R Soloveichik on girls education

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    Avira > Aaq, i am trying to be dan lekaf zchus; otherwise, it is a sobering indictment on rabbi soloveitchik.

    You are sufgering from “no true Scotsman” syndrome. We seemingly agreed before that r Soloveichik is a talmid chacham, and you, as a self-professed Brisker, probably understand him better than I do. So, when encountering something from a t’ch that you possibly do not agree with, you are already interested in a possible indictment, rather than learning. If this attitude holds, it is simply self-serviing. So, let’s try to find the facts first. The source I had in mind were two letters to R Rosenfeld, first RYBS refused to answer, and then answered on May 27, 1953. They are published in a book “Community, Covenant And Commitment: Selected Letters And Communications”. There might be more in the book. Note the year, relatively early in the debate about girls school, I don’t know whether he changed his opinion later.

    I see them quoted in the end of the article below. Here it is seemingly in full. I confirmed that in the google books

    Dear Rabbi Rosenfeld:

    Please accept my apologies for not answering your letters sooner. The delay was due to my overcrowded schedule. As to your question with regard to a curriculum in a coeducational school, I expressed my opinion to you long ago that it would be a very regrettable oversight on our part if we were to arrange separate Hebrew courses for girls. Not only is the teaching of Torah she-be-al peh to girls permissible but it is nowadays an absolute imperative. This policy of discrimination between the sexes as to subject matter and method of instruction which is still advocated by certain groups within our Orthodox community has contributed greatly to the deterioration and downfall of traditional Judaism. Boys and girls alike should be introduced to the inner halls of Torah she-be-al peh.

    I hope to prepare in the near future a halakhic brief on the same problem which will exhaust the various aspects of the same. In the meantime I heartily endorse a uniform program for the entire student body.

    no outside links


    As the link did not get thru: the person asking the shaila R Rosenfeld was the head of the New York Board of Jewish Education at the time, asking on behalf of the board, and committing, after the first non-response “why should I write something controversial for no reason”, to implement the psak, whatever it will be.

    here are a couple of other interesting tidbits

    – RYBS, like his grandfather, in a Brisker way, did not fit well into a posek role as he often saw different sides of the issue. R Chaim, for example, referred some shailahs to R Spector.

    – here is a response rejecting cooperation with non-O on a Chumash translation, so you don’t conclude that he is always meikil and bending to “current conditions”: I noticed in your letter that you are a bit disturbed about the probability of being left out. Let me tell you that this attitude of fear is responsible for many commissions and omissions, compromises and fallacies on our part which have contributed greatly to the prevailing confusion within the Jewish community and to the loss of our self-esteem, our experience of ourselves as independent entities committed to a unique philosophy and way of life. Of course, sociability is a basic virtue and we all hate loneliness and dread the experience of being left alone. Yet at times, there is no alternative and we must courageously face the test.

    – similarly, With full cognizance of the implications of such a halakhic decision, I would still advise every Orthodox Jew to forego tefilah betzibbur even on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur rather than enter a synagogue with mixed pews.

    – When shown a responsum by a non-Orthodox scholar,
    … I have not read the responsum you sent me on the question of grafting human bone tissue. I tore it up immediately. I refuse to deal with any halakhic essay, regardless of its scholastic merits or fallacies, prepared by a representative of a group whose philosophy is diametrically opposed to Torah and tradition and which does not accept the authority of Halakhah as a Divine and transcendental guide for the individual and the community.


    Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik was a professor of Talmud, and studied in the finest University study halls in Europe.

    He wrote things that, as Rav Shach put it, were “such kefirah that it was dumbfounding even to see it”.
    Rav Shach wrote that he repeated that heresy to show how great an extent secular wisdom causes “damage to, and a lowering of level of, daas Torah”.


    Rabbi J.B. Soloveichik was wrong on any number of issues.


    Hakatan_Do you have a source for that quote from Rav Schach? Rav Solovetchick was help in high regard by the American gedolim of his day. This includes Rav Aharon Kotler, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Ruderman, Rav Hutner and Rav Gifter. Even though they disagreed with him on major issues they held him in high regard.

    Several gedolim in EY may have used harsher language but for pipsqueaks to say he was not from among the gedolim of the 20th century is playing with fire.

    I am curious UJM, do you also speak that way about Bais Shamai?

    For those who question Rav Solvetchick on this issue and on nearly every other issue in which he was a daas yaachid, take into consideration the situation at the time. Orthodoxy was in danger of extinction, Conservative and reform Judaism were seen as the future of klal Yisrael, and the secular world was taking a nose dive in morals


    ” on this issue and on nearly every other issue in which he was a daas yaachid”
    You said it best, he was a daas yochid, hardly a godol.


    It is a fair point that Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik held the perspective (unlike Rav Aharon Kotler) where he (and others) incorrectly viewed Orthodoxy as in danger of extinction – something that is impossible, of course.

    That could explain why he created the current incarnation of haskalah, known as “Modern Orthodoxy” which, as Rav Schwab pointed out (even decades ago, all the more so today), is really “stale and fossilized”.


    Re: the quotes – they’re in Michtavim uMaamarim, as memory serves.

    While American gedolim dealt with Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik as needed, including giving him kavod and/or working with him when that was necessary, they were perfectly clear about the heretical ideas he proposed (including Zionism) being exactly that: heretical. They certainly did know and respect his talmudic knowledge, but not beyond that.


    Rocky: Your information is incorrect. Here are some of the quotes you are asking for:

    Rav Aharon Kotler ZTV’L, in Mishnas Rabi Aharon (Vol. 3, Hesped on the Brisker Rav) states that the essence of Modern Orthodoxy is the same as the Reform and Conservative. That is, change Judaism into something that more people will be willing to accept.

    Rav Shimon Schwab wrote (Mitteilungen, Bulletin of Khal Adas Yeshurun April/May 1989): “Sometimes the Modern Orthodox halachic foolishness which is flirting with the anti-Torah establishment, may border on heresy. This is all part and parcel of the spiritual confusion of the dark ages in which we happen to live. However, in addition to the legitimate shitos we have discussed, there is yet another, more modern version in vogue called “Torah Umaada”. Apparently this is identical with Torah Im Derech Eretz, especially since both claim a belief in the priority of Torah over maada. Both seems exactly alike, but like two left gloves which cannot be worn together, they don’t fit! . . .”
    (Selected Essays pp.160-162):
    “Rav Hirsch ZT’L has inscribed two emblems on his banner. One is Torah Im Derech Eretz and the other is the so-called “Austritt”, which means severance, or total and non-recognition of any type of institutionalized heresy, “minus” or apikursus. This is also a resolution not to contribute, participate in, or support any cause which accords validity to the disbelief in Hashem or to the denial of the authenticity of Torah shebiksav or Torah shebaal peh. In other words, “Austritt” states that the Torah is our sovereign ruler, and it makes us independent of all those who deny its Divine origin…

    “To summarize, Torah im derech eretz without Austritt is considered treif l’chol hadeios! Even if you call it Torah Umaada.”

    The battle against YU by the Yeshiva world is not, nor was it, a simple issue of Halachic or Hashkafic disagreement which can be dismissed as routine if accompanied with the obligatory respect for the opposing view, as per ailu v’ailu etc. Not so. Rather, YU was viewed as a deviant, dangerous, and anti-Torah entity that doesn’t deserve the respect of a legitimate Torah position, even a mistaken one. Rav Aharon Kotler ZTL once commented about Rav Soloveitchik, “He is respnsible for the majority of Tumah in America.” Also from the same Rav Aharon, “He destroyed an entire generation of Jews.” Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L said many times that he will not enter YU because it is bad. His son, Rav Schneur ZT’L, followed suit. Rav Elchonon Wasserman ZT’L also, when he came to America in the ’30s, was invited to speak in YU, and he refused to even walk in to the place.


    Lazy responses so far, conflating a rav with a vaguely defined mo. R Wasserman visit precedes RYBS role at yu, either when his father r Moshe Soloveitchik was there.

    RYBS was also not in charge of all decisions at yu. He makes it clear in an article about yu medical school. He says that he supports it bdievad and with hope it will do well and that he was not consulted beforehand.

    He was also pretty strict in drawing the limits – rejection of non O, dialogue with other religions on religious topics. I think like r Schwab he saw that as a precondition to engage with modernity.

    He himself acknowledged that many others opposed his views. See initial response about girls and gemora: I am not going to get into controversy if you are not going to follow-up
    And in his quip that he learns Torah as much as others, and does philosophy at the time others are saying lh about him.


    Yes, really.
    The ‘oh really’ was in reference to your immature conclusion behind the edit. If you knew the truth, you’d be embarrassed you said it.


    >>>The ‘oh really’ was in reference to your immature conclusion behind the edit. If you knew the truth, you’d be embarrassed you said it.

    Now you REALLY sound like a high school kid

    shkoyach, your unsolicited opinion is warmly received.


    >>>Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L said many times that he will not enter YU because it is bad. His son, Rav Schneur ZT’L, followed suit

    Baloney! Rav Aharon Kotler ZT’L was in YU borrowing seforim from their library. His name and identify is clearly written on the library cards which you can find on line but this site does not allow links. I heard from a SIl of ss son, Rav Schneur ZT’L in an ANTI YU speech that his scver was in YU trying to get them to hire a certain Lakewood talmidim as a rebbeim


    Not sure whether this is that important how often R Kotler used YU library, but here is a post that has pictures of the library cards:

    Friday, February 1, 2019
    Rav Aharon Kotler and the Yeshiva University Library Guest Post by Zalman Alpert
    Guest Post by Zalman Alpert, Judaica Reference Librarian at the Gottesman Library of Yeshiva University from 1982–2014

    In my many years 1982-2014 as a librarian at the Mendel Gottesman Library of Yeshiva University, I was honored to meet many important rabbonim, who would visit YU and the MGL. Many Chassidic Rebbes visited YU among them the late Sadigurer rebbe, the Burstiner rebbe, the Koudenover Rebbe, the Kaluver Rebbe and Helmitzer Rav Ztl. Even more Chassidic Dayanim, Rabbonim or Magide Shiur used the library, and I was honored to establish relationships with several of them.

    Additionally, Chasidic Dayanim from all Hasidic groups, used the library via phone requests, including dayanim from Satmar, Lubavitch, Pupa, Belz and other groups. The phone was also the vehicle used to access the library by which the Biyaner Rebbe shlita, whose father Dr Menachem Breuer was on the faculty of YU, the Krasner Rav and Bialer rebbe of B’nai Brak contacted the library as well.

    The same can not be said in regards the Eylam Hateyre ie the Yeshiva world, I can hardly recall any American Rosh Yeshiva using the library in person or via the phone, with one notable exception about which I hope to write at another time.

    I suspect YU was too close to home so to speak for these Rabbonim to accord it any respect. In pre-war days most visiting Roshe Yeshiva from Polish Lita honored YU by giving a guest shiur there, with one Rav Shimen [Schwab – AAQ] staying at YU for a year as a Rosh Yeshiva min haminyan, on leave from his hometown of Grodna. Yeshiva world mythology presents 2 exceptions to this, being Rav Elchonon Wasserman HYD and Rav Aron Kotler who refused to give shiurim at YU. I have not researched this but indeed it is probably fact that they boycotted YU.

    Years ago as the Gottesman Library was discarding old circulation files I fished out a number of circulation cards indicating that Rav Aaron Kotler borrowed books at the Gottesman Library during the years 1942-45.
    It remains unknown whether he was actually there personally, but clearly these books were designated for his use, perhaps via a messenger. That they were intended for Rav Aron was not hidden and on one card he is identified as Rosh Yeshiva of Klezk!

    The books he borrowed were all lomdische seforim with the exception of Chut haMeshulosh חוט המשולש, by the Bergszazer Rav, R Shlomo Sofer about the Eiger-Sofer family which is in the bechinah of sichos chulin shel talmide chachomim in general.

    My Rebbe, Rav Shimen Romm ZTL of YU was also a Kletzker talmid but never reconnected with his old rebbe in the US. When several of the current Lakewood Roshe Yeshiva were in our shul, Rav Romm repeated a chiddush by Reb Aron to them from the early 1930s.


    Slight issue – rav elchanan did visit YU, however he had very stern things to say about it. He also visited Torah Vodaas, and said that “YU is a bad yeshiva with a good name(rav yitzchak elchanan), and Torah Vodaas is a good yeshiva with a bad name(as it implies torah and something else, taken from a maskilish yeshiva that one of the board members was a student of)


    It remains a clear halacha that we educate girls and boys differently. Ideally, we wouldn’t teach tanach either, but we must, and it is allowed bedieved, as per the rambam.

    Rabbi yoshe ber accepted the words of the poskim as binding, as he was an Orthodox rabbi, and not a conservative clergyman. However this halacha is clear as day – far clearer than his chumros about krias hatorah; girls must not be taught gemara. They must be given different “opportunities” than boys, because they 1) will not be rabbis, even according to him, 2) don’t have a mitzvah to learn, 3) will be violating an issur if they learn gemara on their own and make divrei havai out of it

    How is it עולה על הדעת that two sets of people with different obligations, responsibilities, should be taught the same way? It makes absolutely no sense.

    Either he didn’t mean it seriously or he got caught in the avodaj zara of haskalah while writing that, ככפאו שד


    Re, his opposition to the conservative movement – he was opposed to them and thought he could sacrifice parts of Torah in order to fight them off. In doing so, he was basically doing exactly what conservative did to fight off intermarriage, ironically enough. The only difference is that rabbi yoshe ber believed in the Torah fully and the conservatives did not.


    AAQ: If Rav Ahron had sent a shliach to borrow a book from the New York Public Library that wasn’t readily available elsewhere, and you found the index card from the NYPL with his name on it, would you take that to mean he gave his haskama to the NYPL, including its indecent and obscene materials?

    There have been many talmidei chachomim who have utilized the JTS library in Manhattan, which is even more comprehensive than the YU library; yet I can assure you than none of them intended their borrowing a book there to indicate that Conservative “Judaism” is not kefira.


    Yes, really.
    The ‘oh really’ was in reference to your immature conclusion behind the edit. If you knew the truth, you’d be embarrassed you said it.”

    I don’t recall writing anything “immature”, but I apologize if either I did so or if whatever I did write was understood as such.

    It was the insinuation that me having to delete a post after weighing out every line of every post to determine what is public/substantiated, what is a quote from a gadol or what is stam a posters opinion was misconstrued as me deleting to protect the MO and probably for monetary reasons. Machul lach

    lebidik yankel

    I have heard the argument that teaching a girl Torah is like teaching tiflus because it teaches them to be sophisticated and crafty. Today’s girls are reading everything else, and are crafty enough. Learning Torah will only help them. Another argument is that women today are college professors and Supreme Court Justices. If you don’t teach them Torah they will learn their values elsewhere.
    In a nutshell, Yes, clearly the Halacha is against teaching girls Torah. It also dictates that we never do laundry on Friday, only Thursday. (Takanas Ezra) But times have changed and the earlier takanos are recast in a way appropriate to our time.


    Leibidig, two things; one is that rabbi soloveitchik’s stated opinions here are that fundamentally it’s somehow unfair to girls not to be given the same education as boys, [disclaimer: that is not what he said per his quote above.] which is what this thread is about.

    The beis yaakov movement understood that bedieved, torah needs to be taught now, but within the confines of halacha – i.e., tanach yes, gemara no, because that’s the halacha.

    Laundry is different not because times change, but because it’s not the laundry chazal were talking about. It’s pressing buttons. Here, girls still produce tiflus with their learning, which is an affront to Torah, no matter what other problems they may have at the same time.

    re comment: only commenting because you claim to be quoting as opposed to giving your own pshat


    Yankel: It isn’t an “argument”; it’s a befeirush Chazal, Shulchan Aruch and Rambam. And Rashi explains it to mean that she’ll be led to engage in immorality.


    As I said in another thread, Sarah Schenirer learned Gemara. Please explain that.


    Note that r Wasserman visited yu either before or during r Moshe Soloveitchik. I don’t think opinions about institutions is relevant here, just googled to double check the poster’s claims.


    I don’t know what Sarah Schenirer learnt, but I know that while everyone now contrasts BY learning of rishonim v gemora, it was not a long tradition. I went through a whole sefer of Chofetz Chaim letters in the 20s, and he writes a lot about having a kosher Heder in every town v. anti religious Jewish schools, but he offers nothing to girls. I found one letter where he protests sending girls to Polish gymnasia but offers no alternative. In another letter, he summarizes halochos of mikva on 2 pages and asks women who know how to read to read this letter to the unfortunate ladies who do not. He is not suggesting teaching those ladies to read or to send daughters to BYs .. so this is background to RYBS suggestion that the way to have quality education for girls is simply put them into existing classes for boys. It probably made more sense at the time than today , but has some lessons for now also


    Avira, I am also not onboard with the idea of teaching girls exactly same things as boys. I understand RYBS as not a need to have coed education, but that was a practical way to raise girls education from the abysmal level it was in pre war Europe. He is writing this in 1950s and to a wider community than those who followed r Kotler at the time. This is parallel to his view of what “boys” should be taught for yu semicha a couple of years before: teach curriculum that prepares community rabbis who can say a dvar Torah, deal with shul and marriage in the community, not necessarily deal with complicated gemoras.


    Da, when girls in MO schools dress, daven, study mussar, keep away from boys, movies and goyishe music, and tremble before Hashem like ike Sara Schnirer, then we’ll talk. Until then it’s just “why can’t we” feminism.


    Also, Sara Schnirer was someone who could judge herself as being an exceptional woman, and allowed to do so according to some poskim, though according to the rambam it would seem there is no heter whatsoever – on that, I’d say it’s a machlokes, but i don’t think any woman alive today can say they are on that madrega.


    Avira, now you’re changing your stance. Before, you claimed that it’s 100% assur. Now, you’re claiming that if girls daven, study mussar, etc. they are allowed? You also are claiming that an “exceptional” woman is now exempt from the issur?
    Make up your mind please. If it’s assur, then it’s assur to all women. If it’s not assur, then it’s allowed for all women.
    Which is it?


    Da, i was saying pshat in the rambam. It’s a chidush, but i think it’s very meduyak in his words. I agree that there are poskim who say beferush that exceptional women may learn; the drishah is very well known. Not that there’s a clear psak in the matter, however I’m sure Sara Schnirer asked a shailoh before doing so.


    Who is the original source of the claim that Sara Schnirer learnt Gemora?


    Joe, Sarah Schenirer wrote in her diaries that she learned Chok l’Yisrael every day. This is a daily seder which includes Chumash, Nach, Mishnah, and Gemara.


    Chok has a lot more; shulchan aruch, Zohar….could be she skipped parts. Who knows?


    I think the issue is not about what women can learn, but what learning is. “Learning Gemora” does not have to mean following Daf Yomi or Chol L’Israel. It includes a study of a sugya using Gemora method. It can be a suya relevant to women’s mitzvos or it could be a sugya related to understanding issues of modernity, science, pedagogy, economics, etc. Say, can/should a Jewish lady, say, sitting on Fed meetings learn Jewish methods of regulating commerce and ponder which parts of that can be applicable to modern economy?

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