The presentations on the Morethodoxy blog, http://morethodoxy.org/2011/08/08/a-clamer-and-fuller-articulation-r-yosef-kanefsky/, by Rabbis Kanefsky and Lopatin on the bracha of shelo asani ishah and, what we may term, related issues has initiated much discussion within the Orthodox world on what exactly are the parameters of this world. It is my hope, in the near future, to present on the Nishma website a more thorough discussion of this issue. In the meantime, though, there is one item that has been bothering me and, surprisingly, in reviewing much that has been written on the subject, I have not found stated. This is an inherent weakness in the original halachic argument for heter -- which, additionally, truly highlights the whole issue.
In attempting to argue that one could skip the bracha of shelo asani ishah, the argument is made that the bracha of she'asani Yisraeli could be made instead which would thereby exempt one from all 3 shelo asani brachot. To substantiate this argument, it is first offered that there are clearly major authorities who accept a girsah of she'asani Yisraeli. A halachic conclusion, in the name of the Bach, is then presented that if one already made the bracha of she'asani Yisrael, one should not recite any of the 3 shelo asani brachot as they are included in that bracha. As such-- although recognizing there are the challenges due to tradition, the needed use of a minority opinion and the use of a bidi'eved view l'chatchila -- the conclusion can be reached that due to the needs of out times, we should follow the girsa of she'asani Yisrael, apply the Bach's logic that this bracha exempts shelo asani ishah, and instruct people to just say the she'asani bracha thereby circumventing the saying of shelo asani ishah. In response, strong disagreements have been voiced against this conclusion precisely because of the challenges noted above.
My problem, though, is in the very statement, and subsequent analysis, of the gemara. Any shittai emerges from an attempt to understand the language and flow of the text. Positions do not stand on their own and once existent, have a life of their own. They emerge from an understanding of the text and must be seen within this context. As such, the bottom line of all psak is the way that one is understanding the gemara. In that regard, there are indeed possible times that one can rely on a da'as yachid, i.e. a singular way of understanding a gemara text at odds with all the other ways of reading the text. The point here, though, is that the final conclusion reached in this halachic presentation has no connection to the original statement of the gemara in any way. The conclusion simply does not flow from the gemara.
There is indeed girsa'ot that read one of the brachot as she'asani Yisraeli in distinction to shelo asani goy -- but so what? That in itself means nothing in regard to the bracha of shelo asani ishah. The very point of the gemara is that there are 3 brachot with the result that if you actually believe the correct language of the gemara is she'asani Yisraeli, you would have to maintain that one must still recite shelo asani ishah and shelo asani eved even if one recites she'asani Yisraeli. In fact, the Bach's very argument is that the girsah of the gemara must be shelo asani goy for if it was she'asani Yisraeli, the other two brachot would be superfluous. That is the context in which he presents the idea that, if recited bedi'eved, she'asani Yisraeli would exempt the need to recite the other brachot. The bottom line, though, is that the real point of the Bach is that this cannot be the correct girsa for the gemara calls upon the individual male Jew to make 3 brachot including shelo asani ishah.
The bottom line is that there really is no halachic argument from anyway of reading the gemara that can result in forgoing shelo asani ishah. If you hold directly that the girsah is she'asani ishah, it must be that for some reason, againsit the Bach's reasoning, you must still say shelo asani ishah and shelo asani eved. The gemara simply calls for 3 brachot. The argument of the Bach that states that she'asani Yisraeli can bidi'eved exempt one from saying shelo asani ishah actually flows from a contention that this language cannot be the proper girsah in the gemara. The gemara still calls for 3 brachot and they are the 3 shelo asani ones.
Psak has to go back to the language of the gemara. In this case, there is no way of understanding this gemara as stating in any way that one can forego saying shelo asani ishah. The issue of whether the other bracha is she'asani Yisraeli is irrelevant. If that is the girsah of the gemara, the gemara still calls for 3 brachot. If it is not, the gemara still calls for 3 brachot. Any other analysis is just mental gymnastics in a vacuum. The gemara's language is a challenge to that vacuum.
As I mentioned, I do hope to write more on this. The argument is that there may be a place for chiddush and, indeed, as Rabbi Lopatin wrote, Rav Moshe was an excellent example of this -- but there was always the parameter of the language of the gemara. This, to me, is the bottom line of Orthodoxy -- more on this though later.
Rabbi Ben Hecht