This week’s portion covers a vast array of human behavior ranging from making war to normative sexual behavior. Interestingly the text references a host of mitzvoth that define the relationship between men and women. For the most part the text refers to the rights of men verses the obligations of women.
The Torah doesn’t recognize women in her own right but in relationship to men. Women are referred to in our text as betulot, arusot onsot, gerushot, zonot almanot etc. The parsha deals with man’s relationship with the woman, how he acquires her and under what circumstances, all from the male point of view. For example the terminology used in the text is male oriented, he being the initiator. Terms such as lichicha, beila, tefisa, are all male oriented. In fact, a soldier can take at will, a woman from the vanquished side; he can marry as many women as he wants regardless of his wife’s feelings. Our text even suggests that for the same averot, the man’s punishment is different than the womans.
Flowing from this and in our tradition the male becomes the public figure, the spiritual leader, the wise man, the priest while the woman remains docile in her domicile where kol isha is forbidden because “nashim daatan kalah”. In other words a woman’s advice on public matters ought not to be considered, and that her interference is considered an attempt at breaking the male monopoly.
Much has changed in Jewish life since the emancipation, but I wonder if the woman’s role in the traditional home has made the same strides as we have made in other sectors. I can’t help but wonder if our ceremonies and ritual still maintain woman in the inferior role and ultimately harm the rich symbiotic relationship that can be harvested when treating men and women equally.