essays kaddish in two-part harmony the rebbe's queer daughters

binah in silence — intro — 1.1.2

The twin sephirot, as their father the rebbe liked to call them, were twenty-four when our story begins.  And their younger sisters, like clockwork, manifested themselves each precisely two years younger than the previous, all managing, and despite the vagaries of the lunar calendar, to emerge into the world on the first day of Nisan.  Another miracle.

Binah was sometimes called by her father Beni, for he playfully transposed the Hebrew letters, deleting the feminine final  h —‘H’— and replacing it with the quintessence of masculinity, the virile and powerful letter  y yud, the hand of authority, the king, that potent creative force, which looks just like the sperm, (if you’re okay with that), not to mention being the original spark off the primordial Infinite Light.  Another little joke in the rebbe’s continued tête-à-tête with the Divine, for thus he transmuted this silent newborn twin of his beautiful angel Sophie into his obligatory son. For Beni means, quite literally, ‘my son.’

And as she grew, Binah was upright, silent and strong, as well as severe and intuitive.  And she had not the articulate wisdom of her other half, the softer, smiling and more generous Sophie.  Binah, or Beni, despite her subtle androgyny, was bound and tethered not only to her sister but also to their mother’s dominion, the kitchen. No choice in that. For Sophie, no problem. For Binah, a fairly big bummer.

The rebbe thought himself careful in the naming of his daughters, hoping thus to allocate to them their esteemed places in the universe.  And in compliance with her father’s will, Sophie grew ever more astute, and Binah more comprehending.  It was the silent one, Binah, who stood her ground, entrenched; she spoke little and primarily with her eyes.  She watched, she listened, she heard, and most of all, she understood.

And she kept the fingernails of her left hand sharpened at all times for she was a child of the left-hand side, ready to defend against the right-handed world.

Among the rebbe’s daughters, Binah went the most unnoticed; she was invisible it seemed—occulted, as it were—and that suited her just fine.  She had not only the eye of an eagle but also the patience of the lion.  She could hide as if in brush, silently cooking in the kitchen with her mother, camouflaged by the distracting vapors of honey-basted lamb roasting in the oven and by the steam of compote stewing hot syrupy apples and prunes, and currents, dates and cinnamon upon the ancient stovetop.

Binah was a wary one, one could see that, but no one yet had seen her strike or go in for the kill, khas ve-khalilah, I’ll tell you, but the potential was there.  Let’s face it, instinctual understanding is a heavy burden, with no empirical evidence to back you up.  Her discontent led to only an occasional glint of fury in her otherwise unwavering gaze. Binah, when she looked right at you, looked right through as well. This she could do even when her head was turned the other way (visual cues not really being her forte).  She seemed ever a lioness frozen in mid-stalk, vigilant, but not yet in motion—using perhaps an overdeveloped sense of smell to know both wrong and right.

It was as if Sophie’s twin Binah were suspended inside a downright mystical silence; a state of perpetual lack of animation, for animation was the domain of the rebbe’s next daughter.

By 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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