A Woman Standing on the Side

Is it proper to build entire theories on the thread of a midrash, to base an entire world of belief on the shaky legs of a legend?

"Because You have chosen us and sanctified us above all nations." That's not quite correct. According to several of the rabbinic midrashim (exegetical interpretations), our Torah was offered first to the sons of Esau, and then to the Ammonites, Moabites and Ishmaelites. "There was not a single nation among the nations to whom God did not go, speak, knock on its door, asking whether it would be willing to accept the Torah." And only after God met with a general refusal, and was almost ready to give up, did the Torah finally find buyers in the middle of the desert, in the middle of the journey to the Promised Land. And some believe that even the Israelites were not eager to receive the bargain, and "the Holy One, Blessed be He, held the mountain over the Israelites."

Question: Is it proper to build entire theories on the thread of a midrash, to base an entire world of belief on the shaky legs of a legend? Answer: The entire revelation at Sinai is a nice legend, and every reading excites us as it did the first time, and even more.

Nations that rejected the offer did so when they carefully perused the Ten Commandments at the center of the Torah reading on Shavuot, "the time of the giving of our torah." And in fact, who is capable of meeting the demands of such categorical imperatives, not to mention the 613 commandments? It's simply inhuman, the goyim decided after careful consideration.

The Israelites, on the other hand, did not even bother to read the small and large print, as if saying to themselves: They're giving something away here, and we won't take it? Although we were the last in line, we jumped to the front like donkeys carrying the Book of Books: "We will do and we will listen, we will do and we will listen," and the end result began with the jump at the beginning. Why are you jumping, Israel? And thus God was forced to accept the cheapest offer.

Over time it turned out, as expected, that it's not at all simple: "Thou shalt not murder," and we murder. "Thou shalt not steal," and we steal. "Thou shalt not covet," and we covet. And at every opportunity we "take the name of the Lord in vain." The words of the living God become words of the dead God; the letters are dead. The religion of Moses and Israel has long congealed, and now it is basalt. And our grades in listening and doing are steadily deteriorating.

Even the revelation at Mount Sinai cannot exist today in its original, breathtaking format. Not "the entire nation" will become sanctified, not everyone will see the sounds without their view being blocked. Reform and Conservative Jews, gays, those unable to marry, women refused a religious divorce, bastards, new immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia, converts, refugees and foreign workers who live among us - all will be pushed to their corner at the order of fossilized rabbis, not to mention women in the women's section. Each person in his tainted camp, each woman with her disgrace. And the Israel Defense Forces, in advance of the occasion, will impose a total closure on the territories.

And now the Justice Ministry is thinking about expanding the jurisdiction of the rabbinical courts; only they will decide who will stand where and with whom, and without the intervention of the High Court of Justice.

One woman - pushed aside and excluded - is standing there on the side, outside the fence. She wants to enter, to approach, to join the congregation, but the police check her papers and do not give her permission. I'm the great-grandmother of David, she pleads with them. Perhaps you have read the scroll written about me, which bears my name; you read it every year on Shavuot. And nothing helped the woman, the Moabite, the convert.