18 April 2010

Omer 19: Listen

Omer Day Nineteen

Shabbat was class, two bat mitzvahs, dinner and bed. At some point I'm pretty sure two of my kids walked on my back, which helps the morning run.

The two young women who read Torah each encountered very challenging texts from Leviticus--one the blood and gore of Torah's inherently unequal view of men and women with regard to blood at childbirth for a male and a female; and the other chose to take a simple Torah law, "love your neighbor as yourself" and challenge herself to admit how difficult that really is.

It's no secret that, generally, girls mature at a faster rate than boys--especially at the age of becoming bat mitzvah and while it's absolutely true that our boys are writing great bar mitzvah speeches, the girls often seem to have more at stake.

They are aware that even in 2010, they're still the first girls in their family line to be called to Torah; and with 21st century eyes, they are respectfully but strongly taking issue with an ancient document which would appear to view women differently than men. And they don't like it.

Unlike even a prior generation, girls today increasingly see no limitations on their advancement in our society; so when they encounter a potentially limiting view in their own tradition, it's cause for concern. What I loved so much about yesterday was the organizing ethic of the experience was not to throw away the problematic text but to take it on, re-read it in the light of knowable, contemporary existence, and insist upon seeing the evolution of human experience inform one's understanding of the text.

In this context, Torah unfolds as an ongoing, developing tradition, whose troubling texts teach us about a troubling past while pointing the way forward to the continued resolution of questions and challenges that arise. This is a vitally important principle to help a kid develop--you can think and therefore creatively find your way to a solution that, upon first glance, you didn't think necessarily existed.

There is a spark in the eyes of these girls that says, "Come on, boys. Let's debate Judaism." I like that drive for a little intellectual competition. I've seen that spark in my own daughters' eyes.

And felt the results of their walking on my back. So I generally listen.

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