Sunday, September 10, 2006

More Female Stuff

So, I was really hoping to be able to move off of the whole female subject. Today, however, a random friend started reading my blog. While reading this post, he came upon the line where I cunningly avoid getting into the whole mess about my thoughts about female rabbis and decided that I couldn't just leave it like that. So here goes.

Firstly, I understand why women were originally not intended to be halachic decisors. Back when being a Rabbi was really being a Rabbi, when you had to know just about everything to be able to make halachic decisions and being a Rabbi meant being the leader of the community, it really makes some sort of sense. I mean, look. In a normal society 99.9% of people aren't going to be the intellectual elites. The .1% that are, will have to be 1)the absolute best at the whole learning thing, 2) able to free themselves from other time committments and 3)willingly supported by the community. A woman might well be able to pull off 1), is practically speaking very unlikely to get 2) and would rarely get 3). There were always a few crazies (yes, Bruria, I know), but it wasn't easy.

Nor should it necessarily be so. I am willing to accept innate differences in the natures and missions of men and women. Not very PC, but there you go. And I am certainly willing to go with the notion that any reasonably ordered society needs some sort of division of labor and different roles for the different people, as befits their particular needs and characters. Can I say for certain that women would be less suited to roles of academia and/or leadership? No. But I do not think that it is a coincidence that almost all human societies have evolved into this form, nor do I think that it is a coincidence that G-d set up our system this way. I happen to have my own theories as to why this is the case, which have to do with the fact that women have less of an innate predilection towards jerkiness, but I am not in love with these theories, certainly not enough to fight for them. The point is, for whatever reason, it makes sense for a society to not have everybody running around being all metaphysical and so forth and it makes sense that the very small percentage of people who are going to be that way should be male, if only because they are naturally more seperable from certain vital activities. (translation: women biologically have the babies, something that is not very conducive for them running off and learning for years without the burden of their family).

Now, that all applies to the time when S'micha was real, something that is no longer the case. Now s'micha simply means that you knew enough to pass some sort of an exam, has no halachic significance in terms of actual "s'micha" and simply functions as permission for you to make halachic decisions, something that many people with 'Rabbi' in front of their names prefer not to do anyway. So, from a halachic perspective, I don't really see any problem with creating a title/role for women with the equivolent function of saying 'We officially acknowledge that you know a lot of Torah'.

Do I want to become one of those? No, not really. And this is for two reasons. Firstly, because I don't really see the point. I mean, if I know a ton, so wonderful, I'll be clever. Do I need some title testifying to that? Shmuel the tanna never got S'micha. Nor, for that matter, did D'vorah Han'via or Chulda or Esther or in fact, anyone that the Torah chooses to tell us about. A title might be convenient for determining, say, qualifications for being a female Gemara teacher, but I don't know if it's worth the whole communal rift and so forth. And secondly, because I am conservative. I prefer not to be on the fore-front of movements, even ones that I would have no problem with joining when they are older. Is it cowardice? Yes, probably. But it is also a general distrust of movements like this that are usually inspired by motives that I don't like- ego, resentment and so forth. Of course, that's often what it takes to get a movement started, but that doesn't mean that I want to be a part of that. The world may need its angry people who start things like that, but they still make me nervous and I would prefer to jump onto the bandwagon once I am confident that it's not evil or anything like that. Again, it may simply be cowardice and a distaste for conflicts, but there you go.

1 comment:

Miri said...

k, I'm just gonna say this before anyone else does (not emotionally invested, I just think you'll be less annoyed if I say it); and that is, women can't run off and leave their families to learn Torah (post the whole birthing thing) but men can go off and abandon the burdens and responsibilities of their families to go learn Torah?
you make some very valid points, however on some issues (not necessarily this one) I do feel revolution brewing, and sometimes I suspect I may have to take part. after all, bimkom sheaino ish, lihishtadel lihiyot ish, right?