Partnership Minyanim: A Follow Up – by Rabbi Zev Farber

In response to my previous post, Rabbi Barry Freundel has written a characteristically thorough critique of my presentation. I am honored. Although Rabbi Freundel and I seem to be reading matters differently in a myriad of areas, I wish to take this opportunity to offer a brief reframing of my main point in order to further clarify the nature of my claim. I again apologize to Rabbi Freundel for not taking up all of his detailed critiques, with the hope that I will be able to do so some time in the future.

I argued in my first post that there are two types of shaliaḥ tzibbur (the person leading the synagogue service). The first is one who recites certain prayers or blessings out loud on behalf of the congregation or of individuals in the congregation. This person must be one who has the same type of obligation as members of the congregation whom said shaliaḥ tzibbur is representing. The second type of shaliaḥ tzibbur is someone who sets the pace for the congregation, chooses the tune for various songs, etc. This person is not reciting anything on behalf of the congregation (being motzi people in halakhic terminology) and, consequently, the limits imposed on who can be the shaliaḥ tzibbur in halakhic literature do not apply to this type.

Rabbi Freundel, in his critique of my response, argues that I have woven these categories out of whole cloth. Where are the sources, he asks, for allowing women to lead services in the capacity I call shaliaḥ tzibbur type II? The problem with these questions is that it is not I who has invented a new category of halakha, but Rabbi Freundel. I was simply clarifying what has been the given among writers of halakha.[1]

To explain: Rabbi Freundel argues that once a prayer service is generally said in the synagogue as a part of a minyan it becomes either a tefillah be-tzibbur, or at least, a tefillat ha-rabbim. This is a ḥiddush (a novel interpretation) and hardly a consensus position. He then makes the leap that once a given prayer service has attained this status, anyone who leads it must be “obligated” in this prayer service. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that a halakhic category of “leader of Qabbalat Shabbat” or even Pesuqei de-Zimrah exists. In fact, in many yeshivot, nobody leads Pesuqei de-Zimrah, and Rabbi Freundel notes (p. 16) that “in some corners of the world” (some of these “corners” being Jerusalem and New York, I might add) no one leads Qabbalat Shabbat either.

Customs as to whether someone leads these services or not vary because there is no halakhic requirement for anyone to lead them. There is no halakhic requirement for a leader because these services are themselves only customs and they are performed by each individual in the congregation reciting the service to him- or herself. Nothing that these shliḥei tzibbur say is said on behalf of anyone, hence such a shaliaḥ tzibbur has no halakhic status. Finding a text that discusses who can be the shaliaḥ tzibbur in cases where a shaliaḥ tzibbur is unnecessary would be rather difficult.

One may then ask: Why is the prevalent custom for these services to have a shaliaḥ tzibbur? I think the simple answer is that we are accustomed to praying in this fashion, and it makes the experience feel more “community-like” if someone sets the pace and chooses the tune for everyone. I called this (non-halakhic but prevalent) practice shaliaḥ tzibbur type II.

Allow me demonstrate this point with a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that after reciting Barkhu (or the repetition of the Amidah, or any prayer with the status of davar she-be-qedusha) the shaliaḥ tzibbur disappears—it turns out he had been a hologram (I’m a Star Trek fan, mea culpa). The congregants turn to the rabbi and ask whether the congregation had fulfilled its obligation to have Barkhu recited? I assume the rabbi says no. If then asked whether someone else should go up to the amud and recite Barkhu again, I assume the rabbi would say yes.

Now let’s imagine the same case, but immediately after Lekha Dodi, as the mourners enter the synagogue, the hologram shaliaḥ tzibbur disappears, and the rabbi is asked whether the congregants have fulfilled their “obligation” (to use Rabbi Freundel’s concept) to recite Qabbalat Shabbat. What would the rabbi say? I assume he would say that since everyone recited the proper Psalms together, the congregation has indeed fulfilled its requirement to recite the Qabbalat Shabbat service, and that the congregation may proceed with the evening service without the need to repeat anything.

However, I assume the rabbi would add that he believes that having the hologram lead Qabbalat Shabbat (or Pesuqei de-Zimrah) was inappropriate and should not be repeated. The reason, I believe, he would say this is because it is not kavod ha-tzibbur (in keeping with the dignity of the congregation) to have a hologram lead the services. This point, that the customs adopted by a congregation should be in keeping with their “dignity” has gone unspoken in the debate thus far, but is an important one because it answers the second of Rabbi Freundel’s questions: Why hasn’t anyone until recently discussed the possibility of women leading these services? The answer is that until the feminist revolution, such conduct would have been considered “undignified” for the congregation as well as for that woman.

This is why the Mendel Shapiro article, which Rabbi Freundel consistently claims is irrelevant to this discussion, is, in fact, very relevant. Rabbi Shapiro’s point is that, in modern times, the leadership role of women is a sociological given and, therefore, not a violation of the congregation’s “dignity,” unlike the hologram in my thought experiment. In short, I repeat my previous conclusion. Since there is nothing halakhically speaking barring women from leading these services, and there is no longer any fear that their doing so would be beneath the congregation’s dignity (again I apologize for the us-them language), whether women lead such services is a matter of custom and convention. Personally, I would encourage synagogues to allow women to lead things like Qabbalat Shabbat, but, in the end, such decisions are in the hands of each individual community and the community’s rabbi.

This brings me to one final point. Rabbi Freundel writes that he is well aware of the fact that there have been a number of other debates about women’s issues in halakha, but that this one differs from these others since, in his words, it does not follow “legitimate Orthodox halakhic epistemology.” This is an exceedingly subjective claim.

It is well-known that Rabbi Freundel has championed a number of “changes” on behalf of women in the synagogue that he considers acceptable. He mentions that Kesher Israel (R. Freundel’s synagogue) has a female president, something that many (including the National Council of Young Israel) believe to be forbidden halakhically. It is also well known that Kesher Israel has a women’s prayer group, and one that includes a women’s Torah reading service, something many Orthodox rabbis (including a number of YU Roshei Yeshiva) have vociferously opposed and claimed to be forbidden.[2]

I have great respect for Rabbi Freundel having taken a stand on these issues. Furthermore, although I do not agree with his position on women leading Qabbalat Shabbat, I respect his right as a scholar and rabbinic leader of a community to say that he does not believe a certain practice is halakhically acceptable and will, therefore, not allow that practice in his synagogue. What bothers me is that Rabbi Freundel does not extend this same courtesy to the people on his left, but argues that since he does not agree with their reading of the halakha, this means that they are not “really” Orthodox.

Granted that the idea of women leading any part of the service is a sociological departure from what has been, but the question of who leads Qabbalat Shabbat seems a rather trivial one halakhically speaking, and it is only Rabbi Freundel that seems to believe that it is really “halakha” that is at stake here. In my opinion, most Orthodox rabbis, even the ones who oppose women leading Qabbalat Shabbat, would admit that it is not a question of halakha but one of sociology or public policy. Even though Rabbi Freundel disagrees, and believes it is one of halakha, for him to put such stock in his ḥiddush such that he can dismiss a large swath of halakhically observant men and women—even some rabbis—from the Orthodox camp is disappointing.

Rabbi Zev Farber, Atlanta

[1] See, for example this random sampling of modern day Orthodox responsa (1, 2, 3) where each author explicitly assumes that Qabbalat Shabbat is not a “real” halakhic service and that the issue of who may lead it is one of minhag and/or public policy.

[2] See: Nissan Alpert, Abba Bronspigel, Mordechai Willig, Yehuda Parnes and Zvi Schachter, “Teshuva be-Inyan Nashim be-Hakafot ve-khu,” Ha-Darom 54 (Sivan 5745): 49-50.

24 Responses to Partnership Minyanim: A Follow Up – by Rabbi Zev Farber

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, insane intelligence. Agree or not, this article is respectful, intellectual and readable…quite a feat. R. Farber has been a tremendous addition to this blog.

  2. Upper West Side Jew says:

    Very well said, Rabbi Zev Farber!

    • Simon says:

      I just wish the world would stop relagating women into what they think we shuold be. I’m not sure why anyone feels it necessary to put on make-up, scarves, hijabs, head-to-foot garb, bras, girdles, high-heels, bikini’s, and gosh knows what else Why are we letting men rule over our every move?I get hit every time I ask this question; hit by my mother no less, because she buys into being a second class citizen.Good luck with all that you want to be!

  3. Anonymous says:

    The question of whether or not someone is ‘really’ Orthodox” is an epistemological one. If you follow Orthodox methodology in seeking knowledge (and then honestly follow those results) you are Orthodox even if you arrive at a position with which someone else may not agree. However if you use non Orthodox epistemology, such as reaching back for several 100 year old discarded sources that were never followed (say in the realm of Kashrus or conversion), or demanding that halacha recognize your egalitarian ideals no matter how much you have to bend or twist it as a positive value you are not Orthodox.

    Additionally you are part of a movement with its own Rabbinical School (YCT), Rabbinical Organization (IRF) and distinct theological positions and ideals. Once you take all three of those together in what way is that not a distinct movement from what we have traditionally called Orthodoxy?

    It seems to me that more clarity is lost than gained by clinging to a description that doesn’t fit you at all. I personally would not want to go to a shul where the rabbi was from that movement (and many adherents from that movement are most comfortable with a Rabbi who is one of there one). So why not use a different name so that we can amicably go our separate ways? I’m not preaching to Conservative and Reform Jews, they do their thing and I do mine. But the important point is that no one is confused.

    I’m curious though, why do you even want to be considered Orthodox? Why would you want to be on the extreme fringe of a group for whom you have in the past shown disdain (“loyal order of water buffalo,” “antiquated and obsolete paradigm,” “out of touch with the spiritual and sociological reality”)? Why would you want to be on the margin of people you consider so wrongheaded?

    Why not just be your own group? Call yourselves whatever you want. But why would you want to be considered the crazy Jacobin uncle that we all try to ignore on Thanksgiving?

    • Anonymous 2 says:

      Anonymous–Are you really suggesting that Orthodoxy is so small as to tolerate only one rabbinical school (YU) and association of rabbis (RCA)? If you want to take issue with the sources that support the conclusion that Kabbalat Shabbat is not tefillah that requires a male leader, let’s hear your arguments. I’m not interested in your casting certain schools and associations as religiously obligatory, or your preoccupation with drawing the boundaries of Orthodoxy in ways that conveniently validate your worldview while excluding all others.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Rabbi Freundel has already laid out those arguments. I’l leave it to him and other Rabbis to carry on the debate over the sources. I am convinced by one side, but I wasn’t even debating who was right. I was responding to specific language in the article above that i found interesting. As for your lack of interest, I’m not writing to meet your interest.

    I am in fact arguing that a movement is defined as having a school, religious leadership and a set of religious ideas. You can have multiple of any one of those things in the same movement, as long as you don’t have any one entity that uniquely encompasses all three. Once you have that you have a new denomination. A second rabbinical school wouldn’t be a new denomination if it shared the same epistomolgy as YU.

    I do in fact agree that any religious movement is “so small” that cannot be two religious movements under one banner. You can use a pejorative such as small to describe that, but I think its a fact. I think my view is far more diverse than yours. What is so magically appealing about being called Orthodox? Why force your square peg into a round hole?

    Your last comments are quite bewildering. Lets not judge whether your new denomination of Judaism is right or wrong. Lets not say what is “religiously obligatory.” Maybe the Orthodox position is right, maybe yours is right. Maybe Reform, or Conservative is right. Maybe none of us are right. Maybe we’re all a little bit right and a little bit wrong. But there is one thing I can assure you, we’re all different. So lets celebrate that diversity by recognizing our differences rather than pretending that we’re all that same.

    I’m not sure why that upsets you so much.

  5. Based on sociological considerations, why not just permit non-Jews to lead these parts as well

  6. Moshe Y says:

    Rabbi Farber, sources # 2 and 3 which you quote in footnote 1 as “explicitly” proving that kabalat shabbat is “not a real halachic service” actually explicitly say the exact opposite! Source 2 for example says that for Ashkenazim one may not divide kabbalat amongst different chazanim; one must instead use only one chazzan as per the laws of communal prayer. This means that Ashkenazim have a halachikly binding minhag to treat it similarly to communal prayer, at least in some ways. I imagine the PM crowd would say “well, then we hold like the Sefardic minhag” (even though they are probably over 90% Ashkenazim), but that is picking and choosing. The Ashkenazi custom supports R. Freundel.

    Incidentally, this same source also says that one may not appoint a chazzan below Bar Mitzvah for Pesukei D’Zimra. This is another proof against PM, since the PM minyanim casually equate kaballat shabbat and psukei d’zimra. It also further demonstrates the selective picking and choosing from sources which unfortunately pervades much of Open Orthodoxy.

    In source number 3 Rabbi Lior explicitly says “it is possible” to justify sometimes appointing a minor boy to lead kabalat shabbat (exactly the same view as R. Freundel: tentative justification) but that one should not do this regularly.

    You write that this all boils down to “minhag and/public policy”, as if you assume that the 2 can be easily disregarded equally. You casually equate minhag and public policy. But minhag is a halachicly binding aspect of halacha, as assumed in the sources which you yourself try to quote as proofs. If you want to change minhag, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate how or why you can do so. You would have to change kabalat shabbat and psukei dezmira from a customary form of communal prayer into something new. These sources prove exactly as R. Freundel argues that there is a binding halachic minhag to treat kabalat shabbat like communal prayer, and that arguing that the source for this is “only minhag” suffers from the genetic fallacy. It’s halachicly irrelevant.

    • Benjamin E. says:

      Your analysis of source #2 seems mistaken. The question was about dividing up davening and letting children lead parts of various services. Kabbalat Shabbat is provided in the question as an *example*.

      Part daled of the response explicitly says that in Ashkenazic communities “אין **נוהגים** לחלק את התפילה לאנשים שונים ” – it is not the *practice* to divide up the davening to different communities.

      More importantly, at the end of daled he distinguishes between his earlier comments, which were about tefila in general, and Kabbalat Shabbat. He says in the final sentence: “For Kabbalat Shabbat, which is not part of tefila, one may appoint a minor as a shaliach tzibur, but one should not divide up the psalms [of Kabbalat Shabbat] to different minors.” He explicitly says that Kabbalat Shabbat is not a part of the service and only addresses the question of having multiple minors split it, which he is opposed to.

      You also are mistaken about what it says about Pesukei D’zimrah. He explicitly spends all of section gimmel saying the opposite of what you claim. The first sentence says, “[T]here are those who apportion them to minors and those who apportion them only to those of bar mitzvah age.” He does not criticize this at all. He even notes that some people don’t even appoint a shaliach tzibur at all for Pesukei D’zimrah, and if you follow this, then just make sure to appoint someone by Yishtabach.

      As for source three, although his decision is that it shouldn’t be done regularly (i.e., a policy decision), Rabbi farber wasn’t trying to say that the source says that women can do it. On the contrary, this source makes exactly the halakhic point Rabbi Farber claims – that fundamentally Kabbalat Shabbat does not have the same status as other communal prayers “מפני שאינו מוציא אף אחד מהמתפללים ידי חובה וכל אחד אוצר בפני עצמו את פרקי התהילים האלה” – since nobody is fulfilling anyone else’s obligation and everyone is saying the prayers themselves.

      These sources prove nothing as to the binding nature of the minhagim; to the contrary, none of them speak in binding halakhic language and all of them characterize Kabbalat Shabbat exactly as R. Farber claimed and use the language of “nohagim” and “al ta’asu” – not a smidgen of any language suggesting chovah (obligation) or issur (impermissibility).

      • Moshe Y says:

        As I mentioned in my first post, the word minhag absolutely IS suffused with the sense of obligatory practice in halachic literature. I am confounded by your assertion that you don’t see in “the language of “nohagim” and “al ta’asu” – not a smidgen of any language suggesting chovah (obligation) or issur (impermissibility)” (!). Those two words absolutely do imply just that, in all of halachic literature! These sources we are referencing are she’lot and teshuvot and it is self understood that the rabbanim are answering the questioner with the halachicly required practice as they see it. Nowhere do they indicate that their answers are only “policy recommendations” to be followed or disregarded based on whim.

        As for the discussion of psukei dezimra in source 2, if you read carefully you’ll see that Section Gimmel, which allows wide leeway with regards to psukei dezimra as you mention, is referring exclusively to sefardic practice, which is the subject of the whole responsum up to this point (this confused me as well). But in section daled he adds:

        “But in Ashkenazic communities we do not divide the tefillah between different men, but rather appoint one sheliach tzibbur for each tefillah…and therefore one may not apportion the tefillah (of p’sukei dezimra) to different children. It is only possible to give to children parts of the mizmorim to say out loud as part of the kehilla, but only when there is a chazzan over the age of Bar Mitzvah repeating the last line of each mizmor, as is customary”

        בקהילות אשכנז אין נוהגים לחלק את התפילה לאנשים שונים אלא מעמידים שליח-ציבור לכל התפילה. ואף אין נוהגים ששליח-הציבור עצמו יאמר כל התפילה בקול – ואין לשנות5, וממילא אין לחלק את התפילה בין נערים שונים. רק אפשר ליתן לנערים לומר חלק מן המזמורים בקול בתור מקהלה, וגם אז צריך להקפיד ששליח-הציבור העובר לפני התיבה והוא בר-מצוה, יחזור על סוף כל פיסקה, כנהוג.

        I would add that it’s a catch 22: just by appointing a chazzan for psukei dezimra at all a shul is by definition channeling the ashekanzi practice to treat it as tefillah betzibur; and then it needs to abide by the rules of tefillah betzibur. But you can’t have it both ways: you can’t invoke sefardic practice to say “it’s not really communal prayer” and then also appoint a chazzan, which by definition makes it a form of communal prayer! And the sefardic custom to appoint a minor boy is also no proof, as R. Freundel has already written the difference between a minor boy and a woman (the boy leading prayer is an act of chinuch for his future role. He will one day be part of the minyan and can even count as the tenth according to some).

      • Benjamin E. says:

        I think you’re mistaken about the language they use. Source three uses very tepid language of “don’t do this on a regular basis,” and source two is all about what is done. Do teshuvot about cooking something on Shabbat say “don’t do this on a regular basis?” But the point R. Farber is raising about these sources is specifically *the way they treat Kabbalat Shabbat.* Source two explicitly treats it as something “שאינה חלק מן התפילה”, and the first line of source three notes exactly how Kabbalat Shabbat is not like most other tefillot.

        Second, I’m still not sure about your read of daled. First of all, “לכל התפילה” means “for all of the tefillah,” not “for each tefillah.” Given the language of the original question, I’m not sure about your bracketed insertion that he is talking specifically about Pesukei D’zimrah here – I think he’s just talking about all tefillot included in the asker’s question in general.

        But nonetheless, his last line explicitly treats Kabbalat Shabbat as different. Even if we accept your read about P’sukei D’zimrah and other tefillot in general and about the halakhic requirement for them, the source then does exactly what R. Farber claimed the source did – namely, treat Kabbalat Shabbat as halakhically different from them. If we take your read that he means it is halakhically required to have a normal chazzan for Psukei D’zimrah and this is evidence that it is a tefillah b’tzibur (even though no obligation is being fulfilled, etc. – and I’m still not ready to take your read), then his explicit claim in the Ashkenazi section that you *may* appoint a minor for Kabbalat Shabbat demonstrates that he does not consider it to have the same halakhic status.

      • Benjamin E. says:

        To summarize, let’s determine whether Rabbi Farber has supported his claim with evidence.

        Claim: In the following sources, (A) “each author explicitly assumes that Qabbalat Shabbat is not a “real” halakhic service and that (B) the issue of who may lead it is one of minhag and/or public policy.”

        Source 2:
        (A) Is there an explicit assumption that KS is different halakhically from most other services? This is shown in the following line: “רק באשר לקבלת-שבת, שאינה חלק מן התפילה, אפשר להעמיד בתור שליח-ציבור נער שעדיין לא הגיע לגיל בר-מצוה”.
        (B) The language of “ein nohagim” and the explicit permissibility to have a child lead it, demonstrating that no functional purpose is being performed by the shaliach tzibur.

        Source 3:
        (A) Is there an explicit assumption that KS is different halakhically from most other services? This is shown in the following line: “אפשר, מפני שאינו מוציא אף אחד מהמתפללים ידי חובה וכל אחד אוצר בפני עצמו את פרקי התהילים האלה”.
        (B) The combination of the explicit admission in the first line that no relevant actual halakhic issue is involved (nowhere does he note any actual halakhic issue at all), together with the concluding language of “bik’viut al ta’asu kach,” which isn’t even as strong as “ein nohagim.”

        Note: I’m not claiming that either author would explicitly support allowing women to lead Kabbalat Shabbat. But Rabbi Farber was not collecting sources that argue for such. He was attempting to demonstrate the *status* of Kabbalat Shabbat as a tefilla and provide input based on that. It is clear you disagree with the final conclusion – i.e., that women should be permitted to do this – but the research point is on the *halakhic status* of Kabbalat Shabbat as contrasted with other tefillot.

      • Benjamin E. says:

        Finally, source 1 (which we’ve been ignoring) does say all of this explicitly and even cites the Shulchan Aruch and Ishei Yisrael as support for the idea that it’s “a minhag and nothing more.” He notes that violating/changing a minhag is not trivial, but he discusses examples of many minhagim which have been changed and opens a more legitimate discussion about the topic – a kind of discussion that is completely different from the kind you have about a halakha because while significant, minhag has a different (if still important) status

  7. Moshe Y says:

    You are stressing the emphasis in these sources that kabalat shabbat and psukei dezimra are not the same as “real” communal prayer. No one disputes that. I am stressing the emphasis in these sources that KS and PDZ are still to be considered at least somewhat like communal prayer and needs to conform at least in some ways to the norms and rules thereof. Therefore, the burden of proof rests upon anyone who wants to diverge from the communal prayer model to prove in which ways it needs to be like communal prayer and in which it cannot. Rabbi Farber is arguing that KS and PDZ are not like communal prayer in any way whatsoever, and need not be bound by any of its rules. And on that he is citing sources as proof which do not agree with him. Whether on policy or halachic grounds they simply do not agree, so it is disingenuous to use them as proof. I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

    For what it’s worth, R. Dov Lior says that no one who is God fearing would attend a PM:,7340,L-3262945,00.html

    It is questionable methodology to select an opinion from this same rabbi as a supposed proof. Once again demonstrates the picking and choosing.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am here responding to two long posts, written in very different ways on Moreorthodoxy; one from Chaim Trachtman and (2) R Farbers post responding to my response to him. This will probably be my last comment on this issue unless something dramatic happens; first because I need to get back to my day job and second because this dialogue has revealed the critical elements in this debate that make this not a difference of opinion about halakha but a contact point in a disagreement that is and has always been schismatic when it appears in Jewish history. My answer here is long and detailed as there is much to be said in answer to what these two gentlemen have posted. For those who don’t want to get that far into the weeds, I urge you to read the sections in a slightly larger font that are also in Italics and underlined that appear towards the middle and end of this post that indicate why this is a much more serious issue than others would have us believe.
    I begin with Dr Trachtman and say again: I have read what is out there on the subject of partnership minyanim and nothing rises to the level of a thorough halachik analysis using an Orthodox epistemology, of this practice. I have explained why in my last post when I quickly reviewed what exists and that remains true. I will say more below. I am sorry if that offends anyone but the claim is accurate.
    Dr Trachtman states that Mendel Schapiro, in his article on women receiving aliyot, allows women to lead certain parts of the service that are not Devarim She-be-kedushah. But in the Edah Journal article in question (which is online at ), R Shapiro writes: “From the Orthodox point of view, it is clear that halakhah cannot endure the sort of egalitarian service that is now commonplace in the Conservative and Reform movements. By all Orthodox accounts, Halakhah prohibits the inclusion of women in the requisite minyan of ten as well as the mingling of the sexes during the synagogue service. But while these prohibitions appear both formally and ideologically to be insurmountable, there is one portion of the synagogue service—qeri’at ha-Torah (the public Torah reading)—where to bar women’s participation may not be absolute.“ I have heard that he now supports Partnership Minyanim (if that is not true, my apologies), but it is not in writing in the article Dr Trachtman cites.
    In that article R Shapiro, in fact, takes up Davar She-be-kedusha twice; in footnote 90 and in footnote 107 and in neither place does he take up the issue of women leading services. Unfortunately, as we shall see, this is not the only place where Dr Trachtman does not quote accurately. What Dr Trachtman does do is compound the problem by referring to this claim of women leading parts of the services that are not Devarim She-Be-kedushah as R Shapiro’s interpretation even though R Shapiro doesn’t say it in this piece.
    On the other hand R Shapiro does use the Meiri as a basis for his conclusions about women and aliyot. I have mentioned this Meiri several times and no one on the other side has responded though the text presents a very significant problem for proponents of partnership minyanim and for anyone who wants to see in the articles on women and aliyot a justification for women leading services. Again Meiri allows male children to get aliyot (he does not discuss women), and then explicitly says that this same rationale cannot be used to justify male children leading services which is not permissible (for the record R Shapiro does not quote this last part of Meiri’s teaching). Dr Trachtman, as everyone else on the other side, does not deal with this issue at all.
    Dr Trachtman then reminds us that prayer is not homogenous because prohibitions about allowable conversation and interruption differ at different parts of the services. That is certainly true, but does anyone in halakhic literature relate this to women serving as Chazzan? Does this have anything at all to do with Hiyyuv and tefillah betsibbur, which Dr Trachtman himself recognizes as the critical halakhic concerns in this discussion, in a way that relates to our issue. Dr Trachtman provides no Posek or classic commentator who suggests such a connection.
    It is precisely the prevalence of these newly created halakhic parallels that have no antecedents in our literature used to defend partnership minyanim that supports my contention that we are not operating in an Orthodox halakhic universe. I would go further and say that if there were no Partnership Minyanim to defend no one would have ever drawn this parallel between when one can or cannot respond to Kedusha (for example), and whether women can lead parts of the service. Again it is the use of this type of “conclusion first, evidence second” approach that makes me challenge these attempted justifications in the way that I do.
    Dr Trachtman then cites the practice of underage boys leading parts of the service in some synagogues. He also correctly says that I indicated a dislike for the practice. All true. But if this were all I said I would be guilty of precisely what I am challenging defenders of Partnership minyanim for doing in their approach. Dr Trachtman neglects to cite the rest of what I say about this subject. I did a search of the literature and found only one Teshuva on point from Rav Uziel. Rav Uziel also expresses concern about the practice and then defends it as Hinukh. But Hinukh is not applicable to a post-Bar Mitzvah age woman. All of this is in the article and again indicates that there is no support for Partnership Minyanim in the literature while again reflecting Dr Trachtman’s unfortunate tendency to misquote in ways that serve his purposes.
    I knew that posting on Moreorthodoxy would lead to challenges. But I expected that the citations from me and others used in response would at least be accurate. Unfortunately that has not been true, and there is more to come.
    Dr Trachtman concludes this part of his post by saying: “This variability in the sanctity of the tefilla provides a halakhic basis for decisors to justify the inclusion of women in select portions of the prayer service.” Evan assuming that the ability to interrupt or not interrupt as well as the presence of children as Hazzanim indicates a difference in sanctity (which Dr Trachtman does not support from sources), how does that relate to the issues of Tsibbur and Hiyyuv that are the crux of the issue. Again Dr Trachtman shows no such connection from sources.
    Dr Trachtman then asks: If ten people on a flight to Israel decided to say tefillat ha-derech together does that imply that that he (meaning me) would prohibit a woman from leading the recitation? The entire thrust of my article, citing multiple sources, indicates that the answer to that question is unequivocally “yes”. I am sorry if that troubles him, but that is the unanimous conclusion of the sources.
    So too he is correct that women cannot lead Tehillim at communal recitations of Psalms. Again that is what the sources say. He then cites me as seeing Tefillat Rabim as a form of Tefillah betsibbur which he recognizes would in fact preclude women from leading. But here again we have inaccurate citation. R Freundel didn’t say this. R Freundel cited Rav Kook as saying this- and he undoubtedly does. Now Rav Kook is an icon (deservedly so) in Modern Orthodox circles. Does Dr Trachtman challenge his authority on this issue without even producing someone who disagrees?
    There follows a truly remarkable sentence. It reads: “
    The fact that women regularly participate in and lead services like this in many Modern Orthodox settings suggests that the community has a broader conception of tefilla be-tsibbur than Rabbi Freundel does.”
    I am not at all sure I understand the import of this sentence. Is there a responsa or Posek who has validated this practice? Is Dr Trachtman unaware of the frequently encountered phenomenon in halakhic literature wherein a practice begins to spread in the Jewish community and is then subject to Rabbinic review which may in fact yield negative conclusions, sometimes even hundreds of years after the practice begins? Is any practice engaged in by some subset of the community, in this case for likely no more than a couple of decades at most, suddenly halakhically consequential to the point where it can be used to challenge multiple halakhic sources? Finally, considering that those who are defending Partnership Minyanim challenge my assertion that the unanimous, hundreds of years old recitation of Kabbalat Shabbat in Ashkenazi circles is consequential, finding someone who cites this recent change in practice in some circles as being dispositive is remarkable, to say the least. Again, I do not see this comment as adhering to an Orthodox epistemology of Halakha.
    Dr Trachtman then goes on to state that “rabbinic classifications change”. I first heard this claim from some Conservative Rabbis at the point in time when they began to include women in a minyan, and in fact I’d be curious to know why Dr Trachtman doesn’t carry his logic on this point to that obvious conclusion. He cites the example of the deaf mute (not the deaf as Dr Trachtman states) being permitted into halakhic realities formally precluded by halakhah. He then even goes half–way to explaining why this is happening but fails to follow through to recognize that this says nothing about the process of changing the status of women.
    Backing up for a second, this claimed change in the status of the deaf-mute is far from universally accepted. Second, those who suggest such a change do so based precisely on the equation of the deaf-mute with the child and the mentally deficient in halakhic sources. Before the advent of things like sign language and cochlear implants the deaf-mute, like the child and the shoteh was functionally non compos mentis. Without developing the ability to communicate someone born this way did not have the communication capacity for normal development of the brain. Even if the condition developed later in life, since many people could not read and even more could not write, the cone of silence that tragically descended on such an individual made them functionally mentally incompetent. With the development of hearing aids and sign language as well as other technologies the silence has been breached and the incompetence has gone away for many such individuals. The argument for inclusion of the deasf-mute is that this is a change precisely supported by the inclusion of the deaf-mute with the child and the mentally deficient in halakhic literature because just as a child grows out of this state and the mentally deficient can be healed of his mental illness so too the problem of the deaf-mute’s mental incompetence is subject to alteration.
    Now, how does this apply to women? The lack of hiyyuv and the fact that women do not count in a minyan are well established in halakhah. This is not an affliction that can be healed and one cannot grow out of it- so how is this parallel in any way to the deaf-mute? Certainly the non-Orthodox schools have changed their way of operating when it comes to women, but no recognized authority or source from the Orthodox universe accepts that change and it, as is well known, is one of the clear demarcating lines that take one out of the Orthodox community. Here is not the place to discuss why this is so-but it undoubtedly is. And if it isn’t then Partnership Minyanim should all become egalitarian services immediately.
    I will discuss Dr Trachtman’s claims about the Rabbis and social-inclusion again towards the end of this post, but his claim of new categories for women that emerge from some putative rabbinic concern for “social inclusion” that does not appear in any classic halakhic source takes us further and further down the same road. This is not Orthodox halakhic methodology by any stretch of the imagination. This is not objectively searching the sources to find as objective a conclusion as one can achieve. This is imposing non-halakhic categories on halakha and it is looking for support anywhere one can find it or create it whole cloth for a question that one has already decided.
    Dr Trachtman’s own words “a new class of women should be created”, are indistinguishable from statements made by Conservative Rabbis on this subject and tell us how far we have moved from anything that can remotely be called Orthodox. I think it is very important to the conversation that Dr Trachtman has been direct enough and honest enough to tell us explicitly that this is the case. His concluding sentence in this paragraph, “Partnership Minyanim reflect an acceptance of this position by a group of men and women in Israel and around the world”, really says it all. Some people have accepted this development. But the sources do not support it and as such those men and women are not operating in an Orthodox universe.
    Dr Trachtman’s next paragraph is rife with errors. He says: “Chazal did not generally require hard statistical evidence to justify changes in practice.” In fact that is false. The Talmud (and the Rambam codifies this) tells us that before a gezeirah was promulgated the Rabbis needed to make sure that more than 50% of the populace would accept it because if that did not occur the decree would be null and void. Also Dr Trachtman cites this entire discussion out of context. I wasn’t talking about general considerations. What I said was that if one argues that things should change because of Kavod Habriyot one needs to know how widespread the feeling is that one’s Kavod has been violated. Is Dr Trachtman suggesting that even one such complaint is enough to change halakha? Is he suggesting that it needs to be 100% of people complaining? If neither of those two are the standard then what is it and how do you measure it?
    The next claim is: “the standard phrase used by the Rabbis is “go out and look”, This is a remarkable claim since this “standard phrase” appears only 5 times in all of talmudic literature and in later literature is used to confirm the accepted majority practice not to support a new way of doing things. It is also not used to challenge a halakhic analysis, only to decide between equivalent options that have roughly equal halakhic support. Hardly the case here.
    As we approach the end of his post Dr Trachtman again does not report what I say accurately. He says: “If we give such credence to current practice, that undermines one of the key criticisms of Partnership Minyanim, namely that the fact that it was not done in the past is the strongest halakhic proof that is it impermissible.”
    I don’t know who raises that criticism but it certainly isn’t me. My chief criticisms are that the sources unanimously and in many different ways preclude the things that are done at Partnership Minyanim and that the defenders of this practice are not following Orthodox halakhic epistemology in their defense of it. To challenge my position by inventing a claim that I do not make is simply unacceptable.
    Turning now to R Farbers much more appropriate post, he cites three sources that do not accomplish what he claims. R Broyde’s comments are labeled by the author as “musings”, not as a final decision. He certainly does not do a thorough analysis of the sources.
    R Dov Lior, a remarkably controversial figure because of a number of his halakhic decisions that I doubt R Farber is comfortable with, says, without citing any sources, that a Chazan for Kabbalat Shabbat does not fulfill the prayer obligation for anyone in the Kahal. I don’t disagree. His conclusion that therefore a child can lead (only occasionally) is one I disagree with, but he may simply be following Rav Uziel discussed in my article. Nonetheless his limitation to only having this done occasionally suggests that he as I, does not see this as optimum. That is a challenge to Partnership Minyanim not a support for it. In any case his teshuva does not say that the Chazzan here is simply setting the pace and choosing the tunes. In fact he says very little. And if he is following Rav Uziel then he is using a completely different rationale for why a child as Chazzan is allowed.
    The third Teshuva in part supports me. It says that in Ashkenazi practice there must be a halakhically acceptable chazzan for every part of the davening. This would include pesukei dezimrah and the end of the services which would severely limit the activities of Partnership minyanim. In this part of the Teshuva he cites R Moshe Feinstein.
    He then says that Kabbalat Shabbat is not part of Tefillah and so a child (again not a woman) may lead, but as with the last teshuva, he cites no sources. These three texts simply reinforce the claim that I have made again and again. Contemporary discussions of the issues surrounding partnership minyanim cited by its defenders do not rise to the level of a thorough halakhic analysis of the question.
    R Farber calls my position regarding a prayer recited in shul on a regular basis becoming a tefillsh betzibbur or tefillat Rabim a chidush. Now I may have been the first to bring this to a discussion of Kabbalat Shabbat but what I say is precisely what R. David b. Barukh Kalonymus Sperber says in his responsa cited in my article, and it follows the precedent of Magen Avot that the Talmud itself cites. I did not create this claim out of nothing as R Farber suggests and there is no classic source that offers anything different. So, at most we have a few contemporary writers who cite no texts and do not do a thorough analysis who then argue with a point that I make but still do not accept partnership minyanim.
    R Farber accurately mentions my discussion of the different customs of whether or not to have a Chazzan for Kabbalat Shabbat and Pesukei Dezimrah, but fails to mention that in Ashkenazi circles where partnership minyanim originate and I believe universally exist, there is always a Chazzan for Kabbalat Shabbat and almost always for Pesukei Dezimra. Since as I say in my piece these sections of the davening are at most a kiyum of tefillah betsibbur or tefiilat rabim one might well be allowed to decide that on a particular week or in a particular community they will forego that opportunity and so will do without a Chazzan when they recite these parts of the prayer (this is more difficult in Ashkenazi circles as just discussed). This does not allow for using an unacceptable Chazzan if the decision is made to make this a tefillah betsibbur. (All this appears in the article). Also I cite Sefer Haittim who says that when one opts to recite an optional prayer one must then follow all the rules as if it is a required prayer. That would again preclude a woman as Chazzan.
    R Farber then claims, without a source in support, that: “One may then ask: Why is the prevalent custom for these services to have a shaliaḥ tzibbur? I think the simple answer is that we are accustomed to praying in this fashion, and it makes the experience feel more “community-like” if someone sets the pace and chooses the tune for everyone. I called this (non-halakhic but prevalent) practice shaliaḥ tzibbur type II.” But this not explain the presence of the tallit on the chazzan after sunset which can only be done in tefillah betzibbur, nor the name shaliach tzibbur which implies communal prayer nor the Tosefta passage that excludes women from any Chazzan role.
    I join R Farber as a Star Trek fan but I disagree as to his Rabbinic answer concerning Kabbalat Shabbat as led by a hologram. My answer would be: You have fulfilled the obligation to recite Kabbalat Shabbat but you have not accomplished its recitation as tefillah betsibbur because you did not have a proper Chazzan. Your prayer was therefore of a lower quality than you thought it was. That is a very different answer than he suggests, but one that is in keeping with the sources.
    R. Farber then takes us through a discussion of Kavod Hatsibbur which I specifically rejected as a concern when it comes to prayer as no source mentions it in a prayer context. Again as with Dr Trachtman, a paper tiger which I did not create is set up to be knocked down, but it has nothing to do with me. (In fact Aryeh Frimer does use this concept to challenge Partnership Minyanim and he formulates it very differently than R Farber does-but that is for R Farber and Aryeh Frimer to debate).
    R Farber then takes us back to R Shapiro and tries to bootstrap him into our discussion again in response to the issue that I not only didn’t raise but that I explicitly rejected (i.e. Kavod hatsibbur). Mendel Shapiro’s article simply has no place here unless you misquote him (see above), or misquote me.
    What follows next is a remarkable statement. R Farber says correctly that I question the defenders of Partnership Minyanim because they do not follow “legitimate Orthodox halakhic epistemology.” He then claims “this is an exceedingly subjective claim”. Since when is the methodology of halakhah “subjective”? Such a claim negates the very essence of the Orthodox enterprise and removes any shared language or decision making capacity from the halakhic process while substituting a post-modernist rubric that undermines the integrity of our sources and decisors. If the method is subjective then no conclusion is better than any other. If that is what Partnership Minyanim are all about then we certainly are in an unrecognizable place for anyone who sees tradition as halakhically binding. As with Dr Trachtman I think we have here another statement that sadly reveals what this discussion is really all about.
    Further I have been explicit and provided example after example (there is one more to come), of claims, arguments, positions and methodologies that do not conform to Orthodox halakhic methodology, Ranging from committing the genitive fallacy to creating halakhic categories whole cloth to drawing parallels that are not source based and so on. The halakhic system has rules and unfortunately the defenders of Partnership minyanim are, I am truly sorry to say, violating them with impunity. And this discussion has only made that even more explicit than it was before.
    Finally R Farber asks why I don’t provide people to the left of me on this issue the courtesy of seeing their position as Orthodox. (He again misquotes me by saying I don’t see them as Orthodox-I make no such statement but I will modify his question to what I do say).
    There are two answers to this question. If on analysis of a halakhic question I believe, and believe I have demonstrated repeatedly, that what others are saying is not simply a disagreement about the reading of a text or a reflection of earlier debates found in halakhic literature but rather a dramatic departure from accepted methodology that has already blurred the lines that demarcate the Orthodox community and preserve its meaning and message, there is simply no room for courteous acceptance of the other opinion. Even if I were to accept the idea that Partnership Minyanim are only a small change (which is not true given its unprecedented inclusion of women as prayer leaders), the dynamic this methodology creates carries us to other places that are outside the bounds of Orthodoxy.
    Again my article cites Elliot Dorfs use of Prof Sperber’s writings on women’s alliyot to justify his approach to homosexuality and the acceptance of gay commitment ceremonies. That is a natural consequence of stepping beyond the methodology of halakha. The newly established precedents will simply lead to undermining other halakhic realities because halakha has organic connections that make a conclusion in one place impact dramatically elsewhere. It isn’t that it impacted the discussion on homosexuality, it could be other things. It is the fact that the precedent set leads to other legal consequences that are unacceptable. Sorry, there is just no room here for the courtesy that R Farber requests.
    Second there is a very significant- perhaps critical- epistemological difference here that must be stated and here is the place to do so. I thank my friend Mattew Hoffman (Dr Trachtman’s neighbor in New Rochelle) for this formulation. It has to do with the relationship between emotions and halakha. For me I begin with halakha and once I gain an understanding of what halakha says I will then ask whether and how that halakhic structure can accommodate the feelings, emotions, desires or needs that the issue I am investigating engenders.
    What I hear and read in these two posts and in so many others who have approached me on this topic is precisely the opposite. Emotions come first and halakha comes second. For me Halakha is the queen and emotion the supplicant. For others emotion is the mistress and halakha the maidservant.
    This difference is critical. When people start the conversation with “women feel disenfranchised what can halakha do for them?”, the dynamic becomes one of trying everything and anything to find “solutions”. That has been on display here repeatedly. On the other hand the initial approach should be “let us study halakha and see objectively what it says without a pre-conceived agenda” and once that’s done we can ask is there room for women’s tefillah, a woman shul President, Partnership minyanim, etc? If we do business this way the answers will be far more authentic to the system and will preserve its value and integrity. No they don’t have to be the same as my answers, but whatever the answer they will be based on a common language and methodology of halakhic analysis and not on artificially constructed hermeneutical theoretical structures that show the colors of the rainbow but, like so many soap bubbles burst on contact with our texts that do not support them.
    The excitement of women at partnership minyanim is real, the pain of disenfranchisement for some women is unquestionable, the sociological realities are the sociological realities and the categories that many moderns use to make sense of the world pervade our schools and our media. Modern Orthodox Jews are meant to struggle with these things and bring them into balance with a complete commitment to authentic halakha. That will result in an engagement with modernity that will be very fruitful in which our answers to what modernity brings will sometimes be yes, sometimes no and sometimes yes with modification. But turning Halakha into a custom tailor who can shorten and lengthen, take out or let in the seams in response to everyone’s feelings and society’s contemporary morays will make halakha into an infinitely flexible window dressing that threatens to make what is and should be its unique guidance into a mirror of contemporary ethics and morality and nothing else. That is already happening in some quarters and Partnership Minyanim because of how they are defended have fueled that dynamic. Sadly that has been on display in this discussion and people need to realize this fact. I would also claim that R Farber to a somewhat lesser extent, and Dr Trachtman have really said so explicitly.
    So R Farber I appreciate the respectful tone, but your arguments and those of others do not respond sufficiently to what I have written and do not follow Orthodox methodology. That is not a subjective judgment. That is a sad fact.
    Barry Freundel

    • Anonymous says:

      Bravo. I really appreciate all of your hard work in this area. I think this has been a very fruitful exploration of this unfortunate issue. Your hard work in clarifying these important halchic issues has helped me, and will hopefully help others, understand where the fault lines are on this issue and what epistomologies can and cannot be considered Orthodox.

      Hopefully after reading these debates people can make an informed choice between an honest break with orthodoxy and returning to the fold on this issue.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Rabbi Freundel still has not successfully confronted a central weakeness in his argument. It is widely accepted and practiced in Orthodox communities that a katan can lead kabbalat shabbat. If a katan can lead kabbalat shabbat, then it cannot be true that only someone who has a chiyuv to daven kabbalat shabbat may function as the shaliach tzibbur. But that is precisely R. Freundel’s core claim — that a woman cannot function as shaliach tzibbur because only someone who has a chiyuv to daven can lead kabbalat shabbat.

    Nor is this problem with R. Freundel’s argument solved by saying that there is a mitzvah of chinuch with regard to a katan. R. Freundel himself acknowledges in the longer Hirhurim article
    that chinuch is a mitzvah on adults to educate the katan — it does not supply a chiyuv to the katan to daven. Thus, once again, if a katan is allowed to daven kabbalat shabbat for the amud, this would seem to disprove R. Freundel’s central thesis: that only someone who has a chiyuv to daven is allowed to lead kabbalat shabbat. Further, this practice supports the notion that kabbalat shabbat (and psukei d’zimrah, and the end of musaf) are fundamentally different from other parts of tefilah, which we do not allow a katan to lead.

    • Anonymous says:

      R. Freundel does in fact discuss this in multiple places as noted below.

      But even more fundamentally where are these Orthodox shuls where kids commongly lead Kabalat Shabbos? I’ve never been to such a shul. Please name a few such Orthodox shuls.

      Here are just two examples of RDBF dealing with your argument.

      “Dr Trachtman then cites the practice of underage boys leading parts of the service in some synagogues. He also correctly says that I indicated a dislike for the practice. All true. But if this were all I said I would be guilty of precisely what I am challenging defenders of Partnership minyanim for doing in their approach. Dr Trachtman neglects to cite the rest of what I say about this subject. I did a search of the literature and found only one Teshuva on point from Rav Uziel. Rav Uziel also expresses concern about the practice and then defends it as Hinukh. But Hinukh is not applicable to a post-Bar Mitzvah age woman. All of this is in the article and again indicates that there is no support for Partnership Minyanim in the literature while again reflecting Dr Trachtman’s unfortunate tendency to misquote in ways that serve his purposes.”


      “R Dov Lior, a remarkably controversial figure because of a number of his halakhic decisions that I doubt R Farber is comfortable with, says, without citing any sources, that a Chazan for Kabbalat Shabbat does not fulfill the prayer obligation for anyone in the Kahal. I don’t disagree. His conclusion that therefore a child can lead (only occasionally) is one I disagree with, but he may simply be following Rav Uziel discussed in my article. Nonetheless his limitation to only having this done occasionally suggests that he as I, does not see this as optimum. That is a challenge to Partnership Minyanim not a support for it. In any case his teshuva does not say that the Chazzan here is simply setting the pace and choosing the tunes. In fact he says very little. And if he is following Rav Uziel then he is using a completely different rationale for why a child as Chazzan is allowed.”

      • Anonymous says:

        In my experience, it is a common practice in Israel. Furthermore, this practice undercuts R. Freundel’s argument, and although he tries to address it, he does not successfully reconcile it with his core argument about chiyuv. As he himself notes in the hirhurim article, the mitzvah of chinuch is directed to adults and does not confer a chiyuv on the katan. This is presumably why a katan does not do chazarat hashatz.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Do you mean in a Sephardic shul in Israel? Or in a shul that borrows from Sephardic customs? In which case as RBDF notes the custom may in fact be different in Sephardic shuls regarding their use of a chazan. What shuls are you talking about? Why be cryptic? What are you trying to hide? Just tells us which shuls you’re talking about.

    • Anonymous says:

      No, I mean Ashkenazi shuls. I am not “hiding” anything — I just don’t remember their names! But don’t take my word for it — ask your rabbi or someone else who is knowledgeable about Jewish practice. And see the Koren Siddur, Nusach Ashkenaz, page 1228: “it is permissible for a male under the age of 13 to lead Kabbalat Shabbat.”

      • Anonymous says:

        So despite being told over and over that this practice is widespread and happens all the time you cannot name a single shul? Ok then.

      • Benjamin E. says:

        To more fully quote the Koren, “Because Kabbalat Shabbat is not considered part of Ma’ariv, it is customary for the Shaliah Tzibbur to stand at the bima, rather than at the front of the synagogue [אשי ישראל, לו:יד]. For the same reason, it is permissible for a male under the age of 13 to lead Kabbalat Shabbat.”

        If that citation sounds familiar to you, it’s the same one cited by R. Broyde in source 1 above. Lest you be concerned that in choosing source 1 he was citing obscure sources nobody cares about, this is clearly a source cited in plenty of mainstream secondary sources.

        I think the implications on the status of Kabbalat Shabbat as a service are pretty clear.

      • Vitaly says:

        Judaism is all about struggle (as in the oriign of the word Israel ). With Judaism, and maybe religion in general, it’s not like you get to a certain point and you’re done. People often find themselves in the same stage as they had been. The maturity is in realizing that nothing is static; this stage is fleeting, and the next stage will be new, but it will probably be familiar too. (Slightly tangentially, how many times have I lost 10 or 20 pounds in a healthy, slow, and sustainable way, and thought that I was forever done with weight loss?)

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