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Gender Differences in Judaism

Rabbi Gold addresses three very interesting problems in the Torah’s view of adultery. Gold argues that there exists a double standard: Halacha defines adultery as a sexual encounter between a married woman and a man not her husband. An affair between a married man and a single woman is not considered adultery. So now I ask you the questions: That means unequal rights of respect for men and women? Men can be unfaithful and women CANNOT, according to Judaism?


Judaism believes in equality of the sexes, but not in their equivalence. Men and women are very different (read some of the incredible modern research on this subject, which has shown the radical differences between the sexes from infancy), and Judaism sees these differences as being reflective of a different essence. One major way in which the differences between men and women are expressed is in the way they form relationships, and in the area of marital (sexual) relations. There are many studies that show how different the sexes are in these respects.

The fundamental differences between men and women give rise to numerous halachic differences, all of which are not matter of chauvenism, but questions of difference among equals. One of the halachic ramifications is that a man betroths a woman (active), whereas a woman is betrothed by a man (passive). A consequence of this, which is also reflective of the different ways in which men and women form relationships, is that the laws pertaining to a woman who adulterates are more stringent than those pertaining to a man.

In fact, according to Torah law a man is permitted to marry more than one wife; yet, (Ashkenazi) men are prohibited today from marrying more than one wife, due to the enactment of Rabbeinu Gershom. This does not mean that the husband-wife relationship obligates the parties to different degrees of fidelity. Both are obligated to the same degree of faithfulness, yet the expression thereof is not identical.

I know that this subject poses difficulty for the modern ‘feminist’ ideology. However, progressive feminists have understood that men and women are truly different, and no longer strive for the equivalence that their predecessors desired, seeking instead to promote awareness of “woman’s perspective” in a male-dominated world. The Torah is well aware of the “female perspective,” and there are a number of obligations that apply to a husband vis-a-vis his wife, which address the issue. Note that in the ancient world this would have been a great revolution, for women’s rights were not vogue at the time.

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