Like all writers, I'm happy when people react to what I wrote. The many reactions to my last post "Chag Sameach and Chag Atzuv" prove that I hit some kind of nerve. The extensive responses, both to the post itself, on my Facebook page and personally, have been very rewarding. However, there is a misimpresion that I would like to clarify.
One should not infer from the fact that I am pained by what goes on in most shuls on Simchas Torah that I am unhappy with my role as a Jewish woman and that I desire to express myself through men's mitzvot. I have no wish to be a Jewish man.
I knew about the women's tefillah service in my community before Simchas Torah and I elected not to attend. To me, women gathering together as a tefilla group in a place separate from their regular prayer community, in an attempt to create for themselves what their synagogue denies them is, at best, a compromise, not a desideratum.
What I object to, what I'm hurt by, what I want addressed, is the propensity of Orthodox men to declare that the Sefer Torah belongs to them, to the exclusion of their wives, daughters, neighbors and mothers. Any Jewish man, including the biggest atheist in the world, the biggest am ha'aretz, can step into an Orthodox shul and hold and dance with a Sefer Torah on Simchas Torah while the biggest tzadekes is denied that opportunity.
The Sefer Torah does not belong to men. If the halacha forbids women to kiss, touch and hold a Sefer Torah, then show me a source. In 21 years, I have never seen the prohibition taught as a matter of halacha and I don't believe it exists.
I can't understand how Jewish men, my friends and neighbors among them, can derive joy from Simchas Torah while, at the very same time, so many of their wives, daughters, neighbors and mothers are feeling bored, ignored or in spiritual pain.
I can only assume they have no idea.