Rabbi Fink: If I Were An Haredi Woman I Would Not Be Happy

It always brings a smile to my face to behold the reaction of my non-Jewish customers when our conversation turns toward our kids. Upon hearing that my children have no access to any form of media (i.e. TV, movies, radio, video games, Ipods, Iphones, internet, computers etc.), you can almost hear a loud crack as their jaws drop to the floor. It usually takes me another twenty minutes to convince them that, no, my children do not feel deprived and yes, they are quite happy with their lives, thank you very much. After all that, they still leave shaking their heads in wonder and full of rachmanus (pity), pure rachmanus, for my poor, bored children.

Which brings us to one of Rabbi Eli Fink’s latest articles. In it he takes issue with Chaya, and with the  exuberant joy and pleasure she find in her Chassidic lifestyle. He finds her story to be subjective and not necessarily representative of her community as a whole. As a rule, he is correct, one person’s experience cannot be extrapolated to reflect the society in which they live. Societal temperature can be taken with data alone, not through anecdotal and biased experiences. Had he stopped there, we would not object. But he continues and falls head first into the twin traps of moral arrogance and circular reasoning all neatly wrapped together with a nice bow of projection.

Rabbi Fink’s problem with Chasidism’s (really Orthodoxy’s) treatment of women? In a word, Feminism. To him, feminism, the idea of gender equality, that whatever one gender can do the other should be able to do as well, is sacrosanct. It is natural, undeniable and settled morality. Hence, he takes us for a ride. Come along.

Since Rabbi Fink believes that feminism rocks, therefore everyone believes that feminism rocks, that women should be able to do whatever men do. It follows that all women, including Haredi women, also believe that they should be able to what men do. Therefore, since Haredi women can’t do all that men can do, then ipso facto one can surmise that many of them are unhappy. You still with me?

See how easy that was? Never mind that feminism is rejected by as many women that accept it, if not more. Never mind that using Rabbi Fink’s logic, it is adherents to feminist ideology who should (and often are) miserable, considering that after 50+ years of feminist agitation, it is still a man’s world, by a mile. Disregarding the misery and suffering wrought by the social engineering of feminism, his article can be termed sheer fallacy for one simple reason: You cannot project your values on others and then use those values as a yardstick to divine their feelings.

Charedi girls are raised quite lovingly and competently with a totally different set of values. In their worldview, what they strive for and the goals they seek are as easy (or as difficult) to attain as it is for men. Were Rabbi Fink in charge it might be different, but as it stands Chassidic women, by and large, could care less about feminism. While there are surely some to whom the ways of feminism hold sway and may therefore feel chained in a Chasidic lifestyle, there are also many girls born to feminist families who feel their femininity undermined by the constant comparisons to men. Exceptions just prove the rule.

Were we to adopt the thought process of Rabbi Fink, then we Orthodox Jews would feel deep, heartfelt pity for our secular brethren, not to mention non-Jews. Surely they can’t be happy without the restful spirituality of Shabbos?? Rabbi Fink would be the first to condemn such holier-than-thou arrogance. An American boy without video games is a bored soul, therefore a pity on the millions of sub-Saharan teenagers with their Nintendo-deficient lifestyle.

The truth is, I hesitate to be too hard on Rabbi Fink, he is after all, not a happy man. How could he be, being that he doesn’t wear a Shtreimal on Shabbos!

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36 thoughts on “Rabbi Fink: If I Were An Haredi Woman I Would Not Be Happy

  1. I had to stop reading as soon as I saw you “accuse” Rabbi Fink of feminism. I don’t remember the title, but Rabbi Fink has a post on his blog that addresses this concern. He states in it that he does not think we should be ordaining female rabbis–that Judaism has complex attitudes towards women in leadership positions–but that women should be learning. He says that women should strive to study as many Jewish works as possible in order to eventually become a bigger part of Orthodox Judaism. Please don’t twist his words and claim that he holds a position that many women disagree with. If you have a problem with women being allowed to learn Gemara, you can try explaining to them exactly why it has been forbidden knowledge to them for hundreds of years.

    • What you describe above IS feminism. The fact that he doesn”t take it all the way is irrelevant (and contradictory). My point is that charedi women have no desire to do what men do, that “need” to be like men is feminist in origin.

      He can feel free to subscribe to it but charedi women don”t.

      You do know that it is the Gemara ITSELF that forbids women to learn Gemara, right?

      • It’s feminism to suggest that women be educated? I’m not saying that they should be wearing tefillin or making a minyan–yes, men and women have different roles. When you say that allowing women to learn about their religion is feminism, that’s really just an issue of semantics. And yes, I know that the Gemara and, as far as I know, all Rishonim say that women cannot learn Gemara, but you have to remember their reasoning. In those days, it was a fact of life that women were left uneducated and therefore were indeed to simple-minded to study Talmud. However, things have changed nowadays and, like it or not, the vast majority of women in Western society are educated and areperfectly fit for the study of Gemara.

          • That’s exactly my point. I think after nearly 100 years, most of the Jewish world can agree that Frau Schnierer was right. Yes, she encountered massive resistance, because at the time, women were not educated at all. As the world continues to progress, we have to acknowledge the fact that women have demonstrated that they are just as capable of learning. It started with girls learning Torah in Bais Yaakov, and it’s continuing to snowball. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to bring a precedent from R’ Yosef Soloveitchik on this blog, but just to be safe, I’ll ask you to recall that his Maimonides school began teaching Gemara to girls. Just as Frau Schnierer adapted to the times–and was proven right–so should we.

        • Things have changed, halacha hasn’t. As for “educated”, that’s a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say that to us it is a means to an end not an end onto itself.

          In their unique role, women are highly educated, trust me. We would never have survived without their “education”. It’s just in different subjects than men.

  2. That said, Haredi please look for targets other than Rabbi Fink. There are many easy ones to shoot at and I don’t understand why you’d direct your slings and arrows at him.

    • I don’t direct at people, just at what they write. Why should I disregard his words, especially when they are more often than not attacking haredim?

          • >Part ignorance,
            Unlike most he is an alumnus of one of the Great Yeshivas. I’d call him a Kharedi insider

            > part double standard,
            The Torah is replete with double, triple and quadruple standards. This is among the fundamental (excuse the expression) yesodos of Havdala Consciousness.

            > totally unfair.
            Is הקב”ה מדקדק עם חסידיו כחוט השערה totally unfair.?

            We Kharedim can’t have it both ways. It we hold (and in all honesty we do) that we are on a higher spiritual rung than others then we ought to expect, not reject, closer and more exacting scrutiny..

            Leave him alone. there are targets with redder and longer diameter bulls eyes.

        • Wow! I’m actually baffled by this hypocrisy. If you have an intellectual disagreement with someone, there’s no reason not to question their views. I think this comment demonstrates what you’re all about. Unlike Hareidi, who apparently genuinely wants to defend his Hashkafa, you seem to be concerned more with attackinh people you don’t like.

          • Arie-

            guilty as charged. I am the most unsavory, viscous, vindictive, venomous, vituperative, J-Blogger in the entire J-Blogosphere. I have no principles just friends and, mostly, enemies. I am the Polar opposite of Somehow Frum. A Bird of a Feather with UnOrthodox Jew and Failed Messiah. Just read my blog and you’ll see. But please, just read my blog 😉

  3. Do as I say, not as I do

    My kids don’t have access to the internet, but (in spite of rabbinic rulings) I have unfettered access to the internet, in fact, I shamelessly go against the rabbanim and have my own Blog. Sounds like someone picks and chooses when to listen to the rabbanim. Do as I say, not as I do

  4. imitatio dei
    k’vyokhol G-d sometimes also says: “Do as I say, not as I do”

    Don’t be a Baal gayveh
    Don’t “eat” Khelev and Dahm
    Don’t kill
    Honor your parents
    Even though I divorced you, you still owe me something…nay everything
    to name a few

        • Bray,

          He’s been baiting me about this because he thinks it makes him look clever. I never respond, neither should you. Being ignored is what these guys hate the most.

          Remember, don’t feed the trolls.

          • I have been baiting you and will continue to do so – I am waiting for an answer. Give me some justification

          • You ignore because you have no answer. Much like almost every other blogger, there is a lot of ranting and a lot of hypocrisy.

    • That’s not an appropriate comparison. We do say that Hashem follows his own teachings, but, for example, he is allowed to kill because, as God, he can rely on midah kneged midah. Only God can do this, though, because humans are not able to read minds and intentions and cannot judge without all the evidence (this excludes courts, of course, whose purpose is to gather the evidence). Your comparison is essentially saying that Hareidi is God to his children–he is high and mighty and doesn’t have to worry about making a mistake, but they do. That’s not the kind of example I would want my father setting.

      • That’s not an appropriate comparison. We do say that Hashem follows his own teachings,

        Mostly yes but , as in examples that I cited, for whatever reasons,sometimes not. the critic who attacked Haredi for modeling a particular behavior that he would not want his own children to emulate is, In my infallible opinion, out of line

        • Did you ignore the rest of my comment? It’s not “for whatever reasons”–God is omniscient. His ability to understand exactly what is going on in any given situation (being that he created the possibility for that situation to happen), including the thoughts and feelings of those involved, allows Him to make judgments that humans cannot normally make. No human should be compared to God in this way. That what you would have others not do, you should not do yourself. Who are you to judge what is appropriate for you but not others?

  5. 1) If i remember correctly the main thrust of Rabbi Fink’s column wasn’t so much feminism but that Chaya, a baalas teshuvah to Chabad, was presenting her story as if it was typical of all Chasidic women which it is not. There are also a few straight out inaccuracies in her piece which needed to be pointed out.
    2) The issue of women being educated is not cut and dried, nor has it ever been. Gemara is not the sum total of Jewish education.

    • Rabbi Fink’s piece is nothing more than projection. As I stated in the OP he assumes unhappiness on the part of haredi women because they don’t have what HE thinks they should want to have.

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