Seeing the Divinity in Each of Us? B’resheit 5779

Posted by on Oct 5, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is copyright to Faith Magdalene Austin of SUNDRIP – Art for life. All rights reserved. Permission was granted for use in accordance with a written contract.
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In the first version (in Genesis 1) of humanity’s creation story, God created us, man and woman: one being with both masculine and feminine. But in the second version (in Genesis 2), suddenly, Adam was all by his lonesome, and God realized that wasn’t such a good plan—it’s not good for a person to be alone. So God created a helper next to, in front of or opposite to Adam—Chava (Eve).

Then all hell broke loose with the apple and the snake and Chava suggesting to Adam that he too eat of the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And Adam lost himself and could not bear to tell God the truth. “It’s all her fault,” Adam said… And out the two of them went, from Eden to the real world, to having to work for a living and giving birth in pain.

“She gave it to me.” It’s her fault.

Today, I’m feeling, well, it all started there. Adam couldn’t own up to his own behavior, and blamed it on Chava, who blamed it on the snake…And things haven’t gotten much better.

I’ve started to read Rebecca Traister’s new book, Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger, just as I was moving from sadness to rage. And it wasn’t just what the Senate is about to do: put a man on the Supreme Court who stands credibly accused of sexual assault, a man who appears to lie regularly under oath, who is and has always been a partisan, who ranted at his hearing, showing a serious lack of judicial temperament…It’s what we are telling teens—both boys and girls. It’s what we’re telling all survivors of sexual assault. It’s the fact that more white women support Kavanaugh than believe Dr. Blasey Ford.

I can’t even watch the comedians make fun of Trump mocking Dr. Blasey Ford at his latest rally. Can’t watch. Nothing funny about this. Nothing.

I found myself irritated by the irony of a man posting a meme on Facebook that women and girls should do a particular thing to protest misogyny. When I pointed out the irony, another man told me to lighten up—which had the exact opposite effect. I could feel the rage flowing through me. Yet another man telling a woman to smile more, lighten up, stop wearing this, speak less shrilly. Mansplaining, taking the ideas of women as their own, discounting, objectifying…These are the daily insults women face—nothing like sexual assault, or being mocked for not remembering every detail of one. But still, they add up to rage.

This week’s torah portion reminds us that humanity is made in the image of God. My Mussar kabbalah (practice) this week has been to try to see the divine spark (or the humanity) in each person I encounter—even the annoying or enraging ones. I acknowledge that I can’t do it presently for the president or the Senate Majority Leader—I need to start with the “easier” people first. I try to start with the man who told me to lighten up, move on to the man who discounts women’s ideas at a board meeting, but praises the same idea when it comes out of a man’s mouth. I might someday be able to see the humanity in Mitch McConnell, but I won’t hold my breath. Because my rage at how he is breaking democracy runs deep.

I happily share stories of people who can sit with members of the KKK and, by appealing to their humanity, help them to resign and send him their robes. Or the goodness involved in helping Cory Booker’s family buy a home in an all-white neighborhood, that set him on track for the US Senate, the type of radical love that will allow people to embrace people who do not agree with them—and indeed are willing to—race to—harm people they perceive as “other.” I want to be one of those people. I want to be able to use my humanity to see the humanity in people who I believe may mean well but are harming others, and speak respectfully with them.

But right now, I am angry.

Mussar, the Jewish psychospiritual practice, taught me that anger in general is not good—but even within Mussar, anger at social injustice is, well, righteous. Traister, in noting all the ways women have been told not to be angry—to lighten up, as this man told me—reminds us that anger in the cause of social justice can be purifying, and good. It can spark the women’s marches, the brave women who have been storming the US Capitol to confront their senators or members of Congress, all the women running for office across the country.

A comparison of Dr. Blasey Ford to Judge Kavanaugh quickly shows that she contained her anger at the questions she was asked by Prosecutor Mitchell, while Kavanaugh gave free rein to his rage. Even in his “apology” in the Wall Street Journal, he still blamed his performance on outside forces. Like Adam and Chava—she made me do it, the snake beguiled me. I’m not responsible.

But we know better. We are all responsible for our actions. Judge Kavanaugh is responsible for his actions. He showed us who he is, and as Maya Angelou told us, when people show us who they are, we should believe them. The first time.

He is not fit to sit on the Supreme Court. Period. Full stop.

And I still fume (quietly to my TV and my beloved husband) that Judge Kavanaugh, a privileged white man, could not only give into his rage (although I believe it was more likely a performance for the sake of the president), but was applauded for it. Held up as a strong man. Admired. And believed, by most white Americans, including most white women (not this one). Had Dr. Blasey Ford done the same, she would have been roundly condemned as an angry woman.

And so, I hope that the rage that women are feeling across the nation coalesces into a good for women—and for men. That we continue to “go high”—avoid ad homineminsults (and I’m in favor of trying to avoid four letter words, but find them effective sometimes), but clearly let our anger show. To move us toward justice. I hope that women, and men of good conscience, vote next month, for candidates who will pledge to protect women, fight for women’s equality, and equality for all those who are vulnerable, especially in these times.

It is not good—lo tov—for a person to be alone—we all need people in our lives. But we need people who treat us well, with kindness. Who stand with us, next to us, and also, yes, opposite to us, who give us the benefit of their perspective. May we stand together, united in the desire to see justice, mercy, and kindness prevail. But may we not shy away from our anger in the cause of justice.

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