As a woman, I think I’m sitting out the Torah portion this week. That said, it’s been an interesting couple of weeks. First, the “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” rule, that was considered and improved upon by the New Testament. I “went reform” on that one, and was pleased to attend a very well-attended bat-mitzvah where the young woman emphasized the word “WE” in “Justice, justice, WE shall pursue.” I think that, for me, justice is an abstraction of individual hurt to include the hurt and action of the other. In its simplest abstraction, it is between 2 people, an agreement or remediation, where the individual says: “It is not just my needs that matter…your needs matter, too. Let’s talk and agree on how both needs can be met.” By emphasizing the “we”, the young woman got it right. It isn’t about justice with a big J, it is justice between one another.
This week’s one – I didn’t see a woman as being there at all, so I didn’t attend.
Some more thoughts (a little later):
It is interesting that the word for justice “Tzedek” in Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof is the same root as the word for charity Tzedakah – technically, righteousness – one of the middot that one works one during the month of elul. The common root may indicate that in the pursuit of justice for a wrong, one must be prepared to give a little from one’s own point of view to consider the needs of the other to see something from another point of view.
The times when these words were written were a time when women had little if any say in whom they would be married to. Just as they had no choice in their father in life, so to they would have no choice in a husband. Their role was to have children for their husbands. Violating a woman – having her before marriage – would have likely meant that she would become unmarriable to someone else in those times. This passage then really means that the violated woman should be supported for the rest of her life by the man who violated her. In today’s world, women thankfully can not only support themselves, but also, can define themselves in terms of more than just childbearing. This doesn’t mean that they are not owed restitution for the trauma of violation, but it doesn’t have to define who they are. They can move on, have families, support themselves, and choose when and if they want to be intimate with others, and when and if they want to have children.
The Rabbi today (one week later) emphasized that when G_d created the world, it was good. G_d does not create “abominations” (with a whole discussion on the fact that the word abomination has no other words with the same root, and only occurs in the context of religious disrespect). Because there is the image of G_d in each of us, we are to treat one another respectfully regardless of sexual orientation (which he does not consider to be ordained by G_d), and as long as loving nonincestuous relationships occur in the context of respect for G_d, they are not abominations. Within the context of these words, and the month of elul, that is a month when one tries to repair relationships, one then looks to forgive as much as possible the injuries that some of these words (and actions) have caused over the centuries. No one should be made to feel shamed because of who they are, or who they love, or what has happened to them. As women, we can acknowledge the injury, and forgive, and try to improve upon the conditions that would propagate further injury to others.