Beit Hillel says women are fully permitted and able to give rulings in Jewish law.
(photo credit: YUVAL BEN-YEHUDA)
The national-religious rabbinic association Beit Hillel has issued a ruling stating that women can serve as arbiters of Jewish law.
The notion of women issuing halachic decisions in Orthodox Judaism is a very new development and is not widely accepted, especially within the haredi community as well as the significant portions of the national-religious community.
In Beit Hillel’s new decision, the organization's rabbis state that it is permitted for women to give instruction on Jewish law, or halacha, and to issue halachic decisions.
“Anyone who has studied Jewish law is able to transmit it, including women learned in Torah who are qualified to teach halacha,” the organization said.
“This also applies in instances when determining the right course of action requires use of halachic discretion and ruling on uncertainties within Jewish law, and [male] halachic arbiters have said that a woman is allowed to teach Jewish law.”
The organization noted that “the value of Torah study has been attributed to women [as well as men] in our times,” and that greater numbers of women now study Talmud than ever before, saying that it should be obvious that women be allowed to give religious instruction because of these developments.
Additionally, Beit Hillel said that the involvement of women learned in Jewish law in giving religious instruction would lead more women to reach out for guidance in matters of religious law and would therefore increase religious observance since in the past such women may have preferred not to seek such counsel.
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“Religious instruction by learned women is, in practice, already an established fact,” said Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky, the head of the women’s study center at Beit Morasha Center for Advanced Judaic Studies and Leadership and a Beit Hillel board member.
“Women receive many requests [for halachic guidance] from a public which is thirsty for their rulings. It is [also] the case that it is not just women who turn to them, and the subjects asked of them are not only regarding Jewish law pertaining to women,” Tikochinsky continued.
“This is a great innovation of the last generation and we are privileged to have merited it,” she added.
Although there have been for several years women in the national religious community who have issued halachic rulings and also written responsa on Jewish law, Beit Hillel states that its ruling is the first time the practice has been formally affirmed in a written responsa of Jewish law.
Rabbi Amit Kula, the head of the Beit Hillel body for halachic decisions insisted that legitimacy for women to issue rulings in Jewish law was obvious.
“From the codifiers of Jewish law in the mediaeval period, to the arbiters of Jewish law in the 19th century and the chief rabbis of Israel, all of them have agreed that the field of instruction in Jewish law is open to qualified women,” said Kula.
Former Israeli chief rabbis Yitzhak Nissim, Yitzhak HaLevy Herzog and Bakshi Doron have all said that women are able and permitted to issue halachic decisions.
“It is my personal hope that we will merit the participation of women not just in Torah study but also in the responsibility to teach Jewish law and to transmit it through the generations,” Kula added.
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