The Leviticus:8 Project
And the LORD spoke to Aaron, saying: Leviticus 10:8
It was bound to happen.
After almost 100 of these columns, each focusing on the same verse in consecutive chapters of each of the first three Books of Moses, I finally land on the most usual formulation in the entire Torah:
“The Lord spoke to [insert name], saying:”
Almost always, some sort of instruction follows. And almost never, some kind of reply is recorded. Yes, there are remarkable exceptions, but overwhelmingly, God speaks with some sort of instruction and whoever is thus commanded acts accordingly.
I know that there are a lot of people who aspire to that kind of authority. Perhaps because of this literary formulation (and the intimation in the original text that God is male), societies that are influenced by the Jewish Bible, the Christian Bible and the Qur’an put a lot of emphasis on male dominance in almost every social structure. There is, of course, nothing inherently better about a man being in a position of authority than a woman. Yet there are people who insist that every meaningful organization in society ought rightly to be led by men.
Mostly, the people who believe that way are known as “men.”
Despite the strides forward of the past few generations, it is still much more difficult to find businesses, universities, governments at any level or thought leadership led by women than those led by men. Some sectors of society are yet dominated by women – doing what has been praised/dismissed as “woman’s work” – including elementary education, social work, “hospitality,” and retail sales. But they are mostly supervised by men.
I am certain you can name some other examples, or might even know a bank president, university chancellor, sports team owner or auto repair foreperson who is female. Maybe you even know a man who cleans hotel rooms, demonstrates make-up or cares for other people’s small children. Those exceptions prove the rules.
And, in my opinion, those exceptions are terrifying to people who believe there is a natural order that places men in positions of unquestioned authority. Those exceptions are tolerated only to the point that they can be controlled. Whether at home or in the marketplace or in the halls of government, for people who believe that every meaningful organization in society ought rightly to be led by men, the justification is this: “The Lord spoke to [insert name] saying:”
Ironically, it doesn’t seem to matter much what comes next. I plead guilty to being a believer in God, but not because of what is presumed to be God’s power. Rather, what inspires and sustains my faith is what comes next, that is, the truth and wisdom that is framed by what “The Lord” is reported to have been “saying.” I know it sounds judgmental (and I don’t care), but I believe that a faith nurtured by an appreciation of authority reflects an aspiration of ego, not of spirit. Those who speak as if they held God’s authority, as if they were the ones who could speak to [insert names] and say whatever they choose are reading the wrong words of Scripture.
Golda Meir is reported to have said to one of her ministers (perhaps Moshe Dayan), “Don’t be so humble – you’re not that great.” Indeed, I am likely no better than most men who believe they are supportive of full human equality as long as it does not mean giving up their own privilege. So I do not hold myself up as a paragon of enlightenment. Yet, having witnessed some of the worst examples of presumed male dominance take the public stage over the last couple of years, I will indeed allow myself one smug smile of woke-itude before I get back to work on my own self-examination.
It is the kind of work I recommend to every clergy person who believes he speaks in the same voice as God. It is the work I recommend to every senator who believes that the outrage expressed by an accused man is more credible than that of an abused woman. It is the work I recommend to every man who is currently President of the United States.