Why Are There No Female Saints In Judaism?

Professor Marc B. Shapiro writes:

Since I mentioned some stories from Halakhic Man that show that the Rav did not have a Modern Orthodox ethos, I will also say something about the following story, which some have wondered about.

Once my father entered the synagogue on Rosh Ha-Shanah, late in the afternoon, after the regular prayers were over, and found me reciting Psalms with the congregation. He took away my Psalm book and handed me a copy of the tractate Rosh Ha-Shanah. “If you wish to serve the Creator at this moment, better study the laws pertaining to the Festival.”

I understand that some people are very troubled by this story, as it bespeaks a real intellectual elitism. Yet, to use an expression popular among the younger generation, I can only say “get over it” (or become an adherent of one of the non-intellectual branches of Hasidism). For better or worse, traditional Judaism has always been a fundamentally elitist religion, dividing the haves (i.e., those who have knowledge) from the have-nots. (Although today we are accustomed to think in terms of bringing Torah study to all, in a future post at the Seforim blog I hope to mention some sources that speak of the danger of allowing the ignorant access to Torah knowledge.) Precisely because we have a notion of ein am ha-aretz hasid we can understand why, in contrast to Christianity, we don’t have women “saints” in our history. Since women have (until recent times) been kept ignorant of Talmud and halakhah, there was no way they could achieve any renown in the area of saintliness.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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