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On the issue of women’s hakafot, R. Schwartz’s position is more strict. Here he believes that the hakafot are a violation of halakha in that it is a break with normative practice (pritzat geder) and runs contrary to established minhag.276*

A careful reading of the positions of the  “public policy school” reveals that they, too, are sensitive to many of the same aspects raised by the “stringent school”: motivation, misrepresentation, the continuity of established Jewish custom and tradition, and the maintenance of Torah values. But they do not perceive these issues as matters of strict halakha per se, but rather of hashkafa and public policy. Moreover, it must be emphasized that they all were careful and deliberate in refraining from formally invoking the category of le-mi-gdar milta, despite ample opportunity to do so. They preferred instead to use the force of their personalities and standing with their talmidim and colleagues to “strongly recommend” against women’s prayer groups, without explicitly declaring them assur.277 Within the broad framework of the halakhic system, the classification of the rationale is not merely technical; it has significant ramifications and implications as to their mutability and flexibility in reaction to time and place, as will be further expounded in our concluding chapter.


At least one conclusion is evident from the above lengthy analysis: while women’s tefilla groups may well be halakhically permissible, the question of their desirability within the contemporary Jewish experience has no easy answer. There are clearly two sides to this issue which must be weighed be-koved rosh (with due deliberation). Rabbinic authorities who have qualms as to the advisability of this innovation cannot be simply waved off as callous or insensitive to the needs of women; the hashkafic and public-policy concerns delineated above are very real, and should not be made light of. On the other hand, those rabbis who are amenable to the formation of women’s prayer services, evaluating each instance on a case by case basis, are on solid halakhic ground as well. The question which must be seriously and deliberately confronted, therefore, is whether or not the advantages accrued by their implementation well outweigh the risks. As noted earlier, a proper response must address and analyze not only halakha, but Torah values and policy considerations as well. The important joint role of law and values in formulating a balanced Torah position concerning women’s prayer groups has been articulated by Justice Menachem Elon in his “The Women of the

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