Get Ready For Female Modern Orthodox Rabbis

Historian Marc B. Shapiro writes:

Leaving aside the issue of serving as a dayan, it is obvious to me that women rabbis are coming to Modern Orthodoxy, even if the powers that be are standing firmly against it. Yet they have already let the genie out of the bottle. By sanctioning advanced Torah study for women, there is no question that the time will come when there will be women scholars of halakhah who are able to decide issues of Jewish law. The notion that a woman who has the knowledge can “poskin” is not really controversial, and has been acknowledged by many haredi writers as well.[4] Very few rabbis are poskim, but every posek is by definition a “rabbi”, whether he, or she, has received ordination or not.[5] So when we have women who are answering difficult questions of Jewish law, they will be “rabbis”,[6] and no declarations by the RCA or the Agudah will be able to change matters. I am not talking about pulpit rabbis, as this position has its own dynamic and for practical reasons may indeed not be suitable for a woman. Yet as we all know, very few rabbis function in a pulpit setting, and much fewer will ever serve as a dayan on a beit din.
The reason why the issue of ordaining women has been so problematic is because the Orthodox community is simply not ready for it. Yet when women will achieve the level of scholarship that I refer to, and are already deciding matters of halakhah, then their “ordination” will not be regarded as at all controversial in the Modern Orthodox world, and will be seen as a natural progression. People will respond to this no differently than how they responded to the creation of advanced Torah institutes for women. [7] Since women were already being taught Talmud, the creation of these institutes was a natural step.
There is one more thing that needs to be added, and that is that we have not reached the point where there are women halakhic authorities.[8] I hope I won’t be accused of bashing women by pointing out the following fact, that as of 2012 not one traditional sefer, in Hebrew, written by a woman has been published. By traditional sefer I mean a halakhic work or a commentary on a talmudic tractate. I am waiting for this day, which I hope won’t be too long in the future. I also hope that a learned woman is currently working on a commentary to a tractate, even if it is one of the easier tractates such as Megillah. The point is that for women to be recognized as talmudic and halakhic authorities they will have to do exactly what the men do, and that is show the world that they are serious talmidot hakhamim. The major way to do this is through publishing.

About Luke Ford

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