“He has told you, O man, what is good, And what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice And to love goodness, And to walk humbly with your God”
I will be marching in the Women’s March on January 21, 2017 in Washington DC because I must. It is that simple. I must be there.
My favorite pastime in the summer is going to my local town pool. There I can sit in the sun, swim laps, and chat with friends and acquaintances from many different social circles. The diversity of my town is apparent in the bathing suits the women choose to wear. You can see everything from a woman in a string bikini, to a “mom” bathing suit with shorts, to a fully covered woman in suit that looks like a wetsuit with a skirt. Some may refer to this last suit as a “burkini;” however, in my town this modest swimsuit is worn by Orthodox Jewish women, so while the look may be the same, the name does not fit.
In my childhood, there were few things that the Orthodox rabbis charged with my daily education and my secular anti-religious mother agreed upon, but ironically sex was one of them. From both of these very different points of view I received two consistent messages: Sex was good and sex was something that ought to be talked about, and often.
It is common for groups who are discriminated against or have little power in a society to turn on one another rather than joining forces against the powerful group keeping them down. As far back as the book of Genesis in the Torah, we see Rachel and Leah, two of the matriarchs of the Jewish people, competing over their husband Jacob. The text tells us he loved Rachel and didn’t love Leah. Their father, Laban, tricked Jacob into marrying Leah when he really wanted to marry Rachel, and he married Rachel later, as well. The sisters, instead of being angry at their father, turn on each other as they try to provide sons and get Jacob’s affection.
In the 1970s and 1980s, if someone referenced “The Wall” they were likely referring to the Berlin Wall (or the Pink Floyd album). Today, mention of “The Wall” likely refers to the Western Wall (the Kotel) in Jerusalem. While walls of the security variety have been much discussed lately — from Israel’s security fence to the billion dollar one Donald Trump wants to erect in America to keep out Mexicans — the Kotel’s gender divisions have been a divisive issue for the Jewish people for a very long time.
When I was ordained as a rabbi, a little under two years ago, my husband hosted a lovely party at which he and friends and colleagues and teachers and one of my daughters offered poignant tributes and blessings. But my own mother, the only member of my family of origin in attendance, was not expected to speak. A descendant of European Orthodoxy, she had been lukewarm about my ambition. So we were surprised when my eldering mother rose to take the floor.
My social media has been abuzz this past week with the commentary on a recent article published by Rabbi Mordechai Willig of Yeshiva University (YU). Rabbi Willig is one of the most prominent Roshei Yeshiva (Rabbinic Deans) of Yeshiva University and part of the small inner circle of significant influencers and decision makers at the institution. He holds the Rabbi Dr. Sol Roth Chair in Talmud and Contemporary Halakha and is looked to by countless students and alumni for religious guidance and direction.
“My husband forgot Mother’s Day flowers, so I had sex with another man.” So wrote an anonymous woman disappointed in her marital sex life since she became a mother. But she is not the first, nor the last woman to struggle with motherhood or Mother’s Day.
Over the generations women did not wait until the night of the Seder to show their commitment to upholding tradition. In the era before Manischewitz, the moment Purim celebrations ended, Passover preparations began. (Actually in some communities it was as early as Hanukkah but that is a whole other story) There was no Kosher for Passover aisle in the supermarket or on Amazon, so literally everything needed to be made from scratch. The directions to make items, like grimslechs (read on for more information) made only once a year might not be remembered and were better recalled when read off the written text of a cookbook.