Women today study subjects that in centuries past were restricted to men; they occupy impressive positions in a wide range of fields, including medicine, law, and academia. Jewish women, meanwhile, study much more Torah than did their ancestors and lend their prodigious talents to numerous Jewish organizations and institutions.
Torah-believing Jews know, however, that the march to expanded gender equality must be mediated by divine values. Women may be able to compete with the best of men, but that doesn’t mean they should. Men have their role, and women have their role.
Some outliers on the theological far left want women to be rabbis. They know the prospect wouldn’t meet with approval by the vast majority of Orthodox Jews, so they hired a public relations agency. No joke. In fact, last month the PR agency even won an award for its work. As PR Web recently reported:
“On March 15th, The TASC Group…won the PR News’ Nonprofit Award for best Crisis Management campaign for…work with the organization Yeshivat Maharat. Yeshivat Maharat hired The TASC Group to help protect the role of female Rabbis (Rabbas) within the Orthodox Jewish community and prevent the expulsion of Rabbas currently serving in shuls and synagogues around the country.”
In other words, a PR firm was hired to change attitudes rooted in three millennia of halachic Judaism.
According to a TASC Group release, “the Orthodox Union…was contemplating a rule to reinforce the longtime practice of precluding women from serving as [women clergy],” so TASC went to work:
“Along with writing and circulating press releases as well as conducting dozens of interviews with the media, TASC’s comprehensive campaign was involved in creating an op-ed strategy promoting Yeshivat Maharat’s case and connecting it to the #MeToo movement. TASC helped to write, edit, and place a crucial op-ed in the New York Daily News by Rabba Sara Hurwitz that leveraged the #MeToo movement to make the case for more women in clergy positions.”
There you have it. Jewish feminism, 2019.
From my earliest youth, I wanted to be a major league baseball player. In yeshiva high school, I was a catcher who threw out base runners, held onto foul-tip third strikes, and hit pretty well. But I knew that Major League Baseball games are played on Shabbat. Despite my love for the game and a sense that I had the ability to succeed in it, I accepted the fact that I could never be a professional baseball player.
We all have a place and purpose in G-d’s world, and the Torah defines those places and purposes. Instead of catching, I went on to become a synagogue rav, an attorney, a law professor, and a columnist in several publications. Those roles play on some of my passions, allow me to exercise some of my acquired knowledge, and to touch lives.
At the same time, I learned to accept that certain roles are not mine to play. For example, I was not born a kohen, and Torah law says I never can be a kohen. I accept that my birth limits my opportunities even while it provides me with others. Thus, when my first marriage ended after 25 years, I was permitted by Torah law to marry a divorcee, who has been my best friend the past 19 years. She is the love of my life, but had I been born a kohen, I could never have married her.
The secular feminist ideal has persuaded some that women must be rabbis just like men. They wish to follow in the footsteps of “groundbreaking” Methodists and Episcopalians. Indeed, they call traditional Orthodoxy misogynistic for denying women the same opportunities as men.
Strange. Arguably the single greatest power a religious person has is determining the religion of one’s child. Women – not men – hold that power in Judaism. If the mother is Jewish, so is the child. If not, not.
This Torah-conferred power is so extraordinary that Reform Judaism could not cope with it. Too many of its men were marrying non-Jewish women; Reform Judaism’s next generation was disappearing. So Reform Judaism stripped Jewish women of their power and declared that children of non-Jewish women are Jewish too.
We all have our roles. Men have to be in synagogue every morning for prayers that usually start at 6:30 and again in late afternoon. Women have to go to mikveh once a month, light Shabbat candles, and serve as architects of the Jewish home.
We each have roles to play in Judaism, and some of these are determined by birth. These roles are equally noble. But the roles are distinct nonetheless – and no PR campaign can change that.