I remember where I was sitting. It was a spring day in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I was wearing my white button down uniform shirt and my floor length uniform pleated skirt. It was only after I had enrolled in the Bais Yaakov of the Twin Cities (an Orthodox girls’ school) that a rule was added to the uniform dress code that skirts had to be mid-length and not to the floor (chukat hagoyim 101). Fortunately I had been grandfathered in and was not forced to tailor my uniform skirts.
A Daniel come to judgement! yea, a Daniel!
In 2001, at the age of 52, I went from being Single and Orthodox to Married and (still) Orthodox. That was a lot of years of being single.
“I don’t want your Paradise, I don’t want your World to Come, I want only You—You alone.” —Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi
My thoughts of late – perhaps provoked rather than inspired – have been about women. Specifically, women in the military. If the original provocation was the escalating war of words, waged in print and across the airwaves, over a scandalous assertion tweeted by the current GOP standard-bearer some three years ago, the leap to the Torah portion, Shoftim, and, from there, to the Book of Judges was short. At least, for me.
The surest way to evaluate a society’s achievement at creating a system that is equitable to all is to examine how it is treating its most vulnerable populations. This week’s Torah portion, parashat Shoftim, concerns itself at both its opening and closing with how judges should conduct themselves in the world. The portion opens with an exhortation to the judges to “show no partiality” and “not to take bribes” (Deut 16: 19) and ends with a type of ritual or ceremony to determine some kind of societal responsibility for a corpse whose murderer cannot be ascertained.
On Shabbat, the 2nd of Av, about a week before Jews across the world fasted to mourn the destruction of the Temples and Jerusalem, I accidentally cried in shul.
I spent the last two years learning in a beit midrash (Jewish hall of study) in Israel. My beit midrash was a microcosm of the sort of Judaism I most respected: inclusive, halakhically (according to Jewish law) honest, sincere, with grit. The fusion of traditional Orthodox values with social consciousness deepened the Torah study and created an environment that welcomed tension. The connections I made there, over Torah, are among my dearest; my learning sparked my love of religious practice and continues to be exhilarating.
My middle kid, Shir, just turned four. This morning, I came into his room to find him naked and tantrumming on the bed. He had taken off his pajamas and was hysterically screaming that he didn’t want to wear clothes today. Clothes are terrible, horrible things, evidently, and he just wasn’t having any of it.
I spend most of my days and nights highlighting problem areas in Orthodox communities as well as viable solutions, with the intention of bringing about much needed changes. Said problem areas include the need to address the treatment and prevention of abuse, the agunah crisis, the erasure of women from publications, the lack of leadership roles for women in Jewish communities, the need to allow for healthy disagreement when we think or interpret law differently, etc.