Thursday, August 8, 2013

Parshas Shoftim - Women's Suffrage

The mitzvah of appointing a king has a potential application to women's suffrage (right to vote for you of those in Rio Linda).  The Or Sameiach to Rambam Hilchos Melachim 1:5 says:
אור שמח הלכות מלכים פרק א
[ה] אין מעמידין אשה במלכות כו' [בזמן הבית]:
עיין מגדל עוז שהעיר שבספרי (שופטים פי"ד) מפורש כן, ומהא דאמר בפרק שלשה שאכלו (ברכות מ"ט ע"א), תורה ומלכות לפי שאינן בנשים ובעבדים אין ראיה, דפירושו כמו תורה, שהנשים אינן מצוות ללמוד תורה, כן אינן מצווין על מ"ע דהקמת מלך ישראל, כמש"כ בספר החינוך, משום דלאו בני כיבוש נינהו, ופשוט:

ספר החינוך מצוה תצז 
שנצטוינו למנות עלינו מלך מישראל יקבצנו כולנו וינהיגנו כחפצו, ועל זה נאמר [דברים י"ז, ט"ו], שום תשים עליך מלך וגו', ואמרו בספרי [כאן] שום תשים עליך מלך, מצות עשה.
וזאת מן המצוות המוטלות על הציבור כולן הזכרים, כי להם יאות לעשות ענינים אלה.
Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk understands the Chinuch that the king's role is to lead the people in all things, including war, and war is not in the domain of women, the king is outside their purview.  This is Chinuch's opinion l'shitaso, for regarding Parshas Zachor (Mitzva 603) he says women are exempt because they do not participate in war.
ונוהגת מצוה זו בכל מקום ובכל זמן, בזכרים כי להם לעשות המלחמה ונקמת האויב, לא לנשים.
  This issue in the early 1920s affected the Yishuv  as it was a worldwide issue at that time.  Rav Kook paskened (Ma’amarei ha-RaAy’aH pp. 189-194) women should not vote, for reasons like the Or Sameiach and Chinuch, though he surprisingly does not quote them.   Rav Uziel paskened that women can vote (Piskei Uziel no. 43-4).  These are translated, with a missing page of Rav Kook here (opens in new window as pdf).

(Thus the position offered by Rabbi Marc Angel is somewhat baffling.  He writes: Rabbi Kook and Rabbi Uziel also differed in matters pertaining to the role of women in civic life. Their halakhic decisions reflected their different attitudes toward the role of women in a traditional society....the rabbinical leadership of the old Yishuv generally opposed extending to women the right to vote and hold public office. In contrast, the Sephardic rabbinic leadership generally favored granting women those rights. Now, while the authorship of the Chinuch is uncertain, it was definitely written in Spain.  So the opinion of Rav Uziel is NOT the traditional Spanish Rabbinical position; the Ashkenazic leaders of the Yishuv in Palestine paskened according to the Chinuch's position, a Spanish sage [though we cannot say his opinion is agreed upon by all Spanish Rishonim]!)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ode to Hirhurim

I owe a debt of gratitude to Rabbi Gil Student, who began blogging under the nom-de-plume Simcha.  This blog would probably never have existence without the existence of his blog, Hirhurim.  Gil demonstrated there could be intelligent discussion of serious Halachik and philosphical discussion on a blog.

I began commenting under my own nom-de-plume, Yossele, in an ironic reference to Yossele, the name of the Maharal of Prague's Golem.  Unfortunately those comments, and the generally constructive comments from the general Hirhurim readership, were lost several years ago.  There was important Torah and sources in those comments from many people.

The breadth of topics discussed on Hirhurim is well beyond what I could realistically achieve, but I felt I could take one topic of interest of mine with important implications to Jewish life today and generate more focused, though limited discussion.  I took a much narrower subject matter, and approached it more deeply, and from strictly a halachik, not social, point of view.  (Social aspects are at times important, but are not my interest.)  I was not too successful in generating that discussion on Shasdaf.  You can also see with a few clicks on the right, how difficult it is to keep up a regular posting schedule.

It is therefore with sadness that I react to Gil's announcement that the end of the Hirhurim blog has arrived.  I am curious to know the results of Gil's poll last month, asking readers what they felt about Hirhurim.  I personally liked Gil's posts and noticed there have not been too many of them for a while until about a month ago.  I personally did not care for all the guest posts.  The News and Links feature was one I thought was very good, and probably very time-consuming, but not something I checked on a regular basis.  I always checked Joel Rich's Audio Roundup every Thursday night.  My appreciation also extends to Steve Brizel and R' Ari Enkin for their work on the blog - I hope Hirhurim's rebranding does not affect their output.

One year in an annual Purim publication in Chicago, they offered minutes of the 10 most-debated shul meetings - including to say/not say the prayer for Medinat Yisrael; to give/not give the Rabbi a raise; to raise/not raise the Mechitza, so your shul doesn't have to spend the time on having the meeting themselves.

While Gil wrote "In my opinion, the ideas and dialogue have gotten stale," that's not really true.  While many topics have been discussed multiple times in Hirhurim's 11 years, sometimes there are new issues that arise; sometimes a person who was not aware of the issues in a previous cycle is reading about it for the first time.  To not have Hirhurim when a new iteration of a longstanding dispute flares up, as well as when new issues develop, is, in my mind, a loss to the greater Jewish community.

Thanks again to Gil, and to the regular contributors, and to the readers and commenters who made Hirhurim a community, one I will miss.