Inbal Freund is one of the most incredible human beings I know. She’s the former director of Mavoi Satum, an organization that stops men from refusing their wives divorces in Israel. She scripted (with Chari Pere) a (masterful, brilliant) short comic about the agunah situation called Unmasked, which explains her life work in more vivid emotion than I can hit you with. (Ouch. Sorry. Bad use of the colloquial…)
And now, she takes on the weekly Torah portion, Naso.
Inbal’s fiercely Orthodox, and fiercely feminist, and she’s also just plain fierce. This was probably the single parsha that, as a producer, I was most nervous to approach. Even now, when I watch it, I get a feeling at certain points like I was punched in the gut — it’s pretty intense. No one comes off 100% pure: not the wife, not the husband, not the priest, not even G*d.
It’s things like this that remind me that I’m Orthodox, and that keep me Orthodox. If Judaism was simple, and I agreed with every little bit of it, I could just say “amen” and keep moving, comfortable with the role of religion in my life. If I was secular, or not Orthodox, I could just resign this to one of those parts of Judaism that I don’t agree with — or that’s old or outdated or misogynistic or just straight-up lame — and move on to something cool, like strawberry cheesecake or listening to Y-Love.
But I’m not. Even after watching Naso, I’m perturbed — so, what, this dude thought his wife was cheating on her and sold her out to the rest of the tribe? He threw her in front of a priest, who uncovered her hair (which, to a married Orthodox woman, is like ripping off all her clothes in public)? How is that just on anyone’s behalf?
Relationships are passionate. (Unless they are boring, and you’re comfortable and uninspired by each other, in which case a break-up is probably looming in the distance.) Some couples fight like hell, and some couples love each other with every bit as much passion. A dude has to be a real self-centered douche to accuse his wife publicly of one of the most heinous private sins…and a woman has to be the most forgiving person in the world to stick with him after that. It’s true — whether you’re in a relationship or you aren’t — people never understand how other people’s relationships work. Compared to this procedure, getting divorced is probably the easiest thing in the world. But if a couple really wants to get this thing resolved, I suppose the message of the parsha is that there’s always a way…except that the best way, like marriage itself, it isn’t always the easiest way.