Saturday, 28 January 2012

Updated: A Blogger and Yoetzet Halacha Correspond

Dear Shoshana,

Fridays are always so rushed, so I just sent a quick thank you and posted your response yesterday, but I have been thinking about the information you sent, and I do have questions/comments.  I am hoping to post them on the blog. If you feel comfortable responding on the blog, that would be great. Otherwise, you can respond by e-mail, and I will publish my comments only. 

First of all, I want you to know that I am sincerely grateful that you took the time to respond. My initial question outlines my attitude towards the issue rabbis' roles in stain analysis quite bluntly, and I know that in inviting you to the conversation I was putting you on the spot. I appreciate the integrity you show in responding, and I hope you see my comments as a continuation of the discussion, rather than an attack on something that you clearly hold dear. I also want to make it clear that I view the development of the YH role as a positive one, (as I stated in the comments on the Rebbetzin post), and I support any meaningful religious leadership roles for Orthodox women. 

I have inserted comments in red  below, and am very interested in your response.

Thank You Again. All the Best,


Hi Again,
I can definitely relate about Fridays!
Thanks for your appreciation. I'll respond to your questions in blue below.
Wishing you a shavua tov,


Hi CL,

It's great to see people discussing these important issues. Thanks for inviting me to the loop!
What do rabbis know about vaginal discharge that women don't? Great question. Naturally I want to say the answer is absolutely nothing, well, at least in the Orthodox community where rabbis implies men these days and they don't experience vaginal discharge.
(Ironically, that's not actually true 100%. Many women don't pay too much attention to their discharges which is what led to the story Blusterfly shared and a story I once heard about a women who sent a rabbi a stain and got an answer back, "it's okay halachically but you should go to the doctor, looks like you have an infection").

I hope you will forgive me, but I'm going to start on another blunt note. Rabbis know as much about gynecology as Jennie McCarthy knows about autism. For every rabbi whose suspected diagnosis of an infection was then confirmed, I am sure there are hundreds of unconfirmed diagnoses. It is, in my opinion, highly irresponsible to suggest any medical insight on the part of rabbis.    

What men, and some women, who have studied do know is about the halachot that come into play with bleeding, spotting, and some of the differences between the two. Here's the truth: women can learn everything there is to know about these laws. Anyone can. 


But it's the same issue as so many others. If only I knew everything there was to know about x-rays and vaccinations, and the types of things they do to clothing to make them not flammable and what is in NJ's water that's not in NY's and the opposite and what sort of damage cellphone usage causes and on and on. There is only so much we can all be experts in. Those who study any of the above can be used as resources when questions come up for the rest of us. 

The reason we are not all experts in vaccines, x-rays etc., is that we don't need to be for our daily lives. My lack of knowledge in x-ray technology, for example, certainly does not interfere with my day to day relationships with those closest to me. Taharat Mishpacha, on the other hand, can significantly impact spousal relationships, so it does behoove Orthodox women to gain expertise - or at least just basic competence in analyzing stains - in an area that will effect their relationships at this level of intimacy.  

A couple before it gets married is faced with another one of those "important files", the opportunity and challenge to keep the laws of taharat hamishpacha. The timeframe in which to study the laws and become familiar with the major concepts is short. The couple is overwhelmed by the amount of things that are part of Judaism, an important part of Judaism, that neither have ever even heard of. There are not many comparable things in Orthodoxy, where chinuch, educating children, begins at very young ages. Here comes another realm which would be great to study if only I had the time to become an expert. What size and color stain are problematic? What's not? 

Hold on . . isn't this part of what you do?

Yes, I meant generally a person may say, "Here comes another realm...What's not?"

It's a whole lot to ask someone to learn in a couple of months while planning a wedding on top of all the other things to learn: waiting 5 days, counting 7, checking how?! The education given before the wedding is meant to be an overview 101 course to get the couple ready for a life of continued education, to asking and learning.

So why wait to educate women "last minute" before the marriage? The expectation for most girls going through OJ schools is that they will eventually marry and have children. Wouldn't it make sense to teach taharat hamishpacha classes to high school students? This way they can have time to practice their own analysis, and ease the transition into marriage. 

It does make sense to teach taharat hamishpacha classes to high school students. Many schools do have this as part of their 12th grade curriculum. It is very useful I think, as an introduction. As helpful as this formal education is, nothing can really teach you as much as "being on the job".

However, this may be seen and experienced as disempowering. That's not the goal but unfortunately it is a byproduct for some people. I think that depends on the attitude they feel towards halacha and rabbinic authority generally and certainly how it's explained to them pre-wedding. When it comes to empowering women, I couldn't agree with you more CL, it should be a #1 priority. I like to think a lot of people in the OJ community agree with us. I know that the rabbi we learned with in Israel, a very reputable talmid chacham respected also by the more right-wing crowds, used to say, as you joked, CL, that we should bring in paint samples and simply teach which colors are okay and which aren't. The opposition said, "don't do that, it makes things too black and white and eliminates the relevance of the couple's story." That is to say, that in some scenarios the halacha would be different if there were a need to rely on a leniency because the couple is facing some difficulty. When I left the beit midrash that was still under debate.

I actually was not joking. I agree with the respected-by-the-right-talmid-chacham rabbi on this one. I don't believe giving couples basic tools to analyse stains with the aid of a color chart would dissuade them from consulting halachic authorities for leniency should they need it.  It would just mean that they could then consult using words, not samples.     

There weren't any substantial comments re: the remainder of the original response, so in the interest of digital space, you can see he rest of the letter  here.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for the grossness here but it doesn't take a taharat expert to know that green color or curdled texture means infection.


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