True Faith and the Exemption of Women

Shaye J. D. Cohen

in Why Aren't Jewish Women Circumcised?

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780520212503
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520920491 | DOI:
True Faith and the Exemption of Women

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This chapter develops the Maimonidean idea that circumcision is not covenantal: circumcision is no different from any other commandment, and its absence does not betoken absence from the covenant or second-tier status. What makes a Jew a Jew, according to Maimonides, is proper faith, and this, not circumcision, determines who is in the people of Israel and who is out. Therefore the exclusion of women from the commandment of circumcision does not necessarily betoken their inferiority or their exclusion from the covenant. This view allows one thinker to explain that the non-circumcision of Jewish women is simply a function of the fact that not every individual Jew is obligated to observe all the commandments. Women are exempt from some commandments; men are exempt from some commandments. As long as they believe properly, Jewish women can and do attain the same level of Jewishness as men.

Keywords: commandment; Maimonidean idea; exemption of women; Jew; Israel

Chapter.  7220 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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