The Vows of Women

How can we stimulate and support women to fulfill their dreams?

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Yet, we are not always aware of the price some of us pay for that choice. We see in our society rising rates of depression, eating disorders, premature sexuality, and self-destructive behaviors. A 2002 report of the American Psychological Association indicates that of the 17 million Americans who suffer from depression yearly, "women are twice as likely as men to experience a major depressive episode. Depression may occur at any age during a woman's life with certain events like puberty, pregnancy, perimenopause, trauma, substance abuse and quality of relationships." The report also notes that current research shows that women typically "place their needs secondary to those of others." One cannot simplistically attribute depression to a single cause, but it is difficult not to wonder to what extent the thwarting of one's longings and hopes, either by implicit social pressures or explicit ones, plays a role.

How can we can stimulate and support, rather than stifle, women who long to fulfill their ambitions and dreams, so that their vows to themselves--and others--can become a reality? As a Jewish community we are still working on answers to such questions, both in the personal and institutional realms. We no longer need to be complicit in the denial and abandonment of self that pervades our culture. Instead, we can speak honestly and openly about our lives and our choices. No longer must we voice our desires in an undertone, hoping that no one will hear. Instead, we can search to find--whether in studying the Torah or participating in the world--the truth of our lives that will help us to find the truth in God's teachings, so that we can live in a more just relationship with our loved ones and with our God.

The product of fourteen years of work and the contributions of more than 100 scholars, theologians, poets, and rabbis—all of them women—The Torah: A Women’s Commentary is a landmark achievement in biblical scholarship and an essential resource for the study of the Bible. For more information or to order a copy, visit

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Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson

Rabbi Jacqueline Koch Ellenson is currently the Director of the Women's Rabbinic Network. She also serves as the Chair of the Hadassah Foundation.