Esther was pious but in a peripheral way. She knew the mitzvot, she knew to make Sabbath holy, but she felt there was no real harm in putting her own creative interpretation on the old rules . . . Esther would make love with her husband at night "through the front door" and then, in the daytime, she carried out an affair with the baker . . . [who] would only enter into her 'rear door'. . .[As] long as there was proper distance between things, everything stayed quietly kosher.
The Family Orchard by Nomi Eve
One of the most fascinating aspects of Orthodox Judaism to me is its infatuation with separation.
Separation of food via the laws of kashruth. Separation of the the work week from a "non-work" day: Shabbat. Separation of women from men through rules of shomer nagia, tzniut and niddah. From my very rudimentary understanding the separation laws of niddah are further related to Separation of the earthly physical world, from the spiritual world connected with death.
A commentator, G*3, here recently observed that in practice, separation practices can serve to defeat their stated purpose. He wrote:
"walking down the street during the summer I barely notice that women are wearing short sleeves. It’s normal, just part of the background. But seeing an Orthodox woman’s elbows gives me a tiny thrill, because I know that I’m seeing something that I’m not supposed to. The tznius rules themselves are what make elbows sexy. The less stringent the modesty rules of a society, the fewer body parts are erotic in and of themselves."
Does the forbidden fruit become that much more desirable because it is forbidden? Does Judaism (in an Orthodox context) fetishize separation? Without the hyper-focus on separation/exclusion, does Orthodox Judaism become liberal Judaism?
Would love your thoughts.
And, since this song is stuck in my head, enjoy:
This post was brought to you by my daughter's nap.