Chevruta is a column named for the traditional method of Jewish study, in which a pair of students analyzes a religious text together. In each installment, Jewish Currents will match leftist thinkers and organizers with a rabbi or Torah scholar. The activists will bring an urgent question that arises in their own work; the Torah scholar will lead them in exploring their question through Jewish text. By routing contemporary political questions through traditional religious sources, we aim to address the most urgent ethical and spiritual problems confronting the left. Each column will be accompanied by a podcast and a study guide (linked below).
In our second Chevruta podcast, Laynie Soloman, associate rosh yeshiva of the queer and trans yeshiva SVARA, speaks with feminist theorist Sophie Lewis, author of Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family and Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation, about the famous biblical injunction to “be fruitful and multiply.” Though this has traditionally been regarded as a foundational commandment, the rabbis were strikingly ambivalent about it—in part because of their profound love of Torah, and of each other. In this Chevruta, Soloman and Lewis explore a Talmudic text from tractate Yevamot that confronts a rabbinic figure who has declined to have children. Through his example, the rabbis normalize a discomfort with this seemingly essential practice of biological reproduction, and offer a way to complicate—and potentially subvert—the status of procreation in the rabbinic mind and in our world.
You can find the column based on this conversation and a study guide here.
Thanks to Jesse Brenneman for producing and to Nathan Salsburg for the use of his song “VIII (All That Were Calculated Have Passed).”
Artworks and texts mentioned and further reading:
Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family by Sophie Lewis
Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Plantationocene, Chthulucene: Making Kin by Donna Haraway
We the Parasites by A. V. Marraccini
“How Mierle Laderman Ukeles Turned Maintenance Work into Art” by Jillian Steinhauer
Peninei Halakhah: Simchat Habayit U’Virkhato 5:2
“Don’t Hurt Yourself” by Beyoncé