God, Mother of Israel

Aug. 17 2022

The image of God as a father is a common one in Judaism, found in such well-known prayers as the ancient Avinu Malkeynu (“Our Father, Our King”)—and even more common in Christianity. Yet in the Hebrew Bible, and in later Jewish texts, the Almighty is also likened to a mother. Malka Simkovich observes:

This image of God as mother extends through biblical tradition as a way to highlight the mystery of God’s attachment to Israel. Later, images of motherhood are applied to Zion and to Jerusalem, though in a very different way. And later still, the rabbis ascribed to themselves the status of motherhood by way of their work as Torah teachers. They believed that such teaching was a life-giving act which guaranteed the survival of the Jewish people. In other words, from ancient times to the early Common Era, the experience of motherhood was central to the understanding of what it meant to be a Jew.

Some biblical authors home in on the image of God specifically as a nursing mother. The author of Isaiah 49, for example, has God say to the Judeans, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (49:15). The writer of this verse understood that a nursing mother and her child are bonded by the mother’s unconditional love and by the child’s utter dependence. God’s unconditional love, the prophet asserts, goes even beyond that of a nursing mother. Because God has promised to maintain this bond and protect the people, Israel can call upon God to help in times of crisis. As mother, God is accountable, compassionate, protective, powerful, and bound to her children through love.

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Read more at Christian Century

More about: Hebrew Bible, Judaism

 

How the Death of Mahsa Amini Changed Iran—and Its Western Apologists

Sept. 28 2022

On September 16, a twenty-two-year-old named Mahsa Amini was arrested by the Iranian morality police for improperly wearing a hijab. Her death in custody three days later, evidently after being severely beaten, sparked waves of intense protests throughout the country. Since then, the Iranian authorities have killed dozens more in trying to quell the unrest. Nervana Mahmoud comments on how Amini’s death has been felt inside and outside of the Islamic Republic:

[I]n Western countries, the glamorizing of the hijab has been going on for decades. Even Playboy magazine published an article about the first “hijabi” news anchor in American TV history. Meanwhile, questioning the hijab’s authenticity and enforcement has been framed as “Islamophobia.” . . . But the death of Mahsa Amini has changed everything.

Commentators who downplayed the impact of enforced hijab have changed their tune. [Last week], CNN’s Christiane Amanpour declined an interview with the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and the Biden administration imposed sanctions on Iran’s notorious morality police and senior officials for the violence carried out against protesters and for the death of Mahsa Amini.

The visual impact of the scenes in Iran has extended to the Arab world too. Arabic media outlets have felt the winds of change. The death of Mahsa Amini and the resulting protests in Iran are now top headlines, with Arab audiences watching daily as Iranian women from all age groups remove their hijabs and challenge the regime policy.

Iranian women are making history. They are teaching the world—including the Muslim world—about the glaring difference between opting to wear the hijab and being forced to wear it, whether by law or due to social pressure and mental bullying. Finally, non-hijabi women are not afraid to defy, proudly, their Islamist oppressors.

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Read more at Nervana

More about: Arab World, Iran, Women in Islam