Based on what you’ve learned about ancient Judaism, what are your thoughts on the place of women in this religion? Are they treated equally to men? Are there double standards among the sexes? How do/did Jews and Christians interpret Song of Songs?

Women’s place within Judaism depends on the point of inquiry. If one looks at sex, it’s possible to argue that women and men share an equal place. If one focuses on the leading historical figures of Judaism, it’s reasonable to claim that women and men are unequal.

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To come up with thoughts about women’s role within ancient Judaism, think about how Judaism deals with sex. Jews believe that sex is not simply for procreation. While they believe that sex must take place between a husband and a wife, they don’t believe that sex should only happen in order to try and bring a baby into the world. Sex, for Jews, is a source of pleasure and a means to bring a husband and wife closer together.

In this context, it’s possible to posit that there’s equity between men and women in ancient or traditional Judaic thought. Neither the man nor the woman is permitted to engage in sex outside of marriage. Both the man and the woman are portrayed as receiving pleasure from sex, which, in a certain light, counters historically sexist tropes that often make sex seem like a burden or a chore for the woman.

According to Jewish religion, women have a right to sex, food, and shelter. In the Talmud, an ancient text that lays out Jewish laws and regulations, a man must give his wife pleasure, and he must giver her pleasure with a specified frequency that takes into consideration his job.

In this situation, one might be able to say that the woman has more power than the man. The man is at the women’s behest. He must serve her. Conversely, the notion that the man must act upon the woman could strike some as sexist. It pushes the trope that women should passively wait for sex and not aggressively seek it for themselves.

Another way to think about gender double standards and equality in relation to the Jewish religion is to focus on historically prominent Jewish leaders. Abraham, a male, is regarded as the founder of Judaism. Moses, another male, is a central Jewish prophet who supposedly transcribed the Torah for God. When one looks at the key individuals in Jewish tradition, one might wonder why there’s not more women.

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