Women Rabbis and the Rabbi Bakshi Doron Letter: Time for a Fact Check

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62 Responses

  1. C. Rubin says:

    Wonderful article!

  2. Menachem Lipkin says:

    Unfortunately R. Gordimer has allowed his obsession with Open Orthodoxy to cloud his judgement on the issue of ordaining women. For starters, significant poskim and Rabbis in Israel have also been doing this and their credentials as Talmidei Chachamim and important poskim are above reproach. They include Rabbis Riskin, Hefter and Sperber. While Rabbi Gordimer tried to “blame” female ordination on OO, the truth is that it’s happening with or without that movement. Thus the focus on OO is a red herring.

    Further, it’s one thing to extol great women of the past who were able to fulfill rabbinic roles without the title, however, forcing modern women into that position in light of “mesoraitic” changes such as the advent of Bet Yaakov, institutionalized Gemorah learning and Yoetzet certification is the height of condescension. Imagine telling today’s women that there’s no reason for them to be doctors when great women like Florence Nightengale working as nurses cared for people “more effectively and comprehensively than any female doctors ever have or ever will.” R. Gordimer’s right, contrived titles are condescending. So let’s all grow up and realize it’s time for women to be actual Rabbis. Let’s also not condescend to them and their learning in assuming that they would not know their halachic limitations in rabbinic roles.

    • DavidD says:

      I beg to differ. The credentials of the rabbis you mentioned are certainly not above reproach. They are most definitely not top-tier poskim and this is something I suspect they too would admit to.

      Furthermore, refusing to call women rabbis is not due to immaturity and to cast it as such is quite likely exactly that. There are some very serious halachic issues and those aren’t sidestepped simply because Menachem Lipkin insists we “all grow up and realize that it’s time for women to be actual rabbis.” One can only suspect that Halachah is not a motivating factor in this sort of position.

      • Menachem Lipkin says:

        No Rabbi is above reproach, but I never said they were Gedolim. Change does not always come from Gedolim. In fact sometimes it doesn’t even come from Rabbis. And obviously there’s much dispute as to whether or not this is even a “halachic” issue at all. My comment about calling them Rabbis applies to those who feel the need to create “condescending” alternate titles.

        • Menachem Lipkin says:

          Yes I know I said the rabbis in Israel were “above reproach”… I was engaging in a bit of hyperbole.

          • DavidD says:

            Hyperbole renders your point moot. You based your argument on the fact that these Rabbis and their opinions carry a lot of weight and are worthy of the same respect as those who dismiss the idea of women rabbis. Now you admit that they are not in the same class – a fact that is obvious to anyone with a smidgen of intellectual honesty.
            Rabbi Riskin may be a fine man and a talmid chochom, but he is nowhere near the level of Torah supremacy that is evidenced by those with whom he is arguing.
            And the reality is that this is not a minor quibble but a major consideration. To make a sea change in Judaism, one must be a world-class scholar and none of those you mentioned fall into that category. Many of those who refute these changes certainly are.

        • lacosta says:

          you are correct. reform , conservative ,reconstructionist , messianic judaisms all came from non gdolim…..

    • tzippi says:

      You write, “Let’s also not condescend to them and their learning in assuming that they would not know their halachic limitations in rabbinic roles.”
      I’m not being snarky, I need things spelled out. What are the limitations? Are they widely if not universally accepted by Orthodox women aspiring to the rabbinate? If I would start googling, etc. hard enough, would I find any blogging asserting otherwise, that there are women who will not step at anything less than equal status?

  3. PL says:

    Can you please clarify part of the discussion here? From the information provided on Rabbi Bakshi Doron seems to indicate an agreement that women can make halachic decisions and be a halachic decisor. Thus, is the only issue one would have with OO and their ‘rabba’ that of just officially stating so?

  4. mb says:

    Paraphrasing Larry Kramer from a few decades ago, “We’re women and we’re here, get used to it”
    Sorry guys, but you can’t stop it.
    Actually you sound OCD!No offense meant.

    • lacosta says:

      the reform movement said ‘we’re here get used to it’ , the conservative movement said ‘we’re here get used to it’ etc…..

      • mb says:

        I’m not sure they said that La Costa. They never claimed to be Orthodox.It’s irrelevant. There have been many changes in “Orthodox” practice over the millennia. Some quite startling. If Orthodoxy wanted it, it happened. If not, it faded away. it will be the same with women as Rabbis/leaders/ or whatever. If Orthodoxy wants it, it will survive, first on the fringe, then garner more support.And it’s a phenomena that pales in comparison to some of the innovations that have stuck. Don’t shoot me, I’m just a messenger. I have no axe to grind, but do know a tad bit about Jewish history.

  5. Steve Brizel says:

    Once again, R Gordimer proves that the advocates of women ordination and OO engage in intellectual sophistry in making their case.

  6. dr. bill says:

    There is a fair amount of distance between Rabbi Doron’s position and yours. You assert that “Halacha does not accept the ordination of women as rabbis,…” and Rabbi Doron cites the precedence of the Reformers and modesty conditions in our generation, not Halakha. I never found his halakhic position that surprising given the clear language of the Aruch, the only rishon that I know of that has been quoted in relation to a woman rendering halakhic decisions.
    I also wonder on what basis you prophesize that the women you list “have carried and disseminated the messages of Torah teaching, inspiration, enlightenment and policy more effectively and comprehensively than any female rabbis ever have or ever will.” Of course missing from your list of non-ordained women is perhaps the greatest orthodox woman scholar/teacher of the previous century, Nechama Leibowitz OBM. As women (both Jewish and Christian) reach academic heights in Jewish Studies your prognostications of the future are improbable at best. In fact, among the current group of women who have received semicha, there is at least one whose exhibited halakhic knowledge surpasses almost all musmachim and those (few) on your list that i have any acquaintance with. Opening this type of pointless discourse, with particular names, is an invitation to untoward comments.

  7. David Ohsie says:

    “I certainly wrote in my cited responsum that a woman may halachically serve as a halachic decisor, and such has the Chida written (Choshen Mishpat s. 7), but this must be without official appointment or authority…”

    This is a very loose translation and it is cut off at the end, which, IMO doesn’t give the proper meaning. Here is what I think is a more accurate and complete translation of that section:

    “While I did write in that responsum that, according to the halacha, a woman can serve as a halachic decisor among [the nation of] Israel, as the Chida wrote in Birchei Yosef, all of this is without appointment or office but rather based on their knowledge [of Torah]. But when they require appointment or ordination, one should not ordain or test them.”

    It sounds to me that he is saying that a woman act as a Posek (which is greater than just someone with the title “Rabbi”), but she becomes one not through a a test or an ordination, but rather through demonstrating great knowledge of Torah. So for example, if she knew as much Torah as Rav Moshe Feinstein, she could become a Posek for the whole nation. The limit that he gives is that she can’t reach halachic authority through an explicit title, but she can be demonstrating great Torah knowledge.

    Which leads possible advice to women: if you want to become a posek, follow the classical path: study the Shas and Poskim in the traditional manner, then teach and publish great Chiddushim in classical style that will prove your greatness in Torah. Then accept questions from those who ask and answer them.

    • Robert Lebovits says:

      The tshuva written in Hebrew by Rabbi Bakshi-Doron follows the style of many poskim who first give the formal response to the question asked and only then provides some analysis of his thinking.
      R. Bakshi-Doron says unequivocally that women must not be ordained or referred to as “Rabbah”. There is no gray in his opinion about this matter.
      In offering elucidation to his previous writings he states that according to halacha a woman may serve as a halachic decisor. To be more precise in the translation he then adds, “However, all of this is without certification or authority [to do so] but deriving from their knowledge [of Torah]. But when it is required for them (i.e, those who would be appointed to rabbinic positions) to be certified or ordained we do not certify or examine them [women]”. The word used in the first part of the sentence is masculine and therefore not referring to women. The terms used in the latter half of the sentence are feminine and therefore do refer to women.
      I don’t believe he is implying that there is an alternative pathway for a woman to become a Posek, only that the halachic opinions of a woman who has sufficient Torah knowledge is not invalidated simply because she is a woman. This is quite different from saying she “becomes” a Posek(ess).

      • David Ohsie says:

        @Robert Lebovits, I don’t know what you are getting at here.

        1) In the letter he goes back and forth between “Otam” and “Otan”. For example, he says “Ein Libchon Otam” which you correctly translate as referring to women. When refers to their (women’s) knowledge he says “Yediatam”. I don’t know what you are trying to derive from that.

        2) In any case, I don’t see where your translation differs, He says that they can *serve* (Lshamesh) as “Morah Horaah B’Yisrael”, not through a certificate or appointment, but through their understanding of Torah. Which is how most great poskim become poskim. There stories of various greats who only got semichah when they needed an official document for some governmental purpose (the Chafetz Chaim is often reported as an example, but someone with real knowledge will have to say who they were).

        3) You write “This is quite different from saying she “becomes” a Posek(ess).” He says explicitly that they can serve as “Morah Horaah B’Yisrael”. What is the difference?

        But you are correct that we should be looking back at the original Teshuvah.

        • Robert Lebovits says:

          I am “getting at” the plain fact that he definitively opposes the concept of women as rabbis. That is the position he affirms with his opening paragraph. Anything else in his tshuva cannot be construed to contradict that ruling. There is no doubt that being a posek falls within the domain of being a rabbi, though a rabbi may not necessarily be a posek. Therefore it is just sophistry to parse his words in a way that indicates the opposite.
          The word Lshamesh can also mean “to function” and I would amend my comment to say that the more accurate rendering of his explanation is that women can function as a decisor if they have the proper Torah knowledge no less or more than any learned layperson, which some may find to be an innovative inclusion. However, poskim become poskim through a very arduous process involving both learning and apprenticing (shemush). A learned layman – or a rabbi – who has not engaged in the latter will not attain the status of a posek. Your suggestion of an alternative pathway is neither congruent with R. Bakshi-Doron’s ruling nor with the bona fide mechanism of being properly prepared to issue psak.

          • David Ohsie says:

            His letter is not a Teshuva, but rather a qualification/explanation of his Teshuva. I posted a link; see there. He says that they can be poskim in both the letter and the Teshuva. What else is Morah Horaah BeYisrael? The issue is that they have be accepted based on their greatness, not based on some authority granted to them.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “alternative pathway”. All poskim become poskim by great learning and great midos and he maintains that women can do that. Your distinction between “layman” and “Rabbi” doesn’t apply in Orthodox Judaism.

    • mb says:

      Indeed. The Chazan Ish never received semicha

      • Ben Bradley says:

        Nor R Moshe Feinstein until his students realised and gave him semicha.

        • Robert Lebovits says:

          Not so. He served as a kehilla rav in Europe for over 15 years starting in his 20s. Of course he had been given semicha.

          • Ben Bradley says:

            If you’re so sure he must have had semicha to be a kehilla rav, then who gave it to him?
            I’ll answer that myself. His father told him to start writing teshuvos at a very young age but there is no record of him receving semicha, Please tell us if you find otherwise.

          • David Ohsie says:

            Unless he was the official government Rabbi, he would not need semichah for that.

    • YbhM says:

      “Which leads possible advice to women: if you want to become a posek, follow the classical path: study the Shas and Poskim in the traditional manner, then teach and publish great Chiddushim in classical style that will prove your greatness in Torah. Then accept questions from those who ask and answer them.”

      Your comment calls attention to the fact that this doesn’t seem to happen much or at all. Rather there seems to be more interest in titles, communal positions, and Melanie Landau style talk about bringing feminine innovations into Torah study.

      It was slightly different when seminaries that taught Gemara first opened in the 80s. There were some women who were very serious students (I could name names) and almost all of them eventually adopted fairly right-wing lifestyles as wives, mothers, and teachers.

      • David Ohsie says:

        @YbhM: “Your comment calls attention to the fact that this doesn’t seem to happen much or at all. Rather there seems to be more interest in titles, communal positions, and Melanie Landau style talk about bringing feminine innovations into Torah study.”

        You may be right (although in fairness to women who want to be Rabbis, a large number of men with the title “Rabbi” don’t even have Semichah. The fact there are other men who are serious Torah scholars doesn’t seem to be logically related to these others using the title.) I think that situation is Israel may be different, but I’m not sure.

        I do think that if you had a critical mass of women who were publicly recognized serious Torah scholars then the debate would be very different. That takes time.

  8. zevabe says:

    I can’t say that I find at all compelling the argument that women in other roles can be influential. The vast majority of tasks done by chaplains, day school teachers, and pulpit rabbis do not require semicha or a heter horaah. Should men who don’t plan to be poskim pursue semicha?

  9. Raymond says:

    I find it very hard to believe that there is suddenly some kind of outcry by Orthodox Jewish woman to demand that they be allowed to serve as Rabbis. But if that is the case, then the solution is certainly not to break with thousands of years of Jewish tradition in favor of modern day feminism, but rather to think long and hard about how the religious Jewish community has somehow failed to convey its long successful ideal of having the Jewish home be of central focus and importance in our Jewish world. I think that if most of us were honest with ourselves, we would admit that the single strongest influence on each of our lives have been our mothers. For women to suddenly prefer the more public role of Rabbi over their much more important and influential position as wives and mothers, would represent a significant step down for women.

    • Reb Yid says:

      “For women to suddenly prefer the more public role of Rabbi over their much more important and influential position as wives and mothers, would represent a significant step down for women.”

      Nice of this one male to speak as if he knows what’s best or desireable for all Jewish women.

      Nice that you think that females should see their ultimate roles as unpaid labor who take care of children, perform volunteer work, and attend to the needs of their husbands. Sure, I suppose there are a few Jewish females out there who would buy into this patriarchal nonsense. And it allows them to have a sense of clear black and white order. But most women–even many who are Orthodox and many who are not ardent feminists–would not, as it rightly insults and minimizes their potential.

      • Raymond says:

        Ironically, it is you who presume to speak for all women, and it is you who are downgrading women’s extremely critical role in being at the core of the family, which in turn is the core of any successful society. What are really doing, is trying to impose secular, Leftist values on the Orthodox Jewish world. No thanks, as it just does not work.

      • DF says:

        Actually, most women would find you patronizing. Do you fancy yourself a knight in shining armor who must heroically rescues the damsels in distress? They can speak for themselves, and would probably find it chauvinistic of you to presume to speak on their behalf.

        And normal people don’t use leftist words like “male.” We speak of “men.”

  10. David Ohsie says:

    “I find it very hard to believe that there is suddenly some kind of outcry by Orthodox Jewish woman to demand that they be allowed to serve as Rabbis. […] For women to suddenly prefer the more public role of Rabbi over their much more important and influential position as wives and mothers, would represent a significant step down for women.”.

    @Raymond, what century are you living in? Setting aside women as Rabbis, there has been a massive change in the number of women involved in professions of all types and this includes Orthodox women. As a simple example, almost half of all medical school graduates are now women. I’m not sure why it would be hard to believe that some of those women entering professions might want to become Rabbis.

    Furthermore, when men are expected to learn well past “college age”, their wives are expected to have significant earnings. And after some number of years, the Orthodox lifestyle of all types almost requires 2 wage earners. Certainly no one in Chinuch can make it on a single Chinuch salary.

    If you have a problem with this, then you have a problem with Orthodox Judaism as a whole.

    • YbhM says:

      i>As a simple example, almost half of all medical school graduates are now women. I’m not sure why it would be hard to believe that some of those women entering professions might want to become Rabbis.

      If you view becoming a Rav as basically the same thing as choosing a profession, then there is really no common ground for a discussion.

      • David Ohsie says:

        If you think that the moon is made of green cheese, there there is really no common ground for discussion.

        Now that we’ve dispensed with the straw-men:

        1) Becoming a Rav is ill-defined because there lots of roles for a Rabbi. But let’s simplify and mention 3 aspects to be a very good “Rabbi” of some sort:

        a) A strong connection to God and Torah.
        b) A commitment to serve people at the expense of your own comfort.
        c) A commitment to long and arduous intellectual training that continues throughout life.

        2) The premise of the post is that (a) and (b) are covered already, it’s just that the women’s role in this has been different in that they do not have the same training in Torah study.

        3) That leaves us with (c). Here, the much increased prevalence of women relative to men in areas that require such training means that we should not be surprised that this is less of a barrier. The drastic change in women’s participation in medicine is simply a proxy for the fact that there have been major changes here. That doesn’t mean that Torah = medicine. But it does mean that among those qualified by (a) and (b) it should not be surprising that there has been a vast increase in those interested and qualified for (c).

        Next straw-man, please :).

        • Raymond says:

          Out of curiosity, why do you feel such a strong need to insert the values of modern day feminism onto the Orthodox Jewish world? If you want to be a feminist, that is your right as an American, but why do you feel the need to infiltrate the Orthodox Jewish world with your secular values? Aren’t there already enough gentile forces in the world doing what they can to destroy traditional Jewish life?

          • David Ohsie says:

            @Raymond: Most of what you have here is ad hominem, so there is not response needed. To address what substance there might be: your view of what constitutes alien secular feminism has already been accepted by Orthodoxy a long time ago, except for a few enclaves (e.g. where women are not allowed to drive), as I have already pointed out. If you want to continue the discussion in a substantive manner, please address those comments and defend your position.

            To make this probably a little more difficult for you, please identify who wrote this bit of alien secular feminism:

            Dear Rabbi Rosenfeld:
            Please accept my apologies for not answering your letters sooner. The delay was due to my overcrowded schedule. As to your question with regard to a curriculum in a coeducational school, I expressed my opinion to you long ago that it would be a very regrettable oversight on our part if we were to arrange separate Hebrew courses for girls. Not only is the teaching of Torah she-be-al peh to girls permissible but it is nowadays an absolute imperative. This policy of discrimination between the sexes as to subject matter and method of instruction which is still advocated by certain groups within our Orthodox community has contributed greatly to the deterioration and downfall of traditional Judaism. Boys and girls alike should be introduced to the inner halls of Torah she-be-al peh.
            I hope to prepare in the near future a halakhic brief on the same problem which will exhaust the various aspects of the same. In the meantime I heartily endorse a uniform program for the entire student body.

            ps. Google will reveal the answer.

          • Larry says:

            Everyone agrees that women should learn Torah she be al peh, which includes everything that is not Chumash. The controversy is over Talmud study. I would readily admit that the Rav was possibly the greatest Talmudical mind of the last century. However, over 60 years after this letter was written, it is very apparent that the Orthodox women who did not learn Talmud did not “contribute greatly to the deterioration and downfall of tradional Judaism.” Ironically, Rabboi Gordimer just published an article on the “hemorrhaging” of Modern Orthodoxy.

            A growing group of RWMO sends their children to chareidi schools where they do not teach Talmud to women. For MO to thrive, it needs to accomodate the more traditional parts of its constituency by offering non Talmud tracks to girls and by offering Talmud rich tracks to boys.

            It is an imperative to teach girls Torah she be al peh which includes halacha, hashkafa, midrash and Rishonim on chumash. Teaching all women Talmud is inappropriate, unnecessary and in the opinon of my Rosh Yeshiva, spiritually harmful.

            I am not a scholar of the Rav, so I cannot confirm. I have read that the Rav only permitted women to study tractates for practical halacha such as Pesachim or Hullin and only to learn those bekius and not with lamdus.

          • dr. bill says:

            the Rav ztl answered questions to different individuals based on their environment. what he might suggest to a rabbi in englewood new jersey and borough park might differ, even on matters less contextual than an ideal curriculum. AFAIN, he never told a Bais Yaacov what to teach, something your RY might consider. as to gemara, it was not restricted to certain masechtot and always be’iyun. i recently heard one of the Rav’s (so called right-wing) students describe what the Rav meant by teaching gemara be’iyun to girls. Halevi, boys were taught that way.

          • David Ohsie says:

            “Everyone agrees that women should learn Torah she be al peh, which includes everything that is not Chumash.”

            But that itself is a big change due to changing circumstances (and I would argue due to a different understanding of women’s intelligence). The Talmud indicates that it is prohibited. Although I doubt it is true that “Everyone agrees”.

            In any case, the letter indicates that, in his opinion, they should also be taught Gemara in that circumstance.

            “However, over 60 years after this letter was written, it is very apparent that the Orthodox women who did not learn Talmud did not “contribute greatly to the deterioration and downfall of tradional Judaism.””

            He never wrote such a thing; you need to read it more careful. But the argument posed by Raymond is that all change comes from the impure forces of secularism. The letter is evidence otherwise, even if you disagree with the letter.

            “It is an imperative to teach girls Torah she be al peh which includes halacha, hashkafa, midrash and Rishonim on chumash. Teaching all women Talmud is inappropriate, unnecessary and in the opinon of my Rosh Yeshiva, spiritually harmful.”

            I don’t claim universal acceptance. My own daughters are not in schools where they teach them Gemara. I claim that those who disagree can also be holy people. I do find that the line drawn between Ramban on Chumash and Gemara to be odd and artificial and later I found that the Rav said the same in the “thinking aloud” book.

  11. Hillel says:

    Rav Rabinovitch is on record allowing women to be dayanim.

    • Sass says:

      Please provide a source for this assertion. Otherwise, I might think that it’s made up…

        • Sass says:

          So to be clear- he’s not allowing women to be “dayanim”, he’s just saying that whatever explanations Tosfos gave for Devorah are legitimate today as well. (kiblu alayhu etc.)

          Nu nu. That’s more or less similar to what Rav Bakshi Doron said – A qualified and knowledgable woman can pasken but without an official minuy.

          Either way, I don’t see the relevance to granting smicha to women.

          • Hillel says:

            No legitimate is legitimate. He quotes tosfot and says it is legitimate. Period. You are putting words into his mouth he didn’t say. He does not say well we reject tosfot, or it us not good policy, he just says almost without concern. Hey tosfot says no problem, so if a women knows her stuff and is accepted as a dayenet, then no problem. I have heard from his students that he said a plausibel reading of tosfot is that she could be on the Sanhedrin.

          • dr.bill says:

            yasher koach, i never thought i would be challenged from the left. but a discussion of a woman on an established BD or a Sandherin would require a lengthy look at many sugyot; a bit more than a blog comment. in any case a plausible reading of a rishon does constitute a halakhic psak.

          • Sass says:

            It appears you have ignored what I actually wrote…

          • dr. bill says:

            nu, nu – there are at least 3 separable issues. 1) a woman sitting on a established beis din. 2) women rendering halakhic opinions when consulted. 3) granting a woman a degree like rabbi. 1) is discussed based on serrara. 2) is not debatable, at least in MO communities and appears to have explicit support from rishonim. 3) is debated based on tznius, habitual behavior raised to the level of minhag, reaction to reformers, and serrarah. only serrarah is a strictly halakhic issue, that many feel might better reflect a very different era. personally, i am opposed to 1), strongly in favor of 2) and am ambivalent about 3) and would resolve 3) in a different manner.

          • David Ohsie says:

            Rav Doron in his Teshuva says that they can be a Dayan as long as the litigants accept her.

            Semichah would be relevant to help the woman demonstrate her qualifications for someone that doesn’t know her well. Since leadership based on qualification is OK based Rav Doron, it would potentially help.

            As Dr. Bill points out, the opposition is meta-halachic.

  12. DF says:

    Every post on this subject is another nail in the coffin – OF THE CONCEPT OF DAAS TORAH. Nobody on this blog ever attacks the Reform, because its understood they are not orthodox, and merely to engage with them is to confer legitimacy. [So goes the party line, anyway.] So here comes the Agudah, the foremost (only?) exponent of the daas torah doctrine, and releases a statement of its leaders saying the same thing of Open Orthodoxy . Yet R. Gordimer continues to swing away, as if nothing ever happened. Can’t the Agudah Gedolim speak for themselves, without R. Gordimer chiming in? Does he think their statement counts for nothing?

    כל המוסיף גורע. I am telling you, at this point they are laughing. Any further discussion on either open orthodoxy or “women rabbis” (היינו הך) only weakens the force of your argument. Indeed, it becomes a mere argument, which one can reject or accept according to taste. Pray move on to a different subject.

    • David Ohsie says:

      DF: Rabbi Gordimer knows that there are Orthodox people who don’t accept Agudah Daas Torah. In fact, the RCA doesn’t, or you would not need an RCA. So it makes sense to continue the argument in traditional Torah manner in place of a decree-from-on-high.

      I think that the whole enterprise is misplacedm but if you want to do it, then Rabbi Gordimer is right to press his points.

  13. Ben Bradley says:

    R. Bakshi Doron (as translated by R Gordimer): I certainly wrote in my cited responsum that a woman may halachically serve as a halachic decisor

    R Gordimer:Rabbi Bakshi Doron unqualifiedly condemns and forbids ordaining women and licensing women as halachic decisors

    R Gordimer focuses on what R Bakshi Doron forbids, not on what he explicitly allows, and in doing so blurs his intention. I haven’t seen the original letter, but I presume what is translated as ‘halachic decisor’ above is the word posek. So R. BD sees no halachic barrier to women functioning as a posek, just to the conferring of title, presumably based on the halachic issue of serara, ie wielding authority.
    If the only issue is a title conferring authority over people, then I presume titles which don’t give such communal authority like, say yoetzet halacha, must be fine. Right, R Gordimer?

    • David Ohsie says:

      @Ben Bradley: Rabbi Gordimer links to the letter here: http://www.torahmusings.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Rav-Bakshi-Doron-on-Women-Rabbis.pdf.

      R Gordimer is correct that the letter is explicitly addresses to the question of ordaining women as halachic decisors. The line he seems to draw is between a woman becoming a posek purely on the merits of her Torah knowledge vs. by receiving a title or an appointment to office.

      • Ben Bradley says:

        I agree with R Gordimer that R BD clearly rules out semicha\ordination for women, that is explicit in his letter. His distinction between the function and the title of halachic decisor seeems to be based on serara, per Rambam, I’m not aware of any other source discussed, correct me if I’m wrong.
        That distinction does not seem to rule out an attribution of a title based on knowledge acquired other than when it confers an authority to pasken. There is a grey area around titles not intended to confer authority but which simply acknowledge a level of knowledge in a particular area.
        R Gordimer seems to pasken against this form of title, eg yoetzet halacha, without strong basis, if any, in R BD’s words

        • David Ohsie says:

          I posted the link to the original Teshuva. To be honest, Rav Doron’s recent letter seems based on meta-halachic factors: “We have to separate from the reformers”. Based on the reasoning in his Teshuva, a Semichah simply to not that the receiver is qualified issued by a private Rav should not be an issue.

          • Robert Lebovits says:

            More intellectualized word parsing. When a posek writes a tshuva his ruling is definitive to the question posed. Whether his stated explanation conforms to your assessment of his response and categorization of what constitutes something that is purely “halachic” or is in some manner “meta-halachic” has absolutely no relevance to the answer given to the question, in this case can women be ordained as rabbis.
            If you are attempting to extrapolate some way in which his ban on a woman receiving semicha could be overturned if a different set of conditions were met, he is still here. Why not simply pose your idea to him and see if he would find your rationale compelling and agree with this exception? Otherwise this smacks of medieval scholasticism where learned men debated how many teeth a horse must have had based on the size of the teeth and the size of the head while refusing to just look in the horse’s mouth.
            Meanwhile, it would be incorrect to source R. Bakshi-Doron as the posek who supports the propriety of women receiving semicha under any circumstance.

  14. Rafael Slicepizza says:

    The point R’ Gordimer is making here is that to use the former Chacham Bashi’s teshuvah as a the basis for institute ordination for women. With R’ Bakshi-Doron’s written clarification, we see that he prohibits such an enterprise. So we can argue until the sun goes down that women can learn and build up a knowledge base to become Torah scholars (though I don’t know how you would so without semichoh). But R’ Hefter, R’ Riskin, and OO cannot point to the Sefer Binyan Av and claim that they have this source for women’s ordination. Why isn’t anybody troubled by the fact that they rely on teshuvah which is contrary to their goals?

    • DavidD says:

      Because when one has an agenda, facts are just little inconveniences that must be ignored. This is not about Emes or Halacha. It’s about pushing an agenda.

  15. PL says:

    We need to get something out of the way. Let’s stop the “fighting change” argument. Change can be good or bad. Take for instance, that we live in a changing world that benefits all of us. If not for change we wouldn’t have cars, clothes, phones, or even this blog. And to say religious orthodox has not changed, look at the musar movement, chadisim, advances in jewish education, countless great seforim, or even the clothes ppl wear with suits and black hats. So to say “no change” is good, is certainly not correct. Perhaps there is “good” change and maybe “bad” change? Obviously, OO is advocating here for a change, but is it a ‘bad’ change? Even R Gordimer seems to site R Bakshi Doron who states women are allowed to be halachic deciders. So in the end is OO’s change that women have a title for what they are already allowed to do that earth shattering of a change? Is it really to the level of anti-mesorah and must be ‘kicked out now’?

  16. Yeshivaguy says:

    I think that Deborah’s position of leadership does indicate that women rabbis are acceptable according to halakah.

    No Deborah did not serve on the sanhedrin, however neither do any rabbis in todays times, as smicha today is not the smicha of the times of the sanhedrin but conferral that they have completed a certain course of learning and are competant as a communal leader. If they had our conception of smicha as an institution in the times of judges then certainly a judge would require this smicha. So since Deborah, a woman was fit to be a judge, a woman is fit for being a rabbi in our times.

    OO even stops short of ordaining women as dayanim as this is truly more akin to the smicha conferred by the sanhedrin (although of course not completely analogous in this case either)

  17. David Ohsie says:

    To give a bit more context, here is the actual Teshuva: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=52140&st=&pgnum=297&hilite=

    In the teshuva, he makes a distinction between סמכות (authority) and הנהגה (leadership/guidance). When their authority comes from their leadership, it is OK, while leadership depends on authority, it is problematic.

    Here is the conclusion: http://www.hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=52140&st=&pgnum=302. (The Hebrew cut and paste is not working)

    From what we have stated, it appears that a woman and a convert can serve as leaders and even as greats of the generation (G’dolei HaDor) since the power of their leadership is the cause of their authority. A woman and a convert can serve as halachic decisors and teachers of Torah and practical halachah. Roles whose authority is established by the qualifications of the candidates and where the authority derives from these qualifications, can be filled by a woman or convert. They can serve as judges without coercion [meaning, I believe, that the litigants have to accept them]. There is a doubt as to whether they can receive authority through democratic elections which are equivalent to a voluntary acceptance by the public. According to many decisors, this is permitted. Therefore, in the case of a woman, we can be lenient, since the prohibition itself [to appoint women to positions of authority] is subject to an argument among the Rishonim. In each role, one must distinguish clearly if there is in it the power of authority or the power of leadership.

  18. David Ohsie says:

    BTW, those who argue that Rav Bakshi Doron’s latest letter is halachic and not meta-halachic are forced to say that a Ger cannot receive Semichah either.

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