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Thought for the Day: Ensuring Equal Protection in the Jewish Court

One way to deflect dealing with an issue and feel like you have won the argument is to make an absolutely false statement that rings true, gets people nodding, and immediately halts any further discussion.  Here's an example: Automation take away jobs!  No, not really; it may shift emphasis on good skills for future jobs, and it certainly does create new jobs.  Moreover, since more can get done for less money and time, everyone benefits and whole new business opportunities are created.

Here's another favorite of mine: If men had babies, then !  Umm... whatever gender gets pregnant, carries the developing human, and then gives birth is the gender that I am going to call women.  The fact is that if having babies is important, then someone's going to have to take time off from job and career to do that.  If you believe in evolution (silly you), then you would have to note that billions of years of barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen cannot be reversed by a couple of hundred years of suffrage.

I can't (ok... won't) speak for other cultures, but the Torah obligated makes having children an obligation that is borne by men.  Yes; men.  Of course, to fulfill that obligation, a man has to convince a woman to bear his children.  This, perforce, is going to pose a variety of risks to her health and freedom.  First protection: a woman has no obligation in halacha to have children.  She is certainly encouraged, but by no means obligated.  Moreover, she is exempt from time bound positive commandments.  That is true even if she never has children.  If you think about it, you'll see that anything else would be devious way to coerce her to have children.  The Torah wants her to have a truly free choice about taking on that obligation.  Of course, once she accepts that, she is expected to live with that decision.

Our sages have also put protections in place for her.  For example, her husband is required to provide for her physical and emotional needs.  Because he is obligated in providing her physical needs -- food, clothing, housing, etc -- her wages go to her husband.  However, if she chooses, she may decide that she wants to take care of her own physical needs and keep her wages.  She protected either way and may determine for herself and according to her circumstances what works best for her.  Of course, if she decides to keep her wages, then she cannot demand support from her husband.  That is also done for her protection, to ensure that there is enough parity in the financial arrangements that neither side will feel they are "getting the short end of the deal" and thereby feel enmity.  Please note well: I am not making up apologetics; I am quoting to you from the reasons given in the meeting notes we have from those discussions when the laws were decreed.

Here I am claiming that men and women are treated fairly and equitably, with due consideration for their unique and special circumstances.  How, then, does the world have such a different perception?  I have so much chutzpah?!  Well, maybe; but the real answer is that "the world" is missing information.  I once kidded my daughter that I somehow managed to survive my childhood without ever having nor needing a mobile phone.  She replied directly on point: "But Abba, since those things didn't exist, there was a different infrastructure.  You didn't have mobile phones, but you had pay phones."  The view from the external world is based on partial information taken out of context.  As an aside, my progression toward Orthodox Judaism was spurred along by always finding that the Orthodox description of derivative religions agreed with those religions' own descriptions.  However, the derivative religions of Orthodox Judaism was very often contrary to reality, based on partial information and hearsay, with a does of just "axe to grind" added for good measure.  (Please, please don't take my word for that; check it out yourself.  I was as shocked as you will be.)

I will just end by noting that even though our Sages have ensured equity under the law for men and women; that is only for human adjudicated law.  Regarding the situation in the heavenly tribunal, I can only tell you this.  The default way to identify an individual is as Ploni son/daughter of Ploni's-Father.  (Akin to how we use the father's last name in marriage and for children by convention in America and most western countries.)  The exception is when praying for someone's health or welfare.  In that case, we use Ploni son/daughter of Ploni's-Mother.  Why?  Because it is taken for granted that a woman's standing in HaShem's eye is very likely greater than a man's.

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