Change in the Orthodox world is accompanied by legal (halakhic) debates measuring the boundaries of permissible behavior. Women and Men in Communal Prayer presents one such debate, calling women to recite blessings over the Torah reading during a public service.
Orthodox prayer services separate men and women, and the public roles open to women are restricted. In recent years these boundaries have been tested and changes are taking place. The outside world sees only the results; this volume opens a window on the process.
The book includes an informative introduction, two major position papers on the question of women being called to the Torah, and two pointed rebuttals. The papers are detailed, laying out the issues, tracing the debates, and exploring the implications of their own positions. They touch on a range of related issues as they consider such basic halakhic categories as the honor due to the congregation and the honor due to an individual.
For the Orthodox reader, this book is a gem. For the rest of us it is an opportunity to understand a world that is otherwise closed to us. While the debate is particular to the Orthodox world, the ethical issues hold broader interest.
This review first appeared in Congregational Libraries Today