Re: Women's Tefilah Groups

Eliezer C Abrahamson (
Mon, 30 Dec 1996 19:15:52 EST

Adam Szpiro wrote:
>In any case, one must contend with the following from the Maharal of Prague:
>"It is more fitting and correct to decide on the basis of the Talmud.
>[This is true] even if there is a chance that [in this way] he [the
>judge] might not arrive at the truth and might not decide the law
>correctly according to the real meaning [of the Talmud]. In any case,
>all a Halakhic authority has is what his own intelligence understands
>from the Talmud. Even if his intelligence and wisdom mislead him, he is
>nevertheless beloved of the Lord when he rules as his intelligence
>directs him because a judge must be guided only by what his own eyes see.
>Such a judge is better than one who, like a blind traveler on a highway,
>decides on the basis of a code without understanding the underlying
>rationale at all."
>In our context, we need only substitue "the rulings of gedolim" for "a code"
>in the above statement to understand the Maharal's point.

Without addressing the issue of women's prayer groups, I believe Adam is
misunderstanding the Maharal's statement (for which he provides no
citation). When the Maharal says, "Such a judge is better than one
who... decides on the basis of a code without understanding the
underlying rationale at all", the operative phrase is "without
understanding". Obviously, a judge cannot issue a decision without a full
understanding of the Halachic issues involved. However, there is nothing
wrong with following a code if, based upon a full analysis in the
Talmudic sources, one has ascertained that the decision as cited in the
code *does* apply to the situation at hand. Indeed, under those
conditions a judge may well be *required* to follow the code unless he
has strong evidence that the code's decision is not accepted by
authorities of equal stature. The same reasoning would apply to "the
rulings of gedolim" [current leading authorities] to, perhaps, an even
stronger degree. For, unlike an older code (such as the Shulchan Aruch),
the rulings of our gedolim take into consideration many of the extenuating
circumstances of our generation. It is conceivable for a particular p'sak
(ruling) in the SA to not be applicable due to changed circumstances, but
the ruling of a gadol is made with those changed circumstances in mind. The
Mahara'l is not saying that the codes may be ignored, he is saying that
reliance on a code without an understanding of the Talmudic reasoning
behind it is improper.

Adam Szpiro also wrote:
>I do not mean to suggest that the Halakhic process adheres to the model
>suggested above by the Maharal. But the fact that he held such views
indicates >that things are far more complicated than one might guess from
Yaakov Menken's >argument.

I believe it is clear that the Halachic process *does* adhere to the
Maharal's view (as quoted by Adam).

With regard to R' Menken's description of the Halachic process, it is
true that, in light of the absence of a formal Halachic hierarchy, it is
something of an oversimplification. Nevertheless, it is essentially
correct. Obviously, there are rabbi's who are qualified to make decisions
which will impact on the entirety of Klal Yisroel and there are those who
are not. The difficulty is in determining who possesses this status.
While the qualifications for such power are based primarily upon the
person's Torah knowledge and Yiraas Shamayim (Fear of Heaven) (which is
absolutely vital), effectively such status is conferred by the consensus
of other religious Jews. To a large degree, the stature of the Jews who
confer such status is also important. Obviously, a rabbi who gains his
primary support from people who are generally less knowledgable and less
committed to Torah cannot and should not have the same stature as one
who's primary support is from people with greater Torah knowledge and

Kol tuv,
Eliezer C. Abrahamson
176 East 9th St., Lakewood, NJ 08701
(908) 905-6877 e-mail: