Sunday, November 19, 2023

A 21st-century feminist's view of our biblical ancestors

Avraham Avinu (Abraham our Father) allowed his wife Sarah Imeinu (our Mother) to be taken into a harem twice in order to protect himself.  Protecting *her* doesn't seem to have occurred to him--being in a harem seems to consign a person to sex slavery for life.  And when she complained to him that Hagar was treating her with disdain ever since she (Hagar) got pregnant, Avraham brushed off her complaint as if Hagar's pregnancy had nothing to do with him.  That's a fine thanks for giving your servant to your husband as a surrogate mother.  Not only that, but Avraham prayed to G!d to restore the fertility of Avimelech, his wife, and his slave girls, but never prayed to G!d to grant fertility to his own wife.  (See Parashat Vayera, Genesis 20:17).  Personally, I think Sarah treated Hagar poorly because poor Hagar was the only one over whom she had any control.  The proof is that Avraham took Yitzchak/Isaac, her only child, to be sacrificed without even telling her.  Bottom line:  Avraham treated Sarah with more respect after she died than while she was alive.  And even that's not saying much--Sarah's roles were (1) to have a miracle baby late in life to prove that G'd can do anything and (2) to be an excuse for Avraham to buy land from the Hittites (for her grave).  Nobody seems to have given a hoot about Sarah herself.

Yaakov Avinu (Jacob our Father) never had a kind word to say to Léah Imeinu (our Mother), the wife who probably didn't even know that Yaakov had intended to marry her sister, even after Léah gave him numerous sons and a daughter.  As for Rachel Imeinu, the supposed love of his life, Yaakov showed her no sympathy whatsoever when she came to him in tears because she was barren.

Only Yitzchak Avinu (Isaac our Father) prayed to G!d to gave his wife a child.

And only Rivkah Imeinu (Rebecca our Mother) seems to have had any decision-making power regarding her own children, Esav (Esau) and Yaakov.  Of course, she didn't bother telling her husband Yitzchak that G!d had told her that the younger child was destined to rule over his elder brother, and she had to fulfill G'd's plan through deception.  Didn't any of our biblical ancestors bother communicating with their own spouses?

Rivkah deceiving her elderly husband Yitchak into choosing Yaakov for the blessing seems to me to be a precursor of Batsheva's manipulation of her elderly husband David haMelech (King David) into choosing Shlomo (Solomon) for the kingship, which reminds me a bit of Judy Klitzner's book Subversive Sequels in the Bible:How Biblical Stories Mine & Undermine Each Other.  In those days, trickery seems to have been one of the few tools available to women.  There's no indication *in the biblical text* that Avraham ever asked Sarah's opinion about anything, nor is clear *from the biblical text* that Batsheva actually *consented* to be removed from her husband's home and brought to King David to have sex with him.  Sarah got her revenge by kicking her husband's elder son and his mother out of the house; Batsheva got her revenge by tricking the dying King David into having their son, rather than his older brother, crowned king.  What goes around, comes around.


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