Freedom is … allowing oneself to do a paradigm shift. I did one of these when I began to explore my Jewish roots (about 25+ years ago) and kept butting up against ideas that contradicted what I thought I already knew to be ‘true.’ Seeing the different reactions to Mike Pence’s statements regarding how he chooses to socialize, I wanted to share my perspective. I grew up as a secular Jewish person and considered myself an atheist hippy liberal feminist. I attended Grinnell College, a beacon of liberalism amidst the cornfields of Iowa, and then through an interesting divine twist of fate landed up in Israel and began to study the roots of traditional Judaism including kabbalah.It was super challenging considering that, although a part of me propelled me forward to learn more about my Jewish roots and ancestral traditions, my mind rebelled against what I was learning. A big part of that rebellion had to do with the men/ women thing. At some point I decided to put my anti-religious views on the side and sit on the fence with a paradigm shift. I learned quite a bit with that paradigm shift. I’ve never studied Christianity so I can’t speak for “Graham” rules and in the Jewish tradition, the Bible, which Jews refer to as the written Torah, is never learned without the Oral tradition (Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalah). In fact there is no way to understand the Written Torah without it. This being said, the reasons behind the strict guidelines of separation of men and women in religious Jewish circles may differ than the reasons behind the “Graham rules” and yet there are similarities in terms of Pence’s choices. Orthodox Jewish men and women also follow strict laws regarding marriage and spending time with the opposite gender. I won’t shake a man’s hand who is not my husband, son, father or grandfather including my brother-in-law’s who I have a lot of emotional affection for. I won’t go out to eat or hang out with a man who is not my husband. I leave the front door ajar if a man is working in my house and my children and husband aren’t home. It’s not because men have Cooties or because I as a woman am considered full of filth or temptation. It has to do with deep honor, respect and cherishing of one’s partner, one’s sexuality and one’s being. And that goes for both men and women. Because I chose to do that paradigm shift and be open to understanding a culture that was unfamiliar to me (traditional religious Judaism), I see Pence’s decision as something admirable. He is protecting his marriage commitment and honoring his partner and this is the way he chooses to do it. I have much more to say on this topic because it is a deep one and does require a bit of a paradigm shift. I’m in the process of editing my memoir and it includes this subject which was quite eye opening for me considering my secular/liberal/feminist/background and I think it will be for others as well.
11th day of the Jewish month of Nissan – the month of Freedom