For some people, the word inequality means just that - a lack of equality between two or more items without judgement on whether some of those items are superior or inferior. Certainly that is one possibility but it is also possible for two items to be unequal without one being objectively superior to the other. For others, those generally obsessed with class conflict, inequality is exactly that - a way to describe a relationship between the positive and the inferior. In this case, there must be a judgement made as to which is objectively superior and, in the best tradition of socialist dogma, this inequality is automatically bad and must be removed.
Thus it is that some people acknowledge that men and women are different - duh! - but that these differences and the way they interact add excitement and challenge to the relationship between a male and female. The fact that the two partners in a relationship are different sexes is not suggesting absolute superiority of one over the other.
For others, though, such differences are an anathema. If there is inequality, then there must be superiority and inferiority and once again, that is wrong and must be eliminated.
In the non-observant Jewish world, this limited thinking took hold long ago. The Reformers started ordaining women in the name of egalitarianism 1935 and the Conservatives joined them 50 years later. Since that time, both movements have fallen over themselves to prove how progressive they are by jettisoning any remnant of traditional Judaism they still adhered to. As a result, both groups have suffered. The Reform movement has maintained their position as the dominant Jewish so-called stream in North America by expanding their definition of "who is a Jew" to extremes where it seems having sat next to a Jewish kid in grade 2 or a particular enjoyment of matzoh ball soup constitutes adequate grounds for inclusion. The Conservatives, due to their reticence to admit they have no connection with halacha, have moved slower and as a result their numbers are openly dropping. In fact, the further they go towards changing from a Jewish movement to one based entired on secular liberal values with a sprinkling of hamantaschen, the faster their membership declines.
One would think that the Orthodox world would look at these results and nod with a certain satisfaction. Instead, there are those within this group who are actually jealous of the achievements of their non-religious "sisters" and, well I guess women can't have penis-envy for obvious reasons, wish to emulate them without dropping their Orthodox label.
Thus in recent months Rabbi Avi Weiss went ahead and, in violation of Koheles' "there is nothing new under the sun", created a new title for the Jewish world: the Maharat. Interestingly, this shows a certain indecisiveness about Rabbi Weiss. After all, if the Maharat is a female rabbi, why not just call her that? After all, a doctor is a doctor whether male or female and if it's all about the title, then why have two different ones? Was it so long ago that we were told it isn't politically correct to call women actresses anymore because the term was sexist? (Of course, although women couldn't be actors, men couldn't be actresses so I'm not sure where the sexism is)
And now comes the grand announcement that a new yeshivah is going to be opened to produce an entire generation of maharats. Isn't that just grand! Except for the obvious problems with such a thing.
First off, there's the issue of why a woman would need a title in the first place. Is it to exert authority? Is it for issues of legitimacy? If so, then that betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what the title "rav" really stands for. A rav is a teacher. End. Stop. Dat's all folks. Yes, he generally has some authority within a community but more often than not, it's because the community has hired him for such a position. If a strange rav walks into a shul and starts ordering people around because "I'm a rabbi!" he's most likely to find himself ignored or ridiculed. There is no automatic benefit to the title. Ask the Vilna Gaon.
Secondly, why the desire for a title and position of authority? Well, Maharat Sara Hurwitz brings a disturbing proof to support the new yeshivah:
The Alshich, a Biblical commentator living in the 16th century in Safed, notes that everyone—kulchem, were standing “equally in the presence of the Lord, simultaneously.” What an idyllic image, where one’s gender or status was irrelevant; for men, women and children, old and young, rich and poor, alike were standing together, in partnership before God.
Shades of... well, Korach! What was it he said? Oh yes: "Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them; wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?" (Bemidar 16:3)
Further, one could ask: why is it that the posuk bothers to list all the classes of people standing before God? Why not just say "You are all standing before the Lord"? Could it be that there is relevance to these differentiations, that all these classes are in fact different?
Let's take it one step further. Start with the totally wild assumption that God knew what He was doing when He created two different sexes. In fact, the Midrash tells us that the original Adam was a double sided creation, male on one side and female on the other and that God split them in two. Did He do so because He had some spare time one day or is it possible that He felt that two separate humans, one of each kind, was the better way to go?
And if this is true, that the reason two different sexes were created was because through their unequal nature they could create a truly unique relationship? If this is not so, then why bother with two sexes? Why not a race of self-replicating hermaphrodites? It must be because two sexes is better than one.
In that case, what can one say about those whose self-declared raison d'etre is to blur those distinctions? They are working contrary to the purpose for which God created two sexes in the first place.
We see such a thing throughout halacha. We are told not to graft one species of plant onto another, not to mix seeds in a field or vineyard, even not to plough a field with two different animals at the same time. Everything must remain separate and distinct because it is through that separation and distinction that each item in creation fulfills its special role. Now we are told that an entire half of the human race, dissatisfied with its own nature, wishes to coopt the nature of the other half, to be "equal"?
As Princess Leia told Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, "the more you tighten your grip, the more systems slip through your fingers." The more these left wing Morthodox types push into non-religious territory, the more they weaken their connection with the rest of the Torah community. When secular liberal values become more important than time honoured traditions, then one has a serious misunderstanding of one's "orthodox" identity. This yeshivah will simply exacerbate this problem that much more.