By Katherine Podolak
Before the session with Shayna Goldberg, not only had I never heard of a Yoetzet Halacha, but I was skeptical about the practice of it and what the effect it would have on myself and my future career. Shayna began by explaining what she felt her purpose was in coming to speak to us, and how her life varies from Rabbanits such as Jennie Rosenfeld who we had heard from the week prior. As I am supportive of women being ordained as Rabbi’s I struggled to initially connect with Shayna as on the surface it seemed to contradict my support of ordaining women Rabbis. As she continued speaking to us, however, I quickly found myself hanging on to her every word as she discussed what her life looks like as a Yoetzet Halacha and the massive impacts she has on her community, particularly her impact on women. As I have never gone to a Rabbi for Halachic advice before, I couldn’t understand what it meant to, as a woman, have a fellow woman be accessible for these Halachic questions without fear of judgment from a male Rabbi who can’t emphasize with certain Halachic issues. As Shayna explained the significance of this accessibility she was creating, I began to understand what her true purpose as a Yoetzet Halacha is and how inspiring and impactful work such as hers can be in an Orthodox community. She described it as “filling a void,” a void which was found in women feeling unable to ask questions of נידה as it is a sensitive and feminine heavy topic.
Though a topic such as נידה is not necessarily relevant, Shayna was able to take the deeper meaning behind the practice and apply it to relationships today. She discussed with us the idea of relationships today and how many people lose focus on what is important when seeking a partner and a relationship. She described the difference between a physical and spiritual relationship by stating, “Fun is what you have at the moment. Happiness is what you feel the next day.” To me this statement meant everything. Shayna helped me to realize that in the end, we all want to find happiness, and although that is an abstract concept, being able to feel comfortable and loved in a relationship creates true happiness that isn’t just simply “fun”.
Shayna was incredibly inspiring. Her discussion of the difficulty of feeling the pressure of responsibility for those she advised not only demonstrated her comfort with vulnerability but allowed for her discussion to be on a human-level that everyone could relate to. She loved helping people, hearing their stories, and changing their lives and to me, nothing is more inspiring than that.