Adults may scoff, and my friends may hypocritically mock me, but I can never deny that I would want to stand out in a crowd. Whether a college application, a creative thesis for school, or even the food that I bring for lunch, I want to discover a personal uniqueness that I carry so I can have some special pride in my stride. Luckily for me, I can already claim an artistic and spiritual individuality that I bring to the table as a female Jew.
Why do some women wear Tallit? Why shouldn’t women wear Tallit? What’s the big deal?
If you’re like me, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time pondering these questions. As someone who falls somewhere outside of regular observance, a tallit, or prayer shawl, isn’t usually on the forefront of my thoughts. (Even defining a tallit required a quick search of myjewishlearning.com.)
Last week I was lucky enough to join hundreds of Jewish educators at NewCAJE, a peer led conference that brings together educators from all walks of Jewish life. One of the highlights of my time at the conference was attending a session led by Ronni Ticker entitled “Women of the Wall- What’s the Big Deal?”
Last week in the Forward, Jay Michaelson writes about the need to rethink egalitarianism. Egalitarian synagogues, he says, tend to be egalitarian in only one way: everyone is equally bored. (“Egalitarian” in American Jewish life has historically referred to prayer services where men and women can both participate fully and take on leadership roles.) He talks about friends who attend Orthodox prayer services because they find more meaning in the service, and about how attempts at inclusiveness and egalitarianism often translate
I am, among many defining facets, a woman and a maker of tallit. A few days ago, I was gathering materials to write about the choices we make--to pray, to wear a beautiful prayer shawl, to leyn from the Torah, to actively weave ritual into our busy lives.
At twelve (or sometimes thirteen), a Jewish girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah. Bat Mitzvah means daughter of the commandments, which, for a religious girl, means taking on the obligations and traditions of the Jewish religion. The Bat Mitzvah celebration and ceremony is a relatively new invention, as compared to an equivalent ritual for boys, but it is important and beautiful nonetheless. After my Bat Mitzvah, I was eager to participate at my synagogue as much as I could.
Lately, I've had a lot of trouble praying. There have been times in my life when I was committed to regular prayer, when I loved to put on my tefillin in the morning and feel the marks they had left on my arm as I went about my activities afterwards. I've had moving experiences of communal prayer, feeling buoyed by the voices rising around me, and of individual prayer, when the sight of something in the world has caught my breath and provoked a spontaneous blessing.