Twenty-One Days of the Omer: Indwelling of Truth

The end of twenty-one days, which is three weeks, of the Omer, is at hand. My meditation on the permutations of beauty and truth, Tiferet v’Emet, תפארת ואמת have been cursory this week. When I finally admitted to myself that my nightly meditations were doing more harm to my wellbeing than good, I collapsed into sleep. A few days later, my allergies decided to take over my body.

I am still not 100%, but I can see the other side. Baruch Ha’Shem, I am not battling a deadly illness, and like previous pollen seasons, I will survive.

Judaism is androcentric, Male-centered

A truth I am trying to grapple with is the casual androcentrism of Judaism. In a 2009 overview of the academic study of Jewish magic, one scholar cites another scholar to assert: “Once we admit that the Jewish magical tradition was not the sole domain of women and marginal figures, but of the intellectual elite as well (Idel 1989), we must try to understand this aspect of their Judaism, and place it in a wider religious and philosophical context.”[1] You see, irrational religion isn’t solely the domain of women. Elites did it too!

Or I could try to follow the advice of Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, who explains in his classic book The Path of the Just, that I should neither touch nor look at any woman to whom I am not married because obviously that would lead to uncleanliness. (Chapter 11, Specifics about the Virtue of Cleanliness).

I can no longer hide from the androcentrism of Judaism. Like most culture, it has developed in a world dominated by men. My whole life, I have approached Judaism as a space separate from feminism. I have learned deep wisdom that is completely unrelated to the feminist gaze. But now, three years into my deep dive into the oceans of Jewish knowledge, I must confront the obvious truth that has been staring at me all along: I am periphery. As a woman, my ability to cook and procreate is more highly valued that my ability to wrestle with texts. The true mark of the covenant occurs not on my heart, but upon the foreskin of my male children.

Peripheral is not Powerless

I have felt my peripheral status for awhile. And yet, despite it all, my status as a rabbinical student creates a different color to conversations. My husband has told more co-workers about my studies than about the fact that we met working at his place of employment. (It’s true, we had the complete Mad Men experience.) I am constantly reminded that the stories we tell about ourselves are as restrictive as the experiences we have.

So yes, I live in an area without a critical mass of Jews. But my son thinks I’m good at praying and cooking, so I must be doing something right.

Truth doesn’t fold into easy to digest packets. It’s as messy as life. That’s okay. Whether I continue to meditate publicly or return to private counting, this Omer roadmap will help me refine myself and hopefully allow me to become a vessel for revelation on Shavuot.

Previously on this day in the Omer

21 Days 5778 / 2018: Also Shabbat, also clarity.

21 Days 5777 / 2017: The clarion truth She whispered to me…

[1] Gideon Bohak in “Prolegomena to the Study of the Jewish Magical Tradition” in Currents in Biblical Research.

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