ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is spillover from the March 6, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] sporky_rat and [personal profile] bairnsidhe. It also fills the "communication" square in my 2-28-18 card for the Slice-of-Life Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It belongs to the series Clay of Life.

"Seen and Respected"

Menachem and Yossele
went into a village of Gentiles.

It was not a bad place,
although it was very different
from the Jewish towns they knew.

The people there kept the Shabbat
on Sunday instead of Saturday, and they
did not understand why a golem would
need to sleep on the Shabbat at all.

"All creatures need to rest, and that
is why G-d has decreed the Shabbat.
It does not matter that Yossele is a golem,
only that he is a good person. Now you may
keep the Shabbat in your way, and we will
keep it in ours," Menachem said firmly.

Then he took the scroll of the shem
from Yossele's mouth so he could rest,
and went about the Shabbat in
the ways of his own people.

On Sunday the villagers went
to church, so there was little work
for the traveling blacksmiths to do.

Instead they tended their horse
and wagon, and fired up the forge
to make things that they could sell later --
candleholders and nails and pot hooks.

On Monday, the villagers came and
formed a line to have things mended,
and they bought much of what was made.

One poor family had no money to pay
for the new pot that they needed, so they
left their oldest daughter to work instead.

Lane was not pretty or graceful like
all of the other girls in the village.

No matter how she tried, her dress
always seemed to tangle around her legs,
and her short hair escaped its braids.

The other girls teased her for being
unfeminine. Lane lifted her chin
and refused to let them see her cry.

Yossele grunted in displeasure,
waving his big arms to shoo away
the other girls as if driving geese
away from a bag of grain.

"Thank you," Lane whispered.
"They don't like me very much."

Yossele beckoned with his hands.

"I suppose it's because I don't make
a very good girl," Lane said. "I try, but ..."
She shrugged. "My heart isn't in it."

"Then perhaps you are not a girl,"
Menachem said as he handed her
a brush to groom the horse. "I don't
know what your people teach, but
the Torah speaks of those who are
neither male nor female, or both."

Her eyes grew huge as she listened.
"Is that really true?" she asked.

“Twilight cannot be defined; it can
only be sanctified and appreciated,"
Menachem said. "People can’t always
be defined; they can only be seen and
respected, and their lives made holy."

"That sounds very wise," Lane said.

"I think it is," Menachem said.
"The Jewish approach allows for
genders beyond male and female.
It opens space in society and protects
those who live in the places in between."

"I wish I could do that," Lane sighed.
"I don't fit very well in this village,
any more than I fit in this dress. I
don't even like being called a girl,
and when people say 'she,' I want
to flinch as if they have hit me."

"Then perhaps you are not a girl
after all," said Menachem. "You may
be what we call bria bi’ fnei atzmah,
a created being of your own."

Lane's face took light at that,
like the sun at twilight. "Yes!
What kind of creature is that?"

"Well, there are several sorts, and
you should probably talk to a rabbi
to make certain," said Menachem.
"Perhaps you are a tumtum, one who
is indeterminate, neither girl nor boy."

"That sounds more like me than
anything else ever has," Lane said.
"I'd rather be 'they' than 'she' any day."

"Then that is what I will call you,"
Menachem promised. "I am happy that
I could help, at least to give you new words.
I would do more for you if I could."

Then the horse stepped on their dress
and Lane jerked away, swearing.

The village girls, some distance away,
pointed and giggled at their distress.

Yossele stomped over and yanked
the bench out from under them,
tumbling the girls into the dust.

They ran away, squealing,
as he walked back to the wagon.

"Perhaps a dress is not
the best thing for you to wear
while you're grooming a horse,"
Menachem said to Lane.

"I know, but it's all I have to wear,"
Lane said. "Some of the other girls
seem to do anything they want in
theirs, but I'm always tripping over
mine, and I hate doing that."

Yossele snorted, then guided Lane
to sit beside the fire. He gripped
the cloth above their knee and
looked at them for permission.

"If you have a better idea,
go ahead," Lane said.

So Yossele tore a big strip
off the dress, shortening it until
it hung just above their knees.
Then he tore that strip in half
and used it to wrap their legs,
protecting the soft pale skin.

When he was done, Lane wasn't
wearing anything that looked exactly
like girl clothes or like boy clothes.
It was something different.

"There now, that looks
much better," Menachem said.

Lane smiled as they finished
grooming the horse, and went on
to tend the fire as well as an apprentice.

That gave Menachem an idea.

"What would you think about
leaving this village?" he said.
"I know another blacksmith
called Nachman, who could
take you as an apprentice."

"I would love to go," Lane said.
"He won't mind that I'm different?"

"He doesn't mind that Yossele is
a golem, and has some trouble with
communication," said Menachem. "He
won't mind if you are tumtum, or whatever,
and need to use some different words.
You would be seen and respected,
the same as everyone else."

So when the poor family returned,
Menachem gave them the pot and said,
"Let me take your oldest child with me
when I go. I know a blacksmith who will
take Lane without the apprentice fee."

Lane's parents were all too happy
to agree to this arrangement.

So the next day, the three of them
left the little village behind, and with it
the erroneous idea that Lane was a girl.

* * *


Menachem is a traveling blacksmith and a Jew.

Yossele is a golem who works with Menachem.

Lane is a nonbinary child whom Menachem describes as tumtum, and assists in leaving their home village.

Nachman is Menachem's old master.

* * *

Classical Judaism recognizes six sex/gender configurations. Of these, the androgynos has traits of both male and female, while the tumtum may have neither. Many different interpretations exist. Here is a comparison of the two.

Androgynos/אַנְדְּרוֹגִינוֹס: A person who has both “male” and “female” sexual characteristics. 149 references in Mishna and Talmud (1st-8th Centuries CE); 350 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes (2nd -16th Centuries CE).

Tumtum/ טֻומְטוּם A person whose sexual characteristics are indeterminate or obscured. 181 references in Mishna and Talmud; 335 in classical midrash and Jewish law codes.

-- "Six Genders"

We read in the Babylonian Talmud: “Our sages taught: As to twilight, it is
doubtful whether it is part day and part night, or whether all of it is day or all of it is night.…
Rabbi Yosi said: Twilight is like the twinkling of an eye as night enters and the day departs, and it is impossible to determine its length.” (Shabbat 34b)

-- "How I Met the Tumtum"

Reuben Zellman, a transgender activist and rabbinical student writes: “Twilight cannot be defined; it can only be sanctified and appreciated. People can’t always be defined; they can only be seen and respected, and their lives made holy. This Jewish approach allows for genders beyond male and female. It opens space in society. And it protects those who live in the places in between."

-- "How I Met the Tumtum"

At the end of Mishna Bikkurim, Rabbi Yosi makes the radical statement that the androgynos is actually: “bria bi’ fnei atzmah” (a created being of its own).
-- "How I Met the Tumtum"

The discussion of nonbinary gender in Judaism likewise cites both the androgynos and the tumtum.
-- "Nonbinary Gender in Jewish Texts"

Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-13 12:20 am (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
Thank you for the references. I *knew* the 6 genders of Classical Judaism, but hadn't recalled all those bits for my teen YET. Medical issues are dissipating, but still present.

They still need some of those phrases to STOP a Sabra teacher at Hebrew school from gender abuse in pronouns and grammar. :-(

Re: Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-13 12:38 am (UTC)
technoshaman: (sharlin)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Well, now they *have* them...

I have an uncharitable thought towards someone who would commit gender abuse in a Hebrew school... two, actually. I'll voice the second one because it's not mine, it belongs to Rabbi Arnold Wolf of blessed memory. Rabbi Wolf said, you can sin, and still be a good Jew. You can even not believe in G-d, and still be a good Jew. You cannot be uneducated, and still be a good Jew.

This person needs educating. I wish your not-so-youngling all success in helping provide it.

Re: Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-13 01:07 am (UTC)
bairnsidhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bairnsidhe
Much luck and well-though towards the young one, may they meet as few idiots as they can and have suitable replies to each they do.

Ditto what technoshaman said. One does not go about waving one's ignorance as a flag and still claim a place in polite Jewish society. It's why I like that faith despite not generally enjoying group religion of any kind.

Re: Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-13 02:37 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
I suppose that shows the universal tendency to confuse "adult" with "automatically right?"

Seriously, they should KNOW BETTER, and need to be forcibly reminded of that fact with whatever portions of scripture or commentary make good bricks. (Metaphorically speaking. Barely.)

Document everything. Show said documentation to the principal. Demand both accountability and improvement. (I presume this is a private, paid for education and not the local government school?) Threaten to take the issue up with the alumni association.

In short, make very, very clear that your kid is your priority, and they'd better get with the program, fast.

Re: Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-13 07:09 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Oh, I never said it was true, just that it is ENFORCED against kids, often ESPECIALLY when the adult is wrong.

Frex, and this is a silly one-- my seventh grade teacher kept marking my work wrong every time I spelled the word a-m-o-e-b-a. TO the point that he threatened to automatically ZERO any assignment where I "insisted on misspelling" the word. My mom backed me up, to the point of taking a day off work and meeting the principal, ARMED with a dictionary.

The principal insisted that the teacher's version was an acceptable alternate spelling, citing "aluminum or aluminium" as a similar problem. He was incredibly, provably incorrect, for lots of reasons, but he backed the teacher's WRONG spelling.

Re: Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-13 09:58 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: Cartoon drawing of a nine tailed Fox, or kitsune, with the caption of "I give zero fox" (zero)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
It's -mostly- under control now. The teacher needs some pointed Hebrew reminders sometimes, because it's difficult enough for the female teacher to go back and forth from her native Hebrew to English. Tumtum should work for my teen and Rabbi Yosi's statement. They've already snapped that if the teacher's Hebrew MUST be gendered, use MALE, and not female for them. The teacher also foregone (ugh, I'm still having language access issues! Anesthesia effects take longer when I already had autism as a disability too) the usual tutoring fees for the B'nai Mitzvah to help while I was dealing with medical issues and then open heart surgery surgery. I said gender abuse, because it's taking so long to fix, not because it's deliberate cruelty though.
טֻומְטוּם should be enough of a reminder.

I'm only asking that my teen put up with this last bit of seventh grade, Sunday morning classes, as only Hebrew is taught by the -stuck- gendering teacher, but the OTHER teacher is doing better with the gender identity and is teaching Holocaust studies, including how the Nazis attacked the QUILTBAG people and doubly if you were QUILTBAG and Jewish/Romani/clergy or other multiple identities not permitted in Nazi Germany.

Our rabbi backs up our teen, and just called to ask what English and Hebrew names the Teen wants on the official B'nai Mitzvah certificate. As their having done the rite of adulthood, the rights to identify as they will, won't be taken from them. ;-)

I usually call my offspring the SlytherClaw Teen here, and my job as a RavenPuff Mom is more of an appropriate quatermaster with information and supplies. :-p They have verbal assault and defense down better than I.

Re: Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-13 10:04 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Having a parent act as a vocal and visible advocate REALLY helps. I'm glad that your kids are dealing with a small, short-term problem!

Re: Thanks for triggering some more recall

Date: 2018-03-14 01:04 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
All right. I will show this poem and comments to our rabbi. Our Teen would prefer a one word or short phrase to remind the teacher, NOT getting lawyers involved.

However, at least one of our synagogue friends is a lawyer and knows the preferred gender identity. Maybe I can get them to sit in on the conference. Synagogue NEEDS better procedures for these situations so they don't injure youth.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 12:32 am (UTC)
technoshaman: UU flame and double circle logo (UU)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
*smiles* Interestingly, the two non-assigned-gender young people I know... are both Jewish. One has the full support of their parents and their rabbi, to my delight... the other, sadly, does not, but ze does have the full support of others, and zir father has been clue-batted enough by the rest of the clan that things will hopefully turn out all right.

I rather hope that both young people will end up in here at some point. :D

I remember last summer a different Jewish friend (who is also bi and loudly out) was making digital rainbow flag variants for .... basically all comers... gay, bi, ace, trans, and superimposing various symbols on them... she was flying a bi flag with a Mogen David on it for a good while...

"Twilight." I like that metaphor.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-14 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Related re flags and symbols: Now you've got me curious, not to mention starting to actually wish for, an ace (or ace and bi dyad, or for that matter, ace/bi/demisensual in three panels, ooh) flag design crossed with a distinctly Lutheran symbol or two. If I knew what sort of iconography to use, I'd almost dare ask if that friend of yours took commissions.


Date: 2018-03-14 02:44 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Lutheran? Okay, not *too* surprised, given that you're about the third or fourth one I know who's comfortable amongst so many heatherns...

Am thinking a Luther Rose - designed by the man himself - a black cross inside a red heart inside a white rose. The other symbols I found on a quick search are not as specific....

IDK, she might take a commission... hmm. I don't *think* there's a demi*sensual* yet.

Ooooh. On the ace flag (black, grey, white, purple bars), a bi heart (hot pink fades through grey to blue from top to bottom) impaled with a cross, the heart surrounded with the white rose.

(now where the heck did that come from? I didn't used to be good at this.)

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 12:39 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Oh, there is something missing in the vicinity of "On Sunday the villagers,"...

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 03:10 am (UTC)
thnidu: Gay-friendly poly-friendly pagan-friendly monogamous straight Jew (friendly)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I figure it's the line that should be next, something like "observed the Sabbath in their own way,"

• 25 to make things

• On Monday, the villages came and
-> villagers

Re: Fixed!

Date: 2018-03-13 05:22 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 03:10 am (UTC)
antisocialite_forum: Blue and red-hot lava flows down a clifside (Kilauea Volcano)
From: [personal profile] antisocialite_forum
*grins* I was about to comment on that. The 25 line marker might have eaten it.

- Dimitri

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 03:05 am (UTC)
freshbakedlady: photo of a toddler holding an orange tabby cat (baby Joyce)
From: [personal profile] freshbakedlady
I love Menachem's practicality in all things. I'm touched by Lane getting to be seen at last and getting the words they needed. Spiriting them away to a better life will make sure those good changes last. Very sweet.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 03:12 am (UTC)
antisocialite_forum: Blue and red-hot lava flows down a clifside (Kilauea Volcano)
From: [personal profile] antisocialite_forum
It's good to see youth finding a more supportive place in the world.

- Dimitri

Re: Yay!

Date: 2018-03-13 10:22 pm (UTC)
librarygeek: cute cartoon fox with nose in book (Default)
From: [personal profile] librarygeek
It also reminded me of the stories about both the Romani and the itinerant Jewish peddlers and tinkers of "stealing Christian children" but giving both a better reason why leaving was better for the children AND permission/notice was given to the parents of the children going to a better situation.

I always had a lot of empathy for "The Pied Piper of Hamlin" and thought he found better families for the children.

(no subject)

Date: 2018-03-13 10:52 pm (UTC)
fyreharper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fyreharper


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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