BY RABBI SHLOMO PINKUS / AJT //
Fortunately or unfortunately, these concepts have been kicked around in the media and used as tools to help explain groups or ideas. They have opened debates and shed light on new ways of thinking, but they have also hindered and separated.
It is no longer the accepted practice in society to be a chauvinist. Anyone who claims to be is seen as more of a Neanderthal than an educated person. On the other hand, being a feminist is in most circles still not only accepted, but a praised quality. It shows strength and the power to overcome.
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To many, feminism represents a free spirit and the willingness to speak up against injustices like racism and inequality. But why is this accepted? Why is any form of pride in a person’s gender considered a good trait?
We should all speak up against racism; we should all break “glass ceilings” with our voices and our votes. Not because we were created one way or another, but for the simple facts that discrimination is wrong and we were created with the ability to change and to grow.
Hashem created man in his image. This is not men – this is mankind. And this is not to say that Hashem is masculine or that he has any physical traits. It is to show us that just as Hashem is spiritual (and through the spiritual does good and creates), so too he has created us with pure spiritual souls that are capable of having huge positive impacts in this physical world.
Our spiritual essence is who we really are; that is the part of us that is eternal and that lives on forever, not the physical shell that we are merely bound to in this world. So why take pride in something as empty as a peel? Does a wine maker take pride in the flavor of the wine, or in the shape of the bottle?
As Jews, we must persevere to see deeper than our shells and recognize that while the Creator may have chosen for us different bottles, the light inside comes from the same source. We must shed our outer layers, be they feminist or chauvinist, conservative or liberal, and focus on the only “-ism” that should matter in our lives: Judaism.
Why can’t we use that as the definition of self? We can fight the racism and “glass ceilings” of the world as a united people with one soul, recognizing that we may sometimes be separate or different on the outside, but we share the same light on the inside.
There is no pride in things that we had no choice over, but we can take great pride in perfecting our character to make the proper choices in life and using our true image, the one that represents the Creator and binds us all as one.
Rabbi Shlomo Pinkus is a rabbinic field representative for the Atlanta Kashruth Commission.