I stumbled upon this incredible article and I wanted to share it with you! How amazing our Yah is!
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The idea of human rights—fundamental rights for each human irrespective of his or her gender, social status, or origin1—is a characteristic of our modern world and a fruit of the Enlightenment. However, many scholars believe that the tradition-historical root of human rights is the Hebrew Bible, as its ideas of social justice remained subversively effective, impacting modern views of social justice.2 The theology of the book of Deuteronomy and the anthropology of the creation traditions of the Hebrew Bible had a deep impact on the formation of the modern world, particularly as it pertains to justice for the marginalized in society.
When it comes to human rights, ancient Israel was commanded by YHWH to protect and honor the dignity of one of society’s most vulnerable groups: widows. Today, Christian theology still expects care for the “least of these” (recall Matt 25:40), particularly those who may not seem to have anything to contribute to society. This not only has physical implications, but Christians are left to wonder about honoring the vulnerable theologically. What role do the vulnerable play in shaping theological understandings? Modern theologies, including womanist and mujerista theologies, have attempted to answer these questions.
In our modern contexts, poor, marginalized women or the abuelitas (grandmothers) in our midst are often overlooked for many of the same reasons widows were overlooked in the ancient world. These factors include age, physical vulnerability, social status, and gender. However, these abuelitas have historically served as unofficial theologians and backbones of the faith. This article will introduce and expand on a lesser-known theological concept, namely, abuelita theology. It will argue that YHWH’s instructions concerning widows in the Hebrew Bible are foundational to understanding abuelita theology as a theology that upholds the dignity of marginalized women.
The Basis for Human Rights and Dignity
When considering the dignity of humans, it is important to begin at the beginning, as the creation narrative sets a basis for how all persons—even those who do not seem to have anything to contribute to society—are to be understood. Much like the widow in ancient Israel, abuelitas often fall into a similar, marginalized category, as they are physically vulnerable and unable to provide for themselves. However, how does the imago Dei speak into the dignity of persons?
Yair Lorberbaum explains that the concept of human dignity and the sanctity of human life is historically bound up with the biblical idea of humankind created in the divine image.3 Similarly, Lorberbaum argues that the theological message underlying the first chapters of Genesis is that humanity is created or born in the image of the divine king (read with the backdrop of royal theology prevalent in the ancient Near East). Different interpretations offer a range of meaning for what it means to be made in God’s image. For example, one understanding is that God created for himself an image to serve as an extension of himself on earth. Other interpretations assume there is “a divine spark” in human beings that establishes humanity and grants humans unique status among God’s creation. This view assumes that the divine image is the basis for the equality in principle among human beings, for all are in the image of the Creator.4
Going further, some have likened human dignity to the imago Trinitatis, drawing out the relational dynamics of equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. Catherine La Cugna argues that this characterizes the intra-relationality of the persons of the Trinity.5 Dignity of human persons is to be understood in relationality. As James Hanvey argues, dignity has a social dimension: “in some way our dignity, qua our person and identity not just our status, is held in and by the ‘we’ of our relationships. In terms of theology, we encounter here the reality of solidarity which has both natural and supernatural dimensions.”6 The natural dimension that Hanvey refers to is the moral obligation we owe every person by virtue of our common humanity.
In On Human Dignity, Jürgen Moltmann encapsulates this idea of human dignity and common humanity, particularly the struggle between having dignity and actualizing it—the foundation for abuelita theology. Moltmann argues that,
Human dignity lies in the fact that each particular human being and all human beings are, in common, human . . . this presupposes the difference between the existence and the essence of the human being: The human being is a human being, and ought to be a human being. The being-a-human contains his or her humanity initially only as possibility, but not yet as constant reality.7
He then explains what happens when the hominitas (being human purely in the sense of belonging to the zoological species) and the humanitas (human nature, civilization, and kindness) are at odds, putting the humanitas at risk:
It can be actualized, but it can also be blocked. So the dignity of human beings consists in this, that they are human and should be human. Their existence is gift and task simultaneously. It presents them with the task of actualizing themselves, their essence, and thus coming into their truth.8
In our human likeness, it is essential to understand that where the imago Dei is degraded or humiliated in one of us, so it is for all of us.9 This is important to consider as it pertains to the most marginalized or vulnerable in society—including abuelitas, many of whom find themselves, like the widow in ancient Israel, without physical or financial support. The following sections will highlight the biblical case for widows and how it serves as a basis for understanding modern abuelita theology, a theology that presents marginalized women with the task of actualizing their dignity and essence, thus “coming into their truth.”
Family Structure in Ancient Israel
In order to better understand the plight of the widow in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is important to first understand how familial society in ancient Israel worked. While modern, Western culture echoes a similar importance of family, the “family unit” in ancient Israelite society played a unique role in how society functioned, comprising a central aspect of Israelite culture. Family profiles differed among three differently sized groups. According to Bunie Veeder, there is general agreement that the ancestral house was the central unit in a relationship diagram, comprising three generations or more.10 The next group was the clan, a kinship group composed of many households residing in close proximity. Lastly, the tribe, which was comprised of many clans.11 An individual’s identity came from this three-ring structure, with the household being the strongest connection, moving outward to the clan and the tribe.12 According to Num 36:6–9, women were required to marry within a clan of their father’s tribe in order to keep the holdings within the tribal boundaries. When married, women moved to their husband’s household.
Another factor to take into consideration is generational identity in the Israelite family. One can find laws requiring respect for both one’s mother and father (e.g., Exod 21:15–17; Deut 21:15–17, 18–21, 22:13–21, 23:1). Similarly, mothers were expected to be active participants in the legal procedures outlined in the Deuteronomic Law, as seen in both the requirements for the parents of the accused bride in Deut 22:13–21 and the parents of the rebellious son in Deut 21:18–21. Nonetheless, the mother and father did not typically have equal authority in these household matters. Danna Fewell and David Gunn suggest that, although the mother had some authority within the family hierarchy, systemic power resided with the father.13
Class differences proved to be an important factor in Israelite society. Women were usually protected by the male household head and transitioned through secure categories from daughter, to wife, to mother. However, some wives or mothers lost the economic support of a privileged Israelite male (this included husband and even sons). Thus, it was not uncommon that a widow was associated with a family entity. “From patriarchal to monarchic times her presence among Abraham’s descendants has been cited in the Hebrew Scriptures.”14 Losing protection of a male further marginalized a woman in society, making her part of the needy class.15 This is specifically apparent through the laws found addressing the widow, orphan, and stranger, three groups of people devoid of the economic support provided by the privileged Israelite male.16 The laws in Deut 14:22–29, 26:12–15, and 24:17–22 were put in place to eliminate the economic hardships of these groups of people who would otherwise have found themselves destitute in society. Similarly, as it pertains to the widow, the law presumed that she would be supported by her sons in the case of her husband’s death. If there were no sons available to provide for her, then the law of levirate marriage would apply.17 However, as Eryle Davies explains, “the pleas of the prophets on behalf of the widow are due to the fact that one of the most basic provisions legislating for her support [was] often, in practice, neglected.”18
Widowhood in Ancient Society and Hebrew Scripture
The protection of the widow, the orphan, and the poor was the common policy of the ancient Near East, although both in ancient Near Eastern literature in general and in ancient Jewish literature in particular, widows were not a prominent or even a well-defined group. Similarly, the plight of widows was not exactly the same everywhere.19 Nonetheless, protection for the widow, orphan, and poor was a policy of virtue of gods, kings, and judges that proved the piety of a ruler. Great Mesopotamian kings like Urukagina, Ur-Nammu, and Hammurabi boasted in their legal inscriptions that they had accomplished the principle of taking care of such needy persons.20 Keith Wessel points out that their boasting appears to have had primarily an economic focus, “set as it is in the immediate context of various initiatives to insure fairness and safety in commercial ventures.”21
Charles Fensham argues that the attitude taken against the widow, the orphan, and the poor is to be considered from a legal background. Because they had no rights or legal personalities, they were “almost outlaws,” as anyone could oppress them without the risk that legal connections might endanger their position. Fensham demonstrates that, in order to restore the balance of society, widows (and other needy people) had to be protected, making it necessary to sanction their protection by direct command of a god and to make it a virtue of the kings.22 He also states that the Israelites in later history inherited the concept from their forebears, some of whom had come from Mesopotamia, Egypt, or Canaan. “In the Israelite community this policy was extended through the encouragement of the high ethical religion of YHWH to become a definite part of their religion.”23
There is great concern for the just treatment of the widow in the Hebrew Scriptures. In biblical Israel the government of sacred law required the public to become generally responsible for the welfare of the marginalized. This is seen in the abundance of laws that placed a duty on every Israelite to care for the fatherless, the widow, the stranger, and the disadvantaged members of society in their midst.24 It begins with YHWH’s instructions in the wilderness (Exod 22:20–23), where widows are mentioned for special consideration as vulnerable members of society, often living at the mercy of others. In this passage, YHWH defends the widow against any ill treatment and warns perpetrators of possible dire consequences for those who might harm her. “Because newly freed Israelites travelling in the wilderness presumably lacked courts, hearing her cry (and theirs) God Himself would become the judge to pass sentence.”25 God champions the cause of the downtrodden when there is an absence of a human protector or a human judicial system to carry out justice.
Next, the plight of the widow is repeated in Moses’s final instructions (Deut 10:17–18, 27:19). Wessel argues that the book of Deuteronomy seems particularly concerned with the vulnerability of widows because there may have already been a large number of them in the camp of Israel at the time of the giving of the “second law” for a new generation of Israelites, shortly before their entrance into the promised land.26
Moses’s final instruction in Deut 10:16–18 is the focus of this article. This passage states,
So circumcise your hearts and stop being so stubborn, because the Lord your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. (CEB)
Walter Brueggemann argues that, in this text, the ritual practice of circumcision is transformed into a metaphor for intense loyalty to YHWH. Like the cutting away of the foreskin serves to make the organ more sensitive and responsive,27 so it is for the heart, making it more sensitive and responsive not only to YHWH, but to the vulnerable in society. Israel should be intentionally responsive to YHWH because of who YHWH is, one who reigns over all “gods,” lords, and powers of various kinds. The text describes this awesome, great, and mighty God as one who is “concretely and effectively involved in the affairs of the earth as advocate and protector of the vulnerable; one who cares about the specificities of justice and the victims of injustice.”28 This is a God who cannot be bribed by the wealthy and powerful but who attends to the necessities and desires of those in need, including widows. He is one who cares about the tangible execution of justice that has to do with fundamental necessities including food and clothing. Moses’s call for sensitive and intentional obedience is grounded in the assertion that the Most High God of heaven is completely engaged in the lowly and earthly work of justice. “Israel is permitted no escapist religion but is drawn into the exigencies of earthly justice, where YHWH’s own sovereignty has been most fully engaged.”29
Widow as Almanah
In order to fully grasp YHWH’s intent for this “earthly justice” for widows, it is important to understand the nuances encircling the term “widow” in the Hebrew Scriptures. The word translated “widow” is the Hebrew word almanah. References to widows in the Hebrew Scriptures can be seen in two different forms. Sometimes the widow is referred to alone, and other times she is cited as part of a group. An understanding of the biblical almanah can be gained more fully by examining the terminology surrounding her and the characteristics that describe her.
First, an almanah is most literally a woman who has lost her husband. However, there is nuance for how this word is understood against a biblical backdrop. For example, Chayim Cohen explains that almanah is a “once married woman who has no means of financial support and is therefore in need of special legal protection.”30 Harry Hoffner states that “the word almanah has a completely negative nuance. It means a woman who has been divested of her male protector (husband, sons, often also brothers).”31 As one without agency because of her loss of living relatives and money, and as one without influence, the widow is frequently associated with the stranger and the orphan. Seeking to capture a full import of the Hebrew word, another scholar has related almanah to “being silent,” because once her marital identification is broken she becomes a silent person without voice in the community’s legal or economic affairs.32
Because marriage in ancient Israel was framed as a union of two families, a widow remained attached to her deceased husband’s family even as both groups maintained their rights and obligations.33 However, if there was no existing male from that union to sustain her interests, then the woman became responsible for herself and free of male authority. Similarly, Paula Hiebert contends that a woman who lacked possibility of remarriage (typically a levirate marriage found in Deut 25:5–10) and who lacked a son to provide for her, was bereft of support. Naomi Steinberg addresses the economic implications that would ensue given the aforementioned circumstance. She explains that, “understanding widowhood in biblical Israel revolves around the existence or absence of ancestral land in the estate of the deceased husband.”34
Wessel argues that the tone in the Israelite legislation concerning widows in the OT (particularly in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy) is markedly different from the other ancient Near Eastern texts. “Different from the other Near East law codes, in the Old Testament there is an attitude—a motivation—that the Lord wishes to see in his chosen people as they fulfill the requirements of his law.”35 He claims that there is an attitude of hope in which widows are valued members of society. This can be seen in narratives like 1 Kings, where it is recorded that God extended his providence to Gentile widows, or those outside of Israel. In turn, ancient Israel was to form how they deal with the less fortunate with attitudes and actions indicative of how YHWH dealt with them. “In short, since unfortunate persons were considered valuable to God, they were likewise to be considered valuable members of the Israelite community as well.”36
Justice for All People
Thus, these Israelite principles intended to nurture an attitude among the population that the widows in their midst were valued members of the community. In most general terms, the major concern that can be found in the law code is that the marginalized not be deprived of justice. Thus, Deut 24:17 commands that the foreigner or the orphan not be deprived of justice, or not to “take the cloak of a widow as a pledge.” This was intended to command the Israelite men in patriarchal positions of leadership to not give in to the temptations to abuse their authority and, “in shameless self-interest, take advantage of those dependent upon the mercy of others.”37 This responsibility of the leadership is vividly emphasized at the closing of the Pentateuch, where YHWH threatens a curse for those who disobey. Abusing authority and wielding power over the vulnerable in society is akin to forgetting Israel’s plight and bondage in Egypt and consequently, forgetting YHWH’s mercy in rescuing Israel. Instead, the Israelites were commanded to constantly remind themselves “they were descendants of a patriarch whose family went from humble beginnings to being a great nation, but only by the Lord’s mercy.”38
Israel was not to bask in their favored position, but to be a light for the rest of the world. With this humble understanding of their standing before God, the Israelites were to show special concern for those in need of mercy and kindness: the widow, the orphan, the poor, the foreigner.39 One way that this kindness was to be shown was through the triennial tithe in Deut 14:28–29. In this passage, Israel is instructed to offer the third year’s produce, given specifically so that “the immigrants, orphans, and widows who live in your cities, will come and feast until they are full. Do this so that the Lord your God might bless you in everything you do” (Deut 14:29 CEB). Later, in ch. 24 of Deuteronomy, they are directed to leave some grain in the field so that the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow could have some means of support by gleaning from the remains left behind by the harvesters.
Not only were the marginalized in society said to be dear to YHWH’s heart, but he regarded them as equals to all other peoples of Israel. Deuteronomy emphasizes this not only in the aforementioned commands, but in the instructions given for national worship during the three major festivals of the religious calendar: Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles.40 During these times, all of Israel gathered together not only to recognize YHWH’s goodness, but also to acknowledge his sovereignty over them. Deuteronomy 16:11 states that every single Israelite was to rejoice before God at the place of God’s choosing, “you, your sons, your daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites who live in your cities, the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows who are among you” (CEB). Thus, the Jewish festivals were established as specific times to reiterate a truth that the entire Torah frequently emphasized, namely, that all persons were of equal worth and status before God.41
“While legislation affecting her is imbued with YHWH’s oversight, the rules about her care, quite interestingly, involve the entire population in something of an early social legislation for vulnerable people.”42 Treating the widow justly, for YHWH, was a communal task which alludes to Hanvey’s articulation that where the imago Dei is degraded or humiliated in one person, so it is for all persons.43
Old Testament Widows and Abuelita Theology
The way that YHWH cares—and consequently calls his people to care—about the downtrodden, and particularly the widow, is foundational to how modern-day Christians are to understand and live out abuelita theology, a theology centered on the grandmothers in our midst. The following section will explain what abuelita theology is and how it finds its roots in mujerista theology.
First, mujerista theology is a reflective action that has its goal in liberation.44 It was coined by Cuban native, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, after serving as a missionary to Peru for three years. During her time there, Isasi-Diaz realized that not only is liberation necessary for justice and peace, but that one cannot be liberated at the expense of another or isolated from others.45 Thus, mujerista theology should not be understood as a theology exclusively for Latinas, but a theology from the perspective of Latinas.46It is a process of empowerment for marginalized women that begins with the development of a strong sense of moral agency. It then works on clarifying the importance and value of who these women are, what they think, and what they do. This process enables them to understand oppressive structures that determine their daily lives, and to understand that the goal of their struggle should not be to participate in and to benefit from these structures, but to work toward changing them radically.47
The goals of mujerista theology are to provide a platform for the voices of Latina grassroots women, to develop a theological method that takes seriously the religious understandings and practices of Latinas as a source for theology, and to challenge theological understandings, church teachings, and religious practices that oppress Latina (and all) women.48 It does not insist that liberation is something one person can give another, but instead it is a process in which the oppressed become protagonists—or protagonistas—of their own stories. As Moltmann argues, the dignity of humans consists in humans being human. This involves their existence, humanity, and essence being actualized and thus, “coming into their truth.”49
Abuelitas as Theologians
Similar to that of the widow in ancient Israel, abuelitas in our society often find themselves in a marginalized state, as they are physically vulnerable and unable to provide for themselves. One characteristic that is shared among abuelitas is the fact that many of them are immigrants—a vulnerable group similar to that of the ancient world. This puts abuelitas in multiple marginalized positions which includes their age (physical vulnerabilities), social status (poor, immigrant), and gender. Because of this, they are often overlooked, their stories remain untold, and they are not valued as genuine theologians.
Like mujerista theology, the aim of abuelita theology is to give these abuelitas a voice in which they become protagonistas of their own stories and participants in creating a different reality unlike their present oppressive one. It is a process in which the dignity of abuelitas is realized and actualized. For one, the basis of their dignity is to be found in the imago Dei and in the Christian understanding of the imago Trinitatis, which draws out the relational dynamics of equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. As Israel—collectively—was called to view the vulnerable as valuable members of society engaged in communal worship and theological engagement, so we are to view and engage the abuelitas in our midst—despite their powerless status—and consider them as a genuine source of theology. Thus, abuelita theology seeks to answer: what if the greatest theologians the world has ever known are those whom the world would not consider theologians at all?
Abuelita theology is birthed from the reality that in Latinx religious culture, matriarchal figures, such as abuelitas, within the home are the mainstays of preserving and passing on religious traditions, beliefs, practices, and spirituality within the family. The women of the household, specifically the abuelitas, function as “live-in ministers”50particularly because the privilege to receive formal religious instruction is often lacking within the Latinx community. Thus, abuelitas serve as the functional priestesses and theologians in Latinx familias51through the informal conversation that occurs within the space where many women are usually relegated, the home. Abuelita theology can be seen as a reclaiming of this space as a place where popular religious expression emerges and is preserved. The informal transition of religious understandings to the next generation of family members has led some to propose that Latinx popular religiosity has a matriarchal core.52 Thus, abuelita theology affirms abuelitas as gatekeepers of most of Latinx popular religiosity, with their lived experience taken into serious theological consideration. Old Testament examples include Ruth and Naomi, two widows whose story is celebrated and revered.
The praxis of abuelita theology is built around everyday life, or what Isasi-Diaz refers to as lo cotidiano. According to Isasi-Diaz, lo cotidiano constitutes the immediate space of one’s life, “the first horizon in which one has experiences that, in turn, are constitutive elements of their reality.53Lo cotidiano refers to how reality is understood and evaluated—both historically and culturally. It is necessarily entangled in material life and is a key element of the structuring of social relations and its limits, situating people in their experiences. It has to do with the practices and beliefs that have been inherited, and it is what makes the world of each and every person specific. Lastly, “it is in lo cotidiano and starting with lo cotidiano that we live the multiple relations that constitute our humanity. It is the sphere in which our struggle for life is most immediate, most vigorous, most vibrant.”54 Practically, abuelita theology is both a form of resisting oppression and a noninstitutional, nonacademic way of humans knowing about God.55Abuelitas transmit what Jeanette Rodriquez calls “cultural memory,” a way that lower-class, peasant women construct and make use of their world.56 This includes instructing through oral traditions (much like ancient Israelite culture) in popular religious beliefs.
Additionally, abuelita theology centers on overlooked and unnamed women throughout history, those whom—while unrecognized—have changed the course of history and provided us with the most profound examples of faith. It is a theology of survival, strength, persistence, and resistance. Its goals are to take seriously the religious understandings of abuelitas in our midst, assure that they are protagonists of their own stories who actualize themselves, their essence, and come into their truth, as Moltmann suggests. While the teachings of abuelitas are the starting points for many, there must be a continuous, ongoing, and communal effort to critically discern aspects of inherited traditions that have been colonized.57
The theologies inherited from these overlooked and often-unnamed abuelitas in our communities have given us a firm foundation of what it means to live out our faith and demonstrate love in the world. “These wise women taught us about the power of prophetic words and the responsibility we have to seek and hear them,” wrote Loida I. Martell-Otero, “they did not simply pass on el evangelio (the gospel) as a set of accepted dogmatic statements. They nurtured us with a keen sense of the Spirit’s ability to create anew.”58
This article has demonstrated the ways that the Hebrew Bible’s ideas of social justice established the foundation for how the ideas of human rights are to be engaged today. The theology of the book of Deuteronomy has impacted the modern world’s view of justice for the marginalized and vulnerable in society. This is seen in how ancient Israel was commanded by YHWH not only to protect and honor the dignity of widows, but to ensure that they were seen as equal to everyone else in society, partaking in theological engagement and participation.
In our modern contexts, we are to treat poor, marginalized women—or abuelitas—in our midst similarly to those of the ancient world, not overlooking them because of their age, physical vulnerability, social status, or gender, but honoring them as “unofficial theologians,” functional priestesses, and backbones of the faith. As a theological discipline, abuelita theology seeks to recognize the imago Dei in abuelitas, understanding that when the image of God is degraded in one, it is degraded in all. Abuelita theology also aims to empower abuelitas to resist oppression, serve as protagonists of their own stories, actualize their dignity, and come into their truths.
1. Eckart Otto, “Human Rights: The Influence of the Hebrew Bible,” JNSL 25/1 (1999) 1.
2. Otto, “Human Rights: The Influence of the Hebrew Bible,” 15.
3. Yair Lorberbaum, “Blood and the Image of God: On the Sanctity of Life in Biblical and Early Rabbinic Law, Myth, and Ritual,” in The Concept of Human Dignity in Human Rights Discourse, ed. David Kretzmer and Eckart Klein (Kluwer Law International, 2002) 56.
4. Lorberbaum, “Blood and the Image of God,” 56.
5. James Hanvey, “Dignity, Person, and Imago Trinitatis,” in Understanding Human Dignity (Oxford University Press, 2013) 224.
6. Hanvey, “Dignity, Person, and Imago Trinitatis,” 224.
7. Jürgen Moltmann, On Human Dignity: Political Theology and Ethics (Fortress, 1984) 9.
8. Moltmann, On Human Dignity, 10.
9. Hanvey, “Dignity, Person, and Imago Trinitatis,” 225.
10. Christopher J. H. Wright, God’s People in God’s Land (Eerdmans, 1990) 762.
11. Bunie Veeder, “The Hebrew Bible Widow: Somewhere between Life—Hers, and Death—Her Husband’s” (D.H.L., The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2011) 10.
12. Stager, “Archaeology of the Family,” 20.
13. Danna Fewell, and David M Gunn. Gender, Power, and Promise: The Subject of the Bible’s First Story (Abingdon, 1993) 100.
14. Veeder, “The Hebrew Bible Widow,” 30.
15. Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Eisenbrauns, 1992) 55.
16. Cheryl B. Anderson, Women, Ideology, and Violence: Critical Theory and the Construction of Gender in the Book of the Covenant and the Deuteronomic Law, JSOTSup 394 (T&T Clark, 2004) 54.
17. Levirate marriage is the modern term (levir is Latin for “brother-in-law”) for a marriage between the widow and a brother of a deceased husband/brother. Such a marriage served to provide economically for the widow and to prevent ending the family line of the deceased. The law is described in Deut 25 and lived out, for example, in the marriages of Tamar (Gen 38) and Ruth (where the custom extends to a more distant relative).
18. Anderson, Women, Ideology, and Violence, 55.
19. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 68.
20. Charles Fensham, “Widow, Orphan, and the Poor in Ancient near Eastern Legal and Wisdom Literature” JNES 21/2 (1962) 129.
21. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 74.
22. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 139.
23. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 139.
24. Veeder, “The Hebrew Bible Widow,” 55.
25. Nahum M. Sarna, Exodus, JPS Torah Commentary (Jewish Publication Society, 1991) 138.
26. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 86.
27. Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy, AOTC (Abingdon, 2001) 73.
28. Brueggemann, Deuteronomy, 73.
29. Brueggemann, Deuteronomy, 73.
30. Veeder, “The Hebrew Bible Widow,” 56.
31. Veeder, “The Hebrew Bible Widow,” 57.
32. John H. Otwell, And Sarah Laughed: The Status of Women in the Old Testament (Westminster, 1977) 125.
33. Veeder, “The Hebrew Bible Widow,” 59.
34. Steinberg, “Romancing the Widow,” 327.
35. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 96.
36. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 96.
37. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 97.
38. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 98.
39. Bruce V. Malchow, “Social Justice in the Israelite Law Codes” WW 4/3 (Summer 1984) 306.
40. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 99.
41. Wessel, “Charity toward Widows in Early Christian Communities,” 99.
42. Veeder, “The Hebrew Bible Widow,” 56.
43. Hanvey, “Dignity, Person, and Imago Trinitatis,” 225.
44. Ada María Isasi-Díaz, Mujerista Theology: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century (Orbis, 1996) 1.
45. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, En La Lucha: In the Struggle: Elaborating a Mujerista Theology (Fortress, 2004) 10.
46. Isasi-Diaz, Mujerista Theology, 1.
47. Isasi-Diaz, Mujerista Theology, 3.
48. Isasi-Diaz, Mujerista Theology, 2.
49. Moltmann, On Human Dignity, 10.
50. Mario T. Garcia, The Gospel of César Chávez: My Faith in Action (Sheed & Ward, 2007) 25.
51. Robert Chao Romero, “Abuelita Theology,” Perspectivas 14 (Spring 2017) 17.
52. Miguel De La Torre, Hispanic American Religious Cultures (ABC-CLIO, 2009) 34.
53. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, “Lo Cotidiano: A Key Element of Mujerista Theology,” Journal of Hispanic/Latino Theology 10/1 (Aug 2002) 8.
54. Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, “Lo Cotidiano,” 9.
55. Mario Garcia, Católicos: Resistance and Affirmation in Chicano Catholic History (University of Texas Press, 2008) 25.
56. Garcia, Católicos, 25.
Take It As It Comes – Shoftim
“Be wholehearted with your G‑d“—Deuteronomy 18:13.
In this week’s portion we are told, “There shall not be found among you… a soothsayer, a diviner of times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or a charmer…” We are then told – immediately in the next verse – to be “wholehearted” with G‑d.
What is the connection between the prohibitions against various occult practices and the commandment to be wholehearted with G‑d? And what does it mean to be wholehearted with G‑d?
First let’s understand the various prohibitions enumerated in this reading. As modern, so-called “enlightened” individuals, we may discount these warnings as something out-dated, something that was told to our ancestors—but does not pertain to us. After all, we think, who runs after soothsayers and sorcerers to tell them their fortune nowadays? But let’s examine the underlying psychology that drove the ancients to seek a stolen glimpse into the future. Are we really immune from the very same weakness—a preoccupation with what is yet to come?
Oh, the price we would pay just to have certainty about the future, but to no avail.We worry and fret about outcomes. We expend energy trying to secure that which cannot be guaranteed. Oh, the price we would pay just to have certainty about the future, but to no avail.
Thus, we are told to be “wholehearted” with G‑d—to leave the future up to Him and to accept life as it comes. After all, isn’t it enough just to know that He is in perfect control? Why should we prefer to have foreknowledge of His plans? Why don’t we realize that whatever He chooses will be best?
If we cannot give up our worries about the future, then it seems that our trust in Him is tenuous, conditional and half-hearted. What we are really telling G‑d is that our relationship with Him is conditional.
Think of a marriage. If your spouse were to suddenly whisk you away on an impetuous romantic getaway, would you first demand to know what the plans were? To do so would mean being more interested in how the time will be spent than with whom it will be shared. True love means that time shared with one’s beloved is always time well spent—whatever happens, whatever we are doing and wherever we go.
If G‑d were to speak to you and invite you to live in His presence, to follow Him at every turn, would you ask Him first where He plans on taking you? Before agreeing, would you first ask for an itinerary?
For those of us who recover from the spiritual illness known as alcoholism or addiction, we rely on our relationship with G‑d for our very survival. We cannot afford to let that relationship be half-hearted. We need to stay in the present and let the One who is above time worry about what is to come. Our wholehearted commitment to Him means that we are ready to joyfully and fearlessly accept whatever He may bring us, for we trust that ultimately, whatever happens, He is with us and He is running the show.
That is all we need to know.