More about Analyzing a Rabbinic Quip

On the other hand . . . I know I am up to the third hand, but bear with me.

On another paw: when I read what I have just written about analyzing a rabbinic quip, I felt like the rabbi’s quip deserves more respect.

I have heard people claim that nature makes no differences between the sexes; all such differences come from our corrupt culture.

I have heard other people claim that gender does not exist, that our perception of differences itself comes from our corrupt culture.

Well, even those people have to make an exception for some obvious physical differences.  Even those people admit that, in the absence of baby bottles and formula, no men can do as well as some women at feeding newborn babies.  As for taking care of newborn babies in other ways, they would maintain, men and women must inherently be equally adept.

Perhaps so, though nature or God makes sure that males and females of some other species have different tasks in rearing the next generation.  Perhaps female and male human beings have, on the average, the very same talents for all tasks including baby-care, though male and female cats have different talents.  An ideologue could then claim that if any human society has different expectations for females and males in any way, that society thus shows unacceptable sexism.

But if female and male human begins have, on the average, any differences, then blaming any society for acknowledging real differences might amount to demanding to live in an alternative reality.

As “The beginning of wisdom is fear of God” (Proverbs 9:10), so too the beginning of wisdom requires that one accept reality.  If ideology prevents one from acknowledging reality, then one really is, as the rabbi put it, “arguing with God.”

It is not cognitive weakness to notice that an ideologue insists on alternative reality.

One may well maintain, of course, that society should allow each individual to choose his or her role even if nature makes the average female better at some task, or the average male better at a different one.  Or one may reasonably find value in preserving different roles for males and females, as human societies have tended to do over the millennia, though modern discourse has trouble formulating a justification for those differences.

Insisting that all differences must be the influence of a corrupt society, however, might really amount to arguing with God.

About the Author
Louis Finkelman teaches Literature and Writing at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan. He serves as half of the rabbinic team at Congregation Or Chadash in Oak Park, Michigan.
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