Rabbi Avraham Yosef, son of Ovadia Yosef, responds to question as to whether a woman can prepare a boy for his bar mitzvah.
By JONAH MANDEL
A woman teaching 10-year-old boys is compromising their chastity, according to Holon’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Yosef, son of senior Sephardi adjudicator Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.In an answer to a listener’s question during his program on haredi radio station Kol Hai as to whether a woman could prepare a youth for his bar mitzva Torah reading, Yosef took the opportunity to set the boundaries for pedagogical interactions in general between boys and women.RELATED:Synagogue shuts counseling center due to ‘immodesty’“A woman can teach boys so long as it takes place in a large area with no risk of her being alone with the pupils’ fathers, up to the third grade and by no means beyond. This means the age of nine, perhaps a bit more... but fourth grade and higher would be considered a woman standing before boys who understand, and that is promiscuity and totally prohibited.”Regarding the question at hand of a woman teaching a boy the Torah reading, Yosef added on an initial age-related prohibition concerning the “distortion” of “women trying to be like men in the name of equality,” which he said is a “female craziness” that is becoming more and more prevalent.“This is a wrong approach, God created us different and separately,” he explained.The modern Orthodox feminist group Kolech on Thursday said in response to the promiscuity claim that “it is wrong to attribute such thoughts to such young boys. This is an expression of the lack of faith in the possibility to conduct a normal dialogue between a woman and a boy, that we believe could carry educational and moral value.Advertisement“We would also like to wonder why we didn’t hear Rabbi Yosef speak out against men heading institutions in which pubescent girls study, or the many men who teach at such places,” Kolech said. “To point a finger only at the problematic element of women teaching boys and not vice versa is hypocritical and immodest.”This is by no means the first controversial halachic interpretation that Yosef has issued. Last month he said that it would be better for women to not drive cars, especially in haredi areas, for reasons of modesty. In August, ahead of the High Holidays, he ruled that judges and people with senior positions in secular authorities should be disqualified from leading prayers, and not even be counted in forming a 10- man group for prayer.
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