Sharona Margolin Halickman

Do we need to celebrate International Women’s Day?

Photo Courtesy Sharona Halickman

This past Wednesday, International Women’s Day was commemorated. You may have missed it if you live in a walled city from the days of Yehoshua like Jerusalem and were celebrating Shushan Purim or if you were still busy with carnivals and other fun festivities that spilled over from Purim.

The holiday of Purim in itself can be looked at as a “Women’s Day” as Queen Esther was instrumental in saving the Jews and women are obligated in all of the mitzvot of the day including reading the Megilla which is named after Esther herself.

Judaism goes beyond having just one day per year to celebrate women. We actually have a women’s holiday every month when we celebrate the new moon on Rosh Chodesh!

The origins of women celebrating Rosh Chodesh as a women’s holiday actually go back to Parshat Ki Tisa in the account of the Sin of the Golden Calf.

In Shmot 32:1-3 we read:

When the people saw that Moshe was late in coming down from the mountain, they gathered against Aaron and said to him: “Arise, make us gods that will lead us, for this Moshe, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him.” Aaron said to them: “Remove the golden rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters and bring them to me.” All the people removed the golden rings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron.

Rashi explains: Aaron thought to himself: the women and children fancy their jewelry, perhaps, the building of the calf will be delayed and in the meantime Moshe will arrive. But the men did not wait (for the women and children) and took off (their own jewelry) from themselves.

Tosafot on the Talmud, Rosh HaShana 23a comment: According to Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer, God added a holiday for the women on Rosh Chodesh since they did not participate in the Sin of the Golden Calf.

Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer points out: The women were unwilling to give their earrings to their husbands. They said to them: You desire to make a graven image and a molten image without any power in it to deliver. God gave the women their reward in this world and in the world to come. What reward did He give them in this world? That they should observe the New Moons more stringently than the men. And what reward will He give them in the world to come? They are destined to be renewed like the New Moons…

There are other international days on the calendar that are dedicated to women’s issues and it makes sense that they are spread out and not all lumped together on the same day.

Just a few days ago, on Taanit Esther we commemorated International Agunah Day to focus on how we can help women whose husbands refuse to give them a Get (Jewish Divorce).

November 25 is the day that we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is unfortunate that we need these days but until we solve the problems of recalcitrant husbands and those who are abusive we need to keep these topics on the radar screen.

There is a wonderful initiative coming up called Shabbat Dorshot Tov which is organized by Koelch, Israel’s religious women’s forum, where learned women are invited to different communities throughout Israel for Shabbat to teach Torah.

One day is not enough to focus on all of the different women’s issues and therefore, there are women’s organizations working on these issues every day. However, when it comes down to it, these aren’t specifically women’s problems as they involve both women and men.

Although it is nice to take a day to single out women, why is there no day to single out men? Maybe we all need to work together every day to ensure that there is equal pay for equal work, no discrimination, no abuse and no violence.

May the day come where it will be natural to celebrate the accomplishments of all people irrespective of their gender.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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