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Jewish Law

Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Ouziel

R. Ben-Zion Hai Ouziel wrote extensively on religious, communal and national subjects, as well as Jewish philosophy, his articles appearing in several newspapers and journals. His election as the Sephardic Chief Rabbi (the Rishon le-Zion) carried a concurrent appointment to the Va’ad Le’ummi (National Council of Jews of Palestine) and he participated in the sessions in which the Jewish Agency was founded.

Niddah, Tractate

Tractate Niddah is the tractate most concerned with women’s physiology and their halakhic status concerning body issues.

Nature of Women

The Talmud describes women as a “nation unto themselves” (BT Shabbat 62a) and rabbinic literature is replete with implications concerning the differences in the respective natures of men and women. Often the portrayals are paradoxical, citing opinions which describe seemingly opposite traits.

Nahat Ruah Le-Nashim (Women's Spiritual Satisfaction)

Jewish law presents this concept as the legal basis for granting women the option to perform commandments from which they are exempt, thereby bringing them spiritual satisfaction.

Modesty and Sexuality in Halakhic Literature

Modesty (zeni’ut), in its broad sense, represents a mode of moral conduct that is related to humility. A person who behaves modestly refrains from extroverted behavior that is supposed to speak of him- or herself. This expansive view also includes sexual modesty.

Levant: Women in the Jewish Communities after the Ottoman Conquest of 1517

Far-reaching changes began to take place in the Jewish world at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Following the expulsion from Spain in 1492 there was a period of wandering and political, demographic and social upheaval. On the one hand, this led to an encounter between the Jews who had left Spain and Portugal and the traditions of Ashkenaz, North Africa, Italy and the Orient; it also led to many personal crises, sundered families, and other disasters, which left women as agunot and widows.

Lesbianism

For most of its three-thousand-year history, lesbianism has been a subject of little interest in Jewish texts and societies. Only in the late twentieth century have Jewish scholars and communities faced the issue of erotic love between women.

Legal-Religious Status of the Virgin

The basic [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:339]ketubbah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] of a virgin (two hundred maneh [one maneh=fifty shekels]) was double that of a non-virgin (one hundred maneh) ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:361]Mishnah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Ketubbot 1:2). Those who were divorced or widowed while betrothed but before marriage retain their status of virgin. This difference was doubled in the case of the daughter of a priest who was a virgin, whose basic ketubbah was four hundred maneh (Mishnah Ketubbot 1:5). This distinction emphasizes the value of virginity and the significance of sexual exclusivity on the part of the woman to her husband and, in the case of the priest, the value of caste status. A number of situations were described biblically which deal with the seduction or the rape of a virgin who is either unattached or betrothed. Consensual sexual intercourse of the betrothed or married woman with someone other than her husband would put both the woman and her paramour in the category of adulterers. Seduction is considered to be consensual but the cases discussed in the Bible according to rabbinic interpretation were dealing with minor girls who did not have the legal right of consent. [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:383]Rambam[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] covers this material in Hilkhot Na’arah Betulah.

Legal-Religious Status of the Suspected Adulteress (Sotah)

Perhaps one of the most embarrassing and humiliating situations for a man, particularly in the Middle East, is infidelity on the part of his wife. Suspicion of infidelity creates a similar dynamics in the Jewish legal system but is moderated by issues of doubt. A man’s suspicion of infidelity on the part of his wife is one of the most prejudicial legal situations for women, clearly demonstrating inequality in the marriage relationship. When a man acquires a woman as his wife, he acquires exclusive rights to her sexuality. The reverse, of course, is not true, since a man (until the decree of Rabbenu Gershom [c. 960–1028] for Ashkenazic Jews and the rise of the State of Israel also for Sephardic Jews, with some anomalous situations still existing) is permitted to have more than one wife as well as concubines, and his legal status is unprejudiced by fornication.

Legal-Religious Status of the Moredet (Rebellious Wife)

A [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:365]moredet[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] is defined as a married woman who refuses to have sexual relations with her husband (the most normal case), or refuses to do the assigned work of the wife ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:361]Mishnah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] Ketubbot 5:5), a betrothed girl or woman whose set time for marriage has arrived and who refuses to marry, or a [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:430]yevamah[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] who refuses to undergo [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:431]yibbum[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] ([jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:349]levirate marriage[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary]) with the [jwa_encyclopedia_glossary:429]yavam[/jwa_encyclopedia_glossary] (levir). The cases of the married woman refusing sexual relations and the yevamah refusing yibbum demonstrate that the legal concept of a married woman includes the idea that she has given ongoing and permanent consent to sexual relations and that refusal thus constitutes rebellion.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Jewish Law." (Viewed on May 20, 2018) <https://jwa.org/topics/jewish-law>.

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