In the last few days I have seen many arguments and positions in favor of rigid, traditional gender roles. This is in response to an infinitesimal number of Orthodox (or somewhat Orthodox) Jewish women who are interested in laying tefillin or performing other rituals and roles traditionally reserved for men.
Gender roles arguments arise in two different contexts that can be hard to splice. Some gender roles are social and some are religious.
Social gender roles are the things that men and women do in non-religious contexts. Who is the breadwinner? Who cares for the children? Who pays the bills? Who cooks dinner? Who drives when husband and wife are in the car? Who decorates the home? Some people think that the man is the breadwinner, who pays the bill the bills, and drives the car. While the woman cares for the children, cooks dinner, and decorates the home.
These are all social issues. A growing number of people, especially among Millennials think that these roles and stereotypes ought to be tossed out the window. Couples should divide their responsibilities based on preference and ability, not chromosomes. Boys can play with dolls. Men can embrace their feminine side. Girls can play sports. Women can be more assertive. More and more people in Western countries think this way.
Socially, women have greatly benefited from these progressive attitudes. It has given women the right to own land, attend school, vote, join government, achieve corporate success, and live fulfilling lives independent of their roles as mothers and wives. Just look at misyognistic advertisements and how-to guides from the first half of the 20th century. When men were men! It’s cringeworthy. This makes it hard to see how one can object to these social advances.
Orthodox Judaism in America skews to the more “traditional” values side of women’s roles. (Traditional is really a misnomer. At certain times in history and in many places, men have had more passive roles and women have had more assertive roles. Also, marriages were different. Some men had several wives while in other places there was no such thing as marriage. And men used to boss their wives around like servants. So when we say “traditional” it’s really just a word used to appeal to emotion but is entirely inaccurate.) Generally, Orthodox Judaism teaches that it is virtuous to raise a family, and be a good wife, and be a good hostess, and cook good food, and to accentuate femininity. Men are the leaders of the home and the community, spending their day either studying Torah or earning a living and participating in communal religious practice.
However, things have changed significantly within Orthodox Judaism as well. A 19th century Orthodox Jewish woman would feel quite liberated in 21st century Orthodox Judaism (save for the most insular communities). Women are more educated, more women work outside the home, women are more involved in communal life, and women are taking more positions of authority institutionally. This is happening at varying speeds and degrees depending almost entirely on the insularity of the sub-sect.
There are some gender roles that are religiously mandated by Jewish law. By religious, we mean that these things are codified in books of Jewish law as details related to the practice of Mitzvos from the Torah and Chazal. Men have obligations that women do not. Men are required to provide for their families. Only men can be the monarch, or perform duties in the Temple, or be the Messiah, or divorce their spouse.
About the Author: Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, J.D. is the rabbi at the famous Pacific Jewish Center | The Shul on the Beach in Venice CA. He blogs at finkorswim.com. Connect with Rabbi Fink on Facebook and Twitter.
If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.
Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.
If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.
- Brandeis Commencement Speaker Leads Iran Cheerleader Squad
on April 21, 2015 2:22 AM
- US Warship Steaming to Head Off Iranian Supply Ships for Yemen
on April 20, 2015 9:51 PM
- Russian-Israeli Stabs Arab worker
on April 20, 2015 6:58 PM
- Netanyahu Warned Putin of Israeli Attacks on Weapons to Hezbollah [video]
on April 20, 2015 6:34 PM
- Netanyahu Expresses His Sorrow over Death of Rabbi Lichtenstein
on April 20, 2015 2:45 PM
- Israel’s UN Ambassador Calls Sexual Violence ‘Crime against Humanity’ [video]
on April 20, 2015 2:31 PM
- Saudi Arabia Posts Alert of Possible Terror Attack on Aramco and Malls
on April 20, 2015 1:31 PM
- Rivlin Gives Netanyahu Two More Weeks to Form New Government
on April 20, 2015 12:58 PM
- Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein Dies at Age 81
on April 20, 2015 12:45 PM
- ‘Israeli Spies’ Get Life in Prison
on April 20, 2015 12:44 PM
- Netanyahu Meets With Children of Fallen Soldiers
on April 20, 2015 12:07 PM
- Haifa ‘War’ Continues: Factories Force Truck off Road
on April 20, 2015 10:57 AM
- Bennett Flexes Muscles and Threatens to Knock Out Coalition
on April 20, 2015 9:22 AM
- Former Chief Rabbi of Rome Dies Two weeks before 100th Birthday
on April 20, 2015 7:36 AM
- Egypt Destroys 285 Smuggling and Terror Tunnels in Three Months
on April 20, 2015 7:21 AM
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/fink-or-swim/defenders-and-benders-of-roles-for-genders/2014/02/03/
Scan this QR code to visit this page online: