Did Women Pray In Ancient Times?

In a 2009 lecture on Rabbi Avraham Shapira, Rabbi Marc B. Shapiro says:

Don’t think that women didn’t pray [with the Jewish prayer book] before modern times. Daniel Sperber has a whole chapter on women’s prayer groups.

I’m assuming that the typical woman in Eastern Europe didn’t daven, didn’t bench [including the wife of the Chofetz Chaim]. Most women didn’t know Hebrew. This isn’t what their lives were structured around.

Dr. Erica Brown is one of the top women scholars in Modern Orthodoxy. She told me that she went to Brovenders at the time it was at Kiryat Moshe. She would go to the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva to daven mincha. The women’s gallery is upstairs but during the week, the guys are upstairs learning. She’d come into the women’s section and it would get them very annoyed because they would have to leave.

One day she comes in for mincha and one of the bochers hands her a note. Rabbi Avraham Shapira wants to see her.

So she goes to see him. She knocks on the door. His wife answers. One of the first thing his wife says is that Rav Avraham doesn’t speak to women but Rav Avraham is in the background.

He told her that he’d heard what’s been doing on. Rav Avraham looks at her and says, “Are you a baales teshuva?”

In the traditional frum world, that a woman would daven mincha, certainly with a minyan, was unheard of.

Rabbi Avraham Shapira was the last great gadol Yisrael, the last great sage universally recognized to hold the position of Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazim.”

At Avraham Shapira’s funeral, the young people are crying… I was at Rabbi Soloveitchik‘s [funeral], and no one was crying.”

After the Lubavitcher rebbe passed away, two names were in the news for years to succeed him — Adin Steinsaltz and Manis Friedman.

In a statement to Moment Magazine in 2009, Friedman was quoted as saying:

“I don’t believe in western morality, i.e. don’t kill civilians or children, don’t destroy holy sites, don’t fight during holiday seasons, don’t bomb cemeteries, don’t shoot until they shoot first because it is immoral. The only way to fight a moral war is the Jewish way: Destroy their holy sites. Kill men, women and children and cattle.”

Marc Shapiro: “Chabad has many great Torah scholars. Don’t assume that the shaliach near your house is representative of Chabad. Most of them don’t know anything.”

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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