The book’s authors were ordained three years ago by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and by Rabbi Shuki Reich. Before being ordained, the two women reportedly completed a five-year ordination course and passed tests equivalent to those given by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to men seeking ordination as rabbis. Their ordination reportedly allows them to issue legal decisions for men and women in every area of Jewish law – something so rare, the two women may be the only women in the world to possess it.
First Book Of Halakhic Responsa Written By Ordained Modern Orthodox Women Published
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The first book of responsa on questions of halakha (Jewish law) written by women who have been ordained as halakhic decisors was published this week, the Jerusalem Post reported without naming the book or its publisher.
The book’s authors, Idit Bartov and Anat Novoselsky, were ordained three years ago by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin – the Modern Orthodox chief rabbi of the West Bank city of Efrat and the former senior rabbi at Manhattan’s leading Modern Orthodox synagogue, Lincoln Square – and by Rabbi Shuki Reich – the head of the program at Midreshet Lindenbaum the two women studied in. Before being ordained, the two women reportedly completed Lindenbaum’s five-year ordination course and passed tests equivalent to those given by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to men seeking ordination as rabbis.
Bartov’s and Novoselsky’s ordination reportedly allows them to issue legal decisions for men and women in every area of Jewish law – something so rare, the two women may be the only women in the world to possess it.
Riskin insists that ordaining the two women is completely in keeping with halakha – a claim most Orthodox and haredi rabbis dispute.
“This is not a halakhic departure in any sense and it is not a revolution in halakha,” Riskin told the Post, adding that “denying 50 percent of the Jewish people” the right to study and teach at the highest level is far more problematic than allowing them to teach and lead, and noted that women tend to bring an emotional component and compassion to the halakhic process that is often absent when men are the sole arbiters of halakha. “…I think women will add immeasurably to the world of halakha once they have the necessary knowledge, because they come to it with their own unique way of thinking and feeling,” he said.
But Riskin was also clear that he did not think women could lead a community or synagogue alone because some communal requirements, including leading prayer services, can only be done by men.
Bartov reportedly said the lack of acceptance in the Orthodox and haredi communities for women halakhic decisors was due to societal realities rather than halakha.
To illustrate this she noted the very modern phenomenon of haredi men studying full time in yeshiva while their wives are employed outside the home to support their family and also raise the family’s children.
Bartov noted that the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) stipulates that a man work and provide for his family – which does not happen when a man studies full time in a haredi yeshiva.
“Society can be stronger than halakha, or accepted halakhic norms, and something which is generally accepted by society can become acceptable in the realm of halakha. It’s not mainstream, it is a ground-breaking development, but we’re talking about a societal issue not a halakhic one,” Bartov told the Post.
The book reportedly contains eight responsa on subjects as diverse as smoking on Jewish holidays, women serving as rabbinical judges and the use of solar-heated hot water on Shabbat.