Curses, Blessings, and Nipples

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by David Bookbinder. David is an educator and part of the amazing leadership team of Jewrotica. For more of David’s columns, check out Double Mitzvah – Tzav, Double Mitzvah – Shmini, Double Mitzvah – Tazria, Double Mitzvah – Metzora, Double Mitzvah – Acharei Mot, Double Mitzvah – Pesach, Double Mitzvah – Kedoshim, Double Mitzvah – Emor, and last week’s column Double Mitzvah – Behar.

Rated PG-13
Double Mitzvah – Bekhukotai

“Curses, Blessings, and Nipples”

Society hates nipples.

In order to explain what I mean, let me tell you about the parasha. This week it’s Bekhukotai, one of the more troubling parshiyot. In it God says ‘keep My laws and you’ll have everything you could ever want, a perfect society (a section referred to as Blessings). If you don’t keep My laws I will ruin you and destroy everything (a section referred to as Curses). If you repent, then all will be well again.’ And there’s an extra bit at the end about voluntary endowments to the Temple.

The troubling part for most people is the Curses portion, which includes: famine, disease, exile, slaughtering by enemies, and widespread cannibalism. Obviously this is a frightening dystopian future that no one would want. But I am also troubled by the Blessings section, which includes: so much food that you won’t be able to eat it all, so much peace that dangerous animals won’t even exist in the land, and so much power that 100 of you could take down 10,000 of your foes. Why is this troubling? Because it is an extreme utopia which can never last. Extreme plenty leads to an abuse of that plenty, which causes God to punish, which results in dystopia and horror, which leads to repentance, which leads to extreme plenty, etc. It is a never-ending cycle of extremes.

This is why our society hates nipples. Yes, I’m being playful, but only partially. Jessica Valenti, a columnist for The Guardian, summed it up nicely this past week:

“[…] there is something seriously wrong with sexuality in America. Women are simultaneously told that we need to be as desirable as possible and that, if we’re too sexual, we’re “sluts”.
[…] In the meantime, women are hypersexualized everywhere from advertisements to music[…]” (1)

Women are definitely hypersexualized, but, oddly enough, show a nipple and you’ll start a nationwide panic. Plus, this all comes from a ‘straight male’-centric perspective (but let’s leave that for another post). We are a confused people in this country. We do want a balance but can’t seem to find one. We are too busy bouncing back and forth between calling girls in tiny miniskirts ‘whores’ and calling women with a hair covering ‘oppressed.’

So does this mean the Torah is wrong? No, it means that piece of Torah is exactly how people tend to view the world: in extremes. But looking throughout the entirety of the Bible, we hardly, if ever, see either of those two worlds. There are good times but never that good. God punishes Israel a lot, but never to the degree threatened here. Even when the Temple was destroyed things never got that bad (except according to Lamentations, but that’s for another post).

We might view things in extremes but reality doesn’t have to be that way. Showing a nipple on TV won’t lead to mass orgies in the streets. Women who have sex on the first date don’t have to be ‘easy’. Girls covering their bodies don’t have to be ‘repressed.’ By living in both extremes we have made the road of acceptable behavior so narrow that any slight deviation results in us being judged.

“In the western world we are quick to judge the cultures that pressurise women to cover up and I know I am hugely uncomfortable with the idea. But it is just as disconcerting when our young girls feel pressurised to be overtly sexual.[…] Women being forced to cover up objectifies them in the same way as Miley gyrating in a leotard. Both project women as slaves to their sexuality.” (2)

By widening that road all of us, women especially, will have a lot more freedom to live as we want.



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