult to accept the assertion that it was the desire for enhanced kiyyum ha-mitsvot which was propelling these women.243,244
At the same time, the Rav was equally perturbed by the attitude of the many women who viewed women’s prayer groups as an authentic, alternative form of tefilla be-tsibbur (public prayer), or at least an authentic, valid alternative to tefilla be-tsibbur. Thus, the hashkama minyan, the main shul minyan, the beginners’ minyan, the teenage minyan and the women’s service were all being perceived as equally halakhically valid choices in the spectrum of tefilla be-tsibbur. This was clearly not the case, and the Rav charged that those rabbis who gave the women’s prayer groups the “go ahead” were misleading them.
In later years, the Rav grew increasingly distraught with the direction the women’s prayer groups were taking and their possible impact on Jewish life. While recognizing that many of the women involved in the groups were sincerely motivated by their desire for greater spirituality and kavvana, he expressed regrets that other women were co-opting the services for their own non-halakhic social agendas. He further articulated his concern as to