'Sephardic' Halakhah? The Attitude of Sephardic Decisors to Women’s Torah Study: A Test Case
Jewish Law Association Studies Journal 20 (2010), pp. 43-74
36 Pages Posted: 1 Jan 2010 Last revised: 14 Sep 2012
Date Written: December 31, 2009
This paper examines Sephardic rabbinic attitudes to women’s religious studies, and more specifically, advanced Talmud study. I draw on Halakhic texts written in the second half of the 20th century by leading Sephardic rabbis that immigrated to Israel. I first examine the terms Mizraxi and Sephardic and explain on what grounds I find reason to compare the rabbis discussed. I argue that there is no monolithic Sephardic halakhic tradition and that the rabbis discussed hail from diverse communities that experienced and reacted to western and secular influences in unique ways. I then describe how these rabbis reacted to changes in women’s religious and secular education, changes they were forced to confront as their communities were exposed to changing values and social realities. Examining how Sephardic rabbis have responded to the challenge of women’s Torah study allows us to test the claim that the Sephardic halakhic tradition is more flexible and tolerant of change than the Ashkenazi orthodox halakhic tradition.
Keywords: Halacha, Sephardic. Mizrachi, Mizraxi, Torah study, Women
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