Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Responding to Feminism & Halakha

Formally Elder Avraham & now young Rabbi Bronstein, gives a post-hype-hock on Monkey-gate (not one of the entrances to Central Park, though maybe one should place it somewhere near the West Side). His take, though thoughtful as usual, takes a classic YU/Bais Medrash approach of only focusing on Halakha and making Halakha central to the discussion. It also indicates a complete lack of familiarity with any feminist theory, which is sweet & nicely naïve (but also means that I may slam him in this post).

Some observations on his post, though my hock on feminism is still in the works:

As I have often pointed out halakha is a floor, not a ceiling (though wood paneling is extra). As I (and others) usually mean is that halakha is the minimum for a religious life, what goes beyond that is The Question in life.

In this context though, I am using that phrase to mean that, for most people, halakha is not their entire existance. People do not experience their lives as halakhic constructs. They experience life as full human beings with a full range of emotional, intellectual, religious, etc. experiences. Take a wedding for example. Most people spend a lot of time thinking about what they will wear, who will walk down, what music will play, who will be mesader kiddushin, all of which have no halakhic significance. However, they do play a major role in defining your Judaism and your feelings about Judaism.

A similar understanding could be applied to Feminist Orthodoxy. Of course Orthodoxy is a cultural construct, consisting of keeping Shabbos, Kashrus, and Mechitzah. But one could live an Orthodox life with women playing a prominent role or women playing no role. One could say that since women are, by the basic inequalities within normative (i.e. Orthodox) halakha precluded from being equal to men, so the game is already over. But this is a disingenuous argument. Within the cultural/halakhic construct that is Orthodoxy, what role will women play? By using overarching general principles, the unnamed Orthodox Academic possibly argues, Rav Schechter is taking the matter out of the given rules of (the cultural construct) Orthodoxy and makes the matter open for debate.

Bronstein wants an everything or nothing approach to Feminism. Either women are equal both practically & halakhically or the matter is not open to debate.

The other disingenuous part of back-row Bronstein’s argument, is that if people choose non-normative Halakha, they get attacked. If they choose to count women for a minyan they are slammed. So the argument that people should choose non-Orthodox Judaism is they want “real feminism,” is also naïve. Let’s be honest, people want to live a life with a Judaism in which they are comfortable. This life is halakhic but not defined by halakha.

Feminists want to keep an halakha within a community that they feel is Orthodox & fill prominent roles within that community. Whether they should be allowed to is a separate question.

Comments-[ comments.]

1 Comments:

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