Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Women's Revolution

The story of the upcoming holiday of Chanukah is one of the Jewish people being tyrannized by the Greek Empire. Not an unusual occurrence for the Jewish nation, in this [hi]story, the Jewish people got sick of it, started a military revolution, and won.

Ah, revolution. Music to my ears. And - even better! - I just read that it was a revolution fought for the women:

(The following is an excerpt from an article by Chana Kroll at Chabad.org.)

The hall was packed. This was no ordinary wedding, but the wedding of the daughter of one of Jerusalem’s most prominent families. Leaders in the still quiet and nonviolent rebellion against the Greeks, they were respected and loved by Jews throughout the Land ofIsrael. Not to mention that, as priests in the Temple, the family had been looked up to for generations.

Amidst the elegant flowers, soft music, and the conversations of the guests, the bride suddenly stood up, walked to the center of the room, placed her hand on her chest, and tore open her gown.

Shocked, angry, and embarrassed, her brothers rose to drag her from the room. But she stood firmly in place and addressed the room: “You who are so zealous that you would kill me, are not zealous enough to protect me from the hands of the Greek governor who will come here to assault me tonight.

“Did you not learn from Shimon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, who, though only two men, killed the entire city of Shechem for her sake? Place your faith in the One Above, and He will help you.”

Her five brothers declared their willingness to go to war, and were answered by a voice emanating from the Holy of Holies promising victory. [...]

The Greeks outlawed Shabbat, the celebration of the New Moon, and Torahstudy. Jews hid in caves and continued to observe all three. The Greeks found hundreds of ways to try to stamp out Judaism. Jews found hundreds of ways to quietly rebel and to remain what they had always been. Then the Greek soldiers started assaulting Jewish women. The governor made a decree—unfortunately, a common one in ancient cultures—called jus primae noctis, “first night rights.” The governor would kidnap and assault every bride on her wedding night.

And then the Jews went to war.

The victory we celebrate on Chanukah is a victory on many levels. It is a victory of the few over the many, of light over darkness, of Jewish continuity in the face of all those who had sought, or would seek to, wipe out Judaism and Jewish history.

The Jewish people—men and women—defied every Greek law with enormous self-sacrifice, yet it was largely by and for the sake of Jewish women that the Maccabees were led to declare war.

The decisive moment occurred when one Jewish woman looked her brothers in the eye and told them, “You cannot let this happen to me.” It was a war, first and foremost, for sanctity—the sanctity of the Temple, the sanctity of Torah, and the sanctity of every human being.

Among the many miracles we acknowledge and commemorate as we kindle the lights of the menorah, we also acknowledge the simple truth of every woman’s sanctity and her right to personal safety and dignity.

I was excited to read this article because, as I was discussing with a colleague of mine recently, there aren't very many stories in modern Jewish history of frum women standing up for themselves. There are biblical and ancient stories, like this one, but even those are rare.

We need more female heroes in the frum community. Of course, I'd prefer killing the Greek bastards who tried to pull that jus primae noctis crap on me myself, instead of letting the guys do it, but - hey! - we've got to start somewhere.


  1. >You who are so zealous that you would kill me, are not zealous enough to protect me from the hands of the Greek governor who will come here to assault me tonight.

    FEH!! FEH!!

    So patriarchal, so chauvinistic. The idea of men fighting to keep their sister's honor is so 1950's. How dare you?

  2. Totally.

    But I guess that back in those days, women went to their brothers for protection. Didn't you notice that I wrote that I'd rather shoot the bastards myself to having my brother do it?

    (You didn't think I'd take this comment seriously, did you? Haha! I totally do.)

  3. when is sexism and slantedness going to stop in frum shidduchim? In particular for BT women over 25, why are so many women willing to settle? Why do the women get most of the pressure?

  4. I'm not sure I understand what you're talking about. Willing to settle for what?

  5. what I mean is women are often being bullied and selling themselves short in shidduchim. It's just frequently all about the men in the shidduch world.

  6. Well, I know that's certainly been my experience. I'd love to hear your perspective!

  7. lol...personal experience? where to begin? not now, maybe later...I'm not holding out it's just after a while you get flustered and it becomes hard to articulate..

    I think as a rule, women really need to vote with their feet and en masse learn to say no. I don't think we're making better/functional Jewish families/society by starting out this way. (ie: woman being patronized and browbeaten to marry mr. picky.)

    I'm not saying that women are never unreasonable in their requirements, but most women inherently feel the pressure to get married, and struggle more with validation then men do. It seems that it is much easier for men
    to get the support they need than women-single, married and divorced or going through divorce.

  8. AmIaFrumFeminist, I have additional ideas I'd like to share with you but it is not feasible to post them here...

  9. hi I'm anonymous of past 2 posts, giving a name now from here on in...

  10. just heard above story on a Chanukah shiur, it is really a great one and needs more fame.

  11. Feel free to email me at FrumFeminist @ Gmail . com

  12. Gun control: The theory that a woman raped in an alley is morally superior to a woman standing over her rapist with a smoking 9mm.