Monday, October 18, 2004

Men, cant pray with them, can you pray without them?

The point of my previous post was that people generally live and pasken their Hashkafa. I appreciate the comments regarding changes in Hashkafa at different times, and in looking at it, they certainly are valid. What I wanted to highlight was that someone who practices MO, is likely to pasken so that the answer is consistant with what he believes and practices, just like someone who is chareidi or right anyone else on the spectrum.

Hashakafa can influnce Halacha in 3 ways. The first is the most authoritarian. You may come to the conclusion that al pi Halacha something is muttar, but then say that it shouldn't be done,for reasons of Hashkafa(Halacha cach aval ain morin cayn). In this case, the only reason for people to follow your opinion is regard and respect for you as a posek(I am not going to get into da'at Torah today). There is no specific Halachic oomph backing you up. Although this is a very intellectually honest approach, it is seldom seen, because all you are saying is that the issue in question is not in keeping with your view of what halachic Judaism should be.

R. Jeremy Kalmonofsky(yes, he is a Conservative rabbi- good article in Judaism March 2002) notes that decisions in halacha are sometimes made by empasizing one value, and putting less emphasis on another. An example, pikuach nefesh and shabbat. Obviously, we violate Shabbat to save lives(a friend of mine holds that if we are saving lives, we are not violating Shabbat, but actually keeping it the way Hashem wanted us to). The question arises as to how much danger a person has to be in, and to what lengths one can do work on Shabbat. There are those that limit the Shabbat violation to the bare minimum neccessary to save life, and those that allow more, and expand the definition of what is endagered life.(it seems to me that the more to the right you go, the more weight is given to dichotomous values(like Shabbat, either you are michallel Shabbat, or not, it is a plus/minus value), and less value to values that are less quantifiable or more continuous(there is a range of what pikuach nefesh is, other examples are kavvanah, not embarassing your neighbor, etc). The Hashkafa informs which values are given more weight.

The third way Hashkafa influences Halachic decisions is interpretation of the sources. One striking example is in the discussion between Judith Hauptman and R. Michael Broyde in Judaism(Sept. 22 1993, available online through findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0411). Dr. Hauptman(teaches Talmud at JTS) reads that men are obligated to provide a minyan(not neccessarily to be there for each and every minyan) and comes to the conclusion that men are not much more obligated for a minyan than women. This is a conclusion that is obviously rejected by R. Broyde, and as far as I know, has no backing in any of the Halachic literature. However, it is in keeping with Dr. Hauptman's haskafa.

Another facinating example of different readings and different weightings is in the Edah journal(vol 1 issue 2, available on line ). Here R. Mendel Shapiro and R. Yehuda Herzl Henkin disagree about women reading the torah and having aliyot. They cite the same sources, and come up with different conclusions. Which brings me to the topic of the post. R. Simcha, at his excellent blog hirhurim, discusses at great length the issue of women's tefilla groups. A number of eminent Rabbis are quoted, most against the issue. However, when the reasons are examined(from my point of view, as objectively as I can, take it for what it is worth), they seem to be quite weak, and involve selective application of values to this issue, but not to similar(but not as contraversial) subjects. I would have been more swayed, if they had just come out and said that they did not agree with it on a Hashakafa level, rather than put forth weak halachic arguements(I am planning to detail point by point my review, but this post is long enough as it is).

Recently in my community, a new minya started, with a mechitzah, with women taking turns reading the Torah(shira hadasha type). My first reaction was "this is not Orthodoxy." I reviewed the articles in the Edah journal, and as much other information as I could, and I honestly can say that on a Halachic level, it does not seem to make much sense either. Whether this is just my Hashkafa influencing my halachic views(which I guess I am accusing others of allowing to happen), or if it just so happens that halacha should always be according to me, I don't know. But I do have more empathy for those who see something and say, " this just isn't the way it should be." May we continue to strive for the Truth.

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