Yid and Yang

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2013-03-03 – I have a young cousin who spends much of her time in Israel. She is very excited to be learning about Judaism and she posted a video called “When Boy Meets Girl: A Kabbalistic Perspective,” which is a talk by Rabbi Doniel Katz, saying that Rabbi Katz and the viewpoint expressed in the video are a major inspiration to her. Rabbi Katz is definitely inspiring, but his talk is long: nearly two and a half hours.

I barely know my cousin, except through Facebook. I met her mother many years ago when she and her family had escaped from the Soviet Union and came briefly to live in Israel where I was spending the summer. The family eventually settled in Los Angeles. Coming from the Soviet Union, the family seemed to have significantly less Jewish upbringing than I had. But the young one is now enthralled. If you watch the video you will see at least part of why that is.

I was enthralled once.

Rabbi Katz presents a warm view of the complementarity of men and women. He talks about how we complement each other. He talks about how the male principle is an expression of potential and the female principle is an expression of the realization of potential. He denies that the male principle is wholly owned by men, nor is the female principle wholly owned by women.

A Kabbalistic yin and yang.

And Rabbi Katz is sensitive to the fact that abuse of male-female stereotypes have led to seriously oppressive behavior and abuse.

In his terms, Rabbi Katz’ view is a male view. It is a grandiose plan. It sounds great. My concern is with how it is realized. It sounds very much like men are the bosses and women are the troops. Only folks with a very nuanced understanding of this theory will be able to realize the benign and fulfilling life that it aspires to.

Rabbi Katz talks a lot about DNA. As with much of his talk, the DNA is a metaphor. His DNA doesn’t actually refer to molecular biology. He means something broader by it. He means a kind of immutability of traits.

But let’s talk a little bit about molecular DNA. Human beings have 23 pairs chromosomes. Only one of these pairs determines sex. The rest are shared. Could it be that all the sex-linked traits he speaks of are determined by this one chromosome?

I’m guessing that even he would either deny this or say he has no idea.

Now, I don’t believe that men and women lack behavior differences. I think there are differences that are clearly recognizable. My wife and I each have stereotypical gender traits. But we also have traits that go against the stereotype. I do the laundry. She paints the house and fixes the computers when there is a problem. This last one is particularly amazing considering that, at least on the surface, I know more about computers than she does.

So you never know.

Still, I am attracted to Rabbi Katz’ idea that people complement and fulfill each other. I just have a problem dressing this idea up in gender stereotypes.

I also like the idea he mentions at the beginning of his talk about three stages of a relationship. The first is falling in love. The second is coping with reality. And the third (if you can get past the second) is a deeper, more mature love. I wrote about this last phase myself in my post Too, Too Twenty-Two, written in honor of my twenty-second anniversary.

I once was enthralled by this stuff. But religion carries a lot of extraneous baggage. Insights about love and commitment are lost in the justifications of obsolete traditions and sectarianism. Why can’t we keep the love and get rid of the rest?

Of course, Rabbi Katz even has an answer to this. Often the thing we most love in a person is also the thing we most hate.

Yid and yang.

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