Gender and Judaism: A Sophisticated View from the Haredi Camp

Circle Arrow Spiral: Exploring Gender in Judaism by Miriam Kosman Targum Press (2014)

Review by Sarah Rindner

Recent debates about women and the Orthodox rabbinate yielded a range of interesting, impassioned and also banal observations by various Jewish professionals and laypeople. Although sociological and legal arguments abound, a broader philosophical discussion of the nature of gender roles within Judaism is lacking. The assumption in these debates seems to be that the challenge before us is how this issue in Judaism will play out alongside a movement from inequality to equality, from backwardness to progress, in American or Western society. Those who resist this movement and believe that a straightforward march toward gender egalitarianism is neither desirable nor in the spirit of traditional Judaism have yet to articulate what, precisely, a theory of Jewish gender difference could, and should, look like. That is, with the exception of a small coterie of mystically inclined haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, women based in Israel who have been exploring precisely this question for years

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“In my end is my beginning”: T.S. Eliot, Kate Atkinson, and the Yearly Torah Cycle

This year on Simchat Torah we experienced that wonderful transition, repeated every year, when we conclude the Torah and then start over again with the creation of the world out of chaos and void. While the book of Deuteronomy, set as the Jews prepare to enter the land of Israel, may itself be read as a kind of beginning rather than an ending, it also functions as a tragic denouement for Moses. Moses is, of course, prevented from entering the Promised Land he spent his whole life moving toward, as God tells him, “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross there.” This line, as well as the moment we learn that Moses will buried in an anonymous burial place somewhere in the land of Moab, never fails to move me. Deuteronomy may partly be intended to capture the rousing national entry to the land of Israel, but the very end of it is pure tragedy. It is the human story of Moses, the greatest prophet to ever arise in Israel, who nevertheless succumbed to human frailty and human limitations.

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