Understanding Gods Plan as Best We Can

Admin’s note: the referer’s log is a great source for reposts. This post was first posted in January, 2007. Somebody from the MGM Mirage in Vegas was searching for Hashem Runs the World and came to this post. After rereading it and the comments, it is clear that it’s well worth reposting.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve started, and failed to finish, about 5 different posts for Beyond BT. While all were different, all had the same theme: why aren’t people seeing the same ‘truths’ that I see in the Torah?

I started all of these posts trying to engender a spirit of honest debate and questioning, but stopped before I’d completed them. Why? Firstly, because like everyone, I have my own baggage, and however ‘objective’ I wish I was, I know that my own slanted viewpoint creeps in here and there, and warps the real essence of what I’m trying to write.

Secondly, because many of the subjects I was trying to write about – and which are exercising me at the moment – are ‘biggies’. Let me share some examples: We moved to Israel from the UK, about a year and a half ago. While many people, thank G-d, have had an easy aliya, we have had quite a challenging aliya, with things going ‘wrong’ on many different levels.

Without belaboring the point, within a week of moving here, we lost all of our savings (thanks to an ‘unexpected development’ back in chutz); had a falling out with a close family member ostensibly upset about our move; and a firm offer of a job (again, with a firm in chutz) retracted.

From that point, we went on to have our credit card stolen, our house broken into, business difficulties which in turn lead to financial difficulties, and the dawning realization that socially, we just weren’t fitting in all that well.

Yet despite all this – or maybe, because of all of it – I haven’t stopped thanking Hashem that we made the move. In the UK, we were both workaholics; in Israel, we have had the time and space to really appreciate the blessings that are our children. In the UK, I was too busy making and spending money to really do much in the way of learning or chesed. Here, I can’t give tzedeka as freely as I’d like to. But boy, am I making an effort to have Shabbat guests and to find ‘free’ ways of doing nice things for people.

In Israel, thanks to many of our difficulties, I am now inordinately grateful for everything I do have, like my health, my husband, my family more generally. In chutz, I would get down if even the tiniest thing didn’t go my way. In Israel, I am meeting so many great people, who are really on an upward path in terms of their yiddishkeit. People who are really living their Judaism, and for whom Hashem permeates every minute, every moment, every decision and action. In chutz, I really wasn’t.

As one of the other posters here commented, all the arguments about moving to Israel etc, have been very well rehearsed. But when you live here – and you really struggle to live here – you understand how a Jew who doesn’t live here is missing out on a very fundamental part of their yiddishkeit. That’s controversial, I know. But it’s what I truly believe.

Here’s another ‘controversial’ thing that the last few months here have shown me: Having a lot of material wealth is an enormous obstacle to getting close to Hashem. Yes, the dream house, luxury car, gourmet meal and designer outfit is nice, on one level. But that level is incredibly superficial. I had nice things in London and lots of money. And I realize now just how complacent I’d become in my yiddishkeit as a result.

Here, I have prayed like I have never prayed before. It’s not always been a comfortable experience. But I’ve had to ask myself ‘what are we here for?’ and I’ve had to realize that the answer is ‘to work on ourselves and get closer to our creator’. And you don’t do that by shopping.

The last thing I’ve realized, again controversially, is that ‘feminism’ and Judaism really don’t go together. To the point that now, I try to steer clear of any self-styled ‘orthodox feminists’. Why? Because anyone who is putting gender politics into Torah really doesn’t grasp the basic principles underlying creation: G-d made the world. G-d is perfect. G-d knew exactly what he was doing, and if you have a problem with it, you are essentially saying that you know better than G-d.

I know others will differ, but for me, that is a fundamentally problematic position to take; it’s a circle that simply can’t be squared.

Every issue / problem / challenge has G-d at its root. From the small niggles, to the larger frustrations and the enormous tragedies, G-d is running the world, and knows better than we do what is for our best, and ultimately, what is for our ultimate ‘good’.

It sounds strange, even to me, to write these words and be that much closer to genuinely believing them. But coming to Israel, with all the ups and downs it has entailed, has helped me to realize that if I am to have a meaningful relationship with G-d, and also to my Judaism, I have to accept that I can only ever see a very small part of Gods plan – and that his ability to run the world is far beyond what I can comprehend.

58 comments on “Understanding Gods Plan as Best We Can

  1. Writing from the comforts of chutz l’aretz, my negios, if anything, should drive me to justify my existence here, and join you, Tzvi, in admonishing Katrin for failing to heed Hashem’s clear signs to leave Eretz Yisrael. Instead, I cited a gemara that states that Eretz Yisrael is acquired through yisurim, suffering, as a message of encouragement to Katrin that the difficulties and challenges that she has experienced in Eretz Yisrael (I hope they have not, and BE”H never will, reached the level of yisurim) are consistent with Hashem’s ways, as expressed in the straightforward reading of the gemara. The source does not in any way address my reality or any of my choices, only hers. I fail to see anything twisted in my statement, but then, I’m probably nogea badavar.

  2. Michoel,
    If one is doing the best they can to honestly try to understand what Hashem wants from us, then all is well. But if one is twisting one’s perception of reality to do whatever they want to do, even in the name of a great mitzva, then one is not living in reality. Finding sources that then appear to justify one’s own choices just makes it worse, and cannot be called an honest attempt to understand the source. In such a case, the source is not Torah but the person’s own ideas, and there is bound to be negios and misunderstanding.

  3. Tzvi,
    If one is twisting then they are twisting. But if one is doing the best they can to honestly understand sources, that is not twisting. Clear?

  4. Some sources can have conflicting interpretations, each reflecting some aspect of reality that may be relevant at a given time.

  5. Is spouting armchair opinions and citing gemorras to bake them up, any worse than spouting opinions without citing gemorros?

    Yes it is, much worse, if you are twisting the words of Torah to fit your own armchair opinions.

  6. I hope Tzvi will allow us non-neviim and non-talmidei-chachomim to continue making comments here to the best of our ability. It’s up to the reader to decide if comments make sense or not; it’s not a matter of credentials.

  7. Tzvi, Tzvi Tzvi…
    Please. Ruby is quoting a gemorra that seems to support his view. It is hardly the fisrt time that has happened on a blog. Is spouting armchair opinions and citing gemorras to bake them up, any worse than spouting opinions without citing gemorros? This is blogging. Every should know that they have to think for themselves, see things inside with context, etc. No need for anyone to insult or feel insulted. It is all in good fun.

    My personal, very limited view is that Ruby is %100 correct in applying that gemorra to this discussion.

  8. I’m not a Navi, but we have to deal with the reality that we do communicate daily with HaShem and that He does try to communicate back. What does HaShem have to do to get his message across? I would understand it like any relationship — you try for a while, and if the other person just isn’t getting it, or only hearing what they want to hear, then you back off from the relationship, because, well, they’re just not getting it, they’re just not listening. katrin’s case isn’t the same as the earlier post about a 3-month period of unemployment following a decision to keep Shabbos. That can be understood as a test — especially given that Shabbos is clearly a mitzvah that can’t be compromised at all. But it may not be a mitzvah to live in EY under the circumstances that katrin described.

    As an aside, Ruby, you are neither a navi nor a talmid chachom. I don’t think gemaras ought to be slung around the forum in order to prove points; they must be learned with the meforshim and understood correctly. What exactly are the “difficult challenges”? What are the limits? How do you know that what katrin experienced falls into this category? I believe that hishtadlus is part of our Avodas Hashem that entails making practical, sensible decisions in olam hazeh.”

  9. Ruby,
    You may not be a navi and you may not be the son of a navi, but you most certainly are the great, great, great grandson of neviim and that is no small thing!!!

  10. I am neither a navi or the son of a navi, but the Gemara sides with Michoel’s view and Katrin’s wonderful attitude. Berachos 5a – Hashem gave the Jewish people 3 gifts that are aquired through difficult challenges – Torah, ERETZ YISRAEL, and Olam Haba.

  11. katrin,
    I’m probably as big a navi as Reb Tzvi, and I have the exact opposite view of your challenges. I would take them as a sign min hashamayim that H’ wants to see if you are really dedicated. Chazak v’amatz!

  12. Katrin, this is a magnificent, inspiring post! It only makes my heart ache more that I still haven’t been to EY. And it helps me understand why my daughter tells me she’d like to eventually make aliyah.

    Vis a vis Pesach, to summarize what our Rav reminds us every year – dust is not chometz, spring cleaning (now, where would that term have come from) is a wonderful idea – do it in May. Although I admit that it’s hard not to do at least some spring cleaning in the process. And I’m glad that all those years of being “the mean mom who won’t let us eat in our rooms” pays off every year when I don’t usually find more then 1 or 2 pieces of chometz in my kids rooms.

  13. Kinneret,no need for a boomerang “Mrs” which should really read “Ms”.(I know I should have done the same for you for universal applicability I was just getting all jocularly influenced by all your Mistering ;-)

    Though with a new smirnoff twist off of Michoels “not à serious solution ” singles advice I should definitely not have a hard time finding a few good men to marry.
    In addition , topaz is my birthstone not my birthname. As for your supposed facetious undertones well I do tend to fall ill to facetious deficiency syndrome every time I chance upon a thought process involving frum rabbis and rebbitzins. Must be some sort of default facetious function setting on the brain circuitry system hard drive that engages into action when exposed to frum oriented stimuli.

  14. Mrs Kinneret ,I would tweak those levels of confidence a little when using them to assert ànd proclaim those nifty rhinestone oriented notions such as “men are not running things in the frum world”.

    Katrin,may you never run out of this unadulterated optimism and belief that you’ve managed to cultivate and maintain.And if you do may you always have easy access to good sources for more bottles especially the belief based flavored ones. Life usually insists on getting shorter ànd before you know it seasons turn into centuries. Its awesome that your able to rechannel those heartwrenching distractions and still travel along on beloved beliefs highway of oblivion or Emunah to accomplish what you set out to.

  15. Tzvi (#39)– Do you mind explaining what credentials you have that allow you to officially interpret the will of Hashem?

    And once you’ve done that, maybe you can explain some of what happened in my life. For instance, I was unemployed for over three months after deciding to keep Shabbat. Was Hashem trying to tell me not to be religious after all? Because if there are obstacles in our path, we’re supposed to give up and turn back, right?

  16. tzvi

    i’m a bit puzzled by your response, to be frank.

    it came across as very mean-spirited and spiteful – and i’m sure that wasn’t your intention. please enlighten me as to the ‘true meaning’ behind your post.

    shavua tov

    katrin

  17. The missing piece of the puzzle is “what were the Hillel’s actual mechitza-setter-uppers really thinking?” Above, I see a lot of guesswork about this, conditioned by people’s prior experiences or suppositions. Maybe someone at the Hillel who was there at the time can be conjured up to tell us his side. Meanwhile, let’s attempt to judge them in the scale of merit.

  18. What happens at home when friends we rarely see drop in unexpectedly? We scramble around to welcome them properly, feed them, etc. Our surprise and our fuss then hardly indicate displeasure or disapproval.

    You are absolutely correct, Mr. Miller. We practically have that scrambling down to a science in our house :) However, if our friends or family drop by unexpectedly, and we make an exaggerated fuss in order to make them feel that their presence is a great inconvenience, which is the way I read Chaya’s post, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were very uncomfortable. I would think that such behavior on our part could correctly be judged as unnecessarily rude because, in general, guests are worth the fuss. I realize that other people might not feel the same way, but I don’t really think the situation we’re discussing is entirely analogous to surprise guests in one’s home.

    Mr. Coleman wrote: I think you’re reading things into what she wrote, and into what I wrote, that fit your view of the matter, and that you come to the discussion with a chip on your shoulder about “men running things” in the frum world. I could be wrong.

    You are very wrong indeed- in part because I made it very clear I believe there are other possible valid interpretations of what Chaya wrote and in part because I don’t believe that “men [are] running things” in the frum world, or at least, they aren’t doing running it alone. In fact, if you met our rebbetzin, you would know I have empirical evidence that running the frum world is definitely notthe exclusive province of men.

    Frankly, it’s odd to me that would you take my view that these particular men did not behave as well as they should have in this particular instance and extrapolate that I have a problem with all men and/or gender roles in the frum world. That is a very big leap to take. Perhaps I am not making myself clear. My point is that, in situations wherein it is permissable and (shall we say) logistically (?) possible to include women, there is no reason to exclude them or make them feel unwelcome, and this is not a particularly radical feminist notion.

    With regard to invitations, you said to Chaya you complain about your discomfort, as if they had invited you, expected you or otherwise owed something to you . To me, this implies that unless a woman is specifically invited, she shouldn’t expect to be welcomed. If it was impossible or extremely difficult to set up a mechitza, they could have just said so. Since it was possible to set up a mechitza in order for everyone to pray, it seems to me that doing so without making Chaya uncomfortable would not have required all that much effort. Again, hardly a radically feminist idea.

    Michael, you wrote: Ron’s wife is a bigshot lawyer, or so I’m told. He is hardly a “keep’m barefoot and pregnant” type of guy.

    I’ve read back through this thread, and no one even hints that Mr. Coleman is any such thing, so I’m not entirely sure where you got the idea that anyone would think he was.

    Good Shabbos to all!!

  19. In my opinion, if you were truly coming closer to Hashem, you’d have understood His messages to you that He wants you to go back to Chutz. Hashem doesn’t need you to become financially irresponsible social misfits in the name of Torah and mitzvos. Instead of coming closer to Hashem, it sounds to me like you are withdrawing from reality and expending incredible amounts of energy to convince yourself that you’re happy and grateful.

  20. Michoel, can we àlso solve the singles crisis by woman having a few husbands and marrying often. I think that’s a way better idea than a men having a few wives.
    Àlso that’s so thoughtful that a man cannot divorce a wife against her will. But there are other fun chainy linked in lockage like linkage parts to those laws like say for instance a woman wants to say good day forever sometimes its a little hard you know when its not a mutual good riddance and good day.

  21. “Maybe G-d wants us to (partially) solve the singles crisis by allowing men to marry multiple wives”

    Remember, there’s also a financial crisis!

  22. Chaya,
    Hello. I am officially lightened. The point is, “So what if they were colored?” to use your term. They could have been colored in ways that we don’t anticipate. Maybe G-d wants us to (partially) solve the singles crisis by allowing men to marry multiple wives even in 5767, but those pro-women rabbis are getting in the way.

    God wants those biased, patriarchal, colored rabbis to interpret the Torah and for us to abide by their interpretations. Their interpretations are not merely interpretations of the Torah, they ARE the Torah.

  23. Lighten up!

    FWIW – the Hillel incident involved a Hillel House – not shared space, and I’m early for everything, so I didn’t show up late and interrupt their davening. And I do believe other women had been put off by the attitude they encountered there, which was my primary point. My sister’s experience with Hillel at UCLA was entirely different.

    As for who is to say kaddish – I was in college, not married yet and with (obviously) no children. My parents had two daughters, and we were raised with the expectation that we were going to be the ones saying kaddish. No whining over they’re not having a ‘kaddish’. (On that subject, I was once acquainted with a young man who was so affected by the fact that he was adopted by a frum family after a series of daughters that he decided he was gay. Don’t go there.)

    I do love to stir the pot, but didn’t expect this much discussion of my post. If we deny that even the sages’ interpretations were colored by who they were and when they lived, we are simply denying reality. When even rabbi’s living at the same time and place can come up with different answers, that tells you something. At least we haven’t become the Liliput Big-Enders and Little-Enders – or have we?

  24. Fern R,
    I can accept the idea (you seem to be saying) that frum feminists may very well be sincere. They don’t think they are smarter than H’, they just think His will has not been interpreted with proper fairness to women. However, intellectually, that argument makes no sense to me. The Chumash can be understood (at least superficially) without any patriarchal skewing, correct? I mean we all agree that it is the literal word of G-d? If not, then we are not Orthodox. So how do feminists see that the “male interpretations” are more anti-women than the chumash itself? It would seem that the oposite is true. The Torah allows multiple wives, rabbis said no. The Torah allows divorce against the wife’s will, rabbis said no.

    Furthermore, a woman in Teaneck may feel that a woman in Flatbush is not sufficiently independent, respected etc. But the woman in Flatbush might feel the same about another woman in Williamsburg, and that woman might feel the same about a woman in Meah Shearim, who may feel that a woman is 1 of 5 wives in Teiman and never goes out of her house is really deprived. And in truth, there are millions of women in SF and Westchester and Geenich Village that look with pitty on the poor enslaved woman in Teaneck! So it seems ludicrous for anyone along the spectrum to stand in judgement of those one step the their right.

    I heard once from Rabbi Avigdor Miller that it could just as well be argued that men interpreted the Torah in a way that was anti-men and pro-women. For example, by mandating that a man must provide for his wife while a woman has no halachic obligation to make a living. So the entire pretext of the discussion is already skewed by feminist notions of competition betweent the sexes. Why should the interpretations of men be assumed to be against women? That is so silly and prejudial! Are Jewish men not nice people?!

  25. i agree with you~
    femminism is really a disservice to the Jewish woman. It’s a recent invention, really. I think one of the reasons this exists is because due to assimilation, the shul has become the “focal” point of Jewish life, where really it’s the home. Women feel that public mitzvos are superior to the ones we don’t really see that keeps us sustained ^_^
    yeshkoiach to the blog

  26. Katrin, thanks for a great post and a nice boost of emunah. I heard R. Krohn say that whenever one begins a new enterprise, Sutan is standing at the door. (don’t know if he was quoting) Your adventures and misadventures as new olim seem like so many tests; also like so many gifts to help you fortify yourself for your new, more spiritual lifestyle. Hatzlocha Rabba. I hope you will connect with people who can help you through the adjustments.

  27. “Her parents in Shomayim would surely have more nachas from her taking care of her children in a loving way than from her going to shul to say kaddish.”

    A tangential point regarding merits for niftarim. Rav Pam zt’l would take into consideration the full picture when determining what is the greates zechus.

    Peninim al Hatorah quotes a schmeuz from “The Pleasant Way”:

    “Reciting Kaddish for a parent is a halachah. It is a merit for both the parent and the son. To contend in shul about who and when one says Kaddish is not only demeaning for the son, it also detracts from the parent’s merit. It is probably a greater zchus, merit, for the parent if his son is mevater, concedes, and does not compete for the Kaddish.”

  28. I have to agree with Chaya. While I am no where near what someone would consider a “raging feminist” I can see and appreciate that those who are don’t think they know more than Hashem. They think that people have misinterpretted Hashem’s will in a way that is unfair to women.

  29. All right, well, I wouldn’t want this to come down to the fact that my wife went to a better law school than I did. We’d all be shot to H – E – double – hockey – sticks if we had to demonstrate our bona fides before engaging in these high – spirited discussions. Bad precedent. My only regret on that matter is that if I’d gotten into where she went we’d have met two years earlier!

    Let me nudge this in a slightly different direction, in terms of sex roles. Frankly, in terms of who “sets the rules,” I am just Beryl Ballebos, no closer to being a rule-setter than Kinneret or Jaded or Chaya any of the distaff-siders here, and am probably further from it than a number of powerful rebbetzins. It’s beside the point, I think. The man / woman axis is just one of the many ways our social life is broken up, though it is for sure a significant one.

  30. I think that some women on this thread are perhaps being overly sensitive. Ron’s wife is a bigshot lawyer, or so I’m told. He is hardly a “keep’m barefoot and pregnant” type of guy. The bottom line is that there is no chiyuv on anyone to accomadate a women daveners (as far as Ron or myself is aware. If somoeone has a source saying otherwise, please post it). It is certainly a mentchlich thing to do. Feminists certainly have had some very positive effects on frum society. Personally, I would not include agunah advocates amongst the positive but that is just my opinion.

  31. Obviously, Kinneret, the shul does not have a mechitza set up at times when women are not expected to come. This is common in college situations where the minyan is frequently in a common or multipurpose space.

    I didn’t suggest anything about invitations. I think, and this is just one man’s opinion, but I think you’re reading things into what she wrote, and into what I wrote, that fit your view of the matter, and that you come to the discussion with a chip on your shoulder about “men running things” in the frum world. I could be wrong. I won’t belabor the point; as to the merits of our respective positions, everyone can judge for himself or herself (no invitation needed!). Have a good Shabbos!

  32. Chaya-

    Traditionally women have not said kaddish for their parents. There are poskim who permit it but since it is not traditional, obviously in the Torah world it is considered perfectly acceptable and correct for a woman to honor her parents’ memories and elevate their neshamos in another way. In general, women’s observances tend to be of a more private rather than public, communal nature. Women are also usually exempt from time-bound mitzvos.

    What if a woman had small children at home and she was trying to find a minyan morning and night 24/7 so she could say kaddish? She would be honoring her parents at the expense of her children. The Torah exempts her from certain responsibilities so that she can fulfill others that are even more important. You might respond that her husband should care for the children, but what about his obligation to daven with a minyan — where she has no such obligation? Or what if both he and she are saying kaddish for parents the same year?

    Her parents in Shomayim would surely have more nachas from her taking care of her children in a loving way than from her going to shul to say kaddish.

    In this case it seems that there were no small children at home so that wasn’t an issue, and if you want to daven with a minyan morning and night for a year, kol hakovod. But you should be aware that this is not the traditional expectation for women. As I said, the expectation is that the memory of parents will be honored in a different way by daughters than by sons.

    To give one example, I am a member of the chevra kadisha — I do taharos. I hope and believe that the chessed I do honors my father’s memory.

    By the way, four years after his passing, I still miss my father very much and think of him every day, so I fully understand your wish and longing to say kaddish for your father. However, other women who may be reading this should know that it is not necessary for them to say kaddish for lost parents and that there are many ways to express love, longing, grief and honor to lost parents.

  33. In a situation where women to come to shul, yes.

    Obviously, this shul had a mechitza, so clearly, she wasn’t the first or only woman to attend this shul. The fact that women may not often attend this shul in no way changes the reality that the mechitza accomodates men and women.

    The “fuss” was that they looked for a mechitzah. Nothing here suggests anyone said or did anything other than get a mechitza for her. The only discomfort she describes is her own.

    I don’t think it was the search for the mechitza that made her uncomfortable. I think it was the way the men acted when they searched for it. She says I’m thinking that they made any other women who had shown up so uncomfortable that they found other places to go, or gave up entirely. which I took to mean the men were trying to make her feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. I could be wrong, of course, but it’s hardly an unreasonable reading of what she wrote.

    It’s possible she got there 15 minutes before davening began and found a bunch of men there to help her and who had no other plans.

    This is only one of the numerous possibilities; it’s hardly the only way she could have avoided interrupting their davening.

    There are hundreds of minyanim that do not and cannot accomodate women because of where they are located or other configuration or timing issues; there is no “right” to demand accomodation.

    This is, obviously, NOT an instance wherein the shul is unable to accomodate women because they had a mechitza; it was an instance wherein a group of men didn’t want to accomodate a woman, which is an entirely different thing, as you surely must know.

    There is no need for you to insult my intelligence; I am perfectly capable of discerning the difference between Judaism and college course work. You suggested that women, even in situations wherein they can be accomodated, need an invitation, and this is simply not true.

  34. “Steve Brizel
    January 25th, 2007 16:49 20I download R CP Scheinberg’s guidelines re Pesach cleaning every year. They are an excellent way to help keep the Chag in Pesach.”

    Steve (and David Schallheim),

    The link above in my comment of
    January 25th, 2007 15:59 (#16) contains these guidelines.

  35. What happens at home when friends we rarely see drop in unexpectedly? We scramble around to welcome them properly, feed them, etc. Our surprise and our fuss then hardly indicate displeasure or disapproval.

  36. I download R CP Scheinberg’s guidelines re Pesach cleaning every year. They are an excellent way to help keep the Chag in Pesach.

  37. 1) The mechitza is not just to accomodate her; it is there to accomodate both men and women.

    In a situation where women to come to shul, yes. In a situation where they don’t, no. There’s no need to accommodate men or women with a mechitza in a place where there are no women present or expected.

    It is not nor should it have been considered a hardship to put one up.

    Who said it was a hardship?

    From what she wrote, it would seem these men had a far greater problem conforming with halacha than did she.

    Maybe you’re reading something different from what I’m reading.

    2) It did not appear to me that she was complaining about the “discomfort” of being behind the mechitza but rather about the fact that these men made such a fuss, making her feel as though her desire to pray was a just a bother and that she was unwelcome there.

    You surely are reading a different selection. Here’s what she said:

    Apparently a female showing up for daily services was so unheard of that they had to go LOOK for a mechitza. I didn’t mind the mechitza – it was the fact that they didn’t sure what to do about it – gee, that makes one feel welcome.

    The “fuss” was that they looked for a mechitzah. Nothing here suggests anyone said or did anything other than get a mechitza for her. The only discomfort she describes is her own.

    3) She said nothing about interrupting their davening.

    You’re right. It’s possible she got there 15 minutes before davening began and found a bunch of men there to help her and who had no other plans. That would be contrary to all my experience attending daily minyanim for over 20 years but you’re right, it’s possible that the need to find and set up a mechitza implicated no sacrifice of davening or pre-davening preparation for anyone, sure.

    5) With all due respect, women do not need to be “invited” to shul by men. Everyone has a right to go to shul and pray, even women.

    Where is that right written, actually? I am not a boki (expert) in Shulchan Aruch but I never heard of this right. There are hundreds of minyanim that do not and cannot accomodate women because of where they are located or other configuration or timing issues; there is no “right” to demand accomodation. You surely are confusing Judaism with something taught in other departments at college.

  38. Michoel–
    I second that. Rav Scheinberg used to give a pre-Pesach talk to women before he went to America after Purim, as was his custom every year. He stressed the importance of rejoicing on Yom Tov for women, and not to be all stressed out and exhausted from spring cleaning (not that it’s a bad idea–when else are you gonna do it?–but you have to know what’s necessary and what’s optional, and plan accordingly).

  39. Mr. Coleman wrote You acknowledge that women rarely show up, as indeed the case for almost all daily minyanim. These young men interrupted their davening to go find a mechitza and put it up to accommodate you. You generously “don’t mind” complying with halacha and standing behind a mechitza, but you complain about your discomfort, as if they had invited you, expected you or otherwise owed something to you (again, remember women do not by and large come to daily davening). What am I missing?

    I cannot speak for Ora, of course, but it seems to me you are missing a number of things.

    1) The mechitza is not just to accomodate her; it is there to accomodate both men and women. It is not nor should it have been considered a hardship to put one up. From what she wrote, it would seem these men had a far greater problem conforming with halacha than did she.

    2) It did not appear to me that she was complaining about the “discomfort” of being behind the mechitza but rather about the fact that these men made such a fuss, making her feel as though her desire to pray was a just a bother and that she was unwelcome there.

    3) She said nothing about interrupting their davening.

    $) With all due respect, women do not need to be “invited” to shul by men. Everyone has a right to go to shul and pray, even women.

    With regard to feminism in general, it seems to me that while there are many problematic issues surround the Judaism/Feminism combination, it is also indisputable that the feminists have good points about certain matters- the agunot, for example.

    Katrin- I commend and admire your positive attitude.

  40. Great post Katrin! And what a great attitude to have in the face of all of those trials. I envy that you live in Israel – wishing you lots of hatzlacha!

  41. I hear. Maybe something to give a general sense of the importance of shalom and enjoying yom tov as a family, as apposed to the stress and fighting that can some from misguided cleaning. The specifics can be left up to individuals. Just a thought.

  42. Michoel,

    Though it’s a great idea to get some insight, I think those types of questions are best left for individuals to address to their own Rebbeim.

  43. Ron and David’s comments on Pesach cleaning and women gave me an idea. Mark and David should please prevail on Rabbi Horowitz to write something for BeyondBT a few weeks before Pesach regarding what baalei t’shuvah should do and what they should not do.

  44. Katrin,

    Regarding material possessions, you know what it says in Pirkei Avos about sleeping on the floor and living a life of deprivation..but toil in the Torah! I think Chazal mean that it doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are, you have to remember to be a Yid above & beyond anything else you do in life, which means you have to carry yourself a certain way.

    As for helping out @ home, in our house, it really is a team effort, esp. when it comes to Pesach. Also, on Thursday night/Friday morning, guess who is helping to set up Shabbos? You guessed it! It is NOT a “1-woman show” at our place!

    Marty

  45. thanks to everyone for their kind wishes – G-d willing, things are hopefully starting to look up – i kind of look at moving to israel like acquiring something tremendously precious – it costs a lot in time, money and effort, but in the end, you have such an amazing ‘thing’ to show for it all.

    ora and marty – you make a fair point about material possessions. the trouble – and this is where i know i’m going to struggle again as / when our finances turn around – is that it’s so easy to forget G-d when you are surrounded by material comforts.

    Ora – there’s also an interesting question about what counts as being truly ‘close’ to Hashem. To take your tzedeka example, i used to give a lot of tzedeka, but i think that often, my ‘pride’ in being so generous got in the way of the giving, and certainly got in the way of my relationship with Hashem – it’s like that much repeated adage that Hashem and the arrogant person can’t abide together. i think that’s why they say that having wealth is a much greater test, in many ways, than being poor – it’s so much easier to think it’s us that’s doing it all when we are rolling it money and / or success.

    Chaya – i agree with ron. in terms of the different ‘truths’ – there are certainly 70 faces to the torah, and within the frum world this is reflected in many different minhagim and customs – but crucially, none of them go against the basic truths of the torah. From my experience, (limited thought it is) feminism, even mild feminism, has at its heart this skewed ‘truth’ that torah was written for and by men (as your post itself would tend to suggest).

    i believe it was written by Hashem, for everyone. do i understand the laws relating to gets? no. but i understand that i don’t understand everything and that G-d, in his infinite wisdom, does – and he wrote the torah.

    i don’t want to unnecessarily belabour the point, but the torah is not about ‘men vs women’ or even ‘men controlling women’ – yet it’s amazing the number of times i’ve been to a women-only learning event where this seems to be the main frame of reference for everything discussed – to the detriment of any real torah-learning, or torah-understanding.

  46. Apparently a female showing up for daily services was so unheard of that they had to go LOOK for a mechitza. Apparently a female showing up for daily services was so unheard of that they had to go LOOK for a mechitza. I didn’t mind the mechitza – it was the fact that they didn’t sure what to do about it – gee, that makes one feel welcome.

    Chaya, it sounds like no good deed goes unpunished, as usual. And here these poor guys probably aren’t even married! You acknowledge that women rarely show up, as indeed the case for almost all daily minyanim. These young men interrupted their davening to go find a mechitza and put it up to accommodate you. You generously “don’t mind” complying with halacha and standing behind a mechitza, but you complain about your discomfort, as if they had invited you, expected you or otherwise owed something to you (again, remember women do not by and large come to daily davening). What am I missing?

    I agree with you that men should help with the Pesach cleaning, which seems to be implied by your mothers comment. If as you say this is not a division of labor issue, however, and your father did help, what’s your mother’s point about who makes the rules? Frankly in every house I know of, (a) if the women made the rules Pesach cleaning would be five times harder, and (b) the women do make the rules!

  47. Great post!!!!!

    Regarding material possessions, you can have them all…but, you have to know why & how you got them..it’s all due to Hashem. You can’t EVER forget that.

    You almost sound like the female version of Job, what with all the meshugana things that have happened to you in Eretz Yisrael, but, I can see that not all is gloom & doom for you…you have such a positive outlook on life now. I wish you much mazal & success, now & in the future, Katrin.

    Marty

  48. May Hashem continue to give you the strength and insight to see the good in everything that happens, and may you have ample opportunity to see good and maintain your feeling of closeness – even with material stability.

  49. Amazing post – A fellow traveler – the gemara says “l’fum gamla shichna” Hashem knew that those nisyonos (tests) would reveal the essence of your character – you are indeed rich! may you continue to go machayil el chayil

  50. I’m not the most ‘feminist’ sort, but what you’re calling ‘gender politics’ arises (let’s face it) because those interpreting the Torah are for the most part, and certainly historically, have been males.

    My bubbe (of blessed memory) could daven like nobody’s business. When she was old and grey-haired, no one thought twice about it. But when I was saying kaddish for my father, I was in college and usually went to the shul near my mother’s house, but one day went to Hillel on the U of Maryland campus, because I had a timing conflict that made it all-but-impossible for me to get to the shul. Apparently a female showing up for daily services was so unheard of that they had to go LOOK for a mechitza. I didn’t mind the mechitza – it was the fact that they didn’t sure what to do about it – gee, that makes one feel welcome. I was perfectly happy to sit all the way in the back, but no, they had to make a tzimmes out of it. I’m thinking that they made any other women who had shown up so uncomfortable that they found other places to go, or gave up entirely. That was in fact the last time I tried that, although it would have made my days easier at the time.

    Both my parents (of blessed memory) loved Pesach. My father would always comment, during the hectic pre-seder days of cleaning and cooking, that Pesach was such a beautiful holiday, and my mother would concur. But her next comment was always a sotto voce ‘Of course it’s beautiful, the men made the rules and the women have to carry them out.’ This is not a division-of-labor issue – my parents ran a business together.

    While it may be true that
    “G-d made the world. G-d is perfect. G-d knew exactly what he was doing, and if you have a problem with it, you are essentially saying that you know better than G-d.”
    let’s face the truth that the various filters through which we interpret the Torah vary depending on who is doing the filtering, and this does not have to do solely with gender, although that is certainly also a factor. Look at all the varying practices and interpretations at even the very frum levels. Aren’t these different ‘truths’?

  51. Katrin, lovely post. I agree with almost everything you said.

    My one diagreement: I think that material wealth is an obstacle to feeling close to Hashem, but not to being close to Hashem. That is, in my experience it’s much easier to feel connected when you are constantly reminded of how precarious your physical situation is. But money gives the chance to do a lot of mitzvot. IMO, sometimes doing Hashem’s will even without the intense feeling will get you just as close as the feeling alone would have, if not closer. To give a concrete example, I may pray for parnassa with more kavana than some rich guy, but if the rich guy just gave $1000 to a tuition fund for a Jewish day school, who’s to say that I’m any closer to Hashem?

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