A Jewish Guide to Female Independence

A non-Jewish woman once said:

A man must know how to fly in the face of opinion; a woman to submit to it.

It’s fine advice, but I would rephrase it, using the original iconoclastic “power couple”, primogenitors of the Hebrews.

Let’s imagine an archaic Middle Eastern city where not everyone is the same. Oh no, not at all. For instance, 80% of the residents wear open sandals, and the remainder closed sandals. Also, eighty percent prefer to worship the deity of light, and twenty percent the deity of the dark. (Speaking of deities, there is also rumor of a foreigner called Shem who rejects all deities in favor of this one, invisible God. But I speak only of the city’s inhabitants.)

Now, men and women are different, and it would be harmful to rebel against their own natures. So when giving over the above, timeless wisdom to the male youth, among them a man child named Avram son of Terach, a male teacher might give the following examples:

Avram, choose your own path. Wear closed sandals if they look better on you. Your personality may be Dark; don’t suppress it. Don’t conform to anyone else or you lose your soul. Perhaps even reject all deities for the God of Shem

And a female guide to the virginal womenfolk might say this:

Sarai, feisty girlish headstrongness will render you undesirable and most unhappy. In the large, you must learn to submit to your lawful guardians. But you may, and indeed must, decide whose courtship to accept. For example, don’t fear marrying a man who wears closed sandals. Don’t reject the man who worships the night deity off hand. Or even marry the man who rejects all idol worship! It’s your choice.

The end of the example (or: “poor historical novel”).

To preserve masculinity, one must be one’s own man. This can manifest in different footwear (amoral), or religion. In contradistinction, to preserve femininity, a woman must conform. But the choice of whom to conform to is her own. Should Sarai marry Avram or Besuel? Ought Leah await Esav or pray dearly for Yaacov? Etc.

So, the proper religious choice for both men and women is similar, yet subtly different.

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