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CHAYE SARAH (GEN 23:1 – 25:18)

CHAYE SARAH (GEN 23:1 – 25:18)

Sometimes, like this week (ok a LOT of weeks), I feel like I know nothing about Judaism, because I have never read the midrash. It seems like a lot of things that are taken as understood from certain bible sections for Judaism and Jews are actually from the midrash, and I don’t know, in my lifetime, if I will ever be able to read any of that, or what that even means, honestly.


In any case- TQ this week had one of the most very very interesting essays so far, in that it introduced to me a concept I have never heard of – “kere u’ketiv” – where stuff is written in the margins that you are supposed to read I guess, instead of what is actually written. And in this case it is SUPER interesting, because what is written is “na’ar” (young man) instead of “na’ar’ah” (young woman) to refer to Rebekah. This happens 5 times in a row (!!!) in the text. So this whole part about Rebekah is interesting for loads of reasons. Even before I read the TQ commentary, even the first time I read the parshah, I was like, damn this Rebekah girl is strong AF cuz she just keeps watering those camels and I can’t imagine that is easy and seriously though why isn’t that dude helping her she must be working for a really long time I'm pretty sure camels actually drink a lot of water. Oh- and also- its so interesting that they actually ASK HER OPINION about what she wants! Like when has anyone ever cared what a woman in the bible wanted. Just a few pages ago Lot was literally throwing his young virgin daughters out the door to the whims of a violent mob to protect some randoms who wandered in. And so I’m thinking all of that.


And then I read the TQ commentary which confirms that, yes, indeed, Rebekah must have been insanely strong. But not just that. She had all sorts of characteristics we don’t see in any other women in the bible. She is forward and independent, boldy social. All of these things- physical strength and stamina, her social behavior – are very masculine- but she is also feminine- she is noted to be very beautiful, serving, and cares very much for animals (actually noted as a necessary traits for the woman Eliezar waits for). So she is not JUST a masculine woman, but also very feminine.

She is also treated differently than other bible women. As the TQ commentary says- her “na’ar” behavior is rewarded- “ as a result of being out and about, taking risks (-added from another section but I think its funny: taking candy from strangers), transgressing social conventions… she is even treated in a manner- rare for a woman of the bible- that befits a person of agency (she gets to decide when to leave her home to journey with Isaac) and "her future is blessed”. So...Is that why she is called “na’ar”? Because she acts like one? Hmmmm... Now, TQ goes so far as to take it to mean (I'm waaay oversimplifying here ) that she is “read” (lives/is) as female but may actually be ‘biologically’ male. But that makes no sense to me because we know she then has a child. So that doesn’t work. But it does raise some interesting thoughts. (which took me a while to get to obviously).


1) How many other things are there in the bible like this? How much is “read” that isn’t really what is written? Especially things like this, about gender or sexuality, that people might have chosen to 'gloss over'

2) All of this being said, obviously we are so far from the context it is written in, how can we even guess what it means? We can’t even decide on what Biden said last week how could be agree on what THIS passage or specific word meant thousands of years ago?

3) BUT, really, reeeeeaaallly, what did “na’ar” really mean? I'm dying to know. As a man born AFAB (assigned female at birth), a major "tomboy", (I hated that word), a dad who's given birth.... I am especially fascinated about the use of words like this. Words that just might not fit into that rigid binary. Maybe these categories of gender weren’t well within the binary. I mean, maybe it's not that she was biologically male (hate that term), but that she was like “a tomboy” or whatever, or you pick it some other term. We don’t have good terms now, they are too politicized, OR maybe this is all too much thought and maybe na’ar simply just meant “boy or girl, any young person”, similar to the way “lad” used to be used, but NOW it only is used to refer to a boy, where if we read an old text it might look confusing because it might refer to someone we know to be female by that term. So many questions:)

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