Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The difference between men and women

Mordechai and Esther decorate Dura Europos Synagogue in Syria, 245 AD

Rabbi Joshua writing 2000  years ago in the Midrash Rabba, notices that men and women are born different. 

He notices that women have higher voices, use perfume and are harder to please than men. Unlike men, they menstruate, cover their heads, light candles on Shabbat and walk in front in a funeral.   He notices that men need women. 

He notices that men put their sperm in women and women don’t put their sperm in men.

I’ve noticed that too. (Although it’s no longer common practice for Jewish women to walk in front in funerals)

I was born in 1962, and was raised  in the  Cape Town Orthodox community.  Our schools provided the same opportunities for boys and girls, but  our synagogue had separate entrances and separate destinies for us.

That’s just how we did things then. There’s a lot of wisdom in my tradition, but there’s some crazy stuff too, particularly with regard to women.

There are many places in the Talmud where women are seen as the dangerous, distracting Other.  

 But in Truth, there is no Other.

In the Shul I go to now, there is one door for men and women to share. I can sit where I like and I don’t have to leave my best Western values behind when I go in.  

Although there is usually a quick whisky at 10.30, we are mostly involved with  reading from the Torah and praying. 

 As noticed in the Talmud, (Berachot 13b) sometimes there is recitation and sometimes there is kavanah.

I may be wrong, but as far as I can see, I’m not disturbing to sit next to in Shul. I don’t chat or use much perfume.  My voice doesn’t seem to have any seductive powers either.

All our voices blend together, and we create an exquisite whole, that I love being part of.

In my experience, men and women sitting next to each other together  in Shul does not lead to mixed dancing, it leads to learning. 

Men are from Mars, women are from Venus 2000 years ago.