By renee bravo
October 13, 2010
In the very first chapter of the book of Genesis, we read that " God created MAN in his own image; male and female created he them". The word MAN (Adam in Hebrew) obviously means a human being, not a male person. The Hebrew word for male is Ish. Examples of the different usage in the Bible of these two words are too numerous to list in this short article, but here are a few examples. "Whoever sheds man's blood must pay the price". Does that mean that you can kill a woman with impunity? "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great", using the word ADAM. So were the women innocent? "I will blot out man and beast", not the women? The verse "a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife", uses the word ISH.
The problem is compounded by the use of the phrase, "B'nai yisroal", which can mean Sons of Israel or Children of Israel. When God says, "Tell the Children of Israel", does he mean only the men? As an example of how translation can cause problems, The Independent, a very respected newspaper, issued a series of booklets about different religions. In the one on Judaism, it states, "The Ten Commandments only apply to males". The implications of this are mind-boggling. So a woman can steal, lie, murder, commit adultery, etc., because the Ten Commandments were give to B'nai Yisroel, sons of Israel..
But I don't want to dwell on the biblical references, except as an introduction to the present usage of the word "MAN". People of my age remember well the fight to enable women to be accepted as equal members of society. We understand perfectly the need to insist on 'Chairperson, spokesperson', etc., but it has lead to the ridiculous use of the word Chair. But that battle has largely been won. We now know that a man can be a nurse, and a woman a Prime Minister. I have recently had occasion to put a resolution to the Annual General
Meetings of two organisations with which I am associated, calling for the person who chairs the meeting, male, female or neuter, or any permutation of the three, to be referred to as the Chairman. On both occasions, the resolution was carried overwhelmingly. I wish I had the opportunity, and the clout, to go to every organisation and put that same resolution. But I must leave that to you young ones. I look forward to the day when the word MAN will revert to its original, biblical meaning, a human being, and we have postmen, sportsmen, chairmen, devoid of any sexual labelling, but I probably will not be here.
There is a lovely line in the Ethics of the Fathers, "In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man". We all understand that this means to act honourably, to do the right, to serve justice and mercy. Can only males do this>? Surely not.
I was chairman of an organisation for many years, and all the members knew that I preferred to be addressed as "Madam Chairman". On one occasion we had a visitor, who called me Madam Chairlady. I gently pointed out that I preferred Madam Chairman. But when he spoke for the third time, (there is one at every meeting), calling me Madam Chairlady,
I I said, "Sir, there is only one circumstance in which you woul.d need to distinguish between a male and female chairman, and that is not going to happen at a meeting of the Wanstead Jewish Literary Society