♫ Al aileh ani bochiah, aini yordah mayim.
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Additional Kabbalat Shabbat: What and WhyI just wanted the oilam to notice that Weiss still calls Hurwitz by the title Rabba, despite his alleged concession to the RCA to stop using the title.
This additional Kabbalat Shabbat tefillah is an opportunity for the Bayit to express our commitment to expanding women's roles in tefillah within the bounds of halakhah, which is a part of our broader vision of inclusiveness and openness. At the same time, we aim to balance it with our commitment to our Orthodox identity.
The tefillah will meet in the 2nd Floor Beit Midrash. As all Bayit tefillot do, it will maintain a mehitzah (separation between men and women), and the prayer leader will occupy a distinct space that can be accessed by men or women at separate times, exactly modeling the Main Sanctuary. We will offer a participatory Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv with much song, following the style of the Main Sanctuary's Friday night tefillah.
Kabbalat Shabbat will be led by a woman. This is a halakhically acceptable practice, and models our values as indicated above. In anticipation of interest in the following issues, we want to lay out the factors which are raised regarding this type of tefillah. We invite you to talk with Rav Steven and Rabba Sara with further concerns or conversation on these topics.
Nature Of Kabbalat Shabbat
Kabbalat Shabbat is not an obligatory prayer service and contains no devarim shebikdushah (liturgical elements like Barkhu and Kedushah which have male leaders). No distinctions are made between men's and women's involvement in Kabbalat Shabbat in the general literature about this tefillah. For both of these reasons, there are no issues surrounding the leader fulfilling the obligations of the congregation across gender lines.
Kol Ishah (A Woman's Voice)
This topic has been analyzed and reanalyzed in contemporary times, and halakhic attitudes regarding men hearing women's voices vary widely. We will study this topic together in the coming months for those who wish to deepen their understanding of it. For now, two relevant points can clarify how this affects our tefillah:
1) A number of halakhic sources point out that (based on sources as early as the Talmud) kol ishah is not a
concern where women are chanting in a liturgical context
2) From the Talmud to medieval sources through contemporary writers, a common thread regarding questions
of women's voice have seen this in a contextual light: in a setting which is modest where the singing is in a
modest and respectful fashion, the kol ishah prohibition does not obtain. A compelling analysis in this
regard was recently written by R' David Bigman, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Maale Gilboa, and may be seen
In our own Bayit, we have a few precedents for this kind of women's leadership. This is our second tefillah of this type this year, following one in December in which various women led Kabbalat Shabbat mizmorim. In addition, women lead Kinot on Tisha B'Av and sing at other occasions throughout the year (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Yom Hashoah). We have mixed readings of the Megillot throughout the calendar year as well.
Broader Orthodox Context
We recognize that this type of tefillah is not practiced in other Orthodox synagogues. We hope other synagogues will make room for this inclusive vision of tefillah. Nonetheless, in deference to our own inclusive values beyond women's involvement, and not wanting to distance ourselves from the Orthodox communal standards, we are not having this tefillah as our only Friday night tefillah, but as an addition to the Main Sanctuary tefillah. At this time, this tefillah is meeting occasionally, as we gauge response and interest.
If you have questions or concerns or wish to learn more, please contact Rav Steven at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or any member of the rabbinic staff. Much more discussion of these topics is available at www.jofa.org,
www.edah.org, and in the new book Rabbi Dr. Sperber recently discussed in the Bayit, "Women and Men in
Communal Prayer: Halakhic Perspectives".