Tag Archives: Klapper. Modern Orthodoxy

Rabbinic Authority and Public Policy

by Shira Hecht-Koller, Esq.

Introductory note from Rabbi Klapper: Shira Hecht-Koller has become an essential voice on issues of Orthodoxy and gender. I am deeply grateful for her wilingness to take the time to respond to my article.

Rabbi Klapper’s article, “Are Partnership Minyanim an Orthodox Phenomenon,” argues that although “it seems…reasonable to concede from the outset that an intellectually plausible argument can be made for the practice of giving women aliyot,” this does not suffice to make this practice “Orthodox.” For that, Rabbi Klapper says, the submission to authority is also needed, and it is not yet clear that partnership minyanim and the people who comprise them do in fact submit to rabbinic authority.

It is salutary that Rabbi Klapper makes it clear at the outset that the deepest issues in the ongoing discussion about partnership minyanim within the Orthodox community revolve primarily around issues of sociology and public policy. The leaders of these minyanim are committed to halakha and to the halakhic tradition, and from the beginning the initiatives have grown out of intensive study of the halakhic sources. As we know, the process of arriving at normative halakha is not a scientific one, and there has always been room for a plurality of halakhic opinions. This does not of course mean that any halakhic opinion is acceptable, but as Rabbi Klapper says, it does mean that there are legitimate halakhic views, that are “not demonstrably wrong,” that still may not be accepted as normative. The question, then, of course, is what allows a view to move from possible to normative.

The fundamental issue raised by Rabbi Klapper’s piece is the nature and source of religious authority. In order to articulate how important this issue is, though, let me begin with the question of terminology. As Rabbi Klapper points out, “There is no magic in the word ‘Orthodoxy’.” So a first step towards a deeper analysis of the explicitly sociological issues would be an attempt to better understand what is at stake beyond a mere word. Rabbi Klapper distinguishes between “Orthodox” and “religious” or “halakhic legitimacy.” This distinction is unclear, and this then clouds the rest of the discussion. If there are “halakhically legitimate” practices that are non-Orthodox, one begins to wonder what the value of “Orthodoxy” is as a label. Has it been reduced to just politics, to the question of membership in certain organizations? Perhaps this is obviously true.

Rabbi Klapper certainly agrees with this basic point: there is something other than pure halakha that defines Orthodoxy. I can well imagine a pure “halakhic man” looking quizzically at this statement. What is this “Orthodoxy” if not a group of Jews in the modern world who have committed themselves to not compromising on matters of halakha, to resisting the temptation to abandon the halakhic tradition, and to insisting always on rigor and depth of halakhic thought and analysis when approaching the world? But even a less rigid worldview may argue that halakha includes within itself numerous extra-legal categories and norms. These are not what Rabbi Klapper leans on, however. He concedes that within halakha, as expansively as that might be applied, there is a plausible case to be made for the legitimacy of partnership minyanim. It is outside of halakha that Rabbi Klapper’s concerns are to be found.

This then leads us to the central question raised by Rabbi Klapper’s analysis: the nature of the extra-halakhic authority on which “Orthodoxy” is said to depend. This authority is placed front and center by Rabbi Klapper in the discussion of what makes a practice Orthodox and legitimate (these terms are interchanged on p. 2). Rabbi Klapper refrains from using the term “rabbis” for those with this authority, presumably because of his stated belief that women with appropriate training and experience should have equivalent authority as their male counterparts – a belief that I think is so well justified as to be almost beyond question. (If only the reality reflected this already!) Instead, he speaks repeatedly of “Orthodox halakhic authorities,” whose approval is needed to make a practice Orthodox. But this brings us to the crux of the question: why should halakhic authorities, male or female, be authoritative on non-halakhic matters, on matters of public policy?

In my view, it is precisely this question that had led to the sense of a “break” within the community. Leaders of partnership minyanim often feel that many halakhic authorities are not sufficiently sensitive to some of the relevant policy and communal factors. When the issues are not halakhic in nature, on what basis do halakhic authorities have authority?

It should be clear that for halakhic questions that do not relate to gender issues (e.g., the kashrut of a sefer Torah, the latest time to eat se‘uda shelishit, etc.), participants in partnership minyanim respect rabbinic authority as much as anyone else. But when it comes to the question of women’s roles, my sense is that many participants in these minyanim feel that deferral to rabbinic authority simply means conceding that nothing will be allowed. This sense of alienation comes from exactly the point Rabbi Klapper makes at the beginning: rabbis forbid practices despite being halakhically permissible, because of their views on public policy, sociology, and a whole suite of other fields.

Of course, it was once true that rabbis (for then there were only rabbis) were entrusted with guiding the community in all sorts of matters. However, it is no longer necessarily the fact that rabbis are more educated than others in the community in anything other than Torah. A rabbi would be foolish to preach on matters of politics in front of the political scientists in his community, or to comment on the medical findings of the week without consulting the doctors. When it comes to Jewish public policy, too, there are professionals and there are experts, and these may or may not be the halakhic authorities. If the question is whether a practice is halakhically acceptable, the halakhic authorities ought to be the decisors. But if the question is one of policy, where does that authority lie?

I will conclude with a question, returning to the question of the terminology. Rabbi Klapper mentions that some people might just like the social networks afforded by the Orthodox community, but that for others the attraction is a personal commitment to halakhah. Is it important to people whether they are called “Orthodox” by others? If they live by halakhah but are judged to have left Orthodoxy, what would the results be?

Shira Hecht-Koller, Esq. teaches Talmud and Comparative Medical Ethics at SAR High School and is a Founding Member of the Orthodox Leadership Project. 


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Parsing the Partnership Minyan Debate

by Dr. Yoel Finkelman

Introductory note from Rabbi Klapper: Dr. Yoel Finkelman’s keen observations on the Orthodox community in general, and the Modern Orthodox community in particular, are generally vital reading for anyone who cares about maintaining and improving them.  I am very grateful that he has taken the time to write comments on my article.

If the debate about so-called Partnership Minyanim has been marred by bitterness and nastiness, certainly Rabbi Klapper deserves kudos for writing, כדרכו בקודש, with insight, fairness, and evenhandedness. In particular, he deserves credit for articulating clearly that “Orthodox” is not a synonym for halakhically and Jewishly positive or acceptable. He has graciously asked me to respond, but unfortunately, time considerations and professional commitments prevent me from offering a full-length response. Still I would like to raise four points briefly.

  • I do not know if partnership minyanim are an Orthodox phenomenon, but arguing about whether they are an Orthodox phenomenon most certainly is itself an Orthodox phenomenon. Historically, orthodoxy came to be only when non-observant Jewish ideologies gained influence, and in those contexts orthodoxy has always needed and thrived upon an obsessive concern for its own boundaries.
  • The word “legitimate” and particularly “illegitimate” in these conversations need to be parsed. What do Orthodox Jews mean when they refer to an idea or practice as illegitimate? How does that differ from using such terms as assur, misguided, or improper. The term “illegitimate” is meant to pack somewhat more of a punch, to suggest a deeper and more profound mistake. It too relates to questions of boundaries, since some practice (say, kapparos with a live chicken,) might be misguided or problematic, but do not put one out of the pale and beyond legitimacy, while the particular practices of partnership minyanim raise questions of their and their practitioners’ legitimacy. My sense is – and I don’t really have empirical data to demonstrate this – that Orthodox Jews use the term illegitimate when A) a particular idea or practice bothers them B) the textual evidence to reject that belief or practice is not a slam dunk, C) some (perhaps quite healthy) intuition tells them that something of great importance is at stake, something which potentially threatens their ideological, theological, or practical sense of individual or collective identity. Generally, claims of illegitimacy are generally made by the right against the left, but rarely in the other direction.
  • Klapper is certanly correct that halakhah is more than the letter of the law, and he ties the question of the non-technical aspects of halakhah to authority and to the presence of a community that is committed to halakhah as divine law. But what makes those the standards and how does he know? Like many of the arguments about partnership minyanim, it runs the risk of becoming circular. Much of the debate about partnership minyanim transcends the technical questions of whether a particular synagogue practice can be defended in the sources, but instead revolves around questions of who gets to make those determinations and what gives them that authority. Hence, arguments (from both of the left and the right) about their positions often become circular. One side claims: My practice is “legitimate” because I can defend it technically in the sources, and that is all I need. The other side responds: No, your practice is “illegitimate” because it is not backed by authorities with the shoulders broad enough to make such determinations, or it is incompatible with the spirit of the law, a determination that only those on my side are qualified to make.

So, what is the nature of Rabbi Klapper’s claim that Halakhic determination on technical grounds is problematic in the absence of both authority and a community committed to halakhah. Is he making a technical, legally defensible constitutional point – the texts tell me that these criteria are required for good pesak? Or is he making a sociological point, that it is hard to imagine decisions functioning as pesak without those two elements? Or, is this an ideological position: the halakhah to which I am committed contains those two elements?

But note also that Rabbi Klapper’s two criteria – authority and a community committed to halakhah – are precisely two of the great anxieties of historical orthodoxy. Along with obsessing about boundaries and legitimacy, Orthodoxy has, since its founding in the 19th century, always been obsessively concerned about the nature of authority and about the creation of communities of committed laypeople. I tend to agree with Rabbi Klapper’s criteria, largely on sociological grounds, assuming that pesak is likely to be stillborn when it is issued by people who lack a political place of authority within their own communities, or when issued within communities not committed to observance. But the argument remains circular in important aspects.

  • Rabbi Klapper asks a fresh and important question. Why do people care so much about whether a particular institution or practice is or is not considered “Orthodox”? Why is this question worth fighting about? He suggests, among other things, that Orthodoxy is a label of identity, and people do not easily give up on labels of identity. To declare my own practice non-Orthodox is to become somebody new. Agreed. Perhaps another way to think about it, however, is a question of branding. Terms, symbols, and images come with networks of connotations and emotions that can have a huge impact on how people make their decisions and spend their money. Companies invest enormous resources branding themselves and in protecting their brands. At its best, orthodoxy as a brand connotes authenticity, tradition, and “real Judaism” (though Orthodoxy is not always at its best). No wonder people desire that brand for their product, while others are willing to go to the mat to protect it from interlopers.

 Dr. Yoel Finkelman is the curator of the Judaica collection at the National Library of Israel.

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Women in the Modern Orthodox Shul

by Rabbi Dr. Martin Lockshin

Introductory note from Rabbi Klapper: It is always a pleasure and privilege to engage in Torah discourse with Rabbi Dr. Lockshin, especially as he often forces me to rethink.  I am very grateful to him for taking the time to respond to my article.

I am grateful to Rabbi Klapper for giving me an opportunity to respond to his thoughtful paper. He and I do not agree on this issue, but I always learn from what he writes.

For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the term, a “partnership minyan” (PM) is a service where prayers follow the standard Orthodox service precisely and where a mechitzah (a partition down the middle of the room, from front to back) separates the room into two equal sections, one for men and one for women, attempting to have the same sight lines for both groups. Some parts of the service are led only by men, but other parts, particularly Torah reading, are led both by men and by women. As Rabbi Klapper notes, a small minority of Orthodox rabbis have endorsed this type of service as being acceptable according to halakhah. I am one of those, and I see PMs as a positive development. I would estimate that some 50 to 100 other Orthodox rabbis, with semikhah from a wide variety of yeshivot, pray at a PM, either regularly or irregularly.

PMs do not have the support of the “gedolim,” the great Torah sages of our generation. In this, PMs are like many other innovations introduced into modern Orthodoxy in the last two hundred years—they proceeded from the grass roots. Many of them later won the (often grudging) approval of some gedolim. In this category I would list, among others:

  • Sermons in shul in the vernacular.
  • Beardless rabbis.
  • Believing that the world is more than 6000 years old.
  • Bat mitzvah celebrations.
  • Orthodox Jews studying humanistic subjects in a university.
  • Women’s tefillah groups.
  • Women teaching Torah to men.
  • Women reciting mourner’s kaddish in shul.

Implementing these innovations, it was argued in almost every case, would ultimately lead people to abandon Orthodoxy. Rabbi Henkin has made the same claim about PMs. Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik took another approach when he gave his unenthusiastic support to women reciting mourner’s kaddish in an Orthodox shul. He said that if we did NOT permit this, women would be likely to go to a Conservative shul to say kaddish. Clearly, it is difficult to know in advance which approach will prove correct. It is certain, though, that wherever PMs now exist, the founders chose to have a mechitzah in the synagogue. No one forced them to do that. They also chose neither to establish a Conservative or egalitarian minyan nor to join an already existing one, though they could have.

PMs are a very recent phenomenon. The first ever PM, Shira Chadashah in Jerusalem, just celebrated its bar-mitzvah (i.e. the thirteenth anniversary of its founding) a few months ago. Despite strong opposition, the practice has spread to many other locations in Israel, the United States, Canada, England and Australia. In the last half a dozen years I have prayed at PMs in Canada and the United States in ten different locations (and also a few in Israel). During that same period of time I have prayed much more often at various standard modern Orthodox minyanim (SMOMs) in North America and in Israel, where women play no roles. My comments about the differences between the models are only about North America; Israel is more complex.

PMs are not “modern Orthodox Judaism lite.” When it comes to commitment to halakhah, I am unable to find significant differences between Jews who pray at a PM and those who pray at most SMOMs. Both groups have participants with and without strong allegiance to halakhah. Both have more knowledgeable and less knowledgeable Jews.

All North American PMs have a strong “do-it-yourself” approach, where both women and men who have not led parts of the service in the past are encouraged to acquire the skills to do so. This approach occasionally includes an anti-clerical attitude—in other words, celebrating the fact that the minyan has no need for a rabbi. (The presence of a rabbi at an Orthodox religious service is not required by halakhah; Orthodox minyanim all over the world function without a rabbi.) This attitude, however, is changing. More and more PMs are seeking out an Orthodox rabbi to serve as their “halakhic advisor,” answering questions of Jewish law. I serve as the halakhic advisor or rabbi for partnership minyanim in four North American cities. (I receive no pay for serving in this role.)

In three of the four, the PM meets just once a month. During the rest of the month, at least 90% of the PM members pray at a local SMOM. Almost everyone who attends the PM is a member of a SMOM. So I see no evidence that anyone in these minyanim is on their way out of Orthodoxy. I often hear from people in these PMs that they would never have become involved with an alternative minyan had they seen any signs of adjustment to modernity (as I will outline below) in the SMOMs that they still belong to.

In the fourth PM with which I am affiliated, the minyan meets weekly or more frequently and so most of the people there are not members of a SMOM. Have they left Orthodoxy? Perhaps structurally they have, but they turn to an Orthodox rabbi (me) with halakhic questions regularly. These questions most frequently have nothing to do with women’s roles but cover a wide variety of issues from all volumes of the Shulchan Arukh. Not surprisingly, I receive many more halakhic inquiries from members of that minyan, since they, as opposed to the members of the other three PMs with which I am affiliated, have no other Orthodox rabbi to turn to.

Why am I involved with PMs? Fourteen years ago when I started to read Rabbi Mendel Shapiro’s famous article I was very skeptical that he would succeed in making a reasonable halakhic argument for women reading Torah at a minyan with men present. But he convinced me. I find his argumentation solid and I am not impressed by the various attempts to dismiss his approach.

Just because something is permitted, though, does not mean that it is a good idea. I, however, am convinced that PMs are not only legitimate halakhically but they promote important causes both on the personal and on the communal level. I support them since I follow the words of the book of Proverbs (3:27), “al timna tov mi-be’alav (do not withhold something good from a person to whom it is coming).”

On the individual level PMs provide meaningful Jewish religious experiences to large numbers of people—women—who are denied those opportunities in other settings. Speaking personally, the religious ceremony that moves me more than almost any other is having an aliyah to the Torah, holding the atsei chayim (the handles) in my hands, thanking God for giving us a Torah of truth, looking at the text of the Torah written on parchment precisely according to the thousands of halakhot about the writing of a sefer Torah, the same way that it has been written for millennia, and attempting to read the words of God’s Torah to my fellow Jews accurately. I have seen many women, particularly adults who have been denied these opportunities for 40 or more years, but also younger women, who have been visibly moved when they were finally given an opportunity for this uplifting religious experience and I am glad to help them have such experiences.

On the communal level, I am sad that modern Orthodox Judaism has failed to incorporate some of the positive social developments of the last fifty years into our SMOMs. I feel that Orthodox Judaism would be richer if we did.

We live and work in a world where men and women have equal duties. Women give men instructions, hire and fire men, and speak in public to both men and women. I am happy to live in this world and not in the world of my grandparents where these changes were unthinkable. I teach at a university, where I have reported to women for my entire career. I feel that having the voices of women heard in the work world is good for women and good for men.

Outside of work, when I daven at a SMOM, women are absent or at best invisible. Whether they attend the service or not is a matter of indifference; the service proceeds the same way. On weekdays, the service at most SMOMs is a boys club. The only two places where I still sometimes hear sexist comments these days are in a men’s locker room or at a weekday minyan where no women are present.

On shabbatot and chagim you find women and men at most SMOMs, but in my experience women, even ones who don’t have small children, show up in much smaller numbers than men. One advantage in PMs is that women come in pretty much equal numbers to men: they feel their presence is needed and appreciated and they make the effort to be there.

I have heard the argument from a number of women that they actually like the fact that nothing is ever asked of them in synagogue. Some say that they have so many responsibilities in the work world and at home that they like coming to shul and having nothing ever asked of them. I am in favor of leaving alone both women and men who want to be left alone in shul. But we the community lose when we fail to find outlets in shul for the voices of some of the most accomplished, brightest and most compassionate members of the community.

We cannot eliminate all gaps between our Orthodox shuls and the outside world. I do not believe that complete egalitarianism can be halakhic. PMs are not as egalitarian as the work world. But the cognitive dissonance between SMOMs and the work world is of a different order of magnitude.

Haredi synagogues that teach that modern changes in the status of women are bad and that women ideally should not be taking public roles anywhere are still able to explain why women do nothing in shul. But how can a modern Orthodox shul explain the exclusion of women from every active role?

SMOMs that take the problem seriously could take steps, short of becoming partnership minyanim, to let women know that their presence is appreciated and acknowledged. They could have a mechitzah down the middle of the shul, equal sight lines for men and women, and (ideally) equal space for men and women. The Torah could be marched through, or at least up to, the women’s section when removed from and returned to the Ark. On a weekday when a tzedakah box circulates, it could circulate in the women’s section, too. Modern Orthodox shuls could establish a policy that weddings may not take place in the shul unless a halakhic pre-nup is used, even if this means forgoing catering fees. A man could be called to the Torah as, for example, Yitzchak ben Avraham veSarah, not Yitzchak ben Avraham. These initiatives would make women feel more part of the minyan. None of them is halakhically radical.

The genius of PMs, however, is that women not only feel welcome; they feel that the service depends on them. Something would be missing if they were not there. Many women who attend PMs have (at least initially) no interest in taking any active role in the service. They still appreciate being in a minyan where other women do, and where they could if they wanted to.

SMOMs could create a similar feeling by having women be the ones primarily responsible for:

  • Delivering divrei Torah .
  • Making announcements.
  • Reciting the prayers for the governments.
  • Reciting the mi she-berakh prayer for the sick.

If possible, SMOMs could also have a regular parallel Torah reading for women by women, while the men are reading the Torah in another room.

At present modern Orthodoxy attracts only five percent of the Jews of North America. Telling half of that group, the women, that their voices are not needed in synagogue is not in our own best interest. Through PMs and modified SMOMs we can try to make Orthodoxy more responsive to the needs and wants of twenty-first century Jews.

Martin Lockshin is a professor of Jewish Studies and Chair of the Department of Humanities at York University in Toronto.  He also serves as rabbi or halakhic advisor to four partnership minyanim.

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Rabbi Lamm on Woman and Tefillin

On April 9, 1972, Rabbi Norman Lamm, then serving as Rabbi of the Jewish Center in Manhattan,  delivered a sermon titled “As If Things Weren’t Bad Enough” that expressed his opposition to an Orthodox Rabbinic coalition that was lobbying against the Equal Rights Amendment.  An aside in that sermon, which was edited out of the version published earlier this year, spoke approvingly of women forming minyanim and wearing tefillin.

Understandably, the most immediate reactions to the rediscovery of the aside were understandably framed by its potential role in contemporary controversies.  (See here and here.)  In the process, I think a chance was lost to introduce a new generation to Rabbi Lamm in his own terms, as the aside seems to me a quite wonderful introduction to what he was like in his prime (granted that the period in which I could claim to be his student, and on which the following speculations are based, was 18 – 20 years later) – creative and courageous, yet cautious and humble; serious, and intellectually playful. 

Let me show you what I mean, and what I think he meant, and I will of course happily accept corrections.

Here is the most relevant section (the paragraph immediately after this one will be the topic of a subsequent post iyH).    

The principle of separate seating in the synagogue must not be thought of as representing any claim of inequality of inferiority. Its purpose is to remove the distraction that may come because of erotic stimulation. If the purpose of coming to a synagogue is for American Jews to indulge in a kind of social ritual of self-identification as Jews, then there certainly is no reason for men and women to sit separately. But that is not our conception of prayer. For us, is the presentation of oneself before God, the focusing and concentration of all his thoughts on the One before Whom he stands, and hence any distraction must be banished. The ideal for prayer, so conceived, is kedushah or holiness; and the bane of holiness is eroticism. Kedushah is perishah mearayot. If ten women so desire, they may organize a minyan, and conduct tefilah be-tzibbur, public services; and in such a case, if men straggle in to such a synagogue, it is they who are guests sitting behind the mechitzah. I am told that in Boston there is a group of young Orthodox students, all girls, who are highly concerned about their role in Judaism, and have decided to pray every morning while donning the tefillin. I have no objection to that, and would encourage them. There was a time that (according to Rema) such behavior was frowned upon as yuhara , or arrogance, but that was because it was an act of exhibitionism by an individual. However, the case is far different when a whole community of women has decided to accept such a mitzvah. More power to them! I wish that every man would join a minyan to lay tefillin

Here is my commentary:

Was Rabbi Lamm issuing a psak halakhah?  For sure not – I can’t see him making a ruling for people who had their own rabbis and had not turned to him, especially without specifically invoking the advice and counsel of the Rav.  But I believe he was stating what he thought was likely the Halakhah, not merely engaging in a rhetorical flourish.  In classical terms, he was speaking lehalakhah but not halakhah lema’aseh.

But exactly what did he intend to say leHalakhah?  Rabbi Lamm as a darshan considered it proper to use words that were literally true in a narrow sense, but would be misunderstood by his audience as having a much broader reach.  Note for example his famous description of nonOrthodox denominations as valid, with the subsequent and I believe sincere explanation that “valid” understood in light of its Latin etymology is a descriptive/sociological  term – “strong” – and must be contrasted with the prescriptive term “legitimate”.

His 1972 sermon must also be read carefully and hyperliterally.  Rabbi Lamm says that “If ten women so desire, they may organize a minyan, and conduct tefilah be-tzibbur, public services; and in such a case, if men straggle in to such a synagogue, it is they who are guests sitting behind the mechitzah”.  He was well aware that the Rav (among others) distinguished tefillah be-tzibbur from tefilat hatzibur.  Tefilah betzibur is the act of praying as a group, and refers to the silent amidah said by each individual in the presence of a praying quorum.  Tefilat hatzibur refers to the repetition said by the sheliach tzibbur on behalf of the unified quorum.  I suggest that Rabbi Lamm meant that women who prayed their individual amidahs together were considered to be praying betzibbur, but in no way meant to endorse their instituting a chazan’s repetition, or saying devarim shebikedushah.

Where would this suggestion have come from?  Rabbi Lamm was presumably aware that according to some positions ten women constitute a quorum for the purposes of Kiddush Hashem, keriat megillah, and birkat hagomel.  His novel idea was that this worked as well for tefillah betzibbur, and yet that a men’s minyan as still essential for chazarat hashatz.  But his audience would not have been expected to grasp that nuance – they would simply have heard him asserting women’s ritual equality.  The very quick-witted might have noticed that he failed to explain why, when both ten men and ten women are present, it is the women who are presumptively guest.  But generally it took some time for the effect of his rhetoric to wear off so that one felt comfortable raising such detail questions.

What about tefillin?  Rabbi Lamm makes the suggestion that the prohibition of yuhara, spiritual arrogance, is the basis for RAMO discouraging women from wearing tefillin.  He borrows this rationale from RAMO’s position regarding tzitzit (although RAMO’s sources do not indicate that it was the rationale re tefillin).  Rabbi Lamm then argues that this prohibition applies only to individuals and not to groups.  I believe his basis was Magen Avraham’s position that women as a class have accepted counting the omer upon themselves as obligatory, even though they are Biblically exempt since it is a time-related commandment.  Why should tefillin be any different than counting the omer in terms of yuhara?  Answer:  There is no difference.

As per above, it is likely that yuhara is not the basis for REMA’s position regarding women and tefillin, which would limit Rabbi Lamm’s suggestion to tallit.  One could also argue that Magen Avraham asserted that all Jewish women had accepted the mitzvah of the omer, so that none was being holier than any other when fulfilling the mitzvah, whereas a subgroup that began accepting tefillin would be engaged in mass yuhara.

In sum:  I do not think Rabbi Lamm’s halakhic authority, however far that may extend, can be invoked based on this sermon.  However, it does record two innovative halakhic theories that deserve further investigation.




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