Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

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Heretic Gal
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Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by Heretic Gal »

I'm just beginning to learn about the Talmud and its place in Jewish life and thought.

Since I have not read it (yet! I'm working on it!), I'd very much like to know if any *women* have ever contributed to it directly, at any point in its history?

If not (and that's an "if" because again, I'm just at the water's edge on this!), do you think that will change as more women become ordained as rabbis?

And another question: are only rabbis permitted to participate in Talmudic discussion? If not, what are the criteria for inclusion in the "official" Talmud? And also, are there "unofficial" Talmuds?

Obviously I'm quite uninformed but I'm also quite interested in rectifying that lack of information. So thank you! 8-)

cnorman18

Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by cnorman18 »

[Replying to Heretic Gal]

An Orthodox source, but still surprising: Judaism 101: The Role oft Women.

And a good book on the subject:

The Women of the Talmud by Judith Z. Abrams

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Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by Heretic Gal »

[Replying to post 2 by cnorman18]

Thank you! I did read that FAQ before posting my question. I like that they explain all these things in detail and give reasons for the various practices.

Let me ask about a couple of things in it that disturbed me:

1) the idea that, while it's OK for women to be educated, their primary role is still that of "wife and mother". Are men's primary role that of "husband and father"? If yes, that's fair. If not - well, it seems unfair to me.

2) The reason given for keeping men and women separated in the synagogues is that men and women should not be distracted by the opposite sex. But what about gays and lesbians? If a gay man is in a room with only men, won't he be distracted in the same way?

Am I correct that this FAQ is written from a more traditional viewpoint and that many women and men within Judaism can and do disagree with some of what's written there? I'm sure the Reform congregations I've visited would. :-)

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Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by Goat »

Heretic Gal wrote: [Replying to post 2 by cnorman18]

Thank you! I did read that FAQ before posting my question. I like that they explain all these things in detail and give reasons for the various practices.

Let me ask about a couple of things in it that disturbed me:

1) the idea that, while it's OK for women to be educated, their primary role is still that of "wife and mother". Are men's primary role that of "husband and father"? If yes, that's fair. If not - well, it seems unfair to me.

2) The reason given for keeping men and women separated in the synagogues is that men and women should not be distracted by the opposite sex. But what about gays and lesbians? If a gay man is in a room with only men, won't he be distracted in the same way?

Am I correct that this FAQ is written from a more traditional viewpoint and that many women and men within Judaism can and do disagree with some of what's written there? I'm sure the Reform congregations I've visited would. :-)
The orthodox are still rather behind the times when it comes to gays and lesbians. However, conservative and Reform Jewish congregations are more liberal in their attitudes, and also don't separate genders. I know a reform temple that chose an openly gay man as their secondary rabbi, and we have a couple of female Rabbi's in our area.

One thing about Judaism, for practically every point, you will find multiple opinions. The whole 'gender role' issue won't even be straight forward even in the orthodox communities.... although the orthodox are much more tradition bound.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

cnorman18

Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by cnorman18 »

Goat wrote:
Heretic Gal wrote: [Replying to post 2 by cnorman18]

Thank you! I did read that FAQ before posting my question. I like that they explain all these things in detail and give reasons for the various practices.

Let me ask about a couple of things in it that disturbed me:

1) the idea that, while it's OK for women to be educated, their primary role is still that of "wife and mother". Are men's primary role that of "husband and father"? If yes, that's fair. If not - well, it seems unfair to me.

2) The reason given for keeping men and women separated in the synagogues is that men and women should not be distracted by the opposite sex. But what about gays and lesbians? If a gay man is in a room with only men, won't he be distracted in the same way?

Am I correct that this FAQ is written from a more traditional viewpoint and that many women and men within Judaism can and do disagree with some of what's written there? I'm sure the Reform congregations I've visited would. :-)
The orthodox are still rather behind the times when it comes to gays and lesbians. However, conservative and Reform Jewish congregations are more liberal in their attitudes, and also don't separate genders. I know a reform temple that chose an openly gay man as their secondary rabbi, and we have a couple of female Rabbi's in our area.

One thing about Judaism, for practically every point, you will find multiple opinions. The whole 'gender role' issue won't even be straight forward even in the orthodox communities.... although the orthodox are much more tradition bound.
I quite agree. There are several openly gay people in my Conservative synagogue, and a lesbian couple, one of whom serves as our security guard (she is a city police officer). I don't know of anyone in the shul who has a problem with any of that.

The separation of the sexes during services is quite an issue for many Jews; I know of at least one synagogue in Dallas (Dallas!) which is otherwise Orthodox, but men and women are seated together. It is not affiliated with any of the branches, and calls itself "Traditional."

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Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

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Goat wrote: One thing about Judaism, for practically every point, you will find multiple opinions. The whole 'gender role' issue won't even be straight forward even in the orthodox communities.... although the orthodox are much more tradition bound.
That is one of the things that I find attractive about Judaism: the fact that they do allow for many different viewpoints and opinions.

So here's another question - not so much about women but about people in general: I am pretty sure there are a lot of Jews who practice their religion in some way (if only on special occasions) yet don't believe in a personal God. But does it work the other way? Can someone who doubts the existence of God nevertheless convert into Judaism?

I would think the answer would be "no" but it is something I've wondered about. Because it seems from the outside that Judaism, more than any other world religion except perhaps Buddhism, is centered on *practice* rather than *belief* as the primary requirement.

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Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by Goat »

Heretic Gal wrote:
Goat wrote: One thing about Judaism, for practically every point, you will find multiple opinions. The whole 'gender role' issue won't even be straight forward even in the orthodox communities.... although the orthodox are much more tradition bound.
That is one of the things that I find attractive about Judaism: the fact that they do allow for many different viewpoints and opinions.

So here's another question - not so much about women but about people in general: I am pretty sure there are a lot of Jews who practice their religion in some way (if only on special occasions) yet don't believe in a personal God. But does it work the other way? Can someone who doubts the existence of God nevertheless convert into Judaism?

I would think the answer would be "no" but it is something I've wondered about. Because it seems from the outside that Judaism, more than any other world religion except perhaps Buddhism, is centered on *practice* rather than *belief* as the primary requirement.
Any convert would be discouraged (traditionally, you would have to get keep on going back to a rabbi a number of times before they would agree. I think the hurdles would be greater, but still possible. Converts have to get a lot of Jewish education, and quite often, are much more educated about Judaism than people who just was born into it, and practiced it their entire life. There are types of Judaism that have rejected the concept of a personal God and the supernatural (the humanistic Jews, and the reconstrutinist Jews).
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

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Heretic Gal
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Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by Heretic Gal »

[Replying to post 7 by Goat]

Yeah, the funny thing is that back in the '80s I got it into my head that I wanted to convert to Judaism. So I went to a local synagogue and tried to get an appointment to talk with a rabbi about it. I couldn't get past the rabbi's secretary and no one seemed interesting in talking to me, so I gave up.

Had I known about this "you have to try at least 3 times to get through" thing, who knows? My whole life might have been completely different! Or not. But it's one of those things I kinda wish I'd known at the time! #-o

cnorman18

Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by cnorman18 »

Heretic Gal wrote: [Replying to post 7 by Goat]

Yeah, the funny thing is that back in the '80s I got it into my head that I wanted to convert to Judaism. So I went to a local synagogue and tried to get an appointment to talk with a rabbi about it. I couldn't get past the rabbi's secretary and no one seemed interesting in talking to me, so I gave up.

Had I known about this "you have to try at least 3 times to get through" thing, who knows? My whole life might have been completely different! Or not. But it's one of those things I kinda wish I'd known at the time! #-o
It's never too late! I converted at the age of 50. It took 4 years, but they were good years, and I've never looked back. This is my home, and always was, had I but known it. I know of many converts that are even older.

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Re: Are women's opinions represented in the Talmud?

Post by Heretic Gal »

[Replying to cnorman18]

:-) Well, I think I will just do my best to be a "righteous Gentile".

Oh, and wanted to mention also: what got me thinking about this topic (how women relate to Judaism) is that I've been revisitog some of the feminist literature of the so-called "second wave" of feminism (the 1970s) and am struck by how many of the.most prominent women in the movement were Jewish. Which makes me wonder if, even though it's ostensibly a patriarchal religion, there's a corresponding matriarchal element inside, creating extraordinarily strong women. Like a grain of sand inside an oyster.

Of course being Catholic I've seen that in my own tradition as well.

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