Monday, October 22, 2012

Women and Geula: A Book Review



The Moon’s Lost Light: A Torah Perspective on Women from the Fall of Eve to the Full Redemption
by Devorah Heshelis
Targum Press, 2006
134 pages, including 192 footnotes and 3 appendices
Currently out-of-print but available as an ebook.

There is no way to whitewash this fact: in the beginning of my Jewish journey, there was much pain and many tears over my experience as a newly religious woman in a traditional Jewish community.  I was perpetually torn in two.  On the one hand, I was learning and loving Torah.  I was simultaneously fighting to retain my dignity as a woman in a community that appeared to thrive on silencing and sidelining me.  At the time, I had no role models, no decent books and no one who took my concerns seriously.

Eventually, I began to find books that addressed my issues. My personal struggle coincided with an explosion of publishing about Jewish women and, over a period of years, I amassed a collection of approximately 500 books about Jewish women.  More than 20 years later, now married to an Orthodox rabbi and living in a religious community in Israel, I am ceaselessly fascinated by gender issues in Judaism.  

Many of the books about women and Judaism made aliyah with me.
After much study, I came to understand gender as a central organizing principle that permeates traditional Jewish thought. Apologetics aside, I came to understand that traditional Judaism is, in fact, overly masculine. And I began to suspect that the dawning of the Messianic era would correct the imbalance and make women’s spirituality more central.

In 2006, Devorah Heshelis, using a pen name, wrote a book that not only confirmed my intuitive conclusions, but gave me access to 192 footnotes of Torah-true sources to support them.

The core of The Moon’s Lost Light is an extended essay in which Mrs. Heshelis recounts the high spiritual level on which women were initially created and how women lost part of our original spiritual glory through Chava’s sin. Mrs. Heshelis makes the case, deeply rooted in Torah sources, that the enormous consequences of Chava’s sin, which are elucidated in the book, have affected gender relations throughout human history.  In a sense, all of human history to date has been a spiritual rectification of these consequences.

In the end, Mrs. Heshelis assures us of the Torah’s promise that gender equity and the balance between masculine and feminine spiritual energy will ultimately be restored.  Today, we plainly see progress in the rectification of the spiritual status of women, but we do not yet see its conclusion.

Of the hundreds of books I have read about the status of women in Judaism, none has impacted me as deeply as The Moon’s Lost Light. I carry the premise, and the promise, of this magnificent scholarship with me every single day in my life as a Jewish woman.


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