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women torah reading

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 16, 5776
315
Question
Hello, there is a synagogue that I sometimes visit, in another town, where no one can read the torah. They have minyan every shabbat, but unless they have a guest who knows how to do it, they skip the torah reading. I’ve learned that women don’t read from the Torah because of kavod hatzibur, but I wonder if it’s better that a woman reads Torah or nobody reads the Torah. I think the latter has problems as well, and would also not be good for kavod hatzibur. So which one would be preferable, according to halacha?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. I'm glad to hear that you are involved in supporting what sounds to be a community in need of some help. Keep up the good work! As to your question about women reading the Torah for the men – this is certainly a (touchy and) interesting question. Whilst there are some (lone) voices that raise at least the possibility of women reading the Torah for the community – the over-riding consensus is that this is forbidden. (Here is a link to an article by Rav Shlomo Riskin, the Rabbi of Efrat, who is generally known to be quite liberal in his rulings, who forbids it – http://www.yctorah.org/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,711/ ) However, in your unique situation the ruling really needs to be given by the local Rabbi. Although, from your question it sounds like there isn't a local Rabbi. (If there is, he should really learn how to read from the Torah!). Perhaps you could turn to a Rabbi who at least is familiar with the congregation and be able to rule for you. In lack of an Orthodox Rabbi, who has a knowledge of, and a connection with your shule, giving a specific ruling for your community, my strong advice is to definitely not have a women read from the Torah. The need for the community to stay connected to traditional Jewish practice is of prime importance. This is even more true of small communities that lack a Rabbinic figure. May I suggest though, that 1 – the shule thinks about spending the money to pay someone to come in and read the Torah each week. 2 – in lack of this, a person (or several people) should read the Parsha from a printed Chumash, without the blessings and call-ups. This will add to the service, and fulfill the mitzvah of learning Torah. Blessings.
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