Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Unlike in the Weltanschauung of the dominant culture, in Judaism separation is not a dirty word. In the Torah’s framework, separating between the holy and the mundane, between the sexes, and between humans and all other life forms (angel, animal, vegetable) is not oppression – that woke shibboleth – but a recognition of the magnificent diversity of G-d’s creation.

Failing to distinguish between categories leads to a blurring of values, such as the Harvard professor who wrote a whole book about how animals are just as important as people or the Spanish philosopher who posits that plants have feelings, too. The U.S. Supreme Court long ago rejected the possibility of “separate but equal” (that was in the context of race, where both the motive and the execution were odious), yet halacha’s approach to discriminating between – different from discriminating against – men and women could be described as just that. (This is not to say that halacha is never misused to subjugate women.)


In another vein, every week when we transition from Shabbat to the workweek, we say “Hamavdil bein kodesh l’chol,” acknowledging that G-d separates the sacred from the everyday. It’s an important reminder to us, the people that stands alone, to cherish what sets us apart.

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Ziona Greenwald, a contributing editor to The Jewish Press, is a freelance writer and editor and the author of two children's books, “Kalman's Big Questions” and “Tzippi Inside/Out.” She lives with her family in Jerusalem.