WOMEN AND MEN - legal INTRODUCTION


A. Protection in marriage – examples

1. changing residence [joint decision], moving to Israel/Jerusalem [either can compel the other]

2. changing profession - requires wife’s agreement if attention to her is compromised

3. financial arrangement

i) husband solely responsible for support, all wife’s earnings go to husband OR

ii) separate bank accounts with joint responsibility for expenses

iii) wife chooses (1) or (2)

4. financial security (kesuba) - support or settlement - wife’s choice; paid before sons inherit

B. Testimony

1. establishing fact vs. mandating action - women included in former (e.g. establishing status)

2. judicial prerogative vs. action required by statute - women included in former

3. women testify in monetary cases, take oaths, undermine the credibility of otherwise credible testimony

4. women are excluded only from mandating action required by statute

5. A-C imply explanation cannot be intelligence or trustworthiness

6. other exclusions of type D not due to intelligence or trustworthiness:

i) valid witnesses accompanied by invalid - all are rejected

ii) mutual visibility required in capital cases relatives excluded, even if fully credible (Rambam) - friends and enemies included

C. Torah study

1. preference for intellectual, scholarship is Greek, not Jewish

2. women required to study applied Torah

3. women are Biblically invited to theoretical study, and rewarded

4. Rabbinic restriction on women’s theoretical study (Talmud)

5. B-C imply explanation of D cannot be intelligence or character

6. Rambam (Talmud Torah 1:13): A woman who studied [theoretical] Torah is rewarded, but not equal to a man because she is not commanded. Anyone who performs a voluntary commandment is rewarded less that one who performs an obligatory commandment. Even though she is rewarded, the sages commanded that a man should not teach his daughter Torah since most women are not oriented to [this] study [and for this reason] apply Torah information foolishly...

i) “most” and not “all” implies that this is not an essential part of woman’s creation - what then is the source?

ii) the prohibition applies to all men and women; why express it in terms of father and daughter?

iii) what is relevance of distinction between voluntary and obligatory mitzvos?

iv) the explanation: obligatory mitzvos are spiritually central, voluntary mitzvos are spiritually peripheral; women [rightly] dedicate themselves to the spiritually central and therefore are not oriented to the extreme sacrifice required to understand theoretical Torah, and therefore will apply the information foolishly if they study it only superficially

v) teaching a child instills a value, in this case a false value

vi) there can be exceptions for exceptional women

D. Legal methodology

1. charge of premeditated, politically inspired male prejudice - no evidence e.g. from change in standards of argument

2. charge of unwitting misunderstanding of women resulting in inappropriate laws and decisions

i) no evidence that men generally cannot understand women

ii) no evidence that Jewish sages do not understand women - note extensive sensitivity training - extended family, traditional models of female input to male judgment

iii) shift burden of proof!

[Jewish Woman in Jewish Law, Meiselman, Ktav]


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