Who’s in the Cave? Introduction
We’re about to embark on a discovery journey of “old”, familiar stories. The set might be the tent, foot journey, well and camel but the content is ever so current. This is so we can learn about ourselves at arm’s length distance so we do not only learn about the past, but explore who we are and what kind of behaviors, trends, feelings and thoughts might come up in our own modern, current relationships. In order to further highlight this, we have interspersed between the ancient stories, voices of nowadays couples, sharing scenes from their life. Indeed, we named this collection “Who’s in the Cave?” but of course, we’re not just talking about that one cave; we’re talking about symbolically entering a new, very private, very sheltered dwelling.
The study of the ancient couples is done through an authentic, scholarly lens, impacted by traditional Jewish teaching, while the modern vignettes and insights incorporates tools from the late 20th and 21st century psychology. We strongly believe that the two shed light on each other, rather than conflict, and help us understand better phenomena we’re exposed to regularly.
The Jewish view on the relationship between a man and a woman is unique, especially against the backdrop of its originating times. Contrary to some beliefs, Judaism has been concerned with a woman’s physical, emotional, financial and sexual needs for over 3,300 years. Her rights are expressed in her ketubah, her marriage contract. The sages further explained that when a man marries a woman he is responsible to provide her with ten things (such as food, clothing, sexual relations) but is entitled to only four (such as monetary arrangements in case she works or dies before him). There are laws protecting single women as well, especially in times of trouble such as rape, war and more.
Some such laws are spelled out in the Torah and some extricated from other texts. Yet, not everything can be legalized. The idea, for example, that women are inheritably different but equal to men, could not be made a “law”; neither could the idea of partnership between the two, and what exactly does that look like. This is delivered to us via stories often known as “midrash”, homiletic, interpretive expansion of the brief text in front of us.
Take, for example, the childhood of the patriarch Abraham. Officially, we first meet him at the end of chapter 11 in the Book of Genesis. He is traveling with his father and is married. In the opening of chapter 12, we’re told he is 75 years old. Just like this out of the blue? If so, the Bible is a really poor history book or better yet, no history book at all as it just skipped 75 years and left us with very little explanation – why Abraham? Why not any of the names mentioned in the long list of begets along the way?
The harsh truth is that we don’t know. But later writings and collections of commentary, tried to shed some light, which first of all tells us that someone else asked the same questions we’re asking long ago and far away.