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Monday, July 1, 2013

Moral problems in Halacha: Women

Moral problems in Halacha: Women
(With a short piece on Zeligman's "forbidden thought" attack at the end)
Zeligman now attacks the Torah’s stance on women. Many of the attacks - and the ones that are commonly used by others as well - are based on quotes taken out of context, misunderstandings of Jewish law and literature and a general approach to women’s issues that judge the Torah using secular values and perspectives, instead of trying to properly understand the Torah from within.  A common problem that people have when trying to analyze Judaism comes from not understanding the language and concepts of Judaism in general. People who view Judaism and specifically its view on women, from a western perspective, are bound to misunderstand Torah fundamentals and they then assume that Judaism is misogynist.

First, let’s see what the Torah and Rabbinic sources say about women:


  • Sarah was greater in prophecy than Abraham (Rashi  to Gen 21;12 quoting Midrash Shemot Rabbah 1)
  • Rebeccah, Isaac’s wife, recognized that Jacob was the righteous son and not Esau, as opposed to Isaac who preferred Esau.
  • It was in the merit of the righteous women of that generation that the Jews left Egypt (Shemot Rabbah 1:12).
  • The generations are only redeemed in the merit of the righteous women of the generation, as it says, "He remembers His kindness and faith for the House of Israel ..." (Psalms 95:9). It doesn't say, 'Children of Israel,' but, 'House of Israel (house in Jewish literature often refers to the woman who is the mainstay of the home - see Yoma 2A)' ... (Midrash Zuta Rus 4:8)
  • Greater is the promise (for the world to come) made by God to the women than to the men (Berachos 17)
  • He who finds a wife, finds goodness; he will receive Hashem’s good favor. (Mishle 18.22)
  • R’ Chanilai said: A man who has no wife lives without joy,without blessing and without goodness.In the West (Israel) they say: He dwells without Torah and without a wall. Rava bar Ulla said: He dwells without peace.(Yevamos 62b)
  • R’ Elazar said: A man who has no wife is no man.(Yevamos 63a)
  • Rav Chelbo said, “A man should always treat his wife with respect, for blessing only enters his house on her account.
  • Similarly Rava told the people of Mechuza, “Honor your wives, that you may become rich.” (Bava Metzia 59a)
  • Rav Avira taught, at times in Rav Ami’s name, and at times in Rav Assi’s name: A person should eat and drink at a level less than he can afford, clothe and acquire a home according to what he can afford and honor his wife and children more than he can afford; for they depend on him, while he depends on the One who created the world with His word. (Chulin 84b)
  • The Rabbis taught: One who loves his wife as himself and honors her more than himself, of him the verse says, “Know that there will be peace in your tent.” (Iyov 5.24). (Yevamos 62b)
  • “The wisdom of the woman builds her home.” (Mishle 14.1)
  • A women is given greater insight than men (Niddah 45).
  • Women have more Emunah (faithfulness to G-d) than men (Sifre 133)


It is imperative that we first get a clear understanding of the Torah view of men and women before we proceed. (Special thanks to Rabbi Yitzchok Feldheim for explaining some of the concepts in the introduction.) We must first ask why is was necessary for G-d to create men and women in the first place? Why couldn’t G-d have created us like hermaphroditic worms? The answer is that  a man and woman each bring different qualities to a marriage. A man is anatomically and spiritually external, and often view life from a more external viewpoint. Women are anatomically and spiritually internal. She sees the world from a more internal and holistic perspective. (Interestingly, this seems to have some basis in modern science: (http://www.brainfitnessforlife.com/brain-anatomy-and-imaging/9-differences-between-the-male-and-female-brain/)  A woman is often born with a greater capacity to bring holiness to her surroundings and her character lends itself to spiritual growth. A man is often born an external being with coarser character and his job in life is to lift himself up. In day to day life, we see this quite often. Ask a typical woman what she would want from her spouse as a gift, she may often say chocolate, jewelry or flowers, all things that aren’t functional items. Even a woman who wants an ipod does not simply want the gift. What is of prime importance to her is the card that the man writes and the way he presents it to her, for she wants his sentiment as much as the gift itself. This is not the case with a man.


On a more sensitive note, a man is easily swayed by what he sees externally. Thus, a woman dresses up to seduce a man. However, for a man to be attractive to a woman, he needs to show her interest and caring. It is more important for him to act in a way that shows that he cares about her (thus the old adage, “if a man wants his wife to be intimate with him, he should do the dishes”) than for him to dress up in a certain way. He must also speak to her in a way that she desires, for his words are internalized by her. What she hears from him is far more important to her than what he looks like because she processes things internally.


Since a man is external and a woman is internal, he is given more external mitzvos than her. Tefillin, Tzitzis, etc, are all external reminders for the man - distant from G-d - to come closer to his Creator. A woman who is already internal and in some way close to G-d, doesn’t need these external reminders to come close to G-d, for she is close already. In some way, a man has more to achieve in this world than a woman, since he is further from G-d. Thus he must take more time for Torah study and other mitzvos, since he is lacking the G-dly connection that the woman naturally has.


If we were to use a metaphor, we would say that a woman’s job is like that of an A student - to maintain her greatness throughout life. A man is like the weaker student whose job it is to work through his problems and elevate himself to a higher level. Thus a man and woman complement each other. She tries to inspire greatness in him and tries to get him to be a better man, while his job is to “love her as himself and honor her more than himself (Yevamos 62),” so that she will never want to fall from her holy level.


This may explain why a man, the external being, takes an external role in the community, while a woman, the internal being, takes a more internal role. To be sure, the external role of Rabbi or public figure, is not more important than the internal role. If anything, the woman has the more important role, for she has a greater influence on her home - the Jewish future -  than her husband. For even if a woman works outside her home, her primary area of accomplishment should be her family, for she is the one who can bring more G-dliness into the home.


The notion that a woman is less important because of her more private role is a western one. In western culture, the greatest value - even more than money - is fame. It is no accident that the most iconic TV show of this century is American Idol, because everyone wants to be famous. Furthermore, people assume that the synagogue, where everyone congregates, is the center of Jewish life. Therefore the western Jew assumes that those that get to perform in the synagogue such as the cantor or Rabbi, must be the ones who are most important.
In reality though, Torah does not consider fame to be a value at all. It is precisely that which is hidden which is considered beautiful and great. ‘Blessing is only found in that which is hidden from the eye (Talmud Bava Metzia 42)’ For more on this see http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2010/parsha/rwil_bamidbar.html
Therefore, a woman may indeed have a more crucial and private role, that of imparting the values of Torah and Judaism to the next generation, in spite of her lack of publicity. It is no coincidence that the revitalization of Jewry around the world occurred concurrently with improved women’s education, for now they were more prepared to impart Jewish values to their offspring.


This is also why Jewish law seems to be almost neurotic about a woman’s modesty. For if a woman is only appreciated for her externality and looks and not treated as a respected, internal and whole human being, there is no hope that she can remain the repository of G-dliness in her society. While western culture talks the talk about women's equality, the reality shows a very different picture. TV, movies, print and online media are obsessed with portraying women in the most shallow, mundane and sometimes lurid roles, as though a woman’s value is only inasmuch as she is pretty or ‘sexy.’ Pick up any magazine sold at a typical news stand and it tries to sell with the most alluring cover photo it can muster. This TED talk by model Cameron Russell is crucial for a proper understanding of this issue: (Please be aware that there are certain immodest images shown on this video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KM4Xe6Dlp0Y  Even modern science has confirmed that a man is unable to view a scantily clad female as fully human (See: http://www.wfre.com/pages/TomWhalen.html?article=11426336). How can we really learn to appreciate women for who they are when  there are cheerleaders on the sidelines of most football and basketball teams and many TV game shows feature scantily clad models caressing the prizes? Even the way female TV anchors and reporters are dressed, are in a way that show off her physical attributes. How can we expect young women to grow up with any self worth when the messages that they are bombarded with are that a girl’s value is only in how she looks? Even pre teens are receiving this message: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-moodiemills/what-happened-to-little-girls_b_3322130.html


The Torah asks that we not think of women this way. Torah-mandated modesty is such that it asks the women to be attractive (not attracting) and dignified, much the way a queen or female head of state or first lady would present herself. We do not ask the woman to cover up because she is a threat to a man, but rather because not covering up is a threat to her own dignity and self image as a G-dly being.



Now, let’s try to answer Zeligman’s questions.


1.The first Mishnah in Tractate Kiddushin states, “A woman is acquired in three ways, with money, a document and through intercourse.” The mishnayos following that, describe how slaves and objects are acquired.  Zeligman assumes that this indicates that a woman is a man’s property just as slaves and objects. He then marshalls a proof from Tractate Berachos, 57b: "Three things bring man a good mood: a nice home, a nice woman, and nice clothes."
Answer: As anyone who has studied tractate Kiddushin can tell you, the word that the mishna uses for acquisition doesn’t indicate that a woman is acquired like property. It merely indicates that the marriage takes on Jewish legal status as opposed to two people merely living together without marriage. The proof is that one can acquire slaves and property against their will but one cannot marry a woman against her will. Furthermore, the quote from Berachos 57 merely shows that certain things cause a man to be happy and is not indicative of a woman being a man’s property. This is true of any man, not just one who is Jewish and the talmud isn’t even necessarily talking about one’s own wife. This demonstrates that Zeligman’s proof is no proof at all. Furthermore, the notion that secular people don’t think that a nice looking woman puts a man in a good mood is ridiculous.
2. A married woman’s property rights. The Talmud states that a woman’s earnings belong to her husband as does her the use of land she inherits. Objects that she finds go to her husband. If she is embarrassed, some of the compensation goes to her husband because she is like his body. Zeligman finds this all misogynistic.
Answer: The Talmud is clear that a man is obligated to provide his wife with the following (See Maimonides Laws of Marriage Chapter 12):
  1. A Ketubah guaranteeing her support and to become financially taken care of in case of his death or divorce.
  2. Food
  3. Clothing
  4. Conjugal rights
  5. Medical
  6. To redeem her if taken captive (a common phenomenon in past times)
  7. To bury her upon death
  8. To continue living in his home after his death as long as she remains a widow
  9. The right for her daughters to receive their subsistence from his estate after his death until they get married.
  10. The right for her sons to inherit her ketubah in addition to their share in her husband's estate together with their brothers [borne by other wives, if she dies before her husband does].
A man, on the other hand, only has four rights from his wife:
a) the right to the fruits of her labor;
b) the right to any ownerless object she discovers;
c) the right to benefit from the profits of her property during her lifetime;
d) the right to inherit her [property] if she dies during his lifetime. His rights to her property supersede [the rights of] all others.
The reason a man is allowed to take his wife’s earnings is because he is compelled to provide for her in so many ways. If a woman chooses to keep her earnings and not compel her husband to support her she may, but the husband may not tell his wife to earn and he not support her. This enactment is to benefit the woman as Ketubot 58 states. Does this sound misogynistic? He may eat from the fields of her inheritance because he is compelled to take care of her burial, however, she keeps the actual field. She must give him objects she finds because if not there would be marital discord amongst the couple. For he is compelled to support her and thus may feel angry if she didn’t give him money she finds or earns.
As to why a wife is her husband’s body (thus allowing him to be compensated for embarrassment done to his wife - a wife keeps money for pain and damage done to her by anyone including her husband) but a man is not his wife’s body, there is a simple reason for this. Eve was taken from Adam’s side. Thus there is a special feeling of completion that a man finds in his wife and so the embarrassment done to her is an affront to him as well, more so than the inverse.
3. Divorce: Why may only a man divorce his wife (even against her will) but a woman may not divorce her husband?
Answer: R’ BenZion Klatzko explains this as follows. The Torah wanted the family unit to be honest and secure by not allowing men to sexually use women without committing to provide for and protect them. That is one of the reasons why the Torah mandated marriage before intimacy. The man gives to her his commitment to provide for and protect her while the woman commits to be loyal to him exclusively. This is know as shieyroh (food), kesusa (clothing) vonasah (martial relations on demand) lo yigrah (he may not withhold). In order to make this legally binding and enforceable in a court of law, a legal mechanism that results in transaction must occur. This is known in Jewish jurisprudence as "kinyan". Since the husband is acquiring this obligation through "kinyan" (the effect of the ring),  he must be the one to relinquish or dissolve this kinyan and annul the marriage obligations. In cases where he is abusing this legal reality, a Rabbinical court can step in and physically beat him (Maimonides Laws of Divorce 2:20) until he is willing to divorce her and then pay her the Ketuba. Now, it is true that there can and have been abuses to this, just as there can be abuses in any system that exists - see http://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2012/05/22/how-some-men-are-upending-domestic-violence-laws-to-scam-an-advantage-in-divorce/ Clearly, though, the gist of the law is there to protect the woman from being used, perhaps impregnated, and then discarded, leaving them to fend for themselves. The fact that evil people can abuse a system does not disqualify the entire system and the benefit that it serves to the entire institution of marriage.
It is true that some women have become agunot (chained to their marriage) due to recalcitrant husbands who run away from court or ineffective Rabbinical courts and this is a great tragedy. There have also been agunot from men who have disappeared. R’ Chaim Jachter writes the following: “Otzar HaPoskim, an encyclopedic work that summarizes the responsa literature to the Even Haezer section of Shulchan Aruch, devotes (in its 1982 edition) no less than eight volumes spanning approximately 1500 pages to this topic alone.  Fifteen hundred pages merely summarize the responsa literature to the subject of Agunah!  Poskim traditionally devote an incredible amount of time and effort to resolving problems of Agunah.  An example is Rav Yitzchak Herzog, the chief rabbi of Israel at the time of the establishment of the state, writes (Teshuvot Heichal Yitzchak 2:9) that although his doctors gave him strict orders not to read anything, he violated their command in order to research and issue a ruling regarding an Agunah, because of the compassion he felt for the Agunah.  Some rabbis were famous specifically for their special attention, sensitivity, and creativity in this area of Halacha.  For example, Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spektor (for whom Yeshiva University’s Yeshiva component is named) was especially renown for his mastery and his focus on this subject.
From the time of the Gemara, Poskim have tried to be lenient and creative as possible while maintaining the integrity of the Halachic process.  Teshuvot Sam Chayi (number 17) describes the attitude of a Posek grappling with an Agunah situation, “it is comparable to one who is running away from a lion and has encountered a bear, as the battle is fought both from the front and behind; just as he fears being lenient so too does he fear being strict”.  For further discussion of the general attitude of profound urgency Poskim maintain towards Agunah problems, see Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 6:3) and the Otzar HaPoskim (8: 203-211)”
Clearly, Jewish law takes the matter of freeing a chained woman very seriously.
4.  Why does a son inherit but not a daughter. Why does a man inherit his wife but a wife doesn’t inherit her husband.
Answer: Zeligman’s attack here is misleading. Before any inheritance could be distributed to the heirs, the wife of the deceased was apportioned an allowance for her own upkeep or given a lump sum distribution as pledged in her marriage contract. A portion was also set aside for living expenses and dowry for any unwed daughters. Unwed daughters are given priority in terms of support from the estate of the deceased over sons. Furthermore, anyone who wants may arrange a halachic will allowing his daughters to inherit him (one way is to give the daughters what he wants them to receive, one moment prior to death - see here) so in effect she isn’t discriminated against if the dying person wants her to receive an inheritance.
As to why daughter’s do not inherit any remaining assets, Jewish law views the husband and wife as one unit. Since a husband must support his wife (but not vice versa),  it stands to reason that the man would be the one to inherit and then share that with his wife. Thus a daughter doesn’t inherit remaining assets, since she will have her share of any inheritance her current or eventual husband receives.
As to why a man inherits his wife but not vice versa, see Maimonides Laws of Inheritance 1:8 that according to Torah law neither spouse inherits each other. However, the Rabbis enacted that a man may inherit his wife in exchange for him being compelled to bury her (and pay for expenses) upon her death.
5. Zeligman now challenges us with a number of quotes which seem to be disturbing to us. I will first quote them and then try to explain them in context, one by one.
  • "The woman has no value in and of herself in Creation, for she is only something additional to the main entity [i.e. man], taken from him and designed to serve him. That is why our rabbis OBM called her 'a tail' (in Berachot 61a)." (Rashba's Responsa, part 1, paragraph 60).
Explanation: As we explained previously, a woman is born with a greater natural connection to G-d than a man, thus a man is given more mitzvos in order to help him attain the greatness that a woman naturally has. (See also Maharal, Drashos al Hatorah page 27). In some sense it can be said, that since a human being’s purpose in this world is to elevate himself from a mundane creature into a G-dly being, and a man is a more mundane creature, he is, in one sense, the primary purpose of creation, since a woman is born more complete. Thus she plays a supporting role. And this is also why a man makes a blessing in the morning, ‘Shelo asani isha,’ thanking G-d for having not made him a woman. For his role is more in line with the purpose of creation, to perfect a mundane creature and he was given more commandments to do so. This is why a woman is described in Genesis 2:18 as a ‘helper opposite him,’ because she has, in some sense, a role of helping him achieve his full potential. This may be why a woman makes a morning blessing thanking G-d for having ‘Made me like Your will.’ That is, she is created more so in the will of G-d, as she is has less to perfect than a man.
The truth is that the Rashba is only explaining one interpretation of a woman’s role. The other opinion in Berachot 61 states that Eve was taken from Adam’s side (tzelah) and had her own personality which split away from Adam and was therefore born as an equal (As explained by Maharal Gevuros Hashem 68). In this sense, a woman’s role is just as primary as a man, for she too must spiritually actualize herself and perfect those around her. Thus she has almost all of the mitzvos of a man and some that a man does not have. As stated, her impact on the Jewish people may be more private but will be more important than a man’s.  There is no need to say that these two opinions in Berachos 61 are arguing with each other. (As I have mentioned elsewhere, two conflicting opinions in non halachic Torah thought are not necessarily arguing, but rather two aspects of an idea - see Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol 2 on Rosh Hashanah) Rather they are each describing a perspective on a woman’s role.


  • "[A woman who has] four servants may sit in an armchair [i.e. she has no duty to keep the house]. Rav Isaac the son of Chananiah said in the name of Rav Huna: in spite of what they said, 'May sit in an armchair,' she ought to pour her husband a drink, to make him a bed, and to wash his face, hands, and feet."(Tractate Ketubot 61a)
Explanation: Rashi ad loc explains that these are things which show love from a wife to her husband. Thus even if she has servants, she must do these things in order to maintain the emotional connection between them.


  • "If any woman abstains from doing the work she ought to do [to serve her husband], one should force her to do it, even with a whip." (Maimonides, Laws of Interpersonal relations 21:10)
Explanation: Maimonides here is not referring to the husband forcing his wife with a whip, it is referring to the Rabbinical court (and Raavad ad loc argues that a women may never be physically compelled. Also see glosses to Rosh and Yam Shel Shlomo to Bava Kamma 32 and Rabbeinu Yona in Shaarey Teshuva section 3, who all state that a man who hits his wife transgresses the negative commandment of hitting a Jew (Deut 25:3). The situation is talking about where a wife is receiving all of her rights from her husband, yet she refuses to do anything in the house but also does not want to get divorced. In that case, since the husband is stuck, the Rabbinical court may compel her to do her fair share in her home by force.


  • "It is a disgrace for a woman to go out frequently -- that is, if sometimes she goes out, and sometimes just walks in the streets. A husband ought to prevent his wife from doing this and let her go out only one or two times a month, according to what is necessary. For a woman's beauty is sitting in the corner of her house." (Maimonides, Laws of Interpersonal Relations 13:11)
Explanation: Clearly here there is no specific formula as to how much a woman may leave her home. Maimonides is making a statement based on the societal norms of each time. Thus in Cairo of the 12 century, which is where and when Maimonides lived, it was considered normal for a woman to leave her home very infrequently.
  • "Our Sages OBM said: only that woman is kosher who does her husband's will." (Rama on Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 69:7)
Explanation: Regarding Genesis 2:18 the Rabbis state, “a helpmate opposite him: If he is worthy, she will be a helpmate. If he is not worthy, she will be against him, to fight him. — [from Gen. Rabbah 17:3, Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer , ch. 12. See also Yev. 63a]”
The Rabbis recognize that a woman is not always supposed to agree with her husband and that a husband must heed his wife’s advice even where he feels that he knows more. As Talmud Bava Metzia 59 states: “If your wife is short, bend down and hear her whisper.” A kosher woman doing her husband’s will is referring to a man who is expressing the proper spiritual will. In that case, it is proper for his wife to do her husband’s will.
  • "One who teaches his daughter the Torah, it is as though he taught her obscenity" (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 246:6) Consequently, women cannot be religious judges or Halachic arbiters (ibid., Choshen Mishpat 7:4) Maimonides (Laws of Kings 1:5) even ruled that a woman may not be appointed to any public position, and most contemporary Halachic arbiters adopt this opinion.
Explanation: Here we arrive at the idea that a man is not supposed to teach talmud to women (which is one reason why women aren’t halachic arbiters and judges), though she may and should study most Torah subjects, which teach Jewish law and connection to G-d.
Before I begin, I will point out that as a practical matter, today’s women are given a much more well rounded education in Bais Yaakov schools than boys are given in Yeshiva. Women study Tanach, Jewish law, ethics, etc, while Yeshiva boys study talmud, primarily. An 18 year old Bais Yaakov graduate often has a greater general knowledge of Judaism than her male Yeshiva counterpart.
As we stated in the introduction, a woman is an internal being who views the world holistically. Men are external and tend to isolate and develop a theoretical idea even if it has no practical bearing. The study of talmud is very much based on theoretical principles which can only become useful in a practical sense after much theoretical debate and challenge. This does not speak to the female mind. While a man may be interested in the technical dispute of when we may say the Shema in the evening, a woman is often more concerned with how the process of prayer connects her to her creator.
Interestingly we find these parallels in the academic world as well:  http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/articles/050307/7harvard.b1.htm  University attendance by woman has gone from 10% in the 1960’s to 57% today, so clearly woman aren’t less intelligent than men. What is interesting is that in theoretical areas such as physics and engineering, woman still represent ⅕ or less than men. My physics and engineering students confirm this to me empirically as well.
Now, certainly a woman may study Talmud. The Rabbis only write that a man shouldn’t teach it to her as it would not be appropriate for most women.


  • Why a woman may not be a witness
Explanation: There are two types of witnesses in the Torah. One is where we need knowledge of a certain reality, such as if something is Kosher, if something occurred, if someone is dead, to give us information about a case that arises, etc. A woman's testimony is valid in these cases (See for example Rema CḤM 35:14 and other sources) The other type of witness is where the beis din (court) must accept the testimony of two witnesses, not because we know for sure that they are telling the truth (though we don’t listen to them where they are suspected of lying), but rather because the Torah decreed that we must listen to them (such as where two people testify that they witnessed a murder) or because they provide the technical requirement that is required to make a certain act legal (such as serving as a witness to a marriage or divorce) . In the latter type of witness, women are disqualified not because of lack of knowledge or lesser standing, for the disqualification has nothing to do with knowledge or lack thereof, rather it is a technical disqualification. Similarly, kings and two relatives together may not serve as witnesses. David was not permitted to be the second type of witness. Moses and Aaron were not permitted to serve as witnesses together - just like women.
So why indeed may women not serve as witnesses? I heard from R’ Yaakov Y Reinman that in Torah law, when one is able to be a witness, he may be obligated to do so and if he is called to be a witness and doesn’t come, he is sinning (See Leviticus 5:1). Since a woman is an internal being and the high priestess of the home, it would be improper for us to require her to be a witness and be liable to be called to court at any time, since her duties to her family and the Jewish home - the center of the Jewish world - supersede anything. So since we cannot obligate her in being a witness, she is therefore not within the category of kosher witnesses in some cases. This is also why a king may not be a witness. 

It is interesting to note that in American law, women were not required (in some states) to be allowed to serve on a jury until 1975 and prior to that it was not expected of a woman to serve on a jury and in many states, women were not allowed to do so. Not surprisingly, in the 1957 hit film, Twelve Angry Men, starring Henry Fonda, there were twelve men and no women on the New York City jury.

For an excellent overview of this subject, see R’ Moshe Meiselman’s Jewish Women in Jewish Law, page 73 and on. http://books.google.com/books?id=t3zQAoncEnwC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
  • Women are also forbidden to read the Torah in public, "because of the honor of the public [i.e. men]" (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 282:3).
Explanation: Ritva (Megillah 23) explains that “The honor of the public” here is referring to the fact that a man is obligated in reading the Torah publicly (as well as attending a minyan) while a woman isn’t. Thus it would seem strange to call a woman up to receive an aliyah. It would insinuate that the men do not know how to read. This is what is meant by “The honor of the public.”
  • The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 373:4) rules that a cohen may not impurify himself to participate in the funeral of his daughter if she was raped or seduced.
Zeligman completely fabricated this one, as anyone who bothers to read Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 373:4 can see. I will not answer this one since it isn’t true.
  • Restrictions on women's dress and singing, even where not provocative.
Explanation: This has been discussed in the introduction. As I stated in the introduction, it is crucial that women not be viewed as objects, but as spiritual beings. A woman is not there for the man’s pleasure. Men have a tendency to objectify women even when women are not intending to be immodest. Every man knows this to be true. The Torah went out of its way to protect a woman’s dignity even where some would say her singing or mode of dress is not provocative.
  • Seemingly incorrect interpretation of the verse "A king's daughter, all her honor is inwards" (Psalms 45:14)
Explanation: While Zeligman may be correct regarding the simple meaning of the verse (Though Rashi to Gittin 12 interprets the verse as the honor of the daughter of kings - i.e. the Jewish people - is to be modest), it is clear from Talmud and Midrash that all verses have multiple layers of meanings. For an explanation of this verse see: http://www.inner.org/womchild/womchi13.htm
  • "A man has privilege over a woman, to be saved from death and to return his loss." (Tractate Horayot, chapter 3, mishnah 7)
Explanation: See the introduction and also the explanation to the Rashba’s statement at the beginning of this section.

Finally, the proof is in the pudding. Studies show http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703525704575061442303169342.html that Orthodox Jewish couples are happier in their marriages than their non Jewish counterparts. It is clear to anyone who is exposed to Torah based marriages, that they are, by and large, happy ones, though there are exceptions. If the Torah promoted an anti female bias, this would be unlikely to be the case.


Forbidden Thought
Zeligman now brings sources that insinuate that a Jew must never think critically about the Torah and regarding questions of faith, one simply “mustn’t think about such things.” Zeligman ignores the countless volumes of Torah literature which analyze philosophical and theological questions in the most critical and questioning way. From R’ Saadyah Gaon’s Emunos V’deos to Maimonides Guide To The Perplexed, from Maharal to Chovos Halevavos. The Jew has never been afraid to question and be self critical.
What is forbidden are thoughts which deliberately lead one’s self away from Judaism. A person’s natural tendency is to want to be free of all constraints and morality, for then he can do what he pleases. So there is a natural tendency to rationalize one’s lack of belief in Judaism with thoughts or ideas that stem from anti Torah sources. That is what is forbidden. Not a healthy philosophical or theological search for truth.

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