VAYERA (GEN 18.1- 22.24)
This is such a reminder of why I often feel so disconnected from the Torah.
Talking to one of my rabbis, (I have two- one local here in Seattle, and one in the city I used to live in, in GA who I have stayed in touch with), he was saying something I maybe didn’t understand fully about what it means to "get it". And maybe 'getting things' from 'not getting it'? Like, there is value in frustration, and there is value in the process, and the journey. I know that probably, or maybe, not what he meant, but that is some of what I took from the conversation.
But anyway- first we get Lot offering up his virgin daughters (WHAT) to frenzied hordes of men at his doors, then his wife being turned into a pillar of salt for simply looking back at her family as they are presumably dying a horrible death. We have entire cities being destroyed, even as g-d says he can’t even find 10 good people there. Not even 20. This was especially hard to read, because it just feels so cruel and unforgiving. Because what is a good person. People change in their lives, it leaves out the possibility that anyone ever becomes different. If I was judged by my actions when I was 18, I certainly wouldn't have been in the count of 10 either. We have to allow that we can keep trying to be better. We have to, or it's hopeless... (this is one of the reasons why I find Yom Kippur is so powerful... )
ANYWAY, also we get here the famous alluding to Sodom and Gemorrah, where the word Sodomy I think comes from. But as far as I can tell, from both the JPS and FOX book, I don’t see any mention of any sodomy happening. Which means it's in the commentaries and supplementary writings. Which just makes me more frustrated at these passages ignorantly being constantly used against LGBTQ+ people. I think I must be missing something. Maybe its in the midrash (??)
And then we are supposed to have these two great people, Abraham and Sarah, who really do lots of not-so-great things. Abraham, as far as I can tell, seems to be a bit of a truth stretcher, and Sarah’s behavior is often based on jealousy and lack of faith. Yet they seem to be set up as these pillars of faith. Sigh.
In TQ, at the very end of this week's commentary by Gwynn Kessler (which this week seems to be all about “queering” the text) which seems to be all anyone CAN do to make sense of this parshah anyway- cuz how could anyone otherwise feel close to a g-d who asks you to kill your child (esp that you waited 130 years for) or turns s.o. to a pillar of salt (my husband points out that this also may also just be a metaphor for intense never ending sadness, cuz, well duh tears) just for looking back at their dying family. How could anyone make sense of this text portion in a way that feels compassionate WITHOUT queering it?- Without squinting hard into it and twisting it and turning it over and over? But that’s what I feel like I'm doing constantly! All the time with the torah! And so then whats the point. Why this text? It feels almost accidental. Like, why. Like you could just go pick any book from an old time, say Gilgamesh, or the Bahgavadgita, (Or, better yet,- The Yoga Sutras) and be- like- OK. Thats your Book; it's all in there. You have to find it ALL in there. And do the same thing. Just beat that anvil until you get everything you need from it. Queer that text until you twist in and turn in and make it into what you NEED it to be. And we would. People would get what they needed out of it.
But does that mean it's in there?
...Bigger question: Does it matter?
Anyway at the very end of Kessler’s commentary in QT- she (assuming her pronoun- because YES in this queer book they didn’t even list the contributors pronouns. Geez.) says that “A tradition in the Babylonion Talmud “Yevamot 64a-b states R. Ammi said ‘Abraham and Sarah were Tumtumin (of indeterminate sex/gender)’…
WAIT. WHAT?!? (cue my frantic internet searching)
and then it is referenced to Isaiah 51.1-2 Where it says
“look to the rock you were hewn from
To the quarry you were dug from
Look back to Abraham your father
And to Sarah who brought you forth
Um. So I guess the assumption is that because of the way its written that they are tumtum because of that? I mean, what.
Found this on Keshetonline
One passage in the Talmud claims that Abraham and Sarah were both tumtumin (of indeterminate sex) and later became male and female respectively:
Rabbi Yitzḥak said: For what reason were our ancestors initially infertile? … Rabbi Ami said: Abraham and Sarah were originally tumtumin, people whose sexual organs are concealed and not functional, as it is stated: “Look to the rock from where you were hewn, and to the hole of the pit from where you were dug” (Isaiah 51:1), and it is written in the next verse: “Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you” (Isaiah 51:2), which indicates that sexual organs were fashioned for them, signified by the words hewn and dug, over the course of time.
So um, yeah. I feel like Kessler should have led with that. This would have explained a LOT- why Sarah couldn’t have kids…etc. .