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?

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Read more at Book of Doctrines and Opinions

More about: Egalitarianism, Family, Halakhah, Synagogue

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy