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I am a very different person now than the one I was just a few short years ago.

The Tokugawa Political Settlement

While they were not shy about commenting wryly on the state of society, urban commoners were not political activists. Peasant protests did break out in the eighteenth century, largely due to authorities’ failure to provide relief during times of crop failure and food shortage. But the new urban bourgeoisie did not attempt to overthrow the warrior government. Rather, urban commoners tended to turn away from the troublesome world of politics. They used their newfound wealth to fashion a new style of life and art. While the new style borrowed aspects of elite “high” culture, it was in many ways utterly new to the early modern urban scene. By the Genroku period (1688-1703), one could see in Edo and other cities a flourishing merchant class that was developing a cultural style all its own. Merchants flaunted their wealth, building enormous houses and dressing in finery that exceeded that of samurai. The shogunate was not at all happy about this. It repeatedly issued laws forbidding merchants to wear fine silk clothes and restricting the construction of large and showy homes in merchant quarters.

This is probably not a sentence one hears everyday, if ever, but for me it is true.

But there was no story — and there has been none since.

For more on the debate on merit, see Thomas C. Smith, “’Merit’ as Ideology in the Tokugawa Period,” in Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization, op. cit., p. 169.

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Or perhaps, like so many politicians who come to Washington, he has already been consciously or unconsciously corrupted by a system that tests the souls even of people of tremendous integrity, by forcing them to dial for dollars — in the case of the modern presidency, for hundreds of millions of dollars. When he wants to be, the president is a brilliant and moving speaker, but his stories virtually always lack one element: the villain who caused the problem, who is always left out, described in impersonal terms, or described in passive voice, as if the cause of others’ misery has no agency and hence no culpability. Whether that reflects his aversion to conflict, an aversion to conflict with potential campaign donors that today cripples both parties’ ability to govern and threatens our democracy, or both, is unclear.

In future articles we will explore some of these categories in more detail.

The Emergence of Commoner Culture

Agudah does not specify which seminaries or training programs for women qualify to provide this certification, but Broyde suggests that the and in Advanced Talmudic Studies are two programs that would seem to qualify. Some day schools appear to treat female Judaic study teachers’ income as parsonage based on certification from other programs.

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I am not a lawyer and don’t want to be misconstrued as opining on any legal issues here. But based on the litmus tests contained in the relevant regulations and court cases, the legal opinion I referenced earlier asserts that all Judaic studies teachers should be eligible for parsonage. The Aguda memorandum bases parsonage eligibility upon a certificate from a seminary or other qualified Jewish program designed to prepare limudei kodesh teachers. According to Agudah’s memorandum, the certificate should also state that the recipient is authorized to perform clearly religious functions.

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To wit, there is at least one legal opinion from a major law firm (prepared for a group of day schools) that concludes that female Judaic studies teachers typically qualify for parsonage. In addition, in a 2009 memorandum to its day school principals and administrators, concluded that it is reasonable for a school to pay a parsonage allowance to a female limudei kodesh teacher who performs clearly religious functions–davening with students, teaching Limudei Kodesh, and providing religious counseling.


Here’s a little-discussed idea that has the potential to save day schools and/or their teachers some money—allowing certain female Judaic studies teachers to treat part of their income as non-taxable parsonage. This is a benefit already widely available to rabbis, all of whom are men in Orthodox day schools. According to legal and halakhic scholar , “there is now ample foundation for women who hold a certificate as a teacher or a certificate of advanced knowledge in Jewish law and who teach Jewish subjects in a yeshiva, to be given parsonage by their home institution”.