Take the Lead
Tonight begins the 21st Day of the Omer (May 3-4, 2006), which is three complete weeks of the omer. May that part of me that is broken in Malkhut in Tiferet be healed on this day.
In the recent movie Take the Lead Antonio Banderas plays a ballroom dance teacher who wants to help out troubled ghetto kids by instilling them with the rigor and values of ballroom. His commitment to the language of respect, "Please," "Thank you," etc... begins to seep in because he truly likes the kids, he is committed to them, and supports them in using their own hip-hop moves in the creation of a fusion dance form.
The most powerful scene in the movie was when two of the kids, sworn enemies based upon their dead brothers' hatred, have been paired together as partners. After a couple tense sessions, Banderas puts the 6'3" 200 lb. boy with the 5'5" 110 lb. girl together in a room. Banderas then blindfolds the girl. He leaves them alone with a one-word instruction, "Dance."
The reality of the greater male physical strength over the female in this scene is accentuated by the teacher's assignment. By adding the blindfold he's painting a big sign over the girl—you are vulnerable. Ironically, by making that physical power dynamic clear, its charge is diminished. It wouldn't prove the male's strength to take advantage of that power dynamic. Rather it would prove his cowardice and weakness. The physical power dynamic discharged, the two face each other in equal emotional states of vulnerability. The two successfully pass the test on the dance floor. The courage they displayed in that encounter helps them to address the problems in their lives.
But doesn't this smack of a defunct chivalry, one in which men may, at times of their choosing, contain their power, while at other times abuse it? And isn't the whole ballroom dance thing based on assumptions that the culture affirms heterosexual unions while rejecting same-sex ones?
The difference here is that the accentuation of the power differential led to an equality of emotional vulnerability. Ballroom dance functions symbolically in the movie to show how roles and structures can support growth, change, and intimacy.
The Kabbalah talks about the union of Tiferet, the male God as depicted in the Hebrew Bible, with Malkhut, the feminine divineShekhina who represents God's immanence, serving as an intermediary between our world and the nine other sefirot (emmanations/aspects of God) that inhabit the "upper worlds."
Israel (the Jewish people) are sometimes collectively seen in the role of Malkhut and join in union with Tiferet. This is where the custom of couples making love on Shabbat Eve comes from. The husband, representing God, and the wife, representing Israel, mirror/promote the cosmic union of Tiferet with Malkhut.
Here too I don't want to deny the troubling nature of some of this imagery. In this powerful suggestion of cosmic forces being reflected, even healed, through human sexual behaviors, how do we understand the heterosexual nature of this imagery and what affect these symbols might have on gay and lesbian people?
- I think the Chinese Yin/Yang system is helpful. In that system it is explicit that Yin ("female") and Yang ("male") exist in both males and females. The reference to Yin and Yang by their gender is a language short-cut that is meant to explain something universal, not to describe or predict the behaviors of male or female human beings.
- The Kabbalistic imagery also lends itself to describing same-sex truths. Yesterday, for instance, was Yesod in Tiferet which is the joining of two male forces. What are the lessons that can be learned when contemplating same-sex unions that have universal application and relevance?
On this day of Malkhut in Tiferet may I come to understand how the acknowledgement of differences can lead to greater intimacy and equality.