It is no secret that over the past weeks I have become involved in a turbulent situation, that has become ever more public. While I have been put forward as „controversial“ what I am actually after (other than simple justice) is to encourage thought in our community – deep thought on important issues. It is with this in mind, that I’d like to „put my case to you,“ and I ask only that you hear me out, and give your serious consideration accordingly.
Nowhere does G-d say that „a woman cannot sing in front of men,“ nowhere in our entire Torah does it say that „a woman cannot sing in front of men.“ Nowhere do any of our forefathers suggest that „a woman cannot sing in front of men“ – Nowhere! In fact truth be told see Exodus Chapter 15 :20- 21 – where Miriam (elder sister of Moses and Aaron) “… sing to the lord, for he has triumphed gloriously…” and if memory serves she was not thereafter struck by a massive lightning bolt!
My orthodox counterparts do however „use“ our SACRED texts (no pun intended) to suggest that women cannot sing in front of men. „The voice of a woman is erva, as it is said: (Song of Songs Chapter 2:14) ‘For your voice is sweet and your face is comely,” this is then „miss“interpreted by my orthodox colleagues to somehow suggest that women cannot sing in front of men, that there is something sinister, immoral, dirty or degrading about such an occurrence.
Imagine that, a beautiful melodious „sweet voice,“ sung from the heart of a human being (who happens to be a woman) sung in heartfelt touch with those whom she cares deeply for, or for those who are no longer with us (her.) She sings in utter reverence to her G-d, to her community, to her extended family – and this my orthodox counterparts suggest to you is a degrading, disgusting practice – what mentality I ask you, goes to such great lengths, to contrives such things?
It is at such (low) points that we as a people, require deep introspection, we need to look deeply into this, and earnestly seek to understand why such a „MAN-made-mistake“ arose, why such blatant discrimination has become so entrenched (and accepted!) in our society, as to be taken as Gospel, as if Moses himself brought this, “and other MAN-made commandments“ down the mountain with him.
And so let us now turn our gaze to this important question, let us firmly focus our attention here and see what we observe.
The vast majority of religious leaders in early days were men (not that things have changed that much) they naturally observed things through their eyes and from their perspective. Let us call it a „masculine perspective“ and to be fair in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with this – PROVIDING – one understands and accepts that there would, under such circumstances, naturally be another perspective let us call it a „feminine perspective,“ if in such a case one only observes things from one perspective (when there are more than one) the scientists call this an „error or parallax,“ in layman’s terms, and unbalanced or inaccurate perspective on things, by virtue of an observance from an unbalanced vantage point.
Now I’d like to be clear about „masculine and feminine,“ in that these are principles that really exist in both sexes (something like the Chinese yin and yang symbol) for example „nurturing“ would be considered a „feminine expression,“ which is not to say that a man cannot be nurturing – he can – if he so chooses to embrace a feminine principal. This is no different with let us say aggression a „masculine expression,“ which is not to say that a woman cannot be „aggressive“ – she can – if she chooses to embrace a masculine principal.
The problem then arises when one starts to „interpret“ our (Men AND women’s) SACRED texts – from a single or unbalanced perspective. If one interprets these scriptures from an „unbalanced perspective,“ you will subject yourself to the error of parallax – what you see is actually not an accurate reflection of the truth (even though its actually what you see) and make no mistake it is the truth that we are after – it is the only thing that will set us free.
So what has all this got to do with „women singing in front of men,“ men who may find a woman’s voice alluring „Erva“ – I put it to you, that such men lack a balanced perspective on things, cannot fundamentally and simply „see things for what they are – cannot see the truth – plainly for what it is.“ At the end they have taken the matter „biblical text they are quoting,“ completely out of context – the reason for this distortion is that they are seeing things from an unbalanced perspective, in this case from only a “masculine” perspective – they lack sufficient “feminine” perspective, in order to get a balanced perspective – hence they fall victim to the error of parallax.
In conclusion simply put, the context is a „memorial service for all our extended family, this on a very solemn day for our entire nation“ – and NOT a fashion parade or a beauty pageant – and accordingly ALL should view this in the light (context) that it truly is! If „they“ don’t, then they need to take a very deep look within themselves! – Deep enough to get in touch with the “feminine principal” that exists within themselves – then will their perspectives become “balanced,” and then only will they start to see things accurately – in a balanced way – for what they are.
Wishing you Chag Pesach Sameach! Rabbi Julia Margolis