Elon Moreh, Israel – Rabbi Bans Women from Public Office

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    FILE - An ultra orthodox woman casts her vote at a polling station in the Beitar Illit settlement on election day. Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, chief rabbi of the Elon Moreh settlement in Samaria, has prohibited female residents from running for public officeElon Moreh, Israel – Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, chief rabbi of the Elon Moreh settlement in Samaria, has prohibited female residents from running for the office of community secretary.

    The elections for the position are scheduled for Wednesday, but so far not a single woman of the 750 eligible adult residents of the settlement has announced candidacy.

    One woman, who remains anonymous, sent a letter to Rabbi Levanon asking whether she could run for the position. “I am a young woman and I think I have the desire and energy to do things. I also believe there is a benefit to making a woman secretary, because it’s not right for men to be the only ones deciding how to run the community,” she wrote to the rabbi, asking his opinion.

    But in his weekly column in the settlement’s newspaper Levanon wrote that the position of secretary was not fit for a woman, according to the teachings of the Rav Kook. He said women could participate in various councils, but not as secretaries.

    “The first problem is giving women authority, and being a secretary means having authority,” he wrote. “The second problem is mixing men and women. Secretary meetings are held at night and sometimes end very late. It is not proper to be in mixed company in such situations.”

    The rabbi added that women who desired to affect public opinion should do so through their husbands. “Within the family certain debates are held and when opinions are united the husband presents the family’s opinion,” he wrote.

    “This is the proper way to prevent a situation in which the woman votes one way and her husband votes another.”

    But many residents of Elon Moreh and its surroundings objected to the rabbi’s decision. Daniela Weiss, former council head of the settlement of Kedumim, said women had once been prophets and held distinguished roles in Jewish society.

    “It is in times of trial that women have proven themselves capable of standing up and getting through,” she said.

    Nurit Tsur, who heads the Israel Women’s Lobby, said the rabbi’s decision was anti-democratic and medieval. “Its place is in a halachic state and not a democratic one,” she said.

    “When things like this are taken out of the sphere of mere talk and made into a clear order for the Jewish female public in Israel, I expect leaders of the religious public to decry them and clarify that women’s place in local and national political discussion is necessary and vital,” Tsur said.

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    68 COMMENTS

    1. This was the subject of a widely-publicized dispute between Rav Kook and Rav Uziel about 90 years ago. Essentially, Rav Uziel’s position was universally accepted until this. Can an orthodox rabbi reopen settled halachic questions?

      • Who settled it? The Sanhedrin?! Did R Kook concede that he was wrong? No, he didn’t. And today who has more talmidim? R Kook or R Uziel? So why would R Kook’s talmidim NOT continue to pasken like him?

    2. Does this Rabbi also hold that women should not be taught to read and write? We might get dangerous ideas if we actually can think for ourselves!

    3. This position is poorly translated as Secretary and better translated as Managing Director. Even so, Rav Levanon is proving that just because someone is a religious zionist doesn’t mean he’s not pathetically narrow minded and obscurantist. This is a typical knee-jerk psak form someone who may be a lamdan but not a wise man. The days of prohibiting women from holding positions of influence are long gone and should never return.

        • So you would agree with those who say that a woman cannot be a bus driver because a bus driver has authority over the passengers. You sound like a chosid shoteh, or perhaps someone who has inadequacy issues.

      • i understand his perspective
        on the other hand one can make a case from prohibiting women donating financial resources to these institutions too…
        the torah does limit what a woman , in her fathers house or a married womwan, can do in terms of vows .. that includes the vow to give money to the yeshias etc..
        maybe its time to concurrently come out with the financial consequences too.
        i am not taking sides here , just pointing out logical conclusions

        • 1. This has nothing to do with vows. That topic is irrelevant here.

          2. As far as financial donations go, the standard Ashkenazi tena’im stipulate that וישלטון בנכסהון שוה בשוה. Therefore neither husband nor wife needs permission to make small donations from their joint assets, but neither should be making large donations without consulting the other. What is large or small depends on the family situation.

          3. As for major commitments of time to a mosad or cause, neither men nor women should be doing so without consulting their spouse. Chazal always consulted their wives before making any major change in their lives, and that is the model every Jewish man and woman traditionally follows.

          • #1 the topic of vows is parallel to commiting resources or assests hence it is relevant to my point… i agree not identical but relevant..

            # 2 3 if women cant hold positions of authority ( for whatever reason you beleive or rationalize, maybe even just chok) then maybe they shouldnt be allowed to commiit major sums.. thats all im saying whether she is single or married…
            ofcourse you can see a relevance even if it is not exact…

        • Well, Robert, the father or the husband can cancel his daughter’s or wife’s ‘vow’ to give money on the day that he hears it. What exactly is your chidush?

          • thats my point
            perhaps widowed divorced women etc,, who have no male supervision should be prohibited from giving money to the shules yeshivas etc.. after all it says
            nashem datan kallot hen.

    4. It is Halachic decisions like this that lead to a Rabbah.

      I am sure that he would have Banned Devorah from running for the position of Shofet.

      • Devorah never “ran” for the “position” of shofet. Had there been an election for such a position, she probably would have been forbidden to run. מלך ולא מלכה

    5. There were some exceptional women but most were not judges, prophetesses, etc… However his reasoning that “women cannot be given authority” is way off. Maybe he doesn’t want to be constantly working in such close proximity to a woman.

      • כל משימות שבישראל, אין ממנים בהם אלא איש. Earlier the term used is כל שררות שבישראל. Later we find כל השררות וכל המינויין שבישראל. That is the halacha, at least according to the Rambam, and most poskim hold that the halacha is like him, or at least that we must be חושש for his opinion. Certainly R Kook held like the Rambam, and therefore R Levanon (who is himself one of the great poskim of today) is well within his rights to follow that psak.

        You can argue around it, and debate what is a משימה or a שררה or a מינוי and what is not. You can also argue that in a particular case an exception should be made, as it was for Shmaya and Avtalyon, and for Agripas I. But you cannot deny the basic halacha, that women and gerim may not hold a position of authority.

            • I really hope that you are not around normal people during the day. I assume that you serve some purpose but I can’t see Hashem being that cruel. If by some odd chance you are married, you ought to check on your wife. I think she has again escaped from the closet you locked her in.

            • One can defend women’s rights in the 21st century without liking Golda Meir. #34 was right. She was no paragon of virtue. Not to say she didnt do some good things, but she did some horrible things as well. Lets leave her out of this.

        • The only solution is to ban men from running for office. With committees filled by women and only women there will be no problem with men and women mixing. Let the men do what they’re supposed to – sit and learn. Problem solved.

          • It doesn’t. In what siman would you expect it? There is no siman in the SA corresponding to Hilchot Melachim in the Rambam. The SA doesn’t cover areas of halacha that were not practical in the 17th century, and melachim is one of those. And there isn’t really another convenient place to discuss it.

            • I dunno. Even in the 16th century there were people with communal responsilibites, right? This makes me wonder if the SA really thought of this as an issur at all. But of course, it is hard to proove things from omissions. …

            • The law was relevant, but in which section would you put it? The section it which it belongs, hilchos melochim, is not in SA. So even relevant laws relating to that subject are not found in SA.

            • Seems to me, am haaertez that I am, that if the SA thought this was a Halacah Gemura he would have made a siman just for that. Perhaps in choshen mispat somewhere. But I dunno. In general he uses the same breakdown as the Tur, so if the Tur didnt discuss it… But the fact is that we are not talking about Hilchot Beit HaBechiara here.

    6. Too bad males are so insecure Females should not hold back when wanting to do
      something. She should not ask males if she can or cannot do something. Males will always say no because they need to be superior. A wife should not have to go thru
      her husband She is an individual and most likely smarter then the husband.
      Rabbis should start telling women to ” go for it” especially since they are
      supporting husbands and children
      Rabbis should stop saying what a female and or cannot do It is not their
      busisness Arlene

      • you realize that you’re being just as sexist as the men that you are critisizing. “most likely smarter than the husband” are you listening to yourself? the hypocrisy is unbelievable. “males will always say no because they need to be superior” what a mature analysis, you clearly know what youre talking about.

      • And thats why the YI movement has been in long-term decline and many MO families are affiliating with independent shuls that are fully shomrei torah umitzvot without the need to devalue yiddeshe women.

        • is the torah a popularity contest cv? for many of us these halachos are difficult to accept but it once again comes down to kabalos ol.i mean it. this is very hard for me.

          • Eshter, you dont have to accept every piece of Talibanism in Orthodox society. You can be a fine Yorat Shamayim and still think women should have a place in public life. Really. Dont let anyone guilt you of that.

    7. Rav Levanon demonstrates a profound ignorance of halacha and relies upon the views of rav Kook whose opinions have been rejected by most contemporary poskim. He shows himself to be insecure and wishing to subordinate women from contributing directly the kehilla (except through their husbands). The tragedy is that this woman felt the need to even raise this shaylah anonymously to Levanon rather than simply announcing her candidacy.

          • Of course not. That would be suicidal. Halving your own community’s votes, when those with opposing interests exercise their full voting strength, would be stupid. But that doesn’t mean women *should* be allowed to vote. In any event, the issue here is not voting but running for positions of authority which halacha does not allow women (or gerim) to hold.

            • Lets take this a step further. If its assur, what kind of issur is it? In other words, if a woman goes ahead and gets public office, what exactly must she, uhm, do thesuvah for ? Its my contention, although I cant proove it at the moment, that this sort of thing isnt really an issur gamur at all. Its more along the lines of “Chazal didnt like it”. (You’re not claiming this is some kind of Issur Do’raita are you?)

              BTW, Like my new name? I do….It comes having diverse friends.

            • Thats not the only way it would be suicidal. Imagine telling your wife she couldnt vote. You forbid it. Let me know how that works out…

    8. I think this “rabbi” is a insecure person who will never understand how jews are supposed to treat women. The sad part is that so many gullible students will follow without question this fatwa

    9. The woman asked her Rabbi a sheiloh whether she should run for public office. He answered no because of tznius. Perfectly understandable. AJewish woman’s place is not in politics, but in the home where her husband and children need her. The secular media added the “authority” part.

      And Devorah hanavieh did not run for office.

      • No, the secular media did not add the “authority” part; it is central to the halacha on this matter. If council secretary is a “position of authority” within the legal definition of that term, then in principle a woman may not hold it. That is what the Torah says, and we must all accept it. There may be exceptions in practise, but not in principle.

      • B”H. Had she done so, these Rabbis would never have voted for her, just because she was female. She would have been lost as a contributor the Klal Yisrael. Ask yourself.. “what is wrong with this picture”?

        Frankly, the woman here made a mistake in asking. There are times when women need to ignore this Talibanism. Yeah, Holy Halachah has within it certain Taliban tendencies. This is true. Its also true that we no longer flog or do the slavery thing. Get over it. Democratic societies have taught us a few things. Rights of women to be heard, vote (even if not like their husbands if they have one) and run for public office without harassment is one of them.

    10. There is no clear ruling anywhere in Chazal about what public position a woman may hold. It is quite clear in Shass and all the major poskim that women cannot be dayanim, chazzanim etc. Not that ch”v they are considered inferior, just different.
      Indeed, until the Beis Yaakov movement started in Poland after WW1 – i.e. less than 100 years ago – most frum women couldn’t read or write. The reasons for this are complex and with a few isolated exceptions there were no women, jewish or non-jewish, in high positions. Of course what they did then and should do now is support their husbands, including those in high office (ezer kenegdoi).
      It is true that now things are entirely different but anything involving yiddishkeit must obviously be paskened by a rov. Preferably the Moroh D’Asro rather than one of the gedolim who will not necessarily be familiar with the particular shaaloh.

      • Rav Uziel held that a woman can be a Dayan for property disputes as long as the parties accept her — he said so in the very tshuvah that was accepted over the opinion of Rav Kook.

        • Everybody holds that 2 parties can agree who should be the independent arbitrator in a financial dispute between them. Even a non-jew. Believe it or not, even you!
          That does not make them a dayan. Just a referee.

        • Of course a woman can arbitrate with the consent of the parties. Whoever suggested otherwise? The parties can agree between themselves to any sort of arbitration they like, including a coin toss. What has that got to do with anything?

          • I think the point is that perhaps a distinction can be made between an appointed office and an elected one. If someone runs for public office and wins, its because most people (who vote) have *agreed* that that person should be in that role. So even if a minority doesnt like it, the fact is that winning an election implies that there is a “will of the people”. And that that counts. That is the argument here.

            • Then it’s a foolish argument. Any appointment by the community to a position of authority must by definition have that community’s consent, reflecting the will of the people; after all, if the community didn’t consent then who exactly is doing the appointing? And yet the Torah commands us “som tosim olecho melech — velo malkoh”.

            • Personaly, I have problem with women being in positions of authority, thank you. I’m into the competence thing. I dont care about much else. But as an argument, the fact is that appointments are not the same as elections. An election means it is known for a fact that a majority of voters agreed. An appointment has no such implicaiton.

    11. The man’s afraid of women. It’s just that simple. If a woman was incapable of succeeding in a leadership position, then nobody would ever vote for them. The only reason to ban them is that they might do a better job, and make certain rabbis look… well, inadequate.

    12. With all due respect to this Rabbi, does he live in this day and age or does he live 200 years ago?? Does he have electricity and running water or does he use a well for water?? Since women do not have to learn how to read, how would they learn to cook? I rest my case!! I hope VIN posts this.

    13. Women are not invited to the meeting in our shuls, are not even allowed to vote in our shuls, and certainly are not allowed to be elected to any shul’s boards or any other positions. And nobody seems to have a problem with any of it. So why such invective against the posek whose psak is no different from our ‘facts on the ground’?

      • Say what? Lots of people have a problem with those things. Me for example. You just arent hanging around a very diverse crowd. Not everyone is into the Taliban thing.

        • Ok, let me rephrase my original assertion:

          “And nobody, with the noted exception of Reformed Fred, seems to have a problem with any of it.”

          Sounds better?

    14. You know, I just noticed something. The women in question wanted to remain anonymous. Why do you suppose that would be? Does that tell you something?

    15. Reading many halachic topic comment trails is mamash the kosher entertainment I am looking for. Not that it doesn’t make me said if I contemplate on how Yidden think today, but entertaining it is.
      To let you in on my perspective, the argument usually goes down like this.
      There is an article, reasonably accurate stating some halachic position. Commenting starts either attacking or defending the opinion. Sometimes completely illogically the guy who was machmir becomes a meichel and vica versa from topic to topic.
      I think I figured it out.
      It’s the Yetzer Hara talking. I mean everybody has one, and it’s different from people to people. And it’s funny, except that it’s not.
      Like here, people are arguing saying ‘It’s a different day and age” etc. Don’t any of them realize, it’s a halachic dispute, and their opinion on the modernity of the Rav or the psak is at best irrelevant? Why don’t they scream “It’s too Sunny today?” That has the same relevance. Because the YH has to r a t i o n a l i z e its position so they can lean back (Charlie Hall) and be so very content with their wise comment.
      I also have a YH, it made me write this comment 🙂

      • I think you mamash need to go back to the Beis HaMedrash, where you and your kosher male friends can mamash look back on the good old days, when we had flogging, slavery and women knew their place. Before the evil modern age Mamash.

    16. I have a single friend whose father died – she can do want she wants. Most elected officials have problems, either with their zippers, their egos, their power, etc. The only problem female politicians have is that they did not pay social security tax on their illegal nannies. Are we concerned of an average woman holding power of the decision of the Rabbi’s or a bright woman who is an oveid hashem only listening to Rabbi A and not Rabbi B. A woman’s place is raising her children, that is why females were created and while most of these meetings are at night, as with any job offer you look to see how it will affect you, your family and your environment. Having satisfactory answers to that, the only other concern is the breach of Tznius of a woman putting herself forward either for votes or favors from other politicians (asking for things), there are capable woman, who would do well and others that would lose there chein. If this woman asked the Rabbi anonymously I don’t think the answer applies to her and general statements that are not directed from the Torah are always left up to interpretation, regardless of Rav Kook’s feelings.

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