Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Contrasting Orthodox Judaism & Patriarchy PART I: Defining Women, Daughters, Marriage and Betrothal

Who is Woman? Who is she in Marriage?

The Creation of Eve

Groups such as the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood offer teachings that include the concept that women bear the status of the “indirect image of God.” Women are defined derivatives of man, and some of the “hard complimentarians” and the patriocentrists use this speculation and theory to support many of their other gender-related views and practices. Women are seen as lesser creatures than men, both morally and by their essential essence. An extension of this concept maintains that women need a male head in order to fully bear the Word and Glory of God, and some Christians infer that women must have a man intercede for them before God and for them to live a holy life in a proper way.

As I prepare to conclude this series of blog posts, demonstrating that women hold certain rights of autonomy and self-governance within marriage under traditional, conservative and orthodox Jewish law, I would like to offer these concepts regarding the creation of Eve. These concepts and traditional theories differ vastly from many of the patriocentric and hard complementarian teachings within Evangelical Christianity. (And let me remind the reader that the Apostle Paul was an impeccably trained Pharisee, if not a “Pharisee's Pharisee” who knew and kept the law with as much perfection as was possible for any man. He was an academic expert in all things Jewish in his day.)

In an undergraduate course taught by a nationally known Jewish leader and rabbi and in some contrast to what Lamm cites in his book, I was taught a different understanding of the “deeper meanings” of the names of man (ish) and woman (ishah). In Genesis, just before Sarai and Abram conceive Isaac after so many years of waiting, God changes both of their names by adding the Hebrew letter (“H” which is pronounced “ah”) . Some verbal traditions within Judaism identify the “ah” with the life of God, the very breath of God and the fire of passion, as is noted in the traditional expression of la kayim, “to life!”. God is said then to have breathed His own life into both Sarah and Abraham which is what actually caused them to conceive Isaac (and the breath of laughter?). A similar Yeshivite tradition holds that YHWH did the very same thing with the creation of ishah (woman), by breathing the “ah” into her as indicated by her name and title. Woman is then, in a poetic sense and after this Yeshivite tradition, “from man” with God's own creative life and passion “added” to her, endowing her with the creative ability to bring forth life from her womb. That rabbi actually said “woman is man with God's breath of fire.” Again, this is not part of Scripture directly, but in keeping with good hermeneutics, it is an instructive piece of information regarding how Jews view different meaning within their own traditions and other distinctions of their Hebrew language.

(Another cool thing that I may never get to mention talks about the words for “Noah” and “grace.” Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, and if you hold the Hebrew letters that spell Noah up to a mirror, the reflection spells “grace” in Hebrew. Nearly completely off topic but a very lovely element of this Yeshivite tradition.)

Please read about the speculation of some rabbis as they ponder the significance of the creation of Eve and please compare these ideas to some of the modern teachings such as those from CBMW and the patriocentrics. I don't know that I would use the same terminology that is used here, but there is just as much evidence to support the view that Adam, prior to the creation of Eve, contained both the masculine and feminine, and that feminine element was separated from Adam when God created Eve.

From Pg 119:
Rabbi Joshua ben Korha said that man at first was called Adam to indicate his natural constitution – flesh and blood (dam). But when woman was created, the two were referred to as fiery (esh) – living, dynamic beings. God insinuated Himself into the marriage, then added two letters of His own name, Y and H, to the names of man and woman. He inserted the Y into the man’s name, turning esh (fire) into i-Y-sh (ish,
man); and H into woman’s name, making i-sha-H (ishah, woman). The Chronicles of Yerhameel (6:16) comment on this: “If they walk in My way and observe My commandments, behold My name will abide with them and deliver them from all trouble. But if not, I will take the letters of My name from them, so that they will revert to esh and esh, fire consuming fire.” Hence with God and a partner, marriage is a blessing, ish and ishah. Without God, it can become esh, an inferno where man and woman devour each other.
From Pg 125:
Intimacy, according to Jewish tradition, requires yet another stage of independence – independence in the very midst of intimacy. Ramban notes that the Bible goes out of its way to say not only that a helpmeet (ezer) was provided Adam, but that the positioning of that helpmeet opposite (ke’negdo) him was important. “Perhaps man was created bisexual... but God saw it would be good for the helpmeet to be opposite him. He would then be able at will to separate from her and join her...” A contemporary scholar, Gerhard von Rad, believes that in a circumstance of intimacy, “opposite” implies a mirror image of oneself, in which one recognizes oneself in the other. That is certainly desirable and very often true of long and successful experiences of intimacy. But Ramban, and with him a host of other commentators, reads the biblical “ke’negdo” as literally opposite, as some popularly refer to the “opposite sex”.

Opposite, to Ramban, implies not a reflection of one another, but one distinctly different from the other – independent, yet intimate... A deeper understanding of the nature of nonsexual, mature relationships will reveal the requirement of both components – ezer as help, and ke’negdo as opposite. Perhaps this depth of understanding is behind the Yiddish folk saying that husband and wife are like lulav and strog, the palm and the citron, two vegetable growths totally unlike in appearance that achieve meaning only when held together for the blessing on the
Festival of Tabernacles.

The Role and Value of "Ishah" in Marriage

Within the patriocentric movement, women who are unable to bear children or families that, for whatever reason, have not been able to comply with the moral imperatives of the ideology are often relegated to shame and are treated with disdain by followers. Because the movement focuses so heavily on the importance of large families and the concept of “militant fecundity,” the value of woman as “ishah” becomes diminished. Read what Maurice Lamm wrote concerning barrenness in marriage.

From Page 159:
An unsurpassed insight into woman’s role comes from the medieval Rabbi Isaac Arama. The Bible reports that Rachel was deeply distressed over her inability to bear Jacob children, while her sister Leah was able to bear children easily.

“And when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob: ‘Give me children, else I die.’ And Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel; and he said: ‘Am I in God’s stead, who had withheld from thee the fruit of the womb?’” (Genesis 30:1-2).
Rabbi Arama says that Rachel’s cry indicates that she did not fully appreciate her role in life. Woman has two names given her in the Torah, which represent two aspects of her personality and her goal on earth. One is ishah, woman, a person of integrity who stands opposite and equal to ish, man. This is what she was called by God when she was created out of Adam’s rib. She was given another name just before she gave birth to her first child. The name was chavah, which means “mother of all living things.” A woman is both chavah, a mother, and ishah, a woman. She is ishah in terms of her own personality, the integrity of her thoughts, and her relationship with God and with man. Because she is able to reproduce a human being, she also chavah, and additional glory that man can never know.

A woman who is barren and cannot fulfill her chavah role remains an ishah, a female person – alive, aware, concerned, and creative in other spheres. When Rachel says, “Give me children, else I die,” she denies the value of ishah. Man and the woman have the same value before God. Placed at opposite ends of the scale, unlike in terms of temperament and organic structure, each balances the other. Man and woman, bride and groom, Jacob and Rachel, ish and ishah.

From Pg 123:
It is true that in the Bible’s first account of creation (Genesis 1:28) the very first command is “Be fruitful and multiply.” In terms of the law, procreation is the major purpose of married life. In terms of life, however, the Torah does not consider it primary and certainly not exclusive.
Genesis 2 is the record of physical creation. Adam and Eve were natural beings, akin to the animals that surrounded them. But in the second account of creation (Genesis 2:7-24), Adam and Eve were endowed with spiritual dimensions. They rose above that natural environment, had metaphysical yearnings, and could relate to God. In Genesis 1, man and woman were simply ha-adam (undifferentiated hermaphrodites), while in Genesis 2 they were marriage partners. Humanity traces its history to the second chapter of Genesis, where God provides the motivation for the creation of woman: “It is not good for man to be lonely.”

Rabbi Isaac Breuer notes that with respect to His other and earlier works of creation, God speaks the word of approval, “good.” Only at the creation of man does He utter the negative judgment, “not good.” Loneliness is not felt by animals; only man can experience existential loneliness, the fragmentary and incomplete nature of this world. It is the genuine companionship of Adam and Eve that humanity requires, and which is the stated purpose for marriage in the scheme of creation.

Woman Retains Her Individuality While Profoundly Blending Her Personality With Her Husband's

Eric Wallace cites the writings of a late 19th Century Confederate Presbyterian pastor in his own book “Uniting Church and Home.” Benjamin Morgan Palmer, whose book on the family was originally published in 1876, pastored the First Presbyterian Church in New Orleans, giving insight into some of the beliefs of those within neo-confederate movements today. Within this text I was able to find nearly every doctrine embraced by the modern patriarchy movement and the “hard complementarians” associated with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (save for the concept of the eternal subordination of Christ the Son within the Trinity).

Concerning a woman's independence and personality, Palmer stated:
“The woman, by the law of marriage, is reintegrated into the man, from whose side she was originally drawn. She never exists afterward as an independent person. By her voluntary act she is merged, civilly and legally, into the man. With her office in the household perfectly defined, her status in the same is determined by her relation to her husband. All her privileges and rights flow from her association to her head”
(pgs 102-103).

Contrast the writings of Palmer and his ideal of a how a woman “reintegrates” into a man through the disappearance of her “existence as an independent person” with what Lamm cites about traditional views of women within the traditions of orthodox Judaism.

Pg 125 -126
Mature intimacy requires a deep, interpersonal relationship in which both people retain their individuality. Mature love enables one to merge with the other, but not to become submerged. Erich Fromm points up both the beauty and paradox of love: “Two beings become one and yet remain two.”

The Torah, in requiring the end result of basar echad (one flesh), requires ezer, an overcoming of loneliness, a mutual completion of the selves, and also ke’negdo, an opposite, independent person with whom one chooses to side at will. True yichud love embraces, never stifles, one’s individuality.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke once said of marriage that it is not a matter “of creating a quick community of spirit by tearing down and destroying all boundaries... Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them.”
To further our understanding of the intimacy of Adam and Eve, it is necessary to note that the merging of the two beings was a merging not only two independent partners, but also of two equal personalities. Sforno interprets ke’negdo as the opposite balance of a scale” equal in value and dignity. Adam and Eve, ish and ishah, have equal worth, through different qualities and functions.

From Pgs 126-127:
In Malachi (2:14), a wife is referred to as chaverte’kha, your chaver, companion as Chatam Sofer explains: one who is involved in a joint venture, or a “joint partner,” as in the Aramaic translation. Not “one body, one thought” but one joined body retaining two thoughts. This is also reflected in the Kabbalistic term for sexual relations referred to earlier as chibbur (joining), from the same root as chaverim. Chibbur refers to a joining of equals, a mutuality, a reciprocal love.
Successful marriage requires the act of intimacy. It is a joint life venture not only in the passion of brief sexual excitement, but in the profound blending of personalities.


Marriage Is Sanctified From Concubinage Through the Law, Not the Bride and Groom

In this post, I would like to lay the groundwork for the understanding of Ephesians chapter 5 and what Paul's language meant, based upon the significant similarities between “sanctify” and “marriage” within the Hebrew language. In the post that follows this one, I will explain why I believe Paul teaches and uses the language that he does to explain how Christ takes His Church Bride and sanctifies her to present her holy to God the Father. Paul, as an expert in the Jewish law and all things Jewish, once the Jewish legalist who demanded Steven's death to further the purification of Judaism, held nearly unrivaled academic expertise in the Jewish Law in his day. He was a “Pharisee's Pharisee.”

The patriarchy movement misinterprets Ephesians 5:25-27 to mean that the husband (who is seen as the direct image of God) governs or mediates the sanctification and holiness of his wife (who is seen as the indirect image of God and subordinate to man in essence) and other women under his care. The false teachings that support that woman is a lesser creature in essence and origin and a lesser example of God's Image promote the view that woman requires the spiritual mediation of a man in order to experience the ongoing process of transformation into Christ's image over time in order to “prove the good, perfect and acceptable will of God.” Taken to its logical conclusions, this view maintains that a woman cannot be a Christian in the fullest sense unless God's work in her is mediated by a man. This ideology is obliquely communicated through the publications of Vision Forum and other patriocentric sources, primarily though through unstated assumption and intentional vagueness (see "Propaganda Techniques") without using a direct statement in the manner that I do here. I believe that most people would outright reject the logical conclusion if it were clearly and directly stated. By avoiding direct statements, that a female Christian needs a male Christian “keeper” to fully realize her salvation in Christ and apprehend God's will for her life, they can deny that they believe this when it becomes expedient for those who propagate the doctrine.

At the time of Paul, though one did not need to follow Jewish tradition in order to be justified and sanctified before God as a Christian, that did not mean that the Christian stood apart from the Law and the Prophets of Judaism (the writings of the Old Testament). Jesus came and fulfilled the Jewish Law to set us free from eternal separation from God (and His holiness) that the law required. Therefore, by walking after the Spirit in Christ's grace and forgiveness – our sins imputed unto Him and His righteousness before God imputed unto us – the law is written on our hearts through the Spirit. Sin is no longer “covered” by the blood of animals and man is no longer “set apart” from other nations by following the law, but Christ Himself becomes our justification and our sanctification as holiness (through the process of sanctification) is worked into us through the Spirit over time. Salvation no longer comes to us through works but through God's grace to us through our faith alone.

Note that distinction: for the Jew, ALL sanctification (setting apart, making holy) comes through the law and man's works. For the Christian, sanctification comes through Christ alone by faith. Though the Christian will see the fulfillment of the righteous requirement of the Law when they walk in the Spirit in Christ and sanctifies the Lord in his heart as an act of his own, “internal process” of obedience, Christ replaces the law and frees us from it, becoming the only source of a Christian's sanctification.

Consider how Rabbi Lamm's writing demonstrates how works and the Law of God in the Old Testament sanctifies marriage from paganism and not the participants themselves. The only thing sanctified within marriage is the “work” and “action” of marriage, not the persons within the marriage. Marriage then becomes an act of worship (a work) THROUGH THE LAW, rather than an indulgence of physical desire and as a purely physical, “bodily function.” Sanctification can only come through “works” for the Jew. There is no working of holiness before God in the inner man that can ever come through the law. The best a Jew could do was live so that he did not violate the law by “setting apart” his works through an act of his own will and worship under the law.

From Pages 32 - 33:
The Torah motivated the Jew to sanctify sex within marriage...

On a basic level, sanctity means separating oneself consciously from immorality and illicit thoughts. Maimonides incorporates the laws of sexual morality in a section of Kedushah (the Book of Holiness), and states that the deliberate separation from the illicit is an act of self-transcendence that constitutes sanctification. Ramban goes beyond Maimonides in his comment on the verse in Leviticus “Be you holy” (19:2): “Sanctify yourself even with that permitted you” is a call to those who strive to a higher level of spirituality and sensitivity to separate themselves from gross acts and uncouth behavior, even that which is technically permitted, so as not to become naval bi-re’shut ha-Torah, “a nave within the realm of the Torah”

Kiddushin – which signifies sanctity and betrothal – leads inevitably to nishuin – nuptials, elevation. Thus sanctification raises the physiological act of sex onto a higher, more spiritual level...

Sanctity also implies mystery. The Holy of Holies of the Temple, its
inner sanctum, was visited only once every year, and then only by the High
Priest. In the imagination of the people, it was a subject of awe and

From Page 218:
[From and about the Marriage Covenant Ceremony]:

"Praised be Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us concerning illicit relations; and has prohibited us those who are merely betrothed; but has permitted to us those who lawfully married to us by chuppah [nuptials] and kiddushin [betrothal]. Blessed art thou God, who has sanctified His people Israel by chuppah and kiddushin."

[Lamm's Explanation of the Ceremony]:

Who Has Sanctified Us.
God has not merely allowed human beings an erotic indulgence by legal validation of marriage. God has sanctified us by giving us the institution of marriage. Through it we achieve a closer relationship with Him and a more intimate relationship with other people. Thereby we enrich the family and perpetuate the species, for God created the world with the specific purpose that it be inhabited and civilized.

With His Commandments.

The Rabbis pondered whether this blessing could technically be classified as bikhat mitzvah (a blessing that precedes the performance of mitzvah), as the blessing over the shofar, for example. The predominant opinion held that it could not be so classified, since the mitzvah is not completed until after the couple had conjugal relations. In any case, the mitzvah did not depend on him alone, and the bride had not yet formally consented. Nonetheless, the Sages could not bring themselves to exclude such a mitzvah from having a blessing. Thus they instituted a special blessing for the sanctification of the Jewish people for practicing marriage that was properly authorized by the law.

God sanctifies Israel through a work – holiness (or “setting apart” from other nations) that comes through a human work as provided for under the law. God sets His people apart from other nations through the law of the Law, sanctifying His people through marriage by setting them apart from the practice of those outside of Israel. There is no spiritual holiness or purification conferred to the bride and groom, but Israel as a nation is “set apart” (sanctified) unto God, even though the practice does bring those involved closer to one another and "closer" to God. In the marriage ceremony itself, there is no statement that either husband or wife are either personally “set apart,” save as one another's exclusive mates as we've established in previous posts with quotes from Lamm.

If marriage in Judaism – a system that could only seek works for the “setting apart” of those works as worship unto God – conferred the “role” to husband of one who governs the worship and actions of his wife to bring about her sanctification, would we not see language and mandates that spoke of husbands “setting apart” of their wives for moral activities and acts of worship to confer some spiritual transcendence? Lamm says that marriage brings about a type of transcendence of sin through works because the married status makes the physical union holy by and under the law. The law sets marriage “apart.” The institution of marriage is “set apart” from concubinage. The bride is “set apart” for union with one, specific man. Yet in all the laws and even in the marriage ceremony itself, such as the evidence that the Jewish Law did not hold a husband accountable for his wife's immoral actions that we addressed in the previous blog post, there is NO LANGUAGE or LAW or Torah supporting that men sanctify their wives on a moral basis.

If patriarchy believes this,
it did not come from Orthodox Judaism
which follows the Old Testament law and tradition.

From Page 151:
By formalizing marriage, Judaism saved marriage. By stamping it “legal acquisition.” it made firm that which was vague and inchoate. It held the family fast – so fast that the family eventually held together the whole exiled and hopelessly dispersed Jewish community. This surely hinted at the betrothal blessing, when God is praised as me’kadesh ammo Yisrael al ye’dei chuppa ve’kiddushin, “He who sanctifies his people Israel through marriage and betrothal.” [Blog host note: Through a work of the Law!] Through the laws of marriage, God enhances family life, personal morality and Jewish survival.

Daughters and Courtship

Acquisition of a Wife

I’ve poured over this book many times and at many times over the course of the last twenty years or so, and I can find nothing in this book wherein a marriage offer must first be negotiated with the father of a woman of consenting age. In the case of an under-aged daughter, Jewish law requires that the permission of a father must be obtained first, but this only applies to women who are not yet adult and who cannot say “I desire him.”

From page 165:
A Minor Female (Ke’tanah)
Historically, an under-aged girl found herself in difficult circumstances. She was frequently in danger of abduction by an enemy people if she was unmarried, and if her family was poor, she was considered a drain on family expenses. Girls therefore were brought into marriage at a very early age. (Even today Yemenite Jews emigrating to the modern state of Israel bring daughters married at age ten.) For these and other reasons, the law permitted this marriage with the permission of her father, although the Talumd considered it a mitzvah not to marry her until she is prepared to say le’ploni ani rotzah, “him I want.” Maharam Rotenburg, in famous Reponsum, advises the Jewish community to follow the rule of the Talmud, as he himself has done with his minor daughter.

In 1950 the Israeli rabbinate passed a law that made it illegal to marry a girl until the age of sixteen.
Kiddushin is the legal process of establishing the marriage bond, and in the chapter in Lamm’s book that describes this, the father of the woman of consenting age is not mentioned. The woman herself does all the negotiation. Even in the marriage ceremony itself, both the bride and groom are to be accompanied by one or more people to meet under the chuppah, but this is to ceremonially demonstrate that the marriage has been approached in the proper way. This means that neither party was coerced into marriage and that the accompanying witnesses attest that both parties consent of the union. There is no requirement that the person accompanying the daughter must be a father or a “male head” within the Jewish law. If anything, this practice designates that the woman’s rights have not been violated in the preparation for the union. If the practice and the “requirement” that a father must give the daughter to a mate and transfer ownership, then this idea does not come from Judaism or from the Torah, according to Lamm.

If the woman has violated Jewish law in the selection of a mate, then that is a different matter and the family would have recourse for complaint. But because the principle of “leaving and cleaving” is held so highly in Jewish tradition, the choice of and refusal of a mate belongs to the woman. If there is no Jewish law dictating that a suitor must be acquired by the father as it taught in patriocentricity, this is cultural and not drawn from Biblical law, according to Lamm. Jewish tradition does stress considerations such as family approval, the joining of families and other very practical considerations, but there is no legal demand placed upon the daughter that restricts her choice of a spouse if she has not violated Jewish law. If there are other requirements placed on her, they are cultural and not something that stems from Jewish law.

Concerning the arrangement and initiation of the marriage covenant, during betrothal, the woman does all of her own negotiating directly with her intended future mate without mention of the consent of or the presence of her father or other male family representative.
From Page 146:
Kiddushin (a rabbinic term) is accomplshed by kichah (a biblical term), the “taking” of a woman by a man, in one of three ways (in ages past):
1. Money (kessef).
The man gives the woman money, even a low denomination coin, or the equivalent of money – today a ring is customary – before two witnesses and says, “You are hereby betrothed unto me with this ring in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel.” The bride, by her acceptance, indicates her willingness to be married to the groom.
2. Contract (she’tar).
The man gives the woman a deed, before two witnesses, which contains the names of the couple and the groom’s marriage formula. This deed is not the nature of evidence of the marriage, but is for the purpose of effecting the bond of marriage. It is not to be confused with the ketubah, which is given as protection of the woman after the kiddushin.
3. Intercourse (bi’ah).
After the man has addressed the marriage formula to the woman before two witnesses, the couple retires to a private place with the intent of effecting betrothal through intercourse. The Sages considered this to be gross, virtually an act of prostitution, and in the third century Rav decreed flogging for those who chose this manner of betrothal. Nonetheless, if the marriage was performed in this way it was legally valid.
Only kessef is performed today; both intercourse and contract as forms of betrothal are obsolete.
Maurice Lamm is an experienced orthodox rabbi and a man who, at the time of this book publishing in 1980, had been married for 25 years and had three children, some of whom were adult at that point in time. As a rabbi with years of experience, he has offered counsel to many regarding these matters and has had years of training in preparation, making him an expert on the subject of the orthodox Jewish tradition.

Though he speaks of the importance of family and tradition and holiness in his book, there is NOTHING about a father acquiring a spouse for his daughter in this book that details Jewish tradition in love and marriage. The selection of a husband and process of accepting the proposal, granted that the woman is of consenting age, rests entirely with the woman under Jewish law. Culture might be different, but this expert in the religious law of orthodox Jewish tradition says nothing about the patriocentric proof texts that I believe, ultimately, support male hegemony. The letter and the spirit of Jewish tradition, according to Lamm, support a woman’s independence and a woman’s rights. If we hear Scripture used to support that a woman cannot be without a male head or cannot govern herself, this does not come from Jewish tradition. .

A Daughter is "Ownerless" Until Married and Not the Property of Her Father

Under the patriocentric paradigm, daughters train for service to their mates by serving as a type of “helpmeet” for their fathers until they are given to a husband in marriage. The proponents of this view offer Numbers chapter 30 as a proof text to demonstrate a type of “male headship” for all women during all times of life, despite the fact that the passage discusses fiduciary responsibilities of men as guarantors for their wives or for underage daughters (as specified in verses 4 and 17). A modern analogy that involves a pledge of this type might be a married woman or under-aged girl who uses a credit card, vowing to make payment. The guarantor in the person of a father or husband would be responsible for making payment on purchases made with the card, should the woman not have independent funds with which to pay the debt personally. This passage mentions no assignment of personal moral responsibility of the father or husband for the woman. Numbers Chapter 30 also mentions nothing about a directive for a grown, unmarried woman to remain under mandatory “male headship,” care or ownership, though many patriocentrics use this chapter to support the their claims that a woman without male supervision lives “outside of Kingdom architecture.”

The concept of this interpretation of male headship within the patriocentric circles suggests a type of salvific ownership of women by men wherein care (ownership?) of women transfers from father to husband when a woman is given in marriage. This concept bears significant similarities to Saudi Arabia's “compulsory male guardianship of women and other 'grossly discriminatory' policies” and “denial of fundamental rights.” On page 7 of the April 25, 2008 edition of “The Guardian Weekly,” every Saudi woman must have a male guardian that is usually a husband or father, though the duty can be assigned to another male such as a brother or son. Even when the law does not mandate the male guardian's approval for decision-making for the woman, “some officials still ask for it 'because current practice assumes women have no power to make their own decisions' over matters such as medical procedures or discharge from hospital.” In addition, women are “marginalized to the point of total exclusion” through discrimination against them in voting, employment and education.

In contrast, Lamm teaches that prior to marriage, a woman of age is her own, free moral agent. An orthodox Jewish marriage is not a transfer of property in the person of a daughter-turned-wife but is rather an indirect declaration of how God used the law to sanctify the institution of marriage (never the woman as the patriocentrists maintain). Jewish law never makes any overtures or suggestions that marriage becomes a vehicle for the personal, spiritual sanctification for either husband or wife, and this is certainly not a role assigned to a husband for his wife in marriage through either the letter or the spirit of Jewish law.

If a daughter was a type of property and ownership was transferred from father to new husband through marriage, why is a daughter considered to be in a “state of abandonment” and “ownerlessness” prior to her marriage while under the care of her father? If this concept came from Judaism, would the woman not bear the official status of one who was previously owned in regard to her relationship to other men so as to call for the use of language describing the transfer of property from father to spouse? Even Jewish law did not view women in as property or as one who was “owned.” The marital distinction simply declares her change in status from available to all men to unavailable to men other than her husband. Lamm explains that the woman’s status under Jewish law only relates to her status of availability to potential mates, a status that was never held by her father. Prior to marriage, the law never declares that an unmarried woman requires a “male head,” and even the Hebrew language that describes her status (hefker) makes this distinction.

From Pg 150 - 151

Judaism must protect the family from the tempestuousness of sex, the alternating patterns of love, the sudden ups and downs of very close relationships. Just as the buyer of property intends to protect it, develop it, make it productive, and cherish it, this must also be the plan of those who undertake marriage... As the formal acquisition transferred the property from someone else’s proprietorship or from hefker (a state of abandonment and ownerlessness) to his personal care and protection, so the establishment of formal kinyan in marriage rescued family life from hefker. In this way, the formalizing of the marriage bond made it possible for the family to become the foundation of all society and the pattern for all government as well as the governance of the “family of nations.”

Before Sinai, married life was a loose, voluntary arrangement, a sort of ye’duah be’tzibbur (common law) situation. If two people wished to live together, they did. If a woman desired another man, she could not be accused of adultery. If she wanted to move out, she did. Just as in our “living together” situations of today, there were no binding ties. Under such conditions, the legal protections of the family, such as the husband’s obligation of support, honor, and fidelity, are at best fond hopes... The informal arrangement was the old institution of concubinage (pileggesh), which Maimonides affirms was the relationship of a man and his exclusive girlfriend, without benefit of a formal marriage and marriage contract.

By formalizing marriage, Judaism saved marriage. By stamping it “legal acquisition.” it made firm that which was vague and inchoate. It held the family fast – so fast that the family eventually held together the whole exiled and hopelessly dispersed Jewish community.

Acquisition Of A Wife Is Not Ownership

In this passage, Lamm points out that no person owns another person but that the use of the language concerning marriage involves the change in status from an unmarried woman who was available to all men to status as a married woman, eshet ish through redemption of marriage by setting it apart through the law given to Moses. The only aspect of the word “acquire” that translates in this sense involves the sanctity of marriage and not sanctification of the woman herself (as this is denied both in both the spirit and letter of Jewish law). Jewish law provides the woman these rights regardless of her marital status, and the Jewish tradition supports that she is not property and retains personal autonomy.

From Pgs 151-153
We can understand the Talmudic Rabbi’s concept of marriage not only by what they derived from the comparison between property acquisition and marital acquisition, but also by what they rejected in it. Generally speaking, there are two concepts of property ownership: (1) an owner has the right only to use the property to achieve his ends; and (2) an owner exerts total power over the property. Philosopher Morris Raphael Cohen once defined property as nothing more than the power to exclude others... One interpretation of the kichah, therefore, implies exclusivity. When a man “takes” a wife, he chooses one woman and, with her consent, makes her his life-long partner. She has no other husband. The idea of exclusivity is derived from the concept of property ownership...

The rabbinic application of kichah to temple property is basic to an understanding of Jewish marriage. If we were to derive the lesson from civil property transfer alone, we could say that exclusivity is a result of ownership. A man owns his property and no one else may trespass on it. Transposed to marriage, this would imply that the wife is exclusive to husband an as a consequence of his ownership of her person. Such an idea is repugnant to Judaism. The Jewish husband does not own his wife...
All variations that compromise the integrity of a woman’s married status are violations of the sacred Jewish concept of marriage... The Torah disqualifies these options when it likens marriage to acquisition of sacred property.

How the Letter and the Spirit of Jewish Law Deny that Women are Property

Parenting bestows a profound responsibility and a very sacred trust upon those who marry and are blessed with fruitfulness through children. As previously mentioned, patriocentrics or those within the so-called “Biblical patriarchy” movement argue for a type of ownership of their unmarried daughters. Parents and father's in particular as the head of the household bear legal the legal power and responsibility for their daughters until they come of age and can make their own, independent decisions. According to Lamm, Orthodox Judaism never views daughters as “owned” or as a type of property of their fathers. An under-aged daughter only requires her father's legal consent if she wishes to marry before she reaches an age that renders her legal autonomy. Consenting to marriage involves no “transfer of ownership” or legal right or autonomy from father to husband when a woman of legal and consenting age chooses to marry.

Expanding upon the previous post, consider this additional evidence that Lamm offers to solidify the concept that marriage only changes a woman's status from “available to all men” as a potential mate to “sanctified” or set apart for marriage to a specific man. There is absolutely no transfer of any ownership or personal spiritual sanctification for woman resulting from marriage, only a change in her status of availability to all men as a potential mate.

From Pg 155
The law moved gradually from contract – the ability to negotiate everything independently which, as noted, often worked against women – to status, which by itself was a sort of guarantee of minimum livable conditions. Her new status was designed to enable her to make a success of marriage and family, without specific negotiations. Willing consent was not only consent to marry a specific individual, but to enter into this new personal status.

Rabbi Shimon Shkop, a twentieth-century Head of Yeshiva, notes that with property there is a change of owners (baalut), but obviously no change in the status of the land. In marriage, there is not change of owners (be’alim): the father did not own his daughter (he had only certain legally defined rights over a minor daughter, as he had responsibilities for her), and the husband does not own her as a wife. It is her status that changes. Previously, she was permitted to all men; now consorting with another man is subject to the laws of adultery. Previously, her cohabitation even with this chosen man was branded immoral; now it is a loyal following of the laws of Torah and considered a great mitzvah.

The very word kinyan is used in rabbinic literature for acquiring friends in general. The Sages say ke’neh le’kha chaver (acquire a close friend for yourself). Similarly, the sixth chapter of the Ethics of the Fathers is called Perek Kinyan Torah, “Acquisition of Torah”; Ben Sira (6:7) says kanita ohev be’nisayon konehu (“If you want to acquire a friend, take him on trial, and be in no hurry to trust him”). This implies that you must extend yourself to wind good friends. In this sense, too, kinyan is surely an appropriate term for “acquiring” a wife.

A Woman's Full Autonomy In The Betrothal Process

A woman of consenting age may refuse a potential mate, and Jewish tradition requires mutual consent, particularly the willing consent of the bride. This additional information offered by Rabbi Lamm further supports the legal rights of the bride and of the wife. Acquisition of a wife differs from all other types of “acquisition,” requiring the full, willing consent of the bride herself. The Biblical example of the betrothal of Isaac and Rebekah records how Rebekah's family discussed the matter but did not demand that she marry. She had full autonomy to either freely accept or reject the offer of marriage, a right that orthodox Judaism supports and defends for all women of consenting age. Witnesses that stand with the bride on her wedding day serve to attest that the woman's rights have not been violated in the process of betrothal, not to “transfer ownership” from father to groom.

From Pg 124:
One must exercise intelligent independence before uniting with another soul. The Bible surely did not imply an end to the child-parent relationship upon growing up; but the quality of that relationship has to change in order to accommodate emotional growth. Part of the wisdom required of concerned parents it to know when to hold on and when to let go.

Jewish law, which places so much emphasis on honoring parents, applies this theme in legal fashion to a case of conflict between parent and child regarding the child’s marriage. It affirms that a daughter or son must personally desire the mate he or she chooses. The Talmud says that “a minor daughter may not be married until she matures and specifies: “Him do I desire.’"

To a formal question as to whether a son must obey his father who protests his marriage to ishah ke’sherah (an upright Jewish girl), Maharik responded that the son should marry the girl he desires providing she is morally, religiously, and otherwise suitable. Until the child learns independence, there is no chance of learning intimacy.

From Pgs 153 - 154:
In Jewish law, taking a wife can never mean taking by force... An important part of marriage service is the assurance of the woman’s consent. Indeed, the emphasis on the consensual nature of the Jewish marriage contract is an ethical value that Judaism has taught the world. Contract law in England and America derives, to a large extent, from the Talmudic law on marriage contracts and its persistent emphasis on the voluntary participation of both parties.
The focal phase regarding consent in the Bible appears in Genesis (24:58) when Rebekah’s brother and mother ask her if she is willing to marry Isaac... The emphasis on her acquisition indicates – is the very first word of the first mishnah of the first chapter of the talmudic tractate on marriages – that the acquisition is dependent upon her consent.

Rashba, a noted thirteenth-century Spanish talmudist, asks why this emphasis was necessary, since no other contract could ever be made without consent. The answer is that a commercial transaction, entered into with only grudging consent made under duress, is valid. He quotes Maimonides who holds that in civil contracts, if we are sure that both parties consent, even though one of them does not specifically articulate “I agree,” the contract is nonetheless valid. Rashba says that while this is true in commercial transactions, it does not hold for the marital procedure. In regard to marriage, consent made under duress invalidates the whole process. The Jewish tradition will not permit a marriage to begin on this basis; it will not allow any circumstance at all to reduce the woman’s freedom to select as she desires.

Further, Kalman Kahana establishes that, with regard to property, only rights are being transferred. Rights, of course, also require consent; but even consent under duress is sufficient for the acquisition of a right. In regard to marriage, however, we are creating a new status, initiating a lifelong binding relationship that requires wholehearted, clear-headed, unflinching consent. For property acquisition we acquire only haskamah (consent), even though it will be unwilling. For marriage, the law requires daat (willing consent). Rabbi Hayyaim of Volozhin, a nineteenth-century scholar, holds that the primary purpose of the presence of witnesses is to testify to the woman’s willing consent.

Because clear consent is required, the ring given by the man must be of easily determined value. What appears to be a diamond might in fact be costume jewelry; the woman might be deceived. Perhaps she would have given consent to the marriage, but not willing consent, had she known its true value. She therefore has grounds for rescinding the marriage.

Copyrighted material quoted here
under fair use for educational purposes from
by Maurice Lamm. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1980.

The Patriocentric Mishnah, The Bride-Price & The Cost of Slander

I received an email asking about the Family Integrated Church's (FIC) practice of the “Bride- Price” as found in Deuteronomy, Chapter 22. I am told that Doug Phillips prefers a gold coin as the “Bride's Price,” paid by the groom to the father of the bride as a tradition in FIC weddings. Now, anyone can create any tradition that they would like, but they should not call all these things “Biblical” when they are reflective of cultural standards only (that of the Mishnah in this case).

The FIC leaders presume that this passage concerns the price of a girl's virginity as a commodity that is purchased when, in fact, this passage concerns the legal cost of slander against a new bride. Why on earth would anyone want to associate the ceremony of holy matrimony with either a groom's hatred of his new bride or the transfer of funds for slander regarding moral turpitude? The other scenarios described in this chapter and also in Exodus 22 (the other bride-price proof text) discuss the payment to the father of the bride after she had been violated because a proper marriage did not take place prior to physical intimacy.

Deuteronomy 22:13- 30 (NASB):

Laws on Morality
“If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, 'I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,' then the girl's father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl's virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. "The girl's father shall say to the elders, 'I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, "I did not find your daughter a virgin." But this is the evidence of my daughter's virginity.' And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.

"So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him, and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl's father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days. "But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

If a man is found lying with a married woman, then both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel." If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor's wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. "But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die.
"But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case. "When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her. If a man finds a girl who is a virgin, who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her and they are discovered, then the man who lay with her shall give to the girl's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall become his wife because he has violated her; he cannot divorce her all his days." A man shall not take his father's wife so that he will not uncover his father's skirt.

So why on earth would anyone seek to incorporate this practice into a marriage ceremony? Novelty? Or if you wrongfully viewed a woman's sexuality and her person as a commodity to be bought and sold? So the Torah is clear: the bride-price is the cost that a husband pays for improperly slandering a virtuous bride. Is there any historical evidence for the practice of this bride-price? The Mishnah viewed women and a young woman's virginity as a commodity to be bought and sold.

From Chattel or Person? The Status of Women in the Mishnah by Wegner (pages 4 – 8):
The Mishnah, a book of legal rules compiled by Jewish sages in second century Roman Palestine, depicts a society whose central character is the free adult Israelite male. Possessor of wives, children, land, slaves, livestock, and other chattels, he occupies a sociolegal status not unlike that of the Roman paterfamilias, his counterpart in the dominant culture of the day. The Mishnah's socioeconomic system, rooted in private property, considers people and things from the perspective of their relationship to the owner or master...

When faced with the need to classify women, the sages treat them very much as they treat the koy [the mythical offspring of a goat and gazelle – a hybrid of a domesticated and wild animals]. They vacillate between defining women as chattel and as person...

To the Mishnah's framers, the, woman presents an anomaly, a “legal hybrid” that defies logical classification. She is “like” a man, hence a person in some ways, and “not like” a man, hence a nonperson, in others. As with the koy, the sages, unwilling to recognize an intermediate category, choose to split the woman into her “chattel” and “person” components, depending on context, and treat her accordingly.

Based on this description, the practices of the Mishnah were based upon Scripture but followed the Roman paterfamilias as much as they did the Torah. Moses did not “split women into chattel and person components” as the Mishnah did; but rather, Moses preserves the protection of women without treating them as commodities or objects. From an informed reading, the Scripture speaks of payment for a daughter's virginity only when there is some scandal or compromise of her integrity on the part of the groom. If unpure, the penalty for her sin was death. The bride-price was paid, according to what Moses wrote, for the groom's slandering her integrity or when the groom seizes her sexually without a marriage ceremony. Any “payment for virginity” outside of some type of scandal does not arise from Moses' writings in the Torah. The Mishnah superimposed the treatment of women as chattel by borrowing from the Roman paterfamilias and adding them to the writings of Moses.

From Chattel or Person? (pages 21 - 23)
For them [the sages], the young girl possesses one salient characteristic: she is sexual chattel. Nearly all references to the girlchild under twelve (q'tannah) or the pubescent girl between twelve and and twelve and one-half years (na'arah) – unlike references to minor persons – speak directly or indirectly of her sexuality, with particular emphasis on her virginity.

Virginity and the Bride Price

The Mishnah's framers, placing a premium on virginity, set the customary bride-price twice as high for virgins as for nonvirgins (M. Ket. 1:2)... The commercial aspect of the transaction is underscored by the fact that the sages open their discussion of marriage contracts (tractate K'tubbot) with a rule providing prompt legal redress for a bridegroom who claims the bride's father has deceived him. This lawsuit vindicates a man's scriptural rights to receive a virgin in return for the bride-price. (Deut. 22:13-21)... Having paid for his bride's virginity, an aggrieved bridegroom, just as any buyer of goods that fail to meet specifications, can bring suit...

They perceive the girl not as a human being possessing or lacking sexual experience, but as a chattel whose owner pays bride-price for an intact hymen – an attitude borne out by the casual assumption that men will routinely violate girls in their power, even those of tender years. As shocking as this seems, its chief significance is the perception of the female as a mere sex object.

So I ask those who have been told that the bride-price is “Biblical” and have been taught that this is a necessary part of a wedding ceremony, please show me in the Word of God (in both Deuteronomy 22 and Exodus 22) where, apart from scandal, is there a bride-price is required for a virtuous couple. Or as my husband asks, do all FIC members admit that their daughters lack purity and virtue by requiring a bride-price for them? If the Bible only speaks of a bride-price in cases of slander and the seizing of a woman without a proper marriage ceremony, then requiring payment is a ready testimony that declares their daughters lack sexual purity and virtue.

Are we called to follow the Word of God or to follow the pagan traditions of both Mishnah and the paterfamilias of first and second century Roman culture? Or are we to follow the neo-pagan Catechism Mishnah of the New Patriocentricity?

Excerpts from
From Chattel or Person?
The Status of Women in the Mishnah

by JR Wegner,
New York: Oxford University Press, 1988

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