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March 16, 2018 by

This Week’s Parsha Lays the Groundwork for Post-Patriarchy

moon-182145_1920I learned about the menstrual cycle at the age of nine in the same class as a discussion on the structure of the Israelite camp in the desert. Since then, I’ve been acutely aware that the changing feminine form is not one to be proud of. There’s hiding your changing body at puberty, concealing your growing form during pregnancy, and of course, endless days of avoiding comments from coworkers about how your work ethic, emotional needs or eating habits might align with your monthly cycle.

“She must be on that time of the month,” a statement made about countless women in workplaces everywhere, sometimes in sympathy, more often than not in derision. From an ancient culture that revealed the human, female form and its ability to produce and give life through its changing cycle, we’ve become a mechanized society that requires women to perform and produce, every day of the month, with identical output day to day.

Recent shifting views and research suggests that the varying hormones of the menstrual cycle may actually prove to be beneficial to the various functions required of today’s working woman. There’s the time of month when we feel more creative, more nurturing, more independent or more productive. There’s a time to go inward and reflect; a time to step forward with power and precision; and a time to build our nest and get organized. While the industrial revolution and its impact on our workplaces means we’re often discredited for being too emotional, the fact is that these ever-changing abilities to flow with the rhythms of life have been advantages for generations.

There’s another natural form that also ebbs and flows, waxes and wanes, just as we do as human menstruators. The moon has been a focal point in Jewish text and tradition for millennia. In the Kabbalistic mystical tradition, the moon is analogized to the Divine Presence, or Shechinah. The moon’s diminishment from her place of largesse alongside the sun is described in Midrash and later in mystical works as a key moment of shift in the universe, from non-hierarchy and collaboration between the “two great lights” of the sun and moon, to a state of hierarchy and yes, patriarchy, with a lessened moon and Divine Feminine presence.

In the Midrashic excerpt that discusses the moon’s diminishment—a legend told and retold in countless poems and many cultures and mythologies—she is granted a consolation prize by the Creator, or her Divine Masculine consort. The moon will be the way of measuring and marking the months, days and years (a subject discussed in the Talmud.) While the exchange is somewhat heated, and results in God agreeing that “each New Moon, a sin-offering will be brought for God, because I (God) diminished the moon”, the mystics agree that the subsequent waxing and restored fullness of the moon represents a future time period of post-patriarchy.

This concept has been a central point of my study of Jewish mysticism and feminism, and often makes me wonder just how we can begin to restructure society into flowing, ebbing, changing paradigms rather than post-industrial patriarchy. And since it gets me so excited, it’s always special to revisit that central text, not the Talmud or Kabbalah but the Torah itself, read in this week’s portion, right before the New Moon of the month of Nissan.

“This month shall be for you the Head of the Months,” God tells Moses, in the first commandment given to the Israelite people as a nation on the verge of liberation, several days before exiting the land of Egypt, transforming from slavery to peoplehood. The idea of counting the New Month from the New Moon, and the ongoing Israelite obsession—and Jewish tradition—of alignment with the moon, begins here, at this point in time.

And it makes me contemplate my own human relationship to time. “This month shall be for you.” Is time ours to make our own? Can we take the ability to shift and move with the moon, to ebb and flow with our bodies, and learn to make time something that is our friend, rather than our enemy? To recognize that time is ours to bend and move as we wish, because we are not governed by time—rather, time is a gift for us to utilize.

On this new moon, and on every new moon in future, can we transform our workplaces and organizations into spaces that enable us to maximize our energies on days when it peaks and recognizing our limitations on days when we are more suited to inward reflection? Can we build a non-hierarchical world of post-patriarchy with structures focusing on flexibility, collaboration and community?

I look at the moon, and she sees me. She reminds me who I truly am, and where I really come from. She reminds me that it’s okay to be powerful one day and mystical the next; that I can be all kinds of women at once; and all kinds of ways in a month. She inscribes on her body those words of God to Moses, “This month shall be for you,” “Hachodesh hazeh lachem”, and reminds me that no matter how stressed or behind I am, time is always mine to shape, to work with, and to play.

May we be blessed to manifest the newness of a paradigm beyond institutional oppression and hierarchy this New Moon of Nissan, celebration liberation and embodying freedom. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lilith Magazine.