The different roles of men and women in society have long been associated with religion and its teachings. Especially when it comes to the religious teachings about the family’s well being, gender roles are inevitably and profoundly talked about.
God is not referred to as a male or a female in Judaism but is believed to have both feminine and masculine qualities. Furthermore, the Jewish Oral Tradition also views the first human being as both a man and a woman in one body. Scholars say that God created a dual human being and only later got separated into man and woman.
How Does Judaism Value Women?
In Judaism, women have separate and distinct responsibilities from men but viewed as equals. In traditional Judaism, it is said that women are bestowed with more “Binah” (intelligence) compared to that of the men. Judaism also emphasizes the roles of women in the earlier times (biblical times), where they held positions like liberators, judges, and even prophets.
Khadijeh Zolqadr, PhD points outs that, “Women in Jewish thought do not suffer from an inferior position in creation, but also that her creation is somewhat superior to that of men.”
It is also important to note the fact that rabbis (Jewish teachers and scholars) used to consult their wives about Jewish laws and rules about women. One important marriage contract belonging to Rabbi Akiba’s (one of the greatest rabbis in the Talmud) son also stipulated that it was the wife’s responsibility and obligation to teach the husband about the Torah.
The Talmud gives the highest importance of women to how she leads and influence the household spiritually. Particularly, if a man married a wicked woman, the man would eventually become wicked as well. Furthermore, proverbs read in a Jewish wedding used to emphasize the business acumen to be a prized and desirable trait in a woman.
In a study conducted by Shulamit Geller and collaborators, they found out that, “Compared to modern-Orthodox and secular Jewish women, ultra-Orthodox Jewish women were found to possess a more positive and less negative body image; they also exhibited more positive attitudes regarding body care.”
What Are The Roles Of Men?
Unlike the traditional times of other popular religions, Judaism gives women the right to decide for their marriage (even marital sex). In Western civilizations, rape within marriage may still not be viewed as a crime. In Judaism, forced sexual acts are not permitted and regarded as rape, whether or not the women ‘enjoyed’ it.
If women provide spiritual guidance in a family, men still have the primary role of providing the basic needs of their children and wife. Men are given religious importance in the Talmud because only they can become a rabbi. In traditional Judaism, men are given secular education.
Women don’t have this right, but this is because rabbis are afraid that their spiritual sense would change (the possibility that they would become too spiritually devoted) where the family would be heavily affected. Getting a higher education and other religious pursuits also entail women to be negligent of their duties and responsibilities as a wife and as a mother, rabbis tell.
Talmud has negative things to say about either men or women. Women, at various times, are associated with laziness, vanity, occult, and witchcraft. Men, on the other hand, are often described as prone to sexual and physical desires. “They deny women the right to make decisions so that they can make them for them, leave women unable to direct their own lives so that they can direct their lives for them,” Steve Taylor Ph.D.
Jewish laws may not view the religious roles of men and women as equal. However, scholars point out the always-interchanged ‘father’ and ‘mother’ in the Bible. It is interpreted that both parents, wife, and husband, are and should be respected equally in a family.