Prelude: The Female Rapist and Other Inversions
I am going to tell you a story.
These are the oldest and most magical words we know. We turn toward the storyteller like plants toward the sun. We are ready, we are asking to be taken into the world of the story, wherever, whenever it may be, "to project into it," as Paul Ricoeur says, "our ownmost possibilities."1 Even more powerful yearnings are aroused by stories that have been transmitted as part of our religious traditions. As a committed Jew, I come to ancient canonical stories, biblical, midrashic, or aggadic, with an assumption that I belong to them and they belong to me. I encounter them searching for Torah, that is, for redemptive teaching, and for zikaron, for the collective memory that completes me, that binds me to all who ever have or will claim or been claimed by these stories. What happens, however, when I reach out to stories whose worlds do not permit me to enter, that exclude me or distort me? This is the first problem that confronts anyone who attempts to construct a theology of Judaism that includes all the people Israel, men and women. How do we face a story that de/faces some of us and thereby diminishes all of us?
One solution, of course, is not to face it at all. Redemptive teaching can be found in other sources, including uncanonical stories, bubbemeises, "grandmother-tales," not merely the canonical zaydemeises, "grandfather-tales."2 But I am not willing to relinquish these problematic grandfather-tales. Like Esau, I cry out to them, "Have you only one blessing, father? Bless me too, father." It is precisely because I believe that these texts have blessings yet to bestow that, like another member of Esau's blessing-starved family, I will not let them go until they bless me. I will not abandon traditional texts, and I will not absolve them of moral responsibility.
As the saying goes, "Faced with two alternatives, always choose the third." Through the stories I examine in this chapter, I introduce both some of the problems raised by the project of a feminist theology of