Friday, October 14, 2005

Ayub Ogada -- Obiero

I love this music -- Ayub Ogada is a guy from West Kenya that sings and plays a particular kind of lute called a nyatiti, that's apparently a really ancient instrument. Anyway, it's really nice. I have no idea what he's singing, but it's very soothing.

Over the years, I've developed a nice collection of "world" music. My sophisticated method? I blindly buy albums on the Real World label. If it has that stripe of colors along the side, I buy it. It's a lame way to pick music, but it's worked so far. Some of the best album art ever is on Real World album covers.

So hey! On Yom Kippur I afflicted my soul...I didn't eat or drink or bathe or work. However, I wore leather shoes, and I decided not to afflict my girlfriend's nose, so I did brush my teeth in the morning.

Speaking of which, I really got an appreciation for the traditional mechitza (the barrier separating men and women in Orthodox synagogues) yesterday. Our synagogue, of course, doesn't have one. And when I was a teenager and going to morning services, it wasn't an issue, because women never went. (If there had been a teenage girl at morning services, though, perhaps I'd have kept going rather than dropping out after a while...)

But I could see how I was getting so easily distracted with women about.... the older women behind us were commenting on the services the whole time, my girlfriend and her friend were talking from time to time, teen girls were getting in and out of their seats... it was distracting for me. And of course, once you are conscious of being distracted, EVERYTHING was distracting. Now, I am a straight guy. Honestly, I can't remember any guys in the synagogue besides the rabbi and cantor on the bimah, and there were hundreds there. But I can remember all the women and teenage girls and where they sat and what they were wearing, that one blonde sitting on the aisle a couple rows back that was wearing profoundly inappropriate fishnets, the girl in front of me who was actually studying for the GRE the whole service... . Of course, the traditional rabbinical line seems to be how easy it is for weak men to be distracted by pure and holy women, so we need to stick the barrier up so we can pray without the distraction of all that female stuff.

And this sucks in a way, because I don't want my girlfriend and her daughter excluded from anything. But there are also surely benefits to women when they are able to be with each other and not burdened by being distracted by men. We have all seen how girls often do better in school without the distraction of boys. Currently, there is lots of attention being paid to womens' practice, like all the Rosh Chodesh groups being started up. And we see a small but growing number of feminists find great power and freedom in supposedly sexist practices like muslim headcoverings and Orthodox Jewish "modest" dress, because they are free to be themselves and be judged on who they are, not their body.

Also, another possible benefit is that you emphasize community when you have the men with the men and the women with the women. Honestly, I tend to stay joined to my girlfriend's hip -- I'd be a lot more likely to meet and mingle and get to know guys at synagogue if I were just with guys.

This is all speculation, and I don't see myself in a shul with a mechitza any time soon, but I can understand the reasons in a way I never have before. Who knows. I could be wrong.

Services were good, but by the middle of the afternoon yesterday I had a killer headache and was really grumpy. When it was all over, and we were at our friend's house for break-the-fast, I got a cup of coffee and enjoyed the act of drinking, and then I piled a plate full of kugel and eggs and bagel and tomato and onion and I reconnected with the wonders of food. And within fifteen minutes, I was SO happy. We had a nice time seeing folks we only see a couple times a year on big holidays. It was so nice, sitting at tables under the stars, seeing everyone illuminated in candlelight, all us modern mostly-secular Jews still fasting and celebrating together.

And then when we got home, I did the bedtime Shema and had a great night's sleep...

And now Shabbat is on us and I haven't got hardly anything done. It's amazing how fast time flies. Everyone have a good Shabbat.


Carol said...

Oh please. And I mean that in the nicest way. :) You paint a picture where only women talk and do other things during services while the men are doing nothing but praying. And lets hear it for the mechitza. How about we put the men in the back and out of the way and don't let them raise their voices in song.The modesty issue just would take up too much time so I won't go there.While you may have found that the traditional rabbinical view of women is that they are pure and holy the reality is quite different. Women are kind of akin to the snake in the garden of Eden. It is in their nature to lead men astray. Thats how women are viewed.
There is a lot I like about Judaism. This is not one of them.

lee said...

The rabbis objectified women in extremes that are crippling and devastating for generations of women and of men. I think most societies have the same dichotomy. Christians talk about the Madonna/Whore complex, which is obviously the Pure Holy vs Snake in Gan Eden. But an important part of dealing with discrimination is to understand the motivations. It's easy for me to demonize men and see them as simply dominating and hating women, but here I had a realization of why the mehitzah could have been good for men.

I am not painting a picture where only women are talking and doing things. I am saying that I am a heterosexual male with a highly developed attraction to everything female, and a dozen guys can be doing something and it isn't going to distract me.

For me, women can easily become the serpent in Gan Eden. Walking down the street in summer is a real literal pain. "Oh, my god, she is so.... damn it, stop staring at her, you are such a pig...." is my inner dialogue on GOOD days. Because on bad days I just stare and stare. This is not the fault of the women. Most are not dressing provocatively. If they were wearing Burkhas, I'd probably love staring at their amorphous profiles and wondering.

In shul, I am supposed to be focused on praying and I find myself staring at that woman's legs underneath those fishnet stockings, or waiting for the girl in front of me to toss her hair back in that particular way she does, so it goes in back of her chair into my space and I can smell her shampoo.

The guy next to me could be talking on his cellphone or playing a videogame. I'd notice the women. Does this mean that we put up a wall and segregate women and do all the other traditional discriminatory practices, just so I won't be distracted? Of course not, but it's interesting for me when I find myself understanding at least part of the motivation.

Carol said...

It's not an issue of seperate but equal. Its about being put in the back and out of the way and told to keep quiet that I can't stand. Just look up the reason women light Shabbat candles. It makes me not want to light them. Charley can do it.

lee said...

You mean the idea that women light candles to bring light into the world that compensates for Chava extinguishing light for giving Adam the fruit?

That's not THE reason. It's A reason, and from what I can see it's a relatively recent reason. But still, this is small potatoes. Look at the laws of niddah and the idea you are impure every month,again, because of Chava. But say we get rid of all of it, and just forget about Judaism altogether, because of all the sexist stuff.

We'd still have women having periods and bear kids, die in childbirth, if not, nurse them, have breast cancer, cervical cancer, etc etc etc. So women still get the shaft. There is a fundamental sexism of sorts to the universe.

The rabbis seem to be trying to explain the way of the world by pointing to Chava in Eden.Their failure has been to see this passively and not undertake to correct for this.

But why let the traditional explanation keep you from doing the candle lighting from a positive place? Women bring so much positive into the world, and let the candle lighting be a reflection of this?

Carol said...

Hi Lee- Yeah that's the reason I was talking about in regards to lighting Shabbat candles. It is the traditional reason and is found in the Talmud(Shabbat 31b) thank you Rashi.
Being impure once a month doesn't bother me. Not being acceptable for an aliya in synagogue because I can't be trusted to know when this is so I don't touch the Torah does bother me. The sexist stuff comes from the Rabbi's not God and not the Torah. Women were not always treated as they are now. There was not always a mechitza for example.
As far as breast cancer etc. I don't think we get the shaft more or less. Men have prostate cancer and men get breast cancer.
So when I go to synagogue I'll go to my (non) observant one as you put it:)

lee said...

This is fun, Carol, and I am learning lots.

I think you just made a blunder! The Talmud is the mishnah and the gemarah, right? Rashi didn't come along till, what? Almost a thousand years after the mishnah and gemarah? Rashi commented on the Talmud, but he isn't Talmud itself, is he? I mean, Adin Steinsaltz has his edition of the Talmud with his commentary. When we quote his commentary, are we then going to say "the Talmud says so and so?" Of course not. :-)

I've never set foot in an "observant" synagogue either... :) While I may end up visiting Chabad, I am going to go where my woman goes and be happy with that.

Carol said...

If I blundered it is because The Jewish Book of Why blundered. I quote-"the traditionalexplanation is found in the Talmud..."Maybe commentary becomes part of the Talmud. I need more coffee before I look it up.