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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

31. All Hail the Jaded Woman

Parshah Emor

TL;DR of the Text

Major Themes

  • Can men and women be friends?

  • Chastity is sexist, and not just for the obvious reasons

  • Miscegenation and xenophobia

*Important attribution note: All quotes listed in this article are credited to the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash. Here is an Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash: the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

Leviticus 21: 1-5*

“‘Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and tell them: Each of you shall not contaminate himself to a [dead] person among his people; except for the relative who is closest to him, to his mother and to his father, to his son, to his daughter, and to his brother; and to his virgin sister who is close to him, who has not been wed to a man; to her shall he contaminate himself… 

They shall not make a bald spot on their heads, and they shall not shave an edge of their beard…’”

Contamination, in this context, means facilitating a burial. This rule prohibited priests from engaging in mourning rituals except for their immediate family. 

The sister is the interesting part. Sisters were only meaningful enough to mourn if they were virgins or married?

Today, patriarchy is reinforced, but studying the Torah gives us the opportunity to see how patriarchy was established. This rule might seem small, but in reality, it instills a fear of closeness in even the most familial male-female relationships. 

We see the natural endpoint of this sentiment in today’s adage, “Men and women can’t be platonic friends.” 

Now, unfortunately, I’ve also stopped pursuing or acquiescing to friendships with men. Not on principle, but because every single time I do, I have to field the question of why I don’t want to date them. It’s exhausting. 

We could blame men for this - why can’t they just be friends with women? What’s wrong with them? But this ignores how words create realities as well as reflect them. 

Maybe this Torah verse was written because there was a not-insignificant number of sibling relationships, but maybe, too, this verse created a whole Pandora’s box of fear and issues around male-female closeness. Maybe men don’t accept platonic friendships with women because they’ve been told their whole lives that men and women can’t be platonic friends. 

Patriarchy, like every other type of oppression, is rooted in fear. Fear of women, yes, but also man’s fear of his own nature. If he gets close to a woman, what will happen? What will he do? Will he be able to control himself? 

The self-doubt can lead to a few different places, but the most harmful one is denial of and rebellion from the fear. This reaction erects a defense mechanism between the man’s fear-based doubt and his behavior, thus making him much more likely to falter in his self-control. 

It all comes down to fear. Fear is the root we must pull up all throughout society. 

Leviticus 21: 10*

“The Kohen who is exalted above his brethren - upon whose head the anointment oil has been poured or who has been inaugurated to don the vestments - shall not leave his head unshorn and shall not rend his garments.” 

*Kohen = high priest, as differentiated from the ordinary priests

I’m reminded of the Catholic clergy’s rules on chastity, the same rules that opened the gates of Hell on Earth in terms of the sexual depravity they’ve led to. Both Jewish and Catholic priests make a Faustian bargain: they’re crowned better than everyone else, but they also no longer get to be human. They must ignore fundamental aspects of existence, such as sex and mourning loved ones. Most of them can’t handle it because we are human, all of us. As a result, the priests end up taking us down with them. 

Leviticus 21:13*

“‘He shall marry a woman in her virginity.’” 

I forgot if this has come up before, so apologies for my redundancy if so. But chastity is sexist, and not just because only the woman is required to be a virgin. 

Most people start out bad at sex. It’s a skill, like everything else, and nothing in our society teaches us the truth about how to do it properly. There’s only one way to practice this particular skill, which means if you’re a virgin bride, you have no benchmark. For example, you might still think it’s a workable issue if your husband doesn’t provide oral sex. You might be willing to accept an orgasm gap. You certainly wouldn’t know what you want, and you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable (or “jaded”) enough to not give a shit how the man reacts when you tell him your needs. 

I spent my whole teenage and young adult life being told women get “jaded” in their thirties. Well, I can now officially say I’m 100% jaded. The other day I told a guy loitering outside of my grocery store to “Shut the fuck up!” when he shouted at me that his last three girlfriends had hair my color. 

Reaching the point of jadedness is an absolute blast. I love it. And I’ll let you in on a secret: mature partners love it. Because you can give your partner a blueprint for exactly what you want. If they’re mature, they’ll say one of two things: Oh, thank God, or, Can we compromise? 

Leviticus 21:17*

“Any man of your offspring throughout their generations in whom there will be a blemish shall not come near to offer the food of his God.” 

Of all the terrible punishments in the Torah, ostracization is one of the worst. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the cruelty. Especially for a blemish like “abnormally long eyebrows,” which is an example important enough for the Torah to have quoted it. 

Leviticus 22:4*

“Any man from the offspring of Aaron who is a metzora or a zav shall not eat from the holies until he becomes purified…or a man from whom there is a seminal emission…”

Now we’re punishing people for having sex even if they did marry a virgin! Can’t catch a break. 

I used to do one of those long Korean skincare routines. I ended up planning my whole day around my skincare routine because it took so long! And because I had to wait for every layer to dry. 

Something similar happened here. There were so many things that prevented the Israelites from being ritually “clean” for worship that they ended up spending half of their daily energy analyzing whether/if they could go to the temple to worship. And when they forgot and went to the temple anyway, of course, they’d have to apologize with a big fat offering for the priests. 

Leviticus 21:10*

“No layman shall eat of the holy; one who resides with a Kohen or his laborer shall not eat of the holy.” 

So even if you were a guest in a Kohen’s house, you couldn’t eat their offerings, even though the Kohens depended on offerings for their food. It’s the equivalent of saying: stay with me! You just can’t eat the food offerings. By the way, the food offerings are the only food available. 

It set up an egregious form of social stratification, which is still very much present in Jewish society today and on full display in the genocide in Gaza. 

Leviticus 22:12*

“If a Kohen’s daughter shall be married to a layman, she may not eat of the separated holies.” 

Jews still shamelessly trumpet against miscegenation. They skirt around the subject by renaming miscegenation “assimilation,” but I’ve literally heard an Orthodox Jewish mother tell me to my face that they’d prefer their son to marry a completely non-observant, bacon-eating, racially Jewish woman than a convert to Judaism. This was during the time I had flirted briefly with conversion, by the way, and I met the woman at synagogue. She invited me to her home for a meal after synagogue, which makes the context truly wild. 

Jews aren’t the only ones who do this. Most cultures do this, but for some reason, it’s sometimes considered acceptable. I was at a brunch where someone wanted to set up his friend, who sounded for all the world like a f***boy, with another person’s friend just because the woman was of a certain race, and he figured any man of her race (and his) was better than a white boy. 

This is never okay. At some point, we have to see this phenomenon as a game of cultural mad libs. If we keep playing, one day, another group will be slotted in as the oppressor and a different group will be the oppressed, and we’ll just keep going on this hamster wheel of xenophobia and fear. It has to stop. 

The very last thing we should be doing is either encouraging or discouraging anyone from marrying someone just because of their race. We already have more than enough reasons to discourage people from their choice of partner because of character defects. 

Leviticus 22: 18-19, 23*

“Any man of the House of Israel and of the proselytes among Israel who will bring his offering for any of their vows or their free-will offerings that they will bring to Hashem for an elevation-offering; to be favorable for you: [It must be] unblemished… you may make it a donation, but it is not acceptable as a vow-offering.’”

The ancient version of an “impulse buy” section. You set an animal aside for an offering. Once it reaches the proper age, you take it to the priests, who tell you - uh oh! It has long eyebrows. Or a pimple. No good. But hey, if you want, you can still leave it as a donation. What a clever grift. 

Leviticus 22:24*

“One whose testicles are squeezed, crushed, torn, or cut, you shall not offer to Hashem, nor shall you do these in your Land.”

Even the Torah prohibits castration! We should probably stop castrating dogs just so we can remove their noses through forced breeding.

Leviticus 22:28*

“But an ox or a sheep or goat, you may not slaughter it and its offspring on the same day.” 

Humane slaughter is just as essential as humane animal husbandry. 

Leviticus 23:10*

“When you shall enter the Land that I give you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring an Omer from your first harvest to the Kohen.”

Every religion has a festival/harvest offering, but Judaism has two: one in the fall and one in  early summer. No matter how much religion tries, it just can’t sever the connection between humanity and the Earth. 

Leviticus 23:39-40*

“On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather in the crop of the Land, you shall celebrate Hashem’s festival for a seven-day period; the first day is a rest day and the eighth day is a rest day. You shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of a citron tree, the branches of date palms, twigs of a plaited tree, and brook willows…”

It took me seven years of practicing Judaism before I celebrated Sukkot because  I couldn’t see any logical reason for it. Having finally done it last year and feeling the effect of waving the collection of plants listed in the verse, I might even continue doing it despite no longer practicing Judaism. It’s the Jewish equivalent of a purifying sage ceremony, and a powerful one. 

Leviticus 24: 11-14*

“The son of [an] Israelite woman pronounced the Name and blasphemed - so they brought her to Moses… they placed him under guard to clarify for themselves through Hashem.  Hashem spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Remove the blasphemer to the outside of the camp, and all those who heard shall  lean their hands upon his head: The entire assembly shall stone him.’”

More fodder for Moses’ “or else” plans. Obey! Bring lots of offerings to the Temple… or else!  The anti-blasphemy commandment also negates the theory that “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain” means “don’t use God as an excuse for shitty behavior.” Unfortunately, at least in this verse, it actually means don’t say, “Oh my God.” 

Shouldn’t God have bigger concerns than whether we use God’s name as an exclamation?

Leviticus 24:21*

“One who strikes an animal  shall make restitution.” 

A refreshing bit of progressivism.

*Again with the Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash : the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.



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