Inheriting a Tradition That Doesn't Want Me by the Forward

Inheriting a Tradition That Doesn't Want Me

Image by Maya Rosen

On February 8, B’nai Jeshurun will hold a day of learning to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Judith Plaskow’s groundbreaking book, “Standing Again at Sinai.” In the lead up to the event, The Sisterhood is asking participants questions on issues surrounding feminism and Judaism. Here, Princeton University student Maya Rosen talks about overcoming the sexism of Talmudic sages.

Is there a specific moment when you realized gender matters to you as a Jew?

As a senior in high school, I learned Avot D’Rabbi Natan, a Geonic commentary on Pirkei Avot, with a friend over Skype. It was the first time I had a chevruta outside of school, and I loved how both my chevruta and the text were intellectually rigorous and playfully imaginative. The second chapter of the book contains an extended discussion of al tarbeh sicha i’m ha’isha [do not converse excessively with a woman]. The rabbinic sages elaborate extensively on the prohibition and relish relating stories about the ills that befall a man who does not heed this advice. I had been bothered by issues of gender in Judaism for years, but this was the first time I realized that the problem was not only a sociological reality but historically, legally, and traditionally entrenched misogyny. It is hard to feel like an intellectual inheritor of a tradition that is vocal about its distaste for your taking part in the conversation. However, the more I continued to learn, the more variability I found among texts. Very little of what we find in texts, misogyny included, is the only view in our tradition or the way something has always been. It is okay to feel deeply hurt by the sexism of our sages. But these same sages also taught me something else — how to feel so embedded in a tradition that my participation in the system is not a question of “if” but rather of “how.”

Tell us how you would answer in the comments and register for Meet Me at Sinai [here.][3]

[3]: Register for the full day of learning here.


Sarah Breger

Sarah Breger

Sarah Breger is a former editor of the Sisterhood blog. Follow her on Twitter at @sbreger.

Inheriting a Tradition That Doesn't Want Me

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Inheriting a Tradition That Doesn't Want Me

Thank you!

This article has been sent!