In her book, The Particulars of Rapture, Avivah Zornberg astonishes me by a frank admission that after a certain point in the biblical narrative, around the time that Miriam disappears from the text, we women have been absent from the biblical narrative, in fact we “have indeed been elsewhere.”
Dr. Zornberg lets us know that we women are operational in some “hidden sphere.” What, I wonder, goes on there? Are we rising at dawn to bring bread from afar, darning our men-folks’ socks into the wee hours, or sharing the subversive strategies of some kind of underground sisterhood? In this sphere according to Zornberg, we are not loafing around. We are instead articulating the important, no indeed the vital, manifesto of those belonging to the anti-gezera brigade.
To understand the anti-gezera, we must first define gezera. It is a Hebrew word for a decree, something immutable and carved in stone. The gezera mentality is a depressive conservative force. Zornberg explains, ”The weight, the inertia, the dullness – all dimensions of a gezera world – proclaim an unredeemed people.”A gezera, like all decrees, is actually a way of viewing the world. Zornberg goes on, “The way of those who live in the gezera mode is to limit knowledge, vulnerability, empathy.”
Zornberg tells us that women are the architects and activists of the anti-gezera mode; it’s a woman’s brigade with Miriam in its fore. I understand her to mean that if our story as a spiritually relevant people is to continue, women are the indispensable counter-force. We – and that includes you and me – are needed to differ, provoke, destabilize, catalyze, challenge. We are needed to ice skate and to dance.