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Déjà vu all over again


Happy Simchat Torah! or Shabbat Shalom! or Shavua Tov! It all depends on when you get around to reading this. Regardless, you get the picture. I wish you well as we begin another fun-filled year of Torah reading, parsing, and wrestling.

First, a photo. This is me with a Torah scroll. I was one of a dozen or so women who showed up to have her picture taken last weekend (thanks to Lynne Shifriss for getting us all there & Angie Golden for snapping our pictures!) while holding one of our congregation’s Torahs dressed in its High Holy Day whites. I just sent it off to Nashot haKotel / Women of the Wall, an international group with the unenviable task of securing women’s right to fully pray at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Here’s the thing. It is illegal under Israeli law for women to behave as if this is the 21st Century. In December 2001 (yes, 2001), the Knesset passed the following measure:

No ceremony shall be held in the Wall’s women’s section. That includes reading from a Torah, blowing the ram’s horn, wearing prayer shawls or phylacteries. Violators shall be imprisoned for seven years.

Never mind that the women’s section is 1/3 the size of the men’s. Never mind that the majority of Jews in the world are not Orthodox, ultra or otherwise, or that this law was passed 3 months after extremists murdered thousands of people with airplanes and maybe there was something really important going on in the world that needed our attention. Seven freaking years for wearing a tallit. Say it with me now: Seven. Freaking. Years.

So. If you believe that this is medieval and kinda disgusting, visit the Women of the Wall website. Donate your photos, your cash, and your voice. You don’t have to believe in religion, God, or the literal words of the Torah to act – you just have to believe in equality and religious pluralism.

Segue? I don’t really have a good one. Last night, we danced like there was no tomorrow with the Torah scrolls and completed our annual reading of all 304,805 letters. Tomorrow, we officially start all over again with a reading of the first Torah portion, Bereishit: In the beginning of God’s creating the heavens and the earth — when the earth was all wild and waste, with darkness upon the surface of the deep and God’s breath hovered on the surface of the waters…

Last year, I focused on human creativity in my poetic offering. This year, I’m going back to the very beginning, to the sound of creation, the booming of Let there be light! I’m feeling particularly happy these days that God couldn’t sit still in lotus position and mediate forever — that there was a Divine need for genesis. For the act of creation to spill out willy nilly. For everything that led us to this moment when I could kvetch about my fellow humans.

Enjoy the poem, Creation, and stick around. There’s fun to be had.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/05/2010 4:51 pm

    The major conservative shul down in Austin hosted two Sundays where women could come and get their picture taken with a Torah scroll, and hundreds of women came out. It was heartening to see.

    And utterly disgusting that you can go to prison in Israel for seven years for wearing a Talit. They probably have lighter sentences for drug dealers and people who do harm to others than they do for women who want to express their Jewishness – in the Jewish state.

    Wrong. Just – wrong.

  2. sue swartz permalink*
    10/05/2010 5:05 pm

    As we used to say in the labor movement: “The boss is the best organizer.” Nothing will get hundreds of (or in our small community, over a dozen) women out on a Sunday to get their picture taken without complaint than to be told this Torah they love does not belong to them.

    Still waiting to see whether charges will be pressed against Anat Hoffman, the woman arrested.

    Wrong, just wrong, does sum it up.

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