An interesting discussion has come up in the YWN Coffeeroom regarding women learning Gemara and other such subjects. In stating why women shouldn't learn Gemara, one poster quoted the Torah Temimah*:
Girls do not have the intellectual stability and are, therefore, unable to make profound inquries with a sharp mind and appreciate the depth of the Torah. It is possible thay by using their own minds, they will transgress the Torah.
Other, similar quotes were brought as well. One woman responded that the quotes:
were from a time when women did not go to Yeshivah, and basically knew nothing except possibly how to daven from a siddur. They learned the laws of Taharas Hamishpacha, how to kasher meat, bensch licht and take hafrasha when they would bake challah, but other than that, learning was done only by males.
To this, the response was:
The quoted meforshim are 100% Toras Emes. As true today, as the day it was written.
I sometimes find it completely amazing that otherwise intelligent human beings are unable to perceive the context in which a statement is made and assume that it applies at all times, in all places, in all cultures and in all circumstances. They think that rabbanim make statements in a vacuum, completely uninfluenced by their surroundings or their personal biases.** The very possibility that a rabbi suggested that a woman might be unable to make "profound inquiries" because in that place and time women were, by and large, uneducated, is not even a remote possibility.
Of course, like all people, these people may sometimes be confronted by reality. They may find it necessary one day (perhaps for the purpose of earning a livelihood, or for some other reason) to venture out of their own daled amos and they may run across a woman with a brain cell or two. They may even find that women have the ability to be every bit as smart as (and smarter than) men. They may find that there are women lawyers (for example) who can formulate a complicated question and who can follow a complex topic. They may find female doctors who can analyze data from multiple sources and come to a logical, reasoned conclusion. They may even find (assuming that they are willing to talk to a woman long enough to allow her to string a few sentences together) that the reality today is simply not as the Torah Temimah saw it in his day. So, what does he do then? How can he reconcile the apparent reality with the words of the Torah Temimah, which he sees as eternally true in all times and all places?
He (figuratively, of course) closes his eyes, sticks his fingers in his ears and yells "La La La La La La I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!) at the top of his lungs. In this way, the eternity and truthfulness of the Torah (as he sees it) is preserved.
Orthodox Jews And Ferengi: Two Of A Kind? (re: women being excluded from learning)
Parody Or Touch Of Reality (re: women being excluded from learning)
Admas Kodesh Hu (It Is Holy Land) (re: mothers excluded from a learning camp's campgrounds)
* NB: I haven't checked the source inside.
** Rabbis have personal biases??!! Perish the thought!