Women in Judaism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted By on July 16, 2015

This article is about historical and modern views of Jews. For the portrayal of women in the Bible, see Women in the Bible.

The role of women in Judaism is determined by the Hebrew Bible, the Oral Law (the corpus of rabbinic literature), by custom, and by non-religious cultural factors. Although the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic literature mention various female role models, religious law treats women differently in various circumstances.

Gender has a bearing on familial lines: in traditional Judaism, Jewishness is passed down through the mother, although the father's name is used to describe sons and daughters in the Torah, e.g., "Dinah, daughter of Jacob".[1]

Relatively few women are mentioned in the Bible by name and role, suggesting that they were rarely in the forefront of public life. There are a number of exceptions to this rule, including the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophetess, Abigail who married David, Rahab and Esther. In the Biblical account these women did not meet with opposition for the relatively public presence they had.

According to Jewish tradition, a covenant was formed between the Israelites and the God of Abraham at Mount Sinai. The Torah relates that both Israelite men and Israelite women were present at Sinai, however, the covenant was worded in such a way that it bound men to act upon its requirements and to ensure that the members of their household (wives, children, and slaves) met these requirements as well. In this sense, the covenant bound women as well, though indirectly.[2]

Marriage and family law in biblical times favored men over women. For example, a husband could divorce a wife if he chose to, but a wife could not divorce a husband without his consent. The practice of levirate marriage applied to widows of childless deceased husbands, but not to widowers of childless deceased wives. Laws concerning the loss of female virginity have no male equivalent. These and other gender differences found in the Torah suggest that women were subordinate to men during biblical times, however, they also suggest that biblical society viewed continuity, property, and family unity as paramount.[2] However, men had specific obligations they were required to perform for their wives. These included the provision of clothing, food, and sexual relations to their wives.[3]

Women also had a role in ritual life. Women (as well as men) were required to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem once a year and offer the Passover sacrifice. They would also do so on special occasions in their lives such as giving a todah ("thanksgiving") offering after childbirth. Hence, they participated in many of the major public religious roles that non-levitical men could, albeit less often and on a somewhat smaller and generally more discreet scale.

Women depended on men economically. Women generally did not own property except in the rare case of inheriting land from a father who didn't bear sons. Even "in such cases, women would be required to remarry within the tribe so as not to reduce its land holdings."[2]

According to John Bowker (theologian), traditionally, Jewish "men and women pray separately. This goes back to ancient times when women could go only as far as the second court of the Temple."[4]

Classical Jewish rabbinical literature contains quotes that may be seen as both laudatory and derogatory of women. The Talmud states that:

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Women in Judaism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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