Since the beginning of the Jewish religion, women have had what seems to be a marginalized role that encompasses almost every facet of life. In many cases within the body of Jewish texts, clear misogynist statements and commentary are made dealing with every aspect of what it means to be female. Within the Orthodox movement, these restrictions appear to be the most prevalent. Through examination of the role of women within the key elements of the Orthodox Jewish life cycle: birth, adolescence, adulthood, and death, I hope to discover whether the female discriminatory point of view of Jewish Orthodoxy is founded or if the traditional ways of the Orthodox community are simply misunderstood.
BASICS OF JUDAISM
It is difficult to understand the role of women within a religion without a basic understanding of the religion in question; especially if talking of Judaism. It is now important to recognize that for faithful Jews, everything, whether within religious or secular life, revolves around religious laws or mitzvot (singular mitzvah).(1) The Jewish way of life encompasses every aspect of human endeavor. There is a verse in the Book of Isaiah: God desired for his righteousness’ sake to make the Torah great and glorious.
BirthThe beginning of the life cycle of a Jew and devotion to faith is the ritual dealing with birth. "By the late Middle Ages, there was a distinction between what is known as Written Torah, the Tanakh, and Oral Torah. (Biale 1995, 29) During the ceremony, women, including the mother of the child, are not permitted to witness or participate. It is said that "women are a separate people" aside from men who are the ones who are "fully-fledged partners of God in his divine Covenant. In understanding this, it becomes clear why it is so difficult for women to question Orthodox Jewish beliefs. It began in the Middle East around the present day state of Israel. Men wear the traditional black and white attire worn in Europe. The Orthodox view these acts as a "twisting" of the b"tmrit milah into something it is not. (Baskin 1991, 20) Within the Mishnah this separation is clearly defined. Each Orthodox movement has it own day schools, yeshivas (Jewish schools), seminaries, rabbinical, and congregational organizations. Historically, Judaism began around 2000 B. Orthodox JudaismOrthodox Judaism is on of four movements of Modern Judaism including Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist. (Haut 1992, 143-46) Strict Orthodox communities have formally voiced great opposition against these female-oriented ceremonies. There are many degrees of Orthodoxy. The term literally means "the covenant of circumcision.