Why would only men go up to Jerusalem?
– Nancy B.
Dear Nancy, You are referring to the obligation of Jewish men to go up to Jerusalem on the three major holidays; Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Exodus 23:17, Deut. 16:16). As you can see from the opening of the book of Samuel, women often accompanied the men. Ideally, families went up to Jerusalem together, but you are correct that women were not obligated to do so.
As always, the only answer that is 100% indisputable is, “because God said so.” However, what can we learn from this decision of God’s?
In our day rarely does a month go by without an article appearing dealing with integrating family, work and pleasure. Sometimes these articles provide tips for ‘having it all,’ sometimes they urge government involvement to supposedly make it easier to people to have it all, sometimes they suggest that you can’t have it all. In today’s modern time the assumption underlying most of these articles is that whether you are married or not, have children or not, and no matter how you structure your life, you should still be able to make whatever choices you want and have a right to everything you want – at least if you’re female. Reality takes second place to fantasy.
God’s system is based on an incredible web of interconnectedness. Spiritual, financial, family and personal well-being flow out of that interconnectedness. Any command, such as going up to Jerusalem, is not a suggestion but an obligation. Obligating women to do so three times a year would conflict with women’s ability to focus on pregnancy and childcare, both of which vital to family and national survival.
As a unit, husband and wife need both spiritual rejuvenation and children, if they are so blessed. One shouldn’t come at the expense of the other. So, men must go to Jerusalem and women may choose when it is a good time for them to do so.
That’s a pro-choice policy we can applaud,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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