Selections: What's on the Rabbi's Mind

Is Judaism Good for Women?

I was recently asked to write a response for Moment Magazine’s “Ask the Rabbis” column. The question posed was: “Is Judaism Good for Women?” Responses are typically limited to 200 words. The topic is of course deserving of much greater elaboration. Any thoughts?

Indeed it is.
The Torah is called Torat Chaim, which means “instruction for life.” Unlike other faith systems, Judaism is a “way of life” rather than a “religion” as that term is conventionally used. It is a manual for sanctifying every moment, every activity—including the seemingly mundane—and permeating it with G-dliness. In this framework, the layperson is no less engaged in the service of G-d than the full-time rabbi. The arenas of family and home are as religiously significant as the synagogue, if not more so. Judaism wants every corner of our life to be made divinely purposeful.
When viewed from this perspective, the woman’s influence on Jewish life is indeed primary; her role is central and indispensable. There can be no Judaism without her. She creates and inspires in those critical places where Judaism is most integral—in real, daily life. Of course she studies Torah and prays to G-d—indeed, our prayers are modeled after those of a Jewish woman—but more importantly, the Jewish woman is the acknowledged leader and role model to her family and to her community, often more than her male counterparts. Can we even speak of educating future generations of Jews without the Jewish woman? Can there really be a Jewish home without her? Can we possibly celebrate Jewish holidays as a family without her leading presence?
Religion takes place in special buildings; Judaism is practiced everywhere, especially in the home. Religion is observed on special days; Judaism is lived every day, all the time. Religion is officiated by members of the clergy; Judaism is practiced equally by every Jew. When we understand this about Judaism, many questions about traditional gender roles disappear.

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