Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Can a Woman Serve as a Rabbi?

Can a woman serve as Rabbi? In an insightful letter (courtesy of the Nissan Mindel Archives) written to a woman from Winnipeg, Canada, the Rebbe addresses this issue.

We have also included a picture of the Rebbe (courtesy of the Rebbe Archive; special thanks to Yechi Ezagui).

Good Shabbos,

By the Grace of G-d

Winnipeg 9, Man., Canada

Blessings and Greetings:

I am receipt of your letter of_, as well as the previous correspondence. It surprises me somewhat that you ask my opinion on a question which I have already replied to you long ago; inasmuch as you press the subject, I will again give you my unequivocal opinion. It is:

The primary function of the Jewish woman is to be the Akeres Habayis (foundation of the Jewish home), namely to establish and conduct her home in accordance with the Torah, Toras Chaim, and the Mitzvoth, whereby Jews live. And to the extent that it does not conflict with the Jewish sense of Tznius (modesty), the Jewish woman is also expected to participate in charitable activities in support of worthy institutions, etc., and the like. It is altogether not within her sphere, nor should it be her aspiration, to be (G-d forbid) a Rabbi. This stand has been firmly established in various authoritative Jewish sources. As a matter of fact, the more familiar a Jewish woman is with the Torah world outlook, and the more versed she is in her knowledge of the Torah in this area, the better she should realize that it is not her province to be a Rabbi. The very aspiration to be one is in itself proof of the lack of adequate knowledge and feeling of the true Jewish outlook on life.

As already mentioned above, I have already indicated to you my views on this subject, though perhaps in different words. I repeated only on your insistence. I want to add again that this stand is no reflection (G-d forbid) upon a woman’s worthiness or intelligence, etc. It has to do only with the particular function which has been Divinely allocated to particular things in the word, and the function of a woman, as noted above is to be the Akeres Habayis and to contribute her share in the areas of philanthropy and social service, which are not less important then the functions of a Rabbi.

I trust that the above will once and for all resolve your question, so that there will be no point in any further discussion on this matter.

With blessing.

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