Another gripe from the cheap seats

I’ve been watching a bit of discussion bubbling around on Facebook about a Yeshiva University rabbinical student who has gotten in some amount of trouble over participation in a partnership minyan. (See my critique of the phenomenon and especially the purportedly normative “Modern Orthodox” treatment of it here.)

And now, here we have the story in the Jewish Week.

YU can ordain, or not, whomever it wants. But the partnership minyanim issue cropping its head again lets us see the problem with continuing to plow these worn-over, arid fields of halakhah and women’s issues in the frum world.

Look, let’s just say it already: much of halakhah as it exists and is interpreted in the “Orthodox” world, along the whole spectrum of flavors, is an exercise in the subjugation of women.

It appears to me that we’ve seen no more progress in the Orthodox world now than we did in the medieval period on the status of women, where except for “important women” (nashim chashuvot) women were not obliged–which is to say, considered free and at liberty–to recline at the Passover seder. (b. Pesahim 108a; see Rashbam on b. Pesahim 108a, s.v. isha ein tz’rikha haseba: “A woman is not obliged to recline: on account of awe of her husband, and she bends [ukh’fufah, from kaf-pe-pe–to bend or subdue] to him”). That little (nonexistent?) amount of progress extends as well to issues like laying tefillin and, apparently, leading the portions of prayers that are generally deemed less important.

Whether that exercise is subconscious or conscious, I simply don’t take as believable claims that restrict women qua women that also say, “I’ve been a friend for women” in other contexts. As I’ve noted before, that’s simply bullshit.