September 2, 2013 6:59 am at 6:59 am #610506
This is a response to the numerous posts accrued in the CR about women learning gemara.
As I read through the posts, I can’t help but think, that if I were a nice yeshiva boy, (who probably never had too intense a discussion about this with a girl to begin with), I would want to know, why on earth would a bais yakov girl would want to learn gemara?
Some of the men (and women) jump immediately to the rebelliousness. It’s because we want to be like the men! We are unhappy with our “tafkid”! “If a woman really knew the greatness and importance of her tafkid, she wouldn’t feel the faintest desire to learn gemara.” (actual quote from someone I know) We are tainted by the contemporary feminist ideologies that have seeped into our homes and our minds. It trickled down from the women who want to wear tefilin. It’s the side-effects of the BY system. We needed to educate women because it’s a horas sha’ah – and now they are all confused and think they need to know everything. I’ll leave the rest to be filled in…
But let me explain why a BY girl would want to learn gemara.
I went to a mainstream BY school. And then did what most girls do today… went to college. But the difference between me and most of my contemporaries, is that I really wanted to learn, as opposed to: get a degree in the fasteset, most kosher way, with minimal effort. Now I went to Touro, and I was a science major – so nothing about how the humanities and psychology tainted my hashkafos beyond repair.
When I started to take the more advanced science classes, and remember, this is Touro, not some fancy college, that’s where the hole began. The more I advanced in my reasoning abilities, the more the Judaism stuff began to seem… silly.
I was at the top of my class in high school and seminary and did extra Jewish learning after seminary. I also taught limudei kodesh on a high school level for a while during college. I was very well versed in the cirriculum taught and hashkafos preached.
But the stuff we learned was based broadly on three things: memorization of facts, developing textual skills, and learning how to think the way your teacher thinks.
There were no overarching objectives in what we were taught. Definitely no reasoning skills beyond a fifth-grade level. We are taught – the facts. And the “proofs” given from the text to support whatever it was were at best, weak. Many times, they seemed non-sensical to me. In fact, I remember as a kid thinking that I could also “make up a proof like that”.
While I do see profundity in halacha and many things, my conceptual understanding (why is the halacha this way? how do we know this? how are concepts applied to new casesbetc…) of Judaic concepts is very poor in comparision to my understanding of scientific concepts – and I’m no rocket scientist or genius by any measure – just a by graduate who likes science and thinking.
I work in a research lab in a prominent university. When I started working there, the discrepancy between my secualar and Jewish education became even more apparent. There was only one other woman working in the lab with me at the time – the rest were all men. But there was none of this “females have a different brain and therefore can’t learn x-y-z” shtus that I always got from my Jewish educators. It’s a meritocracy. If you have the brain-capacity to do this, we let you in. I feel 100% on par with all of my male colleauges.
Compare this to a comment a cousin of mine once made at a shabboss table: “Oh, this dvar torah is not for girls… they won’t understand it” because it involved some gemara reasoning. This cousin is a very nice guy… and I don’t think he ever gave the matter any thought. He was just mimicking an attitude that trickled down to him from society. The comment encapsulates a viewpoint I have encountered over and over.
It’s hard to stay inspired when the Jewish ideas start to unravel because they pale in comparison to everything else you know. Especially since the emotional attachement one feels to things weakens as they get older… and the BY system relies heavily on emotions. No that this is so bad… it’s just that now, when I need the rational components, they aren’t there.
So I want to learn gemara. I want to give my Judaism a chance to match my understanding in other areas. I want to be able to think that chazal were great people – and not because my tenth-grade teacher or a Rav said so, but because I myself think so based on his works. I get inspired by reasoning and conceptual understanding in other areas… so I hope I will get inspired if I learn Jewish reasoning and conceptual understanding. And if not, then… I’ll just study those things that do make sense.
The secular world has no problem with the fact that I’m a woman. They open all the intellectual doors to me. What about the frum world? Will the pre-screen me and say that “by virtue of the fact that I am female, I don’t have the brain capacity to really understand gemara… it’s just the way Hashem made things…”?
I’m willing to give learning gemara a shot. But in the world I originally come from, the doors are closed. Whether hashkafically or practically.September 2, 2013 10:19 am at 10:19 am #973816
I have nothing against women learning gemarah, provided it is halachically permissible. But I highly doubt learning gemara will help you appreciate Yiddishkeit more. You thought you could have made up what you learned in Chumish and Navi? Why do you think learning gemara will change your thinking?
There are other seforim you can learn from to appreciate yiddishkeit. I’m sure some cr members can come up with a few.
You want to learn gemara for “intellectual stimulation”? I can understand that. But don’t confuse it with wanting to appreciate our rabbis and Torah more. I won’t work.September 2, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm #973817
I’m confused as to why Gemara of all things would be your interest. Besides for it being banned I mean. To me Gemara works more with the legal mind. If you were a lawyer, I might tend to agree with you more. Hashkafic proof and scientific reasoning is more in other portions. Is it simply that it is to be inaccessible to you, or do you believe you could really use the abilities Gemara learning enhances? If you were truly sincere, maybe you’d find the roads less blocked. Reading through your post though, you seem to have already given up on learning for the sake of learning, and now wish to prove your worth as a woman. With that agenda, I’d be surprised if anyone took up your challenge now.September 2, 2013 1:03 pm at 1:03 pm #973818
Actually, I can see why you take such offense. Your cousin in his stupidity, thought Gemara learning was about an intelligence only men posses. I too, would be insulted if anyone in my family dared to assume I couldn’t understand something because I’m a woman. That’s not why women can’t learn Gemara. Most women are quite capable, and some actually do learn it. Rabbi Akiva Tatz speak about it in length. Have you heard what he has to say?September 2, 2013 1:31 pm at 1:31 pm #973819
OP: The old add supporting African American education that ended with “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” was a universal mussar schmooze. It matters not whether that the abode of that mind is fueled by estrogen or not. We, and BY in particular have for a long time not handled this ‘what if’ very well. Our history is peppered with legends real and not, of gifted and inquisitive women that pursued and earned vast Torah knowledge. The astute analysis in the essay Destruction and Reconstruction of Rav Soloveittzic sheds a great light on this. We have moved from mimetic (don’t treif up my kitchen with your shulchan aruch!) to textual, but BYA and others want it both ways, textual and ignorant. Do not say the doors are all practically closed. I know of one yeshiva where the women would attend the hashkafa shiur (with the men) and aishes chaver k’chaver has real meaning. You can start on you own, or find a mentor. If your are BY literate, you can comb through the Medrashim, ALL the Neviim, the great works of Haskafa of the Rishonim, and, as we are now textual based, there is no limit of study aids and secondary adjuncts to Talmud study. Be matzliach, enjoy and inspire the whizbangs that will follow after you.September 2, 2013 1:46 pm at 1:46 pm #973820
bais yakov – kol hakavod to you. A lot of people upon seeing disappointment in certain intellectual aspirations of Torah and success in the secular world would simply come to the conclusion that a Torah life isn’t for them and call it a day. The fact that you realize your teachers and others, while good people, may have flaws in their outlook and their human error doesn’t represent a flaw in the Torah itself really says a lot about you. While it may not be “normal” or “mainstream” for you to want to learn gemara, as long as it’s not assur then who is to say it’s not your tikkun? Don’t worry, men don’t have this exact issue but there are plenty of equally frustrating things on our side of the fence. Though everyone goes on and on about how intensive and constant gemara learning fine tunes one’s critical thinking abilities, I’ve often been quite amazed to see how easily some people turn off those abilities once they close their gemara and discuss something else.
But don’t give up. The gemara says that righteous women like Michal and Bruriah learned up Shas and even gave a lot of the talmidei chachamim of their time a run for their money, all while remaining perfectly within the realms of femininity and tzniut. Just daven to Hashem that you find the right teachers and that you find your chelek in Torah and Hashem. There are a few nice daf yomi shiurim in English and for free… on OU or Rav Eli Mansour’s site has a particularly nice one. They aren’t the best for learning skills but maybe it can help you quench your thirst. Either way b’hatzlacha and don’t let the world get you down. As long as your not going against halacha and it’s not just to show off but is out of a true desire to have a better understanding of Torah and Hashem, who is to say what your doing isn’t l’shem shamayim? Remember Avraham Aveinu stood on one side of the river with the whole rest of the world against him on the other side. But he cleaved to Hashem with all his heart and he won out in the end.September 2, 2013 2:11 pm at 2:11 pm #973821
Thanks for sharing! Hatzlacha!
As you probably know, in many Modern Orthodox girls’ high schools the girls take several Gemara classes, and women can get masters’ degrees in Talmud from Stern/YU. (In Israel there are some women known as Torah scholars, whose opinions are given some weight by Modern Orthodox organizations like Beit Hillel.) If you are in NY there are bound to be opportunities for you to learn Gemara (if you want to take a class or learn with a chavrusa rather than learning on your own.)
You may be interested this quote from the Lubavitcher Rebbe. It parallels what you are saying about your own life. Chabadniks don’t teach Gemara to women as far as I know, but they are encouraged to learn Ayn Yaakov, and the Rebbe taught that their obligations in studying chassidus (which is quite conceptually sophisticated) are equal to those of men.
A similar concept applies regarding the subject matter studied by women. Initially, on the whole, women were not exposed to those aspects of Torah study which were not related to their actual performance of the mitzvos. At present, however, the sphere of subjects women study has been expanded and includes even abstract concepts that have no immediate application.
This is also a result of sociological influences. Within the context of our society, women are required to function on a more sophisticated level than ever before, occupying professional positions that require higher knowledge. To prepare themselves for such activities, they should develop their thinking processes in Torah, training themselves to think on an advanced level within the framework of Torah. This will set the tone for their behavior in the world at large.”September 2, 2013 2:17 pm at 2:17 pm #973822
Sadly, the way you describe your high school/seminary learning experience applies to many bachurim as well.September 2, 2013 2:47 pm at 2:47 pm #973823
Reminds me of an old joke.
There are three ways to get something done:
1. Do it yourself.
2. Hire somebody to do it.
3. Tell your kids NOT to do it!September 2, 2013 3:05 pm at 3:05 pm #973824
If you out think the men in your life on matters of halacha; you may think them out of your life.September 2, 2013 3:48 pm at 3:48 pm #973825
*drops mic*September 2, 2013 4:10 pm at 4:10 pm #973826
Excellent post. But I think there is a much more basic and compelling argument that can be made.
As observant Jews, we are expected to base our entire lives around certain laws and principles–but as women, we are not supposed to understand how and why those laws and principles make sense. And for some reason, when we try to learn more, we are met with YOU JUST WANNA BE LIKE A MAN STOP THAT. Like, really? That’s the only reason you can come up with for someone wanting to learn about the thing that is supposed to be the foundation of their life? And then we are called on to justify our motivations, while rationally, the claim that people shouldn’t have understanding of the laws of their religious code is what actually needs justification. It’s mind-boggling…September 2, 2013 4:44 pm at 4:44 pm #973827
hi BY girl,
I went to a MO high school, and i felt that the learning of gemara was basically useless because we were missing the whole point of the role of a Jeiwsh woman. We have so many other things we should have been focusing on like Halacha that acctualy pertains to us, instead of challenging us with gemara that had nothing to do with our hashkafos etc.
Baruch Hashem, I went to a seminary that focused on all the things I was lacking in my high school. But I want to stress to you, that while you are totally valid in what you are saying, i think that one of the main reasons women don’t learn it in our tzibur is because we are really focused on our tafkid. once you get that downpat, ok maybe you could start learning gemara. but since we dont have the chiyuv of talmud torah, only to know the Torah to keep the mitzvos etc. we need to first focus on learning what we need to know and once we know that, and ONLY once we know that should we try moving onto something else.September 2, 2013 5:34 pm at 5:34 pm #973828
There have always been exceptional women. Beruria, the Maharshal’s grandmother (who was a rosh yeshiva and taught boys from behind a mechitza), Rav Mordechai Eliahu’s grandmother (who was a niece of the Ben Ish Chai and bested the Kaf HaChaim in Halacha). However, as a rule women think more emotionally and men think more logically. As for women lawyers, Nat Lewin once commented that he entered Harvard Law after spending his whole life in yeshivot. Once a professor discussed two contradictory Supreme Court decisions. Lewin jumped up with a great terutz, the whole class burst out laughing and the professor told him that if he did it again he would be out.September 2, 2013 5:54 pm at 5:54 pm #973829
OURtorah: Is there any special reason why gemara SPECIFICALLY) as opposed to any learning in general) is part of a man’s tafkid and not a woman’s? If that viewpoint were “oh, it’s a man’s tafkid to learn and a woman’s tafkid to raise a family/run errands/be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen etc.” (just examples), then okay, as much as I’d hate it I’d respect the consistency. But to limit it to just one element of study? What’s the point? What’s the difference?
bym: I agree with a lot of what you said (though none of my cousins would be stupid enough to say what yours said in front of me- they know me too well 🙂 ). SO MANY of the sentiments you express are things that I feel all the time as well. Also, I feel like, as I mentioned above, the reasoning for why women CAN’T do certain things doesn’t always satisfy me.
But, as others mentioned, just so far as I’M concerned, I can’t see why learning gemara would be more than a Band-Aid at best for the issue. Perhaps it’s different for you, but what do you think it would do?
Actually, rereading, it seems (correct me if I’m wrong) like you want to understand Judaism, because you feel like it was all spitback in school, and part of your path to that is learning gemara, learning all the “sources” they give you in high school (yeah, I always wondered why they would give out photocopies of gemara and that was okay but to learn it out of the real thing- ooh, shtuyot!) for yourself. Is that it? I get it a bit more, but honestly, while that may help you, I wonder if you would be as satisfied if you started that up and expected it to solve these issues. I’m honestly not sure it would. If you don’t expect it to then so far as I’m concerned gezunte heit, but the fact that all of your problems as far as this seem to be painted as symptoms of your lack of gemara or the holding back from you of gemara, it’s just a bit of a question to me. I’m sure it’s not like that- people aren’t that black and white- it’s just something I was wondering.
Personally, I have enough stuff I like that I don’t feel like I NEED gemara, but it would be nice if I knew that I could if I wanted.September 2, 2013 5:58 pm at 5:58 pm #973830
If you are studying Jewish law or Jewish history, it is impossible to do so without familiarity with Talmud. An analogy would be like studying American law without looking at cases and statutes, or studying American history without reading any historical documents. As it is, everyone holds it is permissable to study Pirke Avos, which is clearly one portion of the Talmud, most of whose halachas are relevant to botgh women and to understanding Jewish views on the world.
The only issue is “studying for fun”, without regard to it being useful. That’s what men do, and most consider it a mitzvah to do so (and in any event, its what we like to do). Pilpul on questions that will never arise in the real world is a “boy thing.”September 2, 2013 6:18 pm at 6:18 pm #973831
There are many jewish women who have studied gemara for various reasons throughout the years, without fanfare. I think you have a good reason, just make sure it isnt more than that.September 2, 2013 6:33 pm at 6:33 pm #973832
Do you also want to wear pants?September 2, 2013 6:47 pm at 6:47 pm #973833
Akuperma- not sure I understood you. You said that “most” consider it a mitzvah for men to learn Torah?? The implication being- most, but not all? Who does not consider it a mitzvah for men to learn??
It is a mitzvah for men to learn Torah for the sake of learning Torah. Women have a mitzvah to learn how to observe the mitzvos that apply to them, but they do not share the obligation of men to study Torah just for the sake of learning. Therefore, while men have a great and powerful yetzer hara trying to keep them away from their gemaras, women do not. Women can certainly enjoy learning Gemara and may find it intellectually stimulating and rewarding, but that lack of both obligation and yetzer hara puts their learning in an entirely different category.
Incidentally, a woman obviously has a powerful yetzer hara trying to keep her from fulfilling her obligations and performing the mitzvos that she is required to observe.September 2, 2013 6:55 pm at 6:55 pm #973834
Regarding the OP’s statements:
“The more I advanced in my reasoning abilities, the more the Judaism stuff began to seem… silly”
“It’s hard to stay inspired when the Jewish ideas start to unravel because they pale in comparison to everything else you know. Especially since the emotional attachement one feels to things weakens as they get older… and the BY system relies heavily on emotions.”
Your post sees to be conflating two distinct points: what a Jewish education should be and if/when it is permissible for women to learn gemara.
Education, both for men and women should NOT be based on emotion but rather on logic and proofs. It is embarrassing to say that one’s attachment to and knowledge of Toras Emes is purely emotional.
Regarding women learning gemara, as others have mentioned, there are shitos who permit *individual* (not classroom) gemara study for women. If that really would make you happy, (though, based on your post, I am not convinced it would make you happy), speak to your Rav and see how you like learning gemara.
(Rabbi Orlofsky has an interesting talk on this issue of women learning gemara. If I recall correctly, he said something to the effect of Chazal say that women won’t find intellectual satisfaction in gemara learning like men do. So if you don’t believe Chazal in this area, then why do you want to learn their gemara?)
I think you might wish to clarify what exactly you mean by “Jewish ideas start to unravel” and “pale in comparison to everything you know”, CH”V, before you decide that gemara will somehow resolve any of this.
Moshe emes viSoraso emes. If you have questions, pirkei Avos teaches us “Asei licha Rav”; ask those questions and get those answers. He might even recommend good seforim for you to read on your own to further satisfy your thirst for knowledge. Neither men nor women should be ignorant in yahadus and CH”V that Chazal ever said they should be.September 2, 2013 7:15 pm at 7:15 pm #973835
thank you all for your replies.
Computer777, it is halachically permissible for a woman to learn gemara. I’ve been through this myself with the sources, with my father who is a rav, and with my husband. What is forbidden is for a father to teach his own daughter gemara and the reason (given by one of my husband’s rebeeim – that actually makes sense) is because he will likely be too soft on her because it’s his daughter – and gemara requires a certain rigor.
How can it be assur for a woman to learn gemara if the ramabam clearly says that a woman is exempt from learning torah but if she does she gets schar? (And he is not talking about learning halachos that are pertinent to her, or chumash…) You cannot get schar for doing something assur.
“If you were truly sincere, maybe you’d find the roads less blocked. Reading through your post though, you seem to have already given up on learning for the sake of learning, and now wish to prove your worth as a woman.”
Sigh. I am so tired of this argument. I have taught limudei kodesh – virtually every subject- on a a high school level for close to a decade. You think another ten years of hashkafa and chumash and meforshim are going to do it? I know – it’s my yetzer horah trying to get me off the right track.
With time, there were many things I could not teach anymore beacuse either I stopped believing it, or I had too many questions about it. And I’m not preaching to a class of impressionable adolescents ANYTHING I do not absolutely know to be true or right. I have no desire to perpetuate the insincerity I’ve encountered in some of my education.
Yes, I have given up on learning another hashkafa sefer. I’ve had my fill of breadth. I am looking for depth and reasoning. I’m not looking for more information. I’ve reached my fill. More facts will do nothing for me. It’s actually reaching the point of diminishing returns. The more hashkafa I read, the more stupid everything seems. I’d rather not do anymore damage.
This past shabboss I picked up a book at my parents house written by a well-known Rav. The book was hashakfa about a woman’s role etc… there were so many logical contradictions… it makes the whole hashkafa edifice seems downright stupid.
The reason I think that gemara will help is the following: I was once a guest by someone on shabboss and a discussion about gemara came up. The host explained to me how gemara works and then proceeded to give me an example that we worked through together. And I was pretty impressed. Apparently, he’s way more skilled than your avergage yeshiva bachur, and thus was able to break it down sufficiently for a novice to understnad.
But a little light went off in my head: “Hey,this stuff is not so stupid after all…”
Of course I will always have questions and one’s quest for truth is never fully reached… that’s ok.
And I’m angry that so much of my time in high school and beyond was wasted on more memorization and more hashkafa when I could have been given the skills to learn gemara. And I could gave been doing it myself now.
They should have an optional track for girls to learn gemara. Of course if you hire incompetent teachers, you’re not accomplishing much. But it’s like that in every area.
Trust me, you will not have the entire high school signing up. You’ll have 5-10%… maybe.
“If your are BY literate, you can comb through the Medrashim, ALL the Neviim, the great works of Haskafa of the Rishonim, and, as we are now textual based, there is no limit of study aids and secondary adjuncts to Talmud study.”
twisted: I appreciate the suggestions, but again, I’ve combed enough through them to know that it will do nothing for me to keep combing through them.
We don’t expect men to go through all of chumash, navi, medrash, halacha, kesuvim, works of rishonim (list goes on and on) before they learn gemara. Why the double standard?
Avi K: “However, as a rule women think more emotionally and men think more logically”
A nice stereotype. I think it applies more in the context of relationships and interaction with people. Not when in comes to thinks that, by definition, are logical. A man does not think more logically about a scientific experiment than a woman. I would think the same about gemara, because it is inherently a logical activity.September 2, 2013 8:03 pm at 8:03 pm #973836
“I think you might wish to clarify what exactly you mean by “Jewish ideas start to unravel” and “pale in comparison to everything you know”, CH”V, before you decide that gemara will somehow resolve any of this.”
Hakatan: Let me clarify: Of course I haven’t read every single Jewish books out there… But believe me – I’ve read enough. And I reached a point that the more I read anything that reflects popular frum hashkafa (I don’t want to get into distinctions of different groups… ) the more contradictions and fanciful thinking I find.
So instead of saying “this whole thing is really dumb”, I am saying that I’m willing to learn something that might actually speak to me. And gemara is the sole area of Judaic studies I have not learned systematically.
For those of you who automatically assume that this stems from some point of rebellion or that I haven’t scoured those things that I am “allowed” to learn, I raise my hands in surrender and say: I did my part and I’m done. From taking my studies seriously in high school, seminary and beyond, spending almost a decade immersed in Jewish learning, spending many summers in a Jewish learning environment, reading the books, attending the lectures, doing research… hashkafa, emunah, bitachon… I dare any of you to say you’ve done close to the same.
And if gemara really won’t do anything, like some of you say, then I’m really done. Because the edifice is downright irrational. And there is nothing on the other side of the fence that is beckoning me.I just refuse to suscribe to something irratioanl and fanciful.
“Education, both for men and women should NOT be based on emotion but rather on logic and proofs.”
Obviously.Unfortunately, a lot of the school education I got was based on emotion. Think “doing mitzvos and living a frum lifestyle because it’s a better life… what a horrible life goyim have…”September 2, 2013 8:58 pm at 8:58 pm #973837
Baris Yakov maidel
Read Rav Kaplan (zatzals) books and Rabbi Akiva Tatz you want depth and meaning.September 2, 2013 9:28 pm at 9:28 pm #973838
I absolutely understand why a woman would want to learn Gemara. The same reason I want to learn Gemara. Gemara is the main source of Torah Sh’Bal Peh and you can’t fully understand or appreciate Torah without the Torah Sh’Bal Peh. There is very little, if anything, in Yiddishkeit that you can fully understand without learning Gemara. Anyone who truly wants to understand Hashem’s will, will want to learn Gemara.
And it’s Geshmak.September 2, 2013 9:36 pm at 9:36 pm #973839
If one reads the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch carefully, you will see that the statement that one should not teach his daughters Torah was made based on a majority of women. It is clear that for a minority of women learning Gemara would be a wonderful thing.
The recommendation of the Gemara not to teach one’s daughter Gemara was based on the majority of women at that time.
If a girl and certainly a woman wants to learn, wants to know, wants to grow, then absolutely she should learn. And because it is almost impossible to learn Gemara properly without a rebbi, people should teach her.
BYM, I am certain that there are Orthodox programs (unfortunately none within the Yeshivish world) for adult women who want to learn. For many it takes a long time to appreciate Gemara and even longer to really enjoy it, but it is worth it in the long run. I wish you hatzlacha in this endeavor.September 2, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm #973840
WIY, I read some of rav kaplans books… they are good but don’t address many of the things I want to know. I read rabbi tatz’s books when I was a teenager. I liked some of his stuff, but not everything… some of the hashkafa in his books seemed ungrounded to me,September 2, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm #973841
I don’t respect all of the opinions written here, so I don’t expect you to respect mine. But I did read all the posts written here, so I expect you to read mine.
The Gemara itself says, “If you are a woman, put me down.”
Kol hamelamed es bito Torah (shba’al peh) k’ilu milamda tiflus. Look up the Rambam and the Shulchan Aruch, where tiflus is translated to either mean apikorsus or divrei hevel.
(If you want ma’areh mekomos justifying women learning Gemara, look up the [somewhat controversial] Torah Temimah on “Veshinantam levanecha”, which is the pasuk we darshan “V’lo l’vnosecha” from.)
You may have cute answers for the Rambam’s lashon, but the fact is that the overwhelming majority of Rishonim, Acharonim and Poskim agree that women should not learn Gemara, period.
For now, let’s work without your approach, which you haven’t provided a source for, that this is only talking about a father teaching his daughter. We can break it down as follows.
You stated that having a deeper and more logical understanding of what Judaism is about would inspire you and strengthen your Emunah, as it were. According to this, fewer boys should go off the derech than girls. Since there are definitely some (probably most) among us who go off because they just don’t “feel it”, boys, who learn Gemara, should be less prone to going off in the first place. The numbers will prove that this is not true.
I don’t mean to attack, but I think your entire line of reasoning is based on a false premise. I do believe I have a right to say this, however, because I do actually learn Gemara (I’m seven blatt away from finishing Bava Kama) and can testify that it is 100% true.
The things which learning Gemara accomplishes within a person have nothing to do with intellect. Ameilus b’Torah, Mesiras Nefesh for Torah, and Torah Mitoch Had’chak are not just nice things. They are the only way to learn Gemara. Look at the 48 kinyanei Torah. Again, they aren’t merely helpful suggestions for success; they are the only method to gain from Torah, as an absolute rule.
The only reason Torah brings you closer to God is because you are connecting yourself to Hashem’s Da’as, in the way He commanded you to. (See the beginning of Nefesh HaChaim for an in-depth explanation.)
Learning Gemara for intellectual stimulation will not bring you closer to God. I personally know Mechallelei Shabbos who learn a lot of Gemara, and could rip anyone to shreds in lumdus.
This could evolve into a discussion about Artscroll and what that did to Ameilus Batorah, but let’s not go there.
Assuming you believe the Rambam when he says in his hakdama that everything written in the Gemara is a Halacha l’Moshe Misinai, Hashem Himself said on Har Sinai that the closeness a woman attains through learning will not be accomplished by learning Gemara. I’m assuming you don’t think that you know better.
On another note, here’s a cute story a friend of mine told me: A rabbi from a Modern Orthodox school was arguing with another rabbi about women learning Gemara. He said that in his schools, they have classes where both the boys and the girls learn Gemara, and the girls actually scored higher than the boys.
“Of course,” replied the other rabbi. “The girls were looking at the Gemara, and the boys were looking at the girls!”September 2, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm #973842
Firstly, as I’m sure you have already discovered in your research of the topic, there is a halachic distinction between one who teaches a woman Gemara and a motivated woman who wishes to learn it on her own. No less a personage than the Chida writes (in Tuv Ayin) that the original prohibition cited by R’ Eliezer does not even apply in the case of a woman who is truly MOTIVATED to learn Gemara. Obviously, there are further voices of agreement and disagreement on the subject, but I am fairly confident you have studied these, too.
I guess my question to you is: which perceived fallacies and inconsistencies PRECISELY do you mean to resolve through learning Gemara? Rigorous study of Gemara is, as you theorized, rooted strongly in building sound logical edifices and constructing sound arguments. On a purely logical level, it is immensely satisfying to a person with a scientific mind. But here is where I must digress.
Without the basic tenets of belief intact, you may as well be having an in-depth discussion of the ins and outs of Tolkien’s Middle Earth or the Harry Potter series. In other words, you can have an immensely satisfying discussion about something that you are taking for granted to be fictitious. The discussion will be enjoyable, but the MEANING will be absent.
I myself have had a long and interesting journey of belief, and I won’t even be so arrogant as to say that it’s ended. I have learned in my travels that Talmudic Judaism’s logical structure stands on a base of spiritual BELIEF. Why discuss whether or not a divorce is valid if it is handed to one’s wife via a messenger if you don’t believe in the binding nature of that document? Why debate the hidden meanings of extra words or letters in the Torah if you do not believe them to be of divine origin?
My question to you is: what exactly is it that you seek in the study of Talmud? Is it the satisfaction of logical construction or is it the foundation of belief itself?September 2, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm #973843
where is the mekor that fathers aren’t allowed to teach their daughters gemara?September 2, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm #973844
For those claiming that women are incapable of understanding Gemara:
???? ????? ??? ???? ???? ????? ???? ??? ?????? ????? ????, ???”? ?????? ?? ???????, ??? ??????? ???? ?? ??? ????, ???? ??? ????? ?????? ?????? ???”? ?????? ????? ??? ??? ????? ??? ????? ???, ????? ????? ??? ??? ????? ??? ???? ??? ?? ??? ???? ?? ???.
(Rambam Yesodei HaTorah 4:13)
The primacy of Gemara is specifically because it can be understood by everyone (obviously each at their own level).September 2, 2013 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm #973845
Religion fills an emotional and societal role that a lot of people need. As someone that has learned Gemara I can tell that though it is more “complex” it is not in any way scientific in it’s methods. Religion is not scientific. It just isn’t.September 2, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm #973846
David bar Magen,
Well said!September 2, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm #973847
Girls def. learn thoughts and ideas based from the Gemorah maybe not straight out of the text.
With regards to Religion why would someone practice without believing are they ignorant?? I never understood people who don’t think about what they’re doing
Religion isn’t just a cultural experience!
or are they just floating in a world of uncertainty (which seems to be in vogue too)September 2, 2013 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm #973848
LevAryehBoy explained it best.
bais yakov maidel: For the purposes you enumerated, you would be better served studying the Theory of Relativity than studying Talmud.
And I am truly disconcerted about your professed lack of faith without study. Threatening that you are done with Judaism if you can’t study areas that you seek, is not a path to permit what is outside normative practice.September 3, 2013 12:08 am at 12:08 am #973849
writersoul- definiatly not limited to gemara here. It happens to be that so amny important concepts we as women need to know stem from the gemara and it’s obviously important we know them. a man is obligated to learn any torah not limited to gemara!
It happens to b that a girl I know (and please don’t take this as a generaliztion to girls cuz its just one story) once came up to me and we were having a convo about covering your legs. I told her I had learned the mekoros for covering your leg which included snippits from gemara. She said this is why you shouldnt be learning gemara. What are your opinions on this? Is it wrong to understand the reasoning behind the mitzvos were doing?September 3, 2013 12:19 am at 12:19 am #973850
If it’s a legit threat that you’re over Judaism– be my guest learn all the Gemorah you need. it never hurt anyone men or women
Prob. should go to classes to clarify you’re doubtsSeptember 3, 2013 12:31 am at 12:31 am #973851
You wrote: “The Gemara itself says, ‘If you are a woman, put me down.'”
I don’t mean to attack your learning ability or your sincerity in any way (finishing Bava Kama is nothing to sneeze at) but that is not what the Mishna says.
???? ???? ?? ????: ???? ??? ???? ?? ??? ????, ??? ???? ??? ?????? ???? ??. ?”? ????: ?? ????? ??? ???? – (?????) ????? ?????. (Sotah 20a)
Ben Azai uses the language of “chayiv” but R’Eliezer does not respond with an issur but rather a statement that demonstrates that there is no chiyuv, because it is not a good thing to teach one’s daughters Torah. R’Eliezer says nothing about women learning Torah on their own and he doesn’t say there is an issur.
This is even clearer if you look at the Rambam I cited above an the Rambam on this issue (echoed by the Shulchan Aruch):
??? ????? ???? ?? ?? ??? ??? ???? ???? ????, ???? ??? ??????, . . . ???”? ??? ?? ??? ??? ????? ??? ???? ??? ?? ??? ????, ???? ???? ????? ??? ???? ?????? ?????? ??? ?? ??????? ???? ???? ????? ????
??? ????? ????, ???? ????? ?? ????? ?? ??? ???? ????? ???? ?????
(Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:13)
The Chachamim said that a man should not teach his daughter Torah but if a women that learns on her own initiative, she earns reward. The reason R’Eliezer said was not because
“the closeness a woman attains through learning will not be accomplished by learning Gemara” but because of a chashash that the knowledge will be misused or misunderstood.
Furthermore, there are Talmidei Chachamim today that think that the modern educated woman should learn Gemara. That because there was no issur only a recommendation of Chazal, that recommendation was for that time and place and not for the present time and place (see the Chofetz Chaim’s Likutei Halachos on the Gemara in Sotah).September 3, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am #973852
Why not? It’s secret, interesting, relevant to daily life and everyone else is learning it. So learn some Ein Yaakov and let us know when you’re done and want to start with Gemara.September 3, 2013 12:44 am at 12:44 am #973853
I humbly disagree with you in this case. While it is true that “Talmudic Judaism’s logical structure stands on a base of spiritual BELIEF” we are not dealing here with someone who has a positive disbelief but a person who is wavering.
And the reason she is wavering is because she doesn’t understand the logic behind what she is doing, especially as compared to her secular job. The rules and regulations appear to be random -the product of modern rabbinic fiat. A look at the inner workings, an understanding of the halachic process and the rigor of Talmudic thought can strengthen one’s resolve in keeping halacha and provide a mature intellectual religious satisfaction that reading an Artscroll book cannot.
As Lakewood001 said, the Gemara is rarely scientific (i.e. based on observation). The closest secular disciplines to Gemara are philosophy and law (Gemara has the lomdus of philosophy and the logic of law).
Science and Torah, for the most part, operate in different paradigms. Gemara helps to understand the Torah paradigm from within (not judging between paradigms as a whole). However understanding the internal workings of a paradigm makes it much easier to accept that paradigm and work within it than if that paradigm was a black box.
Once again, I encourage you to find a rebbi and learn. Kesiva V’Chasima Tova.September 3, 2013 12:57 am at 12:57 am #973854
ben: You didn’t address all of LevAryeh’s points. Shulchan Aruch rules in this matter l’halacha. That is relevant today. The following Igros Moshe is also speaking of today’s generation:
To Rav Elya Svei shlit”a, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia,
Regarding the issue that there are some girls schools that are called Bais Yaakovs and the like, where the administration and the teachers of the school want to teach the girls Mishnayos: Behold, in the Rambam Talmud Torah 1:13 he rules like R. Eliezer in Sotah 20a, that you may not teach girls Torah. Yet he distinguishes between Torah shebal peh, which, if you teach to girls is as if you taught them tiflus, whereas Torah shebiksav is not as if you taught them tiflus, but l’chatchilah you shouldn’t teach it to them anyway. In any case, Mishnayos, which is Torah shebal peh, Chazal commanded us not to teach to girls, and if you do, it is as if you taught them Tiflus. Therefore, you should prevent them from doing this [teaching Mishnayos], with the exception of Pirkei Avos, which, because it discusses mussar and good midos you may teach it to them with explanations in order to awaken them to ahavas hatorah and good midos, but not any other Mesechta. And because this issue is simple I will end here with a blessing that you may spread Torah and Yiras Shamayim to the world.
Moshe FeinstenSeptember 3, 2013 1:04 am at 1:04 am #973855
WOW!!- def. not for the feminists out there!
If it’s legit from R’ Feinstein I might reevaluate my mentality as wellSeptember 3, 2013 2:26 am at 2:26 am #973856
just cuz we cant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!September 3, 2013 2:29 am at 2:29 am #973857
OURtorah: I may not have been clear- I was thinking that while the tafkid of men seems to be limud Torah and the tafkid of women (from all of these inspirational lectures) seems to be something else, it seems to be at least mostly okay for women to learn Tanach- why that and not gemara if we’re supposed to be devoting our time to some other tafkid of ours?September 3, 2013 2:51 am at 2:51 am #973858
I find it so sad that some people don’t want a Jewish woman to learn more about her faith, her mesorah, and her way of life. As a guy, I think learning gemara is an essential step to take in order to understand halachah and Jewish life. Why shouldn’t frum girls be able to understand the laws of their own religion?! We have enough of a problem with guys going OTD and getting bored with gemara- why can’t we just let the girls that actually have motivation, learn!!!September 3, 2013 3:21 am at 3:21 am #973859
LevAryehBoy: The Drisha on the Tur is M’dayek the Lashon of M’lamed.
Also, the Rambam in no way says that everything written in the Gemara is a Halachah L’Moshe MiSinai. The Rambam holds about as far away as you can from that Shittah.September 3, 2013 3:28 am at 3:28 am #973860
Bais Yakov maidel
I think at the root of things you have sfeikos in Emunah and you need to figure out why it is that you got to this point. There may be things you did and are doing in your life that are causing you to have sfeikos in Emunah. Certain aveiros cause sfeikos in Emunah and the person thinks they have valid questions but really their doubts stem from these issues. I think you need to speak to a competent Rav and or Rebbetzin who can answer your questions as well as maybe guide you in some areas in your life that need improvement. Our Torah is complete and perfect and there’s answers to all the questions (at least the ones that are muter to ask) and learning Gemara is not the answer to your questions. Asei lecha Rav. Call Rebbetzin Jungreis or Tzipora Helper.September 3, 2013 5:13 am at 5:13 am #973861
“I absolutely understand why a woman would want to learn Gemara. The same reason I want to learn Gemara. Gemara is the main source of Torah Sh’Bal Peh and you can’t fully understand or appreciate Torah without the Torah Sh’Bal Peh.”
Benig: If you say it, everyone believes you. If I say it, I need to justify myself to no end.
“You may have cute answers for the Rambam’s lashon”
LevAryeh: What exactly was cute about what I said?
I am familiar with that torah temimah. He also speaks at length somewhere else about his aunt (i think?) who forever bemoaned her state as a woman and that she cannot have a part in limud torah… whatever.
“You stated that having a deeper and more logical understanding of what Judaism is about would inspire you and strengthen your Emunah, as it were.
This is not about emunah. It’s about seeing some sort of struture and reason in halachah and hashkafa. Big difference.
“According to this, fewer boys should go off the derech than girls.” I never said this. This is your own extrapolation. I do not think many people go off the derech for intellectual reasons. Most people who go off the derech do so, mostly, for emotional reasons.
However, someone who does go off the derech for intellectual reasons, and it’s not so common, is usually the kind of person who would have been able to have tremendous influence had they remained in the fold. I know a number of people like this myself. They leave Judaism not to cry about their past miseries, but they go on to accomplish great things in other areas. So it’s just chaval to lose them.
“Of course,” replied the other rabbi. “The girls were looking at the Gemara, and the boys were looking at the girls!”
Why were the girls not looking at the boys too? I’m not saying this to be funny.
“I have learned in my travels that Talmudic Judaism’s logical structure stands on a base of spiritual BELIEF”
Bar-Magen: If I didn’t have some belief (I like to think of it more as konowledge) I wouldn’t be interested in learning gemara. Or anything Jewish at all. In the same way I don’t care to open up a quoran.
“And the reason she is wavering is because she doesn’t understand the logic behind what she is doing, especially as compared to her secular job. The rules and regulations appear to be random -the product of modern rabbinic fiat. A look at the inner workings, an understanding of the halachic process and the rigor of Talmudic thought can strengthen one’s resolve in keeping halacha and provide a mature intellectual religious satisfaction that reading an Artscroll book cannot.”
Benig: I couldn’t have said it better.
“As Lakewood001 said, the Gemara is rarely scientific (i.e. based on observation). The closest secular disciplines to Gemara are philosophy and law (Gemara has the lomdus of philosophy and the logic of law).”
I know this. Science in general operates with deductive reasoning and gemara operates usually more with inductive reasoning (at least that’s how I understood it. Am I correct?) But I’m not looking to learn gemara like science. I want to see the logic and rationality behind the laws to which I am expected to devote my life.
“As a guy, I think learning gemara is an essential step to take in order to understand halachah and Jewish life. “
rational frummie: like I told benig – if you, a guy, says it, it’s duh. If I woman says it, she’s a rebel, has emunah problems, must be undergoing a life crisis, is neglecting her real tafkid, blah blah blah…
“I think at the root of things you have sfeikos in Emunah and you need to figure out why it is that you got to this point… speak to a competent Rav and or Rebbetzin who can answer your questions…”
WIY: We are back to this again. I cannot deal with this circular reasoning.
It’s impossble that I’m just sincere. I have emunah problems.
I WAS the rebetzin. I taught about emunah for many years. That’s for the most part not where my questions are.
Rebetzin Heller was my teacher, actually. She is a wonderful, brilliant woman. But I don’t think she can teach me talmud. Besides, I don’t need to ask her if she thinks I should learn gemara – she will probably tell me I should.September 3, 2013 5:22 am at 5:22 am #973862
Assuming you believe the Rambam when he says in his hakdama that everything written in the Gemara is a Halacha l’Moshe Misinai, Hashem Himself said on Har Sinai that the closeness a woman attains through learning will not be accomplished by learning Gemara.
I would like to know where Hashem said this at har sinai.
And like Sam2 said, the rambam DOES NOT say in the hakdamah that everything written in the gemara in halacah l’moshe misinai. YOU should know that.
Have you been reading “Chaim B’Emunasam”?September 3, 2013 5:44 am at 5:44 am #973865
If you believe that it’s all Emes why the ” need” to see how it all breaks down? If you want to know tamed hamitzvos you can learn the chinuch. But why would you need to know more than that?
Whats wrong with opening a shulchon aruch seeing what you need to do and doing it knowing that that is the will of Hashem? Its plenty of information just knowing all the halachos that pertains to a woman “cold.” Have you so mastered halachos already that you feel it’s time to take your study further? You know halachos Shabbos cold? Halachos brachos? Halachos Yichud, Tzniyus, Kibbud and Yirah of parents… Theres so much halacha to know. Just mastering Shabbos can take many years. If you haven’t mastered what you must know then go do that. It should keep you busy for at least a few years.September 3, 2013 5:53 am at 5:53 am #973866
And for the record why is it circular reasoning to say that a person can have emunah ah questions based on things they do? The spiritual world has rules and a structure and if you do certain things there are certain consequences. It doesn’t have to make sense to you to make it true and valid. Yes if you go now and eat a piece of pork tomorrow you will be less interested in Hashem, your daven ing won’t be the same you will feel spiritually deadened. That’s just how it works. That’s not to say that you may not have some valid questions. However it could be that the other stuff that you may have done is what caused that your questions should be so “important and urgent” for you.
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