Transitions and Israel

As a people, wherever the Jews are, we have a remarkable and noble mission.

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Reprinted with permission from The Torah: A Women's Commentary, edited by Tamara Cohn Eskenazi and Andrea L. Weiss (New York: URJ Press and Women of Reform Judaism, 2008).

Throughout our lives, we make numerous transitions and undergo various rites of passage, of both a formal and informal nature, consciously or unconsciously. Frequently these transitions are marked by ceremony and ritual of some kind: a brit bat or brit milah, a bat mitzvah or bar mitzvah, a mikveh immersion, a wedding. These are solemn moments, both for ourselves and for our closest relatives. Often they are accompanied by self-scrutiny, a vow, and a determination to improve, to "turn over a new leaf."
urj women's commentary
The same is true of the beginning of each new year; indeed, this is the central theme of our prayers on both Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. It also holds good when we move into a new home, freshly decorated, the walls clean and as yet unmarked by greasy fingers, the windows crystal-clear and gleaming, the empty rooms waiting to be filled with our lives. Parashat Ki Tavo begins with a ceremony that marks the entry into the Land of Israel (26:1-10): as an expression of gratitude, the people are to bring a basket filled with the first fruits of the land's bounty and to recount the events that led to the long-awaited settlement of the land.

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Alice Shalvi

Alice Shalvi is Israel's most outspoken and active Conservative Jewish feminist. Shalvi founded the Israel Women's Network in 1984, serving as its director until 1997. The organization has effected legal change--particularly in the workplace--and is taking aim at issues concerning women's health, battered women and rape.