INFERIOR OR SUPERIOR
Adapted from "The Role of Women in Judaism" by Rabbi Moshe Lichtenstein
A man and woman work as a team for maximum results and universal benefit. The Rambam, (Rabbi Moses Maimonides) teaches us how a husband and wife should treat each other. He writes that a man is a King and a woman is a Queen. They both have very different roles, but both important-- without one or the other there could not be a kingdom. A team effort is required to create, develop and maintain a kingdom. The Rambam also says that a man should honor his wife more than himself. Thus, the well known Jewish statement ".... if you want to be the king of the house, treat your wife like a queen" -- or vice versa. There is no question in Judaism about the role of women because her role is that of a Queen.
Jewish life is not unaffected by modern trends of world thought. Jewish homes are affected by outside views of the role of women just as non-Jewish homes are. Originally, Jewish women were not maids in their homes, but true Queens. Today, many women's roles include even more responsibilities than that of a Queen. Today women are much more involved in every aspect of Jewish life and are even some times, the bread winners of the home. Today many women work outside their homes, yet they are not absolved of fulfilling the irreplaceable role of mother, wife and beacon of moral support which only she can fill.
There is one uncompromising, fundamental and consistent concept, seen throughout the Torah with regard to the role of women -- the concept of tzniut (modesty). Gila Manolson writes in her outstanding book Outside/Inside "...tzniut is infinitely more than what we wear - it's about who we are. It's the potential within every one of us, male and female and Judaism enjoins us all to actualize it. Tzniut is the key to all spiritual growth and therefore to a healthy society. Rather than restricting, tzniut is, in the most profound sense, liberating."
The reason why the Amidah prayer mentions the patriarchs and not the matriarchs is because the role of women is intrinsically private and internal vs. the male role which is public and external, although men should be modest as well, it is the woman's role that contains within it, the power modesty brings. Under no circumstances do we ever see that women in Judaism are considered to be inferior because of modesty. The association of publicity or prestige with how important a person is, does not exist in Judaism. Women are at the forefront of the foundation of life and are respected accordingly even if they do not hold a public position.
To label a man or woman inferior or superior to one another in a marriage, is distructive to the plan that Adonai had for the family. A man and woman are two parts of a whole and one cannot fuction without the other . The Jewish woman is the back bone of her home and community and her fulfillment of that role determines the health, well being and growth of our surrounding world.