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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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< Sect. 7 TOC Q8.2 >

Question 8.1:
What role do women play in Judaism?

Answer:

The basic answer is that everything that G-d created serves a unique and vital role in fulfilling G-d's goals for this world/universe. In particular, humanity (man and woman, gentile and jew) is both the pinnacle and purpose for the creation in the first place. The details of how/if women's roles differ from men's in achieving these goals in the various Jewish movements is discussed in the remainder of this section. In general, women are exempt from positive (i.e., "do this") time-bound mitzvot (Mitzvot Aseh she'ha'zeman Gerama); i.e., if a mitzvah is a "do" that is only at a particular time of the day (such as putting on tefillin, wearing tzitzit, etc.), women are exempt from these. Other mitzvahs still apply.

However, to summarize the position, being a Jewish Woman is the greatest gift G-d has given us. Jewish worship is based on the homefront. The family. As one of the goals of our lives as Jews is to learn how to love G-d, we have been given marriage to guide us in what is love. Love is not the self-love of "I love cake" or as can be seen in Western cinema where men say "I love you and therefore you owe me" to women. Love is the carrying out of the potential of giving. G-d's love for us is manifested in all that G-d gives us. We just have to open our eyes and pay attention to what is going on -- not an easy task at all. It is the job of the woman to guide herself, her mate and her family, to teach them selfless love and bring them closer to G-d.

In the traditional view, to do so, she was given 3 basic laws to keep:

The Jewish future is invested in our children and how we raise them. Without children -- there is no future. The first step in caring for a Jewish child's soul starts before the child is born. This is done via the rules of Taharat HaMishpacha -- family purity. Pure (mistakenly called Holiness) and impure in Judaism reflect the situation or lack of life. When a person dies -- his body is Tameh -- impure. When a woman menstruates she has moved from a state of being able to bring forth life, to "death" -- the blood and vessels that had been prepared for carrying life are now shed by the body. To return to a state of purity a woman immerses in a Mikvah -- a ritual bath of water. Water symbolizes both life and Torah, and so the water used for the immersion is rain-water, water that is life-giving. When a woman keeps these laws (which are many, but not at all complicated) she assures the purity of the soul of her children (for additional benefits, like keeping the marriage interesting, see books on the subject).

The second law is the one of Lighting Candles on Shabbat. Light also symbolizes Torah, and in this case the light symbolizes the gift of Peace. As the woman lights candles for Shabbat she is symbolically bringing peace into her home, into the neighborhood and into the world. Why? Because as we spread light, we usually drive out darkness and with it hatred and bigotism and all the other things that like to hide in the dark. So the woman is in charge of bringing light into the home, thus bringing peace and love there -- and into the world.

The third law is the one of Chalah. This is a tithe given to the priest from bread-dough that weighs at least 1,600 grams. As we don't have registered Priests nowadays who can eat the tithe in holiness -- this is burnt repectfully. Chalah symbolizes the economic prosperity of the home, but also the spiritual prosperity. It has been traditional for centuries for women to bake Challot on Friday so that besides having fresh bread for Shabbat, they can also give this tithe, praying for the prosperity of their family.

Whether we understand why or not, it is our tradition that G-d gave us these laws with all the details as we perform them today. As G-d bothered with the details--so we keep them, even if we can't always make sense of them.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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