As this shabbat of resumed violence begins, the triennial reading cycle has us begin our torah reading this Shabbat in Genesis 34. The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel(?) pauses, and we are presented with a “meanwhile, elsewhere in the Land of Canaan” interlude. The section begins with Dinah bat Leah – the daughter of Leah and Yaakov/Jacob (also Yisrael/Israel), who is named with her mother's name in this classic Jewish formulation, rather than her father's. She is indeed the subject of the first verse of the chapter, an agent of her own life, choosing what to do with her time and with whom to pursue hanging out. How quickly this changes, though, in verse two. Immediately, the male gaze of Shechem ben Hamor (which coincidentally happens to mean ‘donkey’) objectivizes Leah making her the grammatical object thenceforth (Mulvey 1972). [Full transparency, I am a male with a BS in Business Management with no gender studies background. Leave that to Sandy who will drash on this tomorrow at Kadima Shabbat services! Come!]
L'havdil, this sharp and quick turn from subject to object resonates with me deeply as I reflect on the last few weeks, a luxury – reflection – that I will try to hold onto as the fighting in Israel/Palestine has resumed in earnest, especially this shabbat.
I have been the subject of my own story at times lately, baruch hashem, and, chaval, I have been the object of other people’s stories as well. On Thursday, November 17, I was a subject in a story about the release of the WA Solidarity Statement for Peace & Justice in Israel/Palestine, a statement now signed by over 2600 Washington residents, 160 community organizations, 300 faith leaders and tradition keepers, and nearly 50 state elected officials. Signatures will remain open until there is a permanent ceasefire, so you can have yourself & your friends sign here, and your organizations can sign here as well.
On Tuesday, November 22, I was a subject in a letter supporting CM Mosqueda, Juarez, and Herbold Seattle City Council Resolution which made Seattle the largest city in the US (at the time) to call for a ceasefire and hostage return, humanitarian aid, and combatting antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism – which has since nearly killed three Palestinian college students in Vermont.
In the days that have followed, my efforts and my name itself (no shared links, but trust me), have been called into question by others in the Jewish community - without any of them asking me to comment. I was so quickly objectified. So quickly left out of the story others told about me and these efforts. Kacha ze (so it goes), sometimes, but not without my voice. We can only imagine what Dinah herself would have said.
May we all find a sense of agency in situations where we are turned into an object. Where we are not even engaged, let alone engaged with curiosity and compassion. May we all find ways to act up when we might ask ourselves despairingly: “what can I do?” Let us in fact ask this same question with genuine curiosity, and may we find answers from within and from friends and allies. The act of trying something in the direction of what we desire is in-and-of-itself a victory. Is liberatory. Is perhaps a piece of liberation, itself. Kadima. Onward.
Shabbat shalom – may we taste the world of liberation to come. And once again, renewed, ceasefire now.