January 27, 2012 Leave a comment
Freefall captures precisely a tension I experience – when the question was asked of RDBF “could Commander Data convert to Judaism?” his answer was “yes, assuming that he could (a) survive immersion in a mikvah, and (b) understand kabbalat ol mitzvot” (acceptance of the yoke of the commandments). So in that way, the current guidance is that traditional Jewish thought would place a greater differentiation between man and woman than between human and non-human. Hm.
Something doesn’t quite fit right here – and yet there is certainly truth to the idea that the sexes are qualitatively different. No matter how much a man could want it, he can never give birth. Unsurprisingly, this leads to differences in physiological structure which appears to give rise to differences in thinking patterns and aptitudes, which leads the difference between the perspectives of men and women to routinely be the subject of oodles of comedians. So this certainly seems like a real and valuable difference – I’m extremely glad that Sarah thinks differently than I do, and there have been lots of times that one of us has been able to bail out the other from some problem which looked insurmountable.
The rejoinder to the argument is that the differences between individuals are greater than the differences between the averages – i.e. that two men can be further apart on whatever measurement than the average man and the average woman. I buy that too. But if the differences between the averages weren’t a useful or widely-observed phenomenon, comedians wouldn’t get much mileage out of it.
I think my favorite split-the-baby proposition is that of Rabbi Roth, the Conservative thinker who had the idea that women were not automatically obligated in all of the mitzvot, but could accept upon themselves the obligation and burden, and at that point could serve in any ritual capacity. The problem is that in practice, vanishingly few people actually follow R’ Roth’s position. so I think it falls into the category of “idea that is widely ignored.”
So I’m not sure where I am here, and there’s a big dialectic (hehe) clash. Fortunately I’m not in a hurry.