Report: Women Poskot Are Already Here


skyChayuta Deutsch of Yediot Achronot reports:
Recently, she was approached by one of her students in the Beit Midrash: The student was about to travel to India, and sought clarifications regarding how to observe the laws of carrying from domain to domain on Shabbat. Some time earlier, another student had asked her what to do with the beautiful dinner service she had received from her grandmother, who was senile and could not remember whether it had been used for dairy or meat. My friend, Rabbanit Michal, however, does not live with the feeling that she is making history by answering such questions or that she is ahead of her time.
It does not strike her as unusual when a neighbor knocks on the door and asks her a question about the meat spoon that the babysitter left on the counter next to a cup of coffee with milk, nor does she find it exceptional when the telephone rings and it is a rabbi who would like to consult with her about a halachic question he was asked. This is simply the reality in which she lives. Indeed, many women turn to her with questions that until recently they would have brought to their local rabbi. She has gotten used to it; I still have not.

In her professional life, Michal Tikochinsky, a mother of seven and a lawyer by training, heads the Moshe Green Beit Midrash for Women at Beit Morasha of Jerusalem, where she teaches Talmud along with male rabbis, and serves as an instructor in the Advanced Women’s Halacha Program that started there several years ago. The program is designed for women who hold educational and public leadership positions, are highly motivated to engage in religious study, and are prepared to invest energy in the study of Halacha, in addition to their other endeavors.

Demanding diligence, perseverance, and a commitment to Halacha, the program was established to enable women who already have a rich background in Talmud study to round out their training by participating in a program of intensive and in depth study of Halacha. Its participants are primarily teachers in high schools and seminaries, who serve as a natural address for halachic questions from their students even without such specialist training.

As far as I know, this three-year program, which aims to build the next tier of Torah study for women, is unparalleled in the Jewish world. It devotes one year of study to the laws of forbidden and permitted foods (issur vaheter) and two years of study to the laws of Shabbat, and is very demanding, requiring its students not only to cover all of the material studied by men who are preparing for the ordination exams of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, but also to study Shulchan Arukh (the Code of Jewish Law) at the accelerated rate of one section per week.

Thus, it seems that we will not have to wait too long until women serve as halachic adjudicators. It is becoming clear that the “200 Years” that Rabbi Haim Navon recently cited in Beit Morasha’s Akdamot journal and in Ynet’s Judaism site as the projected time it will take for women to attain this role are excessive. And this is even without mentioning the activities of the scholarly women in the Yoatzot Halacha program at the Nishmat Institute, headed by Rabbanit Chana Henkin, which trains women to serve as halachic advisors.

What is surprising about the stories that Rabbanit Michal Tikochinsky tells me in passing is that they concern questions regarding everyday matters that are not delicate or sensitive like matters of ritual impurity. It is both surprising and encouraging that despite the pronounced availability of Rabbis who could serve as halachic decisors, neighbors and Beit Midrash students are choosing to approach a woman whom they regard as an authority, as a natural and straightforward step, without any concern that they may be doing something inappropriate.

Why are they doing that? Are women coming to the scholarly women in their midst because they see it as more convenient and natural, and less formal and stressful? It’s hard to know. And truthfully, what does it matter? What’s important is that it’s happening – here and now.

{Yediot Achronot}
{ Newscenter}


  1. My wife called our community rav a half dozen times for an appointment to discuss a questionable issue, she has never received an appt yet… What is the next step, dear readers?

  2. I’d like to hold a posek (of either gender) to the same standard – not whether they have all the answers, but whether they know their limitations, and when to call on someone with more learning and experience for advice.

  3. “Truth be told” has hit the nail on the head. Try to get hold of your rabbi on Friday afternoon when the stores are already closed and you have only one chicken for Shabbos – and a “chicken sheilah.” Not to mention all the other things that crop up – some trivial, some not – and your hair can grow grey waiting for the rabbi to call back.

  4. How well does she cover her hair? How tzniusdik is she bichlal? How strict is she about taharas hamishpacha?
    When Rav Eliashiv shlita and the other gedolei hador sanction these women and give them smicha, then I’ll accept them. Until then, it’s kefira in my book.
    Truth Be Told: A community rav who’s too busy to accomodate someone with a problem/shaila should find another line of work.
    Editors: Why do you continue to nauseate us with these nareshdike stories? If it’s not the lunatics from neturei karta then it’s idiotic feminists with questionable (apikorsisdike) hashkafos. Yiddishkeit is fine just the way it is and has been for over two thousand years. We don’t need these new fangled innovations.

  5. To Belmarmom,
    What, exactly, did the women quoted in the story say that demonstrated that they were ‘idiotic’? Is Yiddishkeit really just the way it’s been for over two thousand years? In fact, who spoke Yiddish 2000 years ago? How many people learned all day back then? Who refrained from kitniyot back then?

    I look forward to your detailed answer, Shalom

  6. ‘We don¬ít need these new fangled innovations”.

    Nothing new in techo, medicine or in education. Turn the clock back to the Middle ages, please!!!

  7. This is clearly “avizirayhoo D’giluy Aroryos”I know some idiots will bring proof from Miriam Hanevioh. This is the thinking of the modern orthodox joint in Washington Heights that are notorious for their anti Kedushas Yisroel, and regard the Neviim as their bird brain understands. They view the Rambam as a big professor.

  8. you took the words right out of my mouth Belmarmom, I can’t understand how Matzav posts these stories as if to grant them a modicum of legitamacy. Trust me the Chofetz Chaim and Chazon Ish are turning in their grave….The mesorah of Klal yisrael is not up for grabs! (and please don’t counter me with examples such as Devorah haniviah and Bruria)

  9. If a woman is posul l’eidus, then how can she be a posek? This whole idea doesn’t sound kosher to me. It’s about as kosher as women rabbis.

  10. Sorry Rabosei there is nothing wrong with women learning the laws of issur veheter and hilchos Shabbos and knowing them well enough to tell their friends the halochos actually every women must learn this But sadly most MEN don’t. You don’t need Rav Elyashuv to tell you that women should know these halochos. This does not make someone a “poskot” it makes them a competent frum jewish housewife.

  11. It smacks of women’s liberalism! I don’t think there is anything wrong in asking a woman a sheila if she knows the answer but in a professional capacity- that is apikorsus- women and men changing roles in Yiddishkeit is against what we stand for.
    I agree with one of the above writers who questioned how Matzav posted such a story. I challenge any of those above who agreed with this story- to find a gadol b’Yisroel who condones this!

  12. A Posaik and the Posaik’s son got into a car accident r”l. The Posaik was killed but the boy lived. Someone called the Yeshiva to say tehillim for the boy. The Rosh HaYeshiva said, “Gevalt! That’s my son!”

    How could this be? [And don’t answer kol hamelamede ben chabeiro Torah]