In response to some of the comments on the post on female role models and to comments here, I decided to do a quick summary of what I think are basics about women's role in Judaism:
1) The focus of a women’s life should be fulfilling the ratzon Hashem – same as men. A woman is a servant of G-d, not a servant of her husband.
2) The way women fulfill the ratzon Hashem is by avoiding the 365 lavim and performing the mitzvos aseh she’ain hazeman gerama which they are obligated in. They also have the opportunity to glean additional schar (albeit a lesser schar than one who is metzuveh) from performing other mitzvos on a voluntary basis.
3) For women (as well as men) the only way to achieve dveikus with Hashem is through Torah and mitzvos. Vague feelings of subjective “spirituality” are not a substitute for the objective performance of mitzvos.
4) A woman (like a man) is subject to personal schar v’onesh based only on the degree to which she does mitzvos and learns Torah. One cannot attain reward based on someone else’s mitzvah performance, except to the degree that enabling someone else to perform a mitzvah is itself a mitzvah.
5) Even though women are not obligated in Talmud Torah, because the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is crucial to attaining the ultimate reward of Olam Haba, women have the ability to glean its complete reward by enabling their husband and children to learn. This does not supplant or minimize their obligation for their own spiritual growth and mitzvah performance, but supplements those obligations (Pnei Yehoshua, Brachos 17).
6) It is impossible for women (or men) to fulfill their obligations as a Jew in ignorance of halacha (Bais haLevi, hakdamah), Jewish thought, and knowledge of Torah. Although in previous generations the home provided the minimum level of knowledge needed to fulfill one's religious obligations, in our times this is no longer sufficient (Chafeitz Chaim, Likutei Halachos Mes. Sota). There is disagreement as to how expansive a women’s study curriculum should be and whether it should include Torah sheBa’al Peh, but it is indisputable that for the study of Torah sheB’Ksav, mussar, machshava, and halacha, a women receives schar as an aino metzuveh v’oseh (Rambam, Hil T”T) and this study is invaluable in enabling her spiritual growth and correct performance of mitzvos.
7) Women (like men) must strive for a balance between personal growth as a Jew and fulfillment of obligations to family and career aspirations. Halacha does not mandate specific roles for either gender; however, halacha does demand that women (and men) arrive at an individualized balance which best enables their personal growth as well as the growth of those around them in avodas Hashem.
Most of this is basic halacha, yet, many of the comments on previous posts indicate that not everyone is comfortable with these ideas. Some examples: The comment (made on my wife’s blog) that “the focus of a women should be noshim b’mai zacyin and eizhu isha keshara [osah retzon ba’ala]” contradicts #1, #4, and #5. The attitude that as long as the house is neat and the kids are encouraged to learn a women has met her spiritual obligations denies #2, #4, and substitutes a vicarious experience of Judaism through one’s offspring or through one’s husband for what one is personally obligated to achieve. The thought that since our bubbes could not read and were tzidkaniyos (which is itself probably a myth) women need not trouble to learn denies #6. The idea that halacha delegates the kitchen to the women and the workplace to the man ignores #7. The pursuit of “spirituality” without Torah learning or objective mitzvah performance contradicts # 3. You get the idea. My bottom line: women are responsible for their own spiritual growth through Torah and mitzvos independent of their roles as mothers, wives, homemakers, or their place in the workforce. So why do so many disagree? Why for boys are the role models roshei yeshiva and gedolim, but for daughters it suffices if they aspire to roles of ignorance of halacha and machshava, Judaism without intellectual growth and with an economy of mitzvah performance? What of the above (items 1-7) do you take issue with and why?