This coming Shabbat we conclude the reading of the Book of Genesis. Jacob speaks to his sons as he lay on his deathbed. Each son receives either a blessing or words of admonishment. Absent is his daughter, Dina.
Judith Plaskow in Standing at Sinai, a Jewish feminist theology, addresses the androcentrism of the Torah as well as in the rabbinic tradition. She sees the silence of women and their stories as a springboard for addressing this obvious inequity in our heritage. She makes the point that a contemporary Judaism cannot exist without the insights and stories of both men and women. The restoration of women's voices is essential.
Torah is the willingness of each generation to address injustices through communal voices and courageous leadership. Our sages have made it clear that the oral Torah is on equal footing with the written Torah.
In ancient times there were sages who were not satisfied with the suffering that Dina experienced from some of her brothers. Various Midrashim attempt to reconcile this and provide a path for her sadness and anger. After her relationship with Shechem, who some say was her lover, while others say he raped her, she becomes pregnant.
Shechem and his warriors are slaughtered by a few of Dina's brothers in revenge for his relations with her even though they take on the Covenant of circumcision. Dina, now distraught, leaves the family, and gives birth to a girl. We learn that Joseph marries a woman named Asenath.
Midrash suggests that Asenath is the daughter of Dina, thereby addressing the injustice done to Dina. That could also explain why Jacob blesses both of Joseph's sons, Ephraim and Menashe. There is an additional blessing for the grandchildren of Dina. There are many Midrashim that address gender inequity in the Torah.
Today, after more than three thousand years since Sinai, Jewish feminist theology has deeply transformed Judaism, our music, our literature, our liturgy, accessibility, our spiritual leadership and Halacha. As we close the Book of Genesis we also close out our secular year. 2018 has been a year of great social struggle, climatic rebellion, and threatening shadows in our world. As we open the Book of Exodus, the story of our people's enslavement and liberation, may we remember what it takes to be free from enslavement and Pharaohs of all kinds. As we lift the Torah this Shabbat we shout out Khazak Khazak V'Nitkhazek, Be Strong, Be Strong and Let Us Strengthen Each Other! So let us strengthen each other, Reb David