Monday, May 22, 2006

Men vs. Women Learning - Why?

Everyone is familiar with the Mishna containing the opinion that equates teaching women Torah with tiflus. Fewer realize that this isn't the lone opinion and that many, including recent luminaries, advocate women's learning, even if limited. After all, how do you expect a woman to remain religious if she has a college education but no religious background? Forget about all those that went to law school, medical school, or have PhD's in other areas. You can't turn your brain off, and having a doctorate with a second grade religious background is sure to be dangerous.

To those who say its because women are better at twisting things, sorry. Its not like women have an ability to twist Torah and pervert it that men lack. Look at the major apikorsim of the last two thousand years. Men or women?

So why limit women? Men have an obligation to learn, women do not, and I think that's the crucial point. Only recently has education become prevalent (though from news stories and test scores one might wonder). For the past two thousand years, women and most men were uneducated and illiterate. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, just look at some statements made today, both in the name of religion and outside of it. If you're uneducated and given a little Torah knowledge you can do great harm, even when well intentioned.

Men had no choice. They had an obligation to learn. There were risks, yes, but when you're obligated you have to chance it. And if no one were obligated to learn, what would happen to Torah? Someone had to do it. Women had no obligation. There was nothing to balance out the
danger, no obligation. In that case, it may well be that they had an obligation not to chance it, and men had an obligation to limit any potential damage to Torah.

Today the situation is radically different. Women regularly peer perform men in any area, if not outperform. The dangers of have too little knowledge are muted, everything is available ot everyone. Women still lack an obligation to learn, but the risk associated with anyone's learning has shrunken. Including for women.