When Leaders' Biases Do Great Harm
What an amazing start to my week. This was moving and thought provoking as my own congregation wrestles with how to take action.
For me though, the reminder that we our Holy, all of us, because God is Holy really struck me. That should be the guiding principle of leadership. A ‘we’ that includes the whole of that whom God has made Holy, ie all of us.
If that principle of leadership guides us, if community guides us, we will still make mistakes but they are less likely to be ones of exclusion as hook’s notes. Exclusion that is something that has been baked into feminism from the beginning and, in my experience, the queer rights movement as well.
We can change if we remember that we are God’s Holy We.
Yasher Koach! Especially appropriate following Repro Shabbat and a most interesting discussion at my shul (we only discuss... no d'vars) when my husband had to raise the question of why all the seemingly biased questions were coming from males???? Our congregation, that trends older, was shocked when I stated that I will no longer use the word "choice" but only direct statements that contain the word abortion and full health care options, including abortion! We have a long way to go in dealing with our biases. Thank you again for this!
This is the most important d'var I have ever seen you give. Yishar koach!
"We must do work that is no less than to go back to the base of Sinai and re-receive Torah anew. This time with God’s intended meaning—in a way that sanctifies every single one of us. All of us together. The whole community.
We shall be holy, for God is holy."
This is a really powerful statement. Thank you for this, and for the resources at the bottom of the newsletter
Thank you Rabbi. I have been a seminary professor for years in the area of practical theology and clinical counseling. Also in Leadership. This was revelatory and encouraging. I am a recovering Evangelical--have jettisoned a lot of my tribe--but I am most certainly enjoying being a part of yours.
Man, now I gotta get out my bell hooks again. Thank you.
It really comes down (as always) to who we mean when we say "people".
I am having a Not Enough Caffeine In The World kind of morning but this was invigorating.
Even if God's intent in saying "make holy" _does_ have something to do with a state of taharah, and thereby requires abstaining from sex for the duration, Moshe's delivery of the instruction is still unmistakably directed to the men and ignores the women except as a means whereby men might fail at the requirement. And there's no kinder way to read that.
Rabbi, Thank you for exploring and unpacking this. I am grateful for your wisdom.
Wow. THIS is tremendous. So much insight and wisdom here. Thank you.
Rabbi Ruttenberg, I wanted to say that I really, really enjoy your posts. I have learned so much from you and usually lurk but I had to respond below. Please keep this up; your posts are very powerful.
What if Moses told to stay away from woman was about to make society stay focus on Exodus from slavery because the serpent can make woman as an entry point of man weakness which is seduction similar to Eve deceived by the serpent to tempt Adam. When Noah was preparing the Noah's Ark & he didn't focus to build & prepare the Noah's Ark then he didn't survived on that big flood. Similar to Moses to take his people out of Egypt. It's not about gender equality but rather than to focus on God's command, if not then the Nehushtan will devour the people (Numbers 21:4-9).
Late to the party, but, R Danya, this is superlative. I've been a clinic escort at a Planned Parenthood clinic and an indie in our town for 31 years, and I am convinced that the language of "choice" was a dreadful tactical error for abortion rights and access. We fought for those rights even as we allowed our guilt and shame to dictate the words we used. And we are paying for that now. Abortion will not disappear in this country, but it's going to be a pretty rough stretch for providers and people who need abortions but don't have a lot of extra resources. I hope everyone who still uses the language of "choice" abandons it and declared themselves to be proudly pro-abortion, on demand, without restrictions, and accessible and affordable for all.
Now I have a different language question. In the verse from Shemot you cited, the Hebrew for people is הָעָ֔ם. Is that a male or female word? If it's male, are the rabbis of the Talmud using its gendered nature to justify excluding women from the covenant? Is it ever used in a clearly universal context?
This is why the Messiah is so vital. He came n will come again ! He speaks for Himself, God Himself !
I'm more than willing to go along with my leader (Rabbi Ruttenberg) in thinking that God didn't say "Don't go near a woman", but I don't feel comfortable putting it all on Moshe either. Even if I agree with my leader's (Rabbi Ruttenberg) bias, the Written Torah depends upon Moshe being at least a reasonably reliable narrator. We do need to stand again at Sinai (per Judith Plaskow) and catch the parts that have been missed so far, by Moshe and all of us who were there (women included).
FOR RABBI RUTTENBERG and anyone else
(feel free to comment on my post below and my Jan 24 question directed to RABBI RUTTENBERG. I am around as subtle as the Israelites on their way to Sinai.)
“Do you think that the covenant between God and the Jewish people might be an unhelpful model for relationships between people?” (Covenantal Relationships Jan 24 – see full question/comment)
An awkward observation. Am I being harder on Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s Substack post today because she is a woman?
Judith Plaskow, Betty Friedan, bell hooks, Tarana Burke and the unnamed women (go-girl, Lean In, individualistic, capitalist, the abortion justice movement, etc.) have their achievements discounted by different people more easily because they are women.
I’ll admit that it is disturbing that Rabbi Ruttenberg seems to go there with some of the women mentioned in “When Leaders’ Biases Do Great Harm”.
I’ll give Betty Friedan, the benefit of the doubt, even if she was writing for wealthy whites. Working for social justice even for those with privilege did not occur in a vacuum. The struggle against racism and sexism has a lot of overlap.
I just finished reading Judith Plaskow’s “Standing Again At Sinai” (1990) and I am certain that its influence on Judaism was very helpful in my decision to join the Jewish people. Judith Plaskow noted things regarding race that Betty Friedan hadn’t dealt with twenty seven years prior.
Appreciating Patricia Hill Collins (“Black Feminist Thought” (2002) which I am still reading) and the Black feminist thinkers “Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde” doesn’t require diminishing non-BIPOC women. The powerful richness of Black feminist thought speaks for itself.
Side note: For whatever reason, it took listening to Sarah Hurwitz’s “Here All Along” (audiobook) to realize that Rabbi Ruttenberg’s given name is Danya, not Dayna. I think I would have noticed by now.