Earlier this week, I challenged, “If you have daughters, take a moment and think of 3 contemporary female role models who inspire your daughters with their wisdom, insight, and intellectual acumen in Torah. I would bet you couldn't name three.” Almost too good to be true, my point was underscored when the very first comment came in (and I hope the author is not offended by being quoted – if you are, I will change this post and ask mechila) – “However, for what it is worth, I can name you some compelling and "inspirational" female rolemodels, who are also very intellectually-minded yet promote personal growth and a love of Torah: Rebbitzen Tzipporah Heller..., Rebbitzen Shira Smiles. There is also a Rebbitzen, I forget her name…”
I don't count as three names Rebbetzin Heller, Smiles, and what’s her name… My point was that no one would have the same degree of trouble naming three Roshei Yeshiva, male role models. And as I wrote, “…I do take issue with those who do not see the harmful effects produced by the dearth of role models and lack of serious learning opportunities open to young women.”
Contrary to my view, Avi Shafran weighs in this week with the following: “There is certainly no dearth of Orthodox women role-models who shoulder important responsibilities in bona fide Orthodox communities.” Indeed! So where are these inspirational leaders and role models? Shafran explains, “They fill the fundamental, vital positions of homemakers (in the word’s most literal and sublime sense), wives and mothers…” Yes, inspiration in the kitchen! There is the sublime of the laundry and dirty dishes! What can be greater avodas Hashem then doing laundry, baking challah, and scrubbing the floor when you are done? I shouldn't be so cynical, but the fact that anyone can write this stuff is amazing.
Chores are not avodas Hashem - they are chores. My wife happens to do much of the work at home, but is not naive enough to believe that this should be the totality of her religious experience. The fact that she reviews parsha with a different peirush every year, learns and knows Nach better than I do, and I know where to find the good R' Tzadok's in Pri Taddik based on her underlining in the sefer says far more about her avodas Hashem then the fact that she bakes good challah. This is certainly not the derech for every women. I don't know if it is the derech for most. I do know that whatever her derech is or the derech my daughers choose for themselves when they get older should not be based on gender stereotypes that come from the world of 1940s TV sitcoms. A person needs to seek out his or her own path to fulfillement. For some, baking challah is enough. For others, women as well as men, a more intellectual approach is yearned for. For these women, the kitchen is not the answer to religious fulfillment.