Write on Lilith! (Write on Eve!) by Ivy Helman


Over the past few months, I’ve been struggling to write posts.  This month is no different.  I am currently sitting with four different half-drafts on three semi-related topics, none of which I seem to be able to complete.  I’ve gone back to each of them numerous times.  I write.  I erase.  I rewrite.  I copy bits of one into another to save for some other time.  I’m left with one sentence:  this week’s Torah parshah is Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8).  Great.  Glad to know that.  Now what?  

When writing, I often find myself in one of two camps given the current state of the world.  Either, I have so much to say that I have no clear idea where to start, so I write three pages of more or less nonsense.  Or, I find myself just so inundated with information that I don’t know where my opinion begins and another’s ends.  I write another 3 pages of completely different nonsense.  I get fed up with both.  I start praying better thoughts will just write themselves.  They don’t.  

So, I close my computer and take the dog for a walk.  I go searching for inspiration or perhaps clarity.  But, who am I kidding?   I mainly go to see the cows, who spend their days in the valley down the road from the summer cottage.  Yes, I love cows.  And, yes, we are still at the summer cottage even in the chiller days of October.  Years of communism created a situation in which most Czechs who live in the bigger cities have modest summer houses in the country.  Three generations share the one at which I’m currently.  Anyways, back to the walk, the dog is sniffing the world: the grass; the trees; the odd smells left by the local deers; and copious amounts of cow pies.  Lovely.  Yep, he just ate one.  Ew.  Gross.  Gross.  Gross.  

The cows close to the summer cottage, photo by author.

I look at him.  There he is, not a care in the world, running to and fro, eating let’s-not-mention-it-again, giddy with possibilities.  I feel slightly sorry for myself and wonder, why can’t that be me? Then, I dismiss that thought, cringing at what he just ate.  I look at the cows.  They make me smile and for a few moments I forget the struggles I was having writing.  

I take another step.  The world suddenly rushes back.  How am I supposed to write anything intelligent in the midst of the responsibilities and duties of daily life, let alone with the raging pandemic and Trump’s ridiculous antics on my mind?  Surely, Virginia Woolf was right when she said that to write one needs a room of one’s own, free of distractions and responsibilities.  It is a privilege to be able to have the time to one’s self to write, read, and think.  This privilege most of us don’t have, and yet somehow we continue to write.  

Except for me. I’m currently not writing.  I’m still on that walk with the dog, trying to steal a few minutes outside of the house to think.  A few ideas pop into my brain.  Hmm… maybe those would work.  I return home, open my computer, and jot them down.  My stomach rumbles.  Responsibility beckons.  If I’m hungry, surely my partner is too.  I make lunch for both of us.  

Photo by author.

I return to the computer while I eat, rereading what I wrote after my walk-in-search-of-inspiration.  I’m disappointed yet again.  One idea sounds corny and the other reads as forced and insincere.  I delete them both.  I turn to my dog and consider another walk.  

Knowing I have a deadline so I can’t spend all day outside, I look again at the screen which once again reads, “This week’s Torah parshah is Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8).”  All that comes to mind is Judith Plaskow’s “The Coming of Lilith.”  I love that feminist midrash.  I click on my copy of it to see if it could offer some inspiration, and realise that I don’t actually have the midrash saved on my computer.  Rather, I have opened the response Judith Plaskow wrote about the midrash in The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion from 2012.  I do a quick internet search and I find the midrash here.  Then, I realise that I’ve asked my students to read it for the next class, and I uploaded this article instead of the midrash.  So, now, I have to go and add the link to the midrash on all of the platforms I use as well as delete the response article I so carelessly uploaded.  I swear I am not usually so all over the place.  I can’t help but think how much this mistake mirrors my writing at the present moment.  

Anyway, after I make the changes, I return to the midrash.  I recall that many years ago when I first read it, I was fascinated by Lilith and her courage to opt out of the system.  This time I find Eve more intriguing.  She is able to escape the confines of the garden on various occasions to converse with Lilith.  Slowly, Eve understands, through their sisterhood, that another life is possible, and that she and Lilith can built it together.

I spend a while reflecting on the conversations those two courageous women must have had and the sisterhood they shared.  In my writing mind, I’m Eve and I think wouldn’t it be nice if I, too, had a writing Lilith.  And, then, like most moments of inspiration, it hits me: feminismandreligion.com is that Lilith.  Just like Eve and Lilith in Plaskow’s midrash, we too learn from each other, listen to each other, sometimes struggle with each other, and surely cry and laugh side by side.  Rather than talk, however, we write our new world into being.  

Writing is not always an easy task.  My struggles with this post are living proof of that. However, we are making a difference every day.  So, I say: write on Lilith!  (Write on Eve!)   

 

 

Ivy Helman, Ph.D.: A feminist scholar and faculty member at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic where she teaches a variety of Jewish Studies, Feminist and Ecofeminist courses.  



Categories: animals, Feminism, General, Jewish Feminism, Judaism, Midrash

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Hi Ivy,

    I always enjoy your posts.

    As a non-Jew (but then, teacher in a Jewish school for 11 years), I came to Midrash late, but what a wonderful discovery it’s been! I’m writing a non- fiction book inspired by a piece of Midrash about Abraham entertaining the angels to lunch. My writing has nothing to do with angels or Abraham but about nature as a force that leads us back to ourselves.

    Thanks for reminding us of Judith Plaskow and I shall buy the book that her piece is from.

    Like

  2. Dear Ivy,

    Thanks for your post, especially the cows and the dogs. I have a new dog (she’s been with me just over a month and keeping me on my toes). I also have an interest in cows, having grown up on a farm, but also in 2009 I spent four months on a Literature Residency in Chennai and wrote a poetry collection called Cow (2011). In Chennai the cow is at the centre of social and religious life and there are statues of her everywhere, but also many cows wandering the streets. Not far from where I was living a brown cow shared her sleeping spot with a brown dog and a little further along the street, a black cow shared her sleeping spot with a black dog. I learnt so much in those four months. Thanks for reminding me of it.

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  3. Your post-writing process sounds like mine–which is why I only post four times a year! I love the cows and your beautiful dog.

    Judith Plaskow’s midrash inspired my first novel, The Wild Mother.

    Right on, write on, Ivy!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I absolutely LOVED this post. It was so real and reflects how difficult it can be to make sense out of our musings and our intellect. Sometimes writing is like moving through sludge for me – I know there is something in there if I can just uncover it… take another walk Sara, climb another mountain, rake up some more leaves and fall in love with the autumn light…

    I loved what you said about FAR being your Lilith – i think a lot of us feel that way… Lilith and Eve seem to fit together as one whole.

    My guess is that after writing this post you will be astonished by your new clarity!

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  5. You’re right: writing is hard work. And writing well is harder work. But you persisted and you wrote a good post about talking and–more important, I think–listening to each other. Let’s teach all the women of the Old Testament to write! (As if we could.) I hope you and your dog and the cows are all healthy and happy. Bright blessings to you and them!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Did you realize that Gertrude Stein is most certainly one of your muses? It’s true. Ms. Stein also often needed sparks of inspiration and her favorite mode of finding those sparks was to rev up the motor on her snazzy car, drive into the countryside, and find a comfy cow to commune with. Honest. Maybe it is those huge soulful eyes, or the rhythmic cud chewing. Or the aura of this huge, peaceful creature whose greatest joy in life seems to be munching on green grass. But cows are inspiring. Honest.

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  7. Thanks, Ivy, for this post. I agree with you completely that FAR is “Just like Eve and Lilith in Plaskow’s midrash, we too learn from each other, listen to each other, sometimes struggle with each other, and surely cry and laugh side by side. Rather than talk, however, we write our new world into being.” That’s why I come back here time after time.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh I love this- describes many of my days. Happily I have a project at the moment so the muse keeps pushing me to the computer, but it’s hard and iffy and I am recalcitrant. She gets me at odd hours when my resistance is lowest. A couple of days ago she pushed me out of bed at 3:30am to rewrite a piece I’ve been working on, for the third time from scratch… I think perhaps I’ll name my muse Lilith.

    I so appreciate your forthright explication of this jumble of malaise, despair, anger and confusion which our world seem enveloped in. It’s good to the feeling and effect this jumble engenders, given voice. Somehow it pushes the fog back a little adds a sliver of distance in which perspective gains a toehold. It’s good to be reminded we are not alone.

    Thank you also, for sharing Judith Plaskow’s midrash.

    I also love cows.

    Like

  9. I absolutely LOVED this piece and it’s wandering WTF kind of logic. Yeah. That’s it. We’re all a little nuts. I, in fact, while writing one book and sending it off to the publisher, and picking up an editing assignment of 350 pages for which i was paid but still sucked up my time, and a love job editing the meandering writing and several million copies of said writing for my beloved 90 year old friend who knew Franz Jung, C.G. Jung’s only son, have forgotten all about writing blog posts for many months and most recently returned, only to not know that I had to hit the Reader link in order to find the blog posts of my writerly friends!
    i.e. you are not alone in the over the top nuts phase. Cheers, Ivy. This too shall pass as my mother was fond of saying and which I repeat to myself endlessly. Oh, yes, and then there’s the family farm which while no one lives there permanently, still needs attention and a four hour drive to get there. Life.

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  10. Thanks for talking about your writing journey as of late. I am struggling along the same lines. I loved the midrash as well. This line had me rolling – “And God and Adam were expectant and afraid the day Eve and Lilith returned to the garden, bursting with possibilities, ready to rebuild it together.” This is indeed the theme of Elizabeth Cunningham’s lively and inspirational book The Wild Mother. The midrash, the Cunningham’s story and your added commentary – what a wonderful trilogy!

    Like

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