OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
And What's Wrong With Women?
In this chapter, Isaiah speaks not of the Messianic era, but to people of his own generation. G-d is removing the supports from Judah and Jerusalem - soldiers and warriors, judges, prophets and elders. Instead, young and inexperienced people will lead, as will those who mock. People will be oppressed; young people will be disrespectful to the elders and lowly people will be disrespectful to honorable people.
A person will be selected to lead his family simply because he has a proper garment. The person will protest that he may seem to be in good shape, but he is just as impoverished as those who ask his leadership. Things will reach this state because of the people's sins, which they brazenly committed in public.
At this point, Isaiah says to praise the righteous for they are good and woe to the evil for they are bad. But is it not obvious that the righteous are good and the evil are bad? The Talmud says on this verse that it refers to both our actions towards G-d and towards other people. "Righteous" towards G-d and "good" towards people; "evil" towards G-d and "bad" towards people (Kiddushin 40a).
Isaiah then says that the people are led by scoffers and women rule them. What's wrong with women? Nothing, really. The prophetess Deborah was one of the greatest leaders ever. But the chapter is on the verge of detailing the sins of the women of the time. These women are unfit role models, not women in general. Another explanation is that the people allowed themselves to be controlled by their desires for women. (The Targum Yonasan, by the way, renders the word noshim - creditors - rather than nashim - women.)
So, the leaders have led the people astray and G-d is ready to judge. The leaders crushed and oppressed the poor in their legal proceedings. This far was the sins of the men; now Isaiah will discuss the sins of the women.
The women were as prideful as the men, walking with their necks stretched out and winking at the men. G-d will strike such women with tzaraas ("leprosy"), removing their fancy accessories. (Isaiah goes on to list them: shoes, hats, jewelry, robes, purses, mirrors and many more.) In place of perfume, there will be decay. Instead of a belt, wounds. Men will fall in war and there will be mourning.