Tag Archive | Religion

Judaism and Feminism – Opposites or Synonyms?

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Many people seem to think that Judaism is chauvinistic.

It’s not.

Judaism is, and has always been, one of the more feminist religions out there.

Some of you will disagree.  How can Judaism be feminist when polygamy is allowed and polyandry is forbidden?  How can Judaism be feminist if a husband whose wife does not want to divorce him is allowed to remarry, but a wife whose husband refuses to divorce her has no such option?

There are many questions.  I do not pretend to have all the answers.  But I will try to give some examples here.

Remember, as obvious as some of these examples are, modern feminism is only a century old, and these laws have been around for more than 3000 years.

Here are some examples solely from Jewish law:

The Jewish marriage contract is called a ketuba.  The requirement to have a ketuba is at least 2000 years old.  Jews are not allowed to get married without one.  In fact, if your ketuba is lost, it must be replaced immediately, because without it, you are not allowed to live as a couple.

What does the ketuba say?

It says that the husband is required to provide his wife with:

1) medical care if she gets sick

2) redemption if she gets captured

3) financial stability

4) clothes

5) marital relations (this is a husband’s obligation to his wife, not the other way around)

6) a certain sum of money in the event of a divorce (the sum stipulated was a very nice sum then, but not so much now; however, many will add to it)

7) food

8) to pay for her burial

9) that she will live in his house and be supported from him if she is widowed

10) that her daughters will be supported by his property after she dies and until they get engaged, and that her sons will inherit the worth of her ketuba along with their shares of his property that they split with the other sons.

In return, the wife commits:

1) not to marry anyone else

2) that she will nurse her children

3) whatever she earns or finds becomes his property (this makes sense if he has to support her – it’s not fair for him to have to pay her expenses, while she keeps all profits she earns)

4) any benefits accrued from her property (fruits, interest) become his, and he inherits her (she inherits him, too, remember).

If he cannot afford a housekeeper, she takes care of the household duties.  If he can afford a housekeeper, he is required to hire one so that his wife will not have to take care of the house (if this is what she wants; she can elect to prefer the money to the housekeeper – it is solely her choice).

In addition, there are a few things that she is required to do for him, that cannot be delegated.  For instance, in the olden days, heating water and helping him wash his hands.  Today, it would be making his favorite type of cake for his birthday.  These things are not allowed to be delegated because they fall under the category of “chiba” (affection), i.e., Judaism requires the wife to show affection for her husband in a few simple, obvious ways.

If she is not happy, she can ask for a divorce, and he is required to give it to her.  In the olden days, the courts would beat him until he agreed.  Nowadays, Jewish courts no longer have such power, and it is much more difficult.  Excommunication sometimes works, but in today’s global society, finding a different community who does not know about the excommunication is not hard at all, and therefore forcing him to give her a divorce can be very difficult.  Therefore, prenuptial agreements, that are binding in all courts of law, are becoming more popular.

In any case where one witness is allowed to testify, women are also allowed to testify.  In any case where it is safe to say that finding other witnesses is impossible, a woman is allowed to testify.

Women are allowed to charge/sue/prosecute anyone they want in court (including their husbands), no questions asked.

If someone decided to force himself on her, he is obligated to marry her (unless she doesn’t want him) and provide her with everything mentioned above.

If a man wishes to take a second wife, he has to ask his first wife’s permission (today this is less relevant, since European Jews are no longer allowed to marry more than one wife).

Women have always been allowed to agree to marriage on condition that the husband never take a second wife.

In Judaism, women have always had the right to agree to or refuse marriage, and have usually exercised that right.

Each wife, in the case of polygamy, must be provided with her own income and her own house.  A man is not allowed to keep two wives in the same house, because this causes them heartache.

If someone gave the wife money and specified that her husband has no control over it, it remains hers to do with as she pleases.

The concept of marital rape has been recognized – and forbidden – in Judaism since Mishnaic times, if not since the times of the Bible.  Prosecuting it, though, is difficult under any circumstances (in today’s courts, too).  In all books on Jewish theory and law, including the Talmud, there are very scary threats presented regarding this issue.  And bear in mind, the Talmud was – is – rarely learned by women, so these threats and scares were presented to men only.

Judaism was also the first group in the entire world to forbid people from hitting their wives.

After age 12.5, a woman is not answerable to anyone until she chooses to marry.

From Jewish Midrashic literature:

In Jewish literature, Abraham is often famed and praised for being subservient to his wife.

Scholarly women have been in evidence since Biblical times, and praised for it.  It seems that our generation is the first to not wholly recognize and praise scholarly women; this probably came about as a reaction to the “Enlightenment,” as an attempt by certain groups to fight back (unsuccessfully).

In general:

Remind me: Who has to pray with a quorum of ten three times a day?  (Men – and trust me, if you have to do this every day, and it’s not just for fun, it can be really tough, and even a drag, sometimes.  My little brother used to joke that he wished he was a girl, because girls are so lucky . . . )  And who can pray whenever they want, wherever they want, as long as they pray once a day – and even the definition of “prayer” for women changes by whether your community is of European (Ashkenazi) or Sephardic descent?  (Women.)

And who has an obligation to study Torah during the day and at night?  (Men.)

And who has to say Shema twice a day?  (Men – again.)

And who, if they so decided, could take extended parental leave and never go back to work, whether the other spouse liked it or not, and every court would support their decision?  (Women.)

See what I mean?

I know there will be a lot of questions and arguments about this post, but I think it is important to write.

Jewish women, until today’s open, equal-rights movement, have always been in an enviable position.

Judaism does not look for converts.  People, however, since Biblical times, have seen in Judaism a forward movement with respect and equal rights, and have wanted to convert.  Especially for a woman, Judaism was a very attractive option.  2000 years ago, it gave her rights that no one else gave her, and it gave her respect, as well.

Today “equality” has taken hold, and some aspects of it make Judaism look outdated.  In truth, what we call “feminism” today, I often think of as “masculinism.”  But that’s a topic for a different post.

In the meantime, know that Judaism is not nearly as bad to women as you once thought it was . . . in fact, it’s pretty darn good.

Out Of Ideas

writers block, writing, blogging, writing inspiration, blog inspiration, writer, paper, frustrated The real reason why I haven’t written in the past few days – and why I have been writing less over the past few weeks – is that I have writers’ block.  Plain and simple.  I apologize.  Truly, I do.

So I am trying to think of ideas, but each idea is boring.  Or I’ve spoken about it too much.  Or it sounds too negative.  Or something.

I am my own biggest critic.

I think.

*     *     *     *     *

Yesterday was [Shushan] Purim, for all of us in Jerusalem and a few other cities.  On Purim, people send gifts of food to friends.  In our opinion, this gets overdone a lot.  And, who needs a lot of candy that has to be finished within the month prior to Pesach?  No one, that’s who.  So, we don’t do candy.mishloach manot, mishloach manos, purim, shushan purim, purim baskets, purim basket, purim gift, purim gifts,

On the other hand, sending the same thing two years in a row is boring.  So I took someone else’s idea from last year, and we made a made a salad (lettuce, cucumbers, peppers) and salad dressing (creamy French).  We bought pita, put them in sandwich bags in pairs, and put each pair into a bowl (not disposable).  We wrapped them in cellphane, attached a note, and we were done.  Oh, and the salad dressing we put into disposable aluminum muffin pans (that’s what the store had) and sealed it with tin foil.

It was actually much prettier than I thought it would be, and I had wanted to take a picture.  But, guess what?  I forgot.  We didn’t have time, and then I thought we’d do it on the way to my cousins’.  And then I forgot.  Oops.  I apologize.  But they were beautiful.  Really.

The rest of Purim was nothing special.  Purim is not my favorite holiday.  A lot to do in one day, a lot of pressure, and it’s usually still during winter time, so the day is short.  And that is leaving out my least favorite part of the day, which I will not mention so as not to ‘hang our dirty laundry for all to see.’  Because my least favorite part of Purim is truly dirty laundry.  If you know what it is, shhh!

Liebster Blog Award

liebster blog award, liebster award, liebster blog, blog awardsA few days ago, I got an email from Rivki of Life in the Married Lane, nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award.  The Liebster Blog Award is given to new bloggers with less than 200 followers.  The rules are:

1. Tell 11 things about yourself.

2. Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.

3. Nominate 11 bloggers, and post 11 questions for them to answer.

4. Contact those bloggers whom you nominated, to inform them of their nomination.

Here goes . . .

A. Answers to Rivki’s Questions:

1) Either poopy diapers (because they stink too much) or dishes /kitchen cleaning (because I used to have eczema, still have sensitive skin, and am a bit lazy about it).

2) Probably the mitzva (commandment) of living in, and protecting, the land of Israel.  Or, the mitzva to handle other peoples’ money the same way you handle your own; not stealing or cheating (including the government and other taxpayers).

3) I would pick my name, because I happen to love it!  As a matter of fact, I would love to give my name to a daughter – except that in Jewish tradition children are not usually named after their parents.

4) I’m not sure I have one.  If I had to choose, it would have to be either finishing my degree, nursing for 14 months (with no formula whatsoever; in Israel, this is extremely rare), or managing to keep my sanity (and a decent salary) while also keeping Shlomo out of daycare.

5) I think my favorite holiday is Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) because you get dressed, go to shul (synagogue), and spend the whole day praying.  No brushing teeth, no showering, no eating, nothing else you need to be doing.  After Yom Kippur, I’d have to say Chanuka, because it’s an 8-day holiday, with vacation, but with hardly any major obligations.  Then Pesach (Passover), because for some reason, I think of it as an absolutely beautiful holiday.

6) I think Israel is beautiful, especially the greener parts, rivers, mountains, and deserts.  (Um, doesn’t that include all of Israel?)  But, honestly, I don’t think that I can rate one area of Israel above any others; each is breathtakingly beautiful in its own way.

7) I don’t usually listen to music, and when someone puts music on to brighten the mood, I get annoyed.  I like quiet the best.

8) Either a specific types of chocolate, cookies, and cake, or almost any type of cheese.

9) Yes, I did have a list before marriage.  It was a five-and-five list: Five things that my future husband must have; five things that I would like, but are not necessary; and five things that I will not live with.  I have the list somewhere in my [and my husband’s] memory, but it is not for this post.  However, I did get pretty much everything on my list, excluding some of the “not-necessary wants”.  I do not think I would have married someone who did not fit my list – nor do I think he would have married me.

10) I think I would play the violin.  I have always had a fascination with it.

11) I would go to New York, visit some friends for a day or so, and visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s gravesite.  Then I would go to Toronto for two or three weeks, to visit family and friends that I haven’t seen in too long.  And then I would go to Kentucky, so that I could spend time with my in-laws, indefinitely.  And then back home.

B. 11 things about myself:

1) I moved to Israel when I was 19, without my family.

2) I regularly buy my clothes second-hand.  For a few years, I would buy clothes new, once or twice a year, when absolutely necessary.  Since my marriage, I have completely stopped that.  Why bother spending the time to buy expensive clothes when I’ll either gain or lose weight in the next few months?  Plus, older styles are much more to my taste than newer ones.  Yitzchak feels bad about this (all his clothes he buys new), but I don’t mind it.  I also hate clothes shopping, which is another reason why I prefer to buy second-hand instead of going from store to store trying to find something I will wear and is within my budget.

3) I can count the number of times I wore proper makeup on one hand.  Only one of those times (our wedding) was after I met my husband.  Usually, I just cover my pimples so that they’re not too awful, and forget the rest.  I also ran out of pimple cover-up three and a half weeks ago, and have yet to go out to buy more.

4) Since we got married, we have not had an oven (gasp).  This is because during our first year, we did not have space for an oven/stove unit (we have a three-burner stove on our counter, always have), and now it is because we are lazy and keep pushing it off.  Yes, we cook on the stove.  We have figured out how to cook chicken, pizza, lasagna, and lots of other things using a stove.  Amazing, right?

5) In three years, we have moved twice.  Our first and third (current) apartments had/has two rooms each; the second apartment had five rooms, was temporary, and was way too big.

6) Everything in our house has a place where it belongs.  If I’m not sure that it will have a definite place, then I don’t bring it in the house.  This also helps to cut unnecessary spending, since we have a small house that can only fit so much.  Exceptions are free books, which displace other books. However, the displaced books now have a home: a laundry basket under the table.  One of these days, we will get another bookshelf (or two, replacing one of the ones that we currently have).  It’s on the list, after the toaster oven.  Because, of course, if the bookshelf was before the toaster oven, I have a feeling that we would have the bookshelf next month and the toaster oven (to vary our menus a bit) in at least another year.

7) I don’t mind going against the crowd, even if it means I’m not popular.

8) Before we got married, somebody asked us how many kids we wanted.  We said 20.  (FTR, I don’t think that will happen, considering that nursing works as birth control.)

9) I never, ever, ever thought that I would be happy as a stay-at-home, or work-at-home, mother.  Now, I want Yitzchak to find a job that will allow us to lead simple lives on one salary, so that if I choose to work from home, whatever I earn will be extra.

10) I am the oldest of five children (three girls, two boys), and my husband is the second youngest of five boys.

11) A month before we got married, I cut my own hair during my lunch break (it took ten minutes), to make a beard for my Purim costume.

C. 11 Questions for My Nominees:

1) What do you consider to be the three most important things in your life?

2) What made you decide to start blogging?

3) Books or television?  Why?

4) If someone accused your child of bullying theirs, how would you react?  Why?

5) What subjects do you enjoy reading about?

6) What do you consider to be the most important factor in a marriage?

7) There are many, many older (30+) singles today, as well as a high rate of divorce.  What do you think is the cause?

8) Why did you choose your city of residence?

9) How do you and your spouse handle finances?

10) What is your favorite household chore?  Why?

11) The classic: If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?

D. Nominees:

1) BeEnough

2) Balance and Grace

3) Rach

4) Sporadic Intelligence

5) Jessica

6) Sarale

7) Curiodyssey

8) Carrie

9) Memyselfandkids

Hm, I only have nine nominees who fit the bill.  Anyone have suggestions?

The Last Day of Chanuka

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The above picture, as well as those below, were taken by me, last night. 

I kept meaning to take pictures the whole week, and finally I decided that I was going to make sure that on the eighth night, the last night, with the most lights, we were going to take pictures.  And we did.  So, here are some of them.

Today is the last day of Chanuka.  Last night, we had a full menora.  It makes me kind of sad, to think that Chanuka is gone.  Don’t get me wrong – Shlomo and I did not end up doing most of the fun stuff that I thought we would.  It was mostly his fault, because of his poorly timed naps, and early candle lighting.  Or maybe that was my fault.  And Yitzchak didn’t get vacation, so we couldn’t really do anything as a family unless it was around candle lighting time or afterwards.  And, obviously, after 5:00pm is not prime time for activities with a toddler.  It is prime time for getting supper on the table, really fast, and helping said toddler relax and go to bed.

But still.  I like the lights, seeing people more relaxed, and the jelly donuts (sufganiyot).  I like seeing Chanuka menoras all over the place, and how the buses say “Happy Chanuka” (in Hebrew, of course).  I like waking up in the morning to a quiet campus, because there are no classes during Chanuka break.  And I like seeing my adoptive parents slightly more relaxed, because they have vacation,  just like everyone else.

And I can still do what I had planned.  It may not be as exciting, but it can still be done.  I can take Shlomo to my cousin’s, and see her two youngest kids, even if the four older ones are back in school.  I can take him to the mall, just to walk around and climb on the riding toys that I’m not paying to activate.  He won’t care if there are Chanuka decorations or not, just like he won’t care if I activate the electronic car or not.  I care, because I think it’s cool to be living in a Jewish country.  But he won’t care, because he doesn’t know otherwise.

So, Chanuka has gone, but we have enjoyed it.  And now it’s back to the regular schedule, with a couple of tweaks in order to ensure that Yitzchak finishes the material in time for the Rabbinate’s test in a few months.

Here are a few other pictures.  They admittedly aren’t much, but they are pretty.

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Chanuka in Israel

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A Chanuka menora.

Today is the first day of Chanuka (Hanuka).  Last night we lit one candle; tonight we will light two (and tomorrow is the second day).  This is because, according to Jewish law, the day begins at night.  We learn this from the Chumash (Pentateuch), when it says, “. . . and it was evening, and it was morning, the first day . . .”  (Gen. 1:5)

This is actually nice, because it means that instead of eight days off, we get eight and a half – to every holiday, we add the day before to the count of vacation.  Sometimes, it is only a half day.  But a half day of vacation is better than none, right?  However, the vacation is necessary: Chanuka candles (or any holiday candles, and most of our holidays begin with them) need to be lit just after (or before, depending on the day of the week and/or the family’s custom) sunset.  Today, that will be around 4:45 pm.  Imagine if schools weren’t off!  Pick-up would be at 3:30pm, and by the time you arrived home, you would be rushing to light the menora.  Doesn’t sound like too much holiday fun, huh?

In Israel, preparation for Chanuka starts at the beginning of the previous month.  Chanuka starts on the 25th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev.  The beginning of the previous month, is the beginning of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, just a week or so after the end of the holiday of Sukkot.  Suddenly, on all the lamp posts, you see Chanuka menoras.  Stores put up Chanuka decorations.  Some people do give presents every night, but many, if not most, do not give children presents every night, if at all.   Bakeries start making sufganiyot (pronounced soof-gan-ee-ot), the special donuts with no hole in the middle, powdered sugar sprinkled on top, and into which is squirted jelly.  Between the beginning of Cheshvan and the end of Chanuka, about six billion (with a “b”, not an “m”) sufganiyot are made and eaten.  It is the time of year, however, that people like to take their families to visit Eilat.

Eilat is a popular tourist/vacation city, with beaches, boats, and all that come with them.  It is also sunny, and for Israelis, that is very important.  Chanuka comes at the time of year when the rain has started, it is chilly, and the sun is not out so much.  While that may be good for the country, and good for your health in many ways, Israelis don’t like it.  They – we – like sun, heat, and warm weather.  So, when most of the country is already being doused in rain (hopefully), many people use Chanuka vacation to go to Eilat.  There they may enjoy a standard vacation – or they may stay in a hostel, just enjoying the warm weather and swimming on the beach, not spending too much money.

While most people outside Israel light their menora in their windowsill, Israelis often, if not always, light it outside the house.  There are special boxes that people can buy to hang their menora outside their gate.  (We don’t have one, because we have nowhere to store it).  Many buy the box simply for the protection from the wind that it affords, and place it on a table.  But, hardly anyone lights the candles in their home.  In a way, I miss that.  It gives a kind of holiday atmosphere to the house.  On the other hand, when you walk outside, there is more of a holiday atmosphere than there would otherwise be (and more danger), because the whole street is lit up.  The other downside?  If you are using one of the menora boxes, that severely limits the kinds of menoras you can choose to light.

And of course, in the street, in the malls, on the radio, and everywhere else, there are songs, dances, get-togethers, and everything else you would expect holiday spirit to create – including comparisons between the situation then and the situation now.

Before I forget:  I invite all readers who have a question or a topic that they would like me to discuss, to speak up.  I will do my best to satisfy your curiosity; just leave a comment.

Daylight Savings Time in Israel

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Until very recently, Israel adjusted DST (called, in Hebrew, “winter clock” and “summer clock”) according to the holidays: Before the Yom Kippur fast, we moved the clocks back, to make the fast an hour “shorter”, and help everyone out.  And before Pesach, we moved them forward, to allow families more daylight time during the intermediate days of the holiday.  [It was also nice having a smaller time difference between us and everyone else in the world.]

Now, starting from next October, the clocks will no longer be moved back before Yom Kippur.  This is intended to save money on electricity, and allow people to wake up after sunrise and get home before it is dark.  In that way, it is good.  It is very good.  But honestly?  It is also annoying.  Very annoying.  Fasting for 26 hours is hard.  This past Yom Kippur was the first semi-easy fast I have had in the two years since I became pregnant with my son.  I think it was easier because of a combination of factors: better preparation, less expectations of myself, less time fasting while awake, and an understanding toddler.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t hard, though.  It just means that it was manageable, with only slight dizziness, a [migraine] headache, and weakness.  But those symptoms, easy as they may be as a teenager, are incredibly hard to deal with when you have an energetic toddler on your hands. I am sure that in a country so filled with children, I am not the only mother dealing with this.  And as much as media blames this issue on religious Jews, the fact is that a surprisingly large number of the irreligious Jews in Israel also fast on Yom Kippur, even if that is the only religious thing they do.

So, I am against it.  And at the same time, I am for it, because the reasons to change to standard time are many and valid.  I am for it.  And I am against it.  And I know that really, my opinion doesn’t matter – and won’t matter – unless I feel like putting up a fuss and gathering people to my cause.  I don’t feel like it, either because I am either lazy, realistic, or both.

But I also feel like this change is an attempt – part of the attempt – to make Israel like the rest of the world.  Israel is not like the rest of the world.  Israel is Israel; Israel is Jewish; Israel is a state that does not separate matters of “church and state”.  We are that way because we are unique; because the ideology Israel was founded on is unique; because the people who live in it are uniquely conflicted and uniquely brothers.

And, the rest of the world doesn’t have it so good, either.  So why copy?