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Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives Paperback – March 10, 2010


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: KTAV Publishing House; Reprint edition (March 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602801525
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602801523
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,493,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

The proper role of women in the synagogue is an issue that Modern Orthodoxy has been struggling with for over forty years. While everyone agrees that halakhah has to guide all changes in synagogue practice, women s changing self-perception and religious sentiment must be central to any discussion of synagogue life. ...In this provocative book, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Sperber, using his characteristic erudition, makes the case that in the 21st century it is time for women to be given their halakhic right and be permitted to read from the Torah. Together with the responses of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Prof. Eliav Shochetman, this book is Torah study on the highest level.... --Marc B. Shapiro, Weinberg Chair in Judaic Studies, University of Scranton, Scranton, PA<br /><br />Let those who believe that the question of whether or not women may chant and be called up to the Torah in public is both narrow and obscure, and has long been settled by Jewish law read this eye-opening book by thoughtful contemporary Orthodox scholars and rabbis. They will soon discover that the question is not at all narrow and far from settled. In fact, it serves as key to discovering how Jewish law and changing social and cultural norms interact in important ways, while it shows us that examining women s relationship to the Torah scroll opens the door to a wealth of ideas about their role in today s Jewish life and the changing nature of congregational prayer. --Samuel C. Heilman, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Harold Proshansky Chair in Jewish Studies, Queens College, City University of New York<br /><br />The rise today of women to fuller, more equal participation in Jewish religious life is of historic significance and is, indeed, the eschatological dream of Judaism. Thankfully, it is being achieved by evolutionary means. Yet, every evolutionary path has its transformative moments and watershed experiences along the way, and this book is one of them. With his learning, his courage, his total grounding in the sea and language of halakhah, Rabbi Daniel Sperber connects the enterprise of partnership minyanim almost seamlessly to the tradition. Sperber presumes women s intelligence, their faithfulness, their spiritual longing. In doing so, he honors the struggle of Orthodox women as one that enhances community a machloket le shem shamayim. But there s more here. From the extraordinary and elegant opening by Tamar Ross, to the creative foundation document by Mendel Shapiro founding father and ideologue of the partnership minyanim, to the cogent and thoughtful dissenting views of Rabbis Shochetman and Riskin, every word in this treasured volume has value and meaning. Would that all halakhic and communal issues that arise in our time be engaged in so profound an analysis and so civil a discourse! --Blu Greenberg, author and founding president of JOFA, New York, NY

FROM A REVIEW BY RABBI ISRAEL DRAZIN FROM THE JEWISH EYE


Halakhic concerns

What are the halakhic concerns that bother the rabbis and scholars? Unfortunately, this volume makes it clear that there is no agreement either on what is significant or what the apparently significant concern means, and this is one of the many problems frustrating a solution. For example: The code of Jewish law, Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayim 282:3, states that "congregational dignity," kevod ha-tsibur, is affected by women being called to the Torah, reading the passages, and making a Hebrew blessing. The book shows that the reason for this exclusion is far from being clear. Did the concern develop, as many rabbis maintain, because there was a period in Jewish history when most Jewish men could not read Hebrew and when they saw women being able to do so they were embarrassed? Is this ancient notion still relevant? Men can now read the blessing in Hebrew or in transliteration. Rabbi Shapiro and Rabbi Professor Sperber argue that this is really the only tenable halakhic objection to women's aliyot, and there are reasons, as we will discuss below, why this halakhah should be overrun and women's aliyot should be allowed for all the Torah readings.

A second reason that some rabbis and scholars see restricting female participation in aliyot is the talmudic ban against hearing a woman's voice, called qol ishah. Shapiro and Sperber point out that Orthodox men hear women making blessings frequently, sometimes daily, without this qol ishah concern.

A third rationale for exclusion of women from aliyot is a principle in Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 3:8 that a person who is exempt from a mitzvah, meaning a woman, a child, or a non-Jew, cannot fulfill the mitzvah on behalf of a Jew who has the obligation.
Is the Torah the "defining Jewish experience and as such it is the spiritual property of all Jews: men, women, and children" as Rabbi Shapiro contends? Also, as he states, if women cannot discharge a man's obligation to hear the reading of the Torah, why doesn't Jewish law say this? By saying that females should not be given aliyot because of "congregational dignity," the rabbis clearly imply that if this hurdle is overcome, women may have aliyot and they will discharge the entire congregation's obligation. Rabbi Professor Sperber offers his view why and how the "congregational dignity" rule can be overcome.

The view of Professor Sperber

Professor Sperber argues, and presents a host of examples to support his view, that the concept of "congregational dignity" depends upon the concerns of a particular congregation at a particular time. If the congregation is not affronted by women having aliyot, another principle, kevod ha-beri'ot, "human dignity," overturns it. The concept of "human dignity" recognizes the humanity and dignity of women. In saying this, Sperber is not suggesting that Jewish traditions do not apply. He is arguing that the concept of "human dignity" is also part of halakhah and trumps the concept of "congregational dignity" in this case.

Followers of Shapiro and Sperber

Dr. Ross comments that a growing number of Orthodox congregations in the United States, Israel, and Australia have accepted the views of Rabbi Shapiro and Rabbi Professor Sperber and have established Orthodox egalitarian-style prayer groups where women are given aliyot and function as shelichot tsibur, prayer leaders, leading those parts of the synagogue service that do not halakhically require ten adult males, such as the repetition of the amidah, and which halakhah is understood to mandate that these portions be led by men. These groups, writes Dr. Ross, feel that they are taking the first step to address and solve the issue of female aliyot. --Dr. Israel Drazin, The Jewish Eye.com

The rise today of women to fuller, more equal participation in Jewish religious life is of historic significance and is, indeed, the eschatological dream of Judaism. Thankfully, it is being achieved by evolutionary means. Yet, every evolutionary path has its transformative moments and watershed experiences along the way, and this book is one of them. With his learning, his courage, his total grounding in the sea and language of halakhah, Rabbi Daniel Sperber connects the enterprise of partnership minyanim almost seamlessly to the tradition. Sperber presumes women s intelligence, their faithfulness, their spiritual longing. In doing so, he honors the struggle of Orthodox women as one that enhances community a machloket le shem shamayim. But there s more here. From the extraordinary and elegant opening by Tamar Ross, to the creative foundation document by Mendel Shapiro founding father and ideologue of the partnership minyanim, to the cogent and thoughtful dissenting views of Rabbis Shochetman and Riskin, every word in this treasured volume has value and meaning. Would that all halakhic and communal issues that arise in our time be engaged in so profound an analysis and so civil a discourse! --Blu Greenberg, author and founding president of JOFA, New York, NY

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Format: Paperback
Women are excluded from being called to the reading of the Torah, called aliyot, in Orthodox Jewish synagogues. Women and Men in Communal Prayer addresses this issue. The book offers the opinions of four prominent, well-respected, and articulate men, three rabbis and a professor. Two, Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber and Rabbi Mendel Shapiro, advocate changing the current practice and allowing women to participate more than they do at present. Two, Professor Eliav Shochetman and Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, oppose the change. All four approach the issue, as the book's subtitle indicates, from "halakhic perspectives," meaning that the authors offer their opinions based on the precedents of past rabbinic rulings.

The origin of the requirement to read the Torah
According to tradition, the practice of public Torah reading evolved in several stages. The Babylonian Talmud, Bava Qama 82b, reads Exodus 15:22 that states that the Israelites went three days in the desert without finding water as suggesting that Moses instituted the practice that Jews should not go more than three days without hearing the Torah, which is compared to water. Moses specified that at least three verses of the Torah must be read publically on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The rabbis consider this a mitzvah, a Torah requirement for public Torah reading.

Maimonides states in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Tefillah 12:1, that generations later Ezra expanded the rule. Ezra required, among other things, that Jews read at least ten verses and that no less than seven Jews be called to the Torah on Shabbat. Still later, Mishnah Megillah 4:1 mandated that blessings be said before and after the Torah reading. There is no indication that either Moses or Ezra addressed the issue of women's aliyot.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on July 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
Communal prayer is a tradition that is very important to Judaic societies. "Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives" analyzes communal prayer in traditional orthodox Judaism and its relation to Gender issues in these societies. Traditionally communal prayer is separated by gender, and Rabbi Daniel Sperber and other thinkers provide an analysis and discussion of these principles. A vital read for those concerned with Jewish social issues, or as an outsider seeking insight on Orthodox culture, "Women and Men in Communal Prayer is a solidly recommended pick that shouldn't be missed.
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Il prodotto è arrivato velocemente e le condizioni sono buone. Grazie per l'invio, sono contenta di averlo ricevuto. A presto
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Maria Massons on November 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a essential book in the present debate in the Jewish Modern Orthodoxy about women aliyyot. I tis an honest, deep and full halchik presentation. Can't be ignored.
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