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Before there were any real housewives of the Bible, there were Adam and Eve. Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of Park East Synagogue reminded our students that the early Biblical text has implicated the way we talk about gender ever since. In turn, patriarchy and misogyny have thrived in many traditions.

The first human was created in the image of God yet entirely mortal thus falling somewhere between angels and other animals. Rabbi Cosgrove went as far as to suggest that the original human created by God may have actually been a woman or perhaps a hermaphrodite since there’s nothing in the text to suggest otherwise. This proto-human being was the first to receive the rule not to eat from the tree of knowledge so when Eve goes for it later, we are not quite sure if she knew it was forbidden. Soon, a fitting companion was cast from the the side of the first being, which cements the enduring hierarchical relationship.

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Once they eat from the tree, their perception changes at once and they are soon banished from the Garden of Eden and punished with hard labor and childbirth respectively. The man will be the woman’s object of desire, but he shall cling to his wife. As a consequence, Eve is renamed because she is no longer derivative of man, but mother of all life. This story may be about Adam OR Eve, but perhaps the larger story is about the tragic figure of God who wrestles with parental duty and disappointment when humanity’s weaknesses shine through.

imageLast night, Rabbi Barry Schwartz of New Jersey’s Congregation Bais Emuno and director of Jewish Lights Publishing revealed a sympathetic portrayal of Batsheba or as he put the saga, “…far beyond House of Cards.”¬†Using iconic Western artworks, literature, film and varied midrashim he reminded us just how deeply pervasive and far reaching the temptress archetype still holds. Read more

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At last night’s first of nine Real Housewives of the Bible classes, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah set the bar high to provoke and compel contemplation and participation. She deconstructed the story of Abraham’s Egyptian concubine, Hagar, from a uniquely feminist standpoint to 150 eager students. She explained how Hagar became a hero for the African American church during the 19th century as both an ex-slave and single mother who secures redemption and exits as a survivor. Read more