blogger Ruti Eastman and I are having a blog-based conversation about how, in the absence of many of the rituals and accoutrements that accompany Jewish men through their lives, Torah observant Jewish women express ourselves spiritually .
In my first installment, I wrote about being finished with shul and, to a large degree, with formal prayers in the siddur that were written with the assumption that the person praying is male. I asked for women to share how "we, as Jewish women, nurture our souls... what we actually do.
How we invite the sacred into our lives. How we talk to God. How we
live as spiritual beings without the accoutrements that surround Jewish
men. How we experience the holy. What things we say, read, think,
believe, study and touch that define our Jewish lives."
The most common reactions I got were from women who suggested that maybe I'll be happier praying exclusively with women, or finding a partnership minyan or just concentrating on Hashem and not thinking about the limitations of the ezrat nashim while I'm in shul.
I feel unheard.
Whenever I write about these issues, I hear from people who react, in predictable ways, to the questions Jewish women like me raise about our tradition. People sniff anything that smacks of feminism and jump in with their reactions to the issue of the role of women in Judaism. I've been having those conversations since 1988.
It's old ground. I'm don't mean to sound hostile. I am genuinely tired of people counseling me about how to fit in better with normative Judaism.
Normative Torah observant Judaism is broken when it comes to Jewish women. It's skewed so heavily toward the masculine that the feminine has trouble being recognized, let alone valued.
What I want now is a new conversation.
To be completely fair, we did get two responses on point.
One woman told us
her spiritual energies are deeply connected to learning and teaching
Torah. Another said that she concentrates on "compassionate outreach to cholim" and Spiritual Healing.
That's what we're looking for here. How do we recognize the spiritual acts of Jewish women?
I know there are women who have it. Women who are surrounded by their own flavor of holiness. Who are completely content in their relationship with God, who have no need for shul, for daf yomi shiurim, for the whole male package.
But their voices are whispers.
Ruti and I are on a mission to locate, capture and amplify those voices. We want to empower Jewish women - converts, ba'alot teshuva, FFBs as well as the not yet religious - with a positive articulation of the spiritual lives of Torah observant Jewish women.
Ruti recently sent me an essay by Rabbi Aron Moss of Sydney Australia in which he says, "Men have stronger bodies, women have stronger souls." He also writes, "Women are more soulful than men. While men may excel in physical
prowess, women are far ahead when it comes to spiritual strength. Women
are more sensitive to matters of the soul, more receptive to ideas of
faith, more drawn to the divine than men. The feminine soul has an
openness to the abstract and a grasp of the intangible that a male soul
can only yearn for."
Very poetically expressed, Rabbi Moss. But it doesn't answer the question.
What do Jewish women DO to express all that spiritual power that rabbis tell us we have? How do the souls of Jewish women manifest in the world? How do we name, so that we can recognize, when a Jewish woman is engaged in a spiritual act? Further, there is tremendous valuing of the rituals of Jewish men. How do we
create a culture where Jewish women's spiritual lives are clearly identified and
also valued? What does it look like, sound like, feel like when a Jewish woman is expressing herself in the spiritual realm?
This is our quest.