September 6th, 2002

Mama Deb

Cooking and Spirituality

In a post I made yesterday, I mentioned that I do the practical stuff, and both naomichana and kassrachel said that cooking is a form of spirituality, too.

And, of course, they're right - preparing for the Sabbath and for holidays is a mitzvah in and of itself. But it has me thinking.

Orthodox Judaism is very much centered in the home, which means it's centered on the women because in most cases the things that make an Orthodox home - kashrut, Shabbat and family purity - are under the control of the woman of the house, and it is considered to be *her* house in these respects. Yes, there are men who cook and households that depend on take out and so on, but the fact is that most of this falls on women's shoulders - and family purity is *all* about the women. If a wife refuses to observe it, the husband is sunk.

And, I think, this is something that other branches of Judaism may have lost. By downplaying traditional mitzvot like kashrut and Shabbat, and focusing on the public parts, they may have taken things out of the home and the hands of the women, and reduced their empowerment. In which case, the true need to then turn to the public aspects for spiritual fulfillment has to arise. And since the public rituals are basically designed to speak to men, it then makes sense that women would feel the need to create their own public rituals. And that's following a long tradition from Eastern Europe, grown from women who were not taught anything *but* their particular mitzvot.

I'm not a very traditional type of woman. I cook because I enjoy it, not because it's my "job". As soon as I got a job that would help pay for it, I stopped doing any laundry. I do not clean much, if at all. I am most definitely a feminist in terms of politics, economics and society - especially since I view feminism as expanding choices. And, of course, I write slash. :)

But religiously speaking - I *like* my power. I like that *I'm* the one who decides which food is fit to eat and how things should be arranged to keep it that way, that it's my decisions that affect our observance of family purity. That it's my candlelighting that starts the Sabbath or the holiday. I enjoy synagogue services, I enjoy saying the traditional prayers with a minyan and with myself. And I don't feel a need to attend women's services.

However, I know others do, and I'm glad they exist. I express my feminism in other ways - I happily spent years learning Talmud, which has been traditionally closed to women, and that should no longer be the case. It should be a choice of a field of study to young Orthodox women - not a requirement, but a choice.

And now, I'm going to finish cooking. :)

Sweet and prosperous New Year.
Mama Deb


If I have offended any of you in any way during the past year, I am sorry and I beg your forgiveness.

May you all have a happy and healthy year to come.