- Woman in Judaism
- Moshe Ben-Chaim and Rabbi Reuven Mann
- Reader: Clearly the only way for a human being to
reach G-d is to learn Torah and develop a deep understanding
of His ways. However, within the Halachik system that G-d created,
He makes it easier for some to do this more than others. The
perfect example of this is the different "roles" the
Torah lays out for man and woman. The Jewish man is encouraged
to study Torah, delve into the deep rational ideas, and develop
his mind with the study of Talmud. Because of this, the great
sages were able to reach great spiritual heights. The woman however,
was mapped out a different path by G-d Himself. She is to run
the house, raise the children and not question her husbands authority.
She cannot own property, inherit, or be a witness in a court,
or pasken Halacha. A raped woman is not compensated for, except
the fine that the rapist pays to her father, now that she is
worthless property, unless she chooses to marry her rapist. It
seems that women really got the raw end of the deal in the halachik
system. Her whole purpose is to make it easier for men to learn
Torah, by doing the dirty work and staying out of the way. Although
women are not specifically prohibited from learning most parts
of Torah(although some clearly are prohibited), the practice
of teaching a daughter Torah was always considered absurd, and
a waste of time. The Rambam seems to be pretty solid on this
as well. It has only been recent that women began learning Torah,
and this was only a response to their recent access to secular
education, which was taking them away from the sheltered life
of the ideal Jewish woman. Since I know that G-d is just, and
He is not either male or female, the only rational reason I can
think of to explain this is the curse of Eve, that man will rule
over her. But still, being subjugated to men is only a trifle
of a punishment when compared to the fact that women have been
denied access to true Torah, the only rational method of reaching
G-d, and the purpose of mankind! Why are women excluded?
- Mesora: Women are not
prohibited from learning. They have many mitzvos, and in order
to understand what and why they perform mitzvos, they must study
them. A Woman can be as intellectually involved in learning as
a man. However, also understand that "perfection"
(not amassed learning or intellectual acumen) is G-d's goal for
both man and woman. Perfection - one's relationship with their
Creator - cannot be measured the same for men and women. As G-d
has given different roles to each, the fulfillment of G-d's will
for each is different, and thus, each one's perfection must be
in line with G-d's will. Perfection equals fulfilling G-d's
will. Perfection is not Torah learning per se. This I believe
to be the cause of your error.
- Just as one cannot use the same criteria for judging the
perfection of a car and a jet, so also men and women have diverse
roles. By fulfilling G-d's will, woman achieve perfection through
Love of G-d just as do men. Her role is raising children, a very
clear example of care for other human beings which Rambam holds
is the mark of true perfection, not learning per se. Perfection
is measured through Ahavas Hashem - Love of G-d - commanded equally
for men and women.
- Let us look at the command for men to study: It is not through
the fulfillment of this command alone that men achieve perfection.
Rambam holds that the fulfillment of Torah study in men can be
accomplished by a few minutes of study in the morning and the
evening. This however is no panacea for perfection. The command
for men to study is tied to their role to teach. This is man's
role in Judaism. As the system requires strict adherence and
promulgation, there must be a group responsible to accomplish
this. Teaching is simply man's role. He is not more inclined
towards perfection because he must teach, and therefore commanded
to learn. Perfection is not measured in terms of amassed knowledge.
Wasn't Avraham commanded by G-d to listen to his wife regarding
Ishmael? According to Rashi, Sarah surpassed Avraham's level
- Man is no more favored than woman. Both man and woman are
obligated in the Love of G-d. It would be unfair that G-d would
create two beings, giving them both the potential for perfection,
but limit the abilities of one. This is not so. Love of G-d,
learning, and teaching others is man's role to protect and promote
the system of Torah knowledge. Love of G-d, keeping her commands
and raising children fit for Torah lives is woman's role. Women
raise males, and men teach women. Both are essential. Both realize
their respective perfections through Love of G-d.
- G-d's will is that man be formed as an infant, so that he
experiences the phenomena of 'looking up to parents'. This relationship
where parents are authoritative is needed if man is to eventually
relate to G-d as an authority. Without this gradual process of
growth wherein children develop authority roles in their mind,
their relationship with G-d will be severely lacking.
- It is G-d's will that man develop in this fashion, and that
the mother is present at the side of the infants to nurture them.
Yocheved and Miriam had a tradition of how to raise children.
A Rabbi once explained why the Torah changes the names of Yocheved
to "Shifra" and Miriam to "Pu-hah". Pharaoh
had commanded these woman - the leaders of the women in Egypt
- to kill the males, to which they would not comply, but saved
all the children. These names refer to their physical and psychological
care for those children: Yocheved would take care of the children
physically, indicated by the use of the term "Shifra",
and Miriam would console the children psychologically by singing
to them, indicated by the term "Pu-hah". Attending
to both the physical and psychological needs of a newborn, was
something which was not only performed with knowledge, but was
also an institution from the Forefathers. As men of great wisdom,
the Forefathers understood all areas of man's needs, and this
starts of course at birth. The Forefathers instituted that all
Jewish mothers would cradle and pacify an infant throughout childhood
so as to render each and every Jew most fit for a life of Torah.
Torah enters one who is most perfected physically and psychologically.
We see from this area of Chumash that the role of the woman is
vital to all mankind. Since Love of G-d is the goal, man must
first be rendered into one who is most receptive to ideas, and
this is only if man is raised physically and psychologically
- As to your other comments, a woman may refuse her husband's
financial support and make her own living, and keep it. If she
wants her husband's support, she still maintains her wealth brought
into the marriage. She may and should question her husband. I
never heard that a woman must listen to her husband. That makes
no sense. Every person should be guided by reason, not their
spouses "commands". Of course you must have a unified
approach to the raising of children and halachos, but she need
not agree and "follow" her husband on matters she sees
different than her husband. Inheritance is clearly something
which women are entitled to. The Chumash says openly that the
daughters of Tzelofchad inherited their father's land.
- Regarding positions of authority, it makes sense that the
gender commanded to learn Torah laws should govern those laws.
If the roles were opposite, then women would be enforcing the
laws. This is just. Should students teach the teachers? Of course
not, they have no training. Had they, then they would be teachers
and not students. Men, therefore, are commanded to enforce laws,
act as witnesses, run courts, and all that is required in that
area of Torah enforcement.
- Judaism's role for women could not be more fair and just,
as it is in all areas. "He
is a G-d of faithfulness, and there is no iniquity in him."
(Deut. xxxii. 4). Torah stems from G-d
who is consistent and just in all of His actions. Women may equally
achieve true perfection - realized by their Love of G-d.
Related article: Love
of G-d - Whose Obligation is it?