Partnership Prayer and the Essence of Orthodoxy

I’d like readers to know about this great analysis of partnership minyans by Rabbi Alan J. Yuter, of the Union for Traditional Judaism. What we see here is an excerpt. For the full article click here.


Partnership prayer groups aim to maximize women’s participation in communal prayer to what its community takes to be Halakhah’s red lines. Mustering every technical legal loophole that can be found, women act as cantors for Qabbalat Shabbat, they serve as Torah readers, they receive aliyyot to the Torah, and communal prayer begins with the quorum of ten men and ten women. While taking their nod and example from the liberal, egalitarian movements, these semi-egalitarian communities chose to locate themselves within “Orthodoxy,” or Traditional Jewish law.

Siddur Barchu Koren

I. The Hardline Mainstream Opposition to Partnership prayer

At Partnership minyanim (full article at Partnership-minyanim.pdf), Rabbi Barry Freundel, an unusually energetic, urbane, and learned modern Orthodox rabbi before he fell from grace in scandal, strongly opposed Partnership prayer. The positions he held never deviated from the mainstream modern institutional Orthodox ritual consensus, but he positioned himself as an enlightened spokesman for that consensus.

Women have been forbidden in Ashkenazi Orthodoxy, which R. Freundel takes to be a religiously binding category called “tradition,” to participate in many public rituals, like slaughtering animals. In popular practice, this social “tradition” is allowed to override the Oral Torah canonical Tradition, which explicitly permits women to slaughter animals [m Hullin 1:1].  (… and much more in the full paper)

II. The Moderate Opposition to Partnership prayer

At, R. Michael Broyde offers a much more nuanced, scholarly, and thoughtful response to women leading Kabbalat Shabbat prayers.

This important post assumes that Halakhah is really Law and, if it is to endure as Law, should not be subject to rhetorical manipulation.  Broyde argues that women’s leading Qabbalat Shabbat and, by implication, Partnership Prayer, may be legally permitted but to his view is bad policy because the public gestures inadvertently give improper and confusing social signals. (… and much more in the full paper)

III. The Advocate for Partnership Prayer

At The Path of Halacha, Women Reading the Torah: A Case of Pesika Policy, Rubin Mass, Jerusalem, 2007 (Hebrew) and Rabbi Professor Daniel Sperber, Rabbi Mendel Shapiro, Professor Eliav Shochetman and Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin, Women and Men in Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives (KTAV, Mar 10, 2010), the modern Orthodox great sage, R. Sperber makes his case for permissive renderings on women’s issues.

At – Sperber.pdf, R. Sperber again presents his case clearly, elegantly, and convincingly. According to the paper’s abstract, the principle of human dignity/kevod ha-beriyyot, which in theory overrides at least one Torah law, provides sufficient warrant to override the restriction of women’s aliyyot in those communities where the community is not offended by the practice.

As a matter of public disclosure, I do regard R. Sperber to be the poseq ha-dor of and for modern Orthodoxy. I make this judgment because he reads the canonical texts both philologically and juridically better than almost any sage that comes to mind and he is pastorally attentive to the human condition to which his rulings are applied. (… and much more in the full paper)

You can comment on this post here on the UTJ Facebook page.


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