Lady Light Posts, and Batya Comments

Lady Light posts about the roles of women in Judaism, and about synagogue participation specifically, and sees a door “partially opening”.  Ari comments beautifully on the post about how women becoming Rabbis is a step down, and I couldn’t agree more!

Batya comments here on her blog, (the comments here are interesting too) and expresses a lot of my sentiments about the subject.

I am honestly puzzled by some women’s feelings that they are being shunted aside “spiritually” because they cannot lead the services in an Orthodox synagogue.  I have always thought that the purpose of going to the synagogue was to pray to G-d. Getting up in front of the synagogue and leading the services is a duty which, in my mind, distracts you from this purpose.  Someone who does a good job leading the prayers has a lot to think about, most of which is not about the prayers themselves. You have to make sure that your voice is loud enough for everyone to hear, you have to make sure that you are not going too fast (waiting for the Rav to finish before you go on to the next prayer means being a bit distracted, to say the least!), and if you are musically inclined, thinking of which tunes to use when. Many times I think that the people leading (especially the guests who love to add their own chazzanus) do so because they want to show off – not necessarily because they are “uplifted spiritually” by the exercise. (I must add, though, that most of the men in my yishuv do not do this, and it is sometimes hard to find men who are willing to lead).

Orthodox women are not being held back from coming close to G-d in any way. We are “prevented” from one way in which to “show off”. Personally I think this is to our advantage.

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Batya from Shiloh
    Sep 04, 2009 @ 04:04:31

    wbm, Your additional points are so true, at least IMHO. Having gone to a Conservative Hebrew School and leading prayers there, I am initimately acquainted with the ego trip involved.

    Leading prayers and leining are also time-consuming chores. The chore aspect takes away from the spiritual. Sitting in my spot in the Ezrat Nashim, I can just deal with my prayers to G-d.

  2. aliyah06
    Sep 05, 2009 @ 17:47:04

    I think feeling inclusive or excluded is a matter of education. If you grow up in a Reform or Conservative congregation and you are taught that the Orthodox disdain women and think we are “dirty”, are paternalistic and “exclude” women from ritual, unlike the C or R movements, then you have a negative impression of what traditional Judaism is and think the mehitzah is an abomination and that women don’t count for nuthin’.

    But then when one transitions from Conservative/Reform to Orthodox, and discovers that women are highly esteemed, that the mehitzah creates a sorority within the congregation where women can daven without being distracted by men’s or children’s needs, that we are not burdened with time-bound mitzvot like men, and that the center of Jewish life is the home (run by the women) and not the synagogue (run by the men), then you realize that what you grew up hearing is simply inaccurate.

    I know.

  3. neshama
    Sep 06, 2009 @ 01:58:31

    Shavua Tov, just had to tell you this. While reading my Mishpacha magazine on Shabbat, I turned the page and what do I see: A whole page ad for Udi’s new CD. Timing is everything.

  4. Ilana
    Sep 26, 2009 @ 18:52:33

    I have been attending an Orthodox shul for just over a year. Previously, I participated actively and enthusiastically in an egalitarian shul, where I read Torah, led davening, etc. What can I tell you, I miss it, a lot. I do see what you mean about it being a time-consuming or distracting chore. There is truth in this. But to be so silenced — it’s hard. My heart isn’t in it. It doesn’t speak to me. I feel that I have lost something special. Especially on Rosh Hashanah, because I used to lead Shacharit and I loved it. Not really for the ego trip, but because I loved to lead the congregation and I love the melodies. (I will add that it’s also nice when you lead, to not have to “catch up” with the Shaliach Tzibur, which I otherwise often have to do, not being the very speediest davener).

    I daven twice a day — generally not in shul. On Shabbat morning I go about half the time. But not being a part of things in the same way I used to be — it’s uninspiring. Today I went, and unfortunately the person who read Torah was not as good as he could have been. This doesn’t usually happen, and truthfully I can understand it happening with this Parsha. It looks short and easy but it’s actually difficult poetry — I know, I read it once and found it more difficult to prepare than I expected. Now, if I am in an egal shul, then I can decide to take some responsibility for the situation and not just be disappointed in the reading. I can resolve to read well and more often. But in an Orthodox shul, there really isn’t much I can do. And that is frustrating and disempowering.

    Davening is *supposed* to be a communal experience, not just an individual communion with God. But I want to feel part of the community. And when I don’t count for minyan and can’t read Torah or lead davening or do much of anything else, I do feel like a second class citizen.

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