Why does Judaism make such a distinction between the responsibilities of both sexes?

Good afternoon I’m not currently in a particular religion, but I’m very actively looking. I am very interested in one topic. Like many representatives of the younger generation (in this case, 20 years old), I am against the difference in rights between the sexes. For me, the difference between a man and a woman is only physical.

Although I am convinced of my position, I do not want to immediately put an end to it (because any belief can be erroneous).

Why does Judaism make such a distinction between the duties of both sexes? I know that woman is made from the (so-called) man’s rib and is made to be man’s “helper” and “support” for him. If my position is different, does it contradict the Torah?

Does the Torah contradict the position that a woman is not obliged to give birth to children and marry, and also to be a “helper”? My position is that gender does not play any role and a woman is not obliged to be an assistant to a man.

Yes, I admit that there are significant differences in the psyche of both, but at the level of rights and obligations they are equal, depending, of course, on the capabilities and strengths of a person.

Thanks in advance for your reply!


Answered by Miriam Klimovskaya

Dear N.!

Your position is understandable, and it is shared by many modern people. It shows the influence of feminism and the belief that, according to the Torah, a womens rights are “damaged” compared to a man. Let’s try to figure out if this is so.

First of all, I would like to say a few words about your dissatisfaction with the word “helper” (ezer). To some, it may seem disparaging, denoting a being of a lower rank – “man’s friend.”

But helping one’s neighbor is the greatest commandment that has allowed the Jewish people to survive through the millennia of dispersion. And the one who unselfishly helps others has always been treated with the greatest respect. Moreover, the Jews have always considered the Creator Himself the most important Helper.

This is reflected in the common Jewish names – Eliezer, Elazar, Azriel, Azarya, in different versions meaning: “Gd is the Helper.” And to be in SUCH a “company”, you see, is not at all shameful! And hence the conclusion: by becoming an assistant to someone who needs help, we become like Gd Himself!

You are absolutely right that a man and a woman are different not only physically, but also psychologically. Both emotionally and in the way of thinking. And, accordingly, they are called upon to perform various functions – since we believe that everything in the world was not created by chance.

A person is given certain properties in full accordance with the role that he is intended to fulfill, therefore it is important for everyone to act in accordance with their initial data.

There is nothing wrong with striving to overcome the limitations imposed on a person “by nature” – this is what cars, planes, computers, etc. are created for. But if a person tries to take on roles that are unusual for him, this harms the fulfillment of his direct duties.

So, for example, if a woman is actively building a career, then, as a rule, she cannot pay due attention to her home, husband, and children.

And now we can move on to your other question: should a woman get married, stay at home and give birth to children? You may be surprised, but she does not have such a duty in the Torah! The commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” and, accordingly, the obligation to create a family is assigned to a man.

Theoretically, a woman can remain unmarried all her life (of course, without entering into extramarital affairs, since they are strictly prohibited for Jews). But then the question arises: will it fulfill her purpose in this case?

We believe that after the death of each of us, the Judgment awaits, where they will ask what we spent the years allotted to us. Even the great righteous people fear this Judgment. It is said about the Vilna Gaon[i] that every Yom Kippur he remembered every minute of the past year and could indicate exactly what he spent it on.

Of course, we are not at such a spiritual level, but, in general, each of us can ask ourselves: what am I spending my life on? Am I moving in the right direction? Am I fulfilling my purpose?

How many people today can give themselves satisfactory answers to these questions?

How many young women in today’s world are busy nurturing and showing off their beauty to everyone on social media? And this becomes the meaning of their life to such an extent that, as they get older, they are only busy preserving this beauty in all possible ways.

But even those who are engaged in a really important business, building a career in business, manufacturing, science, art, politics – can they say with confidence that all their work is more important than the opportunity given to them to give birth to several new people, grow them, educate everyone of them to become a Human Being, to ensure the continuity of generations for many years?

By the way, many religious Jewish women successfully combine serious work and caring for a large family, properly organizing their time and distributing their forces.

Now about the rights and obligations. If you want to know about the rights that the Torah gives to a woman, then … they do not exist! And the man has no rights! The Torah does not talk about rights at all, it only talks about duties. But from the duties of one person follow the rights of another.

For example, from the obligation of the employer to pay the employee on time follows the right of the employee to receive wages on time, etc. And the duties of a man both in relation to society as a whole and in relation to his family and to his wife in particular, are immeasurably greater than women.

Should equality of duty be demanded for both sexes? After all, the very concept of “duty” means that sanctions follow if it is not fulfilled! It is unlikely that anyone, speaking of equal duties, implies equal responsibility for their performance.

In any case, if a person seeks to take on someone else’s functions, he must honestly ask himself: have I realized all the potential inherent in me? If a woman wants to be “like a man” in everything, does this mean that she has completely exhausted her possibilities and fulfilled all her duties as a woman?

Or does this aspiration stem from the society-imposed stereotype of a “secondary” woman, which has nothing to do with the Torah?

All the restrictions that Judaism seems to impose on a woman are understandable from the point of view of her function in the family and in the world and are designed to protect her dignity and protect her inner world from outside interference.

May God grant that each of us is satisfied with her role and is able to realize her full potential!

Sincerely, Miriam Klimovskaya

[i] The Vilna Gaon (Der Vilner Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo-Zalman, a-Gro, 5480-5558 / 1720-1797) is a famous Talmudic scholar, the pride of Eastern European Jewry.

Source: Почему иудаизм так различает обязанности обоих полов? — Еврейская женщина | Иудаизм и евреи на Толдот.ру (toldot.com)