The Torah relates that both Israelite men and Israelite women were present at Sinai; however, the covenant was worded in such a way that it bound men to act upon its requirements, and to ensure that the members of their household (wives, children, and slaves) met these requirements as well.
In this sense, the covenant bound women as well, though indirectly.
Gender has a bearing on familial lines: In traditional Judaism, Jewishness is passed down through the mother, although the father's name is used to describe sons and daughters in the Torah, e. Relatively few women are mentioned in the Bible by name and role, suggesting that they were rarely in the forefront of public life.
There are a number of exceptions to this rule, including the Matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah the Judge, Huldah the prophetess, Abigail, who married David, Rahab, and Esther.
Halacha also provides women with material and emotional protections that most non-Jewish women did not enjoy during the first millennium of the Common Era.
While few women are mentioned by name in rabbinic literature, and none are known to have authored a rabbinic work, those who are mentioned are portrayed as having a strong influence on their husbands. Examples are Bruriah, the wife of the Tanna Rabbi Meir; Rachel, wife of Rabbi Akiva; and Yalta, the wife of Rabbi Nachman.
Separation from the men was created by the Rabbis in the Mishnah and the Talmud.
The reasoning behind the Halacha was that a woman and her body would distract men and give them impure thoughts during prayer.
Avraham Grossman argues in his book Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe that three factors affected how Jewish women were perceived by the society around them: "the biblical and talmudic heritage; the situation in the non-Jewish society within which the Jews lived and functioned; and the economic status of the Jews, including the woman's role in supporting the family." During the Middle Ages, there was a conflict between Judaism's lofty religious expectations of women and the reality of society in which these Jewish women lived; this is similar to the lives of Christian women in the same period.
A typical mechitzah consists of wheeled wooden panels, often topped with one-way glass to allow women to view the Torah reading.
Women are required by halacha to do all negative mitzvot (i.
Due to this rabbinical interpretation, scholars have seen the women’s role in the synagogue as limited and sometimes even non-existent.
However, recent research has shown that women actually had a larger role in the synagogue and the community at large.