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The Status of Women in the Tanakh

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Women have various roles and responsibilities on the planet. Women are equal to men in status although not necessarily the same. The status of women in the Tanakh can best be described through the various roles that women play on earth. It is through women that God brings children to the earth. The children are very important for the continuity of the generation. A woman is joined to a partner referred to as a husband through which they bear children and create a loving and God-fearing home. The role of the women on earth is very important to the extent that the children are ordered to obey their father and mother with the promise of living longer on earth. The woman in this command found in Exodus 20:12 give the woman the same honor as to that of man. God blessed both Adam and Eve and gave the two the responsibility for taking care of the earth that he had made. In Genesis 1:27.28, it is quoted that God created men in his own image; both male and female. He then ordered them to multiply, replenish the earth and subdue it and have command over the fish of the sea, over the fowl of the air and over any living thing that God had created (Smith, 1968).

Women in various roles

Women are described to have taken part in various wonderful roles through out the scriptures. Some examples are Sarah who gave birth at an old age to Isaac, a child of promise, Rebecca who assisted Jacob in receiving blessings from his father and Hannah who prayed and begged God for a child and God Samuel who became a judge. Others are Ruth who did not abandon her mother-in-law and was rewarded with Davidic descendant, Mary who was regarded as a blessing to women and later gave Yeshua as a gift to human beings. The women mentioned were special vessels designed by God for the good plan to the human beings. The great women of the Tanakh include the prophetesses Miriam, Huldah, Deborah the Judge, Noadiah and the wife to Isaiah (Smith, 1968). The women were as important as men because even when the Torah was given both the men and women were required to receive it. In Deuteronomy 31:12, the men, and women and children and any visitor in their homesteads were ordered to gather so that they may hear, learn and fear the Lord and follow the stipulations of his word. The Torah was read therein before the street to both the men and women and anyone who could understand the words from the law book. Women together with men accepted the Torah and to date the women has stronger influence to the children in the homes (Smith, 1968).

Women as teachers

Through out the Tanach, various types of women are described. Some are virtuous while others are not. Women in Jewish tradition were the first teachers to their children, the reason as to why they were given the Torah at Sinai. It can thus be considered that women are equal to men in various aspects, although the two have different roles and responsibilities set to them by God. Thus women and men are equal but not necessarily the same. In the Trah and Talmud, women are presented with the same teachings as those of men. Female normally attend all-female yeshivot (Jewish religious schools) where they are taught both secular and religious subjects. Women are also provided with the same conventionally female-only holiday every month. This holiday is referred to as Rosh Chodesh and takes place on the first day and in certain times in the first two days of every Hebrew month in reference to Jewish calendar and was initially regarded as the rest day for the women (Starr, 1996).

Women and intuition

In regard to the traditional Judaism, women are gifted with superior degree of binah (Intuition, understanding, intelligence) than men. The rabbis deduced this from the fact that the women were built, as found in (Genesis 2:22) rather than formed as found in (Genesis 2:7). It has been considered that the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah) were more intelligent than the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) in prophesy. Women have occupied positions of respect in Judaism since biblical times. Miriam is regarded as one of the liberators of the children of Israel together with her brothers Moses and Aaron. In fact one of the Judges called Deborah was a woman. Out of the 55 prophets mentioned in the Bible, seven of them were women. These were Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther. The Talmud and afterwards rabbinical writings cite the wisdom of Berurya, the wife to Rabbi Meir. In various circumstances, her opinions on halachah (Jewish Law) were preferred to those of her male counterparts. In the ketubah of Rabbi Akiva's son, the husband is taught the Torah by the wife. Several Rabbis over the years have been known to seek the opinion of their wives in issues of Jewish law concerning the role of the women. Such issues include laws of kashrut (kosher) and women's cycles. The wife of a rabbi is known as a rebbetzin, basically a title of her own, which should give some implications of her importance in Jewish life (Starr, 1996).

Although the women were not expected to maintain time bound mitzvot like wearing tallis or praying at least thrice per day, they were expected to at least pray every day. It s also recommended that women who have the ability to pray more times to meet the three recommended times every day. It is also the duty of the women to light the Shabbat candles for the whole homestead. Further, the married ones have the roles of following the Laws of Family Purity (taharat hamishpakha). The laws demand abstention from sexual relations and any act that may result to prohibited sexual behavior in the course of their menstrual cycle and for seven clean days after that. The women must immerse in the mikveh before engaging in any sexual relations with their partners (Starr, 1996).

Young women in the Tanakh

Young omen in the Tanakh were associated with the role of drawing water from wells to cater for their household needs. The task was of great importance when the young women were shepherdess assigned the duty of watering their livestock. The well was a very important aspect to such women. In four separate instances in the Tanakh, young women are cited as shepherdesses going to the well to water their livestock. Abraham’s servant met Rebekah at a well watering her flock of sheep (Gen. 24:10-27). Jacob on his search mission for his uncle Laban met Rachel at a well where she had gone to water her father's flock of sheep (Gen. 29:1-11). Moses found the seven daughters of Reuel at a well where they had gone to water their father's flock; and one of them became his bride (Ex. 2:15-19). When Saul was looking for his father's donkeys that had disappeared, he met a young woman who was on her way to draw water (Laura, 2000).

Women are praised

In the Talmud which is one of the important Jewish writings, women are greatly praised and cited as worthy in the sphere in which the early Judaism found her role home and family. Outside of the house and her role as mother and wife, women are at times regarded by the Talmud as lazy, unintelligent, ineffective and having the tendency for the occult and in many instances perky and un-teachable. Josephus, a Jewish historian comments that a woman is in all directions inferior to men. This is however not the case as women do not bear all these characters whether at home or elsewhere. In fact, women are described as more intelligent than men in various matters (Allen, 1985).

In addition to the above, in Talmudic halakah, divorce is allowed to the man only and not to the woman. The most liberal halakah cites that the man could divorce his partner for almost every reason including when the man met a better match or a better partner. In a court of law, the woman was not allowed to say anything in divorce cases, unless she was charged of sexual infidelity, where she was supposed to plead guilty or not guilty. In other situations she was supposed to remain mum in the case (Allen, 1985).

The area of the women was unquestionably domestic where she was praised particularly in the role of bearing children. Although she was praised, her status was considered to be the same level as that of Gentile slave. Philo quotes that a woman should serve her husband unquestionably. a woman was barred from actively participating in roles outside her area by the Talmud unless it was for financial reasons. A wife could participate in financing the homestead through the sale of her wares such as cloth, pottery or food. The Talmud further warned men from spending too time talking to the women, including their wives as this was considered to result to un-chastity. The women considered as a sexual snare to men were ordered to wear veils outside the houses and not to communicate with men or look directly at their faces. Because it was considered that the women had uncontrollable sexual desires, whenever a woman was raped or sexually abused it was taken that she had initiated the act by seducing the man (Allen, 1985).

Women testimony in courts

In the Court’s a woman’s testimony was almost irrelevant. The Talmud stated that the woman’s testimony could only be equated to that of a Gentile slave. Josephus would not admit the testimony of a woman due to lightness and temerity of her sex. In the religious field the Talmud notes few advantages of the woman, although relevant studies indicate that she indeed had significant roles in the proceedings of the Jewish Temple and the Synagogue. In regard to quorum to enunciate a blessing three women were adequate in absence of a man (Allen, 1985).

Conclusion

The women had several roles to play as indicated in the Tanakh. According to the evidence given in the paper, the woman can be considered to be equal to the men although not similar. The Rabbi even deduced that women were mentally superior to men in terms of understanding and intelligence. The women were the first teachers to their children reversing the claims by Talmud that they were stupid and un-teachable. Women were enlightened particularly in issues related to women. The Rabbis sought opinions in issues such as laws of kashrut (kosher) and women's cycles from women. The women status in the community was however made inferior to that of the men by Talmud in various matters. The women were for instance not allowed to have a word in divorce matters and were also not allowed to divorce. The women’s testimony in courts was almost irrelevant because it was comparable that of a Gentile slave.

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