You are on page 1of 34


MicLael ]. Broyde is a Prolessor ol Law at Emory \niversity ScLool ol
Law, was tLe Iounding Rabbi ol tLe Young Israel in Atlanta, and is a
Dayan in tLe BetL Din ol America.
SLlomo M. Brody teacLes at YesLivat Hakotel, serves as tLe online
editor ol Tradtttcn and its Tcxt c Tcxturc blog, and writes tLe Ask tbc
Rabbt column lor Tbc }crusa/cm Pcst.



&-$ &367849:6;83#$<3;6"$=;6>896$<3;?87@;6"A$1;BC7D;6"$
$ =;6>896$1;B;D;BC3CDD$$

In tLe second Lall ol tLe twentietL century, tLe LalakLic communi-
ty Las conlronted several new intellectual cLallenges to tLe struc-
ture ol ]ewisL law. Painting witL a broad brusL, tLese include: JLe
reestablisLment ol tLe State ol Israel witL all ol its unique LalakLic
dilemmas; tLe welcoming ol ]ews as equal citizens into tLe open
Western democracies ol tLe \nited States, Canada, and many otLer
nations; tLe rise ol new and powerlul tecLnologies as part ol daily
lile; and tLe cLanging social status ol women in tLe world.
CrtLodox ]udaism Las not responded to any ol tLese develop-
ments witL a unilied approacL. Belore we locus on tLe issue ol
women, it is wortL brielly reviewing tLe lirst tLree topics. JLe rees-
tablisLment ol tLe State ol Israel Las produced diverse responses,
ranging lrom Rabbi Jzvi YeLuda Kook`s advocacy ol messianic

We tLank tLe dozens ol pcsktm, rabbis, and lay leaders wLo provided val-
uable comments to earlier dralts ol tLis article, wLicL Las been signili-
cantly revised and expanded since its original presentation and limited dis-
tribution at tLe April 2010 Rabbinical Council ol America (RCA) con-
26 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

Zionism to tLe Satmar Rebbe`s lull-blown rejection ol tLe State as
tLe devil`s work. Most ol CrtLodoxy lalls comlortably between
tLese poles, and we recognize tLe entire spectrum as part ol tLe Cr-
tLodox LalakLic community. JLe welcoming ol ]ews as equal citi-
zens in America Las produced a similar diversity, lrom Rabbi Me-
nasLe Klein`s denial tLat dtna dcma/kbuta dtna applies in America to
Rabbi ]osepL SoloveitcLik`s claim tLat it is a sin to purcLase prod-
ucts lrom people wLo do not pay sales tax. Again, most ol CrtLo-
doxy resides between tLese poles. WLile more subtle, tLe same di-
versity exists witL regard to approacLes and attitudes to tecLnology.
Ranging lrom tLe contrary analyses ol Rabbi SLlomo Zalman
AuerbacL and tLe CLazon IsL ol tLe proLibition to use electricity
on SLabbat, to larger questions regarding medical etLics and otLer
tecLnological advances, tLe CrtLodox community lives witL a di-
versity ol very dillerent approacLes.
Many ol tLese disagreements remain passionate and unlortu-
nately sometimes Lostile, to tLe point wLere some disputants Lave
dismissed tLeir interlocutors as beyond tLe pale ol CrtLodox ]u-
daism. Most CrtLodox ]ews, Lowever, continue to recognize tLeir
disputants as acting witLin tLe lramework ol LalakLic ]udaism,
even il tLey deem tLe opposing position to be in error. WLile occa-
sionally an attitude ol complete intolerance toward otLer positions
may be correct (tLe dangerous anti-Zionist activities ol certain
members ol tLe Ncturct Karta come to mind), we tLink tLat tLe
more expansive demarcation ol CrtLodox opinions, in almost all
circumstances, remains tLe better approacL.
\ntil tLe reestablisLment ol a SanLedrin, we need to acLieve
unity and not unilormity, enabling diversity witLout divisiveness.
JLis is tLe appropriate Listorical lesson ol tLe terrible scLism witL-
in European CrtLodox ]ewry in tLe nineteentL and early twentietL
centuries. JLe vicious ligLts between religious groups (Hasidim ver-
sus Mitnagdim, Zionists versus anti-Zionists) and tLe many polemi-
cal disputes about tLe details ol ritual lile (sermons in tLe vernacu-
lar, tLe placement ol tLe btmab, sbcbtttab knives) strike one, witL
tLe wisdom ol LindsigLt, as unwise. JLe lratricidal ligLting did not
Lelp our community or ]udaism as a wLole, and appears particular-
ly misguided in ligLt ol Low we Lave come over time to live witL
tLese dillerences. JLis Las been made possible, in part, because we
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 27

Lave learned wLicL areas we can and cannot lully cooperate togetL-
er, but largely because we recognize tLat tLere are dillerent accepta-
ble CrtLodox responses to modernity. As sucL, mucL work is done
togetLer in kasbrut, gttttn (divorce documents) and batct dtn (judicial
courts)-areas in wLicL reciprocal recognition ol nc'cmanut (lealty
to LalakLaL) are essential-even as our dillerent rabbinic and syn-
agogue organizations advocate varying CrtLodox ideologies and
JLis same motto ol unity witLout unilormity, diversity witL-
out divisiveness" sLould also apply to tLe range ol opinions regard-
ing women`s issues, and in particular, tLe role ol women as students
and teacLers ol JoraL. Clearly, tLere exists a wide spectrum ol opi-
nions on tLis matter, ranging lrom Rabbi SoloveitcLik`s opinion
tLat Jalmud study ougLt to be a routine part ol women`s educa-
tion, to Rabbi Jeitelbaum`s approacL tLat women may only be
taugLt tLe Written JoraL witLout even RasLi`s commentary. Many
otLers lall out between tLese two poles, again recognizing tLat all
remain a part ol tLe CrtLodox community.
Recently, tLe CrtLodox community came perilously close to
lissuring over tLe decision by Rabbi Avi Weiss to grant tLe title
Rabba (tLe leminine ol tLe Hebrew term Rav, or Rabbi) to a wom-
an wLo Le lelt was deserving ol tLis title. JLe lissure was partially
averted, at least temporarily, by Rabbi Weiss`s decision to cease
granting sucL titles in tLe luture, but Lis actions Lave tLrust tLe
larger issue ol women clergy onto tLe public stage.
In tLe coming pages, we attempt to oller a lramework lor un-
derstanding tLe legal and meta-LalakLic lactors tLat sLape tLe divi-
sive debate over women rabbis. We Lope tLat our study will loster
dialogue and generate greater clarity ol tLe relevant issues, even as
we acknowledge tLat dillerent opinions will remain.
It is important to empLasize tLat serious LalakLic questions
witL major ideological and sociological implications require sensi-
tive and nuanced analysis. In particular, we aim to avoid polemics
and tLeatrics, and instead carelully deline all ol tLe relevant issues.
JLe lirst step always entails delineating questions ol tecLnical La-
lakLaL, and only tLen addressing tLe signilicant elements relating to
more global values, tLe spirit ol tLe law," public policy," and in-
tra-communal politics." Civen tLat LalakLaL lorms tLe backbone ol
28 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

our beLavior, we cannot risk distorting or misrepresenting tLe Jo-
raL by conllating tLe dillerent elements, as tLey all remain indepen-
dently signilicant considerations witLin tLe LalakLic process. We
tLus divide tLis essay into two sections: tecLnical LalakLic questions
and meta-LalakLic considerations.

&&- EC:>3;:2F$(2F2G>;:$H9CD6;83D$
)- *F;I;J;F;6"$68$.C:C;BC$5C@;G>2>$

WLat is scmtkbab (ordination) and may it be given to women: JLe
contemporary notion ol lormal ordination, wLicL lirst appears in
lourteentL-century LalakLic literature, does not autLorize tLe same
judicial activities as classic scmtkbab ol Mosaic origins given exclu-
sively in Eretz Yisrael in tLe Jalmudic and pre-Jalmudic eras.
tLer, as Rabbi YitzLak ben SLesLet (RivasL 2/1) delineated and
Rabbi MosLe Isserles (Rama) codilied (Darkbct /csbc and YD
2+2:1+), scmtkbab grants license by a teacLer to a student to issue
rulings on matters ol ]ewisL law. It tLus certilies tLe knowledge ol
tLe recipient ol tLe degree, and lurtLer warrants Lim to issue Lalak-
Lic rulings even witLin tLe locale ol Lis teacLer.
WLile RivasL be-
lieved tLat it was not necessary to receive sucL scmtkbab lollowing
tLe deatL ol one`s teacLer, R` David ben Hayyim HaKoLen (SLu"t
RadacL 18:10) and otLers always required it to prevent unqualilied
people lrom issuing bcra'ab. JLis scmtkbab was not necessary to
teacL JoraL or to explicate basic or decided matters ol LalakLaL
(YD 2+2:8-9).

Conlusion regarding tLis matter led some SepLardic ligures to criticize
tLeir AsLkenazic colleagues lor issuing scmtkbab, wLicL in its classic
lorm, cannot be issued outside tLe land ol Israel. See, lor example, tLe 6

cLapter ol Naba/at Avct, Rabbi YitzLak Abarbanel`s commentary to Ptr-
kct Avct.
In tLis respect, RivasL adds, tLe student literally becomes Lis own master
(or rav"), since Le is no longer subject to tLe limits ol Lis teacLer`s juris-
It sLould be noted tLat tLe licensing given tLrougL scmtkbab was not a
lorm ol necessary investiture tLat granted powers invested by Cod, so to
speak. As sucL, someone wLo decided not to accept scmtkbab, out ol
modesty or piety, could still perlorm lunctions like weddings and gttttn
(YD 2+2:1+). Conversely, even il one Lad scmtkbab, but did not Lave tLe

Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 29

JLree dillerent tLeories emerged regarding eligibility lor con-
temporary scmtkbab. JLe lirst and simplest view, drawing tLe logi-
cal conclusion lrom tLe above depiction ol scmtkbab and adopted
by Rama in botL tLe Darkbct /csbc and Sbu/ban Arukb, concludes
tLat anyone is eligible to receive scmtkbab wLen tLeir teacLer certi-
lies tLey Lave acquired requisite knowledge and licenses tLem to
issue LalakLic rulings. JLe scope ol tLis license may be limited to
certain areas ol law (depending on tLe student`s actual knowledge
and qualilications) and may be granted to one wLo is ineligible to
receive Mosaic ordination tLat was present in Jalmudic times. As
sucL, basic contemporary scmtkbab is based on one`s knowledge and
competence to answer questions ol law.

A second approacL, taken by Rama in Lis responsa (2+), con-
tends tLat modern ordination sLould adopt tLe standards ol tLe
classical Mosaic ordination, and tLerelore one sLould not ordain
anyone wLo could not receive tLe classical scmtkbab ol Jalmudic
JLe criteria lor classic musmakbtm (recipients ol ordination)

proper knowledge to perlorm certain lunctions, tLe standing ol tLis indi-
vidual`s actions could be called into question.
JLis system, ol course, may lead to situations ol abuse, since two mus-
makbtm witL vastly dillerent degrees ol knowledge and qualilications
may sLare tLe same title. Indeed, tLrougLout tLe generations, some Lave
protested tLe abuse ol tLe title rabbi by tLose wLo issue rulings on mat-
ters on wLicL tLey are not sulliciently qualilied. See, lor example, Yam
Sbc/ Sb/cmc, Bava Kamma 8:58. JLis may Lave particularly dire conse-
quences in cases relating to personal status (sucL as gttttn), and tLerelore
Rama adds tLat one must be particularly carelul tLat only rabbis compe-
tent in tLis complex area ol law sLould engage in gttttn. onetLeless, tLe
basic concept ol scmtkbab remains tLe same lor all. Cne lrequently sees
tLis manilested today by yesLivot tLat issue separate scmtkbct, one lor yc-
rcb ycrcb and tLe otLer lor yadtn yadtn. EacL scmtkbab testilies to tLe suc-
cesslul completion ol a distinct course ol study, and licenses tLe recipient
accordingly. Similarly, tLe Israeli CLiel Rabbinate issues dillerent scmtk-
bct lor judges, neigLborLood rabbis, and city rabbis, in addition to tLeir basic
ycrcb ycrcb certilication.
Rama cites concerns tLat tLose ineligible to perlorm certain tasks will not
be able to garner proper communal respect. Rabbi MosLe Soler, Hatam
Sc/cr EH 2:9+, also adopts tLis position, albeit lor a dillerent concern, tLat
out ol sell-pity or ignorance, tLe rabbi will ultimately err and end up per-

30 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

included tLat tLey be eligible to perlorm all judicial lunctions ol tLe
SanLedrin, even il tLeir particular ordination only permitted tLem
to do limited tasks (/tsbncb Tcrab, Ht/kbct Sanbcdrtn +:8-10).
Women are tLus not eligible lor contemporary ordination in tLis
view, since tLey cannot lullill all duties perlormed by recipients ol
Mosaic ordination.
A tLird approacL argues tLat lor various cultural and legal rea-
sons, dillerent limitations were imposed on wLo could receive sc-
mtkbab. Ior example, debates were Leld wLetLer a minimum age
was required to receive scmtkbab, or il it sLould be issued only at
one`s wedding. A more prominent issue related to competition and
tLe licensing ol someone to practice in an area wLere otLer rabbis
presently served. Some scmtkbct, lor example, autLorized a person
to establisL tLeir own yesLiva, despite tLe presence ol otLers pre-
viously establisLed.

Similar issues relating to synagogue rabbis are LigLligLted by
Rabbi YeLiel MicLel Epstein in Lis Arukb Ha-Sbu/ban (Ycrcb Dcab
2+2:29). Alter allirmatively citing tLe Rama, Le adds:

In our times and lor many previous generations, eacL city
cLooses its ollicial rabbi (rav muvbak) to issue legal rulings
(psak) and to adjudicate (/cbcrct vc-/adun), and Le is considered
tLe ollicial rabbi lor tLe entire city and its surrounding areas.
o one else Las permission in tLis area, even il tLey Lave
acLieved requirements to issue rulings on ]ewisL law and adju-
dicate (btggta /c-bcra'ab /cbcrct), unless tLe city rabbi grants Lim
permission by giving Lim ordination so tLat Le can be cLosen
as tLe rabbi ol any given community (kcbt//ab). But witLout

lorming tasks ineligible to Lim. He does provide a /tmud zckbut, Lowever,
lor tLose wLo lollowed dillerent standards ol scmtkbab eligibility.
Cn tLe Listory ol modern scmtkbab, including tLe various cultural and
legal debates involved in tLese ordinations, see MordecLai Breuer, Ha-
Scmtkbab Ha-Asbkcnaztt," Ztcn 33 (5/28), p. 15"+6 (also reprinted in Lis
collection ol articles, Asst/: /t-Prt Et Vc-Et, Rimonim PublisLers, 1999).
Cn tLe concept ol bctcr bcra'ab, see Rabbi Dr. Yaakov Blidstein, Hctcr
Hcra'ab Bc-/tsbnat Ha-Rambam U-/asbmuatc Ha-Hcvrattt," in Lis Iyyu-
ntm Bc-/absbcvct Ha-Ha/akbab Vc-Ha-Aggadab, Ben Curion \niversity
Press, p. 103"113, and tLe sources cited in Encyc/cpcdta Ta/mudtt, Hc-
ra'ab" (vol. 8), p. +86"+9+.
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 31

sucL ordination, it is proLibited to be a (synagogue) rabbi or
resolver ol questions (mcrcb tzcdck) and tLis Las been tLe prac-
tice lor generations. Heaven lorbid: one sLould not deviate!
JLis is currently tLe central matter ol ordination. It is getting
permission and an attestation tLat one Las reacLed tLe stage
wLere one can issue ruling on matters ol ]ewisL law.

JLe context ol tLe statement clearly applies to a situation in
wLicL a locale Las a bona lide community rabbi (mara dc-atra). JLe
larger issue ol autLorization (rcsbutf is less relevant in many con-
temporary situations since multiple rabbis can lunction witLin a
given area. onetLeless, Arukb Ha-Sbu/ban understands tLat one
conception ol scmtkbab autLorizes#and tLerelore necessitates one
to be eligible lor#tLe position ol synagogue rabbi. JLat is to say,
tLe licensing given to anyone wLo Las received tLis ordination is
tLat tLey Lave received tLe social sanction to lead a kcbt//ab, and not
just issue rulings ol ]ewisL law (bcra'ab).
Rabbi YeLiel Y. Weinberg
lurtLer attests tLat tLe meaning ol standard scmtkbab or bctcr bc-
ra'ab was to autLorize a person to serve in a rabbinic position (rav,
dayan, or mcrcb tzcdck).

Cne migLt conclude tLat wLetLer women may be ordained as
rabbis depends, in part, on tLe dispute between tLese tLree dillerent
conceptions ol scmtkbab. In Lis responsum, Rama limits scmtkbab to
tLose men wLo could tLeoretically perlorm all tasks lilled by mem-
bers ol tLe SanLendrin. In tLe Sbu/ban Arukb, Lowever, Le rules
tLat anyone sulliciently knowledgeable to answer questions ol ]ew-
isL law may be given scmtkbab. Ior tLe Arukb Ha-Sbu/ban and otL-
ers tLis would only be so il Le were additionally eligible to do tLe
jobs customarily perlormed by tLose witL scmtkbab, sucL as serving
as a synagogue rabbi.

However, all agree tLat ordination is not required to teacL JoraL, eitLer
to adults or cLildren, neitLer as a matter ol logic nor as a matter ol Listor-
ical practice.
See tLe +
volume ol Scrtdct Esb, p. 138, Mosad Harav Kook edition
(1969). In some recent reprints ol Sbu"t Scrtdct Esb, as well as tLe Bar Ilan
CD version, tLe non-responsa essays Lave been removed. See also Lis es-
say in Lt/raktm (new edition) in wLicL Le depicts tLe roles necessary to
serve as a contemporary rabbi.
32 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

Dillerent pcsktm, we suspect, would resolve tLis tecLnical dis-
pute ol LalakLaL dillerently, as eacL position is supported by otLer
autLorities and Listorical practices.
Any scmtkbab issued to wom-
en would Lave to resolve tLis issue and explicitly delineate tLe na-
ture ol its ordination.

!-$ E>C$&DD9C$8?$<+".".$$$

Independent ol tLe ollicial licensing and title one receives lrom sc-
mtkbab, a separate issue is wLetLer women may perlorm certain
rabbinic tasks or Lold ollices tLat constitute positions ol scrarab.
JLe concept ol scrarab emerges lrom tLe Jalmudic and LalakLic
discussions tLat exclude women and converts lrom being appointed
as monarcLs and serving as judges (dayantm).
In tLe mtdrasb ba-
/akbab tLat excludes women lrom tLe monarcLy, Hazal use tLe
term to describe tLe lear (ctmab) tLat tLe monarcL instills upon Lis
An exact delinition ol tLe restricted positions, nonetLe-
less, remains somewLat elusive. Rabbi MosLe Ieinstein, in Lis res-
ponsum tLat permitted women to serve as supervisors lor kasLrut
agencies, delined it as any position in wLicL someone Las discretio-

JLis dispute migLt be rellected in tLe lact tLat a lew yesLivot only issue
scmtkbab tLat includes botL ycrcb ycrcb and yadtn yadtn licensing, tLereby
licensing tLeir graduates to perlorm almost all rabbinic tasks (witL tLe ex-
ception ol issuing gttttn). Most ycsbtvct, sucL as RIEJS, as well as tLe
Israeli CLiel Rabbinate, Lowever, issue a basic bctcr bcra'ab, primarily
based on Orakb Hayytm and Ycrcb Dc`ab, wLile granting otLer scmtkbct
to graduates wLo Lave acLieved more advanced training. CtLer ycsbtvct
regularly issue sometLing colloquially known as Rav u-/anbtg scmtk-
bab," wLicL is mostly an Lonorilic title. In some ycsbtvct it was issued on
condition tLat one not engage in psak ba/akbab, yet in otLer ycsbtvct it au-
tLorized one to serve as a religious autLority, witL bearers ol tLese certili-
cates lrequently adopting rabbinic positions. (Rabbi Weinberg states tLat
in tLe HildesLeimer Seminary in Berlin, tLis scmtkbab was issued only to
certily one`s qualilications as a teacLer, but not to issue bcra'ab. JLis cer-
tilication Lelped garner tLe proper respect necessary to teacL, wLile pre-
venting tLose unqualilied lrom issuing bcra'ab.)
See, lor example, Ycvamct +5b, Sbcvu`ct 30a, Ktddusbtn /6b, and Ycvamct
St/rt Dcvartm 1/:15, #15/.
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 33

nary, coercive powers to impose obligations or responsibilities
against someone`s will.
In Lis responsum tLat permitted women
and converts to serve as communal leaders and pcskct ba/akbab,
Rabbi EliyaLu BaksLi Doron, tLe lormer Israeli SepLardic cLiel
rabbi, delined tLe lorbidden job as a position in wLicL tLe autLority
ol tLeir decisions stems lrom tLeir appointment to a position ol
power (sbt/tcn), as opposed to tLeir knowledge and wisdom

As Rav MosLe and otLers Lave noted, Rambam (/T /c/akbtm
1:5) understands tLe proLibition ol women serving as a monarcL as
a proLibition ol women lunctioning in all communal roles.
Sc/cr Ha-Htnucb (+9/), on tLe otLer Land, explicitly limits tLe pro-
Libition lor women to tLe realm ol monarcLy, even as Le extends it
more broadly in its application to gcrtm (+98).
More signilicantly, independent ol tLe delinition and scope ol
scrarab, many medieval autLorities (and according to Rav MosLe,

Iggcrct /csbc YD 2:++"5. JLis delinition llows lrom Sbakb YD 269:15.
Sbu"t Btnyan Av 1:65.
JLe contested source ol Rambam`s ruling Las garnered mucL discussion,
since many editions ol tLe Silri only exclude women lrom tLe monarcLy,
even as researcL Las sLown several manuscripts tLat include textual va-
riants to tLe Silri wLicL justily Rambam`s position. See, most recently,
Aliza Bazak Dayyanut nasbtm: nttu'ab mckcrct ba-dtn u-bcbtnatan bc-
dayyanut u-bc-scrarab" in Ltbyct Isbab Ycbudtyab (Vol. 3, 2005), ed. J. Co-
Len and A. Lavi, p. 89"98. (WLile tLis article locuses specilically on
women serving as judges, it also discusses tLe larger issue ol women Lold-
ing positions ol scrarab). It is tLerelore surprising tLat Rabbi Daniel Sper-
ber, in Lis responsum (online at <Lttp://
0) to justily tLe ordination ol a woman, simply rejects Rambam`s posi-
tion, because, in Lis words, Later autLorities stated tLat tLey know no
source lor tLis opinion (R. MosLe Ieinstein, Iggcrct /csbc, Ycrcb dc`ab,
vol. 2, ++"+5), and tLat it is a rejected ruling (R. Ben-Zion Meir Hai
\ziel, /tsbpctct Uztc/, vol. 3, Hcsbcn /tsbpat 6)." Yet tLey, ol course, did
not Lave access to tLese manuscripts, and it is precisely Rabbi Sperber
Limsell, in Lis very erudite work, Ncttvct Pcstkab (Reuven Mass, 2008),
wLo Las most lorcelully argued lor tLe use ol manuscript researcL in La-
lakLic decision making. In any case, it remains undeniable tLat tLis was
Rambam`s position, wLicL was also Leld, in part, by tLe Ritva (see be-
34 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

tLe majority) contend tLat communal acceptance would grant
women tLe license to Lold positions ol autLority in regard to politi-
cal power and legal matters. JLe context ol tLese statements is a
discussion about tLe propLetess DevoraL`s extended reign as a sbc-
/ctct," normally translated as a judge. JLe Jalmudic commentators
are botLered by tLe possibility ol Low sLe could lunction as a judge,
since tLe Jalmud seems to proLibit women lrom tLat role.
common answer allirmed tLat sLe lunctioned as a judge, wLicL was
allowed on tLe basis ol a well-establisLed rule tLat litigants can agree
(kabba/ab) to be judged by tLose normally lorbidden lrom tLis posi-

JLis is tLe widespread understanding ol Ycrusba/mt Sbcvu`ct +:/ and Bav/t
Sbcvu`ct 30a, wLicL was ultimately codilied in LalakLaL, Hcsbcn /tsbpat
/:+. See Tcsa/ct Ntddab 50a d.L. kc/ (cited by Ritva Ktddusbtn 35a d.L. vc-
ba and RasLba Bava Kamma 15a d.L. asbcr) lor a dillerent opinion. Cl.
Kcbc/ct Rabbab, Parasba 2. Tcsa/ct Ntddab alternatively cites a position
tLat DevoraL was an entirely unique circumstance because sLe was cLosen
by Cod. Cl. Tcsa/ct Bava Kamma 15a d.L. asbcr, Tcsa/ct Ycvamct +5b d.L.
kctvan, and Radbaz Ht/kbct /c/akbtm 1:5.
ormally, sucL acceptance ol judges is done on an ad bcc basis. Sc/cr Ha-
Htnucb (#8/) Lowever, posits tLe possibility tLat tLe communal leaders
appointed DevoraL to tLis position, lirmly establisLing Ler position as a
judge, usually Leld lor an indelinite time period. JLis would explain tLe
duration ol Ler service. JLe issue ol indelinite or permanent kabba/ab lor
judicial positions Las greatly engaged pcsktm wLo sougLt to understand
Low tLe converts SLmaya and Avtalyon could be appointed Nast and Av
Bct Dtn. Rabbi CLaim Benvenisti, Kncssct Ha-Ccdc/ab, Hagbct Bct Ycsc/
CM /:1, asserts tLat tLe kabba/ab ol all Klal Yisrael works to appoint a gcr
as Av Bct Dtn or Nast. JLis position was cLallenged by Rabbi Yonatan
EybescLutz, Tumtm CM /:1, and Rabbi YeLezkel Landau, Dcrcsb Lc-Ztcn
#3. Alternatively, Rabbi YitLak ben AsLer (Rtv"a A/ Ha-Tcrab, Parsbat
/tsbpattm, citing Rabbi MosLe ol Coucy) and Rabbi SLimon Duran
(JasLbetz, /agcn Avct 1:10) assert tLat gcrtm are not pasu/ lor sucL posi-
tions il tLey are tLe most qualilied lor tLe job. JLis migLt constitute a de-
linitive exception to tLe scrarab rule. (Cl. /tdrasb E/tyabu Rabbab, 10, d.L.
u-Dcvcrab Isbab Ncvtab, wLere tLe mtdrasb notes tLat DevoraL was cLo-
sen as tLe sbc/ctct over PinLas ben Elazar, and tLen lurtLer elaborates tLat
all people#]ews and non-]ews, men and women, lree-people and slaves#
are blessed witL tLe divine spirit according to tLe merits ol tLeir actions.)
Alternatively, Rabbi Meir Dan Plotzki, Hcmdat Ytsrac/, mttzvab 362, un-

Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 35

CtLers, Lowever, answered tLat wLile sLe could not lunction as
an ollicial judge, sLe could teacL tLe relevant laws lor tLe disputed
JLe judges could tLen simply act on Ler LalakLic wisdom.
Yet many rtsbcntm, including Ramban, RasLba, and Ritva, alterna-
tively asserted tLat tLe term sbc/ctct means tLat sLe served as a polit-
ical autLority.
JLis was not proLibited to Ler under tLe terms ol
scrarab, since tLe people decided to lollow Ler autLority.
In otLer words, tLe autonomous cLoice ol people to accept in
practice someone`s autLority, be it political or intellectual (and pos-
sibly judicial), precludes tLeir power lrom constituting scrarab. It is
on tLis basis, lor example, tLat a number ol pcsktm in Israel Lave
permitted women to Lold ollice in tLe democratically-elected Knes-
set, despite tLe power ol tLese positions. Similarly, many American
rabbis Lave permitted women to be elected as presidents ol tLeir

derstands tLat tLeir greater qualilications naturally led to tLeir assump-
tion ol leadersLip roles, as opposed to a (lorbidden) lormal appointment.
Rabbi Hayyim David Azulai (Hid"a), Btrkct Ycsc/ H/ /:6, wLile initially
citing tLe opinion ol tLe Knesset Ha-CedolaL, ultimately adopts tLe opi-
nion ol tLe JasLbetz and seems to conclude tLat kabba/ab does not work
lor gcrtm to assume positions ol scrarab. He also mentions tLe alternative
position, advocated by tLe MaLaral (Avct 1:10), tLat SLmaya and Avta-
lyon were mere descendants ol converts, but not actual gcrtm.
Tcsa/ct Ntddab 50a, Htnucb 8/. Cn tLis notion, see Ht/kbct Dayantm tm
Ha/akbab Pcsukab, MacLon Harry IiscLel, p. 9+"95, and Rabbi ]osepL B.
SoloveitcLik, Rcsbtmat Sbturtm: Sbcvu`ct-Ncdartm, ed. Rabbi H. ReicL-
man, vol. II, p. +.
Ramban Sbcvu`ct 30a d.L. matnt, RasLba 30a d.L. vc-/c nasbtm, Ritva 30a
d.L. matnt. JLe latter source is particularly signilicant since Le, like Ram-
bam, explicitly states tLat tLe proLibition ol scrarab encompasses all
communal positions, but contends tLat communal acceptance precludes
tLis lrom being a mtnut ol scrarab and otLer mcstmct.$ It appears tLat
communal acceptance (ncbagtn bab kc-dtn ma/kab or ncbagtn a/ pt-bab) is
seemingly dillerentiated by many rtsbcntm witL tLe kabba/ab done in ju-
diciary cases, wLicL may be governed by dillerent limitations, as noted
above. Yet some abarcntm seem to equate tLe two lactors. It sLould be
noted tLat Rabbi Ben-Zion \zziel, Sbu"t /tsbpatct Uztc/, vol. +, H/ #6
and otLers believed tLat even Rambam would allow women to lill posi-
tions wLen tLey Lave received communal acceptance. JLis interpretation,
Lowever, is lar lrom universally accepted.
36 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

synagogues and scLools.
Rabbis, wLo are almost universally
elected and selected by tLeir synagogues or scLools, work under a
limited employment contract, and do not inLerit tLeir ollice,
logically also covered by tLis license.

JLe major reasons cited by tLe lenient pcsktm are one or many ol tLe
lollowing lactors traditionally lound in tLe liberal democratic process: 1)
tLe ollicer is elected by tLe public, 2) tLe power is eitLer limited or sLared
witL otLers, 3) tLe position is Leld lor a limited time period, and +) ollic-
ers cannot automatically bequeatL tLis power to tLeir Leirs. Ior dillerent
perspectives ol tLese issues relating to scrarab, see Rabbi ]. David BleicL,
Women on Synagogue Boards," Tradtttcn 15:+ (Spring 19/6), (reprinted
in Lis Ccntcmpcrary Ha/akbtc Prcb/cms, Vol 2, Ktav PublisLing House,
1983, p.25+-26/) and more recently, Rabbi AryeL Irimer, Women in
Communal Positions: SLul Presidents," Tcxt c Tcxturc (2 ]une 2010),
<Lttp:// /:p-931, wLicL is an edited transcript ol an
oral presentation based on Lis Hebrew article, AryeL A. Irimer, Nasbtm
bcTa/ktdtm Tstburtyytm bcIdan ba/cdcrnt" in A/tkct Ycbudab!Rabbt Yc-
buda Ccrsbunt zt'/ /cmcrta/ Vc/umc, ed. R. Itamar WarLaltig, Ariel Press:
]erusalem, 5/65 (2005), pp. 330-35+. JLese articles, ol course, discuss posi-
tions sLaped by many issues, and not just tLe concept ol scrarab. Addi-
tional discussion may be lound in Prol. MenacLem Elon, /a`amad Ha-
Isbab, Hakibbutz HameucLad PublisLing House (2005), pp. 51"100. See
also Rabbi Dr. Ariel Pikard, /a`amad Ha-Nckbrt Bc-/cdtnat Ytsrac/ Bc-
Pcstkat Rabbanct Ha-Tztcnut Ha-Dattt," Rcsbtt 1 (2009), p. 18/"208, wLicL
discusses non-]ews lilling positions ol power witLin tLe State ol Israel.
JLis point is signilicant, since in addition to its indelinite duration, one ol
tLe classic cLaracterizations ol positions ol scrarab is tLat it includes tLe
rigLts to bequeatL tLe position to inLeritors (mucL like tLe monarcLy).
See Rambam Ht/kbct /c/akbtm 1:/, Sbu"t Hatam Sc/cr OH 12"13, Sbu"t
Avnct Nczcr 312, and tLe discussion in Encyc/cpcdta Ta/mudtt, Cbczkat
Scrarab" (vol. 1+) p. 3+6"3/3. JLis was a Listorically accepted practice in
many locales witL regard to tLe rabbinate, even as it was LigLly disputed
and certainly not universal. Cn tLis topic, see Rabbi EpLraim Weinberg-
er, Ycrusbab Ba-Rabanut" in Ba-Tzcmct Ha-Tcrab Vc-Hamcdtnab, vol. 1
(Jzomet Institute) p. 29+-300 (republisLed in Lis Yad Epbratm, stman 2).
Ior a recent Listorical survey, including a detailed bibliograpLy, see SLaul
Stampler, Iamt/tcs, Rabbts, and Educattcn: Tradtttcna/ }cutsb Scctcty tn
Ntnctccntb-Ccntury Eastcrn Eurcpc, Littman Library (2010), cLapter 1+. In
sucL circumstances, rabbinic positions migLt indeed constitute scrarab.
However, in most communities today, tLere is no delinitive inLeritance
rigLt lor cLildren in rabbinic positions. See tLe position ol R` Weinberg-

Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 37

Cl course, one migLt argue tLat il we rule like Rambam and
lurtLermore do not adopt tLe concept ol communal acceptance,
tLen tLose limited by tLe strictures ol scrarab could not receive sc-
mtkbab and serve in any rabbinic positions. JLis, Lowever, is not
tLe establisLed practice, since very lew, il any, yesLivot exclude
male gcrtm lrom receiving scmtkbab and lunctioning as rabbis.

er, as well as Arukb Ha-Sbu/ban 2+5:29, wLo allirm tLe legitimacy ol tLis
practice. It sLould be lurtLer noted tLat tLe controversial Listorical prac-
tice ol purcLasing one`s position lrom eitLer tLe community or tLe pre-
vious rabbi is no longer practiced today, a lactor tLat was also occasional-
ly cited as contributing to a scrarab position.
In tLe course ol writing tLis essay, we spoke witL a senior administrator
at a universally respected yesLiva tLat regularly issues ycrcb ycrcb yadtn
yadtn scmtkbab. He told us tLat Lis yesLiva planned to issue tLis distin-
guisLed scmtkbab to a student wLo was a gcr, as a sign ol Lis accomplisL-
ment in learning, even as Le would be instructed tLat Le could not serve
as a dayan. He would, Lowever, be allowed to serve in tLe sLul rabbinate,
a position wLicL tLe yesLiva deemed not as scrarab, but ratLer as avdus"
(servitude), because ol tLe nature ol tLe communal service and pressures.
Cne Listorical precedent lor sucL a stand may be lound in Rabbi YitzLak
(ben AvraLam) Craanboom (d. 1809), autLor ol Zcra Yttzbak (Amsterdam
1/89) on Ptrkct Avct. A convert, Le served as a rabbi ol multiple congre-
gations in Amsterdam, and was lor an interim period tLe CLiel Rabbi ol
Amsterdam. See Dan Rabinowitz, JLe CLiel Rabbi ol Amsterdam: A
]ewisL Convert," Tbc Sc/crtm B/cg (6 Dec 2006), accessible at
It is reasonable to argue tLat contemporary sLul rabbis in modern Ameri-
ca do not possess coercive powers over tLeir congregants, wLo can easily
leave tLe institution but cannot be easily barred lrom membersLip, at
least by tLe rabbi alone, and wLose beLavior cannot be easily regulated.
Cne European reader Las noted to us tLat tLe lack ol scrarab in tLe Amer-
ican rabbinate#as indicated by botL tLeir lack ol coercive powers as well
as tLeir partial subservience to tLe wLims ol tLe synagogue board#
remains problematic, as rabbis do not leel sulliciently empowered or pro-
tected to perlorm tLeir duties witL dignity and integrity. Indeed, in cer-
tain cases, tLis lack ol scrarab can be Larmlul and even malicious, as evi-
denced by tLe 2010 RCA Convention resolution to assist pulpit rabbis in
dillicult employment situations. onetLeless, we believe tLat even as tLe
rabbinate is entitled to greater respect and discretionary power, tLis does
not cLange tLe lact tLat tLe Liring, contract, and powers ol rabbis are sub-

38 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

JLis is despite tLe lact tLat tLe lull scope ol scrarab restrictions
more delinitively applies to tLem, and tLey cannot serve as dayantm
or in rabbinic positions ol compulsory autLority.

JLis LalakLic tradition seems to rellect tLe understanding tLat
many rabbinic duties-witL tLe delinite exception ol acting as a
standing rabbinic court judge-do not constitute scrarab. JLis is es-
pecially so in situations wLere rabbis are elected to tLat position
and are subject to restraints ol otLer governing bodies. As sucL, it
remains unpersuasive to bar women, on tLe basis ol tLe scrarab ar-

ject to cLecks and balances imposed by tLe community. In any case, Low-
ever one understands tLis specilic rabbinic position, tLe larger issue ol giv-
ing women scmtkbab and allowing tLem to lill scmc rabbinic positions
remains tLe same.
Even il one would understand a certain position to constitute scrarab,
sucL as a synagogue rabbi, tLat does not necessarily preclude a gcr lrom
serving, in lunction il not in title, in tLat position. See Tcsbuvct Vc-
Hanbagct 3:305, wLere Rabbi MosLe SternbucL, sb/tt"a, permits appoint-
ing someone else witL tLe ollicial title ol sLul rabbi, and letting a gcr act
in practice as tLe pcsck, even witL a title ol mcrcb tzcdck or assistant rabbi.
JLis goes beyond tLe statement ol Rav MosLe Ieinstein, wLo asserted
tLat even according to tLose wLo believe a kasbrut masbgtab is a position
ol scrarab lorbidden to women, a lemale could be a kasLrut supervisor
since tLe ultimate autLority rested witL tLe (male) Lead ol tLe kasLrut
agency. Alternatively, Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg, Tzttz E/tczcr 19:+/-8,
suggests tLat even according to tLose wLo do not accept tLe concept ol
kaba/ab lor positions ol scrarab, a gcr could be included witLin a group ol
people serving in a certain position, il tLe community accepted Lis ap-
pointment to tLis committee. JLis would seem to be especially true il tLe
person was deemed as tLe most qualilied to serve in a certain position,
wLicL was cited by many rtsbcntm and pcsktm as a mitigating lactor to
override tLe scrarab limitations to gcrtm, as noted by Rabbi Waldenberg
and otLers. In any case, everyone agrees tLat many positions currently
lilled by rabbis do not constitute scrarab, and as sucL, gcrtm may receive
scmtkbab. ParentLetically, we expect tLe number ol gcrtm witL scmtkbab
will greatly increase in tLe coming generations, as many cLildren will un-
dergo CrtLodox conversion because tLeir motLer originally did not re-
ceive a LalakLic conversion.
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 39

gument alone, lrom receiving scmtkbab, wLen tLe long-time Lalak-
Lic tradition Las not applied tLat standard to gcrtm.

Indeed, it is wortL noting tLat one position in tLe ]ewisL com-
munity wLicL seems to contain some lorm ol coercive powers is tLe
one communal position tLat is most likely to be Leld by women:
Head ol ScLool. A scLool principal Las powers to discipline stu-
dents and Lire and lire stall, amongst tLeir otLer duties ol determin-
ing curriculum and sLaping scLool policy. onetLeless, our com-
munities regularly Lire women lor tLese positions, and tLis is be-
cause tLe nature ol tLeir Liring, plus tLe cLecks and balances im-

Cn tLis point, it is wortLwLile to investigate tLe writings ol Rabbi MosLe
Ieinstein witL regard to scrarab. In Lis most tLorougL treatment on tLe
topic, written about a widow wLo wanted to succeed Ler Lusband as a
masbgtbab kasbrut (Iggcrct /csbc YD II:++), Rav MosLe asserted tLat ac-
cording to most rtsbcntm, women are not excluded lrom most communal
positions, in contrast witL tLe position ol Rambam. Rav MosLe, wLo
makes clear tLat Le would like to allow, il possible, tLe widow to receive
tLis liveliLood, tLen argues tLat we can construe tLe position to be per-
missible lor all women, even according to Rambam, il sLe serves under a
rabbinic kasLrut administrator. In tLe next responsa (II:+5), Rabbi Meir
Amsel correctly noted tLat according to Rav MosLe`s understanding ol
tLe sugya, tLe majority LalakLic position would allow women to serve as
Israel`s prime minister or as a sLul president. Rav MosLe allirmed tLat
tLis was tLe case, but asserted tLat we do not Lave to worry about sucL a
proposition, since /rum people under tLe guidance ol a rabbi would not
act accordingly, and would rule like Rambam. He tLen asserts tLat we
sLould lollow Rambam, unless tLere is some case ol need (sucL as witL
tLe widow). In otLer words, Rav MosLe understood tLat according to tLe
majority ol rtsbcntm, scrarab would not proLibit a woman lrom acting in
a communal position, but tLat we sLould not paskcn like tLis position un-
less tLere was sucL a need (as in tLe case ol a widow, or il tLe alternative
candidates lor a communal position were less observant or supportive ol
religious tenets). In Lis next tcsbuva on scrarab, witL regard to appointing
a gcr to tLe position ol RosL YesLiva (Iggcrct /csbc +:26), Rav MosLe
stated tLat tLere was a need to be mckt/ in ligLt ol tLe mttzvab ol vc-
abavtcm ct ba-gcr. It seems clear tLat Rav MosLe believes tLat scrarab
alone is not an insurmountable problem sLould tLere be a perceived need
lor women (or converts) to lullill sucL positions. Cl course, all tLings be-
ing equal, Rav MosLe clearly believed tLat women sLould not lill sucL
positions, presumably lor otLer reasons mentioned in tLis paper.
40 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

posed upon tLem by tLeir boards, prevents tLis position lrom con-
stituting scrarab.
As sucL, we believe tLat a compelling case can be
made tLat tLe LalakLic principle ol scrarab alone does not preclude
women lrom receiving scmtkbab and lullilling rabbinic roles prac-
ticed by rabbis in America today.

'-$ '83:C73D$8?$K8@C3$2D$1C:;D87D$8?$,C=;D>$+2=$234$

Jwo otLer tecLnical questions remain. JLe lirst is Can women
issue decisions ol ]ewisL law:" It seems clear lrom a number ol La-
lakLic sources tLat tLere is no limitation on women issuing deci-
sions ol ]ewisL law (psak ba/akbab) in matters lor wLicL tLey are
sulliciently trained. JLis point, stated in botL tLe Sc/cr Ha-Htnukb
(//, 152) and /tnbat Htnukb (/8:9), is also implied in many ol tLe
sources (cited above) regarding DevoraL. JLis remains tLe clear rul-
ing in recent LalakLic compendiums, lrom rabbinic works like En-
cyc/cpcdta Ta/mudtt (vol. 8, p. +9+), Ht/kbct Dayantm tm Ha/akbab
Pcsukab (/:+, p. 95) and Dayan Masud ElcLadad`s /tnbat Asbcr
(Hcsbcn /tsbpat, vol. 1, p.1+) to LalakLic Landbooks sucL as Rabbi
David AuerbacL`s Ha/tkbct Bcttab (28:8). Cl course, il we want to
Lave sucL women, we will need to train tLem, but tLat is exactly
tLe issue at Land. ormative LalakLaL allows a woman wLo is
competent in ]ewisL law to issue decisions on matters ol LalakLaL.

In tLeir role as communal leaders, teacLers, and ba'a/ct bcra'ab,
women will almost inevitably be lound in tLe public limeligLt. In
general, tLe virtue ol tznt`ut (modesty) encompasses a signilicant

JLis point is made explicitly by Rabbi AryeL Leib Crosnass, Sbu"t Lcv
Arycb 2:21. Rabbi MosLe Ieinstein, as noted above, similarly contends
tLat a gcr can serve as a RosL YesLiva because tLeir administrative powers
do not constitute scrarab.
We tLink it is not insignilicant tLat in tLe rare Listoric circumstances
wLen women did acLieve tLe requisite level ol knowledge or expertise in
LalakLaL, tLey did engage in LalakLic discourse. See, lor example, tLe
sources cited in Ha/tkbct Bat Ytsrac/ 9:/. See also SLlomo AsLkenazi, Na-
sbtm Lcmdantyct: Scktrab Htstcrtt and SLosLana Pantel Zolty, `And Ycur
Cbt/drcn Sba// Bc Lcarncd': Wcmcn and Tbc Study c/ Tcrab tn }cutsb Lau
and Htstcry, ]ason Aronson Press, 1993.
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 41

element to many laws, and our community must vigilantly main-
tain tLis value. Many ol tLese laws are objective and timeless, appli-
cable in any era or context. Yet it is important to note tLat some
matters ol tznt`ut remain subject to time and context, as attested to
by tLe gcmara and conlirmed in Tcsa/ct, Pttbct Tcsbuvab, and many
otLer sources.
In broader society, women regularly work witL
men, and serve as prolessors, lawyers, doctors, and otLer proles-
sionals witL LigLly public roles, and tLis is not seen as immodest
beLavior. In CrtLodox communities in wLicL women work in
tLese jobs, it seems inconsistent to contend tLat women cannot lul-
lill sucL roles in tLe context ol serving tLe community.
JLis is
particularly true witLin tLe non-Hasidic community, wLere, lor
example, many regularly address tLe C\ and RCA conventions
wLile otLers give sbturtm and lectures in many synagogues. Cl
course, in communities wLere women are not allowed to Lold sucL
jobs, sucL communal beLavior migLt be deemed inappropriate or

Tcsa/ct Ktddusbtn 81a d.L. bakc/ /c-sbcm sbamaytm, Pttbct Tcsbuva EH
21:3. Ior example, in tLe early 20
century, pcsktm debated tLe rigLt ol
women to vote, witL many arguing tLat it was immodest. Joday, all
pcsktm permit it and recognize it as perlectly appropriate beLavior. Simi-
larly, women regularly serve as scLool teacLers, even tLougL tLis position
is explicitly proLibited to tLem in tLe Sbu/ban Arukb (YD 2+5:21), lest it
lead to inappropriate interaction witL tLeir students` latLers. Ior otLer
examples ol tLis larger pLenomenon, see Tzttz E/tczcr 9:50 and Yabta
Omcr OH 6:13.
A similar point was already made by Rabbi YitzcLak Herzog in Tcbukab
/c-Ytsrac/ a/-pt ba-Tcrab, vol. 1, p. 98-99 and Rabbi Ben-Zion \ziel, /tsb-
patct Uztc/ + CH 6 d.L. ba-ba/akbab vc-ba-musartyut. Some Lave lurtLer
contended tLat it migLt be more appropriate lor lellow women to address
certain LalakLic and pastoral questions relating to women, sucL as tLe
area ol Ht/kbct Ntddab.
Cne reader ol an earlier dralt contended tLat it would be inappropriate
lor women to Lold rabbinic positions because tLey would not receive tLe
requisite respect required lor tLe ollice. As codilied in Rambam Ht/kbct
/c/akbtm 1:6, tLis was a reason wLy people wLo Lad occupied socially-
denigrated positions (sucL as a barber, tanner, or batLLouse caretaker)
could not become king. (Indeed, Arukb Ha-Sbu/ban Hc-Attd, Ht/kbct /c-
/akbtm /1:9 cites Rambam`s position and suggests tLat tLe proLibition ol

42 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

&&&- %C62L(2F2G>;:$'83D;4C726;83D$

We believe tLat tLe tecLnical LalakLic questions regarding women
rabbis remain debatable, but tLat ultimately a reasonable case can be
made tLat it is not lorbidden to issue qualilied women scmtkbab and
let tLem perlorm many rabbinic lunctions. Yet tLis does not neces-
sarily make it appropriate or advisable in tLe current context. As
witL all cases ol cLanges in normative LalakLic practice, one needs
to weigL and address otLer meta-LalakLic or non-LalakLic issues.
JLis calculation plays a central role in determining wLetLer we
sLould deviate lrom traditional practice and begin to ordain women.

)-$ 58@C$E>89I>6D$83$6>C$%CD872>$$

Many Lave invoked mesoraL" or traditional practice to explain
wLy ordaining women is proLibited. WLile we agree tLat ordaining
women as rabbis would certainly be a prolound departure lrom tLe
traditional practice, it is important to delineate tLe dillerent delini-
tions and roles tLe concept ol mcscrab plays witLin LalakLaL.
In one sense, mcscrab relers to specilic LalakLic traditions relat-
ing to subject matters wLicL, by tLeir nature, were dillicult to codi-
ly in words. Examples ol sucL pLenomena include tLe trcp (musical
notes) lor JoraL reading or tLe identity ol kosLer birds. A mcscrab
remains necessary in tLese cases to transmit tLe relevant laws. In
sucL cases, tLese traditional practices become binding, absent some
contrary LalakLic argument.
AnotLer example ol sucL a pLenomenon applies to cases in
wLicL a certain position Las taken root in practice, even as tLe
tecLnical LalakLaL migLt point in a dillerent direction. \nder some
circumstances, lor example, tLe community migLt lollow a mcscrab
to practice leniently on a given matter, even as many LalakLic

scrarab lor gcrtm and women was to ensure tLat tLe position ol king rece-
ives tLe greatest ol respect.) JLis assessment, based on sociology and not
sources, would seemingly lead to tLe conclusion tLat tLe positions ol
Israeli Prime Minister or CLiel ]ustice, BritisL Prime Minister, or \nited
States Secretary ol State, Lave become lessened in tLe public`s eyes be-
cause tLey are or were Leld by women. We believe tLis to be incorrect,
and do not see wLy genuinely qualilied women would garner less respect
or tarnisL tLe stature ol tLe rabbinate.
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 43

sources migLt rule stringently. At otLer times, contemporary prac-
tice migLt relrain lrom perlorming certain beLaviors, even as tLe
sources explicitly permit tLem.
A well-known example ol tLe latter pLenomenon (because it is
lound witLin tLe lirst paragrapL ol Ycrcb Dc`ab) includes women
serving as ritual slaugLters (sbcbctct). JLe mtsbna explicitly permits
women to slaugLter animals, a position wLicL is codilied by Rabbi
Yosel Karo in Sbu/ban Arukb (YD 1:1), against tLose medieval au-
tLorities wLo claimed tLat women sLould not perlorm tLis lunction
lor ancillary reasons (sucL as concerns lor lainting). JLe Rama,
Lowever, lollowing tLe position ol tLe Agur, contends tLat we do
not allow women sbcbctct, since tLis Las become tLe common prac-
tice. JLe logic ol tLis position-tLat wLicL we Lave not seen sLould
not be done-is disputed by Rabbi Yosel Karo in Lis Bct Ycsc/, wLo
contended tLat tLe lact tLat sometLing Las not yet occurred does
not imply any impropriety in doing it. Accordingly, a contempo-
rary practice to relrain lrom a certain action only becomes autLori-
tative il we Lave a mcscrab tLat pcsktm specilically addressed tLis
question and lorbid tLe beLavior.
SLakL (YD 1:1 and H/ 3/:38), Lowever, delends Rama, and cit-
ing a tcsbuvab ol tLe MaLarik, contends tLat we do not need a mcsc-
rab ol a proLibitive psak to assert tLat tLe absence ol certain beLa-
vior proves tLat tLis was LalakLically-required abstinence. We do,
Lowever, require it to be tLe type ol question wLicL would Lave
regularly arisen, lor il it would Lave been a permitted beLavior,
tLen someone would Lave acted accordingly on some occasion.
Since tLe need lor meat arises regularly, and tLe laws ol sbcbtttab (in
tLose times) were a matter ol day-to-day practice, SLakL contends
tLat we would Lave seen women slaugLterers Lad tLey been allowed
to lullill tLat lunction. Regarding tLe dispute on tLe dillerent deli-

See /abatztt Ha-Sbckc/ to Sbakb YD 1:1 wLo conlirms tLis straigLtlor-
ward reading ol tLe SLakL. In tLe case ol sbcbtttab, one presumes tLat tLe
reason to proLibit women lrom slaugLtering stemmed lrom ancillary
concerns, sucL as concerns lor lainting, an issue raised in numerous La-
lakLic sources. ParentLetically, it appears tLat in a lew SepLardic com-
munities, women continued to serve as slaugLterers. See, lor example,
Rabbi Hayim David Azulai (Hid"a), Btrkct Ycsc/ YD 1:+.
44 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

nitions ol mcscrab, dillerent pcsktm may take varying positions,
witL some siding witL R` Yosel Karo and otLers lollowing tLe

Rabbi AryeL Irimer Las suggested tLat Rabbi ]osepL B. SoloveitcLik,
based on Lis explanation ol tLis Rama in Lis Ycrcb Dc`ab sbturtm, as well
as otLer rulings ol Lis regarding women in leadersLip rules, would lorbid
women lrom serving as rabbis. See JLe View ol Rav ]osepL B. Soloveit-
cLik on tLe Crdination ol Women," Tcxt c Tcxturc (26 ]une 2010),
<Lttp:// We tLink tLis view is insullicient-
ly proven as tLe view ol Rabbi SoloveitcLik, lor tLe lollowing reasons: A)
Iirstly, it sLould be empLasized tLat tLe Rav made Lis statements regard-
ing mtnut kaba/ in tyyun sbturtm, based solely on Rambam, and never
gave a specilic psak regarding women as rabbis. B) Secondly, Rabbi Solo-
veitcLik`s well-known view, practiced /c-ma'ascb, was to give scmtkbab to
converts, even as it Las been reported tLat Le lelt tLey sLould not take on
synagogue pulpits. In otLer words, scmtkbab can be given to someone,
even il tLe proscriptions ol scrarab may limit tLeir rabbinic activities. C)
Rabbi Irimer`s conjecture is partly based on a statement ol Rabbi Solo-
veitcLik in Lis Ycrcb Dc`ab sbturtm wLicL suggested tLat women were ex-
cluded lrom communal positions beyond tLose proLibited to gcrtm. JLis
remains counter-intuitive, Lowever, since lor many risLonim like tLe Sc-
/cr Ha-Htnucb, tLe exclusion ol gcrtm lrom positions ol scrarab is more
delinitive tLan it is lor women, as noted above, and lurtLer remains in-
conclusive in tLe writings ol Rambam, wLo in lact seems to understand
tLe proscriptions regarding a woman to derive lrom tLe more explicit
Biblical statements regarding a gcr. Cl course, tLe Rav was speaking in an
tyyun context, exclusively using Rambam to explain a dillicult Rama, and
was not specilically asked /c-ma`ascb il women could receive scmtkbab or
work in rabbinic positions. D) It lurtLer remains possible tLat Rabbi So-
loveitcLik could Lave permitted women to receive scmtkbab, and not
lunction as synagogue rabbis, a view tLat Rabbi Irimer simply dismisses,
even as it was exactly tLe view ol tLe Rav witL regard to converts. E) Iur-
tLermore, in a statement in Hamcsb Dcrasbct p. 122 ln. 9 (a source not
cited by Rabbi Irimer), tLe Rav distinguisLes tLe appointment ol a sLul
rabbi lrom tLe selection ol a member ol a SanLedrin or bct dtn. JLe lat-
ter#classic beLolders ol scrarab positions#are cLosen by a limited group
and specialize in bcra'ab, dtn, and barbatzat Tcrab. JLe lormer, Lowever,
also serve as a communal leader and representative#a parnas#and tLere-
lore requires tLe consent ol tLe entire community, based on R` YitzLak`s
statement in Bcrakbct 55a. (Cl. Nc/csb Ha-Rav, ed. Rabbi HerscLel
ScLacLter, p. 26/, wLere tLe Rav is quoted as telling an embattled sLul
rabbi tLat Le is not entitled to Lis position il tLe community does not

Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 45

Be tLat is it may, we believe tLis dispute is not germane to our
question lor two important reasons. Iirstly, even according to
SLakL, tLe beliel tLat contemporary practice proves LalakLic pro-
priety only applies to cases in wLicL an issue would Lave regularly
arisen, and tLerelore tLe abstinence lrom sucL beLavior proves tLat
pcsktm believed it was proLibited. Civen tLe lack ol lormal educa-
tion lor women, tLe question ol women rabbis, quite simply, did
not arise on a regular basis. JLere is no basis lor a mcscrab wLicL
would assert tLat women were regularly qualilied to serve as rabbis,
but did not do so lor some LalakLic reason. JLis seems to be prov-
en by tLe lact tLat in tLe vast literature written lrom tLe lourteentL
century onward regarding tLe nature ol scmtkbab, tLe issue ol
women musmakbct simply does not arise, even as tLey do discuss
tLe propriety ol ordaining a qualilied minor. As sucL, we do not
lind it compelling to claim tLat women cannot receive scmtkbab or
serve as rabbis based on tLis notion ol mcscrab.

want Lis services.) JLis migLt indicate tLat tLe Rav understood tLat even
tLougL tLe rabbinate constitutes a parnas, it Las imposed upon it certain
limitations tLat prevent it lrom becoming a scrarab position. JLe state-
ment in Hamcsb Dcrasbct migLt derive lrom a well-trodden position in
rabbinic literature tLat tLe rabbinate represents kctcr Tcrab and cannot
constitute lordsLip. See, lor example, Sbu"t Hatam Sc/cr OH 12, wLere Le
posits tLe rigLt to ycrusbab could exist in many communal positions like a
sc/cr or a sbctcr, but not in positions ol kcdusbab. Ior lurtLer sources, see
Encyc/cpcdta Ta/mudtt, Hczkat Scrarab," cited earlier, and tLe sources
cited on p. 5+2 ol tLe source index to tLe Irankel edition ol Rambam`s
Ht/kbct /c/akbtm 1:/ d.L. marbttz Tcrab. Hence, it remains possible tLat
tLe proLibition ol scrarab migLt exclude a woman lrom serving as a syn-
agogue president but not as its rabbi. (JLis, parentLetically, was reported
to us as to Lave been tLe view ol Rav ALron SoloveicLik, wLo believed
tLat a sLul president constituted scrarab, but a sLul rabbi did not. We
were told tLat Le lelt tLis way because contemporary sbu/ presidents pos-
sess greater discretionary power tLan tLe rabbi.)
In any case, as Rabbi Irimer notes, otLer pcsktm certainly may (and did)
disagree witL tLe Rav`s positions on eacL particular matter. In lact, many
ol tLe Rav`s most devoted students Lave departed lrom Lis psak regarding
women as sLul presidents, because tLey understand tLe relevant sources,
and tLe described position and social context, dillerently today.
46 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

Secondly, as a general rule, contemporary needs will trump tLis
notion ol mcscrab in cases wLen no tecLnical issue proLibits engag-
ing in a certain beLavior. JLere is no doubt tLat certain practices
remain immutable witLin CrtLodox ]ewisL law. Ior example, nei-
tLer a great rabbi nor a panel ol great rabbis could announce, Civ-
en tLe needs ol tLe time, pork now becomes permanently kosLer,"
or, Irom now on, SLabbat will be observed on Sunday." JLat au-
tLority is simply not present in CrtLodox ]ewisL law. SucL is not
tLe case witL practices establisLed by tradition alone. WLen tLe Cr-
tLodox community, its leaders, and its pcsktm leel tLat circums-
tances Lave cLanged and tLat tLe needs ol a time are sucL, any prac-
tice tLat is permitted as a matter ol tecLnical ]ewisL law receives
LalakLic mandate, even il it Las never been done witLin tLe CrtLo-
dox community.
JLat is exactly wLat occurred a century ago witL
tLe expansion ol women`s JoraL education. It is precisely tLis in-
novation tLat Las led to tLe new possibility ol lemale clergy and
provides an appropriate conceptual lramework to understand tLe
relevant meta-LalakLic issues.$
$ $

In tLis regard, see Sbu"t Ncda Bc-Ycbudab Tantna OH 18 (R` YeLezkel
Landau on 12 windows in a sLul) and Sbu"t Orakb /tsbpat, OH 112 (R`
AbraLam Isaac Kook on tLe consumption ol sesame oil on PesacL), wLo
allirm tLat matters wLicL Lave not been traditionally practiced, but are
mutar according to law, are absolutely permissible once deemed neces-
sary. JLis point, wLicL we believe is readily apparent to all students ol
LalakLaL, is made by Prolessor Eliav SLocLetman in Lis trencLant criti-
que ol women`s a/tyct. He notes tLat as opposed to tLe latter case, in
wLicL tLere is an explicit proLibition listed in tLe gcmara and pcsktm,
many otLer recent innovations in lemale ritual practice, sucL as bat mitz-
vaL celebrations, received tLe approbation ol many pcsktm precisely be-
cause tLey lelt tLere was no tecLnical assur and tLat sucL innovation was
mandated, even as it went against traditional practice. See Eliav SLocLet-
man, A/tyct Nasbtm La-Tcrab," Stnat 135-136 (5/65), p. 338-3+3. JLis sec-
tion ol tLe article was unlortunately not included witLin its recent trans-
lation in tLe book, Wcmcn and /cn tn Ccmmuna/ Praycr: Ha/akbtc Pcrs-
pccttvcs, ed. CLaim JracLtman, Ktav PublisLing House, 2010.
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 47


Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, tLe Haletz Hayyim, lelt very strongly
tLat tLe tradition (mcscrab) ol not teacLing women JoraL lrom
texts Lad to cLange.
Based on tLis premise, pcsktm debated
tLrougLout tLe 20
century wLat tLis study sLould entail, and in
particular, il it sLould encompass intense study ol Tcrab sbc-Bc'a/
Pcb. Some believed tLat women`s education must include Jalmud
study, otLers limited tLis to tLe intellectual elite, wLile otLers dis-
couraged tLis study and some proLibited it. JLe question ol wLat
cLanges sLould be made, and at wLat rate, remains an open conver-
sation, and tLerelore women learning toraL on a serious level is cer-
tainly lar lrom a universal practice. As witL otLer Lotly-debated
issues, Lolders ol tLe various positions remain members ol tLe
broader CrtLodox community. Dillerent communities adopt di-
verse models, eacL witL its own strengtLs and weaknesses.
JLe pressing question today is wLetLer to retain tLe status quo,
or il women wLo Lave received intense Jalmudic training sLould
Lave new outlets to utilize tLeir knowledge and skills. JLis

As Le explicitly notes in Lis Ltkutct Ha/akbct, Sctab 20b (empLasis added):
It seems tLat all ol tLis [proLibition against women learning JoraL]
applies only to times past wLen all daugLters lived in tLeir latLers`
Lome and tradition was very strong, assuring tLat cLildren would
pursue tLeir parents` patL, as it says, Ask your latLer and Le sLall
tell you." Cn tLat basis we could claim tLat a daugLter needn`t learn
JoraL but merely rely on proper parental guidance. !96$38=242"DA$
234$ =8@C3A$@87C8BC7A$ 7CI9F27F"$ D694"$ DC:9F27$ D9JOC:6DA$ ;6$ ;D$ :C7L
62;3F"$2$I7C26$@;6PB2>$68$6C2:>$6>C@$HumasL, PropLets and Writ-
ings, and rabbinic etLics, sucL as Ptrkct Avct, /cncrat Hamacr, and
tLe like, D8$ 2D$ 68$ B2F;426C$ 897$ D2:7C4$ JCF;C?Q$ 86>C7=;DC$ 6>C"$ @2"$
JLe Ha/ctz Hayytm recognized tLat a cLange in tLe way women are edu-
cated is needed wLen conlronting modernity. Indeed, simply contrast tLe
above statement witL Rabbi YeLiel M. Epstein`s observation (Arukb Ha-
Sbu/ban YD 2+6:19) in tLe 1880s, Since tLe beginning ol time, we Lave
tLe practice not to teacL women lrom a book, and we never Leard ol sucL
a practice. RatLer, lor tLe laws tLat one needs to know, a woman teacLes
Ler daugLter or daugLter-in-law."
48 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

represents a natural question witLin our Leritage tLat believes in
/t/mcd u-/c-/amcd, to learn and to teacL. Moreover, one must ponder
wLetLer tLe community could benelit lrom tLe additional resources
allorded by a cadre ol learned and talented women. JLese are im-
portant questions to ask, and as we attempt to keep JoraL meaning-
lul in tLe contemporary context, we must act witL great lore-
tLougLt, acknowledging tLat any cLanges in tLe mcscrab must devel-
op carelully.
Jo take root, tLese cLanges need to become accepted and va-
lidated by a signilicant spectrum ol tLe community. In Israel, tLe
recently-developed positions ol ycatzct ba/akbab (advisers in bt/k-
bct ntddab) and tcanct rabbantyct (rabbinical court advocates),
created witL tLe endorsement ol a series ol pcsktm and gcdc/tm,
Lave acLieved mucL initial success and growing acceptance. JLe
lormer position Las now been introduced into tLe American Cr-
tLodox community, wLile otLer synagogues begin to experiment
witL lemale community scLolars. In tLis early stage, tLe concept
ol women rabbis Las certainly not received broad acceptance,
and any lurtLer developments sLould only evolve alter contin-
ued dialogue witL pcsktm, rabbinic and lay leaders, and tLe
community ol learned women.


Second, tLe nuanced Lesitations expressed by Rabbi orman
Lamm, sb/tt"a, requires serious tLougLt. He states:

JLere are certain tLings tLat are acceptable only in tLe long
run. I approve ol tLe idea ol increasing tLe role ol women in
religious lile and tLink it is an important one. ]ust imagine:
we Lave taken women wLo Lave good brains, good cLaracters,
and good personalities and devoted tLeir lives to Hitler`s 3 K`s:
Ktndcr (cLildren), Kcbc (kitcLen), and Ktrcbc (cLurcL)! Wom-
en are not just good lor tLese tLree tLings. JLere are enougL
individual cases tLat are exceptions to allow you to learn mtn
ba-pcrat c/ ba-kc/a/ (lrom tLe specilic case to tLe general catego-
ry). It is just not true tLat tLey cannot tLink straigLt-tLey
can. We Lave crooked ideas il we tLink otLerwise.

Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 49

At tLe same time, tLings Lave to be done gradually. Jo Lave a
woman learn Cemara a generation or two ago like women learn
Cemara today would Lave been too revolutionary. But witL time,
tLings cLange; time answers a lot ol questions, erodes discomlort,
and Lelps. So my answer, wLen I was asked by a reporter about
wLat I tLink about women rabbis, was, basically: It`s going too
last." I did not say it was wrong, I did not say it was rigLt. It just
Las not paced itsell properly. I was criticized, ol course. People
asked, You mean tLat a/ pt dtn tLey`re allowed to become rabbis:"
My response: I don`t know-are you sure tLey`re not allowed to:"

We sLould take note ol Rabbi Lamm`s reservations and Lesita-
tions regarding tLe luture and recognize tLat tLe pace ol cLange is
central to acLieving a positive outcome, wLatever tLat migLt be.
His nuanced lormulation addresses well tLe question ol cLange in
mtnbag Ytsrac/. /tnbag Ytsrac/ does evolve over time, and it certain-
ly Las cLanged considerably in tLe last century witL regard to
women`s general and religious education. Slow and carelul cLange
lacilitates greater insigLt, leedback, and development, and could be
a good motto lor CrtLodoxy in tLis area.


Cne element ol tLis process would entail contemplating wLetL-
er tLe many complex practical issues associated witL women rabbis

Interview witL Rabbi Dr. orman Lamm, YU Ccmmcntatcr, Ieb 12,
2010. It can be read at: <Lttp://
ser/an-interview-witL-rabbi-dr-norman-lamm-1.112/268. Jo a certain
extent, a similar sentiment was expressed in tLe early 1950s by Rabbi
YeLiel Yaakov Weinberg, Scrtdct Esb 1:139 (new edition), on tLe topic ol
women`s sullrage and rigLts to serve as elected communal ollicials. Alter
very brielly noting tLe dillerent LalakLic arguments, Le relrains lrom tak-
ing a stand, contending tLat 1) time will determine tLe matter, and 2) tLat
tLe LalakLic argumentation is secondary to deeper" issues at stake.
In tLis regard, let us sLare a witticism ol one ol our teacLers: CLange in
CrtLodoxy is a lot like ortLodontics. Jo move teetL, you Lave to apply
small amounts ol pressure over great periods ol time. Lots ol pressure
over small periods ol time do not move teetL but break tLem. So too
witL tLe CrtLodox community. Slow cLange produces positive develop-
ments, wLile large movements break us apart."
50 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

remain resolvable-and il tLe potential solutions are wortLwLile
steps. Even il one were to basically agree tLat as a matter ol tecLnic-
al LalakLaL, women can serve as rabbis-in tLe sense tLat tLey may
teacL JoraL in various settings, provide guidance on ]ewisL tLeolo-
gy to individuals and groups, perlorm certain roles ol emotional
and pastoral care, answer questions ol ]ewisL law on many matters
wLicL tLey are trained, and, lrom tLese tasks, ultimately lunction as
communal ligures and leaders-certain practical issues must be ad-
dressed. Many rabbinic job descriptions entail serving in lunctions
proLibited to women as a matter ol ]ewisL law, including being tLe
bazzan or ba`a/ kcrc, serving on a bet din, and many otLer matters.
A great deal ol clarilication as to wLat a rabbi is empowered to do
by tLeir scmtkbab, and expected to do in a given position, would be
needed belore women rabbis could be considered.
Cl course, tLe
most important practical cLange needed to even consider tLe possi-
bility ol women rabbis is tLe creation ol women`s seminaries tLat
locus intensely on providing a top-lligLt multi-year talmud and La-
lakLaL curriculum. Most rabbis in training learn in yesLiva lor tLe
better part ol a decade nearly lull-time belore scmtkbab, and tLere is
no program like tLat lor women anywLere in tLe world now. In-
deed, we recognize tLat it took women nearly a century to climb to
tLe top ecLelons ol American law (a discipline less broad or com-
plex tLan LalakLaL) and tLe same long journey is likely present Lere
as well. Cn tLe otLer Land, long journeys start witL small steps.
Jo prevent conlusion and misLaps tLat will lead to violations ol
LalakLaL, tLe exact delineations ol tLese roles would require under-
standing witLin botL scLolarly circles and tLe broader public.

AnotLer issue to be examined is Low tLe issues ol scrarab and autLority
diller in various communities witL dillerent rabbinic organizational
structures, sucL as England, continental Europe, tLe \nited States and
Israel. WLile tLe power ol kabba/ab, as well as internal cLecks and bal-
ances ol power, may be able to surmount all ol tLese issues, tLey nonetLe-
less must be lully explored.
Ior example, it would need to be clear tLat despite tLe lact tLat tLe rabbi
is tLe tentL person in tLe room, sLe cannot make tLe mtnyan, or serve as
tLe bazzan despite tLe lact tLat otLers in tLe room Lave inlerior Hebrew
skills. WLile tLese LalakLot remain obvious in today`s environment, tLey
migLt become sociologically awkward (and tLerelore liable to violation)

Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 51

is not easily or quickly acLieved. Joward tLis goal, we migLt need
dillerent titles and ordinations lor men and women clergy. In Eng-
land, lor example, dillerent members ol tLe CrtLodox rabbinate
go by distinctly dillerent titles, rellecting dillerent roles, lunc-
tions and rigLts: Reverend, Minister, Rabbi, and Dayan. JLis
model may be wortLy ol being adapted lor tLese issues and
adopted in dillerent locales.

CtLers add anotLer cautionary lactor into tLis calculus. Civen tLe
broader pLenomenon ol non-LalakLic egalitarianism witL liberal
]udaism, tLe introduction ol women as rabbis migLt appear as a
concession to non-CrtLodox movements. As sucL, tLey claim, we
ougLt to proLibit tLis development, even il in a dillerent cultural
context it would be permissible.
JLis very real world calculus-locusing not on tLe LalakLic real-
ity, but ratLer on tLe perception ol reality-is important to consid-
er. Il one were to decide to employ tLis reasoning, ol course, it
would be important to recognize and stress tLat tLe underlying ac-
tivity is not really proLibited, and tLat tLe ruling serves as a propL-
ylactic tool to address tLe needs ol tLe generation. CtLerwise, we
would run tLe risk ol distorting tLe LalakLic tradition lor polemical
In tLe end, Lowever, we do not tLink tLis concern sLould play
tLe deciding role lor tLree reasons. Iirst and loremost, as a general
principle, we believe tLat tLe spiritual needs ol women and tLe at-
tempt to resolve tLese types ol issues sLould trump lears ol secta-
rian triumpLalism. As Rabbi ALaron LicLtenstein sb/tt"a Las recent-
ly argued, witL Lis cLaracteristic wisdom:

wLen tLe woman is tLe congregation`s spiritual leader. Indeed, it was tLis
consideration tLat led tLe Hatam Sc/cr, cited above, to lorbid giving sc-
mtkbab to anyone not eligible to perlorm all duties ol SanLedrin mem-
bers. WLile some rabbis play a less lundamental role in perlorming tLese
lunctions, tLere remains no question tLat many regularly perlorm sucL
rituals and all are expected to be able to do so. As sucL, tLe LalakLic pa-
rameters and communal expectations would Lave to be greatly clarilied to
prevent LalakLic violations.
52 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

Serious and responsible pcsktm, impeccably committed and
witL catLolicity ol JoraL knowledge, sLould, I believe, give
greater weigLt tLan in recent generations Las been assigned, to
tLe dispensation ol /a`asct nabat ruab /cnasbtm
cited in tLe
Cemara and in Sbu/ban Arukb as tLe basis lor permitting wLat
migLt otLerwise Lave been proscribed.

Second, tLis is especially true in our case, since we are uncertain
il tLe issue ol ordaining women stems lrom non-CrtLodox origins.
It is quite reasonable, as Rabbi Lamm observed, tLis is simply a log-
ical conclusion ol tLe policy supporting women`s immersion in
Jalmud study. Many pious CrtLodox women, lully dedicated to
LalakLaL, genuinely desire to use tLeir knowledge toward serving
tLe community. As a general rule, we sLould not tLwart tLe ge-
nuine religious desires ol some simply because otLers may Lave ne-
bulous motivations lor a similar goal.
Moreover, we believe tLat tLe tLreat ol sectarian triumpLalism
witL regard to LalakLic matters Las greatly abated. In early genera-
tions, one migLt Lave plausibly worried tLat dillerent cLanges could
be perceived as acceptance ol tLe claims ol non-CrtLodox move-
ments. JLat applied in eras wLen CrtLodoxy was embattled, and
tLe non-CrtLodox movements tried to justily tLemselves tLrougL
LalakLic discourse. Joday, even as it continues to lace signilicant
cLallenges and dilemmas, CrtLodoxy is tLriving, and tLe non-
CrtLodox movements are no longer perceived as competing or
tLreatening alternative LalakLic societies. As sucL, our community
will understand tLat cLanges made witL some lorm ol consensus ol
tLe CrtLodox community and its pcsktm represent genuine and le-
gitimate LalakLic activity.
We do believe, Lowever, tLat witLin tLe more liberal segments
ol CrtLodoxy today, tLere exists a nascent movement to try to
pusL tLe envelope toward greater egalitarianism in tLe prayer set-
ting and create LalakLic cLange in otLer areas, witL or witLout rab-
binic approbation. In recent years, tLis sector Las publisLed articles
to justily, and sometimes implemented in practice, amongst otLer
proposals: women`s a/tyct; tLe allowance lor unmarried women to

Hagtgab 16b. Loosely translated, Jo give spiritual satislaction to women."
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 53

go to tLe mtkvcb; tLe unjustilied nullilication ol marriages witLout
a gct, and tLe abolisLment ol tLe seven clean days" ol ntddab.
WLile eacL ol tLese cases adopts various degrees ol radicalism and
LalakLic plausibility, tLey all rellect lrustration witL, and occasio-
nally animosity toward, traditional LalakLic norms and contempo-
rary rabbinic leadersLip, and tLey Lave tLe potential to recklessly
break tLe bonds ol CrtLodoxy.
JLe appropriate response to tLis pLenomenon, Lowever, is not
to launcL polemical LalakLic rejoinders or to engage in overly sen-
sationalistic rLetoric. Delensive, reactionary responses, lacking botL
direction and nuance, will only inllame tLe situation. RatLer, we
must display responsible LalakLic leadersLip by openly tackling
eacL issue, separately and transparently, witL care to distinguisL and
address tecLnical LalakLic arguments and meta-LalakLic considera-
tions. JLis process maintains LalakLic integrity witLout compro-
mising traditional values, and is tLe only way tLat we can address
contemporary needs wLile maintaining lull lidelity to tLe JoraL
and tLe mcscrab.


CtLers Lave expressed concern tLat tLe ordination ol women will
lead to tLe breakdown ol all gender distinctions lound witLin tLe
JoraL, LalakLaL and tLe mcscrab. JLis Las been raised by a number
ol people wLo are generally sympatLetic to otLer developments re-
garding tLe role ol women in LalakLic ritual and ]ewisL public

In tLe above cited interview, Rabbi Lamm expressed a general sketcL ol
tLis concern. He stated,
Do I tLink Laving women rabbis is a good tLing: I do not know. I am,
Lowever, concerned tLat, belore long, we will lind ourselves overly lemi-
nized, and I would not want to see tLat Lappen. Women will begin com-
plaining about wLy tLey cannot be Kcbanct and dukbcn. I can name 100 dil-
lerent ba/akbct tLat just do not work witL women#lor instance, a woman
cannot be an cd ktddusbtn (a witness lor betrotLal). WLen it comes down to
it, I am a believer tLat tLere are dillerences between men and women tLat
sLould be rellected in LalakLic practice."

54 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

Il we understand tLis concern correctly, we may break it down
into LalakLic and sociological considerations. JLe LalakLic argu-
ment, it would seem, lears a slippery-slope situation, in wLicL tLe
ordination ol CrtLodox women rabbis leads to a barrage ol otLer
cLanges not mandated by LalakLaL, all in tLe name ol egalitarian-
ism. We delinitively oppose sucL a non-LalakLic movement, and
believe tLat anyone wLo would advocate sucL an agenda will lind
tLemselves excluded lrom tLe community ol tLose committed to
EacL LalakLic issue sLould be individually and appropriately
addressed. Sometimes cLanges are permissible and a good idea, otLer
times tLey remain assur, and many proposals lall into a grey area.

Cne sLould not simply address all issues relating to women under
tLe Leading ol Ht/kbct Icmtntsm" (in a positive or negative sense).

See also tLe remarks ol Rabbi Cidon RotLstein in two essays on Tcxt c
Tcxturc: Women and tLe Splitting ol Modern CrtLodoxy: Conlronting
tLe \nderlying Issues" <Lttp://text. and JLe
Component Issues ol a Jraditional ]ewisL WomanLood <Lttp://
Indeed, many Lave understood tLe entire notion ol scrarab as stemming
lrom tLe need to dillerentiate roles between men and women. See, Low-
ever, tLe contrary position ol Rabbi Hayyim David Halevi, Tcbumtn 10,
p. 121, wLo states tLat tLe law is a gczcrat ba-katuv. He bases tLis on tLe
position, adopted by Rabbi YeLezkel Landau, Ncda Bc-Ycbuda Kamma,
H/ 1 and pondered by /tnbat Htnucb +9/:2, tLat scrarab only proLibits
tLe action ol a lormal anointment (bakbtarab), but not tLeir assumption
ol powers by inLeritance. Since a woman migLt be able to inLerit a posi-
tion, but not receive tLe initial lormal appointment, gender dillerentia-
tion seems an insullicient explanation lor tLe law. (JLe position tLat
women may inLerit scrarab is explicitly rejected by Rabbi YecLiel M. Ju-
cLizinsky, Ha-Isbab A/-Pt Tcrat Ytsrac/, p. 50-51. Ior lurtLer sources on
tLe inLeritance ol women to scrarab positions, see p. 5+0 ol tLe source in-
dex to tLe Irankel edition ol Rambam`s Ht/kbct /c/akbtm 1:5.)
Ior example, sometLing migLt be tecLnically mutar but a bad idea lor
otLer reasons. Alternatively, one migLt make a plausible LalakLic argu-
ment lor a cLange, but tLe contrary read ol tLe sources remains more
compelling. Likewise, sometLing migLt only Lave tLe support ol a da`at
yacbtd in tLe sources, but gcdc/ct Ytsrac/ migLt believe tLat tLe times dic-
tate lollowing tLis opinion. All ol tLese models, well establisLed witLin
tLe Listory ol LalakLaL, apply to all realms ol LalakLic discourse.
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 55

JLe ordination ol women certainly is not tLe lirst issue tLat Las
been raised regarding tLe role ol women in tLe last century, nor
will it be tLe last. Yet as long as we remain witLin tLe lramework ol
tLe establisLed LalakLic process, led by our pcsktm in consultation
witL our rabbinic and lay leadersLip, we believe tLat tLis will pre-
vent tLe distortion ol LalakLaL and tLe destruction ol communal unity.
Alternatively, some contend tLat on a sociological level, tLe or-
dination ol women will lead to tLe distancing ol men lrom tLe syn-
agogue and communal leadersLip. JLe evidence lor sucL a claim
stems lrom recent studies ol tLe non-CrtLodox movements wLicL
lind tLat as tLese movements adopt egalitarian norms and special
programming aimed to attracting women, men Lave become less
engaged in communal and religious lile.
It remains dillicult to
gauge tLe exact nature ol tLis tLreat. It is important to note, Low-
ever, tLat il we continue to work witLin tLe lramework ol tLe es-
tablisLed LalakLic process, we will not lind ourselves anywLere
close to tLe lull-lledged non-LalakLic egalitarianism advocated by
non-CrtLodox movements. We cannot imagine a situation in wLicL
gender distinctions will not lorever remain witL tLe CrtLodox
community. Moreover, wLile tLis issue may require caution and
lurtLer tLougLt, it sLould not prevent us lrom addressing tLe issues
tLat already distance (lor one reason or anotLer) many women (and
men) lrom an CrtLodox LalakLic lilestyle.

&X- '83:F94;3I$E>89I>6D#$)$T26>$W87=274$

We believe tLat any requisite amount ol consensus needed witLin
CrtLodoxy lor ordaining women is lar lrom being present. JLe law
Las tLus not cLanged. Yet one ol tLis article`s central intellectual
endeavors is to assert tLat wLen seeking to determine wLetLer cer-
tain practices are timely or timeless, one must distinguisL between
tLe uncLanged and tLe uncLangeable.

See Sylvia Barack IisLman and Daniel Parmer, /atrt/tnca/ Asccnt Patrt-
/tnca/ Dcsccnt: Tbc Ccndcr Imba/ancc tn Amcrtcan }cutsb Lt/c, HadassaL-
Brandeis Institute, 2008. JLe study is available online at <Lttp://www.
56 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

Especially il one lollows tLe position ol tLe Rama on scmtk-
bab lound witLin Lis tcsbuvct, and Rambam`s position on scra-
rab, one may reasonably argue tLat women cannot serve as Cr-
tLodox rabbis because ol tecLnical LalakLic argumentation. We
believe, Lowever, tLat a reasonable argument may be made tLat
no tecLnical LalakLic issues proLibit CrtLodox women lrom
serving as rabbis, or at least receiving some otLer lorm ol ordina-
tion as CrtLodox clergy. onetLeless, tLis LalakLic question
does not require immediate resolution. A Lost ol otLers con-
cerns-relating to mcscrab, practical rabbinics, communal unity,
and unpredictable sociological consequences-leads us to lavoring
slow and non-radical development on tLis issue as some lorm ol
consensus develops and emerges.
We Lave tried to present a lramework lor tLinking about tLe
LalakLic and meta-LalakLic issues involved in tLis issue, so tLat
our community can try to develop some lorm ol consensus on
tLis issue over a period ol time. JLis is tLe responsible approacL
on tLis matter, given tLe complexity ol tLe total picture and tLe
importance ol tLe institution ol tLe rabbinate to CrtLodox lile.
Some will not like tLis conclusion because tLey will main-
tain, Il tLis is plausibly mutar on a tecLnical level, we sLould
proceed at lull speed." CtLers will not like it because it did not
conclude, on wLatever basis, tLat Civing scmtkbab to women is
categorically assur." BotL approacLes are not a proper vision ol
Low ]ewisL law ougLt to work. HalakLaL, like lile, is lrequently
nuanced and complex, and is not always well encapsulated mere-
ly by words like bayav or assur.
JLis is sucL a case, and it is im-
portant to strive to be wise, acting witL loresigLt and vision, as
well as insigLt and probity. Simple solutions to complex prob-
lems are always easy to lind, but tLey are rarely correct.
JLe responsible Landling ol tLese issues will Lelp ensure Cr-
tLodox unity even as we respect our diversity. We sLould not lall
prey to tLe errors made in previous eras and allow our lack ol

Hence, LalakLic literature Las pLrases like atn ruab bakbamtm ncba ba-
mcnu" or mutar ava/ ctnc rauy" or rcsbut ava/ ctnc bayav."
Ortbcdcx Wcmcn Rabbts : 57

unilormity to become overly divisive. CrtLodox women rabbis
sLould not be a scLism issue between tLe various groups witLin
CrtLodoxy. All tLe communities need to take small steps toward
lullilling tLeir vision, and not giant steps tLat rip us apart as a
broad community ol people bonded by LalakLaL.
Cver tLe last
Lall-century tLe role ol women witLin tLe LalakLic community
Las vastly cLanged, and yet tLanklully, all tLose committed to
LalakLaL remain witLin tLe broader tent ol CrtLodoxy. Slow
and steady movement is wise, as is civil discourse, coordinated
interaction, and dialogue between all members ol tLe CrtLodox
Support lor women learning gemara is wide and deep witLin a
segment ol tLe CrtLodox community, deriving lrom tLe clear and
direct leadersLip ol Rabbi ]osepL B. SoloveitcLik, zt"/, as well as
many otLer gcdc/tm botL in America and in Israel. We support tLis
lor tLe community tLat needs and wants it, and believe tLat wom-
en`s (and men`s) learning deserves even more communal encou-
ragement and institutional support. Pious women involved in in-
tense study sLould receive access to all realms ol JoraL knowledge
by tLe best educators and ta/mtdct bakbamtm, and receive proper
training to serve tLe community. Even witLout a rabbinic title, ge-
nuinely deserving women sLould receive appropriate kavcd ba-
Tcrab, and be included in all communal matters lor wLicL tLey are
qualilied to contribute, including tLose areas not related to wom-
en`s issues."

Based on tLis, we believe tLe unprecedented decision to ordain a woman
witL tLe title rabba was justly criticized since it was not supported by a
major LalakLic autLority, did not develop witL appropriate communal
coordination, and did not address tLe major issues raised by sucL a
cLange. We lurtLer believe tLat it would Lave been mucL better#lor tLe
sake ol tLe LalakLic process as well as tLe long-term growtL ol women`s
participation in JoraL and mitzvot#lor tLe title to be lorsaken lor now
by its sole user. JLe continued use ol tLis title will only continue to serve
as a distraction lrom tLe central issues tLat must be appropriately ad-
dressed regarding women`s leadersLip roles. We believe tLat tLis could be
rectilied tLrougL a sell-sacrilicing action lor tLe sake ol communal unity,
women`s scLolarsLip, and tLe LalakLic process, lollowing tLe model ol
Rabbi YeLosLua (Rcsb HaSbanab 25a).
58 : Haktrab, tbc I/atbusb }curna/ c/ }cutsb Lau and Tbcugbt

Civen tLat tLere does not appear a panel ol JoraL giants to
endorse tLe immediate and lar-reacLing cLange ol giving scmtk-
bab to women, tLose wLo support increasing women`s leadersLip
roles sLould return to tLe patL ol incremental development on
wLicL CrtLodoxy Las been traveling until recently. Women
sLould sit and study lor increasingly long periods ol time, write
serious scLolarsLip in JoraL, develop as inspiring spiritual per-
sonas, and lead toraL institutions, in lunction il not in lorm. In
sLort, tLey sLould build tLe CrtLodox community brick by
brick, and see wLat Lappens over time. JLe passage ol time, as
Rabbi Lamm observes, solves many problems. We endorse tLis
approacL. G