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#1 ilavHashem

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 11:30 PM

i have heard people say this a lot! and with feminism growing all over, it brings out that women are worth less in the torah!!!
i personally disagree, but i can see why people assume this.
some exampls of questions are:
why can't a woman give a get?
why can women be a witness?

#2 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 11:55 AM

Below is something I wrote almost 12 years ago on the topic. The questioner then framed the question in terms of women's "rights" in the Torah, and so you'll find that phrase used n my answer. Although addressed by all 3 "mistakes" I list below, most important to understand in order to directly address your point in Mistake #2. Here is a link to the full discussion we had then. It has a LOT of important information that pertains to your quesitons. Please check it out (By the way - the teenager "Bas-Levy" who is involved in that discussion is now the Bas-Levy Moderator of this site!)


Question: i have a close friend whose family is a bit more modern than mine. she believes womens rights are being denied in the torah. she often asks questions in school but she misunderstands the answers and thinks the teacher cant answer her question because she doesnt know what to answer. the main point i learned was to accept that hashem created the different beings and that we both have different mitzvos. how can i or someone explain to her how hashem created us? will she understand?


Answer:


The idea that the Torah violates (sic) women’s rights (sic) is based on three mistakes, and is easily shown to be based on bias and influences of the secular world, as opposed to logic and honesty.

Mistake Number 1: There is nothing in the Torah that treats women in any negative way. The idea that there is, is based on a lack of understanding of Torah, and the Christian impression that righteous women being “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”

Men wear Tefillin, women do not. Women must dress tzniusdik, men do not (at least not in the same manner as women). Yet there is no difference, holiness-wise, between what a man must wear – his Tefillin and Tzitzis – and what a woman must wear – long skirts and shatilach. The assumption that Tefillin and Tzitzis are holy items that confer nobility on the wearer, but chaste clothing is a restriction designed to subjugate women is false. Both Tefillin and skirts are mere items of clothing, worn on the outside; and both are imbued with holiness. The only reason people think differently is because they are predisposed to the Christian idea of Tznius.

In Judaism, Tznius is grounded in the posuk in Tehillim: Kol kevuda bas melech penimah, which means that a Jewish woman is a princess, and is entitled and expected to be treated thusly. And just as the Queen of England cannot walk around the streets of Soho in jeans, so too can the Daughters of Hashem not be expected to appear in a manner unbefitting of their high stature.

Of course, the Yetzer Horah uses the secular mind-set to convince people that the Torah’s intentions are just the opposite of what they really are, no different from the blood libel that convinced people – and incidentally, it is coming back in certain circles in the American Midwest! – that Jews eat blood, which is absolutely forbidden to them.

This is the result of Jews who live Halachicly (sic) do not bother to inculcate themselves with the Jewish Hashkafos. If they would go beyond their narrow, pick-and-choose Judaism, this would not be a problem. If they would bother to understand the hashkafa behind Tznius, they would not have this problem. It is merely because they see the outer legalities of Tznius only, and they project what they see onto their own misbegotten Hashkofos that they put 1 and 1 together and make 4.

Tell them that the Torah is not only Halachah, that if they want to create their own religion that only includes “laws” without the ides behind them, or laws behind which are their own, man-made interpretations, that’s on e thing. But don’t blame the Torah.

It’s like saying the Torah endorses idol worship. For doesn’t it say in the Torah “And you shall worship idols” (“v’avaditem elohim acheirim”)? Of course it does! But you need to look at what surrounds those words and just the opposite idea emerges: “And if you do not follow these laws, you will veer away from the Path, and you shall worship idols”! So, too, it’s not enough just to look at the Halachah, and it is not enough just to live Halachicly. The Torah also has its Hashkafos, and without them, the whole Torah is twisted into just the opposite of what it really is.

Another example: Women cannot get aliyos in Shul, they cannot perform synagogue services, and they cannot even be seen by the men. This bothers some under-Hashkafizcized people, for no good reason. Here, too, the concept of synagogue life has been secularized, just as has Tznius, and foreign Hashkafos have been projected onto the Halachos of the Bais Hakneses.

The center of Torah life takes place not in the synagogue but at home. It used to be, that the home was the hustle and bustle of Jewish living, and the synagogue, often not more than a “shtible” was a place where men went to discharge their obligation to pray with a minyan, and to hear a class. No women were desirous or resentful of that, because the synagogue was not the royal representative of Jewish life. The home was. The home, where the bringing up of our children takes place, where our holy traditions are handed down to the next generation, where the Shabbos table radiates every week with a light that outshines ten thousand suns.

Where the next generation of Talmidei Chachamim are fed, clothed, bathed, and taught that Hashem loves them so much that even while they sleep, Hashem “stands beside” their beds watching over them, and so they say “Shema” and “Hamapil” every night right after they get tucked in. And they are taught that even when they wake up, Hashem is there, eagerly awaiting their beautiful brachos and bentching, and so they say “Modeh Ani” as soon as they open their eyes.

The home is the place where the heart of Jewish life throbs. And there, the Jewish woman reigns supreme. While her husband is out making a living, she is running the holiest sanctuary in the world. There was no way that she would be envious of her man’s trips every morning and evening out of the home-sanctuary to the shtieble to fulfill his personal obligations to pray with a quorum of 9 other men.

But that changed. The secularization of Judaism and the weakening of Jewish homes in many circles have transferred the center of Jewish life to the synagogue. What once was – and still is, in more Hashkafically aware Jewish circles – the Holy of Holies of Judaism has become a place where newspapers, novels, televisions, and radios are the primary sources of entertainment; where the more a woman can “get out” to “do something” such as sit in a movie theater, the more of a “life” she thinks she has. Where taking care of children is considered merely a necessity and an obligation – albeit a labor of love – instead of the ultimate Avodas Hashem.

The homes today have been transformed by the secular mind-set, to the point where the center of Jewish life has become the synagogue, and anyone who cannot equally participate in its programs is someone who cannot equally be part of Judaism.

Here, too, “Halachic Judaism” is an obstacle to Torah life, for nowhere in Halachah does it say your home must be a Holy of Holies, and it is merely (sic) a Hashkafa that deems the Jewish home the center of Jewish life.

But it is the Torah’s Hashkafa. And if you would like to replace it with your own Hashkafa, don’t blame the Torah for the inadequacies of your own monster-religion created by your picking and choosing what parts of Jewish Theology you would like to live with.

No woman in her right mind, who understands Torah Hashkafa, would ever feel that her “rights” are being violated.

That’s mistake number 1.

Mistake number 2: The whole idea of some people being treated inferior only makes sense if Hashem created men and women, and then decided how he is going to treat them. “If this person is a woman”, He would say to Himself, “I will treat her worse than I treat the man”. But it makes no sense if you understand things the way they are, namely, that Hashem could have made every woman a man. Every Rachel Rosenberg could have been a Reuven Rosenberg; every Leah could have been a Laibel; every Shprintze a Shachne.

When Hashem creates a person, He looks at a generic, asexual, formless and indistinguishable Neshoma-core, and says, “What shall this souls’ life consist of?”

So Hashem peers into the core personality of this Neshoma, not the parts that He adds, but the parts that a person makes of himself, and He then decides what the best world-situation would be for this generic soul-stuff.

“Well”, Hashem may say, “This person should have the opportunity to give a lot of charity, as well as the temptation not to give it. That is a good thing for this particular person.”

So Hashem will make him wealthy, but also miserly.

“It would be good for this person to search for Judaism on his own. He would be willing to do that, and he can be successful”. So Hashem makes him born to a non-religious family.

Every single detail of a person’s life (except of course whether he will be a Tzadik or Rasha) is determined before he is born; every temptation, trial and tribulation that he will encounter in the world, is calculated with precision accuracy by Hashem. And the human being IS CUSTOM DESIGNED TO BEST PERFORM THE PARTICULAR NISYONOS THAT HASHEM DEEMS BEST FOR HIM.

“I want this person to have a nisayon to defend a certain fellow Jew on this-and-this day and this-and-this place, from an anti-Semitic bully”.

So Hashem will give him muscles to be able to do it.

“Do I want this person to be a Talimd Chacham? Do I want this person to bring up children? Do I want this person to learn Gemora? Do I want this person to go through the pains of pregnancy? Do I want this person to go to a Bais Yaakov of a yeshiva?”

If “this” is what I want, says Hashem, I will therefore make her a female. If on the other hand, “this” is what I want, he will be a male.

Hashem knows before he creates everyone what the specific Halachos in Shulchan Aruch are for males and females. And Kohanim, and Leviim, and Yisroelim.

And so based on what Hashem decides is best for the particular person, that’s how he shall be created.

It makes no more sense to complain that Hashem treats women worse than men than it does to complain that Hashem treats any human being better or worse than another. If someone is poor, we all know that that’s the will of Hashem. If someone lives during the depression, would anyone think he has the right to complain to G-d that he is being treated unfairly?

If someone is born without an arm, can we say G-d is unfair?

Obviously, we know that G-d has His reasons for giving everyone their lot in life, and if G-d gives me my lot, I know its best for me. It does not mean that G-d values someone else more because He “treated them better.”

So it is not that G-d said “You’re a woman, therefore you cannot lead synagogue services.” Rather, G-d said, “I do not want leading the synagogue services to be your lot in life. Therefore I will make you a woman.”

If we accept that G-d created everyone in the exact fashion that He wanted, not because c”v he was forced to, it is impossible to ask such a question.

We can prove that this question is the result of secular influences and not honest thinking simply by asking the question why it bothers them that G-d treats women worse than men, but it does not bother them that G-d treats poor people worse than the rich/ Unintelligent people worse than the intelligent? People born in Bangladesh worse than people born in America? Whatever answer they have for those question also applies to the way Hashem treats women as opposed to men.

Mistake #3: Who decides what “rights” anyone has anyway? And what do “rights” have to do with the fact that exercising some of those “rights” may not be good for you? The Torah proscribes what is bad for your soul. It does not force you to fulfill it. Therefore, it does not remove any “rights”. If I say that smoking is bad for your health, I am not depriving you of your “right” to smoke, and if I say wearing pants is bad for your soul I am not depriving you of that “right” (sic). Here, too, we see that the question is based on the assumption that The Torah is not the true word of G-d. Once we establish that the Torah came from Hashem, we certainly understand that revelation of what is detrimental to your soul is not a contradiction to what you perceive as your “human rights”.

I have a question, though, for your friend. The way she is looking at this, are women’s rights the only “rights” that the Torah takes away/ how about freedom of religion? Isn’t that a basic human right? Certainly the Torah does not allow us to practice whatever religion we want. Can we say, “The Torah takes away our right to freedom of Religion”? Can we say it takes away our right to eat what we want? To do what we want, as long as we do not harm others? The Torah, all of it, reveals things that you cannot do. Of all the “rights” that she possesses, that the Torah does not allow her to “exercise”, why is women’s “rights” the only thing that bothers her?

#3 ilavHashem

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Posted 13 January 2012 - 01:56 PM

wow!!! thnx so much!! finalyy an answer i hav never heard before! i cnt wait 2 share these answers!

#4 FS613

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Posted 17 January 2012 - 10:00 PM

Regarding ilavHashem's first post in this thread,

1) If a woman is trapped in an abusive marriage, and the husband refuses to give a Get,

why can't a Kosher Bais Din just issue a Psak or a Get to dissolve the marriage?

2) What is the reason that a woman is not allowed to be a witness?

I am not questioning "women's rights."

I'm just inquiring as to why the Torah made the rules the way they are.

#5 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 18 January 2012 - 08:28 AM

1. The same reason why, if a person is dead a kosher Bais Din cannot issue a psak to bring him back to life. Or if a person is a Levi, a kosher Bais Din cannot issue a psak to make him a Kohen. Kiddushin is not "dissolvable." You can do that to a secular marriage, but Kidushin is not a secular marriage. It is a reality that was created and cannot be undone by a Bais Din. A "psak" means an answer to a Halachic question. Nothing more. And Bais DIn cannot issue a "get" any more than the woman's friend can, or the woman herself. Bais Din's powers in our religion do not include such things.

2. See my post above. If Hashem decided that a certain person's destiny involves a set of factors that include things like not testifying in court, not learning Gemora, bringing up children, not having to go to MInyan, et al, He will make them female. Asking why Hashem does not want women to be witnesses is no different than asking why Hashem made women give birth and not men. Nobody asks that question because we understand different people have different functions and roles in this world, and Hashem tailors everyone's tools to match their G-d-given role. And that a person's role is determined by what is best for that particular person. Same thing for being a witness.

#6 ilavHashem

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 12:54 AM

y dis Hashem let man hav more thn one wife...not tht i wnt more thn one husband....but we see how wives were always peaned this setup! y wud tht b possible??? Hashme shud make a situation possible where it was expected for one wife 2 feel hurt?

#7 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:28 AM

y dis Hashem let man hav more thn one wife...not tht i wnt more thn one husband....but we see how wives were always peaned this setup! y wud tht b possible??? Hashme shud make a situation possible where it was expected for one wife 2 feel hurt?

They weren't always pained. Today it is hard to imagine a marriage like that but that is because of the social environment in which we live. But in those days, people had different attitudes towards marriage where polygamy was not a negative thing. People's attitudes changed and so we took it upon ourselves not to marry more than one wife.

Don't forget - women were not forced to marry someone who already had a husband. They did it willingly. If they didn't mind, why should I?

#8 ilavHashem

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 02:39 PM

ok...but with the case of chana nad elkana....it ses tht the other wife...not sure the ame...was called her tzara...n my teacher translatedtht it was because they cuased one another pain...
it ses tht leah named her son reuven....cus Hahem saw her pain....pain cus she was the lesser wife...n yaakov ddnt luv her as much....
so it seems tht even then....wen polygamy wassss accepted, it still caused women 2b hurt

#9 taon

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 07:21 PM

With Chana, the pain wasn't because her husband had two wives. it could have just as easily been the neighbor doing this.

With Yaakov it's a special case, the situation was only created because Lavan tricked Yaakov.

#10 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 02:24 PM

Please see this thread also.

#11 FS613

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 02:41 PM

To Rabbi Shapiro, Shlita:

1) As the man marries the wife before 2 valid witnesses in Kedushin by saying "Haray At Mekudeshes" and putting the ring on her finger,

then, is that why HE has to give her the Get document and say "Haray At Muteress"? (And the Bais Din cannot issue the Get?)

Because the man marries the woman, and the man divorces the woman?

2) So the reason that a woman cannot be a valid witness in Bais Din, because it's not a woman's function? Like not wearing Tallis and Tefilin, not learning Gemara, not being part of a Minyan, etc.?

Thank you.

#12 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 02:47 PM

To Rabbi Shapiro, Shlita:

1) As the man marries the wife before 2 valid witnesses in Kedushin by saying "Haray At Mekudeshes" and putting the ring on her finger,

then, is that why HE has to give her the Get document and say "Haray At Muteress"? (And the Bais Din cannot issue the Get?)

Because the man marries the woman, and the man divorces the woman?

2) So the reason that a woman cannot be a valid witness in Bais Din, because it's not a woman's function? Like not wearing Tallis and Tefilin, not learning Gemara, not being part of a Minyan, etc.?

Thank you.

1) Kind of.
2) Yes.

#13 yiddishe_shikse

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Posted 21 March 2012 - 10:06 AM

If women are indeed "equal" why are male children universally preferred? From the times of the matriarchs , the Tanach etc. they davened specifically to be blessed with male children. It says in the gemara that you can daven for forty days past conception that the child be a boy. Why doesnt it simply say that you can daven for whichever gender you prefer, boy or girl? It is assumed that males are more desired, just like in every patriarchal society. This is true today as well. I have this little book called aneini - special prayers for special occasions, very popular I guess. And sure enough, it contains s "prayer to have a son" but there is no "prayer to have a daughter". Why is that?
It seems that in every culture, the preference for male children is an indication of a low status of women in that particular community (india etc)..

#14 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 25 March 2012 - 09:12 AM


If women are indeed "equal" why are male children universally preferred? From the times of the matriarchs , the Tanach etc. they davened specifically to be blessed with male children. It says in the gemara that you can daven for forty days past conception that the child be a boy. Why doesnt it simply say that you can daven for whichever gender you prefer, boy or girl? It is assumed that males are more desired, just like in every patriarchal society. This is true today as well. I have this little book called aneini - special prayers for special occasions, very popular I guess. And sure enough, it contains s "prayer to have a son" but there is no "prayer to have a daughter". Why is that?
It seems that in every culture, the preference for male children is an indication of a low status of women in that particular community (india etc)..

Based on what I said above, you need to explain to me what you mean by "equal". All Jews, men and women, can be Tzadikim as great as Moshe Rabbeinu. And they will be rewarded equally for their choices.

If you mean "treated equally by G-d", there are no two individuals that are treated equally. Everyone is given the body, personality, life, and circumstances that are best for that individual. Never mind men and women for now - are wealthy mean and non-wealthy men "equal" according to Judaism? If Hashem gives a wealthy man the ability to go to Aruba for vacation and not the non-wealthy man, does that mean they are not "equal" to Hashem?

And then, of course, as I mentioned, if Hashem liked men more than women, He could have made all the women men.

The word "equal" in this context is as meaningless as if you would ask "Is green equal to red?" If you mean identical, the answer is no; if you mean equal, I don't know what you are asking.

As far as a Tefilah for boys, you are confusing two issues; regarding your observation about cultures that have such prayer, you are making an error in logic:

There are prayers that we are instructed by the Torah to pray - such as for knowledge, health, livelihood, peace, and the obliteration of heretics, for example. These are our values.

Then there are prayers that a person can add to those, for whatever he desires. He can pray for a large house, for his mother-in-law to move to Russia, for more taxis in Manhattan, or for his candidate to win an election. These are personal desires, not Torah values.

He can also pray to have a child who is a genius; who will grow up one day to be President; who will discover the cure for cancer; or that he will be a great baseball player.

When a father prays for a son, it is because if asked which he wants, that man would choose a son over a daughter. This does not mean that if he has a daughter he would value or love her any less. It means that fathers often dream of having a child that can follow in his own footsteps; with whom he can play ball, argue over a Tosfos, or talk about man-things. Maybe he would like to see him go to the same Yeshiva he did, learn from the same Seforim, and maybe even vicariously live a better life through him. He may also like to see his child grow up to be a big Rosh Yeshiva or Rebbi. Or he simply may believe that bringing up boys is easier than bringing up girls (I know a lot of men who think so). And therefore he may want to ask Hashem to give him a child that can be all or any of those things. It does not mean that males are in Judaic theology "higher" than females. It means to fathers, often, they desire bringing up boys more than girls. Nothing more than that.

In fact, it seems that, if you remove India and China from the population, the majority of couples who prefer one gender over another would choose to have a girl over a boy. See here. Now let's assume that what it says in that article is correct. Does that mean that the majority of people believe that males are not "equal" to females? Of course not. And praying is simply a means of choosing a certain gender.

It could be that women prefer bringing up girls than boys.If you were to find that is true, would that mean that women believe males and females are not "equal"? Of course not. You are confusing values with desires.

Your error in logic is assuming that, because in a community that devalues women there exists prayers for having boys, therefore if there exist prayers for having boys in a certain community, that means they devalue women. Two people can pray for the same thing for two totally different reasons, and two communities can as well.



#15 eidel

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 01:37 PM

According to "הגדה של פםח The Making of a Nation; Rabbi Avigdor Miller Conducts the Seder" page 39, Rabbi Miller said only men have the rights to divorce because women are excitable and if women can give Gittin they'll give Gittin all the time..
:-S ....

#16 Rabbi Shapiro

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 06:14 PM

According to "הגדה של פםח The Making of a Nation; Rabbi Avigdor Miller Conducts the Seder" page 39, Rabbi Miller said only men have the rights to divorce because women are excitable and if women can give Gittin they'll give Gittin all the time..
:-S ....

It's important to understand that whenever a reason is given for a Torah law, it is not really the reason. It may be "a" reason, but being that Hashem is not finite, His thoughts and commandments are not finite either. Therefore, we can never fathom His reasons for anything.

Not only that, but when we give a reason for something Hashem tells us, it may not even be "a" reason. Rav Chaim Brisker explained: The word "טעם" in Hebrew means "reason," but it also means "taste." When we give a טעם for something in the Torah, it is not a "reason," he said. Rather, we are giving the Torah's instructions a bit of "טעם" - a bit of taste. We are making it palatable, easier to understand, but it is not the cause (i.e. the reason) of the Mitzvah.

#17 eidel

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 06:35 PM

Rav Chaim Brisker explained: The word "טעם" in Hebrew means "reason," but it also means "taste." When we give a טעם for something in the Torah, it is not a "reason," he said. Rather, we are giving the Torah's instructions a bit of "טעם" - a bit of taste. We are making it palatable, easier to understand, but it is not the cause (i.e. the reason) of the Mitzvah.

Rabbi Shapiro has answered my question without my mentioning it!

#18 taon

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Posted 20 May 2012 - 09:41 PM

Rav Miller did a lot of work with married couples form what i've seen. he probably was referring to his experiences.

#19 eidel

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 08:46 PM

Thank you, taon, for responding.
That makes sense :-)

#20 matan

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Posted 23 May 2012 - 07:39 PM

Moderator,
You explained why there is a prayer for boys. But why can't there be a prayer for a girl as well. Or perhaps just a prayer for a child.