The Com­ing of Lilith: Essays on Fem­i­nism, Judaism, and Sex­u­al Ethics, 1972 – 2003

Judith Plaskow, Don­na Berman, eds.
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
In the intro­duc­tion, schol­ar-activist Plaskow traces her own jour­ney from con­ven­tion­al­ly lib­er­al Reform Jew and mar­ried grad­u­ate stu­dent to rad­i­cal fem­i­nist the­olo­gian and les­bian. Her writ­ings dis­play an impres­sive knowl­edge of Jew­ish and con­tem­po­rary issues and a bold cre­ativ­i­ty. Plaskow’s essay The Com­ing of Lilith” (1972) remains a pow­er­ful metaphor for women’s empow­er­ment. Her ear­ly state­ments on fem­i­nism are ground­ed in Protes­tant Chris­t­ian con­cepts and lan­guage. Grad­u­al­ly, she finds sources for fem­i­nism in Jew­ish tra­di­tion. Plaskow rejects the piece­meal” goals of the Jew­ish women’s move­ment, as rep­re­sent­ed by Rachel Adler and Cyn­thia Ozick. She is unwill­ing to set­tle for a piece of the Jew­ish pie; rather, she intends to par­tic­i­pate in bak­ing a new pie! Plaskow pro­vides a rad­i­cal cri­tique of Torah. She argues for the cre­ation of a the­ol­o­gy to replace the patri­ar­chal-based Judaism which casts women as the oth­er” and presents strate­gies to that end. She tack­les dif­fi­cult sub­jects such as Judaism’s mas­cu­line the­o­log­i­cal vocab­u­lary, the sup­pres­sion of God’s fem­i­nine attrib­ut­es, the anti-semi­tism of Chris­t­ian fem­i­nists and the idea of Jews as oppres­sors and sources of reli­gious author­i­ty. The book’s final sec­tion, on sex­u­al­i­ty, will be con­tro­ver­sial, and offen­sive to some. Plaskow urges that a humane and inclu­sive Jew­ish sys­tem of sex­u­al ethics be for­mu­lat­ed. She derides com­pul­so­ry het­ero­sex­u­al­i­ty” and mar­riage as imposed norms, prais­ing the greater mutu­al­i­ty in inti­ma­cy con­stel­la­tions” among homo­sex­u­als. Plaskow doc­u­ments the offi­cial stances of the Reform, Recon­struc­tion­ist, and Con­ser­v­a­tive Move­ments in regard to sex­u­al ethics. This work con­tains valu­able insights, clear­ly expressed. How­ev­er, as a whole, it is repet­i­tive, with sub­stan­tial over­lap­ping among the essays.
Lib­by K. White is direc­tor of the Joseph Mey­er­hoff Library of Bal­ti­more Hebrew Uni­ver­si­ty in Bal­ti­more, MD and gen­er­al edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries Newsletter.

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