New Article: Englander, The Image of the Male Body in Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodox Thought in Israel and Corresponding Strategies for Forging an A-feminine Public Sphere

Englander, Yakir. “The Image of the Male Body in Lithuanian Ultra-Orthodox Thought in Israel and Corresponding Strategies for Forging an A-feminine Public Sphere.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 29.3 (2014): 457-70.

 

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13537903.2014.945729

 

 

Abstract

This article deals with the increasingly severe attitude in Jewish Ultra-Orthodox society in the State of Israel regarding the relationship between the sexes. I seek to trace the philosophical roots of this attitude, as a product of existential thinking within the male contingent of the Ultra-Orthodox (Lithuanian) world itself, and I propose that the growing separation between the sexes is a direct result of rabbinic efforts to re-structure this world from within. The image of the Ultra-Orthodox public sphere is considered to be an exact reflection of the male individual and the way of life that is required of him. Ultra-Orthodox thought requires men to stop the flow of life, causing a ‘disconnect’ between the reflective self and the world in which the self exists as an object without reflexivity. According to Ultra-Orthodox thought, inability and failure to live all of life as reflective are linked to the human person as an ‘embodied being’. I explain the Ultra-Orthodox solution to the ‘problem of the body’ and how it influences the structure of the yeshiva as a ‘safe haven’. This mode of dealing with the body entails the exclusion of femininity from male life in the yeshiva context and is also increasingly reflected in the public domain. In recent years, Ultra-Orthodox rabbis have designed the public sphere using the model of the yeshiva as a space that is a-feminine. This is supported by readings from new Ultra-Orthodox Musar writings, directed to men, which deal with women’s sexuality and create a new definition of modesty.