Traditional Roles of Women in Religion and the Challenges Imposed by Modern Society
A man is incomplete without a woman, and a woman is incomplete without a man. These two species work together to keep the cycle of life going. One cannot function without the other but one is also different from the other. Religion has divided and has helped men and women understand their duties and responsibilities. There is a great deal of balance between these roles. According to all three religious traditions, women are responsible for maintaining the home while the men work to provide financial stability to the family. This ideology has been regarded as “sexist” in modern society. In today’s age, society demands equality for both men and women, politically and economically. This “feminist” theory has led to the rejection of traditional roles of women laid out in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. If not rejection all together, it has definitely posed challenges for women of these faiths to keep up with their traditions. In most of these religions, women are discouraged from taking on roles of religious leadership but even the religions have been giving thought on altering their ideologies to accommodate feminism. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a commonality by describing the role of a woman to be of a homemaker, which is greatly challenged by modern society.
The primary role of a Jewish woman is to focus on becoming a good mother, wife, and keeper of the household. Before the rise of modernism, women depended on men economically unless they inherited money from their fathers. Men were to earn and provide financial support while women looked after the wellness of the home. In Talmud, it says, “all the blessings of the household come through the wife, therefore should her husband honor her.”1 A woman is not merely her husband’s slave. The work that she has been given to do, has a lot of value in Judaism and the religion demands that her husband honor his wife in return. In Judaism, women are not obliged to perform certain commandments because their domestic roles are top priority. However, if they are capable and choose to, then they may. Preserving the righteous atmosphere of the home is just as important, if not more, than going to the synagogue for offering religious service. In the Talmud, women are discouraged to follow higher education or religious pursuits because as a result, they might neglect their duties as wives, mothers, and housekeepers. This stopped Jewish woman from acquiring leadership roles in the secular society and religious life. However, today’s Reform and Conservative Judaism reforms allow women to participate actively in the synagogue. On another note, Judaism has great respect for this traditional role of women. If a woman successfully fulfills this role, she is considered virtuous.
Since Judaism and Christianity evolved from the same ancient tradition, it is given that the roles assigned to women in each religion would be similar. The primary role of a woman in Christianity, likewise, is to dedicate her life to the service of her home. Ephesians says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”2 In this verse, duty to ones husband has been placed right beside submission to the Lord. This creates an understanding the two fundamental roles of a Jewish woman: worship and homemaker. Men are to submit themselves to their wives in return, with love, support, and stability. Furthermore, when someone knows their role in a play, they focus on trying their best to fulfill that role and when each individual in a drama does that, the overall product impeccable. One player helps the other in creating a scene, thus creating a harmonious play. Likewise, if both the husband and wife know their roles and practice it with understanding, it keeps the family together and makes for a harmonious marriage. In Proverbs, it says, “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not...
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