Toward a Gender Critical Approach to the Philosophy of Jewish Law (Halakah)
Within most Modern Orthodox circles in Judaism (and effectively all ultra-Orthodox circles), feminism is perceived as a dangerous threat because of its seemingly radical challenge to sacred Jewish values such as the Jewish family and the binding, largely immutable nature of halakhah (Jewish law, broadly construed). This article creates a framework for using feminist insights within Orthodox halakhic discourse, by suggesting, among other things, a conversation between feminist scholarship in halakhah and theology, and contemporary critical legal theory. In so doing, Irshai challenges some of the ways certain basic assumptions about gender inequities and, more important, asymmetries of power are produced and reproduced in contemporary halakhic practice. The author details how halakhah can be revised and renewed (while keeping halakhic tools, mechanisms, and procedures) in light of feminist values, without which the feminist revolution within Judaism cannot be completed.
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