Role of Women in Jewish Religion

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We have been taught about several religions throughout this course, but one religion that has really caught me, is Judaism. There are many interesting facts about the Jewish community, religion, and such. However, I’m going to just talk about Jewish women and the roles they play in the Jewish community. In traditional Judaism, women are for the most part seen as separate but equal. Women's obligations and responsibilities are different from men's, but no less important. As a matter of fact, women’s responsibilities, in some ways, are considered more important. Akeret Habayit is the Hebrew word given to the wife and mother in a Jewish household. Akeret Habayit literally means the “mainstay” of the home. It is the mother and wife who largely determines the character and atmosphere of the entire home. “The Akeret Habayit – has a primary role, second to none. It is largely – and in many respects exclusively – her great task and privilege to give her home its truly Jewish atmosphere.” Women are discouraged from pursuing higher education or religious pursuits, but this seems to be primarily because women who engage in such pursuits might neglect their primary duties as wives and mothers. The rabbis are not concerned that women are not spiritual enough; rather, they are concerned that women might become too spiritually devoted. There is no question that in traditional Judaism, the primary role of a woman is as wife and mother, keeper of the household. However, Judaism has great respect for the importance of that role and the spiritual influence that the woman has over her family. The Talmud says that when a religious man marries a wicked woman, the man becomes wicked, but when a wicked man marries a religious woman, the man becomes religious. The child of a Jewish woman and a gentile man is Jewish because of the mother's spiritual influence; the child of a Jewish man and a gentile woman is not. Jewish women are exempted from all positive mitzvot that are time-related because the woman's duties as wife and mother are so important that they cannot be postponed to fulfill a mitzvah. For example, a woman cannot be expected to just drop a crying baby when the time comes to perform a mitzvah. She cannot leave dinner unattended on the stove while she davens ma'ariv, which is the evening prayer services. It is this exclusion from certain mitzvot that has led to the greatest misunderstanding of the role of women in Judaism. Although women are not required to perform time-based positive mitzvot, they are generally permitted to observe such mitzvot if they choose. This exemption diminishes the role of women in the synagogue which is why many people perceive that women have no role in Jewish religious life. This misconception derives from the mistaken assumption that Jewish religious life revolves around the synagogue. Jewish life does not revolve around the synagogue, it revolves around the home. I go back to my point where the mother and wife is who determines the “Jewish atmosphere” of the household. It’s in the “Jewish home” where the woman's role is every bit as important as the man's. Women (mothers) also play a big part in religious education. “Remember my child to heed the words of your father and to not forget the instruction of your mother (Proverbs 31).” Both Jewish parents have a role in the religious teachings of Jewish children. In the Jewish tradition, mothers are specifically assigned a predominant role in the religious education of young children. “The Jewish home” is vital when talking about religious education. “The Jewish home,” was and still remains as much a concept in Judaism as a physically recognizable place. This is where the fundamentals of Judaism are taught and where many of the 613 commandments were practiced and trained. This is where, for many generations, the place of a mother’s teachings was limited to. A historical event that came upon the Jewish community was the brutal massacring of six million Jews under...
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