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Women in Judaism: An in-depth study of gender and religion

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  1. Introduction
  2. Reform Judaism is the only innovative sect of Judaism
  3. Reform and Orthodox Jews strongly disagree on the topic of women's mitzvot (commandments)
  4. Refusal to participate in the construction of the 'Golden Calf'
  5. Conclusion

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. Heller, Rebbetzin Tzipporah. Men and Women: A Jewish View on Gender Differences Jan ibid Zemer, Moshe. Gender Issues in Jewish Law. United States: Berghahn Books p Rich, Tracey. The Role of Women Faigin, Daniel. [...]

[...] 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.[20] 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.[21] 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. [...]

[...] However, there is no outright commandment forbidding women to study Torah although there also is no obligation to do so either, as there is for men, ye shall teach them [the books] your sons'-but not your daughters.? (The Torah, Deuteronomy ) However, ultra-Orthodox Jews side with the first century Rabbi Eliezer who said: any man teaches his daughter Torah it is as though he taught her lechery.?[4] When it is recalled how important the obligation to fulfill a commandment is, and how the mere lack of obligation led to positive restrictions in other instances, such as women not being counted in a minyan, it is apparent that this lack of obligation to teach women Torah, or for women to study Torah, was likely to have a very negative effect. [...]

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