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Barbie! -- Chronicle Online/The WORD 08/3/23

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah

August 3, 2023 16 Av 5783 EikevThis past Saturday night, as Shabbat ended, my entire family piled into the car to get to the theater in time to see the Barbie movie. I just had to see what all the fuss was about. I have to admit that I enjoyed it. But, I can’t stop wondering what makes this movie is so polarizing. Lots of people love it. Lots of people hate it. There are not a lot of people in the middle. It seems to me that before I can try to answer that question, I have to state what I think the movie is about (without giving away the entire plot). So, for me, the movie is about holding on to a dream about what a perfect world would look like while still living in an imperfect world and remembering that our version of perfection may not, in fact, be perfect. And THAT is a very Jewish concept. We believe that one day the world will be perfected, but until then, we have an obligation to make our part of the world as perfect as possible. We call this “Tikkun Olam.” And as Hillel taught some 2,000 years ago, we may not complete the work of perfecting the world, but we must keep on trying. That sounds all well and good. Where we run into trouble is when our idea of a perfect world conflicts with someone else’s idea of a perfect world. Then, we end up working at cross purposes with one another. Some people are offended by the idea of Barbieland because it celebrates a physical ideal that is virtually impossible for average human beings to attain. Still, others object to Barbieland because it imagines a reality in which women hold all the power and men are nearly-unnecessary, second-class citizens. Those are fair critiques. Clearly, Barbieland’s vision of perfection is not perfect for everyone. However, Barbie and Barbieland got at least one thing right: They allow us to imagine a world in which women and girls have more power and agency than they do in this world right now. We get to see women and girls in roles that are typically reserved for males only. And for those of us who want to see those kinds of changes in our real world, we have to be able to picture it before we can make it a reality. Over the last 100 years or so, non-orthodox Judaism has gone through a radical transformation of gender roles. I was an adult before I experienced a woman rabbi or cantor. I could barely imagine the concept. It was hard to make those kinds of changes for people who had never seen a woman in those roles. My kids, though, had a completely different experience. The first time we visited a synagogue with a male cantor, they were shocked. They didn’t know men could be cantors. Maybe if Jewish boys and girls of previous generations had seen this Barbie.... the changes would have come even sooner. Our Jewish community is not (yet) perfect. Some might disagree with my vision of what a perfect Jewish community would look like. All we can do is try to make it a little better each day. And who knows? Maybe Barbie can help us imagine that better day. Shalom, RAF. Tefillin Barbie by Jen Taylor Friedman (No relation!)

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