“When a prince has sinned…he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish” (Vayikra 4:22–23). The atonement for a prince who sinned unintentionally is to bring a male goat. When, however, one of the common people sins unintentionally, his atonement is a female goat. “If a soul of the common people sin in error…he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish…” (Vayikra 4:27–28). Why is the atonement for the prince a male goat, whereas the common people bring a female goat for the same misdemeanor?
Is Female Less Worthy Than Male?
Ibn Ezra answers that the common people bring a female goat because they are on a lower level than the prince. I have a hard time accepting this kind of statement. Why should the male represent a higher level than the female? Does this imply that men are more important than women? The modern Torah commentators emphasize that this is not the case at all. The reason why women are exempt from certain mitzvoth is that they are naturally in tune with the will of G-d, and therefore, do not need as many mitzvoth to keep them on track. However, some of us sense deep down that these kinds of explanations are apologetic rationalizations designed to smooth over the many statements in the Torah that seem to denigrate women. It is hard to cover up the fact that the Jewish man thanks G-d every morning for not having been created a woman. Women cannot count as legitimate witnesses in a Jewish court (Shavuoth 30a), and a woman cannot become a Rabbi according to the Torah tradition. Many of the more classic commentaries explain that women are exempt from certain mitzvoth so as to be able to serve their husbands. The standard teacher in a woman’s Torah seminary will gracefully skip this sort of commentary.