Spotlight on Sisterhood
SANDRA HURWITZ, PRESIDENT
Women have held positions of respect in Judaism since biblical times.
It is the merit of the Matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, which brought the redemption upon the people of Israel. It was their insistence on the continuity of family, which is the basis of the nation. Their coping with these painful hardships was considered a deed of loving-kindness. The acts of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah brought the revelation of God to their sons and daughters in the great miracle of the redemption from Egypt.
Miriam stands amidst the reeds that embrace the river's bank, still and quiet, watching from afar. She is the guardian of the promise all her people have yearned for, and she will not allow that promise to leave her sight. In her merit, we were redeemed from slavery. And in the merit of women of faith today, the entire world will be redeemed of its darkness.
Deborah was a great prophetess who served as a Judge of the Jewish people. When Israel was being attacked, the Jewish General Barak refused to wage war unless she joined him. She agreed and mobilized a huge army to defeat the enemy. She was also known for making the wicks for the torches in the Temple in order to encourage Torah learning. In the Bible she is called "Deborah, woman of torches," because this support of Torah is considered an even greater contribution to the future of the Jewish people than her military victories.
In traditional Judaism, women are for the most part seen as separate but equal. Women's obligations and responsibilities are different from men's, but no less important in fact, in some ways, women's responsibilities are considered more important. According to traditional Judaism, women are endowed with a greater degree of intuition, understanding and intelligence than men. It has been said that the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah were superior to the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in prophecy. Women did not participate in the idolatry regarding the Golden Calf. Some traditional sources suggest that women are closer to G-d's ideal than men.
In the old world towns women took care of the family business
so their husbands could sit and study Talmud all day. If the family owned property, it was the woman who dealt with the tenants. However, even in Biblical days women were honored and respected, sought after and loved.
The Jewish home has kept our people alive through the ages. The collection of Jewish objects and observance of customs is what keeps Judaism alive. We add a link to the golden chain of tradition forged by our ancestors.
The rights of women in traditional Judaism are much greater than they were in the rest of Western civilization until the 20th century. Women had the right to buy, sell, and own property, and make their own contracts, rights which women in Western countries (including America) did not have until about 100 years ago.
There is no question that in traditional Judaism, the primary role of a woman is as wife and mother, keeper of the household. However, Judaism has great respect for the importance of that role and the spiritual influence that the woman has over her family.