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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

Israel’s Economy Thrives While the Middle East Disintegrates

Jan. 19 2018

Now that the data have come in from 2017, it is clear that the Israeli economy had another successful year, expanding at a rate higher than that of any other advanced country. Israel’s per-capita GDP also grew, placing it above those of France and Japan. Daniel Kryger notes some of the implications regarding the Jewish state’s place in the Middle East:

The contrast between first-world Israel and the surrounding third-world Arab states is larger today than ever before. Israel’s GDP per capita is almost twenty times the GDP per capita of impoverished Egypt and five times larger than semi-developed Lebanon.

Like any human project, Israel is a never-ending work in progress and much work remains to integrate ḥaredi Jews and Israeli Arabs into Israel’s knowledge economy. Properly addressing Israel’s high costs of living requires more economic and legislative reforms and breaking up inefficient oligopolies that keep the prices artificially high. However, by any standard, the reborn Jewish state is a remarkable success story. . . .

Much has changed since OPEC launched its oil embargo against the West after the failed Arab aggression against Israel in October 1973. Before the collapse of the pro-Arab Soviet empire, China and India had no official ties with Israel and many Western and Japanese companies avoided doing business with Israel. Collapsing oil prices have dramatically eroded the power of oil-producing countries. It has become obvious that the future belongs to those who innovate, not those who happen to sit on oil. Israel has today strong commercial ties with China and a thriving partnership with India. Business delegations from Jamaica to Japan are eager to do business with Israel and benefit from Israel’s expertise. . . .

[For its part], the boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement may bully Jewish and pro-Israel students on Western campuses. However, in real life, BDS stands no chance of succeeding against Israel. The reason is simple: reborn Israel has . . . become too valuable a player in the global economy.

Read more at Mida

More about: BDS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Middle East, OPEC