Where The Boys Aren’t

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51 Responses

  1. mycroft says:

    . But Torah and Talmud state repeatedly and emphatically that the key to long-term Jewish survival is for Jewish males to study Jewish texts on an ongoing basis. That’s not my suggestion; it’s 3300 years old.

    Rabbi Menken:
    Quite clearly, most people don’t have your ability-to make Yahadus especially for boys dependent on being able to understand Talmud writes outside the fold a large percentage of boys. BTW-note there are only approximately 5 times as manyJews in the world as there were 2000 years ago. We obviously lost a great deal of pogroms is not the major reason why.
    Of course, for those who have the ability like Rabbi Menken there is probably nothing more enjoyable than studying and understanding Gemarrah. But Yahadus must be open to all-not just the elite.

  2. Mordechai says:

    “Men are inherently less spiritual and religious than women….. This difference, first recorded in Torah and Talmud…”

    Where does our Torah say such a thing ?

  3. Michoel says:

    Mordechai,
    It does not say it. And I am suprised that Rabbi Menken expressed the idea so clumsily. The spriritual natures of men and women are different. And women do seem to need less to ignight them spiritually where men need more. Mitzvos aseh shehzman gramma, learning etc. That is not the same as saying women are more “spiritual and religious”, whatever those terms may mean.

  4. HILLEL says:

    Yaakov:

    The key to inspired success is to have a warm and inspirational teacher, like Rabbi Shlomo Freifeld, ZT”L, of Far Rockaway, New York (or like the teachers in Ohr Sameach).

    The Torah is sweet, but when it is taught by sour people–especially people, like Conservative and Reform Rabbis, who don’t really accept it as Truth–it turns off truth-seeking young people.

  5. Yaakov Menken says:

    Michoel, please explain how it might be that women “need less to ignite them spiritually” if they aren’t inherently more spiritual. I genuinely don’t understand your comment.

    In any event, the Reform movement learned the hard way that “the trend toward spirituality in the Reform movement and in American culture ‘seems too cloying, too feminine, for many men.'” Similarly, women are more religious: “American boys are more suspicious of religion than girls, according to a National Study of Youth and Religion (youthandreligion.org)”

    It’s just a matter of who we are. Think of the most anti-spiritual acts you can imagine — arayos and shefichas damim come to mind — and now approximate the proportions of male vs. female criminals in these two areas. To claim that the Torah doesn’t recognize this is tantamount to saying that the Torah doesn’t recognize human nature, chas milehazkir.

  6. YM says:

    Mycroft, I don’t understand your point? The bottom line, IMO, is that it takes years of study to understand and comprehend Judaism. It is not a ‘religion’ or an ‘ethnic group’ that can sustain just by ‘accident’ of birth or by attending a service once a week. It is not a hobby or a passion or an occupation. It is a whole body, whole mind committment. Any movement in Judaism, halachic or not, that doesn’t accept and steer its ship toward a total committment is sheker (false). That doesn’t mean that most, or even anyone, is able to successfully sustain a total committment, but a total committment is still what is required, like it or not.

  7. Michoel says:

    Yaakov,
    It is question of what each needs to get to where Hashem wants them to be. But that doesn’t mean that at any point on their journies are they being more spiritual then the other gender. Yes, men are more into arayos etc. But women are more into clothes and blabbing on the phone. There is a Ramchal (bli neder I will try to find it) that states explicitely that there are spiritual madreigos that are accessable only to men.

  8. hp says:

    Just to add to mycroft and YM’s comments, I think there might be different ways for individuals to “study Jewish texts”, and learning English Sefarim in bite-sized pieces is an accetable option for some under the umbrella of “studying Jewish texts”.

  9. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Regarding whether men or women are more spiritual, I don’t know. If Rabbi Menken is correct, I hope feminists who look for non-traditional ways of expressing spirituality take heed of his words(the topic of how to satisfy Orthodox women who feel that they don’t fit the traditional mold is a separate one).

    I believe that the commentary in the Artscroll siddur on “shlo asani isha” indeed expresses a thought that women are less aggressive and are created closer to Hashem’s idea of perfection. However, I would prefer a multi-dimensional approach that says that men and women are natrually complete/deficient in different areas of spirituality.

    Another point: If one would say that women are more complete, then there would be the issue of reward and bechirah. Obviously, a women would not earn reward for natrually being a certain way.

    The same concept is relevant to those blessed with greater abilities and intellectual prowess which enable them to write sefarim and/or become leaders, as well as the idea that Down Syndrome children have a “higher neshama”. R. Elchanon Wasserman’s statement is relevant as well, that a person can theoretically be a servant of Hashem like Moshe, as per the Rambam, but does not have his particular talents, and therefore will not reach is level in certain areas.

  10. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “But women are more into clothes and blabbing on the phone”

    I would term it that women are more effusive, or communicate differently, as some might take offense at the way you put it. A woman letter-writer in the Yated also pointed out that one must be careful how one relates the story of the Gadol who told young girls asking him a question on Ramban that “my job is to write seforim, and yours is to bake Kugels!”(the point perhaps is that he thought that it was inappropriate and immodest for them to ask the Gadol Hador questions, and therefore he responded as he did).

    Today we have intelligent women lawyers and scientists, so perhaps from an intellectual perspective, many women would be successful at learning gemera. Nevertheless, this is not done in the charedi world. Perhaps the reason is that Torah study is a spiritual activity, as opposed to merely an academic or legal study, and therefore has its own rules of acquiring knowledge in forty-eight ways.

    This would also mean that a man who prefers Talmud to housekeeping for intellectual reasons is studying s’hlo lishma, even according to the definition of the Nefesh Hachayim. There have been comprehensive articles on the topic by Rabbi Mayer Twerski in Jewish Action, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger in The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society; see review article of Community, Covenant and Commitment in Jewish Action by Rabbi Moshe Meiselman regarding Rabbi Soleveichick’s opinion.

  11. Ahron says:

    I cannot understand why men would be inclined to regularly attend a ritual service whose underlying message is that men are unnecessary.

    The leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements still seem unable to wrap themselves around this fact. (Perhaps because they remain trapped in the academic/1960s obsession with power structures, chauvinist patriarchies, narratives of disenfranchisement, [insert rhetoric here]…? or perhaps because its (for now) socially unfashionable?). Anyone who does not understand that women in general have an easier tendency towards spirituality and religious involvement has, in my opinion, probably not been around many women.

  12. Bob Miller says:

    Men and women have different styles of learning and expression. Even the most PC among us get that. Who can generalize that one style is intrinsically more spiritually motivated or spiritually conscious than the other?

    What boys do or don’t do after their American-style bar mitzvah blast also has a lot to do with their parents’ and friends’ attitude. The post-bar-mitzvah activities that the liberal Jewish boys shun are probably boring, pointless, and un-spiritual. Nowhere near as good as football.

  13. YM says:

    Michoel: I think if you took attendance at services most churches and non-Orthodox synagogues, you would count at least 60% female. Probably higher. Without chiuv (obligation), men are less likely to participate in spiritual or religious activities.

    HP: I think it would be helpful to define the goal that your suggestion is designed to achive. Studying Jewish texts using an academic, skeptical approach can be counterproductive.

  14. HILLEL says:

    These ideas from the Talmud may be helpful:

    The Talmud says that women have more “Binah” than men–better and more accurate instinctive wisdom.

    Also, “NaShim DaaTon KaLos Hain”–women are not as technically disciplined as men.

    Also, women cry more easily–they are more emotionally sensitive than men

    Also, “women are considered a separate nation (from men).”

    Also, “women are nine time more talkative than men.”

    Also, “women do not belong in battle.”

    Also, “women are stricter than men.”

  15. hp says:

    “HP: I think it would be helpful to define the goal that your suggestion is designed to achive. Studying Jewish texts using an academic, skeptical approach can be counterproductive.”

    YM, I didn’t mean it the way you interpreted it, and I apologize for not being clear. Mycroft noted that not everyone is cut out for in-depth intensive study, and you responded that “is that it takes years of study to understand and comprehend Judaism.” My point was that everyone can learn, but there are multiple ways of doing so, especially with Artscroll on the scene. I did not mean learning as in critical bible study, as an academic exercise.

  16. Menachem Petrushka says:

    Traditional Judaism and post-enlightment Orthodoxy may have a 3300 year old tradition of involving males in studying age-old texts. That is true. Houwever, the universal learning among Orthodox teenage boys is only a post Holocaust phenomenon.

    Until that time, learning was confined to a very small elite. There was just no way of supporting mass learning. Boys went to cheder until they were 9 or 10 and then they went to work. That is, unless their fathers were rich, they came from rabbinnical families, or they had an iron will, a fierce desire to learn and a good head.

    This meant, that whereas many of these teenagers and later adults, were outwardly and sociologically traditional, they were not religiuosly so.
    Non-Jewish hatred kept them within the four ells of halacha. With the coming of the new isms, the liberalization in western Europe, the progroms in the east, and the ability to Emigrate out, hundereds of thousands of European Ashkenazi boys and men abandoned traditional Judaism in droves.

    It is only through the Chasdei Hashem that the Orthodox today can rejoice in their successes in transmitting Torah to our boys and girls.

  17. mycroft says:

    Mycroft, I don’t understand your point? The bottom line, IMO, is that it takes years of study to understand and comprehend Judaism. It is not a ‘religion’ or an ‘ethnic group’ that can sustain just by ‘accident’ of birth or by attending a service once a week. It is not a hobby or a passion or an occupation. It is a whole body, whole mind committment. Any movement in Judaism, halachic or not, that doesn’t accept and steer its ship toward a total committment is sheker (false). That doesn’t mean that most, or even anyone, is able to successfully sustain a total committment, but a total committment is still what is required, like it or not.

    Comment by YM

    I am not talking about commitment-but sadly a large porportion of people don’t have the abstract ability to understand Gemarran, have difficulty understanding texts in foreign languages. Thus to require people to enter the club to be fluent in Talmud even if they would study 168 hours a week would not be able to. There has to be much more acceptance of the non-elite by our chevra-they should not be pushed aside. At risk programs are not the answer-that means the kids are labelled as not normal. Would you want to be part of a society where you have been labelled not normal?
    For those who have the capability to understand the Yam of Talmud –there is nothing better–but we might be am hanivchar but that doesn’t mean sadly that each one of us has the ability to learn a cehfza gavra issue. There should be much more instruction to those in mainstream day schools Yeshivas of practical halachaa lemasseh and practical hashkafa in English-in North America.

  18. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Teenagers, especially boys, seem to be inclined to disrespect their parents and strive to be as little like them as possible. I don’t know if this tendency is inborn, part of secular culture, or the result of our economic structure which forces teenagers to be, for all practical purposes, children. The message of the heterodox movements: “Be Jewish to stay part of the Jewish people [like your parents]” is unlikely to resonate with them.

    On the other hand, they also have a tendency to be counter-cultural, to believe that the ruling mores of their society are wrong. Orthodox Judaism is also counter-cultural in many ways. It might be possible to use that somehow.

  19. mycroft says:

    Mycroft, I don’t understand your point? The bottom line, IMO, is that it takes years of study to understand and comprehend Judaism. It is not a ‘religion’ or an ‘ethnic group’ that can sustain just by ‘accident’ of birth or by attending a service once a week. It is not a hobby or a passion or an occupation. It is a whole body, whole mind committment. Any movement in Judaism, halachic or not, that doesn’t accept and steer its ship toward a total committment is sheker (false). That doesn’t mean that most, or even anyone, is able to successfully sustain a total committment, but a total committment is still what is required, like it or not.

    Comment by YM

    I bleive that Orthodox Judaiskm is the only “religion” in the US that has a higher participation rate of males versus females-of course mitavah aseh shehazman grama might have something to do with that.

    “Mycroft noted that not everyone is cut out for in-depth intensive study, and you responded that “is that it takes years of study to understand and comprehend Judaism.” My point was that everyone can learn, but there are multiple ways of doing so, especially with Artscroll on the scene.”

    I don’t believe that I am that much different than hp-although I think for many appropriate texts and learning sadly are not Art Scroll translations-but first simplified books similar to what Rav Eider published-but even more basic. For many they have to be taught about it not the original texts. This is not an ideal but sadly not everyone can learn number theory, adverse possession, quantum mechanics etc.

    Don’t make people unwelcome who can’t make a laining.
    Everyone can learn!! The question is what-if someone struggled to learn how to read Ivris in elemntary school-you can’t expect them to study a Marrsha in HS. Chanoch ..al pi darcho. By extension there should be shiurim of all levels available –not merely shiurin in Gemarrah. Ideal for those who can understand–but not every adult can understand that either.

  20. hp says:

    mycroft, I agree with your position. The schools are doing a great job with limited resources, but this should be an important next step on the agenda- making learning alive and meaningful for everyone, of all learning styles and abilities. If the challenges they encounter in HS are meaningful to their learning style and appropriate, they will continue on that path as adults, with a life-long desire to learn more. If they encounter inappropriate learning environments when young, it’s an uphill battle to ignite their interest later on.

  21. kar says:

    “News Flash: Men are inherently less spiritual and religious than women, and require different and more structured programs to spark and maintain religious commitment. This difference, first recorded in Torah and Talmud”

    Where is this recorded? The torah and talmud say no such thing.

    Would you ever dream of saying that a kohen is less spiritual and religious than a yisrael? Never – the principle the torah follows is that the more mitzvos, the greater spiritual potential. Following your reasoning, the kohen gadol is the least spiritual person in all klal yisrael, and shoteh is the most spiritual.

    “(and, once again, we have “individualized it to our group,” failing to recognize that we are observing a universal distinction between young men and women). As one young woman explained, “it’s easier to be a ‘good’ girl than a ‘good’ boy.” She’s right—a “good” boy is expected to approach marital age still studying full-time and achieving a modicum of success, while a “good” girl can be pursuing her individual religious and secular interests. Nonetheless, Jewish learning deserves far more attention than it is currently given.”

    First you say it’s a universal phenomenon and then you give an explanation that is local to this society, that seems contradictory.

    The one thing that can be found in the Talmud are statements saying that women are more likely to sin than men.

    “Think of the most anti-spiritual acts you can imagine—arayos and shefichas damim come to mind—and now approximate the proportions of male vs. female criminals in these two areas. To claim that the Torah doesn’t recognize this is tantamount to saying that the Torah doesn’t recognize human nature, chas milehazkir.”

    nashim daaton kalos aleyhen is most often used in the context of sexual sin.

    The idea of women as more pure than men borrows heavily from Victorian/ Christian ideals.

  22. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “Would you ever dream of saying that a kohen is less spiritual and religious than a yisrael?”

    I think that there are different types of spiritual completeness, and accordingly there are difference between Kohen, Levi and Yisrael and between genders. See Horiyos 13A. In other words, in certain ways men and women are more spiritually complete than each other.

    IIRC, R. Moshe Zt’l’s teshuvah on feminism says that the Torah equates men and women whenever it discusses holiness.

    According to R. Mayer Twerski(“Torah Perspectives on Women’s Issues”):

    “The Torah values men and women equally. “And the Almighty created Man in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” The Torah is emphatic: man and woman alike are created in God’s image, which is the source of their majesty and places them at the pinnacle of creation. Therefore, taught Rav Soloveitchik zt”l, men and women are endowed with equal ontological-spiritual worth”

  23. mycroft says:

    If the challenges they encounter in HS are meaningful to their learning style and appropriate, they will continue on that path as adults, with a life-long desire to learn more. If they encounter inappropriate learning environments when young, it’s an uphill battle to ignite their interest later on.

    Comment by hp —

    Generally agree-I would have written the sentences as follows:

    If the challenges they encounter in HS are meaningful to their learning style and appropriate, they will likely continue on that path as adults, with a life-long desire to learn more. If they encounter inappropriate learning environments when young, it’s at best anuphill battle to ignite their interest later on. If they are pushed out of normal yeshiva/day schools because they are not of the proper standard it is highly unlikely they will ever be frum.

    Comment by hp —

  24. Mordechai says:

    Contrary to what Rabbi Menken wrote, great gedolim, such as the Maharal, the Taz, the Mogen Avrohom, the Shevet Mussar and others wrote that actually men have higher spirituality than women.

    There is an excellent sefer that discusses this topic that was put out by Targum Press (Male And Female He Created Them, by Yisrael Ben Reuven).

    What Rabbi Menken wrote is taught by Lubavitcher Hassidim and some others involved in kiruv and is convenient and fashionable in today’s day and age to feed to people who have been influenced by feminism.

    However, we must not accept teachings that are not in accordance with our Torah, no matter how convenient, attractive and politically correct they may seem at the moment.

  25. Jak Black says:

    “Men are inherently less spiritual and religious than women”

    Wow. Now even the frum sites are spouting that old candard. Rabbi Menken doesn’t seem to have proven it yet either.

    The Maharal, of course, disagrees. See Derech Chaim 1:5.

    The book, Male and Female, He Created Them, by Yisrael ben Reuven, devotes literally half of its length to debunking this idea. He writes, “A number of recent books in English propose this idea of women’s spiritual superiority over men, and reportedly, the idea is taught as well in numerous schools for women…Therefore, it should not be surprising to find an abundance of classical sources whichnot only rebut the teaching of higher spirituality in women but explicitly state its converse…[lists a bunch of sources]…It shoudl be added as well that this author in his research for this book did not find any sources which put forth the idea of spirituality in women being on a higher level than that of men. Nor had any of the numerous Gedolei HaTorah interviewed for this book heard of any such sources.”

    Can we get a correction now?

  26. Toby Katz says:

    Mycroft wrote:
    “I bleive that Orthodox Judaiskm is the only “religion” in the US that has a higher participation rate of males versus females”

    That is true only if you define “participation in religion” as participation in the public rituals, such as davening with a minyan, reading from the Torah and so on. But Judaism is unique precisely in being more of a home-based than synagogue/temple/church-based religion.

    My impression is that men and women “participate” in Judaism — defined as observing the basics, e.g., kashrus and Shabbos — in roughly equal numbers.

    BTW I do not agree with R’ Menken’s opening statement that “men are less spiritual than women.” I think they are equally spiritual but in very different ways, or to put it another way, men evince spiritual superiority in some spheres and women in others.

  27. Ori Pomerantz says:

    May I offer a modification to Rabbi Yaakov Menken’s statement that would agree with both current research and the Talmud? I’d say that in early 21st century western culture women are more likely to be religious than men.

    It is quite possible that in the days of the Talmud, when child rearing was very different, that was not the case. Part of the point of having Oral Torah is to be able to fit the timeless Torah to a generation’s specific environment (see http://www.torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter6-624.html).

  28. hp says:

    Mycroft, I agree.

  29. Victor says:

    “Traditional Judaism and post-enlightment Orthodoxy may have a 3300 year old tradition of involving males in studying age-old texts. That is true. Houwever, the universal learning among Orthodox teenage boys is only a post Holocaust phenomenon.

    Until that time, learning was confined to a very small elite. There was just no way of supporting mass learning. Boys went to cheder until they were 9 or 10 and then they went to work. That is, unless their fathers were rich, they came from rabbinnical families, or they had an iron will, a fierce desire to learn and a good head.”

    I have to disagree. When I was in yeshiva (Ohr Somayach) the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Mendel Weinbach, received a set of shas saved from the war as a gift to the yeshiva. Inscribed in the front cover was the name of the owners (which I saw with my own eyes): the woodworkers union of a small town in Poland. Apparently these “elites” would learn daily in their shul.

  30. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Mordechai and Jak Blak,

    As I stated, I believed that at least at first glance, that it is a valid Torah position to say that men and women are inherently equally spiritual, in different ways, even taking into consideration the Gemara of Horiyos 13a. Potential for more types of mitzvos would not contradict that ” men and women are endowed with equal ontological-spiritual worth”(see comment #22). I have not seen the sources that you mentioned in “Male and Female, He Created Them”.

    Also, can someone quote precisely the Iggros Moshe which states to the effect that the Torah “equates men and women whenever it discusses holiness”?

    However, assuming that you are correct that the only acceptable Torah view is that men are born inherently on a higher spiritual level than women, then I would say that the ultimate understanding is beyond us and involves metaphysics and the secrets of creation. One can still present an egalitarian position without distorting the Torah.

    Human beings do not understand exactly what the mystical concept of tzimtzum(constriction) means, and why G-d created matter in different ways. Why is some matter made into a rock and some into snakes? Why did Hashem want some human beings to be endowed with a Jewish soul, and some without? Why were some people born male and some female?

    If some people are created inherently less spiritual, it simply means that they have more to perfect, or that they have different roles to play in the Divine plan. This would also be true according to sources which discuss how one’s ancestor’s create spiritual genes for descendents(e.g., Ruach Chaim and Ramban on the Avos, and the story of Chafetz Chaim and R. Schwab regarding why the former was born a Kohen).

  31. Yaakov Menken says:

    Several commenters have, in my mind, equated spiritual potential with the realization of that potential. It is the one who faces greater challenges — and overcomes them — who can in so doing achieve greater spiritual heights than the one who never faced them. For example, the Gemara tells us that a true Ba’al Teshuvah achieves a proximity to HKB”H even greater than that of Tzaddikim.

    Meanwhile it is the women who kept Israel alive in Mitzrayim, the women who refused to participate in the Chet Ha’Eygel (Golden Calf), the wife of On ben Peles who saved him from Korach’s rebellion, and the list goes on. And today, it’s a sociological reality that is visible to everyone.

    Men say the blessing “who has not made me a woman” in the morning. Why are these three blessings — who has not made me a gentile, a servant, or a woman — stated in the negative? One explanation is that we recognize the great opportunity given by additional Mitzvos, but also recognize our failure to utilize the opportunity properly. Meanwhile, women say “who has made me in accordance with His will,” language identical to the description of the world found at the beginning of Kaddish.

    With all respect to Yisrael ben Reuven and the scholarship that went into his book, I don’t believe his opinion constitutes the last or only word on this matter. Since both Mordechai and Jak referred to the Maharal I brought it up with our local expert — Rav Adlerstein suggested a passage in his Drush al haTorah in which he says that women are closer to Olam HaBah. He also said that understanding all of the Maharal’s statements together might be the subject of a 500-page book.

    Kar, I didn’t say anything about Kohanim vs. Yisroelim; I would agree that the Kohen can achieve greater spiritual heights due to his additional Mitzvos, but neither believe nor said that one with greater Mitzvah requirements is necessarily inherently inferior. There are other equally obvious counter-examples.

    Concerning the shoteh, however, I will retell the following story. A man once brought his severely impaired daughter to the Chazon Ish, who, to the consternation of the father, rose in her presence. The Chazon Ish explained that it was obvious that her neshamah had achieved most everything possible for it, since it was placed in a body with such limited capacities. Thus we see that reduced obligations in Mitzvos can indicate a higher spiritual state, and also that the one with greater obligations can achieve much more as a result.

  32. YM says:

    I don’t know where it says it, but somewhere Chazal (our sages) say that one needs to kill himself to learn Torah. Not literally, of course, but that it takes maximum effort. It is a natural tendency to want to be able to gain wisdom without making a great effort, without “killing” oneself, but it doesn’t work.

  33. Jak Black says:

    “With all respect to Yisrael ben Reuven and the scholarship that went into his book, I don’t believe his opinion constitutes the last or only word on this matter.”

    I find this statement rather shocking, and that’s being generous. If you have another opinion to base your statement on it, please do so. I suggested a Maharal, and some have suggested other sources to the contrary. Do you have a different way to understand these sources? One can easily parry ANY proof for any position with your statement above – trust me, I see it on the “Centrist” blogs all the time.

    Furthermore, I went out of my way to quote the passage from the book where he attests that he asked many gedolim if such a source exists, and they all replied in the negative. What exactly would you make of this? I can personally attest that I too went on a similar quest, and have never been shown a source for your statement – including from seminary teachers that sheepishly admitted that they nevertheless had been teaching this for years. If such a source really does exist, it must be fairly obscure.

    Frankly, I’m quite confused by your persistance here.

    “Since both Mordechai and Jak referred to the Maharal I brought it up with our local expert—Rav Adlerstein suggested a passage in his Drush al haTorah in which he says that women are closer to Olam HaBah.”

    Yes, I’m aware of that Maharal. He actually says that they are more shayach to the World to Come, and I’m sure that Rav Adlerstein will confirm that this statement does not contradict the one I quoted.

    Finally, you’ll note that I did not suggest any counter explainations as to why men, practically speaking, seem to have a more different time staying “in line” than women. There are many possible reasons. The Maharal you cited is one – men are by nature more at movement than women. They are the doers. But this is all really beside the point. Are you suggesting that we attempt to build Torah hashkafa based on phenomena we see in the world? Wouldn’t it be more safe if we look to the Torah itself for our hashkafa, and only afterward attempt to examine the world through the glasses of the Torah?

  34. Yaakov Menken says:

    Jak, I know that Rav Hirsch zt”l and Rav Munk spoke about it — the latter, only because he’s the source quoted by the Artscroll Siddur. Neither, of course, has been accused of being Lubavitch before. Rabbi ben Reuven himself states that the idea has appeared in “a number of recent books in English.” He obviously meant books that people take seriously, with the requisite approbations.

    Approbations on books that later turn out to have serious Hashkafic problems are supposed to be the exception, not the norm! How many of the teachers whom you pressed, who “sheepishly admitted” that they couldn’t remember where they picked up on this bizarre idea, thereafter ceased teaching it? Did you ask the Gedolim if they know who said it first, or whether it was a valid Hashkafah?

    You insisted that there should be a “correction.” I said no, there’s enough support for this school of thought to justify my statement that “men are inherently less spiritual and religious than women” — not discussing what men can achieve, or even how important they might be in G-d’s eyes, but how pointed in the right direction they might be at birth.

    You attacked my statement again, and claim I’m the one being “persistent,” so I’ll stop here.

  35. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Jak,

    Please list the sources here or on mishmar.blogspot.com when you have a chance, so people can see them.

    How do the sources understand “beloved is man for he was created in the image of G-d” ? If men and women are both beloved, what is the point in emphasizing that either gender is more spiritual?

    I believe as well in some type of partial egalitarianism towards non-Jews as well. I think, for example, that it might be possible to reconcile the mekkubalim and the balei pshat’s understanding of the aforementioned Mishna in Avos.

    There is no need to be apologetic. Each religion believes that its adherents are the best. There are rewards and obligations for being Jewish. And Hashem does love the Jewish people the most. But when we discourage a proselyte and tell him that G-d wants you to fulfill your role in this world, we don’t tell him that you are not important in your Creator’s eyes.

    One reason why I am sensitive to and emphasize this, is because I have seen the chilul Hashem caused by people who do not express these ideas with enough sensitivity. One sincere person on a few “Centrist” blogs, points to this issue without fail. And I am not even talking about the hundreds of hate sites which monitor the Talmud or our media for “racist” statements (according to Wikepedia), or the extreme anti-charedi smear-blogs out there. Similarly, we would not want to perpetuate a myth that Judaism devalues women. One can understand the “hierarchal” sources, whether between genders or between Jew and gentile in a nuanced way.

  36. chaim says:

    if women are not more spiritual than men
    how do you explain the fact that 95% of the prison population in the world consist of men

  37. mycroft says:

    “That is true only if you define “participation in religion” as participation in the public rituals, such as davening with a minyan, reading from the Torah and so on. But Judaism is unique precisely in being more of a home-based than synagogue/temple/church-based religion.
    My impression is that men and women “participate” in Judaism—defined as observing the basics, e.g., kashrus and Shabbos—in roughly equal numbers.”

    Mrs. Katz:
    My impression is different.

  38. kar says:

    “IIRC, R. Moshe Zt’l’s teshuvah on feminism says that the Torah equates men and women whenever it discusses holiness.”

    He’s talking about kedushas am yisrael iirc, not relevant to our topic. I don’t think that anyone here is suggesting that women aren’t full members of klal yisrael.

    “According to R. Mayer Twerski(“Torah Perspectives on Women’s Issues”):
    “The Torah values men and women equally. “And the Almighty created Man in His image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.” The Torah is emphatic: man and woman alike are created in God’s image, which is the source of their majesty and places them at the pinnacle of creation. Therefore, taught Rav Soloveitchik zt”l, men and women are endowed with equal ontological-spiritual worth” ”

    The torah is clearly not that emphatic about it, because there are rishonim who go so far as to say that women are not created b’tzelem elokim, and you don’t have to go further than your mikraos gedolos to find rishonim who read the story of woman’s creation as indicating that women are less spiritual than men. These views don’t seem to dominate, but the point here is that even something as minimal as women being created bt’zelem elokim is not clear (b’tzelem elokim bara oso), let alone some of the other claims being made here .

    The bracha of she’asani kirtzono is meant to emphasize the desirablity of mitzvos, and the apologetics that have grown around it and grown around this issue, while well-intentioned, denigrate mitzvos. We are supposed to be desirous of mitzvos, not to consider ourselves “above” those we aren’t obligated in.

  39. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “The torah is clearly not that emphatic about it, because there are rishonim who go so far as to say that women are not created b’tzelem elokim”

    Please list such Rishonim that women are not created btzelem elokim. Also, there is a source that male and female, and their souls, were originally created as one unit.

    As I said, the simple meaning of the Mishnah is that both Jew and non-Jew, male and female, are created in the Divine image. While I have no “shaychos” to Kabbalah, I do know that our understanding of Hashem’s presence is expressed in both “male” and “female” terms(Chachma is considered male, and Binah is female).

    While this I think is meant as a an analogy, I would add the Shelah, R’ Yosef Bloch and R’ Gifter say that our universe is meant as an “parable” to express spiritual terms(see R. Gifter’s preface to Artscroll Shir Hashirim). So it would seem to be ironic, that it is “not clear” that a women is created in Divine image.

    “The bracha of she’asani kirtzono is meant to emphasize the desirablity of mitzvos, and the apologetics that have grown around it and grown around this issue, while well-intentioned, denigrate mitzvos. We are supposed to be desirous of mitzvos, not to consider ourselves “above” those we aren’t obligated in.”

    “Mpi olim v’yonkim yisadita oz”–sometimes the simple things we learn as children are correct. I saw a frum book for children which began to the effect: every human being created is deemed special by G-d. As a Jewish person, you are born with a special gift of love…

    My approach is nether apologetic nor is it not desirous of Mitzvos. We are talking about “tzelem”, and I think the Maharal defines chilul Hashem as being “m’maet es hadmus”. There is no question that the media PR surrounding a movie recently produced as well as other incidents relating to these sensitive topics not expressed in a nuanced way, created, and continue to create(as we speak, there is a discussion elsewhere on the internet about this) a most appalling chilul Hashem, hamievin yavin. There are also distortions about the Orthodox approach to women in the media as well. We should emphasize sources, and they most emphatically exist as Rav Soleveitchik Zt’l and others have stated, that lead to an increase in Kovod Hatorah.

  40. Steve Brizel says:

    FWIW, RYBS viewed men and women as being created with identical levels of spirtuality based upon the verse in Breishis- “btzelem Elokim.” OTOH, RYBS emphasized that Kedushas Yisrael is not uniform and that Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, Nashim, Mamzerim and Avadim all have their own separate levels of Kedushas Yisrael . RYBS firmly rejected the notion that the difference in functions between men and women created a different level of spirituality. RYBS called that “sheer libel”. IOW, spearate but equal is a fundamental principal of Yahadus that cannot be changed and which can be traced as far back as to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

  41. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Two more quotes from Wikepedia demonstrating that the view that all human beings were created in the Divine image is the normative one(emphasis mine):

    Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik:

    “Even as the Jew is moved by his private Sinaitic Covenant with God to embody and preserve the teachings of the Torah, he is committed to the belief that *all mankind, of whatever color or creed, is “in His image” and is possessed of an inherent human dignity and worthiness.* Man’s singularity is derived from the breath “He [God] breathed into his nostrils at the moment of creation” (Genesis 2:7). Thus, we do share in the universal historical experience, and God’s providential concern does embrace all of humanity.” ((Man of Faith in the Modern World, p. 74)

    Rabbi Malkiel Kotler:

    “Our philosophy asserts that *every human being is created in the image of the Lord* and the primacy of integrity and honesty in all dealings without exception. I strongly repudiate any assertions in the name of Judaism that do not represent and reflect this philosophy.”

  42. zach says:

    “Men are inherently less spiritual and religious than women”.

    Question: why then is there such a paucity of female spiritual and religious leaders? (Can you name more than five?)

    Answer: there are no official religious positions available for women in mainstream Orthodoxy, even in non-ritual positions are mostly discouraged (president of the shul??)

    Implication: since Judaism is exclusively male-centric vis a vis religious authority, we must then be only accepting second best!

  43. kar says:

    “Please list such Rishonim that women are not created btzelem elokim. Also, there is a source that male and female, and their souls, were originally created as one unit.”

    One of the baalei tosfos say so (it’s a diyuk on b’tzelem elokim bara oso) and I think there’s another I am not remembering offhand. There are also rishonim who do see women as created btzelem elokim who read the Creation story as implying that women are on a lower spiritual level. To go back to an earlier comment of yours:

    “However, assuming that you are correct that the only acceptable Torah view is that men are born inherently on a higher spiritual level than women,”

    however you view male or female essential nature, in this world, our metric is mitzvos, and we accord greater spirituality or spiritual potential to those with more mitzvos.

    “Also, there is a source that male and female, and their souls, were originally created as one unit.”

    It’s a midrash but I’m not aware that it says or implies anything about their souls.

    “My approach is nether apologetic nor is it not desirous of Mitzvos.”

    i was directing that at the earlier comment (not yours) that women are more spiritual and religious and therefore “need” fewer mitzvos.

    I agree with the rest of your point (though I’m not familiar with the movie or the other discussions) and you’re right about appropriate sources for appropriate forums. The bulk of the tradition is like RYBS.
    The difficulty is when people go further, and start insisting that women have fewer mitzvos because they are on a higher spiritual level – that is a distortion and brings out every source to the contrary, including the obscure, because even the mainstream sources are tinged with apologetics (can we really call one of the baalei hatosfos libelous?). I can only speak for myself, but the reason I wrote in is that it’s important not to distort in the opposite direction, and in my view, it’s inappropriate to treat mitzvos as things that some people are too superior to “need.” No one would dream of saying such a thing about eg kehuna — or perhaps they would, if there were a movement of “yisraelism”? 🙂 Regardless, the distinction between kohen and yisrael is instructive, and ought to remind folk to keep such matters in perspective, as there is ample room for all to achieve zchusim.

  44. Michoel says:

    Baruch,
    I really enjoy your writing but this last comment (#40) of yours is k’chometz l’shinayim v’kashen la’eynayim. We should not “EMPHASIZE” anything. We should say over the Torah the way that the g’dolei hadoros taught us to. What Baruch Horowitz thinks is increasing kavod Hatorah, someone else could view as decreasing kavod hatorah. Speaking of being “m’maet es hadmus”, what greater miut of the d’mus could there be for us to presume that Hashem’s Torah needs our “marketing”.

  45. kar says:

    Actually I think R Horowitz is right. (Hillel was willing to be megayer al menas she’eheye kohen gadol. Chazal were mesaken things shelo yomru banu mikedusha chamura l’keduasha kala. Etc) I think his point is more about finding appropriate forums for such discussion, especially for more obscure sources. I will endeavor to take that into account in future.

  46. Larry Lennhoff says:

    however you view male or female essential nature, in this world, our metric is mitzvos, and we accord greater spirituality or spiritual potential to those with more mitzvos.
    Does this mean that male and female non-Jews are on the same spiritual level as one another? It would seem to follow – I know of none of the 7 mitzvot of Noah that are specifically binding only on men.

  47. Steve Brizel says:

    One point that the article in question IMO missed was that by essentially adopting a POV that men are identical to women in all areas of life except the physical acts of pregnancy and childbirth( a highly dubious proposition) then the heterodox notion of spirituality can equally be fulfilled, if not more so, by a woman than a man. Why should any Torah observant person be surprised by such a development which we know runs clearly against how the Mesorah and Halacha view the spiritual levels of men and women-separate and equal?

  48. kar says:

    “I think there’s another”

    Abarbenel says the same.
    Note that the same ambigiuity in the posuk (btzelem elokim bara oso, zachar u’nekeyva etc) is the source of the drasha that adam was created androgynous and then split, implying that both are b’tzelem elokim and halves of the same whole.

  49. Baruch Horowitz says:

    Michoel,

    I do not believe in distorting Torah for PR or outreach purposes. Nevertheless, as is apparent from the story which lead up to Rav Malkiel Kotler’s public statement, certain things indeed need to be “emphasized” in our generation. A person writing a sefer or giving a speech regarding the Torah view on non-Jews, while well-meaning, may indeed “emphasize” kabbalistic or other obscure sources or present an unbalanced overall picture on the topic. Unfortunately, the media then picks up on the unbalanced aspects.

    Regarding women’s role in Judaism, there have been distortions by the media. Rabbi Menken will remember his 1994 Mail Jewish post regarding a distortion which was presented concerning the Rambam in Hilchos Ishus. I heard a recording of a lecture by a MO rebbetzin, that she came late to schul to avoid hearing “shlo asani isha”, because it was too painful for her. At least at one point in her life, the wife of the Netziv, struggled with the latter type of issue, according to her nephew. True, the majority of Orthodox women certainly feel fulfilled in their role, but what do you say to someone who is not?

    I think that one can quote any “negative” source about non-Jews or women while still providing balance. Hashem is a merciful God, and the purpose of His creation was to bestow good(Ramchal in Derech Hasem). That is why he created all human beings in a Divine image, although there are different levels to everyone’s souls, in accordance to their specific role and task. This is well within normative Jewish thinking.

    Also, I think that there certainly may be more than one acceptable opinion on this subject(I hope this doesn’t make me a “Centrist” 🙂 ). As Rabbi Alfred Cohen has written in “Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society” :

    …Most importantly, I think it is time we remembered that Judaism has never demanded a unitary view; dissent and open discussion have always characterized Jewish scholarship. Disagreeing with someone is not heresy, nor even rejection of Daat Torah…

  50. Rabbi Zvi says:

    S’forno, Ramban, R’Dak & Hizkuni (very early source) emphatically declare that men and women were created B’Tzelem Elokim. Hizkuni proves from TNach that the word ADAM includes women, S’forno and Ramban explain that ADAM is refering to the species of man. Malbim and Yalkut Shimoni also state as such although less emphatically.

  51. Michoel says:

    Reb Baruch wrote:
    “…Most importantly, I think it is time we remembered that Judaism has never demanded a unitary view; dissent and open discussion have always characterized Jewish scholarship. Disagreeing with someone is not heresy, nor even rejection of Daat Torah…”

    It, at times, can be very unclear who the demander is, and who the demandee is, if you get my drift.

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