Saturday, December 31, 2005


There is a controversial group of women in Israel who have studied and mastered Hilchos Taharas HaMishpacha (the laws of family purity) and have been conferred the title of Yoatzot. The purpose of this group is to answer common Halachic questions of an intimate nature from women who are often embarrassed to ask these questions of a male rabbi. There is great opposition to this group by Charedim.

After analyzing this subject my view is that the greater good is served by having an institutionalized form of female advisors for Taharas HaMishpacha. The need seems to be there. In the past Rebbitzins (wives of Rabbis) would in many cases function as intermediaries for their husband/rabbi. Often these Rebbitzins knew the answers to common questions after hearing their husbands answer so many times. Why not allow for formal study? Formalizing the study provides quality control. The reluctance by many women to discuss potential Shailos with male Poskim is thus eliminated knowing they can go to a directly knowledgeable Yoetzet. Prior to this innovative movement there were probably many errors in Halachic practice, both L'Kula and L'Chumra, due to shyness on the part of many in Klal Israel to ask these kinds of Shailos... even from the Charedi sector who are encouraged to ask Shailos of any nature all the time.

The people involved, both teachers and students seem to be sincere and L'Shma. It is a shame that Gedolei HaTorah are so opposed to it. I’m not exactly sure why but it is my impression that objection to Yoatzot seems to be that it has not originated from within Charedi ranks. Gedolim were not consulted and the program proceeded without them. But everything I have read about the Yoatzot program indicates the women are of the highest Caliber.

There are other objections to this program, namely that a situation might arise where the Yoatzot will know more and be of higher caliber than their male counterparts. This is not a valid objection. Learning should be L'Shma whether it is a man or woman doing the learning. If women's learning surpasses men then so be it. Either the men should excel themselves or get out of the way.

The traditional role of women as the Akeres HaBayis, the anchor and root of the household, the great nurturers of the family will never be abandoned because a few women learn a great deal about an important subject and dispense advice and answer questions from their natural constituency, other women. Nor do I believe that there will be any dilution of men with "Gadol potential" who will become unmotivated because of Yoatzot.

The question has been raised as to what or who is fueling the Yoatzot program. Is it radical feminism? I doubt it. True, it might attract that type of woman and due diligence should be exercised to weed out anyone with a radical feminist agenda from leadership positions and from applicants to the program. With appropriate leadership and guidance this could turn into a great Kiddush HaShem and a great enhancement of Mitzvah observance. We, also, need not fear the "slippery slope" argument that states that these women will next want to become Poskim. A Torah oriented agenda should help guarantee that.

Frankly I'm not sure why there has been so much resistance. If sincere non-agendized G-d fearing people are involved in a project like this, instead of fighting it we should be asking is "How can we help?"