By Rabbi Yitzie Ross

Question:

I’ve been reading your blog for a few years now, and my wife and I are very impressed. This question is not going to make you a lot of friends.

After the Siyum HaShas last month, my 13-year-old daughter decided she wants to learn daf yomi. She has been feeling very left out over the past few years, as having three older brothers isn’t always easy. She is constantly telling us that boys have all the fun. We’re usually careful about making sure that she acts like a bas Torah, but our gut is telling us to tread carefully. What do you think?

Response

Thanks for writing in. Your question really is a tough one, and you’re correct in assuming that people will not be happy with my response — no matter what I write. I wouldn’t have responded to this email if not for the fact that I’ve received similar questions over the past few weeks. I spoke with a few rabbanim about this and got varying responses. Some rabbanim thought it was a great idea and proved it with various sources. Other rabbanim were vehemently opposed to it and brought proofs of their own.

Last week I responded to a similar question, but about a boy. I received many responses via email, some upset that I thought it was OK for the boy to learn the daf, and others upset that I didn’t support it enough. Add in the halachic aspect to this particular question of a girl learning the daf, and the response is all but guaranteed to rock the proverbial boat.

So your daughter wants to learn the daf because why should only boys and men get to learn the daf? One of the many challenges we face these days is convincing our girls how important they are to our future. It’s easy to tell your daughter, “You’re wrong! Girls have a huge part in Yiddishkeit!” I don’t think you’re accomplishing anything except teaching her that you don’t understand her feelings. While that response might have worked 100 years ago, it won’t work now. If that was what you wanted to tell her, you probably shouldn’t even have the discussion with her.

As a general rule, dismissing the emotions of children is a surefire way to lose your connection with them. This applies even if their emotions are silly. If your seven-year-old son is crying and saying, “You don’t love me!” you can’t walk away and say, “You’re being ridiculous!” He might be acting ridiculous, but you still can’t discount his emotions. Give him a hug and tell him, “Even if you’re sad, you should know that I always will love you!” Or you can do what my father did. When I was eight years old and crying on my bed for some random reason, my father asked me, “Why are you crying?” I responded, “Because you don’t love me!” My father replied, “If I don’t love you, why am I up here talking with you?” “’Cuz you love me,” was my intelligent response.

Even if a child is wrong, you still need to validate him or her.

A few parents asked me why rabbanim don’t address this issue of women feeling “left out.” The answer is simple. This issue is one that needs to be resolved case by case. It’s not that rabbanim aren’t acknowledging the problem — it’s that each situation is unique. One girl I know wants to sing for a talent show (which might be listened to by men) while a different girl wants to be able to dance with a Torah on Simchas Torah (on the women’s side). Each situation needs to be dealt with properly, and there is no “one size fits all” response.

Getting back to your original question, what is her goal in learning the daf? I’ve come up with three possible options.

  1. To prove that she is as capable as her brothers
  2. She wants to learn the daf
  3. As bragging rights to her friends

The first two reasons fall under the same category, for all intents and purposes. If your daughter wants to learn the daf, and that will keep her happy, I understand it. I do think you should ask your own rav to make sure he thinks it’s O.K. The only condition should be that she doesn’t make a big deal out of it. Explain to her that if she’s learning the daf because she wants to learn or even to prove she can, there is no need to discuss it with others.

On the other hand, if she is doing this to brag to her friends, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Not only is it likely she will stop learning soon after, but she’ll probably want to do something else to show off to her friends. You might think that even though her intentions aren’t good (lo l’Shmah), it still might lead to the proper intentions, but that doesn’t apply in a case like this. Explain to her that while you understand that she wants to prove to her friends she can learn the daf, it’s not the proper thing to do.

Certainly, if she is learning the daf, you should review last week’s article. The same guidelines that apply to that young boy hold true for her. Her grades should stay consistent, and she should take the daf seriously.

Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly emails and read the comments, visit YidParenting.com.

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