Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The virtuous wife

It puzzles me when certain religious leaders – and because I do not want to offend anyone, I will refrain from giving names – talk about how women should be modest (certainly), home-centered and spend most of their time at home (so far so good), and without pausing for breath they say that the true Wife of Valor is supposed to shield her husband from all the evils of this world, so that he can dedicate all his time to studying Torah – they go as far as saying that men shouldn't even know what a supermarket looks like or how to pay the bills.

How does that work, exactly? They conveniently gloss over the matter of where money would come from, and say that God will provide. Though undoubtedly God is the only source of every spiritual or material blessing we possess, it does not cancel the fact that in the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, a man promises to care for and provide for his wife.

In every generation, I suppose, there were a few men who were nearly detached from this world, so much that they didn't really know how to handle everyday transactions. However, I don't believe this is the ideal situation for most people, and I don't believe that a woman should feel guilty every time her husband does the shopping.

As for homemaking and childcare, though I agree that it is primarily a woman's calling, I don't believe that when help is desperately needed and the husband lends a hand, he is "wasting time that could be spent in learning". Surely it's not only a matter of studying the Torah, but also of living out its principles – which include helping the needy, especially those closest to oneself, such as a wife who is about to collapse under the burden of several small children, advanced pregnancy, and a house which is in the process of being cleaned for Pesach.

I have an issue with the following message: You should be a modest, quiet, home-centered wife. You are supposed to delight in raising a large family. Your energies should be devoted entirely to your family. You are also supposed to be the main breadwinner, and you must never ask your husband to help you, even though you feel you are about to snap under the load. If you don't manage, you are weak.

It seems to me that not too many women are strong enough for this kind of life. And I don't think there is anything wrong with that. While there may be SuperMoms who did it all and truly and really lived out every line of the description of the virtuous wife from Proverbs 31, every day of their lives, most of us will fail to achieve this standard. Some days we can do more, some days less. A home is an enterprise, and I do not believe that husbands and sons are supposed to be entirely detached from its management.

I feel that by spreading the message I referred to above, Jewish religious leaders are cheating women out of their basic right to be supported by their husbands. When someone boasts of the fact that his mother never had any hobbies or friends, never received household help and never went out just to breathe some fresh air, I see danger in setting this as a general guideline for Jewish women. Most of us do need help and refreshment, and acknowledging these human needs will, in my opinion, help to establish a healthy family life much more than telling women they mustn't ever speak about their needs.

And don't get me wrong – I'm talking about rabbis whom I greatly respect, and whose books I read for daily inspiration and encouragement. But just on this point, I beg to differ. Perhaps I'm not spiritual enough, but I know that following these standards would wreck havoc in the lives of families who currently have a happy balance. What good would this do to anyone?


Anonymous said...

I should say first that I am not Jewish, nor do I feel I have a "right" to be supported by my husband, or a sense that it's better for me to be around home most of the time. My husband is not terribly inclined to work full-time, whereas I am, and this seems to work out well for us (we have no children, by choice). I think whatever arrangement suits a married couple best, as long as it allows them to care for their home and offspring properly (and I do mean properly--if your home's a wreck and your kids wonder if you actually live with them, that's not a good job you're doing!), is pleasing to God. But regardless, I agree 100% with what you're saying here, Anna, and am baffled at the notion that any spiritual leader would counsel a man to have a family _and_ be completely divorced from the matters of the world. I have no problem with people living remote from this world and immersing themselves in study or matters of the spirit--but those people should not also be married and have children. Do one or the other, or find a balance.

Really, what woman with even a grain of sense, however finely-honed her spirit, would want to marry such a person? What, exactly, is the point? Simply to reproduce? This seems, to say the least, counterintuitive. Do such women know before they enter into marriage that this will be their lot? Are they given a choice? I would be interested to hear what you have to say about Orthodox women in your community and the say they do or do not have in general over whom they marry and what kind of a life they will have.

Lanita said...

I find that way of thinking very baffling. The Proverbs 31 woman had servants and maids, so she had plenty of help in her home. How is a husband to know how the scriptures are to be lived out if they never experience it. In the garden, it was Adam who was given the burden of providing for his family, not Eve. Eve was to be the HELPER.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your viewpoint. You are very insightful.

Leah Burks said...

You are so right! I agree totally. Although I am not Jewish, and am never confronted with this sort of scenario, any sensible person would see it is a truly unsustainable and UNHEALTHY way to try to survive! I say 'survive' because that's what is happening. The poor women and their families are not truly living, only surviving. It's not that you aren't spiritual enough, it's that some people (even rabbis) aren't practical enough!

Tamsen said...

Jewish or not, I can't see any woman holding up under that burden. I believe God divided duties according to our strengths, so that we could do well and please him, all for His glory.

Kacie said...

It's hard for me to understand how studying the Holy Word all day, every day (and doing nothing else) is a good thing for a married man.

I can see its benefits for someone who is unmarried or who works for the church. But a family man?

It is unreasonable to expect a woman to basically be a single working mother with no help from her husband.

I don't claim to know God's intentions, but I think He'd have a problem with that situation.

You'd think someone who studies the Word all day would have a better understanding of the world, ya know?

Anonymous said...

While I am not Jewish, but Christian, I whole heartedly agree. A woman who is fullfilling her calling to be a keeper at home, can not (nor should not) be the primary breadwinner. She can help to contribute financially, but only after her main duties of running a home and raising children.

Anonymous said...

I am not Jewish, so I am not familiar with how things work as far as the religious aspects and such are, but I'm sorry, that is just plain wrong. When a man has a family, he is obligated to take care of that family financially AND emotionally. Treating your wife like a slave under the guise of religious study is just absolutely wrong. If a man wants to devote his whole life to religious study, that's wonderful, but he does NOT need to take on a family if that is the case. On that aspect I totally agree with the Catholic practice of celibacy for priests and nuns. (I am not Catholic, I am Christian, but associate with no religious group.)

Leanne said...

I have been reading this blog on and off for a few months now, as the Lord has directed me to "come home"... it has been such a blessing and encouragement to read posts on here. I am now pregnant and have recently quit my job, knowing that my husband and I must drastically adjust our lifestyle to accomodate this, but know that this is the Lord's will.

Being Christian, I could cite many scriptures found in our New Testament regarding this topic, but I see it would not be relevant to your I will go back to the beginning: Adam was given the curse of working to provide food for his family, and Eve was given the curse of childbearing (which I really think can extend beyond just the moment of birth). I think this sets up two different spheres... with the woman bearing children AND being the main provider, she has a double curse.

Just a thought... =) I could add more but my husband just called me.

Bethany Hudson said...

I agree with Lanita. Husbands are called to "toil" (work) as Adam was, and their wives are called to be their "helpers." As with anything, there may be rare exceptions (Deborah being a judge over Israel, for example), but the vast, vast majority of wives are never meant to pull all the weight. To me, that is hardly a marriage. Marriage is partnership, not a wife doing everything.

Whitters said...

I completely agree with you. Women have a responsibility to take care of the home and men have a responsiblity to provide, preside over, and protect the home. Certainly women can not be expected to do everything. She is a helpmate to her husband and he to her as well.

Your thoughts are always articulated so well!

lavender garden said...

i don't know where you are hearing these things. i do know that our great rabbis very very much promote the idea of husbands helping wives and being sensitive to their needs. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, possibly the greatest Rabbi of the past generation, learned Torah and answered halachic questions most of the day. Yet one day, his daughter-in-law entered the house to find the Rabbi washing and rinsing drinking glasses. When she asked him why he was doing that, he said, "I know the Rebbetzin enjoys cleanliness and order. She is lying down because she is not feeling so well and , when she awakens, I don't want the sight of dirty glasses to distress her."
Someone came to the Steipler Gaon, also one of the greatest tzadikim, and said, "My wife has trouble getting the house ready on time for Shabbos. What can I do about it?"
The Rabbi replied, "Pick up a broom and help her."
There are countless such stories, and they don't represent the exception, but the rule. My own daughter lives in lakewood, New Jersey, where many of the young men learn Torah in yeshiva. She teaches in the afternoon, and her husband tutors a child at night and receives a stipend from his school. They are both greatly involved in childcare. her husband helps with the cooking. Theirs is Baruch Hashem a true partnership, one which the presence and priority of Torah in their home makes possible.
I don't think any Rabbi will say that every woman should work and every man should learn Torah full time. They will say that the importance of Torah learning should be recognized- whether it's 8 hours a day , in the case of those who can do it or one hour in the evening or a Daf Yomi shiur in the morning. Whatever the amount, if the wife encourages it and doesnt say "Let's go shopping" during that specific hour," she is certainly a virtuous wife. A very great teacher of mine, when I studied in a seminary in Jerusalem, said, "There is no one formula"- the Torah is for every Jew and our Rabbis guide us individually, working with each person, their needs and circumstances, to live a blessed Torah life.
It is important to not just make assumptions based on "mnedia reports" but to have a reliable personal Rav.
I enjoy your domestic reflections and wish you and your husband much nachat from Shira!

AK said...

Interesting. I think doing one's duty by one's family and home is a part of all religions.

In Hindu philosophy a married man and woman are free to study scripture throughout their lives, but are only supposed to give up household responsibilities at the last stage of life (the stages are the (celibate) period of studentship, the stage of the householder, the stage of the forest-dweller or hermit, and the last is the life of renunciation or asceticism). Each stage has its own duties, and if one wants to be totally devoted to religious study it is better to become an ascetic/monk and not marry at all.

Gombojav Tribe said...

I have never heard the idea from Jew or Christian that the wife should be the primary breadwinner. Perhaps that the wife can be, but not that she should! I cannot think of a single scriptural example or verse that teaches this.

How is a woman that is nursing young babies supposed to carry the wait of providing for a family?

I don't think that this message is at all representative of the character of God, who is loving and gracious and gently leads those with young.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Lavender Garden,

What I say here is based not on media reports, but on books by famous rabbis I have carefully studied from cover to cover. I assure you, I did not misunderstand the message. Certainly not all rabbis say this, but enough voices to make women think they do not deserve help or financial support.

Harper said...

I think you are absolutely right. There is a saying, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." If a man intends to devote his entire life to study, even if only for a few years, and is not willing to engage in a marital relationship, he should not be married during that time.

A wife is a helpmeet, not a servant or slave. The marital relationship is a partnership, a contract. Each partner has different tasks, but each partner "gets" some benefit from it. If the woman bears and raises the children, keeps house, cooks, earns the money, and provides emotional support for her husband, exactly what benefit is he providing her? Where is the reciprocity? What such a woman is participating in is not a marriage, it is indenturement.

Thia said...

All I can say is, I cry for the women so burdened.

Dirtdartwife said...

I'm a military wife and to some extent, I live this life by virtue of my husband's absence. And I can assure you... I NEED BREAKS from it. I can NOT carry the burden alone and I would be foolish, religious or not, to think I can. I would be depressed and I'm pretty sure many women would feel very depressed and alone if she was told to feel this way. Talk about setting a woman up for failure.

Anonymous said...


Thank you for this message! Last week, I was expressing frustration with a very similar type of message: that women are to give so much of themselves that they essentially become non-entities, or non-human. I struggle, in particular, because I have a high need for social activities and so I participate in a sport and a community orchestra. Yet, I'm repeatedly told that this is a neglect of my family even though I spend maybe only 3-5 hours a week apart from them in rehearsal or in work-out. If I didn't do this, I would be chronically depressed because it wouldn't be living as who I am. I'd also be fat because I like to eat and exercise keeps the pounds off (not to mention keeping my heart healthy).

All this is to say that I agree with you 100%. You are NOT un-spiritual or not trying hard enough. You are a normal human being with normal human needs - including the need to rest and have hobbies. If one didn't pursue these things, she wouldn't be her whole self and I don't believe that's a good way to raise children - thinking that women are servants without souls.

I'm Christian and this message comes through in the Christian world, too. It's something I struggle with. On the one hand, I feel guilty for having social needs and on the other hand if I didn't pursue these, I'd climb the walls - or at least not be very effective at my work. I'd been thinking this is something that only extroverts experience, so even though my heart feels for (and with) you, I'm nonetheless encouraged that we extroverts not alone in this.

And, for what it's worth - from what I read of your blog, you are one of the most "spiritual" people I know. Not only in the loving way you write about your baby and husband and how immersed in the rhythm of Orthodox Judaism (I'm finding a rhythm to it as I read your blog), but in the way you find so much loveliness and beauty in things a lot of people would overlook!

- Sally

Anonymous said...

Another thought occurred to me. The Song of Solomon is about a romantic love relationship. It is about married partners taking delight in each other in both sensual ways and in relationship ways. I do not believe Proverbs 31 is meant to usurp that type of relationship. I believe marriage is a partnership and while men and women have different roles, they ought to have equal rights within a marriage because they are loved equally by God.

I agree with those who are calling for a balance. Study Torah, of course! But if all a man wants to do is study day and night (as a literal interpretation of Psalm 1), then they shouldn't do it by trodding down a woman, getting her to support them, have lots of children and expect her to do everything.

I doubt anyone's concentration is that long that they need 16 hours out of the day to do nothing but study Torah. And if they do, maybe they're not so bright, huh? It sounds like an excuse to me to allow men to be lazy and to try to convince women that it's their spiritual calling to accept that.


Inca said...

I love reading your blog; you write very well. But I am baffled by your posts (of which this is at least the second) on this topic.

First of all, is this a direct quote from a well-known rabbi or not?

"You should be a modest, quiet, home-centered wife. You are supposed to delight in raising a large family. Your energies should be devoted entirely to your family. You are also supposed to be the main breadwinner, and you must never ask your husband to help you, even though you feel you are about to snap under the load. If you don't manage, you are weak."

It seems quite extreme: you must *never* ask your husband....??? Even if you feel you are about to snap under the load??? Otherwise you are *weak*???

Second of all, it seems to me that there is an issue here of assuming that you, and everyone else out there, can easily reach the ideal. There is an ideal for the men to...also one that only the rare man can or will achieve. Obviously, there are many men out there...but not all of them are of the caliber to become great, knowledgeable, compassionate rabbis. And, obviously, there are many women out there and not all of them are of the caliber to reach the ideal of the "perfect" woman. Those women who can and have handled most of life's day to day issues and whose husbands have been able to devote countless hours upon hours without stop in daily devotion to Torah...those women have existed in past generations (and are very well known, usually, since they are the rare exception) and there are some who exist in our generation today. They do not feel put upon; they feel fortunate that they were able to do this.

But it seems to me that too many women feel that if they don't all live up to that outstanding example, despite the fact that their husbands could not (or would not) spend their every moment devoted to Torah study anyway, those women feel like failures and get very resentful and blame the fact that there are other women out there who could and did do...and/or blame the fact that such an ideal even exists!

You will never be held to a standard higher than that which your personal capabilities allow you to achieve, nor will any other woman...or man.

My biggest problem with your posts on this topic is for those who are not Jewish and are reading this. Those readers do not realize that this ideal is not expected of the average woman. They do not realize that, as lavendar woman pointed out, this is not the advice that a couple gets as a standard basis. They only know what you are writing so I feel there is a responsibility laying on your shoulders to be very careful that it not appear that something is the norm when it is not.

Rose said...

Hello Anna dear, I am still reading and loving your blog. When I first taught high school I taught the religion which ran the school has a whole lot of musts and shoulds relating to women's lives.

Experience shows me that there is a vast difference between should and must and aspiration.

Marytoo said...

This is not a good condition for a married man with a family. Perhaps it is appropriate for a Catholic priest or a monk (Is there a Jewish equivalent?...I am neither Jewish nor Catholic.) who is shut away from the world, but even they have responsibilities to interact with the communities in which they live. What good is it to build yourself up spiritually if it is not to be shared? Not to be irreverent or anything, but there is such a thing as being too heavenly to be any earthly good.

Anonymous said...

What about the children? Even if the woman IS "strong enough" to triumph over all the burdens alone, can this be the best scenario for the children to have such a "father"?

I also find it funny that a man who has no duty to engage in his family finds the time to MAKE a family...and a large one at that. This sounds like a perverted version of God's plan to me.

Anne Marie@Married to the Empire said...

In Christianity there are multiple denominations and off-shoots of denominations, each with their own interpretation of scripture. Some are rather extreme in their ideas of God's requirements. Is this perhaps the Jewish version of the same sort of thing?

I truly don't understand this. Why is marriage even encouraged for these men if they are going to be completely removed from all aspects of home and family?

This actually leads me to another questions. I know that centuries ago, the tithe that was brought to the temple helped to keep the priests. I know that y'all no longer have the temple, but I assume that the tithe is still paid, presumably to one's synagogue? If so, why does part of that not go towards keeping these men in their studies? I just can't fathom that women would be expected to earn the money, somehow keep the children at the same time (how on earth does that work???), be at home and handle all home duties. It sounds like a single mom, quite frankly! And this is to be considered an honor?!

Mrs. Anna T said...


The image of romantic love in the Song of Solomon is merely a relfection of God's love for the people of Israel.


It is not a direct quote - it is a summary of a chapter in a book written by a very well-known Orthodox rabbi, who tells women off for expecting help and support from their husbands. It sounded much much worse than what I wrote here. In fact it made me want to chuck the book away.

Anne Marie,

We give away 1\10 of our income, and part of it goes to support Torah scholars. I think many scholarships are based on donations, however, it is a very meager sum and not nearly enough to support a large family.

Mrs. R said...

Hi Anna,
Another great post! You said "perhaps I am not spiritual enough", but I beg to differ with you on THAT point! As I have read your posts (I think every single one of them!) your love for God shines through.

Leanne Said:
"I will go back to the beginning: Adam was given the curse of working to provide food for his family, and Eve was given the curse of childbearing (which I really think can extend beyond just the moment of birth)."
THIS is NOT correct!! Adam's curse is of the increased toil in his work (by the sweat of his brow), work itself is NOT, NOT, NOT the curse as Adam was assigned work prior to the fall. And Eve's curse is NOT in "bearing" children, but in an increase in the pain of childbearing. An accurate reading of the scriptures is essential for an accurate understanding of exactly what the curses are.

So with that cleared up, the unnamed Rabi is advocating that the woman now take on his curse as well as her own and the man is "exempted by the Rabi" from taking on the curse given him by God himself.

Additionally, an accurate reading of Genesis will also show that Adam was there when Eve ate the fruit, but did nothing to stop her from eating what God clearly forbid them to eat. Even though she took the first bite, he was the one held responsible. Why?? Because he is the head of the home and responsible for discipling the family members in that home. What discipling does or does not happen he will be held accountable for. And nowhere in scripture is there ever given a man any excuse to neglect his first responsibility, namely to provide for his family. And the married couple's very first "mission field" (Torah Training Field if you will) is their own children, which he is responsible for the training therof!

In Deuteronomy the command given by God to teach all His commands to the children is given to... the father. Eli was punished by God for not disciplining/training his sons. Even in most homeschools the father is hardly involved with curriculum choice, teaching philosophy, what extracurricular activities to be involved with (beyond paying for them), much less any teaching and yet the Lord will hold him responsible for what was or was not taught to his own children. Yes, I understand in society today he must leave home in order to earn the money to pay for all those extracurricular classes, fancy curriculum, and special equipment but even that does not give him a pass on what is his responsibility!

Inaccurate scripture citing is one of my pet peeves. Who closed the ark door? NOT Noah! Did a whale swallow Jonah? NO!

Mrs. R

Anonymous said...

sorry no keyboard is off...

anyway, i agree with you absolutely...the life of a full-time kolel student is tough on his wife. i would be curious to know which book you are reading...

some have commented here that it is an ideal which most cannot attain. problem is that in every society, people strive to live the ideal, and feel like failures if they cannot.

it has become the norm in certain circles, not the ideal. although it must be emphasized that these groups are a small minoriy in judaism. and often, the men do get a part time job to help out.

i am the last person to defend this lifestyle. but i think this is the wrong forum to bring it up. first, you are preaching to the choir. second, most of your readers know little or nothing of the religious, historical and cultural issues encompassing this would be far more fruitful to discuss this with locals who encourage this lifestyle. i dont see the point in ranting about it to conservative christian ladies who find the whole concept abhorrent [cant blame them].

Mrs. Anna T said...

Hmm yes Tammy, I did wonder whether I should post this here but since this is my online journal, eventually I did, even if perhaps only 5%-10% of my readers can fully understand what I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

I have been a stay at home mother for over 10 years. It can be very isolating for a number of reasons. I would take care not to read too many exaggerated views of what a women can be expected to do in any religion. I think the more extreme viewpoints are detrimental to all women,working and otherwise. In the United States, women in my generation were raised to believe we could "have it all" - work,family, children, possessions, education, you name it. Well, "they" were wrong, we can't, at least not all at once. The more extreme views you bring up here mirror the secular views of women "having it all". Is it better to expect women to overextend themselves simply because a religious leader says the cause is worthwhile? There are plenty of women working because someone tells them the "cause" of more stuff is worthwhile, too. The end result is exactly the same if she does it for religous reasons or secular ones: an exhausted, burned out mother who hates being with her kids. No religion I know of recommends that!

If you are going to study the more extreme viewpoints, perhaps it would help to do so when you are around others who can discuss the matters with you soon after reading about it. It is easy,when you are home all day, to dwell on things. Being home with a child does not, in itself, stimulate the brain, and you are clearly very intelligent. It could become easy to dwell on what you are reading while doing the daily chores. If you are dwelling on things like extreme viewpoints about what women ought to be doing, you are probably going to feel pretty bad about your perceived shortcomings. If no one is around for you to share these thoughts with, or to dispel some of the notions you read, you could develop some pretty low self-esteem!

I hope this makes sense. I have some strong feelings on this and it is hard to convey them.

Amy said...

I was interested to read the comments, due largely to the issue that Tammy brought up, about a huge portion of your readership not understanding the issues behind this full-time study. Even as somebody who has now being studying many topics that pertain to Orthodox Judaism for over two years now ;o), there is still much to learn and comprehend on this topic and others.

I must admit, that while I can see how such a lifestyle can be burdensome to all involved, I do have respect for the women who do their best to "do it all". As a military wife, I can relate to a certain extent.

A book I recently read called our style of the Super Mom archetype "Mrs Army Smarty Pants" and I had to laugh out loud as I read that. A good military wife should be able to offer hospitality, move a zillion times, have babies, raise her other children, keep her house clean, send weekly care packages, and on and on and on, while having a deployed husband, being across the count or even across the world from her family. She better not complain, no matter what happens and she needs to be able to take the little surprises from the Deployment Fairy with grace and bravery. Set your house ablaze while putting the finishing touches on your dinner party? Get over it! Break your ankle? Well don't think about using your crutches for the prescribed time. Be Strong. Be Army Wife.

And to think, many military wives work or go to school full-time on top of everything else they do! I sincerely doubt I'd be able to do all of this, even when my husband is not deployed.

Neither the issues you are focusing on nor the military lifestyle are ideal by any means, that is for sure.

Gombojav Tribe said...

This is totally off on a rabbit trail, Anna, so please forgive that.....

But, do you interpret Song of Solomon only (I believe you used the word "merely") figuratively? I do believe it is a picture of God's love for His people as a whole. But, I see it as having other applications/interpretations, as well. I believe God has used that book in my life to teach me about my marriage, my femininity, and so much.

Maybe this is a topic for a whole separate post, or you could just leave a comment on my blog privately if you want (I don't have to publish it).

Thanks, Sweetie!

AK said...

Inca your fears are misplaced. I'm not Jewish, but I recognise that Anna is confining her criticism to some rabbis, and not tarring everyone with the same brush and that she is talking about an opinion within opinions. I'm sure others will see that too.

sarah said...


I know this represents a different situation, but it is the same problem. In my neck of the woods...that being North Dakota, is much more common for young wives to work full time jobs AND carry the bulk of the homemaking duties...not to mention the ultimate job of parenthood. I myself am a stay at home wife and mom....because my heart is with my family. Enough said about that, I know you understand. What troubles me is that I know a lot of women who are really not able to do it all. When troubles come in their marriages...they simply crumble and jump at divorce because that is what society tells them to do...and because they are so drained that they cannot stand their ground and hold their families together. Women cannot do it all. There are some families out there who manage it well...the husbands helps at home and both parents work. I cannot judge a woman for working outside of the home, but I am concerned that women are feeling like they have to manage it all on their own.

You're thoughts on the issue are so sweet and interesting!

Anonymous said...

Dearest Anna,
LOVE your column and your very excellent article! So good to hear another woman say that we cannot "do it all" and it is OK to not try to do it all. Thanks so much!

Mrs. Anna T said...


Oh, I certainly have a GREAT respect for those women, who are usually hard-working and truly have their hearts focused on home and family - I simply think the situation is not exactly fair.

It's neat that you brought up the military wife analogy. I don't think anyone would presume to say, "a man who wants to be in the military shouldn't start a family", so naturally I cannot relate to some people who shared that sentiment concerning Torah scholars.

On the other hand, obviously, being a military wife is not for everyone, just as being a Torah scholar's wife is not for everyone. Now, imagine that being a military wife was glorified to the point of making women who were NOT military wives feel as though they are somehow inferior, weak, not willing to give enough, or anything similar.

It would put a whole unnecessary heap of guilt on women who can have wonderful families and be excellent mothers and homemakers, except that they do not have the strength/stamina to be military wives.

Well, this is similar to how I feel about this issue.

Mrs. Anna T said...


A marriage, in its turn, is a reflection to God's love for Israel, so naturally the Song of Solomon still applies, but some people mistakently interpret it only as an image of romantic love which is not right - a text wouldn't be important enough to enter the Scriptures just for being romantic.

Anonymous said...

I can make no intelligent comment relating to Torah-study, as a whole, or as the sole focus for some Jewish men, as you've described here.

But I certainly can weigh in on the impracticality of such an arrangement for any family, Jewish or no. This is a slow suicide for these women, not healthy for children, & completely unsustainable in the long-term.


Anonymous said...

Anna, the analogy between military men and full-time Torah scholars is perhaps not apt here. Men who join the military do so, primarily (presumably), because it is a job--a trade or profession--by which they can earn a salary with which to support themselves and, if applicable, a family. They will not _always_ be deployed, and they certainly will not be told by their leaders (one hpoes!) to eschew all domestic involvement in favour of sitting and thinking about the military all day and all night. Men who choose to study Torah as exclusively as some do, on the other hand, are _not_ signing up with an employer for a gainful job (small stipends notwithstanding); they are following a calling, a vocation (as we call it in the RC church). Those men, in the extremity to which you refer here, clearly seem unsuited to domestic life, as the Torah, it seems, is to _be_ their lives--not just in the sense of living the Word, but in a more concrete way of actually being physically "at it" all the workday. That is why any number of us may raise the question legitimately not of why married men would study the Torah (surely all Jews should study the Torah to the extent possible?), but why men who are making acquaintance with the Torah their vocation would also attempt to be family men as well. It does seem a genuine pity that Judaism has no category for them.

Amy said...

Now, imagine that being a military wife was glorified to the point of making women who were NOT military wives feel as though they are somehow inferior, weak, not willing to give enough, or anything similar.
*nods* Military wives do keep Mrs Army Smarty Pants within the base gates, though really she should be locked up in a bunker so nobody can aspire to be her at all. Life could be much easier for so many women then. ;o)

I understand the point you are trying to make, my friend, about the guilt that can be placed so cruelly on the shoulders of many, simply for a standard existing, one that not everybody can fulfill. Reality and perfection fantasy are not one in the same, we can all only do so much, with our individual limits in mind. Just because you "can", doesn't always mean you "should".

BTW, I tried to search for an article this weekend that might be able to explain the significances of Torah study to leave in the comments here, in case any of your other readers might find this information enlightening and put the thoughts you have expressed here into better perspective. Christianity does not have even a rough equivalent, at least as far as my limited knowledge know. Plus, in many denominations, there is high honor placed on the single life/celibacy, which does not exist in Orthodox Judaism, of course. Sadly, no such article could be found online, to better explain the various factors that bring about the issues in question.

Analytical Adam said...

Mrs Anna,

At the end of the day feminism is about hating men and being jealous of their role or thinking that you are better then men or that men are more evil. All of this is feminism which many of these idea's have crept into Judaism and people who support them don't deserve compassion. A woman can stay at home and be just as much a feminist.

Mrs. Anna, I really am very upset at many of your double standards. When a Rabbi doesn't care enough about nursing it bothers you and rightfully so. Yet when a Rabbi makes out that a man shouldn't work it doesn't both you and you are more concerned about Rabbi's honors and the women who want to take away a MAN'S BIBLICAL ROLE then the men who are being told not to do what the torah and bible says they are suppose to do. It just seems to me you are still a feminist at heart but have moved into the religious area. Instead of trusting men in the government you trust the Rabbi's on top. Rank and file men be dammed. It is the first story in the bible. Furthermore, all the MEN IN THE BIBLE were very much in the world and any Rabbi that wants to create a new type of men that is unbiblical deserves serious rebuke.

And the other double standard you feel your husband should help you with the groceries. But you feel it is wrong to help him in any way by providing some extra money with some skill you have which is absurd and another double standard. Leviticus 27 talks about giving the average valuation and a woman's value in the supply and demand (the average mind you) is about 60% of that a man. An average man is 50 shekels and an average woman 30 shekels. And a woman's value is double that of an elderly man being 15 a man over 60.

Gong TOO FAR TO THE RIGHT is just as much a sin as going TOO FAR TO THE LEFT.

It sounds to me like your husband is your helpmate which is the exact opposite of THE REAL TORAH.

This idea that any person that the Rabbi doesn't feel is respecting him enough he will go after that people feel they always have to defend Rabbi's is no different then an overbearing government. All a Rabbi is a man who passed a test in a few area's. All Rabbi means is teacher. People should not be afraid to strongly criticize Rabbi as that is the only thing to keep them honest to be fair. Slander or sick comments is wrong and is not acceptable but rebuke and serious criticism a decent religious leaaer would understand it is needed sometimes as is needed in any healthy society that respects their own people and is not a dictatorship of a few.

Feminism is a big problem in the religious world including Christianity where many religious Christians and Jewish leaders supported Sarah Palin who is having her grandson being raised by a single mom and
they are doing everything they can to hurt the father and deny him any contact with the child.

As I said from the LAF site I am reading the book The Church Impotent by Leon Podles which talks about religious leaders using feminism for concern about their own importance and ruling over others and losing relevance. Not good.

I see nothing wrong with women working part time. Certain things women do better then me. Why can't they use these skills to provide some service whether their own or using it to help their husband as long as it isn't affirmative action (a less qualfied woman getting a job over a man for a quota) hats off to her.

Doris M McDonnell said...

dear, you are so insightful and inspiring. and i agree with you. the proverbs 31 woman had a home business, but it was on the side, obviously. her main task was the care and management of family and home, not the provision for the home. she obviously also had plenty of experience in life which leads me to believe her children were already older. (they rise up and call her blessed--does not sound like tots to me! to think that a man should give up his duty to his family to study torah is ridiculous, it is like missing the forest for the trees. family provision and care and training are a man's first duties. for example, i can spend all my time reading a comic book, but it doesn't make me a superhero. sorry to quote c.s. lewis, but he said it well when he said that sometimes following God means not reading your Bible at this moment, but "helping your wife with the dishes." i don't think it is wrong for women to work, i think they should have the right and the choice to, but i also think it is clear that God has created the family structure in a certain way, which is: man=provider woman=mistress of the home/main caretaker of children. so if there are no children, by all means work, but if there are, a mother's time is best spent with the little ones, and she should be able to do so without anxiety over how they will eat their next meal. in a way the feminists have it right: we should split domestic duties with men. except the men should have the domestic duty of providing, and the women should be free to keep the home. blessings to you!