With all due respect, a number of weeks ago you said you were going to address the Jewish view of gender fluidity, and since then you haven’t really addressed the issue and instead keep digressing into mystical ideas of the body. Some of us are waiting for the answer!
As I mentioned back then, this issue is a very emotional one. In order to begin understanding the Jewish view from an intellectual standpoint and not judge it based on emotions it is crucial to frame the issue in the proper context. Firstly, it is imperative to understand the traditional Jewish view of the body, its holiness and what it represents, before we try to address the question of making alterations to the body. We don’t want to put the cart before the horse!
All that we have discussed in the past weeks is quite revolutionary in light of the contemporary Western view of the body. Consider, for example, the many displays of actual human bodies, cadavers, displayed as they look in different modes of motion, etc. These displays represent a profoundly physical worldview of the body, quite the opposite of everything we have written thus far!
If the body is but a physical machine, than there is nothing standing in the way of moderating it at will, as we do with the myriad machines man has created. The traditional Jewish view of the body, however, causes us to at the very least take pause and contemplate when it is proper, or if it is proper, to make alterations to a sublime creation of which every facet is deeply intertwined with the spiritual universe and contains within it storehouses of holiness and meaning.
(This gives us a bit of insight into the deeply respectful and reverential Jewish customs by which we treat the body in preparation for and during the burial ceremony, something we could perhaps discuss in the future more in-depth.)
Another point that emanates from our discussion is something that a few years ago would not have to even be stated, but today it may sound revolutionary as well: The male and female bodies are truly and profoundly different!
We explained in our previous discussion that every part of our body is deeply connected to celestial spiritual worlds and represents myriad revelations of the Al-mighty in the universe. It follows from this that since there are, indeed, profound physical differences between the male and female body, then these differences reflect spiritual differences between man and woman. In short, if our bodies are different, than our souls are divergent as well. This is the message in the verse, “Through my flesh I see God” (Job 19:26). Every subtle nuance of our physical makeup is teaching us something about its Creator.
This doesn’t mean that men and women don’t have many similarities or that there aren’t areas where ours souls cross over each other in our spirituality. In fact, our tradition teaches that the first man and woman were created connected, an androgynous being which was later separated into man and woman. Part of the reason for that original dual creation was in order that man and woman will, after their separation, continue to share certain similar emotional and spiritual traits. There remain key areas of mitzvos performed by men which emanate from the feminine side of the spiritual universe and vice-versa.
The differences and uniqueness of man and woman after the separation do, however, reveal to us that there are spiritual differences between the male and female worlds. The divergent messages of “Through my flesh I see God” between male and female show us beautiful insights into a kaleidoscope of Divine messages for the world. To fully explain those different messages is beyond the scope of the space limitations of this column; indeed it would require an entire book! (I highly recommend an amazing book dedicated to this understanding: Circle, Arrow, Spiral by Miriam Kosman; Mekor Press).
Hopefully we will continue our discussion further and, with patience, actually answer the question!