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Thursday, October 25, 2012 

How is it "immodest" for a woman to be in politics?

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner may not be Haredi per se, but he's made some pretty dumb arguments of his own on how women should manage their business, such as this new little annoyance he's caused, claiming it's not fit for women to take part in elections:
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading figure in the national-religious community, said in conversation with his students this week that women should not stand for election to the Knesset.

“It is forbidden for a woman to serve as member of Knesset, it’s not modest,” the rabbi said. “Public exposure contradicts the Jewish principle that ‘all the glory of the daughter of a king is internal,’” Aviner added in comments first published on the Kipa website.

The rabbi subsequently stated in a letter to Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely that his comments were taken out of context.

“For sure, the Torah ideal is that women should not be involved in politics, but clearly, if there will be women in the Knesset anyway, then certainly one should vote for those women that will bring the most blessing to the nation,” wrote Aviner.

Since Hotovely’s Likud party has places on its electoral list reserved for women, her political activities are to be praised, he concluded.
So he's trying to backpedal now, is that it? Whatever point he was trying to make is a very poor, outmoded one, going along the lines that it's wrong to listen to a woman speak, even on subjects that aren't related to religious prayer services, and he's taken some flak even from other rabbis:
Opposition to the rabbi’s comments came from several quarters, including Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, another prominent national-religious leader.

“I don’t understand where this perspective came from, that a woman serving in a public office is not modest,” Cherlow said on Galei Yisrael radio station on Wednesday, adding as an aside that it is also incumbent on men to behave in a modest way in positions of public service.

“How is it possible to say that by definition a woman working in a public position is doing something immodest?” he added, saying that from his perspective women should be encouraged to participate in the political life of the country in order that their voices are heard.

The Hiddush religious freedom lobbying group also weighed in, describing Aviner’s stance as anachronistic and part of a “worrying phenomenon.”

One renowned female Jewish leader is Deborah the Prophet, a leader in the biblical era of the Judges.

Aviner said that the political involvement during biblical times of Deborah the prophet came about because there was no one else at the time who could take the leadership role.
Oh, that's hilarious! She lived at a time when there were plenty of other judges of both sexes around, so it's not like she was the only one in those remote times. All Aviner's done is add himself to the list of rabbis making awkward and downright embarrassing statements that aren't doing many favors for the reputation of theology, just like rabbi Ovadia Yosef did a few months ago.

What this tells is that the rabbinical movement in this country has some serious improvements to make in how to coincide better with the modern world.

Update: here's a letter in the Jerusalem Post that helps make a case for the defense of women's status:
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is not quoted out of context (“Women shouldn’t be MKs, says national-religious rabbi,” October 25).

The problem is that traditional Jewish talk about women easily sounds sexist while that of Aviner’s opponents, like Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, sounds like the talk of secular humanists. The challenge is to counter the oppression of women within the religious mindset, not despite it.

Judaism has always been a movement aiming to protect those who are socially weak. We need to respect, love and empower all women around us.

To empower means to encourage them to speak their fine minds and live their highest dreams. There is no real need to please or appease us or to seek our approval all the time. In this way we disable the main curse that women face: “And your craving shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16).

Where there is honor there is no domination.

We men may also undo a major part of our own paradisiacal curse, from Genesis 3:17: “Because you listened to the voice of your wife.” Since the days of our patriarchs and matriarchs we are commanded to reverse this (“listen to her,” Genesis 21:12). That is how the quality of the voices of women might have improved in those generations since the Garden of Eden.

We are now millennia after Abraham and it is high time we follow his example en masse.

“We will do and we will hear” (Exodus 24:7). This means that only when we execute this we will begin to understand.

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