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Egalitarianism, Halakhah, and the Jewish Family

Sept. 14 2017

In his book Gender Equality and Prayer in Jewish Law, Ethan Tucker argues that halakhah should permit counting women in a minyan (prayer quorum) and allowing them to participate in all synagogue rituals on equal footing with men. He grounds his argument in traditional rabbinic works, claiming that ancient and medieval rabbis made their decisions about these issues based on the role of women in their own societies—not on intrinsic differences between the sexes. Had these sages lived today, they would have ruled differently. Yoav Sorek writes in his rejoinder:

Tucker is so captured by his egalitarian approach that he does not really consider its own biases. . . . I believe that he is right and that many of the halakhic rulings regarding women are a function of their legal and economic status in ancient times; but this is not the full picture. Halakhah thinks that men and women are not identical, and sees them as having different roles in a way that is essential for family and society. God could have created humanity as a single sex. He did not do so.

Where should we draw the line? Which rulings are based on social status and which have to do with the positive differences between men and women? I don’t know. . . . My personal inclination is to count women in a minyan, and I think this will [eventually become the norm]—but I am not sure. . . .

[Ultimately, the question is this]: do we accept automatically the contemporary tendency to treat traditional institutions as oppressive while ignoring their benefits?

Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Egalitarianism, Family, Halakhah, Synagogue

In Dealing with Iran, the U.S. Can Learn from Ronald Reagan

When Ronald Reagan arrived at the White House in 1981, the consensus was that, with regard to the Soviet Union, two responsible policy choices presented themselves: détente, or a return to the Truman-era policy of containment. Reagan, however, insisted that the USSR’s influence could not just be checked but rolled back, and without massive bloodshed. A decade later, the Soviet empire collapsed entirely. In crafting a policy toward the Islamic Republic today, David Ignatius urges the current president to draw on Reagan’s success:

A serious strategy to roll back Iran would begin with Syria. The U.S. would maintain the strong military position it has established east of the Euphrates and enhance its garrison at Tanf and other points in southern Syria. Trump’s public comments suggest, however, that he wants to pull these troops out, the sooner the better. This would all but assure continued Iranian power in Syria.

Iraq is another key pressure point. The victory of militant Iraqi nationalist Moqtada al-Sadr in [last week’s] elections should worry Tehran as much as Washington. Sadr has quietly developed good relations with Saudi Arabia, and his movement may offer the best chance of maintaining an Arab Iraq as opposed to a Persian-dominated one. But again, that’s assuming that Washington is serious about backing the Saudis in checking Iran’s regional ambitions. . . .

The Arabs, [however], want the U.S. (or Israel) to do the fighting this time. That’s a bad idea for America, for many reasons, but the biggest is that there’s no U.S. political support for a war against Iran. . . .

Rolling back an aggressive rival seems impossible, until someone dares to try it.

Read more at RealClear Politics

More about: Cold War, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Foreign policy