The #MeToo campaign gives people a voice

  • rabbi fox
One of the big media stories of last year was the Me Too movement, which began as an online campaign – #MeToo – initiated by women to highlight the prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace and elsewhere. It was prompted by the “surprise” revelation that Hollywood is not the bastion of morality and ethics that the naïve had believed it to be. This, after a series of claims were made to the media by women who’d been abused by despicable people. The media is awash with case after case, allegation following allegation – all of which speak of an endemic societal problem of epic proportions.
by RABBI GIDON FOX | Mar 29, 2018

What the #MeToo campaign seems to have done is to commence a process to truly liberate women from the shackles of oppression which they had hitherto been forced to endure.

The late American Orthodox Rabbi Joseph Ber Soloveitchik said the difference between freedom and slavery is “voice”. People who are slaves have no voice; their cries are never heard. Every dictatorship starts with censorship because once the voice of the people has been removed, their other liberties will follow.

In the recent demonstrations by Iran’s citizens, the first response of its oppressive regime was to cut access to social media. Silence is the friend of the oppressor, the enemy of the oppressed.

The first step of the liberation of Jews from Egypt was when Hashem heard their cries. That was the first step of reclaiming our freedom, by finding our voice.

It is, therefore, no accident that the central observance of the Pesach Seder is vehigaddeta levincha (you shall tell your child). The celebration of our freedom comes to light when we freely, and with pride, communicate and discuss our heritage, our history and our destiny with those who join us around the table.

In Judaism, too, we are becoming freer as time progresses. Gone are the days when it was taboo to ask the rabbi, teacher or parent challenging questions about Yiddishkeit. Today our freedom has reclaimed the voice of questioning, challenging us, the “keepers of the answers”, to provide cogent, sound and intelligible answers, all of which can be found if we only truly seek.

Perhaps the most challenging question which may be asked of a parent today is: “Why should I marry Jewish?” Why should I give up a life of happiness and matrimonial bliss for a Judaism which we, as a family, do not keep? What sacrifices do you make that entitle you, the parent, to demand I sacrifice my “soul mate” for a religion we maintain in name alone?

With freedom comes not only the right to question, but the responsibility to be able to answer. With freedom comes a duty to live and teach by example. The best answer to this challenging question is not in what we say, but in the life we choose to live.

It is interesting to note that in the Haggadah, the “wicked son” is advised that, were he to have been present at the time of the Exodus, he would not have been liberated. The reason, the Haggadah informs us, is that “hotzi atzmo min haklal” (he took himself out of the collective). Put differently, he removed himself from the Me Too movement, choosing the sound of silence over the voice of freedom.

Pesach is our Me Too moment, when we choose to find an eloquent voice to answer the vexing questions of our time. Gone are the days when the pithy “because I said so” is an answer. Welcome to the time of penetrating questions and with it, the freedom to discover the voice of our people. This is the time when we hold the hands of history and say “me too” to our future destiny.


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