Monday, September 21, 2015

Women, toddlers and shul

Women with small children are not being deprived of a fundamental Jewish right when they are asked to stay home from shul to care for their children. They are being exempted from an obligation. Moreover, mitzvoth like prayer are “meaningless,” having no intrinsic value beyond their status as commandments that God requires in his service by men and not women. They do not reflect any exalted status for men or yield access to some sort of religious experience beyond the mere burden of performance.

I say all of this for two reasons. One let it stand as a comfort for women who may be forced to miss Yom Kippur services, due to child care responsibilities and the lack of in-shul child care services and facilities. Two, let it stand as a suggestion for women who insist on dragging their toddlers into the sanctuary, even when its clear they can't be prevented from disturbing other worshipers.

Ultimately everyone should decide for her or himself.. However, there are some things that people might choose to take into consideration, while making that decision, namely that (1) prayer has no intrinsic value: Its just something we're commanded to do (2) the commandment falls on men, not women, so if you're saying that you wish to take part for RELIGIOUS reason, that's a nonstarter, as the one and only religious consideration present here (ie doing Gods will), isn't at play here.

HOWEVER,, anyone who has been reading me for 10 years knows I don't minimize secular benefits. Indeed, I've argued that the secular benefits are usually the only reason to go to shul, and those secular benefits ought to be available to women, too. I would just urge women not to muddy the waters by making religious arguments when the issue is one of secular benefits
[ To clarify (1) I think, generally anyone should be able to do anything they like, so long as it doesn't harm someone else; therefore (2) I think a woman who wants to go to shul should go to shul; moreover (3) I think that we should be encouraging women to go to shul.
However, what shouldn't be lost is that men have an obligation, while women with small children do not, and that this doesn't result from men having any special status.]

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