Friday, April 08, 2011

Of Lice and Men (and Women)

Rabbi Gil Student has a fascinating post today about an Orthtodox Rabbi In Israel, Rabbi Yoel Bin Nun, who wants to take the idea of egalitarianism in Judaism to new heights. In essence he argues that since in our day the role of women is so radically different from what their roles were in the past, they should now be required to fulfill all of the Mitzvos, including the ones that women are generally exempted from – time bound positive commandments.

Rabbi Student goes on to masterfully refute the rabbi’s argument and I agree with him entirely. So I will not attempt to duplicate his efforts in any way.

But I have to wonder about a man who now attempts to do in Orthodoxy what the Conservative movement has already done for itself. They too have made these arguments. In fact in order for a woman to get an ordination at JTS, they must agree to keep the Mitzvos reserved specifically for men. How they observe Bris Milah is another question – but I digress.

While Rabbi Bin Nun does not go so far as to say that we should take down the Mechitzos and start having mixed Minayim, I think he would be hard pressed to explain why not. Equalizing the sexes based on social changes demands they be counted into a Minyan and even serve as Chazanim, Baalei Koreh and Gabbaim!

He may be an Ehrliche Rav but I have to question his judgment here. He is attempting to uproot the words of Chazal based on sociological changes. The problem is that we do not have the power to change anything today. Even if we discover new scientific information that would change a Psak, the psak still remains in effect. Certainly this is true if there are only sociological changes.

This was driven home to me as a student by my Rebbe, Rav Aharon Soloveichik during one of his Shiurim. He told us about R’ Yitzchak Lamproti – the Pachad Yitzchak. He was a renowned Italian Gadol who said that Chazal’s edict that one may kill lice on Shabbos because they do not reproduce sexually has changed. Now that we know they do because of the invention of the microscope, we may in fact NOT kill lice on Shabbos as it violates one of the 39 Melachos (Netilas Neshama).

Rav Ahron said that if Rav Lamproti were alive today – he would be put in Cherem. Once Chazal Paskined, that is the Halacha. We are not allowed to change their Psak even if we think they would have changed it themselves had they known then what we know today.

What Rabbi Bin Nun has done – it seems to me – is not only desire to change one obscure Halacha about lice as did R’ Lamporti - but change the entire fabric of Judaism as we know it for sociological reasosns!

I am not suggesting anyone be put in Cherem. But it would seem to me that anyone who makes these kinds of arguments should at least be looked at in the same light as we do with the Pachad Yitzchak.