This Torah portion is incredibly exciting. We are in the book of Devarim. We are nearing the end, the entrance into the land of Israel. Moshe describes the covenant between God and the Israelites. The Parsha begins:
“You stand this day, all of you, before your God — you tribal heads, you elders, and you officials, all the men of Israel, you children, you women, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer — to enter into the covenant of your God”
Clearly, women are not the tribal heads, elders or officials as they are mentioned separately. The important thing though, is that they are included. The truth is that more often than not, in the Torah it is ambiguous if women are mentioned due to the male default of the Hebrew language. Secondly, this word is often translated as 'your women' meaning that the females belong to their husbands. However, in this passage, it is not only the women who belong to something - also the children, the officials, the strangers, everyone. Everyone in the camp of Israel belongs to each other and is responsible for each other, thus they belong to a web of interconnectedness.
I'm not going to try and convince you that during this time women were seen as anything more than wives and conductors of household like duties (well, as much as could be done in the desert). But what I think is beautiful is that this covenant is not specifically directed at the Jews standing before Moshe on that day.
“It is not with you alone that I am making this sworn covenant, but with whoever is standing here with us today before the Lord our God, and with whoever is not here with us today.”
This last sentence emphasises that the covenant is made for all future descendants. What Moshe says, on that day, he says with little knowledge of what will be of society. He includes future descendants in the covenant and outlines how Jews must behave when they will be living in a completely different world to anything he can try to imagine.
Acceptance for women, the female role in society - that's something that has developed and changed over hundreds of years, relating to the context of the time period. It is weirdly inspiring, comforting and heartwarming to think that as Moshe stood in front of Am Yisrael, looking out onto a future of thousands of years, which will see Jews spread into every corner of the country, study every sort of academia and experience all that the world has to offer, Moshe thought it important to mention women specifically, perhaps as an inkling of the equality which was to come.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach (its definitely close enough to Chaggim to start saying that)