Many years ago, I read a story about a Rav who was outdoors when he heard a panic. Apparently, two lions had escaped from a local zoo. The Rav went to see if he could help and he saw one of the lions coming to him. He stood there calmly and the lion came to him and calmed down. The Rav grasped the lion by its mane and led it around where he saw the other lion. He called the other lion softly and the lion came to him. He grasped both lions by the manes and led them to the zookeepers who secured them safely. Everyone was astounded but the Rav explained that when G-d created the beasts of the Earth, He gave them a natural fear of human beings. But this fear only comes when they can see human faces and hear human voices and not when humans behave like animals by running and screaming and hiding.
Recently, I read a story about Commander Effie Eitam of the IDF. He was on vacation in the Alaskan wilderness when he encountered a grizzly bear. The pilot who brought him to his campsite had told him that if he encountered a grizzly bear, he should stay still and say to the bear that he’s staying. Cmdr Eitam did exactly that and it worked but he was astounded- since when do bears understand English? On his return trip, the pilot explained that bears respect the fact that humans are at the top of the food chain and if they see a human face and hear a human voice, they respect that and will back off.
I don’t know what I would do if I encountered a lion or a bear- I still get nervous if I hear a dog barking although I’m much better than I used to be. But there’s a lesson to be learned here.
Many of us have written about how erasing women’s faces from view is dehumanizing. If it takes a human face and a human voice for animals to see us as real human beings, then the same goes for humans. But there are people who want to take away women’s faces and voices. And there are people who enable it. And for what? For some misguided sense of tzniut? For some impossible desire for purity?
Or is it the power? If we run and hide from bears or lions, they have the power to run after us and possibly overtake us. Human beings should not be having that kind of power over other humans. But when women’s faces are erased and voices silenced, that gives men power that they should not have but that they may not want to give up.
What about the power that we SHOULD have? We women are supposed to be using our innate talents and strengths for the benefit of ourselves and our families and Klal Yisrael. We can’t do any of that if we give up our power and allow ourselves to be erased or silenced. Admittedly, it’s easier to let the power go because then we don’t have to deal with the responsibility that goes with it. But that’s a sacrifice that we cannot afford to make. Men too should be using their innate talents and strengths for those same benefits and having that power and using it responsibly. And part of that power can and should be used to take a strong stand against the erasing and silencing of women.
We’re supposed to be doing better than animals.
I suppose that learning from animals is par for the course. We’re supposed to be willing to learn from everyone and everything. But if the animals know that we’re human beings, then Kal V’Chomer, we should know.
Again, I don’t know what I would do if I encountered a lion or a bear. But I do know that I’m not going to hide myself in any way from a man who can’t handle a woman as a real human being. All of us women are supposed to be better than that. And so are the men.