February 17, 2019

The Musicality of Jewish Purity Laws

“Through the ages poems and songs have been composed in praise of the traditional role played by the Jewish woman and mother, most notably King Solomon’s “A Woman of Valor” at the end of the Book of Proverbs. Some of today’s feminists would not mind foregoing the role-centered praise in exchange for what they consider an “egalitarian” Judaic mode – i.e. assuming halakhic roles traditionally filled by men.

In my view, they are missing the point. An accurate definition of the Torah’s view on gender is “equal but different”– same abilities, same standing before G-d, but differences in the ways to try to be closer to Him and observe His laws. Not at all an egalitarian issue.

The Jewish woman was given special status by three commandments that it is her responsibility to fulfill: Lighting the Shabbat candles, separating a portion of dough for the Temple when baking bread (today it is burned) and the observance of the complex laws of what is termed Taharat Hamishpacha, family purity.

What stands out is that the first two mitzvoth can be performed by men if the situation warrants it and there are injunctions for men regarding family purity, but only women perform the mikva (ritual bath) immersion that grants a spiritual and ritually pure aspect to the love and intimacy of a married Jewish couple.”

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