din”), women’s tefilla groups are, in and of themselves, permissible (“mutarot mi-tsad atsman”), provided that devarim she-bi-kdusha and berakhot for a public Torah reading are not recited. Nonetheless, R. Ahron Soloveichik, as well, strongly recommends against such groups based on hashkafic and public-policy considerations.
Not surprisingly, almost all of the specific concerns expressed by R. Ahron Soloveichik overlap with those articulated by the Rav, although at times their precise formulations vary. Thus, like the Rav, R. Ahron Soloveichik is especially concerned lest the women who participate in such groups are motivated not by a greater desire for the service of God, but by the social values and agenda of the Women’s Liberation movement. In R. Ahron Soloveichik’s opinion, the woman’s role as reflected in feminist values runs counter to that of Jewish law and tradition. Consequently, new religious forms which result from these values are not likely to be beneficial to Judaism. In light of the communal ramifications of women’s prayer groups, and in contradistinction to the rabbis of the “middle school” described above, R. Ahron Soloveichik contends that the posek cannot simply review the motivation of each particular tefilla group on an individual basis. Rather, he must be concerned with a generational perspective—examining the motivation of the majority of Orthodox women who desire to participate in these prayer groups. R. Ahron Soloveichik openly acknowledges that, were he convinced that the motivation of this majority was le-shem shamayyim (for the sake of heaven), he would find no fault with women’s prayer groups. However, in R. Ahron Soloveichik’s estimation, the facts today are otherwise, and he therefore strongly advises against their establishment.269
R. A. Soloveichik further expressed his fear that the feminist overtones of the tefilla groups might lead to two additional halakhically undesirable results. The first is the mistaken impression that ten women can indeed constitute a proper minyan for tefilla be-tsibbur or devarim she-bi-kdusha. R. Soloveichik is well aware that the members of most of the prayer groups are careful not to call themselves a minyan, nor do they recite devarim she-bi-kdusha. Yet, notes R. Soloveichik, there is a deliberate attempt to construct and conduct the women’s tefilla so that it approximates and conforms as closely as possible to the structure and content of a regular minyan, including a pseudo-hazarat ha-shats, reading from a sefer Torah, birkhot haTorah, aliyyot, maftir, etc. While these practices may technically be halakhically permissible, their designed mimicry of a regular minyan service is potentially deceptive and misleading (geneivat da’at ha-beriyyot270).271
Moreover, R. Soloveichik is troubled by the prospect that rabbinic approval for