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Woman reading Eichah for a minyan


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Av 26, 5773
We read Eichah in our home with a minyan. different men read a chapter and we were asked to allow a woman to read a chapter to be ’Yotzeh’ the minyan. is this allowed? Thank you!
Shalom! I would imagine that you have a local rabbi and it’s therefore it’s logical, preferable and even obligatory to ask him, especially on such a controversial and novel question not found in the classical poskim. Nevertheless, I’ll allow myself to answer for the website: my first reaction is that one can’t ignore the social and religious context of reform, that a woman declares by reading Eicha publicly. Even if it’s not in shul, and it’s not being read from parchment (klaf), and it’s without a bracha, it’s still clearly defying and demonstrating against Jewish tradition, and identifying with the slippery slope which has consistently led to assimilation and weakening of our tradition. Although it’s clearly a “local (rabbi’s) call”, I’ll allow myself to generally compare the “positive” direction of Israeli education in the ulpanot and religious-zionist movement which has proven itself much more successful than the orthodox-feminist movement in America (or by some of their anglo counterparts who have made aliya). Rather than instilling feelings of inferiority to need to copy men, Israeli girls are proud of their feminine role, stressing altruistic volunteering, being madrichot in youth movements, national service (absorbing olim, helping the handicapped and underprivileged, building new settlements etc.), learning Torah in midrashot geared for them, raising many children and being the backbone of the Jewish family unit, responsible for building today’s society as well as tomorrow’s. In short, idealistic feminism is much more appealing than apologetically trying to emulate men. I elaborated on the comparison between the two approaches in my articles, at Accordingly, better to leave public readings for men. Nevertheless, I understand you are asking from America, where the local rabbi may feel that the situation there is less independent from American cultural influences than we are here in Israel. Accordingly, it’s that much more difficult for women to feel good about themselves in a society mindset which stresses career, and admires the bread-winner and the public spotlight, something which may bring them, chas v’shalom, to resent Torah. We should all look forward to the day where a person is “rated” by his Godliness, and not by career, money or publicity, where men will try and emulate the more female (Godly) virtues of mercy and kindness, instead of vice-versa. With Love of Israel, Rav Ari Shvat
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