The greatest social danger in the world today is that women will remain uneducated and oppressed. The greatest potential is that they will learn and lead.
Religion has played two sided roles in women’s life throughout history. It has provided certain avenues for creativity and possibility. The glorious litany of women religious leaders, thinkers, mystics – and mothers who inculcate traditions – has been indispensible to the human spirit. We are about to celebrate the Passover holiday. The place of women – Moses’ wife and his mother; Pharaoh’s daughter, the midwives who saved Israelite children, Miriam, Moses’ sister – attests to the religion’s affirmation of their centrality.
But this is a partial picture. For religion has also enshrined, as if wished by God, a subordinate position to women, to its shame. Whatever one thinks of the French Burqa law, the idea that a woman’s face is somehow unpresentable in public is one a deep level revolting. If men are unable to resist the lure of women’s sexuality, that is men’s problem, not women’s. We do not lock up the victims, but the aggressors; if religion fixed men with chastity belts it might make more just sense.
As religious people we have work to do. Men, however learned, however venerable, should not get to determine women’s roles. When I see my female rabbinic colleagues I understand that they bring something to the pastoral role that I cannot. As traditionalists insist, men and women really are different. Therefore we need both equally, their voices, their presence, their wisdom; each with her or his own special reflection of God.
David Wolpe | Apr 13, 2011 1:07 PM