introduction — the rebbe’s queer daughters — 1.1.1

 

Tell me the tale, she insisted, and so at last I did.
And hungrily she wrote it all down, as she thought she ought.
For her daughters, and her daughters’ daughters she dedicates this tale.

  

Il mundo si esta kimando in braza biva, y tu estas durmiendo endriva de’l buz
The world is burning in a blazing inferno, and you are asleep on a block of ice.

 

 

I’m not surprised, and you should not be either, that an atheist’s tale, a tale of alternate teachings, and (to be honest) a tale of lust, should begin in the cottage of a tzaddik, a holy man, and that it has the beginning (but not the ending) of a fairy tale.

So. This is my warning.  Don’t expect this tale to be what you are expecting, or to think anybody might be able to take courage from it. Don’t expect even to like this tale.  I can’t change it for you.  A tale has its own tale.  If you want it different, you’ll have to just live it yourself.

(And if you need help along the way, I promise that at some point I will remember to write out an aleph-bet for you if you need it, draw you a picture of the Tree itself, or give you a glossary someday (if necessary), although a glossary cannot even begin to tell you what anything really means.  And I’ll try to tell the story as best I can (being a crappy storyteller myself because of my impatience).

It begins, as many tales do or ought to:

Once upon a time there really was a rebbe with five very queer daughters.  He also had a son—a psychotherapist—not even a real doctor, who was neither the eldest nor the youngest among them.

The eldest of them all was Hochmah, but everyone (except her father) called her Sophie.  She had hair that was thick and straight and shiny black. And she had what people sometimes call ‘smoldering’ black eyes, which means only that she looked a little scary, like she could burn you at will.  But she averted those eyes out of respect, usually, and certainly not out of modesty, and she otherwise employed said eyes fairly judiciously.  But not always.

Sophie had a silent twin and so she was named  Binah, of course.  In this way, Understanding  emerged into the world only moments after Wisdom,  in a labor their mother would neither forget nor forgive.  Thus, right from the beginning of our tale you can see that the rebbe, in naming his twin girls for the paired Sephirot at the top of the  Aitz Cha’im  —the Tree of Life— was either filled with great hubris or had a fabulous sense of humor.  Or both.  Or perhaps he just enjoyed tempting fate, or giving the Almighty a good solid nudge for not giving him the son he had been so patiently awaiting.

 “What would you, Lord,” he would say, “with such daughters as these?”

And the Almighty responded with more daughters.

And as a result, the rebbe knew that the Almighty had it in for him.

Still, there was no question.  The birth of any healthy babe, even another female one, surely was a miracle.

About mira

Mira Z. Amiras is Professor of Comparative Religious Studies and founder of the Middle East Studies Program at San Jose State University. She is past-president of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and has served on the Executive Council of the American Anthropological Association. She is co-founder, with Ovid Jacob, of Beit Malkhut, a study group in Jewish sacred text. She's most attached to the creatures of her body and her household — first and foremost, her kids, of course: Michael and Rayna — and then the other folks large and small of various species, including Roshi and Vlad, a whole lot of hummingbirds, the old parrot who lives next door, and a beautiful garden that does what it will.
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