Sermon by Cantor Eyal Bitton
November 29, 2014 at Beth Jacob Synagogue
When Jake was around 17, his family moved from Boston to Montreal. So he was new to the city and, of course, new to the school. In his first week at school, he met a girl. Sharon, if I’m not mistaken. About a month or so later, after getting to know each other a little and flirting here and there, he found the courage to ask her out on a date.
Jake was thrilled and relieved when she said, “I’d love to.” But that excitement quickly vanished a second later when Sharon presented him with a piece of paper.
“What’s this?” he asked.
She answered, “It’s an application.”
“Yeah, my father makes every guy who wants to date me fill one of these out.”
Luckily for you, I have a copy of this application and I’ll share it with you now.
Fathers have a long tradition of being protective and perhaps over-protective of their daughters. We see this everywhere. About ten years ago or so, there was a TV show entitled Eight Simple Rules for Dating my Teenage Daughter. There are T-shirts like Dating My Daughter: The Rules or Ten Rules for Dating my Daughter.
One of them lists the ten rules as following:
This protective nature in man is true even with personalities we encounter in the Torah. In today’s parasha, Jacob and his father-in-law, Laban, have a contentious relationship with respect to the family business. After some time, Laban takes steps to mend the relationship and come to terms with his nephew. He offers a pact, in which both he and Jacob promise not to resort to any violence to resolve their disagreements. It also allows Jacob to go his own way and take a fair amount of the family business along with him.
Laban tells Jacob, who is married to Laban’s daughters, Leah and Rachel:
Notice that Laban’s agreement with Jacob isn’t just about business. He includes a clause within the agreement that basically says, ‘Don’t mistreat my daughters’.
Laban isn’t portrayed in the most positive light in our story. He deceives Jacob. He manipulates Jacob into working for him – and, if he had his druthers, for an indefinite period of time. Laban is jealous of Jacob’s success with his flocks and seeks to undermine him. All these cast Laban in a negative light.
But then this line appears and, suddenly, we see him differently. We now see him as a loving and protective father.
GHOMESHI AND COSBY ACCUSATIONS
Recently, two disturbing stories have been making headlines in the news. One is of CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi and the other is of TV legend and comedian Bill Cosby. Both are accused of sexually violent crimes. I do not know what the courts will discover but I do know that not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven, but a significant number of women have stepped forward to make these accusations – and that our first reaction should not be to dismiss them but to listen to them.
Statistics Canada reports that 90% of sexual assault victims do not report the crime. There are a number of reasons as to why that is the case but what’s important to note is that if 90% of these victims aren’t reporting the crime, then the crime is happening a lot more than you and I think. It also means that if eight women risk scrutiny, public and private humiliation, and a myriad of other obstacles by claiming that Jian Ghomeshi assaulted them, then they should be heard, not dismissed. It means that if twenty women risk scrutiny, public and private humiliation, and a myriad of other obstacles by claiming that Bill Cosby assaulted them, then they should be heard, not dismissed.
When we hear the accusations against these stars, we think of the stars. When the Jian Ghomeshi news began hitting the airwaves and the internet, many people – not all – were confused and sided immediately with Ghomeshi. We know Ghomeshi. We hear him on the radio. We think he’s smart. We enjoy him. We like him.
And for years, people dismissed the accusations circling Bill Cosby. Why? Bill Cosby is beloved. He is a brilliant comedian. He’s a pioneer. His humour is clean. His persona is wholesome. On TV, he played an exemplary father and member of society. He was a role model. Surely, then, his accuser must be lying, people thought. And now we learn that it isn’t one accuser but twenty.
When it takes decades before people start believing women who are claiming they’ve been assaulted, there’s a problem. When we harbour disparaging thoughts about women who claim they’ve been sexually assaulted, there’s a problem. When it takes multiple victims to make us begin to think that a woman is telling the truth, it means that more women are being victimized and that there’s a problem. When 90% of sexual assault victims do not report the crimes committed against them, there’s a problem. And the problem is with our society, with us.
We, and I mean men, are failing women. Men are failing to listen to women. Men are failing to protect women. Men are failing to validate women. Men are failing to see that Laban was on to something. Men are failing to see that these jokes about dating their daughters are not just about their daughters – but about everyone’s daughters.
And once we get that every woman is someone’s daughter, we don’t need an application. We don’t need eight simple rules. We don’t need ten rules. No, we need to take a page out of Laban’s book and understand that there is really just one rule:
Do not ill-treat my daughters… remember, God Himself will be witness.
Sources: https://www.facebook.com/notes/wwwcustomikescom/application-for-permission-to-date-my-daughter/10150837106790425  http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/11/28/been-raped-never-reported-why-90-of-sex-assault-victims-stay-silent-rather-than-face-trial-by-ordeal/