Rather than “debating essential halachic issues in the rigorous spirit of rabbinic Judaism,” the book is composed of two categories of articles: those which do not debate issues (essential or otherwise), and those which debate issues, but not in the spirit of Rabbinic Judaism.
The first category comprises about half the book and consists of surveys of various halachic issues. Based on the standard sources of the Talmud and basic commentaries and bolstered by secondary sources, they break no new ground for anyone able to read the sources in their original Hebrew, except for occasional conclusions, usually based on tenuous arguments, meant to advance Orthodox feminism.1
One of Rav Feldman’s examples:
[Susan Handelman’s] “Women and the Study of Torah in the Thought of the Lubavitcher Rebbe” translates several talks given by this figure in which, on the basis of a flimsy argument (see below), he states that women’s Torah study is not merely a tool to further their performance of mitzvos, but has the same obligatory status as men’s study. Even though (as the author states) this contradicts the opinion of the Vilna Gaon and Beis haLevi, she nevertheless rejects their view in favor of the Rebbe’s. It is surprising that anyone would give the opinion of a late twentieth-century authority more weight than two towering halachic scholars of past centuries. [Rav Feldman than proceeds to cite the Rebbe’s argument, which he calls ‘flimsy’, and proceeds to rebut.]2
In the following series of posts, we shall attempt to demonstrate that Rav Feldman’s critique of the Rebbe’s position, and Handelman’s central thesis, is unjustified, and that the traditional and mainstream Halachic view has indeed been that “women’s Torah study is not merely a tool to further their performance of mitzvos” but rather an actual fulfillment of the commandment to study Torah, and it is actually the positions of the Gaon and Beis Ha’Levi that are at most relatively late, innovative minority views, if not actually outliers.
- Rav Aharon Feldman, Halachic Feminism or Feminist Halachah?, in The Eye of the Storm, pp. 84-85.
- Ibid. p. 85 n. 9.