For the week of April 9, 2005 / 29 Adar II 5765
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59 &
Shemot / Exodus 12:1-20
Haftarah: Ezekiel 45:16-46 & 1 Samuel 20:18,42
Equal, But Different
These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. (Vayikra / Leviticus 12:7)
This week's Torah portion includes purification time periods required following childbirth. The purification period following the birth of a girl (66 days) was twice of that following the birth of a boy (33 days). While many have speculated as to why the difference, the Torah itself provides us with no such explanation. Though we don't know the specific reasons for these differences, the fundamental reason is clear. Boys and girls are different.
Not too long ago, there would have been negative reactions to making any statement about boy/girl differences. We were led to believe that the differences between males and females were environmental, meaning that it was the influence of our cultures that created those differences.
These days it is far more popular to refer to very definite differences between males and females. Books such as Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray have helped to restore a notion that has been accepted for most of history.
While it seems to be acceptable again to refer to the different ways men and women think or feel, I sense that we, at this time, are suspicious of emphasizing those differences out of a concern that to do so may undermine our fundamental conviction that men and women are equal.
It appears that we value the concept of equality over the issues that may arise due to our inherent differences. For instance many who profess belief in the Bible, and especially the New Covenant (New Testament) writings, understand that men and women are equal before God, and as a result are wary of anything that may contradict that.
Most people, when they stop and think about it, know that people's differences have nothing to do with the issue of equality. While at times we have tended to inappropriately use our differences to compare and contrast ourselves with one another, most people accept that no one is of greater value than anyone else.
The reality of equality should not negate the other reality of the presence of differences between males and females. In fact our hesitancy to accept this fundamental aspect of human life is preventing us from being all that God has created us to be.
Speaking of creation, some insist that male and female differences only came about after sin entered the world, but that is not what the Scriptures teach. The complementary nature of the sexes was part of our original design. It is most likely correct to assert that the image of God in humans is most clearly manifested through our God-given differences.
When grappling with issues of equality, we must also take into account that men and women are different. Let's not fear trying to understand the implications of those differences as they relate to family and other societal structures. To deny our differences is to rob ourselves of discovering the fullness in our God-given design.
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