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.
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.
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.