Magazine article Tikkun

Traveling with Children: Mothering and Ethics of the Ordinary World

Magazine article Tikkun

Traveling with Children: Mothering and Ethics of the Ordinary World

Article excerpt

Vol. 10, No. 4. 1995.

Making Reservations:

The Journey as Leavetaking

Here is the picture of the seeker on the spiritual path. A person walks alone, the way is difficult, the terrain dramatic. Without knowing the gender of the person depicted by the text, do we have any doubt that the seeker is male? . . .

Such texts always leave me muttering about who is watching the four-year-olds near the water, who is bouncing the babies to sleep at the edges of the gathering, who is washing the plates after dinner, who is dying the cloth for the sacred raiment. The work that must support the quest is invisible. And the oldest construct in theology and philosophy is this very invisibility. Yet for women it is this work that frames the world and the critical struggle to find moral meaning, especially in light of the starkness of the absence of this feminist perspective in traditional text.

The spiritual quest is written as a quest away-a journey away from the ordinary to the sacred, away from the demands of the daily to the purity of the holy. Yet in the struggle to encounter what God wants of us, I must find meaning, holiness in this life. It cannot mean that God wants flight from what I can know as most holy-the birth and breath of my children.

Judaism has been criticized with extraordinary vigor for the lack of attention to the female voice in the text, and this critique is justified. The challenge, then, is to construct an ethics of ordinariness without sentimentality about the daily moral choices that are made by women and to reflect on the theology that is partner to such an ethics. In this construct the notions of ethics and spirituality are inseparable, neither possible without the light of the other.

We are drawn into the process of public discourse by the sensational acts at the outskirts of human community: the pregnancies by radical technology, the rescue of the particular child. Yet the daily acts of choice that thousands of women make, and see as choices of faith, are far more difficult. What would the shape of ethics or spirituality be if we focused on the ethics and theology of the moral gesture of raising children who are in our lives and through whom we carry the obligation to the past and the next generation? …

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