New | Shayla
Matan Women's Online Responsa
Matan’s new project is on its way!
It is our great privilege to announce Shayla – Matan Women’s Online Responsa. This new Halakhic resource will be directed and run by graduates of Hilkhata – Matan Jerusalem’s Advanced Halachic Institute and will have the full backing of HaRav HaDayan Ariel Holland and Rav Yehoshua Mayerson.
It was a great privilege for my colleagues and myself to study in the Hilkhata program and that has given us an even greater responsibility to contribute to the world of Torah. Becoming an accessible address for the posting of She’elot – questions- to women scholars means enriching the lives of Jewish women and their families. Our goal is to answer questions sensitively and thoughtfully using the knowledge and tools in the world of Halakha.
On a personal note, I recall the first time I realized I couldn’t let a question go unanswered. Seven years ago I received a phone call from a woman in our Jerusalem community who was in great distress over the sudden passing of a close relative in the US. She rang me in tears and panic saying that she didn’t know what to do regarding the laws of mourning. It was a Friday morning which meant she couldn’t fly before Shabbat and she was at a loss as to what she was supposed to do over Shabbat. I tried to calm her but had to admit that I didn’t know the Halakhot and would have to refer her to somebody else. Baruch Hashem I had never lost a close relative and hadn’t dealt with mourning firsthand. She was surprised and started crying again saying that if only she knew what to do, what was required of her by Halakha, it would ease her feeling of confusion and loss. She thanked me and hung up. I felt terrible. At that moment I realized that I couldn’t merely offer genuine sympathy but had the responsibility to guide her.
When I’m asked why it’s necessary for there to be a female Halakhic voice, I like to answer by bringing the following story. Rabbi Tarfon and the Elders were once reclining in the upper floor of the house of Nitzah in Lod. The question was asked: what is greater – study or good deeds? Rabbi Tarfon answered ‘good deeds’. Rabbi Akiva answered ‘study’. Then all the students answered together ‘great is the study that leads to good deeds’. (Gemara Kiddushin 40a). The students’ conclusion points to the inability to separate study from good deeds. The one who studies has the responsibility to pass on the information, to educate and lead. And what is the purpose of study? “To listen, learn and teach. To observe, perform and fulfill.” (Blessings of Shema) Women scholars share in this responsibility. They have studied and learned and their students and communities expect them to provide guidance towards observance, performance of mitzvot and fulfillment of meaningful Jewish lives.
Other questions have followed from women in the community and from female students. Some of them live independently of their families and have no accessible go-to address when they have Halakhic questions and where they would feel natural and comfortable seeking advice. Questions are often regarding issues of sensitive relationships and tzniut in the work place, kashrut, head covering, and complex relationships with parents and friends and much more.
When a need arises from the tzibur, the Jewish community, it cannot go unheeded. Shayla will be the attentive, learned go-to address for women to ask questions and receive considered Halakhic responses (in English). We are here for you.
Look out for our next blog posts!
Rabbanit Surale Rosen