The place of women in halacha

Updated: Feb 26

In his book On Changes in Jewish Liturgy: Options and Limitations, HaRav Professor Daniel Sperber reviews some of the criticism levelled against the blessing recited by men thanking Hashem "for not creating me a woman" (Shelo 'Asani Isha). While agreeing that such a debate is legitimate, HaRav David Bar-Hayim demonstrates that many of the arguments often adduced in support of those who would have the b'rakha expunged from sidurim (prayer books) are not. The Rav states that the issue needs to be addressed head-on, with intellectual honesty and rigour, not with disingenuous and apologetic claims. Tora Jews must be sincere, open-minded and willing to consider changing realities. That being said, the view that the b'rakha should be dropped must be rooted in a Tora-based imperative. Tora Jews are loyal to the spirit of the Tora, not the spirit of the times. Should a man thank Hashem for not creating him a woman if he doesn't honestly feel grateful for this fact? The Rav answers in the negative. A b'rakha uttered without sincere kawana is of no value. Can a woman who wishes to wear a tallith or tefillin do so? The Rav answers in the affirmative, with one proviso: that her intention be to do Hashem's will, not to make a point. A Jew performs a Misswa because it is Hashem's Will; any other motivation is unacceptable.


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