The Status of Women in Jewish Tradition

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Most ancient societies were patriarchal in outlook, but not all patriarchies are equally condescending toward women. Impelled by the gnawing question of whether the inferiority of women is integral to the Torah's vision, Sassoon sets out to determine where the Bible, the Talmud and related literature, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls, sit on this continuum of patriarchal condescension. Of course, there are multiple voices in both Biblical and Talmudic literature, but more surprising is how divergent these voices are. Some points of view seem intent on the disenfranchisement and domestication of women, whereas others prove to be not far short of egalitarian. Opinions that downplay the applicability of the biblical commandments to women and that strongly deprecate Torah study by women emerge from this study as arguably no more than the views of an especially vocal minority.