Women and Leadership Roles

In Parshat Shoftim, Devarim 17:14-20 we learn about the fact that if one is choosing a king it must be done in the proper Halachic framework: “When you come to the Land that Hashem your God gives you, and possess it, and settle in it and you will say, ‘I will set a king over myself, like all of the nations around me. ’You shall surely set over yourself a king (som tasim alecha melech) whom Hashem , you God shall choose; from among your brethren shall you set a king over yourself; you cannot place over yourself a foreign man who is not your brother…”


Sifre (Midrasha Halacha) comments on the words “Som tasim alecha melech”- “Melech v’lo malka”, You shall set over yourself (appoint) a king and not a queen.


Rambam in Mishne Torah Hilchot Melachim, Laws of Kings, explains that from this pasuk we learn that we do not set up a woman in kingship and to all positions in Israel we appoint only a man.


Radbaz asks how this is possible, considering that in the book of Shoftim, Judges, Devora was a prophetess and a judge over Israel.


The answer could be either that she taught them the laws (was a poseket) or that Devora was different as it was according to God’s command and B’nai Yisrael willingly or voluntarily accepted her (she was not appointed) .


Rabbi Moshe Feinstein points out that Devora was not appointed as a queen. However, people listened to her as if she were a queen.


We learn from here that the main issue is that a queen should not be appointed. However, it is Halachically valid for the community to choose a woman to be a leader.