Thursday, January 06, 2011

from BBC News: Female Torah scribe observes and battles tradition

I heard this on the way from St. Stephens Preschool this morning. Read the written story here, but take the time to play the embedded video, too.

Several things struck me while listening to the interview: Aviehlah's description of her work, how she came to her vocation, and how she views her unique status as the first female scribe in a few hundred years. She engages in her work as a sacred vocation--a vocation whose first glimmering came to her at the age of 3, with her first sight of the Hebrew script, which of course she did not understand fully but which she felt, instinctively, was important in some way.

But it's her description of her determination to live "sincerely and 100% within tradition" that struck me most forcefully. People regard her in a variety of ways: some people reject her, some people are fine with her, and some people seem to assume that she does what she does as a way of "sticking it to the man." This is not how she describes her vocation or her intent in pursuing it. Instead, she emphasizes how many years she spent learning from men--teachers and fellow scribes, all of whom are male--and how many years she has spent earnestly delving into tradition, seeking an answer to the question of whether it is permissible for a woman to do this work. This is, she says, as if stating the absurdly obvious, is obedience, not rebellion.*

Truthfully, it is absurdly obvious. And maybe (dare I hope?) the absurdly obvious is more easily seen in an example of a woman's devotion to a sacred calling in a tradition outside of our own CofC tradition.

Now, we don't have an authoritative body of leaders to sign off on something (or not). And we don't have an accumulated body of textual commentary describing authoritative traditions (at least, not in the same sense). What we do have, we "speak where the Bible speaks" people, is the biblical text. So for women in the c'sofC, our version of Aviehlah's obedient and diligent years-long search of tradition for permission to practice her vocation is going back to the Bible: back to those verses and the authoritative interpretations we've received, in an effort to understand, an effort to discern how we are called and what our scriptures truly say about that. This is, to state the absurdly obvious, obedience--not rebellion.

*note: some of these details are pulled from my memory of the audio interview aired on the BBC, not all of which appears in the video or the written text.

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