Friday, December 17, 2004

Pictures at an exhibition

I finished reading Victor Geller's book, "Orthodoxy Awakens, the Belkin Era and YU". A very interesting mix of history and personal(and collected) anecdotes. Also good background on RYBS. In addition, many pictures of YU leaders, and almost none of them are wearing hats(I bring this up because of some of the comments swirling around blogs on this subject, and the much referenced discussion on Kashrut.org.)(Note to DovBear- see, bring up a juicy subject and you too can have more comments than you have ever seen before. :-))

The background on RYBS brings into perspective some reading from another book I bought recently(sorry Simcha, my next book order will be from the one you link to, I promise), Hide and Seek, on hair covering. There, in the introduction by the author(a hair covering lady herself), there is a discussion of the Rav vis a vis hair covering by his wife.

"Because the Rav did not write about his rulings regarding hair covering, and in fact spoke in confidence to a select few rabbis who agreed not to reveal his reasoning, one can only guess at the logic for this practice. Today, it is a popular revisionist perspective to suppose that RYBS was, in fact, unhappy that his own wife did not cover her hair. This line of thinking supposes that he had, little, if any, control over what his wife observed. This perspective seems naive and too simple.. it doesn't make sense that a great posek of the Rav's caliber would marry someone with whom he was halachically incompatible. Futhermore, individuals who spoke personally with Rabbi Soloveitchik about the matter of hair covering attest to his INSISTANCE THAT HIS WIFE'S PRACTICE OF NOT COVERING HER HAIR WAS, IN FACT, HALACHICALLY SOUND, although no one will go on the record to quote the Rav's reasons, in part because he swore them to secrecy."

The Belkin book records how RYBS delt with the mechitzah problem in synagogues, outlawed microphones when he became head of the RCA, and how he was aware of the power of his stature and how his word was frequently accepted as the final word, especially when it was l'kulah. My read on all of this is that the Rav personally did not have a problem with his wife not covering her hair, but did not want to make a public pronouncement because in this case, he did not want his personal view to become the public policy of MO. He knew that if he did make such a pronouncment, many many women would not even consider covering their hair. He may have felt it was a midah chassidit to cover, and that openly allowing uncovered hair would limit that custom. Also, it would have drawn an even wider line between MO and the growing yeshiva world to the right. There was no pressing reason to publicize the allowance of head covering, and significant downsides to that publicity. Maybe someone will break the silence and tell us what the real truth is. However, as pointed out by R. Jonathan Saks, it doesn't matter if you can find all the reasons in the world for something, and you may even be right, but if it isn't accepted by the majority of people, it will not be codified for future generations to follow.

What would really be nice is for someone to gather all these articles(R. Schiller, Broyde, Shapiro etc) and the sources (sefer Yehoshua, Chukat Hanashim, Sefer sanhedria, Shut Mayim Chaim, Shut Vahashiv Moshe, Yad Halevi) that mattir it, and look at it in more depth. While we are at it, Life magazine took over 4000 pictures of Jews when it published articles on religion back in June 1955. Wonder what those pictures show. I need a personal librarian. Shabbat Shalom

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