Friday, May 16, 2008

How the Letter and the Spirit of Jewish Law Deny that Women are Property ("The Jewish Way")

Comparing patriocentricity to the practice of Orthodox Judaism according to Rabbi Maurice Lamm in “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage

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.
In the next post:
Jewish law denies that acquisition of a wife implies ownership.

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