The Cultural Analysis Paradigm: Women and Synagogue Ritual as a Case Study
57 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2012 Last revised: 18 Mar 2013
Date Written: March 28, 2012
This Article develops an original cultural analysis paradigm with significant implications for understanding the relationship between law and culture. It also illustrates how this relationship should inform the normative application of areas of law in which tensions exist between modern sensibilities and traditional practices steeped in cultural perspectives form other times. Indeed, the negotiation between preservation and change confronts all ancient cultural traditions in modernity. The specific application invoked in this Article concerns the issue of women being called to read publicly from the Torah, a subject of serious academic debate among observant Jews. The analysis demonstrates that the virtually unanimous practice of excluding women from participation in public Torah reading exists despite long-standing ambiguity in the strictly legal realm of the tradition. This reality reveals that the prevailing practices and legal justifications have been markedly influenced by cultural considerations. Thus, the story of women and public Torah reading provides the ideal subject for exploring the synergies between law, culture, and tradition. This story also serves as a model for how cultural analysis can inform the discourse on a broad range of issues in which settled law confronts cultural shifts.
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