Women’s Rights in Judaism

Judaism is not regarded as a mere philosophical religion, as those that practice it allow it to infiltrate into many aspects of life including; how to start out the day, dietary restrictions, what clothes are permissible, how to celebrate religious holidays, who to marry, their relationship with God, other people and animals, etc. The details on how to conduct all of the above is brought forth to the people through the Jewish law, halakhah. Through the halakhah a woman’s position in society is explained. Women under this are seen as equal to men, but differ in responsibilities and roles. Traditionally women are seen as having a greater “binah” (intelligence, understanding, intuition) than men. Rabbis have based this off Bereshit Genesis chapter 2:22 “And the LORD God built the side that He had taken from man into a woman, and He brought her to man.” The term utilized to support that argument is the use of the word “built”, that a woman was “built” and not formed unlike the man (Bereshit Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul.” However, I personally do not find that convincing as there are many interpretations, translations and many versions. I have found an abundance of alternatives used from “formed”, to “made”, to “fashioned”, “taken out of man into a woman”, etc… But then again how reliable are translations.

It has been said that the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah) were held in higher regard than their counters the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Rosh Chodesh). Then there is Miriam, Aaron and Moses’s sister she is seen as a prophetess, and all three siblings as the saviors of the Children of Israel. The Talmud and Rashi incorporate fifty-five prophets and of them seven are female. The fifth commandment of the ten commandments is “honour your father and your mother..” All of the above does suggest that females are highly regarded and respected in the Jewish religion.

Historically, there have been many educated Jewish women. The Talmud and various rabbinical writings mention Rabbi Meir’s wife, rebbetzin Berurya. It is stated that she and others were consulted on marital issues, menstruation, and dietary laws (kashrut).

Today’s Western, modern world suggests that the Muslim female veil is a sign of oppression imposed upon women of that background by the oppressive domineering patriarchal society. But, the question is, is the female veil only a custom of Islam? This article just as the one published a few days ago is about women in Judaism and through my research I stumbled upon the following verse.
Mishnah Ketubot 7:6 “The following women are divorced, and do not receive [the amount of] their ketubah: One who violates Mosaic Law or Jewish custom. What constitutes [a violation of] Mosaic Law? If she feed him untithed [food] if she engages in intercourse with him while she was a niddah [a female who has menstrual discharges which render her impure]; if she does not set apart challah [a portion of a batch of bread dough given to a kohen which becomes holy upon separation, and can only be consumed by kohanim or their household]: and if she makes vows, but does not fulfil [them]. What constitutes [a violation of] Jewish custom? [If] she goes out [in public] with her hair uncovered; [if] she spins [thread] in the market, and converses [flirtatiously] with any man. Abba Saul says, “Also one who curses his children in his presence.” Rabbi Tarfon says, “[Also] a noisy woman.” What constitutes a noisy woman? One who speaks in her own house [so loudly] that her neighbors can hear her voice.”

Numbers 5:18 describes the unveiling and unbraiding of a woman’s hair as a humiliation as the priest would only do so when said woman was accused of adultery. “The cohen will place the woman before ADONAI, unbind the woman’s hair and put the grain offering of remembering in her hands, the grain offering for jealousy; while the cohen has in his hand the water of embitterment and cursing.”

I think that concludes this article for now, I can tell you that this new angle has intrigued me so. I will be publishing again soon.

Till next time.

Two Halves of a Whole

This newest chapter’s aim is to explore females’ rights, roles, position in the three Abrahamic religions. I aim to write this in chronological order, as Judaism is the oldest that’s where we will start. Happy reading :)! Bereishit – Genesis – Chapter 1 “And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth” {26} In Judaism, unlike the Western interpretation of Christianity, God is a gender neutral, omnipotent, omnipresent deity. The modern English language does not designate genders to inanimate objects. It can be argued that the English versions of the Bible use “He” because it is simply the domininte gender and not because God resembles man. However, both Hebrew and Arabic share that similarity. In both Islam and Judaism God is ascribed the masculine pronouns (He, His), but that’s not to suggest that either religion suggests that God is of the male gender. Both religions teach that God is a single being, the only one of His kind; that there is only one God, only one worthy of worship. “And God created man in His image; in the image of God He created him: male and female He created them.” {27} Jewish scholars have interpreted the above verse to mean that the first ever human was both male and female at once. “And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the sky and over all the beasts that tread upon the earth.” {28} Bereishit – Genesis – Chapter 2 “And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man is alone; I shall make him a helpmate opposite him.” {18} It is important to recognize that the above verse utilizes the phrase “helpmate opposite him”. If man and woman were created as unequal beings those words would have not been chosen. The word opposite is used when describing elements of a similar nature, belonging to the same category. The opposite of day is night, the opposite of tall is short, the opposite of big is small, the opposite of male is female. “And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon man, and he slept, and He took one of his sides, and He closed the flesh in its place.” {21} “And the Lord God built the side that He had taken from man into a woman, and He brought her to man.” {23} The above verses mention that the woman was created from man’s side, which is taken to mean from his ribcage. Chapter 1 and 2 profess that man and woman were once a single being, which would mean that one is not complete without the other, that it is in the unification of both man and woman that they become a whole being again. The book of Leviticus delves into the rulings regarding sexual relations. It prohibits sexual relations while a woman is menstruating and describes her as “unclean”. “If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she will be in her state niddah for seven days. Whoever touches her will be unclean until evening.” {Leviticus 15:19} “You are not to have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter, nor are you to have sexual relations with her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are close relatives of hers, and would be shameful.” {Leviticus 18:17} “You are not to take a woman to be a rival with her sister and have sexual relations with her while her sister is still alive.” {Leviticus 18:18} “If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is depravity; they are to be put to death by fire, both he and they, so that there will not be depravity among you.” {Leviticus 20:14} “If a woman approaches an animal and has sexual relations with it, you are to kill the woman and the animal; their blood will be on them.” {Leviticus 20:16} “A man or woman who is a spirit-medium or sorcerer must be put to death; they are to stone them to death; their blood will be on them.” {Leviticus 20:27} “He may not marry a widow, divorcee, profaned woman or prostitute; but he must marry a virgin from among his own people.” {Leviticus 21:14} I must say I am surprized to observe that much of this book is written to the “man”. I would also like to note that my research into women’s rights in Judaism has been difficult to say the least. Till next time, S