Monday, August 09, 2010

Kol Isha and rabbinical hypocrisy

I've always been bothered by the Orthodox concept of "Kol Isha," that a woman's voice is inherently too sexy for your shul, too sexy to rule... ok, technically it's "ervah" or nakedness, meaning that a real Jewish guy hearing a woman sing will automatically become so horny he can't possibly concentrate on anything worthwhile and Torah True like saving orphans or oppressing stockbrokers or whatever.

Why am I bothered by this?

Well, for one thing, I'm a woman, and nobody ever asked me if I get too turned on by a guy singing and really want them to shut the hell up. (I guess it would depend on the guy. Barry White, for instance, should never chant the Shema.)

Also, it gets used as an excuse, among others, to prevent women from leading or even participating in communal worship and other activities that become the province of these same men who supposedly can't control themselves.

Seriously? You don't trust them to hear a woman sing, but you'll let them make halachic rulings? Way to go with the logic.

But the real clincher, for me, as to why this is a bogus argument when it comes to chanting or leading parts of a worship service, is embodied in the occasionally encountered tone-deaf Orthodox rabbi. Stay with me, here.

We pray, instead of offering up burnt offerings in the temple, because that's the substitute the rabbis came up with when the second temple was burned down.

Back when we had a temple, we had all sorts of rules about what offerings were acceptable, and who was qualified to make them. Left-handed kohens? Out. Cute little sheep with a twisted ankle? No way. No, really, people got KILLED (by GOD!) for bringing the wrong kinds of offerings.

So, if you accept that prayer is how WE make offerings, and that our prayers must be good enough to be considered proper offerings (who is this? Anyone who thinks you should have a gabbai, or who has ever argued about whether form or kavanah is more important), then prayer is, by definition, NOT singing - since you let someone who can't sing do it.

So, here's the deal. Either stop using Kol Isha as an excuse not to let women lead services, or ban tone-deaf rabbis. That's all I ask.

It will improve things for everyone either way.


Blogger The back of the hill said...

But women should NOT be silent!
In Shmuel, first chapter, Channah prayes silently, and thus convices Eli that she's tipsy as an owl.

Most frimniks are not nearly so heilig as Eli - it would be a great mitzvah to pray aloud and thus prevent them from misapprehending or making mistaken assumptions.

Sing it out! In public!

Lifnei iver lo titen michshol

Sefer Vayikra, parshas Kedoshim, psuk 19:14

8/09/2010 4:26 PM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"Seriously? You don't trust them to hear a woman sing, but you'll let them make halachic rulings? Way to go with the logic."

I've never quite understood that logic either. What's always struck me as interesting about the ancient (and some modern) rabbis' attitude toward women is that they don't seem to have a very high opinion of their own gender's sexual self-control, whereas they seem to take it for granted that women hardly even notice men.

8/12/2010 8:46 PM  
Anonymous homeshuling said...

Barry White reciting the Shma....that's the best thing I've read all week.

8/18/2010 7:45 AM  
Anonymous Woodrow said...

Here's a compromise for you: let women lead services, but only if they are tone deaf!

8/31/2010 1:05 AM  

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