Monday, July 31, 2006

Women and Learning I

[Note: A lot of this is repetitive because the same questions were asked over and over. I tried to keep it less repetitive, but there may be some left. A large portion of this information came from a response to a certain article "proving" that girls can learn Gemarah, as well as bashing Frumteens when the author saw it wasn't posted immediately.
Following Rav Moderator's precedents in other cases of mostly died out controversies, I didn't include information relating solely to that debate, or include the article or the name of the author. Please do not try to find out this information, by now it's most likely just loshon hara, with no practical purpose being that the controversy has pretty much ended. -taon]

Women are not allowed to learn Torah Shebal Peh because learning involves not only the part of your intellect that calculates math, but your creativity, your understanding, your experiences, your very Neshomah.

Men's and women's Neshomos are very different. Their personalities are different, their feelings, their very beings are different. When a man engages himself in learning his understanding and relationship to the learning is therefore different than that of a woman.

There are certain secular subjects, even, that women are better at than men statistically (global studies for instance), and certain subjects that girls are notoriously weaker at (math for instance). And secular studies only involve your physical mind, not your entire being. Torah, which involves your entire soul, would see a much greater difference between men and women.

And so, since Torah she bal peh was designed for those who are obligated to learn it, meaning men, it was fashioned in a way that is entirely male-soul-oriented. In other words, the Halchos and understandings that Hashem wants people to get out of Torah shebal peh, he gave men the ability to create them. Women, if they send the same piece of Torah shebal peh through the filter of their souls they will come out with different understandings.

So learning Torah shebal peh is different than let's say a woman shaking a lulav. When a woman shakes a lulav, it's the same act that a man does, but merely done by a woman. But when a woman learns Torah shebal peh, since it's the intellect and the soul that is doing the action here, not merely the arms and hands, and men’s and women’s intellect and souls work so differently, women cannot learn Torah shebal peh the way men do -- it would be a totally different type of learning.

And the understandings and conclusions that women would come out with would be totally different than that which Hashem originally intended to come out. Chazal discerned this. If women would learn Torah shebal peh, which was 'designed" for a man's soul and mind, what would come out is different than what Hashem intended to come out. So in order to prevent interpretations and understandings that Hashem never intended, women simply do not learn Gemora.


The Shulchan Aruch says "chazal commanded us not to teach our daughters torah" - that means don't do it. The shulchan aruch doesn't only use one way of saying "no." tiflus means aveiros. In the shulchan aruch it is translated in the parenthesis on the spot.


The Bais Yaakov movement never permitted teaching girls Gemora or anything else that Chazal forbid us to teach them.

And not all Gedolim agreed with the BY movement; the Hungarians objected to the teaching of Rashi to girls (and certainly Rambans and Maharals) on the claim that that constitutes Torah shebal peh. Others said that since Rashi merely explains the pshuto shel mikrah - the simple meaning of the text, it would be considered Torah shebiksav in this sense.

However, even the Litvishe Gedolim have mentioned that the BY movement has often overstepped their bounds in the emphasis on Meforshim, sometimes crossing the line into things that may not be learned. Rav Shach ZTL writes in one of his letters that teaching girls Meforshim in depth would be assur because of this, (the problem is quantifying "in depth", which makes it easy to rationalize) and when a couple of seminary girls came to him to speak him to explain a Ramban or something to them, he replied that they should better spend their time delving into domestic arts.

Just as there are things that need to be improved in the Yeshiva system (such as their learning too slow, as Rav Shach, Rav Gifter, and others have often lamented to no avail), there are things that ought to be changed in the BY system. It is not the Gedolei Yisroel that created the curriculum that they use today.

Just look at Frumteens: Girls who attend high-end BY schools have serious questions about basic Judaism, are confused about their commitment to religion, and possess precious little knowledge of Yesodiei Hayahadus. Aish HaTorah's Project Chazon has become wildly popular in the BY schools by virtue of the fact that they come in and teach basic emunah - the basics of the basics, like G-d exists, Judaism is the only correct religion, etc. - and the students lap up the material like malnourished children.

This is the material that was previously used for beginner baalei teshuva that is now being imported into the BY's. And they need to import it because they are not equipped to provide it themselves.

But these same girls, who, if you were to ask them why Hashem cares if they're frum, will tell you they have no inkling, can successfully tell you the different opinions of how the Egel was formed, which Korbonos were brought for which aveiros, and whether the tzefardeah were frogs or alligators.

To the point where Roshei Yeshiva have endorsed that someone trained to educate beginning Baalei Teshuva should be invited to these high-end BY schools and teach the girls why they must be frum.

What's wrong with this picture?


The halachah has nothing to do with anyone being stupid. The fact is that men and women have two totally different types of brains - some differences:

Men are 10x more likely to be ADD
Men are twice as likely to be mentally retarded
Men are twice as likely to contract Alzheimer's disease
A teenage girl's attention span is 4 times greater than that of a teenage boy!

Yet -- teenage boys are 30 times more likely to score in the top 10 percentile on the SAT in math
Men are 100 times more likely to be capable of becoming a chess grandmaster; women are 2.5 times more likely to be successful psychologists.

Women are twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s Disease.

Women are 3x more likely to remember childhood memories.

That’s just the beginning.

According to a recent study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the better educated you are, the more likely you are to sleep through the night. However, that only applies to women. The better educated a man is, the less likely he is to get a good night's sleep.

The cause of the correlation between education and sleep is still being researched, but the effect of education on men, sleep-wise, is the exact opposite of the effect on women. This just goes to further show how the minds of men and women are different.

Clearly, men and women are two totally different species. And their minds work differently. If I were to tell you that the Torah says that the job of being a chess grandmaster was relegated to men and not women, you'd object saying "But women are smart, too!" And if I were to tell you that the Torah says that men should be the ones to represent humanity on the Math part of the SATs you’d object saying "But teenage girls have 4 times the attention span of teenage boys!"

The Torah surely knows what men and women are suited for, a lot better than us. And the Torah, as stated in the halachah, says that women are not given the job of learning Torah shebal peh; that was left to men. Women have a different job in this world.

The "kal vahcomer" about math and science which sometimes women do learn vs. Torah is fallacious --- what does one have to do with the other? Torah is NOT a science --- it's a soul-practice. Torah connects your soul to certain powers up on high, and Chidushei Torah come not merely from the mind but from the neshama itself.

The Shem Mishmuel distinguishes Torah learning from secular knowledge by saying that secular knowledge is "physical", instinctive knowledge --- like a spider's "knowledge" of how to spin a web. Torah knowledge is real, earned, soul-knowledge.

Are you going to tell me that spiders, because they are capable of spinning webs, are "smart" so they would be able to learn Torah too?

But even the scientists and psychologists can see that men and women have different mind-strengths, as stated above. If there is a kal vachomer here it is this: If even in secular sciences there are clear distinctions between men's minds and women's minds, all the more so in spiritual "sciences".

But all this is superfluous -- the Torah says that women are not suited to learn Torah shebal peh. What reason do you have to question that? Because they are "smart"? That was never the point.

If Hashem wanted women to learn Torah she bal peh He would not have prohibited it. Clearly, women "connect" to Hashem NOT through learning but through other means. In fact, the Gemora says explicitly that women merit the reward of Torah NOT by learning, but by assisting their husbands and children in their learning.

In fact, even the Torah that girls are obligated to learn halachah and mussar - does not merit for them the zechus of Torah; for their "obligation" to learn these things is not an obligation to LEARN - it is merely a necessary part of fulfilling their obligation to DO the Mitzvos, for if they do not know, how can they do?

They have no obligation to learn ANYTHING. It is merely that certain things must be learned in order to fulfill their obligation to practice, not because of any obligation to learn.

We ought not to try to rewrite the Halachah the way we think it should be. If women - or men - have a desire for something permitted or obligatory, that's fine, but if they have a desire for something prohibited, then they should resist. That's what we're in this world for - to withstand nisyonos. And that includes women going to Gemora classes.

My argument regarding the curriculum was this: Women are obligated to know the basics of Judaism because of the mitzvah to know of G-d's existence and His Oneness; and their obligation of yiras shamayim and simply religious commitment means that they should learn those things that facilitate the fulfillment of their obligations. Spending time on things that they are NOT obligated in any form or manner to learn - such as meforshim etc - when they are not yet anything close to knowledgeable; in those things that they are obligated to learn, that is, those things that will strengthen their emunah and yiras shamayim, is foolish.

It is true that all Torah, regardless of what it is, instills Yiras Shamayim. But while someone who learns Hilchos Lulav before Pesach will merit thereby that he will fulfill Pesach better, you still cannot compare someone who prepares for Pesach by learning Hilchos Lulav to someone who prepares by learning Hilchos Pesach!

The Halachos and Hashkafos of Emunah and Yesodei HaTorah address directly the issues confronting them. You would not go into business without learning choshem mishpat, even though ALL TORAH will generate honesty in business; you would not be mesader a Get without learning hilchos gittin; and you cannot believe in Hashem and have Yiras Shamayim without learning Hichos Yesodei HaTorah and Yiras Hashem.

I wonder if they would say the same thing when a girl gets engaged: Don't have kallah classes -- teach them chumash and rashi, and that will generate the appropriate Yiras Shamayim and Midos for them to run a Bayis Neeman.

And someone who learns chumash and rashi before they get married and ignores the laws of taharas hamishpachah is a fool; and someone who thinks that only chumash and rashi and ramban is going to prepare them for marriage is a fool; and someone who thinks they can deal with the trials and tribulations of religious confusion and doubt without learning the answers is a fool as well.


One of the bogus heterim used in Modern Orthodox circles to teach girls Gemora is so that they will appreciate their husbands learning in Kollel more. Of course, it doesn’t work for all of the above and more reasons.
If that is the idea, they should give it up, for clearly, there is no correlation between the scholarship of the girls and desire for talmid chacham husbands. According to this cheshbon, the more academics-intense schools and seminaries should put out much more kollel women than the less academic intense, but clearly, that is not so. Appreciation for Torah from a woman's perspective comes from the same place it always did - Yiras Shamayim and commitment to their role as Nshei Chayil. Keeping them up till 1:00 am breaking their heads on the Ramban doesn’t help.


Men, too, have halachos of what is priority for them, and one of the criteria is that the learning should be applicable to them. We have a whole list of topics in that category and a whole list that are not. Kodshim is not. Girls should apply that rule as well, but for girls applicability results in parameters, not merely priorities.


Girls do get schar for learning, but not the full scar that a man gets. When you learn Torah, you get the reward of an aino metzuvah v'oseh.

Please see the halachah in shulchan aruch hilchos talmud torah about this. This is explicit, as well as what women may and may not learn.


When there are 2 opinions in the Mishna or Gemora, and the Poskim, especially the Shulchan Aruch and Rama all rule like one of them, then the other opinion is rendered irrelevant in actual practice. It is no longer an opinion that we are able to use l'mmaseh. it is nidcheh - rejected - l'halachah. So when you are talking Halachah L'maaseh, there are not 2 opinions. Not after the Rishonim and Poskim rejected one of them.


The reason Ben Azai holds that you should teach your daughter Torah is, as he states, in order for her to be aware of certain details of the Sotah process, so that if it ever came down to it, she would know Zechus toleh.

That being the case, Ben Azai would agree that nowadays that there is no Sotah process in practice, there is no longer any reason to teach your daughter Torah. So even though in the olden days there could have been 2 opinions, nowadays there is only one. There are other explanations for this opinion as well.

But for the record, even if we would be unable to find a single answer, or explain a single reason why the Rishonim chose R. Eliezer over Ben Azai, we would not be allowed to reverse their ruling, but rather attribute the problem to our own understanding. Because we have a problem with the Rishonim we do not overturn their psak.


Even though the Halachah is phrased that you may not teach girls Torah, the Halachah applies to her learning as well (unless her learning would prove her an exception, as in the olden day). Rashi and all the Meforshim explain the reason why we do not allow women to learn Torah is because if they know certain Torah information, they will misuse it and abuse it. That being the case, the problem is them knowing the Torah, not the particular way it entered their mind. On the contrary - if a woman has a good Rebbi to teach her Torah the likelihood of her misusing it is arguably a lot less, since even men are advised to always learn from a Rebbi, lest they misunderstand something. The Rishonim use the phrase Noashim Daatan Kalos to explain why we believe that women will distort their Torah knowledge. This rule (which, as Rav Soloveichik said, is existential, not social, and is used in other Halachos such as Yichud for instance). It is nonsensical to say that a woman will distort something she hears explained properly by her father or a Rebbi, but if she learns it on her own she will not. Learning without a Rebbi does not make the learning better.

But it is the woman herself - her own daas kalah - that is the weakness here. And so it makes no sense to distinguish based on how the woman knows the Torah.

To give you an example of how serious this prohibition is, see the Chazal quoted in the Meforishim in the Shulchan Aruch: "Burn Divrei Torah rather than give them to women!"

The reason the Halachah is phrased as "you may not teach" even though the idea is that she may know "know", may be that in those days the only way anybody could learn was from someone else (they didn’t have seforim) and since there were no Bais Yaakovs, basically the only way a girl could know Torah is if her father taught her. So the Halachah is worded according to the normal circumstances, but not meant to be absolute (this happens a lot in Halachic literature). But in any case, if you understand the reason behind the Halachah - that most women will distort Torah - this is clear. A second reason might be because there is a Perishah that states that if a girl chooses to learn Torah on her own, that shows she is an exception to the average girl and therefore she may learn the Gemora.

In my opinion that Perishah cannot be applied to today's situation since the Perishah's reasoning was based on the fact that if a girl decides to learn Gemora it must be because she has an exceptional amount of Yiras Shamayim or commitment or whatever, that is no longer the case. In those days, why else would a woman want to learn Gemora in the first place? Women were happy in the role the Torah gave them, and besides, there is so much to learn within the parameters of relevant Halachos and Hashkofos that it would make no sense for a girl to learn Gemora. And also, since in those days it was not considered chic or stylish or even "normal" for girls to learn Gemora, a girl who decided to do it on her own would likely do nothing but raise eyebrows. In any case, for whatever reason, the Perishah observed that a girl who wants to learn Gemora has absolutely no possible motive except the fact that she is exceptionally committed to religion and for whatever reason, has established herself as an exception to the rule.

But today a girl learning Gemora is no longer an exception to the rule. And it no longer proves anything special about that girl. Today we have even Conservative and Reform women learning Gemora. The social observation upon which the Perishah made his statement is no longer the case today. So the Perishah would not apply.

The only possibility to apply the Perishah today would be if he means that the Gezeirah of Chazal not to teach girls Torah was never made against a girl learning on her own. If that is the case, then we would not be able to prohibit it today, even if the reason to prohibit would apply. We do not add to or make new Gezeiros.

However, even if that were so, and it is open-ended in the Perishah, a girl learning Gemora today even on her own would still be as if she were learning Tiflus, because that fact is independent of the prohibition of Chazal, and so long as you are not an exception to the rule (and nowadays we have no reason to believe you are) you are only hurting yourself and damaging your soul by learning Gemora.

But in any case, teaching Gemora to girls in a classroom setting, or father to daughter is prohibited no matter what.


It says nowhere that "women accepted things that they could see in black and white, but things that were oral were abstract and reduced to stories and parables." Rabbi Henkin (This Rabbi Henkin quoted is NOT the great Godol Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin. He is not reliable at all, and not accepted) just concocted this out of his head. No proof, no source, nothing. And the truth is the opposite - when the Torah was given orally, the Mesorah was stronger, clearer, and better understood. This reduction to stories and parables is silly - Torah was not stories or parables - it was a tradition of Halachah and Torah just as we have today, but stronger, better, and clearer. Even the girls understood Torah better in those days Chazal say that in the days of Chezkiyah therre was not even a little girl who was not an expert in the complex laws of Tumah and Taharah (Note: In those days those laws were Halachah Lmaaseh).

But never mind all that - what makes his idea something that no reasonable person can accept is that the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch and all the poskim still rule like Rabbi Eliezer even though when they did so Torah was already written! They were paskening for their own times. Not telling us what used to be.


As an example of why today's female Gemora learners do not prove to be exceptional in piety or Daas, but rather may be normal, regular women, it is because of statements such as these, courtesy of Rabbi Moshe Kahn, who is on the faculties of the James Striar School of Jewish Studies and Stern College for Women, both of Yeshiva University and the Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, New York:

"Why should women, who are acquiring an expertise in the secular fields, be forced to remain relatively ignorant in their knowledge of Torah? Yeshivot are producing G-d fearing young women who are dedicated to Torah values and who truly want to learn and understand Torah. They certainly have the necessary skills and should be encouraged. They will gain immensely from it. Not only will it enrich their comprehension of Torah but it will add a new dimension to their religious observance and commitment."

As I have noted, even today women and men have been scientifically shown to possess different intellectual capabilities - completely different strengths and weaknesses, a list of which is posted on the site. This idea that because women can get good grades at physics means they are not included in Daatan Kalos is a failure. One has nothing to do with the other. First of all, Torah - and Daas - is "soul-knowledge", and learning it includes a totally different part of us that physics does not include. And that is beside the fact that even in secular knowledge, men and women have widely different talents and capabilities.

According to him, where are the "rov nashim" that distort Torah? Certainly rov noshim are capable of a secular education. The idea that because women can learn secular knowledge they therefore can or should learn Torah makes no sense.

And for the record, the same rabbi misquoted the Chofetz Chaim. here's what the rabbi says:

"The stricture of teaching Tanakh in depth is no longer in effect for the ruling of the Chofetz Chaim provided an unqualified license for in-depth textual study."

Wrong. The Chofetz Chaim does not mention in his list if things to teach women, any Meforshim at all. Not even Rashi. He says Chumash, Nach, and Musar of Chazal. And although it can be argued that Rashi is peshuto shel mikrah and therefore necessary for understanding Chumash (though the opposing side can be argued as well), not in the wildest imagination could anyone say that this Chofetz Chaim "provided an unqualified license for in-depth textual study".


The framing of the issue of girls not learning Gemora in terms of whether girls should be intellectually encouraged, or educated in a more advanced way, etc, is a perversion of the issue, even though that is the way it is framed in many circles who would like to justify girls learning Gemora.

Girls who learn gemora are being no more intellectual or creative than those who follow the Halachah, nor is their education more advanced. As you see from women like Rebitzen Shapira, and other more contemporary women (please see the post I wrote upon the peirah of Rebitzen Zahava Braunstein) you can be an advanced Melumedes without violating the halachah. It is inconceivable that what Chazal considered equivalent to teaching tiflus can be thought of as advanced or intellectual or creative. Tiflus is none of those.

And even if it were, it would still be assur. We - men and women - learn not for the sake of intellectual stimulation but rather because it is a good thing according to Hashem. Thus, when learning becomes a bad thing according to the Ratzon Hashem - such as a lomed al menas lekanter for instance, or women's Gemora classes - we do not learn.


When we are talking about a unanimous halachah in Shulchan Aruch and Poskim, an apparent opposing act by Rav Klonimus Kalman would not be considered a "source". Rather, we would inquire to know what his source was. In the absence of that, we would not imitate his behavior.

However, as I explained, Rav Klonimus Klaman's actions, and those of his wife, are perfectly consistent with the Shulchan Aruch. His wife did not learn Gemora. And that is the issue.
In fact, in all the things that his wife learned, Gemora and Mishna are glaringly omitted, and so we see again that even for girls on a very high level of learning, Mishna and Gemora are not c"v on the curriculum.

And it does not say that Rav Klonimus Kalman's wife learned Kabalah. Even men who do not have a great hand in shas and poskim are warned by our tzadikim not to learn kabalah. Much of Zohar is Agadita, not Kabalah (there are hebrew translations of the zohar tha excerpt only those parts), and you can be sure that it was the Agadic, not Kabalistic, parts of the Zohar, which is halachicly and substantively similar to the Ain Yaakov, that Rebitzen Shapira learned, of course under the guidance of her husband.

And even if she did it wouldn't have mattered. If it were just one person's understanding of the Shulchan aruch without any confirmation versus such an incident, we could discuss it. But here, because, for hundreds of years and in countless seforim and poskim, all of Klall Yisroel - tzadikim, poskim, and others - behaved and understood differently.
An accepted halachah for generations is not uprooted because of the seeming act of an individual. What you would say is not that you don't understand the shulchan aruch, but that you don't understand the act of that Rav.

And that's even from a maaseh rav perspective. But ain lomdin min hammaseh - in a case where a maaseh rav is not comprehensible, meaning, you don’t know the reasons behind it, you cannot apply it because you don’t know whether the exact reason it was done applies to you. Obviously, because the act was so incomprehensible to you, and seems to be in conflict with a clear halachah, you have no idea what the heter is, and since you have no idea, you also have no idea whether it applies to you in your circumstances. If you don’t know what is needed to create a heter, you can’t apply it in other cases.

A maaseh rav is useful to you l’maaseh where you can understand why the rav did what he did. Perhaps you did not know whether something was permitted or not -- maaseh rav helps there; if through the actions of the rav you obtain a new understanding of a halachah - maaseh rav applies there. But if even after the maaseh rav you still look in shulchan aruch and poskim and nobody at all seems to allow what the rav did, you are not allowed to do anything except what you understood the halachah to be.

This does not mean you have to assume the tzadik did something wrong. You say instead, that you do not understand his actions.


A woman may not learn the Rishonim.

Machlokes isn't the issue - a girl can learn that there are different opinions in pshat (although it would be more important to teach her the lessons than a list of psahtaim). The problem is when it goes beyond the simple translation into Chazal's drashos and explications. Rashi has a lot of that. That’s why there are those who say the Chofetz Chaim would not permit girls to learn Rashi. Others disagree, and say that Rashi is needed for simple pshat.

It is not something you can quantify because there are no units of measurement for "pshat" vs. explication, and no one commentary that exclusively does either. That is why there are differences of opinion on this.


Where does it say Rashi's daughters learned Gemora? That alone should end the argument.

But even if it doesn't, the shulchan aruch and poskim unanimously prohibit the teaching of Gemora to girls. That being so, halachicly it does not matter who did or did not learn Gemora. What they would now have is a difficulty with whoever they think learned Gemora - they would not have a heter.

And besides, the prisha says that on their own, outside of a classroom setting, without teachers, a woman may learn Gemora, since it shows she is exceptional. I believe that does not apply nowadays [for previously mentioned reasons].

Teaching girls Gemora in a classroom setting is clearly against the Halachah. The idea that the Gemora, the Rambam, and the Shulchan Aruch, who say that women cannot be taught Gemora, deprive women of "what they deserve", and the idea that the previous generations - far, far superior to us - constructed the women's chinuch system deprived women of "what they deserve", as opposed to the schools which finally provides it to them - is exactly the type of feminism that is repulsive to Hashem, and a notion not worthy of being taken seriously by anyone familiar with - take your pick - Jewish history, Hashkafa or Halachah.

And to describe that as "leaning to the right" is, well, bizarre.


What you can do is to extract the conclusions of the Gemora, the Halachah l'maasheh, compile them, and teach that to girls - which is what the Shulchan Aruch, Chayei Adam, Kitzur, and other Halachah seforim are. But to teach what we call the shaklah v'taryah - the debate or discussion of question-and-answer series in the Gemora, is prohibited.


The prohibition of learning Gemora is not my belief, but chazal and the shulchan aruch.
Depite the claim that there are many authorities stating that women are allowed to learn Gemora nowadays, there are none. None that have any authority to argue with a unanimous halachah in Chazal, rishonim and shulchan aruch - yes, unanimous.
There is not a single opinion that women may be taught in a classroom setting Torah shebal peh. Oh, I know that contemporary Modern Orthodox rabbis have said so, but they themselves are the ones that need to find the authorities that permit, and not a single one of them had.
The fact is, women were much more educated, Torah-wise, in the olden days. Chazal say in the days of chizkiyah, there was not a single young girl who was not an expert in the intricate halachos of tumah and taharah. That level of education has not been duplicated since.
To insinuate - not insinuate, but explicitly denigrate of our holy female ancestors, that they did not know how to think is as despicable as it is fictitious.


If learning Gemorah strengthens girls' Emunah better than anything else, then the Modern Orthodox girls who learn Gemora would be more religious, and less prone to be shaken in their belief than those who don’t, which clearly is a ridiculous claim. In addition, you are not allowed to learn any secular knowledge that would shake your faith - that would be a violation of lo sosuru acheri levavchem. If your secular knowledge is indeed poisonous to you, the solution – and your obligation - is not to learn it. This is one of the most dishonest, and self-contradictory of the Modern Orthodox rationalizations for their bizarre lifestyle:
First they will tell you that learning secular subjects is necessary for being a ben-torah; that it actually enhances your ability to remain frum, and it completes your Judaic profile. Then they will tell you that girls have to learn Gemora to counteract its poisonous effects.
The fact is that any knowledge that would shake your faith or make you weaker is prohibited to learn. And the fact also is that if you wanted to counteract secular influences, Gemora is not at all the subject matter you should be learning. You will not find anywhere in all the halachic discussion in all of shas a discussion about why Hashem created the world, why He cares if you are religious, or anything along those lines. If you must learn Gemora for that reason, learn Ain Yaakov. But the Halachic disputes about 2 people grabbing a talis of how we know how a woman is married if you give her money does not address the issues that you raise.
Until someone from the Modern Orthodox world comes up with some acceptable reason why they have a right to disregard a clear and unanimous halachah in Gemora and poskim - and so far, despite countless books and articles on the subject by Modern Orthodox and non-modern orthodox writers, not a single source has been found - we are fully obligated to hold that these institutions are not only in violation of the Halachah, but worse yet, have officially institutionalized their halachic violation, and made it "their lifestyle". And they are obligated not to allow it.
It is not a mere sin, it is a communal-wide agreement to commit a sin.


In the Shulchan Aruch 241:6 it rules that even Torah shebiksav is prohibited l'chatchilah to teach women. The Taz (#4) explains that from Hakhael we see that the basic, surface-level reading and understanding of Torah shebiksav is permitted, and the intent of the Shulchan Aruch is that the explication of Torah shebiksav is assur lchatchilah. Quote: "Limud peirush divrei Torah derech hischakmus v'havanah" is prohibited lchatchilah.

The Maharil (199) rules that it is best not to teach women Torah at all - even the Halachos that they need to know, which are permitted - rather, they should learn those Halachos from their homes and asking shailos.
Clearly, this is not much of an option today, so we have girls schools. And we do have the Chofetz Chaim that said nowadays we should teach them hashkafa and halachah, none of which was ever assur anyway. But any Mishna or Gemora? Still assur.

True nature, whatever that means, is not the point. It doesn't say girls cannot learn the "true nature" of Torah shebal peh - it says they cannot learn Torah shebal peh. If someone disagrees with the Gemora's drasha, for instance, that pri eitz hadar is an esrog, do you think he would not be considered a Kofer in Torah shebal peh? Of course he would. All the drashos and the entire shakla vetaryah are included in Torah shebal peh. Your idea that the "true nature" of Torah shebal peh is only the svaros is not only wrong - why in the world do the 13 Midos of Drashos and the Halachos lmoshe misinai, and the rest not qualify as "true nature" - but it is irrelevant, since Torah shebal peh - not merely what you think for whatever odd reason is "true nature" thereof, is assur.


The Gemora, Rambam and Shulchan Aruch rule unanimously that a father may not teach his daughter Gemora - that is not a public instruction, but a private one.


This is not a "contemporary halachic issue" such that contemporary poskim would suddenly need to deal with it. It’s like saying "there is no contemporary posek who rules it is assur to light a fire on Shabbos." The Gemora, Shulchan Aruch, and Rishonim across the board, all rule it is prohibited to teach women Torah shebal peh. You still have not come up with any heter to ignore what they say. (And for the record, Rav Moshe Feinstein ZTL reiterates the prohibition to teach girls Gemora, but it is silly to even talk in those terms - this shailah is hundreds - even thousands of years old. Open issurim do not change).

Sifrei Minim - heretical writings - are prohibited in the Gemora and Shulchan aruch unanimously. Reading them is also on the list of things that cause someone to lose their share in Olam Habah. The Gemora in Kesuvos says it is assur, even, to possess a sefer that is not edited for content (sefer sheaino mugah) in your home. It is assur by virtue of "al tashkeim bahalechah avlah".

The Rambam read Aristotle because to him it was not dangerous to his faith; and the same with Rav Sadiah Gaon. And combine that with the halachha of kdei lehoros - in order to issue a judgement on a heretical work you may read it, these incidents do not contradict the open Halachah that says you may not read something that shakes your faith.

The issue is not being scared of knowledge but being scared of lack of knowledge. It is the lack of knowledge of the reader that we are concerned about, which will cause him to be misled, not by information in those books but my misinformation. Heretical books are misinformation. We do not read them because misinformation is no good. Only information is good - and if the book would contain only information, it would not be heretical.


From Rav Moshe Feinstein:

"To Rav Elya Svei shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia,

Regarding the issue that there are some girls schools that are called Bais Yaakovs and the like, where the administration and the teachers of the school want to teach the girls Mishnayos: Behold, in the Rambam Talmud Torah 1:13 he rules like R. Eliezer in Sotah 20a, that you may not teach girls Torah. Yet he distinguishes between Torah shebal peh, which, if you teach to girls is as if you taught them tiflus, whereas Torah shebiksav is not as if you taught them tiflus, but l'chatchulah you shouldn't teach it to them anyway. In any case, Mishnayos, which is Torah shebal peh Chazal commanded us not to teach to girls, and if you do, it is as if you taught them Tiflus. Therefore, you should prevent them from doing this [teaching Mishnayos], with the exception of Pirkei Avos, which, because it discusses mussar and good midos you may teach it to them with explanations in order to awaken them to ahavas hatorah and good midos, but not any other Mesechta. And because this issue is simple I will end here with a blessing that you may spread Torah and Yiras Shamayim to the world.

Your friend,

Moshe Feinsten

By the way, this is the only place in all of Igros Moshe where Rav Moshe writes that an issue is so "simple".

And it is. I mentioned before that it’s silly to even quote Rav Moshe on this because all he did was repeat what it says in Shulchan Aruch and Rambam unanimously, and add that the issue is easy and simple. And Rav Elya Svei, you can be sure, knew that too. He just needed a letter from Rav Moshe to show those girls' schools.

So again: In Shulchan Aruch and the Rishonim, it states clearly that it is forbidden to teach girls Torah shebal peh, which includes Mishnayos and Gemora, among other things. Furthermore, there is no dissenting or disagreeing opinion anywhere about this. Thus, teaching girls Gemora in class is an open and public violation of a clear Halachah.

It doesn't matter if Modern Orthodox rabbis do it. Our obligation is to follow the Halachah.


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