Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .Harry Maryles
Posts Tagged ‘woman’
By Chana Weisberg
The story begins in the year 2830 when Chana’s husband, Elkanah, takes his family on a pilgrimage to Shiloh, the site of the Tabernacle, the temporary spiritual epicenter that preceded the Temple. Elkanah is also married to another woman, Penina. The childless Chana silently suffers humiliation from her more fortunate rival, who has mothered several children.
Solemnly, Chana enters the holy place silently offering heartfelt prayers for a child.
Eli, the High Priest, unaccustomed to such heartfelt, silent prayers “thought that she was drunk.”
“How long will you be drunk? Sober up!” Eli reprimands Chana.
Chana responds: “No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor spirits, but have poured out my soul before G‑d.”
Eli concludes: “Go in peace; and may the G‑d of Israel grant your request.”
The following year, Chana’s son, Samuel is born. When Samuel is weaned, Chana brings him to the tabernacle to be taught by Eli. Samuel grows up to become the great fearless prophet who coronated the first kings of Israel, Kings Saul and David.
Do you relate to G‑d as a parent or as a king?
The major theme of Rosh Hashanah is the acceptance and recognition of G‑d’s sovereignty over creation.
This consciousness serves as the basis of all of Judaism. G‑d desires to interact with our reality as Sovereign of the Universe. We, in turn, express our awareness that the very essence of our being is dependent on its Divine origin. “Rule over the entire world in Your glory,” we pray in the Rosh Hashanah Liturgy.
We view G‑d as our King. Though benevolent, He remains at an infinite distance from us, charging us with responsibility and courage to make the right decisions in our lives. He expects us to combat evil and rebukes our weaknesses or fluctuations. He sternly orders us to overcome temptations, to “hearken the commandments” and choose “blessings” rather than “stray from the path” and to realize that all that He does is for our ultimate benefit.
From this perspective, darkness, challenge and want exist only to bypass and transcend, to rouse our innermost strengths and convictions in realizing their true smallness and insignificance in the grand picture of things.
In the haftorah of Rosh Hashanah, we read about the experience and perspective of a woman. Chana, the prophetess, revealed many of the basic laws of prayer and the inner dimension of prayer—the interface between the physical and spiritual realities. She also taught us how to relate to our Creator from an entirely feminine perspective. To view G‑d not only as our King and Sovereign. But also as a Parent.
“You are children to the L-rd, your G-d.”
“Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father, our King, be gracious to us and answer us… “
G‑d acts as both a king and a parent. He displays both modes of love: protecting and helping as well as disciplining and teaching.
Both the King and Parent paradigms are genuine and powerful. Yet they move in opposite directions. A King establishes a definite distance and authority over his subject. Parental love, on the other hand, is characterized by attachment and closeness.
At the same time that G‑d as our King decrees Divine law, G‑d as our Mother, as the Shechinah (Divine Presence or G‑d’s “feminine” expression) provides Divine help. The Shechinah -“the One who dwells with them in their impurity” (Leviticus 16:16) – is always present, ministering to and facilitating for her child. The Shechinah comes down to be together with her children. Nothing, not the material aspect of our world, nor our physical natures, can sever the unshakable bond between Mother and child.
Prayer is a demonstration of how we merge the two paradigms of G‑d as King and G‑d as Parent.
Prayer is a paradoxical activity. On the one hand a basic element of prayer is the acknowledgement of all the undeserved goodness that our King has showered upon us and the articulation of our appreciation, thanks and praise for it all. We acknowledge that as the origin of everything is ultimate Goodness, so, too, everything that happens to us must be entirely good.
In tandem with that, the commandment of prayer is to express our spiritual and material needs and wants. Anytime we feel something is amiss in our lives, we are commanded to pray to G‑d and ask Him to correct those things which, from our perception, have gone wrong.
Yet, if everything originates from our generous King, who is the ultimate of Goodness and He knows far better than us what is good for us, how can we be asking Him to change His plan? Or, how can we “demand” more goodness from our benevolent King while realizing how unworthy we are?
Because prayer is G‑d allowing us to not only relate to G‑d as a transcendental King on a spiritual level, but also as an imminent, caring Parent. Prayer is G‑d saying, show Me how things look from your viewpoint, from within your world. It is allowing us not to bypass our inner emotions, wants, fears, needs and insecurities, but to focus on them, put them in perspective and validate them.
Prayer is realizing that our Creator’s motherly bond and love will shake the very fabric of our world to bring Her child fulfillment. It is realizing that on this level physicality and spirituality do not conflict.
Perhaps this is how we can understand the fascinating exchange read in the haftorah of Rosh Hashanah.
When Eli accuses Chana of drunkenness, his words must be understood figuratively. He did not actually believe that Chana was intoxicated or he would have been required to remove her immediately out of respect for the holiness of the premises.
Eli was asking Chana, “How long will you remain intoxicated by your own desires? How long will you remain so absorbed in your own needs, drunk with your own wants?
“Prayer,” Eli was correcting Chana, “is meant to give you a more spiritual perspective, one in which you can rise above the materialism of our world and express gratitude to your King. Instead, you have become obsessed with your personal wants.
“Rise above your situation. It is time for you to gain a broader perspective, one in which you can appreciate the goodness of your King.”
To this, Chana responds: “No, I am not drunk with personal concerns. I have poured out my soul from the core of my essential being, from the depths of my soul.
“From this deep place, I see my Creator not as a foreign, faraway Being who is only concerned with the spiritual aspect of His subjects.
“But rather as a loving Parent who intimately relates to me, on my level and with my wants. A Mother who shares in my pain, and cries together with me, holding my hand in every time of darkness and distress.
“I do not need to transcend my wants, He yearns to hear all about them.”
Chana, a woman, needed to teach this perspective. She taught us that prayer, the feminine archetype, is empathetic. It is a supplication from our innermost selves, from the very depths of our hearts, connecting with G‑d’s innermost desire to forge a connection with us.Chabad.org
It is well known that one of the Ten Commandments is the prohibition of adultery. Extramarital sex has historically been a man’s game, since the male sexual desire is stereotypically assumed to be uncontrollable. A recent survey by the National Opinion Research Center has shown, however, that the number of married American women having adulterous affairs has nearly doubled over the last decade. Today, 21 percent of men admit to having such affairs while 14.7 percent of women now admit to having them.
Sociologists explain that women today are more willing to cheat since they have stronger careers and aren’t as worried about the financial loss they would incur in a divorce. A recent Pew Research Center poll showing that working mothers are now the primary “breadwinners” in 37 percent of American homes (up from 11 percent in 1960) seems to bear this out, as these numbers roughly match the proportion of men and women having affairs. Most of these breadwinning women are single mothers, but 40 percent of them are married and earn more than their husbands. Perhaps it is true that when women began to enter the workforce in greater numbers and rise in the corporate world, they learned from and now emulate corporate male behavior.
In What do Women Want?, Daniel Bergner notes that women may be no different from men in their struggle with monogamy and desires for sexual novelty , although there may be differences depending on the situation. For example, research on rhesus monkeys demonstrated that males initiated sexual relations when the monkeys were kept in smaller cages, but in larger spaces the females initiated sexual relations. Significantly, this and other findings have occurred at the same time that the number of women in scientific research has soared. We hope that science has passed the era when scientists could claim that women suffered from “hysteria” (based on the Greek word for uterus), irrational behavior supposedly caused by disturbances in the uterus.
One might think that monogamy was considered to be against the norms of evolution, since a male biologically wants to have as many offspring as possible. Analysis of various animals living with their brood show that anywhere from 10 percent to 70 percent of their offspring have a father different from the male animal currently staying with the brood. Professor David P. Barash of the University of Washington famously quipped, “Infants have their infancy; adults, adultery.” Even among primates (which include humans), more than 200 species are not monogamous. However, British scientists have found that in the three species of primates in which monogamy evolved, it did so after a period where males had earlier committed infanticide. In reaction, fathers began to remain by their children and mothers to protect them from rival males, thus establishing the monogamous nuclear family. The virtual universality of this system among humans, and its staying power across civilizations, argues for its value.
Even among other species from beetles to baboons, while exogamous sex occurs, one mate will often react with a ferocious jealousy if it observes the other straying. Promiscuity may be necessary among some species for survival, but that does not mean that these creatures like it.
Marriage is one formal marker and arrangement for monogamy. In the Jewish tradition, marriage is a central institution, and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik wrote about this unique commitment:
On the one hand, the great covenant [of marriage] has been compared by the prophets time and again to the betrothal of Israel to G-d; on the other hand, the ordinary betrothal of woman to man has been raised to the level of covenantal commitment. Marriage as such is called berit, a covenant. Apparently, the Bible thinks that the redeeming power of marriage consists in personalizing the sexual experience, in having two strangers, both endowed with equal dignity and worth, meet. And the objective medium of attaining that meeting is the assumption of covenantal obligations which are based upon the principle of equality. Hence, we have a clue to the understanding of the nature of matrimony. All we have to do is analyze the unique aspects of covenantal commitment and apply them to the matrimonial commitment (Family Redeemed, 41-42).
Knowing how hard it is to find the perfect partner, the Rabbis taught: “It is [as] difficult [for G-d] to match up [a man and a woman for marriage] as it is to split the sea (Sotah 2a).” Elsewhere in the Talmud, the Rabbis debate whether the primary goal of marriage is to produce offspring or about the marriage itself:
Rav Nachman said in the name of Shmuel that even though a man has many children, he may not remain without a wife, as it says: “It is not good that man be alone.” But others say that if he does have children then he may abstain from procreation and he may even abstain from taking a wife altogether (Yevamot 61b).
But even those who subscribe to the latter position, that it is not obligatory to get married, must agree that it’s still desirable and good (i.e., not legally required but clearly very good and important) to marry.
Rav Soloveitchik further explains:
Within the frame of reference of marriage, love becomes not an instinctual reaction of an excited heart to the shocking sudden encounter with beauty, but an intentional experience in reply to a metaphysical ethical summons, a response to the great challenge, replete with ethical motifs. Love, emerging from an existential moral awareness, is sustained not by the flame of passion, but by the strength of a Divine norm whose repetitious fulfillment re-awakens its vigor and force. The marriage partners, by imitating G-d who created a world in order to be concerned with and care for it, extend the frontiers for their communal living to their offspring, and by questing to love someone who is yet unborn, defy the power of erotic change and flux. The ethical yearning to create and share existence with someone as yet unknown redeems hedone by infusing it with axiological normative meaning and thus gives it a new aspect — that of faith. Since our eternal faith in G-d is something which defies rationalization, the mutual temporal faith of man and woman united in matrimony is just as paradoxical. History does not warrant our unswerving religious faith; likewise, utilitarian psychology denies the element of faith in the marriage institution (Family Redeemed, 42).
No one claims that monogamy is easy. We know from psychological studies that young people often have cognitive skills that are still evolving, and it is difficult to tell whether two people can grow compatibly over decades. The choice of a partner is a serious matter. Honest and loving marriage is central to the Jewish faith. We must do all we can to collaboratively preserve the holy covenant that strengthens our families and societies.
We must protect our own marriages and the institution of marriage. Adultery, as one of the many causes of failed marriages, must be rejected through ethical conviction and spiritual commitment. We must all have personal moral accountability, legitimate caring for our spouses and children, and Jewish commitment to the pledge of monogamy and shared covenant of love and devotion.Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
It’s simply not possible. I don’t believe it. Nonetheless it is being reported as fact. Rafi’s blog, Life in Israel, has linked to the Hebrew language website B’Chadrei Charedim that quotes Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s response to a question about smart-phones.
There is a Gemarah in Brachos that tells us that a man will lose his portion in Olam HaBah if he walks regularly behind a woman down a river. Rav Kanievsky was asked if this applies to someone who has in his possession an I-phone or the internet. His one word answer according to Chadrei was ‘ B’Vadai’ – absolutely! Anyone who uses an I-phone or the internet is in a category of losing his Olam HaBah – his heavenly reward in the world to come!
If this is true, then yet again, I think we all ought to all just go over to MacDonald’s and have a cheeseburger… or violate any other Miztvah in the Torah we want to violate. Why bother observing Halacha if you’ve lost your Olam Habah?
I happen to know Gedolei Torah and Roshei Yeshiva who use I-phones and the internet. Are they all doomed?
Once again we have what appears to be a huge dis-connect between what a great Torah sage supposedly said – and reality. Either Rav Kanievsky does not know the extent of internet use among a great number of devoutly observant Jews, or this is a gross distortion or mischaracterization of his views. I think that both things are true. I don’t believe he said it and meant it to be interpreted as simply as that one word answer indicates.
I would not be surprised if this is yet another instance of Kanoim – religious zealots twisting the views of a elderly rabbinic leader to fit their agenda. I’m sure his position is far more nuanced than the one word answer (B’Vadai) he supposedly gave to a simple question.
The Agenda is obvious. There are people who are eager to destroy other Jews in a fit of self righteousness. They do not have these devices and do not want anyone else to have them either. So they make sure to twist the words of Gedolei Yisroel to assure it.
They may think they are doing the right thing. But they are by far doing far much more harm than good. They may in fact be responsible for pushing more religious Jews out of observance than saving them from using the internet.
By putting people who have smart-phones into a category of losing their Olam Habah, it is not too difficult to see many frustrated Frum people who have so often been put upon with comments like this say, ‘the heck with it!’ I may as well live a life of ease and not worry about violating Halacha. I won’t make to Olam HaBah anyway.
The Gemarah upon which this one word response attributed to Rav Kanievsky was based upon does not forbid the incidental following of a woman down a river. The loss of Olam Habah that the Gemarah speaks of is only to those who purposely do so with lascivious thoughts and the intent to sin in that regard. And even then only if it is done on a regular basis.
I would add that even if someone regularly does things like that and has some sort of sexual addiction, he can get help… and do Teshuva. I find it very difficult to believe that the Gemarah’s intent is that someone loses his Olam HaBah permanently if he does that. It is also known that the Gemarah sometimes exaggerates to make a point. Which may be the case here.
If there is any comparison to be made between following a woman down a river and the world of the 21st century and the internet – it is in the area of purposely viewing pornography on it. The problem is not the internet. It is the websites one frequents… if those websites are pornographic. That is the comparison that Rav Kanievsky no doubt meant – if he said anything at all. Accidentally accessing a pornographic website is not a cause for losing one’s Olam Habah.
But the Kanoim who publish stories like this do not want to be confused with the nuances of truth. They want convey the message that I-phones and any other device that can access the internet is so evil that one should not even touch it! For if they do, their Olam HaBah is at stake.Harry Maryles
Originally published at the Gatestone Institute.
Public prosecutors in Spain have dropped charges of “advocating gender violence” against a Muslim cleric who, on April 2013, preached a two-hour sermon in Spanish, entitled “The Queens of Islam,” during which he made a number of pronouncements about the role of women in Spanish society, including: “Any woman who wears perfume and leaves the house and walks past men who can smell her perfume is a fornicator, and every glance she gets is a fornication.”
The case involves Malik Ibn Benaisa, a Muslim imam based in Ceuta, a Spanish exclave in North Africa where Muslims constitute about 50% of the total population.
Benaisa also said that women should be banned from wearing blue jeans and high heels and from leaving the house unless their hands and face are completely covered.
The comments, which were aired on Spanish public television, enraged women’s rights activists and triggered a nationwide debate over when religious speech becomes abusive and crosses the line into “sexual discrimination” and “gender violence.”
After Benaisa’s sermon was re-broadcast on Spanish public television for a second time during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in July, the Secretary for Gender Equality for the Spanish Socialist Party in Ceuta, Sandra López Cantero, accused Benaisa of being an “advocate for gender violence” and called on public prosecutors to investigate the imam for violating the Spanish Penal Code.
During a press conference on July 23, Cantero recited quotes from Benaisa’s sermon: “A women cannot show her face or bare hands, she cannot wear high heeled shoes, she cannot wear blue jeans, she must wear a scarf to cover her chest, she cannot pluck her eyebrows and she cannot wear perfume because if she uses it she becomes a fornicator. A woman must keep her head down because a jealous husband can cause problems with other men. A woman should be in total submission to her husband. She has an obligation to wear the veil.”
Cantero added: “We will not allow anyone to hide behind any religion or any culture in order to advocate violence. The Socialist Party will not allow any attack on the dignity of women, wherever it may come from. We will not allow the advocacy of violence, especially in a public medium.”
For his part, the President of the center-right Government of Ceuta, Juan Jesús Vivas, said in a statement that he “manifests his defense of the unequivocal values enshrined in the Spanish Constitution, and in particular, those relating to non-discrimination and equality between men and women.”
Vivas added: “The Government of Ceuta believes that all should endeavor, each within the scope of their responsibilities, to reconcile respect for all faiths with the supremacy of democratic values that are the pillars of our social order and of coexistence.”
Amid considerable media controversy across Spain, Benaisa organized a press conference at the Ibn Rochd Benzúa mosque in Ceuta to defend himself. Surrounded by some 150 Muslim female supporters, Benaisa said he lamented the “de-contextualization” of his statements, which he said were aimed exclusively at “Muslim women” in accordance with “the teachings of the Prophet and the Koran.”
According to Benaisa, “My message has always been to advise and not to impose, as this is not part of Islam, because in the Koran Allah makes it clear that there is no compulsion in religion.”
Benaisa also said that the term “fornicating” was not offensive in tone and that its essence was applicable to both men and women, “who when preening themselves excessively before going out are seeking to be unfaithful to their partners and to Allah.”
Spanish public prosecutors have decided to give Benaisa the benefit of the doubt. After analyzing Benaisa’s sermon, the district attorney concluded that the imam had not broken any laws.
In a statement dated August 7, the Ceuta District Attorney said that labelling women as fornicators is not a crime: “In relation to domestic violence, the law refers to concrete action in the form of threats, injuries, coercion or abuse, while the sexual or religious discrimination section of Article 510 of the Penal Code refers to encouraging discrimination, hatred or violence. This did not occur at the conference in question.”Soeren Kern
I was recently walking down the street when I smelled one of the most amazing unkosher cuisines I could ever remember smelling. As I stared at my food enemy, I had a thought which I imagine most religious Jews have at one point or another. I wondered: Was God testing me with this great smell? Was this amazing scent a way to bring my downfall?
Pondering this trivial “test” led to a greater philosophical and theological question: What is the religious nature of temptations and tests?
The Torah says, “Remember the entire path along which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the desert, He sent hardships to test you.” (Deut. 8:2). We read that G-d has Bnei Yisrael wander in the desert for 40 years as a test.
What is this about? To place a nation (man, woman, and child) through such transient and confused misery for decades as a test? I also often wonder if the Jewish people are being tested today, with our own state in Israel and unprecedented wealth and influence in the US. What will we do with the great blessings we’ve been granted? What does this idea mean that G-d tests us as individuals and as a nation?
It must be more than schar v’onesh (that God is merely keeping our score card) or that G-d is merely flexing power in the world.
I also can’t relate to the cynical answer found in the book of Job, where God tests Job because of a disagreement with Satan. My belief in a benevolent and personal G-d precludes the possibility of random tests.
Still within distance of smelling my temptation of the day, I began to ponder answers:
For years, the most compelling answer to me has been that it is through the struggle of these challenges that we truly grow. These temptations are ways of teaching people about G-d and the incredible human capacity for compassion and spiritual depth. The Ramban argues that this was exactly the purpose of the Akeidah (the binding of Isaac) for Avraham.
Alternatively, perhaps there is a utilitarian approach that more people can learn from a test than the one having to undergo the discomfort of the test. The Rambam and Radak argue that the purpose of the test at the Akeidah was not for Avraham to learn but for the future adherents of the Abrahamic faith to learn. This sets a gold standard for others to try to follow.
Rav Kook goes even further, arguing that Avraham was being tested in order to “prove” to the pagan religions that monotheism can match the religious passion of pagan worship through the act of inward sacrifice, without the need for savage and barbaric sacrifices. One is being tested in order to teach others through its example.
Another utilitarian approach is that tests can provide opportunities for others to do mitzvot to help when we are struggling. It is for the moral good of the community at large.
These explanations may be true and all of them are worth thinking about but Rav Tzadok teaches that just as a person needs to believe in G-d so too one needs to believe in oneself. These days many of us (including myself) are struggling less with why we are tested by G-d and more with how we can overcome our obstacles and challenges to live a happier, more meaningful, more successful life. Do we believe in our own capacity to overcome in the face of adversity?
One tool that we can all consider experimenting with: The Gemara says that the Torah is the seasoning for the yetzer hara (personal evil inclination). The Maggid of Mezritch offers a beautiful interpretation that since the yetzer hara is the main dish and the Torah is the seasoning, we must serve God with the full ecstasy of the yetzer hara. The purpose is not to destroy or subdue the yetzer hara but rather to spice it up – to access its energy and channel it towards good.
This is to say that when we experience struggle we should use that temptation and channel that new energy towards good rather than attempt to dismiss or remove the temptation. This is why the Midrash explains that without the yetzer hara there would be no business or procreation. In a complex way, we need our desire for self-advancement to further societal goals.Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz
When I was little, my parents didn’t have much money so family vacations were non-existent. But somehow, for years if I remember correctly, my uncle and aunt invited me to spend a week at their house. These are the memories of a child – perhaps it was only a few days. For all I know, it could have been only one night – but the memory I carry with me was that I spent days and days with my Uncle Woodie and my Aunt Pia.
Pia was an accomplished artist – she filled her house with color and brightness. She was a wonderful mother…housewife…teacher. She was always dressed so beautifully, so elegantly. I have so many memories of her as I was growing up.
Seven years ago, Pia was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and told she had months, maybe even just weeks, to live. She redefined courage as she fought back the disease time and time again.
When a doctor told her there was no hope… she decided not to listen. She went experimental treatments, was declared cancer free and continued to fight even after the disease re-appeared. She became a symbol for many as she launched campaigns to raise money and awareness for a disease that leaves devastation and shock in its wake.
Through it all, she continued to smile, continued to cherish her family. I saw her a bit over a year ago when she came to Israel to celebrate the bar mitzvah of her oldest grandson. There was such pride in her as she stood on Masada and watched her daughter’s family gather around.
We all knew the disease was still there and we knew she would continue to fight it for as long as she could. She never gave up; she never gave in.
She lost her battle with cancer on Friday (Shabbat in Israel).
There are many heroes in the world – perhaps the greatest are those who simply struggle to live their lives with dignity, respect, and love.
I always knew Pia was a woman of grace, beauty, talent and love. I have learned over the last few years, that she was also a woman of incredible courage and strength. May God bless her memory.
Visit A Soldier’s Mother.Paula Stern