Thursday, May 15, 2008

A dinner experience

I attended a women's dinner at our synagogue last night. The food was great, everyone looked wonderful, I sat with an interesting group of women, had some interesting conversation, had some wine, had a good time. All that was fine.

What gave me pause was the centerpiece of the evening. Our synagogue is having a Torah written, which is quite an undertaking. A person called a "sofer," a scribe, handwrites each letter of the Torah. I think it takes at least a year. It's a very precise and difficult procedure.

So the sofer was the speaker, which was also fine, and then it was time for us -- the 70 or 80 women attending this dinner -- to "witness" the sofer write a few words in the Torah.

The Rabbi got up and talked about how important and meaningful it was to witness the writing of a Torah scroll, and during his comments he quoted from the Torah, "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." He said something like: "the Torah is pleasant, the Torah is love." Maybe not exactly that, but something like that. I couldn't help but think of all the violent stories in the Torah, violence against women, the violent nature of G-d, and how really, the Torah isn't about love. Maybe the concept of Torah is love, but inside the Torah, there's plenty of other stuff. So that bugged me.

The other thing that bugged me was this sense of we were being "forced" to have a "meaningful experience." It was like we weren't able to figure out by ourselves that it was meaningful, so we needed someone to tell us that it was meaningful. As a grown woman, I am fully capable of figuring out if experiences are meaningful, and how I will feel on my own, thank you very much.

It left me with a strange taste in my mouth. And it wasn't the dessert.

1 comment:

Karen said...

I, too, was at the dinner, and I had the exact same reaction to the comment that "Torah is love." The Torah, as it happens, is quite full of very "non-loving" stories! And the tone the Rabbi struck was one of, well, slight condescension.

Maybe it wasn't the time or place to get into a long discussion about whether or not the Torah is about "love" -- but knowing as much about Torah as I do made the Rabbi's comments seem incomplete.