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Jewish Law

Orthodox Judaism in the United States

Orthodox views on the role women may play in their community’s religious, educational, and social life have reflected the range of attitudes that religious group has harbored toward American society and culture.

Observance of Mitzvot: Custom and Halakhah

Numerous accounts scattered throughout early halakhic literature indicate that women had many traditions and customs of their own. Their religious life was characterized by a degree of independence and was not exclusively dependent on external halakhic norms. The manner in which women observed mitzvot was extremely influential in the formative stage of halakhah, before it was crystallized, recorded and sealed in the Shulhan Arukh.


The mikveh is a ritual bath designed for the Jewish rite of purification. The mikveh is not merely a pool of water; it must be composed of stationary, not flowing, waters and must contain a certain percentage of water derived from a natural source, such as a lake, an ocean, or rain.


The concepts explicated in this entry constitute the various stages in the Jewish marriage process. These stages have various [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:317]halakhic[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] and legal implications. The beginning of the marriage process is the stage of [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:400]shiddukhin[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], in which the man and woman promise to marry each other in the future. Kiddushin and nissu’in create the legal bond of marriage between husband and wife, the beginning of the bond being established by kiddushin and its completion being accomplished through nissu’in.


Rabbi Moses ben Maimon ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:383]Rambam[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]) was born in Cordova, Spain in 1138 and died in Fostat (old Cairo), Egypt in 1204. During his lifetime he traveled with his family from Spain to Fez, Morocco, where he studied medicine and practiced as a physician, and from there to [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:309]Erez Israel[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary], finally settling in Egypt, where he became the leader of the community. Maimonides’s vast legal and philosophical writings touch on many topics related to women and their status. Some of his restrictive and negative attitudes seem deeply influenced by the surrounding Muslim culture and women’s socio-economic status within that society. However, his strong philosophical rationalist belief system enabled him also to see women as beings with spiritual potential and at times motivated him to defend and improve their legal rights.

Esther: Midrash and Aggadah

Queen Esther, the central character in the Biblical book named after her, is extensively and sympathetically portrayed in the Rabbinic sources. In their commentary on the Book of Esther, the Rabbis expand upon and add details to the Biblical narrative, relating to her lineage and history and to her relations with the other characters: Ahasuerus, Mordecai and Haman.

Deborah 2: Midrash and Aggadah

Deborah is presented in the Rabbinic sources as a very talented woman. She was an upright judge, with the same prophetic ability as Samuel; [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:424]Torah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] scholars would come to learn from her. This ability was granted her as reward for her good deeds, namely, the preparation of wicks for the Tabernacle. She also encouraged her fellow Israelites to regularly attend the synagogue and Tabernacle, and thanks to her beneficial influence on her husband, he merited a portion in the World to Come. There is a tradition that presents Deborah as being guilty of the sin of pride, which led to her loss of the gift of prophecy, while the other traditions speak in her praise, and number her among the twenty-three Israelite women of outstanding righteousness ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:357]Midrash[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Tadshe, Ozar ha-Midrashim [ed. Eisenstein], 474).

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef

Of his numerous works the major one is [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:386]Responsa[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]: Yabbia Omer (YO), the ten volumes of which contain his responsa on many subjects of Jewish law.

Wifebeating in Jewish Tradition

Wifebeating is found in all cultures, because women’s status is usually lower than men’s and wives are expected to perform specific tasks to serve their husbands.

Turkey: Ottoman and Post Ottoman

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, far-reaching changes took place in the Ottoman Empire in the political, social and geopolitical spheres.


How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Law." (Viewed on March 19, 2018) <>.


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