Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Start: Continued

The question remains: is Judiasm inherently patriarchal?

I say definitively: maybe.

My thinking was sparked by this article in the Washington Post about verse 4:34 of the Qu'ran, which states that "[A]nd (as to) those [women] on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them." According to the article, Muslim leaders tone down this language, but never say outright that it is unacceptable to beat one's wife.

Before anyone accuses me of an anti-Islam bias, I would like to point out that we have a similarly repugnant paragraph in the Torah. In Exodus 21:7-11 it says:
"When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. If she does not please the man who bought her, he may allow her to be bought back again." And goes on to describe the terms of such a sale. While slavery, and human trafficking are both illegal in modern America (as is domestic violence), a clever posek* could probably make the case that halakhically it is permissable to sell one's daughter to settle a debt.

Yet, unlike the scholars of Islam with verse 4:34, rabbinic authorities have traditionally discarded the whole idea of daughter-selling as obsolete. This sets the precedent for authorities to basically ignore whole sections of text that they find morally repugnant according to the current mores. Another example? From the Talmud: a doctor is not allowed to break shabbes to save the life of a non-Jew. Yet Jewish doctors transgressed this prohibition (for a number of reasons, economic, moral, etc) to the point that the rabbis ruled that because of the "erva" (hatred of Jews by non-Jews) that would be inspired, it was permissible to do such a thing.

So it is possible to address these moral quandries. This makes me wonder why (Orthodox) rabbinic authorities** have not done so as pertains to some of the more patriarchal sections of the Torah? Are they not repugnant enough yet?

*A posek is a person who can make rulings about Jewish law
** I am VERY familiar with the line of reasoning that claims that the infastructure for halakhic change no longer exists. Yet, decisions are made all the time. Cholov Yisroel, Glatt Kosher? Both modern inventions. If the OU really wanted to jump-start the halakhic process, I'll bet that it would do so.


BZ said...

So it is possible to address these moral quandries. Why have we not done so as pertains to some of the more patriarchal sections of the Torah?

Who's "we"?

AnnieGetYour said...

BZ- blogger has been sucking all day, so it decided to publish an earlier version of the post. I've fixed most of the issues (like pronouns) in the real version.