They Gave Us a Cookbook: My Reflections on the Siyum Hashas
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They Gave Us a Cookbook: My Reflections on the Siyum Hashas

I did not attend the Siyum Hashas

I went last time, seven and a half years ago, and I remember sitting in the rain, behind a gauzy green makeshift mechitza (partition), wondering when Judaism became a spectator sport. Men are on the field, playing the game, and women are relegated to the bleachers, watching from above. 

So I decided to sit this one out, because I knew that I would feel more like an audience member than an active participant in my own community. 

My father went, and he brought home the magazines that were given to each of the attendees: one for men, one for women, one for children. 

The magazine geared towards the men was filled with tidbits of history, stories of sacrifice for the sake of Torah study, and pictures of gedolim

The one for women was…disappointing, to say the least. 

We were given recipes ideas and article after article telling us that our only merit lies in how supportive we are of our husbands and sons as they pursue Torah study. 

To say that I am angry would be an understatement. I am livid. Did the creators of this magazine think that women’s minds can’t handle a few divrei Torah? Did they really think that the only thing we would care about during a monumental celebration of Torah would be what we should cook once we got home? The message was clear: our place is in the kitchen, not the beit midrash

To say that I am angry would be an understatement. I am livid. Did the creators of this magazine think that women’s minds can’t handle a few divrei Torah? Did they really think that the only thing we would care about during a monumental celebration of Torah would be what we should cook once we got home? 

The message was clear: our place is in the kitchen, not the beit midrash

But beyond the demeaning nature of the makeshift cookbook was some of the absurd advice given within the articles. 

The one that stood out to me the most was one rebbetzin who suggested that wives should ask their husbands lots of halachik questions. Even if they know the answer to the question, they should still ask, because it will boost their husband’s ego and make him feel good. 

I’m all for being supportive and boosting our spouses’ confidence, but no one should ever make themselves smaller so that someone else feels bigger. 

Are we raising sons that are so fragile and insecure that they need their wives to play-act at intellectual inferiority to make themselves feel smarter? And are we raising daughters who believe that this is how you build a healthy marriage?

Are we raising sons that are so fragile and insecure that they need their wives to play-act at intellectual inferiority to make themselves feel smarter? And are we raising daughters who believe that this is how you build a healthy marriage?

Advice like this only makes it harder for women to enter the world of Torah study. At every step we are told that we are incapable, inept, and unqualified. We are taught to uphold ridiculous stereotypes and coddle other people’s ego. Placing their comfort above our own, rather than fearlessly displaying our own intellectual abilities.  

Men stand as the gatekeepers of our 2,000-year-old tradition. And I am constantly reminded that I don’t have a key. Among 90,000 individuals celebrating the end of this Daf Yomi cycle I am once again reminded of my outsider status. 

But it doesn’t matter, right? Because I’m supposed to be busy in the kitchen, preparing a lavish three course meal. 

Dasi Schneider is a writer and spoken word poet from NYC. Her writing focuses on the intersection between feminism and Jewish identity.

Posts are contributed by third parties. The opinions and facts in them are presented solely by the authors and JOFA assumes no responsibility for them.

If you’re interested in writing for JOFA’s blog contact dani@jofa.org. For more about JOFA like us on Facebook or visit our website.

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