Women & Men - Philosophical Introduction

1. Equality

            a. equal value does not imply identical roles - pianist/violinist, software/hardware

b. (weak) evidence of inherent gender traits: brain organization (corpus callosum), aptitude studies, polarization of work on leftist kibbutzim

c. Jewish value of life measured by achievement of prophecy [equal numbers of   men and women], "death by a kiss" [Aaron, Miriam and Moses]

2. Response to crisis: when women and men differ, women are (usually) right - Sarah and Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac, Miriam and Amram, the righteous women of Egypt, the golden calf, the spies - conclusion: women make judgments and act independently

3. Creation

a. "It is not good that (not: for) man be alone" - his uniqueness seems to imply   demi-god status (Rashi) - woman created to correct that false implication (therefore woman cannot be inferior)

b. "I will make him a helper against him" - helper if he deserves it, against him if not        - seems to imply she is always right!

c. "...your husband will rule over you." - this is a curse; not a commandment, value, preference, goal, or priority - not even an inescapable reality [proof: women use anesthesia in childbirth, men are not all poor farmers, cf. Gen. 5:29, Rashi]

4. Modesty

a. value for both men and women, but more important for women [proof: "All the glory of the daughter of the king is inward" - the daughter = Moses!! When he secludes himself in the tent of meeting to commune with G-d he earns the title "daughter of the king"]

b. authority vs. power: authority is legal, power is physical (the ability to control and change the world); authority is always public, therefore women typically do not occupy positions of authority [e.g. Devorah, the one woman Judge]

            c. all power rests ultimately on persuasion of others to cooperate

d. Jewish women have always exercised power: Sarah, Rebecca, Miriam, Egypt, the golden calf, the spies, R. Elazar ben Azaria, Yeshivat Ner Israel, etc.

5. Speculation: perhaps greater emphasis on privacy enables better judgment in crisis

6. "...Who has not made me a woman"

            a. why the categories non-Jew, slave, woman? why negative?

            b. the categories reflect classes of commandments [responsibilities]

            c. negative because we fail to fulfill our responsibilities

d. "...Who has made me according to His will" - i.e. with a natural affinity for His will - positive because not a responsibility - men cannot say it because it is not true for them

[Most of this material is taken from Jewish Woman in Jewish Law, Meiselman, Ktav.]