The Torch explores gender and religion in the Jewish community. Named for Deborah the Prophetess, "the woman of torches," the blog highlights the passion and fiery leadership of Jewish feminists, while evoking the powerful image of feminists "passing the torch" to a new generation. Disclaimer: All posts are contributed by third party authors. JOFA does not assume responsibility for the facts and opinions presented in them.
Partnership minyans are a relatively new phenomenon in our part of northwest London, so when one started around the corner from us, my husband and I made a point of going with our three young children. We’ve been half a dozen times in the past but this Shabbat was the first time that I had the opportunity to participate.
I walked in and sat down, ready to sing and listen to the men and women leading the service. Before I had a chance to open my siddur though, one of the organizers approached me.
“Would you like an aliyah?” she asked.
Too surprised to give it much thought, I answered yes. Only in the minutes afterward did I have a chance to think about what it meant. Having an aliyah was always something that I thought one day would happen, but I had figured that I would need more advance preparation. I read through the blessings I had heard many a bar mitzvah boy read aloud and felt ready.
When my turn came, the gabbai called my name and I approached the bima, podium. I kissed the Torah, held on to the etzei chayim and recited the blessing. The same blessing that I had heard my father, a Kohen, repeat so often at our local synagogue growing up. As I said the words, it was his voice I heard coming through.
Then as I stood next to the person reading Torah, I was able to directly see the beautifully inscribed letters as she recited them. I was totally focused on the Torah reading and the portion, oblivious for once of my young daughter running around or the other distractions I normally get drawn to in synagogue. When the reader finished, the gabbai recited a mi’sheberach prayer for my family, making an official connection between one generation and the next. I will forever have a connection to the seventh aliyah of Parashat Emor, and felt honored to have the chance to participate so publicly.
I made my way back to my seat amid smiles and whisperings of yasher koach from friends, acknowledging that I was part of the service and, for the first time, more than an observer.
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Pronounced: bar MITZ-vuh, also bar meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, Jewish rite of passage for a 13-year-old boy.
Pronounced: MITZ-vuh or meetz-VAH, Origin: Hebrew, commandment, also used to mean good deed.
Pronounced: shuh-BAHT or shah-BAHT, Origin: Hebrew, the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.