Tumahlicious: Are You Ready?

In Jewish law, tumah and taharah are the state of being ritually “impure” and “pure” respectively. A person or object which contracts tumah is said to be tamei, and thereby unsuited for certain holy activities until undergoing predefined purification actions. In Matot Masai, this week’s Torah portion, we learn about all of the rules of what happened to the spoils of war. There we read:

And Eleazar the priest said to the men of war that went to the battle: ‘This is the statue of the law which the Lord has commanded Mosche: Howbeit the gold, and the silver, the brass, the iron, the tin, and the lead, every thing that may abide the fire, you shall make to go through the fire, and it shall be clean; nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of sprinkling; and all that abide not the fire you shall make to go through the water. And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you shall be clean, and afterward you may come into the camp.’  ( Numbers 31:21-24)

It is interesting how both the person who goes to war as the booty of war are impure. They both need to be cleaned physically and metaphysically before it can be in the camp. What is the connection between the people we are and the material acquisitions in our life?

This question got me thinking about the word booty itself. The word actually means something valuable stolen goods, especially those seized in war. But today it has taken another meaning. This meaning is best known  Destiny’s Child’s earworm  Bootilicious.

There in the chorus they sing, ” I don’t think you ready for this  ‘Cause my body too bootylicious for yo babe”. What does it mean that people talk about themselves or more specifically a part of their body that is something valuable stolen goods, especially those seized in war. While this song seems to empower the female protagonist to claim that the man in questions cannot handle her body, it still assumes that women’s bodies are objects to be won or stolen. What does this say about our cultural assumptions of sex and sexuality?

I am not trying to claim that Destiny’s Child or even modern sexuality is impure, but I do think it is worthy of reflection. Sex is not a subject to be shunned. Quiet the contrary, we have to work harder at bringing that conversation into the camp. Sex cannot be a means of objectification or be tainted by the violence of war. We do need to rethink the language, metaphor, and process of making sex a pure and meaningful act. I would love to hear your thoughts. Are you ready?


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