Before I begin, I’d like to disclaim something – I’m really not an expert, by any means, and in the event that anyone can provide better evidence for/against a claim I make here I’ll gladly consider it.
Okay, so here’s something I’ve begun to notice in many places, both in the world at large and on the Internet – Judaism and its values frequently get lumped in with those of Christianity, when the truth is that they sometimes differ quite drastically in some very key ways, especially in the way mainstream Christianity has made a sharp turn towards the conservative end of the spectrum.
The first one I felt should be mentioned is Original Sin. To put things simply: original sin does not exist in Judaism, we don’t believe in it, and never have. A good resource to support this is here, where there are many Hebrew Scriptural passages in fact refuting this idea of Original Sin. Judaism has always taught that people are responsible for only their sins, and the sins of the father are most certainly not the sins of the son.
Why is this important? Original Sin, in the Augustinian tradition, has acted as a justification and basis for misogyny, self-hatred and also revulsion towards sex right from the very start – original sin was transmitted through sex, and the very act of birth served to bring even more sin into the world, so what does that say about women?
This is not a Jewish idea – while the justifications for these ideas may have come from Genesis, it seems that many people forget that God holds Adam just as culpable (in fact, the first such incident of male helplessness in recorded history – “I was helpless against her feminine wiles! I’m only a man!” as though he had no freewill and it’s totally all Eve’s fault), and that even if the idea was that women came into being after men, it also is said that women are, in fact, just as much in the image of God as man.
While it’s silly to deny sexism in Judaism against women (the longtime ban against teaching women the Torah that Rashi went against is just one instance), the fact is that conflating Christianity and Judaism and their values doesn’t serve to fight for equality and justice in either community if one can’t get a handle on what they’re fighting against. It’s like Frank Zappa says about music – by all means, one should break the rules but at least know which rules you don’t like and why.
I did, finally, link Frank Zappa and Jewish education, my two greatest loves!