Let me apologize if the following material seems obtusely worded. Some rabbis have a serious problem expressing coherent thoughts that appeal to common sense. Clearly, some of our ancestors were lacking in this department. The Talmudic style of reasoning called, “pilpul” (“peppered” didactic reasoning) can appeal to the inner sophist we all have. At times, I like to refer to this style of argumentation as, “rabbinicspeak,” and to understand or argue with it, you have to almost think like a mental contortionist.
Continuing with our last thought, how could Deborah in the Bible (Judg. 4:4) serve as a judge, according to the Talmudic and medieval rabbis? The 13th century of scholars known as the Tosfot, try to make sense of the problem posed. To their credit, Tosfot offers at least adds fluidity to much of its interpretation; they are a lot like the girl with the curl, when they are good . . . you know the rest of the story. The same may be said of the Tosfot interpretations.
Ba’ale Tosfot discuss the problem from a variety of perspectives:
A. One answer proposed suggests that that Deborah was a judge because her community accepted her. Tosfot also admits that a woman is considered to be an equal in every matter of jurisprudence, except when it comes to serving as a witness. 
B. The Jerusalem Talmud rules that a woman is not allowed to act as a judge ; the case of Deborah is the exception–and certainly not the norm. Deborah was chosen by virtue of the Shekhinah resting upon her.
C. Alternatively, one may accept a woman to serve as a judge, just like two litigants may accept a relative to serve as a judge–provided each party agrees. 
D. Some scholars say that Deborah could only “teach,” but she could not render legal decisions–only men could do that. Continue reading “Who Says an Orthodox Woman Can’t Serve as a Rabbi? (Part 2)”