Judaism: Unfreezing the Law

The Jews of Jerusalem danced last week in the synagogues and in the streets, bearing in their arms the scrolls of the Torah as they celebrated the end of the thanksgiving period of Sukkot.* The dancers were mostly men, but a few congregations allowed women to join in and carry the scrolls—to the bitter disapproval of the Orthodox. Women are forbidden to touch the Torah by an injunction of Halakah, that vast body of law that regulates Jewish life with a sweep ranging from lofty ethical norms to small dietary injunctions. Halakah, which means variously "the law" and "the...

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