The role of women in Judaism is grossly misrepresented and misunderstood even as we shift into the 21st century. Until now, such a topic has never had as much stamina and opinion as it does today. People today have gone as far as stating that roles of women in Judaism are sexist; however, it is unclear to many people that the role of women in Judaism actually differs from sect to sect. Furthermore, it is crucial for one to understand that each of the three sects views the laws of the Torah through different degrees of severity; Orthodox being the strictest and Reform the most lenient.
Conservative Judaism is somewhat in the middle of the two in terms of strictness; therefore, this essay will not discuss their views on the matter. This essay will, however, focus on alleviating the myth of Orthodox Judaism being sexist by stating the differences between the roles of women in Reform Judaism and in Orthodox Judaism, pertaining to their roles in the synagogue and in Torah study, in society, and in the home. To gather supporting information for the topic, books and the internet will be used.
Reform Judaism is the only innovative sect of Judaism that promotes the reinterpretation of the Torah to be simpatico with today's fast paced egalitarian society. Reform Judaism has many synagogues nation wide and Reform Jews comprise the largest sect of Judaism in North America, consisting of more than 900 congregations and 1.5 million people. These egalitarian views have led to the largest feminist movement Judaism has ever seen.
The equality of men and women begins at the highest possible level: G-d. In Judaism, G-d has never been viewed as exclusively male or masculine. Judaism has always maintained that G-d has both masculine and feminine qualities. As Rabbi Moshe Shulman explained, G-d has no body, no genitalia; therefore, the very idea that G-d is male or female is patently absurd. However, Judaism refers to G-d using masculine terms simply because Hebrew has no neutral gender.
Tags: Judaism, role of women, Torah study, Rabbi Moshe Shulman, Reform Judaism
[...] It is also said that the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah) were superior to the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in prophesy because of this superior binah. G-d told Abraham: “Listen to the voice of your wife, Sarah, for she is a greater prophet than you.” (The Torah, Genesis ) Nulman, Macy. Prayer And Education In The Life Of Jewish Women August 1995.
[...] The exalted Rabbi Yisroel Meir HaKohen overruled the traditional prohibitions against teaching Torah to women on the basis that the Torah does not outlaw it and that in such a modernized world it is now crucial for women to have an advanced Jewish education. Soon after this, the Bais Yaakov (House of Jacob) network of Orthodox Torah schools for women was built. In a growing number of places, Orthodox women have established their own tefila (prayer) groups. However, most women's prayer groups are frowned upon by Orthodox Jews as their practices might mimic those of goddess-worshipers or Christianity. This revolution in the views of women in Orthodox Judaism has led to the ability of women to hold prestigious jobs as executives and C.E.O.s. [...]
[...] It is because of this incident that G-d pronounces a special punishment for Eve in addition to the general punishment of the exile of them both. To the woman said, will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (The Torah, Genesis ) Many great Rabbis see this as reason enough to refer to women as temptresses and associate them with the source of evil (The Torah, Proverbs and this verse from the Torah has been frequently used to justify the keeping of women in an inferior position to men, though other interpreters use this verse to assume merely that men and women have different roles in the religious sense. A more feminist interpretation is that the passage is mistranslated in most common English translations and that the intent of the passage is to suggest a purely sexual domination of men over women. In contrast to such beliefs, women are later rewarded for their refusal to participate in the construction of the Golden Calf (an idol) when Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. As a result of this, Jewish women have a holiday uniquely for them as a reward for their faith in G-d at Mount Sinai. [...]
[...] Adam was the light of the world, and Eve killed him so she now has to perform the nerot mitzvah to rekindle that extinguished light. Chantal Amsellem, an Orthodox Jewish woman, states that the roles of women in Judaism are prescribed by G-d and should not be altered nor scrutinized. is the role of Jewish women to fulfill these three mitzvot and to fulfill the outlined responsibilities surrounding them. Just because we [women] are not obliged to pray in a minyan and read from the Torah does not mean that our [women's] status and importance is less than that of man's.” In relation to this matter, Rebbetzin Hananina once said, who is commanded and does, stands higher than he who is not commanded and does.” In conclusion, the views of women in Orthodox Judaism are not as sexist as scholars make them out to be. [...]
[...] Woman and Marriage April 2003.
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