In the midst of a heated argument Sam yells to his wife, "I've had enough of this, I'm the king of this house, and you are nothing."

"Interesting," says Sara, "If I am nothing, then that makes you the king of nothing..."

In the battle of the sexes, religion is under fire. Many have accused Judaism of being partial to men, and making them the main transmitters of the Torah.

The Torah is our "owner's manual" for life, empowering us with our personal and global mission and communicating very specific instruction for the fulfillment of that mission. Jews have held onto the Torah for dear life, literally and figuratively. Whenever we've dispersed, we took the Torah with us. We've pored over her teachings and from her every letter gleaned a myriad of inspirational guidance. If the men were given "ownership" of the Torah, that would make them the de facto rulers of Jewish life.

Clearly G‑d gives equal if not superior precedence to the Jewish women in holding and transmitting the TorahIs this in fact the case? Without a thorough investigation into the Torah, it's easy to jump to a conclusion about the role of the woman in Judaism.

So let's do some investigation. We'll debate the issue from the standpoint of two positions—pro and con.

As our first piece of evidence, we'll present a verse from the Book of Exodus, chapter 19, verse 3. G‑d is about to give the Torah to Moses at Mt. Sinai. Here is how G‑d instructs Moses to transmit the Torah to the Jewish People:

"So shall you say to the house of Jacob and tell the children of Israel."

Now why would G‑d repeat Himself? Don't Jacob and Israel both refer to the same nation?

Rashi quotes the Midrash Mechilta to explain what G‑d meant by this doubled expression. "The house of Jacob—these are the women. The children of Israel—these are the men." G‑d instructed Moses to go directly to the women and explain the Torah to them. Only afterwards should he go to the men and teach them the Torah. Clearly G‑d gives equal if not superior precedence to the Jewish women in holding and transmitting the Torah.

Any questions from the "con" side of the aisle?

Yes, thank you.

Let's look at this Midrash once again. Yes, the women were given precedence and taught first, but look closely at what it says in the Mechilta: "To the women Moses was commanded to tell the foundations of the Torah, and to the men he had to convey the details of all of the topics."

Now this sounds like an affront to female intelligence. Perhaps they weren't capable of understanding all of the detail so G‑d merely summarized an outline of the Torah's laws for them? No further questions.

Does the "pro" side wish to add anything?

Absolutely! Let's look at this beautiful Midrash once again. G‑d instructed Moses to teach the women the foundational principles of the Torah and to the men to spell out the details. The women were obligated to keep to all of the details as well, and yet Moses didn't spell it out for them. He taught them the foundations and assumed that they would be able to deduce the specific behaviors from a general understanding of G‑d's desire.

Foundational principals aren't a watered down version of complex details; they contain all of the details within their succinct expression.

If they are not in touch with the foundation that lies beneath the rituals, they will not be able to teach their children with authentic enthusiasmLet's fast-forward to the actual scene of the Giving of the Torah. G‑d personally speaks the first two commandments: "I am the L‑rd your G‑d" and "You shall not have any other gods." Moses takes over for the next eight commandments. What was the point of this method of transmission? Either G‑d should have left it all to Moses, or else finished the job Himself. There are many answers to this question, but one of them goes like this: G‑d did really say all ten, for the last eight were contained in the first two. The astute listener could have deduced all of the subsequent commandments from the first two general ones.

G‑d told Moses to teach the women first. And what was he meant to teach them? The underlying themes and foundational principles from which the complex laws would be generated. G‑d counted on the women to understand the Torah from the inside out. If they got the essential ideas, all of the many laws would fall into place naturally.

Why were the women given this "inside view" of Torah? Since they are the primary transmitters of Torah to the next generation, naturally they need to have holistic view of the roots of all commandments. If they are not in touch with the foundation that lies beneath the rituals, they will not be able to teach their children with authentic enthusiasm.

Ladies and gentlemen of the audience, I would like to make the one final remark. In the battle of the sexes, both genders are looking for validation and perhaps power, while from the Torah's perspective man and woman form a perfect partnership by combining their individual strengths. G‑d empowers both with tools that are best suited for their respective contribution to their family and to G‑d's world. In this case, women were taught the Torah first, and from the inside out, to give them that understanding of the Torah most suited to their particular role.

I rest my case.1