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Dear Cyber-Rav,

How does Conservative Judaism allow a woman to touch the Torah during the time when items that are tamEI [impure] are NOT allowed to be in contact with any holy object? Do we inquire of a woman called for an aliyah, including hagbahah [lifting the Torah], whether she is having her period? Why not? What's Right is Right

The Cyber Rav Answers:

Dear What's Right is Right,

Women who are niddot (menstruating) are often thought of as being prohibited from touching the Torah, and that reason has been used to keep them from being called to the Torah. Well, the rationale is simply untrue. I quote to you from the Rambam, (Moses Maimonides, 1135-1204), who rules as follows--"Any impure person, even a niddah [i.e., a menstruating woman] or a gentile, may hold a Torah scroll and read it." The words of Torah do not contract ritual impurity. This applies when one's hands are not soiled or dirty with mud. [In the latter instance], one should wash one's hands and then touch the scroll (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Seifer Torah, 10:8).

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin writes, "There are some authorities - including my teacher and mentor, Rav Soloveitchik ztz"l - who maintain that since a Sefer Torah cannot become "tamei" (ritually impure), a woman may also read from a Sefer Torah..."
(see -- http://www.ohrtorahstone.org.il/features/q&a5.htm)

Now let me be perfectly clear--there are other complicating factors in the decision to have women read Torah, all of which the Conservative Movement have dealt with, but there is no one who can legitimately argue that it is a woman's so-called "impurity" that keeps her from being called to the Torah. The rationale is simply not true.

The CyberRav


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