Women Wearing Tefillin Is Really Not Such a Big Deal

  • 0

I wouldn’t quite call it a trend, but a growing number of women and girls in the Orthodox Jewish community are interested in wearing tefillin publicly. Two Modern Orthodox schools have made public statements that indicate they will allow, not encourage or discourage, their students to wear tefillin.

This has generated a lot of discussion, mostly negative, from within the Orthodox Jewish community. Some of the JewsNews sites have reported this bit of news in a very negative way. Some, to the very liberal side of Orthodox Judaism have embraced the decision.

The halachic background is not overly complex. Technically, tefillin should fall into the same category as all other time bound mitzvos. Lulav, Shofar, Sukkah, and daily prayer are also time bound mitzvos and are voluntary for women. The conclusion in the Talmud exempts women from tefillin. Some rishonim explicitly permit tefillin for women. Some explicitly prohibit it. The Rema famously discourages it. That is, he does not prohibit it, he just advises against it. Some of the Achronim explain why it would be prohibited or advised against. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some people are assuming their intentions are less than perfect. That’s complete conjecture and not something worth discussing. But I think the halachic arguments are important. I also think that working out whether it’s permitted or prohibited is vital. But I think it’s misplaced in the context of the current issue. The discussion right now should not be whether it’s good policy or against our best interests to allow women to wear tefillin.

Instead, the discussion should be whether we tolerate women who want to wear tefillin in Orthodox Judaism. In other words, even if I disagree with their decision, is this something worth the cost of declarations and opinions that cast these women and these institutions in a negative light?

We already disagree on plenty of things and we can get along just fine. Some eat kitniyos on Pesach, others do not. Some use the eruv, some do not. Some open soda cans on Shabbos, others do not. Some visit rebbes and ask for blessings, others do not. Some go to Uman, others do not. Some say Kabbalas Shabbos, others do not. Some do Yom Kippur Katan, others do not. Some do every segula, some do none. There are literally hundreds of things that already divide us in practice. Yet we are capable of carrying on as a group. I don’t see why a few women putting on tefillin should be such a drastic decision that it means more than eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres vs. not eating in the Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres.

In other words, what are the stakes here? And why are they being presented as so great? What is going to happen if a few women wear tefillin? What’s the dire consequence that we must avoid at all costs?

I don’t see it. I think those who don’t want women to wear tefillin should just not wear tefillin or even teach their daughters that they don’t think they should wear tefillin. But I don’t see how doing a mitzvah can make someone unorthodox.

If an opponent of women wearing tefillin found out his daughter started wearing tefillin, would the daughter be disowned? I can’t imagine. So why are we disowning other daughters?

The opposition must identify something objectively wrong that will happen if we tolerate a few women wearing tefillin. Or even if we tolerate many women wearing tefillin. Until they’ve done so, I don’t think we can allow this difference to divide us. We’ve been able to avoid completely breaking apart over a million other things. I don’t accept that this particular issue is so vital that it must break us up now.

  • yeshivaguy

    the rema does not just discourage women from wearing tefillin. He actually says ואם הנשים רוצים להחמיר על עצמן מוחין בידם. And those who protest against women wearing tefillin today are doing just that. Nevertheless, I don’t think that screaming “feminists!!! they’re out to destroy yiddishkeit!!!” will do us any good. On the other hand, it makes us look pretty bad. If my daughter told me that she wanted to wear tefillin, I would reply “sure, but first you have to learn hilchos tefillin.” I would then proceed to learn all of the simanim in shulchan aruch hilchos tefillin with her, and would predict that after 2 or 3 simanim she may decide she would rather learn hilchos hafrashas challa. 🙂

    • The Rema is an opinion. But if he wanted to say assur, he might have said assur. He didn’t because you can’t assur a mitzvah.

      • Shlomo

        On the contrary, “mochin” is stronger than “assur”!

        Look at SA OH 608:2 where both “ein mochin” and “mochin” are used to refer to forbidden actions. In the case of “ein mochin” our justification for not protesting is “better that they sin unintentionally than intentionally”. But in the case of “mochin”, the violation is so severe that we cannot allow that, we must prevent them.

        Also look at SA OH 616:2 where we say “mochin” when somebody is endangering their life.
        And the Rama is not just “an opinion”. When not contradicted by Ashkenazi achronim, his is generally considered to be the definitive opinion for Ashkenazi psak. In particular, there are cases where the Rama represents a lenient minority opinion on which we rely. If we are to accept those leniencies and also permit tefillin to Ashkenazi women, then we come under the gemara’s principle that “one who relies on the leniencies of Beit Shammai and the leniencies of Beit Hillel is called evil.”

  • G*3

    The reason this is an issue has nothing to do with halacha.

    Orthodoxy holds that new things are bad. Women wearing tefillin is new (the one or two historical examples notwithstanding). Therefore women wearing tefillin is bad. QED

    • llennhoff

      Oddly, I take the opposite position. Every couple of centuries some rabbi somewhere needed to come out and say it was a bad idea for women to wear tefillin. I doubt they would prohibit something no one was doing. Consequently I assert there is a viable case to be made for a small number of women wearing tefillin down through the ages. It isn’t a new invention,

      • G*3

        That’s a good point.

  • Ipcha

    What I don’t understand is why these feminists in the far left of Orthodoxy keep pushing for these changes. I can understand the idea of a halachic prenup. But lets say they got everything else they wanted; women rabbis, women shlucha tzibbors, women reading the torah, women wearing tefillin, and whatever else they are trying to change. Would their experience in Judaism really be all that different at that point? Would these modern Orthodox women suddenly find themselves with much better lives since they have now been finally freed from these terrible shackles of oppression? I don’t think hardly anything would really change for them in any really important or meaningful way.

    The modern Orthodox women already for all intents and purposes have complete equal rights in daily living within Jewish society and in everyday interactions. So I don’t understand why they keep trying to pushing for all of this. In fact,many of the women in these communities are strong outspoken and confident, letting everyone know their opinions, while many of the men are thin meek and soft spoken. One woman complained to a friend of mine that too many modern Orthodox men whom she meets are “metro sexual mama’s boys.” This label in my opinion applies to many men in modern Orthodoxy today. The feminists don’t realize that they’ve already won, and I believe they are inadvertently encouraging their men to be quiet and submissive.

    Don’t take these last vestiges of manhood from so many of your men, and if anything try to encourage the men to wear the pants in the relationship, and take charge, and let their wives feel that they have a real man taking care of them. Why don’t these women focus on all the other much more severe commandments that deal with with bein adam lechavairo. Let them use that energy to focus on the extremely important commandments that involve being more kind, and uprooting bad character traits. I really think these small changes that are being pushed for are such a waste of time in the end.

    • Wow.

      • Josh

        Its like this guy came straight from the r/redpill section of Reddit. Jeez.

        Nice post btw, I agree – people are trying fit every bit of ‘news’ nowadays involving Modern Orthodoxy into a schismogenetic hueristic. See here for that: http://azure.org.il/include/print.php?id=586

    • anon

      tell me something, are you a modern orthodox women? if not than shut the hell up because you sound like a jackass

      • Ipcha

        It doesn’t matter if I am an Orthodox woman or not. Try to avoid ad hominems and insults, and if you don’t like what I wrote, then be civil and tell me why you disagree.

        • JimChaplin

          It actually does. Because you say, “The modern Orthodox women already for all intents and purposes have complete equal rights in daily living within Jewish society and in everyday interactions.” Besides being inherently false for the very reason this article is talking about (if we were all completely equal, then women would wear t’fillin), it’s amazing that you have decided this to be the case without polling women. It’s an amazing stretch, and a false one. Even opponents of women wearing t’fillin–a valid argument to have IMO–wouldn’t say that men and women have complete equal rights. HaShem created men and women differently, so they have different rights and roles. Your whole post is almost as if you were going for satire.

          • Ipcha

            It does not matter if I am an Orthodox man or woman. The only thing that would matter at all is if I have spoken to many Orthodox women in regard to equality. And you are making a huge assumption that I have not spoken to numerous women in this regard, or that I have not served as a rabbi and counselor in a shul in any capacity. So no, it actually doesn’t matter if I am a man or woman.

            And if you want to get technical, the phrase “for all intents and purposes” can be used to mean “‘it isn’t actually true but it it so close to being so that we may proceed as though it is'” or “for the most part.” So yes, in everyday Jewish living, modern Orthodox women for the most part have the same rights as men do, just as Jewish men and Cohanim for the most part have the same rights although there are some differences. I don’t consider whether one can put on teffillin or separate challah, or lights shabbos candles, or go to mikveh, or have a bris as being of such huge import that these differences would be defined as not having equal rights. As a whole, in social and communal interactions, they have equal rights, with some small differences.

            And I really do wish my post was satire.

            • JimChaplin

              I apologize for the late response but I’m not on the internet as much as I should be…

              Your whole argument is faulty. You could the president of the RCA and the rabbi of the largest Orthodox congregation in the world and the number of women you would have spoken to would still be a drop in the ocean. You claim that men & women are equal in the eyes of Torah Yiddishkeit. Fine, that’s your opinion. But the fact that we say a bracha “sheh lo asani Isha” means the Chachmim disagree you with you. That doesn’t mean that women “deserve” to do all the mitzvot that HaShem commanded that men do, but your being awfully cheeky saying with certainty that men & women are equal. Even if it wasn’t for Birchot HaShachar, if enough women who are B’not Torah disagree with you (even if you haven’t personally spoken with them), then it just isn’t true.

              And Cohanim and Yisroaelim are definitely are not equal. I will never be able to do the Avodah in the Beit HaMikdash (beemharah b’yamenu). Cohanim are held to a higher level of kidusha, even today. So we aren’t equal.

    • llennhoff

      I don’t think hardly anything would really change for them in any really important or meaningful way.
      You don’t get to decide that, they do. That is the major flaw in your post – you don’t understand why certain women want certain things, and you conclude that therefore they should not want them. How would my wife wearing tefillin, or layning from the Torah, take away my manhood? This sounds like some of the most toxic ideas of yuppie society “It is not enough that I succeed. Others must fail.” “He who dies with the most toys wins.” etc.

      • Ipcha

        When I say that hardly anything would change for them, I mean that as a whole, women will not be any freer or have any more noticeable advantages in social interactions and society within the Jewish world with these small changes.And regardless if certain individuals find some meaning in these activities, I have to ask if it is really worth it to cause such a fight and schism in Judaism and risk being labeled outside of Orthodoxy all for the sake of trying to break with the accepted mores of Orthodox Jewish life. If men began pushing that they should light shabbos candles instead of their wives I would be against that too. In the end, most movements that tried to change too many things too quickly in Orthodoxy eventually went off the deep end and lost everything. The sages made fences and rulings for a reason and they should not be lightly dismissed without a very necessary reason to do so. There is so much spirituality in Judaism, and rabbinic precedent should not have to be trampled upon in order to find the spirituality and meaning that women throughout the ages have already discovered long ago. And even if a few individuals believe they can only find a bit more meaning with tefillin alone (as opposed to a feminist agenda and a desire to get the kavod as well), it is not worth this fight and all the trouble it will cause in the end.

        As for taking away your manhood, I am not talking specifically about you. I am talking about modern Orthodox men in general. Anyone who grows up in the system may not see it. But many people coming from outside of modern Orthodoxy can see that there is something different about many modern Orthodox men (I’m not saying all Orthodox men, or even the majority, necessarily). When you compare their interactions in Orthodox society and in relationships, and you compare that to the wider American culture, there is definitely a noticeable difference.

        I’ll end with the words of noted feminist lesbian Camille Paglia. Her words ring true in the modern Orthodox world as well, in my opinion, perhaps even more so. “This PC gender politics thing—the way gender is being taught in the universities—in a very anti-male way, it’s all about neutralization of maleness.” The result: Upper-middle-class men who are “intimidated” and “can’t say anything. . . . They understand the agenda…..Politically correct, inadequate education, along with the decline of America’s brawny industrial base, leaves many men with “no models of manhood,” she says. “Masculinity is just becoming something that is imitated from the movies. There’s nothing left. There’s no room for anything manly right now.”

        • JimChaplin

          Upper class men have been called neutered males for a long time, long before feminism gained it stride. I would suggest looking at history of the effeminate male and the term “sissy”.

          • Ipcha

            Jim that may be true. But I believe that Mrs. Paglia’s point is that many if not most males today have now become this way or been effected by this trend. And I would say that in my experience, even in the upper class, there are variations of manliness among various upper class groups, some being much more effeminate than others.

        • Yes. I am intimately familiar with men from across the spectrum of Orthodox Judaism. There is nothing special about more rightwing men. Some are more feminine, others are more masculine. The idea that everyone has to conform to your version of manhood and femininity is somewhat obscene.

    • Wait, so women can’t take the last vestiges of manhood because you have a particular subjective view of manhood? Why do you get to decide?

      • Ipcha

        It may be my subjective view, but I think we can all agree that there is a spectrum of what American society would call manliness, with rough and tough, strong, Arnold Schwarzennegar-like men on one end, and effeminate, sissy and somewhat flamboyant on the other end. In American culture, there is a generally accepted middle point in which most men fall which prevents them from being labeled effeminate. While no one has to conform to my version of manhood, what I have found from most women is that they are looking for a man who is a strong and manly, or who at the very least falls in this middle range on the manliness spectrum. And what I am saying is that based on my experience in both the frum and secular worlds, and based on every single male interaction I have ever had in my life, I think I have developed somewhat of a sense of what is considered to be that middle zone of manliness for most men.

        However, after going to YU and seeing many Modern Orthodox men who have gone through the entire MO schooling system–as well as those baal teshuvas who perhaps try to emulate these MO men–I can tell you in my opinion MO men are more effeminate than the general population. I have spoken about this with a number of people, mainly those who have not grown up solely in the MO world, and I believe every single one of them agreed that there is something more effeminate and different about MO men. Sure rightwing men also have some effeminate men. But in the MO world it is much more widespread in my opinion. I don’t know where it comes from, or who these men are trying to emulate and who their role models were growing up. But when that woman complained of “metro-sexual mama’s boys” I think she hit it on the head. If you really have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, then maybe its because you were perhaps a part of that system and it blinds you from seeing the differences. Regardless, if you don’t believe me, there are many people I know you could talk with who would agree with me.

        • I was never part of YU or “that system” and I find your assessment to be completely bonkers.

          • Ipcha

            I am honestly amazed you have not noticed this in any way. Try asking women who went to Stern, or those who lived in Washington Heights, particularly those who did not go through the whole MO system, about all of this. You may change your mind.

            • Ksil

              Sounds like projecting to me. Come to grips with who you are Ipcha!

  • ThatGuyPosting

    The article pretty much just misses the point entirely. The question is *why* do some women want to wear tefillin? Is because they want to perform another no obligatory mitzvah? If so, then go ahead, kol hakavod. If it’s for equality, egalitarianism, feminism, etc. – anything at all that isn’t a pure desire to perform the non-obligatory mitzvah then they should *not* do it because they are doing it for the wrong reasons.

    • llennhoff

      If I want to keep chalav yisrael not because I believe it is required, but because it makes me feel superior to those who drinks chalav stam, should I? Or am I better off not doing it? Am I better off giving 10% of my income in tzedakah anonymously, or is it ok tog ive more publicly because I desire kavod?

      Why is it the case that women’s motivations are always subject to question whereas men’s rarely are? Have you ever seen someone suggest that the majority of men who wear Rabbenu Taam tefillin are doing it for the wrong reasons?

      Finally, you didn’t raise the concern that women should do all mandatory mitzvot perfectly before moving on to optional mitzvot. I wrote about that idea on my nearly defunct blog.

      • ThatGuyPosting

        “If I want to keep chalav yisrael not because I believe it is required, but because it makes me feel superior to those who drinks chalav stam, should I?”

        No, you should not.

        “Am I better off giving 10% of my income in tzedakah anonymously, or is it ok tog ive more publicly because I desire kavod?”

        Yes, you are better off giving it anonymously (that’s actually clear halacha that it’s always better to give tzedaka anonymously).

        “Why is it the case that women’s motivations are always subject to question whereas men’s rarely are?”

        They certainly are, men do things for the wrongs reasons all the time and they, likewise, should not. This is also a red herring because I never said or implied anything to the contrary.

        “Have you ever seen someone suggest that the majority of men who wear Rabbenu Taam tefillin are doing it for the wrong reasons?”

        Yes, I have. Again, this is another red herring.

        “Finally, you didn’t raise the concern that women should do all mandatory mitzvot perfectly before moving on to optional mitzvot.”

        Correct, I did not. I don’t think perfection is really an appropriate level to expect from anyone.

        • John Sanders

          I understand that the questions were said to you, but I think the more relevant point that is being made is that most of those reporting negatively on the tefillin “issue” have not reported on these men’s issues that happen. (Perhaps it is because they are much more common and not because of the male/female difference).

          • ThatGuyPosting

            Two wrongs do not make a right. Everything wrong should be spoken out against. The failure to speak out about some wrongs does not mean we should not speak up about any other wrongs.

            • John Sanders

              I understand, but the bias against women can still be another wrong to point out.

        • cipher

          So, you’re a posek? Do you have rabbinic backing for your statement that someone shouldn’t use cholov yisroel products if s/he is doing it for the “wrong” reasons?

          • ThatGuyPosting

            “Whosoever occupies himself with the Torah not for its own sake, it becomes to him a deadly poison” (Taanis 7a)

            There are lengthy lists of more specific examples, such as the wrong intent while giving a korban renders it pigul and prohibited, there must be a proper intent to get married otherwise the actions have no value, if you say Shema because you were practicing it as part of that week’s parasha you have not performed the mitzva, etc.

    • JimChaplin

      Except that the girls who are wearing t’fillin are not the ones announcing that they are wearing t’fillin. It was a blog that follows a different school who heard about it, asked the principal and he said he had allowed it. They then asked the principal of the school that the blog normally reports on and he said he would allow it as well. So men are the ones announcing this, not the girls. And yet the girls’ desire to wear t’fillinis being attacked. Huh?

      • ThatGuyPosting

        We don’t live in a vacuum and this article wasn’t written in a vacuum. As the author of the article says in the very first sentence, “a growing number of women and girls in the Orthodox Jewish community are interested in wearing tefillin publicly.” We know the Reform and Conservative movements exist, and we know their *stated* reasons to encourage tefillin wearing are for egalitarian reasons that have no relevance in halacha.

        To question if these girls are espousing a desire based on those invalid non-halachic grounds or on a valid and sincere desire to perform an additional non-obligatory mitzvah is entirely reasonable.

        • cipher

          It isn’t your place to question someone’s motives for wanting to perform a mitzvah. The only question, from an Orthodox perspective, is, “Is it permitted?” The answer is “Yes.”

          • ThatGuyPosting

            That’s not the right question.

            There are two questions here, and you confused the two of them by being too simplistic.

            1) Is it permitted if done for the wrong reasons? – The answer is “No.”

            2) Is it permitted if done for the right reasons? – The answer is “Yes.”

            So the only real question is “What are their reasons?”

    • It’s really not your business why anyone does anything. Would you invite an inquisition on all of your intentions?

      • ThatGuyPosting

        I never said it was my business, but, to quote you above, “I think the halachic arguments are important. I also think that working out whether it’s permitted or prohibited is vital.” And the question of whether it is permitted or prohibited revolves around the wearer’s intent. Even though that’s something you feel is “not something worth discussing.”

        • Ksil

          Mitoch shelo lishma bah lishma

  • Shlomo1

    How is this different than women learning Gemorrah Rambam and many others paskins that is a wage of time and they shouldn’t, historically women haven’t learnt formally any Torah for 900 years or so and many seminaries still won’t teach Gemorrah at all but it does occur in chareidi circles for example Chabad schools will teach it out of a Safer

  • Shlomo1

    Sorry should be waste of time not wage of time

  • Rabbi Fink, is that Barbie image yours to post without credit?!? You should attribute credit to the source (hasoferet)

  • DF

    So orthodoxy should accept homosexuals with open arms (as per your previous post) and now orthodoxy should accept girls wearing tefillin. You’re amazing. You just don’t seem to see how A leads to B, sure as night follows day. Again, you’re not using the wide angle lens, and consequently you’re not seeing the broader picture. As we in the legal profession well know, some things are judged on a case by case basis, and others are treated with a bright-line rule. It’s not, in the latter cases, that the law is stupid (though often it can be.) It’s not that it doesn’t understand “nuance.” It’s that the law recognizes on some issues you cannot get down into the weeds of individual cases, because of the impact the individual cases will have on society as a whole.

    And that, my dear friend, who I remember well from many years ago, is why older and wiser people do not speak of “tolerance”, when it comes to girls putting on tefilling. It’s not just that, as I’ve written elsewhere, “tolerance” is an excuse for the weak and wobbly, folks without a backbone. It is that, but also that in today’s times, 2014, one has to draw bright line rules around feminist issues. Not be “tolerant” of it. Not try to “analyze” it. But reject it. Without malevolence, but simply and unambiguously, reject it. The moment you deviate from the bright line, you open the floodgates to allow the forces of feminism – that have already proved so destructive of general society – into our own little orthodox world. Posts like this might get you accolodaes from the far left, but it will eventually take you away from your roots, to the Weiss-Halivni land of contrarianism and mutually-exclusive friends and shul-mates.

    • cipher

      “into our own little orthodox world”

      That really is the crux of it – protecting your own little world, your own fragile, tenuous hold on your security blanket.

      Please retreat into your cave and allow the rest of us to get on with the business of moving civilization forward.

      • DF

        Lol. I actually thought of writing a PS at the end of my comment to the effect of, “cue silly attack on me from Cipher.” Like I said, some things follow another thing like night follows day….
        in any event, I’m not sure what you mean by my “security blanket.” If you mean, “my lifestyle”, you ought to come to terms with reality instead of living in a fantasy world. Girls who put on tefillin constitute, what, .00000000000002 % of the Jewish world? I assure you, my good interlocutor, they are no threat to me nor to the orthodox way of life. (And if you’re smart and would like to extend this into something beyond merely girls wearing tefillin and into e.g., girls becoming “rabbis”, then I’m sure you know that any such creature will simply be excluded from orthodoxy by definition, and become just another reform failure, feminized now for more than 30 years.) Bekitzur, my post was addressed to R.E. Fink (not you) who went to an excellent yeshivah and should know better. My post focuses on the intellectual flaws behind enthusiastically supporting girls wearing tefillin. No one, least of all me, is concerned that the excesses of the far left will impact my – what did you call it? – “security blanket.” But thanks for the laugh.

    • I tried to address your concerns in this very post. What are your actual concerns? What is behind these floodgates? And what is the harm that feminism has caused in the secular world? You just make too many assumptions to take your comment seriously.

      Also, not sure what the LGBT article has to do with this. You mischaracterized everything that I said there. Perhaps it would help if you read it again. Unless when you say “Accept” you mean “acknowledge, and provide love and support” because that is all I ever said.

      • DF

        What is the harm that feminism has caused in the secular world? I can hardly believe you wrote that. It is no coincidence that the divorce rate began to climb higher and higher the moment Title VII laws enforcing feminism were enacted. And that is just those who actually ever get married. There are today, proportionately, more single women in the country than any other time in its history (other than in war.) Marriage has become very difficult for many, with nobody knowing their roles any more. Who’s going to drive, who’s going to prepare dinner, etc ad nauseum. And even whey get married, so many of the women, for “career” reasons either forego child rearing or postpone till they can only have one. This destruction of the basic family unit has not only eroded the moral fiber of the country, but its causing devastating economic problems, mainly down the road with social security, where there not enough children being born to propagate the system
        And I have not even addressed the social problems caused by forced equalization of school resources under Title IX, the move of the economy to a paper-pusher one to accommodate females, and much more. Nor have I spoken of how its effected the Jewish community, such as the Reform movement, where many studies have shown that men stop attending the moment women become rabbis. Nor have I spoken of how the old fashioned concept of actual “merit” as a measurement of achievement has been dropped in everything from college acceptance to scholarship to awards to job promotions, in the name of “gender quality.” It would take a thick book to even begin to address the ills directly attributable to feminism. What harm has feminism caused? How can that even be asked?
        Let me say this – if you believe feminism is wonderful, then really we have nothing to talk about. Your opinions are a little wishy-washy, but coming from where you’re coming from, they make sense. I just find it hard to accept you can believe such a thing.

        • Divorce: So it’s better for women to stay in unhappy marriages?

          Cooking: Men know how to cook too. And drive.

          Birth Rate: There is no rule that states that we must have X amount of children so that you can collect Social Security. You want to take the choice about bearing children away from women so that you can get Social Security?!

          Merit: I don’t believe that any schools have gender quotas and if they did it would be illegal.

          When women can do man things, men won’t do them: Post hoc ergo propter hoc. There are many reasons why men might not participate in reform services. But do you think that women should not own land? Or vote? Have men stopped owning land or voting?

          Look, you think feminism is terrible. I think it’s great. I don’t see how or why men should dictate women’s roles. How about this? Women can choose the kind of life they want to live and men can choose theirs. Giving one group domination over the other requires justification. There is none.

          • DF

            Again, Eliyahu, I can respond to your individual bullet points, but what would that accomplish? The first ten words of your last paragraph says it all. Mutatis mutandis (like they used to say) arguing further would be like arguing about the merits of religion,, when one person believes in God and the other doesn’t. Frankly, knowing this now your position makes no sense at all. If, as you state, “feminism is great”, you shouldn’t be writing tepidly of tolerating or understanding a girl who wants to wear tefillin – you should be shouting your full support as shrill as you can. Seriously, you ought to be putting oranges on your seder plate, and wearing empathy pouches on your belly, all day and every day. No half-way measures.

            • Read today’s post please.

  • Benignuman

    Well said.

  • just another opinion

    i think caution and care are important here. women should not be tacitly encouraged to do this. as a man, there is a feeling of discomfort; an upsetting of a tradition that is meaningful. what i don’t like is schools “allowing”. i think these schools should be much more proactive in discouraging and educating the students. do we really need a growing (Heaven forbid) group of modox girls putting tefillin? no, we really don’t. these girls should be spoken to sincerely and with care: why do you want to do this? do you want to connect with Hashem? what is the best way to do that? as a woman,, tehillim, study of tanach, education, gemilut chasadim tovim, family etc are very big ways of doing that. to the modox community: please do not tacitly encourage. please discourage and talk with these girls give them more options and education about how they can best connect with Hashem.

  • katems@live.com

    I think the reason it is viewed so negatively is because teaching women to imitate men in order to achieve “equality” is a huge mistake and diminishes the very important female role. I consider myself Modern Orthodox, but it really upsets me when I see Modernishe communities taking cues from secularism. I wrote about why I will not wear tefillin on my blog, http://challahbackgirl.com.

    • Femininity is subjective. We don’t get to impose subjective ideals on others.

      • katems@live.com

        I disagree, I feel that traditional Judaism disagrees, and I think if you want to be a proponent of open discussion, you shouldn’t shut down the opinions of those to the right of you.

        • I don’t shut down any opinions. Opine away. But if you think your subjective view is “traditional Judaism” you need to make your case that it is so and that it matters.

          • katems@live.com

            I don’t think it was particularly nice, open-minded, or called for to only respond “Wow” to another commenter. You did not lay out an argument as you are now advising me to do. Perhaps his opinion is not your cup of tea, but saying that women laying tefillin isn’t a big deal rubs plenty of people the wrong way as well.

            This will be a very abridged version of my POV. We do not recite the blessing citing creation after the birth of a child, but under the chuppah in recognition that the union of a man and a woman represents the ideal human being. This can only be so if each is uniquely different, with specific masculine and feminine traits. Traditional Judaism acknowledges these differences and allows men and women to fulfill their potential in their respective roles. Due to time constraints, I am unable to delve into all the instances this is made clear by the Sages, but to be honest, anyone familiar with the Talmud should not be surprised by my opinion. Instead, I have two bottom lines: One, I trust the Sages. I trust in the accuracy of the Oral Torah. If one is going to accuse the Rabbis of bias or misogyny, how do they trust the rulings on other matters and thus consider themselves Orthodox? Two, as MO, I am in the world but not of it. I engage with the modern world but I do not take my cues from it. I do not regard it as a coincidence that so many of these issues have arisen after feminism. Given the major branding problem of that movement and the fact that secularism hardly offers women empowerment, I refuse to believe that Orthodoxy has “catching up” to do or should emulate the secular world in any way when it pertains to gender relations.

            • yoni the yogi

              If you trust the Dages of the gemara, so go and see at.Rabbi Meir who said thst women has a chyuv to wear tefillin, plus the Rishonim who permitted it.

  • Henryedelman

    Why do you think this in an issue of cultural sensibility and not halachic methodology?

    • The two are inexorably tied.

      • Henryedelman

        Yes, but not at the expense of methodology. The Rema, the Gra, the Mishnah Berurah and the Aruch HaShulchan discourage woman wearing tefillin. No major posek has endorsed the practice and for a school principle to act contrary to established teaching is simply not the way normative halachah is decided. The concern is not with the social or cultural consequences of woman publicly wearing tefillin but with the promoting of an unhealthy autonomy in legal decision making. Normative halachah has historically depended on a hierarchy of halachic authority and legal precedent, neither of which were evidenced in this matter.

        • Even if everything you are saying is true, and to a certain degree it is, the issue here is whether it is deserving of censure. More importantly, the consequences of censure vs the consequences of non-censure. It’s clearly cultural when far greater crimes are perpetrated in our communities and no one seems to care.

          • Henryedelman

            What should be censured is the methodology. Citing gender inequality as a rational for circumscribing the halachic process will only weaken Jewish orthodoxy, not strength it. One can validate the girl’s feelings and still be critical of the halachic decision. P.S. Why only ‘to a certain degree?’