This week’s Torah portion is Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22). In it, the Isrealites are preparing to enter the Promised Land, as the last of the sinful generation have died. Most of the parshah consists of Moses recalling the divinely sanctioned wars they undertook and the mass murder they committed in order to possess the land.
Needless to say, this emphasis on war is difficult from a feminist perspective. Starhawk argues, in “Why We Need Women’s Actions and Feminist Voices for Peace,” that, “Patriarchy finds its ultimate expression in war.” In other words, a parshah ripe with war is ripe with patriarchy.
Yet, it is more problematic than that. The deity is understood to be a warrior as are the Israelites. Verses 1:30 reads, “The L-rd, your G-d, Who goes before you… will fight for you, just as G-d did for you in Egypt before your very eyes.” In addition, this warrior mentality requires the Israelites to fight as well. G-d hardens the hearts of Sihon which requires the Israelites to fight (1:27). Thus, war and mass murder become divinely sanctioned methods which G-d and the Israelites use to further the sacred promise of the Land.
Continue reading “On Devarim: From a Feminist Perspective Problematic, but not Irredeemable by Ivy Helman”
For the past few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about racism in the United States and rightly so. It is clear from the lack of charges and the repetition of similar crimes across the United States by different members of various law force communities that some people because of the color of their skin are immune to the consequences of their actions and others, also because of the color of their skin, are often the victims of such actions. Criticism, here, in the forms of protests, federal inquiries and outrage are essential.
I am reminded of oft-quoted part of the Torah: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:20, one that I saw on some of the signs Rabbis carried with them in the protests. “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you,” (from the JPS translation). G-d tells those early Israelites that justice is a requirement not just for their survival in the Promised Land, but also if they want to have good, long lives. Later tradition, from the Talmud to Rashi and beyond, interpret this passage as a call for a just court system within Jewish society. Likewise, all who use the system should have the principle of justice in mind. There is also a lot of conjecture as to why justice is said twice. Many modern scholars call attention to the way in which religion and state were considered one in same for this time period and much of human history. Continue reading ““Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue:” Finding Hope in Justice-Seeking Movements. by Ivy Helman”