This blog is rated R. Read at your own risk.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It must be. Otherwise there wouldn’t be free will.
Of my own free will I stayed home alone for Shabbos last Friday night. The week was hectic, and after all the hoopla of being here for Simchas Torah, I thought it would be nice to have a break and a good night of sleep.
Candles were lit by the required time of 5:50pm. I sang Shalom Alechem – the song welcoming the angels. I made Kiddush – which sanctifies the Sabbath. Then I ate dinner. Learned some Torah. Drank wine. I was asleep by 7P. And I woke up at 11. Not AM. PM. Wide wide awake.
So I read more Torah. I contemplated the events of the week – which included a flood on social media of “me too.” I debated how I was going to incorporate a survey I created on the subject – inspired by anger and frustration -- into a blog, since I said I would. And I don’t like to be a liar.
But after reading so many articles on the subject – the industry, male entitlement, victim blaming – I thought, it isn’t enough? A cousin to the sentiment that inspired by survey in the first place.
Tying the subject of sexual harassment to Parshach Noach would have been easy. As Rebbetzin Yemima MIzrachi notes, it was a generation where “The sons of G-d saw the daughters of man, that they were good, and they took as wives as they pleased.” Who were the “sons of G-d?” she asks. The people who thought they were superior. They did as they pleased. “Might makes right.”
The opening of the Parsha says Noach says was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. But given his generation, how good was he? The commentaries say a lot about. Some say that for his time, he was great. But compared to Abraham? No comparison.
Abraham actively gets involved. He tells people about G-d. He and his wife Sarah Open their homes to strangers. And when G-d says, this city of Sodom is terrible, I want to destroy it, what does Abraham do? He begs for the people who are good. While Noah stayed silent.
We have been hearing a lot about people who have stayed silent. And about “open secrets.” With article after article telling us “everybody knew.” If everybody knew. . . who is responsible for a crime? And what is the definition of gross vs. criminal?
Just a week before news outlets broke with creepy news, news outlets reported that Hugh Hefner passed away. Resulting in friends bragging at that they had been at the Playboy Mansion. Inciting jealousy that others couldn’t say “me too.” Why is that brag worthy? Because women chose to prostitute themselves for sexual advancement of their own free will?
Which is why I don’t understand about the premise of The Handmaid’s Tale.
It’s a futuristic America. Fertility rates have plummeted. The government creates a world where women no longer have jobs, credit cards, their own money. So those who are fertile can be taken by the rich and forced to make babies. Wouldn’t capitalistic desires make it that for enough money, women would make babies of their own free will?
In a capitalistic society, people operate in a way that optimizes their personal gain. Which is why for 30 years, “everybody knew.” Kept secret because everybody had something to gain by doing so. Making people wonder -- is it that important to be a rich/famous Hollywood actor/director/writer/award winner?
Yes. Yes it is. Otherwise Amazon would not be making TV shows.
The Handmaid’s Tale’s point was less about capitalism – more about religion. In the “sex ceremony” – when the wife holds down the “handmaid” as the husband. . . rapes her, he quotes this from the Genesis/Bereshit:
And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her.
Making the bible look really bad.
As it neared 3A as I read through Lech Lecha, I realized there is another part of the bible that says pretty much the same thing.
Now Sarai, Abrahm’s wife, had borne him no children. She had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abrahm, “See now, Hashem has restrained me from bearing; consort, now, with my maidservant, perhaps I will be built up through her.” And Abrahm heeded the voice of Sarai. (Bereshit 16:1-2)
Making me wonder – what exactly is this Handmaid’s Tale?
The way I learned it, Hagar did have a son with Abraham. His name was Ishmael, who is the great-great grandfather of Muslims. Later Sarah miraculously has a son with Abraham, named Issac, who is the great-great-grandfather of the Jewish people. And this is why there will never be peace in the Middle East.
Because I learned this subject through the lens of the Torah, I wanted the opportunity to learn it through the lens of the Quoran. So I bought one. But never opened it until this middle of the night Shabbat.
I was surprised by it’s structure. I thought it would read like a story-book much like the Torah. I thought I would see the same scenes through a different point of view – much like one would watch Showtime’s The Affiar. But it wasn’t like that at all. It read like Albert Camus-like stream of consciousness. And I had a hard time finding Hagar’s story, even with the index. Or even the single name of a woman.
So I turned to the section called “Women” and was surprised when I read this:
4:34: Husbands should take good care of their wives, with [the bounties] G-d has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what G-d would have them guard in their husband’s absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wife’s, remind them [of the teachings of G-d], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them.
The footnotes say this: high-handedness applies to a situation where one partner assumes superiority to the other and behaves accordingly. The hit signifies a single slap – and refers me to Abdel Haleem, Understanding the Qur’an.
That’s when I decided to spend more time understanding the Torah.
Rashi’s commentary on Lech Lecha reminded me of this: And Abraham heeded his wife Sarah.
The Torah tells us that he listened to her. The Torah tells us she was a greater prophet than Abraham. The Torah tells us there is a her. Critical to the genesis of the Jewish people. Rabbis say Abraham composed Aishet Chayil – Women of Valor – as a euology to his wife Sarah. And it became a custom or men to sing this to their wives on Friday nights to express their love and appreciation for their women.
And Abraham heeded his wife Sarah.
In recent weeks women of the world made their voices heard. Some with shocking revelations. Some by posting me too. Some by responding to my survey. Here’s what happened:
36 people took the survey. 2 of them were men.
Of the women who responded:
· -- Most (71%) thought the me too posts makes a power statement about the prevalence of sexual harassment; interestingly, 9% didn’t like them, 9% only like the posts if there were stories of actual harassment, 6% think it’s anti-men, and 6% indicated “The posts make me unfavorable”. I meant for that to say uncomfortable.
· -- 29% of women think a female Facebook friend saying the me too posts are a badge of honor is an insult to women (this is what inspired the survey); 18% said they got the sentiment, but couldn’t believe it was on Facebook, and 6% said they agree. So I guess the original poster and her friends were right that a group of women felt that way.
· -- 1 in 3 posted “me too” on Facebook. Implying that 1 in 3 were sexually assaulted or harassed. Much debate has arisen over what “me too” means. Is it a catcall? Or a crime that would make for an episode of Law & Order: SVU?
Shabbat will again be upon us in less than 24 hours. This week I have proper plans Friday night, to avoid being awake between the hours of 11PM and 6AM, Reading the Torah, the Quoran, and back-issues of the New Yorker. I’d say it was a fairly good use of free will. An even better one will be when my soul mate finds me and on Friday nights sings Aishet Chayil.