Talmud and Women Rabbis
lesl at UDEL.EDU
Tue Jun 13 15:16:32 PDT 2000
Thanks David, I knew the rule about Torah reading (in fact, as I learned
it, women may not TOUCH the Torah for the reason that they may be
"unclean" at that moment (and not even be aware of it). This rule was
enforced in my Reform Temple in the fifties and sixties, when I was
growing up, and i remember feeling a tremendous sense of violating a
taboo(slightly exhilirating and definitely awesome) the first time I was
allowed to touch, indeed carry, the Torah at my Reconstructionist
synagogue in the seventies. I presume that this "no touch" rule re the
Torah comes from the Talmud?
"DAVID E. BERNSTEIN" wrote:
> Technically, there is really no such title as "rabbi" in halachic Judaism, so there is no reason for the Talmudic scholars to talk about who is qualified to be one. There is nothing a rabbi can do that an ordinary layman can't do, and vice verson. For example, contrary to the political interests of the religious parties in Israel, it's absurd to say that only Orthodox rabbis can marry Jews, since there is no reason you need a rabbi in the first place. A conservative or reform rabbi, or a non-rabbi, can just as well perform the service if halachic conventions are followed.
> Rabbis are tradtitionally simply learned and wise scholars who receive the respect of the community and therefore become de facto spiritual and legal leaders. Of course, today there is formal ordination and pulpits, and rabbis are expected to officiate at services and lifecycle events. The problem with women rabbis, as I understand it, is that for certain lifecycle events you need men for witnesses (which can be overcome by having additional men around), and, more important, you need to have the person officiating (for example, at a service where the Torah is read) be "Tahor," whereas women who are at certain stages of their menstrual cycles are considered "Tameh."
> David E. Bernstein
> Associate Professor
> George Mason University
> School of Law
> 3401 N. Fairfax Drive
> Arlington, VA 22201
> (703) 993-8089
> dbernste at wpgate.gmu.edu
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