Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Punished in perpetuity

See the comments.

11 Comments:

Blogger Shira Salamone said...

See next comment.

Thu Oct 14, 10:54:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Keep going, please.

Thu Oct 14, 10:54:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Kindly be patient and continue to the next comment.

Thu Oct 14, 10:55:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Next comment, please.

Thu Oct 14, 10:55:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Please be patient and continue.

Thu Oct 14, 11:02:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

One more, and your patience will be rewarded.

Thu Oct 14, 11:02:00 PM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

This is one of my (in)famous "hidden" posts, tucked away in the comments where my colleagues can't see it without clicking and scrolling. I take this precaution because I like my job and hope to keep it.

Note: This post was actually published on Thursday, October 14, 2010.


The other day, one of the Orthodox women at my office was talking about all the cooking that she does for her husband when another Orthodox woman asked whether the husband knew how to boil water. The first woman replied that he did, but that he wouldn't, and had made it very clear from the beginning of their marriage that he would do no cooking, period. The first woman had no problem with that, explaining that, in her community (B'nei Eidot HaMizrach, which means, roughly, the Jewish Community from Muslim Lands), girls are taught from a very young age to defer to men and protect their honor. The second woman then stated that she was glad she was Ashkenazi, and that it was attitudes like that that made her glad she was still single. So the first one responded that men and women used to be equal until Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit, and now, all of us women must pay for Eve's sin by deferring to our husbands and sacrificing more in marriage than our husbands do.

This conversation got me thinking. I've always dismissed the punishment of Eve and her female descendents as just a post-facto explanation for patriarchal privilege. But it occurred to me that, if one looks at the punishment rationally, there are two huge problems with it, beyond the sexism. One is the question of justice: How could a just G-d mete out such a punishment? The other is a matter of logic: Under what other circumstances would it be considered perfectly normal and acceptable for half the human race to be punished in perpetuity because one ancestor sinned over 5,000 years ago? Yet hundreds of thousands of believers in the Bible accept this as a perfectly reasonable explanation for the status of women.

Thu Oct 14, 11:03:00 PM 2010  
Anonymous rivkayael said...

I bet that for every 100 girls who are told this, it doesn't work for a sizeable number. My parents tried and tried and It Didn't Work. My mother is so sorry for my spouse...my Ashkenazi spouse would rather see a happy wife in a beit midrash than a grouchy one muttering at a soup pot. The plus is that wifey learning about kashrut means that the soup will probably be kosher :).

Fri Oct 15, 12:03:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Inherited punishment (and reward) seems to be part of the biblical mindset, despite quotes to the contrary.

If it is unfair that women (and men) are punished forever because of the sins of Eve (and Adam) why is it fair that Jews are rewarded for being the children of Avraham Avinu? Why do Cohanim have special roles that were taken away from the first born because of the golden calf? Why is Canaan punished because his father Ham sinned?

Fri Oct 15, 09:11:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

By the way, since we are wrestling with the parsha a lot lately, you might enjoy this essay about Avraham saying Sarah was his sister.

Fri Oct 15, 09:22:00 AM 2010  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I bet that for every 100 girls who are told this, it doesn't work for a sizeable number. My parents tried and tried and It Didn't Work."

Good!

Larry, to be honest, I'm more bothered by unjustifiable punishment (eg. Ham's descendents) that by unjustifiable reward (Cohanim replacing firstborns). Inconsistent? Guilty as charged.

Thanks for the link. I've published it in a separate post.

Sat Oct 16, 10:23:00 PM 2010  

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