Friday, November 27, 2015

Women and Torah study in the Talmud

THIS WEEK'S DAF YOMI COLUMN BY ADAM KIRSCH IN TABLET: The Talmud’s Deep Misogyny: No Women Allowed. There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Talmudic rabbis think women are dangerous sex fiends who should avoid Torah study—and as a consequence prescribe humiliating guilty-until-proven-innocent public shaming ceremonies.
Should women study Torah? Today, most Jews would answer that question with a resounding yes—and not only Reform and Conservative Jews. Even Chabad, on the evidence of its website, sees the rise in women’s Torah study as an unambiguously good thing, evidence of “women’s deep desire to achieve spiritual fulfillment through talmud Torah.” (The same source offers a reassurance that a woman’s desire to study Torah is not necessarily a product of “contentious motives,” such as feminism.) But ultra-Orthodox, or Haredi, Jews still exclude women from Torah study, and in this week’s Daf Yomi reading, we saw that the rabbis themselves were divided on the issue. The basic rule is that the mitzvah of Torah study, like many mitzvot, is not binding on women the way it is on men; when women study Torah, they are not fulfilling a commandment but doing so voluntarily.

Again and again and again: the ancients lived in a very different world from ours. One that by the standards of our time was often brutal and degrading.

Earlier Daf Yomi columns are noted here and links. The first post at this link also includes some additional information about the use of the Sota (Sotah) ritual in the post-Temple period.