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Mama Deb
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Mama Deb [userpic]
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.


I do get frustrated sometimes, when I realize that I enjoy Kabbalat Shabbat services (while I was growing up, those were quite literally the only Shabbat services in town), but I also enjoy baking challah, fixing a meal, lighting my own candles (which I'm not comfortable leaving burning while I jet off to services), and inviting people over. Short of having a minyan over every Friday night -- which will be a serious thought if I ever get my grandmother's dining-room set -- I don't know how to fix this. I mean, staying in my office till I go to services isn't the best possible way to welcome Shabbat, much less the New Year, but if I go home at this point, I'll collapse and not make it out again. ;)

That said, I don't like the idea of ceding all the traditional public rituals to men, in either an Orthodox or a Renewal-style approach. If a public ritual speaks only to men, it should go, but the only possible example of this that comes to mind is the infamous morning prayer. Anything else can always be tweaked a little -- it's not like our liturgy came down from Sinai, after all! -- but I have no trouble whatsoever identifying with most of the available prayers, and not all of them are precisely designed for "identification" in any case.

Anyway. Shanah tovah. :)