My teary friend told me that while helping her husband find a document on his laptop, she came across more than 850 porn clips. Yes, she knew he “is a man” and might have watched “one or two here and there long ago” but 850 were hard to stomach, especially the bestiality rape and other painful images.
When confronting him, he said: “850? Are you making this number up?” And: “I made a mistake: I shouldn’t have asked for your help in the first place”. And then: ”You’re overreacting. You have issues”.
Looking it up on google (“porn and relationships”) just made it worse. She described it “like walking into an endless battered women shelter”. It went on and on, about the husband who’s blaming his wife for his behavior; the confusion and the shattered self-esteem, the demolished joy and loss of security and trust in the relationship; the trade of intimacy and love making for rough bed-conquests, and on and on. I was overwhelmed just listening, so I opened my own search: what does Judaism think about…
Let’s see if we can take a detour and come back, yes, via this week’s parasha.
Pekudei seems to repeat again the last stages of the building of the Mishkan. Most commentators look at it as a “count” of the materials, but the question is, why? We’ve already counted it all before, and the current parasha count is incomplete!
Rav Hirsch (19th century) tells us (maybe warns us-) that translating pekudei as “counting” is wrong. The root for lifkod, P.K.D. is never used in conjunction with plain numbers and counting “stuff” (in contrast with lispor and limnot), only with remembering people. We see it when G-d “remembers” (pakad) Sarah and she conceives (Genesis 21:1); when Joseph tells his brothers that “G-d will indeed remember them” (pakod yifkod), asking to be buried in the Land of Israel (Genesis 50:24), and when G-d says to Moses, “go tell the elders that I have indeed remembered you (pakod pakadeti)… taking you to a land of milk and honey” (Exodus 3:16-17). Next we find the word “mifkad”, a national census which appears in the beginning of the Book of Numbers. Interestingly, the count in the beginning of the Book of Numbers is identical to the one mentioned here- 603,550 men, 20 years old and up. And how are those included in the census called? “pkudim”, the ones who are being “counted”, “remembered”. Likewise, in Modern Hebrew, the same root is used in the IDF: “lehitpaked” is what the commander says when the soldiers count themselves; “nifkad” is an AWOL (absent without leave, namely missing, uncounted) soldier. Pikadon – is a deposit in the bank, and on the other hand, meaningless sex can be referred to as a mispar, just a number.
Why do we count? A mother goose “counts” her eggs, and can detect changes in their numbers. We count our baseball cards, stamps, pets, jewelry, and little fetishes we collect. Basically, we count things we care about to make sure ‘it’s all there’. We count time: when is Shabbat, how many days is the omer, how long till I graduate. We don’t look at our families and say, ‘I have “about” 2 parents alive’. When we daven (pray) we count 10 so we cant say kadish (prayer for someone who passed away). We do this because we value each person as a whole, unique world, made in G-d’s image, yet at the same time, during the Mishkan count, people were counted by bringing “half a shekel”, indicating a whole which is part of a great puzzle. We are part of a bigger picture and our actions are not isolated. We count every person because every person counts, and you can see where I’m going with this.
When we see that nothing matters about a human being (and yes, often a woman), not if she is kind or loving or talented or educated or interesting or successful or hurt or pained; when people are dehumanized, used and reduced to a combination of selfish pleasure object \ beast, it’s ok to “overreact”. Just a little.
In a way, it’s like being pulled back to go to Egypt, where we can “enjoy” bondage, inhumane treatment, and animal worship. Or, we can muster the strength to keep going onward to the Promised Land, where we can grow up in a partnership with people and G-d. The last word (2 words) in the Book of Exodus is “bechol mas’ehem”, throughout their journeys. This is when the cloud will cover the People and protect them. Everything will be provided, but the Torah is adamant: Going back is not an option.