Friday, October 07, 2016

A Victory for Womankind?

(Image  of a Shofar from My Jewish Learning)
Listening to the Shofar is the only Torah level requirement on the day of Rosh Hashana.  The Kolos (types of sounds) that should be heard consist of various combinations of 3 types of blasts: Tekiya (Long blast); Shevarim (3 or 6 medium length blasts); and Teruah (a series of at least 9 very short blasts). In order to assist the Baal Tokeya (the person that actually blows the Shofar), the Makri who stands at his side reads each type of blast out loud so that the Baal Tokeya will not make any mistakes. This is usually done by one of the honored men in the Shul – often the rabbi himself.

How many people felt they were missing out as a Jew by not being the Makri for Tekiyas Shofar? Raise you hands. I don’t see any hands raised… Oh wait. I do see one hand raised.  It’s Dr. Bat Sheva Marcus.  But worry not. She had her chance. Form an article on an article entitled: One Small Sound for Women, One Large Blast for Womankind published in My Jewish Learning
On the first day of Rosh Hashana I was invited to call the kolot (sounds) for the shofar.
She goes on to say that she never thought about it. It was never a big deal for her. But her rabbi studied the sources to make sure that there was nothing technically wrong with a woman doing it, and then offered it to her. She was asked to be the Makri on the woman’s side of the Mechitza for half of the Shofar blasts.

Let us understand what is going on here. This is an Orthodox Jewish feminist who admittedly had no interest in doing it… even as a feminist breaking yet another glass ceiling. It just never occurred to her, until her rabbi asked her to. It was only then that she became inspired by the idea. So inspired that she actually teared while or after performing her duty: 
I’ll admit, tears were blurring my vision, but when they cleared and I looked up and saw a young boy, maybe 7 years old, standing next to the ba’al tokea and looking at me quizzically, I couldn’t help but smile at him. Yes. This would be his new reality. This shul has made space for women to be part of this mitzvah. 
I know that a lot of people will insist that there is nothing Halachicly wrong with her doing this. Although I’m not entirely convinced that is true - let us even grant for purposes of argument say that there is no Halachic barrier to it. It is entirely fair to ask what exactly was the purpose of doing this. Was is it to further or enhance one’s service to God? Or was it really just to break yet another glass ceiling?  I think the answer should be obvious. But in case it isn’t, let us see what Dr. Marcus said about it: 
Throughout history we have been blowing the shofar. And throughout history men have been taking ownership of the process. Women don’t have the same chiyuv (obligation) as men in hearing the shofar, but this is clearly a case where we have taken the mitzvah (commandment) upon ourselves as a community in a serious way and, as a result, the mitzvah has resounding depth to women as well as men. And now, a woman’s voice could be heard as an integral part of the process. 
Really? Is this what women mean when they say a woman’s voice should be heard? Because I had always thought it meant as listening to what a woman has to say about a Jewish issue. I thought it was about getting a feminine perspective on things that affect us all. Men and women alike. 

On this, I am 100%  agreement! We have an obligation to hear what half the population of Jewry has to say on any issue that affects us. But listening to a feminine voice as the Makri has nothing to do with that. It is just a ‘victory’ for Orthodox feminists. And a pretty hollow one for Judaism if you consider what was accomplished by it. 

For someone to have not cared about it to be convinced to care enough to break tradition is not the kind of accomplishment we should be seeking at this time of year, in my very humble opinion. So the larger share of the blame goes to the rabbi that initiated this!

I have to wonder how many people (men or women) even on the left wing of Orthodoxy really ever cared about this  – other than breaking yet another ‘barrier’ of tradition if they are feminists. By characterizing this as a victory for women (see title), well of course it will bring tears of joy to feminist eyes. For them it is about bringing a new reality to Judaism. The reality of yet another feminist victory.