"Thank G-D for creating me according to your will"
Three years ago I had the opportunity to visit the rare books room at the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) library. I saw many interesting things, but one that would change my life forever.
I got the opportunity to see the siddur (prayerbook) mentioned in this recent post on The Sisterhood Blog at The Forward. Elana Sztokman wrote:
Equality for Jewish women is not a 20th century invention. A siddur, or prayerbook, from the year 1471 contains an alternative text to the much abhorred “shelo asani isha” blessing that thanks God for “not making me a woman,” a text that is not only misogynistic in content but assumes that the person holding the prayerbook is male. In this 15th century book, the text reads, “Baruch she’asani isha v’lo ish,” “Thank God for making me a woman and not a man.”
Everyone in our group was asked about their interests, and when I said “Women’s Studies and Jewish Education” our tour guide got a little glimmer in his eye. We were shown many phenomenal books which had the potential rabbinical students drooling. Then he looked my way and said this next one was for me, and showed us the siddur.
We all gathered around to see what was so unique about this small book that looked, at first glance, like a typical old siddur. As we looked closely to see the difference, I found myself stunned. Seeing so clearly that liturgy was changing, even in Fifteenth Century Italy, stunned and amazed me. So while the (amazingly brilliant) librarian spoke about the history of the siddur, I frantically jotted down the wording of the blessing in the notebook I was toting around.
The prayer I was previously saying is a widely accepted alternative that is a bit abstract: “Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, Master of Universe for creating me according to your will.” What does that even mean? How can I thank G-d for creating me according to his will, when I can not pretend to understand the intentions of why or how G-d does anything?
One thing I know for sure though is that I was created a woman. There is no doubt about that, nor is there doubt that I am thankful for that. I am happy to be a woman, and an empowered orthodox feminist one at that! To start every day with the recognition that I am special and have a special relationship with my creator because of this and not in spite of it - is deeply powerful.
For the past three years, every morning I have said this blessing, and while it was initially an odd change - it is something which I have grown to love. It gives me strength and confidence to thank G-d every day for the chance to be a woman, to recognize that this is a gift and I get to go about the world in a different way because of this. I am a woman, and not a man. I am me, and not anyone else.