Defining Equality in Judaism – by Rabbi Mark Goldfeder

The entire debate surrounding the ‘treatment of women in halacha’ seems to me to start with a rather questionable premise, namely that rabbinic law in general is hostile towards women. Take a step back; Jewish Law from the beginning enacted new religious legislation to improve the condition of women. (Just see Babylonian Talmud, Vilna Edition, Kesubot 47a, giving married women additional rights). Some of the grand advances that can be attributed to this legal system include the concept of divorce, the forbidding of marital rape, the idea that women could own property, and mandatory prenuptial agreements specifying a large alimony in the event of divorce. For hundreds if not thousands of years religious convictions were at the forefront of the development of rights for women. Even if you argue that our tradition is no longer at the forefront of democratic development, without the tremendous groundwork that Judaism laid it is very possible that these debates would not exist at all, and so any of these conflicts should be
approached with a sense of humility, giving the benefit of the doubt to the ultimately progressive nature of religious morality instead of immediately labeling particular practices discriminatory or unfair. When religious mores conflict with modern perspectives, we must think carefully and decide to what extent human rights are culturally and historically contextual, and therefore to what extent they should be culturally and historically imperialistic; that is, in what situations should modern ideas prevail over existing religious ideas.

The arguments I have read about women in Halacha more often than not seem to define the equality they strive for by simply requiring the removal of barriers to the rise of women to the same status as men and ignore the social and legal structures that have given rise to those different roles in the first place. They seem to accept the general applicability of a male standard and promise a very limited form of equality – equality defined as the ability for women to be just like their male counterparts. What we should really be striving for, ala Catherine Mackinnon, is a separately defined equality wherein women are given the ability to fully express themselves solely as women, without having to also compete for status in a male-centric structure. Women need their own standard, and while the phrase “separate but equal” may not be politically-correct in a post segregation society, when we ask for a standard that is different we by definition are asking for a standard that is in some ways separate. And yet, phrased differently, the application of a separate but equal doctrine in regards to gender is far from controversial. We might wish for a race-blind world, but we do not really want an entirely gender-blind world. Race separate restrooms, for instance, are of course taboo, but gender separate are de rigueur. On a practical legal front, family court judges consistently make custody decisions that favor mothers over fathers. The mere fact that a practice discriminates in some way between the sexes does not always have to imply inequality; it can sometimes be simple recognition of legitimate and appropriate difference. That difference when applied to men and women may sometimes be desirable, which is unlikely to ever be the case when applied to race.

I believe that rabbinic law is not just resisting a single canonical form of gender equality, but instead is expressing an alternate vision of equality, a sincere attempt to ensure that in being handed their equality women are being valued as women, not simply being given the permission and ability to go out and act like men.

The idea has been deeply ingrained in Western societal thought that there are very specifically gendered role definitions for the sexes. It is fair to say that, at least until recently, the idea that a woman’s ideal place was in the home and as a mother was a commonly held sentiment. No one can deny that in some areas, such as maternity, in order to combat unfair or discriminatory practices we cannot just ignore the difference between men and women, allowing women to be men. Here we must ask men to make a positive change in how they think and how they act; we need to tell men that having and raising children is not just the responsibility of the mother. Society should recognize that common responsibility and, to the greatest extent possible, share in that task while compensating instead of subtly punishing (and/or holding back) women for the time and the work that they put in.

Jewish Law has recognized this idea for well over two-thousand years. One particularly striking aspect of Jewish law (as defined by the Torah, the Talmud, and the Shulkhan Arukh) is the very noticeable and deliberate absence of a specific role definition for women. Had the Law intended to preclude for women all roles but that of mother, it could easily have done so; just as the Law clearly prescribes the obligations of a husband to his wife and vice-versa, and the obligations of parents to children and vice-versa, it could have also made mandatory for women not only marriage and procreation but also the entire range of household duties which would have defined an exclusive role for them. The law as it stands though is that women are not obligated to marry or procreate, nor to perform any household duties if they choose not to do so.

On the other hand, while Jewish law does not then define a “proper” or “necessary” role for women, it does assume that the continuation of a people depends upon the voluntary selection by at least some women of that role of mother. Recognizing that women could easily be disadvantaged by that position, the Law attempts to even the playing field somewhat and encourage the exercise of that choice. It does so by religiously incentivising motherhood, making sure that women who choose to enter motherhood are societally appreciated and socially compensated to the greatest extent possible. In practice the civil and religious demands made upon Jewish women by Jewish law are relaxed in order to assure that no legal obligation could possibly interfere with a domestic role; if a woman does in fact elect to discover some aspects of her own personal fulfillment in the act of becoming a mother, no law or policy will stand in the way of her performance of that sacred trust.

The primary category of commandments from which women were exempted for this reason were those which would either require or make urgently preferable a communal appearance on their part. (See Saul J. Berman ‘The Status of Women in Halakhic Judaism’ Tradition, Volume 14:2 1973.) As noted, the underlying motive of exemption is not the attempt to unjustly deprive women of the opportunity to achieve religious fulfillment. Rather, these exemptions are a tool used by the Law to achieve a particular social goal, to assure that no legal or social obligations would interfere with the selection by Jewish women of a role which was at least temporarily centered in the home. Male members of the community are required to pick up the slack by ensuring that there are in fact quorums that regularly meet, and that the communal responsibilities in general are constantly being fulfilled. It is vital to emphasize that despite the exemptions discussed above, the mother role, although a protected role, is not the mandated or exclusively proper role, and that women are also free to participate communally if they choose to do so.

Do not for a second think that Judaism alone as a legal or social system struggles with these questions. The American lawyer, for instance, who is given optional maternity leave, can exercise that right, but because they have only nominal equality and the role of motherhood is not really a common responsibility for which they are compensated instead of subtly punished, they may then still be forced to watch as their male coworkers, who do not have two sets of responsibilities, advance without them. Article 5(b) of CEDAW, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (perhaps the most prominent international normative instrument recognizing the special concerns of women, insofar as it goes further than simply requiring equality of opportunity and also demands equality of result) tasks member states ‘To ensure that family education includes a proper understanding of maternity as a social function and the recognition of the common responsibility of men and women in the upbringing and development of their children, it being understood that the interest of the children is the primordial consideration in all cases.’ Judaism understood the importance of Article 5 a long time ago.

Which leads us back to the uncomfortable technicalities of dealing with an internally consistent system of law. In Jewish law, any exemption (male or female) from religious obligation necessitates a balancing loss in religious power.   The exemption that women have from the commandment to participate in certain forms of communal service, for example, results in their disqualification from being counted towards the quorum necessary to engage in such worship.  Similarly, in civil matters, the fact that women are relieved in certain situations of the obligation to testify results in their inability to be part of the pair or team of witnesses who bind the fact-finding process of the court. (Note, however, that women are believed; it just does not fall under the technical category of halachic ‘testimony.’ Most of what we colloquially call ‘testimony’ in Beth Din nowadays is also not technically testimony, and women are able to participate there as fully and completely as men). Such exemptions and disqualifications are not limited to women; for example a Jewish king may not participate in judicial proceedings since he is exempt from being prosecuted by a religious court.  The exemptions that women are given from religious obligations are meant to foster women’s ability to productively choose their roles and to spread responsibility more evenly as opposed to simply telling to be men as well as women, to give birth and not miss a day of work or worship. However, whatever the motivations, an internally consistent Jewish law system cannot avoid the technical legal consequences of exemption. The inability of the court to compel a woman’s presence results in the correlative loss on the part of the woman (in certain situations) of the power to compel the court to find the facts in accordance with her testimony, or to serve as a judge and compel others to appear.

Seen in this light, the lack of mitzvot for women in the public sphere is not intended to discriminate; on the contrary, it arises from a particular religious vision of separate but equal gender norms – a vision that allows women the freedom to be fully effeminate and not just occupy male space with identical male communal responsibilities. This is a vision that is likely different than that of the some female members of society, but it cannot be called inherently biased. It is practically impossible to construct a realistically gender neutral society. Gender equality, unlike race equality, must inherently involve some aspects that are separate and unequal, and which must then be balanced carefully against each other. As we noted above, almost everyone agrees to some level of gender discrimination. Halacha is and always has been a prescribed set of values, which defines itself in terms of duties and obligations, not rights. What halacha does, by telling us what is and is not a mitzvah, what we are and are not commanded to do, what is and is not a fulfillment of God’s will in a particular situation such that we receive reward for doing it, is to show us where Jewish law really thinks that line of difference ought to be drawn, rather than just enforcing a canonical vision of equality. This line, in regard to the equality of men and women, cannot be compared at all to other minhagim, where we are more likely to add or subtract non-essential, non prescribed, or non proscribed ritual actions based on new ideas; unlike almost any other accepted minhag, this is a line that is central to halacha’s understanding of the family, and to halacha’s vision of Jewish life.

Yes, any attempt to foster a particular social goal through class legislation, lumping together and defining the status of an entire segment of the community universally and extrinsically by law rather than by contractual agreement is going to be unduly restrictive of some individual self-expression. But that is part of buying into a system and its vision. Regardless, the anger and accusations in this debate are just sad. Genuine and committed people are rushing to conclusions, missing the subtleties of well-reasoned religious analysis. Whether you think that the line should be halachic recognition of a practice as positively good by its definition as a mitzvah, or halacha’s recognition of a practice as an acceptable possibility by virtue of the fact that it is not forbidden, I would hope that people can approach this discussion with an open mind, recognizing that each of these are sincere (and each undoubtedly to some) imperfect attempts to draw a line and find a balance wherein men and women are both able to live their lives and their Judaism to the fullest.

Rabbi Mark Goldfeder, Atlanta

26 Responses to Defining Equality in Judaism – by Rabbi Mark Goldfeder

  1. sara says:

    Balanced and thoughtful as always. I remember when he was a rabbi in the heights how well he dealt with peoples practical concerns. kol hakavod!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Kiddushin 29a–29b (Talmud Babylonian); see Saul Berman, The Status of Women in Halakhic Judaism, in THE JEWISH WOMAN: NEW PERSPECTIVES 114, 119–21 (Elizabeth Koltun ed., 1987) for a more detailed discussion of the issue of women and Torah study.
    The Mishnah states that women are exempted from affirmative precepts that are time-bound. Kiddushin 1:7 (Mishnah). Yet, many commentators have noted that the Talmud’s discussion of this point is considerably more nuanced. Saul Berman has noted that it is “impossible to explain women’s exemptions exclusively in terms of the absence of need for time conditional commandments.” See Berman, supra note 130, at 11 Saul Berman’s essay, The Status of Women in Halakhic Judaism, furnishes yet another example that is directly on point. Berman, who is a prominent Modern Orthodox rabbi and scholar with a law degree, opens his essay with rhetoric that could easily appear in an article embracing this cultural analysis paradigm: “Our apologetics have relegated women to the service role; all forces of the male dominated society were brought to bear to make women see themselves in the way most advantageous to men.” Moreover, he forcefully argues that “Jewish women have been culturally and religiously colonized into acceptance of their identities as ‘enablers.’” The solution, according to Berman, is that “we must encourage women to develop in a creative fashion whatever additional forms they find necessary for their religious growth.” Despite the promise of these words, his ultimate recommendations include designing synagogue space in a way that is more welcoming for women and encouraging rabbis to exhort women to come earlier to synagogue services and refrain from talking during the services.

  3. Roberta Kwall says:

    Rabbi Goldfeder is certainly correct that the rabbis were not anti-female. Another remarkable example of this reality is the institution of onah, through which husbands are required to engage in sex for the purpose of providing pleasure to their wives. Depending on the husband’s occupation, men are obligated to have a certain amount of sex with their wives, and in a certain manner.

    But I don’t believe the rabbis’ state of mind concerning women is really what causes so much contestation on this issue. Fabbi Goldfeder cites to Saul Berman’s article in Tradition, but in another essay, The Status of Women in Halakhic Judaism, Berman furnished an interesting description of the status of women. Initially, he observes that it is “impossible to explain women’s exemptions exclusively in terms of the absence of need for time conditional commandments.” (p. 130). Moreover, he opens this very essay with language that would find a welcome by many truly serious Jews seeking a greater ritualistic role for women:

    “Our apologetics have relegated women to the service role; all forces of the male dominated society were brought to bear to make women see themselves in the way most advantageous to men.” Moreover, he forcefully argues that “Jewish women have been culturally and religiously colonized into acceptance of their identities as ‘enablers.’”

    If there is a reasonable halakhic basis for a position that would afford women increased (not necessarily equal) ritualistic participation (and Israeli scholars such as Daniel Sperber, Professor Emerita at Bar Ilan University have so demonstrated), then pockets of Modern Orthodoxy ought to be more open to considering this. Sperber has made the argument that by not doing so, the human dignity of women who spiritually yearn to touch and read from the Torah is violated. His case is compelling and matches the reality many women face. The reasons why women have not been afforded this opportunity are largely historical and cultural (rather than halakhic) and the same can be said as to why not all women are pressing for the ability to read from the Torah at this point. The Cardozo Law Review is publishing an article on this very topic (looking at the issue from the standpoint of both halakhah and culture) in its forthcoming December issue.

  4. Michael Stein says:

    Interesting post. And I would agree that gender neutrality is not achievable, or even desirable.

    However, the post completely ignores another dimension of women’s issues which has been getting worse and not better in recent years. In many religious circles, women are being treated as truly second class citizens. Separate buses (not coincidentally, always in the back), separate sidewalks, innocuous photographs with faces blurred out.

    I would add that an extremely strict attitude towards issues of dress and tziniut have pervaded almost all of Orthodoxy, including Modern Orthodox institutions. The way Rav Soloveitchik’s wife dressed and comported herself would cause many today to look at her as marginally observant. This excessive focus on extreme tziniut objectifies women (as do the practices noted above on buses, sidewalks and signs) every bit as much as pornography. Women are sexual objects that elicit in men improper thoughts, so women should be covered up and hidden away.

    At another level, women actively participate on shul boards, but despite recent precedents, even many Modern Orhodox shuls exclude them from being President. None of the arguments in the blog about ritual observance and obligations justify that sort of discrimination.

    I would add that the extensive apologetics around “Shelo asani isha” are also rather sad — even if some convoluted historical argument about what the bracha might once have meant can be marshaled — the bracha as it reads on the simplest level and as it has been interpreted by many rabbis through today (note Rav Kook) — reads as a denigration of women. What harm is there in changing the nusach of that one bracha? From the extreme reactions to any such move, one would think that Judaism is so fragile that it can’t handle even marginal changes to the nusach. I for one believe Judaism would not only survive but flourish if it could make this change.

    So, while I agree that gender equality in shul is probably neither achievable nor desirable, there are many other issues that we need to consider. And what I see happening in recent years does not suggest progress.

    • Sammy says:

      While I understand Rabbi Stein’s discomfort with woman’s religiosity being gaged by their style of dress, I find Rav Eliezer Melamed’s comparison more compelling:

      “True, clothes are merely an external feature, but on the other hand, because they stand out and are clearly visible, they convey an extremely fundamental statement: If one’s clothing is “kosher” (in accordance with Jewish law), the woman wearing it declares herself to be a Jew faithful to the Torah, and this is a ‘kiddush Hashem’ (sanctification of God). If a woman’s clothing is not “kosher”, it communicates the exact opposite: Although I am Jewish, I am not loyal to halakha, and emulate the Gentile culture. Such behavior borders on the prohibitions of ‘chilul Hashem’ (desecration of God) and “Do not follow [any] of their customs” (Ya’yikra 18:3).

      The story is told that Rabbi Neiryah ztz”l once said that if a religious adolescent stops putting on ‘tefillin’ for two weeks, there is no need for overly concern – this is a temporary crisis which will most probably pass. But if he takes off his ‘kippa’, the situation is more serious, and very worrisome. This, despite the fact that putting on ‘tefillin’ is a mitzvah from the Torah, while wearing a ‘kippa’ is only a ‘minhag’ (custom). However, since wearing a ‘kippa’ is a public and constant act, it incorporates a declaration of loyalty and ‘kiddush Hashem’. The removal of one’s ‘kippa’ openly announces a lack of loyalty to Torah, and a desecration of God.”

      Obviously there are significant differences between a woman refraining from dressing modestly and a man refraining from wearing a kippa, but I believe that the fundamental point of publicly presenting oneself in opposition to halachik observance or of loyalty to Hashem’s Torah rings true in both cases.

  5. Shoshana says:

    I agree with the above article, but how can justify the torah’s mandate that only a husband can initiate divorce? the wife is left at the mercy of a perhaps deranged, abusive, or vindictive husband that might have every motive to withold a get only to get something in return, like child custody.
    The torah’s ideals about women are beautiful, at least how they are taught today. But the idea of a get is incongruent with those lessons, some of which weer mentioned in the above article. Please let me know your thoughts.

  6. Benjamin E. says:

    Lots of these points are great – but most of these points are not actually gendered. Parenting a child, with the exception of the actual birth and breastfeeding, is not inherently gendered. (And if you think it is, you have to *argue* that – you can’t just assume it.)

    Even the point about taking weight off of women giving birth is not actually gendered: The implication of the point that exemptions are beneficial by dividing responsibility “as opposed to simply telling to be men as well as women, to give birth and not miss a day of work or worship” is that if we had equal expectations, women would be expected to give birth and not miss minyan. But surely when a man has major surgery, we don’t expect him at mincha the next day if he’s still recovering? Why wouldn’t this same fact apply to women who gave birth?

    And suppose a man’s wife tragically passed away during childbirth, leaving just the man and the newborn baby – would we hold the same minyan expectations for him, a single father? And yet, if he did show up to shul, would we not treat him as a man?

    The point is that if you want to defend actual *gender*-based divisions and not *circumstance*-based divisions, you have to show not just why it’s socially and religiously valuable to set up family-raising-friendly conditions, but why they can only be applied to *women*. Replacing many of these arguments discussing “mothers” with “fathers” or “parents” would leave the arguments equally valid. (If there were an argument involving breastfeeding, it would *not* make sense to replace it with “father” or “parent,” and the gendered aspect would be justified. That is not the case with these arguments.)

    I certainly agree with the import of our religion building in respect for circumstances like birth, child-raising responsibility, and the like. But the reason for why the impacts must be on *women* are not fully argued for in this piece.

  7. Doniel Kramer says:

    Yasher koach.
    very well expressed.
    Doniel Kramer

  8. Elana says:

    this article is not about a chareidi world where women are on the other side of the street, nor about men who violate halacha and withhold a get. its about establishing an ideal in a system where halacha shows us what is right by defining an obligation and asking us to be subservient and fulfill those obligations. i think it does an excellent job of laying out an ideal and a framework. i also dont think it is apologetics; I think there is a stream in rabbinic judaism that Rabbi Goldfeder has laid ut for us, and even if there are others I think this is one worth embracing.

    • Elana says:

      also, i think it is fair to say that almost all of the above mentioned points ARE actually gendered; the author did argue that childrearing tends to fall on the mother (even courts recognize this), and I’m not sure what world you are living in where this is not the case in a real social way.

      • Benjamin E. says:

        I didn’t mean to say they didn’t often happen to fall out in a gendered way – I said that they weren’t *inherently* gendered. The ideal and framework is great – but there’s no reason the framework only works if it’s mothers and not fathers, or primary parents. The argument was for halakhot that are family-enabling, but not for why the halakhot that enable that world *only* work if they break people down by gender.

  9. elizabeth says:

    I am fascinated by this piece for what it is and what it is not. The last few weeks have seen articles and speeches that seemed so agenda driven it detracts from their worth. This was a thoughtful piece clearly written by a rabbi with real legal training and was not apologetic: it admits to a different standard instead of trying to make everything fit. But more importantly than what R Goldfeder said was how he said it. Respectful balanced and without contempt. I hope others can follow this example whatever their stances are.

  10. IH says:

    Leaving aside the rhetorical strawman R. Goldfeder constructs in order to tear down, I do not understand where he takes this argument. For example, does he think the Rav Muvhak of RWMO, R. Hershel Schachter, is “rushing to conclusions, missing the subtleties of well-reasoned religious analysis” when he states on an OU Webcast that “to have the women sit [in] a separate section of the bus [is] not such a bad idea”? Or that Rav Aviner in Israel is “rushing to conclusions, missing the subtleties of well-reasoned religious analysis” when he states that ideally “women should not hold senior positions in the Knesset, as it is immodest. Public exposure is contrary to the Jewish view of the woman, whereby ‘the king’s daughter is all glorious within.’”?

  11. noam stadlan says:

    This was a very interesting article and I applaud the author for having written it. Now that you have identified the rationale for the Biblical and Talmudic decisions- providing space for women to be women, are you advocating that specific Halachic decisions be made on that basis? In other words, are you willing to pasken according to this somewhat ‘metahalachic’ guidline rather than on the specific halachic particulars?

    • rochelle says:

      I think it is worthwhile to take the patient outlook r Goldfeder advocates in the beginning – we’ve been through a lot as a people and our system has endured with integrity. We should not just change because today others think we should be different. Yasher koach

  12. Steven W says:

    My Bubby, who had at best an 8th grade shtetl education, used to say that Passover was invented by men. If men had to do everything that was involved with the cooking and cleaning, there wouldn’t be half the rules.

    I would venture to guess that Catherine MacKinnon would be alternatively bemused and horrified on being recruited in support of a separately defined equality of women in a universe designed solely by men. The analogy to gender-separated bathrooms is false. The closer analogy would be to the male-only country club that has no women’s bathrooms (or at best allows women to enter through the service entrance and use a dingy bathroom stuck next to a storage closet in the basement).

    Rabbi Goldfeder starts with the premise that Halacha was a departure from the norm by giving women greater rights than enjoyed by the rest of the world. Either one says that those are the rights and no more, or just as Halacha was on the cutting edge of rights for women, it should still be on the cutting edge.

    If you believe that Halacha should be preserved in amber, that is your right but I suspect most readers of this blog have varying degrees of discomfort with the amber.

    If you believe that Halacha should remain on the cutting edge, then my Bubby and (a Jewish) Catherine MacKinnon need to be at the table. Again, to borrow from Rabbi Goldfeder’s analogies, we may abhor race separation but race-neutral laws can never be written only by whites.

  13. IH says:

    “Restooms”, “bathrooms” or more correctly “toilets” are a red herring. While they exist within the domain of public spaces, they are intrinsically private even when sex-segregated as a set. Toilets are individually contained within stalls and in the US, even urinals have privacy partitions.

    So-called “unisex” toilets are also very common as anyone who has used a toilet on an airplane knows. It is also common in coffee shops (e.g. Starbucks) and retail establishments (e.g. frum-owned J&R in NYC).

    The expectation is of individual privacy irrespective of whether the enclosure into which they may be grouped is sex-segregated or not.

  14. IH says:

    Further, I note that R. Goldfeder is imprecise in his position regarding “restooms”. Many may be sex-segregated, but with the introduction of baby-changing facilities in male restroom facilities, often by legislation or regulation, they are no longer gender-segregated. There is also the more complicated legal matter of which trans-gender individuals may use.

  15. Karrine says:

    It bothers me that people are trying to pick apart the seams of ideas they understand all too well. Really, you cant figure out what he means by things like gender-segregated bathrooms? You can’t tell that in some ways we do distinguish and people are okay? I for one wish people would listen with open minds instead of hawkishly defending positions.I for one wish this website had more articles from people like rabbi goldfeder, presenting a new way of thinking about the CLASSIC position as opposed to always pushing the envelope. Moderators, please take note of this different voice.

    • Benjamin E. says:

      I think the bathroom point is actually a good point – but the fact that we distinguish in *some* things doesn’t justify distinguishing in *anything*. You still have to show why, in a specific case, we are ok with distinguishing. We can do that for bathrooms.

      If we want to justify it for other things, though, we have to show why these other things are more like things we’re ok with having distinctions in (e.g., bathroom) and why they’re less like things that we would not be ok with distinguishing (e.g., voting, profession choice).

  16. Atheodox Jew says:

    The best part of this piece is that it’s a call for reasonableness, like R. Goldfeder says, to stem some of the “anger and accusations” and get people to approach the issue with an open mind.

    Judaism doesn’t deserve to be condemned, and those who aren’t happy with the status quo don’t deserve to be condemned. If we can start by according dignity and sensitivity to BOTH, to give everyone the “kaf zechut”, we stand a chance of making some headway.

  17. Mr. Cohen says:

    Hear me now, believe me later:

    Real Judaism has never been about 20th-century-America-style egalitarianism.

    In real Judaism: Gentiles are not equal to Jews, Israelites are not equal to Levites, Levites are not equal to kohanim, commoners are not equal to kings, the wicked are not equal to the righteous, the young are not equal to the old, the ignorant are not equal to Torah scholars, animals are not equal to humans, ordinary Jews are not equal to prophets, etc, etc, etc.

    Real Judaism is a 33-century-old faith, so why should it be forced to comply with 20th-century-America-style egalitarianism, which is less than 2 centuries old?

    • Benjamin E. says:

      Hear me now, believe me later: Real Judaism has never been about 5th-century-Babylonia-style compassion, economics, or ritual style.

      In real Judaism: Rebellious sons are stoned to death, and all debts are forgiven every seven years without exception, and we communicate with God by sacrifice, but definitely not formalized prayer.

      Real Judaism is a 33-century-old faith; so why should it be forced to comply with 5th-century-Babylonia-style values and reality, which is significantly younger?

    • Kevin says:

      Dear Jehiel Orenstein,Although we have only known you and your family for a short time, your wodnerful warmth, humor, and smile were so welcoming each time we spoke with you. We especially thank you for the gift you share with us at Congregation B\’nai Israel: your daughter Rabbi Debra Orenstein.Congratulations on your 77th birthday. Best regards, Ellen and Dave Michelson

  18. Benjamin E. says:

    Hear me now, believe me later:

    Real Judaism has never been about 20th-century backlash responses to new movements.

    In real Judaism: If it is halakhically permissible in the context of the contemporary reality, no infatuation with any external, contemporary “anti-feminist movement” has anything to say.

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