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A WOMANS STRENGTH
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The Torah does not belittle women or minimize their status, nor does it erect barriers to their achieving self-fulfillment.

As cited above, it has been clearly proven that there are inborn differences between the male and female brain. In addition, research has demonstrated that these differences affect the process of reasoning and of brain function.  Nonetheless, some people continue to assert that gender has no influence on one's choices in life.  In their eyes, women are capable of performing any task which a man can accomplish, and, they claim, women will do it better.  While they admit that a woman's brain uses a different thought process, they claim that this is to the woman's advantage, for her patterns of reasoning are superior to those of men.  Thanks to their superior "brain wiring", women achieve better results.  With their superior reasoning, verbal skills, and sensitivity to those around them, they outdo men in many fields.

This is the main reason that women struggle for equal rights.  They seek to actualize the talents and abilities with which they are endowed, and oppose any social limitations which prevent them from fulfilling their goal.

These women are right in their struggle.  Again, it is amazing to discover that Torah Judaism does not deny these claims.  The Torah does not belittle women or minimize their status.  Nor does it erect barriers to their achieving self-fulfillment.  To the contrary, the Torah praises women as a group far more than it does men.  Among the positive qualities the Torah cites are the innate wisdom and understanding found in women, more than in men:

"The Holy One, blessed be He, bestowed more understanding on women than on men."  (Tractate Nidah 45)

"The wisdom of women built its home." (Proverbs 14:1)

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, champion of Orthodox Jewry in Germany about two hundred years ago, wrote that the woman has fewer precepts (mitzvos) to fulfill because she can achieve an elevated degree of sanctity more easily than a man.

In the Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 41) we find:

Rabbi Pinchas says: On the eve of the Sabbath, the people of Israel stood at the foot of Mount Sinai, men on one side, and women on the other.  G-d said to Moses: Go to the daughters of Israel and ask them whether they wish to accept the Torah, because the men will follow the opinion of the women.

In a different section of the Midrash we find:

Women are more powerful than men.  The men declared: "We will appoint a head, and let us go back to Egypt."  But the women said: "Let us have an inheritance"  (Sifrei Bemidbar 27:4)

Our Sages note with regard to the daughters of Zelophod, who petitioned for a legacy in the Holy Land just as the men received: "This tells us that they perceived something that Moses did not."  (Rashi, Bemidbar 27:7)

The conclusion is that women are more perceptive, more inclined to the spiritual, and that they are very influential.  This is not just a gesture or an idle compliment, but the outlook which affects day-to-day life and decisions made by the nation's leaders.  We find that G-d instructed Abraham: "Whatever Sarah says to you, listen to her voice." (Genesis 21:12)

Rashi comments on this verse: "We learn from here that Abraham was inferior to Sarah regarding prophecy."  (It is worthy to note here that prophecy is an expression of the power of speech, as we see from the similarity between the words nevuah, "prophecy", and niv, "utterance."

Miriam, the sister of Moses, and a prophetess in her own right, was instrumental in effecting the rescue of her entire nation from Egyptian bondage.  The Bible tells us: And there went a man of the house of Levi (Shemos 2:1) 

The Sages comment:

"Where did (Amram) go?  He went to fulfill the suggestion of his daughter.  Amram was the greatest leader of his generation.  When Pharaoh declared: 'Every male newborn shall be cast into the Nile', he said: 'We labor in vain.' He decided to divorce his wife.

As a result, the others followed his example and divorced their wives.

His daughter said to him: "Father! Your decree is harsher than Pharaoh's!  Pharaoh issued a decree against the males, but you have issued a decree against males and females.  Regarding Pharaoh's decree, there is room for doubt whether it will be fulfilled, but because you are righteous, your decree will surely be fulfilled.'

He (Amram) went and re-married his wife.  As a result, the others all remarried their wives.

(Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sota, 12a)

After this episode, Yocheved, the wife of Amram, gave birth to Moses our Teacher, who redeemed all of Israel.  We see that Miriam had greater insight than her father, the greatest leader of her time.

We find a similar incident many years later, in the period of the Tanaim, the scholars of the Mishna.  Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria was offered the position of dean of the yeshivah.  His response was "Let me go and get the opinion of the members of my household." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Berochos 27b)

The Talmud continues with a discussion of the fascinating dialogue that took place between Rabbi Elazar and his wife.

If our goal is to discover the role how Judaism defines a woman's role, we must present it correctly and completely, in all its dimensions, with all the responsibilities involved, and the importance the Torah assigns to it and the repercussions thereof. This is what I, as a young woman and lawyer set out to do and my conclusion was that far from being a stumbling block to self-realization, Judaism plays an essential roll in achieving this goal.


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