Double Mitzvah – Vayikra

Double Mitzvah Jewrotica Parsha

Written by Anonymous. For more Jewrotica writing by Anonymous, check out And Adam Knew Eve, Leah-Our Mother, and Illusion: Shame and Mirrors. Check out last week’s column, Double Mitzvah – Pekudei.

Sex, Sin and Sacrifice (and the Sheniah)

Rated PG-13In life we sacrifice a lot for family, for career, to get ahead and for money, but how do we sacrifice for love? For sex? Is our sacrifice with consent?

This week’s Torah portion Vayikra addresses the Karbanot (sacrifices) that the Children of Israel made in the Mishkan (traveling tabernacle) and then in the First and Second Temples. These animal sacrifices actively symbolized a sacrifice for the parts of our animalistic selves, a sacrifice of finances based on the cost of the animal and a sacrifice of pride based on the reason you were bringing the Karbanot. Then there were the ‘vegetarian’ sacrifices with combinations of meal, flour, oil and water. These sacrifices allowed the Children of Israel to become closer to G-d and restore a world out of balance based on guilt, shame, conflict and sin. Today instead of sacrifices we have the prayer service.

As a young woman when I hear the words sacrifice and sin, I am triggered. Troubled visions of my great-great-great grandmothers sacrificing under harsh traditions their freedoms for the sake of the family, the community and the religion, bearing their burdens and pains in silence, dance across my mind. I see them accepting responsibilities and being assigned guilt and shame they did not earn or agree to by society, becoming the scapegoat for so many ills and flaws of troubled peoples. They were forced to make sacrifices for family, money, career, love and sex. I doubt these sacrifices made them feel closer to G-d, to their partners or to themselves. Rather the opposite. Is a sacrifice without consent a sacrifice? Or is it an imposed obligation? When is self-sacrifice misrepresented as being modest and humble?

In Hebrew, sin, or chatat, means literally to ‘miss the mark.’ The stigma around the word sin melts away, our actions and us are no longer labeled bad, just a detour down the wrong path. During the High Holidays when we refer to our sins, we are in fact referring to our actions when we missed the mark of our intended good deeds and fell, slipped, moved to a different path. We are asking forgiveness and then assistance to move towards the mark and back on the right path. In sex can we ‘miss the mark?’

Being shamed for one’s sex as women has been a story across cultures, time and space. A double-standard exists between the genders: A strong and outspoken man is a leader, a strong and outspoken women is referred to as a bitch. A confident, sexually expressive man is attractive and cocky; a sexually expressive women is easy and a slut. Shame is imposed. Sacrifices are made by women around sex to avoid sinning and this shaming. These sacrifices are not consent based. They do not give up one thing to earn another, or prioritize their long-term goals over short-term pleasures as we think one does when we hear they sacrifice A for B. The only reward for this distancing from their sex- they remain pure and attractive in the eyes of potential male suitors for marriage and the community.

Too often in the Bible when a women is shown to be in her sex, it is via seduction and deception for procreation and to sustain the next generation: Tamar, Lot’s daughters and the women Hebrew slaves with their copper mirrors in Egypt. A women connected to her sex for just the sake of sex is unheard of, or assigned to deviant non-Jewish women: Potiphar’s wife, Midianite women. This messaging creates an unspoken rule by how Jewish women should act, if not they are shamed. Oral traditions and Midrashim that provide additional versions of our biblical stories and a wide lens perspective of the whole truth have been for generations hidden from women, as few taught their daughters the Mishnah and the Gemara. These stories and oral traditions hold sanctity for women, yet they have been silenced out of mainstream Judaism. Even our own original earth mother, Lilith, rambunctious and a sexual spirit has become shamed into a winged devil that comes to steal and murder babies in the night.

I want to reclaim back my sex as a Jewish woman. This is where we as a tribe have sinned and ‘missed the mark.’ My Judaism is sensual and loving, as an inhale and an exhale across time and space, I dance with creation and sexuality. Embedded into Jewish traditions are pockets of budding blossoms rich with outlets for my sex to be seen as sacred and valid.

*I must sit in the red tent because I am impure not because my moon time is a sacred time to go inward and sit and bleed on the earth. The ritual of the mikvehthat was to honor a woman’s cycle and the waxing and waning of the moon, connected to the loss and grief energies of destruction, release and letting go- the dip in the wavelength- have become known as impure.

*I must hear eishes chayil before Shabbat dinner to honor the women of the household even if she is still in the kitchen making the final preparations for the meal and not sitting around the dinner table and relaxing as she is praised. Her praise is based on what she does for others and not what she does for others and herself. She is praised for being modest and humble based on giving and providing-sacrificing-for others not based on being intelligent, outspoken and being a leader. Moshe is praised for being humble as a leader. Men are praised as being humble as leaders and Rabbis. In eishes chayil a women is praised for being humble for putting her family before her needs.

*I must thank G-d for making me in his image and not thanking him for ‘not making me a woman.‘ I can create new life and need less mitzvahs or time bound obligations as my male peers since like G-d I too create, I too have a rhythm and connection to time (moon cycle) and do not need imposed restrictions and reminders, yet I am to feel shamed for being a women and when it comes to modesty, I make the concessions so as not to tempt, tease or seduce the men.

As I read the parsha this week, I wonder when and where as a tribe we have lost our way on the path around sex vs. gender, obligation vs. consent and humility vs. self- sacrifice. The shunning of sex and the non-consensual sacrifices made by women does not make us a stronger people, or is it true. Judaism is rich with women empowerment, why are we suppressing and hiding it? I am a Jewish women, hear me daven! As a tribe we have “sinned” and “missed the mark.”

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