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Talking to Myself

February 23, 2014

R’ Schachter says that before individual congregants and their rabbis decide to let women wear tefillin or lead kabbalath shabbath, they have to check with “the gedolim.”

Wait a minute. R’ Shcachter’s related institutions (YU, RIETS, OU, NCSY, etc.) have for decades acted against the dictates of “the gedolim”. R” Shach, etc. have denounced their actions right and left?!

As R’ Schachter has always explained, and twice recently, those were not “our gedolim.”

So why does not R’ Schachter consider that the the innovators of those partnership minyanim and women wearing tefillin are just following their own gedolim?

They don’t have gedolim.

Strange. The real gedolim have always said that R‘ Schachter, et al. have no gedolim!

Look. There’s gedolim, and then there’s gedolim. R’ Schachter and company only have gedolim when they espouse views that are in line with those of the real gedolim.

Disclaimer: With regards to women wearing tefillin, I believe Rabbi Bar Hayim to be correct, i.e., women may opt to perform any of those commandments, and we should leave out politics from straight halacha. There happen to be groups that are known to have the wrong intentions, so we should not follow them.

With regards to women leading kabbalath shabbath, the Vilna Gaon had it right. Kabbalath shabbath ist a gornisht. It is not part of our prayer service. It is something meant to be done outside of the public prayer in the synagogue. Thus, there are no halachoth that govern the practice. It’s just a sing-along.

I also believe that this piece from Guardian of Jerusalem, R’ Sonnenefeld’s biography, is especially pertinent:
(click on the image to view in full size)


Like I wrote earlier, times have changed. It could have been that in mid to late 20th century women should not have worn tefillin because of the association with the Conservative movement, but that is not the case today. Once upon a time, great rabbis sought to prohibit Hebrew as the language of instruction in schools due to its association with anti-religious movements, but decades later, other great rabbis conceded that it was no longer relevant to prohibit it because the association was no more. As I wrote earlier, observant women would want to wear tefillin because nowadays, and thanks in large part to Rabbi Soloveichik’s teachings, they seek to perform more commandments.


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