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Date: 2015-06-11 11:13 pm (UTC)
hatam_soferet: (Default)
But the Torah traditionally was not written for just the well-off in society, it was written for society as a whole.

That's rather a large assumption. The Torah is talking to men ("do not go near a woman," and so on), Tanakh is mostly talking to men (otherwise we wouldn't need to go around making all these lists of women in the bible, we don't bother making lists of men in the bible), and the Oral Law is largely framed, developed, and applied by men. Not well-off men necessarily; don't confuse well-off with powerful.

That's not to say that the Torah intends for non-men to be exempt from everything, but it does mean that it doesn't necessarily have the best interests of non-men at the forefront. Rabbinic Jews have always had to interpret the Torah through lenses which correct for time and place, that's what the history of halakha is, and marginal Jews (women, slaves and so on) also have to use lenses which correct for position in society. Elisheva Baumgarten's recent work explores this idea in the context of medieval Ashkenaz, talking about aspects of Jewish religion which are not the ones which make it into the pages of the Mishneh Torah or whatever, but which ought to be viewed as valid expressions of Jewish piety.

And when we don't use corrective lenses, sometimes the results are kind of toxic. You've heard about the chap who had, in one pocket, a paper with "Because of me the world was created," and in the other pocket a paper with "I am dust and ashes"--the idea was to preserve a balance between the two extremes--your average woman (or poor, or disabled, or enslaved, etc person) accumulates several kilos' worth of "I am dust and ashes" papers just by existing, so telling such a person that they need to put one of each paper in their pockets is a different message than telling that to a person with empty pockets. And it's ok to realise that the message is "balance" and interpret accordingly, even if that means that I personally don't put one of each paper into my pocket.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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