Mimi Haddad’s editorial in this quarter’s “Mutuality” [ Dating Spring 2010 Vol. 17, Issue 1] reminds me, once again, of how differently little girls are perceived and molded in Jewish circles compared to the Christian circles in which I have traveled.
I remember growing up in a Jewish neighborhood. If I wanted to play with my neighbor friends on Saturdays, I had to join them in Saturday school. It was there that I encountered the strong women of Scripture: Deborah, Miriam, Jael, Esther, Rahab, and Ruth. My Jewish teachers were careful to show that every girl in the room had the capacity for enormous leadership as an ezer, as God’s envoy in this world. It was one of the most empowering experiences I had as a child. Perhaps it was in Saturday School that I discovered my dignity and worth as a female, created like Eve, to bring a special version of rescue to our world. Our task as ezer is not to wait for permission from men to serve. My vocation comes from God, who from the beginning created me as a powerful agent of rescue. -Mimi Haddad in Mutuality
What are daughters of Sarah like?
Is a daughter of Sarah a passive, quiet, obedient wife more like journey describes in “The God Card: Ask Your Husband”? Or is a daughter of Sarah powerful as Haddad describes above?
Perhaps a daughter of Sarah is more like the Jewish wife described here?
I do know a thing or two about Jewish women (including the one to whom I have been happily married for 20 years). And while she is extraordinarily gracious in many situations, you can be absolutely assured that “submission” is entirely absent from her behavioral repertoire. . . . My good, assertive, outspoken, forceful Jewish wife will simply never be fodder for conversion to a creed that expects her to be submissive, graciously or otherwise. There is no submission in our family and not much “servant leadership” either. What we have instead, in a tradition dating back to our matriarchs, is debate, disagreement, dialogue and then more debate. I always thought that approach made our marriage happier, stronger, and certainly more interesting. Now it has the added benefit of making us immune to proselytization.
———-(Steven Lubet, 6 September 1998) [source pg 16-17]
What are daughters of Sarah like?
What was Sarah like? How did God see her? In Hebrew Scriptures, a person’s name said something about their identity. GOD changed her name and deliberately and clearly instructed Abraham that she was no longer to be called Sarai [contentious] but Sarah [ruler].
God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.
A modern Jewish father , Noah, embracing the name and legacy of Sarai for his own newborn daughter: Sarai ____ What’s in a Name? mentions that
“the name Sarai means ‘my princess’ in biblical hebrew and ‘contentious’ in modern Hebrew”
[Note: I found evidence for the "contentious" meaning in ancient Hebrew as well. Notice how Noah is not ashamed to give his daughter a name which can mean "contentious". Contending is not such a bad thing!. Sarai was "contentious" until she became Sarah exercising rightful authority/dominion- see “BE NOT DISPLEASED… whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you”]
Noah writes to his daughter:
Sarai we have given you this name and we hope that you too will be a prophetess or leader of both the Jewish people and the world. That you will be a woman of immense beauty, which you’ve already accomplished, and that you will earn your name in the world, whether it is given by G-d or the people of this world, your family or your friends.
Mimi Haddad, who is quoted at the beginning of this blog has a vision for the church which she writes about in the same editorial quoted above:
As evangelicals who hold a high view of Scripture, should we
not also cast similar vision for our daughters today? Rather than
suggesting that their leadership repels males, could we not celebrate our daughters as ezers, as powerful help to their communities, just as organizations and researchers are now discovering? Rather than limiting their access to positions of leadership or requiring their passivity in relationships with males, let’s equip our daughters with the truth about their creational DNA—to provide strong rescue.
What if with every female who comes to faith, with every girl
who enrolls in Vacation Bible School, with every book we write on dating, and with every youth curriculum we publish, we present women
not in terms of their ability to captivate by their physical appearance,
or their passivity so as not to offend men,
but by their calling as ezer—a help likened to God’s rescue.
Last, but not least, my friend, commenter on this blog, junior high Sunday School teacher, and mother: Mara is quietly stepping out to fulfill this vision. See Where Have I Been This Time
May your tribe increase, Mara!