Virtual Torah Portion of the Week
The Ten Commandments! Today at our Virtual Minyan (4-5pm) is Torah portion Yitro (Ex. 18:1-20:23). Join in on the conference call, please dial 702-851-4044, when prompted punch in 2, then our pass code 22252#.
Suggested Verses of the Week:
1. “Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine.”(Ex. 19:5)
2. All the people answered as one, saying, “All that Adonai has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the people’s words to Adonai. (Ex. 19:8)
3. On the third day, as morning dawned, there was thunder, and lightening, and a dense cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud blast of the horn; and all the people who were in the camp trembled. (Ex. 19:16)
You might also enjoy reading ‘Women and Revelation’ by pioneer Jewish feminist Judith Plaskow:
Read from a feminist perspective, Yitro contains one of the most painful verses in the Torah. At the formative moment in Jewish history, when presumably the whole people of Israel stands in awe and trembling at the base of Mount Sinai waiting for God to descend upon the mountain and establish the covenant, Moses turns to the assembled community and says, “Be ready for the third day: do not go near a woman” (19:15). Moses wants to ensure that the people are ritually prepared to receive God’s presence, and an emission of semen renders both a man and his female partner temporarily unfit to approach the sacred (see Leviticus 15:16-18). But Moses does not say, “Men and women do not go near each other.” Instead, at this central juncture in the Jewish saga, he renders women invisible as part of the congregation about to enter into the covenant.
These words are deeply troubling for at least two reasons. First, they are a paradigm of the treatment of women as “other,” both elsewhere in this portion and throughout the Torah. Again and again, the Torah seems to assume that the Israelite nation consists only of male heads of household. It records the experiences of men, but not the experiences of women. For example, the tenth commandment, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (20:14), presupposes a community of male hearers.
Second, entry into the covenant at Sinai is not just a one-time event, but an experience to be reappropriated by every generation (Deuteronomy 29:13-14). Every time the portion is chanted, whether as part of the annual cycle of Torah readings or as a special reading for Shavuot, women are thrust aside once again, eavesdropping on a conversation among men, and between men and God. The text thus potentially evokes a continuing sense of exclusion and disorientation in women. The whole Jewish people supposedly stood at Sinai. Were we there? Were we not there? If we were there, what did we hear when the men heard “do not go near a woman”? If we were not there originally, can we be there now? Since we are certainly part of the community now, how could we not have been there at that founding moment?