A decision has been made that leaves a large number of Jews feeling unwanted, misunderstood, invalidated and disconnected. It is the recent decision to freeze the building of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall. And people are asking how I feel about it. They’re not asking me because I’m a Jewish educator or because I lead yearly mom’s missions to Israel; they’re asking because I’m an Orthodox woman. I believe deep down they speculate that I, as an Orthodox woman, must feel like a second-class citizen. I assume this skepticism stems from the fact that Orthodox women do not read Torah and are exempt from assorted positive time-bound mitzvot. I have never felt like a second-class citizen and here’s why.
I look at the Torah and mitzvot as G-d’s spiritual regimen for our souls. The positive mitzvot for the soul would be like exercise to the physical body. It’s the way we grow our spiritual muscles. The negative commandments (thou shall not…) are, like refined sugars and processed foods, things we want to avoid for spiritual health.
Just like a good personal trainer gives different clients different exercise and dietary programs, G-d has given each of us our unique spiritual regimen. Each unique regimen gives us the opportunity to draw close to G-d. And closeness is the goal. This, according to our Kabbalistic masters, is called dveykut-clinging to G-d. In fact, the root word for dveykut is devek which, in modern Hebrew means glue. The highest level today is a connection to G-d. I feel super connected to G-d without ever having read Torah from the bimah. Reading Torah on the bimah is a communal responsibility that I am exempt from and, though important for those who are obligated in it, is by no means the greatest honor, privilege or my spiritual goal. My goal is dveykut to G-d on G-d’s terms. My days and weeks are brimming with opportunities for connection. Through daily prayer and deepening my understanding of Torah and sharing it with others, I connect. In fact, with proper kavanna/intention most of our lives can be uplifted into connective experiences with G-d. For example: When I offer a kind, encouraging word to a colleague who is feeling down, I, like G-d, will be raising the downtrodden. When I make a run to pick up a prescription at Walgreens, I, like G-d, am part of the process of healing the sick.
Circling back to the Women of the Wall – and while we’re at it all my beautiful Jewish sisters all over the world – I love you so much. I’m sorry you’re feeling unwanted, misunderstood and at risk of authorities making you feel disconnected. As your fellow Jew, I know that one of the most powerful things I can do for us on a micro level is to pray. The kind of informal prayer that comes straight from the heart of a broken-hearted Jew. I’m praying from my kitchen, asking from my car, thinking of all of us while taking a group fitness class, and while shopping with my teens for the perfect pair of sneakers. I’m praying with tears because the gate of tears is never closed.
Please Dear G-d: May every Jewish woman find her unique connection. May we all feel the joy and light of being a Jewess. May we get fulfillment and inner peace from serving You. May our days be full of countless opportunities to connect to our best versions of ourselves, to our loved ones and most importantly to You, our Creator. May the words of the written Torah, the oral Torah and our mesorah (guiding tradition) guide us all in the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. May we find positive strong female role models to look up to who are fixing this world and bringing it closer to the whole world embracing G-d. Letaken olam bemalchus shad-ai.
Our sages teach us that the Jewish nation was redeemed from Egypt in the merit of the righteous women. And that the future redemption will also be on the merit of the righteous women. May we all merit seeing the third and final temple built speedily in our days. And may we all rejoice and dance together in a holy dance of unity and sisterhood.