One of many primary tenants of feminist methodology in faith is the restoration of ladies’s historical past. There are a lot of methods to method such a process. In religions with sacred writings, one avenue for restoration could also be reinterpreting them. This might come within the type of a critique. For instance, conventional interpretations could overlook or undervalue girls, who seem within the textual content, reaffirm sexist, patronizing, and/or misogynist viewpoints already discovered within the textual content, or develop new ones. With the intention to recuperate girls’s historical past, feminists working with their sacred texts would then name out these interpretations for his or her sexism. They’d right phrasing, understanding, and even translations, when vital.
Along with critiquing, feminist interpretations of scripture is also constructive. Spiritual feminists could spotlight values, teachings, and pictures that affirm girls’s lives. They might incorporate documented historical past into their interpretations as proof of expanded roles for ladies. That might then contextualize or negate later traditions that deny girls such roles.
Examples of feminist interpretations of scripture that search to recuperate girls’s historical past utilizing a wide range of essential and constructive work abound. In Christianity, there may be Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s In Reminiscence of Her. Fiorenza not solely corrects mistranslations but additionally highlights the function girls performed within the early Christain home church buildings. One other instance comes from my final weblog: Judith Plaskow’s, “The Coming of Lilith.” An Islamic instance is “Rethinking Girls and Islam” by Amira El-Azhary Sonbol within the ebook Daughters of Abraham: Feminist Thought in Judaism, Christainity and Islam. The truth is, this ebook gives good examples of feminist interactions with scriptural traditions.
Let me supply one other within the parshah, Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18). For as brief as it’s, a lot takes place. Chayei Sarah begins with the report of Sarah’s demise, by emphasizing the size of her life. Then, it describes the actions Abraham took due to Sarah’s demise. He negotiates and buys a burial plot, during which he buries her.
Then, Abraham sends his servant to his homeland to discover a spouse for Isaac. The servant devises a plan to discover a G-d-ordained spouse for Isaac; the one who performs an act of loving-kindness by providing water to him and the camels would be the one G-d has chosen. Rebecca does so. In response, the servant provides her presents and asks to remain at her home. Rebecca runs house to inform her mom what occurred. Quickly after, on the home, he explains who Abraham is, why he’s there, and what occurred on the properly between him and Rebecca. The servant provides presents to Rebecca, her mom, and her brother.
The following morning, the servant desires to return with Rebecca, however Rebecca’s mom and brother need her to remain house for an additional 10 months to a yr. The servant is impatient, so Rebecca’s mom and brother resolve to ask her what she desires to do. She decides to depart instantly. They bless Rebecca, and Rebecca and her maidens return with the servant.
On the street, Isaac seems. Isaac and Rebecca marry in Sarah’s tent. Rebecca helps Isaac recover from his mom’s demise. Abraham himself remarries and fathers six extra kids along with his new bride, Keturah. On the ripe previous age of 175, he dies. Isaac and Ishmael bury him with Sarah. Solely Isaac receives any of Abraham’s inheritance. His 5 brothers and one sister obtain solely presents. Lastly, the parshah ends with a reporting of the descendants of Ishmael.
Returning to the start of the parshah, Genesis 23:1 reads, “And the lifetime of Sarah was 100 years and twenty years and 7 years; [these were] the years of the lifetime of Sarah.” I might not have thought a lot of this awkward telling of her age, if I hadn’t had Rashi’s commentary instantly underneath it. He writes, “…When she was 100 years previous, she was like a twenty-year-old concerning sin… And when she was twenty, she was like a seven-year-old just about magnificence…” Later when Abraham dies, Rashi describes Abraham solely as sinless despite the fact that his attestation of years follows the identical sample. Why does Rashi really feel the necessity to spotlight her magnificence? Why evaluate her magnificence to a 7 yr previous lady? This isn’t solely patronizing, it’s disturbing.
It’s also disturbing that almost all summaries of this parshah fail to say the function of Rebecca’s mom. Though unnamed similar to Abraham’s servant, she is crucial. In any case, Rebecca runs instantly to inform her what occurred on the properly. Clearly, Rebecca and her mom have a great relationship. Rebecca’s mom, alongside together with her brother, additionally counsel that Rebecca stick with them longer, maybe they’ll miss her when she leaves. When the servant protests, they counsel providing Rebecca a alternative. Her mom and brother respect her integrity and can as a person.
But, Jewish custom lauds Rebecca’s mitzvah of hesed, or loving-kindness: providing of water to the servant and the camels. For this, Judaism says she is a mannequin for all Jews no matter gender, to which I agree. But, Rebecca’s selections and even her means to decide on determine considerably in her life, a minimum of as a lot as hesed. Past a doubt, she performs an energetic function in her personal future by providing Abraham’s servant and his camels water, but additionally accepting his presents and Issac as a husband, by selecting when to depart her mom’s home, and by comforting a grieving Isaac. Rebecca is additionally a mannequin of ladies’s means to manage their very own future.
Then, there may be Keturah. Many interpretations counsel she is Hagar however with a brand new identify. I discover these arguments unconvincing. Is interpretation attempting to erase the existence and reminiscence of one other lady altogether? Slightly, I agree with the interpretations that contemplate Keturah an altogether totally different lady.
The 4 examples right here illustrate how essential the feminist reinterpretation of scripture is for the restoration of ladies’s historical past. Critiquing summaries and interpretations recovers Rebecca’s mom and Rebecca’s selections. Keturah isn’t subsumed into Hagar or Sarah additional patronised. Likewise, constructive work highlights the significance of the mother-daughter relationship and girls’s management over their very own future. Whereas there may be nonetheless work to be performed, absolutely, this feminist evaluation has breathed extra life into the ladies of Chayei Sarah and, hopefully, into us, as properly.