*If you do not identify as frum/religious/orthodox, please read the note at the bottom of this post first.
An extremely loud and gaivadike, "frum" woman approached me, in order to interrupt a private conversation I was having with another Jewish man.
"Rashi's daughters wore tefillin!" was her claim.
It was so important to her to say that, she must have found it necessary to interrupt our private conversation, after eavesdropping on our private conversation to stick her nose into our business, and tell us her unsolicited, two cents (leHavdil), whether we wanted to hear it or not.
This is what I would like to have told her:
Rash"i's daughters may have worn tefillin.
Rash"i's daughters really knew halakhah, what they were obligated to do, and what they were not obligated to do.
They knew the a woman's most important misswah was tzeni'uth (modesty).
They wore tefillin in private, to aid them in prayer, not to make a political statement.
I will also be so bold as to suggest that they also did not rudely interrupt other people's conversations, let alone conversations between men. Modesty, remember?
Furthermore, Rash"i's daughters were the mothers of Ba'alei HaTosefoth.
Yocheved was the mother of the Riva"m, the Rashba"m, and Rabbeinu Tam.You, on the other hand, who simply wants to do what you want to do, and pick and choose so-called "sources" to justify what you want to do, ain't no Rash"i's daughter.
Miriam was the mother of Yom Tov, a Rosh Yeshiva in Paris.
Of Rachel, little is known.
So, the next time you want to throw out some random piece of history, in order to justify the assertion of your will,...
1. Be intellectually honest, by presenting that historical piece of information in proper context when you convey it,...
2. Before you take on another misswah are not obligated to, just for the sake of "egalitarianism," think about whether you have to do any work on the misswoth you are obligated to perform, and...
3. Remember the following true story from a rabbinic acquaintance of mine:
A female soldier came up to a Chabba"d tefillin table where I was standing. She angrily asked him why he did not ask her if she wanted to put on tefillin. Can't I put on tefillin, too?
She was very much taken by surprise when I responded, "Sure, you can."
He then took her aside to talk more privately, and he related to her this story of Rash"i's daughters.
It is said that Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi z"l of Worms, France [Rash"i], one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever to have lived, had daughters who put on tefillin. They put on tefillin because they believed it would help them to have better kevana (intention, feeling, connection,...) while praying.
However, they put tefillin on in private. Women have no requirement to pray in a group. Women do not need this mitzvah. Rash"i's daughters were very modest. They dutifully performed all of the mitzvot which they were obligated to do, and that included modesty.
When exposing their elbows to put on arm tefillin, and when exposing their heads to put on head tefillin they did so in private, in order to maintain their modesty.
Rash"i's daughters wore tefillin because they believed that it would help them to connect to their prayers and to increase their focus on their Creator. Displaying their tefillin in public was unnecessary to achieve this goal.
But, yes, you may, indeed put on tefillin.
The soldier was happy with the response she received to her challenges, and that this rabbi bothered to take the time to explain a Jewish concept to her, and not just brush her off.
If you look, you, too, can find a rabbi who will be kind and patient to you. If you come across one who is not, then he is not for you. Keep searching.
So, why did I not get in this woman's face about tefillin and Rash"i's daughters?
Would she have listened? No, I don't think so. Actually, the confrontation above did not happen.
But, the women I have encountered during similar incidents, have acted in this manner, apparently confusing rude, "over-compensation for the hierarchical, patriarchal aggressive oppression of women" (eyes rolling) for...
Galuth (diaspora) has really messed us up as a people, and as servants of The Holy One, Blessed Be He.
We continue to attempt to reduce our cognitive dissonance by deluding ourselves that the Western cultures and sensibilities from which we have emerged are all actually one with authentic Judaism.
There are "rabbis" who even try to pass those Western cultures and sensibilities off as Torah.
They are not.
If you managed to reach the end of this post, and are reading this note, then you will know that my criticism here is of the Avi Weisses, Kolechs, and Shirah Hadashas, not of the so-called "movements."
Say what you will about those "movements" (and I say plenty), but at least they are consistent, and often admit their lack of belief in the binding nature of halakhah, as well as admit to their "creative" approach to Jewish observance.