|Attorney, Rabbi Dov Halbertal|
One would think that a man who once argued that Israel should separate ‘church and state’ would not have had the kind of outburst he had at Hebrew Univesity. It's counter intuitive. But That is exactly what happened. Rabbi Dov Halbertal, an attorney that at one time lectured at the school apparently went into a tirade over women saying Kaddish at a a couple of Mincha Minyan there. According to Israel Hayom, Halbertal said:
…women could not say kaddish in an Orthodox synagogue, that the university was turning into a Reform synagogue
I can understand why he said that. But I see no problem with a woman doing that. Although I am generally opposed to violating a particular Shul’s practice, there is no clear violation of Halalcah in doing so. I have ample anecdotal evidence of women saying Kaddish in a mainstream shul without anyone protesting it. Including the rabbi.
But according to Rabbi Halbertal a woman saying Kaddish is a clear violation of Halacha. He accused the school of turning into a Reform synagogue! This happened twice and created a real scene the second time:
Halbertal proceeded to shout at the women and demanded that they get out. Some of the other men joined him, while others objected and told him he was embarrassing the women, which was a worse offense than their saying kaddish. The shouting and arguments continued for several minutes.
The issue here was not that there was no Mechitza. This happened in the hallway – a temporary location while their Shul is being renovated. There is no requirement of a Mechtitza outside of a Shul. A couple of women joined the Minyan but stepped back when some of the men protested.
That should have ended it. Women wanted to say Kaddish and they should have been allowed to do so without a fuss. Even if one believes that a woman is forbidden to say Kaddish, embarrassing them with this kind of tirade is a far bigger problem. He had no call to do it. One can – and certainly should - rely even on a Daas Yachid (a singular Halachic opinion) of high caliber like the Tzitz Eliezer before embarrassing another human being.
I don’t know why an educated person that cares about his fellow Jews would do something like that, unless it is out of ignorance. But I can’t believe he doesn’t know that there are Poskim that permit it. Perhaps he felt he was simply fighting the advance of feminism with his outburst. I don’t know. But this was not the place to do it. In my view Halbertal’s protest was a setback.
It isn’t feminism that is the enemy. The ‘enemy’ is when it is inappropriately applied. Such as I areas of women in the rabbinate. Or ‘Partnership Minaynim’.
Rabbi Halbertal was widely known to frequent the home of the late Gadol, Rav Elyashiv. So it is pretty clear where his sympathies lie. He is Charedi. Can this be the reason for his zealotry? Was he just trying to establish his Charedi credentials? Who knows. But in this case he was wrong, eve by Charedi standards. And if I were him I would apologize to those women; to all the people that witnessed it; – and to the school for calling them Reform. And he should do so publicly since this incident has hit the media.