Sunday, September 26, 2010

Healthy Competition?

This morning I discovered that my husband had started a blog: He didn't bother to tell me, he posted his first blog entry to Facebook. My first thought echoed my late Aunt Mildred's thoughts when my late Uncle Myron Cope told her he was to have his own radio show: "You'll embarrass me!"

Myron, may he rest in peace, had a speech defect in addition to having the kind of voice that has been described as grating and nasal, for instance.

There's nothing wrong with Dov's voice. And he does have an original way of thinking. He has important things to say and I'm glad he's created a venue for his thoughts. He deserves a wider audience. But Dov seems to think that grammar and punctuation are just not that important. That embarrasses me. In a big way. *sigh*

But it's not just about Dov being grammar/punctuation challenged, it's about competition. I can't help but feel that we're having some kind of competition, here. Not that I want competition. It must be a testosterone thing.

I started writing letters to the editor of the Jerusalem Post in 2001. After the first few were published, Dov started writing letters to the editor, too. I saw him turn red on more than one occasion when a mutual friend would tell me how right on my letters were without mentioning Dov's letters.

And then there was Pathwords, a great word game you can access through Facebook. Dov was sure he could beat my high score. He sure tried hard. He blamed his inability to trump my score on his computer, so I let him use mine. Nope. He just couldn't beat me.

But the competition's not just about game scores or how the public views us. This need for competition even dogs us as regards our religious views: whose Torah is THE Torah, or something like that. For example, I found this great quote from the Talmud: "No matter how short your wife is, lean down and take her advice." Bava Metzia 59a

I read it to Dov because I thought this was a beautiful sentiment. I even made it my signature quote for my email correspondence.

This all sent Dov straight to the Gemara where he siezed upon the fact that there, on the very same page, was written the following verse, "He who follows his wife's counsel will descend into Gehenna (Hell)."

It turns out that the first quote may refer to spiritual matters while the second refers to secular ideas. I don't really care. The first quote is WONDERFUL and speaks to me.

The second quote doesn't sully that for me. Not at all. Dov can pick and choose and so can I.

I choose the beauty, he chooses the harsh discipline. It says something about him and about me, and doesn't say much at all about the Torah, other than that it is very generous in its adaptability for the individual's nature.

Yesterday, Yitzchak asked me why men have to dwell in the sukkah for an entire week but women don't have to be in the sukkah at all. I told him my favorite explanation, which comes from R. Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, who says that by reenacting for a full week, their time in the desert, Jewish men awaken in themselves their sense of their own history and in particular, the time when God's divine glory hovered over them in the form of the Annanei HaKavod, the Clouds of Glory. Living in the sukkah makes this part of their history and spirituality, tangible for men and helps carry them through the whole year.

Yitzchak said, "So why don't women need to do this?"

I told him, "R. Hirsch says that when Hashem took Chava (Eve) from Adam's rib, He gave her the part that is innate spirituality. She has this direct tie to God and so she doesn't need to playact and do these commandments to tie her to God: she's ALREADY tied to Him."

That irked Dov no end. He started rummaging through books. About ten minutes later, he comes to me, triumphant and reads to me from Taamei Minhagim a section that says that women don't observe the positive commandments such as living in the sukkah, because they may be too busy "serving" their men. Dov read the word "meshubad" to me, twice. It means "bound." He was SO happy. He was sure I would find the wording and the ideas espoused here annoying beyond belief.

He was wrong.

I believe that the Torah is very flexible and provides a variety of views to suit the individual. He finds the Torah that speaks to him, and I have found the Torah that speaks to me. There's no competition here.

So, I have decided that I'm not going to be embarrassed about his blog. I will express myself here and he will express himself there, in his own inimitable fashion and I will be quite happy that I am dotting all my i's and crossing all my t's, while he doesn't really care about that stuff.

It's not a competition. Not to me, at any rate.

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