An Interesting Torah Temimah on Nashim Datan Kalot

  • 0

(I’ve been told that the proper pronunciation of Datan is with two syllables, not three. HT: Steg)

Perusing the Torah Temimah this Shabbos I noticed something that is noteworthy for one reason, and possibly very noteworthy for another. I admit that the second part of this post is speculation, but I welcome your thoughts on my thoughts.

The Passuk in Chayei Sarah declares that “God blessed Avraham Ba’kol.” Literally this means that God blessed Avraham with everything. The Talmud in Bava Basra (16B) relates a five-way dispute amongst the rabbis as to specifically what “Ba’Kol” means. We only need to look at the first three.

R’ Meir says that Avraham was blessed by not having a daughter. R’ Yehuda says that he was blessed with a daughter. The Acheirim say that he was blessed with a daughter named “Bakol”.

The Torah Temimah explains (translation my own, parentheticals are my additions):

The opinion of R’ Meir is consistent with other information we have about R’ Meir as R’ Meir was the one who established the blessing of “shelo asani isha” as is explained in Menachos 43B. This is because the measure of women was light in his eyes, because the thinness of their mind, as it says in Avodah Zara 18B that R’ Meir fled from the Land of Israel to Babylonia due to his shame as a result of his wife Bruria. (According to Rashi in Avoda Zara, R’ Meir was challenged by his wife Bruria regarding his assertion that women had inferior minds to men. R’ Meir wanted to show that the principle was correct and so he responded by having one of his students seduce Bruria. She resisted for a while but eventually she relented. When she came to her senses, she was so upset that she hanged herself. When R’ Meir discovered her, he fled to Babylonia.)

Additionally, because he sinned with that one woman as it is described in Seder Hadoros (I am not familiar with this reference), and for this reason, the text in Menachos (that teaches us to make the blessing of shelo asani isha) is R’ Meir and not R’ Yehuda (apparently, the text of this Talmudic passage was in dispute).

What is the Torah Temimah saying?

First of all, many different apologetics have been used to explain the blessing of shelo asani isha. The gist of all of them is the women are either equal or superior to men and the blessing is not indicative of a negative feeling toward women in the Talmud. The Torah Temimah is saying that no amount of apologetics can explain R’ Meir’s opinion and halachic rulings about women. He did have an issue with women. It was part of who he was.

Thus, it seems a bit disingenuous to say that R’ Meir really thought women were superior to men and that the blessing is not meant to establish women as inferior to men. The Torah Temimah is connecting his halachic rulings with his life experiences. He interpreted Avraham’s blessing of “ba’kol” as not having a daughterSo while I think it is fair to say that the blessing of shelo asani isha and the dictum of nashim datan kalot are not as nefarious as some people may feel (as I have written previously: Apropos of Nothing (well… maybe something): Rabbi Julie Schonfeld Edition), I also think it is fair to be honest, and the Torah Temimah is telling us that R’ Meir in particular had a feeling about women that was negative.

I think that is unquestionably a fair inference from the Torah Temimah.

I now present a bit of speculation.

It is possible that the Torah Temimah was trying to distinguish R’ Meir’s opinion from the other rabbis. It is possible that part of the point over here is that it was R’ Meir and only R’ Meir that had these opinions about women and it came from a confluence of events and issues that arose in his life. In other words, not all rabbis agree with R’ Meir that nashim datan kalot. It was his opinion but not everyone agreed.

I admit that there are a plethora of other examples in the Talmud that portray women less than admirably. But as far as the blessing of shelo asani isha and the principle of nashim datan kalot, they may not have been as universally held as some believe. I think the Torah Temimah is trying to do this, at least obliquely. But as I said, it is speculation. Certainly, it is interesting food for thought.

What do you think?

Read the Torah Temimah here: PDF

  • Tamir Evan

    (According to Rashi in Avoda Zara, R’ Meir was challenged by his wife Bruria regarding his assertion that women had inferior minds to men …

    Actually, Rashi, in Avodah Zarah 18b, says that the “assertion that women had inferior minds to men” was made by “Chakhamim“, not necessarily R. Me’ir. Also, in Qidushin 40b, it is given by Tana de-Bei Eliyahu, as reasoning for a man not to be alone with two women.

    (apparently, the text of this Talmudic passage was in dispute).

    It was( maybe still is).Masoret ha-Shas for Menachot 43b( that the Torah Temimah is disputing) says it should say R. Yehudah, basing itself on the Tosefta for Berakhot 6:23, and the Rif and the Rosh, at the end of Ch. 9 of Berakhot. As an aside, the Soncino translation( of Menachoth, available in PDF, p. 158), follows Masoret ha-Shas, and cites a few more proof texts for it’s choice.

    What do you think?

    I think the Torah Temimah made an assertion about R. Me’ir’s attitude towards women, and then read it into the sources to confirm his assertion.
    His reasoning regarding Menachot 43b is circular: R. Me’ir stating that a man is to recite “she-Lo Asani Ishah” daily, helps show his low opinion of women, which in turn proves he is the originator of that statement( against the proof texts to the contrary).
    As for his inference of Rashi’s commentary regarding “Ma’aseh de-Beruria“, as I said, R. Me’ir is not given as the originator of “Nashim Da’tan Qalot“, but only as defending the sages who were, against Beruria’s taunt, and causing her to blunder, to prove his point.
    Also, Eitam Henkin, in “Ta’alumat Ma’aseh de-Beruria: Hatza’at Pitaron“, questions the story itself, questions it being of Rashi, and offers an alternative interpretation, which sheds a much less anti-women light on R. Me’ir.

    Regarding how universally held “Nashim Da’tan Qalot” and “she-Lo Asani Ishah” were, the lack of dissenting views in the Talmud, and especially with the latter, it’s acceptance as Halakhah le-Ma’aseh say a lot more about their universal acceptance than who the originator was( whether it was all R. Me’ir or others as well).

    • “assertion that women had inferior minds to men” was made by “Chakhamim”

      Sure. But the TT is saying something different.

      And we have a general bias towards R’ Meir in halacha. That we follow his ruling only shows that we consistently go like R’ Meir, not that his attitudes were universally held.

      • There is an anti R’ Meir bias in halacha.

        א”ר אחא בר חנינא גלוי וידוע לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם שאין בדורו של רבי מאיר כמותו ומפני מה לא קבעו הלכה כמותו שלא יכלו חביריו לעמוד על סוף דעתו שהוא אומר על טמא טהור ומראה לו פנים על טהור טמא ומראה לו פנים

        Eruvin 13b.

  • Malka

    I have a major problem with what you are saying- if R’ Meir had personal problems with women, as you say, due to the behavior of his wife, how could he be allowed to establish the bracha of “shelo asani isha”? He was doing it out of his own negative feelings towards women and now, for all intents and purposes, Jewish men have to agree with him every morning? I personally struggle with the attitude towards women found in sacred texts like the Mishna and Gemara. Now you’re telling me that the men who wrote them were not objective and impartial and didn’t even TRY to be when setting forth what they believed.

    • I hear what you are saying.

      Personally, I don’t expect the rabbis of 2000 years ago to have progressive attitudes towards women. All I am saying here is that R’ Meir was excessive in that he would be one to bless being a man over a woman.

      • Malka

        I wouldn’t expect them to have progressive attitudes towards women either- except when it affects ME today in 2012. If R’ Meir was being excessive, then why is the bracha included in Birchos HaShachar and every man required to say it? Either we can look at R’ Meir as a talmid chacham who was doing something important for the good of Klall Yisrael by including the bracha, or he was swayed by his own feelings and acting, I don’t know, vindictively? Out of anger? If that is the case, why was the bracha included?

        • Because we “pasken” like R’ Meir. His students were the custodians of Torah.

          • E_F_Shaar

            Why is this not like accepting what Mark Sanchez says about the wildcat offense as the final authority?

          • Malka

            My difficulty is in understanding WHY we pasken like someone who so clearly had an agenda. Admittedly, I’m no Torah scholar, but I was taught throughout my Bais Yaakov upbringing that the rabbis who wrote the Mishna and Gemara were operating through RUach HaKodesh and setting down halachos that are a part of our Mesorah. So either the implication here is G-d hates women just as much as R’ Meir did or R’ Meir created this bracha as a way to express his anger at his wife. Why should I keep any halacha that is D’Rabanan, knowing that? It’s clearly biased and not in my favor.

  • G*3

    Historically it has usually been women who were seen as hopelessly lustful (as opposed to the current paradigm that sees men as skirt-chasers). Based on your post, it seems R’ Meir held that “nashim da’atan kalos” refers to women’s lack of sexual self-control, rather than implying that they are less intelligent (the way I’ve usually seen it translated).

    R’ Meir himself seems like a real piece of work. His wife challenged his assertion that her sex is inferior, so he entrapped her by having a young man seduce her, and drove her to suicide? Even assuming that he didn’t mean for her to kill herself, that’s an awful story.

    But R’ Meir was a taana, so he must have been a tzaddik, right? Even if he violates lifnie ever. It’s a great value system. You can cause your wife to commit an avierah that’s yarag v’lo yaver and kill herself, and you can still be a respected contributor to the gemara. His rebbe questions the party line, and he’s vilified.

    • You are correct. We learned in the Daf another application of Datan Kalot as it applied to a woman being interrogated by authorities. Rashby hid in a cave because he was afraid his wife would betray him – since her daat was kalah.

      (I admit that the entire Bruria episode needs severe explanation…)

      • Sam

        The Bruria episode needs no “severe explanation” unless you subscribe to feminist theology.

        • Trapping one’s wife into having an affair is normal behavior?! Where?

          • Sam

            She wasn’t trapped into having an affair. She had no affair. He pulled the plug on the ploy once he proved his point (and before anything was consummated.)

            • Would you do this to your wife?! Would you be totally cool with your father if he did this to your mother?!

              • Sam

                I defer to Chazal on this. Chazal cite this incident without criticism.

                • So how would they explain it?

                  • Sam

                    The fact that they cite it without criticism, demonstrates that Chazal were okay with the ploy R. Meir engaged in to make his point. (Therefore you ought not imply it was wrong.)

                    • I didn’t imply it was wrong. I explicitly stated that it needs a severe explanation. It still does.

                    • Sam

                      What do you mean by “severe” and why does it need a “severe” explanation rather than simply an explanation, if you concede there is nothing to criticize regarding R. Meir’s ploy?

                    • Severe because I find the behavior egregious on its face.

                    • Sam

                      So you are saying you personally think it seems egregious on its face but concede there is nothing wrong with it (as Chazal didn’t.)

                    • I’m not so sure what Chazal felt. The story is brought in Rashi, not the Gemara.

                    • … and we know what the Rambam thinks of people who take any aggadic story as historical, anyway. A position shared by the Ramban, the Maharasha, Maharal, R’ Hirsch, R’ Yisrael Salanter, etc… but the Rambam goes so far as to ridicule literalists. The question would then be how people felt it was okay to teach a lesson using such a story. Not a question on Rav Meir, but on Rashi’s sources.

                      The accepted position is R’ Nisim Gaon‘s which better fits the gemara and gets R’ Meir off the hook. In it, R’ Meir flees the Romans, who killed his father in law, sold his mother in law into slavery, and his sister-in-law to a brothel. They rescue the sister-in-law, but then had to go on the lam — together! I say it’s the “accepted position”, because there is even a minhag to use the name “Beruriah” — which implies her innocence.

                    • MarkSoFla

                      because there is even a minhag to use the name “Beruriah” — which implies her innocence.

                      I wonder if the spelling difference between ברוריא and ברוריה is done to teach us anything? In one case, where innocence is presumed, the name has shem Hashem embedded in it, and in the other case, where innocence is not presumed, it does not.

                    • I am more inclined to give the mundane answer that it’s regional. The Bavli quotes רבי עקיבא, the Yerushalmi and medrashim tend to spell it רבי עקיבה.

                    • MarkSoFla

                      I was just adding a little drash 🙂

                    • s

                      I have some trouble with your comment, Micha. 1) There is nothing R. Meir needs to get “off the hook”, as you so ineloquently put it. And 2) Beruriah needs nothing to “imply her innocence.” There was never anything to assume she was actually, l’maaisa, guilty of C”V.

                    • According to Rashi’s version of why R’ Meir left Bavel, he would have been guilty of being mesayeia two people lidvar aveirah, and those two people of adultery. We can’t suspend judgment and say that chazal is telling us not to trust our ethical instinct because the story as told has all the major characters violating halakhah as well.

                      It’s a case of the mesayeia lidvar aveira, not lifnei iver, but the basic point was already made by a very angry G*3. My response is that (1) we have no reason to believe the exile itself was being asserted as historical fact, never mind Rashi’s explanation thereof; and (2) Rashi’s explanation was not the one that won over normative Jewish thought.

                    • s

                      “Rashi’s explanation was not the one that won over normative Jewish thought.”

                      Says Micha. But on what basis? Rashi’s explanation is the most famously taught and explained about Bruria. Indeed, Rashi’s explanation is the normative Jewish thought.

                    • I gave my basis… The name Beruriah is accepted among girls’ names, and in fact in some communities rabbanim made a point of using the name so as to untarnish Rebbetzin Meir’s reputation.

                      As for what people teach and explain today… People today do not invest enough time on machashavah to bother looking beyond Rashi. That doesn’t mean baalei machashavah did side with Rashi on this in any numbers. E.g. R’ Hutner is among those who named their daughter after Beruriah. (We can agree he was one of 20th cent Orthodoxy’s more philosophical rabbis?)

                      Other examples of this reliance on Rashi rather than learning the whole sugya when it comes to aggadita: Insisting Rivqa was a 3 year old who could draw water for people and camels; the notion that the avos kept all the mitzvos, even as our rabbis would later rule and legislate, etc… We often hear “everyone” today repeat the opinion Rashi offers when it’s not the only opinion in Chazal, nor the majority opinion amongst rishonim and earlier acharonim.

                      Side-note about R’ Nissim Gaon’s story… Beruriah’s father was indeed killed by the Romans according to Rashi’s source as well. She was the daughter of R’ Chanania ben Teradion, one of the 10 Harugei Malkhus.

                    • G*3

                      > he basic point was already made by a very angry G*3

                      Doesn’t really matter, but for the record, I’m not angry. More baffled, and a bit frustrated.

                    • Sam

                      Rashi made his commentary with knowledge of and consideration of what Chazal indicated about the incident.

                    • Based on what do you say this?

                    • Sam

                      What I said is obvious about any Rashi.

                    • curious george

                      But chazal didn’t say anything about the mayseh. It was only alluded to.

                • curious george

                  Actually, chazal covered up the story. They just allude to something that happened which caused him to leave town. Rashi on that daf talks about it. He must have had a mesorah about it. AFAIK the deatasil do not appear in shas. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

  • MarkSoFla

    Sometimes it appears as if we forget that Chazal were men, and like all men, they make mistakes, sometimes egregious ones.

  • E_F_Shaar

    What bugs me most is the use of “Q” – Qabala, Qidushin, (l’havdil) Quran. Who made this switch? I bet it was a woman…

    • I love the Q. If it wasn’t so pretentious, I would definitely use it.

      • It is useful to produce as few homonyms among transliterated words as possible. It’s useful to know whether a person is writing “kol” (all) and “qol” (sound. It also helps those of us from whom spelling correctly doesn’t come naturally (“Lysdexics of the world, untie!”) to have as algorithmic of a mapping from Hebrew to English transliteration as possible. At least, it does for me.

        I/J, K, L, M, N have their origins in the Phoenician versions of yud, kaf, lamed, mem and nun, whereas Q, R, S, T derive from quf, reish, shin, tav. So why spell both kaf and quf identically?

        • I agree. I just don’t use it because it rankles people. 🙂

          • A generation that suffers too much mitzvos anashim meilumada needs a regular dosage of rankling.

  • I have two problems:

    1- This is historical school. If the majority had thought that R’ Meir erred in commenting on a subject in which he lacked the ability to be fully objective, why would the comment be preserved as Torah?

    The Torah Temimah himself, OTOH, is often “accused” of being lulled by the truthiness and intellectual elegance of his own chiddushim. There are yeshivos where his chumash is actively dis-recommended. I personally would faster assume RBE lost his objectivity than to assume R’ Meir did and that his bias slipped through the multi-century review process between his lifetime and the compilation of shas.

    2- To fully understand Chazal’s portrayal, one must contrast “nashim, daatan kalos” with “Binah yeseirah nitenah be’ishah yoser miba’ish.” Clearly Chazal are describing cognitive differences, superior in one way, inferior in another. One can write a book on the numerous opinions about what da’as and binah are and how they differ. And, for that matter, we would have to understand the difference between da’as being “lighter” and had it been described as lesser.

    But apparently, the role of judge and of legal interpreter were deemed by the Author of halakhah to be more suitable for someone with a weightier da’as than someone who has more binah. That doesn’t mean that a da’as orientation is superior overall that one could claim there is an assumption of male cognitive superiority overall.

    -micha (author of Aspaqlaria blog, with a “q”)

    • Two responses:

      1) You might be right that RBE is wrong. The issue is not whether he is right or wrong. The issue is what he was trying to do. And I think the was trying to soften the blow of nashim datan kalot. (But as I noted earlier, Torah was passed through R’ Meir’s students, so it is possible his attitude was transferred to his students.)

      2) That is only one aspect of the overall picture. The truth is that the phrase datan kalot is used in an objectively negative way at least in a few places.

      • ruvie

        why can’t you accept the simple premise of trying to explain(RBE) why r’ meir would believe in not having a daughter be a blessing. so he connects the dots to possible (forced) readings of other r’ meir sayings. using the embarrassment of his wife – maaseh bruria (whatever it was) – to think women are not such a positive thing in the world (though necessary). his focus is sheko asani ishah – as a negative and not as they are a higher spiritual level- not datan kolot.

        your reasoning of tt view to soften nashim datan kolot seems forced at best because of your own morals in trying to understand it.

    • s

      Who is “RBE”?

      • Rabbi Baruch Epstein, author of the Torah Temimah.

        • s

          Thanks. Got it. 🙂

      • Guest

        I was about to post almost exactly the same thing, but spelling his name “R’ Barukh”… (I reserve “ch” for ches.)

        • That’s messed up. I wrote the above!

        • S

          Micha: So you use the Sephardic pronounciation for chuf?

          • No. And I pronounce kaf and quf identically. However, the reader will know which word is intended if I keep the spelling distinct.

    • s

      Oh. Rabbi Baruch Epstein, author of the Torah Temimah.

    • MarkSoFla

      If the majority had thought that R’ Meir erred in commenting on a subject in which he lacked the ability to be fully objective, why would the comment be preserved as Torah?

      Because politics existed back than just like it does today. And in some cases, even when the majority has a different, more correct, opinion, those who have the political power often win out.

      • I mentioned it’s historical school. If you think the gemara is the product of people as petty as we are, Orthodox halachic methodology lacks validation. The premise behind halakhah is that we’re grasping intellectually at ideas earlier generations had internalized at a gut, preconscious, level. And therefore Chazal’s opinions matter more than ours.

        If you lack that emunas chakhamim, this particular topic becomes only one of many issues.

        • That’s not how the Rambam understands Chazal’s authority.

          • The Rambam speaks in legal terms… They have binding authority because their opinions were universally accepted by the observant community.

            I’m speaking in philosophical terms… Why should we be bound by something our ancestors accepted over today’s opinions if the sages of yore weren’t greater in both number and wisdom to our rabbis today?

            • Philosophy is not relevant when there is a legal explanation.

              • Only if you think the law makes no sense. Hillel’s answer to the convert implies that at least some sense, even on a human level of understanding, is to be expected. (Never mind works like the Chinukh or Horeb, or part of the third section of the Moreh Nevuchim, which actively seek such sense.)

                • You misunderstood me. The relevance of philosophy is only to explaining or appreciating mitzvos. It is not relevant to the binding nature of Torah she’baal peh.

                  • I think the misunderstanding was mutual. I’m saying that someone who doesn’t believe that chazal are more likely to get halakhah right and to eliminate petty concerns from the halahic process than we are has little emotional or philosophical motivation to stay within classical / Orthodox halachic process and its conclusions.

                    Once you’re willing to say that shas (the talmud) is as prone to petty politicking as Shas (the political party), then your own belief system has drifted from justifying Orthodoxy.

        • MarkSoFla

          If you think the gemara is the product of people as petty as we are, Orthodox halachic methodology lacks validation.

          I’m not sure what you mean by this. The Rabbis in the gemara were people, and among people, some are less petty (for example, Hillel), and some are more petty (for example, Shammai). Daf Yomi just a week or two ago has 3 people strongly criticizing Shammai for what could be considered pettiness while praising Hillel for tolerance.

          What does “lacks validation” mean? Are you saying that a system of laws set up by someone who is petty is less valid than one set up by someone who is less petty? What if the more petty person has better training and knowledge in the creation of that aspect of law?

          If you lack that emunas chakhamim

          I guess it all depends on how you define “emunas chachamim”.

          • I think you mean “Beis Hillel” and “Beish Shammai” — Hillel and Shammai themselves rarely debated. The talmud discusses the generation break between the teachers and their schools. So any apparent difference in their approaches wouldn’t explain the split in halachic perspective of the students.

            Hillel was the nasi, it was his job to make things happen for people. Shammai was the av beis din, it was his job to represent cold hard law. The answers they gave the people who came for conversion has nothing to do with which was more petty, but each doing what was appropriate for their job.

            But what you say isn’t true of Beis Shammai either… They once forced, probably with literal threats of violence, a vote to end some contentious points of dispute and kept going even after their position lost one vote after another. They placed the resolution of halachic disputes that were splitting the people ahead of winning.

  • On the Facebook comment chain, our host asks:
    “You really think women just sat on the sidelines and loved every second of it?”

    Perhaps pre-modern people realized that seeking the limelight wasn’t about finding more religious fulfillment, but the opposite. In the ideal, men too would view the rabbinate as a necessary evil, self-sacrifice for the sake of the masses. As R’ Heschel Schachter notes, tzeni’us is why men are supposed to decline the invitation to be chazan until the third time they are asked. (A halakhah I routinely violated for the sake of the gabbaim’s time and frustration threshold.) Taking the amud is a duty, not a privilege.

    Okay, people still are people and enjoy being in the center of attention, in positions of more overt power or influence. But that doesn’t mean we allowed ourselves to conflate that with being “more religious”.

  • Rachel Hershberg

    I think that “datan nashim kalos” means that women can be total idiots. Men can too, of course, but in a different way.
    Rachel Hershberg
    Beit Shemesh

    • Rachel

      And I’ll add – it’s a good thing I’ve already been frum for almost twenty years, because if I heard Rashi’s story about R. Meir and Bruria beforehand, I’d have run screaming. I mean, what kind of a thing is that?

      • MarkSoFla

        Kiruv people are generally very careful not to let certain things out of the bag [too early in the process].

  • MarkSoFla

    Apparently there have been other scholarly inquiries, here’s one –

  • milhousetrabajo

    R Meir was one wild and crazy Tannah…

  • Rabbi Fink,

    This is the way I understand Rabi Meir and his Mehalech.

    The Gemara in Eiruvin (13b) seems to indicate that Rabi Meir was unmatched in his abilities. However, the Halacha generally does NOT accord with him because his colleagues could not understand him.

    (I think that when you say the Halacha is like him, you are referring to when he is quoted anonymously – Stam Mishna, so that R. Yehudah HaNasi could establish the Halacha like him in those specific cases as the widely held view).

    The world has 2 extremes when dealing interpersonally – truth and sensitivity (Shalom, if you will). “Does this make me look fat?”, or as Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel argue, do we say “Kallah Naeh Vachasudah” or “Kallah K’mos Shehee”? When you deal with the esoteric and philosophical, you talk more to the deep truth that is there, while when you are giving Chizuk to a person, it’s not the proper time to give the dose of truth, but rather sensitivity and understanding.

    When we relate to the world, us human beings do so with different mixtures of looking at the “real” world and looking at the deeper world. Halacha is decided as to what the proper Mehalech is in order to traverse the world in the way that is most enriching. R. Meir and Rashbi saw a much deeper truth in the world. Not to say that the other Tannaim were incorrect – it is all part of the truth of Torah. The question of the Halacha is what is the practical balance that needs to be struck here. R. Meir and Rashbi’s approaches were too far out to be sustainable for the community (See Brachos 35b – Harbeh Asu KRashbi Vlo alsa biyadam).

    To me it seems that in the story of Rabi Meir he was trying to prove a point to Bruriah. Unwittingly, the truth of the “win” came at the cost of Bruriah’s self respect. As far as the Bracha of Shelo Asani Isha, going with the version that indeed it is R. Meir who is the source, it is not a sense of pettiness or an issue with women that prompted it – Chazal specifically distanced themselves from allowing that into the Tefillah, as evidenced from the fact that Shmuel HaKattan was the one to formulate the Bracha of the Minim in the Amidah. As was pointed out by Micha Berger, the Bracha would not have been accepted by his colleagues if it was a merely a bias that wasn’t shared by them.

    As to R. Meir’s position on Bakol: see the Ramban who also grappled with this and answers that the Bracha of not having a daughter was the fact that Avraham did not have to deal with the absence of Shidduch prospects at the time.

    • What about the fact that R’ Meir would have violated mesayeia lidvar aveira according to Rashi’s version of the events?

      Second, if we’re trusting Rashi over an earlier source about the events in question, then trust Rashi that “shelo asani ishah” is thanking G-d for getting more chiyuvim.

      It should also be noted that while the version of the three berakhos that we adopted is not R’ Meir’s in the Bavli. Ours is Rabbi Yehudah’s berakhos as per the Yerushalmi (Berakhos 9:1, vilna 63b). And Rashi’s source for saying it’s about the number of berakhos is the very same quote!

      תני רבי יהודה אומר שלשה דברים צריך אדם לומר בכל יום ברוך שלא עשאני גוי ברוך שלא עשאני בור ברוך שלא עשאני אשה. ברוך שלא עשאני גוי שאין הגוים כלום כל הגוים כאין נגדו. ברוך שלא עשאני בור שאין בור ירא חטא. ברוך שלא עשאני אשה שאין האשה מצווה על המצוות.

      The Torah Temimah is saying they’re really two girsa’os describing one shitah, but then it’s R’ Meir who said “she’ein ha’ishah metzuvah al hamitzvos”, leaving him no room for theorizing.

  • Check this Shelo ‘Asani Isha – the Status of Women in Tora Judaism WRITTEN BY HARAV
    WEDNESDAY, 26 JANUARY 2011 12:32
    In his book On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations, HaRav Professor Daniel Sperber reviews some of the criticism levelled against the blessing recited by men thanking Hashem “for not creating me a woman” (Shelo ‘Asani Isha).

    While agreeing that such a debate is legitimate, HaRav David Bar-Hayim demonstrates that many of the arguments often adduced in support of those who would have the b’rakha expunged from sidurim (prayer books) are not.

    The Rav states that the issue needs to be addressed head-on, with intellectual honesty and rigour, not with disingenuous and apologetic claims. Tora Jews must be sincere, open-minded and willing to consider changing realities. That being said, the view that the b’rakha should be dropped must be rooted in a Tora-based imperative. Tora Jews are loyal to the spirit of the Tora, not the spirit of the times.

    Should a man thank Hashem for not creating him a woman if he doesn’t honestly feel grateful for this fact? The Rav answers in the negative. A b’rakha uttered without sincere kawana is of no value.

    Can a woman who wishes to wear a tallith or tefillin do so? The Rav answers in the affirmative, with one proviso: that her intention be to do Hashem’s will, not to make a point. A Jew performs a Misswa because it is Hashem’s Will; any other motivation is unacceptable.

    Download Part One

    Download Part Two

    • R’ David bar Hayim has an idiosyncratic view of the role of accepted pesaq and of minhag. He is the one trying to restore Nusach Eretz Yisrael, based on quotes in the Yerushalmi and fragments in the Cairo Geniza. (I’m not sure how — there are at least 4 different nusachos for the Amidah in the Geniza, and the Yerushalmi doesn’t quote tefillah often enough to choose in most cases. But that is a different discussion.)

      But someone who doesn’t think “because that’s the baseline of all nusachos today” gives what we — from Yekkes to Yemenites — agree upon about Seder Rav Amram Gaon special authority isn’t going to have the usual arguments for keeping berakhos we can’t relate to in the book.

      Besides, I thought the point of the siddur is to teach us what to aspire to relate to, not “just” list how to express what I’m thankful for.

      On a second note, his proviso makes human motivation a boolean thing. Ever since the tree of knowledge, people decide to do things based on a mix of motivations. But let’s say he meant that a woman may wear tallis or tefillin if her primary intention is to do Hashem’s will. Are most people capable of assessing for themselves how much of their motivation is from a positive place, and how much is self-serving? If this were true, the psychology industries would be far smaller. And advertising would become miniscule.

  • yehuda amitai

    Is there a correlation between the Q, W, SS etc users and slightly to the left comments here ?

    • I would distinguish between “q”, which is academic usage, and “ss” which could be from any of the Edot haMizrach and “w” which shows a faith in Yemenite accent. My bet is that those who use all three are more likely to be textualist, “Qaraites” of the Rambam or Talmud Bavli, who want to fix things. There aren’t too many commentors on-line who are transliterating Yemenite because it’s their tradition.

      And if they want to fix things, then they’re of the sort who think the norm is broken. So, yes, the greater likelihood of being on the left makes sense.

      That said, I’m a “q” user who wears a kapote on Shabbos and Yom Tov. “Correlation” doesn’t mean the rule is reliable. Especially without the full suite of emendations.


  • Ari Kahn

    The only “tradition” we have of the sordid story of Brueria is that statement found in Rash. We do not have his source, I once discussed this Rashi with Prof. D Sperber – who raised some questions regarding the use of language in the Rashi – and said he has questions weather the story is authentically a part of Rashi – or somehow added on – this was his supposition – perhaps he will write about this. The other part of the story is the tale of Rabbi Meir’s “fall” which is real poetic justice for the Brueria story. see Seder Hadorot under letter “m” (page 507 in the edition I have at home) there is a note there stating that the Gra rejects the authenticity of this latter story

    • The only “tradition” we have of the sordid story of Brueria is that statement found in Rash. We do not have his source

      But the TT seemed to think it was authoritative. I only mention this because we are discussing HIS state of mind, not the objective truth.

      there is a note there stating that the Gra rejects the authenticity of this latter story

      See above. 🙂

      • Ari Kahn

        did you look up the story?

  • curious george

    Rabbi FInk, please help me understand… If everyone else disagreed with the notion of nashim datan kalos and if the bracha of shelo asani isha is linked to that concept, how come everyone agreed to say the bracha of shelo asani isha?

    • curious george

      I just went through all the comments. Seems I’m late to the party as I see some people have offered their answers to this.

      One answer is that he had political power. (Perhaps we could back that assertion up by chazal’s own statement about R”M continuing to learn from Achere – “If not for the fact that you are R”M we would have put you in cherem.”

      Rav Yisroel Salanter would not be happy with this whole discussion. He wrote that Shamai could have been just as caring as Hillel. His behavior was a result of his psak about kavod haTorah. And IIRC he writes there that all of chazal were like that. – Clearly the TT disagrees. He writes that R”M’s psak came from his mindset.

      Rabbi Fink I realize that you are just trying to understand things from the TT’s position, but really, isn’t his position seriously flawed? If an halacha is based on a subjective personal view, and when the majority disagrees and yet it gets fixed into law for thousands of years because of politics and power, why keep that halacha? Either we shouldn’t or the TT got it wrong.

      • Yossi Solomon

        The Mishna is uniquely didactive (sic? ) it gives no reason or rhyme for its laws

        the Gemoroh in contrast is deductive and runs in total contrast to the mishna.

        it will therefore override the tannaic law when the standard code off logic and inference is used.

        However, it still needs to work within the limits already set by the mishna

        therefore, even if Rabbi meir was the author of the brocho S.A. ISHA etc even if the majority disagreed, his ruling would
        still have passed.
        that’s not too say that it was unanimously accepted just because the bracha remained as part of our daily teffilot

        either from personal experiences, genetics, and especially from the local culture they were immersed in.

        we think today as contemporary 21st century westerners.

        the tannaim and ammoraim, particularly those that lived in the highly Helenized culture of Roman occupied Israel.

        ie,rabbi Yehudah who as confirmed wrote the litany of the contentious morning Brochot.
        ironically I recently read that the brochot were actually plagiarized from the early Greeks

        they used to have a common ditty

        Thanks that I’m not a women ( perceived as passive and not like the appreciated active male)

        Thanks that I’m not a slave

        and thanks that I’m not a Barbarian ( they called them that, as their language sounded like “”! etc

        Ironic enough,
        that the original version from rabno eunuchs states… he did not make me a “BUR”
        meaning obviously the original Barbarian..

        however Rashi translates the word as בור meaning ignaramous … therefore we praise Hashem that we
        are not stupid as him!

        obviously in the final cut… the original Barbarian and it’s Hebrew misinterpretation were edited out.

        obviously RE is an apologist, but at least for his part I can say that I admire the Rov, for going against the
        NON subjective anti feminist norms, and has his own moral convictions and personal ethical compass
        that makes him unique by not jumping on the bandwagon, and by sticking his neck out..

        and noch three weeks in a row.