Sunday, July 17, 2005

Aristocracy on the Beach

I spent Shabbat in Westhampton. Certainly not a place I would ever feel comfortable in, but certainly an experience. The Hampton Synagogue is touted as Steven Speilberg's preferred place of worship. He wasn't around this week, though.

While there, I took a look at their library and found the fifth volume of Be-Mar'eh ha-Bazak. I have a firm belief that every obscure library (originally the theory related to synagogues on IDF bases, but I am considering an expansion) has a book that I have not found in any other library. Of course, this book probably is found elsewhere, but I couldn't find it when I wanted it.

Be-Mar'eh ha-Bazak is a collection of responsa issued by the students at the Eretz Hemda Institute, which trains judges for the religious courts in Israel. Of course, the religious court system in Israel is hopelessly nepotistic, and only Haredim are ever appointed. As far as I know, a small fraction of their graduates have achieved positions within the court system, and those mostly on the periphery.

What they do, though, is answer halachic questions sent to them from around the world, by fax (hence the "flash" in the title). This, latest, volume contains a series of questions relating to the Internet and Shabbat. They leave a great deal of room for manuevering, but my impression was that a commercial website should not be operating on Shabbat.

Interestingly, a look at the sitemeter for this blog shows that, consistently, hits drop to almost zero over Shabbat. And, since I am certainly not making any money here, I think I am perfectly justified in keeping my site open all week long.

In other news, someone has published a historical novel about Rashi's daughters. It looks like it's worth a closer look. Of course, even if they weren't revolutionary feminists, Rashi's daughters had a profound impact on the history of halacha. Virtually every major French tosafist was a descendent of Rashi. The obvious ones are Rashbam, Rabbenu Tam and R Yitshak of Dampiere. But there were many more. To the extent that it is hard to accept Avraham Grossman's claim that, unlike the hierarchical, plutocratic yeshivot of the Geonim, the Tosafist movement was profoundly democratic. True, there were plenty of students who were not of illustrious lineage. But the big names seem overwhelmingly well-born.


Anonymous Rosie said...

I don't mean to be picky, but how much good do we do the Jewish world when we call giving birth to a scholar (or several) - having "a profound influence on the history of halakhah"? Given that a few too many members of our people think the end all and be all of women's contribution to the history of halakhah is to give birth (to men), I hope that Anton's novel will help us imagine them (and all the others) in a somewhat more thoughtful way.

5:25 AM  
Anonymous francine marino said...

At the risk of being even pickier: They were not just well-born, but probably also well-bred, by none other than their parents - mothers included. Giving birth to and, more importantly, raising great offspring is a challenge and a worthy accomplishment. While this may not be the only contribution women can make to the history of halakhah it ought to be acknowledged as a significant one.

11:50 AM  
Blogger anonymous said...

From the blurb on amazon:

"The eldest daughter finds her mind and spirit awakened with her learning, yet knows she must keep her knowledge hidden, even from her betrothed"

This sounds HIGHLY unlikely. The notion that the learning was kept secret is more in tune with charedi mores of today than even one century ago, where education was not expected to be even, and it was not unheard of for rabbis daughers to be learned - and there was no need to hide that! Today, with everyone going thru the same educational system, charedi women are much more likely to be perceived as trying to change society if they openly admit to learning seriously, but again, it's tolerated as long as they don't turn it into a cause and hardly the sort of thing that would need to be kept from a potential suiter - esp if the woman's father is a rosh yeshiva.

Makes me very skeptical of the sort of research done for historical background.

11:59 AM  

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