Volume 92, Issue 44

Friday, November 20, 1998

go north


Feminizing the Jewish tradition

By Sarah Kyle
Gazette Staff

Rabbi Goldstein's latest work of biblical feminist criticism focuses on discovery. "Re-teaching a thing its loveliness," she states, is the function of Re-visions: Seeing Torah Through a Feminist Lens. In bold, prosaic style, Rabbi Goldstein tackles The Pentetuch, which is the first five books of the Hebrew bible known as The Torah.

These texts have been used to justify the subjugation of women in the Judeo-Christian world throughout the centuries. Many feminists abandon the biblical texts because of their inherent misogyny, yet Rabbi Goldstein prefers to restructure the texts. "I want to create a space of empowerment and ennoblement for women," she says.

Rabbi Goldstein revises the traditional texts rather than merely banish the works or invent new stories. "I believe there is a tension between tradition and innovation," she divulges. She hopes to preserve the traditional context but add new feminizing rituals. Goldstein terms this form of revision not only a feminizing of The Torah, but casts a feminists view on it as well.

She begins by contextualizing The Torah within its patriarchal social system. Although women's influence seldom became part of the public or political spheres of the community, Goldstein still finds empowerment for women and their spiritualism. "I unlayer the text and find what is between the lines," she says, which establishes female authority.

Goldstein's text is optimistic and accessible. She leads the reader through an eloquent revision of The Torah, especially its principles affecting women. She creates a new approach to viewing the taboos of menstruation and blood, addressing the inherent physicality of the female body from a female perspective. Her views renew hope for those who have abandoned The Torah and other sacred texts. Goldstein sees the beauty in The Torah, yet finds room for feminism within its phallocentrism.

This creation and balance of a space for women, mixed with their rituals within Judaism, is both an important and empowering step.

Rabbi Goldstein will speak at Huron College in Rm. 536 at 7 p.m. on Monday.

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Copyright The Gazette 1998