Uncovered: The Pants Debate — A Religious Complexity

Posted by Nechama Goldman Barash on January 9, 2018
Topics: Pardes Live, Uncovered, Sexuality, Sexuality, Women's Issues

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In this, the first episode of Uncovered: Sources of Nakedness in Halakha, Rabbanit Nechama Goldman Barash looks at a debate that often centers around female religious identity – where do the norms and boundaries for female dress code come from? Nechama suggests that the answer lies not in the boundaries of halakhic discourse but in the greater religious conversation which seeks to desexualize sacred space.


The series Uncovered look at three major topics that often restrict women’s presence in traditional Jewish communities: Dress, Hair and Voice. The famous Talmudic statements that “the leg of a woman is nakedness”, “the voice of a woman is nakedness” and “the hair of a woman is nakedness” are often presented at face value but in fact, as the series will uncover, the Talmudic conversation is centered around the laws of saying Shema and do not reverberate outward into a greater conversation anywhere else in the Talmud with one fairly minor exception. However, those statements became the platform for modern halakhic and religious discourse on women, modesty and sexuality and can be perceived as empowering or suffocating depending on where and how the conversation is unpacked. Suffice to say, it is never a neutral conversation. In this series we will try to understand the larger picture before beginning to look at the rabbinic sources that structure the conversation.

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About Nechama Goldman Barash

Nechama teaches Rabbinic Literature, Women and Judaism, Medical Ethics, Prophets and Bible at Pardes. She made aliyah from Philadelphia over 20 years ago after graduating from Stern College. She studied for three years in Matan’s Advanced Talmud Institute and finished a master’s degree in Talmud at Bar-Ilan University, with a thesis on the Beautiful Captive Woman in the Eyes of Chazal. She teaches at a variety of Israeli institutions and is also a graduate of Nishmat’s Yoetzet Halacha program. Click here to read more.

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