Thursday, 26 January 2012

Question! About the Rebbetzin . .



I recently watched the interview posted here. At 1:45, when asked who she would consult re: the decision to cover her hair, the interviewee states: "I'm definitely going to talk to my rabbi or his wife." (emphasis mine) It's not the first time I've heard an Orthodox woman mention asking the Rebbetzin for input re: Judaism. So, question!:

While I know the rabbi goes to yeshiva, and gets smicha  to earn his title and expertise, aside from an M.R.S. degree, how is the Rebbetzin qualified to answer such questions?   

p.s. I haven't read Ragen's book (pictured above), the image just seemed appropriate. 

10 comments:

  1. Some people feel more comfortable asking a woman certain questions. In this case, I'd assume either (a) the rebbetzin herself is well learned, or (b) the questioner is confident that if the rebbetzin doesn't know the answer, she'll refer the question to her husband.

    Caveat, I didn't watch the video.

    In my experience, a rebbetzin who is not knowledgeable about a topic she's consulted on won't try to answer - she'll say she's not qualified. (There are exceptions, of course).

    Anyway, smicha is not a magic potion, and knowledgeable people without smicha decide halachic questions for themselves all the time. So a rebbetzin might be able to answer many questions.

    And as for haircovering, it may not be a halachic answer the questioner is looking for, but more of a touchy-feely experience about the importance of haircovering, the beauty of haircovering, etc. (Ugh, I'm making myself sick).

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  2. I would say, it's simply easier to talk to someone that you can relate to. You can talk to the rabbi all day long about the black/white halacha, but you may want to talk to someone that is actually experiencing it and how she feels about it.

    >(Ugh, I'm making myself sick).

    Sigh!!!!!

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  3. Both answers sidestep the question a bit. I can understand being more comfortable asking certain questions of a woman, but why the Rebbetzin . . all she did was marry the rabbi. Why does this make her more qualified that any other frum woman?

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  4. It doesn't, people seek approval from an authoritative figure and since there are no women in that position in most Othodox communities the rebbetzin is it by default.

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  5. Holy Hyrax,

    Re: Sigh!!!!!

    What's that supposed to mean? I feel the same way as tesyaa, and this coming from someone who LOVED covering her hair at first, despite the physical discomfort.

    C.L.,

    I loved it because it was a status symbol. It said, "I'm in the grown up married club and the 'real" Orthodox club."

    Never understood the beauty, though. Never saw it as protecting my marriage in any way. After all, it makes your own hair look like garbage, meanwhile, there are hundreds of women walking down the street with their hair looking beautiful that your husband sees.

    Modesty, yeah right. Most women look less modest and more attractive than if they had their own hair out.

    As far as Jewish law, it's not one of the 613 scriptural commandments, but it's derived from the section on the adulterous woman and how publicly uncovering her hair (thousands of years ago in the middle east) was humiliating. The rabbinical verse in the Talmud about it only prohibits going out in public with hair uncovered. There is no Talmudic basis for a woman to have to cover her hair in front of anybody in a private place, even in front of men.

    I think the reason men like it is because their is something about it that says my husband owns me.

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  6. >What's that supposed to mean?

    It's no biggie. I just detest cynicism. Some people may find beauty in hair covering, and finding warm feelings about it, and it makes her sick. If someone else had some warm fuzzy wuzzy feelings about some other endeavor (maybe writing poetry, or doing yoga) I have a feeling should be a lot more, how shall we say it....progressive about it. It's one of pet peeves with Tesyaa.

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  7. HH, covering my hair personally bothers me at (and I originally felt just as Cali Girl, loving covering my hair) - but it doesn't bother me personally if someone ELSE finds beauty in covering her hair. Not at all. Why do you assume I don't extend frum Jews the courtesy I give other groups? I DO.

    The comments I make on blogs deal with the subject at hand. I am commenting on Jewish blogs, so I am commenting on the Jewish community. In person, I don't walk up to fundamentalist OJs and start debating their beliefs. Maybe I don't approve of all yoginis or poets, but in person, I am kind and courteous to them -- THE SAME WAY I am kind and courteous to fundamentalists OJs. If I started commenting on yoga or poetry blogs, maybe I'd air criticisms there too.

    (Yoga and poetry are just examples, of course - I actually don't have strong feelings about either, but hopefully you get my point).

    Since believers must be allowed their beliefs, which include intolerance of others, it will never be a two-way street.

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  8. To make a long story short:

    The comment about making myself sick was related to my own personal feelings about covering my own personal hair, not my feelings about anyone else covering her (or his) hair.

    Sorry if that wasn't clear.

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  9. >The comment about making myself sick was related to my own personal feelings about covering my own personal hair, not my feelings about anyone else covering her (or his) hair.
    >Sorry if that wasn't clear.

    Ok.

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  10. @Elitzur: Hi & Welcome!

    >since there are no women in that position in most Othodox communities the rebbetzin is it by default.

    Thank you for that comment!
    HH- how does this not SCREAM to you that there's a massive gap in Orthodox culture for leadership roles for women?

    @HH >If someone else had some warm fuzzy wuzzy feelings about some other endeavor (maybe writing poetry, or doing yoga) I have a feeling should be a lot more, how shall we say it....progressive about it.

    We would be progressive about it because people are not limited to either yoga or poetry based on the anatomy they happened to be born with.
    Leadership roles in Orthodox Judaism, by contrast, are. OJ women follow halachot that have had/continue to have little to no female input in their development, yet affect almost every element of their lives. And it is one thing for someone who chooses OJ as an adult (albeit "chooses may not always be accurate since kiruv organizations do not always present OJ in the most honest/transparent fashion), but it is altogether another for girls who are born into a system in which by and large the closest thing to an authoritative role religiously that they get is through marrying the rabbi.

    I know someone is giong to counter with the role of the Yoetzet (that you brought up, HH in the rabbi/underwear post), the growing egalitarian MO shuls, and the ONE rabba. I support all of these developments whole heartedly, and I think they are taking OJ in the right direction. BUT, all of these female roles have been established against much resistance, and, as far as I understand, are still not recognized as "mainstream OJ". On this note, A really informative article re: the Yoetzet role: http://www.kesher.org/centennial/events/documents/Institutionofchange-yoetzethalacha04.08.pdf

    The author states that the YH program "succeeded in avoiding conflict" . . but if you read how they succeeded, they really did tip toe a very delicate and tenuous line.

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