Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Contact Us

Feminine Soul

Feminine Soul

 Email

Question:

This week I attended a prayer service with a difference. It was a Torah reading conducted entirely by women. Most were wearing tallises and kippas. I am from a more traditional background and found it unusual, but I think it's a good thing. Isn't is positive that women are participating more in their Judaism?

Answer:

I think it is fantastic that more women are exploring their Jewishness, and they should be encouraged in their thirst for Jewish connection. But to be honest, I don't understand how such a prayer service is feeding this thirst.

Either you believe Judaism is a G‑d-given religion, or you believe it is man-made. Either way, it doesn't make sense for women to be doing what men do.

If Judaism is G‑d-given, then its laws are absolute and cannot be changed. And they shouldn't be changed, because G‑d knows what He is doing. If Judaism says that men wear tallises and read the Torah, and women don't, this is not unfair discrimination. Rather we were given different roles because G‑d — who created men and women differently — knows what each needs for their spiritual fulfillment. G‑d is not sexist.

Others say that Judaism is man-made and therefore its laws are changeable. According to this view, it would be fair to assume that Judaism discriminates against women, because the rules were made up by men who lived long before the call for women's rights was heard. All ancient cultures were unfair and oppressive, so why should a man-made Judaism be any different?

But if that is indeed the case, why would women want to adopt practices that were concocted by misogynistic men three thousand year ago? Are women really fulfilled by mimicking male practices? This seems to insult women rather than liberate them.

Either these practices are divinely ordained and should remain as they always were, or are human inventions and should be replaced.

I believe Judaism is divine. It doesn't need updating. It needs us to delve deeper to find its message for our times. We are blessed to live in a generation in which women are given every opportunity to discover for themselves what Judaism has to offer. Some women have adopted men's customs; but others have rediscovered a uniquely feminine spirituality within Jewish tradition that is fulfilling and powerful. I feel this approach is more true to the woman's soul.

Let the female voice of Judaism be heard. The world needs it now more than ever.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to Chabad.org.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
 Email
Join the Discussion
Sort By:
17 Comments
1000 characters remaining
Anonymous Philadelphia February 8, 2016

Is there a holy book exclusively for women? Women who feel called to teach shouldn't follow the directions of this calling? Hashem isn't sexist however the men who interpreted the Torah may have been. I've been shocked and amazed at the same time while studying Torah. On one hand wife beating for educational purposes appears to be advocated but then women are uplifted in the next breath. Where's the holy book exclusively for women. The one that shows the uniqueness of being female. The empowerment of that role. Torah speaks almost exclusively for men and marginally for women. When women have the gift of teaching from their point of view we all become that much more enlightened to hashem and the greatness of creation. Reply

Anonymous August 31, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

First, yes there is plenty of room for women to teach in Judaism. They teach their children every day. They are teachers in Jewish schools. The question is Do they have a passion for teaching,or do they want the public cudos and attention. True feminine is always teaching children, and husband, and community in subtle quiet ways. The true feminine is the real leader of the family and community.

Second could you please show me where wife beating is ok in Torah?

Third, if you read Torah, it shows nothing but the uniqueness and power of the feminine. You've heard that "The man is the head of the family, but the woman is the neck. The neck can turn the head any way it wants to." Its there if you want to see it.

Women are not subjugated or less than in Judaism, they are elevated even above men. I encourage you to study femininity in Judaism more. Not just what every person, who doesn't study this, says.

Best wishes and Blessings to you Reply

Anonymous January 5, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

I find that I have the biggest disagreements with members of Christianity about this women being subjugated and other things. I’ve tried to explain to them that it isn’t like that and with all due respect for their belief I direct them to study about femininity within religions. However, it’s to no avail. They are insistent that I’m discriminated against and treated with no worth by my religion and community. It sadly leads me to believe that Christian men are not the embodiment of the men hashem wants them to be and they subjugate Christian women because of an ego problem within their belief system. Reply

Anonymous Baze January 10, 2018
in response to Anonymous:

In my opinion, It's not about trying to convince anyone, or change any ones mind. It's about respecting one anothers choices. And having good boundaries that tell them," I have heard you, you have a right to your opinion. Now this conversation is done." and them respecting that. I have a Christian friend whom I have done this with. We are still friends to this day. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 16, 2010

Whew. I'm so glad, Lucy, it's not all like that. So, if women WANTED to have a minion and pray and do all those things men do, they could? Personally, I wouldn't WANT to go through all that, and LOVE the idea that women are closer to G-d spiritually than men and aren't REQUIRED to go through all those machinations in order to please G-d. I like this idea. It makes me feel special. One of my relatives (I suppose he is now either very old or dead, but I don't know) helped FOUND Israel. I also have at least one relative who lives there. So, I am happy to hear that the cases I cited are isolated to a specific occurrence. I have enough tsuris (troubles) of my own and don't need to borrow other people's activist activities and angers. It's enough to just deal with my own challenges in life. I do wish, however, that I could connect with some female in either the Reform temple or in Chabad, but everyone is really too busy with their own lives, and I respect that. I'm retired, no family nearby. Rabbi Shmuel said I am Mishpocha (family)! I'm happy! Reply

Lucy April 16, 2010

Women being jailed I have heard of something happening with women trying to pray with prayer shawls etc. at the Wall but that is not the same as what was described in this article. I don't think it is so "out of bounds" for there to be rules -- and as a result, controversy -- about what happens at the Western Wall, the single holiest site in Judaism. I understand that Reform Jews feel upset and not tolerated because others care what they do and they are the ones in power, there but really they could hold services anywhere else without any problems. Israel is not oppressive the way you make it out. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 15, 2010

Women of the Wall. See below. The group believes women should have the right to perform acts traditionally reserved for men in Orthodox Judaism, such as praying in a group at the Wall, singing songs, wearing a prayer shawl garment called a Tallis and reading from the Torah.

Under current Israeli law such activities conducted at the Western Wall by women are considered a felony offense punishable by a fine of over $2,500 or six months in prison. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 15, 2010

Lucy, you did not hear of a woman being jailed and charged with a felony for praying by the Western Wall? My Rabbi's wife, also, said that women and men sit together on busses in Israel, but she does not know about the rallies by the REFORM Jews in Israel who site case after case of this happening. It is similar to White people in America denying that slavery existed because they, themselves, didn't own slaves. Or, similar to my neighbor in one apartment who said I could NOT have had a flood from a broken pipe underground, because it didn't flood HER apartment as well. One problem is that the media in Israel is NOT exposing these practices. The activist groups of Jews who are not Orthodox send me articles about these things from Israel. Do some searches on the internet and find these occurrences. There are second class Jews in Israel; many are not allowed to be married religiously and must have a civil court marriage, according to, I believe it is called, the Knesset. Board of Orthodox Rabbis who make or enforce laws. Reply

Lucy April 15, 2010

note to Karen I have lived in Israel and I have never heard of any women being jailed or legally prosecuted for doing something like this. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA, USA April 14, 2010

Personally, I think it is a sign of rebellion, but I couldn't care either way. If other women want to do it, and it makes them feel like they are connecting to G-d, so be it, I connect to G-d privately, at home, when I eat, when I sleep, when I dress, when I talk, when I sing, when I pray personally from my heart to G-d or cry to G-d or thank Him for all my blessings. These other, EXTERNAL ways of showing love for G-d are personal preference. I couldn't care less. The women want to do it, leave them alone and let them. Good thing they're not in Israel, which is actually a THEOCRACY and not, in reality, a democracy, because these women would be JAILED WITH A FELONY conviction. Thank G-d for freedom, in America. Reply

Anonymous January 5, 2018
in response to Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell:

I find that praying in private is my preference as well. I tend to carry on conversation with hashem while taking care of my business (hahaha) who would want to hear that :-) I’m sure it would look weird to a lot of people. Reply

Chaya Minneapolis March 19, 2010

I really dislike how this article makes Judaism out to be either divine or man-made. I believe that Judaism is part man-made and part divine under the pretext that nothing in this world can be perfect--only G-d is perfect. Even though I believe in the sanctity of the Torah, I also believe in our ability to misunderstand it.

I also dislike that you pretty much dismissed the question with this "man-made" vs "divine" argument. Do you realize that you never really answered the question asked? Reply

Anonymous Fort Collins, CO June 27, 2007

YES Could you guys come visit my "unaffiliated" shul, and give a talk??

You have hit the nail right on the head, and we desperately need your help if we are to survive much longer....the one-sidedness of the feminist movement at our shul is damaging the spirituality there....

And I agree with AviShag: Women becoming more like men is more demeaning to women than just being more feminine...but that statement would get my throat slit at my shul....
Reply

Anonymous March 9, 2006

There is no Torah obligation to wear a Tallis while praying, nor is there a Torah obligation to wear a kippa. These are purely rabbinical enactments, and women were not exluded from them. How the Rabbi can call rabbinical enactments "God given" baffles me - are the rabbis God now??

How a local rabbi can argue with Torah sages (such as R' Moshe Feinstein, Rabbi J.B. Soleveitchik) regarding the permissibitly of these prayer groups (at the very least, theoretically) also baffles me.

Torah may be God given, but these customs most definitely were not, and if a woman feels closer to her God through these actions, who has the right to stop her?! Reply

Avigayil Chana Newton, MA/USA June 1, 2005

Women & "Optional" Mitzvos Rav Moshe Feinstein said that she received this mitzvah at Sinai, and no one dare take it from her. He said the reason it is timebound and therefore optional for her is unknown, but surely more wonderful than any of our theories. He also said that if she does this for the wrong reason, it is no mitzvah at all.

Experience tells us that if she is doing this for the "wrong reason",she will quit soon enough. Because a tallis under your shirt makes you look fat, is hot (if you're for real you will wear wool), and tzitzis are a pain in the neck.

But if a woman (who is fulfilling her feminine role) takes on an optional mitzvah, understanding that she becomes obligated, and with the nod of an Orthodox rabbi or two, in a modest manner, avoiding arrogance (which is THE issue in Shulchan Aruch) then she is indeed doing a great mitzvah. She gets less of a reward -- but we are not supposed to do mitzvos for the reward.

Sometimes just KNOWING this much helps a great deal.
Reply

sss vienna, austria December 9, 2004

Very smart answer. Thank you! I needed it. Reply

avishag December 8, 2004

aside I also went through a phase of wearing a tallit - I asked my (very orthodox) rabbi beforehand if it was allowed and he said it was... no one has, to date, been able to find a law forbidding women from wearing tallit. However... if G-d felt that women needed to wear a tallit to feel closer to him, He would have asked for it....

I completely agree that orthodox Judaism encourages women to be good women, whereas so called 'feminism' encourages women to come as close to being men as humanly possible, which in itself demeans women their own eyes... Reply

Related Topics