Rabbi Spero Responds

From:  Rabbi Jay Spero (

Posted: 8/10/00

In the last edition of the Shaarey Zedek newsletter, Rabbi Shalman responded to my article. I must say it is gratifying to know that at least one person in the city reads the article.

I respect his right to respond and do not plan to respond to every point in the newsletter. There is however one point  which is such an egregious error, I felt it obligatory to respond.

Rabbi Shalman writes: "the traditional separation of men and women at prayer is a custom that originated in Christianity, a contemporary social more of the European Dark ages that traditional Jews accepted."

It is written in Zecharia Chapter 12 verse 12, "The inhabitants of the land will lament, each family by itself--the family of David by itself, and its women by themselves." The Talmud (Tractate Sukkah; Jerusalem Talmud) learns from this that if it was necessary to separate men and women at a time of mourning, all the more so in a regular atmosphere such as praying. Zecharia  was written 745 B.C.E. This is well before Christianity was invented. The Jerusalem Talmud was completed 350 A.C.E. This is well before the European dark ages.

The Talmud also states in Tractate Sukkah (Babylonian Talmud) that in the Temple the men and women were not together as the women were on the balcony. This is repeated many times throughout the Order of the Talmud called Kodshim (this is the section which deals with laws of the sacrificial offerings and laws of the Temple). The Babylonian Talmud was completed 474 A.C.E. well before the dark ages [and it is quoting what happened at the Time of the Temple(s) which were from 930 B.C.E. until 586 B.C.E (1st Temple), and 516 B.C.E till 70 A.C.E (2nd Temple)]. At an archeological dig done in Kfar Nachum (in the north of Israel near Tiberias), they discovered a Synagogue which observed the separation of the sexes. The synagogue was dated the year zero.

I am pleased that Rabbi Shalman responded to the article as I believe that only through Jewish education (which often entails critical arguing) can we grow as Jewish people.

However to print gross distortion and inaccuracies regarding something which has been done for thousands of years by Jewish people from every part of the world only does a disservice to us as people. If something does not fit in with our contemporary beliefs, instead of automatically dismissing it as an irrelevant law, or making up "facts" to change history, we would be better served by good old fashioned investigation and analysis into the topic. The laws contained in the Torah have kept us as Jews for 3300 years of often bitter persecution. They must have some value. Questions are healthy. We are not a people who believe in blind faith. Any person who has a question regarding the Orthodox view of feminism, I would be more than pleased to talk with, whether by phone or in person. My number is 862-9546.

In closing, I would like to note that the Maharal, an Orthodox Rabbi in Prague, wrote that "men and women are EQUALLY important before G-d." This was written in 1530, many years before the advent of feminism.

May we all grow from our investigation into the Torah.


      Jay Spero

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